Home, p.23Part #11 of Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben
"I also don't judge. You eat meat. You wear leather. Even vegans kill animals, albeit very few of them, when they plow out fields. None of us have completely clean hands."
Myron couldn't help but smile. "I've missed you, Win."
"Yes. Yes, you have."
"Have you been back in the States at all?"
"Who says I ever left?" Win pointed to the sound system. "I even saw this."
Myron had his smartphone hooked up to the car's sound system. They were listening to the soundtrack from Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda was singing with raw, naked pain in his voice, "You knock me out, I fall apart."
"Wait," Myron said, "you saw Hamilton?"
Win did not reply.
"But you hate musicals. I was always trying to get you to go."
Win put his finger to his lips and pointed again. "Shh, here it comes."
"The last line. Listen . . . now."
The song dealt with Hamilton's grief after losing his son in a duel. Win put his hand to his ear as the company sang, "They are going through the unimaginable."
"That's Brooke," Win said. "That's Chick. Going through the unimaginable."
Myron nodded. This song broke his heart every time. "We need to tell Brooke what Fat Gandhi said."
"We need to tell her now."
"In person," Win said.
Myron was back in the driver's seat. He didn't drive like Win, but he could hit the accelerator when needed. They crossed the Delaware River over the Dingmans Ferry Bridge, putting them back in New Jersey.
"Something else is bothering me," Myron said.
"Fat Gandhi said he didn't know Patrick, that Patrick didn't work for him."
"Patrick showed up on his turf, got into trouble with some of Fat Gandhi's thugs, and ran away when you intervened."
Myron shook his head. "Then this whole thing has to be a setup."
"Someone emails you anonymously. He tells you where Patrick is and when he'll be there. You go. Patrick is there, probably for the first time. Because if he had been there before, Fat Gandhi's thugs would have roughed him up back then, right?"
Win considered that. "Makes sense."
"So someone wanted you to find him. Someone sent Patrick--if it is Patrick--to that spot so you would"--Myron used his fingers to make quote marks--"'rescue' him."
"Makes sense," Win said again.
"Any thoughts on who?"
"No thoughts. But there is something else we need to consider."
"According to what you told me, Mickey and Ema seem to feel that the boy might not be Patrick."
Myron nodded. "That's right."
"When will we have the DNA results?"
"Joe Corless said he was working on it, priority one. Should be soon."
"Suppose this boy isn't Patrick," Win said. "What's the play then?"
"I don't know," Myron said. "Suppose this boy is Patrick. What's the play then?"
On the soundtrack, Leslie Odom Jr.'s Aaron Burr is furious that Alexander Hamilton has endorsed Thomas Jefferson.
"A setup makes no sense," Win said, "and yet it has to be a setup of some kind, doesn't it?"
"It does," Myron said. "Or it doesn't."
"In short," Myron said, "we still don't know what the hell is going on."
Win smiled. "You'd think we'd be used to that by now."
They were ten minutes away from Brooke's when Win said, "Take a right."
"Where are we going?"
"Bear with me. Park here."
The name of the shop selling "Organic Coffee & Crepes" was CU Latte. Myron frowned at the pun. Win loved it.
"What are we doing here?"
"A little surprise for you," Win said. "Come on."
The barista wore a hipster beanie and fungus-like facial hair. His poncho had to be made from hemp.
CU Latte was all in.
They ordered two Turkish coffees and sat down.
"What's going on?"
Win checked his phone and pointed to the door. "Now."
Myron looked at the door as Zorra entered in all his sartorial splendor. He wore his Veronica Lake-on-meth wig, a green monogrammed sweater, and a skirt in a hue Zorra would undoubtedly call "sea foam."
When Zorra spotted Myron, he spread his arms and shouted, "Dreamboat!"
Zorra's wig was half on, half off. His facial hair would make the barista even greener, though this time with envy. Myron remembered an old clip his father had shown him of Milton Berle in drag. Like that, only less attractive.
"I thought he was in Finland," Myron muttered to Win as Zorra approached.
"He just landed at Newark," Win said.
"Long flight," Zorra said. "Zorra had no time to freshen up. I must look a fright."
Myron wasn't about to touch that one. He rose and gave Zorra a hug. He smelled like a male flight attendant's cologne.
"How long has it been?" Zorra asked.
"Too long," Myron said. Or maybe not long enough.
"Zorra is happy to see you."
"Same," Myron said. Then, getting back on track, he asked, "So what's the deal with Vada Linna?"
"Her new name is Sofia Lampo."
"Did you find her?"
"She works at a fast-food restaurant, dreamboat. In a small town outside Helsinki. How you say--the middle of nowhere. So I went there. But her boss said she hasn't shown up for work for three days. This concerned Zorra. So I do some research. She's not home either. I make some calls. You know. Old contacts. They can find anything."
"So did you find her?" Myron asked.
Zorra smiled. It was not a pretty smile. "Very soon, dreamboat."
"I'm not following."
"Yesterday Sofia Lampo took a plane from Helsinki to Newark. She's here, dreamboat. Vada Linna--or Sofia Lampo--is back."
"Let's start with the obvious question," Myron said when he and Win were back in the car. "Why would the au pair come back to the United States?"
"What have we told ourselves since this all began?"
"That something isn't right," Myron said. "That we're missing something."
"Whatever that 'something' is," Win said, "it's been missing for ten years. It's been missing since the boys vanished."
"So what now?" Myron asked.
Myron made the final turn onto the Baldwins' street. "We need to tell Brooke what Fat Gandhi told you. We don't have the right to keep it from her. She also needs to know about the au pair coming back."
"That's a lot," Win said.
"No," Win said. "Brooke can handle more than you can imagine."
As they pulled into the driveway, the front door opened. Brooke stepped out. She came to the passenger side of the car and gave her cousin Win a long hug. Win wasn't normally much for long hugs, but he held on. Brooke put her head on Win's shoulder. Neither cried. Neither collapsed or anything like that. They didn't move or readjust their arms or pull each other closer. They just stayed there for several beats.
"I'm glad you're back," Brooke said.
When they let each other go, Brooke turned and studied Myron's face. "This isn't good news, is it?"
"Nothing definitive," Win said.
"But not good."
"No," Win said, "not good."
They were about to head inside when another car started down the driveway. Myron recognized the Lexus sedan from Nancy Moore's garage. They all stood and waited as the car came to a stop. The driver's door opened. Nancy Moore stepped out. The front passenger door opened.
Patrick Moore stepped out.
Brooke stiffened when she saw their faces. Under her breath, she said, "This isn't good news either."
They were back in the kitchen, the place where it all began.
Patrick, Nancy, and Brooke all sat at the kitchen table. Myron and Win stood off to the side, close enough to hear but not be involved. Patrick sat with his back to the big glass doors, intentionally, Myron supposed. His mother sat next to him and held his hand. Brooke sat across from him and waited.
Patrick looked at his mother. She nodded for him to go ahead. Patrick stared down at the table in front of him. His hair was close cropped, almost shaved. He rubbed his head for a moment before letting his hands drop.
"Rhys is dead, Mrs. Baldwin."
Myron glanced at Brooke. She had steeled herself for this. There was barely a tell. Myron turned to Win. His expression was blank, the same as his cousin's.
"He died a long time ago," Patrick said.
Brooke's voice did not crack. "How?"
Patrick kept his head lowered. His hands were folded on the table in front of him. His mother kept her hand on his forearm.
"We were taken from this kitchen," Patrick began. "I don't remember a lot of things. But I remember that."
His voice was stilted now, a chilling monotone.
"The men, they stuck us in the back of a van."
"How many men?" Brooke asked.
"Brooke, please." It was Nancy Moore. "It's the first time he's been able to speak. Just let him get through this, okay?"
Brooke said nothing. She turned her focus back to Patrick. Patrick had his head down. "I apologize," she said with too much formality. "Please go ahead."
"They stuck us in the back of a van," he repeated, almost, Myron thought, as though someone had backed up the teleprompter. "We drove for a long time. I don't know how long. When we stopped, we were on a big farm someplace. There were animals. Cows, pigs, chickens. Rhys and I, we shared a bedroom in the farmhouse."
Patrick stopped, keeping his head down. The silence was suffocating. Brooke wanted to ask something, maybe a million things, but the moment felt bubble fragile. No one moved. No one spoke. No one dared disrupt the moment.
Nancy gave her son's arm a squeeze. Patrick gathered himself and continued.
"It was a long time ago," he continued. "Sometimes it feels like a dream. It was nice there. On the farm. They . . . they were nice to us. We got to play a lot. We could run around. We got to feed the animals. I don't know for how long. It might have been like that for a few weeks. It might have been like that for a few months. Sometimes I even think it might have been like that for years. I just don't know. It's not like me and Rhys kept track or anything."
Again Patrick stopped. Myron looked past Patrick, out that back window into the spacious yard, all the way to the trees in the back. He tried to see it as Patrick spoke, the men breaking in here, grabbing the two boys, vanishing into that yard.
"Then one day," Patrick said, "it changed."
His tone was more hesitant, the words coming out in a strange, uneven flow.
"They brought men around," Patrick said. "I . . . I was abused."
Brooke still hadn't moved, still hadn't changed her expression, but it was as though Patrick's words sped up the aging process. Nothing about Brooke changed, and yet Myron could see that she was hanging on by the most brittle of threads.
"Rhys . . . he was stronger than I was. Braver. He tried to save me. He tried . . . he wouldn't let them do that to him. He stood up to them, Mrs. Baldwin. He fought them. He poked one guy in the eye with a pencil. Really got him good. So . . ." Patrick still couldn't lift his eyes from the table, but he managed something like a shrug. "They killed him. They shot him in the head. They made me . . ."
Patrick's shoulder started hitching. Myron saw a tear hit the table.
"They made me go with them to this ravine." The monotone was gone now. Patrick's voice was raw, struggling. "They made me watch . . ."
His mother put her hand on his shoulder. "It's okay," she whispered. "I'm right here."
"I saw it . . . I was there . . . They just . . . just dumped his body into this ravine. Like it was nothing. Like Rhys was nothing . . ."
Brooke let out a low moan, a sound unlike anything Myron had ever heard.
"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Baldwin."
And then the tears came from both of them.
When Nancy hurried her son toward the door, Win stepped in her way.
"We need to know more," Win said.
Patrick was sobbing uncontrollably.
"Not today," Nancy said, pushing past Win. "Dr. Stanton warned me this might be too much for him. You know the truth now. I'm so, so sorry."
She hurried outside. Win gestured to Myron, then moved toward Brooke. Myron quickly followed Nancy and Patrick. When the three of them were outside, Myron shouted, "How long have you known, Nancy?"
She spun toward him. "What?"
"How long have you known Rhys was dead?"
"What are you . . . Patrick just told us this morning."
Myron rubbed his chin. "Odd timing."
Patrick was still crying. The tears seemed real, and yet once again, something wasn't adding up.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Nancy asked.
"Patrick," Myron said, turning his attention to the distraught teen, "why were you in New York City yesterday with Tamryn Rogers?"
Nancy took that one. "What business is that of yours?"
"He needed to get out," Nancy said.
"Really? So you knew?"
"How come he took a bus? How come you didn't drive him?"
"That's not your business."
"He met up with Tamryn Rogers. I saw them together."
"You were following my son?"
Nancy put her hands on her hips, trying to look angry, but somehow it came across as more for show. "What gave you the right?" she snapped. "He went out by himself, he started talking to a girl his own age. Don't make it more than what it is."
"Hmm," Myron said. He started walking toward them. "Your story matches hers."
"Even the outrage over me following them. Tamryn Rogers expressed it nearly the same way."
"You were following my son. I have a right to be angry."
"Is he your son?"
Patrick stopped crying, almost all at once.
"What are you talking about?"
Myron tried staring into the boy's eyes, but again he kept his head down. "You both seem to be one step ahead of us, don't you think, Patrick?"
He didn't reply, didn't look.
"I confront Tamryn Rogers. Suddenly your story matches hers. Win and I tell your dad you told Fat Gandhi that Rhys was dead. Suddenly you've recovered enough to tell Mrs. Moore about it."
Nancy used her remote to unlock the car door. "Are you out of your mind?"
Myron bent at the waist, trying to force Patrick to look at him. "Are you really Patrick Moore?"
Without a warning, the boy reeled back his fist and threw it at Myron's head. Myron was off-balance from leaning forward, but this was, after all, an inexperienced teenage fighter throwing a wild punch. All Myron had to do was duck down a bit, not much, not enough to stumble, and let the blow sail harmlessly over his head.
The survival instinct, paired with his training, took over, giving him various options for how to counter the attack. The most obvious was to wait another millisecond. With the punch at full extension, the teenager would be completely exposed. Myron's knees were bent. He could pop a shot to the throat, the nose, the groin.
But he wouldn't do that.
Instead, he stayed in a standing tuck and waited to see how the boy would respond. Using the momentum from his missed punch, Patrick broke into a full run. Myron stood, about to give chase, when Nancy started pounding on his back with her fists.
"Leave my son alone! What the hell is wrong with you? Are you crazy?"
Myron weathered the blows for a moment. He stood upright as Patrick disappeared up the driveway and down the street. Nancy ran to her car and opened the door.
"Please," she pleaded, sliding in the car and putting it in reverse. "Please leave my boy alone."
Myron was about to head back into the house when his cell phone rang. It was his nephew, Mickey.
"We got something on Tamryn Rogers," Mickey said. "You're going to want to see this."
"Where are you?"
"I'm on my way."
Win stayed with Brooke. He had been filling her in on all the recent developments, the most puzzling for her being the return of her former au pair, Vada Linna, now known as Sofia Lampo.
"Why would Vada be back?" Brooke had asked. "I don't get it."
Neither did they.
Two stone lions guarded the driveway to the mansion where Ema resided with her mother and grandparents. The gate was closed. Myron leaned out. The security guard recognized him and hit the button. The gate creaked open.
When Myron was a kid, the estate had been owned by a famed Mafia don, or boss or capo or whatever you called the head mobster. Rumor had it that there was a furnace on the property where the don cremated the bodies of his victims. When the house was later sold, a furnace was indeed found back behind the pool area. To this day, no one knew whether it had been used for his weekend barbecues or whether those rumors were true.
The mansion was enormous and baronial and dark. It looked like someone had combined a medieval fortress with a Disney castle. The estate was sprawling and probably--and this had been the appeal for the current occupants--the most private in the area. There was a helicopter pad so they could come and go without being seen. The home was in a corporation's name, so as to protect the identity of the real owner. Up until a few months ago, even Ema's closest friends had no idea she lived here or why she kept it secret.
There was a lion-head knocker on the door, but before Myron could reach for it, Angelica Wyatt opened the door. She gave him a warm smile and said, "Hey, Myron."
Even though he had known her for years, even acting as her bodyguard at one point, it took a few seconds to see Angelica Wyatt as a person and not a poster or distant celluloid image up on a big screen. What, Myron often thought, must that be like--to be that kind of beautiful and famous that people, maybe even those close to you, always see you through the haze of movie stardom?
The famous face leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"I hear you're getting married," Ema's mom said to him.
Fifteen years ago, when Angelica Wyatt had given birth to her daughter, the tabloids had been horrible, following them nonstop, snapping photos with high-powered lenses whenever they'd leave her Los Angeles home, demanding answers about the baby's paternity. Headlines screamed stuff like ANGELICA WYATT SECRET BABY SHOCKER or WE KNOW THE DAD and then speculated on some recent costar or Arabian sultan or even, in one case, a former British prime minister.
Home by Harlan Coben / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime / History & Fiction have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes