CHAPTER 23

They moved Myron to a large cedar closet on the second floor. Myron was flat on the floor. His hands were duct-taped behind his back, his feet bound together too. Dominick Rochester stood over him, a gun in his hand.

“Did you call your friend Win?”

Myron said, “Who?”

Rochester frowned. “You think we’re stupid?”

“If you know about Win,” Myron said, meeting his eye, “about what he can do, then the answer is yes. I think you’re very stupid.”

Rochester sneered. “We’ll see about that,” he said.

Myron quickly assessed the situation. No windows, one entrance. That was why they’d brought him up here: no windows. So Win couldn’t attack from the outside or at a distance. They had realized that, considered it, been smart enough to bind him and bring him up here.

This was not good.

Dominick Rochester was armed. So was Art Teacher. It would indeed be nearly impossible to get in here. But he knew Win. Myron just needed to give him time.

On the right, Ascot Bite was still smiling. There was blood — Myron’s blood — on his teeth. Art Teacher was on the left.

Rochester bent down so his face was close to Myron’s. The cologne smell was still on him, worse than ever. “I’m going to tell you what I want,” he said. “Then I’m going to leave you alone with Orville and Jeb. See, I know you had something to do with that girl disappearing. And if you had something to do with her, you had something to do with my Katie. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

“Where’s Mrs. Seiden?”

“No one is interested in hurting her.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with your daughter,” Myron said. “I just gave Aimee a ride. That’s all. The police will tell you.”

“You lawyered up.”

“I didn’t lawyer up. My lawyer arrived. I answered every question. I told them that Aimee called me for a ride. I showed them where I dropped her off.”

“And what about my daughter?”

“I don’t know her. I’ve never met her in my life.”

Rochester looked back at Orville and Jeb. Myron didn’t know which was which. His leg was throbbing from the bite.

Art Teacher was redoing his ponytail, making it tight and wrapping it with the band. “I believe him.”

“But,” Ascot Bite added, “we got to be, got to be certain, tengo que estar seguro.

Art Teacher frowned. “Who was that?”

“Kylie Minogue.”

“Whoa, pretty obscure, dude.”

Rochester stood upright. “You guys do your thing. I’ll keep watch downstairs.”

“Wait,” Myron said. “I don’t know anything.”

Rochester looked at him for a moment. “It’s my daughter. I can’t take that chance. So what’s going to happen here is, the Twins are going to work you over. You still telling the same story after that, I know you had nothing to do with it. But if you did, maybe I save my kid. You understand what I’m saying?”

Rochester moved to the door.

The Twins crept closer. Art Teacher pushed Myron back. Then he sat on Myron’s legs. Ascot straddled Myron’s chest. He looked down and bared his teeth. Myron swallowed. He tried to buck him off, but with his hands taped behind him, it was impossible. His stomach did flips of fear.

“Wait,” Myron said again.

“No,” Rochester said. “You’ll stall. You’ll sing, you’ll dance, you’ll make up stories—”

“No, that’s not—”

“Let me finish, okay? It’s my daughter. You have to understand that. You need to crack before I’ll believe you. The Twins. They’re good at making a man crack.”

“Just hear me out, okay? I’m trying to find Aimee Biel—”

“No.”

“—and if I find her, there’s an excellent chance I’ll find your daughter too. I’m telling you. Look, you checked me out, right? That’s how you know about Win.”

Rochester stopped, waited.

“You must have heard this is what I do. I help people when they’re in trouble. I dropped that girl off and now she’s gone. I owe it to her parents to find her.”

Rochester looked at the Twins. In the distance Myron heard a car radio, the song fading in and then fading out. The song was “We Built This City on Rock-n-Roll” by Starship.

The second worst song in the world, Myron thought.

Ascot Bite started singing along, “We built este ciudad, we built este ciudad, we built este ciudad…” Hippy Art Teacher, still holding Myron’s legs, started bobbing his head, clearly digging his colleague’s vocals.

“I’m telling the truth,” Myron said.

“Either way,” Rochester said, “if you’re telling the truth or not, the Twins here. They’ll find out. See? You can’t lie to them. Once they hurt you some, you’ll tell us everything we need to know.”

“But by then it’s too late,” Myron said.

“They won’t take long.” Rochester looked at Art Teacher.

Art Teacher said, “Half an hour, hour max.”

“That’s not what I meant. I’ll be too hurt. I won’t be able to function.”

“He has a point,” Art Teacher said.

“We leave marks,” Ascot added, flashing his teeth.

Rochester thought about it.

“Orville, where did you say he was before he came home?”

Art Teacher — Orville — gave him Randy Wolf’s address and told him about the diner. They’d been tailing him, and Myron hadn’t picked up on it. Either they were very good or Myron was awfully rusty — or both. Rochester asked Myron why he visited both places.

“The house is where her boyfriend lives,” Myron said. “But he wasn’t home.”

“You think he has something to do with it?”

Myron knew better to answer in the positive. “Just talking to Aimee’s friends, see what was up with her. Who better than her boyfriend?”

“And the diner?”

“I met a source. I wanted to see what they had on your daughter and Aimee. I’m trying to find a connection between them.”

“So what have you learned so far?”

“I’m just starting.”

Rochester thought some more. Then he shook his head slowly. “Way I heard it, you picked up the Biel girl at two A.M.”

“That’s right.”

“At two A.M.,” he repeated.

“She called me.”

“Why?” His face reddened. “Is it because you like picking up high school girls?”

“That’s not it.”

“Oh, I suppose you gonna tell me it was innocent?”

“It was.”

Myron could see the anger mounting. He was losing him.

“You watch that trial with that perv Michael Jackson?”

The question confused Myron. “A little, I guess.”

“He sleeps with little boys, right? He admits it. But then he says, ‘Oh but it’s innocent.’ ”

Now Myron saw where this was going.

“And here you are, just like that, telling me you pick up pretty high school girls, late at night. At two A.M. And then you say, ‘Oh, but it’s innocent.’ ”

“Listen to me—”

“Nah, I think I listened enough.”

Rochester nodded for the Twins to go ahead.

Enough time had passed. Win was, Myron hoped, in place. He was probably waiting for one last distraction. Myron couldn’t move, so he tried something else.

Without warning, Myron let loose a scream.

He screamed as long and as loud as he could, even after Orville the Art Teacher snapped a fist into his teeth.

But the scream had the desired effect. For a second, everyone looked at him. Just for a second. No more.

But that was enough.

An arm snaked around Rochester’s neck as a gun appeared at his forehead. Win’s face materialized next to Rochester’s.

“Next time,” Win said, crinkling his nose, “please refrain from buying your cologne at your local Exxon station.”

The Twins were greased lightning. They were off Myron in under a second. Art Teacher took to the far corner. Ascot Bite flipped behind Myron and pulled him up, using Myron as a shield. He had a gun out now too. He put it against the back of Myron’s neck.

Stalemate.

Win kept his arm around Rochester’s neck. He squeezed the windpipe. Rochester’s face darkened red as the oxygen drained away. His eyes rolled back. A few seconds later, Win did something a little surprising: He released his grip on the throat. Rochester retched and sucked in a deep breath. Using him as a shield, Win’s gun stayed near the back of the man’s head but now angled toward Art Teacher.

“Cutting off his air supply, what with that awful cologne,” Win said, by way of an explanation. “It was too merciful.”

The Twins studied Win as though he were something little and cute they’d stumbled across in the forest. They did not appear to be afraid of him. As soon as Win had come upon the scene, they’d coordinated their movements as if they’d done this before.

“Sneaking up like that,” Hippy Art Teacher said, smiling at Win. “Dude, that was one radical move.”

“Far out,” Win said. “Like, dig it.”

He frowned. “Are you mocking me, man?”

“Tripping. Groovy. Flower power.”

Art Teacher looked at Ascot Bite as if to say, Do you believe this guy?

“Man oh man, dude, you don’t know who you’re messing with.”

“Put your weapons down,” Win said, “or I’ll kill you both.”

The Twins smiled some more, enjoying this.

“Dude, you ever do, like, math?”

Win gave Art Teacher the flat eyes. “Like, yah.”

“See, we got two guns. You got one.”

Ascot Bite rested his head on Myron’s shoulder. “You,” he said to Win, excited, licking his lips. “You shouldn’t threaten us.”

“You’re right,” Win said.

All eyes were on the gun pressed near Rochester’s temple. That was the mistake. It was like a classic magician’s trick. The Twins had not wondered why Win had released his grip on Rochester’s throat. But the reason was simple:

It was so that Win — using Rochester’s body to block their view — could ready his second gun.

Myron tilted his head a little to the left. The bullet from the second gun, the one that had been hidden behind Rochester’s left hip, struck Ascot Bite square in the forehead. He was dead instantly. Myron felt something wet splash on his cheek.

At the same time, Win fired the first gun, the one that had been at Rochester’s head. That bullet slammed into Art Teacher’s throat. He went down, his hands clawing at what had been his voice box. He may have been dead or at least bleeding to death. Win didn’t chance it.

The second bullet hit the man square between the eyes.

Win turned back to Rochester. “Breathe funny and you end up like them.”

Rochester made himself stay impossibly still. Win bent down next to Myron and started ripping off the duct tape. He looked down at Ascot Bite’s dead body.

“Chew on that,” Win said to the corpse. He turned back to Myron. “Get it? The biting, chew on that?”

“Hilarious. Where’s Mrs. Seiden?”

“She’s safe, out of the house, but you’ll need to make up a cover story for her.”

Myron thought about that.

“Did you call the police?” Myron asked.

“Not yet. In case you wanted to ask some questions.”

Myron looked at Rochester.

“Talk to him downstairs,” Win said, handing Myron a gun. “I’ll pull the car into the garage and start the cleanup.”

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