One False Move Page 18

Myron thought about it, nodded. “Point taken. I won’t do it again.”

“Fine. So what did Mabel say?”

He recounted his conversation with her aunt. Brenda stayed still. She reacted only when he mentioned the phone calls Mabel and perhaps her father had received from her mother.

“They never told me,” she said. “I suspected as much, but”—she looked at Myron—“looks like you weren’t the only one who thought I couldn’t handle the truth.”

They fell into silence and continued the drive. Before making the left off Northfield Avenue, Myron noticed a gray Honda Accord in the rearview mirror. At least it looked like a Honda Accord. All cars pretty much looked the same to Myron, and there was no vehicle more unassuming than a gray Honda Accord. No way to tell for sure, but Myron thought that maybe they were being followed. He slowed down, memorized the license plate. New Jersey plate. 890UB3. When he entered the St. Barnabas Medical Center lot, the car drove on. Didn’t mean anything. If the guy doing the tailing was good, he’d never pull in behind him.

St. Barnabas was bigger than when he was a kid, but what hospital wasn’t? His dad had taken Myron here several times when he was a kid, for sprains and stitches and X rays and even one ten-day stint for rheumatic fever when he was twelve.

“Let me talk to this guy alone,” Myron said.


“You’re the daughter. He may speak more freely without you there.”

“Yeah, okay. I have some patients I’m following on the fourth floor anyway. I’ll meet you back down in the lobby.”

Calvin Campbell was in full uniform when Myron found him in the security office. He sat behind a high counter with several dozen TV monitors running. The pictures were in black and white and, from what Myron could see, completely uneventful. Campbell’s feet were up. He was downing a submarine sandwich slightly longer than a baseball bat. He took off his policelike cap to reveal tightly curled white hair.

Myron asked him about Horace Slaughter.

“He didn’t show for three straight days,” Calvin said. “No call, no nothing. So I fired his ass.”

“How?” Myron asked.


“How did you fire him? In person? On the phone?”

“Well, I tried to call him. But nobody answered. So I wrote a letter.”

“Return receipt?”


“Did he sign it?”

He shrugged. “Haven’t gotten it back yet, if that’s what you mean.”

“Was Horace a good worker?”

Calvin’s eyes narrowed. “You a private eye?”

“Something like that.”

“And you’re working for the daughter?”


“She got juice.”


“Juice,” Calvin repeated. “I mean, I never wanted to hire the man in the first place.”

“So why did you?”

He scowled. “Don’t you listen? His daughter got juice. She’s tight with some of the bigwigs here. Everybody likes her. So you start hearing things. Rumors, you know. So I figured, what the hell. Being a security guard ain’t brain surgery. I hired him.”

“What kind of rumors?”

“Hey, don’t get me in the middle here.” He held his palms as though pushing trouble back. “People talk, is all I’m saying. I’ve been here eighteen years. I ain’t one to make waves. But when a guy don’t show for work, well, I have to draw the line.”

“Anything else you can tell me?”

“Nope. He came. He did his job okay, I guess. Then he didn’t show and I fired him. End of story.”

Myron nodded. “Thank you for your time.”

“Hey, man, can you do me a favor?”

“What?” Myron asked.

“See if his daughter can clear out his locker. I got a new man coming on board, and I could use the space.”

Myron took the elevator up to the pediatric floor. He circled the nurses’ station and spotted Brenda through a big window. She was sitting on the bed of a little girl who could not have been more than seven. Myron stopped and watched for a moment. Brenda had put on a white coat, a stethoscope draped around her neck. The little girl said something. Brenda smiled and put the stethoscope on the little girl’s ears. They both laughed. Brenda beckoned behind her, and the girl’s parents joined them on the bed. The parents had gaunt faces—the sunken cheeks, hollow eyes of the terminally harrowed. Brenda said something to them. More laughter. Myron continued to watch, mesmerized.

When she finally came out, Brenda walked straight to him. “How long have you been standing here?”

“Just a minute or two,” he said. Then he added, “You like it here.”

She nodded. “It’s even better than being on the court.”

Enough said.

“So what’s up?” she asked.

“Your father has a locker here.”

They took the elevator to the basement. Calvin Campbell was waiting for them. “Do you know the combination?” he asked.

Brenda said no.

“No problem.” Calvin had a lead pipe in his hand. With practiced precision he belted the combination lock. It shattered like glass. “You can use that empty carton in the corner,” he said. Then he sauntered out.

Brenda looked at Myron. He nodded. She reached out and opened the locker. An odor like oft-soiled socks popped out. Myron made a face and looked in. Using his index finger and thumb like a pair of tweezers, he lifted a shirt into view. The shirt looked like the before picture in a Tide commercial.

“Dad wasn’t great with laundry,” Brenda said.

Or with throwing away garbage, from the looks of things. The entire locker resembled a condensed frat house. There were dirty clothes and empty cans of beer and old newspapers and even a pizza box. Brenda brought over the carton, and they began to load stuff in. Myron started with a pair of uniform pants. He wondered if Horace owned them or if they belonged to the hospital, and then he wondered why he was wondering about something so irrelevant. He searched through the pockets and pulled out a crumpled ball of paper.

Myron smoothed it out. An envelope. He plucked out a sheet of paper and began to read.

“What is it?” Brenda asked.

“A letter from an attorney,” Myron said.

He handed it to her:

Dear Mr. Slaughter:

We are in receipt of your letters and are aware of your constant communications with this office. As explained to you in person, the matter you are asking about is confidential. We ask you to kindly stop contacting us. Your behavior is fast approaching harassment.

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