George P. Gakoumis Jr.
Stefanie Sanchez
Home > Fade Away (Myron Bolitar #3)

Fade Away (Myron Bolitar #3)
Author: Harlan Coben

Chapter 1

“Just behave.”

“Me?” Myron said. “I’m always a delight.”

Myron Bolitar was being led through the corridor of the darkened Meadowlands Arena by Calvin Johnson, the New Jersey Dragons new general manager. Their dress shoes clacked sharply against the tile and echoed through empty Harry M. Stevens food stands, Carvel Ice Cream carts, pretzel vendors, souvenir booths. The smell of sporting-event hot dogs—that sort of rubbery, chemically, yet nostalgically delicious aroma—wafted from the walls. The stillness of the place consumed them; there is nothing more hollow and lifeless than an empty sports arena.

Calvin Johnson stopped in front of a door leading to a luxury box. “This may all seem a bit strange,” he said. “Just go with the flow, okay?”

“Okay.”

Calvin reached for the knob and took a deep breath. “Clip Arnstein, the owner of the Dragons, is in there waiting for us.”

“And yet I’m not trembling,” Myron said.

Calvin Johnson shook his head. “Just don’t be an ass.”

Myron pointed to his chest. “I wore a tie and everything.”

Calvin Johnson opened the door. The luxury box faced midcourt. Several workers were putting down the basketball floor over the hockey ice. The Devils had played the night before. Tonight was the Dragons’ turn. The box was cozy. Twenty-four cushioned seats. Two television monitors. To the right was a wood-paneled counter for the food—usually fried chicken, hot dogs, potato knishes, sausage and pepper sandwiches, that sort of stuff. To the left was a brass cart with a nicely stocked bar and minifridge. The box also had its own bathroom—this so the corporate high rollers would not have to urinate with the great unwashed.

Clip Arnstein faced them, standing. He wore a dark blue suit with a red tie. He was bald with patches of gray over both ears. He was burly, his chest still a barrel after seventy-some-odd years. His large hands had brown spots and fat blue veins like garden hoses. No one spoke. No one moved. Clip glared hard at Myron for several seconds, examining him from head to toe.

“Like the tie?” Myron asked.

Calvin Johnson shot him a warning glance.

The old man made no movement toward them. “How old are you now, Myron?”

Interesting opening question. “Thirty-two.”

“You playing any ball?”

“Some,” Myron said.

“You keep in good shape?”

“Want me to flex?”

“No, that won’t be necessary.”

No one offered Myron a seat and no one took one. Of course the only chairs in here were the spectator seats, but it still felt weird to stand in a business setting where you’re supposed to sit. Standing suddenly became difficult. Myron felt antsy. He didn’t know what to do with his hands. He took out a pen and held it, but that didn’t feel right. Too Bob Dole. He stuck his hands in his pockets and stood at a weird angle, like the casual guy in the Sears circular.

“Myron, we have an interesting proposition for you,” Clip Arnstein said.

“Proposition?” Always the probing interrogatory.

“Yes. I was the one who drafted you, you know.”

“I know.”

“Ten, eleven years ago. When I was with the Celtics.”

“I know.”

“First round.”

“I know all this, Mr. Arnstein.”

“You were a hell of a prospect, Myron. You were smart. You had an unbelievable touch. You were loaded with talent.”

“I coulda been a contenda,” Myron said.

Arnstein scowled. It was a famous scowl, developed over some fifty-plus years in professional basketball. The scowl had made its first appearance when Clip played for the now-defunct Rochester Royals in the forties. It grew more famous when he coached the Boston Celtics to numerous championships. It became a legendary trademark when he made all the famous trades (“clipping” the competition, ergo the nickname) as team president. Three years ago Clip had become majority owner of the New Jersey Dragons and the scowl now resided in East Rutherford, right off Exit 16 of the New Jersey Turnpike. His voice was gruff. “Was that supposed to be Brando?”

“Eerie, isn’t it? Like Marlon’s actually in the room.”

Clip Arnstein’s face suddenly softened. He nodded slowly, giving Myron the doelike, father-figure eyes. “You make jokes to cover the pain,” he said gravely. “I understand that.”

Dr. Joyce Brothers.

“Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Arnstein?”

“You never played in a single professional game, did you, Myron?”

“You know very well I didn’t.”

Clip nodded. “Your first preseason game. Third quarter. You already had eighteen points that game. Not bad for a rookie in his first scrimmage. That was when fate took over.”

Fate took the form of big Burt Wesson of the Washington Bullets. There had been a collision, a searing pain, and then nothing.

“Awful thing,” Clip said.

“Uh huh.”

“I always felt bad about what happened to you. Such a waste.”

Myron glanced at Calvin Johnson. Calvin was looking off, arms crossed, his smooth black features a placid pool. “Uh huh,” Myron said again.

“That’s why I’d like to give you another chance.”

Myron was sure he’d heard wrong. “Pardon?”

“We have a slot open on the team. I’d like to sign you.”

Myron waited. He looked at Clip. Then he looked at Calvin Johnson. Neither one was laughing. “Where is it?” Myron asked.

“What?”

“The camera. This is one of those hidden camera shows, right? Is this the one with Ed McMahon? I’m a big fan of his work.”

“It’s not a joke, Myron.”

“It must be, Mr. Arnstein. I haven’t played competitive ball in ten years. I shattered my knee, remember?”

“All too well. But as you said, it was ten years ago. I know you went through rehabilitation to rebuild it.”

“And you also know I tried a comeback. Seven years ago. The knee wouldn’t hold up.”

“It was still too early,” Clip said. “You just told me you’re playing again.”

“Pickup games on weekends. It’s a tad different than the NBA.”

Clip dismissed the argument with a wave of his hand. “You’re in shape. You even volunteered to flex.”

Myron’s eyes narrowed, swerving from Clip to Calvin Johnson, back to Clip. Their expressions were neutral. “Why do I have the feeling,” Myron asked, “that I’m missing something here?”

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