Al Bolitar swilled rocks of ice in his Chivas 12. Television roar filling the room now, with the Mets bottom of the ninth against the Phillies. Pundit chatter, as the game cut to yet another break.
“So how did you like your trip to Europe son?”
“Not so much. London is kind of dangerous these days—gangs of rampaging Cockney chimney sweeps roaming everywhere, kidnapping children and selling them into slavery.”
His father frowned, gave him a hard look.
“The red busses were nice,” continued Myron happily, “and the London Eye of course. The queues for ice-creams are very long though.” Myron beamed with the easily relatable touristic memories, then added quickly, “Win says the child kidnappers are being controlled by an overweight nerd known as Pranjeet the Portly Punjabi, a criminal mastermind, who is part Fagin, part Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Although he looks a little more like a fat Dr. Evil if you ask me.”
Win: Windsor Horne Lockwood III. Of course Win would be involved. Al Bolitar sighed, swilled the rocks of ice around his glass. “How’s the job hunt going?”
Myron pulled a face. “I got to stay home with you and mom, pops. You are getting older now. I need to be home to look out for you, in case you need me to go out to the shops or something. Besides, with the injured knee that ruined my promising career with the Celtics, I cannot begin to think about full time work, maybe just a little part-time sleuthing once a year, when Win needs me.”
Again Win. Al Bolitar frowned. “Win was in London with you?”
“Yes,” admitted Myron, reluctantly.
His father frowned harder. “You ask me, that Win is nothing but trouble. Every time you hang out with him someone tangentially connected with the neighborhood gets murdered or kidnapped.” Al Bolitar gave his son a hard look. “Win didn’t have that rocket launcher of his with him did he?”
“No, of course he didn’t.” Myron let the easy lie roll off his tongue. The words came a little too quick. He saw his father’s eyes rolling to the heavens.”
“I don’t like you hanging out with Win, Myron. His shoes are a little too smart, his hair just a little too sharply parted, and he has effete eyebrows. I suppose you have noticed that, Mr. Detective?” His father slugged Whiskey. “ Say the word and I’ll have my teamster buddies score you a job at the airport. Not the schmancy kind of gig you are used to, but it is good honest labor. The kind of work that will help you move out of the basement into a place of your own.”
Myron sat forward in his seat, his heart leaping out of his chest. “Move out of the basement; but what about my childhood memories: my Sports Illustrated collection, and my posters of Burt Ward and Adam West, the greatest crime-fighters the world has ever seen? And who would tend my shrine to Farrah Fawcett, have you even thought about that?”
His father frowned. “It smells like moldy gym socks down there. Besides, you are fifty years old, son. Maybe it is time you made an honest woman out of that girl of yours. What’s her name, Terese? You wheel ’em in and out of her so goddamn fast, it is hard to keep track.”
Myron clutched at his fathers arm.
“I cannot move out of the basement, not with my ruined knee. I need to be home, with you and mom. I belong here, don’t you see?”
His father winced, moved his whiskey out of range of his son’s clutching fingers. “Here’s the thing son—me and your mom, we got things we like to do. We got our sky diving lessons, then we got ourselves another anthropological trip to the Amazon rain forest, and ever since you Mom got into EDM, we got a whole bunch of festivals lined up too: Coachella, Burning Man and Electric Daisy.”
“But who is going to make my dinners?”
“We will stock up the freezer with frozen lasagna and hungry-man ready meals, same as usual.”
“I don’t like ready meals,” sniffed Myron, his voice sulky.
Al Bolitar double slugged his scotch and banged the glass down on the coffee table. “You should have thought about that before you passed up the chance to be the next Jerry Maguire shouldn’t you jackass? You could have been lording it on the upper east side now, with your own apartment and a stable full of millionaire sports celebrities at your beck and call—all of them cutting you a big fat pay check every month. But oh-no, you and your injured knee had to throw it all away didn’t you? You ask me, you should have never sold the agency.”
The agency is in the past, just like my career with the Celtics. All I have to look forward to now is the pain of my ruined knee and the solace of my closest fiends. Sleuthing is my life. I want to solve mysteries pops, can’t you understand that?”
Al Bolitar held his hands to the heavens. “Mystery solving? Where’s the percentage in that? That kind of thing is a young mans game. Why only last week I caught some show on TV about an ex LAPD detective: Hieronymus Harry Haller. I remember thrilling to his adventures back in the day, when he was young and full of vim. But these days, since he went in the nursing home, and is taking his food through tubes—well, lets just say I am not digging his adventures quite as much as I used to. I am warning you son, you don’t snap yourself together, get your life back on track, that could happen to you!”
Myron sniffed, his bottom lip trembling, his eyes growing wide with uncertainty. “Are you saying I should throw away everything I have ever believed in, to a world of ‘standalone’ mysteries? I won’t let it happen. I swear I won’t! I will go see Win’s friend, Harlan Coben—he is so tall and wise and handsome. He is an unerringly talented mystery writer to boot—he will know what to do—most surely he will!”
His father sighed. “Don’t be bothering the neighbors again Myron. We talked about this already!”
Myron rose from his seat “I will got to the city and talk to him now. Mr. Coben will know the answers!”
Al Bolitar shot his son a doubtful look. “This time of night? Those local government assholes have got the George Washington Bridge closed off again.”
“Then I will take Jones Road to Riverside Drive!”
“You got a job at the airport, you could change that POS Taurus out for a proper car you know that don’t you?”
Myron’s fists grew tight. “I will never sell the Taurus, never!”
Just then, Myron’s mom peered around the door of the den. “Who wants chocolate Yoo-Hoo and fresh-baked cookies for their supper?”
Myron stood there for a long moment, his game knee twitching with the unbearable tension. Finally, he raised his hand. “Me please mom.”
His mother smiled. “It’s nice to have you home son, you sit right there on the couch for your cookies. You want that I should fetch your blanky? I got it warming nice and cozy for you!”
Myron felt the warm tears of love and happiness welling from his eyes. He sank back onto the couch. “Thanks mom. You are the greatest. Can we all sit together and watch Jeopardy together when the game is done?”
His mother beamed back at him, her heart full of unending love. “Of course dear. I am sure the modern mystery reading demographic would be delighted, and we would too, wouldn’t we father?”
Al Bolitar made a horrible snorting noise, pouring another generous snort of Chivas 12 over the top of the glistening ice cubes, as the Mets game came live again.