“Engaging . . . hilarious.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
Once, Valerie Simpson’s tennis career skyrocketed; now, the headlines belong to a player from the wrong side of the tracks. But when Valerie is shot dead in cold blood and dropped outside the stadium at the U.S. Open, sports agent Myron Bolitar investigates the killing and uncovers a connection between the two players and a six-year-old murder at an exclusive mainline club. As Myron is drawn into the case—along with a dirty U.S. senator, a jealous mother, and the mob—he finds himself caught between a killer and the truth.
“Harlan Coben is the modern master of the hook-and-twist.”—Dan Brown
About the Author
Hometown:Ridgewood, New Jersey
Date of Birth:January 4, 1962
Place of Birth:Newark, New Jersey
Education:B.A. in political science, Amherst College, 1984
Read an Excerpt
Cesar Romero," Myron said.
Win looked at him. "You'renot serious."
"I'm starting off with aneasy one."
On Stadium Court the players were changing sides. Myron's client,Duane Richwood, was shellacking the number-fifteen seed IvanSomething-okov, leading 5-0 in the third set after winning the firsttwo sets 6-0, 6-2. An impressive U.S. Open debut for the unseededtwenty-one-year-old upstart from the streets (literally) of New York. "
Cesar Romero," Myron repeated. "Unless you don't know."
Win sighed. "The Joker."
"The Riddler." Ninety-second commercial break. Myron and Win were keeping themselvesbusy with a scintillating game of Name the Batman Criminal. The TVBatman. The Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward and all those Pow,Bam, Slam balloons. The real Batman.
"Who played the second one?" Myron asked.
"The second Riddler?" Myron nodded.
From across the court Duane Richwood flashed them a cocky smile. Hesported garish aviator sunglasses with loud fluorescent green frames.The latest style from Ray*Ban. Duane was never without them. He hadbecome not only identified by the shades but defined by them.Ray*Ban was rather pleased.
Myron and Win sat in one of the two players' boxes reserved forcelebrities and players' entourages. For most matches every seat inthe box was filled. When Agassi played the night before, the box hadoverflowed with his family, friends, suck-ups, young lasses,environmentally correct movie stars, hair weaves-like an Aerosmithbackstage party. But Duane had only three people in the box: agentMyron, financial consultant Win, and Duane's coach, Henry Hobman.Wanda, the love of Duane's life, got too nervous and preferred tostay home. "
John Astin," Win answered.
Myron nodded. "How about Shelley Winters."
Win looked puzzled. "And what?"
"What other criminal did Liberace play?"
"What are you talking about? Liberace only appeared in that oneepisode."
Myron leaned back and smiled. "Are you sure?" In his seat next to the umpire's chair Duane happily chugged down abottle of Evian. He held the bottle so that the sponsor's name couldbe clearly seen by the television cameras. Smart kid. Knew how toplease the sponsor. Myron had recently signed Duane to a simple dealwith the natural water giant: during the U.S. Open Duane drank Evianin marked bottles. In return Evian paid him ten grand. That was waterrights. Myron was negotiating Duane's soda rights with Pepsi and hiselectrolyte rights with Gatorade.
"Liberace only appeared in that one episode," Win announced .
"Is that your final answer?"
"Yes. Liberace only appeared in that one episode."
Henry Hobman continued to study the court, scrutinizing with intenseconcentration, his line of vision swinging back and forth. Too bad noone was playing.
"Henry, you want to take a guess?"
Henry ignored them. Nothing new there.
"Liberace only appeared in that one episode," Win repeated, hisnose in the air.
Myron made a soft buzzing sound. "Sorry, that answer is incorrect.What do we have for our player, Don? Well, Myron, Windsor gets thehome version of our game plus a year's supply of Turtle Wax. Andthank you for playing our game!"
Win was unmoved. "Liberace only appeared in that oneepisode."
"That your new mantra?"
"Until you prove otherwise."
Win-full name: Windsor Horne Lockwood III-steepled his manicuredfingers. He did that a lot, steepling. Steepling fit him. Win lookedliked his name. The poster boy for the quintessential WASP. Everythingabout his appearance reeked arrogance, elitism, Town and CountryParties Page, debutantes dressed in monogrammed sweaters and pearlswith names like Babs, dry martinis at the clubhouse, stuffy oldmoney-his fine blond hair, his pretty-boy patrician face, hislily-white complexion, his snotty Exeter accent. Except in Win'scase some sort of chromosomal abnormality had slipped through thegenerations of careful breeding. In some ways Win was exactly what he appeared to be. But in many more ways-sometimes very frighteningways-Win was not.
"I'm waiting," Win said.
"You remember Liberace playing Chandell the Great?" Myronasked.
"But you forgot that Liberace also played Chandell's evil twinbrother, Harry. In the same episode."
Win made a face. "You cannot be serious."
"That doesn't count. Evil twin brothers."
"Where in the rule book does it say that?"
Win set his jutting jaw in that certain way.
The humidity was thick enough towear as undergarments, especially in Flushing Meadows's windlessstadium court. The stadium, named strangely enough for LouisArmstrong, was basically a giant billboard that also happened to havea tennis court in the middle. IBM had a sign above the speedometerthat clocked the velocity of each player's serve. Citizen kept boththe real time and how long the match had been going on. Visa had itsname printed behind the service line. Reebok, Infiniti, Fuji Film,Clairol had their names plastered wherever there was a free spot. Sodid Heineken.
Heineken, the official beer of the U.S. Open.
The crowd was a complete mix. Down low-in the good seats-peoplehad money. But anything went in the dress department. Some wore fullsuits and ties (like Win), some wore more casual BananaRepublic-type clothes (like Myron), some wore jeans, some wore shorts.But Myron's personal favorite were the fans who came in full tennisgear-shirt, shorts, socks, tennis shoes, warm-up jacket, sweatbands,and tennis racket. Tennis racket. Like they might get called on toplay. Like Sampras or Steffi or someone might suddenly point into thestands and say, "Hey, you with the racket. I need a doublespartner."
Win's turn. "Roddy McDowall," he began.
"Joan Collins." Myron hesitated. "Joan Collins? As in Dynasty?"
"I refuse to offer hints."
Myron ran episodes through his mind. On the court the umpireannounced, "Time." The ninety-second commercial break was over.The players rose. Myron couldn't swear to it, but he thought he sawHenry blink.
"Give up?" Win asked.
"Shhh. They're about to play."
"And you call yourself a Batman fan."
The players took the court. They too were billboards, only smaller.Duane wore Nike sneakers and clothes. He used a Head tennis racket.Logos for McDonald's and Sony adorned his sleeves. His opponent woreReebok. His logos featured Sharp electronics and Bic. Bic. The pen andrazor company. Like someone was going to watch a tennis match, see thelogo, and buy a pen.
Myron leaned toward Win. "Okay, I give," he whispered. "Whatcriminal did Joan Collins play?"
Win shrugged. "I don't remember."
"I know she was in an episode. But I don't remember hercharacter's name."
"You can't do that." Win smiled with perfect white teeth. "Where in the rule book does it say that?"
"You have to know the answer."
"Why?" Win countered. "Does Pat Sajak have to know every puzzleon Wheel of Fortune? Does Alex Trebeck have to know every question onJeopardy!"
"Nice analogy, Win. Really."
Then another voice said, "TheSiren."
Myron and Win looked around. Itseemed to have come from Henry.
"Did you say something?" Henry's mouth did not appear to be moving. "The Siren," herepeated, his eyes still pasted to the court. "Joan Collins playedthe Siren. On Batman."
Myron and Win exchanged a glance.
"Nobody likes a know-it-all, Henry."
Henry's mouth might have moved. Might have been asmile. On the court Duane opened the game with an ace that nearly bore a holethrough a ball boy. The IBM speedometer clocked it at 128 mph. Myronshook his head in disbelief. So did Ivan What's-his-name. Duane waslining up for the second point when Myron's cell phone rang.
Myron quickly picked it up. He was not the only person in the standswho was talking on a cell phone. He was, however, the only one in afront row. Myron was about to disconnect the power when he realized itmight be Jessica. Jessica. Just the thought quickened his pulse a little.
"It's not Jessica." It was Esperanza, hisassociate.
"I didn't think it was."
"Right," she said. "You always sound like a whimpering puppywhen you answer the phone."
Myron gripped the receiver. The match continued without interruption,but sour faces spun to seek out the origin of the offending ring."What do you want?" he whispered. "I'm in thestadium."
"I know. Bet you look like a pretentious asshole. Talking on a cellphone at the match."
Now that she mentioned it . . .
The sour faces were glaring daggers now. In their eyes Myron hadcommitted an unpardonable sin. Like molesting a child. Or using thesalad fork on the entree. "What do you want?"
"They're showing you on TV right now. Jesus, it'strue."
"The TV does make you look heavier."
"What do you want?"
"Nothing much. I thought you might want to know I got you a meetingwith Eddie Crane."
"You're kidding." Eddie Crane, one of the hottest tennis juniorsin the country. He was seeing only the big-four agencies. ICM, TruPro,Advantage International, ProServ.
"No joke. Meet him and his parents by court sixteen after Duane'smatch."
"I love you, you know."
"Then pay me more," she said.
Duane hit a cross-court forehandwinner. Thirty-love.
"Anything else?" Myronasked. "Nothing important. Valerie Simpson. She's called three times."
"What did she want?"
"She wouldn't say. But the Ice Queen sounded ruffled."
"Don't call her that."
Myron hung up. Win looked at him. "Problem?"
Valerie Simpson. A weird, albeit sad case. The former tenniswunderkind had visited Myron's office two days ago looking forsomeone-anyone-to represent her. "Don't think so."
Duane was up forty-love. Triple match point. Bud Collins, tenniscolumnist extraordinaire, was already waiting in the gangway for thepostmatch interview. Bud's pants, always a Technicolor fashion risk,were particularly hideous today.
Duane took two balls from the ball boy and approached the line. Duanewas a rare commodity in tennis. A black man. Not from India or Africaor even France. Duane was from New York City. Unlike just about everyother player on the tour, Duane had not spent his life preparing forthis moment. He hadn't been pushed by ambitious, carpooling parents.He hadn't worked with the world's top coaches in Florida orCalifornia since he was old enough to hold a racket. Duane was on theopposite end of the spectrum: a street kid who had run away at agefifteen and somehow survived on his own. He had learned tennis fromthe public courts, hanging around all day and challenging anyone who could hold a racket.
He was on the verge of winning his first Grand Slam match when the gunshot sounded.
The sound had been muffled, coming from outside the stadium. Mostpeople did not panic, assuming the sound had come from a firecrackeror car backfire. But Myron and Win had heard the sound too often. Theywere up and moving before the screams. Inside the stadium the crowdbegan to mumble. More screams ensued. Loud, hysterical screams. Thecourt umpire in his infinite wisdom impatiently shouted "Quiet,please!" into his microphone.
Myron and Win sprinted up the metallic stairway. They leaped over thewhite chain, put out by the ushers so that no one could enter or leavethe court until the players switched sides, and ran outside. A smallcrowd was beginning to gather in what was generously dubbed the"Food Court." With a lot of work and patience the Food Court hopedto one day reach the gastronomic levels of, say, its mall brethren.
They pushed through the crowd. Some people were indeed hysterical butothers hadn't moved at all. This was, after all, New York. The linesfor refreshments were long. No one wanted to lose their place.
The girl was lying facedown in front of a stand serving Moëtchampagne at $7.50 a glass. Myron recognized her immediately, evenbefore he bent down and turned her over. But when he saw her face,when he saw the icy blue eyes stare back at him in a final,unbreakable death gaze, his heart plummeted. He looked back at Win.Win, as usual, had no expression on his face.
"So much," Win said, "for her comeback."