Brenda Slaughter is no damsel in distress. Myron Bolitar is no bodyguard. But Myron has agreed to protect the bright, strong, beautiful basketball star. And he's about to find out if he's man enough to unravel the tragic riddle of her life.
Twenty years before, Brenda's mother deserted her. And just as Brenda is making it to the top of the women's pro basketball world, her father disappears too. A big-time New York sports agent with a foundering love life, Myron has a professional interest in Brenda. Then a personal one. But between them isn't just the difference in their backgrounds or the color of their skin. Between them is a chasm of corruption and lies, a vicious young mafioso on the make, and one secret that some people are dying to keep—and others are killing to protect....
Praise for One False Move
“Fast-moving, funny—an altogether good read!”—Los Angeles Times
“Consistently entertaining . . . Coben moves himself into the front ranks of mystery fiction alongside heavy hitters like Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton and Robert Crais.”—Houston Chronicle
“Must read . . . combines Chandler's wry wit with Ross Macdonald's moral complexity.”—Philadelphia Enquirer
“A superb book!”—Christian Science Monitor
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
Myron hunched his shoulders and slurred his words. "I am not a baby-sitter," he said. "I am a sports agent."
Norm Zuckerman looked pained. "Was that supposed to be Bela Lugosi?"
"The Elephant Man," Myron said.
"Damn, that was awful. And who said anything about being a baby-sitter? Did I say the word baby-sitter or baby-sitting or for that matter any form of the verb to baby-sit or noun or even the word baby or the word sit or sat or--"
Myron held up a hand. "I get the point, Norm."
They sat under a basket at Madison Square Garden in those cloth-and-wood directors' chairs that have stars' names on the back. Their chairs were set high so that the net from the basket almost tickled Myron's hair. A model shoot was going on at half-court. Lots of those umbrella lights and tall, bony women-cum-children and tripods and people huffing and fluffing about. Myron waited for someone to mistake him for a model. And waited.
"A young woman may be in danger," Norm said. "I need your help."
Norm Zuckerman was approaching seventy and as CEO of Zoom, a megasize sports manufacturing conglomerate, he had more money than Trump. He looked, however, like a beatnik trapped in a bad acid trip. Retro, Norm had explained earlier, was cresting, and he was catching the wave by wearing a psychedelic poncho, fatigue pants, love beads, and an earring with a dangling peace sign. Groovy, man. His black-to-gray beard was unruly enough to nest beetle larvae, his hair newly curled like something out of a bad production of Godspell.
Che Guevara lives and gets a perm.
"You don't need me," Myron said. "You need a bodyguard."
Norm waved a dismissing hand. "Too obvious."
"She'd never go for it. Look, Myron, what do you know about Brenda Slaughter?"
"Not much," Myron said.
He looked surprised. "What do you mean, not much?"
"What word are you having trouble with, Norm?"
"For crying out loud, you were a basketball player."
"So Brenda Slaughter may be the greatest female player of all time. A pioneer in her sport--not to mention the pinup girl, pardon the political insensitivity, for my new league."
"That much I know."
"Well, know this: I'm worried about her. If something happens to Brenda Slaughter, the whole WPBA--and my substantial investment--could go right down the toilet."
"Well, as long as it's for humanitarian reasons."
"Fine, I'm a greedy capitalist pig. But you, my friend, are a sports agent. There is not a greedier, sleazier, slimier, more capitalist entity in existence."
Myron nodded. "Suck up to me," he said. "That'll work."
"You're not letting me finish. Yes, you're a sports agent. But a damn fine one. The best, really. You and the Spanish shiksa do incredible work for your clients. Get the most for them. More than they should get really. By the time you finish with me, I feel violated. Hand to God, you're that good. You come into my office, you rip off my clothes and have your way with me."
Myron made a face. "Please."
"But I know your secret background with the feds."
Some secret. Myron was still hoping to bump into someone above the equator who didn't know about it.
"Just listen to me for a second, Myron, okay? Hear me out. Brenda is a lovely girl, a wonderful basketball player--and a pain in my left tuchis. I don't blame her. If I grew up with a father like that, I'd be a pain in the left tuchis too."
"So her father is the problem?"
Norm made a yes-and-no gesture. "Probably."
"So get a restraining order," Myron said.
"Then what's the problem? Hire a private eye. If he steps within a hundred yards of her, call the cops."
"It's not that easy." Norm looked out over the court. The workers involved in the shoot darted about like trapped particles under sudden heat. Myron sipped his coffee. Gourmet coffee. A year ago he never drank coffee. Then he started stopping into one of the new coffee bars that kept cropping up like bad movies on cable. Now Myron could not go through a morning without his gourmet coffee fix.
There is a fine line between a coffee house and a crack house.
"We don't know where he is," Norm said.
"Her father," Norm said. "He's vanished. Brenda is always looking over her shoulder. She's terrified."
"And you think the father is a danger to her?"
"This guy is the Great Santini on steroids. He used to play ball himself. Pac Ten, I think. His name is--"
"Horace Slaughter," Myron said.
"You know him?"
Myron nodded very slowly. "Yeah," he said. "I know him."
Norm studied his face. "You're too young to have played with him."
Myron said nothing. Norm did not catch the hint. He rarely did.
"So how do you know Horace Slaughter?"
"Don't worry about it," Myron said. "Tell me why you think Brenda Slaughter is in danger."
"She's been getting threats."
"What kind of threats?"
"Could you be a little more specific?"
The photo shoot frenzy continued to whirl. Models sporting the latest in Zoom wear and oodles of attitude cycled through poses and pouts and postures and pursed lips. Come on and vogue. Someone called out for Ted, where the hell is Ted, that prima donna, why isn't Ted dressed yet, I swear, Ted will be the death of me yet.
"She gets phone calls," Norm said. "A car follows her. That kind of thing."
"And you want me to do what exactly?"
Myron shook his head. "Even if I said yes--which I'm not--you said she won't go for a bodyguard."
Norm smiled and patted Myron's knee. "Here's the part where I lure you in. Like a fish on a hook."
"Brenda Slaughter is currently unagented."
Myron said nothing.
"Cat got your tongue, handsome?"
"I thought she signed a major endorsement deal with Zoom."
"She was on the verge when her old man disappeared. He was her manager. But she got rid of him. Now she's alone. She trusts my judgment, to a point. This girl is no fool, let me tell you. So here's my plan: Brenda will be here in a couple of minutes. I recommend you to her. She says hello. You say hello. Then you hit her with the famed Bolitar charm."
Myron arched one eyebrow. "Set on full blast?"
"Heavens, no. I don't want the poor girl disrobing."
"I took an oath to only use my powers for good."
"This is good, Myron, believe me."
Myron remained unconvinced. "Even if I agreed to go along with this cockamamy scheme, what about nights? You expect me to watch her twenty-four hours a day?"
"Of course not. Win will help you there."
"Win has better things to do."
"Tell that goy boy-toy it's for me," Norm said. "He loves me."
A flustered photographer in the great Eurotrash tradition hurried over to their perch. He had a goatee and spiky blond hair like Sandy Duncan on an off day. Bathing did not appear to be a priority here. He sighed repeatedly, making sure all in the vicinity knew that he was both important and being put out. "Where is Brenda?" he whined.
Myron swiveled toward a voice like warm honey on Sunday pancakes. With her long, purposeful stride--not the shy-girl walk of the too-tall or the nasty strut of a model--Brenda Slaughter swept into the room like a radar-tracked weather system. She was very tall, over six feet for sure, with skin the color of Myron's Starbucks Mocha Java with a hefty splash of skim milk. She wore faded jeans that hugged deliciously but without obscenity and a ski sweater that made you think of cuddling inside a snow-covered log cabin.
Myron managed not to say wow out loud.
Brenda Slaughter was not so much beautiful as electric. The air around her crackled. She was far too big and broad-shouldered to be a model. Myron knew some professional models. They were always throwing themselves at him--snicker--and were ridiculously thin, built like strings with helium balloons on top. Brenda was no size six. You felt strength with this woman, substance, power, a force if you will, and yet it was all completely feminine, whatever that meant, and incredibly attractive.
Norm leaned over and whispered, "See why she's our poster girl?"
Norm jumped down from the chair. "Brenda, darling, come over here. I want you to meet someone."
The big brown eyes found Myron's, and there was a hesitation. She smiled a little and strode toward them. Myron rose, ever the gentleman. Brenda headed straight for him and stuck out her hand. Myron shook it. Her grip was strong. Now that they were both standing, Myron could see he had an inch or two on her. That made her six-two, maybe six-three.
"Well, well," Brenda said. "Myron Bolitar."
Norm gestured as if he were pushing them closer together. "You two know each other?"
"Oh, I'm sure Mr. Bolitar doesn't remember me," Brenda said. "It was a long time ago."