“He wouldn’t have gone to jail, Bonnie. A suspended license maybe. Some community service.”
“Whatever. Life is about ripples, Myron. There are some philosophers who think that everything we do changes the world forever. Even simple acts. Like if you left your house five minutes later, if you took a different route to work—it changes everything for the rest of your life. I don’t necessarily buy that, but when it comes to the big things, yeah, sure, I think the ripples last. Or maybe it started before that. When he was a child. The first time he learned that because he could throw a white sphere with amazing velocity, people treated him special. Maybe we just continued the conditioning that day. Or brought it up to an adult level. Clu learned that someone would always save him. And we did. We got him off that night, and then there were the assault charges and the lewd behavior and the failed drug tests and whatever else.”
“And you think his murder was the inevitable result?”
“No,” Myron said. “I think the person who shot him three times is responsible. Period.”
“Life is rarely that simple, Myron.”
“But murder usually is. In the end someone shot him. That’s how he died. He didn’t die because we helped him through some self-destructive excesses. Someone murdered him. And that person—not you or me or those who cared about him—is to blame.”
She thought about it. “Maybe you’re right.” But she didn’t look convinced.
“Do you know why Clu would strike Esperanza?”
She shook her head. “The police asked me that too. I don’t know. Maybe he was high.”
“Did he get violent when he got high?”
“No. But it sounds like he was under a lot of pressure. Maybe he was just frustrated that she wouldn’t tell him where you were.”
Another wave of guilt. He waited for it to recede.
“Who else would he have gone to, Bonnie?”
“What do you mean?”
“You said he was needy. I wasn’t around. You weren’t talking to him. So where would Clu go next?”
She thought about it. “I’m not sure.”
“Any friends, teammates?”
“I don’t think so.”
“How about Billy Lee Palms?”
She shrugged an I-don’t-know.
Myron tossed out a few more questions, but nothing of consequence was batted back to him. After a while Bonnie feigned a check at the time. “I have to get back to the kids,” she said.
He nodded, rose from his chair. This time she did not stop him. He hugged her and she hugged him back, gripping him fiercely.
“Do me one favor,” she said.
“Clear your friend,” she said. “I understand why you need to do that. And I wouldn’t want her to go to jail for something she didn’t do. But then let it be.”
Myron pulled back a bit. “I don’t understand.”
“Like I said before, you’re a noble guy.”
He thought about the Slaughter family and how it all ended; something inside him was crushed anew. “College was a long time ago,” he said softly.
“You haven’t changed.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“You still need justice and neat endings and to do the right thing.”
He said nothing.
“Clu can’t give you that,” Bonnie said. “He wasn’t a noble man.”
“He didn’t deserve to be murdered.”
She put a hand on his arm. “Save your friend, Myron. Then let Clu go.”
Myron took the elevator up two floors to the nerve center of Lock-Horne Securities and Investments. Exhausted white men—there were women and minorities too, more and more each year, but the overall numbers were still woefully inadequate—darted about, particles under blaring heat, gray phones tethered to their ears like life-sustaining umbilical cords. The noise level and the open space reminded Myron of a Vegas casino, though the toupees were better. People cried out in joy and agony. Money was won and lost. Dice were rolled and wheels were spun and cards were dealt. The men constantly glanced up at an electronic ticker, awe in their faces, ardently watching the stock prices like gamblers waiting for the wheel to settle on a number or ancient Israelites peering up at Moses and his new stone tablets.
These were the trenches of finance, armed soldiers crowded together, each trying to survive in a world where earning low six figures meant cowardice and probably death. Computer terminals twinkled through an onslaught of yellow Post-It notes. The warriors drank coffee and buried framed family photos under a volcanic outpouring of stock analyses and financial statements and corporate reviews. They wore white button-down shirts and Windsor-knotted ties, their suit jackets neatly arrayed on the backs of chairs as though the chairs were a tad chilly or preparing for lunch at Le Cirque.
Win did not sit out here, of course. The generals in this war—the rainmakers, big producers, heavy hitters, what have you—were tented on the perimeter, their offices running along the windows, cutting off from the foot soldiers any hint of blue sky or fresh air or any element endemic to human beings.
Myron headed up a carpeted incline and toward the left corner suite. Win was usually alone in his office. Not today. Myron stuck his head in the door, and a bunch of suitheads swiveled toward him. Lots of suits. Myron couldn’t say how many. Might have been six, maybe eight. They were a lumpy blur of gray and blue with streaks of tie-and-hankie red, like the aftermath of a Civil War reenactment. The older ones, distinguished white-haired guys with manicures and cuff links, sat in the burgundy leather chairs closest to Win’s desk and nodded a lot. The younger ones were squeezed onto the couches against the wall, heads down, scratching notes on legal pads as though Win were divulging the secret of eternal life. Every once in a while the younger men would peer up at the older men, glimpsing their glorious future, which would basically consist of a more comfortable chair and less note taking.
The legal pads gave it away. These were attorneys. The older men probably over four hundred bucks an hour, the younger ones two-fifty. Myron didn’t bother with the math, mostly because it would take too much effort to count how many suits were in the room. Didn’t matter. Lock-Horne Securities could afford it. Redistributing wealth—that is, the act of moving money around without creation or production or making anything new—was incredibly profitable.