Authors: Jim Newell
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Sports
Las Vegas Gold
By Jim Newell
Copyright 2011 by Jim Newell
Cover Copyright 2011 by Dara England and Untreed Reads Publishing
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, reproduced or transmitted by any means in any form or given away to other people without specific permission from the author and/or publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Also by Jim Newell and Untreed Reads Publishing
Never Use a Chicken and Other Stories
Sometimes “Is” Isn't
LAS VEGAS GOLD
By Jim Newell
The man left his seat in the stadium as the sixth inning was coming to an end. He walked slowly down the steps to avoid attracting unwanted notice. At last he found himself in the lower hall leading to the visitors' dressing room. Yankee Stadium had an almost capacity crowd for the ball game between the New York Yankees and the Las Vegas Gold, the newest sensation of the American League.
The man was wearing inconspicuous dark clothing: a dark green warm-up jacket, dark jeans and black running shoes. Once heavily bearded, he had shaved sometime during the last couple of days, and now just looked unkempt. Most of his hair was hidden under a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap; what hair did show was a nondescript dark brown. As he neared the visitors' dressing room, he looked around frequently to see if anybody was especially watching him. He was more than a little bit surprised to find there was nobody visible at all.
Reaching the door to the dressing room, he was again surprised. The door was closed but not locked. He stopped, looked around again, and pulled a small handgun from the waistband of his jeans. From his jacket pocket he took a silencer and quickly fitted it into place. He stepped inside the dressing room and saw just about what he expected: the usual Major League team dressing room with exercise equipment and training tables, lockers and benches. Only one man was visible, an elderly clubhouse man, busy hanging up clean uniforms in the various lockers.
When the clubhouse man spotted the intruder, he turned and started to say, “Sorry sir, you can't comeâ¦.” That's as far as he got. The intruder fired two silenced shots into the older man's chest, and with his blood flowing onto the formerly clean new uniforms, he fell to the floor in a heap. A sudden great yell from the crowd had helped drown out even the small noise from the
made by the shots.
The intruder looked further around the dressing room, and heard a noise off to the left. In the washroom somebody had just flushed a urinal. The door was open, and when he peered in, to his surprise, he saw exactly the man he was searching for. “What luck!” his mind told him. He walked quietly up behind the man, still standing facing the urinal, arranging his uniform trousers. The intruder raised his gun and fired a shot directly into the back of the head, just above the neck of the player he had sought. The man was dead when he hit the floor.
The gunman turned and ran back out into the hall, removing the silencer and tucking the gun back into his waistband, placing the silencer back into the jacket pocket. He ran quickly back down the hall until he came to an exit, opened the door and found himself on a wide sidewalk leading to the street. Once away from the stadium, he hailed a taxi and asked to be driven to Days Inn near Kennedy Airport. The distance was just under twenty miles, and traffic was light. There he picked up the garment bag and suitcase he had stored there and got an airport shuttle. Not much more than an hour after leaving the stadium he was inside the terminal, where he dumped the silencer in the first trash can he saw and thrust the gun deep into the third one.
Next, he went into a washroom and shaved cleanly with a battery-operated razor. He changed into a clean shirt and tie, sport jacket and slacks, and carefully packed his other clothes into the suitcase, rolled up the garment bag and placed it on top. At the Japan Airlines terminal he presented his ticket, received his boarding pass, confirmed he had only carry-on luggage, and, once he had showed his passport, proceeded through a somewhat lackadaisical security check to the waiting area for his flight. He had 45 minutes to wait for boarding. Within an hour and a half he was in the air, beginning the long flight for Japan and, he expected, the safety of a valid alibi for his presence in the U.S.
On a side street only a couple of blocks from Dodger Stadium in LA, the
Home Run Bar and Grill
was sparsely filled at midnight, even though the Dodgers had been playing at home. The place was not particularly stylish, but it was clean and the lights low, never garish. This was obviously not a hangout for gangs or organized groups of any kind, an unlikely spot for pushers to operate. The place was just a nice neighborhood bar, even though there was not much of a neighborhood to speak of. The customers were generally connected to the stadium: employees, visitors, only occasionally the players.
Tabby O'Hara sat at a table at the back of the bar, nursing a beer and thinking dark thoughts. A couple of hours ago he had pitched a complete game four-hit shut out for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Atlanta Braves, and not one of his teammates had said anything more than, “Nice game, Tabby.” Two teammates had said exactly those words in passing, but had kept right on going to whatever destination they had in mind. He had overheard several of them making plans to go out together for a late meal and a drink or two, but nobody had invited him. Not even the press had come near him, and his manager had not said a word.
“Well, the hell with 'em all,” he thought, taking another mouthful of beer. Even the beer wasn't helping him much. Tabby was not a happy man.
Actually, Tabby O'Hara had almost never been a happy man. He had been an angry man; angry at the world for as long as he could remember, something he would have realized had he consciously thought through his life. He had grown up angry at his father when he was a young kid in Chicago, a father who drank the weekly pay check and beat up his wife because she couldn't get by with the small sums of money he occasionally gave her. Angry with the nuns who regularly punished him at the parochial school where he got what small amount of education he had received. Those punishments had come as the result of his behaviour; the kind of childish behaviour any competent psychologist could have told them was the result of his acting out his anger at his father.
Tabby had entered his teens angry. For a while, he had enjoyed some fun in his life, when he first became aware he had a talent for pitching a baseball close to the place he wanted it to go. He had even willingly accepted the coaching he had received in Little League, and then in the various other leagues where he played as he grew older. He had never made it to high school, so he had not had the benefit of high school coaches, who can frequently be very helpful to a youngster, but he had picked up pitching knowledge here and there. From the time he was 15, he had wandered from city to city, lying about his age, a big strapping kid looking for work of any kind and finding employment mainly in connection with his baseball skills.
Finally, after five years of this nomadic life, a Major League scout had stumbled across Tabby and had signed him to a minor league contract. But anger set in again as Tabby spent year after year in the minors, rising slowly each year from level to level, rising too slowly for what he conceived to be his ability. It never occurred to him that perhaps the thing holding him back was his bad temper and his continued refusal to attempt making friendships.
Life in the minors is inclined to be cutthroat when teammates are all looking for promotion to the next level, and eventually arrival at their hoped-for destinationâthe bigs! But even with the competition and rivalry, there is a certain amount of camaraderie among teammates as they all struggle together, learning and trying to put what they have learned into practice.
Tabby had been branded as “a troubled loner with potential” when he began in A ball, and had never lost the brand. But seven years later, when he won 21 games in Triple A, he could no longer be overlooked, so now, at twenty-eight, he was a Major League rookie and a genuine star, with eight wins in his first ten games. He still kept the “troubled loner” reputation, deservedly so, because nobody could seem to shake him out of it.
By now, in late May, nobody even tried any longer, and Tabby O'Hara was simply a loner. He was an early bet for National League Rookie of the Year because of his abilities as a pitcher, but known to players and media as a man they had no interest in attempting to befriend.
Shortly after Tabby had sat down at his table and begun nursing his beer and his grievances with the world in general, another man sat down at the table opposite him. The newcomer didn't say anything, just sat down and began to drink his own beer.
“Who the hell are you?” growled Tabby. “This table is occupied.”
“Right. Occupied by me 'n you,” replied the man.” His voice betrayed no emotion at all. When he looked at Tabby, he neither smiled nor frowned, just stared.
“Wrong. Occupied by me.” Tabby displayed emotion. He glared! “You can clear out. I don't know you and don't want to. Move it.”
“You Tabby O'Hara?”
“What's it to ya? I tol' ya to go away.”
“If you're O'Hara, I got a money offer for ya. Now are you interested?”
“I earn a lotta' money now.”
“Yeah, and you lose a lotta' money, too, bettin' on the horses. Right?”
“Where'd you hear that?” Tabby was showing a small amount of interest, but it was not friendly interest. His tone of voice displayed his displeasure.
“Never mind,” replied the stranger. He was a tall man, wearing a warm-up jacket with a Dodger's crest on it, jeans and running shoes. He looked to be in his forties, but the scars of hard living were etched into his features, so he could fit any age from forty to fifty-five. “I know you play the horses and you lose a lot of money. So I got a proposition for ya', if y'ain't too stupid to listen to it.”
Tabby didn't say a word. There was no way to tell by looking at him whether he had heard what the man across the table had been saying, or, if he had, whether he was paying attention to it or thinking about it. Finally, the stranger, looking slightly puzzled, said simply, “Well?”
“You interested in making some extra money? A wad of extra money? Like about ten thousand. Cash?”
“You said you got a proposition. I'm waitin'.”
“Whyn'tcha say so?” The man shook his head in apparent bafflement. Then he bent his head closer to Tabby across the small table and lowered his tone of voice. “Can you make it so a certain team wins or loses?”
Tabby said nothing for about two slowly moving minutes. Then he took a deep breath, sighed and swallowed another mouthful of beer. “There's a helluva lot of âif' to think about, buddy. One guy doesn't play a ball game by hisself.”
“Well, there are ways and means of makin' somethin' happen. Think about it and be here again tomorrow night and me 'n my friend'll be here to talk about it.”
“Guess you ain't much of a baseball fan, or you'd know the Dodgers are flyin' out to Phoenix soon's tomorrow night's game's over to play the Diamondbacks.”
“Slipped my mind. Okay. Name a bar there where we can meet you.”
“If I decide to listen to your âprop-o-
-tion',” Tabby dragged out the word, emphasizing the third syllable “I'll be in a bar. If you still want to talk to me, you can damn well find me.” He drank off the last of his beer, stood up and walked away, leaving his erstwhile table-mate staring with open mouth. The older man got up, zipped his jacket and followed Tabby out the door, mumbling to himself and shaking his head as he went.
* * *
About the same time, at one of Los Angeles' leading morning newspapers, a sports columnist was writing his offering for the next morning:
The Dodgers beat the Braves last evening behind a neat complete game four-hitter spun by the moody Tabby O'Hara. As usual, O'Hara said nothing to anybody after the game, just showered, dressed and left the clubhouse. He's not quiet so much as he is sullen, and apparently unhappy in everything he does.
With an 8 and 2 record this early in the season, the Dodgers are not about to talk trade with this talented but troubled man. He's an early favorite to be Rookie of the Year, but the Dodgers would like to find the key to his temperamental attitude.
Manager Tommy Beecham says he's totally baffled. “Tabby never argues with instructions I give him, just goes out and does what I tell him. On the three or four occasions when I have had to go to the mound to take him out of the game, he's never said a word, just gives me the ball and leaves. He doesn't sit on the bench like other pitchers do, but goes directly to the dressing room, and he's gone when the game is over, just like he doesn't care what happened after he left.”
The man has the same reaction when a ball is hit and the batter is out as he does when the play results in an error. He never says a word to the player or players involved, just waits for the ball, climbs up on the hill and gets ready to throw the next pitch. The umpires get the same reactionâa blank stareâwhether the call goes for or against the Dodgers' rookie pitching star. At the end of an inning, he walks as slowly and deliberately to the dugout as he does when he takes the mound again after his side is out. The team's catchers have learned he never shakes them off. If he likes the sign, he throws what the catcher asked for. If he doesn't, he just stands and stares until he gets a sign he likes. They have given up walking to the mound for a conference; O'Hara just waves them back.
In the clubhouse, the Dodgers' usual camaraderie goes on all around him, but he never joins in or is included. He simply showers, dresses and leaves. Such behavior is baffling. Worse, it can grow to be demoralizing. The fans, of course, love him because of his pitching skills, but he never acknowledges their cheers, never signs autographs. Reporters leave him alone because they have all learned that when he's asked a question, he simply ignores it as though he never heard it.
Truly unique, Tabby O'Hara is an enigma, surrounded by questions, wrapped in a mystery to players, management and the baseball community in general.
The columnist handed his copy in to the copy editor, who glanced at it and then looked up, his brow furrowed as he tried to recall something. “What was the name of that pitcher in the '70s and early '80s who was a real wild man, a character?”
“Oh, you mean Al Hrabosky, the Mad Hungarian? Yeah, he was a character. Hair flying out from under his baseball cap, stared at the batter. He didn't hesitate to throw high and tight to back a hitter away from the plate.”
“That's the guy. And there's Dave Stewart, used to pitch for the A's and the Blue Jays. He had a mean stare, too.”
“You're right, but they were nice guys in the clubhouse, nice guys as far as the media was concerned. They didâstill doâa lot of community work. Good for baseball, those guys.”
“And this guy, O'Hara, isn't like them?”
“Hell, no! He's a real loner. Doesn't seem to like anybody. I wonder if he likes himself.”
“I haven't seen the Dodgers play yet this year. I'll have to watch for when this character pitches next and get out to see him.”