Authors: Sigmund Brouwer
Copyright Â© 2007 Sigmund Brouwer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Brouwer, Sigmund, 1959-
Hitmen triumph / written by Sigmund Brouwer.
Issued also in print format.
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8553.R68467H59 2007 jC813'.54 C2007-903158-7
: Left winger Nolan Andrews has to make some difficult choices that will affect him and his brother for the rest of their lives.
First published in the United States, 2007
Library of Congress Control Number:
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design: Teresa Bubela
Cover photography: Getty Images
Author photo: Bill Bilsley
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To the Lonn brothers--thanks for the inspiration!
I stood in the dark on the first tee box at a country club so expensive I couldn't afford to work there as a dishwasher. I had a driver in my hand, ready to hit a golf ball down the fairway. If I hit the ball anywhere but straight, it would cost me twenty-five hundred dollars.
Earlier that day, I had golfed the same hole during a charity golf tournament for the Calgary Hitmen hockey team. So I knew how difficult it was. Water on both sides.
Trees in the worst places. That was during the dayâand I'd taken two shots, plus two penalty strokes for going into the water, just to get the ball on the green. Then three more putts to drop it in the hole. A big fat seven on the scorecard.
Now it was night. As in dark sky, bright stars, a crescent moon and the outlines of trees around me. As in no sunlight to help me see the ball on the little white tee. No sunlight to see where the ball went after I hit it.
My twin brother, Nathan, stood across from me, pointing the beam of a flashlight at the ball he had just handed me. Nate had drawn a circle around the Nike swoosh using a blue felt marker. There would be no mistaking that it was my ball. If we found it after I hit it. Otherwise twenty-five hundred dollars were gone. It had been a very stupid bet.
A tiny beetle crawled across the top of the ball. My focus was so strong that I saw the bug's shadow etched across the white of the golf ball.
There were probably a hundred other people around the tee box to watch me hit the ball.
Among them was a girl named Mercedes. Most of themâexcept for Mercedesâwere hoping Nate and I would lose our bet.
The center of the green was 514 yards away. If I took four shots or less to get the ball in the hole, we would win. If I took five strokesâwhich was par on this holeânobody would win, and nobody would lose. But if I took more than five shots, the way I had earlier in the day, we would lose. A lot. I had bet a thousand dollars. Nate had put another fifteen hundred on me. Yeah. Twenty-five hundred dollars.
Nate and I were seventeen and played on the same line for the Calgary Hitmen. Maybe someday we'd make it to the next level, into the nhl, where players could afford to lose that kind of cash. But even after working all summer, we didn't have that much money saved up between the two of us. Not only that, I wondered if we would both get suspended before the first exhibition game of the season if our coach found out about this stunt.
“Rip it, Radar,” Nate said. My name is
Nolan, but I've been called Radar since I was a kid.
If Nate was nervous, there was no way to tell. He held the flashlight steady. He should have been nervous though. I could hit the ball far, but I didn't always hit it straight.
I knew I'd have to swing soon. Just not yet. The beetle had moved to the side of the ball, where my clubface would mash into it. It wasn't right, killing it for no reason. The bug was just out for a walk. It had no idea that I was in the middle of something very stupid.
“The kid's chicken!” someone in the crowd yelled. “He can't pull the trigger!”
Others laughed with him.
I ignored them. I squatted down and gently blew the beetle off the ball.
“Get it going!” someone else yelled. “We don't have all night!”
I heard the laughter as I stood again, but not the way most people hear it. The best way to describe it is that it sounded as if it was coming through water, but that's not really an accurate description either. I have progressive hearing loss. If I hadn't had an operation to
attach electrodes inside my skull to a piece of equipment on my ear, I wouldn't be able to hear.
“Do it, Radar,” Nate said. “Rip it long and straight.”
Easy for him to say. He wasn't the one holding the driver. Staring at a white ball. Hoping to hit it at least 275 yards. Down a fairway. Between water. At night. With twenty-five hundred dollars on the line.
I lifted the club away from the ball and turned into my backswing.
With one thought.
Nolan, at breakfast you must have had an extra bowl of stupid.
When a guy does something stupid, chances are, one way or another, it's because of a girl. In this case, it was two girls. So I guess that's why I had done something doubly stupid.
One of the girls was Sheila. The Calgary Hitmen golf tournament had been held to raise money for the Special Olympics. Sheila was a runner who competed in the Special Olympics. She was about my age, but because she had Down syndrome, she had the sweetness and innocence of a six-year-old.
After the tournament, all the golfers had gone to a banquet at the fancy clubhouse. Sheila was one of the Special Olympics athletes who had been invited to the banquet to meet the golfers who were donating money to the cause.
She had stopped by our table, where two teams of golfers sat. Like at most charity tournaments, there were five golfers on each teamâone Calgary Hitmen player plus four golfers who each paid a big entry fee to help the charity.
Sheila had almond-shaped eyes and short brown hair that made her wide face seem even more innocent. She wore a pretty yellow dress, and I could tell she felt very grown up and excited to be at the tournament. She had talked with all ten of us at the table for a few minutes before she moved on to the next table.
For me, the trouble started as she left, when one of the businessmen on our team started talking the way Sheila talked. A little slower. And he talked through his nose. Then he laughed.
I might have let it go, except Sheila heard him. She hadn't quite reached the other table. She stopped and looked back at him. Tears started to trickle down her cheeks.
“Sir,” I said to the guy. Bob Jones. He owned a car dealership and had made sure everybody knew about it. He was in his forties. Loud golf shirt. Loud sunburn. Loud voice. “That was wrong.”
Like Sheila, I spoke in a way that wasn't quite normal. Because I began losing my hearing when I was little, words don't quite come out the same as they do for most people.
“Sir,” Bob Jones said in slow weird way. “That was wrong.”
He laughed the way he had laughed after mocking Sheila.
He was trying to bully me into silence. I hate bullies. There is only one way to deal with them. Head on.
“Wow,” I said. “You are very funny.”
He mocked me again, imitating the way I speak, adding more nasal sounds. “Wow. You are very funny.”
He laughed again. His buddies laughed, but only a little. Like he was embarrassing them by mocking the way I speak.
Words come out the way I hear them. When I was in grades one and two, kids had teased me a lot about the way I talk. In grade three, I had a teacher who spoke to me about it when I was crying in the corner of the class-room after a bully had picked on me. She said that I couldn't control what other people did. That I could only control what I decided to do about it. She said I could choose to try to hide the way I spoke. Or that I could choose to accept who I was and never be ashamed of it and never let that stop me from speaking. She said I could spend my life running away. Or I could spend my life fighting back and showing people what I was capable of doing. When I discovered how much I loved hockey, the choice became a lot easier. I decided to show people what I could do. Especially bullies.
“Brilliant,” I said to the car dealership guy. After grade three, I learned that the best defense against bullies was to stand up
to them. “Stick with the easy targets like a Special Olympics athlete and a deaf guy who has trouble pronouncing words. What's next, shooting birds while they are still in the nest? Or do you prefer to break the eggs before they hatch to make sure you absolutely can't miss?”
The table became quiet.
“Do you know who you are talking to?” he said. His sunburned face got even redder.
“If it was multiple choice, I'd have to guess a) an idiot, b) a jerk, c) a butthead or d) all of the above. Want to try repeating that the way I speak? Or is your brain too little to remember such a long sentence?”
Jones leaned forward. “Don't push me. I'm already in a bad enough mood because of all the bets I lost today. If you had hit even one decent shot during the tournament, our team would have finished in the top three today. You've got radar, all right. For finding trouble with your golf shots.”
“I don't play golf for the Hitmen,” I said. “I play hockey. That's a game played on the ice. With a stick and a puck and skates. Betting
on my golfing ability is as smart as licking a flagpole when it's minus twenty. But you don't strike me as that smart.”
Jones half stood. “Do you have any idea how much money I donate to this event?”
“Because you care so much for the Special Olympics athletes? Or because it makes you look good and gives you a big tax write-off?”
Jones pushed back his chair and stood up all the way, as if he expected that would scare me.
I stood too. Did I mention I hate bullies?
So far, the argument had not gone beyond our table. It wouldn't, as long as the guy didn't swing at me. But if he did, I was ready. I will not let bullies push me around.
That's when the other girl stepped between us.
She was not a Special Olympics athlete. She was a tournament volunteer who had handed out bottles of water to the golfers at one of the holes. She was tall like me. About my age too. Long, burnished copper hair. Freckles.
With a very, very nice smile. She had talked to me on the golf course, and I knew she was called Mercedes because of her name tag. I would never have asked. I have no problem facing bullies, but pretty girls terrify me.
“Gentlemen,” she said, “how about we sit down before this gets crazy?”
“Gentlemen don't make fun of Special Olympics athletes,” I said. “Sheila is crying because she heard him. Maybe Mr. Jones should go over and apologize before he sits down.”
Her eyes narrowed as she stared at Jones and spoke to me. “In that case, Nolan, make sure your first punch is a good one.”
“Hey, smart mouth,” Jones said to me. “How's this? I'm going to rip up the thousand-dollar check I had in my pocket ready to donate. That will make up for the bets I lost today because of you. Two balls in the water on the first hole. I should have known you were a loser.”