Authors: Peter Abrahams
“A SHREWDLY CRAFTED THRILLER …
The sharp characterizations, crisp style, and unpredictable plot twists add up to a highly credible and suspenseful literary entertainment.… Abrahams knows his baseball. But more important, he understands the scene and the personalities who inhabit it. Knowing, tense, witty, and persuasive.”
“You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate Abraham’s Hemingway-like use of the language and John O’ Hara-like ability with dialogue.”
“Four stars! A chilling tour through the shady world of baseball … The depth of the characters and the subtle but ever-strengthening bond between them delivers a delicious tension and perfect balance to this engrossing and eerie tale.”
West Coast Review of Books
“Crackling good …[
] puts a shine on Peter Abraham’s reputation as a first-rate storyteller.”
Sunday Boston Herald
“Abrahams creates tension through oscillating chapters … woven to a thrilling conclusion.”
“A LEAN, SUSPENSEFUL WINNER.”
—The Dallas Morning News
“The plot takes on a growing atmosphere of dark suspense that heightens with every page until it reaches a chilling climax.… A master of psychological suspense … Abrahams hits a grand slam with
The Southbridge News
“A good suspense novel … Abrahams is good at pulling one more rabbit out of the hat just when you think he has exhausted his supply of tricks.”
South Bend Tribune
“Entertaining … suspense building page by page.… Abrahams hits a home run.… His baseball scenes are accurately crafted down to the tiniest detail.”
“Captivating … Abrahams deftly combines suspense with a dead-on look at major league life.”
“EXCELLENT … DARK SUSPENSE … HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.”
“Abrahams’s evocation of baseball background is effortless. He dispenses enough detail to placate aficionados. He also uses humor to keep you off balance like a veteran pitcher uses a breaking ball to set you up for the high, hard one.”
“Forceful, straight-ahead storytelling, a tale of two fascinating characters … Both troubled men are terrifyingly believable, as is the violence and fury that eventually surround them.… Powerful.”
“First rate … The plot generates enough suspense to keep thriller fans reading, but finally it is the character of Renard who will linger in readers’ minds.”
“With this taut novel, Abrahams hits one out of the park.…[A] frightening … finely crafted, edge-of-the-seat thriller.”
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming [hard cover] edition of
by Peter Abrahams. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
A Ballantine Book
Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 1995 by Pas de Deux Corp.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published by Warner Books, Inc. in 1995.
Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
To Di, Rosie, Lily, Ben, and Seth
I am grateful to Keith Bartling, Ky Dewan, and Mike de Punte for technical advice; and many, many thanks to Molly Friedrich, Bill Malloy, and Joel Gotler.
“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.”
ho’s next? Gil on the car phone? What’s shakin’, Gil?”
“Is this …”
“You’re on the JOC.”
“Am I on?”
“Not for long, Gil, the way we’re going. This is supposed to be entertainment.”
“Got a question or a comment for us, Gil?”
“Fantabulous. What’s on your mind?”
“I’m a little nervous.”
“What’s to be nervous? Just three million pairs of ears out there, hanging on your every word. What’s the topic?”
“I like the way you say that.”
“How do I say it?”
could it be?”
“What about the Sox, Gil?”
“Just that I’m psyched, Bernie.”
“Bernie’s off today. This is Norm. Everybody gets psyched in the spring. That’s a given in this game. Like ballpark mustard.”
“This is different.”
“I’ve been waiting a long time.”
“What’s special about it?”
“It’s their year.”
“Why so tentative?”
“Just pulling your leg. The way you sound so sure. Like it’s a lead-pipe cinch. The mark of the true-blue fan.”
“The Vegas odds are—what are they, Fred? Fred in the control room there, doing something repulsive with a pastrami on rye—ten to one on the Sox for the pennant, twenty, what is it, twenty-five to one on the whole shebang. Just to give us some perspective on this, Gil, what would you wager at those odds, if you were a wagering man?”
“Everything I owe.”
“Owe? Hey. I like this guy. He’s got a sense of humor after all. But, Gil—you’re setting yourself up for a season of disillusion, my friend.”
“I know what
“Do you? Then you must—”
“They went down to the wire last year, didn’t they?”
“Ancient history, Gil.”
“And now they’ve got Rayburn on top of it.”
“Rayburn, Rayburn. Sheesh. Everybody wants to talk about the Rayburn signing. He’s not the Messiah, good people. He’s not coming down from heaven with a Louisville Slugger raised on high. On Opening Day, he’s flying in on
the team charter from Orlando, plugged into his Walkman. Puts on his pants one leg at a time, just like you and—”
“For Christ’s sake, he—”
“Can’t say that on the air, Gil. And I can cut you off by pressing this little button right here.”
“Don’t. The kid’s—”
“What kid? He turns thirty-two in July. That’s middle-aged in this—”
“—averaging a hundred and twenty-three RBIs for the past three years playing on that piece of—”
“—dung outfit—can I say
“—they’ve got out there. What kind of numbers is he going to put up in the bandbox, and with that sweet swing of his?”
“Who knows? Check out the record on free agents, my friend, especially the happy-go-lucky ones taking home the cabbage he signed for. Not so sweet, honeylike swing or not.”
“Why are you so g—”
“Don’t get ugly, Gil. Come on now. ’Fess up. You honestly in the bottom of your heart believe he’s worth what they shelled out? Answer me that.”
“Hello? Hello? Lost Gil. Let’s go to Donnie, downtown. You’re on JOC-Radio, Donnie, WJOC, fifty thousand nonstop watts of clear-channel sports talk, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. What’s shakin’?”
il parked his 325i a block from the office, thinking too late of things he could have said to Bernie, or Norm, or whoever the hell it was. Order book and sample case in hand, he stepped out onto the icy sidewalk as the first snowflakes drifted down around him, hardly bigger than dust motes. It didn’t look like the start of a major storm, didn’t feel like the beginning of a bad day. Two teenaged boys slouched by, caps pulled low over their eyes. They noticed his license plate—WNSOX—and he heard one say, “Yeah, right.”
Gil bought a Lottabucks Kwikpik and the
at the ground-floor newsstand and skimmed the training-camp reports on the elevator. There was a photograph of Rayburn smiling beside the batting cage. The caption read, “Banking all those RBI’$.” Gil folded the paper and slid it into his coat pocket.
Ding. Five. Gil walked down the hall, the floor sticky under his feet. The company’s office was next to Prime National Mortage, which had been vacant all winter, and another suite, without lettering on the door, tenantless much longer. He went in. Bridgid was at her desk, unwrapping a bouquet of roses. She pricked her finger, said, “Ow,” and sucked on it.
“Hi,” Gil said. “Tickets in yet?”
The company had season tickets, two box seats halfway down the first baseline, eighteen rows back. The reps divided them according to a complicated formula that was revised every season and this year had alloted Opening Day to Gil.
“Have to ask Garrity,” said Bridgid. Was there something funny about the way she said it? Funny enough, anyway, to register with Gil in passing.
Gil entered the conference room. Sales meetings began at eight sharp, second Wednesday of the month. They were all sitting around the table—the eleven other Northeast reps, and Garrity, regional sales manager. The room smelled of aftershave. Garrity’s eyes went from Gil to the wall clock, as though he were willing him to look at it too. Gil looked. 8:04.
He sat down. Figuerido, area six, just west of his, rolled a tube of Lifesavers across the table; the kind with all the flavors. Gil took one—cherry—and rolled them back to Figgy. Breakfast.
“How’s the Beamer?” Figgy asked in a loud whisper; Figgy was stoked on Gil’s wheels.
Gil made a hand movement like a car speeding down a winding road and sucked on the Lifesaver, waiting for Garrity to get on with it. Garrity always began with a gloomy summation of how they were doing, followed by an uplifting anecdote from his past about how he’d come up off the canvas when all hope was gone and fought his way to victory, hawking vacuum cleaners in Southie or some shit. That was to inspire them before he handed out the new quotas. But Garrity wasn’t on commission now, he was management, and management had no idea what it was like out there. That was fact one.