Toast and coffee for breakfast and a Lucky Strike on the balcony. He shifted his chair out of the sun’s glare and reached across the coffee table for the list of names. This isn’t doing me any good, he thought. They were just names. He screwed up the list and tossed it into the large glass ashtray. The cop had told him that the perp was connected to the Bees, so he would go see for himself who was around. Take Mike and Bernie.
“Team’s out training,” said Arnie. The three men were in sharp suits, two heavies flanking a skinny guy in a sharp suit. “Who you looking for?”
The skinny guy spoke. “Maybe someone who’s been around a while on the tour. Someone who can give us background.”
Arnie looked puzzled. “You journalists?” he asked. Although they didn’t look like journalists, dressed like that.
“I’m Sammy De Maggio,” said the skinny guy. “Ruth’s brother. You know her?”
Arnie shook his head. “No, I haven’t seen her. She left the tour up in Stockton. Said it was a family bereavement.” He saw Sammy grimacing. “Sorry to hear that, she ok?”
Sammy didn’t answer. He turned to Mike and Bernie, “Let’s look around.”
Arnie watched them go. He had really upset the skinny guy, so he would cut him some slack until the team returned. Only a few guys were about anyway, it would be no trouble.
Sammy had a handle of how he was going to play it. Sit with the suspect, get Mike and Bernie to hang around, maybe drinking sodas, and then bring up the delicate matter of Ruth’s death. Nothing too heavy, just finding out a few things. Mr Cool.
They walked around a bit, looked in the locker room, nothing. Sammy saw the steps leading up to the players’ balcony, and went up, looking around. One guy, in a black tracksuit, ‘Coach’ in white letters across his top, taking a soda out of the machine. No one else. The guy looked up, saw Sammy with the two heavies following; ignored him, popped the top of his soda. He slugged a draft and ambled over to a corner seat table, sat down and put his feet up over the balcony, and gazed at the sprinklers watering the grass.
Being ignored, that’s what annoyed Sammy. He motioned to Mike and Bernie and they moved across and parked themselves at the same table. Quietly. No attempt to make conversation. Any other man would be wary, maybe be a little worried, but not this one. This one just wasn’t concerned. It was though he existed in his universe and them in theirs. Sammy felt in his pockets and took out his pack of Lucky Strikes. He lit one up and blew a smoke ring at the guy.
The guy stirred, turned to face Sammy, seemed to wake up. “First of all there’s no smoking, and more to the point, who the hell are you, and what the hell you doing here?”
Sammy was taken aback. Here he was, together with Mike and Bernie, in an intimidating get together, and the guy couldn’t give a damn. He could set Mike and Bernie on him, but it was a public place. Anyway he had told himself to act Mr. Cool. He stubbed out his cigarette under his foot and opened his arms in a gesture of conciliation, “It’s cool; I’m Sammy De Maggio. We’re here to ask about Ruth, my sister.” Just like that. Easy.
“Well Sammy, you can call me Coach.” All friendly, like they known each other for years. “Your sister huh? Well I haven’t seen Ruth around since Stockton.” He grinned. “Too bad, she was a real friendly person, do anything for you.”
Sammy had a load of questions that started to stack up. He waved towards the heavies. “This is Mike and Bernie. Family.”
The Coach just nodded. Didn’t seem intimidated.
“Coach,” he asked. “How come you’re not out with the team?”
“Let’s just say I’m taking it easy until the big game on Saturday.” He squinted into the sun. The glare highlighted his facial scars.
Sammy picked it up. Probably a vet; war could mess around with anyone’s mind, and that could explain his volatile reaction just then. He had to ask. “Seen any active service?” he asked. He could see that hit home.
“Some,” replied the Coach. He seemed to drift off elsewhere; he looked up at the sun again. “Logistics: South Asia mainly. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the like.”
“Ruth’s dead,” Sammy said. Waited for the reaction. None.
“Is that so?” replied the Coach. “What happened?”
He could have been a poker pro, thought Sammy. “She was shot.”
“That’s too bad.”
Sammy tried another tack. “You know anyone who would do that?”
“Sammy, I’m a Coach, not a crystal ball gazer.” He stared at Sammy. “Why you ask?”
Sammy glanced at Mike and Bernie. They were getting restless, wanted to slug the guy or move on out. “The killer is connected in some way to the Bees.” Sammy watched the coach clench his fists. That shook him.
Coach finished his soda and tossed the empty into the bin. He got up and nodded to the three of them. “As I said, I’m a Coach.”
Sammy watched him walk away. He had a bit of a limp.