A sample from my as yet unpubbed baseball romance

August 7 2014

There are countless reasons for falling in love: desire, beauty, humor, loneliness, sex, money. But only three motives for murder: love, money and to cover up a crime   

 

Chapter One

Slump, a period of poor or losing play by a team or an individual.

“They want us to go to a shrink?” The hot spot in Scott Powell’s stomach began to expand as he flung his sweat-soaked cap into the shelf of his locker. “Are you making that up?” He stripped off his jersey, tossed it into his locker, unlaced one cleat and stepped out of it, and settled his aching foot into the soft carpet.   

“Not making it up, honest.” Slug winged his glove into the locker, pulled off his warm-up jacket, and let it drop to the clubhouse floor.

After the night game, the Milwaukee Barons’ locker room had cleared out quickly, silently. Except for Scott and Wes, the only guys left were the two relief pitchers lounging on the couch, downing energy drinks, icing their arms, and morosely fast-forwarding replays of the game on all three giant screens.  

“Wesley the Slug Schmidt, you’re telling me every damn player on the team is going to a psychiatrist?” What would their anal-retentive manager think of next?

Slug shrugged his boulder-like shoulders, snatched up his glove again, and socked his fist into it. “Just you and me.”

“Because we’re in a slump?”

Slug mopped his freckled forehead with his giant hand. “Call this a slump? We were so hot in April and early May, I batted .295 with two eight-game hitting streaks and only two errors. You batted .375, hit for the cycle and stole every base you saw.” He broke off to catch his breath and slumped against the locker wall. “Since then, we’re both in the toilet.”

He moved so close, Scott could see his nose hairs move. “This is not a little slump! I can’t catch a ball hit right at me, I can’t throw as far as first base, and my bat avoids pitches like women in bars dodge me.” He backed away, grabbed his mitt, spit into it and rubbed the surface. “At least you still get walked.” 

Scott looked down at the bruise on his bare foot and tried to remember how he’d gotten it. That rookie must have stomped on him when the play at second base went into center field.

He hadn’t heard Wes the Slugger spew so many words since the day his old girlfriend called him and asked him out. “I don’t get it, Slug. Last year I was good all season. Even Coach said I was patient at the plate. Everybody loved me, especially the sports writers.” His father would surely call him and ream him up one side and down the other. If he was sober and watched the game. How was he going to answer him this time?

Slug held up his giant hand and shook his head. “They all love ya when you’re hot.” He closed his eyes and groaned. “Women will always follow you around, Scott-boy.” He smacked his forehead. “Sorry, buddy. Didn’t mean to bring up that subject. You still hear from her lawyer?”

Scott sighed. “Every week.”

“No kiddin’?”

“She calls me too. Says if I don’t meet her somewhere, she’ll go to the papers again and expose me.”
     Slug hung his head. “Expose you as what, a womanizer? You, the guy who is asleep by nine every night and calls his grandmother every morning?” Slug combed his fingers through his stubble. “Baseball’s full of bastards, so lovely Natalia Zingstrom thinks everyone will believe her. Soon enough everyone will see how nuts she is, which, by the way, is such a waste.”

“My grandmother died, remember? A waste? Why is Zingstrom a waste.”

“Admit it, Scotty, that woman looked so hot in that bikini. Not exactly in it, was she? So good I could’ve … Never mind. Just don’t think about her, buddy. She’ll give up on you eventually.”

“I don’t think about her. So what if she was my girlfriend in high school? She isn’t any more.” He shook his head. “I wish she’d stop talking to the press, making up stories, telling them I begged her to send me those naked photos. People believe that crap. All I care about is the team.”

“Right. Attitude is everything.” Slug grabbed a towel from his locker and wrapped it around his neck. “Last week we were in second place. Yesterday we were tied for third with the Cubs. The headline in this morning’s paper predicts we won’t even make the Wild Card race.”

Scott turned his back on Slug. “I don’t want to hear any more of that crap.” The pain in his gut was oozing like an oil spill. Any minute it would explode in flames consuming all his hopes. 

“Face it, dickhead, the only chance we got is with the shrink. Maybe she can clear our heads.”   

Scott spun to face Slug. “She?”

Slug pulled a business card from the locker shelf and nodded. “The shrink. ‘Dr. Melodie Zelnick.’ With our luck she’ll be a bald, cross-eyed fifty-year-old Packer fan.” Slug’s belly laugh exploded. “Guaranteed she’ll have the hots for you!” Slug frowned. “Wait, did she really send you naked photos?”

Scott rolled his eyes. “Yes.”

“And you never showed them to me?”