All Things Mysterious Volume Eighteen
Brand and the Twin Killing
As a child, Brand was one of those always picked last for the pickup ball games after school. He was always the handy target for the big kids, the kind that shaved at age twelve and looked like men playing against boys in Little League. Perhaps this is why Brand became a private dick; maybe he wanted to push back at some of these juvenile delinquents.
Ballplaying twins Jimmy and Sean O’Sullivan are the best keystone combination in the National League. Some say the best ever, even better than Tinker to Evers to Chance, who got into the Hall of Fame collectively, largely on the strength of a bit of doggerel written by Franklin P. Adams for the New York Evening Mail. So it was inevitable that someone would try to do the same for the O’Sullivans:
The O’Sullivans were no mere Mulligans
They were crazy about the game
They shared the second bag
They shared the same name
When a ball was hit, hard and skimmy
It was grabbed by Sean or by Jimmy
When an O’Sullivan grabbed the pill off the lawn,
Cry, ‘Jimmy and Sean and two more gone!’
Ok, Shakespeare it ain’t. But by the standards of baseball poetry, it’s right up there with:
These are the saddest of possible words
Tinker to Evers to Chance
Trio of Bear Cubs fleeter than birds
Tinker to Evers to Chance
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble
Making a Giant hit into a double
Words that are weighty with nothing but trouble
Tinker to Evers to Chance
(A ‘gonfalon’ is a flag, i.e., a pennant.)
The Ball Once Struck Off
Away Flies the Boy
To the Next Destin’d Post
And Then Home With Joy
--Originally published in Britain in 1744 and in the US in 1762. Take that, Abner Doubleday! In the formative years of the game, wooden posts stuck in the ground served as stations the way bases do today.
All Brand knew about poetry was that he hated studying it in school. But, as a fan of the National Pastime, he did have a soft spot for the current day Tinker-Evers-Chance combo. And he liked a red hot and a brew in the bleachers as much as the next guy. In fact, there he was on a pleasant June afternoon, playing hooky from the job to watch the Pelicans battle the Whales. He might have sat in a choice box seat, for he knew the clubhouse man for the home team Pelicans, but not for Brand were the fancy seats. Real baseball fans sit in the bleachers and debate between pitches, everyone knows that. It was along about the fourth inning of a scoreless game when Brand figured out why he had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. Neither O’Sullivan was in the starting lineup! Very unusual, as both brothers prided themselves on their durability and their working class image. And both of them at once out of action! Unprecedented. As Brand was pondering this, an usher appeared at his shoulder. ‘Pardon me, sir, you’re wanted in the clubhouse.’
Rocco Lampone was not his usual imperturbable self this day. Far from it, in fact. The Pelicans’ long time clubhouse attendant was a wild-eyed, tousled mess, and when he saw Brand, he cried, ‘Ain’t it awful!’
Before Brand could ask what was awful, he was struck by the feeling that he was being watched. Whirling, he was shocked into silence, which didn’t happen every day. He was being watched, all right. Four cold, dead eyes stared at him, beyond seeing.
Hanging in adjacent lockers were the twins, their playing days behind them, as they dangled, slowly swaying, in brand new, bloodstained flannel monkey suits, but not the light blue and pink of the Pelicans. Instead, they were outfitted in the green and purple togs of their American League rivals, the Oxford Stoats.
Neither man spoke for a time. Then Brand’s curiosity overwhelmed him.
‘Why dress them in different uniforms and hang them like this?’
Rocco could only shake his head. There was nothing to be done except wait for the police and the medical examiner.
‘Acute pine tar toxicity.’ ‘A cute what?’ Rocco cried? ‘Do you mean to say they were poisoned with pine tar, like you’d put on a bat?’ Brand asked.
The ME shook his head, smiling. ‘No, not like you’d put on a bat. It’s the active ingredient in the stuff that someone snuck into his pouch of chew.’
‘Ha! As if the chewing tobacco wasn’t poisonous enough!,’ cried Rocco.
‘But this way is probably quicker,’ put in Brand. The examiner, whose name was Madison, agreed. ‘Much quicker. As far as why they are hanging like that, well, I leave that up to the cops.’
‘My ears are burning. Did I hear someone call my name?’
Detectives Avery and Costello had suddenly appeared in the locker room. Looking around like a couple of starstruck fans, they gaped at the sumptuous lockers and lavish amenities as if it were just a dream they could never aspire to. Which it was.
‘Yeah, listen, officer, could you get these guys out of here?’ Rocco was starting to regain his equilibrium, and it was indeed disconcerting to have two uniformed cadavers hanging around.
‘First, I’m a detective. Second, when did you first notice them? Third, what are you doing here?’ This last directed at Brand.
‘I was watching the game when Rocco asked me to come down. It was the middle of the fourth, so, what, a half hour ago?’
“Brand, it never ceases to amaze me, your talent for being around trouble.’
‘I don’t plan it, Avery, I just luck into it.’
‘Okay, the boys from the coroner are here, so these poor guys will be out of your way. And, say, luck into this--did you know their parents were murdered too?’
End Part One--Part Two Monday
Robert Goldsborough is continuing the characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin in fine fashion. Join them at the olde ball yard when the Brooklyn Dodgers take on the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds in Harlem. Or course, Wolfe is still in his 35th street brownstone, but Archie and Saul Panzer observe a state senator get what’s coming to him--murder most..fair?
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