The Mysterious Bookshop


Lieutenant Jones was dreaming.  He was eight years old, in his backyard, and playing catch with his father.  In the dream, he knew it was a dream, because his father had been a cold, distant man who worked about twenty-five hours a day and was so rarely home that his children were quite often frightened about this virtual stranger.  But here they were, tossing an official National League ball, with the John Heydler stamp and the red & black stitching, back and forth.

As both the Lieutenant and his dad started putting a little more mustard on their throws, a strange sensation came over the lad. He was floating, spinning, in a cone of darkness where he felt weightless.  He knew he’d been called on another mission, but for the first time, didn’t want to go and resisted.  He wanted to stay a happy eight-year-old!  When he again noticed his surroundings, he was shocked, and here he thought he’d been past shocking.

He was in a large parking lot.  In the midst of thousands of very big cars.  Was he still dreaming?  He was carrying his glove, the beloved Nelson Fox model that his dad had bought him--holy cow!  Lt. Jones looked down at himself---he was still eight years old!  Just a kid! What was going on?  

Before he could even begin to speculate, his father took his hand and they walked up to the turnstiles.  Jones noticed that his dad was clutching two tickets to that day’s game.  So they were going to watch the A’s play the Chicago Cubs!  So often the future Lieutenant had heard Jones senior talk about the great old players he’d seen at Shibe Park, and now he was too.  He didn’t fully understand what was so important about this particular game, only that it was important, since all the men around him, including his dad, spoke of the possibilities in hushed tones of gravity.  He knew the rules, of course, having played in the streets with the other neighborhood boys.

A wizened old ticket-taker who looked about a hundred years old to the little boy tore their tickets in two and gave back half, and they were in, up and up and up the ramps, and then through a big doorway and then, the field!  He had never ever seen anything so green! He could sense his father looking fondly down on him and smiling, for the elder Jones had had much the same reaction when his uncle had taken him to a game here the year the park opened.  A smiling usher showed them their seats, and good seats they were, along the first base line, about halfway between home and the first base bag.  The players were warming up in foul ground, and look, there was Hack Wilson, shaped like a barrel from the waist up, and like rolled-up  newspaper from the waist down.  There was Big George Earnshaw, the Philadelphia starting pitcher, of whom it was said that he threw harder than Johnson, Grove, all of them.  Mickey Cochrane, the A’s firebrand catcher, was on the infield, shouting instructions.  His Windy City counterpart, ‘Old Tomato Face’ Gabby Hartnett was looking on from the Cubs’ dugout, where some of the Bengals fearsome lineup gathered: Rogers Hornsby, Kiki Cuyler, Charlie Grimm.  A fine team and one that the Philadelphias would have to go some to beat!

They were settled in their seats, hot dogs and pop in hand. The game was on!  Both starting pitchers, Earnshaw and Charlie Root, mowed the opposition down in the early going, and young Jones began to fidget.  How could anyone stand this tension?  It was while he was worrying that no one would ever score a run that it happened.  He was looking out to left field, trying to figure who the Cubs’ outfielder was, when the crack of the bat caused the lad to look up just in time to see the ball speeding toward him!  Pow!  It caught him right on the head!  Down he went!

When he came to, a burly, older man who looked nothing like his father was shaking him.  ‘You ok, Jonesy?  Attaboy!  Now get down to first, and get us a run!’

The Lieutenant got to his feet and for the second time that day, looked down at himself and scarcely believed what he saw.  He was in full uniform for his favorite team, the Philadelphia A’s!  Suppressing the shock, he felt thirty thousand pairs of eyes on him as he made his way down to first.  He felt alien, utterly alone, but at the same time like he belonged on this team.  Soon, though, young Jones felt out of sorts--his A’s were losing by eight!  Soon manager Connie Mack would start replacing his regulars to battle afresh another day.  Headed into the bottom of the seventh Jones strode boldly up to the batter’s box for his first plate appearance.  Someone had told him that Cubs pitcher Charlie Root was well known for headhunting, so he’d better be on his toes!  Sure enough, here came the first pitch whistling right at his head.  Ducking out of the way, the ball struck the bat and bounded away, foul.  Expecting a pitch low and outside, the future Lieutenant wasn’t disappointed, here it came!  Stepping into the pitch and smacking it right on the button, Jones was momentarily surprised at how far the ball sailed when he hit it!  He broke from the box and chugged around to second as fast as he could go, but then his heart sang.  It was over the fence!  All right, they were still trailing 8-1, but at least they wouldn’t get shut out.  

Was this a dream?  He’d gone of an instant to every boy’s fantasy--he’d just hit a home run in the World Series!  Better yet, his fellow Athletics just kept hitting and hitting, and next thing he knew, here he was up at bat again!  After the obligatory message pitch at his head, he felt wary of looking for the next low and away and stepped back a bit.  And a good thing too!  Another one in tight!  NOW was the time to look outside, and there it was--Crack!  A clean single into left field.  2-for-2 in the same inning!  Wow!  There he was on first base, right next to Jolly Cholly Grimm, longtime Cubs first sacker and future manager.  The next batter hit a hard ground ball into the hole between second and third. Woody English made a nifty backhand stop and fired the ball to Hornsby at second to at least get a force but the flight of the ball was interrupted--by Jones’ head!  Whammo!  Right in the temple it caught him!  Ouch!

Wavy lines burst across his field of vision and he felt himself falling through time and space again.  Where would he end up this time?


Wait, who won the ball game?  Who won the World Series?  These are important matters!  But what of Lieutenant Jones?  What new adventure is in store for him?  Watch this space!  This post in honor of the 112th World Series.




We’ve got a couple of new biographies that are topnotch!  Check ‘em out:


Did Bram Stoker have any inkling of what he was starting when Dracula was first published in 1897?  I'll bet he didn't!


Strangely overlooked by the arbiters of American Letters, Shirley Jackson is best known for the story The Lottery and the novel The Haunting of Hill House, but O boy! is there a lot more to her work, and her life, than that!  This new bio covers her life's work.


Questions/Comments/Making Out the Lineup Card?


Written by Ian Kern — October 31, 2016

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

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