The Mysterious Bookshop

Brand and the Fall Classic.

 

The stadium was decked out in bunting and flags for the big set-to between the hometown Pelicans and their arch-rivals the Oxford Stoats. A rematch from last year’s exciting World’s Series, and you can bet the Stoats were out for revenge.  For their part, the Pelicans were still reeling from the untimely passing of the O’Sullivan twins, even though they’d won the Series.  As for the Stoats, they hadn’t won a championship since 1887, when it was called the Eckert Cup.

Brand, a lifelong Pelican fan, was beside himself with excitement!  He felt like the ten year old he used to be, eagerly anticipating Opening Day, the pennant races, the Series, and even the All-Star Game.  This year he’d be seeing the game, all right--but not from a box seat, not from a bleacher seat, from the DUGOUT!  And not just any game--the SEVENTH Game!  Yes, through his pal Rocco Lampone, the Pelican Stadium clubhouse attendant, he’d been chosen as the world’s oldest batboy. Old Man McReedy, the Pelicans owner, had the bright idea of sponsoring a contest so that a young Pelicans rooter could enjoy the thrill of being batboy for the home team (The Stoats would furnish their own), but Lampone had, let’s say, adjusted the results so his pal Brand would win. He was such a good fan!  

The first game of the World Series was a little like the first game of the season, both teams starting out even, each having an equal chance to win. But Brand was confident that the Pelicans would prevail, just as they had last time.  But it wouldn’t be easy; the Stoats were awfully tough and the first six games of the Series were intense and captured the interest of the entire country with a display of good old-fashioned country hardball. And this year there wouldn’t be any pesky murders to get in the way.  Would there?  Well, not so far, anyway.  It was a tough, hard-fought Series, and by the morning of the Seventh Game, both teams were about at the boiling point.

All eyes were on Remy Altair, the rookie sensation of the Pelicans. Past thirty, he had spent years in the independent leagues and, it was rumored, in prison, although no evidence of this had come to light.  As a player, he was known for his blazing speed and quick glove, and was a good catalyst at the top of the order.  And he’d had a tremendous Series so far, in fact, he was the odds-on favorite to be Series MVP. So naturally, a Pelican partisan plot was afoot to get him out of the lineup by means fair or foul.  

In a seedy room in a short stay hotel, three tough-looking hombres were up to no good. The boss, resplendent in a white three piece suit, watch chain, and snazzy two tone shoes, was talking to his two torpedoes.

‘I want Altair neutralized before the game is over.  Clear?’

Somberly they nodded.  It would be done!

 

Came the day of Game Seven, the stands were packed, the infield was dragged, the sky was clear, and the bets were down!  Of course, betting on games was technically illegal in River City, but with bigger fish to fry, the cops usually looked the other way on the picayune bets that fans might put down.  It was the mob boys’ attempts to influence the outcome that attracted attention of law enforcement, and there were vice agents in the clubhouses interviewing the players to make sure no one was on the take. Satisfied, the agents took their own seats to enjoy the game while still keeping an eye out for trouble.

 

Trouble was the farthest thing from the mind of Brand, who was giddy with excitement.  He was kneeling in the on-deck circle waiting for the first Pelicans hitter in the ninth, who was the newest ‘can’t miss’ prospect Remy Altair. The giant number 2 on the rookie’s back stretched and straightened as he took his practice swings with his usual three bats at a time.  Brand took the unneeded two from him as Altair strode to the plate.

‘CRACK!’ went the bat as the ball flew off to the deepest reaches of the outfield!  Altair dashed around first, keen on getting into scoring position so the Pelicans could get an insurance run.  Brand ran to the plate to grab the player’s hastily flung bat.  Altair charged into second base, flinging his body at the bag, twisting so that the Stoats infielder could only tag a toe.

Here comes the throw from the outfield!  Here comes the play at second!  Here’s Brand watching, enraptured, at home plate!  Will Altair be safe or ….

‘CRACK!  CRACK!’

The silence fell thick and heavy on Pelican Field.  The ball in play was bouncing along in left field, lopsided and with part of the cover hanging off.  Altair was crouched on the second base bag with his hands over his ears.  And Brand?  Brand was standing at home plate holding a shattered bat.

 

Brand was still shaking.  How close he’d come to taking a bullet!  Avery was debriefing him, assisting the Feds with their mission. Costello was still serving his suspension from the Cat Caper* so Avery was going solo for a while.

‘I think I’ve got it now,’ said the detective.  ‘Two goons with rifles smuggled into the park shot at Altair.  One hit the ball and one hit the bat you were holding.’

‘That’s about the size of it.  Look at me, I’m still shaking.’

Avery grinned.  ‘Lucky for you they were such lousy shots!’

 

The Boss was on the phone.  ‘I got to hand it to those guys--perfect shooting!  The game ended one to nothing on Altair’s home run in the first.  What?’  The person on the other end of the line repeated the question.  The Boss barked a short laugh.  ‘No, as usual the cops and the papers don’t know what they’re talking about.  See, the home run ball that won the Series?  My guy was in the bleachers and got it.  How?  Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies!  I got the bat too. But if Altair gets on and scores in the ninth, that ball and bat that Won the Series aren’t unique and aren’t nearly as valuable.  Now I can name my own price!’

 

Baseball Commissioner Neddy Styles was holding a press conference.  ‘And so, I invoke the morals clause in player Altair’s contract, and in the best interests of baseball, void any and all games in which player Altair participated, due to his conviction in our neighbor to the south, Santa Babka, for forging memorabilia, cruelty to animals, counterfeiting, piracy, and offenses against the fashion police.’  

 

Advertisement in the River City Record, October 16:

For sale, cheap: One official league baseball, slightly damaged.  One Louisville slugger, cracked.  Any reasonable offer.

 

*See All Things Mysterious Volumes 64-68 for that tale, or tail.

 

Even though what Brand thought was an assassination attempt on Remy Altair wasn’t, check out some of these adventures involving assassinations:

 

Giants-Dodgers at the Polo Grounds?  Yes please!  At the old ball yard, a Senator is assassinated and his widow convinces Nero Wolfe to take the case.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/robert-goldsborough-murder-in-the-ballpark-an-archie-goodwin-and-nero-wolfe-mystery

 

One of the most momentous events in ancient history was the assassination of Julius Caesar.  Author Harris melds this and other dramas into the story of Cicero.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/harris-robert-dictator

 

Ian Rutledge isn't paying much attention to world affairs in August 1914. He's more concerned with the course of true love, as he plans a proposal to his beloved. Men in love across Scotland set in motion events that lead to a series of murders in the run-up to WWI.

http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/products/todd-charles-a-fine-summers-day

 

Questions/Comments/Bill Wambsganss?  mike@mysteriousbookshop@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Ian Kern — October 27, 2016