From the Quick Baseball Mysteries (Short Stories Collection)
I’m going to give you the moral of this story up front: if you get a funny feeling when the phone is ringing that something bad is about to happen, don’t answer the damn thing!
That may seem strange for a lot of reasons. First, your high school English teacher probably told you to let the moral or lesson unfold as you write. Well, I’m not a writer; I’m a baseball artifacts dealer.
Secondly, you might be one of those people that can’t fathom not answering a ringing phone —more power to you. I, on the other hand, have the power to let it go to voicemail and then delete without listening. However, I didn’t always have this power and that’s why I’m telling you this story.
And finally, you may be one of those people who don’t believe in premonitions, superstition, or the supernatural. All I can say is, when that phone rang, I felt something dark come over my hotel room. I hadn’t felt that uneasy answering the phone since my rent was two months late when I was in college. Given a choice, I would have traded a debt collector for the cop that was on the other end of the line.
Everything that happened after that —the murder, the fire and the knife wound in my right thigh could have all been avoided if I simply had not answered that phone call.
So, if you are the type of person that will take heed of my simple warning, have a great rest of the day. For those of you that need a little convincing, keep reading.
Savannah is called the Hostess City of the South. Given that title, you would think Twinkies would be a hell of a lot easier to find. They aren’t. And I don’t usually go for Twinkies, but sometimes, processed sugar and preservatives are needed in order to keep oneself going when you have less than 72 hours to solve a murder.
I would need to draw on a lot of other resources as well, but that can wait. So, without further ado, here’s what happened when I answered the phone.
“Is this Quick?”
“Is this the front desk?”
“No, this is the police.”
“They called you? I was only a bra! I’m sure that kind of thing happens all the time at hotels!”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re not calling about the bra that flew off my balcony?”
“No, I’m calling about the groundskeeper that was murdered at Lane Field.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful. Well, not for him, of course. Wait, why are you calling me? And how did you know I was here?”
“The equipment manager told us where to find you.”
I’ll slap Scott the next time I see him. Why did he get me involved in whatever this is about. “And what is this about?”
“We want you to come look at the body,” he answered. “Scott said you were the best expert on this kind of thing.”
“Me? I’m not a medical examiner.”
“We have a medical examiner, we need you to look at the baseball trophy.”
“What baseball trophy?”
“The one sticking out of the giant hole in his torso.”
“Oh, well that clears it up.”
“You sure I can’t see it after you pull it out of him? My hands aren’t sterile and torso holes tend to make me queasy.”
“Mr. Quick, can you tell me if that bra you mentioned earlier was yours or someone else’s?”
“Does it matter?”
“Well if it’s yours, I want you to put it back on along with the rest of your clothes and get your ass to the ballpark. If it’s not yours, send her home and get your ass to the ballpark.”
“Are you absolutely…”
“Get down here or there will be one more torso with a giant hole in it.”
“How about I come down to the ballpark?”
See what I mean? I should have never picked up that phone. Now, instead of continuing the social agenda I had planned for that evening, I was getting dressed. I could have been looking at a naked female body and instead I’m inspecting a dead one.
When I got to the ballpark, things didn’t get easier. There were six or seven police cars, all with lights on. An ambulance was there and roughly 30 onlookers, trying to see what the commotion was about. I tried to cross the police line of yellow tape around the front gate and a cop yelled at me.
“What the hell are you doing boy?”
“I’m here to see the body?”
“No you’re not, get back with those other people.”
“But you called me.”
“You the medical examiner?”
“No, I’m an artifacts dealer.”
“Why in the hell would we have an artifacts dealer look at a dead body?”
“That’s what I said!”
“Get back over there.”
Just as I started to walk away, I heard another cop call my name. “Mr. Quick! Sorry, I obviously failed to inform everyone that you were coming. Let him through, Lester,” he sighed.
“So, what happened?”
“We’re still piecing it together, but Scott claims that he returned to the office to get his phone and heard someone in the concourse of the stadium. He followed the noise and saw a shadow moving towards the outfield. He didn’t catch up to him, but did walk up to the field level to see if the person was out there.”
“You said ‘claims’, does that mean you don’t believe him?”
“Everyone is a suspect until we prove otherwise.”
“I have an alibi.”
“Yes and she’s apparently topless.”
“I can assure you she’s top-full or whatever the official police terminology is for complying with the decency laws of the fine city of Savannah, Sir.” He glared at me.
“He then noticed the body just past the infield near second base. He went to check on the person, and he claims he was unresponsive. When he rolled the body over, he identified him as the groundskeeper. That’s also when he noticed the tropy.”
I did a double take at that last statement. We made our way across the infield to the body. It was grizzly —the kind of thing you just don’t ever want to see and can never hope to un-see. He had scrapes and bruises across his face. And sticking out of his chest was a trophy. I wanted to throw up, but I managed to swallow it back. For some weird reason, I didn’t want to contaminate the crime scene or a perfectly manicured baseball diamond with my own wretch.
I kneeled down to examine the trophy. The base said 1941 Southern League Champs. Strange from the get go. Okay, I’ll give you that death by trophy is strange, but my mind went immediately to this odd bit of trivia. Savannah wasn’t in the Southern League in 1941. Where did this come from?
“So, what do you want to know?”
“First, is it real or a copy?”
“From the base, the plate style, and the aging, I would say it’s real.”
“Second, who would normally have such a thing?”
“I would have to do some checking, but they typically didn’t give this type out to players. They would have received a ring or a medallion. A handful of front office guys at the most. But I can find out for sure.”
“You can tell that without even seeing that part that’s inside the body?”
I almost puked again. “Yes, yes I can.”
“Scott said you were good. You will need to be if you want your friend to stay out of jail.”
“He’s the only lead we have. Unless you can prove otherwise, we’re going to arrest him.”