Free Fiction Friday: Old Ballplayers
The following is an excerpt from Old Ballplayers, A Quick Baseball Mystery.
Eddie Sloan buttoned the front of his 1969 Kansas City Royals jersey and put on his cap. The jersey was snug around the waste, since he had put on weight since he last wore it in a game. I say wore it in a game, because this was no Mitchell & Ness reproduction of a vintage jersey (Although they do exquisite work).
This was a real game-used jersey as were the pants, and cleats he was wearing. He checked himself one last time in the mirror and reached for a small wooden box on the bed. Eddie opened the lid, pulled out a revolver and shot himself in the head.
Eddie died from a shot to the head form his own hand. Every rational person in the world would seem it suicide. But make no mistake, this woad murder.
My name is Jonathan Quick and I’m the owner, proprietor and namesake of Quick’s Collectibles. It’s a labor of love. Notice I said labor and love. No mention of “a respectable way to make a living” —it’s not. No mention of “it’s a lucrative way to make a living” —it’s not. At least not most of the time, I must confess. But, I do put in a lot of hours and I do love it.
I have a storefront, open four days per week in the Nora neighborhood of Indianapolis, Of course you’re wondering why on earth would he put such a shop in Indianapolis, there is no MLB team there. Indianapolis does have a rich baseball tradition, more on that later- and these are the days of the internet and overnight shipping. A buyer and a seller need not be in the same zip code.
I also do a lot of private transactions as it were. Serious collectors will send me on an errand as I like to call them and I will flush out a prized jersey or bat. I occasionally dabble in the other sports, but baseball is where I belong.
Due to my many errands, I have Derek to run the shop in my absence. Lately he runs the shop when I am there, but I don’t mind because I know it’s in good hands. Derek is a 26 year old student at IUPUI. The reason he is 26 and still a student is he has changed major’s 4 times -each with progressively worse prospects for employment. At present this fact is irrelevant to Derek. He’s surrounded by cards and collectibles every day and loves to debate the occasional SABR member that wanders in the shop. SABR being the Society of American Baseball Research. I’m a member and the guys are always coming in to settle some argument about an 1883 era shortstop who may or may not have stolen six bases in a game —that type of thing. Derek though not a member, is as knowledgeable about the game as anyone.
Derek was the first to call me about the “suicide.” Eddie was a client and a friend. I found his pants —his game pants that is. He had managed to swipe his jersey before retiring but didn’t have the matching pants. It took me six months and I had almost giving up. But I have tipsters everywhere and a friend who runs a uniform blog used the power of social media and his thousands of followers to sniff them out.
I shuddered at that thought of some dealer getting their hands on the pants jersey and selling them. Game-used was one thing, but suicide-used seemed macabre to me.
Mind you, I didn’t know when Derek called that Eddie had been murdered. Like the rest of you, I believed the suicide narrative. It wasn’t until I heard from the Fungo Society that I began to have my doubts.
The Fungo Society is a group of old ballplayers that get together each year in Phoenix, Arizona during Spring Training. Some played in the 50’s, 60’s, and even through the early 80’s. Most were still tied into the game in some way -either coaching, broadcasting and even one guy who crossed the line and became an umpire. They guys call him “Turncoat.”
Rainbow Ruben called me first. Rainbow was half Jewish and half Hawaiian. He was half crazy too, but I don’t want to confuse you with math.
“That prick killed Walter,” He started.
“I thought Walter killed Walter.”
“Don’t be a child, you schmuck. Walt was driven to this. The son-of-a-bitch killed him, even if he wasn’t holding the gun.” In his voice, I could hear the hurt. Rainbow had lost a dear friend.
“Who killed him?”
“I’ll tell you when you get here.”
“I’m not coming down for another two weeks.”
“You’re leaving tonight. The boys arranged everything.
My doorbell rang. “Hold on, someone’s at the door.”
“That would be the driver.”
“Driver?” Sure enough the man at the door said, “I’ll be driving you to the airport, sir. Are you ready to go?”
“No, I’m not ready to go. In fact you’re two weeks early.”
“My paperwork says tonight.”
“Get down here you moron,” said Rainbow.
“What exactly do you want me to do?”
“Figure out who killed him and why?
“You said you already knew who killed him.”
“I do, I just want you to prove it and figure out why?”
“But I’m not a detective!”
“Doesn’t matter. You find things. You uncover things. It’s the same set of skills.”
“And on who’s dime am I working?”
“Ours. The Fungo Society will pay your expenses. Now get your ass down to first.” —One of his favorite sayings.
I sat down in a stadium seat from the Polo Grounds —my decorating style could be called early ballpark.
“Sir?” the driver was still standing in the doorway.
“What time is my flight?
“In two hours. It’s a chartered jet.”
“Chartered jet? These guys are serious —and well funded.
“Guess I should suit up.”
“Never mind. I’ll get my stuff.” He struck me as a soccer guy.
Carry on, Citizens!