Sore wrists, clammy air, and peanut dust: the first sensations I had when I came to.
I was strapped to some kind of conveyor belt, feet on a slight incline, in a dark, cavernous room maybe the size of an airplane hangar. A bare, sputtering light bulb hung over my head from the rafters. I had no clue where Tressip was, but I couldn’t undo the nylon cords binding my wrists and ankles if i tried. And believe me, I tried.
The place seemed to be some abandoned factory or warehouse on the outskirts of some town. I mean, what mastermind villain doesn’t use something on the outskirts of town? Getting into that cab after the game in Milwaukee was stupid; I should have known better. But it was also dark, and hectic, and I was trying to keep up with the Giants players, and it never occurred to me or anyone that the team bus failed to start because Tressip had screwed with the engine.
Finally I heard a metal door slide open at the far end of the room, and my abductor strolled toward me out of the shadows. He was taller, beefier than I remembered from the last time he nabbed me in Dayton, though I was a lot more delirious on that occasion. He wore crisp slacks, a black polo shirt with some kind of aviation emblem under a weathered New York Giants ball cap. Had a ruggedly handsome, clean-shaven face but slightly off-kilter eyes.
He carried a large paper bag. Stopped a few feet away from me and worked up a wet, frosty smile.
“Hello again. Isn’t this exciting? We get to follow a ball game together.”
“No kidding. So what the hell’s in the bag? My foot-long wiener?”
He set the bag down on a small table I hadn’t noticed. Lifted out a brand new Zenith Universal portable radio, still in its packaging box.
“There’s a good appliance store a mile away. The merchant wanted 70 dollars for this but I Hebrewed him down to 60.”
“Really? With the type of cash you’ve been throwing around you’re worried about saving five dollars?”
“It isn’t the savings, Milton. It’s the joy of negotiation. The power of victory. Oh, but I forgot. You haven’t experience many of those.”
He ripped open the radio’s packaging, took the device to a nearby wall outlet and plugged it in. Hunted through crackly static until he found Jack Buck’s voice on KMOX in St. Louis—reasonably clear.
“Where are we, Tressip? Indiana? Kentucky?”
“Why would we be there?”
“Because I think you’re more clever than Agent Brewster gives you credit for. You can’t risk taking me to St. Louis so you stopped as close as possible in a bordering state that could also pull in Cardinal games on the radio.”
He strolled back over.
“See? This is why I haven’t killed you yet. Though you did something unforgivable that ruined my life and ultimately led to the death of my father, you possess a level of intelligence that is rare in these times and is well worth studying.”
“Gee. Thanks, Professor. Except I have no holy clue how me accidentally hitting you with a summer camp baseball caused your father to hang himself.”
He took off his cap, bowed slightly so I could see the faint purple scar and lopsided depression that was still visible atop his forehead.
“A germ entering the bloodstream finds its way around the body, Milton. And my severe injury and even more severe trauma was too much for my mother, who had a stroke when I turned 16. An event my father never emotionally recovered from. The Giants abandoning him was merely the lever that dropped the noose.”
Something happened in St. Louis which caused Jack Buck to exult into his microphone. Larry Jackson bailing himself out of an early jam.
“Mmm. Unfortunate. If the Braves don’t win this game and your traitorous Giants inch closer to first…” He shrugged, “I may just have to kill you tonight.”
“You’ll never get away with this, Richie. Come to think of it, driving all the way here in a Milwaukee cab wasn’t too brainy.”
“Please call me Richard now. And the taxi car never made it out of Wisconsin. Found a nice, nondescript Plymouth on a street near the Illinois border. Do you like this factory, Milton? One of the few that Snackful closed after my father died, but I kept a few peanut-related contraptions around, for nostalgic reasons of course. That one you’re attached to water-blanches the peanuts to separate the red skin from the kernel. Helps remove unwanted things. For your sake, the Braves will emerge victorious tonight and we won’t have to switch it on.”
The Braves did, though I must have sweated out five pounds in the process. Burdette was as shaky as ever, giving up eight hits in the first three innings but just one run, while the Cardinal defense stayed home in bed. When Musial homered in the last of the 9th to cut it to 5-3, I got pretty nervous.
“So now what? You’re letting me go?”
“I’d love to, Milton. I’d likely get more pleasure from hunting you down again. Except the Braves have one more game in St. Louis tomorrow night, so…”
“You’re not serious.
“Oh, I’m dead serious. Don’t worry, though. It’s an afternoon game. Starts in only 14 hours. Get a little sleep, why don’t you?” He slid over a chair, opened a thermos of coffee and poured himself a cup.
* * *
I was hungry, thirsty, and delirious by the time Thursday’s matinee began. Tressip had refused to feed me or share any of his coffee. I tried cursing him for a while, but that got me nowhere. Taunting was next.
“Sure must be nice being as rich as you. Richie. Go anywhere you want. Kill people on a moment’s notice. Show up in my local saloon to leave a Bronx Bugle and peanut shells in one of the booths—just so I can see it, right?”
“Yes, I did enjoy that. Stalking can be so rewarding.”
“As much as killing? What the hell do you do when you’re done with me and the Giants lose the pennant? Retire in the Caribbean and spend your inheritance? They might win on ’59 and you’d be miserable and vengeful all over again.”
“I live for the moment, Milton. The future is a black pit not even worth contemplating. And these are my moments.”
Jack Buck yelled a Joe Cunningham home run call at that moment, the first run of the second game going to the Cards. Tressip’s face visibly tightened. Moments later, Bobby Gene Smith hit a 2-run shot, the Braves were down 3-0 and Tressip was pacing frantically, talking to himself.
“Not do at all…This will not do at all…” He walked over to the blanching machine I was strapped to and flicked a switch. The entire thing vibrated beneath me. “Didn’t think I’d need to use this tonight…”
“Are you crazy??”
“That’s what they’ve all been saying. Kind of an insult, if you ask me.”
There was a weird bubbling sound. I turned my neck around, saw a glimpse of a giant tub of boiling oil. Baseball was literally going to be the death of me.
“Most unfortunate, Milton. I’ve enjoyed your company. Of course, the San Francisco Traitors would be eliminated by now if Eddie Mathews was hitting over .220 and Wes Covington had hit at all in the last month and a half. See, this really isn’t my fault at all.”
“Now now, Milton. I happen to be very legitimate. You can relax a short while, though. It’s still early in the game.”
It was, and the mediocre Cards stopped hitting Carl Willey altogether after the 1st. And guess who homered to tie the game up in the 6th? Wes Covington. Then Mathews sprained an ankle and was replaced by Felix Mantilla, and Tressip was pacing again. But Torre singled in the go-ahead run in the 7th, doubled in another in the 9th, and I wasn’t a dead man yet.
“Even if the Braves win this, a two-game lead in the loss column doesn’t exactly comfort me.” he drolly said.
And then St. Louis started rallying in the 9th. Juan Pizarro walked Flood, hit Cunningham, and walked Blasingame. Only one out. Tressip poised his finger over a second button.
“Don’t do this, Tressip. I can talk to Mays. And Cepeda. And Antonelli. I can get them to lose, I promise.”
“You mean CHEATING?? I never cheat, Milton. Maybe I remove people on occasion, but I never…ever…cheat.”
Humberto Robinson took over to face Stan Musial. The count went to three and two, before he grounded into a force to score a run and cut it to 5-4. Next up was Ken Boyer. Tressip started the conveyor belt. All he had to do was cut loose my straps and I’d slide into the hot, bubbling oil.
“Boyer hits one out to right!” yelled Buck, and I clenched my teeth. “but Aaron nabs it and the Redbirds lose!”
“Nevertheless,” said Tressip, and took out a long straight razor.
I struggled. He started cutting into the nylon cords.
Suddenly the far door exploded open. The force knocked over the peanut blancher, loosened my straps.
“SURRENDER, TRESSIP!” shouted a man with a megaphone that sounded a lot like Brewster. Tressip bolted for cover and shots rang out. He popped back up with a revolver, fired back. The air in the factory lit up with gunfire. A bullet sizzled through one of my arms. I got free, crawled on hands and knees off to the side. Tressip tried to come after me but I eluded him, slipped out an open window and fell into some high grass. Stumbled my way along a dank, smelly river. As far away from the dark, hellish factory as I could get—with nothing but St. Louis on my mind…
MIL 012 110 000 – 5 10 1
STL 000 100 002 – 3 12 1
W-Burdette L-Jackson SV-Robinson HR: Musial
CHI 301 000 002 – 6 10 1
PHI 000 100 013 – 5 9 1
W-Hillman L-Roberts SV-Elston HRS: Thomson, Marshall, S. Taylor, Philley GWRBI-Thomson
Homers by Thomson and Marshall help the Cubs to a 4-0 lead, but Hillman, Anderson, Henry and finally Elston have to stave off furious Philly rallies in the last two innings, keeping them three behind Milwaukee in the loss column. Sammy Taylor’s pinch 2-run homer in the 9th off Robin Roberts was very necessary.
NYY 102 101 001 – 6 7 0
DET 200 101 30x – 7 12 0
W-Moford L-Duren SV-Morgan HRS: Kubek, Bolling GWRBI-Kaline
Only the Yankees have undergone as much suffering as yours truly the last few days. After a sure home run ball by Berra yesterday gets wind-blown back into an outfielder’s glove, the same things happens to Mantle in this one, the Tigers go inexplicably extra-base crazy, and pull another one out when Kaline hits a 2-run freak triple off Ryne Duren in the last of the 7th. Father Damien Clutchus, famous baseball exorcist, has been summoned from his retreat at Ostego Lake and should join the team this weekend in Baltimore.
BAL 010 010 001 – 3 10 0
CHI 101 011 00x – 4 8 0
W-Wynn L-O’Dell HR: Boyd GWRBI-Smith
Unlike the Yankees lately, the White Sox still win games on occasion. Al Smith is their star for today, with a walk, three doubles and two key RBIs. They close to within a game and a half of the Yanks, and the fact they still have six games left with the A’s has to be reassuring.
BOS 000 300 010 – 4 5 2
K.C. 000 000 100 – 1 6 0
W-Bowsfield L-Herbert HR: Jensen GWRBI-Jensen
Ah yes, them A’s. They finish 4-18 against the Red Sox, and very few of the losses were this close.
MIL 001 002 101 – 5 10 1
STL 300 000 001 – 4 8 0
W-Willey L-Jones SV-Robinson HRS: Covington, Cunningham, B.G. Smith GWRBI-Torre
Forgot to mention that Sad Sam Jones lost again, but it’s kind of expected by now. That’s eight straight losses for the Cards after they evened out at 69-69.
National League through Thursday, September 18
American League through Thursday, September 18