Tressip woke me this morning from a pay phone. He was definitely on the Marin side of the bay. I could hear the unmistakable dull whooshing of cars crossing the Golden Gate. But I played dumb.
“Sorry your beloved Traitors couldn’t take the pennant, Milton” he said. “Any luck with my riddles?”
“Working on ‘em, Tressip. And that was your team more than mine.”
“How DARE you say that to me!”
“I haven’t even started saying things. How’s my fiancee holding up, and it better be swell.”
“If you insist that’s who she is…just fine. For now.”
“How about giving me the number of that phone booth you’re in and I’ll buzz you back when I find out where it is.”
“Not on your life. But I’ll give you 24 hours to find us and then…season’s over.”
He hung up. I smirked. This was one day I wouldn’t need coffee.
* * *
I had paid a pal of Billy Frack’s to drive my Dodge back up from L.A., and by late afternoon I was tossing things in the trunk: a flashlight, rope, my .38 and all forty hard wooden ounces of Triples Trevor. Stopped at a hardware and sporting goods store near the Presidio and bought some ammo for the gun. The guy had just folded over the top of the bag when none other than Agent Brewster entered the store with another new goon. Strolled over to me. He didn’t look too good. Or pleased.
“Well, well. Doing a little home improvement, Drake?”
“Yeah. The usual loose screws. What did you do, follow me here?”
“Damn right I did. You sure bolted out of St. Louis like Snappy’s Comet. Got a lead you’d like to share?”
“Why would I have one of those? Isn’t that your job?”
“Come on, Drake. I wasn’t born yesterday.”
“Could’ve fooled me.”
“We did find Tressip’s private plane, y’know,” said his stooge, “At an airstrip outside of Berkeley. Was wondering how he was gettin’ everywhere. “
“Congratulations. Stop by later and I’ll give you both little gold stars. Meanwhile, call me if you think of anything useful to say.”
I walked out. Knew they were going to follow me again and gave the Coronet a little gas to lose them in the park with some extra weaving. As it turned out, the weather cinched it for me. A fog bank higher and thicker than a plague of Egypt rolled in from the Pacific and cut visibility to three car lengths. I crawled across the Golden Gate, barely able to tell I was on a bridge, took the first exit on the other side and looped up to the cliffs. Turned into the dirt lot for the old gun battery and parked.
One of the spookiest things about fog is how quiet it makes things. I knew the bridge was just below the embankment, but it could’ve been on a distant planet for all I could see or hear of it.
What I did see, after stuffing the .38 behind my shirt and arming myself with Triples Trevor, were the looming, gothic shapes of Battery Spencer. The fort was built in 1897 to guard the Bay with three giant M1888s against foreign invaders that never materialized, then was finally scrapped in the middle of World War II. And it had a haunted, menacing feel to it. Perfect.
It also seemed abandoned, and now way past sunset, was smothered in darkening fog. There were two rows of abandoned former barracks, rusted out and filled with military spirits. I inched through every one. The air smelled like old urine and was beyond clammy. If Tressip was camping out up there with Liz, they both might’ve caught pneumonia already.
I was ready to give up staking out the place when I suddenly heard a ghostly sound in the fog. It was a faint woman’s cry—more a sob than a scream—but did I imagine it? Did the wife of a fallen soldier throw herself off the cliff once?
Another wave of frigid fog fingers groped through the encampment. I wrapped my coat tighter. Listened hard.
And heard it again. It was coming from a barrack across the path I had just been inside. I retraced my steps. Took out the flashlight.
In the far corner of the structure, beside a small heap of discarded newspaper, pop bottles, and animal dung, was a door I hadn’t noticed. Fitted with a shiny new padlock. The female sobbing was clearly somewhere behind it.
It took me a few minutes, but I found an old hair clip and managed to jimmie the lock open. Quietly opened the door. Saw a flight of steps leading to an underground bunker or storage chamber. Tightened my grip on the bat and crept down them.
Liz was nylon corded to a girder, stripped to her soiled slip and bra, tears streaming from her eyes. Looked like she hadn’t eaten in days. Unable to see me with the flashlight beam in her face, she immediately began shrieking through the black tape over her mouth.
“No baby, it’s me!!” I put the beam on my own face to show her, then set the flashlight on the floor. Reached up to undo her mouth tape and her eyes practically popped out of her skull. I turned a fraction of a second too late: Tressip was behind me and yanked the .38 out of my shirt.
“Well done, sir. Extremely well done. Now get those hands up, please.”
He hadn’t seen the bat yet. I leaned it against the front of my leg, raised both of my hands.
“So the Giants ending up in third place just wasn’t enough for you, was it?”
“Curiously…no. This damage you did to me runs deeper than I ever imagined. But we’re a lot alike, you and I. Both of us lost our fathers. Both of us could have been big league stars, if not for one sloppy pitch—”
“Oh shut the hell up, you sick scum. I am nothing like you.”
“Apologize for that, Milton.”
I heard the .38′s chamber click. Felt its cold barrel on the back of my neck.
“How about now?”
“Gee, I don’t know…How about THIS—”
Whipped the bat around and nailed the side of his half-burned head. The gun went off, narrowly missing my ear and putting a hole in the ceiling. I hit him again and the weapon went flying. He crumbled in a bloody heap on the floor. I ripped the tape off Liz’s mouth, madly undid her cords.
“I knocked him out! Let’s just go—”
“Where’s the gun?? I’LL do it!!”
I grabbed her arm and Triples Trevor and raced us back up the stairs.
It was so dark and foggy we kept slamming into barrack walls. Finally got back outside and headed toward the parking lot. I pulled off my coat, wrapped it around her.
“Nice swing in there, Snap,” she said, “Never knew you could hit.”
“Two for eighty-two lifetime. But they were both doubles.”
We reached the wet dirt of the parking lot and stopped. A familiar shiny black Mercury was parked about ten yards away. Brewster’s car.
“What the hell? I ditched them over an hour ago. How’d they find me?”
“The FBI? That’s a good thing, right? Come on.”
She broke away, ran up to the passenger side of the Mercury and cried out again. Backed off.
Brewster’s stooge was sitting there with a bullet hole in his forehead.
“Tressip got him!” she yelled.
“Wrong, Miss Doomis,” said Brewster’s voice behind us. He stepped out of the fog, brandishing a bigger revolver mine could only dream of being. “My partner of the day was getting a little too curious on the way over here.”
“I don’t believe this…” said Liz.
“But not too shocking,” I added. “I thought his investigative work was a little slow and shoddy. And nice little phony factory siege you staged in Terre Haute, Brewster.”
“Do either of you losers have any idea how much money Tressip has? How much he was willing to pay for some simple cooperation?”
“So he bought you off.”
“No, I’d call it more of an under-the-table contract. He knew some federal men through his father’s friends. Heard I was unhappy at the Bureau. That I wanted to retire early and sail around the globe on my yacht. Thought correctly that I could be persuaded to be his ‘inside man’ for a very pleasing sum.”
I charged him. In a flash, his weapon was in my nostrils.
“Now now, Drake. One more day till the season ends—before I help Tressip leave the country and get the rest of my payoff. I don’t want you blowing this deal. Where’s our friend now?”
“I killed him.”
“Go take a look. He’s downstairs.”
“Not anymore I’m not.”
It was Tressip, also stepping out of the fog. Blood oozing from the scalp wound I gave him. He was wobbly but still looked ferocious.
“Hello, Richard,” said his buddy Brewster.
“Good evening, Griffin,” said Tressip. “And thank you. But I think I can manage from here.” Raised my .38 and blew Brewster’s brains out from four feet away.
Everything happened fast. Tressip grabbing my arm, knocking the bat away. Liz slipping in the mud trying to run. Me lunging after her and Tressip getting a burly arm around my neck, slamming my head on the Mercury’s door. I dropped in a daze. heard Liz’s screams muffle as he pulled the stooge’s body out of the passenger seat, shoved her in and peeled out of the lot.
I staggered to my feet, somehow got to the Dodge and roared after them. Nearly went off the winding road three times trying to catch up. The Merc tore through a red light at the bottom, got back on the bridge to ‘Frisco. I broke the same law, pumped my speedometer up to 55. Saturday night traffic was as thick as the fog going into the city, and we bobbed and weaved through it like lunatics.
But then we could go no further. Ran into a murky sea of red tail lights. Tressip jammed on his brakes right in front of me. I hit the Merc’s bumper head on, slammed my mouth on the Dodge’s steering wheel. Groggily climbed out half a minute later, spitting a couple front teeth on the road. A few motorists ran over to help, but I was already stumbling past them. Followed Tressip as he pulled Liz between oncoming cars to the sidewalk on the eastern side, the .38 lodged in her spine.
“Stop, Tressip!” I yelled, “It’s over!”
“For you, maybe! She told me she loved me once, I believed her, and now we’re going away!”
“Going where?? Every cop in the city you weren’t paying off is about to be after you!”
He paused at the rail, spum around with a beaming, insane expression.
“Going where it’s wet…and quiet…and we can be together. Come darling.”
He hoisted himself on the rail, yanked her up beside him.
She struggled with him. I hobbled up and he shot the sidewalk two inches from my foot.
“Uh-uh, Milton. You threw an evil fastball. You lose. You don’t get the girl in the end. I do. Forever.”
He stood on the rail, gripped a cable with his free hand. Hauled Liz up by her hair.
“Ready to say your vows, my sweet?”
He was really going to do this. Any motorists who tried to intervene were fired at. The fog whipping across the bridge made it even more nightmarish. I begged my brain for an answer. And then…
“Okay, Tressip! You’re right! I KNOW she loved you, because she told me a few days ago! She even…she even told me about your son!”
Tressip paused, stared at me in wonder. So did Liz.
“Right. The little boy she had nine months after she had…relations with you. She was afraid to tell you, and when I proposed to her I agreed to help raise him.”
A half-confused, half beatific expression enveloped his ruined face. I kept going.
“Don’t you remember him? Little Maxie! You scared him away at that memorial service for Liz’s brother!”
“That was my son…”
“I was going to name him after you, Richard,” said Liz, playing along, “I just wasn’t sure I’d see you again.”
He stroked her hair with the gun still in his hand. “In your heart you knew you would…”
“Kiss me, handsome.”
He smiled, leaned in. She put her mouth on his, then kneed him full force in the groin. He howled, slipped off the damp rail. Pulled her off with him. She clamped an arm on the top rail as she dropped. I raced up.
Tressip dangled from her ankle, high over the fog bank of death, volcanic rage and hurt in his doomed eyes. And they were staring right at me.
“You shouldn’t have hit me, Milton…”
“For God’s sake, Tressip! It was an accident!”
“There are no accidents…” Liz tried to kick him off but his grip was otherworldly. Her hands were slipping. “And that’s not all…You didn’t pick me for your team that day, Milton! You didn’t pick me and look what happened!”
Police sirens approached. Tressip heard them, sighed deeply…and let go. “LOOK WHAT HAPPENED…” he cried as he fell into oblivion. Fog and water silently entombing him.
The helpful mob swarmed in. Helped me pull Liz back over the rail to safety. I kissed and hugged her until a police officer made us stop.
STL 200 200 000 – 4 8 3
S.F. 300 130 10x – 8 11 2
W-McCormick L-Mabe SV-Giel HRS: Wagner, Mays GWRBI-Mays
An entertaining slopfest I listened to while I packed my car. Daddy Wags and Willie go back-to-back in the 1st but it’s a classic Cardinal atomic meltdown in the 5th that decides things. How about three Giant runs on one hit, one sac fly, two walks, a hit batter and two passed balls?
CIN 210 000 000 – 3 9 0
MIL 000 030 01x – 4 10 1
W-Spahn L-Lawrence HRS: Aaron, Mathews GWRBI-Mathews
Just the type of miraculous, tight win the Braves have been getting lately. Can’t hit at all for half the game, then get late clutch homers by Hank to tie and Eddie to win it.
CHI 031 030 000 – 7 14 1
L.A. 000 303 000 – 6 9 0
W-Drott L-Drysdale SV-Nichols HRS: Marshall, Neal GWRBI-Adams
The Cubbies finish their season with another offensive explosion, courtesy of Don Dreckdale and his 19th loss of the year. Jim Marshall’s tater is Chicago’s 199th, as they fall one short of the double century mark. As for the Dodgers, I still find it impossible to believe that this team was one game out of first at the all-star break. They went 22-53 in the second half, playing worse than the Washington Senators.
PHI 101 010 020 – 5 8 1
PIT 101 000 000 – 2 9 1
W-Simmons L-Kline GWRBI-Bowman
Don’t try and tell the Phillies the games don’t matter anymore, because they seem fixated on winning the rest of them anyway. Six in a row over their western neighbors now.
BAL 113 010 300 – 9 11 0
NYY 302 010 000 – 6 14 0
W-Brown L-Dickson HRS: Mantle, Berra, Siebern GWRBI-Nieman
Another horrible performance by the Bombers, as it’s Bobby Shantz’s turn to have nothing. One more of these to get out of their system tomorrow before they welcome in the Braves.
K.C. 000 000 000 – 0 7 0
CHI 000 000 02x – 2 8 1
W-Wynn L-Grim GWRBI-Lollar
Speaking of horrible, Bob Grim of the A’s finishes the year at 3-19, but at least it isn’t his fault this time. Would you believe 13 LOB for K.C. against the sketchy Early Wynn?
DET 100 001 001 – 3 6 1
CLE 400 101 10x – 7 11 0
W-Woodeshick L-Moford HRS: Harris, Doby, Wertz, Harrell, Minoso
Another Tribe barrage sinks the Tigers. A win tomorrow with Cal McLish on the hill and the Indians clinch third place, which is pretty amazing.
BOS 410 040 020 – 11 14 1
WAS 112 010 003 – 8 12 1
W-Bowsfield L-Kemmerer SV-Baumann
Less amazing is 22-game loser Russ Kemmerer walking nine Red Sox and the Nats losing despite hitting seven doubles off Ted Bowsfield. Sievers collects three of them, and thanks to a lack of at bats for Williams and Zernial, is on the verge of a triple crown.
STATS RACES–ONE DAY LEFT!
AVG: Mays-SF .353, Aaron-MIL .338, Cunningham-STL .336, Musial-STL .328, Groat-PIT .328
OPS: Covington-MIL 1.035, Cunningham-STL 1.012, Mays-SF 1.007, Aaron-MIL .999, Robinson-CIN .995
HRS: Robinson-CIN 41, Banks-CHC 41, Aaron-MIL 40, Mays-SF 35, Covington-MIL 35
RBI: Robinson-CIN 143, Aaron-MIL 120, Mays-SF 117, Banks-CHC 119, Musial-STL 110 Lynch-CIN 110,
AVG: Williams-BOS .412, Zernial-DET .364, Sievers-WAS .340, Kaline-DET .331
OPS: Williams-BOS 1.314, Colavito-CLE 1.089, Sievers-WAS 1.044, Mantle-NY 1.037, Zernial-DET 1.028
HRS: Sievers-WAS 52, Mantle-NY 46, Jensen-BOS 45, Colavito-CLE 44
RBI: Sievers-WAS 139, Jensen-BOS 128, Colavito-CLE 123, Mantle-NY 123, Cerv-KC 109
National League through Saturday, September 27
American League through Saturday, September 27