Chaos. Total chaos. Tournament promoter John Allenby was screaming down
the phone, his voice echoing around his temporary office in a hotel
room opposite Copacabana Beach.
His two assistants kept their heads down as his anger reached boiling
The squash impresario had gambled on bringing a major tournament to
Rio, setting up the all-glass court on the beach ahead of the 2016
With squash having won a deserved place in the 2020 Olympics, he wanted
to showcase the sport as a dynamic, athletic entertainment. With
Olympic status, squash was ripe for development.
With extra funding rolling into the sport on the back of that crucial
vote in Buenos Aires in September 2013, when squash had beaten six
other sports to gain a place at sport’s top table, Allenby was
confident he could crack it.
Everything was going to be bigger.
Bigger venues, bigger ticket revenues, bigger sponsorship and bigger TV
He had booked the TV production team, who had flown over from London,
and he had arranged for 1,000 seats to be erected on all four sides of
the glass court which by now should be sparkling in the afternoon
sunlight on the opposite side of the road.
Only there was no court, and, until it arrived, no likelihood of the
tournament taking place to showcase squash’s hard-won place in the 2020
“Fuck. Double fuck.”
He slammed down the phone, hurled his notebook across the room and
Try as he might, Allenby was unable to secure the release of the glass
court from the dockside, despite its arrival from the States ten days
The American, who had built up an event series in Europe and the
States, was regarded in the sport as a top pro, a great organiser and a
master of the small print in any contract.
But this was one crisis he had failed to foresee.
Persuading the customs office to release the container that held the
glass panels and lighting rig was proving impossible. Calls to the city
mayor’s office, and even the country’s sports minister, had failed to
register any response.
With two days to go before the tournament was due to start, he was
running out of options.
He had done well to find a list of sponsors who had shared his vision
of a sporting spectacle on the world’s most famous beach, and several
wealthy benefactors would soon be asking for their money back if the
tournament failed to get off the ground.
The desktop fan that had provided a welcome wave of cool air suddenly
became an irritating white noise background to his simmering temper. In
his anger and frustration, he knocked it off the desk and kicked the
fan across the room.
The plug jumped out of the wall as he slammed the door and headed
outside to gather his thoughts.
He didn’t smoke, but today felt like a day when it might be a good idea
Instead, he headed to the hotel bar. Ordering a chilled beer, he
slumped in his stool at the bar and exhaled a long, downbeat sigh.
“Bad day, huh?”
Allenby spun round as the female voice took him by surprise.
Shelley Anderson, the head of the World Squash Tour, was sipping a
chilled white wine. It was 5 o’clock in the afternoon.
Head-hunted after squash’s admission to the Olympic movement, she
oversaw the merger of the men’s and women’s tours, as advised by the
IOC in a gesture of goodwill after squash had gained its place at
sport’s top table.
Having given squash the green light to make its debut in 2020, the IOC
felt that one united world tour would strengthen the sport’s appeal.
And they suggested employing a leader from the sports industry with
experience in hard-nosed, big-money deals to carry the game forward.
Shelley Anderson fitted the bill perfectly.
She was also non-British. A move that many felt might help the sport to
expand globally without being strangled by its old colonial ties.
An Australian who was educated at Trinity, she was aware of the
college’s squash traditions but majored in sports management and media.
She was also an above-average tennis player.
Her combination of brains and beauty gave her a formidable presence in
negotiations with agents, sponsors and tennis federations, and she
rarely failed to get her own way.
A powerful deal-maker for the US Open tennis, she nailed a succession
of big-money sponsorship packages that were so big they were in a
different orbit from the world she now inhabited.
She ate tennis agents for breakfast, especially when they demanded
ridiculous amounts of money for their pampered clients.
At 37, she was the epitome of a powerful, confident female executive.
Rumour had it she also ate several star players for breakfast. Her move
to squash baffled many inside the racket-sports industry.
Why switch from a powerful, wealthy machine to a small-time relative?
The answer, she insisted, was that she had achieved all she wished to
achieve in tennis and saw elevating squash to similar heights as a
challenge she could not resist.
A stunning, tall brunette, immaculately made up, she was wearing shorts
and a tight white blouse. With one button too many undone revealing a
magnificent cleavage, she looked both elegant and cool.
Which was the opposite of how John Allenby was feeling as he pondered
“I’m fucked. Totally screwed,” he said. “Those bastards at the docks
won’t release the glass court. It’s been here more than a week and
nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.”
“I’m assuming you’ve tried all the normal channels, like money,” she
Allenby chugged at his beer, closed his eyes, and let out another loud
“Yes, they want 30,000 dollars to speed things up,” he said. “But I
don’t have that kind of cash on me right now. Well, I do, but it would
have to come out of the players’ prize money.”
Shelley Anderson put down her glass, swivelled on her bar stool and
touched Allenby on the arm.
“Let me make a few calls,” she said.
Her voice contained soft undercurrents of American and English accents,
but was still unmistakeably Aussie. But with the sexiest, erotic lilt.
Dialling a number on her mobile, she wandered out of the bar and headed
towards the lift in the lobby.
Before the elevator had carried her skywards to her suite on the 20th
floor, she had concluded two quick calls. The first was to an old
tennis contact. Like everyone else on her speed-dial list, he owed her
The second was to the head of facilities for Rio’s Olympic park.
By the time she had entered her suit, she was already on a third call
to the head of security at the docks.
Within 30 minutes, she welcomed a tall, swarthy visitor to her suite.
He was not the usual sports executive she was used to dealing with, but
he had the same love of money. He knew how it moved, and how people who
wanted something badly enough will always pay a little extra to speed
up delivery. Sometimes more than money was on the agenda. Cars and
contraband could always make up any financial shortfall.
She placed a brown envelope on the small table at the entrance to her
The visitor counted the dollar bills and his face turned into a cold,
“There is only 10,000 in here.”
Undoing another button on her blouse, she smiled at her guest. With a
cat-like guile, she extended her fingers so that they caught hold of
her guest’s shirt. She gently led him to the bedroom door before
stopping and turning to meet his glare, which had softened from the
verge of rage to a warm, knowing smile.
The security chief was not a desk jockey. He dealt face to face with
dock workers and truckers. To command their respect, he needed to be a
rough, tough character. To get things done, aggression always topped
But here, in a five-star hotel room, and facing the most beautiful
woman he had ever met in his life, his balls turned to jelly.
In her beautiful, precise, softly-seductive Hollywood accent, Shelley
Anderson said: “We can carry on talking in here.”
Twenty five minutes later she had showered and returned to Allenby’s
side at the hotel bar.
She lent in towards him and looked left and right before whispering in
Smiling and looking threatening at the same time was an art she had
perfected down the years.
“Listen,” she said. “I have a sore backside, a sore frontside, I’ve got
a nasty taste in my mouth and I’ve just saved you twenty thousand
Her right index finger prodded him gently in the chest before curling
around his top shirt button.
Moving even closer, she moved her face next to his and whispered:
“Let’s call it a personal favour. I need this tournament to be a
success, just the same as you do. My head’s on the block, just the same
as yours is.”
As Allenby’s jaw dropped and his bottom lip headed towards his chest,
he just managed to blurt out: “I owe you. Big time.”
As Shelley smiled from ear to ear and mouthed the word “Yes” they heard
a commotion outside the hotel bar.
As Allenby looked beyond Shelley’s shoulder, through the horizontal
blinds, he saw a lorry drive past the hotel window and park on the
opposite side of the road. A large container was hooked up to the rear
of the vehicle.
His mouth still wide open, a look of total incredulity washing across
his sunburned face, the promoter headed for the door.
His tournament was back on.
Chapter TWO by Mick Joint
“For the third time, it was dark blue. Not light blue, dark blue. With
the word “Prince” in big white letters all over it” Tyler Wolf was
beyond irate. For one and half hours he had been waiting in line in the
particularly claustrophobic “Lost Luggage” office of LAN, the Chilean
It was the cherry on top of what has been the without a shadow of a
doubt the worst flight in the history of aviation. He was sure God was
punishing him for something and the Almighty was handing it out good
At 36, Tyler was still one of the world’s best squash players. An
Aussie by birth, he learnt his squash through the teachings of his
Scottish father, a strict, take-no-crap coach who taught him the value
of mental discipline early on with torturous training sessions. If you
weren’t throwing up, you weren’t trying hard enough. As painful as they
were, they also paid off. Tyler was world number one for several years
before his age recently started to catch up with him. Now ranked 5, he
was still considered to be the toughest, fittest, scrappiest, most
resilient and at times – dirtiest – player ever to grace the arena.
But even this was testing his mettle. The flight from Sydney to Rio
should have taken just under one day travel. First, the weather delay
in Sydney put everything 3 hours behind schedule. That of course caused
him to miss his connecting flight in Auckland – a disaster because the
next available seat was the following day. LAN refused to pony up for
hotel or food since the hold-up was an “act of God”, something airlines
don’t compensate for. Tyler was forced to spend the next 21 hours in
the waiting lounge.
The Auckland to Santiago connection also should have been postponed.
Stormy weather buffeted the 737 for 11 hours straight. If you didn’t
have a phobia of flying beforehand, the turbulence surely would have
created one. Many passengers were ill – as were a couple of the
stewarding staff – and the nasty acrid smell of vomit permeated through
the fuselage. The overweight gentleman sitting next to Tyler gripped
the arm rests so violently he ripped off the padding, threw up on
himself multiple times, and Tyler was sure he also wet himself as he
didn’t go the bathroom once.
Landing late in Santiago, he also missed his next connection, but
thankfully LAN flew more than once a day to Rio de Janeiro. He was
actually appreciative for the extra couple of hours after the last
experience. Lamentably, half way through the flight, a mechanical
problem forced the plane to land in Sao Paolo, where they sat on the
tarmac for 5 hours, without air conditioning, before continuing on to
Rio. All in all, what should have taken 21 hours, took 53. And now,
just in case he wasn’t infuriated enough, his bag was lost.
“Prance?” The LAN baggage clerk mumbled back. Uninterested and bored,
the clerk with an upside down name tag ‘Juan’ kept looking at his watch
and the long line behind Tyler with contempt.
“Prince. P-R-I-N-C-E. Prince. Like the singer. Like Prince Charles.
Jeez...” Tyler was about to blow a gasket.
“Si, si, Prance.”
“Yeah, whatever. Where the Hell is my bag?”
“No se. Don’t know. You miss some flights, no? Maybe bag is here
already? Get here before you. Let me look here...” Juan started
punching some keys on his computer.
It took at least another 5 minutes before Juan spoke another word.
Tyler was sure he checking his facebook account.
“Your bag, Mr. Wolf, seems to be lost”
“It will turn up.” Juan shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “Maybe
tomorrow, maybe day after. We call you when bag is here, si? Where you
Tyler mustered up all the strength he had left not to leap over the
counter and rip Juan’s head clean off. “Listen, Juan, it is vitally
“Si, si. Vitally important that you get your bag.” Juan was mocking
him. “Everybody bag is vitally important.” He rolled his eyes and
started muttering away. “...sue the airline..., ...make my life a
misery..., ...never fly LAN again..., Look, there is nothing I can do
now. Your bag? Poof! Not here. You wait. We call you. Now go away and
let me tell all people behind you the same thing. It is not about life
Tyler passed on his hotel information without one more sound and
marched out the office. Little that he knew, it actually was about to
affect his life.
John Allenby was having a much better day. The court construction on
the beach was going swimmingly well. He was rather surprised and
impressed at the efficiency of the crew putting the large jigsaw puzzle
together, including the stadium seating all around the venue. It was
almost complete. The tournament - and his career - was back on track.
Doubly pleasing was the wonderful eye-candy that paraded constantly
past. He had never seen so many beautiful women, amazing bodies,
perfectly proportioned, and not exactly shy about showing off just the
right amount of skin... or wrong amount depending on how you looked at
Shelley was a life saver. What mountains she moved to get this thing
going, her connections appeared boundless. Naturally, her ‘assets’ were
an essential part of the equation and John winced at the thought of
what she must have ‘endured’ to save him all that money. Pangs of
jealousy made him shiver in the warm sun. He was not her type, he knew
that, but that didn’t stop him from fantasizing about her. It was her
accent that drove him wild the most.
He couldn’t afford the distraction. Tomorrow was a big day with the
public announcement of the men’s and women’s qualifying draws and the
start of play at the Copacabana Squash Club. All the qualifiers had
checked in – except one. John wasn’t worried just yet. The American
trained Argentinean lass – 19 year old Florencia Perez - still had 16
hours to show up before roll-call and the deadline, although she had
been known to miss such deadlines before. It wasn’t that she just the
top ranked qualifier, she was drop dead gorgeous. The ‘Kournikova’ of
the squash world, she had serious potential to be world number one. She
was so marketable on top of it, with the inclusion of squash into the
Olympics, sponsorship and commercial offers were coming in thick and
fast. Squash was selling. If healthy and reliable, Florencia was a
guaranteed money generator for the sport worldwide. It would be a more
than minor disaster if she wasn’t playing due to tardiness.
His cell phone started to ring loudly. Guns and Roses “Welcome to the
Jungle” started playing. “John Allenby.”
“John, its Erika Hoskin”. Erika was Florencia’s coach in New York. “Got
“Sure. What’s up?” John prepared himself for what was about to come. He
had received this phone call at least twice before.
“Florencia’s plane was delayed. Some staffing issue at United Airlines
or something. She should already be there, but she’s on her way now.
Plane should land in Rio tomorrow morning at 8:00 am.”
“Erika, the qualifying draw is scheduled for 10:00 am!”
“I know, I know, just wanted to give you a heads up. She needs to be
picked up the moment she comes out of customs and raced to the club. It
will be close, but if it all goes smoothly she should still make it.”
Shit. Smoothly? In Rio de Janeiro? A lot of things could go wrong for
Miss Perez not to be on time. Flight delay, weather, customs, traffic,
baggage claim... and they were just the things he could immediately
“Guess we’ll hope and beg things go according to plan then? Thanks
Erika.” John hung up.
He wasn’t religious, but he thought he might start to be. To no one in
particular, he mumbled, “God, please don’t fuck this up.”
Shelley Anderson was standing in front of the floor to ceiling window
ignoring the magnificent view of Copacabana beach with an almost
completed squash court from her hotel room with a white wine in her
hand. Her mind was elsewhere. She was a little drunk and not happy.
Nothing upset her more than to be kept waiting. A day and a half late
was not acceptable. Not being sure how she was going to react when he
finally did arrive upset her even more. She did not enjoy losing
The knock on the door made her jump and spill some wine over the carpet.
Rushing over, she yanked the door open. Tyler Wolf stomped into the
room, greeting her with clenched teeth and a deathly stare.
“Thank God you’re here! I was so worried. What happened? Thought your
plane had disappeared over Bermuda Triangle or some...” Shelley stopped
mid sentence. She could see he was ready to erupt.
“You have no idea what I’ve just been through!” Tyler paced restlessly
through the room striding from one end to the other, gesturing, at
times shouting, swearing and occasionally kicking some furniture as he
unloaded his recent travel escapade on her. Twenty five minutes later,
he had calmed down somewhat and the two of them were sitting on the
couch with a fresh bottle of wine opened on the table.
“Is the Prince rep here yet?” he asked. “I need some gear until my bag
gets here... if it gets here.”
“I’m sure he is. I’ll call John Allenby and ask. Tyler, you’re here,
you’re in one piece, you don’t play for a couple of days, it’s time to
focus on your squash. You need to be on the top of your game. This
tournament is huge for us!”
Shelley Andersen and Tyler Wolf go way back. Growing up in suburban
Sydney, they attended the same private school and all the way through
their teenage years had an on-again-off-again-on-again relationship.
They were one of those couples that would kill each other when together
but would kill themselves if apart. When Shelley was 18, her parents
moved to the States and they gave her the golden opportunity to study
at Trinity College – a prospect too good to pass up. Tyler was
heartbroken, but through his squash tour and Shelley’s tennis business
career, the pair hooked up occasionally to stoke the embers. Their
mutual feelings for each other never faded. Now, with Shelley working
full time on the squash tour, they could see each other more regularly.
Neither would openly admit it, but they weren’t sure that was such a
good idea. Their intimacy was not public knowledge, although rumours
had been circulating for years.
“One of my last gasps, I think” replied Tyler. “Don’t get me wrong, I
feel great. Strong, fit, hitting well. I think I can win this.” He was
coming off the recent Australian Open victory. An event he has now won
for the 5th time. The final was a 3-0 comfortable win over surprise
opponent Abdul Omar Khan, the new young Pakistani on the block who
played out of his tree for the week knocking off world number 13, 7 and
3 on his way through the draw. The effort to get to the final cost him
the title, he was simply not used to playing (or winning) so many tough
matches on consecutive days whereas Tyler was. Khan’s ranking jumped
into the top 12, Tyler’s stayed at 5 although he came a lot closer to
the fellows above him. Winning in Rio may even get him the top spot
back depending on how the others fared.
“You retiring?” Shelley was legitimately shocked. It never crossed her
mind Tyler would ever give it up.
“Thinking about it. Dunno. It’s getting harder Shelley. I have to admit
that. These young guys – Omar, the Egyptians, that Peruvian, even the
Swede – he’s so quick – I struggle to maintain, they just keep on
“Well, you can’t think about that until after Rio. For now, you’re one
of favourites to win the biggest ever squash tournament prize in the
sport. And you will. You must!”
He was in a terrific position to pull off the win. Scheduled to play a
qualifier first round, he wasn’t due to meet a real tough opponent
until the quarter finals. The four players ranked above him had a lot
more difficult time ahead of them. It was very possible a couple of
them could lose early, and a third was carrying an injury everybody
knew wasn’t healed properly. The only thing which bothered him was the
fact he didn’t have his own gear. He may have to play with unfamiliar
“The qualifying matches start tomorrow. You have an interview with the
local television in the morning at the local Copacabana Squash Club
just before the announcement of the qualifying draw. John Allenby will
be doing it with you. Please be nice to him.” Shelley wasn’t really
“I’ll be fine as long as he’s nice to me. Just hope I can use my own
racquets and wear my own shoes.”
Like on cue, there was another knock on the door.
“Did you order room service?” Tyler enquired.
“No. I was not expecting us to be interrupted all night,” answered
Shelley with a sly wink. She stood up and looked through the peephole.
She couldn’t see anything but blackness. “Who is it?”
“LAN luggage delivery. I have a bag for a Mr. Wolf?” It was a question
more than a statement.
Tyler was momentarily confused. How could it be here so quickly? Just
over an hour ago it was lost in the abyss of world transit, and now it
was on the other side of the hotel room door. It wasn’t even his hotel
room. A red flag should immediately have been raised but the relief of
knowing his gear was actually here made him react without thinking.
“Thank God! Let him in!”
Shelley opened the door and sure enough a LAN delivery man was standing
there with a dark blue Prince bag in his hands. Also standing there was
the hotel manager, two armed policeman, and that bastard British squash
reporter that followed all major events around the globe for his
website, ‘smashingballs.com’. Aptly named, Charles Buckler was a total
ball breaker that went out of his way to find dirt on anyone and
everyone. Everybody loves to read about a train wreck. He wrote about
the game of squash very well however, and mostly his articles were
excellently scribed. He was also rather adept at finding out the most
obscure information. He knew about their love affair but up to now has
failed to provide printable proof. Because of that, Tyler Wolf was a
common target of his. Nothing pleased Charles more than raking the
Australian through the muck and right now he had a wide grin plastered
on his pale, bushy moustached face and a camera at the ready. Not a
“This your bag, sir?” The larger of the two policemen asked the
question. His hand was on the butt of his gun which thankfully was
still in the holster.
“Errr... yes. There a problem?” Tyler’s heart sped up instantly.
“Sir, you may want to come with us to the station to answer a few
questions.” It was not a request.
“What? Why? What’s going on...?” Tyler started to get scared.
The second policeman held up a small plastic bag. Clearly it had
marijuana in it. “Droga,” he said waving it in Tyler’s face.
The camera flashed.
“What!” Tyler was genuinely horrified. “That’s not mine! What’s going
“You need to come with us,” the bigger cop said. He removed handcuffs
from his utility belt and arrested a dumbfounded Tyler. He started to
lead him towards the elevators.
“Shelley! Help me! Do something!” The Australian squash professional
did not know what to do. This couldn’t be happening, not two days
before the biggest tournament of his career. He started to cry.
The camera flashed again.
Chapter THREE by James Zug
Tyler Wolf thought he was awake, but he wasn’t sure. It was still dark.
The world was a velvety black curtain drapped over his mind and body.
No light at all. He lifted his right arm to rub his eyes, but his arm
didn’t move. Nor his left arm. They were bound in heavy tape to his
side. He was wrapped like an otter in seaweed.
This is going to be a long night. If it was night.
How long had he been asleep, he wondered? His mind raced through what
had happened. He was talking to Shelley, the knock on the door and this
incredible scene with his luggage, flashing cameras. Then it went into
slow-motion: walking down the muffled, carpeted hall; taking the
elevator, the three of them, no one saying a word; leaving the hotel
flanked by the goons; getting into the back of a grey, unmarked car. It
was all so normal and yet surreal. And then? What had happened? An itch
in his leg reminded him—one of the policemen had jabbed him in the
thigh with something. Since then, a blank.
He could hear the clang of metal meeting metal, a
screen door shutting, muted laughter, the rumble of a truck going down
a hill. It was hot. He was still in Rio, but this wasn’t a prison.
The Copacabana Squash Club was a vibrant health club near the favela do
Morro dos Cabritos. It had an excellent view of the beach and the
jutting, forested hills of Rio. A backpacking Australian had built the
Copa in the late seventies on a lark. This was long before the World
Cup and Olympics had swum into view. After a couple of decades, the
Aussie missed surfing on the Gold Coast too much and sold it and
returned home. The new owners increased it to six courts, glass-backed,
with marine blue and green walls. A mix of expats, stony-faced
government officials, disheveled filmmakers and sheveled real estate
magnates were members.
The renovations hadn’t completely smothered the
club’s infamous unzipped scene. The Copa had a co-ed locker room, co-ed
showers, co-ed steam room. Members had their own white terry-cloth
bathrobes, their name embroidered on the sleeve, and it was common,
Allenby had heard, for late-night, slightly impaired visitors to the
locker room to squabble over who got to sheath their naked body with
the mayor’s robe.
It was mid-morning. Allenby had slept late and
rushed over to the club. The cattle-call, the moment when all the
qualifiers stood in a court and the qualies draw was made, was due in
forty-five minutes. If you were a minute late, the draw was closed.
Two players were on court hitting. It sounded like
loafers in a dryer—bang, bang-bang. The other players were milling
about the club, most on their cell phones updating their Facebook news
feeds and tweeting and retweeting each other’s tweets. Some had earbuds
dangling from their shoulders like thin white snakes. Very few were
talking to each other. A new surliness had descended upon the pro tour
after the IOC selection. Agents, sniffing out money, had snapped up
everyone in the top fifty, and suddenly many of the players had
entourages: managers, physio-therapists, coaches. The stakes were
rising. The old friendliness was fading.
“Where is Wolfie? Allenby asked Carlos Paulo, the
club’s manager. “He’s got that interview with NBR."
“I’ve heard nothing,” said Paulo with a sigh. Unlike
Allenby, he had been at the club since 5am. “I’ve sent him a couple of
texts but nothing since he arrived last night. His flight from Sydney
was pretty awful, so he’s probably asleep still. You know how these
players sleep until noon.”
“What about about Perez? Still no word?”
“None of the girls have any ideas. I’ve checked her
Facebook and Twitter. All blank.”
“Where the hell is everybody?” Allenby said
irritably. He needed coffee.
“Maybe she’s caught in the security at the airport?”
Paulo said hopefully. Since the nightclub fire in Santa Maria the year
before, a new set of protocols for any public gathering place had been
implemented and this meant it took an interminable time to get through
immigrations, customs and security checkpoints at Galeao International
“This was so typical of a tournament,” Allenby said
as if teaching Paulo a lesson. “There are big crises and small crises.
It is like a wave, first one and then the other. Wolfie I can deal with
but Perez, I’ve got to have her.”
An enigma wrapped inside a mystery, Perez had come
out of nowhere. She was muscular and quick and didn’t speak a word of
English. She never played on the junior circuit. She never came to
Sheffield or Cambridge for those sprawling junior tournaments. Then, a
year ago, she got a wild card in an event in Bogota and reached the
She was a hiccup shooter: unexpected and continual.
Every time she touched the ball, she hit a dropshot. She ripped off the
volley cross-court smash on every possible service return. Literally
every single time. It got so bad that opponents served the ball
short and at her, bodyline, rather than the side wall, just to prevent
her from shooting. She loved to see if she could smack a dropshot from
that back corner or while backpedaling or twisting.
Perez also had a two-hand backhand which was awful,
totally unsuited for her aggressive play. She said this was a remnant
of her tennis-playing days. It was a quirk that Erika Hoskin, her coach
since Bogota, had tried to fix. Hoskin was very private about Perez.
All coaches were like that, territorial over their troops. Hoskin had
gotten her to wear sneakers, that was an accomplishment—apparently in
the Bogota tournament she had played barefoot.
Allenby fired off another email to Hoskin and texted
Perez. He then scrolled through his Twitter feed for the first time
that morning. Buckler had posted something late last night: “Tyler Wolf
arrested on drug charge in Shelley Anderson’s hotel room taken away no
warning #braziliansquashopen ‘That's not mine,’ he yelled.”
On tour, among the wandering international tribe of
squash writers, photographers, broadcasters and officials, Buckler was
famous for many things. He always demanded his own hotel room—“for
equipment,” he said. He smoked two packs of Belomorkanals a day. He
hated squash itself. He didn’t play, unlike nearly everyone else in the
tribe. He never watched the matches live, preferring to talk to
sources—coaches, loitering referees, hangers-on—in the crowd; he viewed
the matches in silence on his computer the next morning, when he knew
the outcome and could see the narrative. He perpetually looked like a
professor of some ‘ology just back from months of field work. Straggly
grey hair spouted like kudzu all over his body. And there was the
Buckler Beard. After the first ball of the qualies was struck, he
didn’t shave until the finals were over. He was like a goddamn ice
hockey player in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Every tournament, he did
this. A spasm of self-hatred was the explanation, Allenby thought.
Buckler always tweeted the maximum characters on
Twitter, not one less. He hated wasting something free. Allenby didn’t
even need to count do know this tweet about Wolfie was exactly 140.
Through the window, Allenby saw Buckler on the
sidewalk, smoking a cigarette. He got himself a cup of coffee from the
bar and went outside.
“What’s this about Wolfie getting arrested?” he
“Oh, hey, Johnny. Didn’t you read my report on
SmashingBalls,” Buckler said.
“No, I haven’t,” Allenby said, adding, “yet.” He
loathed the website: a badly-presented farrago of gossip and innuendo
and overly-detailed analysis about equipment.
“Oh,” Buckler said, smoke clinging to his eyebrows
like fog on a Pacific Redwood. The Belomorkanals were reputed to be the
strongest cigarettes in the world. Allenby thought it was just an
affection, Buckler’s way of drawing attention to the fact he lived in
Russia in the nineties. No one knew exactly what he was doing over
there. “I see. Well, basically, I saw the whole thing happen. I came up
on the elevator with the cops. I’ve been working on this story, you
know, for a long time now, back to last year when we were getting into
Allenby winced at the “we”. Buckler was helping no
one but himself. He gave him a basilisk stare. His face was
clean-shaven. The Beard was going to begin.
Buckler went on: “You know, it’s about doping. They
had Wolfie’s luggage and a bag of pot of the found int, but I don’t
think that was the whole thing. I mean, Wolfie wouldn’t fly into Brazil
“Coal to Newcastle,” Allenby said, showing off the
full extent of his knowledge of Anglo slang.
Buckler exhaled as if he had been holding his
breath. “When the Lance Armstrong story wrapped up with him going to
jail, I started looking into doping in squash. Turns out there was
something there. The players all said they were tested by their own
national associations, but when I researched this, most associations
weren’t doing it—they assumed the WST was testing. We assumed they
were. Who’s on fucking first, here boys?” Buckler smiled. He was happy
to toss some American slang back at Allenby. “So only a few were
getting tested and even those were not for Erythropoietin.”
“Erythropoietin,” Buckler said, relishing this
opportunity to educate Allenby. “EPO. Blood doping, my friend. These
guys are doing EPO and growth hormones, blood transfusions. Most
associations just test anabolic steroids. Really. Who besides from
Hungarian weightlifters do steroids now? Some contacts here in Brazil
told me that Wolfie was deeply involved. You know those Aussies,
they’ll do anything to win.”
And so will the Canadians and Brits and Peruvians
and Egyptians, thought Allenby as he sipped his coffee. So will
everyone. “And with Wolfie thirty-six, on the verge of retirement, it
makes sense,” he said. But did it?
The phone vibrated on the glass table like a sheep bleating. Shelley
Anderson looked out at the beach. The southeast breeze skimmed the
waves along the sand like pinwheeling, spiraling knives. She put her
glass of wine down, shaded her eyes and picked up her phone. It was a
41 21 number. Lausanne.
“Yes,” she said hurriedly, her lips barely open. “We
got the court out of customs, Rhodanie. It’s alright.”
“”What the hell happened?” said Rhodanie.
“I don’t know. Someone tipped them off. We used to
get the satellite dish impounded, that happened in Egypt once, but
never the panels and lighting. They knew.”
“How? How’d they know, Shel?”
“I haven’t a clue. You’re supposed to be the one
with all plans. You’re the brains behind this. But they knew it was in
the container. I am sure.”
“Why are you sure?” Rhodanie repeated.
“The head of security. He told me. He came to the
hotel yesterday. We had a conversation. I had to pay him off, in cash.
“That’s good of you. We appreciate that, Shel. But
we are not in the clear yet. Far from it. If you can’t make this
happen, we’ll move someone else in.”
Shelley stopped and took a slow sip of her wine.
Then she began fiddling with the spoon on the table, trying to get it
to stand on edge. “Listen, Rhodanie Maison, don’t threaten me. I am not
a jillaroo. I know what I’m doing. I know how to make this happen.”
“I’m sure the head of security thought so, Shelley
Anderson.” So it was back to full names.
“Please. Don’t be disgusting. I’ll get this done.
The court is almost up. Allenby is clueless. The qualies begin this
afternoon. Once the main draw starts, then we can move.”
“What about Wolfie? What about Buckler?”
Anderson didn’t think he knew about Tyler Wolf’s
arrest. “Buckler’s a hairy stickybeak. I can put him off the scent with
a few new racquets he’s never heard of. That is easy. And no one reads
SmashingBalls anyway. Tyler, well, he’s a problem. I can’t find him.”
“I went down to the police station this morning but
they said he wasn’t there. They have no record of his arrest. It’s
incredible. I’ve made a few calls. I’ve got a lawyer friend looking
into it. No one knows anything. The Wolf has disappeared. Poof.” The
spoon clattered off the table.
“Really,” Rhodanie said, spacing his words out,
“that is not good. Not good at all. Australian kidnapped in South
“Buckler was there when they nabbed Tyler. Maybe he
can tell me more about the guys who took him away. Maybe he’s got some
photos of them.”
“It is amazing how quickly this has gotten bollocks
“I told you, Rhodanie, that’s the squash world.
They’re nice people but they don’t know how to play with the big boys.”
There was silence on the line. Anderson looked at
Rhodanie asked, “Where are you now?”
“I’ve just had lunch. Got to go,” Anderson
said. “I’ve got a tennis game this afternoon. Doubles. With a couple of
old friends. They owe me a favor.”
“You’re still playing?”
“Sure. You don’t think I’m going to go inside and
play squash when I am in Rio? That’s not good for my tan.”
Tyler Wolf was swimming headlong through a fever-dream. He thought he
was asleep, at least, but then he realized he was wide-awake. He was
walking through a heavy, black door into a chilly, cloud-filled
afternoon. He was wearing a stiff wool suit, a waist-coat, a hat.
His leg felt fine. He was free.
But this was nothing like Rio, he thought. The door
led into a lost lane. He could smell woodsmoke. At the other end of the
lane, two boys were playing a game. They both held long-handled wooden
racquets. The ball skidded and hopped off the stone walls and cobbled
ground, the windowsills, a boot-scraper by an ancient door.
The rally went on and on, as if the point would
never end. Wolf couldn’t see the boys’ faces. It was hard to see in the
fug of fog and gloom that crept along the wet, mossy stones. The
fog almost enveloped the boys. Wolf looked at the walls. This place was
utterly unfamiliar. He felt like a convertible in the winter:
functional but out of place.
“Hallo, Master Wolf.”
His heart quickened. He turned and saw a stork-like
man was standing next to him, materializing out of the soupy mist. “Ah,
yes,” Wolf said.
“Nice seeing the boys at play,” the man went on. “I
approve of this, the younger ones learning the game this way. It helps
Wolf nodded slightly, with a timorous smile. “That’s
right.” How did he know my name?
“’Tis true that many of the older masters disagree
with me. But this game, this baby racquets, this soft racquets, this
softer, well, yes, a few windows have been broken. And surely, it isn’t
a real game. It isn’t a manly game like racquets. But they like it,
they surely like it. Can’t get enough India rubber balls, though I know
they use the broken ones as mini squirt-guns. They are even playing
softer on the new fives courts. Surely, Eton—you know I had a brother
who went there?—has so many, many schoolboy games compared to us, but
they don’t have softer. It makes Harrow proud, surely, don’t you think.”
“Yes, of course. So they are playing it on the fives
courts?” Wolf looked at the man more carefully. Where was he, where was
this place? Rain started to come spitting down. He could smell sage,
thyme, the solace of a roast cooking on a fire.
“You haven’t seen that? It isn’t the same naturally,
none of the quirks of the alley, I’m afraid, no waterpipes or
windowsills, but surely jolly good fun for them.”
“It does seem a bit strange to play here, in this
little alley,” Wolf said.
“Do you hear what they now are calling this game?”
The stork looked at Wolf. “They’re calling it squash."
Chapter FOUR by Jamie Crombie
Erika Hoskin was Florencia Perez’s coach, but their relationship of
player/coach was not your typical relationship. The degree of
interaction was at a level never seen before on either the men’s or the
women’s pro tour. Erika had waited for twenty years to finally get a
pupil in which her skills as a coach could be fully appreciated and
utilized. An ex touring pro who had an uncanny knack at winning every
close match was her own personal claim to fame. Unfortunately, when
those wins came they were in the first round of qualifying in some
small rinky-dink tour event. Those matches didn’t bring her much
recognition as a top player or even as a potential coach.
Erika had absolutely no physical or technical skill so her ability to
win any pro match was a testament to her ability to think. It was this
attribute, which she knew with the right talent, and guidance would
create not a great player but a world champion. But who knew other than
the twelve people who came out to the 1st round of the Slago Open that
Erika was a master tactician.
So when it was time to hang up her racquet, she wasn’t exactly scooped
up by some of the most prestigious clubs in the US. For so many retired
pros, the US squash scene was the place to earn a living. When
she took a job as an assistant coach at New York Junior Academy, she
was only ever given the kids which all the other six coaches didn’t
want. The combination of a male denominated sport with a squash
pedigree, which didn’t light up the page, left her with little options
as to who she was left to work with. But with the help of the public
library in New York, Erika was able to further master her skills as a
tactician like no other through her desire to read every single book on
how wars were won. A resource used by no other coaches but with
the right mind and body as a pupil, this advantage could rewrite the
book on how to play squash. So when Florencia was handed to her on a
platter, it was as if this was another reject for Erika. She knew that
she couldn’t blow this golden opportunity. Secondly, her sense of
paranoia kicked in, so nobody was going to steal her future star from
under her wings, and this is when her gem started her mysterious path
to the top.
Usually when you get this close to the actual start date of a
tournament, your checklist of items to complete as a tournament
organizer would have shrunk to a manageable level. But to John’s dismay
his list of items seemed to have this very sick sense of humor. The
checklist had this incredible ability to add an item just as quickly as
John checked one off the list. He checks off the list that his stadium
seating has been completed only to add that the seats have sticky syrup
covering many of them so they would have to be individually cleaned by
hand. His PA system was completed only to have a two speaker’s blow a
fuse and somehow have to be completely replaced.
Maybe it was these constant disruptions to the master plan, which had
John up before his 6am alarm clock was set. But either way, he was up
when the head of the court construction, Phil Peters, called him at
“Hey Phil, what’s up .“
“What do you mean two glass panels are missing?”
“So you are telling me, at 6 fucking am in the morning that the two
panels for the glass court were never in the container to begin with
and why am I hearing about this for the first fucking time just hours
before the qualifying start?”
John was shaking he was so mad, but as an event organizer you have to
go into survival mode and switch off your emotions and try to come up
with a resolution. As Shelley Anderson had already dealt with the Head
of Security at the docks, it was time to get her back involved. One
quick phone call to her cell and a request to be in his room in five
didn’t go over well but was agreed upon with a quick yes.
Even with five minutes notice and 6 in the morning, Shelley still
looked good as she walked through the door to John’s hotel room. John
proceeded to tell her the news about the missing panels and the need
for answers as to their whereabouts.
“Get that fucker on speaker, now,” John demanded.
Shelley quickly dialed his number and waited for an answer. Eight
further attempts later a groggy voice picked up the phone and Shelley
laid her phone down on the table while putting it on speaker for both
John and her to hear.
“Hi, Victor this is Shelley.”
“There seems to be a problem with the court.”
“Two of the glass panels weren’t in the container.”
“What do you mean, there is a new deal, I already paid you the argued
“Did you just say my skinny white ass wasn’t worth $20,000?”
“You son of a bitch.”
“What do you mean dial this number?”
“I’m not dialing any number, you…” Click.
There was only a ring tone on the other end and Shelley and John were
stunned at the development that was just presented to them. Shelley
can’t believe her sex appeal had failed and John didn’t know what the
hell this all meant. Either way, they were screwed.
Chapter FIVE BY Georgetta Morque
Emily Miller wiped a bit of sweat from her forehead with a magenta
wrist band that appropriately matched her skirt and white tank top with
magenta trim and stepped out of court 3 at the Copacabana Squash Club.
Julia Brown followed. The two plopped themselves on a mint green and
pale blue striped couch flanked by floor-to-ceiling lush tropical
plants in the spacious lounge area. They tossed their racquets aside
and immediately checked their cell phones.
“My dad keeps texting me about my match, but I keep telling him I still
don’t know when I’m playing. What’s with this freakin’ tournament
anyway?” complained Emily, fixing her blonde pony tail.
“I know. My mum’s been calling as well,” said Julia with a sigh, taking
a swig of her now tepid sports drink. “They’re so bloody slow.”
Emily, a college recruit hopeful from the New York area, became friends
with Julia, a petite sandy-haired player from Cambridge, on the
European junior circuit and at summer camps. Emily’s dad, Maxwell
Miller, II, a lawyer and avid player, hoped that squash would be
Emily’s ticket to an Ivy League school and thought this tournament
would help raise her squash profile plus provide some needed
motivation. While Emily liked the game and has had plenty of
training and tournament play, her focus wasn’t always there. A little
less texting and tweeting and more rails and cross courts would
Julia’s parents were also optimistic about their daughter’s squash
future, especially now with the Olympics a reality. Julia’s uncle had
played for Wales so it seemed only natural for her to carry on the
squash pedigree. Like Emily, Julia’s head was sometimes elsewhere, and
quite often, celebrities and pop stars commanded her attention. Not
that long ago, she and her friends camped out for two nights waiting to
see a pop star perform in rain-soaked Hyde Park. She missed her squash
lesson and was too wiped out to play in a tournament that weekend,
which didn’t bode well at home.
When Emily learned that Julia had entered the qualifier in Rio, that
sealed the deal. Both sets of parents felt somewhat relieved that
the girls would be together and hopefully stay out of trouble at least
until Maxwell Miller arrived after finishing an important case. The
girls kept their fingers crossed that they wouldn’t be on the same side
of the draw. And more importantly, they prayed that neither of them
would have to face Florencia Perez.
“I wonder what’s up with Florencia. I can’t imagine she wouldn’t
show,” remarked Julia, standing up briefly to stretch and smooth down
her lavender skirt.
“Trust me, she wouldn’t miss this if her life depended on it.”
“Hmm, I guess she’ll just run through everyone here and look amazing at
the same time.”
“Yeah, with that backhand that’s so frickin’ annoying. Why is that
“I bet since Shelley Anderson is from tennis, that’s why.”
“So what’s next from Shelley Anderson? Are we gonna have freakin’ nets
on the squash court? She should have just stayed in tennis.”
Julia looked at her phone again. “Here’s something. Tyler Wolf has been
arrested on drug charges.”
“You’re kidding,” said Emily. “I wonder what Shelley Anderson will do
“Hmm. I don’t know, but there’s nothing about Florenica. Let’s check
the board to see if there are any updates there.”
They got up and walked over to look at the notices. Flyers announcing
everything from beach fitness training to squash samba parties covered
the wall. A posting about the tournament caught Julia’s eye.
“OMG,” she squealed breathlessly, with eyes wide open.
Look who’s on the players list who wasn’t there before!” gasped Julia,
practically jumping now. “Andres Lopez from Colombia,” she cried in a
“No way!” said Emily. “He’s like so hot. He played an exhibition
at our club last year and he was so amazing.”
“Have you seen him in the Nutra Water commercial?”
“No, he’s on TV? We haven’t seen that in the U.S.”
“He’s a real star now. You can find it on YouTube. He’s at the beach,
it’s really hot.” Julia had to stop to catch her breath. She continued:
“He takes off his sweaty shirt after a jog, drinks this water and all
these girls come running after him. He’s just innnnncredible.”
Emily pulled out her iPad and immediately logged on to YouTube. “Got
it.” The two stared at the screen, fixating on the sizzling six pack,
chiseled shoulders, long wavy brown hair and vividly inviting dark eyes
of Andres Lopez. “Don’t you just love his tattoos?” whispered Julia.
“I thought he was banned from World Squash Tour because of temper
tantrums in Toronto.”
“I bet Shelley Anderson let him in.”
“I’m sure she did.”
“Hmm, I just got a brilliant idea. Why don’t we have a look for
him? He’s got to be around somewhere and there’s nothing going on
“Cool! Let’s bounce.”
The courts, which were overrun with players, were steamy now and
infused with the faint yet familiar scent of muscle rub. Carlos was
tired. As a longtime club manager, he had never encountered so
much chaos with a tournament. The phone didn’t stop ringing.
Players who had been sitting around had now resorted to pacing and
several peppered him with questions. “You’ll have to speak with John
Allenby,” he said, somewhat exasperated. “I have a call into him now.
He should be here any moment.”
“There’s a woman on the phone,” said Alberto, Paulo’s assistant. “A
Miss Jackson, she’s asking about Tyler Wolf.”
Paulo took the phone. “Hello Miss Jackson,” he said, trying to maintain
a calm voice.
“Mr. Paulo.” The voice was intense with an Australian accent. “I’m
trying to locate Tyler Wolf?”
“Tyler hasn’t come to the club yet. I believe there was some problem
with lost luggage.”
“Lost luggage! Mr. Paulo, are you not aware that it’s all over the
Internet that Ty has been arrested on drug charges. What’s going
on? You must have some reasonable explanation of what this is all
“What? Miss Jackson, I can’t believe that.”
“Mr. Paulo, I left my number with your assistant, and I expect to hear
from you with any news.” Click
Carlos tried to reach Allenby’s cell phone to inform him about this
mysterious and disturbing phone call, but before he could, the TV crew
from NBR arrived.
“Shit,” said Carlos, under his breath. Perez and Wolf, both
scheduled for interviews, were nowhere to be found.
Carlos greeted the reporter and cameraman who started to shoot some
footage of players practicing.
“Player Tyler Wolf isn’t here right now, but..,”
“I know,” said the reporter, Bruno Diaz. “We will interview another
player, but quickly. We have to leave in a minute to cover a surfing
event at Barra da Tijuca, and that British boy band is rehearsing later
at the Plataforma, so we have to get there before the crush. Busy
day, typical,” he said, grinning, flashing his sparkling white teeth.
“We film glass box?” the cameraman said to Carlos in broken
English. Bruno explained that they went down to the glass court
but it was still being assembled.
“When will it be finished?” he asked. “Never mind,” he said before
Carlos could figure out an answer. “We’re on a tight schedule, so we
got what we need here. It will have to do.”
Amid the clamor, more commotion exploded from the club entrance.
Clapping and cheering, a swarm of people gathered to meet and greet a
player dressed all in black with a black headband. He gave high fives
and shout outs to fans and friends. Like a rock star suddenly
appearing on stage or a political favorite taking the podium, Andres
Lopez had arrived.
Andres Lopez, thought Paulo. Is he even in this tournament? Wasn’t he
banned for conduct?
“Oh, here’s a player for us,” said Bruno, sizing up that this guy had
to be important. Relieved that he could finish up this squash
story and move on, he made his way over to Andres who acted as if he
knew the crew was expecting him.
“But...er,” Carlos tried to follow and stall them, but the cameraman
already affixed a mic on Andres.
The camera rolled. “I’m here at the Copacabana Squash Club where
players from all over the globe are getting in gear for one of the
world’s major tournaments right here on the beach on a soon-to-be
completed all-glass court,” announced Bruno. “Here with me is player
Andres Lopez from Colombia. How’s it going Andres?”
“It’s going great, Bruno. I’m so excited to be here in Rio,” responded
the made-for-TV Andres, as if he had rehearsed his answer to perfection.
“And now that top player Tyler Wolf has been reportedly arrested on
drug charges, how does that impact you in this tournament?”
“The draw is wide open. It’s anyone’s game now,” responded Andres,
beaming, with a bottle of Nutra Water in his hand.
“Thank you. Mr. Lopez. Bruno Diaz here reporting from the
Copacabana Squash Club.
“This will air on tonight’s news,” Bruno called out to Carlos, rushing
off with his cameraman as quickly as they raced in.
This can’t get any worse, thought Carlos who immediately called
Allenby’s cell phone. Allenby answered: “Carlos, let me get right back
to you, I’ve been down at the docks and I need to check at the
concierge again about Perez.”
If Carlos was at his wit’s end, Allenby was just about over the
edge. Wolf and Perez were still missing, and play was supposed to
start today. He’d been hours at the docks and still hadn’t gotten to
the bottom of the two missing panels of the glass court. Worries about
doping, kidnapping and drugs, let alone the more minor tournament woes
were all too much. And that phone call between Shelley and Victor was
more than upsetting. But, he had to get back to the club. The players
were there waiting. First, though, the concierge.
Passing the free form swimming pool nestled in the sun, filled with
turquoise water, and two open-air Jacuzzis under the broad shade trees,
he couldn’t help but notice guests relaxing on rattan lounge chairs
with soft white cushions looking as if they didn’t have a care in the
world. That’s the life, he thought. He raced through the lobby with its
glistening white-tiled floors and elegantly appointed furniture in
complementary pastel hues and headed to the marble front desk adorned
with large pots of flowering plants.
“Just checking again about the airport pick up for Florencia Perez,”
Allenby pleaded desperately.
“Oh, yes, Mr. Allenby. It seems that TAM Flight 163 has been diverted.”
“What? Where to?”
Chapter SIX by John Nimick
Allenby burst through the doors of the Copacabana Squash Club shouting
at the top of his considerable lungs, “If you’re double X and planning
to qualify, get on the fucking bus…now!”
Shelley Anderson had moved in lock step with Allenby through the
doors. His voice was still ringing in her ears from moments ago
at the hotel. “Get down to the lobby now! We’ve got a
Shelley took the stairs from the 8th floor of the Copacabana Palace
Hotel two at a time with a jump into each landing. She didn’t
break a sweat. Allenby was standing face to face with the
concierge, his finger pointing out the glass front of the hotel “No,
that one, the big shuttle! And put it on the room. Make it
He grabbed Anderson’s arm as she skittered across the floor from the
main stairwell and took off for the front door, the concierge on the
run behind the two of them.
Allenby and Anderson leapt into the open double wide doors of the
hotel’s primary convention group shuttle as the concierge shouted in
Portuguese to the driver to take them to the Copacabana Squash
Club. Dutifully, the driver floored it.
“Shelley, some kid on Perez’s flight from Miami tried to inhale the
snack almonds and they’re putting down briefly in Caracas to evac him.
TAM 163 is now posted for 9:30am arrival Rio.”
“What are we doing?”
“Just back me up on this when we get to the club. I know the rules.”
Someone in the club cracked the seal on a fermented Nutra Water and the
hiss of escaping gas settled in the otherwise complete silence.
“OK, listen up. He’s within his rights to do this as the
tournament promoter.” Shelley still wasn’t quite sure but they
both needed Florencia Perez in the event in a major way.
“Both WSA and PSA rules are clear that the time for the Qualifying Call
cannot be changed after its designation nor can the venue, but there is
nothing in the rules about moving the room.” But what if the room
moves? Ah, hell…she could finesse that.
Emily Weaver used the butt of her racquet to prod Julia Brown, who at
least had a little experience in WSA Qualifying. “Freaking stop!”
whispered Julia, but she tentatively put up her hand, “Excuse me.
Umm, I don’t know who’s the rep here, but, like, what room are we going
“We’re moving the Women’s Call to the tournament’s temporary shuttle
bus out there in the parking lot. Now let’s go.” And then
we’re taking a little tour, Allenby thought to himself.
Allenby whirled on Paulo and put his hands on the nervous club
“Carlos, you’re going to handle the men’s Qualifying Call here.
You know how to do it.…keep it on schedule. Shelley will stay in
case there are any problems,” he said as soothingly as possible.
“What are you doing with the girls?” he asked incredulously.
“We’re going to Galeao Airport.”
As the Copa’s lounge emptied of WSA Qualifiers the guys burst out in a
babel of incredulous banter and high fives. Fingers were flying
over keys and keypads…it was hashtag city.
“Don’t lose your minds Gentlemen,” Carlos shouted over the din, certain
now that the whole event was in the crapper. “Forty minutes.”
Allenby had thirty-one WSA Qualifiers checked in and on the bus and no
time to lose.
Even before the last player sat down, Allenby belted, “Driver!
The bus was soon swimming upstream on Avenida Isabel, but at least it
was a Sunday so traffic was only really heavy. Galeao was 15
kilometers from the club. Fortunately an entrance to the high
speed connector built for the 2104 World Cup and the Games was only a
few blocks on the other side of the tunnel through the Copacabana
hills. The young Brazilian driver knew the roads well and seemed
to handle all the panic with a smile. Allenby liked that about
the Brazilians he had known through the years; enthusiastic and not too
worried about the result.
Allenby settled into a seat near the front.
As the bus accelerated up the on ramp to the new Pele Highway, Erika
Hoskin came up from the back of the bus and sat down in an empty seat
next to him.
Erika looked Allenby in the eyes. The petite, diamond-chinned squash
coach with hazel eyes and short blond bangs was not hard to look at.
“Thank you for doing this,” she said.
Allenby knew Hoskin well. Their own pro squash years had
overlapped a little, but it was enough. Even though the tours
were pretty much separate back then, as two top Americans butting heads
with the internationals in their respective draws, even a few years
apart, they’d shared a few drinks, dinners and more. He had heard
her tactical skills had landed her in New York as a coach.
“Don’t thank me, and next time get your girl on an earlier flight.”
“I will. But first, I’ll make this up to you. Like old
Allenby smiled, for this first time in what seemed like a week.
Fortunately there still weren’t that many agents and coaches yet for
the players in the no. 40-70 range of the World Rankings so the crap
kicking Allenby got on the way to the airport by the players wasn’t all
that bad. Shouts of “pagal” in Urdu, “thumbs up, mate” from a
veteran Aussie, and the ever straightforward “tosser” and “wanker” from
the Brits were as bad as it got. He thought Julia Bown’s “Next
time, get your own room” was at least clever.
As the 50-passenger shuttle lurched to the curb outside of
International Arrivals, Allenby handed the driver enough cash to make
sure it was right in the same spot when they came back. He and
Erika hit the pavement running.
“She’s here!” shouted Erika looking at her phone. Allenby looked
at his Rolex. They were in the middle of the cavernous Arrivals
Hall with thousands of travelers.
“9:55am Erika. Where is here?”
“Right there, John.” Erika pointed to the exit doors as Florencia
Perez, tall, broad shouldered and dark, strode out of Customs and
Immigration. No iPod, no ear buds, no four wheeler…just a bulging
racquet bag slung over one shoulder and a backpack over the
other. Florencia’s eyes scanned the huge hall like a hawk.
Erika jumped up and waved catching her attention and the Argentinian
sensation sprinted to meet them.
Florencia and Erika hugged. “Flo, this the event promoter John
“No time…” he started to say, but before he could grab them both and
turn for the door, Florencia Perez tucked her ravenesque black hair
behind an ear holding a single cobalt stud, held out her hand and
“Oh, my god,” said Allenby clearly. He hadn’t ever seen her in
person. Fumbling to look at his watch again, he shunted, “It’s
about fucking time.” They ran for the bus.
Allenby called the roll on the bus at 10:01am, as per regulations, and
had a full 32 draw.
Qualifying play started as scheduled at Noon at the Copa Club.
The place was packed. Allenby spent a little time schmoozing with
coaches, agents and even some of the main draw players who liked to
check in on friends and teammates, but he soon headed for a courtesy
car and the short ride to the glass court site on the beach.
His temporary office was in a construction trailer within the perimeter
of the event grounds. It was a crappy place to work but at least
it was private and had a decent amount of work space and a conference
Allenby turned on his Mac and immediately heard an alert that his
google filter had picked up some event news. He clicked the link
and found himself on smashingballs.com. The outsized headline
read Girls Get a Real Allen-Wrenching in Rio.
Great. Now Buckler was spreading the love. Allenby couldn’t
help himself and started to read the first insulting paragraph, but was
interrupted by a knock on the door. Probably his site supervisor
“Come!” he shouted, to be heard above the trailer’s industrial sized
air conditioning unit.
He turned back to his Mac, “Sorry Phil…be with you in one second…just
finishing some crap by Buckler.”
“Ohhh, I bet it’s about us.” That was definitely not the voice of
Phil Peters. Erika Hoskin was wearing a beach towel, flip flops,
an orchid behind one ear and, apparently, nothing else. She had a
frozen drink in a plastic cup in one hand and was closing the trailer
door with the other.
“It’s really cool the hotel and the pool are right across Avenida
Atlantico from the arena. Nice job, Boss Promoter. Hope you
don’t mind me popping in?”
Erika pointed to the Mac. “Is it some trash about the airport
run? That was close.”
“Look Erika, this tournament is teetering on disaster and getting Flo
to the church on time is just one little bouquet of sunshine. I
have two glass panels for the court held hostage somewhere and I have a
bull headed, potentially juiced old Aussie stud either up on charges or
on the run, I can’t tell which.”
Hoskin steadied her gaze on Allenby for the second time that day.
“Flo isn’t scheduled to play her first round match until 19:00 so I
have some free time. Want some help blowing hot sand or rescuing
Erika clenched the orchid between her teeth and dropped the towel.
Allenby stepped in to the elevator and straightened his tie. He’d
hated to leave Erika napping on the conference table, but this was a
very important appointment to keep. As the doors closed, he
remembered that the last time he had worn a tie had been at a funeral
back home in Brooklyn.
He punched 52, the top floor.
The elevator rose swiftly to the top of the Copa Trade Tower on Rua
Ribeiro, at 52 stories the tallest building by one floor in all of
Brazil. All of Allenby’s dealings with SombraSoft had been at
arm’s length; emails, pdfs, electronic transfers and electronic
signatures. He’d made several trips to Rio to develop the event,
but always just met the firm’s lawyers and marketing VPs. Unlike
most of his sponsorships, which started with prospect lists, cold
calls, third party recommendations and a lot of grunt work, this one
had appeared from the heavens. He remembered the call.
“Halo, I wish to speak to Juan Allenby.”
“This is John,” Allenby said as he leaned back in his office chair,
which squeaked as it always did when the 220-pounder unloaded on
it. While not totally out of shape, years of road warring and an
affinity for the beers of the world, often all at once, had rounded off
the ex-pro squash player. He still was competitive on the hard
ball doubles court…the huge doubles courts found in North America, not
that multiple width soft ball version that ASB and the WSF kept
“Sir, my name is Renato Bulsara and I represent SombraSoft, one of
Brazil’s biggest companies.”
Allenby had heard of SombraSoft. The South American tech giant
with roots in the telephone business had grown rapidly into the leagues
of Oracle, SAP and IBM in global business enterprise solutions and had
recently announced major plans to launch consumer electronics.
They were the real money behind Rio’s successful bid for the 2014 World
Cup and were touted to have invested upwards of $100m USD in Brazilian
Allenby put down his stress ball and stood up, as was his habit when
“big calls” were on the line.
“I know of the company. How can I help you?”
“SombraSoft believes deeply in the power of sports, as you may be
aware, and our market analysis tells us that squash is going to be the
next great global game. The boost next year from the Olympic
coverage will be dramatic and we want to invest ahead of the curve.”
What a load of crap, thought Allenby. Squash had been voted in to
the Games by the IOC in 2013 only because of the transgender scandal
that had rocked heavy favorite Wushu days before the vote.
The slot vacated surprisingly by the ouster of wrestling had to be
filled and squash had the fewest enemies, so the miracle the sport
longed for happened. True, the squash’s dominance by Egyptians
and Malaysians was a plus for medal diversity but the outcry from
Rockefeller Center when Comcast NBCUniversal learned their $4.3b USD
bid for the broadcast rights to the 2020 Games had bought
them…squash!...was still reverberating in Lausanne.
“Well,” said Allenby slowly as he started to pace around his office,
which was papered with framed event posters covered in turn with
working white boards festooned with sticky notes, “you’ve come to the
right place. My company Squash Rocket offers fully integrated
event marketing and management services in the sport and is the leading
promoter of professional tournaments in the world.” Well, that
wasn’t entirely true. After his epic Neptune Open sank with the
Costa Concordia a few years ago he’d basically sworn off working
outside of the Americas.
“Oh, we’re well aware of your portfolio Mr. Allenby and we trust we’ve
identified the right person to handle our business. And we do our
homework, too. Now why don’t you sit back down at your desk and
pick up that small globe you like to squeeze.”
WHAT the FUCK!!! Allenby whirled around and looked out his
windows. His modest three room office in Brooklyn Heights faced
Montague Street and its collection of quaint shops, eateries, low rise
apartments and the famous, at least in the squash world, Heights Casino
Club. Where to look?
“Don’t worry, Mr. Allenby, we’re not spying on you…now. Shall we
get back to business?”
The elevator doors opened…
Bright light flooded Allenby’s eyes. He blinked and shuttered his
lids as he stepped out of the elevator.
Surrounding him was a curved marble lobby with floor to ceiling
windows. As his pupils adjusted, his jaw dropped. Almost
everything Rio was in sight; the Corcovado, Sugarloaf, the bay, Galeao
Airport and the beaches of the north shore. The purity of the
color contrasts was almost photographic. It was a good day to be
He heard the brisk click of dress shoes on the marble floor and turned
as a small man wearing a pair of sleek Oakley Gascans and dressed in a
black suit and black turtleneck extended a tablet to him.
“Thumb and index finger please Mr. Allenby.”
Allenby did has he was told. Rolling each digit slightly side to
side on the screen. Embedded elegantly in a corner of the device
was the famous SombraSoft cupuacu fruit logo with the spear through
it. He hadn’t seen this device yet in New York, but he was sure
he would soon. The tablet emitted a beep and a light on the
screen turned from yellow to green.
The man in black removed his sunglasses, but did not extend a
hand. “Nice to finally meet you...up close. I am Renato
Bulsara. Please follow me.”
The two men walked around the elevator stack to the other side of the
lobby. A wall of black obsidian spanned the width of the
building. Bulsara walked up and put his own index finger in a
scanner near the middle and a section of the wall swung open.
Stepping back, he said softly, “After you, Mr. Allenby.”
The opulent office was huge and apparently contained as many
furnishings for entertaining as it did for working. Allenby’s
eyes were immediately drawn to two artifacts in front of him on a
deeply carved black credenza. One was an upright electric guitar
with a red mahogany body. In flowing silver script on the body
was a note. “From one very big man to another – Freddie Mercury.
Jan 18, 1985.”
But the other item was much more familiar. The racquet rested
upright on a plinth, as if ready in an instant for more hard
work. The gut strings were frayed and the black leather handle
was slick and scuffed on one side. The plaque on the plinth
confirmed what Allenby knew: Unsquashable and Unbeaten – 5 years, 8
Months – Jahangir Khan. A handwritten note was flattened under
glass on the plinth. “Thank you my Brazilian friend for taking
care of my family. Shukria – JK ‘86”.
“They are both impressive, are they not? It was quite a time.”
The voice rumbled from the direction of the windows on the far side of
the room. The view on this side of the building was equally
breathtaking, with the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana receiving the
endless blue waters of the great South Atlantic.
“Please, join me.” The sound again like from a giant animal.
Since that phone call back in Brooklyn, Allenby knew this meeting would
take place today. Bulsara had laid out the deal and his
subordinates subsequently took care of the details. Allenby was
to launch a major pro tournament on the Copacabana Beach, ensure all
the world’s best players participated and attract as much global media
attention as possible. SombraSoft would pay one million dollars
for the Title Sponsorship and one million for prize money to ensure it
was the richest event ever in the world. They also wanted
complete corporate exclusivity. No secondary sponsors.
Allenby needed to make the whole event work for that fee plus whatever
he could generate from underwriters and hospitality sales, ticket
sales, merchandise and concessions. No logo other than that of
the cupuacu and spear was to appear anywhere on event collateral, in
the stadium or on TV.
A huge gamble for sure, but $2m at the top was like crack to
Allenby. He was all in. SombraSoft would pay Allenby
$1.0 million in advance towards the budget and $1.0 million when the
event was underway. Indeed, two hours after finishing the deal in
Rio a year ago, First National Bank texted him confirmation of the
Now, the event was underway.
Allenby approached the desk by the windows, his eyes adjusting once
more to the brightness.
The businessman known around the world as Mr. Fino stood up.
Allenby could not remember seeing a man this large in a suit. He
could not imagine anyone making a suit so large as to fit this man,
either. It seemed as if one whole floor-to-ceiling window pane
was blocked by his silhouette. Mr. Fino took one stride around
the desk and extended his hand, “E um prazer ve-lo aqui.
Welcome.” Allenby’s sizeable paw disappeared in Mr. Fino’s hand,
but the shake itself was survivable.
“Come take a view.”
As Allenby rounded the big man’s desk he saw a photo in an elegant
silver frame of the massive Fino arm in arm with a very handsome young
man on a glass squash court, both sweaty with sloppy smiles and tangled
Fino and Allenby stared down at the sprawl of Copacabana below them.
“See your tiny glass court down there on the beach? I built dis
building, after how you say, some politicos here and there, to have
that view. But it is really too far to enjoy the squash,
no?” Allenby was sure it was not a question.
“No problem. I still get to take a look.”
Mr. Fino reached for a device on his desk. Easily the same size
as Allenby’s TV remote back in the office, the device looked like a
match box in Fino’s hand. He clicked and four large screens,
fruit and spear included, emerged from the floor surrounding the other
side of the desk. They blinked to life. Allenby gazed in
turn at each one, unsurprised to see a live view of the court area in
one, the stage and festival area in another and the main entranceway in
the third. What did bother him was to see his event office in the
fourth! Fortunately, Erika was gone.
Allenby began to protest the intrusion, but Fino cut him off, “Now, no
harm, Mr. Allenby. Personal is personal, bizness es
bizness. Rio still a dangerous place, no? Security es muy
importante. You doing a very good job so far on SombraSoft
Brazilian Open. So, you need payment numero dos, non? A
pleasure. Renato, please take Mr. Allenby to the elevator and
complete the bizness.”
Allenby didn’t move. “Mr. Fino, you play this sport?”
“Mas e claro.”
“And you have an all glass court?”
“Si. I bought same court you put in tournament rider since two
years. Por muy rancho. Of course.”
Allenby had his panels.
“No mas. Completo. You will see me for the final, Mr.
Allenby. Talk to Renato as you need.”
Allenby stood up as Fino pushed buttons on the device. The
screens descended. Miguel escorted Allenby to the door, which
opened seemingly of its own accord, and out to the elevator. On
the floor by the elevator doors was a very large black case with dual
Instead of asking immediately about shanghai-ing some glass panels or
Jahangir or the young player on the court, Allenby fell into that
ridiculous habit of taking his eye off the ball. “Traveling Mr.
“No. But you are in a way. Please pick up the case.
Here are the combinations.”
Bulsara handed Allenby a business card, blank except for two series of
The doors opened behind Allenby.
“Mind the gap…and do count it. We wouldn’t want to have any
Speechless, Allenby stepped back into the elevator for the fifty-one
floor ride to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, with $1 million in cash.
Chapter SEVEN by Will Gens
Tyler woke with his head pounding and dry heaving while on all fours
with such gut wrenching force. The pounding surf kept time with his
He was so thirsty. He had no clue where he was or even who he was. He
tried desperately to gather his thoughts as he lay back down facing the
hot sun. A small group of teens walked by and briefly cast their
shadows across his way. They paused to look down on him and while they
shielded his eyes from the glaring morning sun, they said something in
Portuguese and the girls giggled and walked away. Tyler struggled to
sit up and the teens looked back at him and whispering kept laughing, a
bit embarrassed for him. Tyler looked down at himself and realized he
had socks and shoes and a white T-shirt but nothing else.
He noticed the big red raspberry on his leg and suddenly like a jolt
remembered the injection. As he turned his head quickly, he knew all
too well the after-effects of hallucinogens. He’d taken mushrooms
before, even played in a tournament high on 'shrooms -- which he won.
He played out-of-his-mind squash, literally. Inside he smiled at that.
But the teenagers passing by left traces of themselves, he still heard
their distant giggles in his head. He was in Rio, Brazil, the big
tournament. Squash, finally an Olympic sport.
He struggled to remember, to piece it together the events. He couldn't
believe his thirst. Shelley, damn, Shelley and the knock at her hotel
door. The high-rise, the view of the beach, magnificent view. She
opened the door and two policemen and the reporter, Charles Buckler of
infamous "smashingballs.com," was there with his camera. He thought
they were there about his lost luggage, but then what was Buckler doing
there? They were there to arrest him, something about marijuana in his
luggage. That reporter parasite Buckler kept asking him for a
comment as the police handcuffed him. Buckler was speaking into a
microphone, “Tyler Wolfe ‘Wolfie’ as he's called, has just been
arrested by the Rio de Janeiro police days before the start of
what is the biggest week in Squash history.”
“What was he saying”, Tyler thought. Before he could say anything to
Shelley they took him away, Shelley yelling after them, "I'll call
Allenby, to get you out." Shelley thought better about calling Allenby,
the promoter of this event, he'd just panic. But she'd have to tell him
before Buckler got to him.
The police escorted him side by side into the elevator and when it
stopped on the floors to let others on, they flashed their
badges,"Assunto de polícia, aguarde o próximo elevador."
They hurried him through the back entrance to the hotel and stuffed him
into a non-descript van, solid panel for windows, and tinted glass for
the windows up front. He couldn't see if there were plates. Buckler
tried to get in the van but one of them snapped, "Se perder larva
pouco!" and shoved him aside.
Buckler fell on his ass, cursing at them. As he struggled to right
himself they jumped in the van and spewed him with dirt and gravel as
they sped away. They covered Tyler's head with a sour-smelling black
cloth bag, then this sharp pain in his leg and his leg was on fire as
he struggled to free himself before the sweetest feeling on earth took
hold of his body and he was suddenly on a bed of clouds, floating
across the Rio sky, on his way to meet the pantheon of squash gods.
Shelley had immediately called Allenby's cell but it went right to
voice mail. Damn, he is impossible to get a hold of sometimes. She
thought about what to do and Tyler at the same time.
"Fucking Tyler, what did that poor boy get himself into?" she said
aloud. Tyler was always in the back of her mind even when they were on
a break and she happened to be screwing someone else, she loved Tyler
in her own way. He knew her for all her flaws, and accepted her just
the same. She did likewise for him.
Tyler was still at this stage the biggest draw in professional squash.
If he played any other sport he'd be the McEnroe, the Ali, the Joe
Namath, the bad boy of professional squash. The fans love a bad boy,
the fans love the player who thrashes the establishment and goes his
own way, especially if that player has the look and attitude of a movie
star, a Brad Pitt. Women threw themselves at Tyler, but he seemed
only interested in Shelly and squash and making money. If she was going
to pull this event off, she'd better get him out of jail. This was,
after all, the biggest squash event, the first internationally prime
time televised tournament since the Olympic Committee voted to include
the sport in the 2020 Olympics.
Shelly started making calls, no one knew anything about where they had
taken him. She had to be discreet, Buckler would soon publish his story
on his website and everyone would know what happened. She had to call
him, no, better direct contact. Maybe she could use her charms if need
be....YUK, she thought, never in a million years.
"Damage control, damage control,” she repeatedly said aloud. She'd had
a similar experience when she ran the women's tennis tour and there was
a lot more money, millions at stake and scandal could cost a lot of
endorsement and promotion money. She once had to pay off photographers
who had pictures of some of the young darlings going wild as in lesbian
orgy wild. They were all 16 to 19 years old. The one that really cost
her was the million-dollar purchase of that damn sex tape Selena
Humphries did before she was the cover girl and number 1 player in the
world. So she knew money can fix anything and if that doesn't there's
always sex. And even better money and sex for those tough situation.
She called Victor, head of security at the docks, who days before she
had to blow and pay him 10,000 USD to get the portable glass court for
the tournament out of customs. She had no choice, he had connections
all the way to the top of this damn corrupt country. Victor didn't pick
up his cell, she called his office, she had to get a hold of him, and
he was her best bet to help Tyler out of this. The thought of his smug
look and his sense of triumph when he spewed all over her face and
groaned like a wounded animal, repeating over and over, "Engolir!
A woman picked up. "Do you speak
"Yes, ma’am, we are an international firm, we
speak many languages."
"Victor, please, this is Shelley Anderson,
"I'll see if he's available, please
hold." He picked up immediately,
"Shelley! Meu otário pau pequeno doce!"
and he laughed.
"Fuck you Victor, you sorry prick, I'm
sure you said something disgusting."
"Now, now, business is business, a deal
is a deal. But I must say you did get the better end of it," he laughed
so hard. "Sorry, sometimes I am just too funny."
"Victor, I need your help and nothing
else. Our star player, Tyler Wolfe, was taken into police custody, but
I have been making calls to local police and no one has heard of him or
his arrest. I have no idea where they are holding him. And that press
guy was with them."
"What are the charges? Yes and I know that
Buckler fellow, most abrasive and repulsive.”
"Drug possession, marijuana, not a lot.
But his bags were lost on his connecting flight here from Santiago and
Tyler wouldn’t be so stupid to bring marijuana into Brazil, I know him,
he smokes a bit but never before a tournament; usually only at the end
of a tournament he'll kick back with some local stuff. But never
transporting it. These pros are always tested, but you know how it
goes, if the stars are caught we can cover."
"This happens here, unfortunately, these
kidnappings. I'll make some calls, but police and criminals are always
trying to shake you ‘estrangeiros’ down. It might cost you."
"Another blow job? Fuck you."
"I wasn't thinking of that, these guys
only care about money but now that you mention it I might take my own
"Like I'm sure it wasn't the first
thought in that pig's head of yours."
"I will." Click, they hung up together.
She noticed a missed call, Allenby, great. Okay, we're in this
together, he has some responsibility here too, he's the big bad
promoter and he has deep pockets. The Squash Association hasn't the
kind of money to throw around yet at this kind of stuff, but Allenby
and his backers do. Shelly looked at the time. Okay, steady, let's
shift this into high gear.
"Yes, yes, I understand, I'm taking care
of it, everything will go according to plan, just write the checks, let
me worry about this."
She had to wait for Victor to get back to her. Allenby gave her the
green light to do whatever it took to get Tyler on the court and keep
this out of the press. She poured out a tall glass of Cabernet, sat
back admiring the view and thought of Tyler. She jumped to her feet.
Buckler, fucking Buckler.
Tyler made sort of a loin cloth from his T-shirt. He wished he wasn't
so pale white, he wouldn't seem so out of place even if he were
naked. But pale and white with tan lines on his arms and thighs
no doubt to the bronze beauties of all kinds made him look ridiculous.
He thought of Dudley Moore in "10" wearing grey sweats and white socks
on some Mexican beach while the hottest woman on the planet sat
sunbathing nearby. He didn't know why, but he thought of stuff like
He walked up to the main highway that followed along the shoreline. He
looked for the highest building but the buildings were in a morning
haze. To make sure, he asked a deeply tanned, old white-haired and
mustachioed man taking his fishing poles towards the water.
“Desculpe-me onde é o Clube Copacabano?"
"La! La!" he pointed in the opposite direction
he was going.
"Obrigado." Ah, that Portuguese nanny he had
did come in handy after all. He knew enough Portuguese to get around.
He started walking towards the direction of the hotel and came across a
public water fountain with a long line, he was so thirsty. Right
next to the water fountain was: “TIOLETTE DOS HOMENS.” He went in
cupped his hands under the faucet and rinsed his mouth with the warm
limestone-flavored water. "Disgusting!" he said aloud and spit it out.
"Shit, I need some drinkable water," he rinsed again and again spitting
out the water, or whatever it was.
The raspberry on his left leg was throbbing hard again, he knew he
wouldn't have to play at least for a day or two, but then again he lost
all track of time, for all he knew the tournament was over. But he
didn't think so, he was piecing together the events and guessed it had
been about 18-24 hours since his so called ‘arrest.” This was no
ordinary tournament, this one put squash on the international map, a
showcase of those established and those up and coming for the
first-ever Olympiad with squash.
The qualifiers came out of the woodwork, hungry, very hungry, players
who had struggled but with all the new money, were quickly signed by
agents, with bonuses to boot, they no longer were the poor stepchildren
compared to their rich, spoiled, tennis mega-star siblings. He couldn't
take these qualifiers for granted anymore, big stakes, money, it would
be fierce. The sun was hot now, he was so damn thirsty, he saw a
half-filled plastic bottle of water in the trash, what the hell he
thought, he picked up the bottle, removed a rotten apple peel clinging
to it and downed the water in one gulp. He threw the bottle back. No,
keep it, he thought, next fountain he'd get it filled.
He remembered that strange dream, was it a dream, it wasn't real, the
alley way, the old man and the school boys playing rackets against the
alley walls and the broken window. The old man talking about squash at
the Harrow School, where squash was supposedly, one theory has it,
born. But the dream was so real. Every detail was in his mind, the boys
and their rackets, old rackets like he'd seen in Allenby's office, the
knickers, the thread of the tweed, the old man's stained teeth, the
smell of the damp moss that covered the alley cobblestone. The image
hurt, he didn't know why, it hurt like it felt when he lost his mother
as a boy.
He should never have gotten involved with those Russians, throwing some
matches, making a lot of money. Why would squash be any different,
money is money, betting is all part of sports. The Russians were
sending him a message, he was scared for the first time in his life.
"La, La" he heard the old man's voice, and there was the hotel, he had
to get to Shelley and some damn good water -- he threw the empty bottle
into the bushes.
Shelly opened the door thinking it was Allenby. Tyler stood before her
head bowed, shaking, she thought he was sobbing.
"Tyler, baby, Tyler" and she reached for
him and he looked up.
"You fucker, you absolute fucker,
do you have any idea..." Tyler couldn't stop laughing,
"Shell-," he burst into laughter again.
She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into the hotel room.
"What the fuck happened? TYLER! Stop laughing like
an idiot, I've been up all night trying to track down your sorry ass,
and you just show up, dressed like Gandhi."
"Shel-Shelly," he gathered himself
cleared his throat. "Whoa, what a night, water I need water."
He went over to the ice bucket, which was filled with water from the
ice the night before, and with two hands drank and drank gulping it
down, spilling most of it onto his dirty, sandy chest. "Ahhh, god,
damn, was that good, much better. I screwed up, big time, Shelley."
Chapter EIGHT by Framboise Gommendy
Charles Buckler was staring at his old HP screen in the lounge of the
Copacabana Hotel, pretending to work. Well, he was sort of reviewing
the massive article he’d been working on for weeks, but in fact, he
was, as ever, researching. The rest of the world would have called
it “spying” mind. But as far as he was concerned, watching,
observing, memorising people's ins and outs, routines, friendships,
body language, all that was only and always about work.
He was proud of what he achieved. His website, Squashingball.com was
the biggest site in the world of squash. Equivalent of the British
tabloid The Sun, it was a place where you would hear and read about all
the gossip before anywhere else. He was adamant he was 50% to be
thanked for Squash becoming Olympic. Thanks to the site, the non squash
lovers had started getting into the scandals, sex stories, and other
delicatessen, raising squash's profile in the world. And it worked.
Squash became a household name.
“You’ve lowered squash to Football’s level” he was reproached often
“And I’m proud of it” he retorted! “Football is an Olympic sport, and
the players are earning millions! Good job if I can bring squash to
that level then…”
Nobody knew exactly how old Buckley was. Probably in his early sixties.
Despite his scruffy appearance, he was extremely fit, and would run for
hours near his house in Hatton Cross, next to Heathrow, London’s
busiest airport. Not the easiest part of the world to run around in to
be honest, a mixture of roads and motorways, but he’d been managing for
years, and it was during his long runs that he was actually writing his
articles. In his mind, with his vivid imagination and his sensational
knack for sensationalism…
He was aware of not having many friends. Well, not one would be more
accurate. Only close to him was his webmaster Dave, that nobody ever
saw, he was never allowed out of his garage, and rumours were the
garage was actually locked and Buckler lost the key years ago…
So Buckler was “working” away in the lounge, pretending to look at his
laptop screen while in fact peeping at the players, officials,
organisers, entering, exiting, having a drink at the bar, hanging
around for a shuttle to visit the town…
Suddenly, the concierge came up to him. “Sorry, Mr Buckler, your niece
is waiting for you in your room, as you asked.” Blast. She was early.
He quickly stood up, unplugged the charger, took his bag, and rushed to
As he climbed to the 56th floor, the top one thank you very much, he
was starting to feel his heart pounding louder and louder. Buckler
lived for two things. Sex and Squash. He both hated and loved them
equally, never had the phrase “a love/hate relationship” been
more accurate to describe feelings.
“Never getting emotionally involved” should be written on my grave, he
smiled as the lift reached the end of the raise. He never watched live
squash really – “I’m not paid to watch squash, but to write about it”
was his catch phrase, only looking at it on replay, with no sound. No
feeling. No atmosphere. Just pure movement/technique.
By the same token, Sex had to be with pros only. He was using a Call
Girl network that he took years to assemble, kept in a little folder
called “TravellingDetails” on his desktop. Rio was his latest entry. He
would use the same girl for the whole tournament – always giving her
the same name, ‘Sarah’.
So, for the third night in a row, ‘Sarah’, who was working from a suite
in the hotel under the name of “VIP Special Customer Services”,
convenient and discreet , was waiting for him. She was as he
liked his women. Tall, dark hair, with curves where you expect
them, and with legs, legs, and legs. .
As he opened his own suite – compliment of the Hotel for using their
“special services” – he found her as he asked, laying on the table of
the living room, legs in the inverse position of a skier looking for
speed on a ski slot, nicely open. Adrenalin rushed to his brain, blood
to a lower part of his body, and it was only the banging of the table
on the wall that made him realise that he actually pushed table/girl so
forcefully that they both travelled across the room. That’s what
“being in the zone” means he thought…
‘Sarah’ seemed to have appreciated the journey now that they arrived at
the final destination, and was smiling nicely as she went to the shower
room, beautifully undressed. Just looking at her curves moving
gracefully in that superb suite, Buckley decided that he wouldn’t mind
another visit and discover more of the secrets of her stunning body,
and joined her in the shower.
As he finally rested on his bed, still dripping from the shower that he
eventually took alone now that ‘Sarah’ had left, he was smiling,
relaxed and content. Of course, sex was good, and had relaxed him, but
that was not why he was smiling. He was mentally reviewing his last
His farewell edition.
A few weeks ago, he had had the results of tests he took. Not good.
Lung cancer. Not that he was surprised though. Smoking 2 packets of
Belomorkanal a day, considered the strongest cigarettes in the world,
for 25 years, was a bit like playing Russian Roulette with all the
bullets in the chamber…
On hearing the news, he had decided to live life fully from now on.
Found a buyer for his site – he would be able to afford the best cancer
treatment in Italy with the Professeur Lagardère, and live whatever
life he had to live under the sun – and was about to retire, anything
Once again, he was reviewing the principal lines of this ultimate
edition in his mind.
First, there was the Shelley Anderson story, who had covered up Tyler
Wolfe’s failed drug tests for the last two Australian Opens. Out of his
5 titles, Wolfie was clean for 3, but failed the last two tests.
Shelley managed to make sure the tests were supervised by her
girlfriend, Rhodaine Maison, who forged the results. Check.
Then the gay affair between New Yorker Emily Miller and Cambridge
wonder Julia Brown. They family and sponsors would hit the roof when
they would hear the girls had been secretly seeing each other for two
years. Although Olympic, Squash was not Gay friendly yet… Check 2.
Of course, we had the Allenby con, the promoter who took a 3 million
dollar insurance policy on the Brazilian tournament , and would be a
very rich man if the tournament wouldn’t happen – hence hiding the two
glass panels thanks to the Head of Security, and making sure that all
sorts of trouble would prevent its start. Check 3.
But the “coup de grace”, the cherry on the cake, the revelation of the
true identity of Florencia Perez, who appeared from nowhere once day.
Real name Florencio Hoskin, as in Erika Hoskin’s son. No wonder no one
ever heard of Florencia in the juniors. There never was a Florencia…
That last story was the biggest of his career, by far. He was rewriting
and rewriting it, to make sure that bombshell would make the maximum
damage, and decided to have another go at it. He slowly sat up, then
went to his computer bag. Sweat immediately covered his body as he
realised his laptop was not in it. Mentally, he retraced his movement.
Working, Concierge calling, folding the cable, taking the bag. Wait. He
didn’t close the laptop, didn’t put it in the bag. Hysterically
scared, he rushed to the phone, and called reception.
“Yes sir, somebody brought a computer back to the desk… yes, it’s an
old HP ... Yes, somebody from the squash group brought it back… No sir,
not sure if it’s a man or a woman, it was before my shift, I was only
given the message.. Yes sir, of course, I’ll send somebody right away.”
Buckler was now sweating very heavily and his heart pounding again, not
as nicely as a few minutes before, though. “Somebody from the squash
group”. Did they read what was on the screen? He was working on that
“Murder on the Squash Court, take 2” as he called it when he was
And what if that person was going to reveal his story. Or confront him?
In his perfect plan, he would have been on a beach in the Caribbean
when the scandal hit the squash fans, far, far away.
How had he been so careless and utterly idiotic?? Oh yes, because of
sex. Oh well, fair enough…A knock on the door startled him. “Must be
the computer” he thought.
But it wasn’t.
“What are you doing here, and what do you want” he grunted, looking at
He never got an answer. A sharp pain on the right of his chest, a very
loud noise resounding in the empty corridor. His incredulous eyes
fixing his chest, where the blood was starting to pour out.
And as his life was slowly ending, he heard himself think “I wonder who
is going to write my obituary”….
Chapter NINE by Pierre Bastien
Charles Buckler lay on the ground.
His chest rose and fell as he labored to breathe. He was lying in a
pool of blood.
This can’t be good, he thought. Is
this my blood?
Out of the corner of his eye, he
could make out a red stain on his shirt. Right. I was shot in the
Buckler looked around for a
second. He caught sight of some bland wallpaper. Right. It came back to
him. He was still in his hotel suite. Not too long ago, he had been
banging “Sarah”. He’d come out of the shower thinking I’ve just died
and gone to heaven. Right.
He lay there in his warm pool,
thinking about Sarah. The long legs and curves. Soft skin, gripped
every which way.
A wave of appreciation came over
him as he realized his dying moments would be spent savoring such a
delightfully vivid recent memory.
Wait, thought Buckler. Who shot
me? He considered it for a second. Oh yeah - some dude in a black suit,
wearing wraparound Oakleys. Seriously, who walks around hotels that? I
guess guys with guns. Is he still here?
Buckler really didn’t want to get
up. He wasn’t sure he could. Actually he was pretty sure he couldn’t.
He wasn’t even going to try. That’s for sure.
From his spot on the floor, he
looked around the room. Anybody there? He didn’t see anybody. Then he
gave up and closed his eyes. Fuck it. Best case, he’d see someone.
Someone standing over him with a gun.
He didn’t have too many moments
left, and he didn’t want to waste them with worry.
He went back to thinking about
Sarah. How he’d pushed her and her table across the room. He imagined
the sound of the table legs scraping across the floor, a few inches at
a time. He pictured in his mind’s eye that moment when the table
clicked up against the far wall. Nice.
Damn, he thought. I won’t be able
to publish my scoop. My four-part scoop. My finale. I wonder if all
that had something to do with me being murdered? Maybe. That’d be
pretty cool if my story were powerful enough to commit murder over.
Man, the squash powers-that-be must REALLY want this tournament to go
on. Otherwise why bother with the whole hit-man thing? Oh well.
Buckler didn’t have enough brain
power left to try and map it out. That would be someone else’s treasure
Suddenly a spasm of energy lit up
his whole body. He realized he was about to die, and someone ELSE was
going to get the scoop. Probably those assholes at squashoracle.com.
That was too much. Fuck! Double fuck. NOT COOL.
He tried to go back to thinking
about Sarah, but he couldn’t focus on her now. Good thing I stuck with
being a reporter, he mused. If I’m thinking about scoops in a situation
like this, it must be in my DNA or something. Life purpose or
something. Oh well, he shrugged. Actually, he didn’t really shrug. His
shoulders didn’t move. He just kind of mentally shrugged.
Buckler considered his options. He
tried to extend his left thumb. It moved. Where was his left thumb
anyway? Oh right, attached to his hand, which was lying on the floor
along the left side of his body, about level with his pocket. He tried
bending his left elbow. It moved. And it dragged his hand closer to his
pocket. He kept bending his elbow until his hand was level with the
small opening of his pocket.
What’s the absolute easiest way to
get my phone out, he wondered? Removing his phone from his trousers was
a skill he had long taken for granted. He extended his left index
finger and stuck it into the opening of the pocket. Bingo: he could
feel the bottom edge of the phone. He wiggled his index finger and
thumb in there deeper, working them into position. Pinch -- got it. He
gripped the device between his fingertips as tightly as he could
manage. He bent his elbow slowly, and voilà, the phone slid out.
Buckler unlocked the phone with a
swipe. His thumb left a smeary blood trail on the screen. Oops. He
tapped where the Twitter app should be. Bingo, it loaded up. He tapped
Compose. Inhaled deeply. Exhaled. No typos, no typos, he thought.
He let the phone tumble to the
ground, and went back to his thoughts.
John Allenby leaned forward in his
office chair and peered at his monitor. “‘Dead’?” Since when does
Buckler use less than the full 140 characters? And what the hell does
Allenby leaned back in his chair
as far as it would go. Then he put his feet up on his desk. He stared
at the conference table on the other side of the room, the same spot
where he’d left Erika Hoskin napping after their hookup. The thought
made him a bit sleepy.
Things were going roughly
according to plan. Main draw play was due to start tomorrow, but the
two glass panels were still missing. Thankfully, Shelley, for all her
talents, hadn’t been able to track them down. Everything was on course
for this tournament to implode. And they couldn’t pin it on him. The
insurance money would be his. Right?
Allenby felt a few beads of sweat
forming on his temples. The plan had sounded good on the drawing board
back in Brooklyn Heights, but now that he was on site, watching Shelley
try and work her magic, he wasn’t feeling quite so sure of himself. Got
to press ahead, he thought. He wasn’t normally the insurance scam type,
but his medical bills weren’t going to pay themselves. Plus there
seemed to be some poetic justice in this particular solution. In my
next life, he thought, I’ll just work for IBM, selling servers or
something. At least they'll have a decent health plan.
He peered out the small window of
the construction trailer, which was still serving as his temporary
office. A small, roundish cloud passed through an otherwise clear, blue
sky. He glanced over at the glass court construction progress. The
floor was set. The court frame was in place. The construction crew had
installed as many of the glass panels as they could, at least until the
two missing pieces were found. The crew were putting the finishing
touches on the seats now. Normally, the seats would be the last thing
to go up, but since they couldn’t work on the walls, they set up the
Phil Peters, Allenby’s head of
construction, had been in the office just an hour before.
“It’s uncanny, boss. The two
missing panels happen to be the ones that are specially designed to fit
the court door. If we had lost just about any other two panels, maybe
we could have... .” He trailed off.
“Don’t worry Phil, we’ll track ‘em
down. Just get working on the stands.”
Allenby snapped back to the
present moment. He heard a click-click-click sound of shoes walking up
the metal ramp to his trailer. For a second, he got his hopes up that
it might be Erika Hoskin again. That didn’t sound right though. She was
more the tennis shoe type. He took his feet off his desk, planted them
on the floor, and sat up in his chair.
“Coming”, said Allenby. He walked
over to the door and opened it. The SombraSoft guy, Renato Bulsara,
“Renato! What are you doing here?
I mean, what a surprise! Come in!”
“Thank you Mr. Allenby. Just
checking on our investment.” Bulsara stepped into the trailer and
removed his Oakleys. He folded them up and slid them into the inner
pocket of his suit jacket.
Allenby led him into the
“Can I get you some coffee?”
“No, thank you.”
“Nutra Water? Anything?”
Allenby cringed a little bit. He
was amped up, and failing to play it cool.
They sat down at the conference
table. Allenby noticed that Erika Hoskin had left a faint butt-print on
the table. Of course, he’d seated the Brazilian right in front of it.
Allenby tried not to stare.
“Mr. Allenby, we are committed to
making the SombraSoft Open a success. We are putting all our firepower
“Of course. So am I. What can I
help you with today, Renato?”
“You’re going to have trouble
making this tournament work if your court has holes in the walls, yes?”
How did he know? Allenby thought
only Shelley and Phil knew about those missing panels.
“You’re right, that’s been a
challenge, but these things happen. I’ve run tournaments for years, you
know. Something always happens. We’re working on...”
“Yes, yes.” Bulsara stood up
suddenly. “Victor will be bringing the missing panels here within the
Allenby was silent. Bulsara
watched him for a moment.
“This tournament must go on. Too
many people have a stake in its success. You’ll have to find another
way to pay your medical bills.”
Allenby paused. Ok, so they know
about that? Allenby responded, “I’ve tried everything. I’m out of
"That's not our problem, Mr.
Allenby." Bulsara walked to the door. He took out his sunglasses and
put them on. “You might try buying SombraSoft.”
“The stock. Buy it.” Renato opened
the trailer door. He said: “Today.” Then he walked out, shut the door,
and click-click-clicked down the outside ramp.
Allenby sat for a minute in
silence. He stared at Erika’s ass-print for a while. Then he picked up
the phone to call his broker.
Call coming in. 41 21. Rhodanie
Maison. Shelley picked up.
“Shelley. They found the panels.”
“Victor had them all along.”
Fucker, thought Shelley. “Why is
he returning them now? This doesn’t make sense. Maybe Allenby made it
“I think we’re not the only big
dogs in this fight.”
“Well, now we can get back to the
plan. Main draw should be starting tomorrow on schedule.”
“Exactly. But Shelley?”
“You’re losing control.”
“I’m not,” Shelley spat back.
“We’re back on track. And worst case, no panels, so what? This would
have been a huge black eye for squash.”
“No. This would have been a huge
black eye for Allenby. He would have blamed it on the dock workers.
They would have blamed it on him. But in the end, this would have been
nothing. Minor dysfunction. Tenth page news.”
Shelley said nothing.
Rhodanie continued driving the
point home. “We need front page news, Shelley. Otherwise our pals in
Moscow won’t be too pleased. And if they’re not pleased, they’re going
to do more than pin us to the fucking mat. We need front page news,
Shelley, or we’re fucked. You’re fucked. And Tyler is most definitely,
one hundred percent, fucked.”
Chapter TEN by Richard Millman Tyler
Wolf felt a warm droplet of liquid splash on his naked belly. He opened
his eyes to be greeted by by the vision of Shelley Anderson's sweat
streaked face smiling down from above him. Another bead of sweat ran
down the bridge of her beautifully sculpted, delicate nose and after
hanging on its tip momentarily, dripped, warm and salty, into his mouth.
"Good work-out?" he asked her.
"For you maybe," she quipped back
and wriggled her hips playfully as she felt him starting to recede.
Her cell phone rang with a tone
that she recognised as a call from John
Allenby. Without releasing Tyler from the firm hold that her legs had
over his hips, she reached over and deftly swept her Samsung from its
resting place on the bedside table.
"What's up?" she said as she hit
the talk button.
John Allenby's familiar business
voice came on the line,
“ Get your fanny down to my
office, right now!”
Shelley giggled into her phone,
“ My fanny,”
and here she paused for emphasis,
smiled and winked down at Tyler to
make it clear that she was using the British and not the American
understanding of that particular word,
“ is otherwise engaged.”
“Well dis-en-gage it and get down
here now!” Allenby hissed in a pointed and staccato, loud whisper,
“Philip Sanderson is here
and we are in the shit!”
The color evaporated from Ms.
Anderson’s recently rosy cheeks.
“Trouble?” asked the muscled
Australian court master beneath her.
Fritz Mallinson lay listening to
the early morning ripples gently
lapping against the hull of his two- million-dollar, fully automated,
mahogany-lined, self-sailing, luxury yacht.
His wife Anne lay snuggled
against him as the first rays of the
sun broke over the yardarm, dancing reflectively off the beautifully
burnished aluminum beam and bouncing through the open cabin door onto
the lovingly crafted, inlaid ceiling of their very own state room.
All was well in the Mallinson
world. Even the wet patch underneath his
behind, the product of their early morning love making, was a source of
Fritz reflected on the unlikely
path that had brought him to this time
and place, here today, moored a mile off of the Copacabana.
Himself and Anne.
He thought back twenty five years
to the day that he had dropped out of MIT, frustrated by the regimen of
To the generosity of his true,
true friend Pat O’Neil and how Pat had
persuaded his dad to give Fritz the use of the old machine shop behind
their family garage in South Boston.
His days of near starvation as he
tried and failed, tried and failed,
tried and failed again to perfect his concept of intelligent, safe,
personal transportation, using new concepts in remote flight, A.I. and
unit to unit communication.
He smiled as he recalled his
clumsy attempts at asking the pretty
waitress in the local diner for a date and his amazement and
feelings of churlishness on discovering that she was a current MIT
student working her way through college.
He looked fondly down at her and
remembered the day that they had
together driven the ugly duckling that Pat and his father had helped
them construct - the first I-CARUS, out of South Boston.
The fear and then the joy as they
had both driven and flown it at the old airfield out near Walden Pond.
And of course the sheer disbelief
just two years ago, when after years
of polishing and tweaking, of lack of faith from mainstream industry,
of self doubt, but of perseverance and encouragement, they had both
stared with incredulity at the check made out in their name, for $1.8
Billion - yes Billion with a ‘B’ - for the sale of their company
I-CARUS Inc. (www.icarus.com) to the newly formed Google-Saab
division, bringing to fruition and to the world Fritz’s original
concept of a world of safe, self-piloting vehicles that combined
both flight and ground based transportation.
Personal freedom literally
combined with flights of fantasy.
Since then he and Anne had turned
their attention to his other love - Squash.
Even through his years of
impoverishment he had managed to keep
playing, sneaking on the courts at Harvard, MIT and Tufts - his
equipment gradually becoming more and more ragged, holes in his shoes,
replacing strings in his workshop using a vice, a dart and old strings
from broken racquets to repair and replace his broken ones. Superglue
and epoxy held the cracked frames together.
Then they sold I-CARUS and
He had seen Squash languish
for years. No attraction to TV, so no
investment. No money - no infrastructure. No infrastructure - no
Crazy - how could the world’s most
vital sport not get the recognition it deserved?
And then one day, over coffee, he
and Anne had hit an idea. What if
they could gain a worldwide TV audience for Squash? How would things
He and Anne went back to Boston,
to the old beloved machine shop. They
started experimenting. They got an old I-Mask shield and pulled apart
some Dunlop balls. They looked at the Reactolite technology. They
researched radiation, night vision and reflective light
spectrums. They mixed compounds and painted dots and stars and dashes
and swirls on old pieces of cardboard. They developed microscopic nano
prisms. They went and visited the original master of Squash television
production - John De Lierre and talked with him for days, finally
getting a smile out of the old boy as he remembered the crazy, heady,
early days of excitement before the lack of critical funding made
continuing the experiment impractical.
For nearly two years he and Anne
worked like mad people, consumed by the task.
And then the breakthrough! The
incredible nano prizm technology
microscopically enmeshed in the polycarbonate ‘lexvue’ lens of the new
Viper shield from I-mask combined with the amazing Swirl series of
Teleballs from Dunlop:
Raspberry Ripple, Zebra ( for
traditional courts), Sea and Sky and
Fritz’s personal favorite - the Lemon and Lime. Each ball had an
attractive lighter colored swirl of specially treated secret formula
compound, cleverly heat-sealed in the brilliant, darker colored base
rubber. The secret formula reflecting infra-red rays that were
shone from tiny beacons that were cunningly installed in and around the
court, invisible to the naked eye but, seen through a ‘lexvue’ lens
making the ball appear to brilliantly shimmer as each shot was struck
and the ball spun through the air.
After that the developments came
with rapidity. The ‘Lexvue’ Video
camera lens allowed the viewing public the world over the same
extraordinary ‘shimmering’ view that the players had.
Then came the contract agreement
between The Tennis Channel, Al
Jazeera and Squash TV that resulted in the birth of Squash
Major investors saw the potential.
The IOC saw the investors. Then came the 2013 Olympic inclusion.
And the spin-offs were still
coming. Everyone was buying the Viper now.
The players, the TV companies and of course, the live crowds were
Who wouldn’t ?
Watching Squash through the Viper
whether live or on TV with the new
UHD3D ( Ultra High Def 3 dimensional) video tech developed with advice
from John De Lierre, was like going from black and white to color
or maybe even from silent film to talkies.
Of course Buckler had been a pain.
His grimy sensationalism had brought
the world’s finest sport into the gutter. But one had to grudgingly
admit that the coverage in the ‘comic’ press of the world such as
the Sun in the UK and the National Enquirer in the States had only
added to the financial and popular flood that Fritz and Anne’s
innovations had produced.
Then again they might never have
got off the starting blocks without
Zeus. The amazing Philip Sanderson had put his extraordinary energies
behind Fritz and Anne’s work. He had recognized immediately the earth
shattering implications and had used his position as the Director of
World Squash and as the game’s leading Referee to bring together
the media, the sport, the fabulously wealthy Prince Hamza al Omani of
Kuwait and the International Olympic Committee.
And so here they were, he and
Anne; the shock haired, red headed,
dropout inventor and his beautiful, brown eyed, MIT graduate wife -
snuggling and secure in their glorious water-born palace, The Icarus, a
mile off of the sights of the Avenida Atlantica and one of the most
famous beaches in the world.
In less than two days they would
attend the most spectacular grand
opening of a tournament glass court that the world had ever seen.
An event where the technology that he and his most brilliant and
darling wife had invented, would once again showcase Squash to the
world. The life-sport that, more than any other pursuit that
mankind has as yet devised, demands and develops the assets of a human
being - mentally, physically and emotionally.
Squash - the vehicle for both
human maintenance and advancement.
Anne dug Fritz in the ribs.
“Hey - are you still here?” she
Fritz squeezed her even closer.
“ Yep - still here. You haven’t
got rid of me yet.”
Simultaneously they both stopped
and involuntarily looked up at the ceiling.
Almost imperceptible at first, the
sound grew until they both recognized the guttural hum of a powerful
“ Coming this way?”
Fritz voiced the question on both
of their minds.
Anne grabbed the willow-green
chiffon wrap that she had cast aside as they slipped into the bunk the
“ Better put on some
trunks,” she said and headed for the stairs.
As he stood in the spacious quarry
stone tile shower in Shelley’s room,
rinsing the last remnants of the shampoo out of his hair, Tyler
pondered on the cause of the ‘trouble’ that Shelley was now being
confronted by downstairs.
“ I hope to God it has nothing to
do with the stuff I passed on to the
Singapore syndicate and the Russians, “ he thought, unconsciously
reaching down to rub the now blue-black and purple bruise on the side
of his leg where ‘ those fuckers’ had stuck him with some sort of
A sick feeling rose in his
gut and a shiver of fear electrified
his spine as he tried to shut out of his mind the match fixing and
illicit pushing of EPO that he had now been involved in for more than
Shelley knew some of what he was
involved in, but she had no idea
that the syndicate and the Russians were involved - did she?.
Surely she just thought it was some dirty doc who was trying to feather
his own nest.
But dirty doc’s didn’t have
‘associates’ like the Russians.
Zeus sat stony faced at John
Allenby’s desk. His steel grey eyes bored
into Allenby and Anderson like lasers. Lasers that were actually
searing through flesh, bone, brain and even the soul.
For Shelley and John it was like
an interview with the Headteacher
meets an introduction to the head of torture for the Spanish
Shelley’s blouse was firmly
buttoned up. Zeus - real name Philip
Sanderson - Head of World Squash - was not someone who had ever
succumbed to any of her charms.
After a stellar career in the
feared and famed British regiment -
the S.A.S - Philip Sanderson, universally known in the armed forces and
beyond as Zeus, had left the service and joined the British based
multinational arms manufacturer, HASP Industries International Company
Starting as a consultant and
ambassador for the company he had, in
relatively short order and after a number of board room shuffles,
emerged as the Chairman of HASP.
Then after a reputed seven figure
golden handshake he had retired,
still only 58 and turned his attention to his lifelong passion - Squash.
Unable to play openly while in the
SAS because of the regiment’s
incognito requirements for its serving members, he had been fortunate
in being able to access the army’s living legend, Robbie Robinson. The
seemingly ageless Robinson had trained with Zeus in secret and had
honed the SAS man’s game to a level that was certainly competitive with
any other player of his age in the world, by the time he left the
service at the age of forty-two.
Sanderson was a Yorkshireman. The
son of a Church of England Vicar from Wakefield, he was a lay preacher
and had a deep faith.
In the extremely unlikely event
that it turned out that God was not an
Englishman - or at the very least British, Zeus would certainly be
available as a most suitable stand-in.
Sanderson ran a gnarled, leathery
hand over his bronzed equally
leathery forehead and through the last remaining tresses of his once
wiry mane of hair. Although the head was sparse, the disconcerting
wild, silver-and-black bushy eyebrows were like metallic shrubs
sprouting from his forehead. His rumbling voice, toned somewhere
between Sean Connery and James Earl Jones, growled across the room at
the Event promoter and the Head of the World Squash tour, who while not
actually visibly quaking, looked distinctly uncomfortable.
“Well,” he intoned, “ what a
Mare’s nest you two have made out of this event.”
“I’m sorry?” quizzed Allenby, not
knowing the expression and then immediately regretted opening his mouth.
“A load of old Codswallop, a Sow’s
ear,” Zeus said pointedly and finally with feeling :
“an unmitigated cock-up!”
Sanderson didn’t wait for any
further comment from the pair and continued,
“In a few minutes we will be
joined by an acquaintance of mine, Special
Agent Donald McDiarmid of Interpol. Between the two of us and with your
unreserved assistance,” he carefully emphasised the word
‘unreserved,’ “we will try and rescue this disaster,
although...,” he said inhaling with feeling, “ things may have moved
beyond our immediate control.”
Shelly and John looked at each
other - both wondering a) how much
Sanderson knew about what they had been up to collectively, b) how much
each other knew about what they had been up to individually and c) what
in the hell the words: ‘beyond our immediate control’ could possibly
Their inquiring glance was
interrupted by a sharp knock on the door.
“Ah,” said Zeus, “ that will be
Special Agent McDiarmid now. Kindly get the door John.”
“Great!” thought John as he went
to the door, “ a fucking fastidious Scots investigator- won’t miss a
John opened the door and froze,
momentarily stunned, as he looked at
the individual that stood there expectantly, waiting for Allenby
to invite him in.
John caught himself and proffered
“John Allenby. And you are
Special Agent McDiarmid?”
Allenby said this last piece more
as a question than as a confirmation.
“Correct,” said a voice, with the
merest hint of a Portuguese Brazilian accent.
Allenby flashed Shelley a
wide-eyed expression of surprise as he opened
the door fully and a man of quite unique physical features stepped into
Donald McDiarmid was around
five-ten. He wore a pair of Nike trainers,
faded black jeans, a black round necked t-shirt, and a light,
well-worn, well creased canvas jacket that looked as if it was
completely unaware of the existence of washing machines.
What had stunned John however, was
the man’s physical appearance.
Donald McDiarmid was beautiful.
There was no other word for it. And his
skin was the color of the purest cocoa. That in itself was not that
surprising. But his hair, which was swept back into a short ponytail,
started the same deep cocoa color at the root but rapidly turned golden
Zeus held out a welcoming hand,
“ Naldo, so nice to see you again
after all these years.”
The detective clasped Sanderson’s
hand in both of his,
“ Likewise Philip. It has
been too long. I am sorry we could not meet under the more pleasant
Sanderson turned to Shelley and
John and by way of explanation said,
“ Special Agent McDiarmid and I
are old acquaintances from our times in
our respective countries’ armed services. I was on secondment in
South America and he was part of my force. He is a ferocious warrior.”
Neither Anderson nor Allenby
showed any indication that they had
registered these remarks. They were too busy staring at McDiarmid like
McDiarmid smiled shortly,
“ I see that the combination
of my name and my appearance have surprised you, “
he offered and went on,
“ In Brazil you will find every
combination of feature, Caucasian
coloring with Afro features, South East Asian with Indian sub-continent
coloring, Red Hair on Afro-Caribbean heads and, like me, dark coloring
with blonde hair.”
Shelley collected herself and
tried to be polite,
“ Yes, you seem to have a
marvellous lack of discrimination here.”
Naldo McDiarmid laughed strangely,
“ Well I suppose you might say
that.. The Portuguese certainly didn’t
discriminate when they arrived here with their slaves. They simply
fucked everyone and everything. I suppose we should be grateful. My
scots ancestor simply followed their lead. And my family have retained
the our ‘scottishness’ ever since.”
“ Perhaps we should move to the
business at hand,” Sanderson interrupted.
McDiarmid settled into a chair
beside Zeus and the atmosphere in the room once again became almost
“Let’s cut to the chase,”
Sanderson breathed ominously and eyeballed Allenby.
“Charles Buckler is dead. Hotel
security found him murdered in his room
early this morning. They say some local hoods from the Cidade de Deus
favela slums did it but Naldo here has other thoughts which he will
explain in a minute.”
Zeus had noted the odd expression
on John’s face at this news - more
one of irritation than of grief. He clearly wasn’t surprised.
“ Yes John, we know that you
paid Buckler to muddy the waters of
Squash to gain attention for your events and to try and raise the
marketability of your business. We know you even had him bad mouth you
to try and hide your relationship.”
Allenby squirmed in his seat and
tried to look away from Shelley’s
incredulous gaze that was almost physically piercing the side of his
head that was toward her.
“That’s not all. Naldo would you
care to take over?”
“Certainly Philip. Mr Allenby,
when Director Sanderson told us that you
had refused to use the inter-governmental secure transfer agents that
he had recommended for the transport of the glass court, Interpol began
to become suspicious. Not because of your little insurance game - yes
we know all about your many conversations with the lovely Victor and
how you paid him to lose your glass panels and then both to hold up and
subsequently, through the good offices of the lovely Ms Anderson, to
release the court from customs.”
“What?!” exploded Shelley
“What indeed.” Zeus interjected
Then looking directly at Anderson
“As for you Miss Yo-Yo Britches, “
Shelley’s eyes flashed indignantly
but were unequal to Sanderson steel
grey stock still gaze, and she looked at the floor as he went on,
“How often you choose to lock your
lascivious lips around the lower
libido of whatever low-life you think may improve your personal lot is
up to you. But you will never do it again on World Squash business.”
He paused and then boomed,
“ Have I made myself clear?”
Shelley nodded meekly.
“Please continue Naldo.” Sanderson
The investigator went on,
“ As I said - after you didn’t use
the recommended customs channel we
became aware of something strange happening.Unfortunately for you and
your scheme Mr Allenby, Sombrasoft was well aware of what was happening
and intervened with Victor and your ‘lost’ panels were - to your great
disappointment - ‘found.’ However, Buckler must have been involved
somehow in your negotiations with your contact at the port, but what
you didn’t know was that you weren’t Buckler’s only illicit source of
income and that he was playing with much bigger fish. Bigger than he
fully realized. When he passed on information about what you were up to
and when Tyler Wolf, “
Shelley’s head rocketed up
at the mention of her Aussie boy. How much did they know?
McDiarmid looked hard at Shelley
“ allowed his involvement with
certain unsavory underworld elements to
get out of hand and he started passing sensitive information, “
“ Then the red flags about real
trouble started popping up all over the Interpol listening world.”
“Now listen you two,” Zeus adopted
a more conciliatory tone,
“ You have both done some
idiotic things. But Squash is about to
enter its glory days and we need you. We have been able to take Fritz
and Anne Mallinson’s stellar inventions and change our destiny.”
He looked at John again.
“ I know you think I am some
holier-than-thou God-Squad throw
back, but let me assure you John, I have seen much worse shenanigans in
business and in international diplomacy than your paltry little $3
million insurance scheme. “
Allenby’s face wore an expression
Philip Sanderson continued,
“ We must all work together now to
make sure that this event, which
thanks to your efforts John is the marquis event in the history of
Squash, will set the tone for generations and certainly for the
John and Shelley’s
respective visages brightened somewhat.
“Tyler Wolf has been a bad boy and
we can’t allow that to go on. I know
you have a soft spot for him Shelley, but he has opened our sport to
the influences of evil men and that,"
Zeus paused emphatically,
“can not be allowed. He will
be allowed to finish this event and then he will retire quietly.”
Shelley nodded her assent.
“Now will you help me make sure
that this event goes perfectly and help Squash into the future it truly
Not that anyone would easily
refuse Philip Sanderson, but his powerful
and persuasive personality were impressive and both John and Shelley
recognized in him the same love of the game that had, before their
various personal interests had distracted them, been their own reasons
for coming to this amazing game.
“Yes.” said Shelley
“Yes.” echoed John and his voice
cracking as he said it, “ I am sorry.”
“OK.” Zeus said summarily, not
embarrassing Allenby by remarking his last comment,
“ Naldo, what do we need to do?”
The Special Investigator shrugged
his shoulders and gestured with open hands,
“ Do your job. Our real problem is
to discover what else is being planned for this event.”
“ What do you mean?” asked John
with real concern.
“ Well,” Naldo sighed,
“ It’s hard to say. We have match
fixing, enhancement drugs, kidnapping
possibilities - don’t forget you have the Chairman of Sombrasoft and
Prince Al Omani hanging around; and Fritz and Anne Mallinson are
worth a fortune themselves these days. Things have been happening.
There has been an unusual amount of noise. I am afraid that between
Charles Buckler and Tyler Wolf a lot of sensitive information has been
passed on to people who have both the desire and the capability of
doing things that are not nice. I am pretty certain that the person
that killed Buckler is a woman who is a part of the Russian mob. No-one
noticed her - in fact the only suspicious person was a slim built man
in a black suit wearing a fancy pair of Oakley’s - but she is an expert
chameleon - so that doesn’t preclude her from being the killer”
“But what has Tyler done? “
Shelley said - desperately trying to
ascertain whether it was her arrangements with Rhodanie or
Tyler’s behavior that had been detected.
“You remember last year when he
had that ‘run of bad form?’ One or twol
individuals known to us in Singapore suddenly became a lot wealthier.
And do you remember that after that he had ‘a miraculous comeback’ and
beat everyone that had overtaken him in the previous few years?”
“He trained all summer for that!”
“He certainly did and the training
he did with Rhodanie Maison didn’t
do any harm either did it?” Naldo said pointedly looking toward Shelley.
For the second time in the
interview Ms Anderson’s eyes dropped to the floor in defeat.
McDiarmid started again, more
“ We have, uh, how do you say it
in English - ah yes - beefed up
security. You do your job. I will do mine and hopefully we will
have a wonderfully uneventful event.”
By the time Fritz had joined Anne
at the rail an enormous yellow
‘cigarette’ boat with massive red sharks teeth emblazoned on the prow
was just pulling parallel to the Icarus.
At the helm was a huge bald man,
wearing a pair of gaudy mirror shades.
On the bow was an incredibly athletic looking woman in some sort of
skin tight, blue swim-suit - or at least that’s what Fritz first
thought - laying with her back to the Icarus. Suddenly Fritz realized
that the women was completely naked and that what he had first thought
was a swim-suit was actually the most amazing total body coverage of
“Hello-o-o!” Fritz called out
uncertainly and held up his hand.
“Hello-o-o!” the woman called back
ironically mimicking his tone.
The first uncertain doubts crept
into Fritz’s head just as the Glock
that the woman had been hiding behind her naked buttock spat a bullet
into the rigging immediately above and behind his head.
The woman was standing brazenly in
full frontal nudity pointing the gun directly at Fritz’s head.
She had short black hair and
features that suggested some eastern ethnicity - perhaps the eastern
Steppe or Russian Mongolia.
She barked at the heavy set man at
the helm in a language that the Mallinson’s didn’t understand.
The man responded by leaping, with
remarkable agility, from the
cigarette boat over the rail of the Icarus where he secured a heavy
nylon line. Almost without breaking step he walked up behind Fritz and
using an ugly looking leather cosh that he had been concealing, smashed
Fritz over the back of the skull. Fritz collapsed on the deck.
Anne screamed and the woman
snapped another order at her compatriot, in Russian.
“Shut her up Vasili!”
Anne saw the man’s intention and
tried to wriggle away, dropping her
chiffon wrap in the process. He grabbed her wrist and coshed her over
the side of the head and she also crumpled into a naked heap on the
Vasili looked down appraisingly.
“Nice tits.” he said with an
“Probably fake - but stop fucking
gawking. Secure the yacht and then radio the others.”
Vasili picked Anne’s inert
body up and surreptitiously gave Anne’s right breast an exploratory
“Nope - real.” he thought to
himself and then aloud he said briskly,
John Allenby was standing in the
impressively appointed Sky Box
Hospitality suite which was situated at the very top of the
precipitously steep bleacher seating which surrounded the unique Glass
Court complex that had been built right on the Copacabana beach.
In the two days since his
uncomfortable meeting with Zeus and the
unnerving Special Agent McDiarmid, John had worked his socks off.
He smiled laconically to
himself. Considering that he had been
ready to destroy this event for the sake of the insurance, it was
ironic that it was now, without doubt, his finest work ever.
In fact everything seemed to have
gone his way since the infamous appointment with Zeus.
Buckler’s death had put the whole
event at the top of the news services
attention. Sombrasoft had just announced intentions of partnering with
Google-Saab in the I-CARUS venture - his broker had phoned him to
tell that his gamble had paid off big time - thanks to Renato
Bulsara and Mr Fino there. And now Mr Fino had decided to cover his
medical insurance bills until further notice!
“I must have trodden in
something!” he chuckled to himself.
He looked out of the back window
of the box down to Avenida Atlantica
where a line of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, wild stretch Limos and stately
Rolls Royces gradually wormed their way through the heavy
security, bringing a cast of celebrity characters never before seen at
a Professional Squash event.
Apart from Sombrasoft’s eclectic
Chairman Mr Fino, guests included the
legendary Pele, the son and daughter of Brazil’s glorious Jazz composer
Jobim, the aging but still lovely Astrud Gilberto,
the Ministers of both Finance and
Public Works, the notorious playboy
son of the president - Jaõa Silvio, the recently retired soccer star
Ronaldo and many other lesser known but massively wealthy members of
the Brazilian elite.
Also Madame Kim and Gilles
Letourneau of the IOC were there to audit the event in preparation for
the 2016 Olympics.
Those troubling words of the
Sanderson interview came back into Allenby’s mind:’ beyond our
John grunted involuntarily.
“McDiarmid said I was to do
my job and he would do his. Well I’ve
done mine. I hope to Christ he has done his.” he thought.
He looked down and around the
court. The bleachers were almost full
now. The brilliant white satin hangings around the top of the court and
through to the back areas where the players, the technical and video
hubs, the state of the art Cordon Bleu on the Run hospitality area and
the restrooms were hidden, making the whole place look like some palace
of the Gods. And of course, the court itself - mysteriously shrouded in
four, enormous single white satin sheets, ready for the Son et Lumiere
opening ceremony par excellence that would be underway in just a few
minutes. Phil Peters and his crew had done an extraordinary job.
Allenby’s walkie talkie crackled
“Court deck to Allenby -
come in John.”
“ Allenby here Sheila. Everything
“Perfect boss. Starting 10 minute
countdown for the Grand Opening in
five. Five minute warning for spectators and participants in two.”
“My pleasure boss. Break-a-leg!
So the Grand Opening of the Glass
Court matches was finally here. John
vacated the Sky Box as the waiters and waitresses and their high paying
clientele took their places.
As he walked down to his private
viewing space, he looked at the court
far below as event staff milled around making final checks, press took
their places, friends greeted friends on their way to find seats and
private boxes.There was Mr Fino with Prince Hamza Al Omani.
“ I thought Fino wasn’t coming
‘til the final,” John queried to himself, “ Checking out his
investment, I reckon.”
There was Shelley chatting
to some of the lesser players
that hadn’t made the Quarters and opening night. Would she ever
forgive him? She was barely civil at the moment.
“ Cast first the mote from
thine own eye, Ms Anderson.” John mused,
“ You and I need each other - so
you’ll forgive me sooner or later.”
He saw Zeus, charming the IOC
delegates with his charismatic personality. He really was a force of
He suddenly realized that he
hadn’t seen the Mallinson’s.
“Strange,” he pondered,
“ I thought they would be here by
now. This is as much their night as ours. Perhaps they’re still out
His train of thought was cut off
“Honored guests, Ladies and
Gentlemen, please take your seats for the Grand Opening” boomed the PA.
The hubbub died down to a silence
and all lights were extinguished. For
a few moments the only sound was the distant crash of the breakers
landing on the sand of Copacabana beach.
Above, a beautiful display of the
myriad stars of the Brazilian night
sky hung as a bejewelled ceiling. In the stadium itself the ghost of a
breeze rippled the satin drapes momentarily.
Suddenly the first strains of the
classic version of Toccata by John
Williams and his group Sky reverberated around the stadium. Massive
spotlights and lasers streamed hundreds of feet into the darkness.
Banks of light alternately lit and extinguished precisely in time with
the music as each blistering crescendo exploded and then died
John was delighted. It was going
perfectly. Eagerly he anticipated the
crowds gasps when the final crescendo was delivered and the huge satin
drapes would fall to reveal all of the Quarter-finalists from both the
men’s and the women’s events, wearing their new Viper Precious Stone
eyewear in Amethyst, Sapphire, Emerald and Ruby in a Charlie’s Angel
(author’s note - to listen to the
music of the Grand Opening go to:
before you read the next section -
4mins 35 secs.)
The music built and the moment
The loud speakers delivered the
final dramatic shimmering of the symbols as the satin drapes began to
fall to reveal.....
Unexpectedly all the lights went
“Shit!” cursed Allenby.
And then the lights returned - to
The court was surrounded by
a score of brutal looking white men carrying AK 47 machine guns facing
And in the middle of the
court, highlighted by the beams of
massive super trouper spotlights, carrying a supersized automatic
weapon, stood a slim, heavily tattooed woman in skintight black leather
shorts and an equally skintight black leather singlet.
John stared in disbelief. The
crowd did indeed gasp - a few even screamed.
As he opened his lips to mouth the
“ What the fuck.............,”
the woman raised the weapon she
She held it up theatrically for
all to see, with a cruel smile on her face.
Suddenly the entire top layer of
the court erupted!
Panel by panel, a million shards
of breaking glass cascaded to the
floor like a lethal, crystal waterfall, as the strange leather-clad,
tattooed woman, raked a brutal 360 degree burst of fire, around
the court............... Chapter ELEVEN by Peter Heywood
She glanced at the elegant gold watch
adorning her left wrist. A gift from an unknown admirer.
Eleven fifteen. Just
over eighteen hours to the Grand Opening of the glass court. Eighteen
hours to the spectacle, the excitement, the glamour. Eighteen hours to
her performance in the privileged presence of Rio’s great, good…and not
so good. It was time for the real challenge to begin. Tomorrow she
would compete with the blonde American girl in the quarter-final. Her
next step on the road to becoming the world’s number one player.
She was ready now.
Drawing her black lace
shawl around her shoulders, she gazed through the window of the
limousine as it picked its way through the city’s chaotic streets.
Streets which she had visited many times in the past. Streets filled
with traffic jostling for position, looking for an opening, poised to
make a move. In a few hours, it would be quieter. It usually was by the
time she returned from her night-time excursions into her special
world. Nights when she indulged in her passion, when she shared moments
of intimate connection. Nights when she felt the embrace of her
partner’s arms as their bodies moved in unison. Special nights.
The limousine drew up
outside a whitewashed three storey building on Rua do Catete. A single
light shone down from above its entrance porch. She waited as the
motorista climbed out of the driver’s seat, adjusted his peaked cap and
opened the door for her to alight. She stepped out into the warm night,
her sense of excitement beginning to mount.
“Have a good evening, senhorita.”
He smiled a knowing smile.
As she entered the
building, Florencia Perez could hear the music drifting from the salon
on the first floor. The music born in her home town. Music from the
birthplace of the father she had never known. Music from the Golden Age
She strode across the
entrance hall towards the staircase, her low heels sounding on the
black and white tiles. In her right hand, she held the straps of a
small black sequinned purse and a black satin shoe bag. Her hair was
drawn back in a simple ponytail, secured with a golden band. Gold hoops
dangled from her ears. She was wearing a sheer black slit dress with a
jagged hemline, adorned with fringes, swaying as she walked. Ready to
join the dance, the milonga.
Ready to feel the bodies of others close to hers.
In the salon, the dance
floor filled with couples moving to the music played by the residente,
a young DJ hunched over his sound equipment at the far end of the
high-ceilinged room. From her table on the edge of the dance floor, she
watched as the unattached men in the room nodded their invitations to
women they wanted as their partners in the next set of dances. The next
She watched the men
leading their partners around the floor to see which of them she would
trust to lead her in the way she wanted to be led. To see which of them
would be suitable for her to choose as a partner. She noticed too whose
invitations were being ignored.
After an hour in the
salon, she’d accepted two invitations to dance. One was from a young
olive-skinned boy whose embrace proved to be rather too close for her
liking. The other was from a tall middle-aged man with light skin and a
long nose who led her elegantly in three exhilarating tango waltzes.
She felt safe in his embrace, following him easily around the floor,
swinging her body, moving sinuously around him, feeling like a woman.
She thanked him, returned to her table and sipped her drink, suddenly
feeling that the evening might just turn out to be…
She sensed his gaze
before she saw it, before she’d had time to see who had arrived since
she’d taken to the floor. To see who had seen her dancing, seen her
feeling the passion.
She raised her eyes and met his. Dark eyes.
Eyes she had seen before.
He glanced at his watch
and entered the salon. It was almost one. Tonight he would meet the
Australian in the glass room. A chance for him to raise his profile, to
move up the world rankings in a sport he’d played and loved since he
was a child.
But tonight, Andres
Lopez was not thinking about the sporting challenge to come. He was
thinking about someone who could be very special. Someone who had not
been easy to find.
Since he had seen her
compete in his home town, he had followed her progress with more than a
little interest. He knew that she had begun to more than fulfil her
potential in competition. But, until recently, he did not realise that
her beauty had transcended both her athletic ability and her sporting
success. Now, from conversations with his fellow professionals, he had
also discovered that Florencia Perez shared another of his passions.
In the subdued light of
the salon, he nervously ran his fingers through his long brown
hair, searching for her among the tables and the dancers
moving around the crowded floor.
Suddenly he saw her,
dancing with a smartly-dressed middle-aged man. She moved with cat-like
grace, weaving an elegant path around her partner to the music of a
tango waltz. He watched her as she thanked her partner and walked
across the dance floor to her table.
Moving quickly, he
found a table directly opposite hers and sat down, his heart suddenly
racing as he tried to relax., to let the passion in the room be his
inspiration in seeking her consent to dance with him. Usually, he would
watch the women as they moved around the dance floor, looking for the
qualities that he valued in a partner. Then he would invite them – with
his eyes, with a nod of his head, with the cabeceo – to allow him to
lead them, to reward their trust, and to show his own qualities as a
But now, it was too late. He could not tear his eyes away from her as
she sipped her drink.
He was in danger now. Danger of…
Suddenly, her eyes met his.
In them, he sensed
surprise, yes…and something else, something warmer. Much warmer.
Instantly, he relaxed. And nodded. There was a pause as he sensed her
curiosity, awaited her response. And then his nod was returned, his
He slipped on his dance shoes beginning to notice the other people in
the room. People whose passion he shared.
He was passionate about
many things in his life. His country, his sport, the dance he had been
introduced to in his home town. Passion that had landed him in trouble
with the authorities more than once. But now, he was calm, waiting for
the cortina, the musical interlude preceding the next set of dances,
when she would be his partner.
When the time arrived,
he stood and walked towards her, threading his way through the other
dancers leaving and joining their partners. Reaching her table he bowed
and held out his hand, inviting her onto the floor. She rose and
stepped towards him.
The music, a tango
canyengue, began to play. Instinctively, he sought her embrace and was
accepted. Leaning towards her, he moved slightly from side to side,
sensing the music, breathing her perfume, feeling her body close to
his. Then, without knowing, as their hearts beat together, he stepped
towards her. Leading them both into the dance, into the rhythm of the
Into the passion.
It had been easy to follow her to the salon.
He had waited until she
entered the building on Rua do Catete before climbing out of the taxi
and striding towards the entrance. He was dressed smartly in a dark
grey tailored suit and white shirt which perfectly fitted his tall,
lean frame. Like the girl, he had carried his dance shoes in a small
bag which dangled on a strap circling his wrist. His greying hair was
swept back from his narrow face with its long nose.
After so many years, he
was nervous, but ready. Ready to meet her on a night which could change
both their lives forever. Inside, he paid his entrance fee and found a
table from which he could make eye contact with her. But first he
invited other women to dance with him, eager to take a few turns around
the floor before seeking her consent.
When the time came, it
felt natural. Something he had done many times before. He met her eyes,
nodded and was accepted. They danced, and after they had danced, he
returned to his table and sought out other women to dance with as the
room filled and the floor became a single rotating embrace.
He watched her dance
with other men, including the Colombian boy who returned to his table
with what he sensed was more than just an air of satisfaction. The boy
danced well, his dark good looks and long brown hair attracting the
attention of the women, the invitations made with his dark eyes winning
their consent. Using the cabeceo, following the code.
He glanced at his
watch. Now, as the milonga entered its fourth hour, he made her a
second invitation with his eyes. She caught his gaze and nodded with a
hint of a smile. Now she trusted him.
This time he led her in
three tangos, leaving her space to decorate, to hook, to tap her toes
as they moved effortlessly around the busy floor. He felt a sense of
pride as they paused in silence after each dance, waiting for the next
As the last chord of
their final dance died away, he escorted her to her table knowing that
now, after all these years, he must speak to her. He waited for her to
sit, then leaned towards her and whispered into her ear.
“Listen to me, my child. You do not have much time.”
She paused, listening
to his voice with surprise…and recognition. It was a soft voice, a
caring voice. The voice of a porteno, a native of her home town.
“Tonight at the Grand Opening there will be great danger. You must not
She turned her head to look at him. To look into his eyes.
“How do you know this?”
“Trust me.” he replied. “Trust one who has always loved you. One who
has always cared.”
He placed something on the table in front of her, touched it with his
forefinger and looked into her eyes.
“I am sorry,” he said, then turned and walked quickly away.
Florencia Perez looked
down at the table. On its surface lay a plain, white card. Her heart
racing, she reached out to pick it up, half knowing what she would
find. She touched its smooth surface, closing her eyes and letting her
fingers seek out the indentations she sensed would be present.
As she found them, an
image formed in her mind. An image which had been with her for as long
as she could remember. Since she was a child.
An image of a very tall man with a long nose. A kind man. A caring man.
She stared at the
elegant gold watch adorning her left wrist. A gift she had received on
her eighteenth birthday, on the eve of her first international
tournament. In the home town of a Colombian boy. A gift from an unknown
admirer. A gift accompanied by a plain, white card.
Embossed with the image of a stork.
CHAPTER TWELVE by Alan Thatcher
John Allenby woke
from his nightmare.
He was drenched in sweat. His
wringing wet and stuck to his body.
He had vivid flashbacks of a
bad dream in
which the glass court was being wrecked by machine-gun fire.
He rubbed his eyes as the
of his mobile phone roused him from his bed.
It was the call that changed
It was Shelley.
“I’ve just had a call from the
the Brazilian government. Are you by the court?”
“No. I’m in my room.”
“OK. Get over there now and
I’ll be with
you in ten minutes.”
Shelley hung up and zipped up
leather jacket. John threw some clothes on without bothering to shower.
Ironically, when he reached the
began briefing the court crew on keeping the glass immaculately clean.
He always groaned when players
sweaty hands on the back wall, causing big streaky smears to appear on
Gone were the days of towelling
the shorts, he mused.
Shelley attracted the usual
enjoyed by a glamorous woman in her mid-30s as she crossed the road and
Men used to seeing the vast
array of flesh
on display on Copacabana Beach still admired the style and poise of a
She found John and grabbed his
arm to usher
him to a quiet corner of the arena. Event staff continued to get
to welcome their first-night guests and the garishly-dressed dancers
for their rehearsals.
Tonight, a mini carnival was
about to embellish
the arrival of world-class squash to Rio.
“You won’t believe this,” she
said, as she
and John climbed the bleachers to find a spot where they could not be
“A firestorm is about to break out here in Rio.
“Things are so screwed up here
ahead of the Olympics and the government are beginning to panic. One of
football stadiums has been shut down for safety reasons, before it’s
opened, because the roof has failed a safety check.
“You know how passionate the
about their soccer. It’s a major embarrassment on all fronts, and the
government are worried that the rest of the world will start sneering
saying they’re not capable of organizing the World Cup and the Olympics
after the other.
“Not only that, but the papers
are full of
stories about the dangers of women travelling on public transport.
“A young woman was gang-raped
on a bus
yesterday, just three miles from here, and her boyfriend was forced to
after being smacked over the head with a crowbar.
tourism guys are worried that it will stop people from travelling to
and the IOC are worried it will have a knock-on effect with lower
sales.They also think it might frighten
“In the end, it all comes down
Everything does. Always.”
John had listened patiently.
“Why do I suspect there’s more
to come,” he
Shelley nodded. “OK, wait for
it. This is
where we come in. Golf is about to be kicked out of the Olympic Games
the course will not be ready in time. The IOC have asked squash to come
fill the gap, four years ahead of 2020. But nothing will be announced
can prove we’re capable of doing it.”
John’s face lit up.
“That’s incredible,” he said.
“How did you
“I know the right people,” she
failing to reveal that she had taken a call from the president of the
himself to check on squash’s readiness to step into the breach.
“We are back to our original
said. “We must make sure this event is the biggest thing ever in
need everybody onside and we must make sure the players deliver. The TV
to be spectacular. We need to convince the big American sponsors that
just a pastime for rich college kids on the east coast.”
“Right.” John nodded. His brain
cartwheels as he weighed up all the options.
The various criminal elements
themselves to the event would have to be warned off. The rules had
goalposts had been moved. Squash was ready to take its place in the
alongside the big boys.
And a tournament of this
magnitude would surely
convince any doubters that squash deserved to be there.
This new development put John
Shelley Anderson firmly in the spotlight.
It was Allenby’s turn to talk.
“We can handle the squash. The
players, the staging, that’s easy. That’s what we do. But we need extra
security to stop anything from going wrong.
“Too many nasty people have
themselves to this tournament and we need to keep them away. Any ideas?”
Shelley smiled her imperious
“I think you’ll find much of it
has been taken
care of. With the government so keen to make this a success, security
a top priority.
“Unlike the Brits, who screwed
up so badly
by outsourcing security to the private sector at the London Olympics,
Brazilians will simply call in the Army.
“As we speak, it’s already
around and you will see that they have already brought in extra troops
patrol every part of the city.
“They want total lockdown to
going wrong. Nobody gets in or out of any Olympic venue without a
check. And the same goes for the squash arena.
“Our friends with the guns are
packing up and leaving town.”
As Shelley and John concluded
discussion, players began arriving to practise on the glass court.
John Allenby returned to his
hotel room to
shower and shave.
He chose grey slacks and a
cream jacket for
the evening’s opening ceremony. He thought about going open-necked,
so many VIP guests, including government officials and leading
thought a tie would be the safe option.
He could always take it off if
he was the
only guy wearing one. He chose a new pink tie, bought in a January sale
favourite store in London’s Piccadilly.
He smiled to himself as he
welcome one special guest. He had always been a big fan of Gloria
tonight she would be singing just for him.
That’s how he felt, anyway.
For the first time in his
career, he had
been given the budget to put on something truly spectacular, and Ms
his first choice to sing at the opening ceremony. Luckily, she was
and the fee was agreed.
She was flying down with her
to perform for 30 minutes before the squash began.
That moment was about to arrive
chuckled as he thought of the opening lines of one of his favourite
“Sometimes it’s hard … to make
He always cracked the same joke
as he focused on those first three words. “Story of my life,” he
He nodded to himself in the
mirror as he
smartened up, ready for show time.
More than 1,000 spectators
crammed into the
venue as the big night began.
The crowd went wild as the
into the venue, with booming music and a spectacular laser show.
Gloria Estefan performed a
magical set on
the stage at the front of the court, and it was the proudest moment of
Allenby’s life as he kissed her on both cheeks and took the microphone
announce the first competitive match in the 2014 Rio Beach Classic.
Local TV crews fought with the
to get the best vantage points. John hoped the TV stations would focus
squash, as well as his favourite singer.
Fittingly, the first match
featured the top
seed, Karim Bashir, the world number one from Egypt.
One of the most talented
players in the
history of the game, he had been unbeaten for almost a year.
His opponent, a young English
called Tom Sharp, put up a great show, diving all over the court to get
ball back as Bashir entertained the crowd with an astonishing display
Mixing power with touch play,
and with a
brain able to invent new shots seemingly at will, Bashir won
Wearing a yellow tee-shirt
loves Brazil’ he had won over the crowd as soon as he set foot inside
To the local squash fans who
intricacies of the game, he was a superhero.
To many of the guests in the
stand, and other newcomers to the game, he put on a show that won them
the first few rallies.
Some had heard that squash was
Bashir proved them wrong.
Two more matches followed, with
for Frenchman Jean Tresor and England’s Jimmy Evans. Tresor would be
Bashir in the next round, with Evans waiting to see who would win the
match of the evening, between American Steve Ennis and the Brazilian
The crowd stayed to the end and
support helped Oliveira raise his game. He pushed Ennis all the way and
five-all in the fifth the American began to cramp up.
After a brief injury break,
to court and was unable to maintain the tempo required to close out the
Oliveira stepped up his game to
decider 11-6. He would be sharing the headlines next day with Bash the
As the crowd filed out of the
laser show lit up the hotels across the beach.
The party would continue back
at the hotel,
with a special reception in the ballroom.
Shelley Anderson was schmoozing
the room in
one amazing sweep. Charming the money men, showing earnest interest as
talked to local politicians about developing squash through local
programs, she also did her best to convince the small group of IOC
that squash was ready to step up four years early.
The Brazilian squash federation
biggest immediate beneficiary now that the sport had been admitted to
Local officials were all decked
out in new
blazers, ties and chinos.
Clearly some money was finding
its way into
the game now that squash was an Olympic sport, even if it went to
fashion items ahead of building new courts in city centres.
But Shelley had news even on
It was her turn to grab the
talk to the guests.
“The Rio Squash Festival, held
of the professional tournament, was such a huge success that a new
club is being built as part of the Olympic sports centre.
“The centre will have a
court and the World Tour is helping to recruit the best coaches in the
Smiling at friends and guests
Squash, she added: “The Ivy League colleges at last have some
south of the border when it comes to recruiting top coaches.
“It’s all part of our Total
Plan and Brazil is leading the way with the world’s biggest tournament
place here in Rio alongside a major development program.
“This is not just a one-off.
This will be a
fabulous annual event and we will grow the game alongside it.
“With Olympic status leading to
we aim to double the numbers of players worldwide to 40 million.”
Shelley received a standing
John Allenby greeted her with a
champagne and a hug.
“Well done. That was great.”
Shelley smiled, took a welcome
sip from her
champagne flute and looked around to make sure no one was
“The hard thing is making sure
funding goes to the right people, and is not syphoned off by
federation officials and middle men.”
John nodded. So many times he
had seen his
ambitions of holding major events thwarted by incompetent and corrupt
politicians, not to mention small-minded local officials who had no
idea how to
grow the game.
Finally, he was putting on the
the game had ever seen. With Shelley by his side, they made a great
Despite so many issues
to stall the event, squash was finally in the big league.
THIRTEEN by Mick Joint
pondered the news that Shelley just unloaded on him. Squash in the 2016
Games? Here? In Rio? He shivered as goose bumps covered his bare arms
despite the uncomfortable warm evening breeze that was only making the
current humidity levels worse. It was like the golden nugget that all
professional squash players for eons had been relentlessly searching
for had just popped up out of the ground and smacked him squarely in
the middle of his bewildered face.
Even though Tyler was ecstatic
that squash had been accepted into 2020, he couldn’t help but feel the
gouging pangs of jealousy mixed with resentment at the reality that
aged 42 he would not have been able to compete for a gold medal six
years down the track. But in two? This changed everything. A real
chance at the ultimate swan song. Retirement was already knocking very
loudly on the door, but to go out in such glory would etch his name in
the history books as one of the all time legends of the game. There was
more than a good chance he could regain the number 1 ranking if he won
in Copacabana this week, but imagine the spotlight he would experience
announcing his departure from squash with the first ever Olympic gold
medal around his neck as well... his mind wandered euphorically.
“Hey, daydreamer!” Shelley poked
him in the ribs. She whispered loudly. “You absolutely cannot tell
anyone about the Olympics. Okay? This event needs to be a mammoth
success. The IOC are 95% sure of our inclusion, but they want to see
firsthand – right now – that squash is the spectacle we brag about. You
need to perform. And you’re on in 15 minutes – Florencia is already 2-0
up. I know I can count on you to... squash is counting on you...”
Shelley left the players area to the glass court without another word.
He was ready. The craziness of the
past few days behind him, Tyler Wolf was back in his element. The
veteran still experienced those little nervous belly flutters before
each match. A good sign he thought, because it meant he still cared. It
didn’t matter that his first round was practically a gimme.
His qualifying opponent had done
well to reach the main draw, not that it was totally unexpected.
Another up and coming youngster – a 19 year old African from Mozambique
of all places – had come through both his two matches in 5 long games.
Almost half Tyler’s age, nicknamed “The Freak of Mozambique”, Sylvain
Fosu actually lived and trained in France. He had the potential to
reach the upper echelons of the rankings, but he needed another couple
of solid playing years on the circuit. On paper, he was no match for
the fresh Australian, everyone was expecting a 20 minute match at the
Tyler’s cell phone sprung to life
with a quirky melody indicating a text had been received.
He looked at the screen and
suddenly his delicate stomach butterflies turned into a rampaging King
Kong. “From Russia with Love” he read.
“Oh, fuck” murmured Tyler to no
one in particular. It then rung.
“Enjoy your little ‘vacation’,
Aussie boy? How’s the leg?”
It was a reference to his recent
kidnapping experience. That explained a lot. “I’m on in ten minutes”,
he spat out. “I don’t have time for this shit. I’m done. Was done years
ago. Leave me the fu...”
“Shut up,” came the sharp, nasty
interruption. “You are never done. You made a deal with the devil and
we own you. You do as we say. Everybody ends up unhurt. Kah-peesh?”
Tyler remained silent.
“Good. You lose this match. You
lose in 3 games. You lose under 7 points a game. You lose in under 30
minutes. You lose, then you win. If you win, you lose... big time.
Maybe lose girlfriend too. Kah-peesh?”
Match fixing. The fucking Russians
were back. After three years of remaining off the radar they have
suddenly turned up on the biggest stage in the history of the sport
moments before he was due on court. Throwing this match could damage
squash irreversibly. IOC delegates were present, the Olympics were at
stake. But so were lives.
“Oh, fuck” murmured Tyler to no
one in particular again.
Emily Miller was sitting in the
third row behind the glass wall twirling her hair with one hand and
fidgeting with her cell phone in the other.
“God, she’s like, hardly sweating.
Such a bitch”, she cussed to Julia Brown who was sitting next to her in
almost exactly the same pose.
“I know. Totally”, came the
The two girls had managed to
qualify for the main round both in part due to some pretty darn good
squash and some luck with the qualifying draw. Both had scored local
girls for their first match and both had managed to avoid Florencia
Perez – who they were now watching – for their second.
“9-3”, echoed the announcement
from the surrounding speakers as the marker indicated the current
Florencia Perez was 2 points away
from advancing to the second round. She was systematically destroying
her hapless British opponent who could not for the life of her figure
out how the Argentinean could hit so many deceptive drop shots for
winners from the back corners. Her ‘perfect’ length made zero
difference. Florencia would simply keep plopping the ball just above
the tin in either front corner with ease. Not even the humid conditions
helped the ball bounce barely more than an inch.
What incensed Emily even more was
that her dream boy – Andres Lopez – was sitting in Florencia’s corner
riveted by every single rally, movement and stroke with hardly a blink.
It was crystal clear that there was something chemical happening
between the two of them and Emily was turning more spiteful at every
‘thwock’ of the squash ball.
To mix things up, Florencia
flicked the ball deep into the back corner, almost making her opponent
buckle at the knees.
“Bitch. So full of herself. And
look at that outfit. God, it’s, like, so last year”. There was not much
Emily could do about Florencia’s squash game, but she decided she would
do all she could to get Andres for herself. The gloves were now off.
With all the fight leaving the
whipped British girl, she walloped the final serve into the middle of
the tin. She left the court with an almost comical pout and proffered a
wet-fish handshake leaving Florencia on the ‘T’ to take the quick
post-match on-court interview with the tournament emcee. Emily stood up
and made her way to Andres, whispered something x-rated into his ear,
grabbed his hand and led him away making sure she was staring directly
into Florencia’s eyes as she did it. As soon as they made eye contact,
she blew her a kiss.
“Please welcome to the main court,
Tyler... Wolf!” The crowd erupted. There were even a couple of
Australian flags waving through the stands. The chant “Wolfie!”
reverberated around the arena for 30 seconds or so before they
eventually quietened down. Tyler was a fan favourite where ever he went
despite the past black marks on his resume. As proven with other
international star athletes, winning solved a lot of problems.
But it wouldn’t solve much here.
Tyler was torn. His desperate childhood dream of Olympic glory was
literally within arm’s reach. As was being king of the hill as world
number one. On the other hand, lives were at risk. In order to save
lives he had to disgrace himself and the sport. Call the cops? Ask for
protection? He couldn’t exactly do that right now anyway as he started
the warm-up with Sylvain. And the Russians have already proven they
could snatch him up anytime from anywhere.
He didn’t know what to do. Losing
this match was akin to a club professional losing to one of his average
club members. And everyone knew it. Sylvain knew it, too.
The moment the warm-up concluded,
Tyler raced to his bag, whipped out his phone and dialled Shelley’s
It picked up after the first ring.
Tyler didn’t wait for a greeting.
“Shelley, I’m in trouble. I need
help. The Russians want me to throw this match. Threats. Lives. Shit. I
don’t know what to do.” Tyler’s voice was frantic.
“I am sure you shall do the right
thing”, came the calm, collected answer. An answer that was undeniably
drowning with a thick Russian accent. The phone went dead.
Tyler lunged deeply into the front
forehand corner. A comfortable lunge, almost in slow motion for someone
of his capabilities, and in perfect balance he placed his racquet face
underneath his opponent’s boast for a delicately placed drop, rolled
his wrist ever so slightly just before impact and clipped the top of
the tin for what was recorded as his 12th unforced error of the match
Another loud groan emanated from
the crowd. “Down, 10-5, game-ball” came the call from the completely
Sylvain was just as perplexed. He
was playing well, but he knew there was no way he should be anywhere
near the position he was in. One rally away from taking a 2-0 game lead
over one of his squash heroes, his concentration wafted towards all the
thoughts of grandeur and rewards he would receive from beating the
world number 5. They would erect a gold statue of him in Mozambique,
bow at his knees... It was a rookie mistake. He served the next ball
Damn, thought Tyler. Idiot. He
couldn’t allow himself to win the next rally. The instructions were
clear. And he didn’t want to think what would happen if he crossed the
Russians. Nor did he want to serve it out – he was being obvious enough
he thought, but a service error at game-ball down? Instead, with a half
paced stroke, he lobbed it up just loose enough off the side wall for
Sylvain to attack it.
Tyler almost chocked as he heard
his opponents frame crack the ball. He went for a screaming
full-blooded cross-court nick. Youth and stupidity. A guaranteed
combination. But sometimes dumb luck gets thrown into the mix and the
miss-hit volley floated agonizingly slowly, spinning itself oval,
brushing the front wall half an inch above the tin and jutting off
sideways on the bounce for an outright winner. It had made no
difference that it had missed the nick by at least five feet.
The crowd clapped respectively. It
was a strangely sterile atmosphere.
“Game, Mr. Fosu. Mr. Fosu leads 2
games to love.”
Sylvain exited the court to his
corner, picked up his water bottle, sat down and fist-pumped excitedly
towards at his coach. Peering over to Tyler’s side, he watched the
Australian plant himself heavily into the chair, lean forward so far as
to place his head between his knees, and drape a towel over himself.
Sylvain could smell blood. Even from this distance. “No mercy,” said
his coach. “He’s down and out. Doesn’t want to win. You go as hard as
you can every rally so he cannot get a sniff.”
Sylvain nodded. He was overflowing
with nervous energy with the astonishing upset he was about to pull
For the first 12 rallies of the
third game, Sylvain was in total control. Tyler did not have to hit any
more errors, as the Freak from Mozambique was riding on his natural
high and started slotting winner after winner. Tyler certainly helped
him along with rather clever ‘feeds’, ideally placed onto his opponents
racquet. His 4 points actually came from Sylvain’s tins – all of them
as he went for the nick.
At 8-4, as Sylvain was leaping up
for his next forehand volley kill, the sound of a gun shot boomed
around the stadium. The fibrous tissue ripped violently tearing it
completely in two. With a banshee scream, Sylvain collapsed to the
floor in a heap. Ferociously rolling around the court, he grabbed his
He had snapped his Achilles
tendon. The rupture had sounded like an explosion.
Tyler felt physically sick.
Without a doubt he felt bad for his opponent, but the awful realization
of what just happened hit him.
He had won.
Chaos ensued. Medics rushed the
court, tournament officials were everywhere, and the crowd were almost
stunned into a riot. John Allenby forced his way through the multitudes
of people to kneel by Sylvain’s side as the emergency crew got ready to
lift him onto the gurney, and then into the ambulance to go to the
local hospital. After a couple quick minutes with the poor teenager to
ensure he would be taken care of, John started to look for Tyler. He
knew a dummy spit when he saw one and he was infuriated.
He found the Aussie slouched in
his player’s chair looking as white as a ghost.
“I fucked up,” was all Tyler could
say shaking his head solemnly as John approached him with fists
clenched. He wasn’t going to slug him, but he sure felt like it.
“What the fuck was that? “ John
was almost shrieking. “The biggest tournament in the world... the
IOC... Olympics... and you... fuck... want to throw the game? Listen,
you piece of shit, I don’t give a flying fu..”
Tyler cut him off. “Shut-up,
a-hole. You are clueless. You have no idea what’s going on so go away
and leave me alone.”
After a deathly stare John
snarled, “I’ll deal with you later,” and he stomped off to look for
“Prick,” mumbled Tyler. His cell
phone played his text receiving ditty.
Reluctantly, Tyler picked it up.
He knew who it was from but he could hardly ignore it. How do you turn
a blind eye at the train barrelling down on you as you’re tied to the
The message was simple enough. It
“The Russians are coming.”
Attached to the text were two
photos. The first one was of a smiling Shelley Anderson. The other was
the dead body of Charles Buckler.
Fourteen by James Zug
Weaver Miller led Andres Lopez away from the court. Wordlessly, she
guided him through the black hanging drapes on the back of the
bleachers, past the stone-faced security team, out of the third VIP
lounge (there were seven at the venue), down the temporary hallway and
out of the complex altogether. Instead of walking onto the sidewalk,
Emily grabbed Andres’ hand and steered him onto the beach.
Within a half a minute they were in the dark. They could see the play
of spotlights from the rooftops of the hotels across the road, the glow
of the lights from the squash venue, the headlights of cars as they
wound on their journeys along the littoral, oblivious to her pounding
Emily bent over and took off her three-inch, yellow Jimmy Choo heels.
“I’ve never made love on the beach,” she said, coyly.
“No, really?” Andres said confidently, wanting to get some measure of
control back. A girl walks up while you are innocently watching a
squash match and suggests something deeply naughty—well, you might feel
a little like a puppet. “It happens all the time in South America.”
“I had thought we’d go back into the club. But you know, I’m a squash
girl at heart and couldn’t violate the rule about proper footwear on a
Andres laughed. If only he knew the truth, Emily thought. She had never
made love on a squash court. As a junior player, she had heard rumors
about such things happening all the time, especially in college. An
older friend at one small, isolated school told her about their women’s
team making bets on who would be the last to do it on a court. There
was a team that tried to do it on every court they visited, and even
one very old story of a guy getting caught on a back court in delicto
with his girlfriend during the national team finals. Seriously flagrant.
“No, that’s for another night,” Andres said. “And besides, the view in
the co-ed steam room—have you been in there yet?”
“Yes, I’ve heard it gets pretty active in the late hours—it is so foggy
you can’t see much in the corners. I heard Julia was macking down
in there last night with that Swedish girl.”
“That’s pretty hot.”
“Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Well, there were rumors,” said Andres.
“Rumors?” Emily demanded. “What rumors?”
“Yeah, about you and Julia. Something happening at the Pioneer two
“Oh,” said Emily, “we were just having some fun, just experimenting. I
play for both teams. I’m very close with Julia. But” she added, “I’d
like to get close to you.”
They walking along, hand-in-hand, like longtime
lovers, their feet dappled by the quiet surf. In the distance, they saw
a couple of bonfires, people dancing in the flickering light. They
talked about tattoos, about various tournaments that after-party at the
Commonwealth Games when half the draw went skinny-dipping in the hotel
pool. Or that pub in Sheffield where the under nineteens make their
assignations. Then they took off their clothes, lay down in the sand
and began to make love.
It was a ship of fools, Shelley Anderson thought. She was in her hotel
room with Tyler Wolf and John Allenby. They were three shipwrecked
souls in an open boat far from land, and a hurricane was bearing down.
“The Icarus is gone,” she said.
“Gone?” John asked.
“Yes, they weighed anchor this morning,” Shelley
said, reading from her phone. “I guess they’ve left.”
“What the hell are the Mallinsons doing?” Tyler
asked. “This is madness. I have to talk with Fritz.”
“What, to save your career?” Shelley shot back.
“That’s gone. They know all about the doping, Wolfie. Everyone knows.
This is your last tournament, I’m afraid.”
“How did that come down, mate?”
“I don’t exactly know,” said Shelley. “Someone
leaked it to the IOC. There was a lot of documentation: dates, results,
internal memos at WADA, the Aussie Opens. Someone had it all. Rhodanie
did all he could to put the toothpaste back in the tube but it reached
too many desks. He’s gotten them to hold the story. You are going to
retire after the tournament. You’ll go back to Queanbeyan and farm. Or
maybe go the States and coach some juniors privately.”
“Why couldn’t you and Rhodanie have solved this?”
“ Listen, Lausanne is a snakepit. It makes Vegas look like a the social
hour in a church basement. Anyway, Rhodanie’s flying in to clean things
up here so we don’t blow the 2016 thing.
“That’s it?” John said. “Wolfie retires and all is well?”
“No, not at all. Rhodanie says they found another story had gotten out
there, in a very obscure way it threads back to Buckler.
“Are you kidding?” John said. “I thought they flew the body back to the
UK, end of story?”
“They did, but when they were dealing with his estate, a lawyer
received some documents from a safe deposit box and one thing or
another, it got to Rhodanie. There was some gossip in it about
Florencia Perez. Turns out it is really Florencio. She’s a he. And a
son of Erika Hoskin.”
“What?” said John. “Seriously?”
“Yes, you never believed the whole barefoot thing?
“A boy. Wow.”
“Yes, wow. The IOC isn’t going to like it one bit.
After the Caster Semenya scandal, they aren’t going to be keen on
another gender bender. I’m afraid that is why she—he—was late to
getting to Rio. I had the flight delayed.”
“You are kidding me?” John said, rising from his
chair. “After all I did to make the cattle call? That was your fault?”
Tyler ignored John. “Who cares? The real question is
why Buckler was killed? Was it the Russians?”
“No,” Shelley said with a sigh. “Well, they were
involved a way, but it was more complicated. It started—“
There was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?” asked John.
“Special Agent McDiarmid. Open up.”
“OK,” said John, halfway to the door. As he reached
for the knob, he looked back to Shelley. But Shelley wasn’t in her
seat. She was crouching behind the couch, her back to the window, with
a black Glock 17 in her hand, shaking her head.
Anne Mallinson awoke slowly, like a turtle in springtime mud. She moved
her toes and her hands. She focused on her breathing, as if this was
shavasana and she was a corpse and her teacher was beginning to wake
her up. She bent her knees and lifted her right arm and rolled onto her
side. So far, so good. Then she opened her eyes.
It was dark. She was still on the boat. In fact, she
was right where she had crumpled into a ball. Her green chiffon wrap
lay on top of her, like a gossamer blanket. She heard voices. There was
a light in the stateroom. She lay still for a minute. Then another
minute. They were speaking something Slavic, probably Russian, she
She replayed the whole scene: morning, a tacky cigarette boat, a woman
covered with tattoos. She rolled her brown eyes: really, do you need
that many? And then, what? A burst of gunfire and a fat man hitting
Fritz. Oh, Fritz, her poor husband. Fritz. What had they gotten
She looked around. No sign of Fritz. Perhaps he was still alive.
Perhaps they were after their latest invention, the one thing that
everyone had begged for, the coup de grace of a lifetime of work, the
grand secret that was going to change squash forever?
She had to get help, she had to get to Shelley.
In the distance, she could see the shimmering hotels of Copacabana
along Avenida Atlantica and a giant puddle of light where the squash
court was. The Icarus was now a bit more out to sea, it seemed—they
must have pulled the anchor and gone further out. Now it was maybe six
or seven miles. Perhaps that is why they hadn’t tied her up—they were
too far from land.
Inching along the deck, she moved ever so slowly, a few inches, then
stopping, a few more inches, then stopping. She reached the ladder.
With a practiced grace, she flipped her body from the deck onto the
ladder and she quickly climbed down. Her legs went into the warm water.
She paused. She heard nothing. She dropped down and swam clear of the
Breast-stroking as silently as she could, she took a series of deep
breathes and then dropped below the waves and kicking hard, propelled
herself away from the yacht. When she was beyond the Icarus floodlit
radiance, she surfaced. The yacht was like a gleaming city and she was
banished, sent away. She turned and headed west.
At first, she sprinted, the panic of what had just happened sending
waves of adrenalin through her body. Then, she slowed down and started
a pattern, breathing every four strokes, stopping every thirty to make
sure she was pointed towards the squash courts.
Anne was no longer young, but she was still strong and limber. She had
swum in a thousand little anchorages while moored on the Icarus. She
had loved open water swimming. She knew she could make it—if she didn’t
run into any sharks or jellyfish. They had just been talking about the
swarm of cannonball jellyfish that had descended upon a beach in Brazil.
Four strokes, breath, four strokes, breath. Thirty strokes, break.
Her mind went blank. It was like the way Fritz said he felt after a
game of squash—totally washed clean. She forgot about the tattooed
woman and the gunshot. She just counted and continued to move her arms
After what seemed like half the night, Anne neared the beach. She
decided to veer a bit to the right of the courts to gather her
thoughts. How was she going to find Shelley? She couldn’t just walk
through the VIP entrance. She was naked. Damn, she thought, she should
have brought that chiffon.
Her feet hit sand. She began to wade ashore. She saw a long, writhing
clump on the beach. As she got closer, she realized it was two more
naked people making love on the sand. She saw that it was Emily Miller
and Andres Lopez.
Chapter 15 by
John Allenby was going through his
last minute details of the closing ceremonies on his laptop in his
hotel room when there was a knock on his door. John walked over to the
door and opened it only to find an exhausting looking Anne Mallinson
wrapped tightly in a blanket with a security guard on each shoulder to
keep her propped up.
“Oh my god” John gasped at she
quickly grabbed Anne and ushered her to the couch. John quickly thanked
the hotel security for their thoughtfulness and closed the door behind
As he turned back to Anne, John
asked, “What the hell happened?”
Anne finely released all the tension
from within and burst out crying as she finally felt safe after an
unknown amount of time swimming to shore and getting herself to the
tournament hotel. Anne started to mumble something, as her words were a
combination between sobs and real words. Regardless, of what she was
trying to say, it wasn’t something anybody could decipher.
John got Anne a glass of water as
Anne’s limp body just melted into the couch. John returned with a glass
and gently handed it to Anne. She quickly gulped it down as if she had
spent a day in the Sahara. John watched with concern, as Anne seemed to
come back to her senses.
As she licked her lips and cleared
her throat Anne said “they have Fritz”
John quickly responded with “Who has
Anne replied “ The lady with tattoos
all over her body”
John’s head started spinning, as the
thought of the tattooed lady from his dreams wasn’t merely a thought
but a reality. John sat down as Anne continued “ The lady with
the tattoos shot Fritz”.
He sat down and took a few deep
breathes as Anne described the situation of the cigar boat coming up to
their yacht and what ensued afterwards. This still didn’t make sense.
How the hell was a woman from his dreams now actually shooting at Fitz
Mallinson? The relative ease of how the tournament was running
now switched from green light to red light in seconds. Still trying to
comprehend what this all meant, John was brought back into reality with
the sound of his phone.
“John Allenby here” John said.
“No I haven’t seen Shelley recently”
“What. Russians answered her phone”
“Tyler, are you sure it’s Russians”
“I’ll put a phone call into Zeus so
Donald McDiarmid can get to the bottom of this”
John was now almost as pale as Anne
after what had transpired over the last 15 minutes. His tournament had
gone from green light to red light to nuclear in less time than
imaginable. His head continued to spin as he refilled Anne’s
glass with water and he poured himself a Scotch.
Tyler Wolfe was lucky that the issue
of tanking his match had been solved with Sylvain Fosu completely
snapping his Achilles tendon. His phone call into John Allenby had
eased his mind a bit but at the same time would probably open up
another can of worms if John got to the bottom of the issues at hand.
The Russians can’t blame him for
winning the match when his opponent lay on the court with only one leg
in use. But at the same time, the Russians don’t like losing money when
they thought their bet was a sure thing. He would try to explain
that his extending of the match was just his way of making the fixed
match look more realistic but he wasn’t getting a good feeling about
how understanding they might be.
His dilemma was how to keep the
Russians happy before they did something to Shelley. How to keep the
Russians happy without having to tank a match? This was his last chance
at ending his career on top and he wasn’t going to let anybody get in
his way of making his dream a reality. As he thought more about the
situation, ease flowed through his body and mind as the simple solution
presented itself to him. The Russians only concern was to make money
and it was now his job to find them their next new recruit. Tyler knew
that this tournament here in Rio was his last hurray so if he explained
the situation to them and handed another player to them on a silver
platter then he would be off the hook. The money train he has provided
for them over the years now had an exact due date so by simply
extending that date with another player and those issues would be
resolved. I guess the only question now was, who would that be that
player and how could he recruit such a player or should he say
blackmail such a player.
It was odd to see Wolfie on the
shuttle bus to the practice courts this early in the morning but based
on how poorly he played last night, no one was going to question that
he needed to find his game and quickly. So the others players just went
back to eating their breakfasts while Wolfie left the hotel with
headphones on and full of thought.
It didn’t happen very often but when
Tyler needed to really put some deep thought into something, it was
solo practice, which normally gave him his answers. By the standard
measure of intelligence, Tyler probably didn’t appear high on anybody’s
test scores but his common sense approach to most issues had solved
One board, two boards, two boards….
Two boards, one board, one board, one
board, two boards…. Three
Tyler’s simply drill of hitting
length to width of only two boards or less had served him well over the
years and with the issues that needed to be resolved today. He wasn’t
going to leave until he hit 50 in a row on both sides. Two hours later,
60 plus in a row on each side and still no answers. Tyler took the
shuttle back to the hotel.
Tyler walked to the concierge desk
and asked if there were any messages for him as he was concerned about
the Russians as well as if Shelley had reached out to him. Jorge
replied that he had none but as Tyler was about to walk away, Jorge
asked Tyler if he had lost him computer as a Macbook Pro just like
Tyler’s had been found. Tyler was about to say no when he noticed the
“Squashingball.com” sticker on the cover of the computer and his heart
rate just about quadrupled in a mere second. If this was Charles
Buckler’s personal computer than his dilemma of whom to blackmail would
soon be answered within the documents of this little gem. Buckler
always had shit on people and Tyler was convinced that the computer in
his hands would surely produce another ugly story that nobody wanted to
be made public.
Tyler almost skipped from the
concierge desk with the possession of his new best friend.
SIXTEEN by Georgetta Morque
Miller II peered out the window as the plane was about to land, gazing
at the sparkling water and famous Sugar Loaf Mountain. He had hoped get
to Rio sooner to see his daughter, Emily, play squash, but his case in
New York dragged on and the jury finally reached a verdict, but not in
his client’s favor. Maxwell was so enraged that he spent almost
entire flight in first class downing complimentary vodka tonics. His
career had plummeted. All he could hope for now was to somehow land a
really big case that he could win and prove himself to the world. As
the light for the fasten seat belt sign beeped off, he rose to his
feet, a bit unsteady, to collect his belongings.
“Are you all right, sir,” asked the
“Of course I am,” Maxwell replied gruffly.
had gotten word that Emily’s 3rd round opponent had defaulted due to
injury, so now she was to play what could be the biggest match of her
squash career as she faced Florencia Perez, the Argentinean wonder.
While he had never seen Florencia play, he had heard about her
reputation from his daughter. Of course, when it came to commenting
about any of the players, Emily was always highly critical, actually
rather insulting. So he was curious to see for himself and very
anxious about the match. This could be very big, he thought. In his
mind, sponsorships, scholarships – there were all kinds of
possibilities riding on this. He hopped in a taxi and headed right for
Emily slipped off her red warm up jacket, retied her shoes, fixed her
pony tail and stepped on court, ready for business. She started
hitting rails as hard as she could, hoping that her anger would stir up
her aggression for the match. She didn’t know who she hated more –
Florencia, whom she always hated, or Julia, who in a jealous rage,
riddled Emily with insults for running off with Andres Lopez. After
all, thought Emily, Julia didn’t have any claims on him. And then
there was Andres who hadn’t spoken to her since their passionate night
at the beach. He ignored her texts and voicemails. Just thinking
all his made her hit even harder. Yet as much as Emily tried to muscle
the ball, her shots were like more like a taser gun, while Florencia’s
rifled through like a cannon. The Argentinean was raw power.
started to gather and Emily scanned the seats to look for Andres but
couldn’t find him. As soon as the match began, Florencia immediately
took control, whipping rails and cross courts deep in the
no time, game 1 went to Florencia, 11 - 4. Emily couldn’t get out
Florencia’s way. With her long reach, the power hitter seemed to be
everywhere on the court. Stroke to Miss Perez, called the ref.
“No way,” an angry voice shouted out. Emily
knew that sound well. Her father had arrived. “That’s a let,” he cried.
“Quite in the stands please,” said the ref.
interruption seemed to catch both players off guard, causing them each
to make a series of errors which brought the second game score to 9-7,
of sweat poured down Maxwell’s reddened face and neck as he paced back
and forth, gritting his teeth and clenching his jaw.
“Down in front,” cried the spectators.
quickly took out his pen and legal pad to jot down notes about Emily’s
shot selection, as he always did, and listed her unforced errors.
“Come on Em,” he shouted. “You’ve got to do
this,” he yelled even louder, pumping his fist. “You have a chance.”
Florencia hit a winning nick and at game point, Emily tripped trying to
redirect herself to retrieve one of Florencia’s tricky drop
Game to Miss Perez.
Emily threw her racquet down. Conduct
warning to Miss Miller.
“What?” yelled the over agitated dad.
“Where’s the tournament director? Where’s Shelley Anderson. This ref
has got to go.”
“Sir, if you don’t stop, we will have to
send for security.”
“Fuck you,” he mumbled, running his hands
through his dark hair, speckled with gray.
last game proved useless for Emily who was now furious with four
people, the fourth - her dad. And, she still kept glancing at the
crowds searching for Andres.
length, Emily,” shouted Maxwell, looking desperately up at the sky as
if a higher being would help rescue him from this torture and
miraculously turn the match around. But the squash gods favored
Florencia, who just came on stronger, while Emily became even more
distracted. Maxwell buried his head in his hands.
Match to Miss Perez. The crowds
Emily stormed off the court.
“Em,” shouted Maxwell.
“Why did you have to come,” snarled Emily.
is that the way to greet me? Where are you going anyway?” he
Emily sternly as she gathered up her gear, ready to take off.
text me later or I’ll text you. Hey, is there a consolation draw? I
have notes for you….”he called out to her as she raced away.
Happy hour started early at the hotel bar, which was bubbling with
people mingling and laughing. The pink marble walls and mosaic tiled
floor, multi-colored bar stools and lively scene provided a much needed
oasis for Maxwell. The familiar sounds of bartenders whipping up
cocktails and the clinking of ice cubes in glasses were comforting to
him. He started on another round of vodka tonics which he felt he
deserved after all he’d been through.
Mr. Miller,” a champagne blonde in a black tank top greeted Maxwell and
offered her hand. I’m Erika Hoskins, Florencia’s coach.”
“Oh, Erika, right. Please, call me Max. Can
I get you a drink?”
“A caipirinha would be great, thank you.
Tough match today.” “Yes, very tough. That’s some player you’ve
“Yes, yes, but I’d love to talk to you
about Emily. I think I could help her.”
“Really,” he said while checking out Erika
from top to bottom.
“I think she has a lot of potential. I do
have some time and I think I could work with her if you like.”
“Do you really, that’s good news. Here’s to
Emily,” he raised his glass to hers.
“Wow, it’s gotten really crowded here,”
said Erika. “Shall we go somewhere else to talk more about this?”
gold wedding band ricocheted beams of light across the ceiling as it
caught the late afternoon sun shining through the window.
Wolfe was like a big kid with a new toy as he set the laptop of the
deceased squash reporter on the desk in his room. He called Shelley’s
cell phone to tell her about his discovery but again she didn’t answer.
let’s see, will it be password- protected, he wondered as he opened it
up. He had thought of various possibilities – smashingballs, Buckler,
squash2020, and other rather obvious guesses. But to his
password wasn’t necessary. He got right in and a couple of documents
were still open.
burst out laughing as he quickly skimmed over something about Sarah
which looked like a script for an après squash porn flick. Wow, that
sneaky Buckler, he thought. Who knew? Then he came to Murder on
Squash Court, take 2. Holy Shit, he gasped out loud. This is
His cell phone vibrated. Hoping it
was Shelley, he picked up the call - a restricted number.
“Tyler, you must turn in the computer,”
said a faint yet familiar-sounding voice on the other end.
“Shelley? Is that you? Shelley, where are
you? You sound so far away.”
“You must just do what I say,” she pleaded
in a desperate tone.
“But there’s something here….”
“I know, but you have to give the computer
SEVENTEEN by Will Gens
hung up the phone from Shelley. He clutched the laptop under his arm.
He needed more time to access just what was on Buckler's disk drive. He
went down to the lobby bar, an elegantly if not gaudy lounge with
Brazilian tropical motif, including 3 dimensional paintings of muscular
Brazilian swimmers, sun bathers all scantily clad for those lookers who
would rather hide in the lounge rather than be seen in their
pasty white Eastern European or British Isle, or United States
Northeast birthday suits.
ordered a seltzer with lime and retreated to a corner where Buckler's
lap top came to life as soon as he opened it. This is different, the
laptop booted up. Strange no password or security encryption. Without
any prompting on his own the computer suddenly displayed a fat old man
with a pot belly in polka dot boxer shorts and black high top converses
swinging or should say hacking and chasing a squash ball around the
squash court. The old man seemed to resemble Buckler, himself. A bit
strange going through a dead man's laptop. “Hi Tyler, click the ball.”
knew his way around the directories by now. He went back to his
directory to continue poking through it. He began looking through the
document folders and documents. He came across even more astonishing
things along the way, scanned photos in a folder named
“BadAlleby, This was the best, photos, surveillance photos,
taken of Allenby at some NYC gay bath house, some very compromising
shots. He thought he could use these, "retire, my ass. Let's see who
retires first." He saw his doping results again and the trail Shelley
left inadvertently. Then he saw a folder with his name. He thought,
that's something, I actually warrant a folder with my name on it. He
couldn't imagine what Buckler would find interesting --
waiter came by and placed another seltzer and lime on the table, Tyler
looked up, he hadn't ordered it, and the waiter nodded in the direction
of the sultry blond at the bar. He smiled and hoisted cheers then
looked away. Just my luck, "he thought, "I am about to get picked up by
this stunning blond, but I'm playing fucking house detective with this
Buckler laptop. He got this all the time from women mostly divorced and
lonely who seemed to want to screw him then mother him. He liked the
screwing but hated the mothering. He usually hi tailed it out of there
as soon as the mothering started.
looked away, rude, he thought, but he wasn't interested. Shelley was
totally on his mind and her predicament and he was playing and didn't
need this kind of distraction... He went back to the folder named
"Tyler". He opened it typical stuff about the anti-doping, but then his
mouth dropped open. He looked up and around as if there were eyes
everywhere, just the blond fixated on his like he was caught in a snare.
the hell did he get the birth records and the family names? How?
Impossible. What was he doing with these? He looked at the birth
certificate of one Jeremy Tyler Wolf and then saw his name as the
father and Naomi Coetzee as the mother, his heart sank. The birth
certificate was issued by the South African National Government. He had
met Naomi during the South African Open, it was not such a great time
there, but she was working the concession in one of the clubs. He had
never seen anyone so beautiful her skin the darkest ebony, her features
high, her body sculpted like the Koreas of the Parthenon. She smiled at
him and he was smitten. He played his match and when he showered and
came by the concession was closed and she was gone. He couldn't find
her the entire time he was there. She wasn't at the concession stand;
he looked for her asked about her. Then someone had mentioned she was
filling in for one of the ladies who fell sick. One thing leads to
another and he finally was able to track her down. She lived in a very
low income housing developed outside of Johannesburg. Not quite the
horrible slums, but since her father was in the government, a low level
clerk, the family could live very modestly.
left the computer with the concierge and took a walk on the beach. Not
since his ill-fated night when he was abducted di he even goes out of
the hotel except to train and play squash. The day was beautiful, deep
blue skies, warm, the sand not yet burning hot, high tide, the waves
lolling him to a space he needed to be, he needed to think.
remembered how he and Naomi talked and talked, she was a writer, and
had published a few stories. They spent hours together the two weeks he
was there and then they became lovers. He fell so in love with her, he
tried to see her or send money for her to meet him in his travels,
whenever whatever they could do to be together. He was still early on
the tour and only partially sponsored. He knew he had to be very
careful with her and his sponsors. There was still a lot prejudice in
this world, especially in Australia from where most of his sponsors
were. And his family would absolutely hit the roof.
was playing in the Italian open, years back, he remembered it exactly,
and when he received an urgent call from Naomi’s sister, Naomi was in
labor. He had seen her early in her pregnancy and it was the happiest
time for them. They were having a child together. Her father, cd called
him son, her sister called him brother, and he was going to be a father.
he had to keep the whole thing hidden and secretive; Naomi seemed to
understand and rarely pushed for details. When he was on the phone with
Naomi’s sister, he tried to explain that he just couldn’t leave the
tournament. He would get there, he told her as soon as he could.
he arrived a day later and met Naomi’s father and sister at the
hospital, he had flowers and a stuffed toy and a look on his face,
proud father. But when he saw her family, there were tears, sadness,
and defeat. Naomi was gone, her heart gave out, was what they said. She
was in labor for 20 hours. Tyler was dumbfounded. The hospital was
packed with patients, mostly black, the air was thick with the rancid
smell of blood, and he wanted to throw up. He sank in the chair, simply
stunned; Naomi’s sister hugged him and they cried. He finally gathered
himself and went to the nursery with Naomi’s father and her sister. The
nursery must had had 100 swaddled babies, a sea of them and only two
nurses who all they did was valet the carriers to change and diaper and
feed the babies. And he knew his son immediately, the only seemingly
white baby in the whole place. The big tag on the cart read Jeremy, she
remembered, it was his grandfather’s name, the most important person in
left 2 days later for a tournament in Germany; they held a simple
service and burial for which Tyler paid. The family agreed to look
after the baby. Tyler sent them money and more money as he became more
and more successful, he gave them enough money to move to a better
place He played his heart out, he played always for Jeremy and Naomi.
signed his tab and went to leave the computer with the concierge and
take a walk on the beach, leaving his shoes and shirt on the railing
along the path leading to the hotel. He hadn’t been to the beach -- not
since that ill-fated night when he was abducted did he even venture out
of the hotel except to train and play squash. The day was beautiful,
deep blue skies, warm, the sand not yet burning hot, high tide, the
waves lolling him to a space he needed to be, he needed to think....
He walked for about a half hour and then
out of nowhere “Olá! Olá!
He looked over and there were two young
men, Brazilians, and a beautiful girl waving frantically to him. They
ran up to him.
“Olá senhor “
“Englis, please, yes?” Tyler was too
distracted to concentrate on speaking and hearing Portuguese.
“Ok, in Englis’, one of
them quipped. “Funny to see you again -- again. Sir”
Tyler said, “Again?”
“Si, we saw you other
day play sqawsh, you very good, too bad your friend falls and hurts himself.”
“Yeah, too bad”, said
“But my friend you no look very happy when you play such a magnificent
sport, why you not happy to have opportunity, how you say, to cherish
the O Momento?”
The girl smiled, that smile struck Tyler like a ton of bricks, her
smile, Naomi’s smile, her look, the eyes the way she looked at him, and
she couldn’t be more than 15, her smile and the sparkle in her. It also
just dawned on him that they were the very same teenagers he saw the
other day when he came to on the beach after having been abducted. He
remembered them and how they sort of laughed at his predicament.
tried to gather himself; he could see the photos now all over the
internet, great and successful impresario of squash, in his grand
moment of triumph -- these lurid and seedy photos of the bathhouse. The
sponsors think of the sponsors and the scandal. He wondered if he
should go to Phillip Sanderson and Special Agent Donald McDiarmid with
this, what the hell, they told him to come to them and not try and
resolve shit like this. He thought of his family, all the years hiding
this from them, his mother always bragging about what a ladies man he
was, how would she face those betties’ at the women’s club. He had to
get those photos at whatever cost. The hell with the squash it was his
reputation and humiliation before his family that mattered most. He
picked up his phone and called Michelson, this was really his only
chance; he couldn’t get into a blackmail scene, he had the cash, but he
knew they would bleed him for the rest of his life and they knew the
one thing that could really bring him to his knees, well, he smiled,
one of the things was to humiliate him in the eyes of his parents,
grandparents the whole family.
Naomi died, Tyler knew he couldn’t take care of Jeremy, his sister and
father were more than happy to take care of the baby. Tyler loved
Jeremy, saw him whenever he could, and sent money called weekly no
matter how much he travelled. And the Coetzee’s were wonderful sending
pictures of Jeremy, films from the camcorder, they eventually, built a
website jeremywolf.com Tyler looked at the website constantly, left
comments with an alias. He was so much a part of Jeremy’s life, but no
one, not even Shelley knew about Jeremy. He never regretted for a
moment his love for Naomi and their child.
come, we show you squash Brazilian style, maybe you have fun with
that,” the other young man said, the girl smiled again, Tyler figured
it might take his mind off f all this craziness. He followed them to
their jeep, convertible as they drove from the beach along the shore
eventually leaving the hotel district and going into the suburbs and
then into the jungle. Tyler just let the warm sun on his face; the
teenagers chattered incessantly in Portuguese so fast he caught only
glimpses. They had to get the jeep back soon, they were hungry, someone
named Miguel was coming over, and the girl occasionally looked back at
Tyler and smiled. Tyler closed his eyes, imagining he was with
Naomi and Jeremy and being happy.
jeep came into this village, strange village in the middle of nowhere
they must have been driving for over an hour, Tyler drifted in and out
of awareness. Strangely he didn’t seem bothered by where he didn’t know
he was or really who these kids were. He somehow felt contented. The
thoughts of Naomi and Jeremy didn’t cause him any of the usual pain and
village people stared at him and the young man with the English yelled
at them in Portuguese to mind their business. Mr. Tyler is a famous
man, a great athlete in ‘squawsh’. They all just stared and looked at
him and then went about their business.
walked down a maze of alley ways, he could see women hanging clothes to
dry in the hot Brazilian sun, he heard babies crying, children
laughing, the occasional husband and wife yelling at each other. There
seemed to be chickens and roosters and goats everywhere, he was
constantly avoiding stepping on them Then he heard this high pitched
chatter and that familiar sound of the rhythmic gunshot, repeatedly,
rhythmically, Tyler’s senses came alive, it was music to his ears, all
he heard was that sound pop ….pop …pop …pop like a heartbeat, a
pounding in his chest. “What the fuck”, he said when they came upon
this court, outside court, like the ones he saw in South Africa and the
one he saw in the U.S. once.
two lean, barefoot scruffy players were snapping the ball with such
ease, half the time he couldn’t figure out what or where they were
hitting the ball. The players were so quick and on the ball which was
very slow off the floor that they had an eternity to try and deceive
their opponent. There were faded lines on the court; the court seemed
about a foot bigger. The court was definitely a foot or so wider, the
tin shorter, the ball was fast off the wall but slow on the floor. At
the end of what must have been the match the two boys playing came off
the court drenched in sweat arms around each other laughing, their
pants ragged and dirty, they wreaked of sweat, acrid, acidic sweat.
They were barefooted, bloody stubby toes. They looked at Tyler without
expression, challenging, but then his host said, “Tyler, here, great
“sqawsh” player number 1 in world, he comes to watch and maybeee hit
some with us.”
nodded, other players came over, the girls continued to smile at him,
he was ok they just wanted to hit with a professional. He was barefoot
in shorts at least and no shirt, just like them. He hadn’t bothered to
wear shoes or anything. He looked at the ball it was some strange
concoction of varied colored rubber, something he’d seen before, but
not really, it was a bit heavier for the cement walls, very spongy and
when he squeezed it in his hand the color of the ball exploded into
this bright green, orange, a color which might be seen for miles. There
was a box of them and other equipment. The racquets were a little
shorter and the head smaller and heavier, felt like his grandfather’s
old wooden racket. He picked a racket, it didn’t much matter, could
have been a shovel and he’d still play a match with a shovel for a
bounced the ball a bit and went onto the court. The roof was color
corrugated plastic, like you see in the ghetto shanty towns, the sun
shone through but wasn’t as hot if they were to play without the
floor was concrete, was coated with a rubberized sealant that had worn
down. His feet felt good, he liked the feel. He stretched a bit, swing
the racket and took the ball and started striking it. He began getting
a feel for all the components, he realized the game was at once faster
but then when the ball struck the floor it sort of died, he realized
just how quick and agile these young boys had to be to retrieve the
shots, the ball only came out of the back very rarely he noticed. The
players stood watching, expressionless.
a young boy maybe 13, the girl with the smile called out to him,
“Miguel”, as she called him he came running toward her and turned to
Tyler and smiled before he stepped onto the court.
“Ola signor, we play, you serve.”
the time Tyler had played two games which he won narrowly he was
completely drenched and spent, the young boy who did most of the
retrieving was fresh, he wanted more. Tyler waved him off and they all
laughed. He sat down, the offered him some tea, a flavored matte, and
as he sat there, he realized it was either a flashback, or
hallucination, but there stepped out from the nearby shadows, Fritz,
the great ,great entrepreneur and Tyler recognized him from the I-Cares
endorsement days. Fritz Malison smiled. Tyler couldn’t move he was
slumped against the back wall of the court he never felt such peace in
his life, it was like the first time he saw Naomi, he knew there was no
place on the planet where he could be happier than on this court right
now, his heart filled with Naomi and Jeremy. He knew what he had to do,
he knew what he had to do, he knew what he had to do, and he kept
repeating it over and over.
woke with a start, on the beach under the same palm near where he was
when abducted back what seemed a lifetime ago. He was in a dream, but
it was different, it was beautiful, he heard the sound of the rhythmic
gunshot just like he heard in his dream? It was so real. He would
figure this out, even if it killed him, he’d play again like he played
today, don’t’ know, played in my dream, but they were real…and Fritz,
Fritz Maliinson was there.” Chapter EIGHTEEN by John NImick
I know what I must do, I know what I must do.
Tyler was exhausted. Two hours and 10 minutes of pure agony in
the hot, humid Rio air, if you can call it that. But he had won
11-8 in the 5th over Rupert Evans, the up and coming Welsh rabbit, in
their quarterfinal match before a packed crowd at the Copacabana glass
court venue. As the cheers and lounge music faded, Tyler stripped
off his soaked shirt, third of the match, and slumped in his player
seat, downing Gatorade after Gatorade while the squash press stumbled
“Ici, Wolfie, c’est por moi maitenant. My turn, my turn!”
Tyler lifted the towel off his head and saw Bertie Dejeuner squatting
in front of him with a microphone boomed out. “Zat was quite a
match, Monsieur, pour un jouer avec trent six annees!
Encroyable…mais, how do I say…all you?”
“Fuck you, mate, I’m done,” spat Wolf. He’d had enough of this
ongoing PED crusade now that everyone could read online about the
accusations. OK, so they weren’t just accusations, but they
were…old. Grabbing his racquet bag and leaving the rest of his
soaked crap behind, Tyler headed for the players’ exit. Loads of
fans, mostly female, were still lined up on either side of the low
barriers and Wolf stopped to sign several obligatory posters and
programs and one very appealing breast before jogging through the
entryway, passed the uniformed guard and into the locker room.
This wasn’t the luxurious surroundings of Queen’s Club. No,
promoter Allenby and his minions hadn’t spent a lot on the player
amenities at the Copacabana venue. Granted the Copacabana Hotel
where the players were staying was just across Avenida Atlantico, but
still this sucked as a changing room. Just a bunch of cardboard
stalls in a temporary trailer, one for each sex, connected to a
“luxury” bathroom trailer with two private crappers. But at least
it was private and, with only a few matches each day now at
quarterfinal stage, generally quiet.
Fucking squash press, Wolf said to himself as he hurled his kit into an
The last few days were a blur. Wolf’s ability to separate fact
from fantasy was being sorely tested, but one thing he knew for sure
was that the fucking Russians had Shelley and his new instructions were
to win the goddam tournament…or else. Somehow, Wolf needed
something to trade.
Tired and pissed, the American kind, Wolf stripped and eased himself
onto a bench and then onto to the floor, at least carpeted, to begin to
“Hmmmm….ohhhh….yes, yes….wow!” The door to crapper no. 1 banged
against its hinges.
Wolf obviously wasn’t completely alone.
The door banged again and again. The cheap airplane-style plastic
was actually bulging in the middle. The heaving became more
“Baby, baby…now! Oh, Andres….yes.”
Wolf sized up the situation immediately. Andres Lopez was also,
miraculously, through to the semis, dancing around Egyptian champion
Ahmed Ali Anwar Phanuk in 4 games in the match before Wolf’s, and was
now obviously enjoying the fruit, spoils, cleavage, etc available on
the way out of the arena.
Wolf wondered exactly who Andres was enjoying. Quietly he picked
up his racquet bag and moved out of the line of sight of the restroom
doors. He also slipped his new phone out of his valuables bag and
turned it on. Wolf had picked up the new SombraSoft ZRock at the
airport, not being able to resist the jet black device that looked and
handled completely like a stone, until of course you pressed the
cupuacu and spear logo in just the right spot. Wolf manipulated
the device and turned on the 8G HD video camera.
After a few quiet minutes, the bolt slid back with a clack and two
semi-naked, quite athletic figures, tumbled onto the floor.
Andres Vargas and Emily Miller.
Emily lay on her back breathless as Vargas slowly traced his finger
from her chin to her navel.
“One more, no?” said the Colombian star. Lopez pulled the
giggling, petite American back on top of him as Wolf bent around the
corner, aimed the phone and let it roll.
“OMG!” cried Emily as she scrambled to stand up. “What’s the
score with Wolf’s match? It could be over!”
Emily ran to one of the women’s cubicles and pulled on the top and a
pair of shorts she had stashed there. Poking her phone while
running back to Lopez, who hadn’t moved from the floor, she squatted
over his chest and gobbled up his lips, tongue, and part of his
Romanesque nose and said, “Bye, amor. See you at the Players
Before Lopez could respond with more than “Si”, she was gone. The
Colombian stud lay spent on the floor, no pants, torn shirt and one
sandal still clinging to a few elegant toes.
Wolf came around the corner.
“Well, mate, good on ya. That’s the best post-match rehab I know
Lopez scrambled to cover himself. “Oh mi dios.”
“No worries, mate. Been there, done that. But I do have two
questions for you.”
“How old do you think your little aspiring college girl is?”
Wolf moved to the trailer door and turned the lock.
“And do you know what Ms. Miller’s father does for a living?”
Allenby was a basket case. Leaning back in his temporary office
chair in his temporary office in his temporary production trailer at
his temporary beachside squash tournament, the promoter wondered
whether his very breathing was, indeed, only temporary. He took
another long pull on the bottle of Scotch.
With his insurance scam blown, sexuality in question, DEA and Interpol
sniffing around and CEO of the joint global squash tour held hostage,
there wasn’t a lot left to enjoy about this little project. The
only thing still seemingly working was Mallinson’s extraordinary TV
magic, but at what price? He was probably dead, too.
Someone knocked on the door. “Senor Allenby? Estas ahi?”
Allenby plopped the Scotch bottle behind a big case of white Dunlop
balls and rolled out of the chair to the door.
“Who is it?”
“Andres Lopez, senor, and I need to talk. Muy importante…por
Allenby checked the security monitor to confirm a single person on the
steps and opened the door a crack. The security lights of the
empty squash arena cut the inky darkness into a black and white
checkerboard behind the unexpected visitor.
“What is it Lopez…you can get any info you need at the tournament desk
in the hotel and you can pick up your Player’s Party passes there,
too. Oh, yeah, and congrats for getting through to your first
“Senor Allenby, quizas mi final semifinal.”
What the fuck was Wolf doing? Blackmailing Lopez to throw the
final IF he got that far? Fortunately they were on opposite sides
of the draw so both would have to get through tough opponents to bring
this potential dog’s breakfast to life, but Allenby had to laugh and
cry at the same time about this wrinkle. It was true that man
only had enough blood to run one at a time.
Wolf had played like a madman in both the 32s and 16s after his tank
job with Fosu failed in the 64s. And that Herculean effort just a
few hours ago over Evans in the Quarters was no put up job. Why
take out insurance with Lopez if Wolf was now back on the level?
“Senor, I want no problem con Wolf…and I want to win diz tournament!”
“Well, you can probably skate with the locals. Emily turns 18
next week, but if he gives that movie to Maxwell Miller and the media
you’re gonna need a modern chastity belt to survive.”
Vargas slumped back in his seat. One of the production trailer’s
work lights shone down directly on his face.
“It was just some fun…” he started to say, his blue eyes rolling from
left to right in his deep brown skinned sockets.
Allenby paused and looked fully at Vargas in the strong light. He
didn’t know this young tempestuous player well, but something,
something about him looked familiar…
Of course! The picture on Mr. Fino’s desk. Allenby was
looking at an older version of the teenager clasped arm in arm with the
huge mega-industrialist after a game of squash.
“Lopez, do you know Mr. Fino?”
“Of course, he is the grand patron of squash here, and in all South
America. I know him many years…he help my career always.”
Mr. Fino and SombraSoft drop two million to sponsor this shindig in Rio
and this kid is through to the semis? The first ever major
semifinalist from Latin America?
Fuck, thought Allenby, there’s action on both sides of the draw.
“Lopez. Get up and collect yourself. Everything’s gonna be
fine. Get over to the hotel and get ready for the party.
I’ve gotta make a call, but I’ll see you there in an hour.”
Allenby closed the door behind Vargas, shot the bolt and punched F on
his phone. It rang for half a tone.
“Si” answered Renato Bulsara.
“I need to see Mr. Fino tonight…before the semis tomorrow. You
know where to find me. Your boy’s in trouble.”
Chapter NINETEEN by Pierre Bastien
was nighttime. Agent McDiarmid sat in the command center. The command
center was a folding table and an uncomfortable plastic chair, but he
was issuing commands, so it counted. McDiarmid was wearing a headset.
He issued a command: "Go". On command, a half dozen agents swarmed a
nondescript semi-industrial building in downtown Rio.
The next morning, John Allenby's
phone rang, and he answered.
"Mr. Allenby, this is Agent
McDiarmid. We've recovered Fritz Mallinson. He's back safe with our
"Really," said Allenby. "That's
great news! Where did you find him?"
"He was being held in Rio",
responded McDiarmid. "The Russians had him -- as we suspected."
"Is he alright? What did they want
"He's unharmed, aside from a few
bruises," said McDiarmid. “We're still trying to find out everything.
Apparently they mostly wanted to learn about his squash technology --
the Viper technology -- and how it worked."
"How it worked?" mused Allenby,
wondering what the Russians were up to.
"Mallinson says they were after
technical details," said McDiarmid.
"The Russians seem pretty
interested in our squash tournament," said Allenby.
Allenby suddenly realized: the
Russians must be backing Tyler Wolf. After all, Andres Lopes was Mr.
Fino's horse. At this point, Wolf was the only other option.
"They want to hack into the Viper
stuff, eh?" asked Allenby. "That's pretty clever."
"Apparently Mallinson told them it
can't be done. Or at least, not to his knowledge."
"OK," said Allenby.
"Allenby, there's one more thing,"
said McDiarmind. "It's about Shelley. Mallinson swears he heard her
voice coming from another room while he was being held."
Allenby said, "What? You mean
she's been captured too?"
"Mallinson didn't think so. He
thinks she's working with the Russians. He says he’s not sure, but
still, you should watch your back."
"Thanks," said Allenby. He hung up
There wasn't much time to dwell on
everything he'd just heard. He needed to get ready for tonight's
semi-final matches. Still, he decided to make one more call.
He punched F on his phone and
within a few minutes he was through to Mr. Fino.
"What can I do for you, Mr.
"Mr. Fino, I've just learned
something I think you'll want to know. Fritz Mallinson has been found.
He's alive and well."
"Where was he found?" asked Fino.
"The Russians had him."
"No surprises there," responded
"Really?" wondered Allenby out
loud. Fino seemed quick on the uptake.
"Oh yes," said Fino. "They have
been interfering with squash for years. It makes sense they are behind
"What do they want out of this?"
"Well," said Fino, "in the past it
was always about the money for them. Some matches are fixed and you can
make some good money."
"Is it still about the money now?"
"Well, yes," replied Fino. "But
maybe there is more money this year."
"I don't understand how there's
more money," said Allenby, thinking it over. "It can't be because of
the Olympics. I mean, I know that's a big deal for squash, but it
doesn't seem like there's THAT much more money to be made betting on
squash this year. I mean, it's going to take a while for that to
develop. It doesn't seem worth all the trouble the Russians are going
to. Abductions seem a bit much don't they?"
"Not when your survival is at
stake," said Fino.
"What do you mean?" asked Allenby.
"Whose survival is at stake?"
"Let me ask you this, Mr. Allenby.
With squash in the Olympics, will Russia win more Olympic medals?"
"No," said Allenby. It had been a
bewildering few days. He was happy to have Mr. Fino gently walking him
through it. Allenby ventured, "Russia has a strong wrestling program,
don't they? When squash replaces wrestling in the Olympics, Russia will
come away with fewer medals."
"Exactly," said Fino. "Many
livelihoods in Russia depend on wrestling being in the Olympics. When
wrestling was ousted, many people’s jobs were jeopardized. But there’s
more to it than that. It's a matter of national importance to perform
well at the Olympics. So maybe even the Kremlin is taking an interest
in these developments."
"Really? The Kremlin has a hand in
this?" Allenby blurted out.
Mr. Fino broke into laughter.
“Maybe, my friend. Maybe they have. Maybe they haven’t. I am just
trying to show you the possibilities. This year, it is bigger than a
few guys placing bets. If squash has a spectacular failure, perhaps the
Olympic Committee will make some changes to the lineup. After all, one
wouldn’t want to tarnish the reputation of the Games.”
“You don’t seem too worried,”
“I suppose I am not. This is no
reason to be discouraged. Even if the odds are against you, Mr.
Allenby, it’s sometimes still worth the gamble. And if it doesn’t work
out, I have many other opportunities besides squash!”
This time Allenby laughed. “That
must be a comforting feeling, Mr. Fino.” It actually comforted Allenby,
too. He was, after all, a new shareholder shareholder in Mr. Fino’s
“Well,” said Allenby, glancing
down at his watch, “I need to prepare for this evening’s semi-final
“I must be going as well,” said
Mr. Fino, “but there’s one last thing I must tell you. You have a
partner in all this, Miss Shelley Anderson. You must be careful around
her. Her motives appear to be complicated, but they may not be aligned
with ours. Good luck Mr. Allenby.”
Fino hung up.
World #1 Karim Bashir of Egypt
stood ready to return serve. His racket was up, and he was jiggling it
in his hand. He spoke to himself in Arabic. He seemed to be trying to
convince himself of the importance of this point, this game, this
JP, one of the Squash TV
announcers, assessed the situation: "The Egyptian really has gone
walkabout. He just seems completely disinterested right now."
His fellow commentator, Yogi,
nodded his head in agreement. "Bashir started this second game so
strong, hitting penetrating lengths deep into the back of the court and
finding his touch right away. He's built up a big lead, got all the way
to 9-5, and all of a sudden, the wheels have come off."
Tyler Wolf stood on the right of
the court, in the service box. He faced the left wall, wiggled his
Prince racket a few times, tossed up the ball, away from himself and
towards the left-hand wall. Wolf lunged toward the ball and and
delivered a cutting backhand serve that darted toward the sidewall.
Just as the ball ricocheted off
the sidewall, Bashir swung. He attempted to send the ball to the front
right corner. It slammed into the tin.
"There's another one straight into
the tin," said JP. "Bashir has just got to try something different
here. He's completely lost his touch. Tyler Wolf has now drawn level
with the Egyptian at 9-all, and Bashir doesn't seem able to do about
anything right at the moment. You have to wonder what the Egyptian is
thinking right now."
"It's true," said Yogi. "Bashir is
known for sometimes losing his concentration. He'll be playing in top
form one second, and then the next, he'll start thinking about
something else -- who knows what, maybe thinking about what he ate for
breakfast -- and all of a sudden he's lost 3 or 4 points. If he’s
anything like you JP, he’s probably had something nice and light for
breakfast, like maybe a plate of sausages and a few litres of coffee."
"Well that does sound quite
delicious actually," said JP, "and Bashir certainly is making a hash of
this game. Look, he's now put another shot into the bottom of the tin,
and suddenly Wolf has a game ball in this second game, and he’s got a
chance to go up two-love in this match."
Wolf moved to the opposite service
box as quickly as he could. He was eager to close out this first game
immediately, if not sooner. Bashir seemed to be doing everything he
could to screw up right now.
Bashir hit himself on the head
with an open palm, making contact with his forehead so forcefully that
Allenby, watching from the audience, could hear the smack.
“Bashir just trying to generate a
bit of electricity in the old grey cells,” said Yogi. “Meanwhile, Wolf
has played well. He looks focused and relaxed here at the business end
of this second game. He has to be careful with his serve here, or
Bashir is liable to slam the ball into the nick.”
Wolf paused to compose himself in
the service box. He bounced the ball on the floor a few times, then
served right into the body of Bashir, who skipped out of the way just
in time and scraped the ball off the back wall, sending it high and
long, into the back court.
Wolf went to get the ball and
smashed it crosscourt. Bashir, caught off guard, stuck his racket out,
just trying to put his strings on the ball. He made contact, and the
ball soared up to the front wall, bounced off it, and began descending
towards the mid-court. Wolf took one step from the T, his racket up,
preparing to smash the ball. Wolf swung, but slowed down his racket at
the last possible second, sending the ball into the front left corner.
Bashir sped to the corner, and managed to get the edge of his frame on
the ball just before it died, but now he’d hit the ball right down the
middle of the court, and Wolf crushed it, volleying the ball to the
back right corner, well out of the Egyptian’s reach.
“Well,” said Yogi as the players
walked off the court, “The Australian manages to take the second game
11-9 in 11 minutes, and he leads two games to love. Bashir, the number
one seed, is looking quite distraught as he heads over to his corner.”
“Full credit though to Tyler
Wolf,” said JP, “he's put Bashir under pressure and kept his errors
down. Great attention to detail. The Australian did well to take that
second game, and I think he needs to keep pressuring Bashir deep into
the back court. Meanwhile, the Egyptian just had too many unforced
errors, and despite his wonderful talents, Bashir is staring at a steep
two game deficit right now.”
Tyler Wolf sat in his corner,
considering his plan for the this game. He felt good on the court and
was playing some top-quality squash, but it would take considerable
effort to keep this level of play up. Wolf had his marching orders from
the Russians: win the tournament. But he didn’t have any tricks up his
sleeve for this match. If he was going to get past Bashir, he would
have to do it the old-fashioned way, by bringing his talents to bear.
Perhaps, he thought, the reason he’d played so well in this match was
that everything was so straightforward: just play squash as well as you
can. No gimmicks.
John Allenby paced up and down
alongside the stadium seats. A wave of nervous energy was flowing
through him. For just a moment, he was lost in the squash match,
imagining himself on court against either Bashir or Wolf (or both -- it
was all a haze), feeling the sensation of squash footwork. A song
popped into his head:
Hold me closer tiny dancer Count the headlights on the highway Lay me down in sheets of linen You had a busy day today
He felt a tap on his shoulder --
someone standing behind him. He spun around. It was Shelley Anderson.
Chapter TWENTY by Richard Millman
At least, John Allenby thought it
was Shelley Anderson.
The erstwhile diva of the World
Tour was a shadow of her former self.
She seemed to have imploded. Her
eyes were bloodshot and there were deep, dark hollows underneath them.
Her breasts were no longer their pert, button-threatening, buxom selves
- but sagged in flaccid defeat. And was that grey in the roots of her
“My God!” Allenby exhaled in
disbelief, “ What in the name of Christmas happened to you?”
Shelley looked over her left
shoulder and Allenby followed her eyeline to see Agent McDiarmid
hovering with a grim look on his face.
“Miss Anderson and I had a deeply
meaningful conversation some days ago, in the course of which she
decided that continuing her relationship with certain unpleasant
characters in the Russian underworld was possibly not going to be of
long term benefit to her,” Naldo McDiarmid explained. He went on, “
Miss Anderson agreed, in light of certain persuasive arguments that we
were able to make, that she would make the very brave decision to wear
a listening device when she met with a woman by the name of Irina Hleb.
A woman who is also known to Rhodanie Maison and who - or is it whom -
forgive my English, Miss Anderson here has had a relationship
with for sometime.”
As impossible as it would have
seemed beforehand, Shelley appeared to slump even more disconsolately.
The special agent looked more
intently at Allenby. “Let’s take a walk somewhere a little less
public.” he said, gesturing to Allenby and Anderson to accompany him
behind the curtains of the players area.
In the background the PA announced
that Tyler Wolf had beaten Bashir in the fourth after fighting off an
unexpected comeback attempt.
Allenby, Anderson and Special
Agent McDiarmid paid no heed to this otherwise exciting news.
McDiarmid began again:
“Why you sporters don’t just stick
to sport I don’t know. You are obviously good at what you do. But greed
seems to suck you into a world and a frame of mind where you think you
can get money. Then when you are out of your depth, in a league where
people get killed - killed every day - mark you, we have to come and
clean up your mess.”
As good looking as Naldo McDiarmid
was, the ugly look on his face put the fear of God into John Allenby as
the agent spoke again in a deadly undertone,
“This time we have managed, more
through good fortune than by police work, to extricate you,
Shelley and hopefully that fool Wolf from a deadly situation. We were
lucky. The wire that Shelley wore when she was with Irina Hleb gave us
some key information as to the Russians’ plans.
But that still left us with a
whole heap of trouble. Fortunately the whole thing was taken out of our
hands and the problem has gone away.”
Naldo paused mysteriously, but he
still wore the same frightening expression.
“Listen m-i-s-t-e-r Allenby.” he
looked at Shelley, “ You too, even though I think I made this clear
They both looked at the
“ I am going to watch you and
Tyler Wolf very carefully for at least the next ten years.” he said
slowly. “ You won’t know I’m watching. But just when you think I’ve
gone away you will receive some little clue that I haven’t. If you
screw up, if you even think about doing anything except what you are
supposed to do - tax evasion, match fixing, drugs - if you get a
fucking parking ticket - I will ruin your life.”
McDiarmid let it sink in for a
moment. Then he continued,
“ I don’t mean through legal
means. There won’t be lawyers and a court case.”
“I have my own methods,” he said
“If you mess up, you won’t know
what happened - but your life will suddenly start a downward spiral
from which you will never return. I have cleared this with Philip
Sanderson who has the power to do this to you on his own if he wishes,
but, “ he paused for emphasis, “ Zeus has decided that my influence
might be, as you might say, a little more cautionary. Are we clear?”
Allenby had never felt comfortable
with the Brazilian and now he felt scared. He felt a large bead of
sweat drop from his shoulder blade to the small of his back. He nodded
Shelley Anderson just shrugged her
drooping shoulders and made a pathetic attempt at smiling her assent.
It looked more like the sort of expression you might make if you had
“Now you two, “ said Naldo,
brightening both his tone and his visage, “ I believe you have some
important work to attend to. I am hoping to see some of the semis and
finals myself. Where is Zeus? He told me he has a box seat for me.”
The first semi final of the
women’s event was into the third game. At one-all, the match was
perfectly balanced with Anh Linh from Thailand having won the first
with her spectacular mix of electric speed, deft touch - probably the
finest lob in the game - and her gymnastic and explosive capacity to
leap in the air and volley - clear evidence of her badminton background.
But in the second, world number
one, Brigitta Krause a German who had relocated and now represented the
Czech republic, had ground Linh down with grimly constructed rallies -
keeping the ball on the sidewalls to prevent the Thai magician from
using her control.
Julia was enjoying the Squash - it
was a great match - but what was really making her breathless was
The German was incredibly fit and
muscular. She also didn’t shave. Julia didn’t know what to make of
that. Some people said it was disgusting. If that was the case why was
she having these feelings when she saw the little tufts of hair poking
out of the armpits of Brigitta’s Canary yellow dress, and at the sweat
darkened curls when Krause’s inner thigh was exposed every
time she lunged?
“See something you like?” Emily
Miller’s voice startled Julia from her voyeurism.
“Yes,” hissed Julia, “ and what’s
it to you anyway. Aren’t you happy merrily screwing Vargas or Lopes or
whatever his name is?”
“Lopez with a Z is his name and
yes thank you - very happy. But that is when I am playing for that
team. I haven’t done with your side yet. Brigitta......ouch!!!!!” but
Emily never got to finish the sentence.
Having been so interested in
both the match on the court and the zingers that they were trying
to throw at each other, neither of them had noticed Maxwell Miller II
standing just below where they were sitting at the player’s end of the
bleachers, eavesdropping on their conversation.
With a firm but painful grip,
Daddy Miller pulled - practically dragged - Emily Miller down off the
“You’re coming with me, you little
slut,” he growled.
Brigitta Krause continued grinding
her opponent down, to win the third.
Tyler Wolf was vegging in bed, the
remains of his room service breakfast littered all over the luxurious
egyptian cotton sheets.
With some CNN sob story about loss
of natural habitat’s in various parts of the world, droning on on the
TV in the background, he was considering his situation.
Yes, it was freaking unbelievable
that he was in the final of this the most prestigious tournament in the
World, but it was also freaking precarious.
Now the Russian’s wanted him to
win so that they could make their money with him as the underdog. Two
days ago it had been exactly the opposite. What a crazy stupid world he
was mixed up in. How in hell was he going to get Andres Lopez to throw
the final - if he indeed got there? He seemed to have him reeling with
the Emily Miller deal but fucking Maxwell Miller had screwed that up by
catching Emily admitting it last night. Mouthy little bitch!
The CNN commentator exhorted
listeners to pay attention, “ In this part of the country so much game
has died off even the Maribou Storks can’t get enough to survive
Tyler’s idle gaze settled on
Buckler’s computer in the closet.
Suddenly he shot up in bed!
“Fuck me - Stork!” He said aloud.
He ran over to the closet and
picked up the laptop. Quickly he found Buckler’s piece about
Florencia - or Florencio as Buckler claimed the real name was. There
were some good photo’s of the player. Then he found Buckler’s work on
all the scandals that Andres Lopez had been involved in. More photos.
Quickly he maneuvered a picture of Florencia and Andres together. The
similarities were clear - unmistakable.
But Tyler wasn’t done.
Unhesitatingly he pulled up a browser and got onto Google. He punched
in “Los Dos Federicos.”
Immediately several pages of
results came up. Even though he could manage in Spanish,Tyler went to
the first one he saw English.
“Knew it!” he breathed excitedly.
He read the beginning of the article:
“Once again, “ it proclaimed, “
the South American scene has been dominated by Los Dos Federicos -
Usandizaga and Lopez. Although Usandizaga is well known on the World
Tour, having reached as high as 15 on the PSA ranking list, it is the
lesser known Lopez popularly known as ‘the Stork’ after his tall and
rangy features and his long classical nose, that has taken more of the
Latin American victories than anyone this year.”
The article was dated February
Tyler continued his search. He
looked for results and photos. The Belo Horizonte Open in 1997, a
combined PSA and WISPA ( as the WSA was then called) event.
A classic photo of the PSA winner
with his trophy and check. Federico Lopez, the typical ‘Stork’ pose
that he was known for. Who was in the background? Ah - yes! There she
was - a very young and distinctly underage Erika Hoskins! The apple
doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“I wonder if Andres realizes that
he has a sister on the Women’s tour?” Tyler thought to himself. Then he
burst out laughing, “ I wonder if he knows he has a brother on the
He slammed his hand on the bed,
scattering the remains of his half eaten breakfast all over the bed and
collapsing back against the headboard giggling uncontrollably.
A sudden and sharp rap on the door
“Fuck!” he thought, “ Who the hell
Quickly he jammed the laptop under
the bed, stuck a pair of shorts on and went to the door.
Irina Hleb was awakened by a
bucket of freezing cold water thrown over her naked, bruised and abused
She could feel a sharp stabbing
pain in her head and gradually became conscious of voices and flashing
She heard the echo of a
heavy metallic door being slammed shut.
With enormous effort she opened
As she gradually gained focus she
saw she was on a damp concrete floor in a room with no windows. Somehow
there were video pictures of her in a folding chair - confronted by a
man who was asking her questions.
Unbelievably she was answering
each question truthfully.
The man was tall - about two
metres - had wiry blonde hair and was built like a boxer. As the camera
panned round she saw that he had the most piercing blue eyes.
Recognition flooded her body.
Dimitri Molotov. One of the Kremlin’s most decorated and notorious
She prayed for a work camp in
That would be a blessing compared
to some of the other choices that she had heard about.
At the boardroom table in the
luxurious offices of Sombrasoft at the top of the Copa Trade tower were
seated some of the most influential people in the Squash world.
Mr Fino carefully searched the
faces of each of the individual participants.
All were nodding in tacit
“Renato, please read through the
agreement once again so that everyone can be sure.”
“ With pleasure, Senhor, “ agreed
Bulsara, clearing his throat and assuming a dramatic pose to mark what
was without doubt one of the most historic moments in the history of
the International Squash business and in addition not an unimportant
moment in the world of business itself.
Bulsara drew himself up to his
full medium height and began:
“ Your Royal Highness,” inclining
his head with full deference in the direction of Prince Hamza Al Omani,
“Senhor and Senhora Mallinson,” Anne flashed her stunning slightly
crooked smile and Fritz looked both proud and happy. Last Renato turned
with enormous respect to his employer, “ Senhor Fino,” the great man
nodded his head to both acknowledge and encourage his trusted assistant.
"This morning I will read the
principle statements of the agreement. The logistical and contractual
details will of course be fully examined in fine by your respective
lawyers, before final completion of this agreement."
All parties in the room whispered
their acknowledgement of this and Bulsara commenced the main agreement.
" The following agreement refers
to the sales, research and development, application and licensing of
the patented technology known as Viper Technology."
Fritz and Anne exchanged a glowing
look of pride.
Renato went on:
" Item 1. Determined. Sombrasoft,
a privately owned corporation located and registered in Brazil, will
become the sole agent for Viper Technology worldwide. All new
agreements or changes to existing agreements will be approved by
Frederick and Anne Mallinson, the inventors.
Item 2. Determined. All Media
coverage of sporting and/or new as yet undiscovered applications of the
technology will be primarily owned by the Al Jazeera networks
worldwide. No coverage will proceed without the express agreement of
Frederick and Anne Mallinson or of Hector Allessandro Rojas Peron
Lopez, known professionally as Senhor Fino," at this an almost
imperceptible color crept into Mr Fino's complexion - and then was
gone, " the chief executive officer of Sombrasoft."
As Bulsara paused to take a
breath, Prince Omani delicately held his open hand to his heart and
bowed regally to both the Mallinson's and to Mr Fino,
" A wonderful day for Squash, for
Al Jazeera and for my family. We have long esteemed your vision Mr and
Mrs Mallinson and of course the excellence of your business empire Mr
Fino - or should I say Lopez?"
All turned towards the big man.
"Let us complete the reading of
the agreement - and then my friends, in the interests of both full
disclosure and of an open and honest working relationship, I have
arranged a meeting in my private office with Philip Sanderson and
another gentleman who may or may not be known to you. Renato please
" Item 3. Determined. Prince Hamza
Al Omani, Frederick and Anne Mallinson and Hector, er, Senhor
Fino will underwrite research and development and operations for World
Squash for a period of not less than five years at a rate of $15
million per annum." Renato removed his reading glasses and looked up,
" Your Royal Highness, Mr and Mrs
Mallinson, Senhor Fino, this completes the reading of the agreement.
The full document will now be properly audited and sent to your
respective lawyers for final inspection, signing and execution."
"Wonderful! Congratulations Fritz
and Anne and to you also your Highness." Fino stood and encompassed
Fritz and Anne's shoulders like a father with two little children.
" And to you Senhor.” returned Al
Omani,” Without your muscle it would have taken much longer and been
far more complicated to pass on the benefit of Viper to the world. And
underwriting Squash is a stroke of genius. Players and Spectators alike
will benefit from Viper and by supporting the sport we will ensure the
long term security of Squash."
" And make a pretty penny into the
bargain!" quipped Fino. He turned to his trusty aid, " Renato, please
have the champagne brought into my office...." he paused thoughtfully,
" if that is acceptable your Highness?"
The Prince bowed again, " I shall
not partake, but please do not hesitate on my behalf. Although I do
thank you for your courtesy."
"Then," the big man said not
without drama, " let us go into my private office and to the meeting of
which I have spoken."
He moved to the almost invisible
door that joined his beautifully appointed boardroom to his even more
spectacular private office - and opened it.
Inside there were two men
taking in the incredible panorama. As the door opened the two men
turned away from the windows to face them.
One of them was Philip Sanderson -
otherwise known as Zeus. The other man was also an older man. He was
tall and had a slight stoop. His face was extremely handsome.
"Even with that nose," thought
Anne immediately to herself. " It gives him the look of some regal
bird. A Crane perhaps or yes, that's it - a Stork!"
The group moved as one toward the
open door, as their host invited them to enter.
“ Peron,” remarked Prince Al
Omani, “now that is truly a name to conjure with.”
“Indeed,” noted Fritz and then
continued as if thinking aloud, “Peron-Lopez....I wonder.”
The chief executive of Sombrasoft
politely waited until the others had entered and then, before following
them in, momentarily took stock.
Hector Allessandro Rojas Peron
Lopez was a very private man, but even private men sometimes have to
share their secrets when the futures of people they love are at stake.
Casting aside all doubts, he drew
himself up to his full, impressive stature and, closing the door behind
himself, joined the others.
“My friends,” he said, “ if I may
presume upon our relationship and use that word - you all of course
already know the Director of World Squash, Mr Philip Sanderson. Allow
me in addition to introduce you to the finest Squash player I ever
known and a man for whom destiny has not woven the easiest path,”
As he said these words, with great
tenderness, he put his arm around the man that had reminded Ann of a
stork. He continued:
“May I present my beloved brother,
Federico Carlos Rojas Peron Lopez. I will allow him to tell you his
own, shall we say, difficult story.”
And for the first time in many
years, one of Los Dos Federicos, the man they called the Stork,
described the events that had led to the end of a wonderful career,
estrangement from a powerful family and a young son, and to a
clandestine life that included a secret daughter.....
Tyler opened the door and tried to
look as though he was irritated at being disturbed from his rest -which
he was, but not for reasons that he wanted anyone to suspect.
However the act didn’t hold up for
very long when he saw Naldo McDiarmid standing there.
“Hello Tyler.” the Special Agent
said - his voice deadpan.
“ Hello Agent McDiarmid. What can
I do for you?”
“ I think we had better close the
door before we discuss that. May I come in?”
Tyler would like to have said ‘No’
but he knew that wasn’t going to happen, so he just said, “Sure,” and
made a space for the policeman to pass through.
“What’s this about?” Tyler said.
“It’s about Buckler’s computer.
You were supposed to give it to me weren’t you.” McDiarmid said with an
“What computer?” said Tyler said,
trying to sound genuinely ignorant.
McDiarmid eyed Tyler Wolf.
“Jesus Christus!” he thought
to himself, “these stupid people just don’t know when to help
“You really want to try this
Tyler?” Naldo asked the young man in front of him that he knew to be
lying. “You really want to try and lie to an international police
agent, who knows more than anyone about you and what illicit activities
you have been up to - and who has just turned Ms Shelley Anderson from
Russian gang accomplice to Russian gang informant and gave her three
days in hell working for me after having told me everything she knows
and everything that is on that laptop just to save her skin? Really?”
Tyler looked unsure. He was just
weighing up how much McDiarmid actually knew when the agent reached
into an inside pocket and pulled out a snapshot.
Naldo McDiarmid handed it to Wolf.
Tyler looked at the photo. Naomi’s
eyes stared pleadingly at him. Naomi’s eyes in the face of a beautiful
little boy. Jeremy.
Tyler’s eyes welled up.
Silently he got up, walked around
the bed, reached under it, pulled out the laptop and handed it to
“Thank you.” said the Special
Agent. “Now sit down and listen. I have a lot to tell you and you need
to really pay attention. Otherwise I am going to have to do some things
that I don’t like doing but that I am very capable of doing.”
Tyler wiped his eyes. A shot of
adrenalin burst through his body. This was shit-street. He didn’t want
any more trouble.
“First. The Russian Mafia are
gone. You won’t be getting any more phone calls. You needn’t thank me,
although it was me that leveraged the opportunity through Shelley and
her stupidity. No, actually I was about to execute a plan to shut down
the Russian mobsters when I got a high clearance phone call from my
government. I was told in no uncertain terms to work closely with a
Russian Cultural attache by the name of Dimitri Molotov. Which I did. I
have no idea what happened to the animals that were threatening you and
Squash as a whole, but I received a clear message from Comrade Molotov
that the threat had been removed - entirely and permanently - along
with his thanks and a quick dosvidaniya and one further urgent request.
And when I say request it wasn’t the sort of request you would ever
want to deny, considering the source.”
Tyler was so invested in what the
Special agent was saying that he didn’t realize he had stopped
breathing. Suddenly he became aware of the tightness in his chest and
“ What request?” he rasped as he
struggled for breath.
“That would be the request for
Buckler’s laptop to be handed in quietly and immediately at the Russian
consulate here in Rio.” said Naldo in a very clipped monotone.
“Why on earth...” spluttered Tyler.
“Why precisely I couldn’t tell
you,” McDiarmid began and continued his comments with a heavy dose of
irony, “ But consider this: When you were ‘arrested’ when your bag was
‘returned’ after being lost, who was it that showed up at your door
with the so-called ‘policemen?”
“Buckler.” said Tyler - the light
beginning to dawn.
“And when we discovered that, you,
Rhodanie Maison and Shelley Anderson were involved with Russian
mafia, who do you think turned out to be Rhodanie and Shelley’s
“Buckler?” Tyler ventured.
“Correct. And who spent almost all
of the decade of the 1990’s living in Moscow?”
“Buckler.” said Tyler, without
requiring further confirmation.
“Now I can’t tell you what the
Kremlin want with that laptop, but take it from me that the woman Irina
Hleb and the assassinatos bandidos that she brought with her, likely
shared those details with the ‘Russian attache for Cultural affairs,’
before they finished their ‘little conversar’ with him. Probably Mother
Russia’s finest geeks will pull it apart and find what they are looking
“However, “ McDiarmid continued,
“what will not be seeing the light of day are certain sensational
stories that Buckler in his other life and favorite muck-spreading
hobby was hoping to see published.”
“ Let’s you and me make sure we
understand each other before I leave this room Tyler, because if you
give me reason to come back and find you, it will not be an experience
you enjoy - compreendido?”
Tyler nodded that he understood
“Good. The here we go. Florencia
Perez was born Florencio Hector Rojas Peron Lopez. When Florencio was
born there was great confusion. To begin with the child was born a
Hermaphrodite - you are familiar with the term?” Tyler blinked to
confirm that he was, “ in addition Florencio was born out of wedlock as
a result on an affair between the then stellar Argentinian Squash star
and member of one of the foremost families in South America, Federico
Carlos Rojas Peron Lopez and a very young American girl - one Erika
Hoskins. The older members of the Peron Lopez family rejected
everything - the baby, Federico, Erika - and rallied around Federico’s
jilted wife and son - a little boy named Andres Carlos Rojas Peron
Lopez - better known to you as just Andres Lopez, placing them in a
beautiful mansion in Bogata. Meanwhile Federico did his best to put
Erika’s life on track and took the baby to Carthagena, also
coincidentally in Colombia. Little Florencio grew up with every
advantage that his father could give him, while keeping him as secret
as possible. Concerned that Squash would bring them both into the
public eye, Federico, with help from his elder brother Hector, set
about raising Florencio as a tennis player. Florencio showed tremendous
ability from an early age. However all was not well with the child. He
loved to dance - the sensuous dances of South America - and always as
the senhorita not the senhor, he preferred dolls to soldiers and
dresses to pants.”
Naldo adjusted his position on the
chair he was sitting on to get more comfortable.
“Of course having been born a
Hermaphrodite, there was always a reason to question the boy’s gender.
But let’s just say that it seemed more obvious that he was a boy at the
start. However after the other issues emerged and with the vast
improvements in medical science, again with his brother’s help,
Federico decided to have Florencio gender tested.”
“When the results came back it was
clear that Florencio had never been anything else than Florencia and
that what had seemed to clearly make her a male was an enigma - an
aberration. A small medical procedure ensued and Florencia’s life
became happier. Of course by this time - even though she was only four
- she had developed her barefoot and double handed tennis. But
eventually Federico couldn’t resist putting his beloved daughter on the
same track as he had originally started his first child - that of
Squash. She was a natural and of course picked it up, but as success
beckoned so did fame and so with Florencia at the age of only
five-and-a-half, Federico dropped out of her life, frightened that his
association with her would damn her.”
He paused again.
“ That was some fifteen years ago
and since then Florencia had not seen her father. That is until two
nights ago, when in a club not far from here, they danced. She still
doesn’t know him it seems - although she may have sensed his
Tyler looked dubious. It was a
“ If you don’t believe it, check
with the IOC gender lab. But don’t check under Florencia Perez. Check
under Florencia Peron Lopez. With her father’s family in open denial -
it was just simpler to combine the two names into a single less
“That was Buckler’s biggest piece
apart from you and Naomi and little Jeremy. And of course there were
the gay stories about Emily Miller and Julia Brown and John Allenby and
his bisexual habits. But while Buckler might have got some mileage out
of that for his own satisfaction, it wouldn’t really damage Squash’s
image now. The IOC and World Squash aren’t in the least homophobic and
trying to sell those stories would have been like - well, like killing
a beast that had already died.”
Tyler saw McDiarmid’s point. No
reason to scare off Lopez now.
“Last thing I want to say to you
Tyler,” Naldo resumed, “ You have done some stupid things and become
involved with dangerous people. Some of it was greed and some of it was
sloppiness - yes?” Wolf nodded his head in resignation. McDiarmid
continued, “ But somehow you have survived. You have a beautiful little
son - who - judging from your tears - you clearly love and miss. You
are in the final of the greatest Squash tournament of the modern era,
on the edge of maybe playing in the Olympic games and beyond that with
Squash in the Olympics - who knows what opportunities lie ahead for a
student of Squash who has a reputation for beating his opponents not by
mere skill but by clever strategy.”
“ I guess that it is all true.”
said Tyler, “ but how can I go on from here - with everything that has
“ I tell you how. DON’T FUCK IT
UP! That’s how. I happen to know that Philip Sanderson is involved in a
meeting that is going to secure a very bright future for Squash and
anyone who is not ‘persona non grata’” The Special Agent said
“If you follow the instructions I
have given you, I promise no-one will hear of your illegal behaviors
from me. The Kremlin doesn’t care and frankly Squash needs you. You’re
“So do you give me your word that
you will simply stick to Squash from now on? No dope. No match fixing.
“ Yes.” Tyler punched out the word
definitively. “ I’m done with all that.”
“Good.” said McDiarmid, “and if
you take my advice you will tell the world about Naomi and Jeremy and
give that little boy a Papa to look up to and love.”
“ On that note I will leave,” said
McDiarmid gathering up the laptop marked Smashingballs.com.
“If you ever have to see me again
professionally you will wish you had never been born - yes?”
“Compreendido, Senhor!” said Tyler
- with gusto.
“Excellent. Oh you may as well
have this,” McDiarmid said and handed him a small folder of photos.
They were all of Jeremy. “ I won’t be needing them any more will I?”
“No.” said Tyler attempting to
speak firmly, but he was betrayed by a single tear that escaped the
corner of his eye.
Dimitri Molotov sat in the comfort
of the small private office that was situated behind the cockpit of a
giant Aeroflot transport plane as it made its way, ‘the long way home’
over the Northern Pacific.
He had almost completed his report
on his Brazilian mission.
A uniformed Aeroflot officer,
“ We have reduced altitude to five
thousand meters as you requested, Polkovnik Molotov.” the officer said,
looking above Molotov’s head into the middle distance.
“Thank you.” Dimitri said grimly,
getting up from the relative comfort of the passenger cabin and making
his way to the hold.
There he was met by a combat
dressed member of the Russian Spetznaz unit.
The man saluted with mechanical
“Let me see them.” said Molotov.
The man pulled a large rough sewn
blanket from over a nondescript mass that it was hiding.
Below were five naked bodies lying
on their backs. One was a large fat man, two more were the usual
Russian version of ‘wise guys,’ one was a distinctly non-Russian
looking Brazilian and finally there was the slim, dark haired woman,
covered in scores of tatoos, her skin no longer taut, her body no
longer hard. Just a sallow grey husk.
Each body had an industrially
precise incision made through the gut, so that a small amount of fluid
from the body cavity had seeped externally.
Dimitri looked at them. “Good.” he
thought, “ enough to attract the sharks - no chance of remains.”
He felt no remorse. No pity.
Mother Russia was trying to move
forward into the 21st century and this filth just took her backwards.
again at the Spetznaz soldier. “Do it.” he ordered.
explosively and then, he pushed the cart upon which the five bodies lay
toward the gradually opening rear door of the cargo plane.
pulled a lever and the
five bodies were unceremoniously jettisoned toward an anonymous stretch
of the Pacific some sixteen thousand feet below.
As the giant
door closed behind him, Dimitri returned to the comfort of his cabin
and the closure of his report.
Chapter TWENTY-ONE by Peter Heywood
remembered that night. Clearly.
It had been three
days before the start of the finals.
glanced at his watch. It was almost two fifteen in the morning. Out in
street, he could still hear the music of
the milonga drifting down from the
windows of the salon. The traffic on Rua
do Catete had died down by then but
there were still people about, in
groups, in couples, walking the warm Rio sidewalks, waiting for taxis,
to the next drink, to the next dance. Heading home.
He had walked
a few yards from the entrance porch of the building and fished his cellular
from the inside pocket of his dark grey tailored suit. Pushed a few
said a man’s voice, a sleepy voice, a big voice. ‘Do you know what time
‘I’m sorry, Hector,’
he had answered. ‘I had to call. I just danced with my daughter. So did
your tango, Federico. Does he know who she is?’
‘I don’t know.
No. Not from the way they were dancing.’
been a pause, the sound of a light switch.
‘I think she
may suspect,’ he had said, then hesitated. ‘I tried to warn her not to
tonight, Hector, to stop her being picked on by those jackals.’
He had felt
himself getting angry. Then he had taken a deep breath, inhaling the
catching the melody of a tango vals
drifting down from above.
what to expect, Federico. You knew this could happen eventually.
Hector. They’re both so young, so passionate.’
He had heard
a chuckle and felt annoyance. Had taken another deep breath.
never going to be a good time to tell them about each other, Federico.
Then he had
been the one to chuckle. A brief smile had flickered across his lips.
‘And then I
suppose there’s the small matter of their mothers,’ his brother had
He had grunted.
‘Now you’re just being cruel, Hector.’
A throaty laugh
‘What do you
expect at this hour? Never mind. I will see you tomorrow…or later
is. Buenas noches, hermano mio.’
The line had
gone dead. He had lowered his cellulare
from his ear and turned to walk to the kerb and hail a taxi.
His son, the
Colombian boy, had been standing in front of him, hands in the trouser
of his cream linen suit, long brown hair moving gently in the night
he had said calmly, unsmiling,
fixing him with his dark eyes.
‘I think we
need to talk.’
It was the
morning of the finals.
Bulsara pushed open the door of the Café
Leblon on Rua Dias Ferreira and
removed his sunglasses. Today would be a busy day, a very busy day. But
not so busy that he could not find the time to enjoy a morning coffee
at his favourite table.
He saw that
it was free, as it always seemed to be when he visited his favourite
behind the Copa Trade Tower. Senhor
Ventura’s admirable establishment might not be the trendiest or
quietest in the area, but he felt comfortable here. It was a
traditional place occupying
the ground floor of what had previously been a bank. A place where he
meet people without feeling conspicuous
past the mahogany counter, greeting Senhor
Ventura who was, as usual, involved in the unceasing process of
his work-force in a state of mild concern. The elderly proprietor
temporarily in his labours to smile and nod in return.
his table, he ordered a cafezinho and
scanned the interior of the café. Business was brisk, the high ceiling
chequered floor tiles of the former banking hall echoing with the
crockery and the babble of conversation. The waiting staff
floor heading to and from tables, taking orders, carrying trays.
arrived, delivered by a young waitress wearing a black uniform with a
white cap and pinafore. He smiled, thanked her and, as she walked away,
the cup and saucer from the table. Raising the cup to his lips, he took
breath, inhaling the aroma drifting up towards his nostrils.
He took a
sip and began to return the cup to its saucer, savouring the taste
his tongue. As he replaced the cup, he looked up and across the floor
Seated at a
table at the other side of the room were a man and woman whose faces
familiar to him. The man was in his mid-30s,clean-shaven with a rugged
faceframed with short fair hair. He
wore an open-necked shirt under a navy linen jacket. The woman, was
perhaps, with a diamond chin and short blonde bangs.
watched, the man handed what looked like a photograph to the woman. He
to it and began talking. The woman looked at the photograph, then at
companion. Suddenly, the man paused, placing his right hand over his
the other resting on the table. Without hesitation, the woman reached
and took his left hand in hers.
something leap in his chest, an excitement that he could not name. He
finished his cafezinho, paidSenhor
Ventura and left the building.
table in theCafé Leblon, Tyler Wolf and Erika Hoskin
were still deep in
It was the
afternoon of the finals.
In the Copa favela,
the man and the boy sat talking
in the shade on plastic seats. They gazed out onto a cleared area, here
heart of the shanty. An area covered in deep golden sand. Children ran
in ragged clothes, ignoring the heat of the sun.They played queimada,
chasing and tagging each
other, the ‘living people’ and the ‘dead ones.’
smiled as he watched them. Shouting, running free, running barefoot
sand, free of rubbish, free of the waste of the favela,
free of the broken glass.
remembered the time when he was a child. Clearly.
was something different in the favela now.
In the centre of the makeshift beach stood an open-roofed structure
walls and a single door. From within it, he could hear the sound of a
thumping against its walls as its occupants played a different barefoot
Miguel,’ he said. ‘How would you like to like to show me how your
The boy sat
up in his chair, looked at him and smiled, eyes twinkling from a face
colour of cafezinho. He stood up and
grabbed the racket propped against his chair.
‘I’ll go and
get them off court, Senhor Renato,’
he yelled, already halfway to the building.
Bulsara smiled and watched the boy hammer on the court door with his
handle. Some things never changed.
Miguel Paixao was showing promise, just like his three brothers, one of
had made it to the preliminary round of the Rio Squash Festival.
said to himself, and
He picked up
his racket and followed the boy across the beach towards the court.
It was the
evening of the finals.
The last two
matches of the tournament had sold out months before John Allenby’s
begun to surface. Now, as he waited to step onto the glass court, he
the intrigue and crises of the last week were not about to repeat
At least not until the night’s events were successfully, and safely,
If it was
possible, the samba dancers, the music and the laser show leading up to
had eclipsed the spectacle of the
opening night. The atmosphere was still electric as the spectators
noisily into their expensive seats. The sun was setting behind the
leaving behind its warmth as the start of the Women’s Final drew near.
scanned the crowd, looking for familiar faces. He found plenty of them.
President and his wife, The Mayor of Rio and his, Prince Hamza Al Omani
entourage,Philip Sanderson, Fritz and Anne Mallinson, Hector Lopez. He
to believe that everything would be…
‘Senhors and Senhoras!’
boomed the PA,
jarring him out of his reverie. ‘Please welcome the organiser of the
Beach Squash Classic and your host for the final competitive matches of
tournament, Senhor John Allenby!’
He picked up
the microphone and began to walk towards the glass court.
It was less
than ten minutes to the start of the women’s final.
Perez waited behind curtains woven with the yellow, green and blue of
national flag. Her ravenesque black hair was tied back in a ponytail.
wearing a light blue headband to match her dress, and white sneakers.
grasped her racket and bounced up and down on the spot just vacated by
opponent and Number 1 seed, Brigitta Krause.
‘Senhors and Senhoras!’
echoed around the stands. ‘Please welcome to the main court…Florencia
parted, the crowd applauded. She had friends here. There was even an
Argentinian flag waving in the stand opposite, the Sol de
Mayo gazing down at her from the light blue and white tri-band.
She entered the court and shook Allenby’s hand, then her opponent’s,
begin the warm-up.
closed the door behind him and walked away from the glass court.
It was less
than two minutes to the start of the women’s final.
Perez sat in her chair outside the court and scanned the crowd, looking
familiar faces. She saw Erika, sitting a few yards away in the front
the back wall. She saw Tyler Wolf, wearing his familiar green and gold
tracksuit, sitting beside her.
She sensed their
gaze before she met it, before she found where they were sitting.
up, behind the back wall of the glass court. Their eyes filled with
The boy from
Bogota who had danced with her three nights ago. Sitting to his right,
they called Mr. Fino. And, to his left, the tall man with the long nose
sent her the elegant gold watch which now adorned her left wrist.
She smiled, picked
up her racket and began to walk towards the glass court.
It was less
than an hour to the start of the men’s final.
Bulsara was reaching the end of a busy day. A very busy day.
his way slowly through the crowds milling around the arrivals hall at
International Airport. At times like these he envied the natural
footwork and movement
of…who? Samba dancers? Squash players? He began to feel uncertain and,
mildly concerned. Like…like…Senhor
Ventura! He chuckled to himself. A good sign.
the arrivals board. The flight he was to meet had landed. The
now in baggage reclaim. Quickly, he summoned a porter and engaged his
He glanced at his watch. It was eight forty-five.
He found a
convenient spot from which to catch the eye of his employer’s guests
prepared to hold up the cardboard sign which his secretary had prepared
him. He looked again at the single surname it displayed.
the flight’s passengers began to emerge from the customs channel,
friends, relatives, hosts. He held up his sign, anxious that it should
be in plain
Then he saw
them, both smiling broadly, both seeing his sign, both waving. He
and waved, picking his way towards them, summoning the porter to follow
seemed like an age, they met.
I presume!’ said the
woman, laughing. ‘I am so pleased to meet you!’ She grabbed his hand,
it warmly, thanking him for his welcome to Rio. He joined her laughter,
into her eyes. Twinkling eyes, beaming from a face with high
cheekbones. A face
the colour of darkest ebony.
still smiling, towards her young companion.
forward and held out his hand to the child.
must be Jeremy,’ he said.
By Alan Thatcher
The Secretary of State left the
court dripping in sweat. He held his Harrow racquet in his left hand
his right arm around the shoulder of his opponent.
“We ought to call you the
Squash,” said his vanquished playing partner.
It was an old joke, repeated many
after a result like this one.
Both men smiled. At 63 years old
no longer able to cover the court like they used to in their prime, but
lifelong passion for the game could not be quelled by the march of
The two old friends played squash
at school and both had built private courts in the mansions they had
twenty miles apart in North Virginia.
This time, on a Sunday morning,
it was the
Secretary’s turn to host their regular round-robin prior to lunch for
And it was the Secretary who
voice to pronounce: “That’s 12-6 to me this year.
“A bottle of champagne and the
in Washington for the series winner at Christmas. I can almost taste it
Their four extra guests smiled as
Murray absorbed the familiar banter, slapped the Secretary on the back,
his brow with his towel and slumped into a chair in the spacious lounge
In a dazzling act of
Secretary had replaced the original timber building, housing a 70-year
court, with a modern glass-backed version. Built into a sloping paddock
the vast, eight-bedroomed house, the lounge opened out on to a patio
views over a countryside panorama that told many tales of American
His opponent, familiar with the
etiquette despite his friend’s high office, grabbed a can of beer from
fridge next to the leather armchairs and raised it in the direction of
younger players who had also completed their on-court work-out.
Bob Murray had chosen the Navy
politics, leaving his brother Will to run the family construction firm.
They always joked that every time
his colleagues blew up some building, Will could step in and put up a
American foreign policy had
similar taunts throughout recent ill-fated forays into Iraq and
The four younger squash players
in both pointless missions but were not at liberty to question their
As the first mouthful of cool
the back of his throat, Murray turned to his young friends.
“Great game, guys,” he said.
“I was watching you before you
way to the old boys, although our 25-minute slog was nothing like the
you guys can show.”
The discreet security shield
outside the entrance to the squash lounge as the Secretary followed his
in flicking open a refreshing can of ale.
They hardly needed any kind of
four top Navy Seals their guests for the morning.
Murray took another long slurp
from the can
“Gentlemen, the Secretary and I
surprise treat in store for you guys.
“As the four best players ever to
from the Navy squash team, you are to be flown down to Rio later today
the final of the most spectacular squash tournament ever held.
“The glass court is set up on
Beach and you have VIP tickets to the final, plus a hotel suite across
in Rio’s best hotel.”
Before the young men could
added: “We have also laid on a shark-fishing trip in the afternoon,
with a few
special guests we’d like you to look after.”
The four guests all murmured a
in unison, their faces lit up by broad smiles that concealed an inner
understanding that they might have to get their hands dirty before
hospitality on offer in Rio.
The Secretary chipped in. “Boys,
this is a
thank you from the two of us. Bob here has kept his eyes on you ever
entered the Academy squash team as totally raw rookies.
“In fact, Bob’s very proud of the
you guys have been the outstanding guinea pigs of his little squash
The two men chuckled.
Murray nodded and took up the
“I was looking for a new kind of
recruitment policy to help me fast-track the guys who do the jobs you
He looked into the faces of all
All were respectfully staying silent and hanging on his every word.
“It suddenly struck me that
squash was the
ideal way to find the guys who really stood out from the rest of the
“Forget all the training manuals
military academy bullshit.
“Squash is a game of survival.
inside that concrete box…”
“Or glass,” said the Secretary,
to remind his friend of their state-of-the-art surroundings.
Murray laughed and said: “OK. You
After the polite laughter had
“Yes, every time you step inside
it’s all about survival. One of you will win and one of you will lose.
“What we were looking for were
the guys who
were the quick learners.
“It was a given that you all had
fitness, strength, speed, stamina and mobility.
“But the things we were really
were the special qualities like awareness , intelligence, cunning, and
“The ability to make instant
of course, excellent shot selection. (This last remark brought a
from the four Seals).
“In short, gentlemen, we wanted
to find the
guys who did the job quietly, efficiently and ruthlessly.
“No histrionics. No tantrums.
screamed, or moaned, or whinged, let alone broke a racket, was off the
out the door faster than you could say John McEnroe or Jonathan Power.
“You four came through with
“And that’s why you four have
dream job in Rio.”
John Allenby had spent several
weeks in Brazil,
setting up the tournament and making sure that the biggest event in the
of squash would prove the IOC right in admitting the sport to the Games
programme in 2020.
If all went well, squash was on
of being invited to take part four years earlier if the landscaping of
Olympic golf course failed to be completed on time.
Allenby was surrounded by TV
much of the week, but he was so busy that he paid little attention to
outside of his immediate concern.
He had seen the headlines about
demonstrations in Brazil as large parts of the population complained
combined costs of staging the World Cup and the Olympics.
Embittered crowds wanted the same
money spent on schools and hospitals, alleviating poverty and clearing
cities of crime.
had seen pictures of the crowds filling the Rio Blanco Avenue but his
filled with the minute detail of several squash projects. In no
order of priority, these were the finals of the Rio Beach Classic, the
return of Shelley Anderson and some major business contracts that
needed to be
signed within the next 48 hours.
He trusted the Army and police
continue to keep the venue secure so that he could concentrate on
After the Seals had showered,
left the Secretary of State’s private squash pavilion, Bob Murray
much of the hidden detail for his friend as they prepared to join their
families for lunch in the main house.
“We’ll have to keep Homeland
informed at some stage, but it’s a lot easier and cleaner to avoid any
mess landing up on our shores,” he said.
“The President has already
the phrase ‘War on Drugs’ because it’s a war we’ve been losing ever
came up with the idea.
“There are 20,000 missing
Mexico, most of them victims of the drug gangs or innocent kids
work in drugs, prostitution and a myriad of other things you don’t see
gangs obviously have connections in Colombia and Brazil, and we know
major meeting is being set up in Rio while the security forces are
about patrolling the streets and stopping the demonstrations turning
“Added to that, our Russian
friends want to
get in on the act and sell guns to the bad guys. At the same time,
arming the Taliban, the Syrian Army and anyone else who prefers a hole
ground to one of these lovely Chesterfields.
“Added to that little lot, one of
operatives is in a slightly difficult position and we need to her to
comfortable in time for the squash final.”
The Secretary zipped up his
on his deck shoes and nodded to his friend.
“Just do what you’ve got to do,
Police struggled to contain the
crowds who flocked to Rio to demonstrate.
A protest against a few cents
to the cost of bus fares had grown into a nationwide storm of fury.
After a rally had attracted
to the Maracana Stadium, with the same number locked outside, the mood
from a fun day out to anger at the authorities.
The speakers at the Maracana had
the crowd. Now they were marching on the City Hall, where riot police
erected barricades and were armed with tear gas, water cannon and live
Looting of shop windows had
as the Brazilian population launched their own version of the Arab
The Seals had touched down at the
Dumont airport in Rio and quickly made contact with a support team
best to look inconspicuous on a private yacht in the nearby marina.
A Russian private jet had been
across the Atlantic and a tail had been placed on the two cars that had
collected the VIP cargo.
The convoy headed back to the
the Russian guest was to meet up with business contacts from Mexico,
Marina de Gloria was full of
yachts. The one being watched by the Navy had a helipad and a team of
who were obviously armed.
Inside, eight men sat around the
Dimitri Molotov was pointing an
finger at a lone woman.
“Miss Anderson, we want to trust
are working for us. We love the fact that you have a wonderful cover as
the World Squash Tour. We love that you have so many useful contacts in
and all over the world.
“But, the big question is, can we
“Our friends here, from South
perhaps help me to find out those answers.”
The Mexicans and Colombians
The Mexican leader stepped
her. She almost wretched as his breath, laden with chilli and garlic,
“We have a business, Miss
is growing into an international corporation.
“Of course, nobody likes to see
suffer, but in the end we aim to be stronger than the governments who
“When we take power, we will make
better for everyone. As long as everyone understands how the new
“You may call us ignorant
criminals. I am sure
you do. You call us drug gangs, but what you don’t realise is that we
up in these villages, these towns, these cities.
“Our families are all here. We
want to make
“We don’t need our friends from
telling us how we should behave.”
The four squash-playing Seals
sized up the
situation when they were confident everyone they needed to tackle was
Eavesdropping on the Russian
heard the first slap, the heard the first tear of fabric. They heard
the first female
Dressed just like any other
millionaire, they slowly manoeuvred their own craft from its mooring.
Setting a path towards the open
suddenly changed direction.
As they headed straight for the
had been tracking, the guards began shouting in Russian, ordering them
The Seals merely accelerated. As
sounded from the moored craft, the yacht borrowed by the Navy slammed
The mainly VIP crowd for the
clapped enthusiastically in all the right places as Florencia Perez
against Brigitta Krause.
As the match see-sawed one way
other, promoter John Allenby summoned his event staff to the side of
bleachers to make sure everything was ready for the presentation
after the fifth game.
The trophies glistened under the
lighting, two beautiful bouquets were ready for the players, plus one
sponsor’s wife, and the sponsors’ backboard smelt of fresh ink.
The final was a dramatic contrast
between the shot-making ability of Perez and the physicality of Krause.
The athletic-looking Krause won
and third games, but the enormous physical investment left her slightly
as Perez won the second and fourth with her intelligent ball placement
ruthless accuracy at the front of the court.
Krause started the fifth game
driving powerful shots to the back of the court, but Perez was playing
of her life.
At seven-all, Perez played a
shot with a lot of slice. She did not want to hit the tin and aimed a
higher than usual. She was more intent on making sure the ball glued
the left-hand wall. In cutting the ball from underneath, she kept the
follow-through of her racquet fairly flat.
Krause initially set off for the
corner of the court, but had to adjust her stride as she realised the
travelling much deeper into the court.
As she checked her stride and
to her left, Perez’s racquet struck her in the face.
It was not an excessive swing,
collision was entirely accidental, but Krause refused to see it that
She dropped her own racquet on
and squealed in mock pain.
Holding her face, she ran
straight to Perez
and screamed in her face.
“You fucking bitch! You did that
As the referee prepared to speak,
apologised for the incident, Krause lost the plot completely.
Repeating her earlier expletive,
Perez into the side wall.
Under her breath this time,
ears of the officials, she hissed: “Do that again and I’ll fucking kill
The centre referee attempted to
Ignoring the decision of the two
officials, who had each signalled a “let” the referee announced:
stroke against Perez. Dangerous play.”
This time Perez screamed out loud.
“What? You can’t be serious? The
an accident but didn’t you see her push me? Didn’t you hear her swear
The referee refused to budge.
“Video review, please,” said
The crowd couldn’t wait to see
of this explosive confrontation.
They cheered when they saw the
Krause in the face, then booed loudly when she pushed her opponent.
The incident was replayed from a
positions, and each time it looked worse. Each time the crowd reaction
louder as they waited for the decision to flash up on the giant screens.
There was only one problem.The TV graphics team had set up artwork for
three decisions, let, stroke or no let.
No-one had thought to provide a
the decision arrived at by the referee handling the video review.
So the official, who was sitting
outside broadcast truck behind the bleachers, hurriedly wrote his
decision on a
scrap of paper and rushed into the arena.
On it he had written: “Conduct
gross misconduct and audible obscenity. Match awarded to Perez.”
The video official had to push
his way through
the jeering crowd to reach the centre referee.
When he read the words, written
capital letters, he froze.
“I am not reading that out,” he
“You’ve got it completely wrong.”
“No,” said the video review
“Give me the bloody microphone
and I’ll do
it before you get lynched.”
The centre referee, still
handed over the microphone and sat down.
When the video official made his
announcement, the crowd went wild.
Krause stormed off court, grabbed
and rushed out of the marquee.
But, as she set foot on the
walkway on the beach, she was stopped by a soldier armed with a machine
“Sorry madam, you will have to go
“No-one is allowed on the beach.”
The collision sent most of the
guards flying into the harbour as machine-gun fire sprayed harmlessly
The Seals quickly jumped across
damaged vessel and threw smoke bombs and stun grenades inside every
night-vision goggles, they quickly entered the yacht’s boardroom and
six of the nine inhabitants.
When the carnage was concluded,
and two males were left standing.
“Miss Anderson, you are to come
said the leader of the squash-playing Seals.
Shelley was transferred to a
speedboat and taken to the shore.
The two Russians, Dimitri Molotov
chief henchman, were transferred to another craft that quickly headed
They were tied back to back,
the elbows, knees and ankles.
Their surprise turned to anger,
They soon realised that swearing
nowhere. Nor did threats. Nor did the pathetic pleas uttered during
journey towards the deep ocean.
The Seals maintained the calm
that had so impressed their superior officers earlier in their careers
pulled the engines and threw bait over the side of the boat.
Only one broke his silence to
say: “Mr Molotov,
you have upset some very important people in our country. Maybe if you
more squash in Russia you might learn some decent manners.”
A large rubber ring was forced
Russians’ legs and moved up their bodies until it rested under their
with their arms hanging over the top.
Without a flicker of emotion, the
rolled the two men into the fish blood on the deck until they were
that their Armani trousers had soaked up enough fluid to attract a
shark or two.
The safety ring was attached to a
the two men were bundled overboard.
Screaming and pleading, with just
head and shoulders above the waves, it took just a few minutes before
predators arrived on the scene.
One of the commandoes shouted to
particular: “It’s the sharks’ lucky day. Bite one, get one free.”
The rest of the team laughed as
fins circled the two Russians.
They screamed in unison as the
chomped off four legs in one mouthful.
The two torsos toppled headlong
water as more sharks arrived to finish the meal in a frenzy.
Watching the grisly denouement of
task, the Seals pulled in the rubber ring and headed back to the marina.
As she stepped ashore, Shelley
passed a cell phone by one of the Seals.
“Glad we got you out of there,”
male voice on the other end. “It was looking close there for a minute.”
“Yes sir,” she said. “It was.”
“Well, you know that we always
our own. “
CIA double agent Shelley Anderson
escorted to her hotel room, where she changed into an evening dress.
Within a few minutes she was
four healthy and handsome young men, wearing chinos, blazers and
across the Avenida Atlantica to the squash arena.
The Brazilian armed forces had
barriers across the road but a whispered word of caution from one of
guard of honour resulted in instant access.
“Glad you could make it,” said
The guards on the beach were not
acquiescent with Brigitta Krause.
As the crowds spilled from the
Stadium and found their path to City Hall blocked by police and the
demonstration leaders told their followers to split up into smaller
meet up again on the beach.
Plain-clothed police officers who
infiltrated the marches quickly texted ahead to warn their colleagues
some company on the beach.
As the women’s final ended in
controversy, John Allenby had to think on his feet.
He announced to the crowd that
final would follow immediately and that a joint presentation would take
at the end of the evening.
“This is for the benefit of our
television audience all over the world.”
Tyler Wolf was ready. So was
As Allenby announced the players
the marquee was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of Brazilian police and
The VIPs inside were enjoying the
champagne and oblivious to the storm brewing in the city.
As the two men’s finalists began
knock-up, John Allenby found Shelley Anderson and her guests.
He whispered to Shelley: “I had
some hasty changes to the seating plan when a special call came through
today for extra seats in your name.”
He gave her a playful tap on the
“But who are these guys? Are they
dates for this evening? No wonder you missed the pre-final briefing.”
Shelley smiled, looked sideways
and replied in a whisper: “I’ll tell you over breakfast – if I make it
Allenby added: “By the way,
Shelley replied: “Let’s just say
friends here persuaded him that his presence was no longer needed here
The squash audience may have been
dark about the impending arrivals on the beach, but the local TV crew
had good contacts.
Suddenly three roving cameras and
operators headed for the exit.
Shelley Anderson and her four
seated in the front row. All wore discreet earpieces. They were not
tuned in to
the squash commentary.
Tyler Wolf and Andres Lopez
warmed up the white
Dunlop ball during the knock-up, then left the court to take off their
tracksuit tops. They went through a similar process with the ball after
had returned to the court.
Lopez nodded to the referee and
towards his opponent, indicating that Wolf had won the spin of the
determine who would serve first.
A typically cautious start
resulted in long
rallies up and down the backhand wall as each player worked his way
After six rallies, nine minutes,
lets, it was two-all.
It was clearly going to be a long
“Front Wall, come in please.”
The voice in Shelley Anderson’s
requested confirmation that his message had been received and
“Loud and clear,” came the
the noise of the ball, accompanied by the shouts of the crowd, and a
breeze causing occasional ripples in the marquee roof, Shelley could
almost normal volume without being overheard by neighbouring spectators.
She turned to her four guests and
“I’m not sure if we’ll be able to watch the whole match. Let’s hope
starts to hit a few nicks.”
Tyler Wolf was not wired up the
network, although the communications team involved had certainly been
in to several of his calls in his recent weeks.
One of the Seals leant across and
“I think there’s some telepathy going on here, unless Shelley has
guy into being a squash robot.”
Wolf hit three stunning winners
succession to lead 6-3.
He was past that vital
barrier of being beyond halfway towards the 11 points needed to win the
Now it was time to step up a
mistakes, pile on the pressure and finish this first part of the
Lopez made him work for it. He
would, but Wolf took the first game 11-8, weathering a fierce storm of
resistance as Lopez won three points in a row after being game ball
Squash, just like military
similar responses when survival was being threatened.
That Navy chief knew what he was
The four Navy Seals had declined
of the champagne on offer throughout the evening.
One turned to the other and said:
“Gentlemen, it’s turning into Omaha Beach outside. They’re holding the
about a mile away from here on both sides, but there are lots of side
where people can squeeze through.
“Let’s hope we get to see the
whole of the
Perez sipped his water as he
his coach between games.
Club players would be amazed if
how simple the instructions were to help the world’s leading players
focus and play sensible squash.
“Don’t take too many risks. Work
longer. Work him harder. He’s older than you. Keep the rallies going.
tight, then attack anything loose.”
That was all it took to rouse
for the second game.
The Argentine shot-maker suddenly
slow-balling, lifting his drives higher to get the ball to the back of
court with minimum physical effort.
Tyler Wolf loved to smack the
the court. But most of all he loved to feed off other peoples’ pace.
Lopez suddenly stopped giving him
With a slower ball, Wolf’s timing
as tight as it had been earlier. His swing was fractionally off-beat.
Lopez stepped in and chopped up
loose. Soon it was one game all. Lopez looked delighted. Wolf was
Like most Aussies, he liked a
Lopez was giving him nothing to hit.
The third game followed in the
pattern, and Tyler Wolf was suddenly two-one down and struggling to
find a way
back into the match.
As the Argentine coaching team
towards their man’s corner, a cameraman pushed past them as he headed
The tripod struck one of the
coaches on the
head and although he began shouting at the cameramen, he had no time to
the conversation apart from a quick shrug and a “Sorry, so sorry” as he
Only a handful of spectators had
an incident that was over in seconds, but the coach was upset.
Instead of paying attention to
he rubbed his head and began mouthing threats about complaining to the
Tour, the promoter and the TV company.
Lopez was distracted as he
returned to the
Instead of playing the same
disciplined squash that had offered up so many opportunities to finish
with extravagant winners, he lost control.
He lost his length, and the
turned as Wolf took advantage of shots that landed in mid-court.
He was given a succession of
simple drops as his opponent’s poor control often left him trapped,
out of position, as he surrendered the front half of the court.
The Brazilian President was
seated in a
special box with a group of local dignitaries, including the Mayor of
several Olympic officials.
Prince Hamza Al Omani and his
plus a number of other squash guests, sat in the neighbouring box.
The security staff attending the
were under strict orders that nothing was to interrupt an event that
broadcast live around the world, portraying Brazil as the ideal
Back in Virginia, the Secretary
was on the phone to his Navy friend Bob Murray.
“Sounds like your squash boys did
job and rescued the missing package.”
“Yes sir. They did. I just wish
take the rest of the day off and enjoy the finals, but I don’t think
Lopez was furious. Not only with
for the way he had allowed that fourth game to slip out of his control,
also with his coach, for the nonsense that had ruined his concentration
“I don’t care if somebody hits
you over the
head with a fucking hammer, you don’t ruin my game like that. Just fuck
leave me alone. I’ll sort this out on m y own.”
Lopez’s coach opened his mouth to
but no sound emerged as the player gestured towards him with a menacing
Tyler Wolf watched the episode
wiped the moisture off his racquet grip before returning to court
He wanted to grab the
ascendancy. Get back on court. Grab the ball. Own the court. Don’t let
The crowd’s roar as the players
court for the fifth and final game muffled a sharp noise in the
Party-loving Brazilians are used
sound of fireworks, but this sounded different.
The security staff hovering
around the VIP
boxes immediately sprang into action.
Outside, the Brazilian army
guards and police
were joined by several Navy launches in a holding position offshore.
They were ready to protect all
that dotted the Rio shoreline and also accost anyone who might fancy
the scene of a crime via the Atlantic Ocean.
Their senses had been aroused by
of the American mission in the marina earlier the same day.
Everyone in Brazil loves soccer.
spirit permeates every level of society.
But many of the locals in Rio
were complaining about the costs involved of building new stadiums when
millions were living in poverty.
In a monumental act of irony,
lost on most
of the demonstrators, a large percentage of them were wearing the
and green Brazilian soccer uniform as they took to the streets.
streets were already a battleground.
The Chinese guests of the World
funded by two rival court-building companies, were enjoying their
at the Rio final.
They had seen the plans of the
squash centre, and had instantly sent copies back home for Chinese
come up with their own plans for new clubs and courts, possibly with
gymnasiums, badminton and tennis facilities attached.
They had enjoyed the
presentations from the
European and US court builders, but knew that their own technologies
low-budget construction companies would soon be fighting over the same
The US deputation, however, had
benefit that was rarely available to squash clients: namely, the
sharing of military information.
Tyler Wolf sized up the situation
He knew that something had upset
Upset his concentration and made him angry. Not many players can
into a winning position.
Anger results in rushed shots and
a lack of
control. All the things that Lopez was displaying.
But Tyler was smart enough to
things can change in an instant.
He had to watch out for a
backlash. A do-or-die battle for the one hundred thousand dollar first
The demonstrators smashed more
as they headed towards the beach.
Bars and cafes were left alone.
It was the
banks they were after are. And anything that looked like a municipal
Banging drums, and with whistles
making them sound just like the soccer crowds they were supposed to be
protesting against, the human wave headed for the beach.
The President was informed of a
stand-off on the beach, but refused to budge from her seat.
Following her lead, other
to stay put until after the presentation ceremony.
Shelley Anderson was deep in
with her four guests.
They forget their earlier talk
tactics on show in the finals and concentrated on providing a safe
to the hotel when the presentations had finished. They wondered about
the planned firework display to go ahead.
John Allenby entered the outside
truck and grabbed the TV producer by the collar.
“Where the fuck are your camera
There’s no-one around to get on court and film the presentations.”
The producer squirmed. “Look, if
you let go
of my throat I might be able to tell you.
“Around half a million
heading for the beach right now. They probably don’t know the squash is
place. But, when they do, and they find out that the President is here,
Mayor of Rio, they might like to join in the fun.
“So, we need to be able to see
taking place outside. At the moment we hear that the police and the
everything under control and that everyone is safe, so we just need to
final finished and get the fuck out of here. Shame we’ve got to hang
the speeches and the presentations.”
Allenby relaxed his grip and
headed back to
the marquee to find Shelley Anderson
Tyler Wolf was three-love up in
game when he felt the first onset of cramp in his right calf.
One desperate lunge into the
corner had hurt. Now he felt a little tentative every time he got near
part of the court.
Within seconds, it seemed as is
information had been absorbed by his opponent by some magical kind of
chopped in drops and boasts, shots that rebounded off the side walls
dragged his opponent around the front of the court in a manner that
diminishing quality of movement.
As Lopez drew level at four-all,
spectators ran down a gangway in the middle of a rally and began
security staff at the exit.
The referee asked the audience to
while play was in progress, oblivious to the fact that the spectators
been gun-carrying presidential bodyguards.
Six-all. Seven-all.Someone had to break soon. As the crowd noise
grew, the players struggled to hear the referee announce the score.
Only the extra volume was not
within the marquee. It was outside.
The demonstrators had managed to
police cordon back to within 200 yards of the squash venue. Behind the
the Army was ready to open fire, with rubber bullets and live
they felt the President was in danger.
The chanting grew louder as the
Wolf looked across at his
“They’re not mates of yours,
Lopez smiled. Then, just as his
prepared to receive serve, he said: “Just fuck off.”
The timing was perfect. It was
to put him off.
“Fault,” came the cry from the
Lopez was leading 8-7.
Shelley Anderson had to maintain
neutrality that befitted her position as head of the World Tour, but
inside she was willing her compatriot to turn things round.
High up in the bleachers, a small
Argentine squash fans tried to squeeze past their neighbouring
get close to the gangway in the hope of rushing toward the glass court
on their hero.
Lopez hit two nicks in quick
move to match ball, but Wolf desperately pulled it back to make it
time. Only they didn’t say tiebreak any more, simply “Player to win by
The players were startled by the
noise of a
helicopter overhead as it drowned out the crowd noise.
“Play on please,” said the
The interference had an instant
the match. When Wolf served to his opponent’s forehand, Lopez volleyed
crosscourt nick winner as the big Aussie’s brain struggled to cope with
noise and the occasion, let alone the sublime racquet skills of his
It was 11-10 to Lopez. Match ball
furious rally ensued, registered at 68 shots by the TV shot-counter,
Wolf drew level.
Both players leant on their
racquets as the
helicopter droned overhead.
Lopez was gone. Physically and
Despite possessing so much talent, so much skill, he was unable to
this pressure-cooker atmosphere and the final two points went to the
after two short rallies.
As John Allenby welcomed the VIP
to the glass court for the presentation ceremony, the noise grew louder
Half a million Brazilians had
chosen to air
their grievances during a rally that coincided with the squash final.
Hardly any knew the event was
However, as soon as they learned
President herself was in the marquee, plus the mayor of Rio and many
dignitaries, the mood changed.
The massive crowd surged forward
on to the
The police held their fire and
backwards until a ten-deep cordon surrounded the squash marquee.
As the presentation ceremony
court, a snarling Brigitta Krause managed to coax her face into a smile
lined up alongside champion Florencia Perez.
As Andres Lopez collected his
trophy, and Tyler Wolf tried to remember all the people he should thank
receiving his Rio champion’s trophy, a shot rang out. It was outside
But it was so loud that everyone
As Wolf ended his winner’s speech
prematurely, a teenage boy entered the glass court.
“You want an autograph? Sure, no
The young man looked at Tyler
“Yes, sorry to spring it on you
“Bloody hell. You mean…?”
Tears fell from Wolf’s eyes. And
As the two hugged, and the
the noise from overhead intensified.
More than one helicopter was in
The president cut short her
Shelley Anderson gently grabbed her wrist and motioned to her, and her
bodyguards, to stay close to the four men who had sat next to her
As the Seals powered their way
crowds, to set up a safe route to the nearest hotel to the squash
arena, the number of marchers quickly swelled on the
Chanting, waving flags, blowing
and singing, they suddenly clashed with the
police and soldiers guarding the squash venue.
A stray bottle was all it took to
riot that followed.
The government warned the
military that TV
cameras were both inside and outside the marquee, and that it would not
good ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics if Brazilian law
officers were to be filmed shooting their own civilians.
As the soldiers and police
retreated, their numbers were simply overwhelmed by the surging force
Thousands of demonstrators ringed
marquee, intent on causing mayhem.
As the TV cameras whirred in the
helicopters above, the police and army made sure that all players,
and especially their VIP guests, had safely left the venue.
first petrol bomb set fire to the marquee as demonstrators chanted
Once the fabric of the building
disappeared, the glass court was exposed to a hail of stones, bottles
other missiles the rioters could lay their hands on.
Simultaneously, almost every TV
channel in the world received the same live feed from the Reuters
filming from a helicopter above the court.
are now going live to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where police and the
forces have foiled an attempt by demonstrators to assassinate the
was attending the final of the Rio Beach Classic squash tournament when
million rioters took over Copacabana Beach. As riot police fired tear
crowd estimated to be more than half a million strong surrounded a huge
marqueehousing an all-glass squash
court where play was taking place.
she made a speech to the crowd after the finals, rioters threw petrol
which set fire to the marquee.
forces whisked the president to safety, and she joined spectators in a
hotel is ringed by armed soldiers, and we understand the president and
VIP guests are all safe inside.
casualties were reported among the fleeing spectators, although a
number of arrests
were made as riot police and soldiers fought with demonstrators.
number of those arrested have been taken to hospital, although the
throughout the city are still blocked with thousands of protestors.
rioters had made their way to the seafront area following a mass
in the famous Maracana Stadium, which will host the World Cup football
later this year.
had been complaining of the costs of staging the World Cup and the 2016
Olympics in a nation riddled with crime and poverty, set against a
of alleged government corruption.
will bring you more on that story through the night.”
bulletins showed dramatic images of a sea of humanity washing over the
with the glass court a dazzling white cube in the middle of the mayhem.
Shelley Anderson was the first
breakfast, much to the surprise of John Allenby.
They had both spent the last
the finals night looking out from the hotel rooftop watching the
the glass court.
Amazingly, there were no major
Actually, there were some bodies
marina that had required some immediate removal, plus two more that
being digested by the sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.
Shelley had thought about
partner to her room to explain the events that had taken place during
previous days, weeks and months as she and her CIA colleagues had set
traps around the world to ensnare a group of individuals who were
being particularly hostile to American interests.
She and her bosses knew that the
would soon be filled by new gangs, with new leaders, but for now they
chipping away, one by one.
This had been a complicated
multiple operating theatres that had placed her in enormous danger.
She shut down those thoughts of
night with Allenby, and headed to her own bedroom.
In the morning, Allenby’s email
full of media reports from all round the world, many showing pictures
the whole of the front page with an enormous army of protestors
glowing glass court.
“No such thing as bad publicity,”
Shelley nodded. Her four
skipped breakfast and headed back up the eastern seaboard as soon as
sure everything was safe in Rio.
They had removed some of the
criminal elements in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, not to mention a
their “most wanted” list. Shelley wondered just how long she could keep
secret from her co-promoter and the rest of the worldwide squash
they looked forward to taking golf’s place in the 2016 Olympic Games.
Allenby and his friend Will
Murray had an
appointment in the hotel boardroom where they were poised to sign a
with their visitors to build 200 squash courts in major Chinese cities.
The delegation boasted of low
costs in China and did not envisage any problems with rioters
smash the courts.
Upstairs, Tyler Wolf had
on room service as his son, wrapped up in a tournament polo shirt, held
silver trophy and stared into the reflection.
About The Authors
is a lifelong sports journalist. He started writing for his local paper
at the age of 14 and has worked in national newspapers for the past 30
years. Having fallen in love with squash in his 20s, he has promoted a
number of major tournaments including the British Open, Liverpool Open
and Kent Open. He is also co-promoter of the Canary Wharf Classic and
MC and Media Director for the North American Open. A regular
commentator for Sky TV down the years, he is a joint founder of World
Squash Day and is President of the Kent SRA.
MICK JOINT was born in
Melbourne, Australia, 41 years ago and began playing squash at age
five. He trained at the Australian Institute of Sport with greats Geoff
Hunt and Heather McKay.
Mick coached in Argentina, Germany, Australia and Canada before
settling into his current position in 2004 as Head Pro at the Detroit
Athletic Club in Michigan.
Mick is married with one daughter and authors the entertaining blog,
The Squash Joint.
JAMES ZUG is the author of
six books including Squash: A History of the Game (Scribner, 2003) and
Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear (Penguin, 2010) which came
out in paperback a few months ago. A senior writer at Squash Magazine
since 1998, he writes regularly for Squash Player magazine in London,
and has a blog on the game: SquashWord.com and a Twitter feed:
@squashword. He is the chair of the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame &
JAMIE CROMBIE is a retired
professional squash player. He captured 19 PSA tour titles and achieved
a career-high world ranking of #32. More recently, Jamie reached the
semifinals of the Canadian National Men's Open at the age of 45. He has
been a lead actor in Cromski videos and is the owner of 03 Sports.
GEORGETTA MORQUE is the
director of media relations for the Pro Squash Tour. Born and raised in
New York City, she acquired the passion for squash through the legacy
of her late father, Joe Lordi, a national squash tennis champion and
two-term president of the New York Athletic Club where the squash
courts are dedicated to his memory. A longtime public relations
professional, she has also contributed to a variety of publications,
such as Hearst’s HealthyLife, the Rye Record and others.
Georgetta is the founder of the squash program at the Rye school
district in New York’s Westchester County and was instrumental in
creating the Fairwest league for public schools. She is the mother of
three athletes, including a son who plays on the squash team at
Franklin & Marshall College.
JOHN NIMICK is an American
squash player and promoter best known for his presentation annually of
the Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal in New York
City. The Philadelphia native reached a ranking of no. 2 on the
World Professional Squash Association hard ball tour and represented
the United States twice in the World Team Championships. After
serving six years as the Chief Executive of the Professional Squash
Association, he launched Event Engine in 2000, a sports and
entertainment marketing company which continues to promote squash
through professional tournaments, special events and, now, action
novels. John lives in Boston with wife Kate and son Tyler, a
college junior, and enjoys his hip replacement and BlackBerry.
WILL GENS writes the blog
He is passionate about poetry and squash. He is pursuing a graduate
degree in Poetry at Adelphi University, writes about squash, coaches
squash and when not on the court is working on Wall Street in software
He lives with his wife, Shyamala, and his son, Kyle, a
semi-professional squash pro and classics student at Hunter college. He
also has a daughter, Alexandra, living in Florida and planning to
attend medical school.
He would someday in this lifetime love to see both a U.S. born player
reach the top 10 on the world squash tour and witness the total
elimination of petroleum driven cars.
FRAMBOISE GOMMENDY In
another life, Framboise is an actress (www.framboisegommendy.com), and
still makes a living out of her initial job, well, sometimes. In
November 2004, she created SquashSite with Steve Cubbins.
Her writing, which could be described as “different”, and the
layout/style she imagined for SquashSite, along with Legend Cubbins'
amazing webmastering talent, have made SquashSite much more than just
an information site….
If you are looking for nice, traditional sports reporting, you are on
the wrong page. Loose canon, volatile, flamboyant, original? Look no
PIERRE BASTIEN writes the squash equipment blog
SquashSource.com.He's been playing squash since he was a teenager. He
played on the varsity teams at Exeter and Princeton, and now hacks his
way around the squash leagues in Philadelphia, where he lives with his
wife and two children. During the day, he designs software for Wall
RICHARD MILLMANis passionate about helping people to
develop their personal assets.
himself very fortunate to have been introduced to Squash as a school
time he has endeavored to help himself and the folks that he has been
associated with to develop through training, playing and thinking about
our wonderful sport.
A former world
tour professional, he has filled just about every role in Squash
from Pro team member to US National team coach, to Head
Coach at Cornell,to club owner, to record holding Norfolk County
Champion, to uniquely holding the National 50+ masters titles of
Gt Britain, the USA and Canada.
The Author of
two books and an educational poster series about Squash ( Angles - from
Lulu Press and jointly with Georgetta Morque - Raising Big Smiling
Squash Kids - from Mansion Grove House publishing and Progressive
Squash from Sports Posters International) he has for many years
been ‘the lesson court ‘ columnist for Squash Magazine.
He lives with
his wife Pat in Charleston South Carolina, USA
PETER HEYWOOD is a
scientist, a writer and a leadership coach. He discovered squash when
he moved to the South-East of England to take up his first ‘proper’ job
as a research scientist at a top secret nuclear facility with four
courts and a subsidised bar. His career has included spells (as in
‘periods’ not ‘Harry Potter’) in forensic science, pharmaceutical
R&D and management consultancy. He recovered from a heart attack to
resume playing the game he loves and train as a squash coach. He’s
currently writing The Squash Life Book for squash leaders and
entrepreneurs. He lives in London within ten minutes walk of his squash
club. "BREAKING GLASS" is a work of
Names, characters, places and
incidents are either products of the authors' imaginations or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons,
living or dead, or to any other works of fiction, is entirely