Complete Match

The Black Knight Squash Fiction League Match #2

The Handouts versus The Tin Ringers

The Complete Novel

Chapter 1

"You've been coming in now, what, like two years?" Hank said. "It gets to where it's an insult, to be honest."

Jerry, red in the face, turned from the T and took off his protective goggles. "Come again?"

"You can't hit three balls in a row down the wall," Hank said. "Why do I even take your money? At least a hundred times, I've told you to lead with the butt of the goddamn racquet."

"Well I apologize then," Jerry said. "I didn't realize my performance meant that much to you. The lessons, I enjoy them, they take the edge off my day is all."

Hank felt stupid. "I'm sorry man, it's not you."

Jerry said, "You done for the night? After me?"

"Nah, I got a seven and an eight. Unfortunately."

"Will a drink get in the way?"

"Fine," Hank said.

The table in the club lounge overlooked East 86th Street. People were pouring up out of the subway and bracing themselves against the February cold snap.

"My favorite window on the world," Hank said. "See that newsstand? You'd see Mick Jagger there sometimes trying to quick-browse the magazines until the guy said something, just like everyone else. He was a member here back then."

"Jeez, really?" Jerry said.

"Lot of history in this place," Hank said. "Someone could write a book. There's things would have to be left out of course."

"There always are. But like what?"

"Like the guy once who showed up from the airport and got a teaching job on the spot, because of the New Zealand accent. He couldn't hit the ball much better than you, but that didn't matter. Guy's name was Pike. He eventually worked his way through the 10 am round robin, woman by woman."

"You're kidding . . .  What happened to him?"

"Ah, they threw him out. Not before a husband confronted him one day on Court 3. He's resurfaced a couple times at different clubs. Just like I'll be having to do."

"Wait a minute, what?" Jerry said.

"You didn't hear they sold the place?" Hank said. "Big corporate transaction, got a mention in the Times."

"Wow, no. They gonna run it the same then, or what?"

"When I started here we had fifteen courts. We're down to six, on account of first the Nautilus craze and then the yoga and other insanity taking over. Still, the six we have, they're like gold . . . Answer your question, no, fuckers are bulldozing it."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Jerry said.

Hank finished his drink. "No you're not," he said. "You're in real estate. You'd do the same thing."

"You're right, I probably would. But as an outsider this feels wrong on so many levels. They've closed on it?"

"It's in escrow. May is when we're supposed to be cleared out. Year, year and a half, you'll have a sparkling condominium tower gracing the sidewalk."

The Tuesday evening business league matches were winding down, and players were filtering into the lounge. Some of them were out of shape, but everyone seemed upbeat. Hank noticed Yvette talking to a young guy at the bar. He'd given her a couple of lessons and was impressed with her focus, the way she looked him in the eye and listened and then ran her ass off. He wondered a few times what might be underneath the surface.

Jerry said, "What happened when the husband confronted that guy Pike?"

"It was interesting," Hank said. "The husband was a big bodybuilder type guy. I was doing some sprints on Court 7 and heard this commotion, the guy shouting. Then it was over."

"The guy clocked Pike?"

"No, Pike clocked the guy. Out cold. EMS, the works. Wiry little dude, but he had a fury to him."

"Dang. And that was it then for the wife, no more round robins?"

"No, she was back the next morning. In fact she's still a member, you see her around."


Hank said, "I gotta go. Next lesson's on me. I was out of line saying you can't even hit the ball down the forehand wall. Even though it's true."

"Forget that, I deserved it . . . Listen, why don't you think about coming to work for me?"

"You mean your office, on Lex?"

"Yeah, there, out on the island, a little Westchester, whatever."

"Jeez, even thinking about shifting gears like that after all this time . . . but what would I be doing?"

"You know, property management type stuff. More or less. There are some unique incentives. You can start part-time, see how it goes."

Hank realized he didn't know much about Jerry, despite sitting in his box at a Jets game and attending a Labor Day party at his spread in the Hamptons. He did know the guy grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Brighton Beach with the train rumbling past and rattling the windows every few minutes, and that he had a degree from City College.

"I appreciate it," Hank said. "For the moment, I'm going to stay put and help this place die peacefully."

"You know what?" Jerry said. "Let me take a look at that. Maybe there's a way to screw 'em up somehow, file some shit, who knows?"

"Jerry, these are corporations, they know what they're doing."

"Like I said," Jerry said.

Hank lived in a five-story walk-up on Third Avenue and 25th Street. On brisk nights he liked to walk home - it was a little over three miles but it went by quickly, and his mind loosened up.

He'd fallen in love with the sport as a teenager twenty-two years ago in Gainesville, Florida, when he heard an unusual sound coming from an outdoor cement court at Chapman's Park and went to investigate.

Now he was thinking it would be good to have a farewell reunion, people who passed through the club over the years. There were so many though - how would you set something like that up?

At 75th Street three women were getting into a cab in front of a bar called McKeown's. One of them looked like Kate. Hank was tired and half a block away and it couldn't be, but it sure looked like Kate.

Chapter 2

Tired Eyes
by Steve Hufford

When the cab went past, Hank succumbed, staring hard into the cab’s interior although he had faint hope of clearly seeing anyone.  All three women seemed young, with long brunette hair and overcoats up to the neck.  And so, once again, it either could be Kate or it couldn’t be.  Just like last week, when he thought he saw her getting into a train from the opposite subway platform.  But then it wasn’t her; the face among the standing commuters too angular, the forehead too high, and a slouch from some burden he prayed his daughter didn’t carry.

These sightings, or mis-sightings, or near sightings, always happened to him when he was most tired.  He would catch a glimpse, or hear a song, or smell a smell, or see a book, or remember some fine time from her childhood.  Sometimes just the color or drape of a young woman’s clothing could evoke her presence.  And so, the beer with Jerry hadn’t been a great idea.  It had made the first of the day’s last two lessons a bit more jocular, but then left him tired.  Jerry’s kind offer of employment aside, he now had an incipient dehydration-induced headache, fifty more blocks to walk in the cold, and an inability to avoid his ongoing obsession.  His daughter Kate, estranged for over a year now.

Hank had been so surprised at her hostile departure and continued non-communication.  Against his better judgment, almost every day and every night, his mind played and replayed scenes from her childhood and his parenting, always seeking the cause of her decision to cut him off from her life.  Constantly wondering how to broach the gap, solve the puzzle, cross the divide, and re-establish communication and relationship, Hank was shaken.  His lessons at the club suffered from his distraction and lack of focus.  It was as if he were bereaved, the pain rising and falling like a tide, but completely unpredictable.  And yet his grief was for a living child.  Or so he hoped.  A lot could happen in a year, especially to a young woman out on her own.

He blamed himself for separating from her mother during Kate’s teenage years.  That could probably screw anyone up.  But he had always tried to be there for her, from school to sports to summer vacations, and had done his best as a father.  He loved her deeply; he’d been so proud to be her father.  And now she might even be in the Big Apple, hidden in the city’s anonymity.  She had friends from school, she was extremely capable, and her mom was fairly close by.  He wondered whether Kate was still in touch with Margaret, or whether she had excommunicated them both.  At least there was a way to find that out, since he and Margaret remained in touch, having accepted their mutual unsuitability for each other.

Forty-five more blocks in the February night brought him no closer to understanding his daughter, and no nearer to hope.  The warmth of his apartment was his only, lonely, solace.

Bright sunlight awakened him well past daybreak.  Overnight, his despair had weakened to some type of resignation at his beloved daughter’s volitive absence from his life.  With coffee and breakfast, he felt renewed interest in the idea of creating the club’s farewell reunion.  Pike was clearly a good starting point.  That could connect him to most of the club’s female membership, at least for the five years prior.  But how to reach the notables like Jagger, and all the crowd from the early years?  And would the current members enjoy meeting and mixing with the old-timers?  Maybe Yvette could answer that, or help out.  Hank was sure the old-timers would enjoy meeting her, and fairly certain she could hold her own.

The miracle of caffeine helped him recall that the Master’s squash tournament was coming up, right in town though not at his club.  Since some of those former members had been serious competitors, he might be able to track down a few by checking the draws for the older age brackets.  He looked forward to the prospect, and even considered entering the 40+ division.  Playing the tournament would give him plenty of opportunity to talk with everyone, maybe sound out some new job opportunities for when the club closed.  It was a small world, and worth keeping up his contacts.

Anyway, it would be fun to catch up with those guys.  Some were absolutely nuts.  Some were mostly sane.  And the better ones were always unique.  They would find ways to compete even when their legs, knees, hips, backs, and shoulders were shot.  He grinned as he remembered the first time he heard the saying, “Old squash players never die; they just drop in the forecourt.”  It would be great to see their guile.

Meanwhile, Jerry, demonstrating a guile he would never be able to show on court, but one that characterized his ascendance from Brighton Beach to the Hamptons via City College, had already found out several things about the club’s pending sale and demolition.  First, there were contingencies on the sale, dependent on the outcome of some zoning board hearings.  Second, the demolition itself would require union contracts and approval, along with extensive environmental controls and monitoring due to concerns with asbestos tile and insulation.  Third, although the picture in the Times announcing the corporate transaction didn’t list any names, it did show a shot of the corporate officers looking quite pleased.  The one in the center filled most of the frame.  He looked huge, even in a well-tailored suit.  A definite body-builder type.

By noon, Jerry had the zoning board’s hearing schedule, the list of all approved asbestos remediation contractors operating in NYC, last year’s selling prices for all comparable properties within a ten block radius, and the big guy’s name.

Chapter 3

Unless Wealth Do Us Part
by David Smith

Margaret was not atypical of the residents of Long Island.   She had worked years to perfect that unfounded sense of entitlement which proliferates in the bedroom communities east of Manhattan.  While attractive, most of her appeal was minimized by her attitude and that insipid, whiney voice.  Rarely did her presence shine light into the world; most often she sucked the air out of the room.  

She pulled her GMC Denali up to Starbucks and parked in the fire lane.   On entering the store, she let out a loud sigh when she saw two other people in line in front of her.   “You need more help here,” she snapped at the 19-year-old college student before she placed her order.  

“Yeah, whatever,” the $8.00-an-hour barista said, summarily dismissing Margaret by matching her bad attitude. 

In fairness, Margaret’s mood had been darkened by the phone message she had received the night before from her ex-husband.   However, her distemper generally needed no provocation.  It was, in fact, part of the reason Hank left her to begin with, though her proclivity to “bond” with the other males around the club could have been a factor as well.   The divorce papers were not too specific.  

Margaret knew that she should call Hank back, but she really did not want to get into the whole mess about Kate.     Kate had given her enough grief the last time they had talked and it had not ended well.    Margaret was not going to take direction on her life from a 23 year-old, even if she was probably right.  

Kate’s anger over her parents’ divorce had simmered for years.   Once she had finished college, her sudden independence had given birth to a profound disdain for her parents.  Margaret knew she would mellow in time, but in fact, she really wasn’t too bothered about it.   Perhaps if she spent any time in self-reflection she might have realized the pain that her selfishness had caused her daughter.   Not to mention her ex-husband.  

Margaret may have thought she loved Hank at one time.   Truth was that she only loved money and herself.   And money was probably at the top of that particular list.   God knows she had sold her soul, and her family, in the chase for it. 

Margaret spied a cop eyeing her car as she came out of Starbucks.   He appeared to be weighing a ticket for the illegally parked Denali when he saw Margaret, her 4” heels and short skirt, head to the car.   He hesitated as Margaret climbed up into the monster SUV, gifting the cop with a long slow look.   The cop smiled, nodded, and wished her a good day.  Margaret drove off without comment to her appointment. 

She hadn’t driven far when her phone rang.   Hank.   “Damn it,” she swore to herself.    Resigned to this inevitable call, she answered.  

“What is it, Hank?”  

“Nice greeting.   Have you heard from Kate, lately?”

“No.  Not since she moved out months ago.   She doesn’t call and I don’t know how to reach her. Why?  Don’t you know where she is?”

“No, I haven’t heard from her either, and I have no freaking idea what I did to piss her off.  I could understand her cutting you off, but I didn’t do anything to hurt her.  

“Shut up!   This call is over if you start dumping that crap on me.  You are as much to blame as I am.    If you had a real job and had taken care of us better….oh, enough.  Is that all you wanted?”

As Hank started to respond to the insult, Margaret ended the call without a word, and focused on getting into her happy-happy mood for her 12:00 “client.”    The guy was paying a lot of money and he wouldn’t want to deal with her problems.    Her job was to focus totally on him for the day.  Not the greatest life, but it beat the hell out of running around a squash court with some sweaty 70 year old guy.   At least her hourly rate was a lot higher.    

“Do you even care about…”  Hank was interrupted by the sudden change in ambient noise indicating that his ex-wife had hung up.    “Well, that went well,” he mumbled to himself. 

Hank was not completely shocked that Kate had not been in contact with his ex-wife, but he still found that fact disconcerting.   He became more determined to find his daughter and make sure she was OK.   Margaret might be able to abandon her child, but he would not.

Hank began the morning trek from his apartment back to the club.  He had some extra time before his first lesson so he detoured to Eataly and grabbed a cappuccino and a croissant from the coffee bar in the giant food emporium.   The smells, the sounds and the bustle of the morning shoppers served to wake up his senses as much the caffeine did.   

As Hank continued his stroll toward the Upper East Side his mind worked through his options for finding his daughter.   He had previously tried to find her several times without success, and had now reached the point of seeking professional help.   He closed in on several options before he arrived at the club about 30 minutes before his lesson.   He headed straight for the restaurant on the upper level which overlooked the “show” courts.

He first sighted Yvette sitting with a couple of other members watching two of the club’s better players going at it on Court 2.   He headed in her direction and managed to catch her eye.  She excused herself and met him over by the bar.  

“Hey, Hank.  This is a nice surprise.   Looking for company tonight?” Yvette prodded Hank with a hopeful twinkle in her smile. 

“Oh, Yvette, you tease.   Actually, maybe that’s an idea.  I wanted to ask you for advice and help.   A drink sounds like a great idea.   Can you meet me when I am done today?  Around 7?”

“Are you serious?   Of course, I will.   How about the Carnegie Club on 56th?  We can share a cigar there.”

Hank cringed inwardly at the thought of the Carnegie Club’s intimate atmosphere.  Though Yvette was on completely different page, he was determined to get her help.   “Great!  See you at 7 o’clock.”

Hank gave Yvette a perfunctory kiss on the cheek, and headed to the check-in desk.   He grabbed the court reservation book and scanned the day’s bookings.   Jerry had a court booked at 5 PM.   He left a note in the book for Jerry that he needed to see him when he was done playing and headed to the locker room to change.
He was putting his shoes on when a sudden idea struck him.    He raced back to find Yvette. 

“Change of plans,” he told her.    “Let’s meet at McKeown's on 75th and 3rd.   Killer Shepherd’s Pie.  We’ll go to the Carnegie Club after,” Hank promised, making it more of a night than he originally planned.  

“Perfect,” Yvette beamed, her smile leaving no doubt that she was looking forward to more than the Shepherd’s Pie.  

Chapter 4

Hope Springs Eternal
by Al Tommervik

Hank’s spirits were buoyed by Yvette’s positive response. The day seemed a lot brighter with the prospect of her company in the evening.

He felt so much better he thought he’d take another crack at Margaret. He went up to the office for some privacy and called her.

Margaret looked at her phone in exasperation. She picked up and started right in. “Jee-sus Hank. Give it a rest! I don’t know more about Kate now than I did a couple of hours ago.”

“I know. I just wanted to set up a time to come out and retrieve my old keepsake rackets. I stored them in the crawl space above Kate’s closet.”

“Two things here, Hank. One, I don’t ever want you to set foot in this place again, hear me?  Two, you should have thought about your precious rackets when you left. Kate has them now.” Margaret’s sadistic glee at delivering this news was evident.

Hank was stunned. “Kate took them? What’s she doing with them?”

“Hopefully building a bonfire on the beach.” Margaret disconnected.


By the time Hank had finished two teaching sessions, the reality that Kate had his most treasured squash memorabilia had started to sink in. There was the racket he used in his first Nationals tourney. And the racket he used when he won one game off then world Number 1 Thierry Lincou, who had signed the racket after the match. Kate knew how much those rackets meant to him and she wouldn’t have destroyed them. Maybe, just maybe, there was some hope.

Now he had a lengthening agenda as he called around to other squash clubs -- looking for a new position, trying to find Pike as a source for former club members, and checking to see if Kate had played in any of them.

He had no luck reaching the head pros at other clubs during his first round of calls, but he became adept at leaving short, punchy messages. As he was leaving for lunch, his cell rang. “Hank, it’s Pete at Midtown Squash. Sad news. We’ll miss your facility. Sorry, all our courts are booked solid so we can’t add anyone right now, but I’ll keep you in mind if things change.

“Can’t believe you didn’t hear about Pike. I thought everyone on the East Coast knew the story by now. He’s quite the philanderer. The married women and career women took him in stride. But some of our younger, more romanticly inclined members believed him when he professed true love.

“When they compared notes and found his protestations of true love were bogus, they were furious and hatched up a sting. One of the girls went to Pike and demanded that he change his ways and marry her.”

Hank was incredulous. “She really wanted to marry him?”

“No, they were setting him up. He was kind of noncommittal so she threatened him, said something like ‘you have to provide for your child and I’ll sue to see that you do.’ “

Hank laughed. “That’s not Pike’s style the way I heard it.”

“Definitely not. He shined it on until a few days later when Matilde Estaing showed up. You may remember her, solid left-handed lob expert. She was high up at that big law firm that went belly up. She carried an official looking paper and a DNA swab kit.

“You’ve got to be kidding me! Setting up a paternity suit?”

“Right on! Pike was just coming off a court and told her he’d go get a shower and meet her in the lounge. That’s the last anyone ever saw of him. Left his gear in his locker. Can’t believe you hadn’t heard the story. Happened last Fall.”


No sooner had he disconnected when the cell went off again. “Hank? It’s Carter from the Village. Can’t help you with work or this Pike character, but your daughter was in a couple of times a few weeks ago. I thought I recognized her, but I didn’t make the connection until you called. She could be pretty good ... she’s got some of your moves ... but I wanna tell you, she attacks that ball with a fury!”

Hank’s heart leaped. “Tell me more. Who was she with?”

“I don’t remember the other players. Last time she was in, she met a guy while she was cooling off in the lounge. He wasn’t a player so I don’t know who he was or why he was there. Had an accent ... Australian or something. He had on a t-shirt for the All Blacks, whatever that is. Oh yeah, one other thing. Her rackets were top drawer, way better than the average player.”

“Thanks Carter. She had a falling out with her mother. Would you give me a call if she comes in again?”

“Sure thing. Good luck on that job hunt.”

All Blacks? That’s a New Zealand rugby team. Christ on a crutch, Hank thought. That’s all I need, Kate mixed up with Pike. At least Kate is using the rackets instead of burning them. That’s a good sign.


Hank’s thoughts turned to Yvette. Always cheerful, she was at ease around the guys, but didn’t seem too close to any of them. She could hold her own with the boys, even when the badinage and double entendres flew. She was well-liked by the women too. He’d asked her once about how she got along so well with the locker-room humor. She said she’d grown up with three older brothers who never spared her. “But it was done with affection and that makes the teasing OK.” Affection, now there's a word you probably won't find in Margaret’s dictionary.

Hank decided to tell Yvette about the breach with Kate. Yvette came from a close-knit family, so maybe she would be understanding and willing to help in the search for Kate. Because the search would revolve around squash clubs, it would dovetail with the search for former members to be invited to the farewell wake. Hank hoped she’d be willing to undertake both endeavors.


Jerry showed up before his 5 o’clock. “Saw your note. What’s up?”

“I’m bummed. It just seems to me that there’s no chance to stop the sale.”

“There’s a tired old saying, ‘A deal’s not a deal until it’s a deal.’ “

“Jerry, what the hell does that mean?”

“Think of it like a squash match. You’re down 11-2, 11-4 and you’re behind in the third game 10-4. What’re your chances?”

“Looks like I get swept.”

“But the thing about squash is that you haven’t lost until your opponent gets that eleventh point. So your adrenalin kicks in, your resolve stiffens and you hold him at bay. A loss isn’t a loss until it’s a loss. Got it?”

“Got it. There’s still hope.”

Jerry grinned. “You bet there is. Have time for a drink later?”

“Nope, Yvette and I are headed for McKeown’s and then to the Carnegie Club. She has her heart set on a cigar. I’m trying to shanghai her into helping with the reunion and farewell bash.”

Jerry fist-bumped Hank.”Scotch and cigars ... a real charmer. I’ll remember that the next time I’m trying to woo a lady.” He winked at Hank and left.

Chapter 5

Walkies With Pike
by Tammy Mehmed

It had been six months since Pike ran out of the Midtown Squash Club fearing the worst.  The girls’ ruse had worked and Pike had gotten a jolt of reality.  He’d fled home to his East Village apartment hoping to have a drink with his roommate and plot a new course.  Pike realized it was time to get out of the club circuit and lay low.  His weakness for the ladies, most of whom were more than willing to fall for his compliments and rugged Kiwi accent, had really caught up with him.  With so many of those older, wealthier members looking to be rescued by him, he felt he was doing them a favor.

His roommate, Joe, had been a dog walker for years.  As a certified dog trainer he made a good and honest living helping city-slicker dogs and their uptight Manhattan people.   Pike invited Joe out for drinks and told him he needed to make a serious change.  In Pike’s version of the story, the girl was obsessed and stalking him.  “So Joe, what do you think?  Could I walk dogs for you?  You know, take on some of your overflow?  I know you’ve been turning down business and I’m good with dogs.”

Joe, somewhat surprised, said “Well, do you have any clients to bring to the table?”

“Well, hmmm, I do have some wealthy squash clients who have dogs that could probably use a walk.  I could certainly approach them.”

“Perfect start,” Joe said.  “I’ll teach you what you need to know, pass you a few clients for 20% and you’ll be off and walking in no time.  We’ll get you started with the smaller, easier dogs.”

“Done deal,” said Pike, “I can start tomorrow.”

The next day Pike began working his way through his long list of discrete and married squash clients who he knew had dogs and were not likely to gossip.  He told them about his new business and pitched the dog walking in just the way Joe had instructed him.  Most were stay-at-home wives of elite lawyers and financiers, who didn’t necessarily need a dog walker.  With his charming wiles, Pike convinced four of them that “Fluffy” needs a daily walk in the fresh air and socializing with new canine friends.  This could work, he thought …. this could bloody well work.


Kate couldn’t bear living with her mother out on Long Island any longer.  Mother notwithstanding, the commute to Manhattan was killing her.   Graduating from Parsons School of Design the previous year, she’d been able to land a job in fashion design pretty quickly.  The school had great internship programs that practically guaranteed you a job if you didn’t blow it.  All those years hanging out at sports clubs with her dad had left her wanting to design better, more functional and fashionable women’s sportswear.  It had been convenient and affordable to live at home with mom during school, but now that she was working full time, it was time to move into The City, so Kate left Long Island in late fall and moved to the Village. 

Of the many friendships Kate had made at Parsons, her best friend was a sweet girl named Marie from Westchester County.  Marie came from an upper-middle-class Italian family and like Kate, was an only child.  Marie’s parents had set her up with a reasonably nice apartment in the Village; close to school, but she would need to find a roommate to help with expenses.  Marie had gone through two other roommates before Kate.  The first one was just plain flakey and the second ditched Marie and moved in with her boyfriend.  At school Marie focused on curatorial studies wanting to work in museums.
Kate was glad Marie asked her to rent a room from her in the charming little Village apartment.  Living with Marie gave her a built-in family.  It was something Kate had always longed for -- a traditional, big family that gathered for holidays and birthdays, called each other up, went shopping together, traveled together and genuinely cared for one another.  She had always felt ripped off by her mother’s crude and selfish ways.  And, truth be told, she had really fallen for Marie’s little buff Cocker Spaniel, Sassy.   Now that Marie was working full time at the Museum of Natural History, thanks to that internship program, she had hired a dog walker for Sassy.  Marie’s long-time city-dwelling Aunt Carla had referred her to Joe Rizzo (a good old Italian boy and family friend from Westchester County).  Sassy, an easy-going older girl, had been walking with Joe for about a year when she was turned over to his new associate, Pike.


Pike knocked before unlocking the door to Marie’s apartment – standard protocol in case someone was home unexpectedly.  He began to turn the key when the door was grabbed out of his hand by a very attractive 20-something.  Kate was going into work late that day because she had an evening photo shoot to attend. 

“Eeek,” shrieked Kate, caught off guard.

“Ohhh, hi there, I’m Sassy’s dog walker, Thomas,” he said.  “Sorry to startle you, Luv.  I didn’t think anybody was in.”

“Ah, no problem,” said Kate, catching her breath.  I’m usually not home at this time, so I was a little surprised.  Nice to meet you,” she said.

“Well then, I’ll just get Sassy here and we’ll be on our way.  Hey I’ve got to ask, I noticed you have some choice squash rackets over there in the hallway.  Who plays?”

Kate smiled coyly, “That would be me – but not as much as I used to.”

“Well, maybe we can play sometime.  Marie has my number, just give me a call if you feel like hitting the ball again.”  Bloody hell, thought Pike.  I just had to shoot my mouth off.  It’s too soon to get back into a squash club.  But Kate was pretty adorable and her squash memorabilia and equipment was intriguing. 

“Okay – I better be going,” Pike said.  “Come on Sassy girl – let’s get out for your walkies.”  He flashed Kate his best smile and closed the door behind him.


The night sky was dark and moonless. The evening air was biting, so the warmth of McKeon’s was more comforting than ever.  Hank arrived about 6:45, looked around and didn’t see Yvette. 

Hank bellied up to the bar.  He needed a scotch to warm his soul from that bone-chilling walk from the club and to prep himself for the favors he was about to ask Yvette.

Chapter 6

Game Plan
by David Bickford

Hank was beginning to regret arriving early, as Yvette was running late. “Be there in 10” read the text he’d received 20 minutes ago. He raised a finger to get the bartender’s attention.


At precisely the same moment Hank ordered his second scotch in McKeown’s, a couple of beers were placed in front of Pike and Kate at Elephant & Castle on Greenwich. They stopped in for drinks after a furious game at the Village. Pike’s former club position had been earned more on his accent than his playing skills, but, damn it, he was a teaching pro, and to have this young woman so thoroughly whip him had been hard to swallow. Still, she was cute and he wasn’t about to abandon his real agenda for the evening.

Do you think I should do this?” she was asking.

Oh lord, he thinks, that’s a cue for a response. What has she been yammering on about? Let’s see… she’s got a start up position with a good clothing firm in the garment district…hates it…something about wanting to design sportswear not fancy dresses… But his mind started to wander when she talked about a girl with tattoos she’d met in the shower after their match. The mental visual was so stimulating it had distracted him. Have to say something, though…

Do you feel you should do it, luv?” It’s amazing how smooth and reassuring his accent makes even the most evasive response sound.

Well, April seems really cool. She invited me to come see a game Saturday.”

Game…game…oh right, “Didn’t roller derby go out with the hula hoop?” He asked, getting back on track.

There’s been a revival. She says it isn’t phony anymore, whatever that means…look, the point is her team needs new uniforms. They don’t have a lot of money, so it would be a ton of work for virtually no pay. But if I design them and outfit a whole team, it’s something for my portfolio. You know, start getting my own street cred as a designer.”

But she was beginning to suspect Pike wasn’t really listening.


Sorry, I’m late,” Yvette apologized. “The asshole I work for always manages to dump some emergency in my lap just when I need to leave. But then, everything is an emergency to that guy because he is physically incapable of planning ahead. I really need a new job.”

That makes two of us.”

Oh, right. Sucks about the club.”


Hm. So you wanted my advice about something?”

Hank asked her to hold that thought and let the hostess know they were ready for a table. Once they’d put in their drink orders and studied the menu a bit, he decided it was time to lob the first ball.

One thing I wanted to talk to you about does have to do with the club’s closing. I want to put together a farewell reunion event; bring back some old members…”

Oh yeah,” she perked up, “including some of the celebs who’ve played there. Jerry mentioned it.”

Jerry did?”

We were talking about something else -- he wanted to know if my boss knew some developer guy -- and he mentioned your reunion idea, and how Mick Jagger had…”

Wait, back up, you said he was asking you about a developer? Who?”

Ah….Jerome Kucinich? I’ve heard the name but I don’t think our firm does any direct business with him.”

Kucinich? Isn’t that the big guy Pike clocked after he was caught messing with his wife?”

You mean the chick with the leopard prints? Her name is Kucinich.”

I guess. The wife plays still plays at the club.”

Yeah, Marlene, I think. Marlene Kucinich could be his wife. You didn’t notice she always wears spots? Anyway, I’ve heard some Pike stories, but not that one. He clocked him?”

Hank’s mind was trying to process this bit of news. Was Jerry looking into this guy because he was the developer planning to tear the club down? And could that mean this was all somehow a result of Pike’s philandering? Some revenge thing, maybe? Seemed a bit of a stretch.

Yvette looked concerned. “You okay?”

He assured her he was fine, and filled her in on his plans for the reunion. As he had hoped, she seemed not only open to the idea but enthusiastic about helping him track people down. He was a bit thrown that what she seemed most enthusiastic about was the idea he was thinking of actually playing in the Masters Tournament.

I’d love to see you compete!”

A couple of seniors slogging it out? Won’t be much fun to watch.”

Don’t sell yourself short. I know you’ve still got moves,” and she flashed a smile that he felt to his socks.


So the little Yorkie is piddling on this guy’s briefcase while I’m trying to figure out which leash to pull to get him off there before the businessman notices, when this elegant grande dame -- very upper east side -- comes by walking a poodle who must have been in major heat, because every male dog I’m walking is suddenly tugging me in that direction.” Pike is in full story telling mode and Kate is enjoying both the beer and the show. “That woman was not amused.”

The guy was probably not amused either when he noticed his briefcase was wet.”

Fortunately, I left before he caught on.” He angled closer to her. “I do enjoy your company. Shall we keep this going?”

Her reaction was not what he’d hoped for. “Hey!” she sat up and started rummaging in her bag, “Are you busy Saturday? Want to come to April’s game with me?” She pulled out a slightly mangled postcard announcing The Wall Street Traitors vs Manhattan Mayhem. “April is on the Manhattan team. She plays under the name Spring Fever.”

Spring Fever?”

She was telling me they use special names. She was born in April, her name is April, so Spring Fever fits her, I guess. Interested?”

I’m not sure about my weekend yet, but I’ve got nowhere else to be tonight,” said Pike, not one to give up easily.


Hank and Yvette climbed into a cab to head down to the Carnegie Club for their after dinner cigar. “I think I saw my daughter climb into a cab on this very spot,” he said, confessing why he’d chosen to meet at McKeown’s. During the cab ride down to 56th Street Hank spilled the story of the painful separation and how unhelpful his ex was being. As they settled in at the Carnegie, Yvette was already laying out plans to hit up athletic clubs looking for both former members and the elusive Kate. Hank liked that she chased an idea as hard as she ran after a ball.

Shall we have another round?” she asked, indicating their empty Scotch glasses.

I don’t know if I should,” he replied, “I’ve got five flights of stairs to climb.”

She leveled those amazing blue eyes at him and said softly, “I have an elevator.”

So it was that in two pubs less than three miles apart, father and daughter were having almost exactly the same thought at almost exactly the same moment: Would I be making a huge mistake tonight if I go home with this person sitting across from me?

Chapter 7

Late Night
by Pierre Bastien

The stainless steel elevator doors gleamed in the fluorescent lights of Yvette’s lobby. Hank tried to look at his reflection in the doors, but all he could make out was a dark blob. He looked to the left, where he spied a huge mirror with gold trim. He looked at himself for a minute: five o’clock shadow flecked with gray. Blue jeans and a checked button-up shirt. Looking decent, he thought.

“You know why they always put mirrors by elevators?” he asked.

“No, why?” said Yvette.

“It helps people pass the time while they wait,” he said.

“So people don’t complain about the elevators being slow?”


The doors opened and they walked inside the lift. Yvette punched number 17, and a small circle lit up around it.

Yvette looked Hank straight in the eyes as the doors started to close. Hank looked back at her.

“You’re not really feeling it tonight, are you?” asked Yvette.

“I guess not,” Hank replied. “I suppose my worries are piling up at the wrong time.”

The doors opened onto a hallway with green patterned carpet, beige walls and gold sconces.

Yvette said, “Let’s have a glass of wine and relax for a bit. Okay?”

“Sounds good,” replied Hank with a smile. “Or Scotch if you have it.”

“We can do that,” said Yvette. She turned right out of the elevator and they walked down the hallway to door number 1725. Yvette let them in and turned on the light.

Hank took in Yvette’s apartment. Tastefully done. A black leather couch and two comfortable-looking lounge chairs were arranged around a coffee table. Against a wall stood a bar with a few bottles of booze and a small selection of glasses. Large windows framed the Midtown night sky.

Yvette plucked a bottle of Oban from the bar and pulled out the cork. “Do you take ice?” she asked.

“A little ice would be great,” said Hank. He sat down on the couch and stared at a huge abstract painting on the wall.

“Who painted that?” asked Hank.

“Joanne Greenbaum,” Yvette replied.

“Nice,” he volunteered, reflexively. He followed the crazy intersecting lines of the painting for a bit.

He watched Yvette pull a bottle of red wine out of a small fridge next to the bar. She poured herself a glass. She kicked off her shoes and sat next to him on the couch, tucking one foot under the other leg.

“Cheers,” said Hank, raising his Scotch.

“Cheers.” They clinked glasses. Yvette took a long sip and leveled her blue eyes at Hank again.

Hank took a swig of his drink. He felt the smoky taste on his lips, in his mouth, and then deep down in his stomach. He took another couple of quick, small sips, sending them after the first mouthful. He could feel the alcohol swirling around his system, and he began to relax. He sat there quietly for a few seconds, grateful that Yvette seemed to be letting him decompress. He looked over her way, and she returned his look gently, smiling. She seemed to be waiting for him to speak first, which he appreciated.

Hank nodded up towards the painting. “Where’s the artist from?”

“New York, I think. I’ve always liked that painting,” said Yvette. She gave Hank a sideways glance. “So, how you feeling?”

“Much better thanks.” The Scotch had done its work, relaxing his body from top to bottom. He didn’t feel much like talking still. “A bit tired I guess.”

She raised an eyebrow his way and he felt a spark of energy. Hank said, “Maybe we should get a good night’s sleep.”

Yvette put her wine glass down on the coffee table. It made a “tink” sound as the glass touched the table. She stood up and extended her hand towards Hank. He took it, held on softly, and stood up to follow her as she traced her way to the bedroom.


Kate stared at their bar tab, surveying the wreckage.

“How’d we do?” asked Pike.

Kate tried to focus on the small white slip of paper with the large number at the bottom. How did we drink so much, she wondered? She made a halfhearted attempt to reconcile the details on the white slip of paper with her mental tally of drinks, but she kept losing track, and eventually gave up.

“We did a greeeat job,” she slurred. She looked around the bar. Wooden tables and wooden walls.

Pike plunked down his half of the money. Kate fished out the other half of the cash out of her wallet.

“At least we won’t remember this tab in the morning,” said Kate.

“You sure you don’t want to make a few more memories tonight?” asked Pike.

Kate smiled. She gave him credit for trying. “I’m sure. I’m a slow goer.”

“Why’s that then?”

“Might be just my nature. That and I’ve spent the past year trying to get away from a bad relationship.”


“Oh – No,” said Kate. “My parents split up ages ago. About a year ago I struck out on my own, just to get away from all that drama. I promised myself I wouldn’t go out and make more drama for myself.”

“Really?” asked Pike with a smirk. “What fun is life without a little drama?”

“I don’t know. But I’d like to find that out for myself.”

The waiter came by their table. “Do you need any change?” he asked.

“No,” said Kate. “We’re all good.”

The waiter took away the bill and headed for the register.

“Ah well,” said Pike. This is a lost cause, he thought. “Should we get out of here? I’ll help you flag down a cab.”


They got up to leave and poured out onto Greenwich Avenue, where they were surrounded by low brick buildings and chilly air. Pike could see some cabs headed their way.

“Where did you say your parents are these days?” asked Pike. He raised his arm to flag down a cab.

“I didn’t,” replied Kate. “But my mom’s out on Long Island, and my dad’s here in the city.”

An available cab slowed to a stop in front of them.

“Actually,” said Kate as she slid into the cab, “he’s a squash player. Hank Reynolds. Maybe you know him?”

Pike felt an electric jolt of surprise go through his whole body, head to toes. Al Pacino’s voice popped into his head: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

He cocked his head and furrowed his eyebrows, as if trying to place the name. “Maybe,” he said. “Well, have a safe trip home, luv.” He closed the cab door behind her.


Out Or In?
By Roland Jacopetti

“Here I am again,” thought Hank, savoring the déjà-vu of passing through that magical portal into yet another female bedroom. It mirrored Yvette just as the living room did: simple queen-sized bed brightened by a hand-made quilt, lush pillows, matching cases, understated mahogany furniture. Yvette walked to the wall, touched a switch and a track of ceiling lights came on at a low setting. 

So seductive. But, despite the attractive setting and the very desirable companion, Hank almost failed to suppress a sigh. He remembered times with other women, when his partner hesitated before making the sexual commitment, obviously attracted, desirous. Sometimes it happened, sometimes not. Hank never understood the differences between the two paths. “So,” he thought, “Maybe times where the intended partner plead a headache or sudden fatigue or just said outright that the vibes were off – maybe they were feeling something of what's in my mind right now. Yet another episode of practiced foreplay, more unbuttoning of buttons and unzipping of zippers, little affectionate whispers. Then the excitement, the act, the release. All so calculated. Were the ones that turned me down frightened of yet another cliché'? Am I?”

“Hank?” Yvette's voice, tentative. Hank looked up to see her standing at the head of the bed, a furrow of worry visible even in the dim light. “You’re a thousand miles away, over there across the room. You look like a kid who's been called on by the teacher and hasn't done the assigned reading. Something's got your tongue, and it's not the cat.”

Hank's immediate reaction was to begin making excuses, so he cut it off at the pass. “Well, actually I am a bit tired and a good night's sleep sounds pretty good. But, mainly, I'm a little shy of making the old moves, you know, the same iconic pre-sexual game. See, I'm cursed with the romance bug, always waiting for something ideal, something that isn't a game, or a strategy, or a conquest.”

“Got you, “answered Yvette. “I'm glad you spoke up, rather than going for the conquest. Actually, if you'd made a grab for me, I might have said 'but, sir, I hardly know you.' So let's do something about that; about getting to know all about you – like the song. And listen, we can sit on the bed together without my getting the overwhelming desire to jump your bones. I promise!”

They both laughed. And the bed did look so very inviting. So, seated chastely side by side, they talked.

“Using my world-famed mystical powers,” said Yvette, “I deduce that you're not long parted from a spouse. True?”

“Yep. A little over a year.”

“By mutual agreement?”

“Right again. Obviously no going back for either of us. No matter how I feel about loneliness, empty beds, loving companions, I can recognize a defunct marriage, and that's what this one was. No regrets. Well...that's going a little far.”


“A daughter. All grown up now, but angry at both of us for shattering the family.”

“I've got a daughter, too. And a son. Teenagers. The kids were with my first husband. After the divorce, I rebounded pretty quickly into another marriage, which didn't last long at all. If I could put that marriage into a mailing box, I'd stamp it 'Opened by Mistake'”

Hank chuckled. “Turns out we've got a lot in common. It is a little odd to sit on an attractive woman's bed discussing failed marriages but, somehow, it feels...appropriate.”

“Appropriate, huh?” laughed Yvette. “I think I’m gonna like you, Mr. Hank. Despite your being way too expert a squash player.”


Pike stepped back and waved as Kate's cab pulled away, his friendly smile beginning to feel a little tight. When it became obvious that the cab wasn't going to screech to a stop, the door fly open, and Kate come running into his arms, the smile disintegrated into a somewhat drunken pout.

“Bitch!” spat Pike, and looked around at the bustling village street. Hmm. Quite a bit to drink, but still well in control. The night's fairly young and here I am at the hub of old New York. Nice bar just behind me, full of friendly folk. Why don't I just take me self back inside and see if I can scare up some amusement.

In went Pike to a room that smelled of alcohol, the merriment still in full swing with parties of six-plus, some two-somes and four-somes. Up to the bar he went. The bar tender looked up.

“Weren’t you just out the door with a fine-looking woman? What happened? Forget your raincoat?”

“Nah, mate. I just forgot there are a few women on this earth not half smart enough to appreciate a fella like me. I've picked up me wounded pride and slunk back in to see if there might be another bit of a drink with my name on it.”

“Let's see...Irish with a Guinness back...right?”

“Absolutely! And make up one for yerself, if you've a mind.”

“Thank you, pal. I'll take you up on that. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't sound like you're from Jersey or Canada or Timbuktu. I'm guessing...Australia.”

“Close, but for a thousand miles or so. New Zealand, born and raised.”

“A Kiwi, huh? We're seeing more of your mates in the Village of late. Why’s that? No work in the old country?”

“That's part of it. The rest is not much excitement there, either. Long way from bright lights and big cities like this. Believe me, if you're seeking a fascinating lifestyle, you're best sticking to the Northern Hemisphere.”

“Seemed like the woman you were with was pretty fascinating.”

“She is, but I guess I'm getting a bit long in the tooth for twenty-something seduction games.”

“I know what you mean. Here, I'll take a few minutes off and bring you around, introduce you to a few good folks.”

“Lead on, McDuff.”

Pike turned to look across the room and found himself face to face with an angry man he wouldn't characterize as good folk.

“Excuse me, friend,” said Pike, “The barkeep and I are going out into the room and talk up some friendly women.”

“I don't think so,” answered the angry one, “Actually, I think you'd better get the hell out of here, if you know what's good for you.”

“Is that right?” said Pike. “If I might ask, why does someone I've never seen before have such a hard-on for me? Got an answer to that one?”

“I sure do,” said the man, “You remember a guy called Kucinich?”

“Wasn't he a senator from some god-awful place or other?”

“Not that one. This one's my best friend, all the way through high school and college. The one who married my sister. The one you caught with a sucker punch a while back and beat the shit out of. Coming back to you?”

“Sure is!” said Pike, “I remember, big guy. Bigger that you. Think you can do any better than he did?”

“I think so. I'm not half lit like he was that night. I think I can clean your clock pretty good, Mr. Kiwi.”

“Well,” smiled Pike. “Let's go out and get a bit of the night air, and give you a chance to try.

Chapter 9

By Steve Hufford

Pike woke to pain, regretting consciousness.  Movement hurt.  His head was a stabbing thing, his nose full of crusted blood.  He had not won the fight this time, and his combativeness had only made the beating worse.  At least nothing seemed broken.  That was lucky.  He had five dogs to walk by noon.  He would probably have to wear sunglasses to hide the shiner.

Hank’s awakening, by contrast, was much better.  He lay in comfort, easing from pleasant dreams to waking thought, his arm still embracing the gently-breathing Yvette.  He enjoyed listening to her soft inhalations and exhalations.  After a while, she had stirred, pushed back up against him, and they took up where they had left off the prior evening.  Breakfast came second.

“Scrambled or over easy?” she asked.

“Any way you like, Yvette.  As long as we don’t have to smoke cigars with the meal.“

She laughed.  “Yes, that was a bit unusual for me, too.  I just wanted a quiet place where we could talk.”

“Well, your bedroom worked well for that.”

“Yes, but that was only afterwards.”

“I’m glad you’re a traditionalist.”

“Me too.”

Hank really did feel fine, buoyed by Yvette’s company.  Her apartment was sunny and comfortable, and his cares seemed very far away.  Until the thoughts of his looming unemployment and missing daughter returned as they inevitably did.  Yvette, already well-attuned to him, noted a deepening in the slight crease between his brows.

“What’s up?  Eggs not to your liking?”

“Oh no, they’re great.  I was just thinking about the club, and Kate.”

“Well, we can work on the club situation.  Jerry is pretty darned good at what he does, and at the very least we can arrange a great party.  As for Kate, didn’t you hear she was playing squash over at the Village?  I’m sure she’ll be in touch soon.”

“Maybe you’re right.  At least she’s using my old sticks…“

Yvette’s energy and enthusiasm made the morning pass pleasantly for Hank.  With her encouragement, Hank signed up for the Master’s 40 and over draw, and even began to look forward to training for it.  Not that he could lay down any foundation of adequate fitness in the time remaining, but the tournament would give him a new goal, and add something to the unending succession of his typical lessons, during which he repeatedly fed easy balls up the middle of the court.  He looked forward to some competitive play, and also to watching Yvette in the 35’s.  Although he was surprised she signed up, he felt she had just the right attitude for a player at her skill level.

“Well, I’ll have about the youngest legs in the division, so maybe I can make a few of those 39 year olds work a bit,” Yvette had said.  “And there is a back draw.  I can always get more experience there even if I lose early in the main draw.”

Hank had to admire her gumption and her evident desire to do as well as possible.

“Hank, will you help me train for it?  And coach me during the event?”

“Sure thing, sweetie.  I’ll certainly be watching your legwork!”

Hank noticed that even the registration process had gotten better since the last time he played or ran a tournament.  He could see all the registrants, by age division, on the US Squash website.  What a time ahead!  It would be a gathering of old friends who hailed from many corners of the world and subsequently met and played on courts throughout the Big Apple.  The draws would include the likes of Balaram, Ish, Ivor, Jahangir, Mohammad, Pascal, and Rainald.  Chas, Chet, and Chip to round things out.  There were Indians, Pakistanis, Swiss, Scots, Brits, Aussies, and quite a few preppies from Philly and onwards up the East Coast.  Not to mention a contingent of Canadian players he had not yet met.  They were always tough.

The Master’s looked to be a great networking opportunity for the club reunion, and browsing the various brackets on the website was tremendously helpful in reminding him of the names of former Eastside regulars.  Some were still at it in their sixties and seventies.  That was inspiring.  And one name definitely stood out in Yvette’s draw:  Marlene Kucinich.  The lady in leopard!

Kate Reynolds was busy throughout the morning, slowed only slightly from the night before.  She managed all her meetings and calls by noon and still had time to contact April about her design proposals for the Manhattan Mayhem roller derby team.  She was beginning to envision some skirt-like shorts, functional for movement, but with evident flair and flutter at high speed.  She saw them being color-coordinated with the knee and elbow pads and with colored hemlines.  If she could cover her expenses, this freelancing would be fun.  And it would be a good start on her sportswear line.

April still sounded enthusiastic; she agreed to meet Kate that evening to review sketches and tell her more about the Mayhem players and the whole roller derby scene.  But first Kate needed some exercise.  There was last night’s beer fest to work off, so she headed to her afternoon court, determined to find someone better than Pike to hit with this time.  Maybe someone with less accent but more strokes.

She had chosen to join Village mostly because it wasn’t Eastside, so she knew she wouldn’t run into her dad.  Her court time probably could have been free at Eastside, but being at Village meant she wouldn’t have to put up with her dad’s comments about her career path.  He had never really understood design, or that fashion and art mattered to her.  In spite of her many faults, her mom seemed to understand the value of design, or maybe she just had a tropism for what was expensive.  Some of Margaret’s things were quite tasteful.  But from her dad, all she ever got was squash, and he had been pretty pushy at that.  With too many memories of her ‘squash dad’ watching over her, it had taken her a few years entirely away from the sport to develop any desire to come back.  At least she had his racquets.

It was not long after Kate’s afternoon court time that Hank’s phone rang.
It was Carter again, letting Hank know that Kate had just joined Village Squash’s league team, and that the team had a home match tomorrow night.

That was good news, indeed.  It was as if a stone had been rolled away from the closed tomb of his heart.  Hank felt a resurrection of hope and a leap of joy.  He would see his beloved daughter the very next evening.

Chapter 10

Destiny’s No Darling
by Al Tommervik

“What the ...?”

Yvette propped herself up on an elbow in bed and tried to focus on the source of the sound. It was Hank, singing in the shower while his iPhone blared out Ode to Joy.

She opened the bathroom door and shouted over the sound of the shower, “Hank! You win the lottery or something?”

Hank opened the shower door and grinned. “No. Tonight I see Kate.” HIs persona exuded joy. “Oh, Hank.” Yvette jumped into the shower and hugged him.

Neither of them thought to turn off the shower as they embraced.


Jerry hustled into Hank’s office. “Ready for some good news?”

“I’ve already had good news, but I’m a glutton. Give me more.”

“Destiny Living will not be closing escrow in time to evict you in May.”

Hank raised his eyebrows. “What’s going on?”

Jerry was gleeful. “The damn fools made a clerical error in the paperwork that they submitted to the Planning Commission. Their application has been rejected.”

Hank was perplexed. “I can’t believe a big company like Destiny Living would make a silly error. Their ads are everywhere: ‘It’s your destiny to live luxuriously.’ Won’t they just correct the mistake and resubmit?”

“Sure, but such resubmissions usually get ‘misplaced’ by the commission staff. They really hate it when applicants cause them extra work through carelessness. And there’s still some dicey requests for zoning variances to be considered.”

Jerry snorted. “It’s typical of that outfit. Some of my crew work for their contractors during my downtimes and they tell me that it’s amazing that they pass building inspections. My guys say they don’t plumb bearing walls properly, use green wood, and skirt around the edges of the building code. Apparently this Kucinich clown is a real jerk and forces the contractors to cut corners. If there was an Asshole of the Month award, he’d have permanent possession of the trophy.”

Jerry drew a deep breath. “Now you have time to address your real problem.”

“That’s not my real problem?”

“Nope. Your real problem is that there might be motivated sellers. The Van Alstyne heirs are divided about continuing to honor the preferences that Pieter Van Alstyne included in his trust. He urged his heirs and trustees to keep this building a squash club, but he didn’t absolutely prohibit selling the building or finding more lucrative tenants. 

“Henrik and Margarethe, Opa’s grandson and granddaughter, have honored his wishes, but his great-grandchildren are now pushing to monetize this asset. After all, they aren’t exactly being enriched by the rents you’re paying.”

“Who’s Opa?”

Jerry sighed. “Opa is the Dutch word for grandpa and Pieter was beloved by his grandkids. But he’s ancient history to their kids.”

“Maybe the younger generation needs the money.”

“Are you kidding?” Jerry laughed. “The Van Alstynes are real old money. They probably complained about the lack of immigration standards when Peter Stuyvesant landed in New Amsterdam.

“It’s about money to the younger set. But for Henrik and Margarethe, it’s about their grandpa and the feud between Opa and Marlon Boyd and between Eastside and the Uptown Racquet Club.

“Nobody knows why Opa and Boyd had a falling out, but when Boyd built the Uptown Racquet Club, Opa built Eastside just down the street. When interest in squash diminished, the stubborn old Dutchman stayed the course. Opa really loved squash and he asked his grandkids to keep the club if possible.

“So you need to give them some ammunition to repel the importuning of the youngsters. Otherwise, they’ll find another buyer if this sale falls through.”

Hank mused, “Before this sale came up, I was exploring an outreach to disadvantaged kids. I think there may be squash’s answer to Arthur Ashe or Althea Gibson out there.”

“Why didn’t you do it?”

“Well, for one thing, I didn’t have enough available court time. And for another, I couldn’t afford to hire a teaching pro to conduct the program.”

“Hold that thought. I’ll get back to you.” Jerry bounded from the office.


Last night, April had been wowed by Kate’s sketches of possible Mayhem uniforms. She might have been partially influenced by the amount of wine consumed, but she seemed genuinely impressed.

Kate mulled Mayhem possibilities as she finished accessorizing one of the studio’s hot Spring dresses for a private showing. She released the model as her cell buzzed.

“Hi. It’s April. I was telling Stormy, our team owner, all about your super sketches for our uniforms and she’d love to see them. Can you show them to her tonight?”

‘Hey, I was just thinking about the Mayhem. But, I have plans for tonight. How about tomorrow night?”

“Um ... Stormy’s leaving town in the morning and won’t be back for a couple of weeks. Any chance you can change tonight’s date? If Stormy likes what you show her, she can give you a go-ahead tonight.”

“Sold! I’ll cancel my squash gig. What time were you thinking?”

“It needs to be early, so she can pack for her trip. Can you make it around four?”

“Wow, that’s pushing it, but I’ll be there.”


Kate left work early and made a beeline for home to pick up her sketches. She found the door unlocked and the place a mess. All her sketches had been ripped up and strewn about.

Kate cursed in anguish and frustration. She immediately called Marie and was shunted to her answering device.

“Our apartment’s been broken into and all my sketches have been ruined, just when I needed to show them. It doesn’t look like anything is missing ... Sassy is OK ... it’s just the destruction of my sketches. I need to get to my client meeting. But you need to change the locks and exercise care when entering. Talk to you later.”

Kate grabbed her sketch pad. She’d have to rough out a couple of ideas on the way to the meeting. She dashed for the door.

As he heard the lock engage, Pike stepped out of the closet. “That was close! That crazy bitch wasn’t supposed to be home this early. Lucky she didn’t linger. I don’t need a repeat of that Christchurch fiasco.” He looked around, satisfied. “She deserves this. If she’d gone home with me, I wouldn’t have gotten beat up.”


Jerry was back mid-afternoon. “Got some stuff for you to think about. An architect friend is willing to take a look at your layout. He thinks he can show you how to use your fitness gear more efficiently and save enough space to reclaim two courts. That’ll give you court time for your outreach program.

“Plus, guy in the Bronx just bought out a small security company. He’s willing to set up a comprehensive closed circuit TV network in hopes of making a sale if the club stays open. You’ll be able to watch your kids on several courts at once. It’s called leveraging your expertise.”

“Jerry, the kids will need individual instruction and we don’t have the means to provide that.”

“In a perfect world, you’re right. But you need to show the Van Alstynes that this club is worth keeping open. Use the CCTV to identify the kids who will most benefit from more intensive training.”


For Hank, a day that began with elation ended in disappointment. He was at the Village club, but Kate wasn’t.

Chapter 11

Tiger by the Tail

by Jeanne Woods

Kate arrived home with six yards of modern fabric and synthetic knits from Mood Fabrics and several samples of “smart fabrics” in a rainbow of colors, begged and borrowed from her garment district friends and contacts. She was ready to start working on uniform prototypes. Turning her key in the lock she experienced a déjà-vu chill from yesterday’s homecoming.

She had texted Marie—how do I get into apt?--and had misgivings about Marie’s response--lock not changed. better idea. bringing chi food. Marie arrived moments later with the promised Chinese take-out and two large bottles of Tsingtao, while Kate completed a nervous survey of the apartment for signs of further intrusion. Satisfied that there’d been no further mischief in their absence, she entered the kitchen where open boxes released tantalizing aromas.

“Hi Marie, thanks for getting dinner. It smells wonderful.” Was Kate’s greeting, followed by “This is truly creepy. I don’t understand why you won’t change the locks.”

“That was my first inclination,” Marie began, ”but the more I thought about it the clearer it became. I’ve given out exactly two keys since the last time I had the locks changed—one to you and one to the original dog walker, Joe. So unless you’ve given out a key or left the door unlocked…”

“I guarantee you I haven’t passed out any keys and I certainly didn’t leave the door unlocked! Jesus!” Kate interrupted as a wave of unease sweep over her. “And what’s this better idea you have?”

“I didn’t think you had,” Marie went on, “and Joe came highly recommended with a ton of references, but what about the new guy Thomas Pike? I haven’t met him. How was your squash date with him? He’s a pro, right?

“I don’t know about that guy,” Kate began. “He’s not a very good player. I shouldn’t have been able to beat him, and I probably didn’t need to beat him as badly as I did. He assured me he was ‘off his game’. We went out for drinks afterward but there wasn’t a lot of connection. He wanted me to go home with him and seemed a little disappointed when I turned him down. But, my God, he’d have to be a complete nut case to trash my drawings because I didn’t ‘put out’ on a first date.”

“I don’t know,” said Marie. “It was so specific, so directed at you, nothing else touched, no forced entry, and he does have a key. If it was our Mr. Pike he’s quite a piece of work.”

I can’t say it hadn’t crossed my mind” Kate trailed off, slowly shaking her head as piece after nasty little piece of the puzzle drifted into place. “Oh my God, he wants to go to the roller derby with me the day after tomorrow. I was already wishing I hadn’t invited him but now I’m really freaked out.”

“Deep breath, girlfriend.” Marie instructed. “Here’s my plan: I talked to my cousin--you know Artie--about all this. He and Judy have loaned me a set of nanny cams that we can set up to cover pretty much the whole place. We can watch on our computers at work when he comes for Sassy tomorrow and get a sense of just how he behaves in here. Then we can decide whether he gets a new key when we change the locks on Saturday.” After a little more convincing Kate cleared away the dinner things and the dead Tsingtaos then helped Marie set up the remote access nanny cams.


Marie called Kate from her desk deep in the bowels of the Museum of Natural History, silently screaming “pick up! pick up! pick up!” until Kate answered. “Are you watching this?”

“I’m watching” replied a breathless Kate, who returned to a stunned silence, punctuated with sharp intakes of breath. Her heart was racing.

Pike, sporting an impressive shiner and a very fat lip, had entered the apartment. After a quick look around he went straight to the bottle of decent brandy in the pantry, taking a hearty pull on it. Sassy was under the table, pressed against the wall. He then headed for Kate’s room where he inspected the closet and opened dresser drawers, appraised the lingerie, then checked under her pillow. He gave Marie’s room a much more cursory going-over before proceeding to the collection of racquets in the hall.

He hefted and wielded them one by one, finishing with the venerable old Dunlop Maxply. Pike took it from its press and made several swings, coming perilously close to a lamp. He stopped mid-swing to answer his cell phone, “Yeah, Joe. Yeah, right. OK, OK!” He pocketed the phone, looked hard at the Dunlop and carelessly jammed it into the press.

“C’mon, Sassy, you fat little shit, it’s walkies time!” Sassy remained under the table so Pike reached down and grabbed her collar and, jerking her out of hiding, attached the leash. Both Marie and the dog gave a frightened yelp as Pike muscled Sassy out the door.

“Oh my God!” “That bastard!” “I can’t fucking believe it!” “Jesus!” was the gist of the exchange between the two young women watching powerlessly. “I feel like I’ve just watched myself being raped!” “Poor sweet little Sassy!”

They remained on the phone, cursing, crying, commiserating, oblivious to the sidelong glances each was receiving from her respective workmates. Not ten minutes later the apartment door opened again, activating the cameras. Pike stood in the doorway and removed the leash. Sassy dove back under the table as Pike replaced the leash on its hook and was gone.


Hank was feeling optimistic about the upcoming Masters as he loped up the front steps of the club. He’d had another lovely evening and morning with Yvette, increasingly finding her bright, kind and beautiful. He’d followed this idyll with stretches, a run to Central Park for an hour of interval training around the reservoir, then a brisk run back from to the club. He felt he’d be able to hold his own in the competition at the very least. Heading into his office before his first Saturday lesson he was stunned by the sight of his trophy rackets lined up against the wall. A note was tied to the grip of the Dunlop with a white ribbon:

“Hi Dad,

It’s time for these to come back to you. I’m sorry I disappeared for so long and I’d like to see you.

Love, Kate.

PS, I’ve been using the Head Competition—hope it’s OK if I hang on to it.”

She had included her contact information at the bottom on the page.

“Yes!” he said and gave a whoop of delight. “Yes indeed!” A quick glance at his watch confirmed there wasn’t time to call her before the lesson. Hank reread the note, savoring each word, the familiar handwriting, drinking in the essence of his treasured daughter, then he bounded off to his lesson with a smile that said “today all things are possible.”

Chapter 12

At the Office
By Pierre Bastien

Hank leaned way back in his office chair and felt the sun on his face, coming through the windows. Both his arms lay on the armrests of his chair, his body completely relaxed, his eyes closed, and his chest rising and falling slowly with each inhale and exhale. 

His office was the perfect temperature—neither too hot nor too cold. An overhead fan pushed air on his face, little puff by little puff. He was in the perfect comfort zone, fully relaxed, but not sleepy. He could hear a dim white-noise whirr from his computer.

His Saturday lesson with Jerry was about to start. Hank didn’t want to get up from his chair just yet. Too comfortable. Jerry, God bless the man, was bound to be brimming with ideas on how to “optimize the value of the club.” That’s how he described it, more than once, when he’d set up the lesson with Hank. 

“What you’re saying makes sense,” is all Hank would say. He did want to save the club, but he just couldn’t seem to muster much enthusiasm for the value-optimization discussion. His mind was in two places at once really—half on a future where the club had been saved through Jerry’s miraculous efforts, and half on a future where the club was lost, and Hank had had to make peace with it.

Hank wondered what he’d say to Kate when he saw her. He tried to envision the conversation, but couldn’t get hold of it. He tried to practice a couple of opening lines, but stopped himself. It doesn’t matter, he supposed. However it comes out will have to do. 

Hank’s mind wandered to when Kate was four years old. She was always such a night owl. Sometimes when she’d had trouble going to sleep, Hank would lie in bed alongside her, a theoretically comforting presence to help her drift off. Inevitably, Hank would crash out first, leaving young Kate lying there awake, singing little songs to herself. 

Not only would little Kate go to bed late, she would wake up late. That was always a logistical challenge, since Hank and his then-wife were morning people. By the time Kate got to her teenage years, her owl-like habits only grew more pronounced. It seemed like their schedules hardly overlapped at all anymore. 

That was probably just one more wedge driving Kate apart from them, Hank figured. Whatever she’s doing with her life these days, I hope it has an 11 am start time. 

Just then, Hank heard a soft knock on his office door. He sat up in his chair and opened his eyes. 

“Kate!” There she was, standing in the doorway. She was dressed in blue jeans and long black boots, with a black overcoat wrapped around her tightly. A white knit cap rested on top of her head, and a white scarf poked out from under her jacket. She looked so...grown up! 

Hank jumped up out of his chair and promptly whacked his kneecap on the edge of his desk. 

“Oh!” shouted Kate. She stepped forward to help him, reaching out her arm, but there wasn’t much she could do. 

Hank lost his balance, spun halfway around, and hopped on the other foot a couple of times, all while trying to grab hold of the knee that was now sending stabbing pain signals straight up his spine. He finally put out a hand to balance himself against the wall.

“Are you okay?” asked Kate.

“Yeah!” said Hank, wincing and smiling at the same time. “I was just trying to imagine what it’d be like when I saw you again.”

“Is this how you were thinking it would go down?” asked Kate with a laugh.

“I was imagining something a little less...painful,” said Hank. He hopped over to Kate and gave her an extended bear hug.

“I was so happy to get your note,” said Hank, smiling. “And thanks for keeping good care of the rackets.”

“Hey, I wouldn’t want to lose the proof that you took a game off Thierry Lincou.”

“GOOD,” replied Hank, putting on a straight face.

Kate seemed to remember something. Her brow furrowed.

“Is everything alright?” asked Hank.

“Sort of,” said Kate. I just dropped the rackets off at your office and was on my way out when I ran into someone on the street.”

Hank waited for her to continue.

“I ran into someone I didn’t want to see.”

“Who?” asked Hank.

“You might know him. His name is Pike.”

“Pike!” Alarm bells went off in Hank’s head. He knew Pike had gotten into trouble with his philandering ways. And the other day, his buddy Carter from the courts at Village seemed to link Pike and Kate together. Not a good combination.

“You didn’t want to see him?” asked Hank. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s...” Kate trailed off. “It’s kind of a long story. But when I ran into him just now, it wasn’t a good scene.”

Hank felt his protective-father instincts coming on strong. He tried to hold them at bay as best he could bear. It’d been months since he’d spoken to Kate, and, instinctively, he didn’t want to rush into their same old parent-child roles. At least, not without feeling things out first. 

Finally he asked, “Do you need help?”

“Actually, yes. Pike seemed angry with me. Like, a little crazy even. So I just turned right around and came back into your building. I just bolted.”

Hank hugged Kate. “Alright, let’s hang out here a bit then.”

“Awesome,” said Kate. ”Thing is,” she ventured, “I’m not sure if he’s maybe still hanging out outside the building.”

Right at that moment, Jerry popped his head into the office. “Who’s outside,” he asked jovially, “Mick Jagger?” Jerry got serious as soon as he saw the worried looks on Kate and Hank.

“Sorry,” said Jerry, “I shouldn’t have interrupted.”

“Your lesson!” exclaimed Hank. “Sorry, Jerry, I totally forgot. I got an unexpected visit from my daughter Kate.” 

Hank turned to Kate.

“Kate,” said Hank, “meet Jerry.”

“Is everything okay?” asked Jerry. “Something wrong outside the building?”

“Hey, Jerry,” Hank said. “You remember our boy Pike?”

“Yeah,” said Jerry.

“Apparently,” said Hank carefully, “he’s causing a stir outside the building.”

After a long pause, Hank volunteered, “Maybe we should call the cops?”

”If you want to get rid of the guy,” said Jerry, glancing over at Kate, “I’ve got an even better idea.”

“What’s that?” asked Hank and Kate in unison.

“Well,” said Jerry, “let’s call Kucinich. I bet he’d love to know Pike’s exact location!”



By Tammy Mehmed

Jerome Kucinich sat in his New York office looking out the window on the 28th floor enjoying a strong cup of coffee with a hit of whiskey. He enjoyed Saturdays when no one else was around. Sometimes it was the only peace he could find. He was distracted by his brother-in-law’s story and how he punched the lights out of that Kiwi squash pro that had taken up with Marlene. Kucinich knew he wasn’t always around for her, but he never thought she would wander. He kept Marlene stocked in the finest clothing, jewels and beauty services a New Yorker could want. She didn’t have to work – so she enjoyed her daily workouts at the East Side Club. Marlene was the only one to call him Jerry. Everyone else addressed him as “Jerome” or “Kuch”.

His Croatian father, Alexi, immigrated shortly after World War II when so many Europeans decided to escape the uncertainties of their motherland for the American Dream. He came over with several war buddies and settled in New York. With a large Croatian population in the Meatpacking District in Manhattan it was easy for him to find a job there among some of his own people, making his transition easier. Alexi was a hard worker and quickly moved his way up the meat packing ranks. After a couple of years, he met Anna who was brought over from Germany by a wealthy family. She helped raise the family’s two children as well as cook for all of them. Alexi and Anna eventually married and began the American Dream.

Kucinich’s parents moved to the Jersey Shore in the late 60s when the Meatpacking District went through some challenging times. Alexi opened his own butcher shop and was proud of his accomplishments. He had two sons and one daughter, all of whom he put through college. The oldest son kept the family butcher shop and expanded the business to several locations including a deli. The middle daughter became a transactional lawyer and baby Jerome received an engineering degree from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

To make ends meet during school, Kucinich worked in construction on the shore. His father had taught him the basics of construction, plumbing and electrical – all things he’d learned in the old country. So Jerome knew lots of short cuts to make things work with substandard equipment and supplies. Permits were the least of his worries – just keep it standing was his motto. He learned you could always fix it when it broke. Unfortunately, his haphazard style of old country construction didn’t always pass muster in the 21st century world of hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters, and he occasionally found himself in hot water. He was always walking the line on his inspections –but he kept inspectors fully stocked with prime cuts of meat from the butcher shop. They would show up as gift baskets at their home with no note – but the inspectors all knew where they came from. His development company, Alexian Group (a nod to his father and mother), was one that not only bought the land to develop, but also did their own construction. Kucinich had his own idea of how a building should be built -- by cutting corners he could control the product and the cost.


Jerry, Hank and Kate discussed revealing Pike’s address to Kucinich. They felt bad about setting him up, but after Kate explained what Pike did in her apartment, her dad and Jerry were totally on board to put an end to this. As it was Saturday, they doubted that Kucinich would be in his office, but they tried anyway. If they didn’t get through, they were going to find Marlene’s “in case of emergency” numbers in the Club’s records. Jerry dialed the number he found online for Alexian, where a series of recordings moved him along the voicemail system. He typed in the letters K –U –C – I – N, when the system said “for Jerome Kucinich, press 1”. He pressed “1”. After about two rings, he heard:

Yeh, Kucinich here.”

Hi Jerome, I’m a member at the East Side Club, you know where your wife, Marlene, plays squash. “

Okay, so what do you want?”

Well, I have some information that you might be interested in. We’ve been having some problems with a pro that used to work here, a Kiwi and a real punk named Pike – you know him?”

Maybe – what’s it to ya?” Kucinich grunted trying not to sound too interested.

Jerry continued, “Well, he’s gotten out of the squash business and fell off the grid a while ago, but he seems to have resurfaced as a dog walker and has been hitting on one of our pro’s daughter. He actually ransacked her home and is harassing her because she wouldn’t go home with him one night after drinks. Anyway, I heard you had a hard-on for him, so I thought I might bring the two of you together. I have an address for him if you’re interested.”

Interesting. Well, I’ll take it down, you never know when it might come in handy. Go on,” rumbled Kucinich.

Jerry rattled off Pike’s address at Joe’s place which Marie had provided for Kate. He hung up with Kuchinich, with all wondering just what wheels had been set in motion.

Jerry had a shit-eating grin on his face. He loved to stir the pot and this pot was stewing now! “Hey Hank, this was much better than a lesson – make sure I don’t get charged though – okay.”

Man, you bet. I can’t believe we actually got Kucinich on the phone. I wonder what he’s going to do.”

He sure sounded cool – but I suppose that’s his style – he can’t let anyone read him since he’s not necessarily on the up and up,” piped Jerry. “Now to work on the state of the club – maybe Kucinich will help us, if he gets a piece of Pike.”

Hank took Kate’s hand, saying “Come on Hon, let’s get a smoothie and cruise the club until my next lesson.”

Kate was thankful that the reconciliation with her dad had required nothing more than her showing up. She had missed his touch, his kindness and just having someone take care of her. A weight was lifted from her shoulders.


After Pike ran into Kate at the East Side Club, he knew better than to hang around. He knew she would be visiting her dad and he also didn’t want to risk running into any of those other ladies he’d had problems with last year. With his tail tucked between his legs, he headed back to the Village to numb his pain at his favorite pub, still unaware that his unsavory actions had been caught on the nanny cam. As far as he knew, he’d be walking Sassy on Monday – boy, was he in for a surprise.


By Margot Comstock

Kate left the East Side Squash Club late Saturday morning, feeling stronger and happier deep inside than she had in ages, it seemed, certainly since she’d left home. Reconciliation with her father was huge! And the smoothies she and Hank had shared at the club had left a sweet, fresh glow of their own.

Folks passing her on Lexington Avenue smiled or nodded in response to the smile Kate didn’t even realize she was wearing. She noticed these people and felt even happier. 

She was on her way home, looking forward—with mixed anticipation—to recreating the roller derby uniform designs Pike had destroyed. As she got nearer, her smile faded. What if that creep were there again? No, he wasn’t due until Monday. Nevertheless, Kate pulled out her cell to call Marie. Marie answered.

“Hi, it’s me. Nearly home, hoping you’re there….” Kate said.

“I’m here. Nothing new. All clear,” Marie said. “Did you drop off your dad’s racquets?”

“Yes! The creep was in the street, horrible; so I went in to see my dad! He and a friend called some big guy Pike had beat up and gave the guy Pike’s address.”

“That sounds promising,” said Marie.

“Then Dad and I had smoothies at the club bar. It was nice.

“I’m almost home, here I come!”

By the time Kate reached the apartment, Marie had the door open and a hug for Kate.

“Katie, it’s super to see you looking truly happy. And relaxed. I was about to make myself a BLT. Want one?” 

“Sure!” Kate said. “My favorite!”

Marie realized how much her father meant to Kate; she had never seen Kate this happy and relaxed.

“Then I’ll be hunkering down on the drawing board trying to reproduce my designs. I also have some new ideas; I think these might even be better than the ones Pike destroyed.”

Marie just grinned. It was hard not to catch Kate’s enthusiasm today.


Jerome Kucinich finished the work he needed to do that Saturday by mid afternoon. Now he would check out where the Pike fellow lived in the Village. He’d deal with this bother today. He gathered some things to take with him and called the garage for his car to be brought out to the street. He put the gun in a shoulder holster under his camel-hair coat, the brass knuckles in his coat pocket.

His car was waiting when he got downstairs, his driver at the wheel. 

“Thank you, Novak. We’re off to the Village to call on the fellow who attacked me a few days ago outside the sports club.”

“Yes, sir! Good mission today,” Novak said. Kucinich saw satisfaction on his right-hand man’s face in the rear-view mirror as the car moved into the downtown traffic.

Then he got out his car-based iPad and texted an associate in New Zealand.  


Hank was still high from his second day of having his daughter back in his life—his amazingly grown-up daughter—when Yvette poked her head in his office. 

“What’s up?” she said. “You look like you just won the lottery, makes me want to smile.”

“Ha, you are smiling! Is it the lottery that’s making you so happy?” Hank said, getting up to greet this lovely woman with a hug. 

Yvette raised her eyebrows. “Well?”

“Okay!” he said. “Kate came in today! It’s so good to see her, I’m riding on a cloud.”

“So good,” she said. And hugged him back. “So where did she go?”

“She had a lot of work to do.” He told Yvette about the break-in, the destruction of Kate’s designs, the whole horror. “And today the guy Pike was outside the club when Kate arrived and he gave her the creeps. So Jerry called Kucinich and we gave him Pike’s address.”

“Whoa! You’ve been busy, you fellows!”

“Feels good,” Hank said. “This time I think it’ll be Pike that gets clocked.  You here to practice for the competition?”

“Thought I might. And then I wondered what you might be doing for dinner, et cetera…”

“How about I’m having dinner with you, and et cetera, too?”

“You’re so on,” said Yvette.


Margaret was driving home from an overnight gig with a client. Her wallet was healthy but her temperament was sour. Stopped at a red light, she saw her daughter walking the other direction, with a silly grin on her face.

Margaret registered disgust. What’s her problem? she thought. Little shit doesn’t have a thought for her mother. What I do for her!

Somewhere in her bitterness there might have been an iota of caring, if only she weren’t so tired, and if that so-called client hadn’t been so repulsive. But things were what they were, and Margaret drove on to her city pad where she pulled the drapes against the sun, dropped her clothes on the floor, took a very hot shower, and collapsed on the daybed. But sleep came slowly; she was so very angry.

In her misery, it was Hank who was the villain of her dreams, not her awful client. And never her own choices.


The young women had finished their sandwiches and Marie was washing up when her iPhone rang. It was Joe, the dog walker, returning her call.

“What’s up, Marie?”

“Joe, we’ve got a problem with your helper.”

“Pike? Hmm. You’d better tell me; I’ve been having some doubts myself.”

So Marie told him and offered to show him the web cam pictures of Pike’s behavior. Joe wanted to see the pictures, and he was willing to take action right away.

“Marie, I have no reason to doubt you. This is awful. It’s especially awkward since he’s been staying here. Maybe it’d be easier confronting him if I did see the vids first. Any chance I could see them today?”

“Sure, we’ll both be here for a few hours anyway.”

“Okay. I have one pup to walk and then I’ll be there.”

“Thanks, Joe. See you soon.”

Marie went into the front room. “Joe’s coming over shortly to see the nanny cam pictures,” she said. “He’s as outraged as we are—but it’s even more awkward because he’s been letting the creep crash at his pad.”

“Whew. That’s harsh! But little Sassy will be free of Pike. And I’m super relieved Joe knew nothing about it.”

“Me, too,” Marie said. But a new little frown worried her brow.


Pike didn’t get back to Joe’s until late afternoon. To his annoyance, his key didn’t work. He knocked loudly. He heard barking and Joe opened the door.  Joe stepped back but a huge dog stood in Pike’s way. 

“What is this dog?” he grumbled….“He’s huge!”

“He’s an Irish Wolfhound, the largest breed. Wonderful dog. Up, Shaw,” spoke Joe. Shaw moved to Pike and rose, paws on Pike’s shoulders.

“Aaagh!” sputtered Pike. 

“Down, Shaw.” Shaw stood down but didn’t back up. “You know Beethoven, of course,” Joe said, gesturing to the Rottweiler. “And that’s Benthi over in the corner. She’s a Mastiff. Weighs more than Shaw.”

Pike was stepping backward, trying with gestures to get Shaw to move away. Benthi rose up and wandered slowly toward him and Shaw.

“What’s going on here?” Pike asked angrily.

“Afraid there’s no room for you, Thomas. As for the dog walking, I’ve had complaints. You’re fired.”

As Joe closed the door on Pike, a long black car pulled silently up to the curb.

Chapter 15
The Wrath of Priapus
by David Smith

Pike swore loudly as the door slammed in his face.  Denial and puzzlement crowded his countenance as he tried to sort out what he was going to do.  His anger escalated as he realized that Joe had not allowed him to take his stuff--his clothes, his racquets, and an assortment of illicit drugs.  Not much, but all he had. 

Pike pounded on the door as hard as he could.   Joe responded by yelling at him through the door to go away.  The volume continued to ratchet up.  Several neighbors stormed out of their apartments and added their indignation to the din.  

It was at that moment that Kucinich slipped into the building as another tenant exited.  He dashed to the stairs and began to climb with considerable haste.   As he exited the stairwell, he heard the choir of voices a split second before he saw the angry faces in the hallway.   He stopped a moment too late, as the group turned to look at him.   His sudden presence seemed to temper the madness as the quieter heads swiveled back and forth between Kucinich and the clearly surprised Pike at opposite ends of the hallway.  

Pike, never to be put too far off his game, found his voice first.

“Hey, Mr. Leopard Prints.  Didn’t we do this once before?  And how is the lovely Mrs. Kucinich doing?  ”   Pike didn’t know how Kucinich had found him, but he certainly knew why he was here.  Pressing the advantage that the tenants in the hall presented, he continued.  “Now, Mr. Kucinich, you wouldn’t want to try to hurt me in from of all these witnesses, would you?   Did everyone catch the name—Ku-cin-ich.   Just in case something happens to me.”

“I really don’t care what he does to you, if he can make you shut up,” muttered the octogenarian in 2B as she retreated in to her apartment and slammed the door. 

While impulsive, Kucinich was not stupid.   He didn’t like the attention and the witnesses, and silently beat a retreat to the street.   He hopped in the car and told Novak to take him back to his office.  


With the testosterone dissipating, Pike knocked more politely on Joe’s door with better results.  Joe granted Pike 10 minutes with which to pack his stuff and get out---all under the ever-watchful eyes of Shaw, Beethoven, and Benthi.  Pike wasted no time in clearing out.

He sat on his suitcase in the lobby pondering his situation.   He had nowhere to go.  With Kucinich on the prowl, he certainly wasn’t going to stroll around Manhattan with his suitcases.  He needed a destination and a taxi, in that order.  

He scrolled through the names in his mobile looking for a sheila who might still take him in for a couple of days.  After several wasted calls, he came upon Kate’s number.   Thunderstruck, it all came together for him.   “That little bitch!” he swore.  “It had to be them!”  

Pike was sure that Kate and Marie were the source of his current dilemma, but he pushed that thought out his mind for the moment.   “Stay focused, mate.   Plenty of time to get even.”   He continued to go through names until he came to one that made him smile.  He tapped the name to dial.  Though he was never one to be burdened with nostalgia, Pike thought he could fake it.  He cranked up his charm and the Kiwi accent. 

A sleepy voice answered. 


“Margaret?  Gidday, sweetheart!   It’s Pike!  I haven’t seen you for yonks….”

Kate was totally focused on the new drawings when the phone startled her.   She looked up as Marie answered.   Her gaze lingered a bit as she watched Marie talking on the phone.   She tensed up as Marie’s voice elevated in octaves and decibels.  

“Well, he better not come back around here.  Do you know where he went?  Uh huh.  Uh huh.   Got it.   Well, I hope he’s under a freakin’ bridge somewhere tonight.  Glad we changed the locks today.  Thanks, again, for the warning.”  

Marie hung up and repeated the conversation to Kate. Despite their precautions with changing the locks, both women were quiet with their own thoughts and worries after the exchange.   Clearly, if Pike ever traced his current dilemma back to them, he could very well become dangerous.  They solved their immediate problem, but this Kiwi nightmare was still out there.

“Are you still going to that Roller thing tonight?  Maybe you should stay in,” Marie suggested.   “Frankly, I don’t want to be alone.” 

“Oh, Marie, you will be fine.   Just don’t open the door to anyone.   After all, his key doesn’t work anymore.   Or, you could come with me to the match.  It’s over at Chelsea Piers.  They converted the Sky Rink for this.”

“Not really my thing, Kate.   I’ll stay home, but maybe you should take someone more substantial with you.   What is your dad doing tonight?”

“Hey, that’s an idea.  Maybe it’s too much too soon, but what the hell.  I’ll call him.”   

Tragically, Kate’s call to her dad went into voicemail.

While surprised, Margaret was pleased when she heard Pike on the phone.    They had met at Hank’s club several years before and manage to share each other’s carnal knowledge a number of times.   Margaret always enjoyed the perverse pleasure of playing in Hank’s home court.   It wasn’t just about the sex, but more about spite. 

Margaret thought the idea of doing some pro bono work with Pike was just fine and invited him over.   She offered to “rent” her flat to him for a week---no more.

Pike arrived as the sun was setting, and presented as quite a sight with his frazzled appearance and the pile of bags at his feet.   Realizing that this was not the best of impressions, he amped up the full kiwi charm offensive and managed to get Margaret to laugh at his predicament. 

He stumbled into the apartment, dropped the remnants of his life, and swept Margaret into a rather aggressive embrace.  Just touching this woman made Pike’s pent up anger bubble to the surface and he picked Margaret up and threw her onto the bed.  His rage, simmering for hours, was no longer contained.   Margaret saw the look on his face and realized that she may have made a mistake.  Years of dealing with some truly despicable clients had not prepared her for the fear that she felt right now.   

Margaret struggled to push Pike away, but he fought to keep control of her.   She slapped him in his face, but it was a meaningless blow.  He laughed sickly as he punched her in the face.   She managed to reach the nightstand and grabbed a marble sculpture of Priapus that she kept there.  Realizing that she was in a fight for survival, she tried to smash Pike in the head with the statue.  Pike’s squash game might not be that good anymore, but his reflexes were just fine.  He managed to avoid most of the impact, and the glancing shot only served to inflame his rage.

“You stupid bitch!”   He ripped Priapus from Margaret’s hand and without a second’s thought, brought the chunk of marble down hard into her face.  And he did it again. And again.  And again. 

Chapter 16
April and Lotte to the Rescue
by Al Tommervik

Still in the clutches of his adrenalin-fueled rage, Pike threw the statue into the mirror on the dresser. He rampaged through the flat, breaking vases, ripping paintings off the wall.  As his rage abated slightly, he thought, Jesus, it’s just like Christchurch. Visions of Rachel lying dead in her camper swirled in his head.

In Christchurch he’d known the territory and just where to hide a body. Rachel’s remains were not found for three weeks ... long enough for Pike to adopt a new identity and leave the country. Nobody connected Rachel’s boyfriend, drug dealer Timmy Pendleton, with Thomas Pike. They could look forever, but Pendleton had ceased to exist. Pike needed to erase the evidence of what happened here--and quickly .

He’d lived in Manhattan for two years, but his knowledge of the area did not include where to stash a corpse. At least there seemed to be temporary safe houses. Margaret had said he could stay in the flat for a week and Kate had mentioned that Margaret lived alone on the Island.

Searching her bag, Pike found Margaret’s cell phone and a monthly parking stub. There were several messages on her phone -- all from men setting up appointments. So that was Margaret’s game. Pike smirked. Probably no one would come forward looking for her if they had to explain their interest.

Margaret could wait while he dealt with Kate. Her car gave Pike the opportunity to catch Kate unawares at the roller derby.

Pike parked. Some people were milling around, but the derby was still in full swing. It was a cold February night as Pike melted into a shadow, wishing he had worn something warmer than his black hoodie. 

When people came streaming out, Kate was not among them. That bitch! It figures with my luck she wouldn’t show. He was about to leave when a small group of young women, including Kate, exited the building. 

“Hey, Kate. The team’s walking over to The Half King for a pint of Guinness. Care to join us?”

“Thanks, April, but I want to get home and get my new ideas down on paper while they’re still fresh. I’ll take a rain check on that pint.”

Kate peeled off from the group and headed for the subway.

Pike casually stepped from the shadows and wandered in the direction of the subway.

Kate hesitated, as if she might hail a cab, then shrugged and walked on.

Pike eased up behind her, grabbed her arm and wrist in a come-along hold. Disguising his voice, he whispered, “Follow directions and you won’t get hurt.”

Kate’s self-defense instructions kicked in and she stomped on her assailant’s shin. He loosened his hold and she attempted to break free, but he was too strong. “That’ll cost you,” he grunted.

He jammed Kate’s wrist into a lock and Kate screamed in pain. Most people in the area began moving away from the struggling couple.

Hearing the scream, April looked back. She couldn’t locate the source, but she had a bad feeling. Kate had told her about Pike, so she decided to double back to see what was up.

Pike clamped one hand over Kate’s mouth and forced her body close to his so he could maintain the come-along hold. He started shambling toward the shadows, sometimes briefly lifting her to overcome her resistance. Progress was slow, marked by deep visceral growls from the raging Pike, but he noted that nobody was coming to Kate’s aid.

April was now close enough to see a couple struggling near the subway entrance and feared the worst. “Trixie! Ashley! We need help here!” she yelled. The Mayhem team turned as one and raced toward her.

The couple disappeared into the shadows, followed by a wail. April was at top speed as she entered the shadows and saw a man choking a woman. She recognized Kate and launched herself at the man.

Pike had no sense of April until she crashed into him, knocking him to the ground. Snarling, he jumped up ready to fight. April was more agile and was already on her feet. “Leave her alone, you asshole!”

Pike threw a wicked one-two combination, but April avoided both punches and kicked his knee. He saw April’s teammates approaching and ran off, limping.

April kneeled beside Kate and saw that she was having trouble breathing. “Somebody call 911!”


Henrik Van Alstyne looked across his desk at his daughter Lotte. Lotte was a throwback to Opa. She could smell opportunity and seize it before others even sensed that it might be there. He wished she hadn’t talked him into selling the Eastside building.

Lotte was briefing him. “The colleges that have been leasing the first four floors at our Lexington building are transitioning into on-line classes. They’re vacating the first three floors and keeping the fourth floor to house their internet equipment.

“We can remodel that space and move Eastside there. With a clean slate, we could build the best, most modern facility in the city. And perpetuate Opa’s heritage.”

Henrik perked up. “I like it, but we can’t accomplish that before the sale shuts down the club. Once they’ve lost their members, it’ll be impossible to reestablish the clientele.”

“The sale’s coming undone,” Lotte said. “The Destiny Living-Alexian partnership is collapsing. Some guy named Jerry regaled Destiny’s executive board members with tales of Alexian’s shoddy building practices. The partnership is dissolving and we’ll be looking for a new buyer. In which case, we can insist on terms that allow Eastside to continue in situ while we remodel Lex.”

“Perfect,” Henrik said. “Go tell Hank at Eastside the good news.”


It was Monday and this week couldn’t be worse than last week. The word was out about the sale and defections were gathering momentum. He had two new holes in his teaching calendar and he was going to have to reorganize or cancel the noon league if they lost any more players.

His training for the Masters was going poorly. His footwork remained subpar and his aerobic exercises were leaving him short of breath too soon.

It got worse early Sunday morning when Kate called from the emergency room. She’d been mugged! She suffered bruises around her throat and a broken wrist. April couldn’t identify the assailant. Kate hadn’t seen him, but had no doubt it was Pike.

More bad news, Lotte Van Alstyne was in his office. He began to release his frustrations as soon as he hit the door to his office.

“I understand about the money, but it’s a damn shame that squash is so undervalued. 

“Every tenth person you see on the sidewalk is busy backstabbing one or more of his or her coworkers. At least one in five of the diners at the city’s best restaurants are trying to undercut somebody’s deal or are having their deals threatened. That’s New York. It’s the most competitive place in the world. 

“None of that matters on the squash court. There’s no spin doctor. There’s no alternate narrative. There’s no covert agenda. It’s you and your opponent -- sharing the same space and playing by a set of rules that keeps the competition civil. Squash is an outlet for some of the competitive juices that fuel this city.

“Squash doesn’t need New York, but New York needs squash.”

His rant finished, Hank dropped into his chair.

Lotte smiled. “I think you’ll like what I have to say.”

Chapter 17
Pike’s Pique
by Jeanne Woods

A smiling Hank was bidding farewell to Lotte Van Alstyne, thinking about the calls he’d make to the newly defected members when Yvette approached, flanked by two men who looked like cops. Lotte took this as her cue to leave, saying they’d talk soon to begin working on plans for the new East Side.

The men dismissed Yvette with a “Thanks, we’ll take it from here.” Yvette retreated several steps.

“Mr. Reynolds, I’m Detective Fazio and this is Sgt. Connor with the NYPD. Can you tell us where you were night before last, Saturday, between 5:00 PM and midnight?” asked Fazio, the better dressed of the two.

“WHAT? What the hell! You think I attacked my own daughter?”

The two men exchanged a quick look, “No sir, we don’t know anything about your daughter, but we do wonder if you killed your ex-wife.”

“This is crazy! Kate is my daughter, not my ex-wife. And she’s not dead. She’s still in the hospital. They kept her there to pin her wrist, they--they had to get the swelling down first. I’m supposed to pick her up in twenty five minutes. That creep attacked her. You should be out looking for him!”

Again, the quick look between the cops. “We’re not here about your daughter, Mr. Reynolds, but if the police were called I’m sure the matter is under investigation. Mr. Reynolds, are you aware that your ex-wife, Margaret, was killed sometime Saturday night?”

Hank steadied himself with the edge of his desk, color draining from his cheeks. “Jesus…” Amid the rush of thoughts and feelings was a stab of guilt for those angry fantasies of Margaret slipping on the cosmic banana peel--of simply ceasing to exist.

“Mr. Reynolds, it’s standard procedure, when a woman is murdered, to question the husband, ex-husband, and boyfriends of the deceased. So please, just tell us where you were Saturday between 5:00 PM and midnight.

Hank struggled to understand the situation. Kate attacked. Margaret murdered the same night. “I left the club about 6:30. Yvette,” Hank nodded in her direction, “and I went to dinner and then back to her place until about 1:00 AM when I got a call from my daughter, Kate. She’d been attacked outside Chelsea Piers. She was frightened, crying... I went straight to NYU Hospital—they had to pin a bone in her wrist and she…”

“What time did you meet your friend, Miss ahh…?”

“Towers.  She met me here at about 6:00…” He shook his head, ran a hand through his graying hair, “What happened to Margaret? Where was she?”

Fazio relented slightly, “A cleaning lady discovered the body this morning in an apartment on the upper west side. Head trauma. Mr. Reynolds, when did you last see or speak with your ex-wife?”

“I haven’t seen her in about four years, but we spoke briefly on the phone a few weeks ago. About our daughter…

“Did you try to call her about your daughter’s incident?

“No, Kate asked me not to. They’re--they were estranged...”

“Mr. Reynolds, how would you characterize your relationship with your ex-wife?”

“Not cordial.”

“Can you think of anyone who might have wanted to harm your ex-wife?’

“No. I don’t know anything about her life anymore.”

“O.K., here’s my card. Call me if you think of anything I should know, and don’t leave town in case we need to speak to you further. I’ll have a word with, uh,” looking at his note pad, “Miss Towers.”


Run-limping from the scene of the thwarted attack, Pike had finally managed to find the black Denali in the parking garage. He sat behind the wheel weighing his next moves and cursing his luck as he caressed his throbbing knee. That bloody tattooed roller dyke... Then, oddly it seemed, he thought about his mother, whom he’d barely thought of in years. Only impressions remained. She was pretty and tall, but then everyone is tall when you’re seven. He mainly remembered was how empty the house had looked when he got home from school that day, and the beating he’d received from his dad. He brushed the thought away with a small flick of his hand.

He would return to the apartment, liberate a few choice and readily negotiable items, remove any traces of his presence and get some ice on the knee. Then it was time to get out of the city. His knee was in no condition for moving a body, not to mention the logistics of getting her from the 12th floor to the basement garage, unseen. He’d leave Margaret in the apartment and hope no one finds her for a few days. He’d regroup at Margaret’s house on Long Island where he was sure to find other merchantable items. He knew of a “fence” nearby where he could convert his booty into traveling cash. Miami, maybe. Or New Orleans. Some place warm with lots of flesh on display, he thought.

Pike then remembered he had unintentionally pocketed Margaret’s cell phone and needed to ditch the battery. He checked his pockets. Bloody fookin’ hell, I must have dropped it in the scuffle with Kate or that bloody roller slut! He pounded the steering wheel with the heels of his hands, screaming a long, much hyphenated curse on womankind. If the wrong party had picked up that phone he had a problem.

All but sputtering, Pike peeled out of the parking space, clipping the fender of an Escalade and activating its alarm. The exit gate was unattended, so he ploughed through the gate arm and, momentarily forgetting that Americans drive in the right-hand lane, pulled into on-coming traffic. He narrowly dodged a large truck with a very loud and persistent horn. Swerving into the “proper” lane he nearly side-swiped a BMW, engendering more honking and one-finger salutes which, for the first time he could remember, he let slide.

By the time he reached the parking slip in the basement of the apartment building Pike’s first priority was a couple of oxycodones and a stiff drink. The drive over the Queensboro Bridge to Margaret’s place in West Islip was going to require some fortification.


 April was visiting Kate when Hank arrived, nearly on time, at the hospital. They were looking at an iPhone screen--everything normal there. Kate’s greeting was “Dad, look! April says the guy who attacked me dropped this and I’m pretty sure it’s Mom’s. I recognize a couple of the names and the red case. Ashley picked it up and, with all the commotion, forgot all about it until she found it in her jacket pocket this morning. What was Pike doing with Mom’s phone?”

So it fell to Hank to tell Kate what little he knew about her mother’s demise, all the while fingering Detective Fazio’s card. Kate listened in stunned silence. He told her about the police visit and his presumption they’d come about Kate’s attack. He told her how much he loved her and how glad he was that they were together at that moment.  

It was agreed that Kate would lay low and stay with April, Trixie and Ashley for a few days. Marie was staying with her cousin, Arty. April encouraged Hank to visit Kate when he could. She seemed bright and confident. Hank felt sure that Pike would be no match for Mayhem.

Chapter 18
You Can Run … But You Can’t Hide
by Tammy Mehmed

Word of Margaret’s death spread like wildfire through the East Side Club as soon as the police left.  There were many variations of the story going around, but the only consistent piece was that a housekeeper found Margaret’s bloody body on Monday morning.  The stories ranged from Margaret committing suicide to Hank killing her during an argument.  None of the stories included a connection with Pike, for which Hank was thankful.  He wanted to keep that part of it quiet in case anyone there had stayed in touch with Pike and could tip him off.  Only Jerry, Yvette and Hank knew that Pike was the leading suspect in both incidents, and they were keeping that information to themselves.  What a horror that his daughter and his ex-wife, on the same night, fell prey to that monster.


Pike returned to the flat on the 12th floor in the wee hours of Sunday morning.  No one saw him going back into Margaret’s place, or so he thought.  He knew he had to tidy up the crime scene. 

He opened the bottle of Chivas setting on the wet bar, and took a swig from the lip, swallowing a couple of pain pills as he gulped it down.  It should all kick in within a half hour, he thought, relieving the pain in his knee and shin and getting his mind back on track.  His suitcase and bags were still in the entry where he left them when he first arrived.

He’d made quite a mess of the place with his little temper tantrum and he had Margaret’s blood splattered on his shirt – but with all that, the place looked more like the site of a lovers’ quarrel or a struggle of self-defense with an intruder.  He found some rubber gloves under the kitchen sink and put them on, wiping down all the places he had touched.  The fact that he hadn’t slept, mixed with the Chivas and pills, was starting to catch up with him, but, he knew he had to finish up and get out of the building before sunrise.  He took Margaret’s jewelry, a mink coat and emptied her purse of cash.  He could fence those items and make it appear like a theft at the same time.  Pike had ruined most of the decorative items in his rage, limiting what he could take to his fence, a mistake he regretted.  He made his way down to the basement garage with his belongings and his new best friend, the Chivas bottle, and found the address to Margaret’s Island home on the car registration in her glove compartment. 

Pike was still furious over the lost phone, but knew he couldn’t go back to look for it.  He plugged the address into the built-in GPS and made his way across town.  Driving at 5 a.m. on Sunday there was no traffic, so he made it to West Islip in about an hour.  As he pulled into the driveway of Margaret’s home, he used the garage door opener on her visor, pulled in and closed it immediately behind him.  Margaret had kept the door from the garage into the house locked, but her key chain gave him full access.  He knew he couldn’t stay there long, but at least he could sleep, eat and make a plan, so that by dark he could head out unseen.


It was 6:20 Sunday morning when Kucinich's cell phone went off. Unable to sleep, he was sitting in his study watching CNN and drinking coffee.

"Yeh," he answered.

"Hey Kuch, it’s me. Listen, this guy has been real busy. I've been following him since he left his apartment building in the Village.  His first stop was a nice flat in the Upper West Side on 84th. He was toting around a suitcase and a couple gym bags with racquets like he was going on a trip. He wasn't there too long before I noticed him drive out of the garage in a big ass black Denali and park over near the Chelsea Piers. He was stalking some girl there, tried to hurt her, but some gals who looked pretty tough caught up with him and let him have it.  He ran off like a wounded dog."

Kuch spoke while the fellow caught his breath, "Go on."

"I was able to keep an eye on him and he returned to his parked car and caused quite a ruckus when he left the parking lot then drove back to the place on 84th.  He’s lucky he didn’t crash.  Then about 5 a.m. out he comes again in the Denali and now we’re in West Islip. He slid right into the garage like he owned the place.  He looks settled in here now so I wanted to call you before it gets light out.  I checked out the address and the place is owned by a Margaret Reynolds."

"Good work," said Kuch. “I just heard back from my contact in New Zealand. Sent him a picture and found out this freak is a suspect for the unsolved murder of his girlfriend back there and is a known drug dealer in Christchurch.  He must have changed his name when he moved here.  He's done enough damage now so if you think he's in there alone - it’s time to take him out.  We'll save the government a load of money and paperwork for an extradition if he just goes away. But let's leave his body there as a gift to the Feds. I'm having my contact send NYPD a wire with his picture so that they have a lead he's in the area.  Should help them put it together nicely.  Make it clean and neat and have it look like suicide.  That's a family neighborhood so we don't want to upset the nice folks on a Sunday morning.  When will these low lives ever learn – ‘you can run, but you can't hide’."

"You got it boss". 


Hank’s phone rang on Tuesday morning. It was Detective Fazio. 

“We have a lead in your wife’s death,” he said.  “Turns out there was a video camera in the garage that shows a guy getting into a car, leaving for a bit, and then returning.  Then later loading it up with luggage and leaving.  I was wondering if you could come down to the station to see if you could ID the guy and confirm that it was your ex’s car.”

Hank was happy that there was some hard evidence.  “Sure thing.  I’m on my way.  Any leads on where he went?” he asked. 

“Not yet,” said Detective Fazio.  “But we’ve already sent a team out to her home this morning since he would have had access to the house if he had her keys.” 

“Oh, and Detective Fazio, my daughter Kate’s friend remembered she had picked up a cell phone at the mugging that must have fallen out of the mugger’s pocket.  Kate recognized it as Margaret’s.  I’ll bring it in with me.”

“That’s quite a lead.  We’ll give it to forensics when you get in.  See you in a bit Mr. Reynolds.  Thanks for your help.  I know this is difficult for you and your daughter.”

Chapter 19
Game and Match
by Jeanne Woods

Pike cut the engine as Margaret’s garage door glided closed. He cradled his head in his hands, leaned into the steering wheel and softly sighed “Ahh, fuck me…” His shoulders ached with tension and his knee hurt like hell. It was all beginning to unravel again and he couldn’t get things to line up. It’s all on account o’ that leggy tart. Seemed friendly enough, but NO. Instead o’ takin’ the piss, she coulda’ bloody-well told me straight out whose kid I was steppin’ onto a court with…Makin’ me the fool in one more squash club. She leads me on and then shuts off cold. And THEN getting’ me thrown out o’ Joe’s on my arse, her and her little friend. What the fuck did they tell him? Everybody turning on me… I got nobody, not on this continent, or any other. What am I gonna bloody-well do? I can’t even fookin’ walk…

It had taken half an hour of precious time to find the alarm code for the house among Margaret’s things. He knew the security drill in the West Islip house from a couple of visits he’d made to Margaret there several months earlier. He-needed-that-code! He was in a state of escalating desperation when he finally found it in her wallet, tucked behind her driver’s license. “Stupid cow!” he’d roared. So obvious a place that he hadn’t deigned to look there.

He’d struggled to stay awake and in his own lane on the drive from the city and now the temptation was strong simply to put the seat back and rest his eyes for a few minutes. But his empty stomach, full bladder and the need to elevate and ice his injuries drew him hobbling painfully toward the house. He grabbed a nearby broom and used the handle as a clumsy walking stick.

The garage door led Pike to the utility room and pantry, where he entered the cursed alarm code, and to an adjacent half bath, Pike’s first objective. Better already, he thought. Inspecting the pantry he sneered at the lifetime supply of toilet paper, the diet Pepsi, and Pop Tarts in the first bay. But he smiled into the next cupboard, “Hello, ‘at’s more like it!” he remarked. Leaning forward to examine an assortment of liquor bottles, he selected the Bushmill’s for nightie-nights.

He entered the kitchen, agleam in stainless steel and black mica-flecked marble, accentuated by K-mart-red walls. The sub-zero was sparse. Pike found cold packs and a variety of Lean Cuisine entrees in the freezer, in the fridge the best he could do was a dry-edged package of Kraft cheddar singles and some ham slices that were well on their way from pink to the iridescent grey of spoiled meat. The lettuce was just too far gone. He refreshed two slices of stale white bread with Miracle Whip and ate his sad sandwich with slugs of the Irish, staring into the microwave as the Salisbury steak dinner revolved.  Nice plate of bangers and mash with a pint o’ brown’d go good just now, he thought.

A quick perusal of the house revealed several small negotiable items that should all fit into Margaret’s Louis Vuiton luggage. “Fookin’ shrine to Las Vegas, this.” he growled, though he’d never been there. Pike reasoned that Margaret’s was a big cash business and that he’d have a careful look around after a bit of sleep. He would also need to sanitize and leave the car in favor of something less incriminating, thing after a little kip

The top drawer of the nightstand contained the TV remote and, like chocolate mints on a satin pillow, a very recently filled prescription bottle of thirty Percocets--among Pike’s very favorite drugs. “Now that’s hospitality, Maggie!” he declared to the empty room as he stripped and arranged himself and the ice packs into the luxurious sheets of the king-sized bed. He washed down two tablets with the Hennessy and clicked on the large flat-screen TV on the opposite wall. Finally on the horizontal, instead of the relief he’d anticipated, he only felt alone.  Adrift on a cold black sea.  He watched an explosive car chase for a few minutes then abruptly sighed “Oh bugger it.” and downed the remaining Percocets with a several large draughts of Irish whiskey.

The lock and deadbolt were child’s play for Novak, and Kucinich’s connection at United Alarm Systems, who was always happy to collect a few hundred bucks for providing the occasional alarm code, had come through again. Pike didn’t stir when Novak bent over him with a syringe containing a lethal dose of heroin.


Hank, his teaching schedule decimated, knew he should use this time to connect with the players showing up at the various clubs for the Masters preliminaries, but the word was out about Margaret and he was already sick of the condolences, questions and well meant comments. At the very least he should get out and run some serious sprints. His already abbreviated training schedule had been sideswiped by Kate’s calamity, leaving him feeling anxious and unprepared for the competition.

At about noon on Wednesday Detective Fazzio called with the news that Pike, who turned out to be wanted for murder in New Zealand, had been found dead in Margaret’s bed, an apparent suicide. Hank immediately grabbed his coat and headed out at a good clip for Kate’s redoubt at April’s place. He did not want Kate to learn about this on a newscast.

Kate broke in to a backlog of tears when Hank brought her up to date on the end of things with Pike. He held her as he had so long ago, adding his own tears of gratitude and relief that she had been spared. When her sobs subsided they found themselves smiling and slipping into giddy laughter as the worst of the tensions began to release.

“How’s the wrist feeling, Love?” he asked.

“Better today, I finally don’t have to keep it elevated and can move around a little more easily. In fact, I’d love to go out for a coffee if you have the time. Hiding out here, afraid to show my face at the window, has been hard. But I’m still not quite ready to venture out on my own.”

“You got it “Hank said and helped her into a parka, zipping her cast inside.

They walked to a nearby place and settled into a window seat with coffees and blueberry scones. After an exchange of pleasantries Hank said, in a more serious tone, “You know, Honey, before long you’re going to be called upon to make some decisions about that house.”

“I never want to set foot in that place again, Dad. Can you please make that happen?” she begged. “And I don’t want that pig of a car or any of her other shit.”

“You bet, sweetheart, but it’s your house now. I’ll take care of getting it emptied out and sold for you but there’ll be some paper work for you to deal with. Our buddy, Jerry, the one who dropped the dime on Pike, can probably help with that.”

“Dad, I’ve thought a lot about this and I want to share the proceeds of the house with you--no arguments.” Kate held up her hand in a blocking gesture. “You always paid for that place and it’s probably almost paid off at this point. With the money from the sale and the wads of cash Mom stashed in those bails of toilet paper she always kept in the pantry, I think we can get your kids’ program and my design business up and running.”

“Thank you, Katie-girl, I’m very touched. We’ll talk more about this another time.” Hank smiled and crossed his arms, effectively tabling the topic.

Kate put her hand on Hank’s shoulder. “Dad, I hope you find someone to be with. Someone who’s kind and nice.” Kate said, catching Hank completely off guard.

He looked at her then down at his latte, as if the words he needed would be revealed in the froth. He gave it a nervous stir. “Well,” he began. “Um, this might be a bit premature…”

“Oh, Dad! Really? Tell me everything!” Kate seemed genuinely delighted.

“Well, her name is Yvette. I haven’t even met her children yet, but when things settle down a little we’ll get to that. Right now I just need to try and focus on the Masters.”

They giggled together as Kate pried a few more hard-won tidbits from her father, along with his promise to introduce her to Kate very soon.


Hank was being pressed hard by his old East Side sparing pal, Ed Boynton, in the third game of the finals of the Masters. He hadn’t seen Ed, who was seeded second behind him, since Ed’s move to Boston three years ago and it was good to be on the court with him again. He’s come a long way since the days I knew I could beat him if I tried. And dang, he’s fit! Hank mused.

Hank had the superior court craft and hoped to make short work of the match, but Ed’s level of fitness was beginning to make a difference—he clearly wanted to draw out the play and wear Hank down. Also tugging on Hank’s resources was the effort it was costing him to stay focused on the match given the wild turn of recent events. He hadn’t slept soundly in days.

They had split the first two games and Ed came on with a burst of power in the third, scoring on a couple of good drops before Hank became fully present. Hank evened the score with some volley winners but followed them up with tins. His attention had wavered again to the violence that had come so terribly close, and now he wondered how he’d muster the steam to hold up his end of the match. Another intense rally and Ed came through with an untouchable cross-court nick and let out a short, sharp yelp. He stopped and bent forward holding his shoulder as his racquet slid to the floor.

Hank turned to steady his friend who slowly straightened up to meet his gaze. “You OK?” he asked.

“I think the goddamn rotator cuff went all the way this time.” Ed half whispered. He gave a small bow and, smiling at Hank through a grimace, said “Game and match to you, Amigo, but you know? I think I just might have had you this time.”

“That is entirely possible, Edward.” Hank chuckled, “Entirely possible.”


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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