A collaborative novel featuring eleven writers.

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Chapter ONE BY Alan Thatcher

Chaos. Total chaos. Tournament promoter John Allenby was screaming down the phone, his voice echoing around his temporary office in a hotel room opposite Copacabana Beach.

His two assistants kept their heads down as his anger reached boiling point.

The squash impresario had gambled on bringing a major tournament to Rio, setting up the all-glass court on the beach ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games.

With squash having won a deserved place in the 2020 Olympics, he wanted to showcase the sport as a dynamic, athletic entertainment. With Olympic status, squash was ripe for development.

With extra funding rolling into the sport on the back of that crucial vote in Buenos Aires in September 2013, when squash had beaten six other sports to gain a place at sport’s top table, Allenby was confident he could crack it.

Everything was going to be bigger.

Bigger venues, bigger ticket revenues, bigger sponsorship and bigger TV exposure.

He had booked the TV production team, who had flown over from London, and he had arranged for 1,000 seats to be erected on all four sides of the glass court which by now should be sparkling in the afternoon sunlight on the opposite side of the road.

Only there was no court, and, until it arrived, no likelihood of the tournament taking place to showcase squash’s hard-won place in the 2020 Games.

“Fuck. Double fuck.”

He slammed down the phone, hurled his notebook across the room and cursed again.

Try as he might, Allenby was unable to secure the release of the glass court from the dockside, despite its arrival from the States ten days earlier.

The American, who had built up an event series in Europe and the States, was regarded in the sport as a top pro, a great organiser and a master of the small print in any contract.

But this was one crisis he had failed to foresee.

Persuading the customs office to release the container that held the glass panels and lighting rig was proving impossible. Calls to the city mayor’s office, and even the country’s sports minister, had failed to register any response.

With two days to go before the tournament was due to start, he was running out of options.

He had done well to find a list of sponsors who had shared his vision of a sporting spectacle on the world’s most famous beach, and several wealthy benefactors would soon be asking for their money back if the tournament failed to get off the ground.

The desktop fan that had provided a welcome wave of cool air suddenly became an irritating white noise background to his simmering temper. In his anger and frustration, he knocked it off the desk and kicked the fan across the room.

The plug jumped out of the wall as he slammed the door and headed outside to gather his thoughts.

He didn’t smoke, but today felt like a day when it might be a good idea to start.

Instead, he headed to the hotel bar. Ordering a chilled beer, he slumped in his stool at the bar and exhaled a long, downbeat sigh.

“Bad day, huh?”

Allenby spun round as the female voice took him by surprise.

Shelley Anderson, the head of the World Squash Tour, was sipping a chilled white wine. It was 5 o’clock in the afternoon.

Head-hunted after squash’s admission to the Olympic movement, she oversaw the merger of the men’s and women’s tours, as advised by the IOC in a gesture of goodwill after squash had gained its place at sport’s top table.

Having given squash the green light to make its debut in 2020, the IOC felt that one united world tour would strengthen the sport’s appeal. And they suggested employing a leader from the sports industry with experience in hard-nosed, big-money deals to carry the game forward.

Shelley Anderson fitted the bill perfectly.

She was also non-British. A move that many felt might help the sport to expand globally without being strangled by its old colonial ties.

An Australian who was educated at Trinity, she was aware of the college’s squash traditions but majored in sports management and media. She was also an above-average tennis player.

Her combination of brains and beauty gave her a formidable presence in negotiations with agents, sponsors and tennis federations, and she rarely failed to get her own way.

A powerful deal-maker for the US Open tennis, she nailed a succession of big-money sponsorship packages that were so big they were in a different orbit from the world she now inhabited.

She ate tennis agents for breakfast, especially when they demanded ridiculous amounts of money for their pampered clients.

At 37, she was the epitome of a powerful, confident female executive.

Rumour had it she also ate several star players for breakfast. Her move to squash baffled many inside the racket-sports industry.

Why switch from a powerful, wealthy machine to a small-time relative?

The answer, she insisted, was that she had achieved all she wished to achieve in tennis and saw elevating squash to similar heights as a challenge she could not resist.

A stunning, tall brunette, immaculately made up, she was wearing shorts and a tight white blouse. With one button too many undone revealing a magnificent cleavage, she looked both elegant and cool.

Which was the opposite of how John Allenby was feeling as he pondered his problems.

“I’m fucked. Totally screwed,” he said. “Those bastards at the docks won’t release the glass court. It’s been here more than a week and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.”

“I’m assuming you’ve tried all the normal channels, like money,” she said.

Allenby chugged at his beer, closed his eyes, and let out another loud sigh.

“Yes, they want 30,000 dollars to speed things up,” he said. “But I don’t have that kind of cash on me right now. Well, I do, but it would have to come out of the players’ prize money.”

Shelley Anderson put down her glass, swivelled on her bar stool and touched Allenby on the arm.

“Let me make a few calls,” she said.

Her voice contained soft undercurrents of American and English accents, but was still unmistakeably Aussie. But with the sexiest, erotic lilt.

Dialling a number on her mobile, she wandered out of the bar and headed towards the lift in the lobby.

Before the elevator had carried her skywards to her suite on the 20th floor, she had concluded two quick calls. The first was to an old tennis contact. Like everyone else on her speed-dial list, he owed her a favour.

The second was to the head of facilities for Rio’s Olympic park.

By the time she had entered her suit, she was already on a third call to the head of security at the docks.

Within 30 minutes, she welcomed a tall, swarthy visitor to her suite. He was not the usual sports executive she was used to dealing with, but he had the same love of money. He knew how it moved, and how people who wanted something badly enough will always pay a little extra to speed up delivery. Sometimes more than money was on the agenda. Cars and contraband could always make up any financial shortfall.

She placed a brown envelope on the small table at the entrance to her room.

The visitor counted the dollar bills and his face turned into a cold, inquisitive stare.

“There is only 10,000 in here.”

“I know.”

Undoing another button on her blouse, she smiled at her guest. With a cat-like guile, she extended her fingers so that they caught hold of her guest’s shirt. She gently led him to the bedroom door before stopping and turning to meet his glare, which had softened from the verge of rage to a warm, knowing smile.

The security chief was not a desk jockey. He dealt face to face with dock workers and truckers. To command their respect, he needed to be a rough, tough character. To get things done, aggression always topped dialogue.

But here, in a five-star hotel room, and facing the most beautiful woman he had ever met in his life, his balls turned to jelly.

In her beautiful, precise, softly-seductive Hollywood accent, Shelley Anderson said: “We can carry on talking in here.”
Twenty five minutes later she had showered and returned to Allenby’s side at the hotel bar.

She lent in towards him and looked left and right before whispering in his ear.

Smiling and looking threatening at the same time was an art she had perfected down the years.

“Listen,” she said. “I have a sore backside, a sore frontside, I’ve got a nasty taste in my mouth and I’ve just saved you twenty thousand bucks.”

Her right index finger prodded him gently in the chest before curling around his top shirt button.

Moving even closer, she moved her face next to his and whispered: “Let’s call it a personal favour. I need this tournament to be a success, just the same as you do. My head’s on the block, just the same as yours is.”

As Allenby’s jaw dropped and his bottom lip headed towards his chest, he just managed to blurt out: “I owe you. Big time.”

As Shelley smiled from ear to ear and mouthed the word “Yes” they heard a commotion outside the hotel bar.

As Allenby looked beyond Shelley’s shoulder, through the horizontal blinds, he saw a lorry drive past the hotel window and park on the opposite side of the road. A large container was hooked up to the rear of the vehicle.

His mouth still wide open, a look of total incredulity washing across his sunburned face, the promoter headed for the door.

His tournament was back on.

Chapter TWO by Mick Joint

“For the third time, it was dark blue. Not light blue, dark blue. With the word “Prince” in big white letters all over it” Tyler Wolf was beyond irate. For one and half hours he had been waiting in line in the particularly claustrophobic “Lost Luggage” office of LAN, the Chilean national airline.

It was the cherry on top of what has been the without a shadow of a doubt the worst flight in the history of aviation. He was sure God was punishing him for something and the Almighty was handing it out good and hard.

At 36, Tyler was still one of the world’s best squash players. An Aussie by birth, he learnt his squash through the teachings of his Scottish father, a strict, take-no-crap coach who taught him the value of mental discipline early on with torturous training sessions. If you weren’t throwing up, you weren’t trying hard enough. As painful as they were, they also paid off. Tyler was world number one for several years before his age recently started to catch up with him. Now ranked 5, he was still considered to be the toughest, fittest, scrappiest, most resilient and at times – dirtiest – player ever to grace the arena.

But even this was testing his mettle. The flight from Sydney to Rio should have taken just under one day travel. First, the weather delay in Sydney put everything 3 hours behind schedule. That of course caused him to miss his connecting flight in Auckland – a disaster because the next available seat was the following day. LAN refused to pony up for hotel or food since the hold-up was an “act of God”, something airlines don’t compensate for. Tyler was forced to spend the next 21 hours in the waiting lounge.

The Auckland to Santiago connection also should have been postponed. Stormy weather buffeted the 737 for 11 hours straight. If you didn’t have a phobia of flying beforehand, the turbulence surely would have created one. Many passengers were ill – as were a couple of the stewarding staff – and the nasty acrid smell of vomit permeated through the fuselage. The overweight gentleman sitting next to Tyler gripped the arm rests so violently he ripped off the padding, threw up on himself multiple times, and Tyler was sure he also wet himself as he didn’t go the bathroom once.

Landing late in Santiago, he also missed his next connection, but thankfully LAN flew more than once a day to Rio de Janeiro. He was actually appreciative for the extra couple of hours after the last experience. Lamentably, half way through the flight, a mechanical problem forced the plane to land in Sao Paolo, where they sat on the tarmac for 5 hours, without air conditioning, before continuing on to Rio. All in all, what should have taken 21 hours, took 53. And now, just in case he wasn’t infuriated enough, his bag was lost.

“Prance?” The LAN baggage clerk mumbled back. Uninterested and bored, the clerk with an upside down name tag ‘Juan’ kept looking at his watch and the long line behind Tyler with contempt.

“Prince. P-R-I-N-C-E. Prince. Like the singer. Like Prince Charles. Jeez...” Tyler was about to blow a gasket.

“Si, si, Prance.”

“Yeah, whatever. Where the Hell is my bag?”

“No se. Don’t know. You miss some flights, no? Maybe bag is here already? Get here before you. Let me look here...” Juan started punching some keys on his computer.

It took at least another 5 minutes before Juan spoke another word. Tyler was sure he checking his facebook account.

“Your bag, Mr. Wolf, seems to be lost”

“No shit!”

“It will turn up.” Juan shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “Maybe tomorrow, maybe day after. We call you when bag is here, si? Where you staying?”

Tyler mustered up all the strength he had left not to leap over the counter and rip Juan’s head clean off. “Listen, Juan, it is vitally important that...”

“Si, si. Vitally important that you get your bag.” Juan was mocking him. “Everybody bag is vitally important.” He rolled his eyes and started muttering away. “...sue the airline..., ...make my life a misery..., ...never fly LAN again..., Look, there is nothing I can do now. Your bag? Poof! Not here. You wait. We call you. Now go away and let me tell all people behind you the same thing. It is not about life or death.”

Tyler passed on his hotel information without one more sound and marched out the office. Little that he knew, it actually was about to affect his life.


John Allenby was having a much better day. The court construction on the beach was going swimmingly well. He was rather surprised and impressed at the efficiency of the crew putting the large jigsaw puzzle together, including the stadium seating all around the venue. It was almost complete. The tournament - and his career - was back on track. Doubly pleasing was the wonderful eye-candy that paraded constantly past. He had never seen so many beautiful women, amazing bodies, perfectly proportioned, and not exactly shy about showing off just the right amount of skin... or wrong amount depending on how you looked at it.

Shelley was a life saver. What mountains she moved to get this thing going, her connections appeared boundless. Naturally, her ‘assets’ were an essential part of the equation and John winced at the thought of what she must have ‘endured’ to save him all that money. Pangs of jealousy made him shiver in the warm sun. He was not her type, he knew that, but that didn’t stop him from fantasizing about her. It was her accent that drove him wild the most.

He couldn’t afford the distraction. Tomorrow was a big day with the public announcement of the men’s and women’s qualifying draws and the start of play at the Copacabana Squash Club. All the qualifiers had checked in – except one. John wasn’t worried just yet. The American trained Argentinean lass – 19 year old Florencia Perez - still had 16 hours to show up before roll-call and the deadline, although she had been known to miss such deadlines before. It wasn’t that she just the top ranked qualifier, she was drop dead gorgeous. The ‘Kournikova’ of the squash world, she had serious potential to be world number one. She was so marketable on top of it, with the inclusion of squash into the Olympics, sponsorship and commercial offers were coming in thick and fast. Squash was selling. If healthy and reliable, Florencia was a guaranteed money generator for the sport worldwide. It would be a more than minor disaster if she wasn’t playing due to tardiness.

His cell phone started to ring loudly. Guns and Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” started playing. “John Allenby.”

“John, its Erika Hoskin”. Erika was Florencia’s coach in New York. “Got a minute?”

“Sure. What’s up?” John prepared himself for what was about to come. He had received this phone call at least twice before.

“Florencia’s plane was delayed. Some staffing issue at United Airlines or something. She should already be there, but she’s on her way now. Plane should land in Rio tomorrow morning at 8:00 am.”

“Erika, the qualifying draw is scheduled for 10:00 am!”

“I know, I know, just wanted to give you a heads up. She needs to be picked up the moment she comes out of customs and raced to the club. It will be close, but if it all goes smoothly she should still make it.”

Shit. Smoothly? In Rio de Janeiro? A lot of things could go wrong for Miss Perez not to be on time. Flight delay, weather, customs, traffic, baggage claim... and they were just the things he could immediately think of.

“Guess we’ll hope and beg things go according to plan then? Thanks Erika.” John hung up.

He wasn’t religious, but he thought he might start to be. To no one in particular, he mumbled, “God, please don’t fuck this up.”


Shelley Anderson was standing in front of the floor to ceiling window ignoring the magnificent view of Copacabana beach with an almost completed squash court from her hotel room with a white wine in her hand. Her mind was elsewhere. She was a little drunk and not happy. Nothing upset her more than to be kept waiting. A day and a half late was not acceptable. Not being sure how she was going to react when he finally did arrive upset her even more. She did not enjoy losing control.

The knock on the door made her jump and spill some wine over the carpet.

Rushing over, she yanked the door open. Tyler Wolf stomped into the room, greeting her with clenched teeth and a deathly stare.

“Thank God you’re here! I was so worried. What happened? Thought your plane had disappeared over Bermuda Triangle or some...” Shelley stopped mid sentence. She could see he was ready to erupt.

“You have no idea what I’ve just been through!” Tyler paced restlessly through the room striding from one end to the other, gesturing, at times shouting, swearing and occasionally kicking some furniture as he unloaded his recent travel escapade on her. Twenty five minutes later, he had calmed down somewhat and the two of them were sitting on the couch with a fresh bottle of wine opened on the table.

“Is the Prince rep here yet?” he asked. “I need some gear until my bag gets here... if it gets here.”

“I’m sure he is. I’ll call John Allenby and ask. Tyler, you’re here, you’re in one piece, you don’t play for a couple of days, it’s time to focus on your squash. You need to be on the top of your game. This tournament is huge for us!”

Shelley Andersen and Tyler Wolf go way back. Growing up in suburban Sydney, they attended the same private school and all the way through their teenage years had an on-again-off-again-on-again relationship. They were one of those couples that would kill each other when together but would kill themselves if apart. When Shelley was 18, her parents moved to the States and they gave her the golden opportunity to study at Trinity College – a prospect too good to pass up. Tyler was heartbroken, but through his squash tour and Shelley’s tennis business career, the pair hooked up occasionally to stoke the embers. Their mutual feelings for each other never faded. Now, with Shelley working full time on the squash tour, they could see each other more regularly. Neither would openly admit it, but they weren’t sure that was such a good idea. Their intimacy was not public knowledge, although rumours had been circulating for years.

“One of my last gasps, I think” replied Tyler. “Don’t get me wrong, I feel great. Strong, fit, hitting well. I think I can win this.” He was coming off the recent Australian Open victory. An event he has now won for the 5th time. The final was a 3-0 comfortable win over surprise opponent Abdul Omar Khan, the new young Pakistani on the block who played out of his tree for the week knocking off world number 13, 7 and 3 on his way through the draw. The effort to get to the final cost him the title, he was simply not used to playing (or winning) so many tough matches on consecutive days whereas Tyler was. Khan’s ranking jumped into the top 12, Tyler’s stayed at 5 although he came a lot closer to the fellows above him. Winning in Rio may even get him the top spot back depending on how the others fared.

“You retiring?” Shelley was legitimately shocked. It never crossed her mind Tyler would ever give it up.

“Thinking about it. Dunno. It’s getting harder Shelley. I have to admit that. These young guys – Omar, the Egyptians, that Peruvian, even the Swede – he’s so quick – I struggle to maintain, they just keep on coming.”

“Well, you can’t think about that until after Rio. For now, you’re one of favourites to win the biggest ever squash tournament prize in the sport. And you will. You must!”

He was in a terrific position to pull off the win. Scheduled to play a qualifier first round, he wasn’t due to meet a real tough opponent until the quarter finals. The four players ranked above him had a lot more difficult time ahead of them. It was very possible a couple of them could lose early, and a third was carrying an injury everybody knew wasn’t healed properly. The only thing which bothered him was the fact he didn’t have his own gear. He may have to play with unfamiliar equipment.

“The qualifying matches start tomorrow. You have an interview with the local television in the morning at the local Copacabana Squash Club just before the announcement of the qualifying draw. John Allenby will be doing it with you. Please be nice to him.” Shelley wasn’t really asking.

“I’ll be fine as long as he’s nice to me. Just hope I can use my own racquets and wear my own shoes.”

Like on cue, there was another knock on the door.

“Did you order room service?” Tyler enquired.

“No. I was not expecting us to be interrupted all night,” answered Shelley with a sly wink. She stood up and looked through the peephole. She couldn’t see anything but blackness. “Who is it?”

“LAN luggage delivery. I have a bag for a Mr. Wolf?” It was a question more than a statement.

Tyler was momentarily confused. How could it be here so quickly? Just over an hour ago it was lost in the abyss of world transit, and now it was on the other side of the hotel room door. It wasn’t even his hotel room. A red flag should immediately have been raised but the relief of knowing his gear was actually here made him react without thinking. “Thank God! Let him in!”

Shelley opened the door and sure enough a LAN delivery man was standing there with a dark blue Prince bag in his hands. Also standing there was the hotel manager, two armed policeman, and that bastard British squash reporter that followed all major events around the globe for his website, ‘smashingballs.com’. Aptly named, Charles Buckler was a total ball breaker that went out of his way to find dirt on anyone and everyone. Everybody loves to read about a train wreck. He wrote about the game of squash very well however, and mostly his articles were excellently scribed. He was also rather adept at finding out the most obscure information. He knew about their love affair but up to now has failed to provide printable proof. Because of that, Tyler Wolf was a common target of his. Nothing pleased Charles more than raking the Australian through the muck and right now he had a wide grin plastered on his pale, bushy moustached face and a camera at the ready. Not a good sign.

“This your bag, sir?” The larger of the two policemen asked the question. His hand was on the butt of his gun which thankfully was still in the holster.

“Errr... yes. There a problem?” Tyler’s heart sped up instantly.

“Sir, you may want to come with us to the station to answer a few questions.” It was not a request.

“What? Why? What’s going on...?” Tyler started to get scared.

The second policeman held up a small plastic bag. Clearly it had marijuana in it. “Droga,” he said waving it in Tyler’s face.

The camera flashed.

“What!” Tyler was genuinely horrified. “That’s not mine! What’s going on!?”

“You need to come with us,” the bigger cop said. He removed handcuffs from his utility belt and arrested a dumbfounded Tyler. He started to lead him towards the elevators.

“Shelley! Help me! Do something!” The Australian squash professional did not know what to do. This couldn’t be happening, not two days before the biggest tournament of his career. He started to cry.

The camera flashed again.

Chapter THREE by James Zug

Tyler Wolf thought he was awake, but he wasn’t sure. It was still dark. The world was a velvety black curtain drapped over his mind and body. No light at all. He lifted his right arm to rub his eyes, but his arm didn’t move. Nor his left arm. They were bound in heavy tape to his side. He was wrapped like an otter in seaweed.

    This is going to be a long night. If it was night. How long had he been asleep, he wondered? His mind raced through what had happened. He was talking to Shelley, the knock on the door and this incredible scene with his luggage, flashing cameras. Then it went into slow-motion: walking down the muffled, carpeted hall; taking the elevator, the three of them, no one saying a word; leaving the hotel flanked by the goons; getting into the back of a grey, unmarked car. It was all so normal and yet surreal. And then? What had happened? An itch in his leg reminded him—one of the policemen had jabbed him in the thigh with something. Since then, a blank.

    He could hear the clang of metal meeting metal, a screen door shutting, muted laughter, the rumble of a truck going down a hill. It was hot. He was still in Rio, but this wasn’t a prison.

The Copacabana Squash Club was a vibrant health club near the favela do Morro dos Cabritos. It had an excellent view of the beach and the jutting, forested hills of Rio. A backpacking Australian had built the Copa in the late seventies on a lark. This was long before the World Cup and Olympics had swum into view. After a couple of decades, the Aussie missed surfing on the Gold Coast too much and sold it and returned home. The new owners increased it to six courts, glass-backed, with marine blue and green walls. A mix of expats, stony-faced government officials, disheveled filmmakers and sheveled real estate magnates were members.

    The renovations hadn’t completely smothered the club’s infamous unzipped scene. The Copa had a co-ed locker room, co-ed showers, co-ed steam room. Members had their own white terry-cloth bathrobes, their name embroidered on the sleeve, and it was common, Allenby had heard, for late-night, slightly impaired visitors to the locker room to squabble over who got to sheath their naked body with the mayor’s robe.

    It was mid-morning. Allenby had slept late and rushed over to the club. The cattle-call, the moment when all the qualifiers stood in a court and the qualies draw was made, was due in forty-five minutes. If you were a minute late, the draw was closed.

    Two players were on court hitting. It sounded like loafers in a dryer—bang, bang-bang. The other players were milling about the club, most on their cell phones updating their Facebook news feeds and tweeting and retweeting each other’s tweets. Some had earbuds dangling from their shoulders like thin white snakes. Very few were talking to each other. A new surliness had descended upon the pro tour after the IOC selection. Agents, sniffing out money, had snapped up everyone in the top fifty, and suddenly many of the players had entourages: managers, physio-therapists, coaches. The stakes were rising. The old friendliness was fading.

    “Where is Wolfie? Allenby asked Carlos Paulo, the club’s manager. “He’s got that interview with NBR."

    “I’ve heard nothing,” said Paulo with a sigh. Unlike Allenby, he had been at the club since 5am. “I’ve sent him a couple of texts but nothing since he arrived last night. His flight from Sydney was pretty awful, so he’s probably asleep still. You know how these players sleep until noon.”

    “What about about Perez? Still no word?”

    “None of the girls have any ideas. I’ve checked her Facebook and Twitter. All blank.”

    “Where the hell is everybody?” Allenby said irritably. He needed coffee.

    “Maybe she’s caught in the security at the airport?” Paulo said hopefully. Since the nightclub fire in Santa Maria the year before, a new set of protocols for any public gathering place had been implemented and this meant it took an interminable time to get through immigrations, customs and security checkpoints at Galeao International Airport.

    “This was so typical of a tournament,” Allenby said as if teaching Paulo a lesson. “There are big crises and small crises. It is like a wave, first one and then the other. Wolfie I can deal with but Perez, I’ve got to have her.”

    An enigma wrapped inside a mystery, Perez had come out of nowhere. She was muscular and quick and didn’t speak a word of English. She never played on the junior circuit. She never came to Sheffield or Cambridge for those sprawling junior tournaments. Then, a year ago, she got a wild card in an event in Bogota and reached the finals.

    She was a hiccup shooter: unexpected and continual. Every time she touched the ball, she hit a dropshot. She ripped off the volley cross-court smash on every possible service return. Literally every single time. It got so bad that opponents served the ball  short and at her, bodyline, rather than the side wall, just to prevent her from shooting. She loved to see if she could smack a dropshot from that back corner or while backpedaling or twisting.

    Perez also had a two-hand backhand which was awful, totally unsuited for her aggressive play. She said this was a remnant of her tennis-playing days. It was a quirk that Erika Hoskin, her coach since Bogota, had tried to fix. Hoskin was very private about Perez. All coaches were like that, territorial over their troops. Hoskin had gotten her to wear sneakers, that was an accomplishment—apparently in the Bogota tournament she had played barefoot.

    Allenby fired off another email to Hoskin and texted Perez. He then scrolled through his Twitter feed for the first time that morning. Buckler had posted something late last night: “Tyler Wolf arrested on drug charge in Shelley Anderson’s hotel room taken away no warning #braziliansquashopen ‘That's not mine,’ he yelled.”

    On tour, among the wandering international tribe of squash writers, photographers, broadcasters and officials, Buckler was famous for many things. He always demanded his own hotel room—“for equipment,” he said. He smoked two packs of Belomorkanals a day. He hated squash itself. He didn’t play, unlike nearly everyone else in the tribe. He never watched the matches live, preferring to talk to sources—coaches, loitering referees, hangers-on—in the crowd; he viewed the matches in silence on his computer the next morning, when he knew the outcome and could see the narrative. He perpetually looked like a professor of some ‘ology just back from months of field work. Straggly grey hair spouted like kudzu all over his body. And there was the Buckler Beard. After the first ball of the qualies was struck, he didn’t shave until the finals were over. He was like a goddamn ice hockey player in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Every tournament, he did this. A spasm of self-hatred was the explanation, Allenby thought.

    Buckler always tweeted the maximum characters on Twitter, not one less. He hated wasting something free. Allenby didn’t even need to count do know this tweet about Wolfie was exactly 140.

    Through the window, Allenby saw Buckler on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette. He got himself a cup of coffee from the bar and went outside.

    “What’s this about Wolfie getting arrested?” he asked.

    “Oh, hey, Johnny. Didn’t you read my report on SmashingBalls,” Buckler said.

    “No, I haven’t,” Allenby said, adding, “yet.” He loathed the website: a badly-presented farrago of gossip and innuendo and overly-detailed analysis about equipment.

    “Oh,” Buckler said, smoke clinging to his eyebrows like fog on a Pacific Redwood. The Belomorkanals were reputed to be the strongest cigarettes in the world. Allenby thought it was just an affection, Buckler’s way of drawing attention to the fact he lived in Russia in the nineties. No one knew exactly what he was doing over there. “I see. Well, basically, I saw the whole thing happen. I came up on the elevator with the cops. I’ve been working on this story, you know, for a long time now, back to last year when we were getting into the Games.”

    Allenby winced at the “we”. Buckler was helping no one but himself. He gave him a basilisk stare. His face was clean-shaven. The Beard was going to begin.

    Buckler went on: “You know, it’s about doping. They had Wolfie’s luggage and a bag of pot of the found int, but I don’t think that was the whole thing. I mean, Wolfie wouldn’t fly into Brazil with pot."

    “Coal to Newcastle,” Allenby said, showing off the full extent of his knowledge of Anglo slang.

    Buckler exhaled as if he had been holding his breath. “When the Lance Armstrong story wrapped up with him going to jail, I started looking into doping in squash. Turns out there was something there. The players all said they were tested by their own national associations, but when I researched this, most associations weren’t doing it—they assumed the WST was testing. We assumed they were. Who’s on fucking first, here boys?” Buckler smiled. He was happy to toss some American slang back at Allenby. “So only a few were getting tested and even those were not for Erythropoietin.”

    “For what?”

    “Erythropoietin,” Buckler said, relishing this opportunity to educate Allenby. “EPO. Blood doping, my friend. These guys are doing EPO and growth hormones, blood transfusions. Most associations just test anabolic steroids. Really. Who besides from Hungarian weightlifters do steroids now? Some contacts here in Brazil told me that Wolfie was deeply involved. You know those Aussies, they’ll do anything to win.”

    And so will the Canadians and Brits and Peruvians and Egyptians, thought Allenby as he sipped his coffee. So will everyone. “And with Wolfie thirty-six, on the verge of retirement, it makes sense,” he said. But did it?

The phone vibrated on the glass table like a sheep bleating. Shelley Anderson looked out at the beach. The southeast breeze skimmed the waves along the sand like pinwheeling, spiraling knives. She put her glass of wine down, shaded her eyes and picked up her phone. It was a 41 21 number. Lausanne.

    “Yes,” she said hurriedly, her lips barely open. “We got the court out of customs, Rhodanie. It’s alright.”

    “”What the hell happened?” said Rhodanie.

    “I don’t know. Someone tipped them off. We used to get the satellite dish impounded, that happened in Egypt once, but never the panels and lighting. They knew.”

    “How? How’d they know, Shel?”

    “I haven’t a clue. You’re supposed to be the one with all plans. You’re the brains behind this. But they knew it was in the container. I am sure.”

    “Why are you sure?” Rhodanie repeated.

    “The head of security. He told me. He came to the hotel yesterday. We had a conversation. I had to pay him off, in cash. And kind.”

    “That’s good of you. We appreciate that, Shel. But we are not in the clear yet. Far from it. If you can’t make this happen, we’ll move someone else in.”

    Shelley stopped and took a slow sip of her wine. Then she began fiddling with the spoon on the table, trying to get it to stand on edge. “Listen, Rhodanie Maison, don’t threaten me. I am not a jillaroo. I know what I’m doing. I know how to make this happen.”

    “I’m sure the head of security thought so, Shelley Anderson.” So it was back to full names.

    “Please. Don’t be disgusting. I’ll get this done. The court is almost up. Allenby is clueless. The qualies begin this afternoon. Once the main draw starts, then we can move.”

    “What about Wolfie? What about Buckler?”

    Anderson didn’t think he knew about Tyler Wolf’s arrest. “Buckler’s a hairy stickybeak. I can put him off the scent with a few new racquets he’s never heard of. That is easy. And no one reads SmashingBalls anyway. Tyler, well, he’s a problem. I can’t find him.”


    “I went down to the police station this morning but they said he wasn’t there. They have no record of his arrest. It’s incredible. I’ve made a few calls. I’ve got a lawyer friend looking into it. No one knows anything. The Wolf has disappeared. Poof.” The spoon clattered off the table.

    “Really,” Rhodanie said, spacing his words out, “that is not good. Not good at all. Australian kidnapped in South America.”

    “Buckler was there when they nabbed Tyler. Maybe he can tell me more about the guys who took him away. Maybe he’s got some photos of them.”

    “It is amazing how quickly this has gotten bollocks up.”

    “I told you, Rhodanie, that’s the squash world. They’re nice people but they don’t know how to play with the big boys.”

    There was silence on the line. Anderson looked at her watch.

    Rhodanie asked, “Where are you now?”

     “I’ve just had lunch. Got to go,” Anderson said. “I’ve got a tennis game this afternoon. Doubles. With a couple of old friends. They owe me a favor.”

    “You’re still playing?”

    “Sure. You don’t think I’m going to go inside and play squash when I am in Rio? That’s not good for my tan.”

Tyler Wolf was swimming headlong through a fever-dream. He thought he was asleep, at least, but then he realized he was wide-awake. He was walking through a heavy, black door into a chilly, cloud-filled afternoon. He was wearing a stiff wool suit, a waist-coat, a hat.  His leg felt fine. He was free.

    But this was nothing like Rio, he thought. The door led into a lost lane. He could smell woodsmoke. At the other end of the lane, two boys were playing a game. They both held long-handled wooden racquets. The ball skidded and hopped off the stone walls and cobbled ground, the windowsills, a boot-scraper by an ancient door.

    The rally went on and on, as if the point would never end. Wolf couldn’t see the boys’ faces. It was hard to see in the fug of fog and gloom  that crept along the wet, mossy stones. The fog almost enveloped the boys. Wolf looked at the walls. This place was utterly unfamiliar. He felt like a convertible in the winter: functional but out of place.

    “Hallo, Master Wolf.”

    His heart quickened. He turned and saw a stork-like man was standing next to him, materializing out of the soupy mist. “Ah, yes,” Wolf said.

    “Nice seeing the boys at play,” the man went on. “I approve of this, the younger ones learning the game this way. It helps their backhands.”

    Wolf nodded slightly, with a timorous smile. “That’s right.” How did he know my name?

    “’Tis true that many of the older masters disagree with me. But this game, this baby racquets, this soft racquets, this softer, well, yes, a few windows have been broken. And surely, it isn’t a real game. It isn’t a manly game like racquets. But they like it, they surely like it. Can’t get enough India rubber balls, though I know they use the broken ones as mini squirt-guns. They are even playing softer on the new fives courts. Surely, Eton—you know I had a brother who went there?—has so many, many schoolboy games compared to us, but they don’t have softer. It makes Harrow proud, surely, don’t you think.”

    “Yes, of course. So they are playing it on the fives courts?” Wolf looked at the man more carefully. Where was he, where was this place? Rain started to come spitting down. He could smell sage, thyme, the solace of a roast cooking on a fire.

    “You haven’t seen that? It isn’t the same naturally, none of the quirks of the alley, I’m afraid, no waterpipes or windowsills, but surely jolly good fun for them.”

    “It does seem a bit strange to play here, in this little alley,” Wolf said.

    “Do you hear what they now are calling this game?” The stork looked at Wolf. “They’re calling it squash."

Chapter FOUR by Jamie Crombie

Erika Hoskin was Florencia Perez’s coach, but their relationship of player/coach was not your typical relationship. The degree of interaction was at a level never seen before on either the men’s or the women’s pro tour. Erika had waited for twenty years to finally get a pupil in which her skills as a coach could be fully appreciated and utilized. An ex touring pro who had an uncanny knack at winning every close match was her own personal claim to fame. Unfortunately, when those wins came they were in the first round of qualifying in some small rinky-dink tour event. Those matches didn’t bring her much recognition as a top player or even as a potential coach.

Erika had absolutely no physical or technical skill so her ability to win any pro match was a testament to her ability to think. It was this attribute, which she knew with the right talent, and guidance would create not a great player but a world champion. But who knew other than the twelve people who came out to the 1st round of the Slago Open that Erika was a master tactician.

So when it was time to hang up her racquet, she wasn’t exactly scooped up by some of the most prestigious clubs in the US. For so many retired pros, the US squash scene was the place to earn a living.  When she took a job as an assistant coach at New York Junior Academy, she was only ever given the kids which all the other six coaches didn’t want. The combination of a male denominated sport with a squash pedigree, which didn’t light up the page, left her with little options as to who she was left to work with. But with the help of the public library in New York, Erika was able to further master her skills as a tactician like no other through her desire to read every single book on how wars were won.  A resource used by no other coaches but with the right mind and body as a pupil, this advantage could rewrite the book on how to play squash. So when Florencia was handed to her on a platter, it was as if this was another reject for Erika. She knew that she couldn’t blow this golden opportunity. Secondly, her sense of paranoia kicked in, so nobody was going to steal her future star from under her wings, and this is when her gem started her mysterious path to the top.


Usually when you get this close to the actual start date of a tournament, your checklist of items to complete as a tournament organizer would have shrunk to a manageable level. But to John’s dismay his list of items seemed to have this very sick sense of humor. The checklist had this incredible ability to add an item just as quickly as John checked one off the list. He checks off the list that his stadium seating has been completed only to add that the seats have sticky syrup covering many of them so they would have to be individually cleaned by hand. His PA system was completed only to have a two speaker’s blow a fuse and somehow have to be completely replaced.

Maybe it was these constant disruptions to the master plan, which had John up before his 6am alarm clock was set. But either way, he was up when the head of the court construction, Phil Peters, called him at 5:45 am.

“Hey Phil, what’s up .“

“What do you mean two glass panels are missing?”

“So you are telling me, at 6 fucking am in the morning that the two panels for the glass court were never in the container to begin with and why am I hearing about this for the first fucking time just hours before the qualifying start?”

John was shaking he was so mad, but as an event organizer you have to go into survival mode and switch off your emotions and try to come up with a resolution. As Shelley Anderson had already dealt with the Head of Security at the docks, it was time to get her back involved. One quick phone call to her cell and a request to be in his room in five didn’t go over well but was agreed upon with a quick yes.


Even with five minutes notice and 6 in the morning, Shelley still looked good as she walked through the door to John’s hotel room. John proceeded to tell her the news about the missing panels and the need for answers as to their whereabouts.

“Get that fucker on speaker, now,” John demanded.

Shelley quickly dialed his number and waited for an answer. Eight further attempts later a groggy voice picked up the phone and Shelley laid her phone down on the table while putting it on speaker for both John and her to hear.

“Hi, Victor this is Shelley.”

“There seems to be a problem with the court.”

“Two of the glass panels weren’t in the container.”

“What do you mean, there is a new deal, I already paid you the argued upon price.”

“Did you just say my skinny white ass wasn’t worth $20,000?”

“You son of a bitch.”

“What do you mean dial this number?”

“I’m not dialing any number, you…” Click.

There was only a ring tone on the other end and Shelley and John were stunned at the development that was just presented to them. Shelley can’t believe her sex appeal had failed and John didn’t know what the hell this all meant. Either way, they were screwed.

Chapter FIVE BY Georgetta Morque

Emily Miller wiped a bit of sweat from her forehead with a magenta wrist band that appropriately matched her skirt and white tank top with magenta trim and stepped out of court 3 at the Copacabana Squash Club. Julia Brown followed. The two plopped themselves on a mint green and pale blue striped couch flanked by floor-to-ceiling lush tropical plants in the spacious lounge area. They tossed their racquets aside and immediately checked their cell phones.

“My dad keeps texting me about my match, but I keep telling him I still don’t know when I’m playing. What’s with this freakin’ tournament anyway?” complained Emily, fixing her blonde pony tail.

“I know. My mum’s been calling as well,” said Julia with a sigh, taking a swig of her now tepid sports drink. “They’re so bloody slow.”

Emily, a college recruit hopeful from the New York area, became friends with Julia,  a petite sandy-haired player from Cambridge, on the European junior circuit and at summer camps. Emily’s dad, Maxwell Miller, II, a lawyer and avid player, hoped that squash would be Emily’s ticket to an Ivy League school and thought this tournament would help raise her squash profile plus provide some needed motivation.  While Emily liked the game and has had plenty of training and tournament play, her focus wasn’t always there. A little less texting and tweeting and more rails and cross courts would certainly help.

Julia’s parents were also optimistic about their daughter’s squash future, especially now with the Olympics a reality. Julia’s uncle had played for Wales so it seemed only natural for her to carry on the squash pedigree. Like Emily, Julia’s head was sometimes elsewhere, and quite often, celebrities and pop stars commanded her attention. Not that long ago, she and her friends camped out for two nights waiting to see a pop star perform in rain-soaked Hyde Park. She missed her squash lesson and was too wiped out to play in a tournament that weekend, which didn’t bode well at home.

When Emily learned that Julia had entered the qualifier in Rio, that sealed the deal.  Both sets of parents felt somewhat relieved that the girls would be together and hopefully stay out of trouble at least until Maxwell Miller arrived after finishing an important case. The girls kept their fingers crossed that they wouldn’t be on the same side of the draw. And more importantly, they prayed that neither of them would have to face Florencia Perez.

 “I wonder what’s up with Florencia. I can’t imagine she wouldn’t show,” remarked Julia, standing up briefly to stretch and smooth down her lavender skirt.

“Trust me, she wouldn’t miss this if her life depended on it.”

“Hmm, I guess she’ll just run through everyone here and look amazing at the same time.” 

“Yeah, with that backhand that’s so frickin’ annoying. Why is that allowed?”

“I bet since Shelley Anderson is from tennis, that’s why.”

“So what’s next from Shelley Anderson? Are we gonna have freakin’ nets on the squash court?  She should have just stayed in tennis.”

Julia looked at her phone again. “Here’s something. Tyler Wolf has been arrested on drug charges.”

“You’re kidding,” said Emily. “I wonder what Shelley Anderson will do about that.”

“Hmm. I don’t know, but there’s nothing about Florenica. Let’s check the board to see if there are any updates there.” 

They got up and walked over to look at the notices. Flyers announcing everything from beach fitness training to squash samba parties covered the wall. A posting about the tournament caught Julia’s eye.

 “OMG,” she squealed breathlessly, with eyes wide open.


Look who’s on the players list who wasn’t there before!” gasped Julia, practically jumping now. “Andres Lopez from Colombia,” she cried in a whispered scream.

“No way!” said Emily.  “He’s like so hot. He played an exhibition at our club last year and he was so amazing.”

“Have you seen him in the Nutra Water commercial?”

“No, he’s on TV? We haven’t seen that in the U.S.” 

“He’s a real star now. You can find it on YouTube. He’s at the beach, it’s really hot.” Julia had to stop to catch her breath. She continued: “He takes off his sweaty shirt after a jog, drinks this water and all these girls come running after him. He’s just innnnncredible.”

Emily pulled out her iPad and immediately logged on to YouTube. “Got it.” The two stared at the screen, fixating on the sizzling six pack, chiseled shoulders, long wavy brown hair and vividly inviting dark eyes of Andres Lopez. “Don’t you just love his tattoos?” whispered Julia.

“I thought he was banned from World Squash Tour because of temper tantrums in Toronto.”

“I bet Shelley Anderson let him in.”

“I’m sure she did.”

“Hmm, I just got a brilliant idea. Why don’t we have a look for him?  He’s got to be around somewhere and there’s nothing going on here.”

“Cool!   Let’s bounce.”

The courts, which were overrun with players, were steamy now and infused with the faint yet familiar scent of muscle rub. Carlos was tired.  As a longtime club manager, he had never encountered so much chaos with a tournament. The phone didn’t stop ringing.  Players who had been sitting around had now resorted to pacing and several peppered him with questions. “You’ll have to speak with John Allenby,” he said, somewhat exasperated. “I have a call into him now. He should be here any moment.”

“There’s a woman on the phone,” said Alberto, Paulo’s assistant. “A Miss Jackson, she’s asking about Tyler Wolf.”

Paulo took the phone. “Hello Miss Jackson,” he said, trying to maintain a calm voice.

“Mr. Paulo.” The voice was intense with an Australian accent. “I’m trying to locate Tyler Wolf?”

“Tyler hasn’t come to the club yet. I believe there was some problem with lost luggage.”

“Lost luggage! Mr. Paulo, are you not aware that it’s all over the Internet that Ty has been arrested on drug charges. What’s going on?  You must have some reasonable explanation of what this is all about.”

 “What? Miss Jackson, I can’t believe that.”

“Mr. Paulo, I left my number with your assistant, and I expect to hear from you with any news.” Click

Carlos tried to reach Allenby’s cell phone to inform him about this mysterious and disturbing phone call, but before he could, the TV crew from NBR arrived.

“Shit,” said Carlos, under his breath.  Perez and Wolf, both scheduled for interviews, were nowhere to be found.

Carlos greeted the reporter and cameraman who started to shoot some footage of players practicing.

“Player Tyler Wolf isn’t here right now, but..,”

“I know,” said the reporter, Bruno Diaz. “We will interview another player, but quickly. We have to leave in a minute to cover a surfing event at Barra da Tijuca, and that British boy band is rehearsing later at the Plataforma, so we have to get there before the crush.  Busy day, typical,” he said, grinning, flashing his sparkling white teeth.

“We film glass box?” the cameraman said to Carlos in broken English.  Bruno explained that they went down to the glass court but it was still being assembled.

“When will it be finished?” he asked. “Never mind,” he said before Carlos could figure out an answer. “We’re on a tight schedule, so we got what we need here. It will have to do.”

Amid the clamor, more commotion exploded from the club entrance. Clapping and cheering, a swarm of people gathered to meet and greet a player dressed all in black with a black headband. He gave high fives and shout outs to fans and friends.  Like a rock star suddenly appearing on stage or a political favorite taking the podium, Andres Lopez had arrived.

Andres Lopez, thought Paulo. Is he even in this tournament? Wasn’t he banned for conduct?

“Oh, here’s a player for us,” said Bruno, sizing up that this guy had to be important.  Relieved that he could finish up this squash story and move on, he made his way over to Andres who acted as if he knew the crew was expecting him.

“But...er,” Carlos tried to follow and stall them, but the cameraman already affixed a mic on Andres.

The camera rolled. “I’m here at the Copacabana Squash Club where players from all over the globe are getting in gear for one of the world’s major tournaments right here on the beach on a soon-to-be completed all-glass court,” announced Bruno. “Here with me is player Andres Lopez from Colombia. How’s it going Andres?”

“It’s going great, Bruno. I’m so excited to be here in Rio,” responded the made-for-TV Andres, as if he had rehearsed his answer to perfection.

“And now that top player Tyler Wolf has been reportedly arrested on drug charges, how does that impact you in this tournament?”

“The draw is wide open. It’s anyone’s game now,” responded Andres, beaming, with a bottle of Nutra Water in his hand.

“Thank you. Mr. Lopez.  Bruno Diaz here reporting from the Copacabana Squash Club.

“This will air on tonight’s news,” Bruno called out to Carlos, rushing off with his cameraman as quickly as they raced in.

This can’t get any worse, thought Carlos who immediately called Allenby’s cell phone. Allenby answered: “Carlos, let me get right back to you, I’ve been down at the docks and I need to check at the concierge again about Perez.”

If Carlos was at his wit’s end, Allenby was just about over the edge.  Wolf and Perez were still missing, and play was supposed to start today. He’d been hours at the docks and still hadn’t gotten to the bottom of the two missing panels of the glass court. Worries about doping, kidnapping and drugs, let alone the more minor tournament woes were all too much. And that phone call between Shelley and Victor was more than upsetting. But, he had to get back to the club. The players were there waiting. First, though, the concierge.

Passing the free form swimming pool nestled in the sun, filled with turquoise water, and two open-air Jacuzzis under the broad shade trees, he couldn’t help but notice guests relaxing on rattan lounge chairs with soft white cushions looking as if they didn’t have a care in the world. That’s the life, he thought. He raced through the lobby with its glistening white-tiled floors and elegantly appointed furniture in complementary pastel hues and headed to the marble front desk adorned with large pots of flowering plants.

“Just checking again about the airport pick up for Florencia Perez,” Allenby pleaded desperately.

“Oh, yes, Mr. Allenby. It seems that TAM Flight 163 has been diverted.”

“What? Where to?”


Chapter SIX by John Nimick

Allenby burst through the doors of the Copacabana Squash Club shouting at the top of his considerable lungs, “If you’re double X and planning to qualify, get on the fucking bus…now!”

Shelley Anderson had moved in lock step with Allenby through the doors.  His voice was still ringing in her ears from moments ago at the hotel.  “Get down to the lobby now!  We’ve got a chance.”

Shelley took the stairs from the 8th floor of the Copacabana Palace Hotel two at a time with a jump into each landing.  She didn’t break a sweat.  Allenby was standing face to face with the concierge, his finger pointing out the glass front of the hotel “No, that one, the big shuttle!  And put it on the room.  Make it happen!”

He grabbed Anderson’s arm as she skittered across the floor from the main stairwell and took off for the front door, the concierge on the run behind the two of them.

Allenby and Anderson leapt into the open double wide doors of the hotel’s primary convention group shuttle as the concierge shouted in Portuguese to the driver to take them to the Copacabana Squash Club.  Dutifully, the driver floored it.

“Shelley, some kid on Perez’s flight from Miami tried to inhale the snack almonds and they’re putting down briefly in Caracas to evac him. TAM 163 is now posted for 9:30am arrival Rio.”

“What are we doing?”

“Just back me up on this when we get to the club. I know the rules.”

Someone in the club cracked the seal on a fermented Nutra Water and the hiss of escaping gas settled in the otherwise complete silence.

“OK, listen up.  He’s within his rights to do this as the tournament promoter.”  Shelley still wasn’t quite sure but they both needed Florencia Perez in the event in a major way.

“Both WSA and PSA rules are clear that the time for the Qualifying Call cannot be changed after its designation nor can the venue, but there is nothing in the rules about moving the room.”  But what if the room moves?  Ah, hell…she could finesse that.

Emily Weaver used the butt of her racquet to prod Julia Brown, who at least had a little experience in WSA Qualifying.  “Freaking stop!” whispered Julia, but she tentatively put up her hand, “Excuse me.  Umm, I don’t know who’s the rep here, but, like, what room are we going to?”

“We’re moving the Women’s Call to the tournament’s temporary shuttle bus out there in the parking lot.  Now let’s go.”  And then we’re taking a little tour, Allenby thought to himself.

Allenby whirled on Paulo and put his hands on the nervous club manager’s shoulder.

“Carlos, you’re going to handle the men’s Qualifying Call here.  You know how to do it.…keep it on schedule.  Shelley will stay in case there are any problems,” he said as soothingly as possible.

“What are you doing with the girls?” he asked incredulously.

“We’re going to Galeao Airport.”

As the Copa’s lounge emptied of WSA Qualifiers the guys burst out in a babel of incredulous banter and high fives.  Fingers were flying over keys and keypads…it was hashtag city.

“Don’t lose your minds Gentlemen,” Carlos shouted over the din, certain now that the whole event was in the crapper.  “Forty minutes.”

Allenby had thirty-one WSA Qualifiers checked in and on the bus and no time to lose.

Even before the last player sat down, Allenby belted, “Driver!  Aeroporto rapidez!”

The bus was soon swimming upstream on Avenida Isabel, but at least it was a Sunday so traffic was only really heavy.  Galeao was 15 kilometers from the club.  Fortunately an entrance to the high speed connector built for the 2104 World Cup and the Games was only a few blocks on the other side of the tunnel through the Copacabana hills.  The young Brazilian driver knew the roads well and seemed to handle all the panic with a smile.  Allenby liked that about the Brazilians he had known through the years; enthusiastic and not too worried about the result.

Allenby settled into a seat near the front.

As the bus accelerated up the on ramp to the new Pele Highway, Erika Hoskin came up from the back of the bus and sat down in an empty seat next to him.

Erika looked Allenby in the eyes. The petite, diamond-chinned squash coach with hazel eyes and short blond bangs was not hard to look at.

“Thank you for doing this,” she said.

Allenby knew Hoskin well.  Their own pro squash years had overlapped a little, but it was enough.  Even though the tours were pretty much separate back then, as two top Americans butting heads with the internationals in their respective draws, even a few years apart, they’d shared a few drinks, dinners and more.  He had heard her tactical skills had landed her in New York as a coach.

“Don’t thank me, and next time get your girl on an earlier flight.”

“I will.  But first, I’ll make this up to you.  Like old times.”

Allenby smiled, for this first time in what seemed like a week.


Fortunately there still weren’t that many agents and coaches yet for the players in the no. 40-70 range of the World Rankings so the crap kicking Allenby got on the way to the airport by the players wasn’t all that bad.  Shouts of “pagal” in Urdu, “thumbs up, mate” from a veteran Aussie, and the ever straightforward “tosser” and “wanker” from the Brits were as bad as it got.  He thought Julia Bown’s “Next time, get your own room” was at least clever.

As the 50-passenger shuttle lurched to the curb outside of International Arrivals, Allenby handed the driver enough cash to make sure it was right in the same spot when they came back.  He and Erika hit the pavement running.

“She’s here!” shouted Erika looking at her phone.  Allenby looked at his Rolex.  They were in the middle of the cavernous Arrivals Hall with thousands of travelers.

“9:55am Erika.  Where is here?”

“Right there, John.”  Erika pointed to the exit doors as Florencia Perez, tall, broad shouldered and dark, strode out of Customs and Immigration.  No iPod, no ear buds, no four wheeler…just a bulging racquet bag slung over one shoulder and a backpack over the other.  Florencia’s eyes scanned the huge hall like a hawk.  Erika jumped up and waved catching her attention and the Argentinian sensation sprinted to meet them.

Florencia and Erika hugged.  “Flo, this the event promoter John Allenby.”

“No time…” he started to say, but before he could grab them both and turn for the door, Florencia Perez tucked her ravenesque black hair behind an ear holding a single cobalt stud, held out her hand and smiled.

“Oh, my god,” said Allenby clearly.  He hadn’t ever seen her in person.  Fumbling to look at his watch again, he shunted, “It’s about fucking time.”  They ran for the bus.

Allenby called the roll on the bus at 10:01am, as per regulations, and had a full 32 draw.


Qualifying play started as scheduled at Noon at the Copa Club.  The place was packed.  Allenby spent a little time schmoozing with coaches, agents and even some of the main draw players who liked to check in on friends and teammates, but he soon headed for a courtesy car and the short ride to the glass court site on the beach.

His temporary office was in a construction trailer within the perimeter of the event grounds.  It was a crappy place to work but at least it was private and had a decent amount of work space and a conference table.

Allenby turned on his Mac and immediately heard an alert that his google filter had picked up some event news.  He clicked the link and found himself on smashingballs.com.  The outsized headline read Girls Get a Real Allen-Wrenching in Rio.

Great.  Now Buckler was spreading the love.  Allenby couldn’t help himself and started to read the first insulting paragraph, but was interrupted by a knock on the door.  Probably his site supervisor Phil Peters.

“Come!” he shouted, to be heard above the trailer’s industrial sized air conditioning unit.

He turned back to his Mac, “Sorry Phil…be with you in one second…just finishing some crap by Buckler.”

“Ohhh, I bet it’s about us.”  That was definitely not the voice of Phil Peters.  Erika Hoskin was wearing a beach towel, flip flops, an orchid behind one ear and, apparently, nothing else.  She had a frozen drink in a plastic cup in one hand and was closing the trailer door with the other.

 “It’s really cool the hotel and the pool are right across Avenida Atlantico from the arena.  Nice job, Boss Promoter.  Hope you don’t mind me popping in?”

Erika pointed to the Mac.  “Is it some trash about the airport run?  That was close.”

“Look Erika, this tournament is teetering on disaster and getting Flo to the church on time is just one little bouquet of sunshine.  I have two glass panels for the court held hostage somewhere and I have a bull headed, potentially juiced old Aussie stud either up on charges or on the run, I can’t tell which.”

Hoskin steadied her gaze on Allenby for the second time that day.  “Flo isn’t scheduled to play her first round match until 19:00 so I have some free time.  Want some help blowing hot sand or rescuing squash players?”

Erika clenched the orchid between her teeth and dropped the towel.


Allenby stepped in to the elevator and straightened his tie.  He’d hated to leave Erika napping on the conference table, but this was a very important appointment to keep.  As the doors closed, he remembered that the last time he had worn a tie had been at a funeral back home in Brooklyn.

He punched 52, the top floor.

The elevator rose swiftly to the top of the Copa Trade Tower on Rua Ribeiro, at 52 stories the tallest building by one floor in all of Brazil.  All of Allenby’s dealings with SombraSoft had been at arm’s length; emails, pdfs, electronic transfers and electronic signatures.  He’d made several trips to Rio to develop the event, but always just met the firm’s lawyers and marketing VPs.  Unlike most of his sponsorships, which started with prospect lists, cold calls, third party recommendations and a lot of grunt work, this one had appeared from the heavens.  He remembered the call.

“Halo, I wish to speak to Juan Allenby.”

“This is John,” Allenby said as he leaned back in his office chair, which squeaked as it always did when the 220-pounder unloaded on it.  While not totally out of shape, years of road warring and an affinity for the beers of the world, often all at once, had rounded off the ex-pro squash player.  He still was competitive on the hard ball doubles court…the huge doubles courts found in North America, not that multiple width soft ball version that ASB and the WSF kept inventing…but, just.

“Sir, my name is Renato Bulsara and I represent SombraSoft, one of Brazil’s biggest companies.”

Allenby had heard of SombraSoft.  The South American tech giant with roots in the telephone business had grown rapidly into the leagues of Oracle, SAP and IBM in global business enterprise solutions and had recently announced major plans to launch consumer electronics.  They were the real money behind Rio’s successful bid for the 2014 World Cup and were touted to have invested upwards of $100m USD in Brazilian football.

Allenby put down his stress ball and stood up, as was his habit when “big calls” were on the line.

“I know of the company.  How can I help you?”

“SombraSoft believes deeply in the power of sports, as you may be aware, and our market analysis tells us that squash is going to be the next great global game.  The boost next year from the Olympic coverage will be dramatic and we want to invest ahead of the curve.”

What a load of crap, thought Allenby.  Squash had been voted in to the Games by the IOC in 2013 only because of the transgender scandal that had rocked heavy favorite Wushu days before the vote.   The slot vacated surprisingly by the ouster of wrestling had to be filled and squash had the fewest enemies, so the miracle the sport longed for happened.  True, the squash’s dominance by Egyptians and Malaysians was a plus for medal diversity but the outcry from Rockefeller Center when Comcast NBCUniversal learned their $4.3b USD bid for the broadcast rights to the 2020 Games had bought them…squash!...was still reverberating in Lausanne.

“Well,” said Allenby slowly as he started to pace around his office, which was papered with framed event posters covered in turn with working white boards festooned with sticky notes, “you’ve come to the right place.  My company Squash Rocket offers fully integrated event marketing and management services in the sport and is the leading promoter of professional tournaments in the world.”  Well, that wasn’t entirely true.  After his epic Neptune Open sank with the Costa Concordia a few years ago he’d basically sworn off working outside of the Americas.

“Oh, we’re well aware of your portfolio Mr. Allenby and we trust we’ve identified the right person to handle our business.  And we do our homework, too.  Now why don’t you sit back down at your desk and pick up that small globe you like to squeeze.”

WHAT the FUCK!!!  Allenby whirled around and looked out his windows.  His modest three room office in Brooklyn Heights faced Montague Street and its collection of quaint shops, eateries, low rise apartments and the famous, at least in the squash world, Heights Casino Club.  Where to look?

“Don’t worry, Mr. Allenby, we’re not spying on you…now.  Shall we get back to business?”

The elevator doors opened… 

Bright light flooded Allenby’s eyes.  He blinked and shuttered his lids as he stepped out of the elevator.

Surrounding him was a curved marble lobby with floor to ceiling windows.  As his pupils adjusted, his jaw dropped.  Almost everything Rio was in sight; the Corcovado, Sugarloaf, the bay, Galeao Airport and the beaches of the north shore.  The purity of the color contrasts was almost photographic.  It was a good day to be in Rio.

He heard the brisk click of dress shoes on the marble floor and turned as a small man wearing a pair of sleek Oakley Gascans and dressed in a black suit and black turtleneck extended a tablet to him.

“Thumb and index finger please Mr. Allenby.”

Allenby did has he was told.  Rolling each digit slightly side to side on the screen.  Embedded elegantly in a corner of the device was the famous SombraSoft cupuacu fruit logo with the spear through it.  He hadn’t seen this device yet in New York, but he was sure he would soon.  The tablet emitted a beep and a light on the screen turned from yellow to green.

The man in black removed his sunglasses, but did not extend a hand.  “Nice to finally meet you...up close.  I am Renato Bulsara.  Please follow me.”

The two men walked around the elevator stack to the other side of the lobby.  A wall of black obsidian spanned the width of the building.  Bulsara walked up and put his own index finger in a scanner near the middle and a section of the wall swung open.

Stepping back, he said softly, “After you, Mr. Allenby.”

The opulent office was huge and apparently contained as many furnishings for entertaining as it did for working.  Allenby’s eyes were immediately drawn to two artifacts in front of him on a deeply carved black credenza.  One was an upright electric guitar with a red mahogany body.  In flowing silver script on the body was a note.  “From one very big man to another – Freddie Mercury. Jan 18, 1985.” 

But the other item was much more familiar.  The racquet rested upright on a plinth, as if ready in an instant for more hard work.  The gut strings were frayed and the black leather handle was slick and scuffed on one side.  The plaque on the plinth confirmed what Allenby knew: Unsquashable and Unbeaten – 5 years, 8 Months – Jahangir Khan.  A handwritten note was flattened under glass on the plinth.  “Thank you my Brazilian friend for taking care of my family.   Shukria – JK ‘86”.

“They are both impressive, are they not?  It was quite a time.”

The voice rumbled from the direction of the windows on the far side of the room.  The view on this side of the building was equally breathtaking, with the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana receiving the endless blue waters of the great South Atlantic.

“Please, join me.”  The sound again like from a giant animal.

Since that phone call back in Brooklyn, Allenby knew this meeting would take place today.  Bulsara had laid out the deal and his subordinates subsequently took care of the details.  Allenby was to launch a major pro tournament on the Copacabana Beach, ensure all the world’s best players participated and attract as much global media attention as possible.  SombraSoft would pay one million dollars for the Title Sponsorship and one million for prize money to ensure it was the richest event ever in the world.  They also wanted complete corporate exclusivity.  No secondary sponsors.  Allenby needed to make the whole event work for that fee plus whatever he could generate from underwriters and hospitality sales, ticket sales, merchandise and concessions.  No logo other than that of the cupuacu and spear was to appear anywhere on event collateral, in the stadium or on TV.

A huge gamble for sure, but $2m at the top was like crack to Allenby.  He was all in.   SombraSoft would pay Allenby $1.0 million in advance towards the budget and $1.0 million when the event was underway.  Indeed, two hours after finishing the deal in Rio a year ago, First National Bank texted him confirmation of the first deposit.

Now, the event was underway.

Allenby approached the desk by the windows, his eyes adjusting once more to the brightness.

The businessman known around the world as Mr. Fino stood up.  Allenby could not remember seeing a man this large in a suit.  He could not imagine anyone making a suit so large as to fit this man, either.  It seemed as if one whole floor-to-ceiling window pane was blocked by his silhouette.  Mr. Fino took one stride around the desk and extended his hand, “E um prazer ve-lo aqui.  Welcome.”  Allenby’s sizeable paw disappeared in Mr. Fino’s hand, but the shake itself was survivable.

“Come take a view.”

As Allenby rounded the big man’s desk he saw a photo in an elegant silver frame of the massive Fino arm in arm with a very handsome young man on a glass squash court, both sweaty with sloppy smiles and tangled hair.

Fino and Allenby stared down at the sprawl of Copacabana below them.

“See your tiny glass court down there on the beach?  I built dis building, after how you say, some politicos here and there, to have that view.  But it is really too far to enjoy the squash, no?”  Allenby was sure it was not a question.

“No problem.  I still get to take a look.”

Mr. Fino reached for a device on his desk.  Easily the same size as Allenby’s TV remote back in the office, the device looked like a match box in Fino’s hand.  He clicked and four large screens, fruit and spear included, emerged from the floor surrounding the other side of the desk.  They blinked to life.  Allenby gazed in turn at each one, unsurprised to see a live view of the court area in one, the stage and festival area in another and the main entranceway in the third.  What did bother him was to see his event office in the fourth!  Fortunately, Erika was gone.
Allenby began to protest the intrusion, but Fino cut him off, “Now, no harm, Mr. Allenby.  Personal is personal, bizness es bizness.  Rio still a dangerous place, no?  Security es muy importante.  You doing a very good job so far on SombraSoft
Brazilian Open.  So, you need payment numero dos, non?  A pleasure.  Renato, please take Mr. Allenby to the elevator and complete the bizness.”

Allenby didn’t move.  “Mr. Fino, you play this sport?”

“Mas e claro.”

“And you have an all glass court?”

“Si.  I bought same court you put in tournament rider since two years.  Por muy rancho.  Of course.”

Allenby had his panels.

“No mas.  Completo.  You will see me for the final, Mr. Allenby.  Talk to Renato as you need.”

Allenby stood up as Fino pushed buttons on the device.  The screens descended.  Miguel escorted Allenby to the door, which opened seemingly of its own accord, and out to the elevator.  On the floor by the elevator doors was a very large black case with dual combination locks.

Instead of asking immediately about shanghai-ing some glass panels or Jahangir or the young player on the court, Allenby fell into that ridiculous habit of taking his eye off the ball. “Traveling Mr. Bulsara?”

“No.  But you are in a way.  Please pick up the case.  Here are the combinations.”

Bulsara handed Allenby a business card, blank except for two series of numbers.

The doors opened behind Allenby.

“Mind the gap…and do count it.  We wouldn’t want to have any business complications.”

Speechless, Allenby stepped back into the elevator for the fifty-one floor ride to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, with $1 million in cash.

Chapter SEVEN by Will Gens

Tyler woke with his head pounding and dry heaving while on all fours with such gut wrenching force. The pounding surf kept time with his pounding headache.

He was so thirsty. He had no clue where he was or even who he was. He tried desperately to gather his thoughts as he lay back down facing the hot sun. A small group of teens walked by and briefly cast their shadows across his way. They paused to look down on him and while they shielded his eyes from the glaring morning sun, they said something in Portuguese and the girls giggled and walked away. Tyler struggled to sit up and the teens looked back at him and whispering kept laughing, a bit embarrassed for him. Tyler looked down at himself and realized he had socks and shoes and a white T-shirt but nothing else.

He noticed the big red raspberry on his leg and suddenly like a jolt remembered the injection. As he turned his head quickly, he knew all too well the after-effects of hallucinogens. He’d taken mushrooms before, even played in a tournament high on 'shrooms -- which he won. He played out-of-his-mind squash, literally. Inside he smiled at that. But the teenagers passing by left traces of themselves, he still heard their distant giggles in his head. He was in Rio, Brazil, the big tournament. Squash, finally an Olympic sport.

He struggled to remember, to piece it together the events. He couldn't believe his thirst. Shelley, damn, Shelley and the knock at her hotel door. The high-rise, the view of the beach, magnificent view. She opened the door and two policemen and the reporter, Charles Buckler of infamous "smashingballs.com," was there with his camera. He thought they were there about his lost luggage, but then what was Buckler doing there? They were there to arrest him, something about marijuana in his luggage.  That reporter parasite Buckler kept asking him for a comment as the police handcuffed him. Buckler was speaking into a microphone, “Tyler Wolfe ‘Wolfie’ as he's called, has just been arrested by the  Rio de Janeiro police days before the start of what is the biggest week in Squash history.”

“What was he saying”, Tyler thought. Before he could say anything to Shelley they took him away, Shelley yelling after them, "I'll call Allenby, to get you out." Shelley thought better about calling Allenby, the promoter of this event, he'd just panic. But she'd have to tell him before Buckler got to him.

The police escorted him side by side into the elevator and when it stopped on the floors to let others on, they flashed their badges,"Assunto de polícia, aguarde o próximo elevador."

They hurried him through the back entrance to the hotel and stuffed him into a non-descript van, solid panel for windows, and tinted glass for the windows up front. He couldn't see if there were plates. Buckler tried to get in the van but one of them snapped, "Se perder larva pouco!" and shoved him aside.

Buckler fell on his ass, cursing at them. As he struggled to right himself they jumped in the van and spewed him with dirt and gravel as they sped away. They covered Tyler's head with a sour-smelling black cloth bag, then this sharp pain in his leg and his leg was on fire as he struggled to free himself before the sweetest feeling on earth took hold of his body and he was suddenly on a bed of clouds, floating across the Rio sky, on his way to meet the pantheon of squash gods.

Shelley had immediately called Allenby's cell but it went right to voice mail. Damn, he is impossible to get a hold of sometimes. She thought about what to do and Tyler at the same time.

"Fucking Tyler, what did that poor boy get himself into?" she said aloud. Tyler was always in the back of her mind even when they were on a break and she happened to be screwing someone else, she loved Tyler in her own way. He knew her for all her flaws, and accepted her just the same. She did likewise for him.

Tyler was still at this stage the biggest draw in professional squash. If he played any other sport he'd be the McEnroe, the Ali, the Joe Namath, the bad boy of professional squash. The fans love a bad boy, the fans love the player who thrashes the establishment and goes his own way, especially if that player has the look and attitude of a movie star, a Brad Pitt.  Women threw themselves at Tyler, but he seemed only interested in Shelly and squash and making money. If she was going to pull this event off, she'd better get him out of jail. This was, after all, the biggest squash event, the first internationally prime time televised tournament since the Olympic Committee voted to include the sport in the 2020 Olympics.

Shelly started making calls, no one knew anything about where they had taken him. She had to be discreet, Buckler would soon publish his story on his website and everyone would know what happened. She had to call him, no, better direct contact. Maybe she could use her charms if need be....YUK, she thought, never in a million years.

"Damage control, damage control,” she repeatedly said aloud. She'd had a similar experience when she ran the women's tennis tour and there was a lot more money, millions at stake and scandal could cost a lot of endorsement and promotion money. She once had to pay off photographers who had pictures of some of the young darlings going wild as in lesbian orgy wild. They were all 16 to 19 years old. The one that really cost her was the million-dollar purchase of that damn sex tape Selena Humphries did before she was the cover girl and number 1 player in the world. So she knew money can fix anything and if that doesn't there's always sex. And even better money and sex for those tough situation.

She called Victor, head of security at the docks, who days before she had to blow and pay him 10,000 USD to get the portable glass court for the tournament out of customs. She had no choice, he had connections all the way to the top of this damn corrupt country. Victor didn't pick up his cell, she called his office, she had to get a hold of him, and he was her best bet to help Tyler out of this. The thought of his smug look and his sense of triumph when he spewed all over her face and groaned like a wounded animal, repeating over and over, "Engolir! Engolir..."

      A woman picked up. "Do you speak English?"

     "Yes, ma’am, we are an international firm, we speak many languages."

     "Victor, please, this is Shelley Anderson, it's urgent."

      "I'll see if he's available, please hold." He picked up immediately,

      "Shelley! Meu otário pau pequeno doce!" and he laughed.

      "Fuck you Victor, you sorry prick, I'm sure you said something disgusting."

      "Now, now, business is business, a deal is a deal. But I must say you did get the better end of it," he laughed so hard. "Sorry, sometimes I am just too funny."

      "Victor, I need your help and nothing else. Our star player, Tyler Wolfe, was taken into police custody, but I have been making calls to local police and no one has heard of him or his arrest. I have no idea where they are holding him. And that press guy was with them."

     "What are the charges? Yes and I know that Buckler fellow, most abrasive and repulsive.”

      "Drug possession, marijuana, not a lot. But his bags were lost on his connecting flight here from Santiago and Tyler wouldn’t be so stupid to bring marijuana into Brazil, I know him, he smokes a bit but never before a tournament; usually only at the end of a tournament he'll kick back with some local stuff. But never transporting it. These pros are always tested, but you know how it goes, if the stars are caught we can cover."

     "This happens here, unfortunately, these kidnappings. I'll make some calls, but police and criminals are always trying to shake you ‘estrangeiros’ down. It might cost you."

      "Another blow job? Fuck you."

      "I wasn't thinking of that, these guys only care about money but now that you mention it I might take my own cut."

      "Like I'm sure it wasn't the first thought in that pig's head of yours."

      "Be nice."

      "I will." Click, they hung up together. She noticed a missed call, Allenby, great. Okay, we're in this together, he has some responsibility here too, he's the big bad promoter and he has deep pockets. The Squash Association hasn't the kind of money to throw around yet at this kind of stuff, but Allenby and his backers do. Shelly looked at the time. Okay, steady, let's shift this into high gear.

      "Yes, yes, I understand, I'm taking care of it, everything will go according to plan, just write the checks, let me worry about this."

She had to wait for Victor to get back to her. Allenby gave her the green light to do whatever it took to get Tyler on the court and keep this out of the press. She poured out a tall glass of Cabernet, sat back admiring the view and thought of Tyler. She jumped to her feet. Buckler, fucking Buckler.


Tyler made sort of a loin cloth from his T-shirt. He wished he wasn't so pale white, he wouldn't seem so out of place even if he were naked.  But pale and white with tan lines on his arms and thighs no doubt to the bronze beauties of all kinds made him look ridiculous. He thought of Dudley Moore in "10" wearing grey sweats and white socks on some Mexican beach while the hottest woman on the planet sat sunbathing nearby. He didn't know why, but he thought of stuff like that.

He walked up to the main highway that followed along the shoreline. He looked for the highest building but the buildings were in a morning haze. To make sure, he asked a deeply tanned, old white-haired and mustachioed man taking his fishing poles towards the water. “Desculpe-me onde é o Clube Copacabano?"

     "La! La!" he pointed in the opposite direction he was going.

     "Obrigado." Ah, that Portuguese nanny he had did come in handy after all. He knew enough Portuguese to get around.

He started walking towards the direction of the hotel and came across a public water fountain with a long line, he was so thirsty.  Right next to the water fountain was: “TIOLETTE DOS HOMENS.” He went in cupped his hands under the faucet and rinsed his mouth with the warm limestone-flavored water. "Disgusting!" he said aloud and spit it out. "Shit, I need some drinkable water," he rinsed again and again spitting out the water, or whatever it was.

The raspberry on his left leg was throbbing hard again, he knew he wouldn't have to play at least for a day or two, but then again he lost all track of time, for all he knew the tournament was over. But he didn't think so, he was piecing together the events and guessed it had been about 18-24 hours since his so called ‘arrest.” This was no ordinary tournament, this one put squash on the international map, a showcase of those established and those up and coming for the first-ever Olympiad with squash.

The qualifiers came out of the woodwork, hungry, very hungry, players who had struggled but with all the new money, were quickly signed by agents, with bonuses to boot, they no longer were the poor stepchildren compared to their rich, spoiled, tennis mega-star siblings. He couldn't take these qualifiers for granted anymore, big stakes, money, it would be fierce. The sun was hot now, he was so damn thirsty, he saw a half-filled plastic bottle of water in the trash, what the hell he thought, he picked up the bottle, removed a rotten apple peel clinging to it and downed the water in one gulp. He threw the bottle back. No, keep it, he thought, next fountain he'd get it filled.

He remembered that strange dream, was it a dream, it wasn't real, the alley way, the old man and the school boys playing rackets against the alley walls and the broken window. The old man talking about squash at the Harrow School, where squash was supposedly, one theory has it, born. But the dream was so real. Every detail was in his mind, the boys and their rackets, old rackets like he'd seen in Allenby's office, the knickers, the thread of the tweed, the old man's stained teeth, the smell of the damp moss that covered the alley cobblestone. The image hurt, he didn't know why, it hurt like it felt when he lost his mother as a boy.

He should never have gotten involved with those Russians, throwing some matches, making a lot of money. Why would squash be any different, money is money, betting is all part of sports. The Russians were sending him a message, he was scared for the first time in his life. "La, La" he heard the old man's voice, and there was the hotel, he had to get to Shelley and some damn good water -- he threw the empty bottle into the bushes.


Shelly opened the door thinking it was Allenby. Tyler stood before her head bowed, shaking, she thought he was sobbing.

      "Tyler, baby, Tyler" and she reached for him and he looked up.

       "You fucker, you absolute fucker, do you have any idea..." Tyler couldn't stop laughing,

      "Shell-," he burst into laughter again. She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into the hotel room.

    "What the fuck happened? TYLER! Stop laughing like an idiot, I've been up all night trying to track down your sorry ass, and you just show up, dressed like Gandhi."

      "Shel-Shelly," he gathered himself cleared his throat. "Whoa, what a night, water I need water."

He went over to the ice bucket, which was filled with water from the ice the night before, and with two hands drank and drank gulping it down, spilling most of it onto his dirty, sandy chest. "Ahhh, god, damn, was that good, much better. I screwed up, big time, Shelley."

Chapter EIGHT by Framboise Gommendy

Charles Buckler was staring at his old HP screen in the lounge of the Copacabana Hotel, pretending to work. Well, he was sort of reviewing the massive article he’d been working on for weeks, but in fact, he was, as ever, researching. The rest of the world would have called it  “spying” mind. But as far as he was concerned, watching, observing, memorising people's ins and outs, routines, friendships, body language, all that was only and always about work.

He was proud of what he achieved. His website, Squashingball.com was the biggest site in the world of squash. Equivalent of the British tabloid The Sun, it was a place where you would hear and read about all the gossip before anywhere else. He was adamant he was 50% to be thanked for Squash becoming Olympic. Thanks to the site, the non squash lovers had started getting into the scandals, sex stories, and other delicatessen, raising squash's profile in the world. And it worked. Squash became a household name.

“You’ve lowered squash to Football’s level” he was reproached often “And I’m proud of it” he retorted! “Football is an Olympic sport, and the players are earning millions! Good job if I can bring squash to that level then…”

Nobody knew exactly how old Buckley was. Probably in his early sixties. Despite his scruffy appearance, he was extremely fit, and would run for hours near his house in Hatton Cross, next to Heathrow, London’s busiest airport. Not the easiest part of the world to run around in to be honest, a mixture of roads and motorways, but he’d been managing for years, and it was during his long runs that he was actually writing his articles. In his mind, with his vivid imagination and his sensational knack for sensationalism…

He was aware of not having many friends. Well, not one would be more accurate. Only close to him was his webmaster Dave, that nobody ever saw, he was never allowed out of his garage, and rumours were the garage was actually locked and Buckler lost the key years ago…

So Buckler was “working” away in the lounge, pretending to look at his laptop screen while in fact peeping at the players, officials, organisers, entering, exiting, having a drink at the bar, hanging around for a shuttle to visit the town…

Suddenly, the concierge came up to him. “Sorry, Mr Buckler, your niece is waiting for you in your room, as you asked.” Blast. She was early. He quickly stood up, unplugged the charger, took his bag, and rushed to the lift.

As he climbed to the 56th floor, the top one thank you very much, he was starting to feel his heart pounding louder and louder. Buckler lived for two things. Sex and Squash. He both hated and loved them equally, never had the phrase “a love/hate relationship”  been more accurate to describe feelings.

“Never getting emotionally involved” should be written on my grave, he smiled as the lift reached the end of the raise. He never watched live squash really – “I’m not paid to watch squash, but to write about it” was his catch phrase, only looking at it on replay, with no sound. No feeling. No atmosphere. Just pure movement/technique.

By the same token, Sex had to be with pros only. He was using a Call Girl network that he took years to assemble, kept in a little folder called “TravellingDetails” on his desktop. Rio was his latest entry. He would use the same girl for the whole tournament – always giving her the same name, ‘Sarah’.

So, for the third night in a row, ‘Sarah’, who was working from a suite in the hotel under the name of “VIP Special Customer Services”, convenient and discreet , was waiting for him. She was as he liked  his women. Tall, dark hair, with curves where you expect them, and with legs, legs, and legs. .

As he opened his own suite – compliment of the Hotel for using their “special services” – he found her as he asked, laying on the table of the living room, legs in the inverse position of a skier looking for speed on a ski slot, nicely open. Adrenalin rushed to his brain, blood to a lower part of his body, and it was only the banging of the table on the wall that made him realise that he actually pushed table/girl so forcefully that they both  travelled across the room. That’s what “being in the zone” means he thought…

‘Sarah’ seemed to have appreciated the journey now that they arrived at the final destination, and was smiling nicely as she went to the shower room, beautifully undressed. Just looking at her curves moving gracefully in that superb suite, Buckley decided that he wouldn’t mind another visit and discover more of the secrets of her stunning body, and joined her in the shower.

As he finally rested on his bed, still dripping from the shower that he eventually took alone now that ‘Sarah’ had left, he was smiling, relaxed and content. Of course, sex was good, and had relaxed him, but that was not why he was smiling. He was mentally reviewing his last article.

His farewell edition.

A few weeks ago, he had had the results of tests he took. Not good. Lung cancer. Not that he was surprised though. Smoking 2 packets of Belomorkanal a day, considered the strongest cigarettes in the world, for 25 years, was a bit like playing Russian Roulette with all the bullets in the chamber…

On hearing the news, he had decided to live life fully from now on. Found a buyer for his site – he would be able to afford the best cancer treatment in Italy with the Professeur Lagardère, and live whatever life he had to live under the sun – and was about to retire, anything but gracefully.

Once again, he was reviewing the principal lines of this ultimate edition in his mind.

First, there was the Shelley Anderson story, who had covered up Tyler Wolfe’s failed drug tests for the last two Australian Opens. Out of his 5 titles, Wolfie was clean for 3, but failed the last two tests. Shelley managed to make sure the tests were supervised by her girlfriend, Rhodaine Maison, who forged the results. Check.

Then the gay affair between New Yorker Emily Miller and Cambridge wonder Julia Brown. They family and sponsors would hit the roof when they would hear the girls had been secretly seeing each other for two years. Although Olympic, Squash was not Gay friendly yet… Check 2.

Of course, we had the Allenby con, the promoter who took a 3 million dollar insurance policy on the Brazilian tournament , and would be a very rich man if the tournament wouldn’t happen – hence hiding the two glass panels thanks to the Head of Security, and making sure that all sorts of trouble would prevent its start. Check 3.

But the “coup de grace”, the cherry on the cake, the revelation of the true identity of Florencia Perez, who appeared from nowhere once day. Real name Florencio Hoskin, as in Erika Hoskin’s son. No wonder no one ever heard of Florencia in the juniors. There never was a Florencia…

Check mate.

That last story was the biggest of his career, by far. He was rewriting and rewriting it, to make sure that bombshell would make the maximum damage, and decided to have another go at it. He slowly sat up, then went to his computer bag. Sweat immediately covered his body as he realised his laptop was not in it. Mentally, he retraced his movement. Working, Concierge calling, folding the cable, taking the bag. Wait. He didn’t  close the laptop, didn’t put it in the bag. Hysterically scared, he rushed to the phone, and called reception.

“Yes sir, somebody brought a computer back to the desk… yes, it’s an old HP ... Yes, somebody from the squash group brought it back… No sir, not sure if it’s a man or a woman, it was before my shift, I was only given the message.. Yes sir, of course, I’ll send somebody right away.”

Buckler was now sweating very heavily and his heart pounding again, not as nicely as a few minutes before, though. “Somebody from the squash group”. Did they read what was on the screen? He was working on that “Murder on the Squash Court, take 2” as he called it when he was interrupted.

And what if that person was going to reveal his story. Or confront him? In his perfect plan, he would have been on a beach in the Caribbean when the scandal hit the squash fans, far, far away.

How had he been so careless and utterly idiotic?? Oh yes, because of sex. Oh well, fair enough…A knock on the door startled him. “Must be the computer” he thought.

But it wasn’t.

“What are you doing here, and what do you want” he grunted, looking at the visitor.

He never got an answer. A sharp pain on the right of his chest, a very loud noise resounding in the empty corridor. His incredulous eyes fixing his chest, where the blood was starting to pour out.

And as his life was slowly ending, he heard himself think “I wonder who is going to write my obituary”….

Chapter NINE by Pierre Bastien

Charles Buckler lay on the ground. His chest rose and fell as he labored to breathe. He was lying in a pool of blood.

This can’t be good, he thought. Is this my blood?

Out of the corner of his eye, he could make out a red stain on his shirt. Right. I was shot in the chest.

Buckler looked around for a second. He caught sight of some bland wallpaper. Right. It came back to him. He was still in his hotel suite. Not too long ago, he had been banging “Sarah”. He’d come out of the shower thinking I’ve just died and gone to heaven. Right.

He lay there in his warm pool, thinking about Sarah. The long legs and curves. Soft skin, gripped every which way.

A wave of appreciation came over him as he realized his dying moments would be spent savoring such a delightfully vivid recent memory.

Wait, thought Buckler. Who shot me? He considered it for a second. Oh yeah - some dude in a black suit, wearing wraparound Oakleys. Seriously, who walks around hotels that? I guess guys with guns. Is he still here?

Buckler really didn’t want to get up. He wasn’t sure he could. Actually he was pretty sure he couldn’t. He wasn’t even going to try. That’s for sure.

From his spot on the floor, he looked around the room. Anybody there? He didn’t see anybody. Then he gave up and closed his eyes. Fuck it. Best case, he’d see someone. Someone standing over him with a gun.

He didn’t have too many moments left, and he didn’t want to waste them with worry.

He went back to thinking about Sarah. How he’d pushed her and her table across the room. He imagined the sound of the table legs scraping across the floor, a few inches at a time. He pictured in his mind’s eye that moment when the table clicked up against the far wall. Nice.

Damn, he thought. I won’t be able to publish my scoop. My four-part scoop. My finale. I wonder if all that had something to do with me being murdered? Maybe. That’d be pretty cool if my story were powerful enough to commit murder over. Man, the squash powers-that-be must REALLY want this tournament to go on. Otherwise why bother with the whole hit-man thing? Oh well.

Buckler didn’t have enough brain power left to try and map it out. That would be someone else’s treasure to discover.

Suddenly a spasm of energy lit up his whole body. He realized he was about to die, and someone ELSE was going to get the scoop. Probably those assholes at squashoracle.com. That was too much. Fuck! Double fuck. NOT COOL.

He tried to go back to thinking about Sarah, but he couldn’t focus on her now. Good thing I stuck with being a reporter, he mused. If I’m thinking about scoops in a situation like this, it must be in my DNA or something. Life purpose or something. Oh well, he shrugged. Actually, he didn’t really shrug. His shoulders didn’t move. He just kind of mentally shrugged.

Buckler considered his options. He tried to extend his left thumb. It moved. Where was his left thumb anyway? Oh right, attached to his hand, which was lying on the floor along the left side of his body, about level with his pocket. He tried bending his left elbow. It moved. And it dragged his hand closer to his pocket. He kept bending his elbow until his hand was level with the small opening of his pocket.

What’s the absolute easiest way to get my phone out, he wondered? Removing his phone from his trousers was a skill he had long taken for granted. He extended his left index finger and stuck it into the opening of the pocket. Bingo: he could feel the bottom edge of the phone. He wiggled his index finger and thumb in there deeper, working them into position. Pinch -- got it. He gripped the device between his fingertips as tightly as he could manage. He bent his elbow slowly, and voilà, the phone slid out.

Buckler unlocked the phone with a swipe. His thumb left a smeary blood trail on the screen. Oops. He tapped where the Twitter app should be. Bingo, it loaded up. He tapped Compose. Inhaled deeply. Exhaled. No typos, no typos, he thought. D-E-A-D. Send.

Hell yeah.

He let the phone tumble to the ground, and went back to his thoughts.


John Allenby leaned forward in his office chair and peered at his monitor. “‘Dead’?” Since when does Buckler use less than the full 140 characters? And what the hell does that mean?

Allenby leaned back in his chair as far as it would go. Then he put his feet up on his desk. He stared at the conference table on the other side of the room, the same spot where he’d left Erika Hoskin napping after their hookup. The thought made him a bit sleepy.

Things were going roughly according to plan. Main draw play was due to start tomorrow, but the two glass panels were still missing. Thankfully, Shelley, for all her talents, hadn’t been able to track them down. Everything was on course for this tournament to implode. And they couldn’t pin it on him. The insurance money would be his. Right?

Allenby felt a few beads of sweat forming on his temples. The plan had sounded good on the drawing board back in Brooklyn Heights, but now that he was on site, watching Shelley try and work her magic, he wasn’t feeling quite so sure of himself. Got to press ahead, he thought. He wasn’t normally the insurance scam type, but his medical bills weren’t going to pay themselves. Plus there seemed to be some poetic justice in this particular solution. In my next life, he thought, I’ll just work for IBM, selling servers or something. At least they'll have a decent health plan.

He peered out the small window of the construction trailer, which was still serving as his temporary office. A small, roundish cloud passed through an otherwise clear, blue sky. He glanced over at the glass court construction progress. The floor was set. The court frame was in place. The construction crew had installed as many of the glass panels as they could, at least until the two missing pieces were found. The crew were putting the finishing touches on the seats now. Normally, the seats would be the last thing to go up, but since they couldn’t work on the walls, they set up the seats.

Phil Peters, Allenby’s head of construction, had been in the office just an hour before.

“It’s uncanny, boss. The two missing panels happen to be the ones that are specially designed to fit the court door. If we had lost just about any other two panels, maybe we could have... .” He trailed off.

“Don’t worry Phil, we’ll track ‘em down. Just get working on the stands.”

Allenby snapped back to the present moment. He heard a click-click-click sound of shoes walking up the metal ramp to his trailer. For a second, he got his hopes up that it might be Erika Hoskin again. That didn’t sound right though. She was more the tennis shoe type. He took his feet off his desk, planted them on the floor, and sat up in his chair.

Knock knock.

“Coming”, said Allenby. He walked over to the door and opened it. The SombraSoft guy, Renato Bulsara, stood there.

“Renato! What are you doing here? I mean, what a surprise! Come in!”

“Thank you Mr. Allenby. Just checking on our investment.” Bulsara stepped into the trailer and removed his Oakleys. He folded them up and slid them into the inner pocket of his suit jacket.

Allenby led him into the conference room.

“Can I get you some coffee?”

“No, thank you.”

“Nutra Water? Anything?”


Allenby cringed a little bit. He was amped up, and failing to play it cool.

They sat down at the conference table. Allenby noticed that Erika Hoskin had left a faint butt-print on the table. Of course, he’d seated the Brazilian right in front of it. Allenby tried not to stare.

“Mr. Allenby, we are committed to making the SombraSoft Open a success. We are putting all our firepower behind it.”

“Of course. So am I. What can I help you with today, Renato?”

“You’re going to have trouble making this tournament work if your court has holes in the walls, yes?”

How did he know? Allenby thought only Shelley and Phil knew about those missing panels.

“You’re right, that’s been a challenge, but these things happen. I’ve run tournaments for years, you know. Something always happens. We’re working on...”

“Yes, yes.” Bulsara stood up suddenly. “Victor will be bringing the missing panels here within the next hour.”

Allenby was silent. Bulsara watched him for a moment.

“Mr. Allenby?”


“This tournament must go on. Too many people have a stake in its success. You’ll have to find another way to pay your medical bills.”

Allenby paused. Ok, so they know about that? Allenby responded, “I’ve tried everything. I’m out of options.”

"That's not our problem, Mr. Allenby." Bulsara walked to the door. He took out his sunglasses and put them on. “You might try buying SombraSoft.”

“Buying it?”

“The stock. Buy it.” Renato opened the trailer door. He said: “Today.” Then he walked out, shut the door, and click-click-clicked down the outside ramp.

Allenby sat for a minute in silence. He stared at Erika’s ass-print for a while. Then he picked up the phone to call his broker.


Call coming in. 41 21. Rhodanie Maison. Shelley picked up.

“Shelley. They found the panels.”


“Victor had them all along.”

Fucker, thought Shelley. “Why is he returning them now? This doesn’t make sense. Maybe Allenby made it happen?”

“Think, Shelley.”

“I think we’re not the only big dogs in this fight.”


“Well, now we can get back to the plan. Main draw should be starting tomorrow on schedule.”

“Exactly. But Shelley?”


“You’re losing control.”

“I’m not,” Shelley spat back. “We’re back on track. And worst case, no panels, so what? This would have been a huge black eye for squash.”

“No. This would have been a huge black eye for Allenby. He would have blamed it on the dock workers. They would have blamed it on him. But in the end, this would have been nothing. Minor dysfunction. Tenth page news.”

Shelley said nothing.

Rhodanie continued driving the point home. “We need front page news, Shelley. Otherwise our pals in Moscow won’t be too pleased. And if they’re not pleased, they’re going to do more than pin us to the fucking mat. We need front page news, Shelley, or we’re fucked. You’re fucked. And Tyler is most definitely, one hundred percent, fucked.”

Chapter TEN by Richard Millman

Tyler Wolf felt a warm droplet of liquid splash on his naked belly. He opened his eyes to be greeted by by the vision of Shelley Anderson's sweat streaked face smiling down from above him. Another bead of sweat ran down the bridge of her beautifully sculpted, delicate nose and after hanging on its tip momentarily, dripped, warm and salty, into his mouth.

"Good work-out?" he asked her.

"For you maybe," she quipped back and wriggled her hips playfully as she felt him starting to recede.

Her cell phone rang with a tone that she recognised as a call from John Allenby. Without releasing Tyler from the firm hold that her legs had over his hips, she reached over and deftly swept her Samsung from its resting place on the bedside table.

"What's up?" she said as she hit the talk button.

John Allenby's familiar business voice came on the line,

 “ Get your fanny down to my office, right now!”

Shelley giggled into her phone,

 “ My fanny,”

and here she paused for emphasis, smiled and winked down at Tyler to make it clear that she was using the British and not the American understanding of that particular word,

 “ is otherwise engaged.”

“Well dis-en-gage it and get down here now!” Allenby hissed in a pointed and staccato, loud whisper,

 “Philip Sanderson is here and we are in the shit!”

The color evaporated from Ms. Anderson’s recently rosy cheeks.

“Trouble?” asked the muscled Australian court master beneath her.

“Trouble.” agreed Shelley.


Fritz Mallinson lay listening to the early morning ripples gently lapping against the hull of his two- million-dollar, fully automated, mahogany-lined, self-sailing, luxury yacht.

His  wife Anne lay snuggled against him as the first rays of the sun broke over the yardarm, dancing reflectively off the beautifully burnished aluminum beam and bouncing through the open cabin door onto the lovingly crafted, inlaid ceiling of their very own state room.

All was well in the Mallinson world. Even the wet patch underneath his behind, the product of their early morning love making, was a source of happiness.

Fritz reflected on the unlikely path that had brought him to this time and place, here today, moored a mile off of the Copacabana.

Himself and Anne.

He thought back twenty five years to the day that he had dropped out of MIT, frustrated by the regimen of curricular learning.

To the generosity of his true, true friend Pat O’Neil and how Pat had persuaded his dad to give Fritz the use of the old machine shop behind their family garage in South Boston.

His days of near starvation as he tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed again to perfect his concept of intelligent, safe, personal transportation, using new concepts in remote flight, A.I. and unit to unit communication.

He smiled as he recalled his clumsy attempts at asking the pretty waitress in the local diner for a date and his amazement  and feelings of churlishness on discovering that she was a current MIT student working her way through college.

He looked fondly down at her and remembered the day that they had together driven the ugly duckling that Pat and his father had helped them construct - the first I-CARUS, out of South Boston.

The fear and then the joy as they had both driven and flown it at the old airfield out near Walden Pond.

And of course the sheer disbelief just two years ago, when after years of polishing and tweaking, of lack of faith from mainstream industry, of self doubt, but of perseverance and encouragement, they had both stared with incredulity at the check made out in their name, for $1.8 Billion - yes Billion with a ‘B’ - for the sale of their company I-CARUS Inc. (www.icarus.com)  to the newly formed Google-Saab division, bringing to fruition and to the world Fritz’s original concept of a world of  safe, self-piloting vehicles that combined both flight and ground based transportation.

Personal freedom literally combined with flights of fantasy.

Since then he and Anne had turned their attention to his other love - Squash.

Even through his years of impoverishment he had managed to keep playing, sneaking on the courts at Harvard, MIT and Tufts - his equipment gradually becoming more and more ragged, holes in his shoes, replacing strings in his workshop using a vice, a dart and old strings from broken racquets to repair and replace his broken ones. Superglue and epoxy held the cracked frames together.

Then they sold I-CARUS and everything changed.

 He had seen Squash languish for years. No attraction to TV, so no investment. No money - no infrastructure. No infrastructure - no recognition.

Crazy - how could the world’s most vital sport not get the recognition it deserved?

And then one day, over coffee, he and Anne had hit an idea. What if they could gain a worldwide TV audience for Squash? How would things change?

He and Anne went back to Boston, to the old beloved machine shop. They started experimenting. They got an old I-Mask shield and pulled apart some Dunlop balls. They looked at the Reactolite technology. They researched radiation, night vision and reflective  light spectrums. They mixed compounds and painted dots and stars and dashes and swirls on old pieces of cardboard. They developed microscopic nano prisms. They went and visited the original master of Squash television production - John De Lierre and talked with him for  days, finally getting a smile out of the old boy as he remembered the crazy, heady, early days of excitement before the lack of critical funding made continuing the experiment impractical.

For nearly two years he and Anne worked like mad people, consumed by the task.

And then the breakthrough! The incredible nano prizm technology microscopically enmeshed in the polycarbonate ‘lexvue’ lens of the new Viper shield from I-mask combined with the amazing Swirl series of Teleballs from Dunlop:

Raspberry Ripple, Zebra ( for traditional courts), Sea and Sky and Fritz’s personal favorite - the Lemon and Lime. Each ball had an attractive lighter colored swirl of specially treated secret formula compound, cleverly heat-sealed in the brilliant, darker colored base rubber. The secret formula reflecting  infra-red rays that were shone from tiny beacons that were cunningly installed in and around the court, invisible to the naked eye but, seen through a ‘lexvue’ lens making the ball appear to brilliantly shimmer as each shot was struck and the ball spun through the air.

After that the developments came with rapidity. The ‘Lexvue’ Video camera lens allowed the viewing public the world over the same extraordinary ‘shimmering’ view that the players had.

Then came the contract agreement between The Tennis Channel, Al Jazeera  and Squash TV that resulted in the birth of Squash Channel.

Major investors saw the potential. The IOC saw the investors. Then came the 2013 Olympic inclusion.

And the spin-offs were still coming. Everyone was buying the Viper now. The players, the TV companies and of course, the live crowds were buying them.

Who wouldn’t ?

Watching Squash through the Viper whether live or on TV with the new UHD3D ( Ultra High Def 3 dimensional) video tech developed with advice from John De Lierre, was like  going from black and white to color or maybe even from silent film to talkies.

Of course Buckler had been a pain. His grimy sensationalism had brought the world’s finest sport into the gutter. But one had to grudgingly admit that the coverage in the ‘comic’  press of the world such as the Sun in the UK and the National Enquirer in the States had only added to the financial and popular flood that Fritz and Anne’s innovations had produced.

Then again they might never have got off the starting blocks without Zeus. The amazing Philip Sanderson had put his extraordinary energies behind Fritz and Anne’s work. He had recognized immediately the earth shattering implications and had used his position as the Director of World Squash and as the game’s leading Referee to  bring together the media, the sport, the fabulously wealthy Prince Hamza al Omani of Kuwait and the International  Olympic Committee.

And so here they were, he and Anne; the shock haired, red headed, dropout inventor and his beautiful, brown eyed, MIT graduate wife - snuggling and secure in their glorious water-born palace, The Icarus, a mile off of the sights of the Avenida Atlantica and one of the most famous beaches in the world.

In less than two days they would attend the most spectacular grand opening of a tournament glass court that the world had ever seen.  An event where the technology that he and his most brilliant and darling wife had invented, would once again showcase Squash to the world.  The life-sport that, more than any other pursuit that mankind has as yet devised, demands and develops the assets of a human being - mentally, physically and emotionally.

Squash - the vehicle for both human maintenance and advancement.

Anne dug Fritz in the ribs.

“Hey - are you still here?” she teased.

Fritz squeezed her even closer.

“ Yep - still here. You haven’t got rid of me yet.”

Simultaneously they both stopped and involuntarily looked up at the ceiling.

Almost imperceptible at first, the sound grew until they both recognized the guttural hum of a powerful boat engine.

“ Coming this way?”

Fritz voiced the question on both of their minds.

Anne grabbed the willow-green chiffon wrap that she had cast aside as they slipped into the bunk the previous evening.

 “ Better put on some trunks,” she said and headed for the stairs.


As he stood in the spacious quarry stone tile shower in Shelley’s room, rinsing the last remnants of the shampoo out of his hair, Tyler pondered on the cause of the ‘trouble’  that Shelley was now being confronted by downstairs.

“ I hope to God it has nothing to do with the stuff I passed on to the Singapore syndicate and the Russians, “ he thought, unconsciously reaching down to rub the now blue-black and purple bruise on the side of his leg where ‘ those fuckers’ had stuck him with some sort of hypodermic.

A  sick feeling rose in his gut and a shiver of fear electrified his spine as he tried to shut out of his mind the match fixing and illicit pushing of EPO that he had now been involved in for more than three years.

Shelley knew some of what he was involved in, but she had no idea that  the syndicate and the Russians were involved - did she?. Surely she just thought it was some dirty doc who was trying to feather his own nest.

But dirty doc’s didn’t have ‘associates’ like the Russians.


Zeus sat stony faced at John Allenby’s desk. His steel grey eyes bored into Allenby and Anderson like lasers. Lasers that were actually searing through flesh, bone, brain and even the soul.

For Shelley and John it was like an interview with the Headteacher meets an introduction to the head of torture for the Spanish Inquisition.

Shelley’s blouse was firmly buttoned up. Zeus - real name Philip Sanderson - Head of World Squash - was not someone who had ever succumbed to any of her charms. 

After a stellar career in the feared and famed British regiment  - the S.A.S - Philip Sanderson, universally known in the armed forces and beyond as Zeus, had left the service and joined the British based multinational arms manufacturer, HASP Industries International Company Ltd.

Starting as a consultant and ambassador for the company he had, in relatively short order and after a number of board room shuffles, emerged as the Chairman of HASP.

Then after a reputed seven figure golden handshake he had retired, still only 58 and turned his attention to his lifelong passion - Squash.

Unable to play openly while in the SAS because of the regiment’s incognito requirements for its serving members, he had been fortunate in being able to access the army’s living legend, Robbie Robinson. The seemingly ageless Robinson had trained with Zeus in secret and had honed the SAS man’s game to a level that was certainly competitive with any other player of his age in the world, by the time he left the service at the age of forty-two.

Sanderson was a Yorkshireman. The son of a Church of England Vicar from Wakefield, he was a lay preacher and had a deep faith.

In the extremely unlikely event that it turned out that God was not an Englishman - or at the very least British, Zeus would certainly be available as a most suitable stand-in.

Sanderson ran a gnarled, leathery hand over his bronzed equally leathery forehead and through the last remaining tresses of his once wiry mane of hair. Although the head was sparse, the disconcerting wild, silver-and-black bushy eyebrows were like metallic shrubs sprouting from his forehead. His rumbling voice, toned somewhere between Sean Connery and James Earl Jones, growled across the room at the Event promoter and the Head of the World Squash tour, who while not actually visibly quaking, looked distinctly uncomfortable.

“Well,” he intoned, “ what a Mare’s nest you  two have made out of this event.”

“I’m sorry?” quizzed Allenby, not knowing the expression and then immediately regretted opening his mouth.

“A load of old Codswallop, a Sow’s ear,” Zeus said pointedly and finally with feeling :

“an unmitigated cock-up!”

Sanderson didn’t wait for any further comment from the pair and continued,

“In a few minutes we will be joined by an acquaintance of mine, Special Agent Donald McDiarmid of Interpol. Between the two of us and with your unreserved assistance,” he carefully emphasised the word ‘unreserved,’  “we will try and rescue this disaster, although...,” he said inhaling with feeling, “ things may have moved beyond our immediate control.”

Shelly and John looked at each other - both wondering a) how much Sanderson knew about what they had been up to collectively, b) how much each other knew about what they had been up to individually and c) what in the hell the words: ‘beyond our immediate control’ could possibly mean?

Their inquiring glance was interrupted by a sharp knock on the door.

“Ah,” said Zeus, “ that will be Special Agent McDiarmid now. Kindly get the door John.”

“Great!” thought John as he went to the door, “ a fucking fastidious Scots investigator- won’t miss a trick.”

John opened the door and froze, momentarily stunned, as he looked at the individual that stood  there expectantly, waiting for Allenby to invite him in.

John caught himself and proffered his hand,

 “John Allenby. And you are Special Agent McDiarmid?”

Allenby said this last piece more as a question than as a confirmation.

“Correct,” said a voice, with the merest hint of a Portuguese Brazilian accent.

Allenby flashed Shelley a wide-eyed expression of surprise as he opened the door fully and a man of quite unique physical features stepped into the room.

Donald McDiarmid was around five-ten. He wore a pair of Nike trainers, faded black jeans, a black round necked t-shirt, and a light, well-worn, well creased  canvas jacket that looked as if it was completely unaware of the existence of washing machines.

What had stunned John however, was the man’s physical appearance.

Donald McDiarmid was beautiful. There was no other word for it. And his skin was the color of the purest cocoa. That in itself was not that surprising. But his hair, which was swept back into a short ponytail, started the same deep cocoa color at the root but rapidly turned golden blonde.

Zeus held out a welcoming hand,

“ Naldo, so nice to see you again after all these years.”

The detective clasped Sanderson’s hand in both of his,

 “ Likewise Philip. It has been too long. I am sorry we could not meet under the more pleasant circumstance.”

Sanderson turned to Shelley and John and by way of explanation said,

“ Special Agent McDiarmid and I are old acquaintances from our times in our  respective countries’ armed services. I was on secondment in South America and he was part of my force. He is a ferocious warrior.”

Neither Anderson nor Allenby showed any indication that they had registered these remarks. They were too busy staring at McDiarmid like school children.

McDiarmid smiled shortly,

 “ I see that the combination of my name and my appearance have surprised you, “

he offered and went on,

“ In Brazil you will find every combination of feature, Caucasian coloring with Afro features, South East Asian with Indian sub-continent coloring, Red Hair on Afro-Caribbean heads and, like me, dark coloring with blonde hair.”

Shelley collected herself and tried to be polite,

 “ Yes, you seem to have a marvellous lack of discrimination here.”

Naldo McDiarmid laughed strangely,

“ Well I suppose you might say that.. The Portuguese certainly didn’t discriminate when they arrived here with their slaves. They simply fucked everyone and everything. I suppose we should be grateful. My scots ancestor simply followed their lead. And my family have retained the our ‘scottishness’ ever since.”

“ Perhaps we should move to the business at hand,” Sanderson interrupted.

McDiarmid settled into a chair beside Zeus and the atmosphere in the room once again became almost unbearably heavy.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” Sanderson breathed ominously and eyeballed Allenby.

“Charles Buckler is dead. Hotel security found him murdered in his room early this morning. They say some local hoods from the Cidade de Deus favela slums did it but Naldo here has other thoughts which he will explain in a minute.”

Zeus had noted the odd expression on John’s face at this news - more one of irritation than of grief. He clearly wasn’t surprised.

 “ Yes John, we know that you paid Buckler to muddy the waters of Squash to gain attention for your events and to try and raise the marketability of your business. We know you even had him bad mouth you to try and hide your relationship.”

Allenby squirmed in his seat and tried to look away from Shelley’s incredulous gaze that was almost physically piercing the side of his head that was toward her.

“That’s not all. Naldo would you care to take over?”

“Certainly Philip. Mr Allenby, when Director Sanderson told us that you had refused to use the inter-governmental secure transfer agents that he had recommended for the transport of the glass court, Interpol began to become suspicious. Not because of your little insurance game - yes we know all about your many conversations with the lovely Victor and how you paid him to lose your glass panels and then both to hold up and subsequently, through the good offices of the lovely Ms Anderson, to release the court from customs.”

“What?!” exploded Shelley

“What indeed.” Zeus interjected gravely.

Then looking directly at Anderson continued,

“As for you Miss Yo-Yo Britches, “

Shelley’s eyes flashed indignantly but were unequal to Sanderson steel grey stock still gaze, and she looked at the floor as he went on,

“How often you choose to lock your lascivious lips around the lower libido of whatever low-life you think may improve your personal lot is up to you. But you will never do it again on World Squash business.”

He paused and then boomed,

“ Have I made myself clear?”

Shelley nodded meekly.

“Please continue Naldo.” Sanderson invited.

The investigator went on,

“ As I said - after you didn’t use the recommended customs channel we became aware of something strange happening.Unfortunately for you and your scheme Mr Allenby, Sombrasoft was well aware of what was happening and intervened with Victor and your ‘lost’ panels were - to your great disappointment - ‘found.’ However, Buckler must have been involved somehow in your negotiations with your contact at the port, but what you didn’t know was that you weren’t Buckler’s only illicit source of income and that he was playing with much bigger fish. Bigger than he fully realized. When he passed on information about what you were up to and when Tyler Wolf, “

 Shelley’s head rocketed up at the mention of her Aussie boy. How much did they know?

McDiarmid looked hard at Shelley then proceeded,,

“ allowed his involvement with certain unsavory underworld elements to get out of hand and he started passing sensitive information, “

 Naldo paused,

“ Then the red flags about real trouble started popping up all over the Interpol listening world.”

“Now listen you two,” Zeus adopted a more conciliatory tone,

 “ You have both done some idiotic things. But Squash is about to enter its glory days and we need you. We have been able to take Fritz and Anne Mallinson’s stellar inventions and change our destiny.”

 He looked at John again.

 “ I know you think I am some holier-than-thou God-Squad throw back, but let me assure you John, I have seen much worse shenanigans in business and in international diplomacy than your paltry little $3 million insurance scheme. “

Allenby’s face wore an expression of guilt.

Philip Sanderson continued,

“ We must all work together now to make sure that this event, which thanks to your efforts John is the marquis event in the history of Squash, will set the tone for generations and certainly for the forthcoming Olympics.”

John and Shelley’s respective  visages brightened somewhat.

“Tyler Wolf has been a bad boy and we can’t allow that to go on. I know you have a soft spot for him Shelley, but he has opened our sport to the influences of evil men and that,"

 Zeus paused emphatically,

 “can not be allowed. He will be allowed to finish this event and then he will retire quietly.”

Shelley nodded her assent.

“Now will you help me make sure that this event goes perfectly and help Squash into the future it truly deserves?”

Not that anyone would easily refuse Philip Sanderson, but his powerful and persuasive personality were impressive and both John and Shelley recognized in him the same love of the game that had, before their various personal interests had distracted them, been their own reasons for coming to this amazing game.

“Yes.” said Shelley enthusiastically.

“Yes.” echoed John and his voice cracking as he said it, “ I am sorry.”

“OK.” Zeus said summarily, not embarrassing Allenby by remarking his last comment,

“ Naldo, what do we need to do?”

The Special Investigator shrugged his shoulders and gestured with open hands,

“ Do your job. Our real problem is to discover what else is being planned for this event.”

“ What do you mean?” asked John with real concern.

“ Well,” Naldo sighed,

“ It’s hard to say. We have match fixing, enhancement drugs, kidnapping possibilities - don’t forget you have the Chairman of Sombrasoft and Prince Al Omani  hanging around; and Fritz and Anne Mallinson are worth a fortune themselves these days. Things have been happening. There has been an unusual amount of noise. I am afraid that between Charles Buckler and Tyler Wolf a lot of sensitive information has been passed on to people who have both the desire and the capability of doing things that are not nice. I am pretty certain that the person that killed Buckler is a woman who is a part of the Russian mob. No-one noticed her - in fact the only suspicious person was a slim built man in a black suit wearing a fancy pair of Oakley’s - but she is an expert chameleon - so that doesn’t preclude her from being the killer”

“But what has Tyler done? “ Shelley said - desperately trying to ascertain whether it was her arrangements with Rhodanie  or Tyler’s behavior that had been detected.

“You remember last year when he had that ‘run of bad form?’ One or twol individuals known to us in Singapore suddenly became a lot wealthier. And do you remember that after that he had ‘a miraculous comeback’ and beat everyone that had overtaken him in the previous few years?”

“He trained all summer for that!” Shelley protested.

“He certainly did and the training he did with Rhodanie Maison didn’t do any harm either did it?” Naldo said pointedly looking toward Shelley.

For the second time in the interview Ms Anderson’s eyes dropped to the floor in defeat.

McDiarmid started again, more upbeat,

“ We have, uh, how do you say it in English - ah yes - beefed up security. You do your job. I  will do mine and hopefully we will have a wonderfully uneventful event.”

“Agreed?” said Zeus with an implied authority.

John and Shelley both nodded.

“Then let’s get to work.”


By the time Fritz had joined Anne at the rail an enormous yellow ‘cigarette’ boat with massive red sharks teeth emblazoned on the prow was just pulling parallel to the Icarus.

At the helm was a huge bald man, wearing a pair of gaudy mirror shades. On the bow was an incredibly athletic looking woman in some sort of skin tight, blue swim-suit  - or at least that’s what Fritz first thought - laying with her back to the Icarus. Suddenly Fritz realized that the women was completely naked and that what he had first thought was a swim-suit was actually the most amazing total body coverage of weird tattoos.

“Hello-o-o!” Fritz called out uncertainly and held up his hand.

“Hello-o-o!” the woman called back ironically mimicking his tone.

The first uncertain doubts crept into Fritz’s head just as the Glock that the woman had been hiding behind her naked buttock spat a bullet into the rigging immediately above and behind his head.

The woman was standing brazenly in full frontal nudity pointing the gun directly at Fritz’s head.

She had short black hair and features that suggested some eastern ethnicity - perhaps the eastern Steppe or Russian Mongolia.

She barked at the heavy set man at the helm in a language that the Mallinson’s didn’t understand.

The man responded by leaping, with remarkable agility, from the cigarette boat over the rail of the Icarus where he secured a heavy nylon line. Almost without breaking step he walked up behind Fritz and using an ugly looking leather cosh that he had been concealing, smashed Fritz over the back of the skull. Fritz collapsed on the deck.

Anne screamed and the woman snapped another order at her compatriot, in Russian.

“Shut her up Vasili!”

Anne saw the man’s intention and tried to wriggle away, dropping her chiffon wrap in the process. He grabbed her wrist and coshed her over the side of the head and she also crumpled into a naked heap on the deck.

Vasili looked down appraisingly.

 “Nice tits.” he said with an appreciative nod.

“Probably fake - but stop fucking gawking. Secure the yacht and then radio the others.”

Vasili picked Anne’s inert  body up and surreptitiously gave Anne’s right breast an exploratory squeeze.

“Nope - real.” he thought to himself and then aloud he said briskly,

 “ Immediately Kriosnaya mat! (godmother).”

It didn’t do to keep Irina Hleb waiting.


John Allenby was standing in the impressively appointed Sky Box Hospitality suite which was situated at the very top of the precipitously steep bleacher seating which surrounded the unique Glass Court complex that had been built right on the Copacabana beach.

In the two days since his uncomfortable meeting with Zeus and the unnerving Special Agent McDiarmid, John had worked his socks off.

He smiled laconically  to himself. Considering that he had been ready to destroy this event for the sake of the insurance, it was ironic that it was now, without doubt, his finest work ever.

In fact everything seemed to have gone his way since the infamous appointment with Zeus.

Buckler’s death had put the whole event at the top of the news services attention. Sombrasoft had just announced intentions of partnering with Google-Saab in the I-CARUS venture - his broker had phoned him to tell  that his gamble had paid off big time - thanks to Renato Bulsara and Mr Fino there. And now Mr Fino had decided to cover his medical insurance bills until further notice!

“I must have trodden in something!” he chuckled to himself.

He looked out of the back window of the box down to Avenida Atlantica where a line of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, wild stretch Limos and stately Rolls Royces  gradually wormed their way through the heavy security, bringing a cast of celebrity characters never before seen at a Professional Squash event.

Apart from Sombrasoft’s eclectic Chairman Mr Fino, guests included the legendary Pele, the son and daughter of Brazil’s glorious Jazz composer Jobim, the aging but still lovely Astrud Gilberto,

the Ministers of both Finance and Public Works, the notorious playboy son of the president - Jaõa Silvio, the recently retired soccer star Ronaldo and many other lesser known but massively wealthy members of the Brazilian elite.

Also Madame Kim and Gilles Letourneau of the IOC were there to audit the event in preparation for the 2016 Olympics.

Those troubling words of the Sanderson interview came back into Allenby’s mind:’ beyond our immediate control.”

John grunted involuntarily.

 “McDiarmid said I was to do my job and he would do his. Well I’ve done mine. I hope to Christ he has done his.” he thought.

He looked down and around the court. The bleachers were almost full now. The brilliant white satin hangings around the top of the court and through to the back areas where the players, the technical and video hubs, the state of the art Cordon Bleu on the Run hospitality area and the restrooms were hidden, making the whole place look like some palace of the Gods. And of course, the court itself - mysteriously shrouded in four, enormous single white satin sheets, ready for the Son et Lumiere opening ceremony par excellence that would be underway in just a few minutes. Phil Peters and his crew had done an extraordinary job.

Allenby’s walkie talkie crackled into operation,

 “Court deck to Allenby - come in John.”

“ Allenby here Sheila. Everything OK?”

“Perfect boss. Starting 10 minute countdown for the Grand Opening in five. Five minute warning for spectators and participants in two.”

“Thanks Sheila.”

“My pleasure boss. Break-a-leg! Out.”

So the Grand Opening of the Glass Court matches was finally here. John vacated the Sky Box as the waiters and waitresses and their high paying clientele took their places.

As he walked down to his private viewing space, he looked at the court far below as event staff milled around making final checks, press took their places, friends greeted friends on their way to find seats and private boxes.There was Mr Fino with Prince Hamza Al Omani.

“ I thought Fino wasn’t coming ‘til the final,” John queried to himself, “ Checking out his investment, I reckon.”

 There was Shelley chatting to some of the lesser players that  hadn’t made the Quarters and opening night. Would she ever forgive him? She was barely civil at the moment.

 “ Cast first the mote from thine own eye, Ms Anderson.” John mused,

“ You and I need each other - so you’ll forgive me sooner or later.”

He saw Zeus, charming the IOC delegates with his charismatic personality. He really was a force of nature.

He suddenly realized that he hadn’t seen the Mallinson’s.

“Strange,” he pondered,

“ I thought they would be here by now. This is as much their night as ours. Perhaps they’re still out back schmoozing.......”

His train of thought was cut off abruptly,

“Honored guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats for the Grand Opening” boomed the PA.

The hubbub died down to a silence and all lights were extinguished. For a few moments the only sound was the distant crash of the breakers landing on the sand of Copacabana beach.

Above, a beautiful display of the myriad stars of the Brazilian night sky hung as a bejewelled ceiling. In the stadium itself the ghost of a breeze rippled the satin drapes momentarily.

Suddenly the first strains of the classic version of Toccata by John Williams and his group Sky reverberated around the stadium. Massive spotlights and lasers streamed hundreds of feet into the darkness. Banks of light alternately lit and extinguished precisely in time with the music as each blistering crescendo exploded and  then died away.

John was delighted. It was going perfectly. Eagerly he anticipated the crowds gasps when the final crescendo was delivered and the huge satin drapes would fall to reveal all of the Quarter-finalists from both the men’s and the women’s events, wearing their new Viper Precious Stone eyewear in Amethyst, Sapphire, Emerald and Ruby in a Charlie’s Angel type pose.

(author’s note - to listen to the music of the Grand Opening go to:


before you read the next section - 4mins 35 secs.)

The music built and the moment arrived.

The loud speakers delivered the final dramatic shimmering of the symbols as the satin drapes began to fall to reveal.....

Unexpectedly all the lights went out!

“Shit!” cursed  Allenby.

And then the lights returned - to reveal......

 The court was surrounded by a score of brutal looking white men carrying AK 47 machine guns facing the crowd.

 And in the middle of the court, highlighted by the beams of massive super trouper spotlights, carrying a supersized automatic weapon, stood a slim, heavily tattooed woman in skintight black leather shorts and an equally skintight black leather singlet.

John stared in disbelief. The crowd did indeed gasp - a few even screamed.

As he opened his lips to mouth the words,

“ What the fuck.............,”

the woman raised the weapon she carried.

She held it up theatrically for all to see, with a cruel smile on her face.

Suddenly the entire top layer of the court erupted!

Panel by panel, a million shards of breaking glass cascaded to the floor like a lethal, crystal waterfall, as the strange leather-clad, tattooed woman, raked a  brutal 360 degree burst of fire, around the court...............

Chapter ELEVEN by Peter Heywood

She glanced at the elegant gold watch adorning her left wrist. A gift from an unknown admirer.

Eleven fifteen. Just over eighteen hours to the Grand Opening of the glass court. Eighteen hours to the spectacle, the excitement, the glamour. Eighteen hours to her performance in the privileged presence of Rio’s great, good…and not so good. It was time for the real challenge to begin. Tomorrow she would compete with the blonde American girl in the quarter-final. Her next step on the road to becoming the world’s number one player.

She was ready now.

Drawing her black lace shawl around her shoulders, she gazed through the window of the limousine as it picked its way through the city’s chaotic streets. Streets which she had visited many times in the past. Streets filled with traffic jostling for position, looking for an opening, poised to make a move. In a few hours, it would be quieter. It usually was by the time she returned from her night-time excursions into her special world. Nights when she indulged in her passion, when she shared moments of intimate connection. Nights when she felt the embrace of her partner’s arms as their bodies moved in unison. Special nights.

The limousine drew up outside a whitewashed three storey building on Rua do Catete. A single light shone down from above its entrance porch. She waited as the motorista climbed out of the driver’s seat, adjusted his peaked cap and opened the door for her to alight. She stepped out into the warm night, her sense of excitement beginning to mount.

“Have a good evening, senhorita.”

He smiled a knowing smile.


As she entered the building, Florencia Perez could hear the music drifting from the salon on the first floor. The music born in her home town. Music from the birthplace of the father she had never known. Music from the Golden Age of tango.

She strode across the entrance hall towards the staircase, her low heels sounding on the black and white tiles. In her right hand, she held the straps of a small black sequinned purse and a black satin shoe bag. Her hair was drawn back in a simple ponytail, secured with a golden band. Gold hoops dangled from her ears. She was wearing a sheer black slit dress with a jagged hemline, adorned with fringes, swaying as she walked. Ready to join the dance, the milonga.

Ready to feel the bodies of others close to hers.


In the salon, the dance floor filled with couples moving to the music played by the residente, a young DJ hunched over his sound equipment at the far end of the high-ceilinged room. From her table on the edge of the dance floor, she watched as the unattached men in the room nodded their invitations to women they wanted as their partners in the next set of dances. The next tanda.

She watched the men leading their partners around the floor to see which of them she would trust to lead her in the way she wanted to be led. To see which of them would be suitable for her to choose as a partner. She noticed too whose invitations were being ignored.

After an hour in the salon, she’d accepted two invitations to dance. One was from a young olive-skinned boy whose embrace proved to be rather too close for her liking. The other was from a tall middle-aged man with light skin and a long nose who led her elegantly in three exhilarating tango waltzes. She felt safe in his embrace, following him easily around the floor, swinging her body, moving sinuously around him, feeling like a woman. She thanked him, returned to her table and sipped her drink, suddenly feeling that the evening might just turn out to be…

She sensed his gaze before she saw it, before she’d had time to see who had arrived since she’d taken to the floor. To see who had seen her dancing, seen her feeling the passion.

She raised her eyes and met his. Dark eyes.

Eyes she had seen before.


He glanced at his watch and entered the salon. It was almost one. Tonight he would meet the Australian in the glass room. A chance for him to raise his profile, to move up the world rankings in a sport he’d played and loved since he was a child.

But tonight, Andres Lopez was not thinking about the sporting challenge to come. He was thinking about someone who could be very special. Someone who had not been easy to find.

Since he had seen her compete in his home town, he had followed her progress with more than a little interest. He knew that she had begun to more than fulfil her potential in competition. But, until recently, he did not realise that her beauty had transcended both her athletic ability and her sporting success. Now, from conversations with his fellow professionals, he had also discovered that Florencia Perez shared another of his passions.

In the subdued light of the salon, he nervously ran his fingers through his long brown hair,   searching for her among the tables and the dancers moving around the crowded floor.

Suddenly he saw her, dancing with a smartly-dressed middle-aged man. She moved with cat-like grace, weaving an elegant path around her partner to the music of a tango waltz. He watched her as she thanked her partner and walked across the dance floor to her table.

Moving quickly, he found a table directly opposite hers and sat down, his heart suddenly racing as he tried to relax., to let the passion in the room be his inspiration in seeking her consent to dance with him. Usually, he would watch the women as they moved around the dance floor, looking for the qualities that he valued in a partner. Then he would invite them – with his eyes, with a nod of his head, with the cabeceo – to allow him to lead them, to reward their trust, and to show his own qualities as a dancer.

But now, it was too late. He could not tear his eyes away from her as she sipped her drink.

He was in danger now. Danger of…

Suddenly, her eyes met his.

In them, he sensed surprise, yes…and something else, something warmer. Much warmer. Instantly, he relaxed. And nodded. There was a pause as he sensed her curiosity, awaited her response. And then his nod was returned, his invitation accepted.

He slipped on his dance shoes beginning to notice the other people in the room. People whose passion he shared.

He was passionate about many things in his life. His country, his sport, the dance he had been introduced to in his home town. Passion that had landed him in trouble with the authorities more than once. But now, he was calm, waiting for the cortina, the musical interlude preceding the next set of dances, when she would be his partner.

When the time arrived, he stood and walked towards her, threading his way through the other dancers leaving and joining their partners. Reaching her table he bowed and held out his hand, inviting her onto the floor. She rose and stepped towards him.

The music, a tango canyengue, began to play. Instinctively, he sought her embrace and was accepted. Leaning towards her, he moved slightly from side to side, sensing the music, breathing her perfume, feeling her body close to his. Then, without knowing, as their hearts beat together, he stepped towards her. Leading them both into the dance, into the rhythm of the music.

Into the passion.


It had been easy to follow her to the salon.

He had waited until she entered the building on Rua do Catete before climbing out of the taxi and striding towards the entrance. He was dressed smartly in a dark grey tailored suit and white shirt which perfectly fitted his tall, lean frame. Like the girl, he had carried his dance shoes in a small bag which dangled on a strap circling his wrist. His greying hair was swept back from his narrow face with its long nose.

After so many years, he was nervous, but ready. Ready to meet her on a night which could change both their lives forever. Inside, he paid his entrance fee and found a table from which he could make eye contact with her. But first he invited other women to dance with him, eager to take a few turns around the floor before seeking her consent.

When the time came, it felt natural. Something he had done many times before. He met her eyes, nodded and was accepted. They danced, and after they had danced, he returned to his table and sought out other women to dance with as the room filled and the floor became a single rotating embrace.

He watched her dance with other men, including the Colombian boy who returned to his table with what he sensed was more than just an air of satisfaction. The boy danced well, his dark good looks and long brown hair attracting the attention of the women, the invitations made with his dark eyes winning their consent. Using the cabeceo, following the code.

He glanced at his watch. Now, as the milonga entered its fourth hour, he made her a second invitation with his eyes. She caught his gaze and nodded with a hint of a smile. Now she trusted him.

This time he led her in three tangos, leaving her space to decorate, to hook, to tap her toes as they moved effortlessly around the busy floor. He felt a sense of pride as they paused in silence after each dance, waiting for the next to begin.

As the last chord of their final dance died away, he escorted her to her table knowing that now, after all these years, he must speak to her. He waited for her to sit, then leaned towards her and whispered into her ear.

“Listen to me, my child. You do not have much time.”

She paused, listening to his voice with surprise…and recognition. It was a soft voice, a caring voice. The voice of a porteno, a native of her home town.

“Tonight at the Grand Opening there will be great danger. You must not go there.”

She turned her head to look at him. To look into his eyes.

“How do you know this?”

“Trust me.” he replied. “Trust one who has always loved you. One who has always cared.”

He placed something on the table in front of her, touched it with his forefinger and looked into her eyes.

“I am sorry,” he said, then turned and walked quickly away.


Florencia Perez looked down at the table. On its surface lay a plain, white card. Her heart racing, she reached out to pick it up, half knowing what she would find. She touched its smooth surface, closing her eyes and letting her fingers seek out the indentations she sensed would be present.

As she found them, an image formed in her mind. An image which had been with her for as long as she could remember. Since she was a child.

An image of a very tall man with a long nose. A kind man. A caring man.

She stared at the elegant gold watch adorning her left wrist. A gift she had received on her eighteenth birthday, on the eve of her first international tournament. In the home town of a Colombian boy. A gift from an unknown admirer. A gift accompanied by a plain, white card.

Embossed with the image of a stork.

CHAPTER TWELVE by Alan Thatcher

John Allenby woke from his nightmare.

He was drenched in sweat. His tee-shirt was wringing wet and stuck to his body.

He had vivid flashbacks of a bad dream in which the glass court was being wrecked by machine-gun fire.

He rubbed his eyes as the persistent ring of his mobile phone roused him from his bed.

It was the call that changed everything.

It was Shelley.

“John, listen.”

“What’s up?”

“I’ve just had a call from the top. From the Brazilian government. Are you by the court?”

“No. I’m in my room.”

“OK. Get over there now and I’ll be with you in ten minutes.”

Shelley hung up and zipped up her light-blue leather jacket. John threw some clothes on without bothering to shower.

Ironically, when he reached the venue he began briefing the court crew on keeping the glass immaculately clean.

He always groaned when players wiped their sweaty hands on the back wall, causing big streaky smears to appear on the glass. 

Gone were the days of towelling strips on the shorts, he mused.

Shelley attracted the usual attention enjoyed by a glamorous woman in her mid-30s as she crossed the road and entered the arena.

Men used to seeing the vast array of flesh on display on Copacabana Beach still admired the style and poise of a fully-clothed female.

She found John and grabbed his arm to usher him to a quiet corner of the arena. Event staff continued to get everything ready to welcome their first-night guests and the garishly-dressed dancers prepared for their rehearsals.

Tonight, a mini carnival was about to embellish the arrival of world-class squash to Rio.

“You won’t believe this,” she said, as she and John climbed the bleachers to find a spot where they could not be overheard. “A firestorm is about to break out here in Rio.

“Things are so screwed up here in Brazil ahead of the Olympics and the government are beginning to panic. One of the new football stadiums has been shut down for safety reasons, before it’s even opened, because the roof has failed a safety check.

“You know how passionate the Brazilians are about their soccer. It’s a major embarrassment on all fronts, and the government are worried that the rest of the world will start sneering at them, saying they’re not capable of organizing the World Cup and the Olympics one after the other.  

“Not only that, but the papers are full of stories about the dangers of women travelling on public transport.

“A young woman was gang-raped on a bus yesterday, just three miles from here, and her boyfriend was forced to watch, after being smacked over the head with a crowbar.

 “The tourism guys are worried that it will stop people from travelling to Brazil, and the IOC are worried it will have a knock-on effect with lower ticket sales.  They also think it might frighten sponsors away.

“In the end, it all comes down to money. Everything does. Always.”

John had listened patiently.

“Why do I suspect there’s more to come,” he said.

Shelley nodded. “OK, wait for it. This is where we come in. Golf is about to be kicked out of the Olympic Games because the course will not be ready in time. The IOC have asked squash to come in and fill the gap, four years ahead of 2020. But nothing will be announced until we can prove we’re capable of doing it.”

John’s face lit up.

“That’s incredible,” he said. “How did you find out?”

“I know the right people,” she said, failing to reveal that she had taken a call from the president of the IOC himself to check on squash’s readiness to step into the breach.

“We are back to our original position,” she said. “We must make sure this event is the biggest thing ever in squash. We need everybody onside and we must make sure the players deliver. The TV needs to be spectacular. We need to convince the big American sponsors that we’re not just a pastime for rich college kids on the east coast.”

“Right.” John nodded. His brain performed cartwheels as he weighed up all the options.   

The various criminal elements attaching themselves to the event would have to be warned off. The rules had changed. The goalposts had been moved. Squash was ready to take its place in the Games alongside the big boys.

And a tournament of this magnitude would surely convince any doubters that squash deserved to be there.

This new development put John Allenby and Shelley Anderson firmly in the spotlight.

It was Allenby’s turn to talk.

“We can handle the squash. The event, the players, the staging, that’s easy. That’s what we do. But we need extra security to stop anything from going wrong.

“Too many nasty people have attached themselves to this tournament and we need to keep them away. Any ideas?”

Shelley smiled her imperious smile.

“I think you’ll find much of it has been taken care of. With the government so keen to make this a success, security is obviously a top priority.

“Unlike the Brits, who screwed up so badly by outsourcing security to the private sector at the London Olympics, the Brazilians will simply call in the Army.

“As we speak, it’s already happening. Look around and you will see that they have already brought in extra troops to patrol every part of the city.

“They want total lockdown to stop anything going wrong. Nobody gets in or out of any Olympic venue without a security check. And the same goes for the squash arena.

“Our friends with the guns are already packing up and leaving town.”

As Shelley and John concluded their discussion, players began arriving to practise on the glass court.


John Allenby returned to his hotel room to shower and shave.

He chose grey slacks and a cream jacket for the evening’s opening ceremony. He thought about going open-necked, but, with so many VIP guests, including government officials and leading sponsors, he thought a tie would be the safe option.

He could always take it off if he was the only guy wearing one. He chose a new pink tie, bought in a January sale in a favourite store in London’s Piccadilly.

He smiled to himself as he prepared to welcome one special guest. He had always been a big fan of Gloria Estefan, and tonight she would be singing just for him.

That’s how he felt, anyway.

For the first time in his career, he had been given the budget to put on something truly spectacular, and Ms Estefan was his first choice to sing at the opening ceremony. Luckily, she was available, and the fee was agreed.

She was flying down with her backing band to perform for 30 minutes before the squash began.

That moment was about to arrive and he chuckled as he thought of the opening lines of one of his favourite songs.    

“Sometimes it’s hard … to make things clear.”

He always cracked the same joke to himself as he focused on those first three words. “Story of my life,” he mumbled.

He nodded to himself in the mirror as he smartened up, ready for show time.


More than 1,000 spectators crammed into the venue as the big night began.

The crowd went wild as the dancers paraded into the venue, with booming music and a spectacular laser show.

Gloria Estefan performed a magical set on the stage at the front of the court, and it was the proudest moment of John Allenby’s life as he kissed her on both cheeks and took the microphone to announce the first competitive match in the 2014 Rio Beach Classic.

Local TV crews fought with the squash crew to get the best vantage points. John hoped the TV stations would focus on the squash, as well as his favourite singer. 

Fittingly, the first match featured the top seed, Karim Bashir, the world number one from Egypt.

One of the most talented players in the history of the game, he had been unbeaten for almost a year.

His opponent, a young English hopeful called Tom Sharp, put up a great show, diving all over the court to get the ball back as Bashir entertained the crowd with an astonishing display of racket skills.

Mixing power with touch play, and with a brain able to invent new shots seemingly at will, Bashir won comfortably in three games.

Wearing a yellow tee-shirt saying ‘Bashir loves Brazil’ he had won over the crowd as soon as he set foot inside court.

To the local squash fans who understood the intricacies of the game, he was a superhero.

To many of the guests in the crowded VIP stand, and other newcomers to the game, he put on a show that won them over in the first few rallies.

Some had heard that squash was boring. Bashir proved them wrong.

Two more matches followed, with victories for Frenchman Jean Tresor and England’s Jimmy Evans. Tresor would be facing Bashir in the next round, with Evans waiting to see who would win the final match of the evening, between American Steve Ennis and the Brazilian wild card, Carlos Oliveira.

The crowd stayed to the end and their noisy support helped Oliveira raise his game. He pushed Ennis all the way and at five-all in the fifth the American began to cramp up.

After a brief injury break, Ennis returned to court and was unable to maintain the tempo required to close out the match.

Oliveira stepped up his game to win the decider 11-6. He would be sharing the headlines next day with Bash the Smash.


As the crowd filed out of the arena, a laser show lit up the hotels across the beach.

The party would continue back at the hotel, with a special reception in the ballroom.

Shelley Anderson was schmoozing the room in one amazing sweep. Charming the money men, showing earnest interest as she talked to local politicians about developing squash through local school programs, she also did her best to convince the small group of IOC delegates that squash was ready to step up four years early.

The Brazilian squash federation was the biggest immediate beneficiary now that the sport had been admitted to the 2020 Games.

Local officials were all decked out in new blazers, ties and chinos.     

Clearly some money was finding its way into the game now that squash was an Olympic sport, even if it went to purchasing fashion items ahead of building new courts in city centres.

But Shelley had news even on that score.

It was her turn to grab the microphone and talk to the guests.

“The Rio Squash Festival, held in advance of the professional tournament, was such a huge success that a new 12-court squash club is being built as part of the Olympic sports centre.

“The centre will have a permanent glass court and the World Tour is helping to recruit the best coaches in the world.”

Smiling at friends and guests from US Squash, she added: “The Ivy League colleges at last have some competition from south of the border when it comes to recruiting top coaches.

“It’s all part of our Total Squash World Plan and Brazil is leading the way with the world’s biggest tournament taking place here in Rio alongside a major development program.

“This is not just a one-off. This will be a fabulous annual event and we will grow the game alongside it.

“With Olympic status leading to increased funding, we aim to double the numbers of players worldwide to 40 million.”

Shelley received a standing ovation.

John Allenby greeted her with a glass of champagne and a hug.

“Well done. That was great.”

Shelley smiled, took a welcome sip from her champagne flute and looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping.  

“The hard thing is making sure that the funding goes to the right people, and is not syphoned off by governments, federation officials and middle men.”

John nodded. So many times he had seen his ambitions of holding major events thwarted by incompetent and corrupt politicians, not to mention small-minded local officials who had no idea how to grow the game.

Finally, he was putting on the biggest show the game had ever seen. With Shelley by his side, they made a great team.

Despite so many issues threatening to stall the event, squash was finally in the big league.

Chapter THIRTEEN by Mick Joint

Tyler pondered the news that Shelley just unloaded on him. Squash in the 2016 Games? Here? In Rio? He shivered as goose bumps covered his bare arms despite the uncomfortable warm evening breeze that was only making the current humidity levels worse. It was like the golden nugget that all professional squash players for eons had been relentlessly searching for had just popped up out of the ground and smacked him squarely in the middle of his bewildered face.

Even though Tyler was ecstatic that squash had been accepted into 2020, he couldn’t help but feel the gouging pangs of jealousy mixed with resentment at the reality that aged 42 he would not have been able to compete for a gold medal six years down the track. But in two? This changed everything. A real chance at the ultimate swan song. Retirement was already knocking very loudly on the door, but to go out in such glory would etch his name in the history books as one of the all time legends of the game. There was more than a good chance he could regain the number 1 ranking if he won in Copacabana this week, but imagine the spotlight he would experience announcing his departure from squash with the first ever Olympic gold medal around his neck as well... his mind wandered euphorically.

“Hey, daydreamer!” Shelley poked him in the ribs. She whispered loudly. “You absolutely cannot tell anyone about the Olympics. Okay? This event needs to be a mammoth success. The IOC are 95% sure of our inclusion, but they want to see firsthand – right now – that squash is the spectacle we brag about. You need to perform. And you’re on in 15 minutes – Florencia is already 2-0 up. I know I can count on you to... squash is counting on you...” Shelley left the players area to the glass court without another word.

He was ready. The craziness of the past few days behind him, Tyler Wolf was back in his element. The veteran still experienced those little nervous belly flutters before each match. A good sign he thought, because it meant he still cared. It didn’t matter that his first round was practically a gimme.

His qualifying opponent had done well to reach the main draw, not that it was totally unexpected. Another up and coming youngster – a 19 year old African from Mozambique of all places – had come through both his two matches in 5 long games. Almost half Tyler’s age, nicknamed “The Freak of Mozambique”, Sylvain Fosu actually lived and trained in France. He had the potential to reach the upper echelons of the rankings, but he needed another couple of solid playing years on the circuit. On paper, he was no match for the fresh Australian, everyone was expecting a 20 minute match at the longest.

Tyler’s cell phone sprung to life with a quirky melody indicating a text had been received. 

He looked at the screen and suddenly his delicate stomach butterflies turned into a rampaging King Kong. “From Russia with Love” he read.

“Oh, fuck” murmured Tyler to no one in particular. It then rung.

“Enjoy your little ‘vacation’, Aussie boy? How’s the leg?”

It was a reference to his recent kidnapping experience. That explained a lot. “I’m on in ten minutes”, he spat out. “I don’t have time for this shit. I’m done. Was done years ago. Leave me the fu...”

“Shut up,” came the sharp, nasty interruption. “You are never done. You made a deal with the devil and we own you. You do as we say. Everybody ends up unhurt. Kah-peesh?”

Tyler remained silent.

“Good. You lose this match. You lose in 3 games. You lose under 7 points a game. You lose in under 30 minutes. You lose, then you win. If you win, you lose... big time. Maybe lose girlfriend too. Kah-peesh?”

More silence.

Match fixing. The fucking Russians were back. After three years of remaining off the radar they have suddenly turned up on the biggest stage in the history of the sport moments before he was due on court. Throwing this match could damage squash irreversibly. IOC delegates were present, the Olympics were at stake. But so were lives.

“Oh, fuck” murmured Tyler to no one in particular again.


Emily Miller was sitting in the third row behind the glass wall twirling her hair with one hand and fidgeting with her cell phone in the other.

“God, she’s like, hardly sweating. Such a bitch”, she cussed to Julia Brown who was sitting next to her in almost exactly the same pose.

“I know. Totally”, came the standard retort.

The two girls had managed to qualify for the main round both in part due to some pretty darn good squash and some luck with the qualifying draw. Both had scored local girls for their first match and both had managed to avoid Florencia Perez – who they were now watching – for their second.

“9-3”, echoed the announcement from the surrounding speakers as the marker indicated the current score.

Florencia Perez was 2 points away from advancing to the second round. She was systematically destroying her hapless British opponent who could not for the life of her figure out how the Argentinean could hit so many deceptive drop shots for winners from the back corners. Her ‘perfect’ length made zero difference. Florencia would simply keep plopping the ball just above the tin in either front corner with ease. Not even the humid conditions helped the ball bounce barely more than an inch.

What incensed Emily even more was that her dream boy – Andres Lopez – was sitting in Florencia’s corner riveted by every single rally, movement and stroke with hardly a blink. It was crystal clear that there was something chemical happening between the two of them and Emily was turning more spiteful at every ‘thwock’ of the squash ball.

To mix things up, Florencia flicked the ball deep into the back corner, almost making her opponent buckle at the knees.

“10-3, match-ball”.

“Bitch. So full of herself. And look at that outfit. God, it’s, like, so last year”. There was not much Emily could do about Florencia’s squash game, but she decided she would do all she could to get Andres for herself. The gloves were now off.

With all the fight leaving the whipped British girl, she walloped the final serve into the middle of the tin. She left the court with an almost comical pout and proffered a wet-fish handshake leaving Florencia on the ‘T’ to take the quick post-match on-court interview with the tournament emcee. Emily stood up and made her way to Andres, whispered something x-rated into his ear, grabbed his hand and led him away making sure she was staring directly into Florencia’s eyes as she did it. As soon as they made eye contact, she blew her a kiss.


“Please welcome to the main court, Tyler... Wolf!” The crowd erupted. There were even a couple of Australian flags waving through the stands. The chant “Wolfie!” reverberated around the arena for 30 seconds or so before they eventually quietened down. Tyler was a fan favourite where ever he went despite the past black marks on his resume. As proven with other international star athletes, winning solved a lot of problems.

But it wouldn’t solve much here. Tyler was torn. His desperate childhood dream of Olympic glory was literally within arm’s reach. As was being king of the hill as world number one. On the other hand, lives were at risk. In order to save lives he had to disgrace himself and the sport. Call the cops? Ask for protection? He couldn’t exactly do that right now anyway as he started the warm-up with Sylvain. And the Russians have already proven they could snatch him up anytime from anywhere.

He didn’t know what to do. Losing this match was akin to a club professional losing to one of his average club members. And everyone knew it. Sylvain knew it, too.

The moment the warm-up concluded, Tyler raced to his bag, whipped out his phone and dialled Shelley’s number.

It picked up after the first ring. Tyler didn’t wait for a greeting.

“Shelley, I’m in trouble. I need help. The Russians want me to throw this match. Threats. Lives. Shit. I don’t know what to do.” Tyler’s voice was frantic.

“I am sure you shall do the right thing”, came the calm, collected answer. An answer that was undeniably drowning with a thick Russian accent. The phone went dead.


Tyler lunged deeply into the front forehand corner. A comfortable lunge, almost in slow motion for someone of his capabilities, and in perfect balance he placed his racquet face underneath his opponent’s boast for a delicately placed drop, rolled his wrist ever so slightly just before impact and clipped the top of the tin for what was recorded as his 12th unforced error of the match so far.

Another loud groan emanated from the crowd. “Down, 10-5, game-ball” came the call from the completely puzzled referee.

Sylvain was just as perplexed. He was playing well, but he knew there was no way he should be anywhere near the position he was in. One rally away from taking a 2-0 game lead over one of his squash heroes, his concentration wafted towards all the thoughts of grandeur and rewards he would receive from beating the world number 5. They would erect a gold statue of him in Mozambique, bow at his knees... It was a rookie mistake. He served the next ball out.

“Hand-out, 6-10”.

Damn, thought Tyler. Idiot. He couldn’t allow himself to win the next rally. The instructions were clear. And he didn’t want to think what would happen if he crossed the Russians. Nor did he want to serve it out – he was being obvious enough he thought, but a service error at game-ball down? Instead, with a half paced stroke, he lobbed it up just loose enough off the side wall for Sylvain to attack it.

Tyler almost chocked as he heard his opponents frame crack the ball. He went for a screaming full-blooded cross-court nick. Youth and stupidity. A guaranteed combination. But sometimes dumb luck gets thrown into the mix and the miss-hit volley floated agonizingly slowly, spinning itself oval, brushing the front wall half an inch above the tin and jutting off sideways on the bounce for an outright winner. It had made no difference that it had missed the nick by at least five feet.

The crowd clapped respectively. It was a strangely sterile atmosphere.

“Game, Mr. Fosu. Mr. Fosu leads 2 games to love.”

Sylvain exited the court to his corner, picked up his water bottle, sat down and fist-pumped excitedly towards at his coach. Peering over to Tyler’s side, he watched the Australian plant himself heavily into the chair, lean forward so far as to place his head between his knees, and drape a towel over himself. Sylvain could smell blood. Even from this distance. “No mercy,” said his coach. “He’s down and out. Doesn’t want to win. You go as hard as you can every rally so he cannot get a sniff.”

Sylvain nodded. He was overflowing with nervous energy with the astonishing upset he was about to pull off.

For the first 12 rallies of the third game, Sylvain was in total control. Tyler did not have to hit any more errors, as the Freak from Mozambique was riding on his natural high and started slotting winner after winner. Tyler certainly helped him along with rather clever ‘feeds’, ideally placed onto his opponents racquet. His 4 points actually came from Sylvain’s tins – all of them as he went for the nick.

Then, horror.

At 8-4, as Sylvain was leaping up for his next forehand volley kill, the sound of a gun shot boomed around the stadium. The fibrous tissue ripped violently tearing it completely in two. With a banshee scream, Sylvain collapsed to the floor in a heap. Ferociously rolling around the court, he grabbed his left ankle.

He had snapped his Achilles tendon. The rupture had sounded like an explosion.

Tyler felt physically sick. Without a doubt he felt bad for his opponent, but the awful realization of what just happened hit him.

He had won.


Chaos ensued. Medics rushed the court, tournament officials were everywhere, and the crowd were almost stunned into a riot. John Allenby forced his way through the multitudes of people to kneel by Sylvain’s side as the emergency crew got ready to lift him onto the gurney, and then into the ambulance to go to the local hospital. After a couple quick minutes with the poor teenager to ensure he would be taken care of, John started to look for Tyler. He knew a dummy spit when he saw one and he was infuriated.

He found the Aussie slouched in his player’s chair looking as white as a ghost.

“I fucked up,” was all Tyler could say shaking his head solemnly as John approached him with fists clenched. He wasn’t going to slug him, but he sure felt like it.

“What the fuck was that? “ John was almost shrieking. “The biggest tournament in the world... the IOC... Olympics... and you... fuck... want to throw the game? Listen, you piece of shit, I don’t give a flying fu..”

Tyler cut him off. “Shut-up, a-hole. You are clueless. You have no idea what’s going on so go away and leave me alone.”

After a deathly stare John snarled, “I’ll deal with you later,” and he stomped off to look for Shelley.

“Prick,” mumbled Tyler. His cell phone played his text receiving ditty.

Reluctantly, Tyler picked it up. He knew who it was from but he could hardly ignore it. How do you turn a blind eye at the train barrelling down on you as you’re tied to the tracks?

The message was simple enough. It read:

“The Russians are coming.”

Attached to the text were two photos. The first one was of a smiling Shelley Anderson. The other was the dead body of Charles Buckler.

Chapter Fourteen by James Zug

Emily Weaver Miller led Andres Lopez away from the court. Wordlessly, she guided him through the black hanging drapes on the back of the bleachers, past the stone-faced security team, out of the third VIP lounge (there were seven at the venue), down the temporary hallway and out of the complex altogether. Instead of walking onto the sidewalk, Emily grabbed Andres’ hand and steered him onto the beach.

Within a half a minute they were in the dark. They could see the play of spotlights from the rooftops of the hotels across the road, the glow of the lights from the squash venue, the headlights of cars as they wound on their journeys along the littoral, oblivious to her pounding heart.
Emily bent over and took off her three-inch, yellow Jimmy Choo heels. “I’ve never made love on the beach,” she said, coyly.

“No, really?” Andres said confidently, wanting to get some measure of control back. A girl walks up while you are innocently watching a squash match and suggests something deeply naughty—well, you might feel a little like a puppet. “It happens all the time in South America.”

“I had thought we’d go back into the club. But you know, I’m a squash girl at heart and couldn’t violate the rule about proper footwear on a court.”

Andres laughed. If only he knew the truth, Emily thought. She had never made love on a squash court. As a junior player, she had heard rumors about such things happening all the time, especially in college. An older friend at one small, isolated school told her about their women’s team making bets on who would be the last to do it on a court. There was a team that tried to do it on every court they visited, and even one very old story of a guy getting caught on a back court in delicto with his girlfriend during the national team finals. Seriously flagrant.

“No, that’s for another night,” Andres said. “And besides, the view in the co-ed steam room—have you been in there yet?”

“Yes, I’ve heard it gets pretty active in the late hours—it is so foggy you can’t see much in the corners. I heard  Julia was macking down in there last night with that Swedish girl.”

“That’s pretty hot.”

“Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Well, there were rumors,” said Andres.

“Rumors?” Emily demanded. “What rumors?”

“Yeah, about you and Julia. Something happening at the Pioneer two summers ago?”

“Oh,” said Emily, “we were just having some fun, just experimenting. I play for both teams. I’m very close with Julia. But” she added, “I’d like to get close to you.”

    They walking along, hand-in-hand, like longtime lovers, their feet dappled by the quiet surf. In the distance, they saw a couple of bonfires, people dancing in the flickering light. They talked about tattoos, about various tournaments that after-party at the Commonwealth Games when half the draw went skinny-dipping in the hotel pool. Or that pub in Sheffield where the under nineteens make their assignations. Then they took off their clothes, lay down in the sand and began to make love.

It was a ship of fools, Shelley Anderson thought. She was in her hotel room with Tyler Wolf and John Allenby. They were three shipwrecked souls in an open boat far from land, and a hurricane was bearing down.

    “The Icarus is gone,” she said.

    “Gone?” John asked.

    “Yes, they weighed anchor this morning,” Shelley said, reading from her phone. “I guess they’ve left.”

    “What the hell are the Mallinsons doing?” Tyler asked. “This is madness. I have to talk with Fritz.”

    “What, to save your career?” Shelley shot back. “That’s gone. They know all about the doping, Wolfie. Everyone knows. This is your last tournament, I’m afraid.”

    “How did that come down, mate?”

    “I don’t exactly know,” said Shelley. “Someone leaked it to the IOC. There was a lot of documentation: dates, results, internal memos at WADA, the Aussie Opens. Someone had it all. Rhodanie did all he could to put the toothpaste back in the tube but it reached too many desks. He’s gotten them to hold the story. You are going to retire after the tournament. You’ll go back to Queanbeyan and farm. Or maybe go the States and coach some juniors privately.”

    “Why couldn’t you and Rhodanie have solved this?” Tyler asked.

“ Listen, Lausanne is a snakepit. It makes Vegas look like a the social hour in a church basement. Anyway, Rhodanie’s flying in to clean things up here so we don’t blow the 2016 thing.

“That’s it?” John said. “Wolfie retires and all is well?”

“No, not at all. Rhodanie says they found another story had gotten out there, in a very obscure way it threads back to Buckler.

“Are you kidding?” John said. “I thought they flew the body back to the UK, end of story?”

“They did, but when they were dealing with his estate, a lawyer received some documents from a safe deposit box and one thing or another, it got to Rhodanie. There was some gossip in it about Florencia Perez. Turns out it is really Florencio. She’s a he. And a son of Erika Hoskin.”

    “What?” said John. “Seriously?”

    “Yes, you never believed the whole barefoot thing? Really.”

    “A boy. Wow.”

    “Yes, wow. The IOC isn’t going to like it one bit. After the Caster Semenya scandal, they aren’t going to be keen on another gender bender. I’m afraid that is why she—he—was late to getting to Rio. I had the flight delayed.”

    “You are kidding me?” John said, rising from his chair. “After all I did to make the cattle call? That was your fault?”

    Tyler ignored John. “Who cares? The real question is why Buckler was killed? Was it the Russians?”

    “No,” Shelley said with a sigh. “Well, they were involved a way, but it was more complicated. It started—“

    There was a knock on the door.

    “Who is it?” asked John.

    “Special Agent McDiarmid. Open up.”

    “OK,” said John, halfway to the door. As he reached for the knob, he looked back to Shelley. But Shelley wasn’t in her seat. She was crouching behind the couch, her back to the window, with a black Glock 17 in her hand, shaking her head.

Anne Mallinson awoke slowly, like a turtle in springtime mud. She moved her toes and her hands. She focused on her breathing, as if this was shavasana and she was a corpse and her teacher was beginning to wake her up. She bent her knees and lifted her right arm and rolled onto her side. So far, so good. Then she opened her eyes.

    It was dark. She was still on the boat. In fact, she was right where she had crumpled into a ball. Her green chiffon wrap lay on top of her, like a gossamer blanket. She heard voices. There was a light in the stateroom. She lay still for a minute. Then another minute. They were speaking something Slavic, probably Russian, she thought.

She replayed the whole scene: morning, a tacky cigarette boat, a woman covered with tattoos. She rolled her brown eyes: really, do you need that many? And then, what? A burst of gunfire and a fat man hitting Fritz. Oh, Fritz, her poor husband. Fritz. What had they gotten themselves into?

She looked around. No sign of Fritz. Perhaps he was still alive. Perhaps they were after their latest invention, the one thing that everyone had begged for, the coup de grace of a lifetime of work, the grand secret that was going to change squash forever?

She had to get help, she had to get to Shelley.

In the distance, she could see the shimmering hotels of Copacabana along Avenida Atlantica and a giant puddle of light where the squash court was. The Icarus was now a bit more out to sea, it seemed—they must have pulled the anchor and gone further out. Now it was maybe six or seven miles. Perhaps that is why they hadn’t tied her up—they were too far from land.

Inching along the deck, she moved ever so slowly, a few inches, then stopping, a few more inches, then stopping. She reached the ladder. With a practiced grace, she flipped her body from the deck onto the ladder and she quickly climbed down. Her legs went into the warm water. She paused. She heard nothing. She dropped down and swam clear of the yacht.

Breast-stroking as silently as she could, she took a series of deep breathes and then dropped below the waves and kicking hard, propelled herself away from the yacht. When she was beyond the Icarus floodlit radiance, she surfaced. The yacht was like a gleaming city and she was banished, sent away. She turned and headed west.

At first, she sprinted, the panic of what had just happened sending waves of adrenalin through her body. Then, she slowed down and started a pattern, breathing every four strokes, stopping every thirty to make sure she was pointed towards the squash courts.

Anne was no longer young, but she was still strong and limber. She had swum in a thousand little anchorages while moored on the Icarus. She had loved open water swimming. She knew she could make it—if she didn’t run into any sharks or jellyfish. They had just been talking about the swarm of cannonball jellyfish that had descended upon a beach in Brazil.
Four strokes, breath, four strokes, breath. Thirty strokes, break.

Her mind went blank. It was like the way Fritz said he felt after a game of squash—totally washed clean. She forgot about the tattooed woman and the gunshot. She just counted and continued to move her arms and legs.

After what seemed like half the night, Anne neared the beach. She decided to veer a bit to the right of the courts to gather her thoughts. How was she going to find Shelley? She couldn’t just walk through the VIP entrance. She was naked. Damn, she thought, she should have brought that chiffon.

Her feet hit sand. She began to wade ashore. She saw a long, writhing clump on the beach. As she got closer, she realized it was two more naked people making love on the sand. She saw that it was Emily Miller and Andres Lopez.

Chapter 15 by Jamie Crombie

John Allenby was going through his last minute details of the closing ceremonies on his laptop in his hotel room when there was a knock on his door. John walked over to the door and opened it only to find an exhausting looking Anne Mallinson wrapped tightly in a blanket with a security guard on each shoulder to keep her propped up.

“Oh my god” John gasped at she quickly grabbed Anne and ushered her to the couch. John quickly thanked the hotel security for their thoughtfulness and closed the door behind them.

As he turned back to Anne, John asked, “What the hell happened?”

Anne finely released all the tension from within and burst out crying as she finally felt safe after an unknown amount of time swimming to shore and getting herself to the tournament hotel. Anne started to mumble something, as her words were a combination between sobs and real words. Regardless, of what she was trying to say, it wasn’t something anybody could decipher.

John got Anne a glass of water as Anne’s limp body just melted into the couch. John returned with a glass and gently handed it to Anne. She quickly gulped it down as if she had spent a day in the Sahara. John watched with concern, as Anne seemed to come back to her senses.

As she licked her lips and cleared her throat Anne said “they have Fritz”

John quickly responded with “Who has Fritz”

Anne replied “ The lady with tattoos all over her body”

John’s head started spinning, as the thought of the tattooed lady from his dreams wasn’t merely a thought but a reality.  John sat down as Anne continued “ The lady with the tattoos shot Fritz”. 

He sat down and took a few deep breathes as Anne described the situation of the cigar boat coming up to their yacht and what ensued afterwards. This still didn’t make sense. How the hell was a woman from his dreams now actually shooting at Fitz Mallinson?  The relative ease of how the tournament was running now switched from green light to red light in seconds. Still trying to comprehend what this all meant, John was brought back into reality with the sound of his phone.

“John Allenby here” John said.

“No I haven’t seen Shelley recently”

“What. Russians answered her phone”

“Tyler, are you sure it’s Russians”

“I’ll put a phone call into Zeus so Donald McDiarmid can get to the bottom of this”

John was now almost as pale as Anne after what had transpired over the last 15 minutes. His tournament had gone from green light to red light to nuclear in less time than imaginable.  His head continued to spin as he refilled Anne’s glass with water and he poured himself a Scotch.


Tyler Wolfe was lucky that the issue of tanking his match had been solved with Sylvain Fosu completely snapping his Achilles tendon. His phone call into John Allenby had eased his mind a bit but at the same time would probably open up another can of worms if John got to the bottom of the issues at hand.

The Russians can’t blame him for winning the match when his opponent lay on the court with only one leg in use. But at the same time, the Russians don’t like losing money when they thought their bet was a sure thing.  He would try to explain that his extending of the match was just his way of making the fixed match look more realistic but he wasn’t getting a good feeling about how understanding they might be.

His dilemma was how to keep the Russians happy before they did something to Shelley. How to keep the Russians happy without having to tank a match? This was his last chance at ending his career on top and he wasn’t going to let anybody get in his way of making his dream a reality. As he thought more about the situation, ease flowed through his body and mind as the simple solution presented itself to him. The Russians only concern was to make money and it was now his job to find them their next new recruit. Tyler knew that this tournament here in Rio was his last hurray so if he explained the situation to them and handed another player to them on a silver platter then he would be off the hook. The money train he has provided for them over the years now had an exact due date so by simply extending that date with another player and those issues would be resolved. I guess the only question now was, who would that be that player and how could he recruit such a player or should he say blackmail such a player.


It was odd to see Wolfie on the shuttle bus to the practice courts this early in the morning but based on how poorly he played last night, no one was going to question that he needed to find his game and quickly. So the others players just went back to eating their breakfasts while Wolfie left the hotel with headphones on and full of thought.

It didn’t happen very often but when Tyler needed to really put some deep thought into something, it was solo practice, which normally gave him his answers. By the standard measure of intelligence, Tyler probably didn’t appear high on anybody’s test scores but his common sense approach to most issues had solved most predicaments.

One board, two boards, two boards…. Three.

Two boards, one board, one board, one board, two boards…. Three

Tyler’s simply drill of hitting length to width of only two boards or less had served him well over the years and with the issues that needed to be resolved today. He wasn’t going to leave until he hit 50 in a row on both sides. Two hours later, 60 plus in a row on each side and still no answers. Tyler took the shuttle back to the hotel.

Tyler walked to the concierge desk and asked if there were any messages for him as he was concerned about the Russians as well as if Shelley had reached out to him. Jorge replied that he had none but as Tyler was about to walk away, Jorge asked Tyler if he had lost him computer as a Macbook Pro just like Tyler’s had been found. Tyler was about to say no when he noticed the “Squashingball.com” sticker on the cover of the computer and his heart rate just about quadrupled in a mere second. If this was Charles Buckler’s personal computer than his dilemma of whom to blackmail would soon be answered within the documents of this little gem. Buckler always had shit on people and Tyler was convinced that the computer in his hands would surely produce another ugly story that nobody wanted to be made public.

Tyler almost skipped from the concierge desk with the possession of his new best friend.

Chapter SIXTEEN by Georgetta Morque

Maxwell Miller II peered out the window as the plane was about to land, gazing at the sparkling water and famous Sugar Loaf Mountain. He had hoped get to Rio sooner to see his daughter, Emily, play squash, but his case in New York dragged on and the jury finally reached a verdict, but not in his client’s favor.  Maxwell was so enraged that he spent almost the entire flight in first class downing complimentary vodka tonics. His career had plummeted. All he could hope for now was to somehow land a really big case that he could win and prove himself to the world. As the light for the fasten seat belt sign beeped off, he rose to his feet, a bit unsteady, to collect his belongings.

“Are you all right, sir,” asked the steward.

“Of course I am,” Maxwell replied gruffly.

Maxwell had gotten word that Emily’s 3rd round opponent had defaulted due to injury, so now she was to play what could be the biggest match of her squash career as she faced Florencia Perez, the Argentinean wonder. While he had never seen Florencia play, he had heard about her reputation from his daughter. Of course, when it came to commenting about any of the players, Emily was always highly critical, actually rather insulting.  So he was curious to see for himself and very anxious about the match. This could be very big, he thought. In his mind, sponsorships, scholarships – there were all kinds of possibilities riding on this. He hopped in a taxi and headed right for the courts.

Emily slipped off her red warm up jacket, retied her shoes, fixed her pony tail and stepped on court, ready for business.  She started hitting rails as hard as she could, hoping that her anger would stir up her aggression for the match. She didn’t know who she hated more – Florencia, whom she always hated, or Julia, who in a jealous rage, riddled Emily with insults for running off with Andres Lopez. After all, thought Emily, Julia didn’t have any claims on him.  And then there was Andres who hadn’t spoken to her since their passionate night at the beach. He ignored her texts and voicemails.  Just thinking about all his made her hit even harder. Yet as much as Emily tried to muscle the ball, her shots were like more like a taser gun, while Florencia’s rifled through like a cannon.  The Argentinean was raw power.

Crowds started to gather and Emily scanned the seats to look for Andres but couldn’t find him. As soon as the match began, Florencia immediately took control, whipping rails and cross courts deep in the corners.  In no time, game 1 went to Florencia, 11 - 4.  Emily couldn’t get out of Florencia’s way. With her long reach, the power hitter seemed to be everywhere on the court. Stroke to Miss Perez, called the ref. 

“No way,” an angry voice shouted out. Emily knew that sound well.  Her father had arrived.

 “That’s a let,” he cried.

“Quite in the stands please,” said the ref.

That interruption seemed to catch both players off guard, causing them each to make a series of errors which brought the second game score to 9-7, Florencia.

Beads of sweat poured down Maxwell’s reddened face and neck as he paced back and forth, gritting his teeth and clenching his jaw.

“Down in front,” cried the spectators.

Maxwell quickly took out his pen and legal pad to jot down notes about Emily’s shot selection, as he always did, and listed her unforced errors.

“Come on Em,” he shouted. “You’ve got to do this,” he yelled even louder, pumping his fist. “You have a chance.”

But Florencia hit a winning nick and at game point, Emily tripped trying to redirect herself to retrieve one of Florencia’s tricky drop shots.  Game to Miss Perez.

Emily threw her racquet down.  Conduct warning to Miss Miller.

“What?” yelled the over agitated dad. “Where’s the tournament director? Where’s Shelley Anderson. This ref has got to go.”

“Sir, if you don’t stop, we will have to send for security.”

“Fuck you,” he mumbled, running his hands through his dark hair, speckled with gray.

The last game proved useless for Emily who was now furious with four people, the fourth - her dad.  And, she still kept glancing at the crowds searching for Andres.

“More length, Emily,” shouted Maxwell, looking desperately up at the sky as if a higher being would help rescue him from this torture and miraculously turn the match around. But the squash gods favored Florencia, who just came on stronger, while Emily became even more distracted. Maxwell buried his head in his hands.

Match to Miss Perez.  The crowds clapped.

Emily stormed off the court.

“Em,” shouted Maxwell.

“Why did you have to come,” snarled Emily.

“Hey, is that the way to greet me?  Where are you going anyway?” he asked Emily sternly as she gathered up her gear, ready to take off.

“Gonna chill.”

“You text me later or I’ll text you. Hey, is there a consolation draw? I have notes for you….”he called out to her as she raced away.

Happy hour started early at the hotel bar, which was bubbling with people mingling and laughing. The pink marble walls and mosaic tiled floor, multi-colored bar stools and lively scene provided a much needed oasis for Maxwell. The familiar sounds of bartenders whipping up cocktails and the clinking of ice cubes in glasses were comforting to him. He started on another round of vodka tonics which he felt he deserved after all he’d been through.

“Hello Mr. Miller,” a champagne blonde in a black tank top greeted Maxwell and offered her hand. I’m Erika Hoskins, Florencia’s coach.”

“Oh, Erika, right. Please, call me Max. Can I get you a drink?”

“A caipirinha would be great, thank you. Tough match today.”
“Yes, very tough. That’s some player you’ve got.”

“Yes, yes, but I’d love to talk to you about Emily. I think I could help her.”

“Really,” he said while checking out Erika from top to bottom.

“I think she has a lot of potential. I do have some time and I think I could work with her if you like.”

“Do you really, that’s good news. Here’s to Emily,” he raised his glass to hers.

“Wow, it’s gotten really crowded here,” said Erika. “Shall we go somewhere else to talk more about this?”

Maxwell’s gold wedding band ricocheted beams of light across the ceiling as it caught the late afternoon sun shining through the window.


Tyler Wolfe was like a big kid with a new toy as he set the laptop of the deceased squash reporter on the desk in his room. He called Shelley’s cell phone to tell her about his discovery but again she didn’t answer.

Hmm, let’s see, will it be password- protected, he wondered as he opened it up. He had thought of various possibilities – smashingballs, Buckler, squash2020, and other rather obvious guesses.  But to his surprise, a password wasn’t necessary. He got right in and a couple of documents were still open.

Tyler burst out laughing as he quickly skimmed over something about Sarah which looked like a script for an après squash porn flick. Wow, that sneaky Buckler, he thought. Who knew?  Then he came to Murder on the Squash Court, take 2.  Holy Shit, he gasped out loud. This is about me!

His cell phone vibrated.  Hoping it was Shelley, he picked up the call - a restricted number.

“Tyler, you must turn in the computer,” said a faint yet familiar-sounding voice on the other end.

“Shelley? Is that you? Shelley, where are you? You sound so far away.”

“You must just do what I say,” she pleaded in a desperate tone.

“But there’s something here….”

“I know, but you have to give the computer to...”

“To who?”

“Agent McDiarmid.”

Chapter SEVENTEEN by Will Gens

Tyler hung up the phone from Shelley. He clutched the laptop under his arm. He needed more time to access just what was on Buckler's disk drive. He went down to the lobby bar, an elegantly if not gaudy lounge with Brazilian tropical motif, including 3 dimensional paintings of muscular Brazilian swimmers, sun bathers all scantily clad for those lookers who would rather hide  in the lounge rather than be seen in their pasty white Eastern European or British Isle, or United States Northeast birthday suits.

Tyler ordered a seltzer with lime and retreated to a corner where Buckler's lap top came to life as soon as he opened it. This is different, the laptop booted up. Strange no password or security encryption. Without any prompting on his own the computer suddenly displayed a fat old man with a pot belly in polka dot boxer shorts and black high top converses swinging or should say hacking and chasing a squash ball around the squash court. The old man seemed to resemble Buckler, himself. A bit strange going through a dead man's laptop. “Hi Tyler, click the ball.”

Tyler knew his way around the directories by now. He went back to his directory to continue poking through it. He began looking through the document folders and documents. He came across even more astonishing things along the way, scanned photos in a folder named “BadAlleby,  This was the best,  photos, surveillance photos, taken of Allenby at some NYC gay bath house, some very compromising shots. He thought he could use these, "retire, my ass. Let's see who retires first." He saw his doping results again and the trail Shelley left inadvertently. Then he saw a folder with his name. He thought, that's something, I actually warrant a folder with my name on it. He couldn't imagine what Buckler would find interesting --

 A waiter came by and placed another seltzer and lime on the table, Tyler looked up, he hadn't ordered it, and the waiter nodded in the direction of the sultry blond at the bar. He smiled and hoisted cheers then looked away. Just my luck, "he thought, "I am about to get picked up by this stunning blond, but I'm playing fucking house detective with this Buckler laptop. He got this all the time from women mostly divorced and lonely who seemed to want to screw him then mother him. He liked the screwing but hated the mothering. He usually hi tailed it out of there as soon as the mothering started.

He looked away, rude, he thought, but he wasn't interested. Shelley was totally on his mind and her predicament and he was playing and didn't need this kind of distraction... He went back to the folder named "Tyler". He opened it typical stuff about the anti-doping, but then his mouth dropped open. He looked up and around as if there were eyes everywhere, just the blond fixated on his like he was caught in a snare.

How the hell did he get the birth records and the family names? How? Impossible. What was he doing with these? He looked at the birth certificate of one Jeremy Tyler Wolf and then saw his name as the father and Naomi Coetzee as the mother, his heart sank. The birth certificate was issued by the South African National Government. He had met Naomi during the South African Open, it was not such a great time there, but she was working the concession in one of the clubs. He had never seen anyone so beautiful her skin the darkest ebony, her features high, her body sculpted like the Koreas of the Parthenon. She smiled at him and he was smitten. He played his match and when he showered and came by the concession was closed and she was gone. He couldn't find her the entire time he was there. She wasn't at the concession stand; he looked for her asked about her. Then someone had mentioned she was filling in for one of the ladies who fell sick. One thing leads to another and he finally was able to track her down. She lived in a very low income housing developed outside of Johannesburg. Not quite the horrible slums, but since her father was in the government, a low level clerk, the family could live very modestly.

He left the computer with the concierge and took a walk on the beach. Not since his ill-fated night when he was abducted di he even goes out of the hotel except to train and play squash. The day was beautiful, deep blue skies, warm, the sand not yet burning hot, high tide, the waves lolling him to a space he needed to be, he needed to think.

He remembered how he and Naomi talked and talked, she was a writer, and had published a few stories. They spent hours together the two weeks he was there and then they became lovers. He fell so in love with her, he tried to see her or send money for her to meet him in his travels, whenever whatever they could do to be together. He was still early on the tour and only partially sponsored. He knew he had to be very careful with her and his sponsors. There was still a lot prejudice in this world, especially in Australia from where most of his sponsors were. And his family would absolutely hit the roof.

He was playing in the Italian open, years back, he remembered it exactly, and when he received an urgent call from Naomi’s sister, Naomi was in labor. He had seen her early in her pregnancy and it was the happiest time for them. They were having a child together. Her father, cd called him son, her sister called him brother, and he was going to be a father.

But he had to keep the whole thing hidden and secretive; Naomi seemed to understand and rarely pushed for details. When he was on the phone with Naomi’s sister, he tried to explain that he just couldn’t leave the tournament. He would get there, he told her as soon as he could.

When he arrived a day later and met Naomi’s father and sister at the hospital, he had flowers and a stuffed toy and a look on his face, proud father. But when he saw her family, there were tears, sadness, and defeat. Naomi was gone, her heart gave out, was what they said. She was in labor for 20 hours. Tyler was dumbfounded. The hospital was packed with patients, mostly black, the air was thick with the rancid smell of blood, and he wanted to throw up. He sank in the chair, simply stunned; Naomi’s sister hugged him and they cried. He finally gathered himself and went to the nursery with Naomi’s father and her sister. The nursery must had had 100 swaddled babies, a sea of them and only two nurses who all they did was valet the carriers to change and diaper and feed the babies. And he knew his son immediately, the only seemingly white baby in the whole place. The big tag on the cart read Jeremy, she remembered, it was his grandfather’s name, the most important person in Tyler’s life.

He left 2 days later for a tournament in Germany; they held a simple service and burial for which Tyler paid. The family agreed to look after the baby. Tyler sent them money and more money as he became more and more successful, he gave them enough money to move to a better place He played his heart out, he played always for Jeremy and Naomi.

He signed his tab and went to leave the computer with the concierge and take a walk on the beach, leaving his shoes and shirt on the railing along the path leading to the hotel. He hadn’t been to the beach -- not since that ill-fated night when he was abducted did he even venture out of the hotel except to train and play squash. The day was beautiful, deep blue skies, warm, the sand not yet burning hot, high tide, the waves lolling him to a space he needed to be, he needed to think....

He walked for about a half hour and then out of nowhere “Olá! Olá!

He looked over and there were two young men, Brazilians, and a beautiful girl waving frantically to him. They ran up to him.

“Olá senhor “

“Englis, please, yes?” Tyler was too distracted to concentrate on speaking and hearing Portuguese.

    “Ok, in Englis’, one of them quipped. “Funny to see you again -- again. Sir”

    Tyler said, “Again?”

    “Si, we saw you other day play sqawsh, you very good, too bad your friend
falls and hurts himself.”

    “Yeah, too bad”, said Tyler.

    “But my friend you no look very happy when you play such a magnificent sport, why you not happy to have opportunity, how you say, to cherish the O Momento?”

    The girl smiled, that smile struck Tyler like a ton of bricks, her smile, Naomi’s smile, her look, the eyes the way she looked at him, and she couldn’t be more than 15, her smile and the sparkle in her. It also just dawned on him that they were the very same teenagers he saw the other day when he came to on the beach after having been abducted. He remembered them and how they sort of laughed at his predicament.

Allenby tried to gather himself; he could see the photos now all over the internet, great and successful impresario of squash, in his grand moment of triumph -- these lurid and seedy photos of the bathhouse. The sponsors think of the sponsors and the scandal.  He wondered if he should go to Phillip Sanderson and Special Agent Donald McDiarmid with this, what the hell, they told him to come to them and not try and resolve shit like this. He thought of his family, all the years hiding this from them, his mother always bragging about what a ladies man he was, how would she face those betties’ at the women’s club. He had to get those photos at whatever cost. The hell with the squash it was his reputation and humiliation before his family that mattered most. He picked up his phone and called Michelson, this was really his only chance; he couldn’t get into a blackmail scene, he had the cash, but he knew they would bleed him for the rest of his life and they knew the one thing that could really bring him to his knees, well, he smiled, one of the things was to humiliate him in the eyes of his parents, grandparents the whole family.

After Naomi died, Tyler knew he couldn’t take care of Jeremy, his sister and father were more than happy to take care of the baby. Tyler loved Jeremy, saw him whenever he could, and sent money called weekly no matter how much he travelled. And the Coetzee’s were wonderful sending pictures of Jeremy, films from the camcorder, they eventually, built a website jeremywolf.com Tyler looked at the website constantly, left comments with an alias. He was so much a part of Jeremy’s life, but no one, not even Shelley knew about Jeremy. He never regretted for a moment his love for Naomi and their child.

“You come, we show you squash Brazilian style, maybe you have fun with that,” the other young man said, the girl smiled again, Tyler figured it might take his mind off f all this craziness. He followed them to their jeep, convertible as they drove from the beach along the shore eventually leaving the hotel district and going into the suburbs and then into the jungle. Tyler just let the warm sun on his face; the teenagers chattered incessantly in Portuguese so fast he caught only glimpses. They had to get the jeep back soon, they were hungry, someone named Miguel was coming over, and the girl occasionally looked back at Tyler and smiled.  Tyler closed his eyes, imagining he was with Naomi and Jeremy and being happy.

The jeep came into this village, strange village in the middle of nowhere they must have been driving for over an hour, Tyler drifted in and out of awareness. Strangely he didn’t seem bothered by where he didn’t know he was or really who these kids were. He somehow felt contented. The thoughts of Naomi and Jeremy didn’t cause him any of the usual pain and anxiety.

The village people stared at him and the young man with the English yelled at them in Portuguese to mind their business. Mr. Tyler is a famous man, a great athlete in ‘squawsh’. They all just stared and looked at him and then went about their business.

They walked down a maze of alley ways, he could see women hanging clothes to dry in the hot Brazilian sun, he heard babies crying, children laughing, the occasional husband and wife yelling at each other. There seemed to be chickens and roosters and goats everywhere, he was constantly avoiding stepping on them Then he heard this high pitched chatter and that familiar sound of the rhythmic gunshot, repeatedly, rhythmically, Tyler’s senses came alive, it was music to his ears, all he heard was that sound pop ….pop …pop …pop like a heartbeat, a pounding in his chest. “What the fuck”, he said when they came upon this court, outside court, like the ones he saw in South Africa and the one he saw in the U.S. once.

There two lean, barefoot scruffy players were snapping the ball with such ease, half the time he couldn’t figure out what or where they were hitting the ball. The players were so quick and on the ball which was very slow off the floor that they had an eternity to try and deceive their opponent. There were faded lines on the court; the court seemed about a foot bigger. The court was definitely a foot or so wider, the tin shorter, the ball was fast off the wall but slow on the floor. At the end of what must have been the match the two boys playing came off the court drenched in sweat arms around each other laughing, their pants ragged and dirty, they wreaked of sweat, acrid, acidic sweat. They were barefooted, bloody stubby toes. They looked at Tyler without expression, challenging, but then his host said, “Tyler, here, great “sqawsh” player number 1 in world, he comes to watch and maybeee hit some with us.”

Tyler nodded, other players came over, the girls continued to smile at him, he was ok they just wanted to hit with a professional. He was barefoot in shorts at least and no shirt, just like them. He hadn’t bothered to wear shoes or anything. He looked at the ball it was some strange concoction of varied colored rubber, something he’d seen before, but not really, it was a bit heavier for the cement walls, very spongy and when he squeezed it in his hand the color of the ball exploded into this bright green, orange, a color which might be seen for miles. There was a box of them and other equipment. The racquets were a little shorter and the head smaller and heavier, felt like his grandfather’s old wooden racket. He picked a racket, it didn’t much matter, could have been a shovel and he’d still play a match with a shovel for a racket.

He bounced the ball a bit and went onto the court. The roof was color corrugated plastic, like you see in the ghetto shanty towns, the sun shone through but wasn’t as hot if they were to play without the covering.

The floor was concrete, was coated with a rubberized sealant that had worn down. His feet felt good, he liked the feel. He stretched a bit, swing the racket and took the ball and started striking it. He began getting a feel for all the components, he realized the game was at once faster but then when the ball struck the floor it sort of died, he realized just how quick and agile these young boys had to be to retrieve the shots, the ball only came out of the back very rarely he noticed. The players stood watching, expressionless.

Then a young boy maybe 13, the girl with the smile called out to him, “Miguel”, as she called him he came running toward her and turned to Tyler and smiled before he stepped onto the court.

“Ola signor, we play, you serve.”

By the time Tyler had played two games which he won narrowly he was completely drenched and spent, the young boy who did most of the retrieving was fresh, he wanted more. Tyler waved him off and they all laughed. He sat down, the offered him some tea, a flavored matte, and as he sat there, he realized it was either a flashback, or hallucination, but there stepped out from the nearby shadows, Fritz, the great ,great entrepreneur and Tyler recognized him from the I-Cares endorsement days. Fritz Malison smiled. Tyler couldn’t move he was slumped against the back wall of the court he never felt such peace in his life, it was like the first time he saw Naomi, he knew there was no place on the planet where he could be happier than on this court right now, his heart filled with Naomi and Jeremy. He knew what he had to do, he knew what he had to do, he knew what he had to do, and he kept repeating it over and over.

Tyler woke with a start, on the beach under the same palm near where he was when abducted back what seemed a lifetime ago. He was in a dream, but it was different, it was beautiful, he heard the sound of the rhythmic gunshot just like he heard in his dream? It was so real. He would figure this out, even if it killed him, he’d play again like he played today, don’t’ know, played in my dream, but they were real…and Fritz, Fritz Maliinson was there.”

Chapter EIGHTEEN by John NImick

I know what I must do, I know what I must do.

Tyler was exhausted.  Two hours and 10 minutes of pure agony in the hot, humid Rio air, if you can call it that.  But he had won 11-8 in the 5th over Rupert Evans, the up and coming Welsh rabbit, in their quarterfinal match before a packed crowd at the Copacabana glass court venue.  As the cheers and lounge music faded, Tyler stripped off his soaked shirt, third of the match, and slumped in his player seat, downing Gatorade after Gatorade while the squash press stumbled around.

“Ici, Wolfie, c’est por moi maitenant.  My turn, my turn!”  Tyler lifted the towel off his head and saw Bertie Dejeuner squatting in front of him with a microphone boomed out.  “Zat was quite a match, Monsieur, pour un jouer avec trent six annees!  Encroyable…mais, how do I say…all you?”

“Fuck you, mate, I’m done,” spat Wolf.  He’d had enough of this ongoing PED crusade now that everyone could read online about the accusations.  OK, so they weren’t just accusations, but they were…old.  Grabbing his racquet bag and leaving the rest of his soaked crap behind, Tyler headed for the players’ exit.  Loads of fans, mostly female, were still lined up on either side of the low barriers and Wolf stopped to sign several obligatory posters and programs and one very appealing breast before jogging through the entryway, passed the uniformed guard and into the locker room.

This wasn’t the luxurious surroundings of Queen’s Club.  No, promoter Allenby and his minions hadn’t spent a lot on the player amenities at the Copacabana venue.  Granted the Copacabana Hotel where the players were staying was just across Avenida Atlantico, but still this sucked as a changing room.  Just a bunch of cardboard stalls in a temporary trailer, one for each sex, connected to a “luxury” bathroom trailer with two private crappers.  But at least it was private and, with only a few matches each day now at quarterfinal stage, generally quiet.

Fucking squash press, Wolf said to himself as he hurled his kit into an empty cubicle.

The last few days were a blur.  Wolf’s ability to separate fact from fantasy was being sorely tested, but one thing he knew for sure was that the fucking Russians had Shelley and his new instructions were to win the goddam tournament…or else.  Somehow, Wolf needed something to trade.

Tired and pissed, the American kind, Wolf stripped and eased himself onto a bench and then onto to the floor, at least carpeted, to begin to stretch.  

“Hmmmm….ohhhh….yes, yes….wow!”  The door to crapper no. 1 banged against its hinges.

Wolf obviously wasn’t completely alone.

The door banged again and again.  The cheap airplane-style plastic was actually bulging in the middle.  The heaving became more frenetic.

“Baby, baby…now!  Oh, Andres….yes.”

Wolf sized up the situation immediately.  Andres Lopez was also, miraculously, through to the semis, dancing around Egyptian champion Ahmed Ali Anwar Phanuk in 4 games in the match before Wolf’s, and was now obviously enjoying the fruit, spoils, cleavage, etc available on the way out of the arena.

Wolf wondered exactly who Andres was enjoying.  Quietly he picked up his racquet bag and moved out of the line of sight of the restroom doors.  He also slipped his new phone out of his valuables bag and turned it on.  Wolf had picked up the new SombraSoft ZRock at the airport, not being able to resist the jet black device that looked and handled completely like a stone, until of course you pressed the cupuacu and spear logo in just the right spot.  Wolf manipulated the device and turned on the 8G HD video camera.

“Fuck me!”

After a few quiet minutes, the bolt slid back with a clack and two semi-naked, quite athletic figures, tumbled onto the floor.  Andres Vargas and Emily Miller.

Emily lay on her back breathless as Vargas slowly traced his finger from her chin to her navel.

“One more, no?” said the Colombian star.  Lopez pulled the giggling, petite American back on top of him as Wolf bent around the corner, aimed the phone and let it roll.

“OMG!” cried Emily as she scrambled to stand up.  “What’s the score with Wolf’s match?  It could be over!”

Emily ran to one of the women’s cubicles and pulled on the top and a pair of shorts she had stashed there.  Poking her phone while running back to Lopez, who hadn’t moved from the floor, she squatted over his chest and gobbled up his lips, tongue, and part of his Romanesque nose and said, “Bye, amor.  See you at the Players Party?”    

Before Lopez could respond with more than “Si”, she was gone.  The Colombian stud lay spent on the floor, no pants, torn shirt and one sandal still clinging to a few elegant toes.

Wolf came around the corner.

“Well, mate, good on ya.  That’s the best post-match rehab I know of.”

Lopez scrambled to cover himself.  “Oh mi dios.”

“No worries, mate.  Been there, done that.  But I do have two questions for you.”

“How old do you think your little aspiring college girl is?”

Wolf moved to the trailer door and turned the lock.

“And do you know what Ms. Miller’s father does for a living?”


Allenby was a basket case.  Leaning back in his temporary office chair in his temporary office in his temporary production trailer at his temporary beachside squash tournament, the promoter wondered whether his very breathing was, indeed, only temporary.  He took another long pull on the bottle of Scotch.

With his insurance scam blown, sexuality in question, DEA and Interpol sniffing around and CEO of the joint global squash tour held hostage, there wasn’t a lot left to enjoy about this little project.  The only thing still seemingly working was Mallinson’s extraordinary TV magic, but at what price?  He was probably dead, too.

Someone knocked on the door.  “Senor Allenby?  Estas ahi?”

Allenby plopped the Scotch bottle behind a big case of white Dunlop balls and rolled out of the chair to the door.

“Who is it?”

“Andres Lopez, senor, and I need to talk.  Muy importante…por favor!”

Allenby checked the security monitor to confirm a single person on the steps and opened the door a crack.  The security lights of the empty squash arena cut the inky darkness into a black and white checkerboard behind the unexpected visitor.

“What is it Lopez…you can get any info you need at the tournament desk in the hotel and you can pick up your Player’s Party passes there, too.  Oh, yeah, and congrats for getting through to your first major semifinal.”

“Senor Allenby, quizas mi final semifinal.”


What the fuck was Wolf doing?  Blackmailing Lopez to throw the final IF he got that far?  Fortunately they were on opposite sides of the draw so both would have to get through tough opponents to bring this potential dog’s breakfast to life, but Allenby had to laugh and cry at the same time about this wrinkle.  It was true that man only had enough blood to run one at a time.

Wolf had played like a madman in both the 32s and 16s after his tank job with Fosu failed in the 64s.  And that Herculean effort just a few hours ago over Evans in the Quarters was no put up job.  Why take out insurance with Lopez if Wolf was now back on the level?

“Senor, I want no problem con Wolf…and I want to win diz tournament!”

“Well, you can probably skate with the locals.  Emily turns 18 next week, but if he gives that movie to Maxwell Miller and the media you’re gonna need a modern chastity belt to survive.”

Vargas slumped back in his seat.  One of the production trailer’s work lights shone down directly on his face.

“It was just some fun…” he started to say, his blue eyes rolling from left to right in his deep brown skinned sockets.

Allenby paused and looked fully at Vargas in the strong light.  He didn’t know this young tempestuous player well, but something, something about him looked familiar…

Of course!  The picture on Mr. Fino’s desk.  Allenby was looking at an older version of the teenager clasped arm in arm with the huge mega-industrialist after a game of squash.

“Lopez, do you know Mr. Fino?”

“Of course, he is the grand patron of squash here, and in all South America.  I know him many years…he help my career always.”

Mr. Fino and SombraSoft drop two million to sponsor this shindig in Rio and this kid is through to the semis?  The first ever major semifinalist from Latin America?

Fuck, thought Allenby, there’s action on both sides of the draw.

“Lopez.  Get up and collect yourself.  Everything’s gonna be fine.  Get over to the hotel and get ready for the party.  I’ve gotta make a call, but I’ll see you there in an hour.”

Allenby closed the door behind Vargas, shot the bolt and punched F on his phone.  It rang for half a tone.

“Si” answered Renato Bulsara.

“I need to see Mr. Fino tonight…before the semis tomorrow.  You know where to find me.  Your boy’s in trouble.”

Chapter NINETEEN by Pierre Bastien

It was nighttime. Agent McDiarmid sat in the command center. The command center was a folding table and an uncomfortable plastic chair, but he was issuing commands, so it counted. McDiarmid was wearing a headset. He issued a command: "Go". On command, a half dozen agents swarmed a nondescript semi-industrial building in downtown Rio.


The next morning, John Allenby's phone rang, and he answered.

"Mr. Allenby, this is Agent McDiarmid. We've recovered Fritz Mallinson. He's back safe with our agents."

"Really," said Allenby. "That's great news! Where did you find him?"

"He was being held in Rio", responded McDiarmid. "The Russians had him -- as we suspected."

"Is he alright? What did they want with him?"

"He's unharmed, aside from a few bruises," said McDiarmid. “We're still trying to find out everything. Apparently they mostly wanted to learn about his squash technology -- the Viper technology -- and how it worked."

"How it worked?" mused Allenby, wondering what the Russians were up to.

"Mallinson says they were after technical details," said McDiarmid.

"The Russians seem pretty interested in our squash tournament," said Allenby.

Allenby suddenly realized: the Russians must be backing Tyler Wolf. After all, Andres Lopes was Mr. Fino's horse. At this point, Wolf was the only other option.

"They want to hack into the Viper stuff, eh?" asked Allenby. "That's pretty clever."

"Apparently Mallinson told them it can't be done. Or at least, not to his knowledge."

"OK," said Allenby.

"Allenby, there's one more thing," said McDiarmind. "It's about Shelley. Mallinson swears he heard her voice coming from another room while he was being held."

Allenby said, "What? You mean she's been captured too?"

"Mallinson didn't think so. He thinks she's working with the Russians. He says he’s not sure, but still, you should watch your back."

"Thanks," said Allenby. He hung up with McDiarmid.

There wasn't much time to dwell on everything he'd just heard. He needed to get ready for tonight's semi-final matches. Still, he decided to make one more call.

He punched F on his phone and within a few minutes he was through to Mr. Fino.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Allenby?"

"Mr. Fino, I've just learned something I think you'll want to know. Fritz Mallinson has been found. He's alive and well."

"Where was he found?" asked Fino.

"The Russians had him."

"No surprises there," responded Fino.

"Really?" wondered Allenby out loud. Fino seemed quick on the uptake.

"Oh yes," said Fino. "They have been interfering with squash for years. It makes sense they are behind this too."

"What do they want out of this?" asked Allenby.

"Well," said Fino, "in the past it was always about the money for them. Some matches are fixed and you can make some good money."

"Is it still about the money now?"

"Well, yes," replied Fino. "But maybe there is more money this year."

"I don't understand how there's more money," said Allenby, thinking it over. "It can't be because of the Olympics. I mean, I know that's a big deal for squash, but it doesn't seem like there's THAT much more money to be made betting on squash this year. I mean, it's going to take a while for that to develop. It doesn't seem worth all the trouble the Russians are going to. Abductions seem a bit much don't they?"

"Not when your survival is at stake," said Fino.

"What do you mean?" asked Allenby. "Whose survival is at stake?"

"Let me ask you this, Mr. Allenby. With squash in the Olympics, will Russia win more Olympic medals?"

"No," said Allenby. It had been a bewildering few days. He was happy to have Mr. Fino gently walking him through it. Allenby ventured, "Russia has a strong wrestling program, don't they? When squash replaces wrestling in the Olympics, Russia will come away with fewer medals."

"Exactly," said Fino. "Many livelihoods in Russia depend on wrestling being in the Olympics. When wrestling was ousted, many people’s jobs were jeopardized. But there’s more to it than that. It's a matter of national importance to perform well at the Olympics. So maybe even the Kremlin is taking an interest in these developments."

"Really? The Kremlin has a hand in this?" Allenby blurted out.

Mr. Fino broke into laughter. “Maybe, my friend. Maybe they have. Maybe they haven’t. I am just trying to show you the possibilities. This year, it is bigger than a few guys placing bets. If squash has a spectacular failure, perhaps the Olympic Committee will make some changes to the lineup. After all, one wouldn’t want to tarnish the reputation of the Games.”

“You don’t seem too worried,” ventured Allenby.

“I suppose I am not. This is no reason to be discouraged. Even if the odds are against you, Mr. Allenby, it’s sometimes still worth the gamble. And if it doesn’t work out, I have many other opportunities besides squash!”

This time Allenby laughed. “That must be a comforting feeling, Mr. Fino.” It actually comforted Allenby, too. He was, after all, a new shareholder shareholder in Mr. Fino’s corporation.

“Well,” said Allenby, glancing down at his watch, “I need to prepare for this evening’s semi-final matches.

“I must be going as well,” said Mr. Fino, “but there’s one last thing I must tell you. You have a partner in all this, Miss Shelley Anderson. You must be careful around her. Her motives appear to be complicated, but they may not be aligned with ours. Good luck Mr. Allenby.”

Fino hung up.


World #1 Karim Bashir of Egypt stood ready to return serve. His racket was up, and he was jiggling it in his hand. He spoke to himself in Arabic. He seemed to be trying to convince himself of the importance of this point, this game, this match.

JP, one of the Squash TV announcers, assessed the situation: "The Egyptian really has gone walkabout. He just seems completely disinterested right now."

His fellow commentator, Yogi, nodded his head in agreement. "Bashir started this second game so strong, hitting penetrating lengths deep into the back of the court and finding his touch right away. He's built up a big lead, got all the way to 9-5, and all of a sudden, the wheels have come off."

Tyler Wolf stood on the right of the court, in the service box. He faced the left wall, wiggled his Prince racket a few times, tossed up the ball, away from himself and towards the left-hand wall. Wolf lunged toward the ball and and delivered a cutting backhand serve that darted toward the sidewall.

Just as the ball ricocheted off the sidewall, Bashir swung. He attempted to send the ball to the front right corner. It slammed into the tin.

"There's another one straight into the tin," said JP. "Bashir has just got to try something different here. He's completely lost his touch. Tyler Wolf has now drawn level with the Egyptian at 9-all, and Bashir doesn't seem able to do about anything right at the moment. You have to wonder what the Egyptian is thinking right now."

"It's true," said Yogi. "Bashir is known for sometimes losing his concentration. He'll be playing in top form one second, and then the next, he'll start thinking about something else -- who knows what, maybe thinking about what he ate for breakfast -- and all of a sudden he's lost 3 or 4 points. If he’s anything like you JP, he’s probably had something nice and light for breakfast, like maybe a plate of sausages and a few litres of coffee."

"Well that does sound quite delicious actually," said JP, "and Bashir certainly is making a hash of this game. Look, he's now put another shot into the bottom of the tin, and suddenly Wolf has a game ball in this second game, and he’s got a chance to go up two-love in this match."

Wolf moved to the opposite service box as quickly as he could. He was eager to close out this first game immediately, if not sooner. Bashir seemed to be doing everything he could to screw up right now.

Bashir hit himself on the head with an open palm, making contact with his forehead so forcefully that Allenby, watching from the audience, could hear the smack.

“Bashir just trying to generate a bit of electricity in the old grey cells,” said Yogi. “Meanwhile, Wolf has played well. He looks focused and relaxed here at the business end of this second game. He has to be careful with his serve here, or Bashir is liable to slam the ball into the nick.”

Wolf paused to compose himself in the service box. He bounced the ball on the floor a few times, then served right into the body of Bashir, who skipped out of the way just in time and scraped the ball off the back wall, sending it high and long, into the back court.

Wolf went to get the ball and smashed it crosscourt. Bashir, caught off guard, stuck his racket out, just trying to put his strings on the ball. He made contact, and the ball soared up to the front wall, bounced off it, and began descending towards the mid-court. Wolf took one step from the T, his racket up, preparing to smash the ball. Wolf swung, but slowed down his racket at the last possible second, sending the ball into the front left corner. Bashir sped to the corner, and managed to get the edge of his frame on the ball just before it died, but now he’d hit the ball right down the middle of the court, and Wolf crushed it, volleying the ball to the back right corner, well out of the Egyptian’s reach.

“Well,” said Yogi as the players walked off the court, “The Australian manages to take the second game 11-9 in 11 minutes, and he leads two games to love. Bashir, the number one seed, is looking quite distraught as he heads over to his corner.”

“Full credit though to Tyler Wolf,” said JP, “he's put Bashir under pressure and kept his errors down. Great attention to detail. The Australian did well to take that second game, and I think he needs to keep pressuring Bashir deep into the back court. Meanwhile, the Egyptian just had too many unforced errors, and despite his wonderful talents, Bashir is staring at a steep two game deficit right now.”

Tyler Wolf sat in his corner, considering his plan for the this game. He felt good on the court and was playing some top-quality squash, but it would take considerable effort to keep this level of play up. Wolf had his marching orders from the Russians: win the tournament. But he didn’t have any tricks up his sleeve for this match. If he was going to get past Bashir, he would have to do it the old-fashioned way, by bringing his talents to bear. Perhaps, he thought, the reason he’d played so well in this match was that everything was so straightforward: just play squash as well as you can. No gimmicks.

John Allenby paced up and down alongside the stadium seats. A wave of nervous energy was flowing through him. For just a moment, he was lost in the squash match, imagining himself on court against either Bashir or Wolf (or both -- it was all a haze), feeling the sensation of squash footwork. A song popped into his head:

Hold me closer tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today

He felt a tap on his shoulder -- someone standing behind him. He spun around. It was Shelley Anderson.

Chapter TWENTY by Richard Millman

At least, John Allenby thought it was Shelley Anderson.

The erstwhile diva of the World Tour was a shadow of her former self.

She seemed to have imploded. Her eyes were bloodshot and there were deep, dark hollows underneath them. Her breasts were no longer their pert, button-threatening, buxom selves - but sagged in flaccid defeat. And was that grey in the roots of her hair?

“My God!” Allenby exhaled in disbelief, “ What in the name of Christmas happened to you?”

Shelley looked over her left shoulder and Allenby followed her eyeline to see Agent McDiarmid hovering with a grim look on his face.

“Miss Anderson and I had a deeply meaningful conversation some days ago, in the course of which she decided that continuing her relationship with certain unpleasant characters in the Russian underworld was possibly not going to be of long term benefit to her,” Naldo McDiarmid explained. He went on, “ Miss Anderson agreed, in light of certain persuasive arguments that we were able to make, that she would make the very brave decision to wear a listening device when she met with a woman by the name of Irina Hleb. A woman who is also known to Rhodanie Maison and who - or is it whom - forgive my English,  Miss Anderson here has had a relationship with for sometime.”

As impossible as it would have seemed beforehand, Shelley appeared to slump even more disconsolately.

The special agent looked more intently at Allenby. “Let’s take a walk somewhere a little less public.” he said, gesturing to Allenby and Anderson to accompany him behind the curtains of the players area.

In the background the PA announced that Tyler Wolf had beaten Bashir in the fourth after fighting off an unexpected comeback attempt.

Allenby, Anderson and Special Agent McDiarmid paid no heed to this otherwise exciting news.

McDiarmid began again:

“Why you sporters don’t just stick to sport I don’t know. You are obviously good at what you do. But greed seems to suck you into a world and a frame of mind where you think you can get money. Then when you are out of your depth, in a league where people get killed - killed every day - mark you, we have to come and clean up your mess.”

As good looking as Naldo McDiarmid was, the ugly look on his face put the fear of God into John Allenby as the agent spoke again in a deadly undertone,

“This time we have managed, more through good fortune than by police work, to extricate  you, Shelley and hopefully that fool Wolf from a deadly situation. We were lucky. The wire that Shelley wore when she was with Irina Hleb gave us some key information as to the Russians’ plans.

But that still left us with a whole heap of trouble. Fortunately the whole thing was taken out of our hands and the problem has gone away.”

Naldo paused mysteriously, but he still wore the same frightening expression.

“Listen m-i-s-t-e-r Allenby.” he looked at Shelley, “ You too, even though I think I made this clear earlier.”

They both looked at the extraordinary lawman.

“ I am going to watch you and Tyler Wolf very carefully for at least the next ten years.” he said slowly. “ You won’t know I’m watching. But just when you think I’ve gone away you will receive some little clue that I haven’t. If you screw up, if you even think about doing anything except what you are supposed to do - tax evasion, match fixing, drugs -  if you get a fucking parking ticket - I will ruin your life.”

McDiarmid let it sink in for a moment. Then he continued,

“ I don’t mean through legal means. There won’t be lawyers and a court case.”

“I have my own methods,” he said darkly.

“If you mess up, you won’t know what happened - but your life will suddenly start a downward spiral from which you will never return. I have cleared this with Philip Sanderson who has the power to do this to you on his own if he wishes, but, “ he paused for emphasis, “ Zeus has decided that my influence might be, as you might say, a little more cautionary. Are we clear?”

Allenby had never felt comfortable with the Brazilian and now he felt scared. He felt a large bead of sweat drop from his shoulder blade to the small of his back. He nodded vigorously. 

Shelley Anderson just shrugged her drooping shoulders and made a pathetic attempt at smiling her assent. It looked more like the sort of expression you might make if you had acute appendicitis.

“Now you two, “ said Naldo, brightening both his tone and his visage, “ I believe you have some important work to attend to. I am hoping to see some of the semis and finals myself. Where is Zeus? He told me he has a box seat for me.”


Julia Brown was enthralled.

The first semi final of the women’s event was into the third game. At one-all, the match was perfectly balanced with Anh Linh from Thailand having won the first with her spectacular mix of electric speed, deft touch - probably the finest lob in the game - and her gymnastic and explosive capacity to leap in the air and volley - clear evidence of her badminton background.

But in the second, world number one, Brigitta Krause a German who had relocated and now represented the Czech republic, had ground Linh down with grimly constructed rallies - keeping the ball on the sidewalls to prevent the Thai magician from using her control.

Julia was enjoying the Squash - it was a great match - but what was really making her breathless was Brigitta Krause.

The German was incredibly fit and muscular. She also didn’t shave. Julia didn’t know what to make of that. Some people said it was disgusting. If that was the case why was she having these feelings when she saw the little tufts of hair poking out of the armpits of Brigitta’s Canary yellow dress, and at the sweat darkened  curls  when Krause’s inner thigh was exposed every time she lunged?

“See something you like?” Emily Miller’s voice startled Julia from her voyeurism.

“Yes,” hissed Julia, “ and what’s it to you anyway. Aren’t you happy merrily screwing Vargas or Lopes or whatever his name is?”

“Lopez with a Z is his name and yes thank you - very happy. But that is when I am playing for that team. I haven’t done with your side yet. Brigitta......ouch!!!!!” but Emily never got to finish the sentence.

Having been so interested in both  the match on the court and the zingers that they were trying to throw at each other, neither of them had noticed Maxwell Miller II standing just below where they were sitting at the player’s end of the bleachers, eavesdropping on their conversation.

With a firm but painful grip, Daddy Miller pulled - practically dragged - Emily Miller down off the bleachers.

“You’re coming with me, you little slut,” he growled.

Brigitta Krause continued grinding her opponent down, to win the third.


Tyler Wolf was vegging in bed, the remains of his room service breakfast littered all over the luxurious egyptian cotton sheets.

With some CNN sob story about loss of natural habitat’s in various parts of the world, droning on on the TV in the background, he was considering his situation.

Yes, it was freaking unbelievable that he was in the final of this the most prestigious tournament in the World, but it was also freaking precarious.

Now the Russian’s wanted him to win so that they could make their money with him as the underdog. Two days ago it had been exactly the opposite. What a crazy stupid world he was mixed up in. How in hell was he going to get Andres Lopez to throw the final - if he indeed got there? He seemed to have him reeling with the Emily Miller deal but fucking Maxwell Miller had screwed that up by catching Emily admitting it last night. Mouthy little bitch!

The CNN commentator exhorted listeners to pay attention, “ In this part of the country so much game has died off even the Maribou Storks can’t get enough to survive on..............”

Tyler’s idle gaze settled on Buckler’s computer in the closet.

Suddenly he shot up in bed!

“Fuck me - Stork!” He said aloud.

He ran over to the closet and picked up the laptop. Quickly he found  Buckler’s piece about Florencia - or Florencio as Buckler claimed the real name was. There were some good photo’s of the player. Then he found Buckler’s work on all the scandals that Andres Lopez had been involved in. More photos. Quickly he maneuvered a picture of Florencia and Andres together. The similarities were clear - unmistakable.

But Tyler wasn’t done. Unhesitatingly he pulled up a browser and got onto Google. He punched in “Los Dos Federicos.”

Immediately several pages of results came up. Even though he could manage in Spanish,Tyler went to the first one he saw English.

“Knew it!” he breathed excitedly. He read the beginning of the article:

“Once again, “ it proclaimed, “ the South American scene has been dominated by Los Dos Federicos - Usandizaga and Lopez. Although Usandizaga is well known on the World Tour, having reached as high as 15 on the PSA ranking list, it is the lesser known Lopez popularly known as ‘the Stork’ after his tall and rangy features and his long classical nose, that has taken more of the Latin American victories than anyone this year.”

The article was dated February 1996.

Tyler continued his search. He looked for results and photos. The Belo Horizonte Open in 1997, a combined PSA and WISPA ( as the WSA was then called) event.

A classic photo of the PSA winner with his trophy and check. Federico Lopez, the typical ‘Stork’ pose that he was known for. Who was in the background? Ah - yes! There she was - a very young and distinctly underage Erika Hoskins! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“I wonder if Andres realizes that he has a sister on the Women’s tour?” Tyler thought to himself. Then he burst out laughing, “ I wonder if he knows he has a brother on the Women’s tour?”

He slammed his hand on the bed, scattering the remains of his half eaten breakfast all over the bed and collapsing back against the headboard giggling uncontrollably.

A sudden and sharp rap on the door silenced him.

“Fuck!” he thought, “ Who the hell is that?”

Quickly he jammed the laptop under the bed, stuck a pair of shorts on and went to the door.


Irina Hleb was awakened by a bucket of freezing cold water thrown over her naked, bruised and abused body.

She could feel a sharp stabbing pain in her head and gradually became conscious of voices and flashing lights.

She heard  the echo of a heavy metallic door being slammed shut.

With enormous effort she opened her eyes.

As she gradually gained focus she saw she was on a damp concrete floor in a room with no windows. Somehow there were video pictures of her in a folding chair - confronted by a man who was asking her questions.

Unbelievably she was answering each question truthfully.

The man was tall - about two metres - had wiry blonde hair and was built like a boxer. As the camera panned round she saw that he had the most piercing blue eyes.

Recognition flooded her body. Dimitri Molotov. One of the Kremlin’s most decorated and notorious fixers.

Irina shuddered.

She prayed for a work camp in Siberia.

That would be a blessing compared to some of the other choices that she had heard about.


“ So we are all agreed?” Mr Fino said happily.

At the boardroom table in the luxurious offices of Sombrasoft at the top of the Copa Trade tower were seated some of the most influential people in the Squash world.

Mr Fino carefully searched the faces of each of the individual participants.

All were nodding in tacit agreement.

“Renato, please read through the agreement once again so that everyone can be sure.”

“ With pleasure, Senhor, “ agreed Bulsara, clearing his throat and assuming a dramatic pose to mark what was without doubt one of the most historic moments in the history of the International Squash business and in addition not an unimportant moment in the world of business itself.

Bulsara drew himself up to his full medium height and began:

“ Your Royal Highness,” inclining his head with full deference in the direction of Prince Hamza Al Omani, “Senhor and Senhora Mallinson,” Anne flashed her stunning slightly crooked smile and Fritz looked both proud and happy. Last Renato turned with enormous respect to his employer, “ Senhor Fino,” the great man nodded his head to both acknowledge and encourage his trusted assistant.

"This morning I will read the principle statements of the agreement. The logistical and contractual details will of course be fully examined in fine by your respective lawyers, before final completion of this agreement."

All parties in the room whispered their acknowledgement of this and Bulsara commenced the main agreement.

" The following agreement refers to the sales, research and development, application and licensing of the patented technology known as Viper Technology."

Fritz and Anne exchanged a glowing look of pride.

Renato went on:

" Item 1. Determined. Sombrasoft, a privately owned corporation located and registered in Brazil, will become the sole agent for Viper Technology worldwide. All new agreements or changes to existing agreements will be approved by Frederick and Anne Mallinson, the inventors.

Item 2. Determined. All Media coverage of sporting and/or new as yet undiscovered applications of the technology will be primarily owned by the Al Jazeera networks worldwide. No coverage will proceed without the express agreement of Frederick and Anne Mallinson or of Hector Allessandro Rojas Peron Lopez, known professionally as Senhor Fino," at this an almost imperceptible color crept into Mr Fino's complexion - and then was gone, " the chief executive officer of Sombrasoft."

As Bulsara paused to take a breath, Prince Omani delicately held his open hand to his heart and bowed regally to both the Mallinson's and to Mr Fino,

" A wonderful day for Squash, for Al Jazeera and for my family. We have long esteemed your vision Mr and Mrs Mallinson and of course the excellence of your business empire Mr Fino - or should I say Lopez?"

All turned towards the big man.

"Let us complete the reading of the agreement - and then my friends, in the interests of both full disclosure and of an open and honest working relationship, I have arranged a meeting in my private office with Philip Sanderson and another gentleman who may or may not be known to you. Renato please finish."

Bulsara continued:

" Item 3. Determined. Prince Hamza Al Omani, Frederick and Anne Mallinson and Hector, er,  Senhor Fino will underwrite research and development and operations for World Squash for a period of not less than five years at a rate of $15 million per annum." Renato removed his reading glasses and looked up,

" Your Royal Highness, Mr and Mrs Mallinson, Senhor Fino, this completes the reading of the agreement. The full document will now be properly audited and sent to your respective lawyers for final inspection, signing and execution."

"Wonderful! Congratulations Fritz and Anne and to you also your Highness." Fino stood and encompassed Fritz and Anne's shoulders like a father with two little children.

" And to you Senhor.” returned Al Omani,” Without your muscle it would have taken much longer and been far more complicated to pass on the benefit of Viper to the world. And underwriting Squash is a stroke of genius. Players and Spectators alike will benefit from Viper and by supporting the sport we will ensure the long term security of Squash."

" And make a pretty penny into the bargain!" quipped Fino. He turned to his trusty aid, " Renato, please have the champagne brought into my office...." he paused thoughtfully, " if that is acceptable your Highness?"

The Prince bowed again, " I shall not partake, but please do not hesitate on my behalf. Although I do thank you for your courtesy."

"Then," the big man said not without drama, " let us go into my private office and to the meeting of which I have spoken."

He moved to the almost invisible door that joined his beautifully appointed boardroom to his even more spectacular private office - and opened it.

Inside there were two  men taking in the incredible panorama. As the door opened the two men turned away from the windows to face them.

One of them was Philip Sanderson - otherwise known as Zeus. The other man was also an older man. He was tall and had a slight stoop. His face was extremely handsome.

"Even with that nose," thought Anne immediately to herself. " It gives him the look of some regal bird. A Crane perhaps or yes, that's it - a Stork!"

The group moved as one toward the open door, as their host invited them to enter.

“ Peron,” remarked Prince Al Omani, “now that is truly a name to conjure with.”

“Indeed,” noted Fritz and then continued as if thinking aloud, “Peron-Lopez....I wonder.”

The chief executive of Sombrasoft politely waited until the others had entered and then, before following them in, momentarily took stock.

Hector Allessandro Rojas Peron Lopez was a very private man, but even private men sometimes have to share their secrets when the futures of people they love are at stake.

Casting aside all doubts, he drew himself up to his full, impressive stature and, closing the door behind himself, joined the others.

“My friends,” he said, “ if I may presume upon our relationship and use that word - you all of course already know the Director of World Squash, Mr Philip Sanderson. Allow me in addition to introduce you to the finest Squash player I ever known and a man for whom destiny has not woven the easiest path,”

As he said these words, with great tenderness, he put his arm around the man that had reminded Ann of a stork. He continued:

“May I present my beloved brother, Federico Carlos Rojas Peron Lopez. I will allow him to tell you his own, shall we say, difficult story.”

And for the first time in many years, one of Los Dos Federicos, the man they called the Stork, described the events that had led to the end of a wonderful career, estrangement from a powerful family and a young son, and to a clandestine life that included a secret daughter.....


Tyler opened the door and tried to look as though he was irritated at being disturbed from his rest -which he was, but not for reasons that he wanted anyone to suspect.

However the act didn’t hold up for very long when he saw Naldo McDiarmid standing there.

“Hello Tyler.” the Special Agent said - his voice deadpan.

“ Hello Agent McDiarmid. What can I do for you?”

“ I think we had better close the door before we discuss that. May I come in?”

Tyler would like to have said ‘No’ but he knew that wasn’t going to happen, so he just said, “Sure,” and made a space for the policeman to pass through.

“What’s this about?” Tyler said.

“It’s about Buckler’s computer. You were supposed to give it to me weren’t you.” McDiarmid said with an accusatory tone.

“What computer?” said Tyler said, trying to sound genuinely ignorant.

McDiarmid eyed Tyler Wolf.

“Jesus Christus!”  he thought to himself, “these stupid people just don’t know when to help themselves.”

“You really want to try this Tyler?” Naldo asked the young man in front of him that he knew to be lying. “You really want to try and lie to an international police agent, who knows more than anyone about you and what illicit activities you have been up to - and who has just turned Ms Shelley Anderson from Russian gang accomplice to Russian gang informant and gave her three days in hell working for me after having told me everything she knows and everything that is on that laptop just to save her skin? Really?”

Tyler looked unsure. He was just weighing up how much McDiarmid actually knew when the agent reached into an inside pocket and pulled out a snapshot.

Naldo McDiarmid handed it to Wolf.

Tyler looked at the photo. Naomi’s eyes stared pleadingly at him. Naomi’s eyes in the face of a beautiful little boy. Jeremy.

Tyler’s eyes welled up.

Silently he got up, walked around the bed, reached under it, pulled out the laptop and handed it to McDiarmid.

“Thank you.” said the Special Agent. “Now sit down and listen. I have a lot to tell you and you need to really pay attention. Otherwise I am going to have to do some things that I don’t like doing but that I am very capable of doing.”

Tyler wiped his eyes. A shot of adrenalin burst through his body. This was shit-street. He didn’t want any more trouble.

“First. The Russian Mafia are gone. You won’t be getting any more phone calls. You needn’t thank me, although it was me that leveraged the opportunity through Shelley and her stupidity. No, actually I was about to execute a plan to shut down the Russian mobsters when I got a high clearance phone call from my government. I was told in no uncertain terms to work closely with a Russian Cultural attache by the name of Dimitri Molotov. Which I did. I have no idea what happened to the animals that were threatening you and Squash as a whole, but I received a clear message from Comrade Molotov that the threat had been removed - entirely and permanently - along with his thanks and a quick dosvidaniya and one further urgent request. And when I say request it wasn’t the sort of request you would ever want to deny, considering the source.”

Tyler was so invested in what the Special agent was saying that he didn’t realize he had stopped breathing. Suddenly he became aware of the tightness in his chest and gasped.

“ What request?” he rasped as he struggled for breath.

“That would be the request for Buckler’s laptop to be handed in quietly and immediately at the Russian consulate here in Rio.” said Naldo in a very clipped monotone.

“Why on earth...” spluttered Tyler.

“Why precisely I couldn’t tell you,” McDiarmid began and continued his comments with a heavy dose of irony, “ But consider this: When you were ‘arrested’ when your bag was ‘returned’ after being lost, who was it that showed up at your door with the so-called ‘policemen?”

“Buckler.” said Tyler - the light beginning to dawn.

“And when we discovered that, you, Rhodanie Maison and Shelley Anderson were involved with Russian mafia,  who do you think turned out to be Rhodanie and Shelley’s point person?

“Buckler?” Tyler ventured.

“Correct. And who spent almost all of the decade of the 1990’s living in Moscow?”

“Buckler.” said Tyler, without requiring further confirmation.

“Now I can’t tell you what the Kremlin want with that laptop, but take it from me that the woman Irina Hleb and the assassinatos bandidos that she brought with her, likely shared those details with the ‘Russian attache for Cultural affairs,’ before they finished their ‘little conversar’ with him. Probably Mother Russia’s finest geeks will pull it apart and find what they are looking for.” 

“However, “ McDiarmid continued, “what will not be seeing the light of day are certain sensational stories that Buckler in his other life and favorite muck-spreading hobby was hoping to see published.”

“ Let’s you and me make sure we understand each other before I leave this room Tyler, because if you give me reason to come back and find you, it will not be an experience you enjoy - compreendido?”

Tyler nodded that he understood fully.

“Good. The here we go. Florencia Perez was born Florencio Hector Rojas Peron Lopez. When Florencio was born there was great confusion. To begin with the child was born a Hermaphrodite - you are familiar with the term?” Tyler blinked to confirm that he was, “ in addition Florencio was born out of wedlock as a result on an affair between the then stellar Argentinian Squash star and member of one of the foremost families in South America, Federico Carlos Rojas Peron Lopez and a very young American girl - one Erika Hoskins. The older members of the  Peron Lopez family rejected everything - the baby, Federico, Erika - and rallied around Federico’s jilted wife and son - a little boy named Andres Carlos Rojas Peron Lopez - better known to you as just Andres Lopez, placing them in a beautiful mansion in Bogata. Meanwhile Federico did his best to put Erika’s life on track and took the baby to Carthagena, also coincidentally in Colombia. Little Florencio grew up with every advantage that his father could give him, while keeping him as secret as possible. Concerned that Squash would bring them both into the public eye, Federico, with help from his elder brother Hector, set about raising Florencio as a tennis player. Florencio showed tremendous ability from an early age. However all was not well with the child. He loved to dance - the sensuous dances of South America - and always as the senhorita not the senhor, he preferred dolls to soldiers and dresses to pants.”

Naldo adjusted his position on the chair he was sitting on to get more comfortable.

“Of course having been born a Hermaphrodite, there was always a reason to question the boy’s gender. But let’s just say that it seemed more obvious that he was a boy at the start. However after the other issues emerged and with the vast improvements in medical science, again with his brother’s help, Federico decided to have Florencio gender tested.”

McDiarmid paused.

“When the results came back it was clear that Florencio had never been anything else than Florencia and that what had seemed to clearly make her a male was an enigma - an aberration. A small medical procedure ensued and Florencia’s life became happier. Of course by this time - even though she was only four - she had developed her barefoot and double handed tennis. But eventually Federico couldn’t resist putting his beloved daughter on the same track as he had originally started his first child - that of Squash. She was a natural and of course picked it up, but as success beckoned so did fame and so with Florencia at the age of only five-and-a-half, Federico dropped out of her life, frightened that his association with her would damn her.”

He paused again.

“ That was some fifteen years ago and since then Florencia had not seen her father. That is until two nights ago, when in a club not far from here, they danced. She still doesn’t know him it seems - although she may have sensed his familiarity,”

Tyler looked dubious. It was a fantastic story.

“ If you don’t believe it, check with the IOC gender lab. But don’t check under Florencia Perez. Check under Florencia Peron Lopez. With her father’s family in open denial - it was just simpler to combine the two names into a single  less recognizable one.”

“That was Buckler’s biggest piece apart from you and Naomi and little Jeremy. And of course there were the gay stories about Emily Miller and Julia Brown and John Allenby and his bisexual habits. But while Buckler might have got some mileage out of that for his own satisfaction, it wouldn’t really damage Squash’s image now. The IOC and World Squash aren’t in the least homophobic and trying to sell those stories would have been like - well, like killing a beast that had already died.”

Tyler saw McDiarmid’s point. No reason to scare off Lopez now.

“Last thing I want to say to you Tyler,” Naldo resumed, “ You have done some stupid things and become involved with dangerous people. Some of it was greed and some of it was sloppiness - yes?” Wolf nodded his head in resignation. McDiarmid continued, “ But somehow you have survived. You have a beautiful little son - who - judging from your tears - you clearly love and miss. You are in the final of the greatest Squash tournament of the modern era, on the edge of maybe playing in the Olympic games and beyond that with Squash in the Olympics - who knows what opportunities lie ahead for a student of Squash who has a reputation for beating his opponents not by mere skill but by clever strategy.”

“ I guess that it is all true.” said Tyler, “ but how can I go on from here - with everything that has happened?”

“ I tell you how. DON’T FUCK IT UP! That’s how. I happen to know that Philip Sanderson is involved in a meeting that is going to secure a very bright future for Squash and anyone who is not ‘persona non grata’” The Special Agent said emphatically.

“If you follow the instructions I have given you, I promise no-one will hear of your illegal behaviors from me. The Kremlin doesn’t care and frankly Squash needs you. You’re a character.”

“So do you give me your word that you will simply stick to Squash from now on? No dope. No match fixing. No blackmail?”

“ Yes.” Tyler punched out the word definitively. “ I’m done with all that.”

“Good.” said McDiarmid, “and if you take my advice you will tell the world about Naomi and Jeremy and give that little boy a Papa to look up to and love.”

“ On that note I will leave,” said McDiarmid gathering up the laptop marked Smashingballs.com.

“If you ever have to see me again professionally you will wish you had never been born - yes?”

“Compreendido, Senhor!” said Tyler - with gusto.

“Excellent. Oh you may as well have this,” McDiarmid said and handed him a small folder of photos. They were all of Jeremy. “ I won’t be needing them any more will I?”

“No.” said Tyler attempting to speak firmly, but he was betrayed by a single tear that escaped the corner of his eye.


Dimitri Molotov sat in the comfort of the small private office that was situated behind the cockpit of a giant Aeroflot transport plane as it made its way, ‘the long way home’ over the Northern Pacific.

He had almost completed his report on his Brazilian mission.

A uniformed Aeroflot officer, interrupted him:

“ We have reduced altitude to five thousand meters as you requested, Polkovnik Molotov.” the officer said, looking above Molotov’s head into the middle distance.

“Thank you.” Dimitri said grimly, getting up from the relative comfort of the passenger cabin and making his way to the hold.

There he was met by a combat dressed member of the Russian Spetznaz unit.

The man saluted with mechanical efficiency.

“Let me see them.” said Molotov.

The man pulled a large rough sewn blanket from over a nondescript mass that it was hiding.

Below were five naked bodies lying on their backs. One was a large fat man, two more were the usual Russian version of ‘wise guys,’ one was a distinctly non-Russian looking Brazilian and finally there was the slim, dark haired woman, covered in scores of tatoos, her skin no longer taut, her body no longer hard. Just a sallow grey husk.

Each body had an industrially precise incision made through the gut, so that a small amount of fluid from the body cavity had seeped externally.

Dimitri looked at them. “Good.” he thought, “ enough to attract the sharks - no chance of remains.”

He felt no remorse. No pity.

Mother Russia was trying to move forward into the 21st century and this filth just took her backwards.

He looked again at the Spetznaz soldier. “Do it.” he ordered.

Again the Spetznaz saluted explosively and then, he pushed the cart upon which the five bodies lay toward the gradually opening rear door of the cargo plane.

Finally, he pulled a lever and the five bodies were unceremoniously jettisoned toward an anonymous stretch of the Pacific some sixteen thousand feet below.

As the giant door closed behind him, Dimitri returned to the comfort of his cabin and the closure of his report.

Chapter TWENTY-ONE by Peter Heywood

He remembered that night. Clearly.

It had been three days before the start of the finals.

He had glanced at his watch. It was almost two fifteen in the morning. Out in the street, he could still hear  the music of the milonga drifting down from the windows of the salon. The traffic on Rua do Catete had died down by then but there were still  people about, in groups, in couples, walking the warm Rio sidewalks, waiting for taxis, heading to the next drink, to the next dance. Heading home.

He had walked a few yards from the entrance porch of the building and fished his  cellular from the inside pocket of his dark grey tailored suit. Pushed a few buttons. Waited.

‘Federico?’ said a man’s voice, a sleepy voice, a big voice. ‘Do you know what time it is?’

‘I’m sorry, Hector,’ he had answered. ‘I had to call. I just danced with my daughter. So did Andres.’

‘You and your tango, Federico. Does he know who she is?’

‘I don’t know. No. Not from the way they were dancing.’

There had been a pause, the sound of a light switch.

‘What about you?’

‘I think she may suspect,’ he had said, then hesitated. ‘I tried to warn her not to play tonight, Hector, to stop her being picked on by those jackals.’

He had felt himself getting angry. Then he had taken a deep breath, inhaling the night, catching the melody of a tango vals drifting down from above.

‘She knows what to expect, Federico. You knew this could happen eventually. Perhaps it’s time.’

‘I’m scared, Hector. They’re both so young, so passionate.’

He had heard a chuckle and felt annoyance. Had taken another deep breath.

‘There was never going to be a good time to tell them about each other, Federico. You know that.’

Then he had been the one to chuckle. A brief smile had flickered across his lips.

‘And then I suppose there’s the small matter of their mothers,’ his brother had observed.

He had grunted. ‘Now you’re just being cruel, Hector.’

A throaty laugh this time.

‘What do you expect at this hour? Never mind. I will see you tomorrow…or later today, that is. Buenas noches, hermano mio.’

The line had gone dead. He had lowered his cellulare from his ear and turned to walk to the kerb and hail a taxi.  

His son, the Colombian boy, had been standing in front of him, hands in the trouser pockets of his cream linen suit, long brown hair moving gently in the night breeze.

‘Hello, Papa,’ he had said calmly, unsmiling, fixing him with his dark eyes.

‘I think we need to talk.’


It was the morning of the finals.

Renato Bulsara pushed open the door of the Café Leblon on Rua Dias Ferreira and removed his sunglasses. Today would be a busy day, a very busy day. But perhaps not so busy that he could not find the time to enjoy a morning coffee sitting at his favourite table.

He saw that it was free, as it always seemed to be when he visited his favourite café just behind the Copa Trade Tower. Senhor Ventura’s admirable establishment might not be the trendiest or even the quietest in the area, but he felt comfortable here. It was a traditional place occupying the ground floor of what had previously been a bank. A place where he could meet people without feeling conspicuous

He walked past the mahogany counter, greeting Senhor Ventura who was, as usual, involved in the unceasing process of marshalling his work-force in a state of mild concern. The elderly proprietor paused temporarily in his labours to smile and nod in return.

Sitting at his table, he ordered a cafezinho and scanned the interior of the café. Business was brisk, the high ceiling and chequered floor tiles of the former banking hall echoing with the clatter of crockery and the babble of conversation. The waiting staff criss-crossed the floor heading to and from tables, taking orders, carrying trays.

His coffee arrived, delivered by a young waitress wearing a black uniform with a starched white cap and pinafore. He smiled, thanked her and, as she walked away, lifted the cup and saucer from the table. Raising the cup to his lips, he took a deep breath, inhaling the aroma drifting up towards his nostrils.

He took a sip and began to return the cup to its saucer, savouring the taste lingering on his tongue. As he replaced the cup, he looked up and across the floor of the café.

Seated at a table at the other side of the room were a man and woman whose faces were familiar to him. The man was in his mid-30s,clean-shaven with a rugged face  framed with short fair hair. He wore an open-necked shirt under a navy linen jacket. The woman, was older, perhaps, with a diamond chin and short blonde bangs.

As he watched, the man handed what looked like a photograph to the woman. He pointed to it and began talking. The woman looked at the photograph, then at her companion. Suddenly, the man paused, placing his right hand over his mouth, leaving the other resting on the table. Without hesitation, the woman reached forward and took his left hand in hers.

Bulsara felt something leap in his chest, an excitement that he could not name. He quickly finished his cafezinho, paid  Senhor Ventura and left the building.

At their table in the Café Leblon, Tyler Wolf and Erika Hoskin were still deep in conversation.


It was the afternoon of the finals.

In the Copa favela, the man and the boy sat talking in the shade on plastic seats. They gazed out onto a cleared area, here in the heart of the shanty. An area covered in deep golden sand. Children ran around, dressed in ragged clothes, ignoring the heat of the sun.They played queimada, chasing and tagging each other, the ‘living people’ and the ‘dead ones.’

The man smiled as he watched them. Shouting, running free, running barefoot across the sand, free of rubbish, free of the waste of the favela, free of the broken glass.

He remembered the time when he was a child. Clearly.

But there was something different in the favela now. In the centre of the makeshift beach stood an open-roofed structure with four walls and a single door. From within it, he could hear the sound of a ball thumping against its walls as its occupants played a different barefoot game.

‘So, Miguel,’ he said. ‘How would you like to like to show me how your game’s coming along?’

The boy sat up in his chair, looked at him and smiled, eyes twinkling from a face the colour of cafezinho. He stood up and grabbed the racket propped against his chair.

‘I’ll go and get them off court, Senhor Renato,’ he yelled, already halfway to the building.

Renato Bulsara smiled and watched the boy hammer on the court door with his racket handle. Some things never changed.

Now, young Miguel Paixao was showing promise, just like his three brothers, one of whom had made it to the preliminary round of the Rio Squash Festival.

Paixao,’ he said to himself, and laughed. ‘Passion.’

He picked up his racket and followed the boy across the beach towards the court.


It was the evening of the finals.

The last two matches of the tournament had sold out months before John Allenby’s woes had begun to surface. Now, as he waited to step onto the glass court, he hoped that the intrigue and crises of the last week were not about to repeat themselves. At least not until the night’s events were successfully, and safely, concluded.

If it was possible, the samba dancers, the music and the laser show leading up to the finals  had eclipsed the spectacle of the opening night. The atmosphere was still electric as the spectators settled noisily into their expensive seats. The sun was setting behind the city, leaving behind its warmth as the start of the Women’s Final drew near.

Allenby scanned the crowd, looking for familiar faces. He found plenty of them. The President and his wife, The Mayor of Rio and his, Prince Hamza Al Omani and his entourage,Philip Sanderson, Fritz and Anne Mallinson, Hector Lopez. He started to believe that everything would be…

Senhors and Senhoras!’ boomed the PA, jarring him out of his reverie. ‘Please welcome the organiser of the 2014 Rio Beach Squash Classic and your host for the final competitive matches of the tournament, Senhor John Allenby!’

He picked up the microphone and began to walk towards the glass court.


It was less than ten minutes to the start of the women’s final.

Florencia Perez waited behind curtains woven with the yellow, green and blue of Brazil’s national flag. Her ravenesque black hair was tied back in a ponytail. She was wearing a light blue headband to match her dress, and white sneakers. She grasped her racket and bounced up and down on the spot just vacated by her opponent and Number 1 seed, Brigitta Krause.

Senhors and Senhoras!’ Allenby’s voice echoed around the stands. ‘Please welcome to the main court…Florencia Perez!’

The curtains parted, the crowd applauded. She had friends here. There was even an Argentinian flag waving in the stand opposite, the Sol de Mayo gazing down at her from the light blue and white tri-band. She entered the court and shook Allenby’s hand, then her opponent’s, ready to begin the warm-up.

Allenby closed the door behind him and walked away from the glass court.


It was less than two minutes to the start of the women’s final.

Florencia Perez sat in her chair outside the court and scanned the crowd, looking for familiar faces. She saw Erika, sitting a few yards away in the front row behind the back wall. She saw Tyler Wolf, wearing his familiar green and gold tracksuit, sitting beside her.

And there were others.

She sensed their gaze before she met it, before she found where they were sitting. Together, high up, behind the back wall of the glass court. Their eyes filled with pride. And more.

The boy from Bogota who had danced with her three nights ago. Sitting to his right, the man they called Mr. Fino. And, to his left, the tall man with the long nose who had sent her the elegant gold watch which now adorned her left wrist.

She smiled, picked up her racket and began to walk towards the glass court.


It was less than an hour to the start of the men’s final.

Renato Bulsara was reaching the end of a busy day. A very busy day.

He picked his way slowly through the crowds milling around the arrivals hall at Galeão International Airport. At times like these he envied the natural footwork and movement of…who? Samba dancers? Squash players? He began to feel uncertain and, yes, mildly concerned. Like…like…Senhor Ventura! He chuckled to himself. A good sign.

He scanned the arrivals board. The flight he was to meet had landed. The passengers were now in baggage reclaim. Quickly, he summoned a porter and engaged his services. He glanced at his watch. It was eight forty-five.

He found a convenient spot from which to catch the eye of his employer’s guests and prepared to hold up the cardboard sign which his secretary had prepared for him. He looked again at the single surname it displayed.

Suddenly, the flight’s passengers began to emerge from the customs channel, looking for friends, relatives, hosts. He held up his sign, anxious that it should be in plain sight.

Then he saw them, both smiling broadly, both seeing his sign, both waving. He smiled back and waved, picking his way towards them, summoning the porter to follow him.

After what seemed like an age, they met.

Senhor Bulsara, I presume!’ said the woman, laughing. ‘I am so pleased to meet you!’ She grabbed his hand, shaking it warmly, thanking him for his welcome to Rio. He joined her laughter, looked into her eyes. Twinkling eyes, beaming from a face with high cheekbones. A face the colour of darkest ebony.

She turned, still smiling, towards her young companion.

Bulsara leaned forward and held out his hand to the child.

‘So, you must be Jeremy,’ he said.


By  Alan Thatcher

The Secretary of State left the squash court dripping in sweat. He held his Harrow racquet in his left hand and draped his right arm around the shoulder of his opponent.

“We ought to call you the Secretary of Squash,” said his vanquished playing partner.

It was an old joke, repeated many times after a result like this one.

Both men smiled. At 63 years old they were no longer able to cover the court like they used to in their prime, but a lifelong passion for the game could not be quelled by the march of time.

The two old friends played squash together at school and both had built private courts in the mansions they had fashioned some twenty miles apart in North Virginia.

This time, on a Sunday morning, it was the Secretary’s turn to host their regular round-robin prior to lunch for both families.

And it was the Secretary who raised his voice to pronounce: “That’s 12-6 to me this year.

“A bottle of champagne and the best dinner in Washington for the series winner at Christmas. I can almost taste it now.”

Their four extra guests smiled as Bob Murray absorbed the familiar banter, slapped the Secretary on the back, wiped his brow with his towel and slumped into a chair in the spacious lounge behind the court.

In a dazzling act of one-upmanship, the Secretary had replaced the original timber building, housing a 70-year old court, with a modern glass-backed version. Built into a sloping paddock behind the vast, eight-bedroomed house, the lounge opened out on to a patio with spectacular views over a countryside panorama that told many tales of American history.

His opponent, familiar with the relaxed etiquette despite his friend’s high office, grabbed a can of beer from the fridge next to the leather armchairs and raised it in the direction of the four younger players who had also completed their on-court work-out. 

Bob Murray had chosen the Navy over politics, leaving his brother Will to run the family construction firm.

They always joked that every time Bob and his colleagues blew up some building, Will could step in and put up a new one.

American foreign policy had suffered similar taunts throughout recent ill-fated forays into Iraq and Afghanistan.

The four younger squash players had served in both pointless missions but were not at liberty to question their orders from above.

As the first mouthful of cool beer struck the back of his throat, Murray turned to his young friends.

“Great game, guys,” he said.

“I was watching you before you kindly gave way to the old boys, although our 25-minute slog was nothing like the quality you guys can show.”

The discreet security shield hovered outside the entrance to the squash lounge as the Secretary followed his friend in flicking open a refreshing can of ale.

They hardly needed any kind of protection with four top Navy Seals their guests for the morning.

Murray took another long slurp from the can and spoke.

“Gentlemen, the Secretary and I have a surprise treat in store for you guys.

“As the four best players ever to emerge from the Navy squash team, you are to be flown down to Rio later today to watch the final of the most spectacular squash tournament ever held.

“The glass court is set up on Copacabana Beach and you have VIP tickets to the final, plus a hotel suite across the road in Rio’s best hotel.”

Before the young men could answer, Murray added: “We have also laid on a shark-fishing trip in the afternoon, with a few special guests we’d like you to look after.”

The four guests all murmured a “thank-you” in unison, their faces lit up by broad smiles that concealed an inner understanding that they might have to get their hands dirty before enjoying the hospitality on offer in Rio.

The Secretary chipped in. “Boys, this is a thank you from the two of us. Bob here has kept his eyes on you ever since you entered the Academy squash team as totally raw rookies.

“In fact, Bob’s very proud of the fact that you guys have been the outstanding guinea pigs of his little squash project.”

The two men chuckled.

Murray nodded and took up the conversation.

“I was looking for a new kind of recruitment policy to help me fast-track the guys who do the jobs you do.”

He looked into the faces of all four men. All were respectfully staying silent and hanging on his every word.

“It suddenly struck me that squash was the ideal way to find the guys who really stood out from the rest of the pack.

“Forget all the training manuals and the military academy bullshit.

“Squash is a game of survival. You step inside that concrete box…”

“Or glass,” said the Secretary, ever keen to remind his friend of their state-of-the-art surroundings.

Murray laughed and said: “OK. You win again, boss.”

After the polite laughter had subsided, he continued.

“Yes, every time you step inside that box, it’s all about survival. One of you will win and one of you will lose.

“What we were looking for were the guys who were the quick learners.

“It was a given that you all had the right fitness, strength, speed, stamina and mobility.

“But the things we were really looking for were the special qualities like awareness , intelligence, cunning, and stealth.

“The ability to make instant decisions and, of course, excellent shot selection. (This last remark brought a nervous laugh from the four Seals).

“In short, gentlemen, we wanted to find the guys who did the job quietly, efficiently and ruthlessly.

“No histrionics. No tantrums. Anybody who screamed, or moaned, or whinged, let alone broke a racket, was off the team and out the door faster than you could say John McEnroe or Jonathan Power.

“You four came through with flying colours.

“And that’s why you four have landed your dream job in Rio.”


John Allenby had spent several weeks in Brazil, setting up the tournament and making sure that the biggest event in the history of squash would prove the IOC right in admitting the sport to the Games programme in 2020.

If all went well, squash was on the verge of being invited to take part four years earlier if the landscaping of the Olympic golf course failed to be completed on time.

Allenby was surrounded by TV screens for much of the week, but he was so busy that he paid little attention to events outside of his immediate concern.

He had seen the headlines about the massive demonstrations in Brazil as large parts of the population complained about the combined costs of staging the World Cup and the Olympics.

Embittered crowds wanted the same kind of money spent on schools and hospitals, alleviating poverty and clearing the cities of crime.

 He had seen pictures of the crowds filling the Rio Blanco Avenue but his mind was filled with the minute detail of several squash projects. In no particular order of priority, these were the finals of the Rio Beach Classic, the safe return of Shelley Anderson and some major business contracts that needed to be signed within the next 48 hours.

He trusted the Army and police would continue to keep the venue secure so that he could concentrate on delivering all three.


After the Seals had showered, changed and left the Secretary of State’s private squash pavilion, Bob Murray filled in much of the hidden detail for his friend as they prepared to join their families for lunch in the main house.

“We’ll have to keep Homeland Security informed at some stage, but it’s a lot easier and cleaner to avoid any of this mess landing up on our shores,” he said.

“The President has already stopped using the phrase ‘War on Drugs’ because it’s a war we’ve been losing ever since Nixon came up with the idea.

“There are 20,000 missing children in Mexico, most of them victims of the drug gangs or innocent kids kidnapped to work in drugs, prostitution and a myriad of other things you don’t see in the tourist brochures.

 “The gangs obviously have connections in Colombia and Brazil, and we know that a major meeting is being set up in Rio while the security forces are worried about patrolling the streets and stopping the demonstrations turning into riots.

“Added to that, our Russian friends want to get in on the act and sell guns to the bad guys. At the same time, they’re arming the Taliban, the Syrian Army and anyone else who prefers a hole in the ground to one of these lovely Chesterfields.

“Added to that little lot, one of our female operatives is in a slightly difficult position and we need to her to feel comfortable in time for the squash final.”

The Secretary zipped up his chinos, slipped on his deck shoes and nodded to his friend.

“Just do what you’ve got to do, Bob.”


Police struggled to contain the exuberant crowds who flocked to Rio to demonstrate.

A protest against a few cents being added to the cost of bus fares had grown into a nationwide storm of fury.

After a rally had attracted 80,000 people to the Maracana Stadium, with the same number locked outside, the mood had changed from a fun day out to anger at the authorities.

The speakers at the Maracana had whipped up the crowd. Now they were marching on the City Hall, where riot police had erected barricades and were armed with tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition.

Looting of shop windows had already begun as the Brazilian population launched their own version of the Arab Spring.


The Seals had touched down at the Santos Dumont airport in Rio and quickly made contact with a support team trying their best to look inconspicuous on a private yacht in the nearby marina.

A Russian private jet had been tracked across the Atlantic and a tail had been placed on the two cars that had collected the VIP cargo.

The convoy headed back to the marina, where the Russian guest was to meet up with business contacts from Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.

Marina de Gloria was full of expensive yachts. The one being watched by the Navy had a helipad and a team of guards who were obviously armed.

Inside, eight men sat around the yacht’s boardroom table.

Dimitri Molotov was pointing an accusing finger at a lone woman.

“Miss Anderson, we want to trust you. You are working for us. We love the fact that you have a wonderful cover as head of the World Squash Tour. We love that you have so many useful contacts in America and all over the world.

“But, the big question is, can we trust you?

“Our friends here, from South America, can perhaps help me to find out those answers.”

The Mexicans and Colombians sneered.

The Mexican leader stepped forward towards her. She almost wretched as his breath, laden with chilli and garlic, assaulted her senses.

“We have a business, Miss Anderson, which is growing into an international corporation.

“Of course, nobody likes to see poor people suffer, but in the end we aim to be stronger than the governments who screw up our countries.

“When we take power, we will make life better for everyone. As long as everyone understands how the new nations will operate.

“You may call us ignorant criminals. I am sure you do. You call us drug gangs, but what you don’t realise is that we all grew up in these villages, these towns, these cities.

“Our families are all here. We want to make life good.

“We don’t need our friends from America telling us how we should behave.”


The four squash-playing Seals sized up the situation when they were confident everyone they needed to tackle was on board.

Eavesdropping on the Russian yacht, they heard the first slap, the heard the first tear of fabric. They heard the first female scream.

Dressed just like any other passing millionaire, they slowly manoeuvred their own craft from its mooring.

Setting a path towards the open sea, they suddenly changed direction.

As they headed straight for the vessel they had been tracking, the guards began shouting in Russian, ordering them to stop.

The Seals merely accelerated. As gunfire sounded from the moored craft, the yacht borrowed by the Navy slammed into its target.


The mainly VIP crowd for the women’s final clapped enthusiastically in all the right places as Florencia Perez battled against Brigitta Krause.

As the match see-sawed one way then the other, promoter John Allenby summoned his event staff to the side of the bleachers to make sure everything was ready for the presentation immediately after the fifth game.

The trophies glistened under the court lighting, two beautiful bouquets were ready for the players, plus one for the sponsor’s wife, and the sponsors’ backboard smelt of fresh ink.


The final was a dramatic contrast in styles between the shot-making ability of Perez and the physicality of Krause.

The athletic-looking Krause won the first and third games, but the enormous physical investment left her slightly drained as Perez won the second and fourth with her intelligent ball placement and ruthless accuracy at the front of the court.

Krause started the fifth game strongly, driving powerful shots to the back of the court, but Perez was playing the game of her life.

At seven-all, Perez played a backhand drop shot with a lot of slice. She did not want to hit the tin and aimed a little higher than usual. She was more intent on making sure the ball glued itself to the left-hand wall. In cutting the ball from underneath, she kept the follow-through of her racquet fairly flat.

Krause initially set off for the front-left corner of the court, but had to adjust her stride as she realised the ball was travelling much deeper into the court.

As she checked her stride and stretched low to her left, Perez’s racquet struck her in the face.

It was not an excessive swing, and the collision was entirely accidental, but Krause refused to see it that way.

She dropped her own racquet on the floor and squealed in mock pain.

Holding her face, she ran straight to Perez and screamed in her face.

“You fucking bitch! You did that on purpose.”

As the referee prepared to speak, and Perez apologised for the incident, Krause lost the plot completely.

Repeating her earlier expletive, she pushed Perez into the side wall.

Under her breath this time, avoiding the ears of the officials, she hissed: “Do that again and I’ll fucking kill you.”

The centre referee attempted to restore order. 

Ignoring the decision of the two side officials, who had each signalled a “let” the referee announced: “Conduct stroke against Perez. Dangerous play.”

This time Perez screamed out loud.

“What? You can’t be serious? The swing was an accident but didn’t you see her push me? Didn’t you hear her swear at me?”

The referee refused to budge.

“Video review, please,” said Perez.

The crowd couldn’t wait to see the replays of this explosive confrontation.

They cheered when they saw the racket hit Krause in the face, then booed loudly when she pushed her opponent.

The incident was replayed from a variety of positions, and each time it looked worse. Each time the crowd reaction grew louder as they waited for the decision to flash up on the giant screens.

There was only one problem.  The TV graphics team had set up artwork for three decisions, let, stroke or no let.

No-one had thought to provide a caption for the decision arrived at by the referee handling the video review.

So the official, who was sitting in the outside broadcast truck behind the bleachers, hurriedly wrote his decision on a scrap of paper and rushed into the arena.

On it he had written: “Conduct penalty for gross misconduct and audible obscenity. Match awarded to Perez.”

The video official had to push his way through the jeering crowd to reach the centre referee.

When he read the words, written clearly in capital letters, he froze.

“I am not reading that out,” he said. “You’ve got it completely wrong.”

“No,” said the video review official. “You did.

“Give me the bloody microphone and I’ll do it before you get lynched.”

The centre referee, still open-mouthed, handed over the microphone and sat down.

When the video official made his announcement, the crowd went wild.

Krause stormed off court, grabbed her bag and rushed out of the marquee.

But, as she set foot on the rubber-matted walkway on the beach, she was stopped by a soldier armed with a machine gun.

“Sorry madam, you will have to go back inside.

“No-one is allowed on the beach.”


The collision sent most of the Russian guards flying into the harbour as machine-gun fire sprayed harmlessly into the air.

The Seals quickly jumped across to the damaged vessel and threw smoke bombs and stun grenades inside every door and hatch.

 Wearing night-vision goggles, they quickly entered the yacht’s boardroom and shot dead six of the nine inhabitants.

When the carnage was concluded, one female and two males were left standing.

“Miss Anderson, you are to come with me,” said the leader of the squash-playing Seals.

Shelley was transferred to a neighbouring speedboat and taken to the shore.

The two Russians, Dimitri Molotov and his chief henchman, were transferred to another craft that quickly headed out to sea.

They were tied back to back, tethered at the elbows, knees and ankles.

Their surprise turned to anger, then to fear.

They soon realised that swearing got them nowhere. Nor did threats. Nor did the pathetic pleas uttered during their rapid journey towards the deep ocean.

The Seals maintained the calm ruthlessness that had so impressed their superior officers earlier in their careers as they pulled the engines and threw bait over the side of the boat.

Only one broke his silence to say: “Mr Molotov, you have upset some very important people in our country. Maybe if you played more squash in Russia you might learn some decent manners.”

A large rubber ring was forced around the Russians’ legs and moved up their bodies until it rested under their shoulders, with their arms hanging over the top.

Without a flicker of emotion, the Seals rolled the two men into the fish blood on the deck until they were satisfied that their Armani trousers had soaked up enough fluid to attract a passing shark or two.

The safety ring was attached to a rope and the two men were bundled overboard.

Screaming and pleading, with just their head and shoulders above the waves, it took just a few minutes before the first predators arrived on the scene.

One of the commandoes shouted to no-one in particular: “It’s the sharks’ lucky day. Bite one, get one free.”

The rest of the team laughed as the dorsal fins circled the two Russians.

They screamed in unison as the first shark chomped off four legs in one mouthful.

The two torsos toppled headlong into the water as more sharks arrived to finish the meal in a frenzy.

Watching the grisly denouement of their task, the Seals pulled in the rubber ring and headed back to the marina.


As she stepped ashore, Shelley Anderson was passed a cell phone by one of the Seals.

“Glad we got you out of there,” said the male voice on the other end. “It was looking close there for a minute.”

“Yes sir,” she said. “It was.”

“Well, you know that we always look after our own. “

CIA double agent Shelley Anderson was escorted to her hotel room, where she changed into an evening dress.

Within a few minutes she was accompanied by four healthy and handsome young men, wearing chinos, blazers and sunglasses, across the Avenida Atlantica to the squash arena.

The Brazilian armed forces had put up barriers across the road but a whispered word of caution from one of Shelley’s guard of honour resulted in instant access.

“Glad you could make it,” said John Allenby.


The guards on the beach were not quite so acquiescent with Brigitta Krause.

As the crowds spilled from the Maracana Stadium and found their path to City Hall blocked by police and the army, the demonstration leaders told their followers to split up into smaller groups and meet up again on the beach.

Plain-clothed police officers who had infiltrated the marches quickly texted ahead to warn their colleagues to expect some company on the beach.


As the women’s final ended in such controversy, John Allenby had to think on his feet.

He announced to the crowd that the men’s final would follow immediately and that a joint presentation would take place at the end of the evening.

“This is for the benefit of our live television audience all over the world.”

Tyler Wolf was ready. So was Andres Lopez.

As Allenby announced the players on court, the marquee was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of Brazilian police and army personnel.

The VIPs inside were enjoying the free champagne and oblivious to the storm brewing in the city.


As the two men’s finalists began their knock-up, John Allenby found Shelley Anderson and her guests.

He whispered to Shelley: “I had to make some hasty changes to the seating plan when a special call came through earlier today for extra seats in your name.”

He gave her a playful tap on the arm.

“But who are these guys? Are they all your dates for this evening? No wonder you missed the pre-final briefing.”

Shelley smiled, looked sideways at Allenby and replied in a whisper: “I’ll tell you over breakfast – if I make it that early.”

Allenby added: “By the way, where’s McDiarmid?”

Shelley replied: “Let’s just say that my friends here persuaded him that his presence was no longer needed here in Rio.”


The squash audience may have been in the dark about the impending arrivals on the beach, but the local TV crew clearly had good contacts.

Suddenly three roving cameras and their operators headed for the exit.


Shelley Anderson and her four guests were seated in the front row. All wore discreet earpieces. They were not tuned in to the squash commentary.


Tyler Wolf and Andres Lopez warmed up the white Dunlop ball during the knock-up, then left the court to take off their tracksuit tops. They went through a similar process with the ball after they had returned to the court.

Lopez nodded to the referee and pointed towards his opponent, indicating that Wolf had won the spin of the racquet to determine who would serve first.

A typically cautious start resulted in long rallies up and down the backhand wall as each player worked his way into the match.

After six rallies, nine minutes, and two lets, it was two-all.

It was clearly going to be a long night.


“Front Wall, come in please.”

The voice in Shelley Anderson’s earpiece requested confirmation that his message had been received and understood.

“Loud and clear,” came the response. With the noise of the ball, accompanied by the shouts of the crowd, and a soft breeze causing occasional ripples in the marquee roof, Shelley could talk at almost normal volume without being overheard by neighbouring spectators.

She turned to her four guests and said: “I’m not sure if we’ll be able to watch the whole match. Let’s hope Tyler starts to hit a few nicks.”


Tyler Wolf was not wired up the same network, although the communications team involved had certainly been listening in to several of his calls in his recent weeks.

One of the Seals leant across and murmured: “I think there’s some telepathy going on here, unless Shelley has trained this guy into being a squash robot.”

Wolf hit three stunning winners in quick succession to lead 6-3. 

He was past that vital psychological barrier of being beyond halfway towards the 11 points needed to win the game.

Now it was time to step up a gear, avoid mistakes, pile on the pressure and finish this first part of the mission.

Lopez made him work for it. He knew he would, but Wolf took the first game 11-8, weathering a fierce storm of resistance as Lopez won three points in a row after being game ball down.

Squash, just like military action, induced similar responses when survival was being threatened.

That Navy chief knew what he was talking about.


The four Navy Seals had declined every drop of the champagne on offer throughout the evening.

One turned to the other and said: “Gentlemen, it’s turning into Omaha Beach outside. They’re holding the marchers about a mile away from here on both sides, but there are lots of side streets where people can squeeze through.

“Let’s hope we get to see the whole of the final.”


Perez sipped his water as he listened to his coach between games.

Club players would be amazed if they knew how simple the instructions were to help the world’s leading players regain focus and play sensible squash.

“Don’t take too many risks. Work him longer. Work him harder. He’s older than you. Keep the rallies going. Keep it tight, then attack anything loose.”

That was all it took to rouse Andres Lopez for the second game.

The Argentine shot-maker suddenly began slow-balling, lifting his drives higher to get the ball to the back of the court with minimum physical effort.

Tyler Wolf loved to smack the ball around the court. But most of all he loved to feed off other peoples’ pace.

Lopez suddenly stopped giving him that opportunity.

With a slower ball, Wolf’s timing was not as tight as it had been earlier. His swing was fractionally off-beat.

Lopez stepped in and chopped up anything loose. Soon it was one game all. Lopez looked delighted. Wolf was clearly frustrated.

Like most Aussies, he liked a scrap. But Lopez was giving him nothing to hit. 

The third game followed in the same pattern, and Tyler Wolf was suddenly two-one down and struggling to find a way back into the match.

As the Argentine coaching team headed towards their man’s corner, a cameraman pushed past them as he headed for the door.

The tripod struck one of the coaches on the head and although he began shouting at the cameramen, he had no time to join in the conversation apart from a quick shrug and a “Sorry, so sorry” as he left the arena.

Only a handful of spectators had witnessed an incident that was over in seconds, but the coach was upset.

Instead of paying attention to his player, he rubbed his head and began mouthing threats about complaining to the World Tour, the promoter and the TV company.

Lopez was distracted as he returned to the court.

Instead of playing the same highly disciplined squash that had offered up so many opportunities to finish rallies with extravagant winners, he lost control.

He lost his length, and the tables soon turned as Wolf took advantage of shots that landed in mid-court.

He was given a succession of strokes or simple drops as his opponent’s poor control often left him trapped, hopelessly out of position, as he surrendered the front half of the court.


The Brazilian President was seated in a special box with a group of local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Rio and several Olympic officials.

Prince Hamza Al Omani and his entourage, plus a number of other squash guests, sat in the neighbouring box.

The security staff attending the VIP area were under strict orders that nothing was to interrupt an event that was being broadcast live around the world, portraying Brazil as the ideal sporting location.


Back in Virginia, the Secretary of State was on the phone to his Navy friend Bob Murray.

“Sounds like your squash boys did a good job and rescued the missing package.”

“Yes sir. They did. I just wish they could take the rest of the day off and enjoy the finals, but I don’t think that’s likely.”


Lopez was furious. Not only with himself, for the way he had allowed that fourth game to slip out of his control, but also with his coach, for the nonsense that had ruined his concentration between games.

“I don’t care if somebody hits you over the head with a fucking hammer, you don’t ruin my game like that. Just fuck off and leave me alone. I’ll sort this out on m y own.”

Lopez’s coach opened his mouth to argue, but no sound emerged as the player gestured towards him with a menacing glare.

Tyler Wolf watched the episode unfold and wiped the moisture off his racquet grip before returning to court first.

He wanted to grab the psychological ascendancy. Get back on court. Grab the ball. Own the court. Don’t let it go.


The crowd’s roar as the players returned to court for the fifth and final game muffled a sharp noise in the distance.

Party-loving Brazilians are used to the sound of fireworks, but this sounded different.  

The security staff hovering around the VIP boxes immediately sprang into action.


Outside, the Brazilian army guards and police were joined by several Navy launches in a holding position offshore.

They were ready to protect all the marinas that dotted the Rio shoreline and also accost anyone who might fancy leaving the scene of a crime via the Atlantic Ocean.

Their senses had been aroused by the news of the American mission in the marina earlier the same day.


Everyone in Brazil loves soccer. The samba spirit permeates every level of society.

But many of the locals in Rio this evening were complaining about the costs involved of building new stadiums when so many millions were living in poverty.

In a monumental act of irony, lost on most of the demonstrators, a large percentage of them were wearing the yellow, blue and green Brazilian soccer uniform as they took to the streets.

 Those streets were already a battleground.


The Chinese guests of the World Tour, funded by two rival court-building companies, were enjoying their hospitality at the Rio final.

They had seen the plans of the new Rio squash centre, and had instantly sent copies back home for Chinese designers to come up with their own plans for new clubs and courts, possibly with gymnasiums, badminton and tennis facilities attached.

They had enjoyed the presentations from the European and US court builders, but knew that their own technologies and low-budget construction companies would soon be fighting over the same contracts.

The US deputation, however, had the added benefit that was rarely available to squash clients: namely, the possible sharing of military information.


Tyler Wolf sized up the situation in his rivals’ corner.

He knew that something had upset Lopez. Upset his concentration and made him angry. Not many players can channel anger into a winning position.

Anger results in rushed shots and a lack of control. All the things that Lopez was displaying.

But Tyler was smart enough to know that things can change in an instant.

He had to watch out for a fifth-game backlash. A do-or-die battle for the one hundred thousand dollar first prize.


The demonstrators smashed more shop windows as they headed towards the beach.

Bars and cafes were left alone. It was the banks they were after are. And anything that looked like a municipal building.

Banging drums, and with whistles and horns making them sound just like the soccer crowds they were supposed to be protesting against, the human wave headed for the beach.


The President was informed of a likely stand-off on the beach, but refused to budge from her seat.

Following her lead, other dignitaries vowed to stay put until after the presentation ceremony.


Shelley Anderson was deep in discussion with her four guests.

They forget their earlier talk about the tactics on show in the finals and concentrated on providing a safe route back to the hotel when the presentations had finished. They wondered about allowing the planned firework display to go ahead.


John Allenby entered the outside broadcast truck and grabbed the TV producer by the collar.

“Where the fuck are your camera crew? There’s no-one around to get on court and film the presentations.”

The producer squirmed. “Look, if you let go of my throat I might be able to tell you.

“Around half a million demonstrators are heading for the beach right now. They probably don’t know the squash is taking place. But, when they do, and they find out that the President is here, and the Mayor of Rio, they might like to join in the fun.

“So, we need to be able to see what’s taking place outside. At the moment we hear that the police and the army have everything under control and that everyone is safe, so we just need to get the final finished and get the fuck out of here. Shame we’ve got to hang around for the speeches and the presentations.”

Allenby relaxed his grip and headed back to the marquee to find Shelley Anderson


Tyler Wolf was three-love up in the fifth game when he felt the first onset of cramp in his right calf.

One desperate lunge into the front right corner had hurt. Now he felt a little tentative every time he got near that part of the court.

Within seconds, it seemed as is if this information had been absorbed by his opponent by some magical kind of sixth sense.

 Lopez chopped in drops and boasts, shots that rebounded off the side walls and dragged his opponent around the front of the court in a manner that exposed his diminishing quality of movement.   


As Lopez drew level at four-all, three spectators ran down a gangway in the middle of a rally and began arguing with security staff at the exit.

The referee asked the audience to remain seated while play was in progress, oblivious to the fact that the spectators had all been gun-carrying presidential bodyguards.


Six-all. Seven-all.  Someone had to break soon. As the crowd noise grew, the players struggled to hear the referee announce the score.

Only the extra volume was not coming from within the marquee. It was outside.

The demonstrators had managed to push the police cordon back to within 200 yards of the squash venue. Behind the police, the Army was ready to open fire, with rubber bullets and live ammunition if they felt the President was in danger.

“Bra-zil, Bra-zil.”

The chanting grew louder as the tension mounted on-court.

Wolf looked across at his opponent.

“They’re not mates of yours, then.”

Lopez smiled. Then, just as his opponent prepared to receive serve, he said: “Just fuck off.”

The timing was perfect. It was just enough to put him off.

“Fault,” came the cry from the centre referee.

Lopez was leading 8-7.

Shelley Anderson had to maintain a neutrality that befitted her position as head of the World Tour, but deep inside she was willing her compatriot to turn things round.

High up in the bleachers, a small group of Argentine squash fans tried to squeeze past their neighbouring spectators to get close to the gangway in the hope of rushing toward the glass court to cheer on their hero.


Lopez hit two nicks in quick succession to move to match ball, but Wolf desperately pulled it back to make it ten-all.

 Tiebreak time. Only they didn’t say tiebreak any more, simply “Player to win by two points.”

The players were startled by the noise of a helicopter overhead as it drowned out the crowd noise.

“Play on please,” said the referee.


The interference had an instant impact on the match. When Wolf served to his opponent’s forehand, Lopez volleyed a crosscourt nick winner as the big Aussie’s brain struggled to cope with the noise and the occasion, let alone the sublime racquet skills of his opponent. 

It was 11-10 to Lopez. Match ball again. A furious rally ensued, registered at 68 shots by the TV shot-counter, before Wolf drew level.

Both players leant on their racquets as the helicopter droned overhead.

Lopez was gone. Physically and mentally. Despite possessing so much talent, so much skill, he was unable to function in this pressure-cooker atmosphere and the final two points went to the Australian after two short rallies.

As John Allenby welcomed the VIP guests on to the glass court for the presentation ceremony, the noise grew louder outside the marquee.


Half a million Brazilians had chosen to air their grievances during a rally that coincided with the squash final.

Hardly any knew the event was taking place.

However, as soon as they learned that the President herself was in the marquee, plus the mayor of Rio and many other dignitaries, the mood changed.

The massive crowd surged forward on to the beach.

The police held their fire and slowly moved backwards until a ten-deep cordon surrounded the squash marquee.


As the presentation ceremony began on court, a snarling Brigitta Krause managed to coax her face into a smile as she lined up alongside champion Florencia Perez.

As Andres Lopez collected his runners-up trophy, and Tyler Wolf tried to remember all the people he should thank after receiving his Rio champion’s trophy, a shot rang out. It was outside the marquee.

But it was so loud that everyone inside the building panicked.

As Wolf ended his winner’s speech somewhat prematurely, a teenage boy entered the glass court.

“You want an autograph? Sure, no problem mate.”

The young man looked at Tyler Wolf.

“Thanks, Dad.”


“Yes, sorry to spring it on you like this.

“Bloody hell. You mean…?”


Tears fell from Wolf’s eyes. And his son’s.

As the two hugged, and the cameras clicked, the noise from overhead intensified.

More than one helicopter was in the air.

The president cut short her speech as Shelley Anderson gently grabbed her wrist and motioned to her, and her remaining bodyguards, to stay close to the four men who had sat next to her during the finals.

As the Seals powered their way through the crowds, to set up a safe route to the nearest hotel to the squash arena, the number of marchers quickly swelled on the Copacabana.

Chanting, waving flags, blowing whistles and singing, they suddenly clashed with the police and soldiers guarding the squash venue.

A stray bottle was all it took to spark the riot that followed.

The government warned the military that TV cameras were both inside and outside the marquee, and that it would not look good ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics if Brazilian law enforcement officers were to be filmed shooting their own civilians.


As the soldiers and police reluctantly retreated, their numbers were simply overwhelmed by the surging force of the protestors.

Thousands of demonstrators ringed the marquee, intent on causing mayhem.

As the TV cameras whirred in the helicopters above, the police and army made sure that all players, spectators and especially their VIP guests, had safely left the venue.   

 The first petrol bomb set fire to the marquee as demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans.

Once the fabric of the building had disappeared, the glass court was exposed to a hail of stones, bottles and any other missiles the rioters could lay their hands on.


Simultaneously, almost every TV news channel in the world received the same live feed from the Reuters cameraman filming from a helicopter above the court.

“We are now going live to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where police and the armed forces have foiled an attempt by demonstrators to assassinate the President.

“She was attending the final of the Rio Beach Classic squash tournament when half a million rioters took over Copacabana Beach. As riot police fired tear gas, a crowd estimated to be more than half a million strong surrounded a huge marquee  housing an all-glass squash court where play was taking place.

“As she made a speech to the crowd after the finals, rioters threw petrol bombs which set fire to the marquee.

“Security forces whisked the president to safety, and she joined spectators in a nearby hotel.

“The hotel is ringed by armed soldiers, and we understand the president and other VIP guests are all safe inside.

“No casualties were reported among the fleeing spectators, although a number of arrests were made as riot police and soldiers fought with demonstrators.

“A number of those arrested have been taken to hospital, although the roads throughout the city are still blocked with thousands of protestors.

“The rioters had made their way to the seafront area following a mass demonstration in the famous Maracana Stadium, which will host the World Cup football finals later this year.

“Demonstrators had been complaining of the costs of staging the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in a nation riddled with crime and poverty, set against a background of alleged government corruption.

“We will bring you more on that story through the night.”

 The news bulletins showed dramatic images of a sea of humanity washing over the beach, with the glass court a dazzling white cube in the middle of the mayhem.


Shelley Anderson was the first down to breakfast, much to the surprise of John Allenby.

They had both spent the last fragments of the finals night looking out from the hotel rooftop watching the rioters trash the glass court.

Amazingly, there were no major casualties.

Actually, there were some bodies in the marina that had required some immediate removal, plus two more that were now being digested by the sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.

Shelley had thought about inviting her partner to her room to explain the events that had taken place during the previous days, weeks and months as she and her CIA colleagues had set various traps around the world to ensnare a group of individuals who were regarded as being particularly hostile to American interests.

She and her bosses knew that the vacuum would soon be filled by new gangs, with new leaders, but for now they were chipping away, one by one.

This had been a complicated mission, with multiple operating theatres that had placed her in enormous danger.

She shut down those thoughts of sharing the night with Allenby, and headed to her own bedroom.


In the morning, Allenby’s email inbox was full of media reports from all round the world, many showing pictures taking up the whole of the front page with an enormous army of protestors surrounding the glowing glass court.

“No such thing as bad publicity,” he said.

Shelley nodded. Her four companions had skipped breakfast and headed back up the eastern seaboard as soon as they were sure everything was safe in Rio.

They had removed some of the biggest criminal elements in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, not to mention a Russian on their “most wanted” list. Shelley wondered just how long she could keep this secret from her co-promoter and the rest of the worldwide squash community as they looked forward to taking golf’s place in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Allenby and his friend Will Murray had an appointment in the hotel boardroom where they were poised to sign a contract with their visitors to build 200 squash courts in major Chinese cities.

The delegation boasted of low building costs in China and did not envisage any problems with rioters attempting to smash the courts.

Upstairs, Tyler Wolf had ordered breakfast on room service as his son, wrapped up in a tournament polo shirt, held the silver trophy and stared into the reflection.

About The Authors

ALAN THATCHER is a lifelong sports journalist. He started writing for his local paper at the age of 14 and has worked in national newspapers for the past 30 years. Having fallen in love with squash in his 20s, he has promoted a number of major tournaments including the British Open, Liverpool Open and Kent Open. He is also co-promoter of the Canary Wharf Classic and MC and Media Director for the North American Open. A regular commentator for Sky TV down the years, he is a joint founder of World Squash Day and is President of the Kent SRA.

MICK JOINT was born in Melbourne, Australia, 41 years ago and began playing squash at age five. He trained at the Australian Institute of Sport with greats Geoff Hunt and Heather McKay.

Mick coached in Argentina, Germany, Australia and Canada before settling into his current position in 2004 as Head Pro at the Detroit Athletic Club in Michigan.

Mick is married with one daughter and authors the entertaining blog, The Squash Joint.

JAMES ZUG is the author of six books including Squash: A History of the Game (Scribner, 2003) and Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear (Penguin, 2010) which came out in paperback a few months ago. A senior writer at Squash Magazine since 1998, he writes regularly for Squash Player magazine in London, and has a blog on the game: SquashWord.com and a Twitter feed: @squashword. He is the chair of the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame & Museum.

JAMIE CROMBIE is a retired professional squash player. He captured 19 PSA tour titles and achieved a career-high world ranking of #32. More recently, Jamie reached the semifinals of the Canadian National Men's Open at the age of 45. He has been a lead actor in Cromski videos and is the owner of 03 Sports.

GEORGETTA MORQUE is the director of media relations for the Pro Squash Tour. Born and raised in New York City, she acquired the passion for squash through the legacy of her late father, Joe Lordi, a national squash tennis champion and two-term president of the New York Athletic Club where the squash courts are dedicated to his memory.  A longtime public relations professional, she has also contributed to a variety of publications, such as Hearst’s HealthyLife, the Rye Record and others.  Georgetta is the founder of the squash program at the Rye school district in New York’s Westchester County and was instrumental in creating the Fairwest league for public schools. She is the mother of three athletes, including a son who plays on the squash team at Franklin & Marshall College.

JOHN NIMICK is an American squash player and promoter best known for his presentation annually of the Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal in New York City.  The Philadelphia native reached a ranking of no. 2 on the World Professional Squash Association hard ball tour and represented the United States twice in the World Team Championships.  After serving six years as the Chief Executive of the Professional Squash Association, he launched Event Engine in 2000, a sports and entertainment marketing company which continues to promote squash through professional tournaments, special events and, now, action novels.  John lives in Boston with wife Kate and son Tyler, a college junior, and enjoys his hip replacement and BlackBerry.

WILL GENS writes the blog SquashDashersbashers.blogspot.com.

He is passionate about poetry and squash. He is pursuing a graduate degree in Poetry at Adelphi University, writes about squash, coaches squash and when not on the court is working on Wall Street in software testing. 

He lives with his wife, Shyamala, and his son, Kyle, a semi-professional squash pro and classics student at Hunter college. He also has a daughter, Alexandra, living in Florida and planning to attend medical school.

He would someday in this lifetime love to see both a U.S. born player reach the top 10 on the world squash tour and witness the total elimination of petroleum driven cars.

FRAMBOISE GOMMENDY  In another life, Framboise is an actress (www.framboisegommendy.com), and still makes a living out of her initial job, well, sometimes. In November 2004, she created SquashSite with Steve Cubbins.

Her writing, which could be described as “different”, and the layout/style she imagined for SquashSite, along with Legend Cubbins' amazing webmastering talent, have made SquashSite much more than just an information site….

If you are looking for nice, traditional sports reporting, you are on the wrong page. Loose canon, volatile, flamboyant, original? Look no further….

writes the squash equipment blog SquashSource.com.He's been playing squash since he was a teenager. He played on the varsity teams at Exeter and Princeton, and now hacks his way around the squash leagues in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife and two children. During the day, he designs software for Wall Street.

RICHARD MILLMAN is passionate about helping people to develop their personal assets.

He considers himself very fortunate to have been introduced to Squash as a school boy.

Since that time he has endeavored to help himself and the folks that he has been associated with to develop through training, playing and thinking about our wonderful sport.

A former world tour professional, he has filled just about every role in Squash from  Pro team member to US National team coach, to  Head Coach at Cornell,to club owner, to record holding Norfolk County Champion, to uniquely holding the National 50+ masters titles of  Gt Britain, the USA and Canada.

The Author of two books and an educational poster series about Squash ( Angles - from Lulu Press and jointly with Georgetta Morque - Raising Big Smiling Squash Kids - from Mansion Grove House publishing and Progressive Squash from Sports Posters International)  he has for many years been ‘the lesson court ‘ columnist for Squash Magazine.

He lives with his wife Pat in Charleston South Carolina, USA

PETER HEYWOOD is a scientist, a writer and a leadership coach. He discovered squash when he moved to the South-East of England to take up his first ‘proper’ job as a research scientist at a top secret nuclear facility with four courts and a subsidised bar. His career has included spells (as in ‘periods’ not ‘Harry Potter’) in forensic science, pharmaceutical R&D and management consultancy. He recovered from a heart attack to resume playing the game he loves and train as a squash coach. He’s currently writing The Squash Life Book for squash leaders and entrepreneurs. He lives in London within ten minutes walk of his squash club.

"BREAKING GLASS" is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, or to any other works of fiction, is entirely coincidental.