Monday, June 4, 2012

Crack the Bat

On March 24, 1984, Dave Bergman fouled off seven pitches in a row. The Tigers had two men on, two men out and it was the bottom of the eleventh inning. Bergman represented the winning run. Not just the go ahead run, the winning run. Finally, on the thirteenth pitch and after being at the plate for seven fucking minutes, Bergman blasted the ball into the upper deck at the old Tiger Stadium.

Thirteen pitches. Seven foul balls. Seven minutes. Swing the stick that many times in one long at bat and your arms begin to feel like mush.

But swing a bat a half a dozen times at a guy’s head while he’s curled up in a ball on the ground screaming for his mommy and you feel like a fucking giant, not a tiger.

I wasn’t landing the blows. I’m not that kind of guy. I get paid to send a message.

My mark came out of his favorite coffee shop, an oversized paper cup in one hand, his smart-phone in the other. One of those leather saddle bag cases was slung over a shoulder. His trench coat was open, his Martinized, white, work shirt coming untucked because it barely fit over his apple barrel belly. All I had to do was hook the handle end of the bat through his leather shoulder strap and pull him behind me into the alley. I jabbed the bastard in the stomach with the fat end of the bat. Doubled him over. The coffee spilled down his once clean shirt. The stain on his pants I was sure was piss.

“All right, all right, I don’t have all night,” I said. “I’ve got a game to get to.”

“Who are you?” he asked. He was on his back, a turtle with trembling paws facing down a predator.

“Oh, we don’t need to exchange names,” I said. “We’re never going to see each other again unless Leland contacts me and tells me you’re still fucking his wife.”

The turtle stopped moving. He lay there on his back, elbows resting on the hard pavement. His hands were raised and folded at the wrist.

“Leland knows?”

“I’m here, aren’t I?”

“How long has he known?”

“Long enough to call me.”


“Yeah. So unless you want me to use your head like a tee-ball stand, I suggest you end your little affair with the missus right now. No extra inning heroics. You pick yourself up, you catch a cab for home, and that’s it. Game over. Got it?”

He lay there for a moment staring up at the sky.

“She doesn’t love him.”

“Not my concern.”

The turtle held a hand up to me. Some guys. I held the fat end of the bat out to him. He grabbed it and I helped him to his feet.

“She’s going to leave him,” he said.

“I doubt that. The old guy’s got too much cash. Probably has an ironclad pre-nup.”

“She get’s everything if he dies.”

I looked him over. “You gonna kill him? Is she? You’re the first two the cops will look at.”

Turtle man got a curious look on his face. “You a cop?”

I held up the bat.

“Right. You do this for a living. And apparently play baseball in your spare time.”

“It handles some of my aggression.”

“What if we were to make a deal?”

I rabbit punched him in the throat with the bell of the bat. He started to double over, gasping. I held the bat against his throat and pinned him against the wall.

“You’re an idiot,” I told him. I pressed the bat against his neck until he swallowed his Adam’s apple. “All you had to do was walk away. But Leland said you wouldn’t and if you didn’t, well, there you go. You’re riding the pine.”

After Bergman’s homerun, Sparky Anderson said it was the greatest at bat he’d ever seen. A bat in the hands of the right guy can be a powerful weapon.

In mine, it can be downright deadly.