I cover sports the way Philip Marlowe once covered murders, a snide disinterest masking a brittle heart.
Like him, I wake up each day hoping to see justice prevail in a cold, corrupt world. Which makes you wonder – What if author Raymond Chandler had actually covered the Los Angeles Dodgers?:
Drove east on the boulevard, past the naughty nail parlors and the all-night noodle joints, to O’Malley’s Mansion. Hot as Hades. Didn’t look like rain.
“You come in here a little tough, you flash your wad of cash.”
“Nice to see you, too,” I told the usher.
I entered the press box to the cheerful voice of a man who slept well and didn’t owe too much money.
“You Scully?” I asked.
“You a cop?” he purred.
I got a gentleness in my voice and smiled.
“Don’t get panicky,” I said. “I’m pals.”
You mouse around this old joint often enough and you stumble across your share of oddballs and geniuses. Some call it Dodger Stadium. I like to think of it as the Surprise Hotel.
There’s that Scully kid. Big talker. Kind of a charmer. His chatty sidekick, too. Steiner’s the name.
In the corner, a sparrow played the pipes. Just looking at her made me feel all dopey. Nancy Bea moved catlike, with a smooth grace. But I knew not to cross her.
On that day, the press box smelled of Shalimar and stale cigarettes. Too many grifters in hard metal chairs looking for scraps. Some of them awake. Can’t get out of there quick enough.
Down the escalator I went, hoping for some fresh company. Just then, something cold touched my spine. Kasten.
“Nice day,” I said.
“No comment,” said Kasten, then walked away.
Down in the clubhouse, I run across another boss man. ... Mitts Mattingly. Cautious. A quiet cool. He seems like a guy things happen to.
“The law doesn’t know and the law doesn’t care,” Mitts grumbled.
“About what?” I said.
“About everything,” Mitts snorted.
Somebody got to him, I know it. Wants to talk but can’t. Too dangerous. But he’s sitting on something. Something big.
Then I see it, plain as day. Off to the side, a pool of blood. Dodgers offense. DOA.
“That the body?” I said.
“Who else knows?” I said.
In a case this sensitive, the last thing you need are the cops sniffing around. But I rang up a police photog and a fingerprint man just to be safe. Some of these things, you need to establish a public record. The medical examiner stayed just long enough to finish his sandwich and call the morgue wagon.
“Any suspects?” the fingerprint man asked.
I looked at the players standing around the room, fiddling with their earbuds.
Not Puig. He bangs a baseball the way Capone bangs a gun – indiscriminately and to great effect.
Not Turner, either. So busy clobbering baseballs, he doesn’t have time to shave.
But others. Lots of others. Predatory types with tight smiles and plenty to hide.
That night, this stinkin’ case had really started to get to me. I drank too much rye and dreamed of a man in a Chinese coat.
“Friedman?!” I said as I bolted awake. “Maybe it’s Friedman?”
Next day, back on the boulevard, the sun buttered an angry sky. And it still didn’t look like rain.