Shouting in Spanish, pitcher Rico Velasquez stormed from the bullpen into the clubhouse lounge, where three players sat playing cards and watching the July holiday afternoon baseball game on a television monitor. Spotting an open box of new baseballs waiting to be autographed, Rico picked up one of them and threw a 90-mile-an-hour fastball into the middle of the television set.
At six foot three, with 220 pounds of well-coordinated muscle and bone, Rico wasn’t someone you confronted without a good deal of thought. As the screen shattered, his teammates jumped to their feet and, to a man, scurried into the adjacent locker room, where they were met by other Matrix players coming in after the game’s end.
Still shouting in Spanish, Rico said, “They’re useless! I want some muscle behind me. We need some trades!” Spotting a bat lying on a chair, he picked it up, shouted, “I want to win!” and swung wooden bat against plaster wall. Then he laughed and dropped the bat, his anger appeased by the gaping hole.
Rico’s teammates kept their distance.
Ginny Lovejoy from the Toronto Daily News and Kyle Schmidt, her counterpart from the Toronto Register, who had followed the players into the locker room along with other members of the media, made copious notes.
Sitting on a rough bench bolted to the floor against the cabin of a fishing boat working its way to Florida, Alita Velasquez took a creased, much-folded piece of paper from her pocket and read it for the twentieth time.
In Spanish, it said:
I pitched again today, and I was amazing. My manager and my team were as happy as a little kid with candy. I’m not just a baseball player; I’m a hero. I’m 8 and 3 with an ERA of only 1.96. The rest of the team is pretty good, too, except for a few players who should be replaced instead of kept only because of sentiment. The fans love me. The other players on my team, except for a few who are jealous, love me too. Even the opposition players admire me. We have a very good chance to win the pennant and then the World Series.
There’s some money in the bank account for you to use for the next few months. My agent knows how to do that. See that my parents get half.
It’s too bad you have to be stuck in Cuba, but really, it’s for the best. Toronto’s a big city and would seem very strange to you. And you’d be alone most of the time. Later we’ll work out some way for you to come to Canada and we can begin a family. Think what my sons will be able to do! I didn’t even own a decent glove until I was fourteen—and that was a cast-off. My sons will have everything they could wish for, all of it new.
Alita refolded the letter and put it back into the deep pocket of her skirt. She shut her eyes and hugged herself. Was she doing the right thing, or was she the fool her father had called her the night before she married Rico?
A wave hit the boat and her stomach lurched. Pulling herself to her feet, she staggered to the railing. Why, on top of everything else, did she have to be one of those unfortunate people who become seasick the moment they go on water?
“God, why do you allow this?” she muttered in Spanish.
Late Tuesday morning, baseball fan Lawrence Smith sat in his kitchen eating a ham sandwich while reading the sports section of the Toronto Register.
“Why does he have to say things like that?” Lawrence complained aloud. He knew Kyle Schmidt was only doing his job as the sports reporter for the Register, but why did he always seem so negative? And was it really necessary to use thousand-dollar words like crepuscular?
Pushing his plate aside, Lawrence read the offending paragraph out loud, pronouncing each word clearly, doing his best to determine if it was really as negative as it had seemed in his first reading.
Lackluster Performance Dims Celebration
by Kyle Schmidt
It’s the July long weekend, and you sit on the edge of your seat expecting to be delighted and entertained.
Not for you the artificial excitement of the cool crepuscular hours, with the momentary bursts from sky rockets, Roman candles, and fountains against a darkling sky. For the baseball fan, what’s needed is the sizzling heat of the afternoon, explosions of bat against ball, and headlong rushes of two-hundred-pound men into small rectangular bases.
Let the game begin!
Except—perhaps someone forget to tell the Toronto Matrix what day it was. Because their performance yesterday afternoon was lackluster, dismal, and sporadic; it left the thirty thousand fans in attendance desperately seeking something else to celebrate….
Shaking his head, Lawrence folded the paper and set it aside before picking up the sports section of the Register’s rival newspaper, the Toronto Daily News.
He turned to Ginny Lovejoy’s column. Lawrence could count on Ginny to write something he could understand.
Matrix Need to Put a Lid on It
by Ginny Lovejoy
It could have been so different yesterday. The Matrix started off with two runs in the first inning. Going to be a great afternoon! Except those two runs were all they got—while giving up five.
Overall, the team turned in a tired performance that made you wonder if perhaps they’d been out celebrating a day early. But then, when do baseball players have time to celebrate? The end of the season, I suppose. And how many teams get to celebrate then?
So there’s no point in getting on them. One dreary loss doesn’t negate all the great games we’ve had this year. They’ve still got over three months to show us what they can do!
But they do need to get it together. Rumors have it that at least one player was so disgusted by the performance of the rest of the team yesterday that he trashed a television set and put a hole in a wall in the clubhouse during the ninth inning. Please, guys, we don’t need things like that….
Lawrence cringed. The unnamed player was Rico, he was sure of that. Lawrence shook his head. He never lost his own temper, and he tended to mistrust anyone who did.
A noisy ringing began, and he looked at his clock. Ten to one. Nearly time. The radio was already on, but he turned up its volume and got settled in to listen. As the news ended, trumpets announced the Stasey Simon Show, and then she was on, her deep, warm voice caressing the airwaves.
“Stasey Simon here. For the next three hours, we’re going to talk about sports in a way no one else can. Because there’s only one Stasey Simon. But ya’ll know that, don’t you? So pull up a chair, or find a place to park so you can give me your full attention, because for the next few hours, you’re mine.
“Now, what are we going to talk about today? How about the Matrix? Wasn’t that game yesterday pathetic? As if they had no heart. And I’m wondering if they do. We’ve been fed a line this year about how the Matrix are one big, happy family—‘one for all and all for one’—but what I saw yesterday was an edgy, maybe even dysfunctional team. I hear there are a number of different factions, some of which barely speak to the others. And I didn’t see a leader out there, either. Makes me really wonder.
“On the other hand, you don’t need to be happy to win games. And the Matrix, for the most part, have been winning this year. Should we care about anything else?
“Uh oh, the Beast is giving me the look. We have to take a break. We’ll be right back after these messages. Ya’ll know the number.”
Lawrence Smith knew the number. He prided himself on being one of the most faithful fans of the local sports station, WIN 730. But although he listened regularly to Iain Foley and as much as possible to some of the other hosts, he never missed Stasey Simon.
Lawrence got through and waited for the show’s producer—nicknamed “The Beast” by Stasey, who considered herself “The Beauty”—to tell him he was on air.
The ad ended. Lawrence waited patiently during the sports update.
“I’m back,” Stasey said. “So what were we saying? Oh, yeah. The Matrix. What I think is that the players are going to bust their jerseys one of these days if they don’t let out some of the hostility and dislike. I think everything the management’s told us about how united they are and how well they get along is a load of you-know-what.”
The producer spoke in Lawrence’s ear. “Get ready, Lawrence.”
Lawrence turned down the volume on his radio. Otherwise, he knew from experience he’d get confused by both the time delay and the echo of his own voice.
Then Stasey said, “Lawrence, buddy, is that you?”
He remembered it wasn’t enough to nod; she couldn’t see him. “It’s me, Stasey,” he said clearly.
“All right, buddy. How’s it going? What have you got for me today?”
“It’s going good, Stasey. I love listening to you. I really missed you over the weekend. It’s bad enough on normal weekends, but I especially hate long weekends where I have to wait from Friday to Tuesday to hear you again.”
“Thanks, buddy. So, what do you want to talk about?”
“The team, Stasey. I agree they didn’t play very well yesterday. But are you sure they don’t like each other? That makes me feel so sad, Stasey. What do you think can be done to turn things around? I’ll hang up so you can answer.” Lawrence ended the call and quickly turned the radio’s volume up to hear Stasey’s response.
“Lots of winning teams have had players who weren’t speaking to each other. What bugs me most is that the management insists they’re one big happy family. Baloney!
“If you really want my opinion, I think the problems the Matrix are having can be traced back to the arrival of Rico Velasquez. Armando Santana is very popular here in Toronto, not only with the fans but with the other players, too. From the moment Rico took Armando’s spot on the starting rotation, things haven’t been the same.
“They should have traded or released Armando. That would have helped with the loyalty issue—player and fan alike. Secondly, Rico goes way beyond not speaking to teammates. I hear he was so angry about the way the team lost the game yesterday that he had a temper tantrum in the locker room. And the saddest part is the management’s unwillingness to admit anything’s wrong. The first step toward change is admitting there’s a need for it.”
Nestled in the rocking chair, Lawrence’s body rocked rhythmically in time with Stasey’s voice. His face was morose as he thought about what Rico’s coming had done to the team.
On the radio, Stasey moved on to the next caller. “Hi, Pete. What do you want to get off your chest today?”
“This is Ms. Garrett, Miss MacPherson. I’m afraid your father is in China on a business trip. He’s away for two more weeks, and he’s asked me not to disturb him unless it’s an extreme emergency. I believe I sent you a memo to that effect.”
“Does my eloping with a baseball player from Cuba count?”
“I believe your father would want me to advise you to think about the very generous allowance he gives you before doing anything so foolish.”
Eva made a face at the phone. “There’s something I want to talk to him about. I need advice.”
“Would you like me to make an appointment with someone for you? Your psychiatrist, your personal trainer, your hair stylist, your massage therapist, your—”
“Oh, give it a rest!”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine, Miss MacPherson.”
“Yeah, sure.” Eva clicked the button to turn off the speaker phone and then spit at it.
After a moment’s thought, she picked up her half-empty flute of champagne and walked to the bathroom, where she set down the flute and picked up her magnifying mirror. She observed the area surrounding her left eye. Still had a grayish-blue look. She pursed her lips. Stupid to even think of asking her father for help! Unless it involved money and contracts, he wouldn’t have a clue anyway.
But who else could she ask? Last week, after several sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do, she’d actually gone to see her psychiatrist. And all he’d given her was a prescription for sleeping pills.
She shrugged her shoulders and began to apply an expensive blemish cream. It wasn’t the first time she’d had a black eye, and it likely wouldn’t be the last.
She made a face in the mirror. What had somebody said? You can’t pick a rose without getting pricked by a thorn?
Speaking of roses—her eyes slid down past her shoulders to the lacy slip she was wearing, and she smiled. After several disappointments, she’d found a seamstress who’d not only taken on the challenge with enthusiasm, but had done a fabulous job of recreating the slip Marilyn Monroe had worn in the movie Niagara.
Eva sighed. The only problem was that despite some padding here and there, she just didn’t fill it out the way Marilyn had. She’d even hired a personal trainer to improve her shape, but all he’d done for his hundred bucks an hour was yell at her for not exercising regularly and tell her he’d wash his hands of her if she kept eating rich desserts and drinking so much.
What was the use of being old enough to do whatever you wanted if other people still had rules about what you should and shouldn’t do? And why pay people to yell at her?
Her hair stylist was just as bad. He’d bleached her hair and cut it to look like Marilyn’s, but he’d complained the whole time, saying it didn’t suit her. Fat lot he knew! Her new look had snared one of the most eligible bachelors in the country. She was the envy of thousands of women.
As for the black eye, nothing came without a little bit of pain. Her father had told her that often enough. So suck it up and get your chin up. That was another of his sayings.
She glanced over at the clock on her wall. Almost time for the interview. She never listened to sports radio, but Pat Davis, Rico’s agent, was being interviewed today on the Stasey Simon Show, and although it would be boring, she probably ought to turn it on.
She returned to the great room to fortify herself with more champagne.
Some miles away, Stasey Simon sat at a table in the largest of WIN 730’s three claustrophobic sound rooms. The news was on, so she raised her hands high above her head and thrust her legs forward and out, toes pointing up, heels down, feeling the stretch through her muscular shoulders and down the length of her very healthy five-foot-two inch frame. She stood up as her twenty-two-year-old producer Ted Benedetto came in from the control booth.
“Is Pat here?” she asked.
“He’s in the washroom.”
“Not being sick, I hope.”
“No. He wanted to make sure he wouldn’t get the urge to go while on air.”
“Okay.” Her tone changed. “You put through a call from Lawrence.”
“I told you Friday—” she made eye contact with Ted, even though it hurt her neck to have to look up nearly a foot to do so “—he calls too much. Frankly, he’s starting to give me the creeps. I told you to only let him on once a week now.”
“I remember. It’s just he’s—he’s so earnest. He says he listens to your every word and he loves the show, and—”
Stasey poked Ted in the chest with her long, burgundy fingernails. “He’s totally weird. I find myself being nice and agreeing with him because I’m afraid not to. If I ever pick up a stalker, it’ll be him.”
“I think he’s just, you know, slow. Mentally challenged or whatever they call it.”
“I don’t care if he’s the head of MENSA. He gets one call a week!”She turned her back on him and sat down.
A heavy-set, middle-aged man wearing a brown tweed sports jacket and tan pants stepped hesitantly into the room. Ted escorted him to a chair and hooked him up with headphones. When Pat was connected, Ted leaned over to whisper a joke in his ear and was rewarded by a tight smile.
On air again, Stasey was going over the highlights from the day before. Baseball was the priority, but there had been a major trade in the Canadian Football League, a death in the golf world, and a hearts-and-flowers story in the world of horse racing. Stasey ran down the page of news items, making a comment off the top of her head for each one.
Then it was time to interview Pat.
“I have with me today a very special guest. It’s Pat Davis, the agent for Ricardo Velasquez.” She listed a few names of other sports figures who used Pat as an agent, reviewed the well-worn rumor of how Rico had been spirited out of Cuba by an unknown baseball fan, mentioned Rico’s stats, and then said, “So tell me what it’s like to represent a player who speaks very little English. Do you speak Spanish?”
Pat sighed and relaxed in his chair. Whatever question he’d been expecting, it wasn’t this one. “Well, Rico speaks some English, but not a lot. And I don’t speak Spanish. And there can be misunderstandings when the two parties aren’t clear about the important things. So I employ two interpreters whenever I’m working on business details with someone who doesn’t speak English well.”
“So when you and Rico worked out the contract, you had two people there interpreting?”
“Isn’t one enough?”
“I want one there to present Rico’s side and one there to present mine. I once—years ago—employed an interpreter who was lying to a player about what I was saying. I didn’t know it, and neither did the player, and it caused a lot of confusion and hard feelings. So now I have two. I try to hire people who don’t know each other, so there’s no collusion, and I tell each of them straight out to let us know if the other one’s not on the up and up.”
“You do this for your protection?”
“For mine and the player’s as well.”
“Fascinating.” Stasey paused to light a cigarette. “So, tell me, is Rico the same person in real life as he is on the mound?”
As Stasey began her question, Pat’s thick, stubby fingers grasped the edges of the table as if it was a cliff edge he was dangling from. As she completed the question, his fingers dropped into his lap and he coughed once before answering. “Rico is more or less what you see. He knows a lot about baseball—not just the game, but the history of the game. He’s determined to win both a World Series and a Cy Young Award.”
Stasey inhaled from her cigarette and blew out the smoke. “Really? I’d have thought he’d be happy just to play ball and make money. Not to mention being in a country where he’s free to do pretty well anything he wants to do.”
Pat shifted forward in his chair, resting his elbows on the table in front of him and interlacing his fingers, thumbs pressed together in a steeple. “Well, of course, he’s thrilled to be living here in Canada, and to be on a major league team. The other things—they’re just dreams he’s added on now that he has the ability to dream. In Cuba, his future was simply to keep playing until he was too old to play. Now he has the joy of playing for a great team, making a very good living, and dreaming new dreams.”
“Pat, you’re waxing poetic on me here. So tell me—” Stasey leaned forward, her eyes glowing, “—if Rico is so happy to be here and all, why is it the players on his team would be glad to get rid of him?”
Pat pressed his back against his chair and squared his shoulders as though taking part in a tug of war with an invisible rope. His voice rose slightly. “I think you’re generalizing. There may be a few players who don’t like Rico—”
“Oh, come now—” Stasey’s tone of voice didn’t change “—most of the players and everyone else who knows what goes on in the locker room think Rico is a jerk.”
Pat cleared his throat. “He’s in a strange country where he doesn’t speak the language very well, and he’s anxious to succeed, so he might have stepped on a few egos. People need to be more tolerant.”
Stasey took a fourth puff from her cigarette before stubbing it out in the saucer. “Pat, I realize you’re making a lot of money from the guy, so you have to defend him. But can you honestly tell me it doesn’t bother you to go to all the effort you have—even your two interpreters—and then have to clean up after his messes? You’re an intelligent man. Is the money worth it?”
With his right hand, Pat rubbed the front of head, displacing strands of brown hair that had been carefully combed to cover his thinning pate.
Dead air space beckoned.
Stasey grinned. “Pat, tell us the truth. Did you know what he was like when you took him on?”
Pat licked his lips before answering. “I knew he was a great young pitcher,” he said doggedly.
“Did you know anything about him as a person?”
Pat glanced toward Ted, busy in the booth. “Not much,” he said slowly.
Stasey was lighting another cigarette as she said, “It must have been an unpleasant surprise to discover what he’s like.”
“He’s not as bad as you’re making out. He’s—”
“—just getting accustomed to living here and being famous. It’ll take a while. Lots of players find it hard to make the adjustment to a new lifestyle. And being in the public eye is hard.”
“And meanwhile, he has that very nice signing bonus and that very nice contract, and you’re getting your share, right?”
“We have to take a break for a sports update. Back in a jiffy to take your calls.”
When he was sure they were off the air, Pat said, “I thought you wanted to interview me. All you did was attack Rico.”
“I said what I thought my listeners wanted me to say,” Stasey said. “Those are the questions they wanted asked.”
Pat’s eyes went past her. “So there’s nothing personal in your making me look like a money-hungry fool?”
Pat sighed. “You know, I really wish you’d give Rico a chance. With your influence, you could change the way people think.”
From the control room, Ted’s voice interrupted. “Back on the air in five…four…three… two…one.”
“This is the Stasey Simon Show and my guest today is Pat Davis, agent for Ricardo Velasquez, fondly or perhaps not-so-fondly known by his fans and teammates as Rico. Why don’t you give us a call with your question for Pat?” She took a long drag from her cigarette. “So, Pat, you think Rico has been treated unfairly? You think we’re expecting too much of him?”
Pat cleared his throat before responding. “He’s a bit like a kid visiting a candy store for the first time. He’ll settle down. People need to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“Translated, I guess that means as long as he pitches well, he should get away with behaving like a spoiled brat?”
“That’s not what—”
“Okay, here’s our first caller. Joe, how are you doing?”
“I’m doing great Stasey. You know, I don’t think we need players from Cuba coming in and talking jobs from our North American players. Look what’s happened in hockey with all the European players coming in—I don’t like it. I think Rico should go back to Cuba and play there. Leave the job for one of our own people.”
“Okay, Joe. Always on your toes, aren’t you? Who’s our next caller? Brian, what have you got to say?”
“Hi, Stasey? How are you today?”
She rolled her eyes. “Just fine, Brian. What’s on your mind?”
“Hi, Pat. Stasey, I like Rico. Sure, he gets a little upset with the other players if they make a mistake, but I like that. I’d rather have someone with his emotions on his sleeve than someone with no emotions at all. And the last caller was crazy. If we didn’t have players from outside the U.S. and Canada, we wouldn’t have had Fernando Valenzuela, Roberto Clemente, George Bell, Alfredo Griffin, Tony Fernandez, El Duke, Hideki Matsui, and many other fine players. I want to see the best, Stasey. And I don’t care where they come from.”
“All right, Brian. Thanks. And you’re so right. We’ve had lots of fine players from outside North America—many of whom were also fine people.” She paused for a second. “Anyone else out there have a question for Pat? Annie, you’re on the Stasey Simon Show.”
“Thanks, Stasey. Mr. Davis, the report in the paper says he trashed the locker room. I teach high school, and I shudder to think my kids might copy him. And saying he’ll settle down eventually is ludicrous. No one ‘settles down’ without discipline. He has to learn what’s right and wrong, what’s appropriate behavior and what isn’t. You have to give him rules to follow and hold him accountable. As his agent, it’s your responsibility to be a mentor to him.”
Pat rubbed his hands together. “Well—Annie, is it?”
“Annie, I hear what you’re saying. And I agree. When I say we need to give Rico time to adjust, I don’t mean just wait. We’re working with him—I am, his manager Blake Harrison is, and some others are. I know Ferdinand Ortes has taken him under his wing. But I still say the adjustment will take time. And let’s face it, Toronto is a bit of a fish bowl.”
Stasey interrupted. “Meaning?”
“Meaning professional athletes here get more than usual coverage from the media. And their personal lives go under more scrutiny.”
“What does all that have to do with our expecting him to show some team spirit and self-control?” Before Pat could respond, Stasey switched gears and asked, “Who’s our next caller? Wayne? What would you like to say to Pat?”
“Just this. I want a team that wins! So make sure this guy doesn’t mess it up. He should be grateful to us for giving him the chance to play here, and he’d better behave! And you’d better see that he does!”
“Okay, Wayne!” Stasey was grinning. She waited for a beat before saying, “Well, somebody has to pay the bills. We’ll be back after a sports update and a commercial.”
Stasey leaned toward Pat. “Looks like you’ve got some work to do.”
His nervousness seemed to have dissipated. “Do I get a rebuttal time?”
“We’ve got a few minutes,” Stasey said. “What the heck? Sure. You can say your piece.”
The update ended. Stasey read a commercial for suntan lotion. Then she said, “So, Pat, going along with your idea of giving people a lot of rope—if you could say anything you wanted, right here and right now, what would you say?”
“I’d say we often expect more from other people than we do from ourselves. I’m not perfect, and I don’t think you are either, Stasey. Sure, Rico makes mistakes, but most of our listeners do, too. It might be good to think about that old saying about not judging someone unless you’ve walked a mile or so in his moccasins.”
“Is that a tear in my eye? No, no, I’m okay. Nice recovery, Pat. And thanks for being on the show today.”
“Thank you, Stasey. Any time.”
Ted helped Pat remove the headset. After a weak smile at Stasey, he walked out of the booth, limping very slightly.
On-air, Stasey said, “Ever wondered why people have agents? Now you know. If you pay them well enough, your agent will do his or her best to make you look like a poor misguided young lad struggling to survive instead of the selfish jerk you are.”
Stasey made a throat slashing movement to Ted. “I’ll be back in one minute.”
A commercial went on.
Ted’s voice came through her earphone, “You were a bit hard on him.”
“He’s a slimeball.”
“He’s just doing his job.”
“So am I.”
“When you treat guests like that, you make my job harder.”
“They always come back. They know any publicity is better than none.”
“You’re on air in three…two…one.”
“Let’s switch topics now from baseball to football for the next half hour….”
In his suite in the Diamond Hotel, which was situated next to the Diamond Dome, Rico Velasquez had listened to the Stasey Simon Show with the team’s shortstop, Ferdinand Ortes. Since Ferdinand spoke fluent English as well as Spanish, he was able to translate anything Rico didn’t understand. But Rico didn’t need Ferdinand’s help when Stasey called him a jerk.
Using his native Spanish, Rico called Stasey quite a few things.
Ferdinand laughed. “You did go overboard yesterday. I mean, breaking the TV was a bit much! And the wall—not exactly the brightest thing you’ve ever done.”
“Yeah,” Rico said. “I wasted my energy on that stupid wall. Next time I’ll choose a better target.” He smiled. “You know what I’d really like? One of these days, I’d like to take a bat to Stasey Simon’s head!”
Ginny Lovejoy, the sports columnist for the Toronto Daily News, was waiting in the small foyer when Pat Davis came out of the elevator after leaving the WIN offices.
“You look like a man who could use a drink,” she said.
“I sure wouldn’t say no to one.”
Together, they walked the ninety feet to Dana’s Place, a popular hangout for the staff and guests of WIN. Ginny led the way to a booth near the back and sat, as always, with her back to the wall.
“Did you hear her?” Pat asked.
“Why I put myself into her clutches, I’ll never know.”
“You did it because it’s your job to make Rico look good.”
“I wasn’t very successful.”
She looked thoughtful. “A lot of Stasey’s listeners are delighted when she looks bad, and she looked bad today—as though she has it in for Rico. I think, overall, you did him a big favor. What you said had a lot of truth to it.”
“I feel I just got tackled by an entire offensive line.”
A waitress came and took their order. When she was gone, Pat said, “I have to confess, I prefer the print media people.”
Ginny grinned. “That’s because we have a different agenda. And we’re nicer.”
Pat smiled. “Well, some of you are.”
“But she’s right, you know. Rico is a bit of a pain.”
He sighed. “Off the record?”
“He’s the biggest pain in the butt I’ve ever had for a client. And I’m stuck with him.” He leaned forward. “You know I took him on as a favor to Tony Kanberra?”
Ginny shook her head. “I didn’t know that.”
“Before Rico even left Cuba, Tony called me and asked me to take Rico on as a client. So I said sure. How many times does the team’s GM hand you a gift like that? Some gift.”
“Maybe they didn’t know what to expect.”
“Could be. I dunno.”
“So what are you going to do next?”
“The team is just as concerned as I am. They’re trying to project a family image, and Rico is really stretching it.”
“The saving factor is that so far he’s been going ballistic in the locker room, and not in public—as I may have mentioned in my column this morning, and Stasey definitely mentioned this afternoon.”
Pat groaned. “At least you didn’t give his name.”
“What can the Matrix do? Trade him?”
“The guy has a golden arm. No way they’re going to trade him. No way I can let him go, either. He could make me rich.”
“But, Pat, can you really sit back and do nothing? I mean, if no one tries to check him, he’ll think he can get away with anything. Someone needs to talk to him, or fine him, or something.”
“Yeah, yeah, but—” He glanced around as if to make sure no one was eavesdropping, then leaned forward. “You won’t let any of this out, right? At least not connected with me?”
She put her arms on the table and leaned in so her face was only a few inches from his.
“Not unless you tell me I can.”
“Well, between you and me and the lamp post, we’ve got a plan in motion. You know we got Rico out of Cuba.” He shook his head slightly. “I don’t mean literally ‘we.’ I have no idea how it was done.”
“So we’re getting his wife out. We figure if anyone can settle Rico down, she can.”
Ginny’s eyes widened. “Rico is married?”
“From what I’ve heard, he hasn’t been acting very married.”
“Exactly. We figure she’ll have a calming influence.”
“Who is she?”
“An elementary school teacher. She’s from a good family, she’s well-educated, and she speaks English. They were married less than a year ago. All in all, she sounds like the one person who might have some influence on Rico.”
“Wow! Can I use this Pat? You know what a great story it would make.”
He sat back and shook his head. “I don’t want to be the one to spill the beans.”
She thought for a moment. “What if I find out some other way? Is she coming by plane? Will the ticket be in her name?”
“When is she coming?”
“What if I happened to be at the airport and saw her name on a list?”
“You can do that?”
“If I find a way, can I use it? I promise I won’t mention you anywhere.”
“I like you, Ginny. And I’d like to see you have the story before Stasey gets hold of it. So, I guess so. But make sure there’s nothing that would lead anyone to me, okay?”