Chapter 9: Emergency on Eleven
The next morning, after the assault and night golf extravaganza, I was scheduled to close the golf course. I slept-in until almost 11:00 after our late night and was making my way in about 1:00 in the afternoon. It was 97 degrees with a heat index of 103. I was looking forward to a slow afternoon in the air conditioning watching golf on TV. It was a miserable time of day to be playing golf. As I was making my way down the long and curving driveway to the golf course, I couldn’t imagine many golfers braving the heat.
As I passed the driving range and turned the corner to the golf course parking lot, I was shocked to see two police cars out front with their lights flashing and a satellite truck from Channel Seven News. My stomach began to tighten as I tried to recall the events of the night before. Memories went flying through my mind as I attempted to remember if I did anything that bad. I was attacked by a crazed golfer. I played night golf and drank a lot of beer.
Suddenly it hit me. The poker tournaments. The county had caught-on to our Texas holdem tournaments and we were in big trouble I thought to myself. This would be all over the news. A countywide scandal and my future would be ruined. My parents would be pissed.
I parked my car under one of the few trees near the parking lot to protect it from the unrelenting sun. I then sat in my car for a few moments as I tried to come up with a good story. I didn’t know it was illegal. I was just following orders. I’m just a college kid. As I sat there brainstorming, I heard more sirens approaching. My head sunk even lower as I sat in desperation thinking things were just getting worse and worse. As the sirens came closer, I started to think about just leaving and never coming back.
`Just as I was almost totally freaked out and sweating, an ambulance appeared around the corner and drove right up to the clubhouse. Never was I so happy to see a life squad. Someone’s apparent misfortune only meant one thing to me. I was safe. I hopped out of my car and ran to the backdoor of the clubhouse as the paramedics began wheeling a stretcher to the front door. As I entered the clubhouse it was much quieter than I expected considering the scene out front. Rounding the corner inside the grill I could see that the emergency was not in the clubhouse, but rather outside on the patio. The clubhouse was entirely empty except for Nate who for some reason was behind the snack bar with a glass pitcher in his hand.
“What’s going on out there?” I asked him.
“Old Ralph collapsed on the course from the heat,” he replied.
“So, what are you doing, getting him some water?” I
“No man, he’s unconscious,” answered Nate. I’m getting a free pitcher of beer while Lisa is outside with the others.”
“That’s cold,” I commented.
“Hell, there’s nothing I can do to help the poor old guy,” responded Nate. “I’m just making the best of the situation.”
I walked to the window and peered out to see the paramedics lifting Ralph onto the collapsed stretcher. He had an oxygen mask on and looked white as a ghost. Lisa, Mark and Andy Pader were standing next to him. Paul, Hank and Al Harper were there as well. The camera crew from Channel Seven was standing off at a distance, but no doubt zooming in on the ordeal. News Junkie Fred was there bending the ear of the female reporter. There were police officers talking to Charlie Pendyke and a couple of other guys from the Birdie Hunters.
The phone was ringing off the hook in the pro shop so I stepped behind the counter to field some calls. The first one was some irate guy bitching about no one answering the phone. I just stared out the window as saying uh huh to the caller as the life squad rolled Ralph past the window and out toward the ambulance. I fielded a few more calls from golfers wanting to know how hot it was, and then I saw the somber look on Andy as he walked back into the clubhouse.
I turned the ringer down on the phone and asked him what happened as Mark and Paul entered the clubhouse as well.
“Ralph collapsed from heat stroke,” Andy answered.
“Is he ok?” I asked.
“No, it doesn’t look like he’s gonna make it,” said Andy.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“They couldn’t resuscitate him,” Andy replied.
“You can tell when someone has passed, Brian,” added Paul. “I don’t think he’s coming back.”
“Where was he when it happened?” I asked.
“He was on eleven,” said Mark. “Luckily, Hank wasn’t far away in the ranger cart. I was in front of the TV and suddenly I hear Hank screaming over the radio, “emergency on eleven, call an ambulance.” So, I called 911 and Hank was able to drive him in to the clubhouse.”
“Well, he died doing what he loved,” said Mark.
“Sneaking on the golf course?” I asked.
“That’s cold,” responded Nate who was now standing between Paul and Mark.
I nodded to him to as if to say touché and the others chuckled a little uncomfortably.
“He died because of the greedy son of a bitch downtown,” said Paul angrily. “And I’m going to let those news people know.”
Paul turned and stormed out of the clubhouse with a determined look. We all knew that Paul wasn’t messing around.
“Something tells me this is going to be trouble,” commented Andy.
“Trouble for Hugh Cunningham,” said Mark.
“He better take it easy, or he’ll be the next victim of heat stroke,” I said.
“Yeah, new rule,” said Andy. “No one over 55 goes out there during peak sun hours.”
“You won’t be able to stop them,” said Mark.
“You will if you eliminate the senior rate,” I commented.
“Then we’d need a lot more cops here,” said Andy.
“I was scared to death when I pulled up and saw all the police cars,” I said. “I thought they were here about last night.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” said Nate. “Hell, you ought to sue that fat ass who attacked you. We can say that you’re too afraid to work anymore.”
Yeah, I heard you had some excitement last night,” replied Andy. “Now, I have two things to call downtown to Cunningham about.”
“Make that three,” said Mark as he pointed out the window.
We all gazed out the window to see that not only was Paul talking to the news crew, he was being interviewed on camera. His face was bright with color the way it gets when he’s very passionate about something.
“Oh, this ought to be interesting,” said Andy.
“I hope he tells them everything about Cunningham,” I said.
“I hope he makes some things up,” said Nate.
“Yeah, you’ve got nothing to lose,” said Andy.
“Hey, it’s not your fault what happened to old Ralph,” said Mark.
“Yeah, but I’m going to have a lot of shit to deal with,” said Andy.
“It’s not going to help business any either,” I added.
“More good news,” sighed Andy as he walked back into the office.
After about 30 minutes, the police had finished taking statements from everyone who was within 10 square miles of Ralph when he collapsed and the media had left. For an unbearably hot day, there sure were a lot of folks milling around the clubhouse. Lisa was behind the snack bar selling beer and food. News junkie Fred was back in his seat in front of the television and a few unsuspecting younger golfers came in, paid and headed out to play. We didn’t even bother with a starter since business was so slow.
The few golfers who had gone out to play were visibly excited at the how wide open the course was at the time. I couldn’t blame them. I sure took advantage of any opportunity to play an open course no matter what the temperature. I did feel a little funny taking people’s money considering what had just happened, but the course had to stay open. The average golfer doesn’t get many opportunities to play. Whether his wife is out with friends or the kids are at a friend’s house; opportunities to play golf ought not to be wasted.
Harley was sitting at a table with Hank and Nate sharing his thoughts. As I approached, he was opining that he hoped that he would die doing something physical.
“Harley, you damn near died the time a ball slipped though the cage on the jeep and caught you in temple,” said Nate.
“Yeah, that old Jeep just kept moving once you passed out,” I added. “It would have run over a few people on the grass tees if the ball picker hadn’t gotten stuck on the rope tee markers.”
“I’d still rather die doing something physical than in my bed,” replied Harley.
“I’d like to die doing something physical in my bed,” responded Nate.
“There are more than a few people who have gone that way,” said Hank. “Sure, leaves the woman a little messed up,”
“I don’t think that would be a problem for Nate,” I added as Paul walked inside.
He came over to our table and took a seat looking pretty exhausted.
“Did you get on TV?” asked Hank.
“I sure gave them plenty of material,” replied Paul. “I told them the reason that poor Ralph collapsed was because Hugh Cunningham had removed all of the drinking fountains. And I told them all about Cunningham’s wife and that damn bottled water.”
“You did not,” replied Hank in doubt.
“I did too,” argued Paul. “And it just so happened that there was a reporter from the Daily Times out there as well and he was very interested in what I had to say.”
“Sounds like you got the ball rolling,” I said.
“I sure hope so,” Paul replied.
It was then that Andy came walking over from the pro shop with a serious look on his face. We all knew what he had come to say. He had gotten the word that Ralph had died on his way to the hospital. We were all quiet for a moment and then Nate broke the silence.
“Talk about a lawsuit,” he said.
“It’s criminal is what it is,” said Paul.
The phone was ringing so I went back to the pro shop. It was the first of many calls from the local media. It wasn’t long before the death of old Ralph on the golf course was all over the local TV and radio news. By late afternoon though, things were getting back to normal. It had cooled down to the low 90s and more golfers were coming out to play. Some seemed to know what had happened, but most did not. That was ok with me. I wasn’t in the mood for a lot of questions.
Andy had left for the day. Mark and Harley had gone down to the driving range. Paul and Hank sat by the window sipping Maker’s Mark and staring out the window. Ralph wasn’t the most loved person at the golf course, but no one wanted this. You couldn’t help but be affected by seeing someone die right in front of you.
Shortly after six o’clock, news junkie Fred began shouting. We all looked over at the TV and there was Paul being interviewed on the evening news. I ran from behind the counter to get closer to the TV as I yelled to Fred to turn it up.
Paul and Hank got up from their seats and we all gathered in front of the big screen listening to Paul being interviewed. It lasted for several minutes and they got him saying some pretty harsh stuff about the Cunninghams and the water fountains.
But the big surprise was after the interview when the news anchor announced that the County Prosecutor and the Park Board were both launching investigations. There may be “charges filed and or disciplinary action taken.”
“Charges filed?” I asked out loud. “That would sure be something.”
“They should file charges against that damn Director of Golf,” said Paul.
“Of course, Cunningham was unavailable for comment,” added Fred.
“Nice work, Paul,” I said. “You may have brought us Christmas in July if they get rid of Cunningham.”
Fred began flipping through the other local channels to see if they were covering the story. Sure enough, they each mentioned the incident and the impending investigation. However, the other channels didn’t have an exclusive interview with old Paul.
The excitement of the day had eventually worn off and things were winding down. I had successfully shutdown the golf course without being attacked by anyone this time. After locking up the clubhouse, I stopped in at the driving range to see Alice and hit some balls. I generally always stopped in before heading home. I liked to check on Alice because Fred would rather head home and continue watching the news than wait for his wife to finish up at the driving range. The late evenings were the best time to practice anyway. The sun was down so you got a break from the heat and you didn’t have to squint to see the flight of the ball. Of course, I spent more of my time that night gossiping with Alice than I did hitting balls. After all, there was big news to discuss between Ralph, Paul and the investigations.
The next day I was scheduled early at the golf course. I got to the clubhouse just before 7:00 am and Hank already had the place opened up. As usual, the carts were pulled out and lined-up, the tee sheet was printed out and the coffee was brewing. There were also two guys in suits looking around behind the pro shop counter. Hank introduced me to them as county auditors.
One was looking through files on the tee time computer and the other was rummaging through the cabinets. I walked behind the counter and started working as if they weren’t there, but it was a little challenging. I was a little nervous about what types of questions they might ask. They were obviously there to investigate the bottled water scandal, but I couldn’t get over the fear that somehow night golf and gambling would come up. As I answered my first phone call of the day, the guy rummaging through the cabinets pulled out one of the large cardboard boxes containing bags of tees. He began sifting through the box and held one of the bags of tees up to his eyes to examine it as I hung up the phone.
“You put golf balls on them,” I said sarcastically.
Unfazed by my hostility, the auditor seized upon the moment to engage in some questioning. “What do you do for water during the day?” he asked.
“There’s a water fountain right over there,” I said as I pointed to the drinking fountain around the corner from the grill.
“Where do you get the cups?” he asked.
“I’ve got my own,” I said as I pointed to my empty plastic Taco Bell cup that my last large Mountain Dew came in. The auditor went back to rummaging through the cabinets of the pro shop.
A couple of customers came in to pay for golf so I greeted them and began to ring them up. The auditor who was busy looking through the computer we use for tee times stopped and watched my every move on the cash register. When I finished with the twosome, he asked me what else we use the tee time computer for.
“Porn,” I responded.
He just glared at me for a few seconds so I went on to explain to him that we make signs for the pro shop, track tournament scores, handicaps and such. He seemed satisfied for the moment with that answer and returned to examining the computer.
That’s pretty much how the morning went. The two auditors poked and prodded at every inch of the clubhouse. They found things that had been missing for a while. They even found our stash of liquor, but they didn’t seem too interested in it. They stayed at White Lake through my entire shift. It was such agony that I left early to go play. It was Hank’s turn to entertain the two Bobs. We named them after the two consultants from the movie Office Space. Hank would talk them silly, which seemed appropriate.
The two Bobs returned every couple of days to look at something different. A couple of times they went out on the golf course with workers from the Water Works. Each day there was an article in the paper about some aspect of the investigation. This all went on for almost two weeks. It really started to wear us all out. Between questions from the auditors, the media and the customers, most of us employees were growing very frustrated.
On the third Friday after old Ralph died, I was working the morning shift at the driving range pro shop when Andy called down from the clubhouse and asked me to come up there. I coaxed Harley in from the back room where he was running balls through the large washer and asked him to cover the counter. Although Harley didn’t much care for dealing with customers, he kindly obliged.
I walked out back and hopped in one of the maintenance golf carts. I drove down past the open stalls where golfers were practicing and then up the path to the clubhouse. When I walked inside, I was surprised to see the two auditors standing behind the counter with Andy, Mark and John. My heart started pounding as I grew more and more nervous.
“These guys just want to talk to us all together for a few minutes,” said Andy.
“No problem,” I replied.
Mark, John and I followed Andy and the two auditors back into the meeting room where the birdie hunters and other leagues would hold their meetings. I glanced at Mark as we walked and he just shrugged his shoulders. Then, I looked at John and he rolled his eyes and smirked as if to say it was no big deal.
When we got in the meeting room, we all sat on one side of the long table and one of the auditors closed the door. Then they both took seats across from us and pulled out notebooks. They introduced themselves as they had done in the past, but as far as I was concerned, they were still the two Bobs.
Bob One began by asking who was working the morning that Ralph died. Mark began recounting the day’s events saying that he was working at the clubhouse with Hank while John and Andy were at the driving range giving lessons.
“It was 97 degrees with a heat index of 103,” said Mark. Ralph had come in with Al Harper and Charlie Pendyke to walk 18 holes with their pull carts as usual. I remember that Ralph took a drink from the water fountain inside the clubhouse. As they stood at the counter, he registered his usual complaint about the price of the bottled water.”
“Did Al or Charlie get any water?” asked Bob Two.
Andy chuckled as Mark replied, “no, they each had a thermos, but they didn’t put water in them. They preferred bourbon.”
“And you permitted them to take liquor onto the golf course?” asked Bob One.
“Hey, it’s not my job to search people before they play,” responded Mark.
“We have a policy of respecting our customer’s right to privacy,” responded Andy. “Don’t want to get sued you know.”
After Mark had finished recounting the events of that morning, the Bob’s turned to me. They asked me a few questions about the night golf events and I told them how well they were going over. Then it got interesting.
“Tell us Brian, who was responsible for arranging the exotic dancers?” asked Bob One.
“Exotic dancers?” asked Andy in shock.
“We know from our surveillance that you were always the one handling the bank for the poker tournaments, so someone else must have lined up the entertainment.”
My heart sunk as I could feel the pressure mounting. I was speechless and Mark just gulped. Andy expressed his dismay and denied knowing anything about any of it. I thought for sure that we were all fired or going to be arrested and then finally John spoke.
“Well, we’re all pretty hesitant to rat people out, but I guess it’s time to come clean,” said John as I grew tenser.
“Hugh Cunningham and his brother-in-law had arranged everything,” John continued. “He was the one who pushed the night golf tournament and we were just following his orders. He used the façade of a benefit for junior golf as a cover.”
There was silence for a moment as I hoped for something miraculous to happen. And within a few seconds, it did.
“That was our suspicion,” said Bob Two. “He already failed the polygraph test downtown, but we had to confirm everything.”
“Yes, we didn’t believe there was any way that all that madness could be happening every weekend without the Director of Golf’s support,” said Bob One.
A great feeling of relief quickly came over me as it appeared we had gotten away with it. Hell, Cunningham was already going down so what was the harm with piling it on? He was an asshole anyway.
“Well, I think we have gotten all the information that we needed,” said Bob Two. They both thanked us for our honesty and cooperation and asked us to keep what we knew to ourselves until the investigation was over.
Andy walked them out bullshitting with them all the way. He was the master schmoozer. The rest of us all hoped that would be the last we would ever see of the two Bobs. With Andy out of the room, our attention turned to our newest predicament.
“We may have gotten off the hook with the auditors, but Andy isn’t going to be happy,” said Mark.
“Yeah, who’s taking the blame for this one?” I asked. “Mark and I are responsible for it,” said John.
“Maybe, he won’t care,” I said.
But when Andy returned to the meeting room, we could tell that he was angry. I wondered if any of us would still have jobs. I felt worse for Mark and John. After all, this was their career. I was just biding my time as a college student. I was never going to make a career out of golf. I was too bad at it.
Andy sat down at the table and just stared us down. His eyes were piercing through us as if he could see what we were thinking. It was as if he suddenly knew everything we had hidden from him all this time. I had worked for him so long; it was as if I just disappointed my own father. There was a brief silence and then he finally spoke.
“The next time you assholes hire strippers for night golf, you better invite me,” he said.
“That’s a deal,” said Mark as the three of us smiled in relief.
For the second time in the course of an hour, I had gone from shear fright and anxiety to complete relief. I was ready to unwind and Andy was eager to hear all about the real night golf in a more appropriate setting. “How about we head down to Hangar for some beers,” he suggested.
By this time, Alice had arrived at the driving range to relieve Harley and the golf course was under control, so there was nothing holding us back. It was still early afternoon, but we set out on a mission to get crazy.
“It’s five o’clock somewhere,” said John.
“Amen,” I replied.
And with that we all piled in Andy’s minivan and headed to the Hangar to recount all that had happened in the past week. Between Ralph dying, Cunningham being investigated and the truth coming out about night golf; we had a lot to cover. For a couple of hours, the three of us carried on and scared off the blue hair 4:00 dinner crowd. By 5:15, Nate Boylan had joined us and Willie was on his way. Mark’s uncle Wesley who owned the place presented us with four orders of chicken wings “on the house.”
He was likely just trying to keep us quiet for a while. As long as we were busy eating, we couldn’t scare off his best dinner customers. We had the opening round of the British Open on the TV behind the bar so we were quite content with our beer, wings and golf. By the time Willie joined us we were in rare form. Tiger was off to a rough start and Sergio looked promising. It was the first round though, and nobody believed Tiger was out of it. At least nobody at the bar thought Tiger was out of it.