Five miles away in the town of Dunhill, New Jersey, a nude muscular man slept on his back, his right elbow loosely cradling an empty bottle of Sambuca Romano. Soft snores emanated from the slack O of his mouth and a small stream of drool wound its way through overnight stubble onto a once-white pillowcase.
A rumpled uniform lay on the floor next to the bed. Towels and underwear spilled over the sides of a wicker laundry basket. A smudged mirror over the dresser reflected a dozen empty beer cans and a bottle of Johnny Walker Red.
The cell phone on the nightstand rang once, twice. The man grunted and turned over, dropping the blue and silver bottle on the floor. Two more rings, and finally the man grabbed the phone, grunted into the receiver and cocked one bloodshot eye at the digital clock radio.
Damn. Why the hell couldn’t Bill handle early morning police calls? For Chrissakes, there wasn’t a single shopping mall, interstate highway or red light district in prissy Dunhill, New Jersey. The only people up and about at this hour were executive types catching the commuter train for an early meeting in the city.
Through the headache, the ugly taste of stale booze and a violent need to piss, Mac heard a stranger’s voice on the phone. The voice was a man’s, high-pitched, breathless, babbling.
“…..and I…I…I got your number from a Mr. Bill Peterson. We need to be discreet, sir, that’s what the members would want. I…I know the man is dead, but….but….”
“Who the hell is this?”
“I’m sorry, Chief,” an audible shuddering breath, then the man spoke again. “I thought I mentioned my name, in fact, I’m sure I did. This is Ethan Glidden, th-the manager of F-Footes Creek Country Club.”
“Just wait a minute, Mr. Glidden ,” Mac shook his head to clear it and several sharp sticks darted around his brain. “I’m going to put you on hold for a minute while I go down to my office.”
Mac grabbed a pair of semi-clean jockeys, pulled them on and padded downstairs to a small room off the kitchen. He sat down heavily at a roll top desk and brushed a pile of paperback novels and old newspapers onto the floor.
His lieutenant had evidently given his private number to the manager of Footes Creek Country Club.
The venerable golf club presided over the upper end of the valley like a small grand kingdom. Mac had watched the U.S. Open at Footes Creek when he was a just a kid. He had seen Phil Mikelson win one of his big ones and nearly went into shock when Tiger Woods walked by and winked at him.
Ancient oaks lined the fairways at Footes Creek; the greens were greased silk; the rough was deep and treacherous. At the crest of a huge hill sat the big granite clubhouse, surrounded by tennis courts, paddle courts, and a largely unused pool.
One did not apply for membership at Footes Creek; that was by invitation only. Since it was founded in 1897, only 240 golf memberships were permitted each year at the prestigious old club. Someone had to die before a new member came in.
Maybe someone had.
Mac picked up the phone and cleared his throat. “Hello, Mr. Glidden. I’m sorry for the delay. Let’s start from the beginning.”
The voice on the phone was calmer now, lower pitched.
“An accident. A horrible accident. I’m sorry to be upset, but I’ve been ill. There’s nothing left in my stomach, sir, nothing.”
“I understand, Mr. Glidden . Take a deep breath and tell me what happened.”
There was long pause. Mac heard an audible breath, then Glidden spoke.
“Carlos Rodriguez, a worker on our maintenance staff, was run over by a mower.”
“Did you call 911?”
“No. I didn’t think I needed to. The man is dead, sir. Dreadfully, horribly dead.”
“Okay. I’m on my way. I’ll call EMS myself.”