Jack dialed Fred’s number. The phone rang several times before he answered. His voice was groggy. “Hello, who the hell is this?”
“It’s Jack Rakow. You sound like you’ve been sleeping.”
“What the hell do you think I was doing? What time is it anyway?”
“I‘m not wearing a watch. I don’t know.”
“Jesus. It’s still dark outside, isn’t it? Don’t you have to rest for tomorrow’s game?”
“Yeah, you’re right. I thought if…”
“I’m too old to party all night and then function well the next day.”
“I understand. Sorry to bother you.”
Neither spoke. After several seconds, Fred said, “Okay you got me up. What’s on your mind, boychik?”
“Nothing? You called me in the middle of the night about nothing? Think Jack, what’s going on in that noggin of yours?”
“No really, this was a bad idea. I’m sorry…”
“You sound terrible, and I know it’s not from sleeping. It’s only one baseball game, Jack. I promise you no matter what we reporters write, the sun will rise the day after.
“Good to know.” He paused.
“Boychik, you sound worse than me. I have no idea what fuck’n time it is but I’ll meet you at the bar in your hotel… say 20 minutes. Make sure your manager doesn’t catch you. V’erschtey, understand?”
“ Sure. Thanks.”
The hotel lounge was nearly empty. Three women and a few guys sat around the large U-shaped bar. It seemed they were each other’s last call.
“What can I get you?” The bartender asked.
“Johnny Black on the rocks.”
Jack stood and waited for his drink.
“There are plenty of seats.”
“Thanks, I’ll find a table in the back. I’m expecting another person.”
The bartender gave him a wry smile. “Hey, more power to you.”
One of the women erupted with a sharp laugh after a man said something.
Jack took his drink and went to the farthest table from the bar. He wore sunglasses and sat facing away from the entryway. He gulped down the first drink. The scotch warmed him. He turned in his seat to see if Fred had arrived. He noticed the woman with the laugh had moved closer to one of the guys. No Fred. He picked up his empty glass, and sucked the melted ice. Fred should have been here by now. This was a bad idea. He isn’t coming. Jack drummed his fingers on the table. After another minute he ordered a second. The bartender brought the drink. He stared admiring the amber color of the scotch. The hell with Fred. He wrapped his hand around the glass.
“Whoa. Jesus, what the…? God, it’s…you scared the crap out of me.”
Fred took his hand off Jack’s shoulder. “Obviously you never read about Marshall Wild Bill Hickok, boychik. Never have your back to the door.”
“Thanks, I’ll read up on him.” Jack grabbed a napkin to wipe the spilled liquid off his sleeve.
“You started without me. How many have you had?”
“Only two, but most of the second is on my hand and table.”
Fred took a seat across from him. “Sorry about that.” What’s with the shades? Too bright down here in the middle of the night?”
“No, I thought, well… I didn’t want to be seen.”
Fred looked at him. “You’re even more fucked up than you were on the phone. “Take those damn things off. You’re not Clark Kent.”
He took the glasses off and dropped them on the table.
“So what’s up bubbala?” Fred asked while he waived his hand to get the bartender’s attention.
Jack felt like the count was three and two and the bases were loaded. He had to come in with a strike. What bullshit can he throw that won’t be stupid? “I think we’re going to win it in six. I’ve got a good feeling.”
Fred gave him a funny look interrupted by the drinks the bartender delivered. “That’s a headline,” he said.
“No really. We’ve got a great team.”
“Uh-huh, so do the Yanks.”
Jack sipped his drink. “Yeah I guess. I don’t know. We’re so close. My dad warned me when I was a kid not to get ahead of myself.”
“Yeah? Tell me about your dad.”