Chapter FOURTEEN by James Zug
Emily Weaver Miller led Andres Lopez away from the court. Wordlessly, she guided him through the black hanging drapes on the back of the bleachers, past the stone-faced security team, out of the third VIP lounge (there were seven at the venue), down the temporary hallway and out of the complex altogether. Instead of walking onto the sidewalk, Emily grabbed Andres’ hand and steered him onto the beach.
Within a half a minute they were in the dark. They could see the play of spotlights from the rooftops of the hotels across the road, the glow of the lights from the squash venue, the headlights of cars as they wound on their journeys along the littoral, oblivious to her pounding heart.
Emily bent over and took off her three-inch, yellow Jimmy Choo heels. “I’ve never made love on the beach,” she said, coyly.
“No, really?” Andres said confidently, wanting to get some measure of control back. A girl walks up while you are innocently watching a squash match and suggests something deeply naughty—well, you might feel a little like a puppet. “It happens all the time in South America.”
“I had thought we’d go back into the club. But you know, I’m a squash girl at heart and couldn’t violate the rule about proper footwear on a court.”
Andres laughed. If only he knew the truth, Emily thought. She had never made love on a squash court. As a junior player, she had heard rumors about such things happening all the time, especially in college. An older friend at one small, isolated school told her about their women’s team making bets on who would be the last to do it on a court. There was a team that tried to do it on every court they visited, and even one very old story of a guy getting caught on a back court in delicto with his girlfriend during the national team finals. Seriously flagrant.
“No, that’s for another night,” Andres said. “And besides, the view in the co-ed steam room—have you been in there yet?”
“Yes, I’ve heard it gets pretty active in the late hours—it is so foggy you can’t see much in the corners. I heard Julia was macking down in there last night with that Swedish girl.”
“That’s pretty hot.”
“Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Well, there were rumors,” said Andres.
“Rumors?” Emily demanded. “What rumors?”
“Yeah, about you and Julia. Something happening at the Pioneer two summers ago?”
“Oh,” said Emily, “we were just having some fun, just experimenting. I play for both teams. I’m very close with Julia. But” she added, “I’d like to get close to you.”
They walking along, hand-in-hand, like longtime lovers, their feet dappled by the quiet surf. In the distance, they saw a couple of bonfires, people dancing in the flickering light. They talked about tattoos, about various tournaments that after-party at the Commonwealth Games when half the draw went skinny-dipping in the hotel pool. Or that pub in Sheffield where the under nineteens make their assignations. Then they took off their clothes, lay down in the sand and began to make love.
It was a ship of fools, Shelley Anderson thought. She was in her hotel room with Tyler Wolf and John Allenby. They were three shipwrecked souls in an open boat far from land, and a hurricane was bearing down.
“The Icarus is gone,” she said.
“Gone?” John asked.
“Yes, they weighed anchor this morning,” Shelley said, reading from her phone. “I guess they’ve left.”
“What the hell are the Mallinsons doing?” Tyler asked. “This is madness. I have to talk with Fritz.”
“What, to save your career?” Shelley shot back. “That’s gone. They know all about the doping, Wolfie. Everyone knows. This is your last tournament, I’m afraid.”
“How did that come down, mate?”
“I don’t exactly know,” said Shelley. “Someone leaked it to the IOC. There was a lot of documentation: dates, results, internal memos at WADA, the Aussie Opens. Someone had it all. Rhodanie did all he could to put the toothpaste back in the tube but it reached too many desks. He’s gotten them to hold the story. You are going to retire after the tournament. You’ll go back to Queanbeyan and farm. Or maybe go the States and coach some juniors privately.”
“Why couldn’t you and Rhodanie have solved this?” Tyler asked.
“ Listen, Lausanne is a snakepit. It makes Vegas look like a the social hour in a church basement. Anyway, Rhodanie’s flying in to clean things up here so we don’t blow the 2016 thing.
“That’s it?” John said. “Wolfie retires and all is well?”
“No, not at all. Rhodanie says they found another story had gotten out there, in a very obscure way it threads back to Buckler.
“Are you kidding?” John said. “I thought they flew the body back to the UK, end of story?”
“They did, but when they were dealing with his estate, a lawyer received some documents from a safe deposit box and one thing or another, it got to Rhodanie. There was some gossip in it about Florencia Perez. Turns out it is really Florencio. She’s a he. And a son of Erika Hoskin.”
“What?” said John. “Seriously?”
“Yes, you never believed the whole barefoot thing? Really.”
“A boy. Wow.”
“Yes, wow. The IOC isn’t going to like it one bit. After the Caster Semenya scandal, they aren’t going to be keen on another gender bender. I’m afraid that is why she—he—was late to getting to Rio. I had the flight delayed.”
“You are kidding me?” John said, rising from his chair. “After all I did to make the cattle call? That was your fault?”
Tyler ignored John. “Who cares? The real question is why Buckler was killed? Was it the Russians?”
“No,” Shelley said with a sigh. “Well, they were involved a way, but it was more complicated. It started—“
There was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?” asked John.
“Special Agent McDiarmid. Open up.”
“OK,” said John, halfway to the door. As he reached for the knob, he looked back to Shelley. But Shelley wasn’t in her seat. She was crouching behind the couch, her back to the window, with a black Glock 17 in her hand, shaking her head.
Anne Mallinson awoke slowly, like a turtle in springtime mud. She moved her toes and her hands. She focused on her breathing, as if this was shavasana and she was a corpse and her teacher was beginning to wake her up. She bent her knees and lifted her right arm and rolled onto her side. So far, so good. Then she opened her eyes.
It was dark. She was still on the boat. In fact, she was right where she had crumpled into a ball. Her green chiffon wrap lay on top of her, like a gossamer blanket. She heard voices. There was a light in the stateroom. She lay still for a minute. Then another minute. They were speaking something Slavic, probably Russian, she thought.
She replayed the whole scene: morning, a tacky cigarette boat, a woman covered with tattoos. She rolled her brown eyes: really, do you need that many? And then, what? A burst of gunfire and a fat man hitting Fritz. Oh, Fritz, her poor husband. Fritz. What had they gotten themselves into?
She looked around. No sign of Fritz. Perhaps he was still alive. Perhaps they were after their latest invention, the one thing that everyone had begged for, the coup de grace of a lifetime of work, the grand secret that was going to change squash forever?
She had to get help, she had to get to Shelley.
In the distance, she could see the shimmering hotels of Copacabana along Avenida Atlantica and a giant puddle of light where the squash court was. The Icarus was now a bit more out to sea, it seemed—they must have pulled the anchor and gone further out. Now it was maybe six or seven miles. Perhaps that is why they hadn’t tied her up—they were too far from land.
Inching along the deck, she moved ever so slowly, a few inches, then stopping, a few more inches, then stopping. She reached the ladder. With a practiced grace, she flipped her body from the deck onto the ladder and she quickly climbed down. Her legs went into the warm water. She paused. She heard nothing. She dropped down and swam clear of the yacht.
Breast-stroking as silently as she could, she took a series of deep breathes and then dropped below the waves and kicking hard, propelled herself away from the yacht. When she was beyond the Icarus floodlit radiance, she surfaced. The yacht was like a gleaming city and she was banished, sent away. She turned and headed west.
At first, she sprinted, the panic of what had just happened sending waves of adrenalin through her body. Then, she slowed down and started a pattern, breathing every four strokes, stopping every thirty to make sure she was pointed towards the squash courts.
Anne was no longer young, but she was still strong and limber. She had swum in a thousand little anchorages while moored on the Icarus. She had loved open water swimming. She knew she could make it—if she didn’t run into any sharks or jellyfish. They had just been talking about the swarm of cannonball jellyfish that had descended upon a beach in Brazil.
Four strokes, breath, four strokes, breath. Thirty strokes, break.
Her mind went blank. It was like the way Fritz said he felt after a game of squash—totally washed clean. She forgot about the tattooed woman and the gunshot. She just counted and continued to move her arms and legs.
After what seemed like half the night, Anne neared the beach. She decided to veer a bit to the right of the courts to gather her thoughts. How was she going to find Shelley? She couldn’t just walk through the VIP entrance. She was naked. Damn, she thought, she should have brought that chiffon.
Her feet hit sand. She began to wade ashore. She saw a long, writhing clump on the beach. As she got closer, she realized it was two more naked people making love on the sand. She saw that it was Emily Miller and Andres Lopez.
About the Author
JAMES ZUG is the author of six books including Squash: A History of the Game (Scribner, 2003) and Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear (Penguin, 2010) which came out in paperback a few months ago.
A senior writer at Squash Magazine since 1998, he writes regularly for Squash Player magazine in London, and has a blog on the game: SquashWord.com and a Twitter feed: @squashword.
He is the chair of the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame & Museum.