Get your licks in/ While you can / Keep your future / In your hands / Don’t let the damn authorities / Dictate what you do / Always keep it in your mind just who’s / Screwing who.
Riggs Hellams found an old acquaintance standing, arms folded behind him, in uniform near the photo pit of Portland’s Amalgamated Timber Park. A police uniform. Bill Clendenon did a little ballpark security, partly because he could use the money and partly because he was an ex-ballplayer. Hellams and Clendenon had befriended each other during one of his previous salvage operations in Portland.
“I read where you were back,” Clendenon said, embracing him. He lowered his voice. “I’m guessing … Leland Mortenson.”
“Got any idea what’s eating him?”
“Yeah,” Clendenon said. “Portland. He has fully embraced our fair city.”
“Look, we can’t talk here, Bill. What if I bought you a couple beers after the game?”
“Sounds good. I’m off tomorrow. I’ll meet you at Blimey’s, what, ninety minutes after the final pitch?”
“Yeah, I can make that. They don’t trust me behind a laptop, and I don’t know what ‘doing the metrics’ means.”
“Don’t want to, neither, do you?”
“Don’t want to,”Hellams said. “See no evil.”
Blimey’s was a lavish, glassed-in microbrewery where the food was as good as the in-house lagers and the bar didn’t fill till late at night. It wasn’t a sports bar, which meant it wasn’t the kind of place where an obscure, short-term coach of the Portland Loggers was likely to be recognized. It had lots of oak paneling and patrons dressed tastefully.
They took a booth, just in case. The music being piped in was jazz, and the noise level was reasonable. Clendenon ordered an IPA. Hellams said he’d have the same.
“I take it you’re still doing some work for the league,” Riggs said.
“That reminds me. Where do you wear a uniform other than at the park?”
“Nowhere,” Clendenon said. “It’s my baseball uniform.”
Forty hours a week when he was lucky, Clendenon was a homicide detective.
“Mortenson’s from Georgia, right?”
“South Georgia,” Hellams said. “Waycross. It’s not very much like Portland.”
“He’s been here, what, two and a half seasons? Boy’s changed.”
“Bright lights, big city. He’s not the first.”
The beers arrived. Hellams took a sip. “Ain’t bad.”
“Mortenson, he’s got a fairly well-known girlfriend. Sophie Apodaca. Brainy. Teaches sociology at Portland State. She’s, uh, active in the marijuana reform movement. She and Leland live together across the river.”
“In Washington. Where pot’s legal.”
“It’s not very illegal here,” Clendenon said, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if the latest referendum passes in November.
“Mortenson’s fairly responsible. He and the little woman do their socializing at home.”
Hellams took another sip. “But drug use is fairly common?”
“People bring their water bongs with them,” Clendenon said. “They got their own carrying cases.”
“More of a hipster crowd. Just a couple athletes. It’s more of an artists’ colony. The only guys from the Loggers who ever show up are Leonard and Woodward.”
“Pretty good ones.”
“There’s one thing unusual about that. All three of them got the same agent.”
“Yep. He’s well connected.”
“How could their agent keep them from testing positive?”
“Well, no one seems to want to know that, Riggs. What I know can be chalked up to cop’s curiosity.”
“Les Jacklin owns ten percent of the ballclub.”
“How could I possibly not know that?”
“Because his shares are in the name of his brother-in-law,” Clendenon said. “As recently as five years ago, Jackson Mulroney was a welder. Now he’s the CEO of a lab, a lab that conducts drug testing.”
“A lab that does business with major league baseball?”
“Bingo. Baseball works with four labs. Cheshire Research is headquartered in San Rafael, California. Best I can tell, its only account is MLB. It’s got the West Coast teams: Seattle, Portland, San Fran, Oakland, Dodgers and Angels, Padres, Diamondbacks.”
“If next season comes and goes, and Leland doesn’t want to stay with the Loggers, reckon he’d sign with one of those other clubs?”
“I don’t know,” Clendenon said. “He might.”
“Thanks, Bill,” Hellams said, finishing off the beer, and motioning for the server. “I gotta plane to catch to Kansas City in the morning.”
TO BE CONTINUED.
Read my novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles. Both are available at amazon.com (Kindle, too) and barnesandnoble.com.