R.J. COLLEARY

Boom Boom Pow!

Devon absently stirred her martini, using her index finger as a french-tipped swizzle stick.  She wasn’t much of a drinker but always liked to down one to kick off a night’s work.  Took the edge off.  She reminded herself that even the pros got nervous.

As she leaned up against the bar, her purse paperweighting a white manila envelope, Devon’s perfectly-coiffed head swiveled between the front door and the baseball game on the TV.  She hated mixing business with pleasure but when it came to the Dodgers she’d stopped trying long ago.  The story handed down was that Devon’s grandfather had been a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958 he put the house on the market the very next day and followed them out, uprooting a family who believed that he had lost his baseball-loving mind.  They were right; he would soon be committed to a mental hospital and die there for reasons having nothing to do with baseball.  Devon’s father was born in L.A. and eventually she would be too, heir to her dad’s baseball fandom as the son he never had.  She was even called “That Trask boy” for awhile thanks to her short hair and perpetual ball cap.  It was all inevitable.  Or maybe it wasn’t, but that’s how it happened.

As the Dodgers came to bat in the 6th, a suited 30something businessman sidled in next to Devon.  “This seat taken?” he asked.  She looked at him.  He wasn’t The One.  “Not by me,” she replied.  “I never sit.  Bad luck.”  He sat and pulled out a cigarette.  “Got a light?” he asked.  “Maybe,” she replied.  She opened her purse and began emptying it onto the bar one item at a time:  condoms, mouthwash, more condoms, tissues, gum, and more condoms.  But no lighter.  “Sorry,” she said.  “No problem,” replied the businessman, eyeing the accoutrements as she replaced them into her purse.

“This your hangout?” he asked.  “Shhh,” she replied.  Her focus was once again on the TV, specifically the plate appearance of Grant Thomas, number 32 in the scorecard but number one in Devon’s heart.  And why not?  The local press called him “Brad Pitt in Blue;” movie star handsome and so squeaky clean that TMZ’s bounty of $1 million cash to anyone who could unearth some quality dirt on him had gone unclaimed.  He also happened to be the best player in baseball, and when he’d become a free agent after his second straight MVP season every team lined up to offer him the entire universe, as well as some additional galaxies to be discovered later.

While fielding off-season offers, Grant insisted he didn’t care about the money (that was his agent’s job), but the one thing he DID care about was that he be able to wear jersey number 32 as he had his whole life.  Problem was, in Dodgerland that number had belonged to a guy named Koufax and had been long retired.  So $300 million yes, but 32 no.  Grant shrugged and said no problem, the Yankees had 32 available.  The Dodgers quickly called Koufax, promised him who-knows-what, and before long Sandy had graciously and publicly un-retired his number.  When the dust had cleared, the Dodgers owned Grant Thomas and Grant Thomas owned the largest contract in the history of history.  

And Devon had a new crush.

She fawned over his slugging percentage and jawline, his batting stance and biceps.  She researched his horoscope (Capricorn) and the compatibility of their signs (which was awful, but what do those stupid stars know anyway?).  She memorized his siblings’ names and birthdays.  She doodled Devon Trask Thomas and Mrs. Devon Thomas and Mrs. D.T. Thomas and even Merry Christmas, Love D & G.  She pre-named their firstborn (Grant Jr.).  As Devon gawked at the TV, the businessman made his move.

“Can I buy you a -- ?”

“No thanks.”

“You a baseball fan?”

“I’m gonna marry Grant Thomas.”

“Yeah, right.  You and the rest of L.A.”

“No,” Devon replied.  “Just me.  I’m his good luck charm.”

It was right about then that the pitcher hung a curve, and Grant Thomas hit it about seven miles, give or take a hundred yards.

“Whoo!” celebrated Devon.  “Whoo!”

As Devon raised her arm to high-five the businessman, she saw a tall man enter the bar.  She knew right away he was The One.  Instantly, Devon grabbed her purse off the bar, and crossed to the door, leaving the businessman bewildered and alone and looking really stupid with his arm extended.

As Devon approached The One, he was looking past her, scanning the bar area.  She didn’t hesitate.

“Looking for somebody?”

“Yeah, actually.”

“Me, I hope?”

He was surprised.  Yet flattered.

“I’m having dinner with a friend.”

“Oh,” she replied.  “My loss.”

She smiled at him, waiting for him to make the next move.  He did.  They always did.

“Where will you be in two hours?” he asked.

“Long gone,” she answered.  “I’ll give you forty-five minutes.”

“That’s a quick dinner.”

“I’ll swing past the front.  If you’re there, you’re there.  If you’re not…” She let it trail off, smiled, and shrugged.

The One was still trying to reason with her as she walked out.

Out in the parking lot, Devon got into her car, tossing the white manila envelope onto the passenger’s seat.  She closed the door, took out her phone, and went to her speed dial.

“Hi, Dad.  Yeah, I saw.  He crushed it!  Like batting practice.  I was watching at work.  I was at an audition, actually.  No, unfortunately I can’t get away for Christmas this year.  Just too busy, you know?  Girl’s gotta work.  I know… someday I’ll be retired like you and Mom.  But not today.”

                                                                   * * *

The motel room door opened and Devon walked in.  The One entered behind her and flipped on the light.  It was everything you would expect for $49 a night, and less.

“Not the Four Seasons,” he said, clearly a master of the obvious.

“More like one season,” agreed Devon.  She thought that was pretty clever.  

“You’re the one who wanted to cut to the chase,” he reminded her.  She hated it when people overlooked her cleverness.  She jumped back into character.

“When you know what you want, why wait?” she purred, maybe a little too purrishly.  She wished she could do a different line reading but realized it was too late for that.

“True.  Life is short.”

“You make that up?” she smirked.

He just stared at her.  Again with the humorlessness, she thought, as she smiled her best smile and crossed into the bathroom.  The One assessed the room.  He took off his jacket and hung it on the back of the desk chair.  Then he took off his tie.

Devon turned on the water, picked up a towel, and looked at herself in the mirror.  She was an actress at heart, a theatre major in college, and sometimes went out on auditions.  Though she hadn’t ever actually booked anything, the way she saw it she had two ongoing roles:  Good Devon and Bad Devon.  Tonight she was Bad Devon.  And she was good at being Bad Devon.

“I’m cold, I’m getting into the bed.”

“Sorry, did you say the money was on the nightstand?” the Bad Devon replied.

“Yes,” he answered.  But he didn’t get into the bed.  Instead he turned off the light, looped his tie around his hands, and smiled at the pleasure strangling her would bring him.  He stood off to the side, so that when she came out of the bathroom she would walk past him en route to the bed, and once she was in front of him it would be all over.  He would kill her slowly, like the others.  Slowly but surely.  But especially slowly.

“Here I come,” Devon announced.  The door opened.  “No light?  Am I that ugly?”  She laughed.  She walked into the room, still holding the towel.  Just as he made his move, she whirled, dropped the towel, and pointed her .22 at him, the silencer nearly touching his face.  He froze, caught red-handed with the tie.

“I’m not much into the bondage thing,” she said.

“I have five hundred dollars in my wallet.”

“I don’t want your money,” said Devon.

He relaxed a little, which is when she shot him once right between the eyes.  He slammed back against the wall, eyes still open, then slid down to the floor.  She gently bent over him, put the gun into his mouth, and fired again.  Blood everywhere, including her blouse.  Her brand new blouse.  “Fuck!” she said.  That was never gonna come out.

                                                                        * * *

Devon got back into her car.  She reached over to the white manila envelope, opened it, and pulled out the 8 x 10 inside.  It was The One.  He was the one, all right.  She picked up her phone and dialed someone off the speed dial.  A man answered quickly.

“Yeah.”

“Boom boom,” said Devon.

“Okay,” said the man.

“No,” replied Devon.  “That’s not what you say.  I say ‘Boom boom’ and you say what?”

Click.

He was never any fun.  He was supposed to say “Pow.”  But he never did.  Disappointed again, Devon said “Fuck!” again, then turned off the phone and drove home.

                                                                     * * *

The next morning Devon drove to Starbuck’s for coffee, technically a grande caramel macchiato, upside down, looking like all the stay-at-home moms and work-at-home single girls in designer sweats with the waistband rolled down and flip-flops.  With the caffeine flowing through her veins she detoured to the newsstand next door as she always did after a Dodgers win to read all about it.  She handed her dollar to the friendly yet oddly-named Billy at the register (he was clearly from a country where there are no Billys).  Billy perked up as Devon picked up the paper.  “Ah, Grant Thomas your boyfriend, two more runs of home!”  Devon considered this, then said “Yes.  I’ll tell him you said hi!”  She looked forward to reading the details, but her eye strayed to the front page, which blared “Suspected Killer Found Dead.”

Devon flashed a smile in Billy’s direction as she, the newspaper and her grande caramel macchiato flip-flopped back to her car.  Under the driver’s side windshield wiper was a white manila envelope.

                                                                    * * *

Devon sat at her desk and opened the new white manila envelope.  First she pulled out $10,000 in cash, all hundreds, and set it aside.  Next out of the envelope were three 8 x 10 photos of The New One.  Very corporate.  She set them aside.  And finally she removed newspaper clippings trumpeting Enron, lost pensions, and executives immune from prosecution.  She typed a few words into her computer’s Google Search box, hit Enter, and looked at the screen.  “Gotcha.”

                                                                    * * *

As Devon drove downtown, she assessed her life.  She owned no plants, as she had a black thumb which caused them to drop dead the moment she touched them.  So ironic, she mused.  She owned no cats because she had read that Grant Thomas was horribly allergic so that would never do.  And besides, nothing screamed “confirmed bachelorette!” quite as loudly as a cat.  So no cats.  Devon’s greatest regret was that she couldn’t really be honest with people. It had kept her from having a meaningful love relationship, which was hard on her.  It wasn’t the killing part.  Still, she felt that if anyone could understand this wacky life of hers, it would be Grant Thomas.  His life was pretty extraordinary, too.  In the meantime, she’d stick with the acting things.  Her parents believed she worked as a headhunter.  And in a way, she did.  

Her boss knew Devon only wanted the “justified jobs.”  The most recent, in the motel, had been contracted by a grieving father whose daughter had been strangled by a predator with a great lawyer who still somehow made bail.  And now this next one was funded by a couple who had lost everything thanks to the Enron scandal, and had decided they would spend what was left of their savings to get revenge against the man they held responsible for their ruin.  Devon didn’t judge them.  She just killed them.

                                                                     * * *

Devon stared down at her car engine as steam billowed up into her face.  All she could think about was the Dodgers road trip to Arizona and what the steam must be doing to her hair and Grant Thomas’s hitting streak, which had reached 22 games.

“Got a problem there?”

She stepped back.  Lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t heard the man approach.  She indicated her car, alone in the parking lot, hood up, steaming.  She smiled at him.

“Ya think?”

The man laughed and approached her. Finally, she thought, a guy who appreciated her sense of humor.  As he approached, looked under the hood and asked “So what’s happening here?” Devon replied by shooting him once the back of the head, and then twice more once he was on the ground.  Then she reached under her hood, removed the steam-causing bag of dry ice, walked around, and tossed it into the trunk.  

She picked up her phone and dialed someone off the speed dial.  A man answered quickly.

“Yeah.”

“Boom boom,” said Devon.

“I’m not saying it,” said the man.

“Why not?”

“It’s stupid.”

Click.

Devon turned off the phone, scowled, and drove home.

                                                                    * * *

Weeks went by, quiet weeks, sweet weeks.  Devon’s parents visited from their retirement village in Florida.  Her mom said it was because they never got to see her, but Devon knew it was mostly because her dad was jonesing for the Dodgers.  And see the Dodgers they did, three games in a week, braving stifling heat and intense traffic and eating crappy food and loving it all except maybe the traffic part.  The Boys in Blue were four games ahead of hated San Francisco with just ten to play and all was right in the wonderful world of Devon.  She drove her parents to the airport, walked them into the terminal, and they said their goodbyes.  When Devon got back to her car, there was a white manila envelope on the windshield.  Vacation was over.  She sighed, tossed it onto the passenger’s seat, and drove home.

It sat on her desk for a day unopened.  That never happened.  But Devon wasn’t in work mode.  She sat at her computer wearing her Grant Thomas jersey.  She Googled him and looked again at his statistics.  His first year as a Dodger was his best year yet, the rare free agent whose play actually improved after getting the big bucks.  Devon wasn’t surprised.  Grant was special.

As Devon was appreciating how Grant’s walks were increasing and his strikeouts decreasing, she absently opened the manila envelope.  Out came the cash, which she set aside.  And then she took out the 8 x 10 glossy.  And she froze.

She picked up her phone and dialed someone off the speed dial.  A man answered quickly.

“Yeah.”

“What the fuck is this?” asked Devon.

“Meet me at the spot,” the man said.  “One hour.”

Click.

                                                                      * * *

“The spot” was an unlikely rendezvous location for a paid killer and her boss.  It was the only place they had ever met.  Devon had expected a dark parking garage.  “You’ve seen too many movies,” he told her.  Instead they would meet at the local mall, on a bench not far from a kids’ play area.  She didn’t know his name and never asked.  She had never questioned an assignment before.  That was about to change.  She sat holding the white manila envelope, thinking about the Dodgers.  He sat down next to her.

“Dodgers playing well,” he said.

She just stared at him.  He knew what this was all about.  And he actually felt kinda bad about it.

“Yeah, I know,” he added.

“Not gonna happen,” said Devon.

”Yeah, it is,” he replied, softly but insistently.

He took the envelope from her.  She didn’t resist.  He opened it and slid out the photo.  Devon couldn’t resist a glance.  She looked at Grant Thomas and Grant Thomas looked back at her.  She looked away.

“Why?”

“Dodgers are for sale.  It’s on the hush-hush.  But the payroll’s too high for the new group.  They won’t pull the trigger.”  He realized.  “Bad choice of words.”

“So they don’t buy the team.  They can go buy the Pirates.”

“They don’t want the Pirates.  They want the Dodgers.  They’re getting the Dodgers.”

“And this is the only way?”

“His contract is guaranteed.  Three hundred million, unless he retires.  Or…”

He let it trail off.

“I’m not doing it.”

“They asked for you.”

“I’m not doing it.”

“No gun.”

“I’m not doing it.”

“Something… accidental.”

“I’m not doing it.”

“We’re talking billions here, with a capital ‘B.’  You will be seeing a bonus, also with a capital ‘B.’”

“I can’t do it!”

He softly put his hands on her shoulder.  “Call me after.”

And with that he got up and walked away, stopping at the GAP for a new belt on the way out, and brown socks because they were on sale.

Devon just sat, her mind racing and yet not landing on anything in particular.  “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” started playing in her head.  And it was then that she realized no matter what happened for the rest of her life, that she would never get married, and that Grant Thomas, Jr., would make a great name for a cat.

                           


R.J. Colleary is a baseball fan without a favorite team.  He will never, ever, ever own a cat.  (Ever.)










Return to Back Issues.