Here is the Prologue of GAME 7: DEAD BALL, my debut novel (February 2011), and first in what is now The Marshall Connors Series. You can purchase this book and the series online in paperback or ebook form. Visit http://www.allenschatz.com/wherebuy.html for a full list of sites/links.
June 20, 1997 - Bluefield, West Virginia
Opening day for the minor league Bluefield Orioles baseball team was one of the few bright spots in this otherwise dismal and decaying town long removed from its former glory days. The same was true for Tammy Rogers. Her luck had been mostly bad for a long time and prospects of something better were fading faster than the worn-out shingles on the building where she lived. She needed out in a bad way.
On this night, she would get her wish.
The journey started, as it usually did, at a place called Wild Aces. At best, the bar was nothing more than a dive where the legal drinking age meant little, making it a must-stop for most of the ballplayers after every game. That many of these young men were barely out of high school never deterred Tammy because she was very good at ferreting out those old enough to play her game.
Her first pitch came shortly after ten P.M., when she paused just inside the bar’s entrance to size up the crowd—and let it return the favor. At twenty-six, she had a natural look and all the right curves in all the right places. Her uniform this night was a knee-length, spaghetti-strapped, pale yellow sundress. She had her long blonde hair loosely tied into a messy updo, and a light application of make-up finished the look.
Satisfied she’d delivered strike one, she sauntered to the far side of Aces’ long bar and worked herself onto her usual stool. She was greeted there by Billy Dubbs, the tavern’s proprietor and a man with whom she’d once shared a night. It never went beyond that, outside of being the reason for the always open and waiting stool after every Orioles home game.
“Hello, Tammy,” Billy said as he placed two drinks in front of her, a shot of Jack and a Miller Lite. “I’ll start your tab. Try not to forget to settle up this time.”
“Oh, Billy, it was only that one time,” Tammy said, applying her cutest smile. “And I made up for it, didn’t I?”
“You did,” Billy said, his head shaking but a smile giving him away.
A man standing near the bar at Tammy’s right was watching the exchange with great interest, and when she quickly downed the whiskey, he perked up even further. Tammy noticed the stare and adjusted her position on the stool to get a better look. The light around her, somewhere between an old flashlight and a handful of candles, was enough to allow for a decent view.
Liking what she saw, she fired her next pitch, a mouthed “Hi” in the man’s direction. He responded with a smile and moved toward her. The closer he got, the better he looked, and it was Tammy’s turn to perk up. As he reached her stool, he extended his hand and she took it. The touch sent a shiver down her back and she shuddered.
“Tammy,” she said after recovering.
“Nice to meet you, Tammy,” the man said before motioning to the empty stool next to her. “May I join you?”
That he failed to introduce himself never registered.
“Please,” Tammy said with a small nod.
Her heart was racing as the man sat, and she silently chided herself for being so flustered. It was usually the other way around, especially with the baseball boys, and as the man settled onto the stool, she took a swig of Miller and tried to regroup.
“You’re not fromBluefield, are you?” she said after swallowing.
“Nope, first time,” the man said as he motioned to Billy for a new drink.
“Oooh, a traveler,” Tammy said in her best pick-up voice.
The man offered up a nonchalant shrug.
“I get around.”
“I’ll bet you do,” Tammy said through a sly grin.
Billy interrupted the dance when he arrived with the man’s refill. Tammy used the break to take another sip of beer, accidentally-on-purpose dribbling some down her chin in the process. As the liquid made its way to the space between her breasts, she pinched a napkin off the bar and made an elaborate show of dabbing at the moisture.
“You missed some,” the man said before using the side of his finger to wipe a drop from her chin.
The touch produced new shivers and Tammy’s nipples got rock hard under the thin fabric of her dress. The man’s eyes took notice of her excitement.
“All fixed,” the man said.
Tammy pushed some air through her lips.
“Yes, it is,” she said under her breath.
The man smiled and sampled his beverage. Tammy waited for him to finish.
“So, what brings you to town?” she said. “Are you a ballplayer?”
“I’ve been known to play a game or two,” he said as his finger came back to her body.
He used it to draw an imaginary line across her shoulder and down her arm. Goosebumps sprouted and Tammy closed her eyes to absorb the sensations. What had started as her game had become his. She was wet from the simple touches and more than ready to go. All the man had to do was ask. An hour later he did.
It was the last time Tammy was seen alive.