I line up a putt I think might win the match.
In case my hunch is right, I should be taking my time, measuring the task from all angles, pretend I’m at the Masters. But it’s impossible to concentrate on anything but my kidnapped daughter, and I thank God this is the last hole. Soon as I finish, I’ll hear how I can earn Beth’s release over cigars and brandy.
Not that I’d mind walking out of here with an extra $20,000. I could buy Susan that living room furniture she always wanted.
I’m crouched fifty feet behind the hole, staring at a slick thirty-foot downhiller, maybe four or five feet of right-to-left break. Jerry shanked his second shot into the water, hit his fourth into a bunker, and then picked up to join Al on the sidelines. Bluefish already tapped in for his par after a nifty sand shot. Lucky bastard.
Everything’s up to me. I have to sink this birdie putt to win the match, two-putt for a tie.
Al, who hasn’t left our electric cart since his ball drowned...well, Al acts like his life depends on me knocking this in. His white lips, the way Al looked back there in the woods, the problem has to be something approaching life or death. His eyes are the size of goose eggs.
My nerves fail. I know the putt’s too hard as soon as I stroke it, the damn Top Flight shooting off my club head like a bottle-rocket.
The barking puppy takes about half of the intended four-foot break and races past the hole. Six feet beyond the target, my ball reaches a plateau, picks up more speed, and then dives off a cliff.
Behind me, Al gasps.
When my Top-Flight finally completes its gruesome charge, I lie three feet off the front edge of the green. I have twenty, twenty-five feet back to the hole for par. Gee, nice putt, Carr. What a full-boat fuck-up. You’ve just about guaranteed yourself a three-putt. And a financial hickey the size of a new Buick.
I turn to shrug at my partner, signal Al that I’m sorry for the lapse. But Al’s not in our cart anymore.
Oh, my. There he is. Running toward the forest that borders the country club. Sprinting faster than an old fat man should.
A batch of six or eight crows bursts from the tops of two budding locust trees. A gust of wind rakes my face.
Bluefish and I stand at the edge of the thick forest where Al disappeared, and where Jerry ran in after, waving a pistol and talking on a cell phone. Wonder who he was calling?
“Let’s go see what’s happening, shall we?” Bluefish says.
“I don’t think--”
Bluefish pokes a gun in my ear.
Doesn’t take us long or far to find them. Jerry has his semiautomatic pointed at Al, the two of them inside a living room-size clearing no more than fifty feet from our carts. Al’s collapsed against a tree trunk, ass on the ground, legs extended. His hands cover his face, a reddish nose playing peek-a-boo between them.
He reminds me of Pinocchio, the sad puppet’s nose about grow to the size of a walking stick.
A wave of pity hits me, and my heart ticks louder when I get closer. Al’s shoulders bounce with repeated sobs. Poor old geezer’s whimpering like a baby.
Or is that me?
Bluefish pushes me toward the center of the clearing. The crows are back, circling overhead, squawking at each other for flight space.
When Jerry sees me, recognizes that I’m watching him, he pulls the trigger on Al. Blood and brains gush sideways from Al’s head like someone forgot to cap an electric mixer. An explosion of gore. The sound seems to come later, building, then crashing like a freight train.
Al’s rag-ass body melts onto the leaves and pine needles.
I vomit like a fraternity drunk.