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Myron Bolitar used a cardboard periscope to look over the suffocating throngs of ridiculously clad spectators. He tried to recall the last time he'd actually used a toy periscope, and an image of sending in proof-of-purchase seals from a box of Cap'n Crunch cereal flickered in front him like headache-inducing sunspots.
Through the mirrored reflection, Myron watched a man dressed in knickers--knickers, for crying out loud--stand over a tiny white sphere. The ridiculously clad spectators mumbled excitedly. Myron stifled a yawn. The knickered man crouched. The ridiculously clad spectators jostled and then settled into an eerie silence. Sheer stillness followed, as if even the trees and shrubs and well-coiffed blades of grass were holding their collective breath.
Then the knickered man whacked the white sphere with a stick.
The crowd began to murmur in the indistinguishable syllables of backstage banter. As the ball ascended, so did the volume of the murmurs. Words could be made out. Then phrases. "Lovely golf stroke." "Super golf shot." "Beautiful golf shot." "Truly fine golf stroke." They always said golf stroke, like someone might mistake it for a swim stroke, or--as Myron was currently contemplating in this blazing heat--a sunstroke.
Myron took the periscope away from his eyes. He was tempted to yell "Up periscope," but feared some at stately, snooty Merion Golf Club would view the act immature. Especially during the U.S. Open. He looked down at a ruddy-faced man of about seventy.
"Your pants," Myron said.
"You're afraid of getting hit by a golf cart, right?" They were orange and yellow in a hue slightly more luminous than a bursting supernova. To be fair, the man's clothing hardly stood out. Most in the crowd seemed to have woken up wondering what apparel they possessed that would clash with, say, the free world. Orange and green tints found exclusively in several of your tackiest neon signs adorned many. Yellow and some strange shades of purple were also quite big--usually together--like a color scheme rejected by a Midwest high school cheerleading squad. It was as if being surrounded by all this God-given natural beauty made one want to do all in his power to offset it. Or maybe there was something else at work here. Maybe the ugly clothes had a more functional origin. Maybe in the old days, when animals roamed free, golfers dressed this way to ward off dangerous wildlife.
"I need to speak with you," the elderly man whispered. "It's urgent."
The rounded, jovial cheeks belied his pleading eyes He suddenly gripped Myron's forearm. "Please," he added.
"What's this about?" Myron asked.
The man made a movement with his neck, like his collar was on too tight. "You're a sports agent, right?"
"You're here to find clients?"
Myron narrowed his eyes. "How do you know I'm not here to witness the enthralling spectacle of grown men taking a walk?"
The old man did not smile, but then again, golfers were not known for their sense of humor. He craned his neck again and moved closer. His whisper was hoarse. "Do you know the name Jack Coldren?" he asked.
"Sure," Myron said.
If the old man had asked the same question yesterday, Myron wouldn't have had a clue. He didn't follow golf that closely (or at all), and Jack Coldren had been little more than a journeyman over the past twenty years or so. But Coldren had been the surprise leader after the U.S. Open's first day, and now, with just a few holes remaining in the second round, Coldren was up by a commanding eight strokes. "What about him?"
"And Linda Coldren?" the man asked. "Do you know who she is?"
This one was easier. Linda Coldren was Jack's wife and far and away the top female golfer of the past decade. "Yeah, I know who she is," Myron said.
The man leaned in closer and did the neck thing again. Seriously annoying--not to mention contagious. Myron found himself fighting off the desire to mimic the movement. "They're in deep trouble," the old man whispered. "If you help them, you'll have two new clients."
"What sort of trouble?"
The old man looked around. "Please," he said. "There are too many people. Come with me."
Myron shrugged. No reason not to go. The old man was the only lead he'd unearthed since his friend and business associate Windsor Horne Lockwood III--Win, for short--had dragged his sorry butt down here. Being that the U.S. Open was at Merion--home course of the Lockwood family for something like a billion years--Win had felt it would be a great opportunity for Myron to land a few choice clients. Myron wasn't quite so sure. As near as he could tell, the major component separating him from the hordes of other locust-like agents swarming the green meadows of Merion Golf Club was his naked aversion for golf. Probably not a key selling point to the faithful.
Myron Bolitar ran MB SportsReps, a sports representation firm located on Park Avenue in New York City. He rented the space from his former college roommate, Win, a Waspy, old-money, big-time investment banker whose family owned Lock-Home Securities on the same Park Avenue in New York. Myron handled the negotiations while Win, one of the country's most respected brokers, handled the investments and finances. The other member of the MB team, Esperanza Diaz, handled everything else. Three branches with checks and balances Just like the American government. Very patriotic.
Slogan: MB SportsReps--the other guys are commie pinkos.
As the old man ushered Myron through the crowd, several men in green blazers--another look sported mostly at golf courses, perhaps to camouflage oneself against the grass--greeted him with whispered, "How do, Bucky," or "Looking good, Buckster," or "Fine day for golf, Buckaroo." They all had the accent of the rich and preppy, the kind of inflection where mommy is pronounced "mummy" and summer and winter are verbs. Myron was about to comment on a grown man being called Bucky, but when your name is Myron, well, glass houses and stones and all that;
Like every other sporting event in the free world, the actual playing area looked more like a giant billboard than a field of competition. The leader board was sponsored by IBM. Canon handed out the periscopes. American Airlines employees worked the food stands (an airline handling food--what think tank came up with that one?). Corporate Row was jam-packed with companies who shelled out over one hundred grand a pop to set up a tent for a few days, mostly so that company executives had an excuse to go. Travelers Group, Mass Mutual, Aetna (golfers must like insurance), Canon, Heublein. Heublein. What the hell was a Heublein? They looked like a nice company. Myron would probably buy a Heublein if he knew what one was.
The funny thing was, the U.S. Open was actually less commercialized than most tourneys. At least they hadn't sold their name yet. Other tournaments were named for sponsors and the names had gotten a little silly. Who could get up for winning the JC Penney Open or the Michelob Open or even the Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge?