With his wife away, Danny ate dinner at the Gray Moose, a classic dark-wood pub. He signaled to a waiter for another beer.
“Sure thing, Mr. McGowan.”
With that, an attractive dark-haired woman sitting at the bar near his table shouted, “You’re Danny McGowan! Oh my God, I knew you looked familiar.”
Danny sighed as she rushed toward him. He couldn’t help but notice her long legs in tight jeans.
“I grew up in Detroit when you pitched those back-to-back twenty game seasons. I still have your autograph, if my shit of an ex-boyfriend didn’t take it.”
Ditzy, Danny thought. He stuffed a slice of beef in his mouth, hoping she’d take a hint.
“I can’t believe I’m talking to Danny McGowan. I had the biggest crush on you when I was fifteen.”
He calculated that to be about ten years ago when he was in his late twenties. A few years later he’d blow out his shoulder.
The waiter brought his beer. She wasn’t going away. He wasn’t telling her to leave, either.
“What have you been doing lately? Coaching or something?” She took a breath and waited for him to speak.
“Nah. I’m out of baseball.” He spoke slowly, hesitantly. But she had the wide-eyed stare of a fan, and it encouraged him. “I work a little with kids and do some charity stuff. When I retired, I moved out here with my wife.” He hoped mentioning Kate would create distance between them.
She slid into the booth opposite him, grabbed his beer and downed half of it.
A few drinks later, he was in his car following her home.
What the hell was he doing? He thought of what he had put Kate through during his days on the road. He knew he should go home and call her. Instead, he turned off his phone.
He tried remembering the name of the woman he was following. Mindy or Mandy. Mindy. Long-legged Mindy. They’ll rip off each other’s clothes, fuck, and he’ll go home. She’ll call her best friend and brag that she just banged Danny McGowan. The thought excited him.
Her right turn signal blinked. He considered gunning it and disappearing down the dark road ahead. Instead, he slowed and followed her to a well-kept, suburban neighborhood. Welcome to Valley View, a sign said.
When he pulled up, she was already at her front door waving him in. She disappeared inside, leaving the door open.
A similar experience from back in his playing days flashed through his mind. By the time he had gotten inside the house, the two girls he had picked up were naked.
A different kind of surprise awaited him now.
A man’s voice, obviously drunk, shouted, “You fucking whore. It’s only been a week and you’re already bringing guys home.”
“It’s none of your business who I fuck. And gimme back my key.”
Danny saw a short, stocky man in a black T-shirt push Mindy to the ground and stagger toward him. He’d been in his share of fights with drunks. They never ended well.
Mindy could take care of herself. He didn’t need to be caught up in this shit.
“You better run, asshole.”
Back in the safety of his car, he considered calling the police but they’d trace the call and he’d have to explain what he was doing at a strange woman’s house. He set his GPS for home and got out of there in a hurry.
As soon as he calmed down, he turned on his cell phone. It signaled a missed call and Kate’s name come up. He pressed one on his speed dial.
“Hi, babe,” he said, trying to sound relaxed.
“Where are you?” Kate asked. “I’ve been trying to get you.”
“I’m in the car. Had dinner at the Gray Moose. I must have turned off my phone.” He inhaled deeply. “I was going to call as soon as I got home.”
“Well, if you kept your cell on, you’d know I’ll be home soon. I cut my visit short.”
“Fantastic. I’ll open a bottle of wine.”
“I don’t need the bottle. How about open arms?”
“Whatever you need.” Hell, he was the one who needed the drink.
A couple hours after he arrived home, after straightening up the house and loading the dishwasher with the last couple days of dishes, he heard Kate pulling up in their driveway. He barely had time to think. Which was a good thing. His mind had been racing through the what ifs.
He rushed out to kiss her and help with her bags.
Before she unpacked, they were making love. In the shower the next morning, they went at it again. Afterwards, he made omelets while she dressed.
“I should go away more often.”
“No. Don’t. Maybe I’ll go with you next time. Keep me out of trouble.
“Nothing. You know, I just missed you.”
She laughed. “I could tell.”
Over breakfast, they turned on the TV to get the local news and check the weather. Danny only half-listened to a story about a Valley View woman who had been beaten to death. Valley View sounded familiar. He glanced up at the TV, saw Mindy’s photo and lost his breath.
“What’s wrong?” Kate asked. “Do you know the poor woman?”
“Yes… No. She was at the Gray Moose last night when I was having dinner. Said she was a fan.”
His mind reeled. It wouldn’t take long for someone at the pub to see her picture and tell the police he had left with her. He tried making up a story about following the woman home because he was concerned she had too much to drink. But who would believe that? Certainly not Kate.
He heard a knock on the front door. Through the window, he could see two uniformed police officers.
Kate jumped to answer while he prepared his big Danny McGowan smile, the one he reserved for fans and the press.
Wayne Scheer has been locked in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne’s, not the turtle’s.) To keep from going back to work, he’s published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems, including Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories. He’s been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. Wayne can be contacted at email@example.com.