Over the years I’ve watched a lot of sports: baseball, not my favorite; softball, a different version of baseball; football, too slow; hockey, too fast; basketball, Yes. And soccer, you bet! Love, love, love me some soccer. Make that fútbol to everyone outside the U.S. Ah, yes, soccer has replaced basketball as my favorite watchable sport. I’m not sure why because a last minute fluke can prevent the best team from winning. And those sudden death tie breakers have caused many a painful night reliving what might’ve/could’ve been.
I must confess that sometimes during those long hours of sitting on unforgiving bleachers I’d give my mind a change of pace and allow it to wander into the Land of Make Believe. Create my own team, teenage boys in this instance. Make that a select travel team, the kind every teenage soccer player aspires to play on, the kind every player’s parents aspire for their son to be Numero Uno. Parents, you gotta admire or fear them, those over-the-top super ambitious parents who will do whatever it takes to help their son achieve his fullest potential. To eventually earn an athletic scholarship to a major university.
Dream on, which I did. And wound up with a group of talented soccer players on a St. Louis team called Pegasi United, coached by a power-hungry guy who learned how to work the system to his advantage. Add to that a recently widowed soccer mom who feels obligated to take over where her late husband left off, all for the sake of their son coping with grief while trying to honor the memory of his dad. It all came together in a mystery entitled Lethal Play.
For a limited time Lethal Play is on sale for the bargain price of $.99 at Amazon.
Interested in this crime mystery? I’ve included Chapter 2 below to help you decide …
Five weeks earlier on the twenty-ninth of January a single runner jogged through the pre-dawn streets of a sleepy St. Louis suburb. Ben Canelli didn’t believe in short-changing himself, especially when it came to maintaining a physique that celebrated its forty-two years with few apologies. He adhered to a strict discipline of running every morning at five-thirty, rain or shine, as long as the temperature registered above twenty degrees and snowshoes were not a prerequisite for navigating through his Richmond Heights neighborhood.
Before leaving home on this overcast but unseasonably warm day, he’d considered waking Matt but then decided against inviting him along on such a routine run. Fifteen-year-old boys need plenty of rest because they grow while they sleep; at least that’s what Ben’s dad used to tell him. And Ben always relied on those pearls of wisdom which would eventually define his dad’s legacy.
The late Al Canelli had been a respected athlete—a soccer standout into his thirties and later the coach of a topflight St. Louis mens team. To Ben’s regret, he hadn’t lived up to Al’s athletic abilities, not that the old man ever complained. He’d been too much of a gentleman to show any disappointment, one of many admirable traits Ben strived but often failed to emulate.
The light drizzle peppering Ben’s face reminded him to pick up the pace since he hadn’t thought to bring along his windbreaker. Still, the navy sweat suit and turtleneck underneath should keep him warm until he returned to the brick Tudor on Windsor Lane. He’d left Francesca there, still in bed and purring in the aftermath of wake-up sex. One thing he could count on when he got back was the smell of freshly ground coffee brewing, a pricey gourmet blend she preferred and he tolerated. Sweet Francesca, she loved him almost as much as he loved himself. Besides Matt, she’d given him Ria.
What father wouldn’t be crazy about an eleven-year-old showering him with kisses and then executing an enthusiastic though less than perfect string of back flips. Matt could turn back flips too, from a crouched position and as smooth as any seasoned gymnast. Those flips made a great show on the soccer pitch, as long as the kid didn’t overdo it. No coach likes a grandstander.
Ben nodded to a passing runner he encountered once or twice a week. He wiped a patch of chilling droplets from his brow and pulled up the hood to cover his damp hair. Using long strides, he skimmed over the wet pavement and turned westward, away from the muted rays of the rising sun. Where was he? Oh yeah, about Matt. Fortunately, the kid had inherited his grandfather’s genes, those microscopic gems blessing him with the ability to run faster and jump higher than the average teenage athlete. Of course, for Matt to reach his full potential, it would require unlimited nurturing, creative financing, political savvy, and just plain luck.
Too bad Thunderbolt went belly up. Ben had coached the select team and Matt had played on it since the age of nine. For Matt—and Ben—it meant having to start over, scrambling for acceptance on one of the few teams that had openings for the spring season. They’d pinned their hopes on numero uno. Pegasi United consistently ranked in the top forty of U.S. Youth Soccer and offered the most advantages, as in winning seasons, financial backing, a demanding schedule thriving on prestigious tournaments, and for the best of the best—athletic scholarships to Division 1 universities. Reaching for the moon an unreasonable goal? Hell no, not with Matt standing on his dad’s shoulders. About the Pegasi coach, Ben wasn’t sure, only because he didn’t really know Rex Meredith, although the solid grip of the cocky bastard’s handshake did seem sincere, too sincere. In fact, it bordered on unctuous, that slippery hand sliding through Ben’s.
As with most mornings, Ben had timed this run to perfection. On Clayton Road the wrought iron security gates leading to Hampton Park swung open, allowing him to enter at the precise moment a familiar green 911 Carrera drove through the exit. In keeping with their usual routine, the female driver and Ben acknowledged each other with a simple wave of the hand. More droplets fell onto his eyelids; he blinked them away.
Ahead on the asphalt lane towered the massive sanctuaries of the privileged, a state of upper class grace Ben harbored no illusions of ever achieving, unless he somehow maneuvered a takeover of the sporting goods company that recently promoted him to a divisional manager position. Not bad for a guy who struggled through five years of college before graduating. Along the winding route of homes striving to outdo each other, he stopped but once, to jog in place while admiring his favorite estate, a sprawling gray Tudor that reduced his Windsor Lane knock-off to that of a rich kid’s playhouse.
Ben checked his watch, only a few more minutes in the land of make believe before he headed home. His mouth watered at the thought of sausages and eggs for breakfast but he’d already committed himself to sensible skim milk over dry cereal, the sugarless kind with a paltry few almonds bottoming out the box. What the hell, maybe this morning he could sweet talk Francesca into making him an egg white omelet swirled with no-fat cream cheese. It couldn’t compete with her mother’s cholesterol-be-damned-version but, what the hell—he couldn’t fault Francesca for making every effort to keep him healthy.
He executed a quick U-turn and picked up his pace another notch since the drizzle was on the verge of escalating into a major downpour. When he arrived at Hampton Park’s exit, the gates into the real world were closed so he eased through a narrow opening he’d created in the tangled hedge the previous fall. Back on Clayton Road rush hour for the local overachievers had gotten a jumpstart, with headlights from late model cars beaming their reflections onto the glistening pavement and mesmerizing him into a state of euphoria.
Ben turned right and made his re-entry into the affordable middle class, now under a siege of unrelenting rain. He watched his feet kick up puddles for two blocks before moving toward the middle of the street. He rounded a corner, taking it wide to avoid a car parked where no car belonged. Looking back to check out the make and license plate, he missed seeing the Dodge Caravan approaching from the opposite direction. He didn’t hear the brakes screech as they ripped rubber from the tire treads. Nor did he feel the impact of the vehicle when it tossed him ten feet into the air. Nor the devastating damage his toned body suffered when it landed on the slick concrete, a good twenty feet from where he took the final step of his early morning run.
End of excerpt