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Dressed in black, the woman sat alone at the far end of the hotel bar, nursing a Cuba libre. It was late, but the crowd was still fairly heavy for a Sunday night in Madison. It had been a long day, starting well before the 1:05 “play ball” call for game one and continuing on now, an hour after the 10:10 end of game two. The fact that the Wolves had beaten the Nine both games probably accounted for the strength of the crowd. Tomorrow would see the final game of the series, and spirits were up.
Who could blame them? the woman thought as she swirled ice and fended off another bumbling, cheese-headed advance.
At 57-61, Madison fans hadn’t had a lot to get excited about since a long time before their old deadbeat front office ran off to despoil baseball in the Pacific northwest. Baseball was cruel, after all. Harsh like mother nature. Just when it looked like the new GM might be getting it all together, he grew a conscience and ran off to save lives as a doctor. Now the club was run by Mike Simon, a guy whose press conferences were basically a bunch of random graphs.
Regardless, the Wolves had now beaten the Nine three games in a row, including sweeping today's doubleheader.
She had watched all three games with some interest, feeling a wrongness the whole way. The Wolves were not this good, the Nine not this bad. Something had to be up.
That’s why she was here tonight, dressed in Hellscape black and sipping a drink rather than catching up on sleep. She wanted something to go on that was stronger than this feeling of wrongness. She wanted to feel things were right, and, for certain reasons, mingling with this particular crowd seemed the best step. Her phone sat on the bar before her, complete with a few new aps she’d gotten from Triple Axe as she’d left Chicago to follow the team north. One of those aps scrambled everything about her phone, including its location, another added three zones of encryption. A third was recording now, she knew—sensing even conversations from around the room that would be inaudible to normal human senses and logging them all. As the phone gathered data, the woman dallied with a round of Overkill, the newest mobile game sensation.
“It’s so simple they’ll never catch on,” the bloviating voice of the guy she'd tailed came from a booth behind her.
From earlier recognizance she knew the guy was a staffer with the Wolves. From the way he guzzled pitchers of the beer he was drinking, she figured he might wind up being loose lipped as he hung with friends. “Just a little micro camera right at the front of the plate.”
“A camera at home plate?” a buddy said. “That’s insane!”
“They make ‘em, the size of a grain of sand these days. Hell, I could be recording you now with one stuck under a fingernail!”
A glance out the corner or her eye let the woman see the boastful young man waggle his fingers toward his buddies.
“Don’t let me see what else your fingernails might record tonight,” his friend said. “I already know you’re going home alone. I don't need to see the evidence.”
The group of men burst out laughing. To herself, the woman raised an agreeing eyebrow. Like most men, this Madison dolt was a buffoon.
“Seriously, man. You’re getting a direct feed?”
“We call it the crotch cam. One finger for fastball, two is a curve. Feed that signal straight back to the dugout, and then just add water!” The Madison executive took a huge swig and pounded his mug down on the table, feeling his oats and ordering another pitcher.
Suddenly, it all made sense. The Wolves were stealing signs.
No wonder they got Colon for nine hits in three innings, and Barnard for six in the same span, No surprise they ripped into Ramos, too. Their hitters knew what was coming.
Satisfied, she finished her drink and picked up her phone. In a smooth movement she grabbed a photo of the executive. She wouldn’t break any laws, but you never knew when leverage might come to play. Then she wrote a text to her main contact back home. ”Tell the guys to smooth out the ground in front of home plate,” the text read. ”The dirt has eyes.”
Putting the phone into a pocket of her leather jacket, she smiled. At least tomorrow’s game would be a fair fight.
The crowd was thinner as she walked away. Still feeling the heightened senses she'd been exercising for the past half hour, she couldn't help but hear voices in other conversations here and there, mostly stupid stuff said by tired people who were hanging around so they could hold onto the feeling of winning rather than sleep their way to a tomorrow that might not be so good.
There was one voice, though, a woman speaking with a controlled sense of purpose. “Yes, that’s what I said, honey, I ‘took care’ of the security guard just like old times, then I shredded the junk C-Dub wanted gone.” There was a beat of silence, then the woman spoke again, her voice suddenly low and husky. “You know how I can be when I’m properly motivated.”
“Oh, yes, Kate, I most certainly do know what a little motivation can do when you're in town.”
It was all the woman could do to keep from stopping right there, but she knew hesitating would be awkward. She knew it might give away more than she wanted to be given tonight. So, instead, she worked to keep her face set on "disinterested" as shed strode out of the hotel bar and headed back to her room.
Thanks to her friend in Chicago, she had a new conversation to listen to.
As the woman walked away, a simple reaching up to let her fingers follow the contour of her phone was the only sign she let leak through her demeanor.
Yellow Springs Nine
Playoff Regular, Landis Averse
Playoff Regular, Landis Averse
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