ZEN AND THE ART OF BASEBALL
Captain Karen Simms was irritated and she was trying not to be. She didn't want to take out her irritation on her staff who, for once, hadn't done anything to deserve it.
It hadn't started out to be a bad day but it had steadily deteriorated since she'd gotten to work. First her mother called and filled her in on all Donna's problems. Simms' younger sister always seemed to be having major man trouble which Karen wasn't sure was a real problem. After all, Donna dated more guys in one year than Simms had in her entire life. Plus her sister was an executive at an ad agency dragging down six figures a year. She should have such problems. For some reason she and her sister had both done well in male-dominated careers. Only Donna was surrounded by men in suits.
The men surrounding Simms were tough cops who often resented her, dangerous (or sometimes just loony) criminals and small-minded bureaucrats. She sighed and laid her head down on the desk. Oh, the joys of having it all.
To top the whole morning off, Pat Delaney had called from the 80th precinct to brag about his ball team. Baseball season had just started and the 80th had taken the city municipality trophy and from the conversation that morning, Delaney was planning on keeping it.
Why should she care? The 101st hadn't participated under Blaisdell. She wasn't exactly a big sports fan. Delaney was just a jerk. There were a million good reasons why it would be a waste of time to form a ball team. But then, she was a woman in a man's world and she really wanted to beat the pants off Delaney and what good was having a room full of men if you couldn't put all those muscles to work. Besides, she told herself, everything had been a little scattered since Blaisdell retired. She and her officers needed a common cause, some way to interact besides her giving orders and them mumbling behind her back. Blaisdell had been one of them but she was still an outsider.
The sound of shouting outside her office brought her head up off the desk. Having had quite enough, thank you, she strode to the door and jerked it open. "What is going on out here?"
Total silence fell across the room as everyone turned in her direction. She knew she'd made a mistake. From the way they were lounging around Peter's desk, ('they' being Skalany, Strenlich, Kermit, and Jody), it had just been a little break, a way of blowing off steam in a high stress job. She felt like a high school librarian. These were hard working adults, it wasn't as if they had to lay their heads on their desk when something wasn't going on.
"Excuse me. I didn't mean to interrupt. I just need to talk to you Chief, and you, Detective Caine." That was the most she felt she could deal with right now and if starting a ball team really was stupid, she would only have mentioned it to two people. On the other hand, she thought, as they walked past her into the office, if she were going to mention it to Caine she might as well write an inter-office memo.
Settling behind her desk with them seated in front of her, she studied their expressions. The chief looked pretty much the same, not delighted to be here, but then she'd never seen him look truly thrilled over anything. Peter was staring at the chair arm, worrying with a loose thread, looking for all the world like an adolescent in the principal's office. It would have been impossible to tell that these men were outside trading jokes just a few minutes ago. Was she really such a wet rag? She felt a headache coming on but she was determined to get through this.
She leaned forward, hoping to make the conversation seem more intimate, friendlier. They didn't seem to notice. Peter kept his head bowed and she felt stonewalled. He was without a doubt her biggest challenge. It was enough that Blaisdell seemed to inspire such great loyalty among his officers; she both admired and envied that quality and hoped she could accomplish something like it. But Blaisdell hadn't just been Peter's boss, he'd been his foster father. That left a hole way too big to fill. She wanted Peter to know he wasn't going to get away with just anything because of who he was, but at the same time she didn't want to punish him either. He was a good cop and it couldn't have been easy being the captain's son. Not to mention that Peter's real father was a Shaolin priest, separated from his son at an early age.
Looking at Peter's dark head and not for the first time, she thought he must have had one of the most fascinating childhoods in history. Raised first in a Shaolin monastery where he lived with his father, and then by a tough cop, it was probably a miracle he was a policeman and not a psychopath.
The object of her scrutiny looked up, a little tired but still looking younger than she could ever remember being and she felt a pang of sympathy. He had probably thought his childhood anything but fascinating. How easy could it have been for a part Chinese kid who looked all- American, spoke Chinese, was raised a Buddhist, and ended up in an orphanage? Charles Dickens couldn't have done this kid's life justice.
"You wanted to see us?" Frank asked.
"Yes," Simms said, trying to look businesslike. "I understand there's a baseball tournament among the precincts."
"Yeah." Frank said.
She might as well be pulling teeth.
"How would you feel if the 101st participated?"
"We are the 101st, right?"
Frank shifted in his chair. Peter looked like he was somewhere else completely.
The chief spread his hands. "Well, it's already started. We don't have a team."
Simms smiled, pleasantly she hoped. "Is that a problem?"
"Are you saying you want us to organize a team now?" Strenlich asked, looking as if she'd just suggested the entire precinct go to the moon.
At least Peter seemed to be looking up with interest.
She shrugged. "Is it that difficult?" She looked over at Peter. "Don't you play on the policeman's basketball team? Didn't you ever play baseball?"
"Yeah, but - I haven't for a while." He was trying to look uninvolved but she could see a little interest in his expression. She couldn't believe she finally had his undivided attention. Obviously she had been underestimating the power of sports.
Strenlich shifted in his chair. "With all due respect, Ma'am, everybody's busy and we're just not into group sports, you know?"
Simms watched Peter blink and resisted the urge to tell the chief to shut-up. She saw it coming before it happened. The younger detective shrugged. "Chief's right. I doubt if you could get enough people together for a ball team - and it's so late."
The old boy network going into gear again. Or maybe, just the us and them syndrome. Chief was "us," she was still one of "them."
"Gentleman. I can't tell you what to do on your own time. I can't order you to organize a ball team. What I would like to do is request that you just talk to some of the others - some of you have a wonderful talent for that." She glanced at Peter who to her amusement, honest to God, blushed. She had to bite her inner cheek to keep from laughing. "Just make an effort, okay. It could be fun and - it would give everybody a chance to get better acquainted and . . . it might not be so bad."
"Do you play, Captain?" Peter asked, innocently enough but she knew it was a loaded question.
"I played in high school and I think I'd enjoy playing again. We don't have to win." Actually, she wanted to win more than anything in the world but she didn't want to scare them off.
Strenlich sighed and rubbed his hand over his eyes. "Guess it won't hurt to ask. We'll see what we can do."
"Thank you. Keep me posted."
"Yes, ma'am." Strenlich said. Simms decided it wasn't like winning the war but it could at least qualify as a skirmish.
Surprisingly, there was enough interest in a ball team that they had one in two weeks - they had no practice but they had enough numbers. Simms decided it had mostly been due to Peter's enthusiasm, and the fact that either everyone liked him, or he was too big a pest to ignore. Probably a little of both. Not that they could ever win. Simms looked down at the sheet of names which included, besides Peter and her own name, Strenlich, Blake (could he even see the ball?), Skalany, Jody, Kelly (she had a hard time seeing her playing a sport), Brodrick, and Kermit. That was pretty unbelievable - she didn't even think he went out much in the daytime, except to move from one dark computer room to another. The rest of the names she was still relatively unfamiliar with. Maybe they were all former high school baseball stars . . . or little leaguers.
Practice was miserable. With overlapping schedules they only managed to get together three times before their first game and each time someone had been missing from the roster. How did Delaney schedule all this stuff? Simms somehow felt she should be a little better at this - that there had to be a way to get them all in the same place at the same time. Delaney didn't have any more people than she did and he managed to run a precinct and a ball team. It was like herding cats. And she somehow became the coach even though she didn't want to be. Since she was in charge at work, she wanted someone else to be in charge of the team so she wouldn't be the one giving orders all the time. She had thought Peter would be glad to do it but he unaccountably clammed up and almost withdrew into himself when she even so much as mentioned it. They were all standing on the ball field looking at their shoes and nobody would comment on what to do first so somehow she got the glamour job again. How was she ever going to become one of them when she was the boss lady all the time?
Even worse than that, most of them seemed only marginally interested. Kermit, green glasses and all, even brought a laptop, and somehow he used it to command the attention of Jody and Peter - two people she thought looked athletic enough to maybe be good players. She could have happily throttled him. The whole group seemed more interested in gossiping than playing and she was afraid if she nagged them too much (all right, children, stop having a good time and let's play baseball), they would simply take their toys and go home. They were supposed to be having fun dammit.
But they did manage to practice a little, nothing very impressive. At least she knew most of them could at least catch with varying degrees of skill and get in a few lucky hits. Except for Blake, who couldn't seem to do much of anything but no one had the heart to tell him not to play. As she suspected, Jody and Peter seemed to be the best players. Kermit could hit pretty well but seemed to get bored easily. She knew she couldn't depend on him.
As luck would have it, their first game was against the 80th, oh they of the almost perfect record. Simms almost hated she had ever thought of doing this - Delaney would laugh himself silly. They had no uniforms (Delaney did), no organization (Delaney had a well-oiled machine), a couple of pretty athletic kids (Delaney had at least three players who had once been in the minors). She hoped it rained.
It was a beautiful day of course. Something Simms had heard Peter say once about Karmic debt intruded on her mind. She must owe somebody big time. Delaney's team was already practicing, some of the crowd was filtering in and her players were just now beginning to show up. If she wanted to socialize with her people she should have thrown a barbecue.
She looked at Delaney's team with their perfect uniforms and contrasted them with hers. Kermit had on black shorts and a grey tee with the slogan "UFO's are real, the Air Force doesn't exist" emblazoned across the front. And of course he was wearing sunglasses. Most of the rest of the team were wearing jeans, apparently not overly thrilled with showing their legs. Well, she wasn't either but she wore shorts because she wanted to be comfortable. Jody, Skalany, and Morgan were all wearing shorts and light sporty tops, good activity clothes. Kelly was wearing a tight tank top tucked into shorts with a belt, for goshsakes. Did she think she was going to play or have her picture taken? Peter was wearing a plain white pocket tee and white shorts and she caught herself dwelling on his nicely shaped legs and arms. She was really too old for this sort of behavior. She was old enough to be . . . his older sister.
Skalany and Jody walked over to her looking around the field as if they expected to be thrown out. Mary Margaret had a ball in her hand. "You want us to pitch this around a little, so we'll look like a threat?" She had an amused look on her face. Simms had to grin. "Yeah, let's scare them off." The captain threw the ball up, caught it, and noticed Jody looking at Peter.
Karen took a breath and yelled (she'd always had a voice with good volume). "Caine, go out for a catch."
Peter blinked as if he'd been asleep but got up quick enough and walked out about 25 feet. Kate lobbed it his way, about five feet over his head. He got that screwy look on his face that men often get (the one that said women can't throw) although on him Simms had to admit it was pretty darn cute. He managed to look exceptionally put upon and stalked back to bend over and get the ball, giving all three women a rather unobstructed view of his very attractive backside. They all collapsed into a fit of laughter. "Can I throw or can't I?" Simms felt great - she was finally making some light-hearted contact with some of her female staff, who up to this point, had been as distant as the males.
Strenlich, who had heard most of the exchange, walked over to Blake, shaking his head. "Women are just animals, you know? It's like they have only one thing on their minds."
The game started out as badly as she expected. They were losing. Blake got a walk. When they went into the outfield, Skalany managed to catch a ball, effectively stopping a run but Delaney's team still managed to get two players in home. Finally with the aid of a couple lucky breaks, they caught someone trying to steal a base, and Peter caught another hit. It was a long inning. It was going to be an even longer game.
Simms had high hopes for Peter as a batter, but he struck out. He came to sit next to her, head bowed, looking as if he'd done badly in class, and she didn't have the heart to say anything to him. Kermit, sitting next to her, commented out of the side of his mouth, "winning isn't everything." Yes, but losing isn't anything, she wanted to scream at him. At least he hadn't brought his laptop.
"You are not becoming one with the ball, my son," came a voice behind him. Simms turned her head in disbelief but Peter merely squinted over his shoulder as if he wasn't surprised to see his father, the Shaolin priest, at an afternoon baseball game at all. Kermit grinned and saluted and Caine nodded in response.
Kate grinned. "Did Peter tell you we were playing?"
"No." Caine said in that maddening one word answer way of his.
Peter shrugged. "He probably just knew."
Simms looked to Kermit, who nodded in agreement. It obviously made sense to everyone but her. She glanced at the priest over her shoulder again, "Well, I'm glad you could come."
Caine dipped his head and she turned back around. This was an awkward way to carry on a conversation. As far as she was concerned it was finished. Apparently for Peter it wasn't. He got up and went around the small rail that separated the audience from the players and sat next to his dad. She heard Caine's well-modulated, gentle voice. "Do you remember when we played catch at the temple?"
Simms didn't want to listen, she knew it was a private conversation, but she couldn't help herself. Catch. It sounded like the last thing you'd do at any sort of temple. She glanced at Kermit, but he was staring straight ahead, chewing gum. She couldn't tell if he were listening or not.
"The ball moves through space and air, much as we do. It has a purpose. You also have a purpose - you are either trying to catch it, or meet it with a bat. The trick is to put your bat or your hand where the ball will be, not where it is. Do not allow other things to distract you. For the moment, you must think only of the object approaching you, and nothing else."
It was sort of heavy for sports advice but it did make sense in a way. She wondered if Caine would coach if she asked him.
Jody glanced over to see what had Skalany's attention and noticed Peter talking to Caine. She shook her head, "What a surprise."
Mary Margaret glanced at her. "It doesn't bother you, does it?"
"What - that Dad can show up when he hears Peter so much as sigh too loud?" She shrugged her shoulders. "I guess not. They have been apart for a long time and it's sort of nice. After I got to be a teenager, all the things that were special between my dad and me seemed to disappear. There's something touching about a father being willing to follow his child's heart even when it starts going in a different direction."
Skalany grinned. "That's really pretty. And you're right, Caine's the kind of dad that would never grow apart from his kid because he'd never allow the distance between them to get too far - not if he could help it."
"Does it bother you?" Jody asked pointedly.
Mary Margaret shook her head. "I knew what the situation was when I started dating Caine. I know how devoted he is to Peter but when we're alone, well - he is his own person. A very special person. His character isn't compromised by anything. I don't know how to explain it, but it's like he's more there than other people. There's enough of him for me and Peter, and anyone else who needs him."
"Sometimes I wish Peter were more there. Most of the time he's so perfect and capable, and so himself. But sometimes when his dad shows up, it's almost as if a part of him disappears. I can be talking to him and his father can just walk in the room and I can feel his attention wavering - I can feel him gravitate in that direction, even if he's upset with his dad. Even if he's been complaining about him. I think for Peter, the rest of the room goes dim."
"Well, Caine is an extremely compelling person. As a parental figure, he must have been overwhelming, bigger than life. It's hard to assert yourself against an authority figure that strong. Caine can sometimes be intimidating to adults, can you imagine how he must have seemed to a small child? I'm sure he was kind and loving, but he probably seemed powerful and invincible as well."
"Maybe you should tell that to Kelly. I'm not in the Caine-Peter-Kelly triangle." Kelly, Peter's on and off girlfriend, had in fact joined Peter and his father and she was hanging on her boyfriend's arm. Jody sighed. "She can't seem to catch on to the fact that with Peter it's 'love me, love my dad.'"
Skalany gave her a sly grin. "And how would you handle that?"
"It can't be handled. They have a bond with each other that you'd have to accept or else."
"Could you accept it?"
"Well, there's worse things. He's not a drug addict. I don't think he'd be a wife-beater, and he's not on the take. So he's obsessed with his father. The last guy I dated was obsessed with his car."
"You do like him, don't you?"
Jody felt exposed. She hadn't told anyone how she felt about Peter - she had halfway told him and then pulled back, like a fisherman who decided he didn't want that big old grouchy bass after all. Was it that obvious?
Skalany went on talking. "Kelly hasn't confided in me. Goodness knows, she not the type of woman who accumulates girlfriends, but I have noticed her being a little more protective of Peter than usual. I think she senses a threat in you."
Jody almost snorted. The fact that pretty, popular Kelly would consider her a threat was laughable. After all, she had Peter and Jody didn't. But it would be kind of exhilarating if she did consider her a threat. Was it possible?
Skalany continued, warming up to her subject. "Why do you think she's here today? Because she loves sports? You and I both know she thinks hockey is when you skip school. She wouldn't set foot on this dirt lot if she wasn't staking a claim. Months can go by and they don't pay any attention to each other but let that female appreciation show up in somebody's else's eyes and she immediately becomes territorial."
Jody grinned. "Is that what I've got in my eyes?"
"That's the nice word for it."
Peter finally batted himself into first base and Kermit into home so they had a total of one run. Strenlich got Peter to second but didn't make it to first base himself. The inning was over before they could complete another run. On the way to the outfield, Delaney passed Simms shaking his head. He was one of those prematurely grey-headed guys who looked like he spent a lot of time at the gym. The only thing that kept him from being movie star good-looking was his bent nose, probably from some rough bust and an inexperienced doctor. "Look honey." At Simms' enraged expression, he spread his hands in mock defense. "Oh sorry, forgot my pc manual. I'm just trying to give you a little piece of advice. The 101st is not overbrimming with sports talent - Blaisdell knew that so he decided not to humiliate himself and his people. It's not your fault - a baseball player is what I would have been had I not decided to become a cop."
"Oh, I see. You gave up all those big bucks in order to serve and protect. It's so nice to know money can't buy everything."
"I had offers."
"Tell that to your team, maybe they'll believe it."
"I notice you asked Caine's freaky father out here. Think you need some prayers?"
This is juvenile, Karen thought. I should shut up. "It's a public park. And don't degrade yourself even more by getting personal. You could be reported for making racial slurs, you know."
"It was not a racial slur although it is an American game. I just said he was freaky - he'd be that even if he weren't Chinese and a - well, some kind of religious fanatic."
"Excuse me, I didn't realize the Irish were one of the original Native American Tribes. Besides which, this country practices freedom of religion - "
"Okay, okay. Sorry, truce." He wandered away shaking his head and Simms thought she heard him say something about not being able to say anything these days.
Delaney may have lost the argument but his team got two more runs in during their inning and the weather climbed into the 90's. Karen noticed when her team finally came in off the outfield they looked hot and tired. This was definitely their first and last game. She was aware of Peter sitting beside her looking sweaty and bored. She cast about for a conversation starter. "Does your father go to many baseball games or does he just turn out when you're playing?"
Peter looked at her as if he'd forgotten she was there. It occurred to Karen that this kid was deep inside himself sometimes - she had noticed on occasion that he seemed quite accomplished at tuning out the world. She wasn't sure about weather that was actually an advantage in the law enforcement profession or not but he wasn't dead yet. It was probably some sort of unconscious meditation. Simms realized she knew very little about Peter Caine but she felt there was a lot to discover. Blaisdell had obviously seen something - something that made him introduce this kid into his already made family.
"Huh?" Peter asked. Simms wondered if he'd ever seen a police psychiatrist. She repeated herself.
"Oh, Dad's crazy about baseball. He listens to it on the radio."
"Really. I just wouldn't have guessed. I mean - " she trailed off.
"Well, I don't know. He doesn't have many hobbies. For some reason he's always liked baseball - maybe it's the pace. Slow. When they were having the strike, I think he was actually starting to go cold turkey. He began going to the park to watch little league."
Simms was stunned into silence. She hadn't had a chance to see a lot of Caine but somehow the idea that he was a baseball fan just didn't fit the image. It was kind of endearing though. It made him seem more human, something a little ordinary in an extraordinary man.
Kermit came up and handed them both a cup of water. "Why don't we ask Caine if he can play."
Simms almost choked. "It's against the rules. He has to work in a police precinct."
Kermit shrugged. "Well, he's sort of an advisor." He sat next to Simms. "How about if we asked Delaney and it was okay with him - and I'd say, just a guess, mind you, that he'd be glad to do it, because Caine is not on his top ten list, and next to baseball, Delaney's favorite sport is humiliating the competition."
Peter made a face. "I don't know. He'd never do it." But Simms thought she detected some uncertainty in those eyes and maybe a little potential dread. It would be embarrassing to have your dad join the same ball team you were on. Consideration for Peter slowed her down a little but not much.
"Can he play?" At this point she thought she'd sign up Charles Manson if he could hit a ball.
Kermit shrugged. "I don't know. He can do everything else."
Karen looked at Peter who stared at her with wide eyes that broadcasted everything he wanted to say but probably wouldn't. Yes, my dad can play but please don't ask him because he probably will and he'll be the center of attention and I'll be standing around like a twelve year old again in front of all my adult friends. A noise came out but it wasn't a real word. Simms felt a brief flash of pity for Peter even as she stood up on the bench and turned so she was almost eye level with Caine.
The priest seemed surprised to see her facing him. She assumed it was surprise anyway - he raised one eyebrow.
"How would you like to help us out?" she asked breathlessly.
"And how would I do that?"
"Would you like to play baseball with us?"
"But I am not a member of your team."
"If I can get special permission - if the other side will allow me to add you to our roster, will you play?"
She saw something flash across his face - interest maybe? He cast a glance toward Peter who didn't turn around and Simms wanted Caine to hurry up and agree before Peter made eye contact and gave his dad the message, via body language, that he didn't want him out on the field.
Caine shrugged one shoulder. "I have not played for many years."
Simms leaned forward. "None of us have. You can't be any worse than the rest of us." Was she going to have to beg?
Caine squinted one eye, considering. Karen thought for a minute he wasn't going to make a decision until the game was over but then he smiled and shrugged again. "If it is acceptable, I will play."
"Thank you." Karen said with relief. "Do you want to change?"
Caine looked down at himself as if he'd forgotten what he was wearing which was a loose fitting denim shirt, jeans, and soft boots. He seemed to be thinking about it. Finally he looked up. "No."
"Fine." Karen found herself wanting to shout at him just to keep him moving. She hoped all the things she'd heard about him were true - that he was remarkably fit, sharp as a tack, and a martial arts expert. Right now he looked like a half-wit at a Grateful Dead concert.
Peter dropped his head. He couldn't hear everything but he knew his father had just joined the ball team. Kermit slid over next to him and patted him on the back. "Look at it this way - you're like the Mario Andretti and son of baseball."
"What's Mario's son's name?"
Kermit shrugged. "Andretti."
Kermit grinned. "Just remember, no matter what happens, I'll remember your name is Peter."
Delaney was a pushover. After he finished laughing about Caine being a 'consultant' he was so enthusiastic about him playing he went over and made the arrangements himself. Almost everyone on the 101st seemed, well, excited about Caine joining the team. Simms hadn't realized how popular the priest was and she was amazed at the deferential treatment he received, even from Strenlich. Simms wished she could get this much respect. There were a couple of holdouts. Morgan and Kelly seemed a little less than charmed, and in fact, Morgan was almost rude. Karen made a mental note to talk to her later. Kelly was beside herself. At one point, Karen noticed her and Peter having a heated discussion and the next thing she knew, Kelly had left the game. Simms was relieved to get rid of one more bad player.
Simms almost couldn't wait to see Caine play, but if he really could hit, she wanted as many people on base as possible. Peter went to bat first, swung badly the first two times, and finally struck out. He paced back to the dugout and she could see the tightness in his shoulders. Great, she'd added a player and maybe canceled out one of her best batters. He sat on the end of the bench next to Kermit. She could hear them talking but couldn't hear the words. Next to her, Caine's head swiveled in that direction and she could feel his attention going to Peter. This was no time for a father-son chat. She started talking to Caine about baseball, saying anything to keep him occupied, even though she knew she sounded like an idiot. She could tell the priest still wanted to go to Peter but his natural politeness kept him at her side as long as she was running her mouth.
Skalany managed to bat herself into first base, and Kermit managed to score a hit that moved her up to second and him to first. It was the best chance they'd get. When Caine walked up to bat, she could hear her heart hammering in her chest. Strenlich was looking at her with concern. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine. It's just so damned hot out here."
"Yeah, and Delaney's a real pain in the - well, he's a pain."
Karen felt strangely touched. Strenlich did understand. "Yeah, that too."
The first ball went by Caine without any response from him whatsoever. It was almost as if he didn't see it. Both teams were deathly quiet, some of the officers knowing Caine personally or by reputation, and the rest just picking up on the high level of interest in their teammates. Even the audience seemed to sense something was up. Simms closed her eyes.
The next thing she heard was a resounding crack. Strenlich practically yelled in her ear and for a second she couldn't hear well at all. The whole park was screaming. She focused on the ball just in time to see it sailing over the fence. Caine was a power hitter.
He was not a power runner though. He didn't run so much as lope, his long legs pumping gracefully, amazingly light on his feet, hardly stirring up dust as he ran through the bases. Simms found herself feeling as breathless as a schoolgirl, thinking maybe she should slap herself in the face. What was it with the men in this family, anyway? He came running in and Skalany threw her arms around him, lustily, Simms thought. Not that she could blame her. The priest responded by putting one arm around her with his palm in the small of her back, barely touching her. Caine seemed amazingly in control, not even sweating, even though he had long sleeves on. Now that he had done what he sat out to do, his movements went back to being slow and easy, almost restful. No wonder he never seemed tired. He seemed to be able to turn his adrenalin on and off at will. Unlike his son, Peter, who never seemed to turn his off.
Speaking of Peter, she noticed him make his way over to his father and hook his arm around his neck. Storm over, she guessed. Weather they won or not, the fact that they were now even with Delaney's team had done wonders for everyone's morale. At least they wouldn't be hanging their heads in embarrassment.
The rest of the game was by turns exhilarating and boring. Delaney had learned his lesson and was taking them seriously, driving his team to the limit. Simms decided he must be paying his workers under the table because they sure couldn't be having any fun. A little voice in the back of her head tried to tell her she was being a bit of a killjoy herself but she ignored it. Even with Caine on their side, the most either team seemed to be able to do was keep the other from scoring. Finally during the tenth inning, Kermit managed to score a hit that got Skalany into home and granted them their fifth run. The final score was five to four, in favor of the 101st.
Pandemonium broke out. The audience, the ones that hadn't gone home early, finally woke up now that something exciting had happened and went crazy. Simms was distressed to find she was almost close to tears, never having once thought they could possibly win. Skalany hugged her, almost as excited as she was. Even Kermit and Strenlich, probably her two most poker-faced employees, were at least standing up and talking to each other.
Delaney was walking their way, a look on his face Simms thought she would never see. Humiliation, anger, and a tremendous effort to get them both under control warred for dominance. She tried to get her own expression under control - there was no sense in gloating. At least not openly.
"Congratulations." Delaney said, sticking out his hand as if he were putting it in a nest of serpents.
Simms tried to appear magnanimous. "You played a good game."
"Yeah, well, I was nice enough to let you use an unauthorized player. In the future, you'll have to rely on your staff just like we do."
"I understand completely." Simms said, although she had a feeling that this was their swan song. Unless her team had suddenly developed a passionate yen for baseball, this wasn't worth the aggravation. Besides, this had ended exactly as she wanted, she had accomplished what she set out to do. And she suddenly realized exactly what that meant. This hadn't been about getting her people together so she could know them better, this had been about Simms making her mark with the male-dominated boys in blue. She had wanted to take Delaney down so badly she could taste it. And just what kind of points had she made with her staff? She looked over to see them still huddled together while she was still standing off by herself. So much for communication.
Skalany and Jody were talking to Caine but she couldn't see Peter anywhere. She finally noticed him leaning against his car drinking a Coke. Unusual to see him standing by himself and not in the middle of something running his mouth. Another strike against her. The person she had wanted to get through to the most and she'd steamrolled right over his feelings by asking his father to play so she could win.
She sighed and began walking in his direction. He straightened up and she could see the suspicion in his eyes. She wondered if this kid expected the worst all the time or if he just expected the worst from her.
"Hi," he said. "Want a Coke?"
"No thanks." Simms said, thinking back nostalgically when she had drunk the real thing herself instead of the diet version. "I think I owe you an apology."
Peter's eyes widened in surprise and he began to speak. Simms raised a hand to forestall - she knew what it was like when Peter's mouth began working and she did have something to say - this afternoon, hopefully.
"Please, Detective Caine, just give me a moment. I'm sorry for involving your father in this game. I knew it made you uncomfortable but it was so important for me to win, that I temporarily forgot why I was here."
Peter looked honestly perplexed. "Weren't you here to win?"
So much for the short explanation. Simms had forgotten the chemistry between sports and men.
"To a certain extent, of course. But I thought we could have fun as a group - I mean I realize we have a morale problem and I was hoping we could relax a little together."
That sounded lame even to Simms and Peter just looked confused. "I don't - " he began.
"Yes, you do. I know you guys have to adjust and so do I. So far we haven't had time to do anything but work. I thought we could all use some sunshine, some exercise."
That was without a doubt the shortest sentence she had ever heard Peter utter. Now what did that mean?
Peter squinted against the sun. "You don't have to impress us. I mean, you're the boss."
"I know that. But in this kind of job it's not enough to be just the boss. You have to be able to depend on people. I have to rely on you guys and you have to know that I'll back you up."
Peter looked off in the distance. "I know you will. I mean, you were there when I was arrested and you know, you helped a lot."
"I'm glad I could help, Peter."
The detective glanced her way then, a quirky smile on his appearing on his face, the same smile that had Jody, Kelly, and who knew who else charmed out of their wits. "Well, you're doing it. I mean, you don't have to hang out with us to prove something. Just show that you're stand up, you know?"
Simms nodded, pleased. "Thank you. I'll remember that. And don't worry, I think the precinct's ball-playing days are over."
Peter shrugged. "It's okay. I just - well, my Dad's always been able to do so much. I mean, I'm proud of him and everything but - I dunno. It's my problem really. I feel like I'm transparent sometimes when he's around."
Simms had to laugh. "Detective Caine, you may be many things but you are never transparent."
Peter looked wary. "Is that a compliment?"
Simms winked. "Just the facts, Detective." She made a fist and punched him playfully in the arm. "Maybe later, we'll try a barbecue." She walked off before he could figure that one out.
Peter downed the last of his drink wondering what that meant but decided he didn't care a whole lot. He was too hot and tired. On his way to the recycling bin, he saw Jody Powell unlocking the door to her car. "Hey, Jody!" he yelled.
Jody Powell looked up to see Peter loping toward her and felt her heart speed up ever so slightly. She felt like a silly high school girl. Peter was definitely gorgeous, but also infuriating, sometimes immature, but endearing and vulnerable too. The combination was deadly and Jody, who usually prided herself on her practicality, had fallen for it 100%. She took a deep breath and tried not to look as disheveled as she felt.
Peter shook his head when he got closer, trying to keep sweaty hair out of his eyes. "Some game, huh?"
Jody started to answer but in typical Peter fashion, he didn't pause long enough for her to say anything. "Wanna go to Denny's or something?"
"Well, yeah, but - "
"I know, I'm a mess too. You want me to pick you up at your place in about two hours?"
"Okay, see you. I'm starved." He waved and started walking toward his own car.
Of course he was hungry and Kelly wasn't here and it would probably be Dutch treat and it wasn't really a date but he had asked and at least they weren't going to MacDonald's. She could maybe even have a sort of one-sided conversation while he was stuffing his mouth with food. How romantic. Just like in the movies.