"I just don't want this to be one of those gross deals down the road where I look like I'm the one kissing Clint Eastwood in the movies," she said.
I thanked her, as always, for her refreshing honesty and told her to pass the Viagra.
We went from Paris to Lake Como, one of your romance capitals of Italy. We went to Spain, and I got drunk enough to lose a bet to a bartender, which is how I ended up running with both the schmucks and the bulls at Pamplona. We did a month at the Hotel du Cap in the south of France that ended up costing me more than the second war against Saddam. Finally, we settled into a flat in London that I had borrowed from one of Billy Grace's Hollywood friends, a screenwriter who got a couple of million per movie and half that for what Hollywood called "polishes," which the screenwriter said involved cleaning up the punctuation on the polish that came right before yours, and punching the whole thing up with jokes even studio executives could understand.
"The original screenplays and adaptations support Heather and the children and the therapists and trainers and yoga teachers and plastic surgeons," the screenwriter told me one night at Billy's casino, Amazing Grace. "The polishes are for gambling and the girls from the escort service."
Annie and I spent two months at the place at Lennox Gardens, hard by Beauchamp Place and a five-minute walk from Harrod's. We ate at all the best restaurants, and occasionally made short trips to Scotland when Annie would get it into her head that she needed another Mary, Queen of Scots fix. I was a good sport about all of it. I had never done any real time in Europe, I was flush for the first time in my life, and, best of all, I wasn't required to be anywhere. I certainly wasn't on the kind of twenty-four-hour call Billy used to tie me to in the old days, back when I was his casino host and go-to guy, known as the Jammer, in charge of making sure our high rollers felt more love than the rest of the Strip's high rollers.
If what they were experiencing during their stay at Amazing Grace was anything close to real love, I was supposed to make sure they sure as shit didn't get caught at it.
And this almost-wedded bliss might have lasted until the end of Annie's Fox contract, if Bubba Royal hadn't shown up for a visit.
He was still in a walking cast, having busted his knee on the last play of the Super Bowl against the Bangers, after throwing the crucial block on Bobby Camby's sweep around left end. It was a daring call by Bubba, my old UCLA teammate, since by the time Camby finally got to the end zone, time had expired, officially wiping out any chance for the short field goal by our kicker, Benito Siragusa, that would have won the game a lot more easily than Camby's play.
Of course, a field goal would not have enabled the Hawks to cover the point spread, and thus win the bet Bubba had made on himself through the sports book at Amazing Grace the night before the game.
Afterward, there were some questions about why Bubba had risked everything at the end of the game, but even the NFL commissioner, Wick Sanderson, stood up and dismissed them, praising Bubba's ability to make game-winning decisions on the fly, and what he actually called Bubba's "gambling spirit."
Wick still wanted to believe that everybody in America bet NFL games, except NFL players.
"Right," Bubba liked to say. "And those are everybody's real tits in the movies."
I fronted him the money for the bet, by the way.
In addition to the walking cast, Bubba also showed up wearing a flight attendant named Brittany with whom he'd fallen in love on the overnight Virgin Atlantic from Kennedy.
"Just for the record, Jack," he said. "The virgin part? It don't mean her."
I told him I had sort of figured that out on my own.
This was after he and Brittany had spent most of the day in Bubba's suite at The Dorchester, and finally came downstairs about six o'clock to meet Annie and me in the bar.
From Red Zone by Mike Lupica. Copyright Mike Lupica 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Putnam Publishing.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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