Billy came through in dark glasses about five o'clock. He's got thick black hair that is either a tribute to his Sicilian ancestors or Grecian Formula, a washboard chest that has cost him hundreds of thousands in personal trainers over the years, a nose that he's broken seven times as a young middleweight, and coloring that even I now describe as dark-complected after hanging around him all these years. In the half-light of his own lounges, you could even call him ruggedly handsome, in a sort of five-crime-families way.
"Was that you I saw going into the screening room with the senator's wife?" he said.
"I felt bad for her," I said. "The potential-next-vice-president of the United States had disappeared with a Laker Girl by then."
I groaned through another leg lift.
"Two," he said.
"Two?" I said. "Like hell. This is my third rep."
"I meant two Laker Girls," Billy said. "By the way, how can you be working out when I know you feel like the same brand of shit I do?"
I said, "A man without structure in his life is just a smaller version of White Trash Bobby White."
"Good point. Where we watching the game?"
"How about your home away from home?"
I was talking about the penthouse suite Billy kept here, in addition to his real home, a rather amazing replica of the Vatican that took up pretty much of the whole front nine at God's Acre. The first time Billy took me through it, I only had one question afterward: "Where's the gift shop?"
"I'll see you at six," he said, which was the time Monday Night Football came on in the West.
I did another leg lift that must have sounded like some kind of Swedish movie to the rest of the gym.
"I want your solemn word on something," I said. "No girls."
"Is this some kind of allergic reaction to the senator's wife, or just a love of the Hawks?"
"You know me. Despite everything, I love my Hawks. Now leave me alone."
"I never figured this Hawks thing," he said.
"Don't try," I said. "It's like cracking one of those World War Two codes that they have in really bad spy novels."
He walked out past the aerobics class, where a lot of girls in no clothes, most of them from the Show Tune Revue, were working out to old Donna Summer disco music. He cocked his head toward them as if maybe he wanted to invite the whole class to Monday Night Football. I gave him the finger and he was gone.
I looked up at the clock. I was a half hour from being finished. After I went through the machines, I liked to sit on the exercise bike and watch blue-haired girls try to beat the shit out of their parents on afternoon talk shows. But on this day I decided to watch CNN's Headline News, in case I had missed any terrorism or stock market crashes overnight.
Some shrieking kid had just done the sports when the "Breaking News" screen came on.
The next thing I saw was his face.
It wasn't up there because he'd won the Nobel Prize.
They let the boy anchor handle it.
I was fumbling with the volume switch on the headphones I was wearing, so I missed the start of it.
"...in his luxury box at the stadium when he was stricken," the boy anchor said. "He was taken by ambulance to nearby Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, but was pronounced dead on arrival."
There was a live shot of the inside of the stadium now, where the Hawks-Cowboys game would be played later. Behind the girl twink doing the standup, I was pretty sure I could see Bubba Royal, now the veteran quarterback of the Hawks, light-tossing to someone whose number I couldn't recognize.
I didn't even notice that I'd gotten off the bike now and was right on top of the television, or that Billy had come back and was standing next to me.
Reprinted from Bump & Run by Mike Lupica by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Mike Lupica. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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