Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wiki Magenta and The Case of Killebrew's Bat

My Baseball team was called the Millers after some local minor league team in the days before the Twins. We weren't the kind of team where every kid has to pay $10,000, where we travel the country, shoot for the Little League World Series and think pro scouts are actually keeping an eye on us. We were a notable level below that; serious, but still fun. All of our games were within an hour or two at most except for two long weekend tournaments, one in Madison (five hour bus ride) and one seven hours away in Chicago as our grand finale if we qualified. Like I said, serious, but fun. Baseball can be quite fun. But what made it especially fun that summer was... we won. A lot. In early July we were 22 and 1. We had won 17 games in a row. And we weren't playing younger kids or teams we totally outclassed. We weren't winning games 18 to 0. We just won. It was kind of magic.

The first time I had an idea that something was up was as early as our second game. We were holding onto a scant one-run lead in the top of the ninth against a team with a gigantic, terrifying pitcher that we were lucky to have a couple runs off of. The other team had runners on second and third. The batter was a little guy who looked like he might make it to the hip of their pitcher, but he was a pretty good hitter and lined a hard two-hop grounder between me, your graceful shortstop hero, and Ryan at third, but close enough to Ryan so he had a play. Ryan is not the steadiest fielder in the world but generally makes up for it by hitting the ball like he hates its guts. It looked like he was going to have some making up to do because, though he got to the ball, it hit the thumb of his glove and went careening off to his left. Meanwhile I was converging on the play because, well, it's just what you do, and this ball that was shooting one way off the bat suddenly takes its sharp, ferocious turn, off Ryan's glove, towards me. I'm a good fielder. I'm not even going to tell you how good a fielder I am because I am modest, but, much as it pains me, I am forced to admit that due to age, genetics, and overly obsessive dedication there are a few better fielders than me out in the world. The thing is, none of them could have caught that ball. Any one of them would have been heading towards the line that ball was traveling on, and its speed and directional change would be beyond the reflexes of the absolute greatest of them. I am not saying this to excuse myself. I am saying it because I caught that ball. Almost anyone would have. Ignoring anything I might or might not have been aiming to do the ball hit me in the sweet center of the palm of my right hand. I get a couple points for managing to actually close my hand reflexively around it and a couple more for, after a moment of shock, managing to stop, pivot and throw to first to end the game. But mainly, the thing was in the fates. That was that season, a season where luck felt better than talent.

This is not really a story about learning to believe in ourselves. Many of us had a pretty good idea from the start that it took talent (a kind of luck to begin with), practice, perseverance and focus for it to even get to the place that luck could take effect. No, this is a story about Baseball. And in Baseball, when you take on the powerful joys and burdens of winning streaks and greatness (however diminutive that greatness may be) it is both traditional and irresistible to go slightly crazy. And the way you go crazy is through obsessive superstitious ritual. Rolando, our second best pitcher, rotated the ball four times in his glove before every single pitch. Doogie (no, not his given name) had a coil of string around his left ankle for every game of our win-streak. I unlaced my shoes and re-laced my shoes before every game. Laugh if you like, but my cleats fit perfectly each game, I was batting .380 and we had won 17 games in a row!

But the king of all our superstitions swirled around the epicenter of James' bat. Before we get to his bat though we have to talk about James because if our superstitions swirled around his bat our team swirled around him. James was born to play baseball. He's a great all around athlete, sure, but in everything else he's on a level with his peers, better, usually, but at least in the same sphere. In baseball it all falls apart. It's hard to even be jealous. He puts on a baseball uniform or even just a glove and sheds the world, becomes natural and harmonized, fluidity and grace. It is a pleasure to see but especially so when his lithe and effortless looking swing crushes the ball over the left field fence allowing you to trot home from third and receive warm congratulations from your now victorious teammates. Did I mention how fun winning is? Did I mention about how we weren't at the level where we thought pro scouts kept tabs on us? Well, maybe scratch that for James. If I were a pro scout I would have at least kept one eye out. I know the local High School coach came to our games when he could. I think he came just to watch James and dream.

What about the bat? Before the season started, for his birthday, James' Grandfather gave him the kingly present of a genuine, game used, Harmon Killebrew bat. Now James was not keen on a lot of comment about his having this bat. He is actually a modest person, unlike some people who just like to say they're modest, and I think he felt it was maybe a little presumptuous of him to be playing with Hall of Famer's bat. So though he was delighted with and proud of his bat only me and Keith knew about it, partly even just because we were there when it was given. The team did not find out about Killebrew's bat until the first game of our season. Ryan got that there was something up with James' bat when he tried to borrow it to destroy the water fountain , and he and Eric got the truth of it then. A good deal of teasing ensued and spread wildly under the combustion of pregame nerves and James' seeming imperturbability. There was a lot of “Who's Herbert Killerbrew?” Some of it genuine and some not (for the record he was a 60's slugger, great, but maybe ever so slightly overrated (a .256 lifetime batting average?) and supposedly this very nice guy). There were a lot of jokes about the bat's frailty, old age, magical powers and million dollar value. Just as it was really starting to get carried away James finished dressing and stood up. Something about how he did it made everyone stop. James grabbed the bat and quietly said “This bat is taking us all the way this year.” Then he walked out to the field. There was some laughter and some weak jibes at his back, but when James went 5 for 5 that game with two towering home runs to lead us to an 11-2 opening game victory everyone remembered it. With the second game everyone touched the bat for good luck just before we started. By the 15th or 16th game we all touched it ritually at the start of the game and then individually as needed when things became dicey or we needed a little bolstering. By the 23rd game I would have rather not unlaced and laced my shoes than not touched Killebrew's bat at least the once for good luck.

Perhaps the only reason our winning streak did not end the day James' genuine Harmon Killebrew bat went missing is because the team we played was as bad as any team we played all year. The weird thing is even though we won that game it felt like our winning streak was over. I got a couple of weak hits (hey, I'll take 'em) and Rolando hit a double, and that was it for us. A few ground balls through the other team's legs, some wild throws, and their inability to hit their way out of a glass house and we won it 3 to 1, but we looked like we lost, like a dark future hung over our heads.

Our coach is a quite decent guy, Coach Deviveros, a bit remote maybe, a touch unconventional, but laid back and steady. He was pretty good about it. After our center fielder's unassuming “Hey, where's the bat?” rose into a kind of desperate search that came up with nothing the Coach managed to round most of us up. James was 100% certain he brought it and I could corroborate that since we came to the game together. He left it laying with all our equipment all through warm ups, maybe 45 minutes from when he set it down to when it was missed. Coach got us a 15 minute delay on the start of the game and didn't play it down, just explained something valuable had gone missing. He even got to look through the other teams gear in case it got mixed up in it. But we were playing on an open field with tons of kids and families running around and, in the end, to most people it was just a bat that had gone missing. Other games were scheduled after ours and it was time to play ball. I think Coach D even reported it to the police, though they never came out that I know of.

I thought of Wiki that first day, but I couldn't get hold of her until we had broken our winning streak and started on a little losing streak. It was amazing how we weren't a different team. We didn't look different or hit different. James even hit a homer in our second loss in a row. But it all felt different. James didn't just hit his homer. First I singled, then Doogie ground into a double play, then James hit his homer. One lousy run. Ryan's booted grounders were suddenly a thousand times more likely crack my kneecap than land gently in my hand. I soon saw that my shoe lacing was weak sauce compared to a bat of legend . Of course I did keep up with the shoe lacing, and though I didn't really believe in any of the superstitious nonsense I also somehow knew that it was completely true. My only solution to this mess was Wiki and she was just alarmingly, mysteriously gone. I pined for her. I left too many messages on her phone and stared out the window vacantly, hoping for any sign of activity across the street. I worried. I received lots of humiliatingly sympathetic looks from Phoebe. I decided to snap out of it. It didn't work.

Finally I got a call. It was not a convenient time.

“Okay, I'm done. Pick me up at the Russian Museum.”

“Wiki?” I asked

“Yeah, Henry. I was pretty deep in something but I raced through it as quick as I could. So pick me up and you can debrief me on the way.”

“I'm on the way to a game.” I uttered foggily. It pains me to report this accurately. I am usually a bit more sharp-minded. It was like the collapse of my baseball team had packed my brain in ice. Wiki was, for her, reasonably kind and patient.

“The Russian Museum is not far out of the way. I'll be on the wall in front.”

It was a Thursday so my mom couldn't come to the game. My dad was driving me and James and Phoebe who had suddenly got very interested in going when Wiki got added to the mix. My dad was delighted to pick up Wiki. I think he was pretty curious about her because of how largely she loomed in me and Phoebes' life while maintaining such a low profile. I doubt he found much satisfaction though. The small talk was minimal and as usual Wiki set the agenda. She was super dressed up, somewhere between refined adult and little princess and after a six day absence I was full of questions. She would have none of it. She threw open the door, tossed in a kind of overnight satchel that looked like an oversized bowling bag and said “I'll tell you later.” greeted my dad and then started asking questions.

Many of the questions were about the appearance of the bat, but she seemed to actually have as clear an idea of what it looked like as I did. I really had to rack my brain when it came to how the pine tar looked on the bat. Killebrew was a big pine tar user. She pulled out some kind of tablet computer thing and looking at pictures of bats on it helped James and I narrow down what it looked like.

“Is that some kind of an Ipad?” James asked. The device was sleek, but strange.

“No,” Wiki answered shortly “Just a little tablet thing.” We looked at the device which bore no markings of any kind. “Who are the most obnoxious players on your team?” She asked suddenly.

“What?” James asked, half confused and half offended.

“Not a reflection on you.” Wiki stated shortly “I need to know who the jerks are on your team.”

“They're all pretty good guys.” James said. “You think one of the guys on our team stole the bat? No way.” James tended to see the good in people.

“No one teases people, dumps stuff on the floor, complains all the time?”

“Sure.” James said “But they're just fooling around. Nobody means any of that stuff.”

“Eric.” I answered. “Rolondo, Chip, Ryan.” I smiled ruefully before concluding “Me.”

“Phoebe?” Wiki asked. “Do you go to their games much?”

“Sometimes when I can't help it.” I looked sideways at her. “I mean.” she corrected “Anytime I can support my dear older brother.”

I smiled cheesily at her and she smiled back the same way. Then I thought suddenly of more names. “Doogie, Brandon, Sam.”

“Sam is a totally quiet, nice guy.” James countered.

“He mutters.” I said. “Darkly.”

“Phoebe.” Wiki cut in. “Who don't you like on their team?”

She thought for awhile. “Ryan.” She said.

“Ryan's not so bad when you know him.” James said. “If you had his dad...” He trailed off.

“What's with his dad?” Wiki asked.

“He's over enthusiastic,” I answered “With rage and menace constantly leaking out of the cracks and edges.”

My dad turned back to look at me. “You sure can turn a descriptive phrase.” He said admiringly, but maybe with a trace of trepidation. He rarely missed anything.

We parked and unloaded. As we headed across the parking lot Wiki got in a last question. “Is anyone hitting a lot better or worse since your bat disappeared?”

James and I thought for awhile. “No one's doing too good.” James said “It's like we forgot how to hit.”

“How do you want to play this?” I asked Wiki as we approached the team.

“It wont be pretty.” She said “But, can you make me official?”

“If you're ready I'm ready.” I said grinning. “Phoebe, can you do your whistle please.”

Phoebe put her pinkies in her mouth and made one of the most piercing noises you will ever hear in your life. It is one of her many talents that I am terribly jealous of. It got everyone's attention. Indeed, it got everyone's attention within a six-mile radius.

“Hey!” I followed up as loudly as I could “Can I get the team's attention over here. James and I have some news regarding the missing bat.” That announcement was as effective as the whistle and the team gathered round promptly. We still all thought of the bat, but had entirely ceased to talk about it, finding it all too painful to discuss. It was like discussing how we used to be good and how we could never be good again.

“Me and James brought Wiki with us. A few of you know her and most of you have heard of her. You can think whatever you want about her, but if she has any questions just answer them. If you give her a hard time you'll get it back double, so just play along okay. You will be surprised. Everyone always is.”

There was a moment of silence and then Keith called out “Hey Wiki.” He knew a little of what Wiki could do and with his friendly nod I thought maybe we made it, but then Rolondo said, incredulously “Wait. You can't be serious. You think she's going to find the bat?”

“He was totally on my obnoxious list.” I offered as an aside to Wiki and James.

“I would bet you 20 dollars right now that she finds James' bat.” Keith proposed to Rolondo with alarming confidence.

“We should just forget that stupid bat and start playing some decent baseball.” Ryan said bitterly.

“Oh yeah,” Cut in Doogie sarcastically “We'll all just try to live up to your high standards of, oh, seven errors for every hit.” Ryan had sadly added to his repertoire a tendency to throw what balls he did manage to catch about 30 feet over the first baseman's head. He did not enjoy being reminded of this and chucked his mitt pretty ferociously at Doogie. He, perhaps predictably, missed by quite a good distance and instead hit Brandon rather painfully in the face. Brandon started for Ryan while Doogie laughed at the crap throw and Ryan went for Doogie. Pretty soon the whole team was involved and we had a full-fledged brawl, something in baseball that you usually need two teams for.

It didn't go long and ended rather comically with one half of the team holding the other trying to fight half and saying calming things. Coach Deviveros kept saying over and over “Gentlemen, gentlemen!” and a couple of dads had waded in (on the peacemaking side). I pulled Keith out of the fray, not that he was really up to much and then it was just...over. I turned to Wiki and said “That went pretty well, don't you think?”

“Could've been worse.” She said philosophically. “Wait.” She added. Then she turned to Phoebe. “Could you do that brilliant whistle again?” Phoebe let blow and it had its desired effect.

“Thank you for your enthusiastic support!” Wiki announced in a quiet voice that somehow carried pretty well. “I have decided to accept your case and find your bat.” Then, adding in a way that struck me as strangely threatening she said “I already have some good ideas as to where it might be. Now I know you all have to be punished for fighting and also have a game to get to that you think you are doomed to lose, but I have something for you.” She opened up her bag, pulled out a baseball and handed it to Phoebe who handed it to me. “Toss this around to everyone in practice and it should hold you over until I get Mr. Killebrew's bat back. Thanks.” With that she walked off to the stands to watch the game and pour over her tablet device. The ball Phoebe handed me was all covered in signatures. At first I didn't recognize any names, but then I spotted Kent Hrbek's name. Greg Gagne looked familiar and I knew Kirby Puckett for sure. I tossed the ball to James. He looked it over and gaped.

“We can't use this.” He said looking at me. “It's signed by the '91 Twins.”

I just shrugged. He shrugged back and tossed the ball around. A little bubble of wonder followed the ball as it went player to player and a discussion of the '87 World Series winning Twins vs. the '91 World Series winning Twins in which the signature of Pitcher Jack Morris (on the '91 Twins, not our team) settled the argument in favor of the ball being signed by the '91 Twins.

Wiki was right. We were sentenced to an extra day of practice to “develop our conditioning and discipline.” Which meant we had to show up and exercise for a couple hours the next day. None of us minded too much after we demolished The Tigers we were playing (from Coon Rapids, not Detroit or the jungles of India) 12 to 2. Me, James, and Ryan all homered, and though it would be fun to say that was normal, it was actually the only homer I hit all season. I bat lead off. I got called Barry Bonds for the rest of the day, but was willing to take it. Plus, I did it entirely without the aid of steroids. Ryan booted one easy grounder and also made a nice pickup on a sharp grounder in the fifth inning and then threw the ball to someone in the third row of the stands behind first base. His dad was at the game and yelled “Jesus Ryan, you can do better than that! Focus!” . Then, I think because everyone kind of glared at him he yelled cheerfully “That's okay! We'll get 'em next time!” Which, in it's odd way, was just as bad.

At the end of the game Wiki went around talking to several players. They were all cordial and magnanimous in the return of their greatness. A couple even thanked her. Me and Phoebs were with her when she talked to Ryan who announced from the start “I'm not talking to your girlfriend, Henry.”

“Why do you always try to incite people to slug you,” I said “When you are so incapable of defending yourself.” He did have a pretty good bruise on his cheekbone. Before he could work out a tough guy answer to me Wiki went close to him and said something softly near his right ear. His eyes went wide and then he said “Fine, whatever, go ahead and ask. I don't care.”

“What did the bat look like?” Wiki asked.

“Jesus!” Ryan exclaimed. “I hardly even cared about that stupid bat. I don't remember what the hell it looked like. It was a bat!”

“Do you think it helped you win games? Are you superstitious?”

Ryan kind of glared at her. “Yeah, I do stuff. But were a good team. I've hit 14 homers. I don't think it's the bat, okay.”

“Who's the best player on your team?” Wiki asked.

Ryan suddenly became thoughtful, then, as if suddenly realizing there was no reason to take so long in answering such a simple question, said “Well, James of course, I mean, but, he's not the only one on this team. A couple things fall for me, I straighten a couple things out I'm up there with him.” I think he was afraid I was going to laugh at that ridiculous statement so he quickly added “Henry's pretty good, wish I had his speed, and Chip's maybe the best pitcher in the league.” His hostility seemed to have dissolved into awkward discomfort.

“Did I see your dad here?” Wiki asked. “What's he do?”

“He's a lawyer. Partner in a big firm you wouldn't have heard of downtown.”

“Dundry, Moss and Harper?” Wiki asked, I think to bate him.

“Well, if you know that,” Ryan started “Then you maybe know he's the Dundry and that he has never yet lost a case.”

“Hmmm. Never.” Wiki mused. “Well, thanks for your time.

“Yeah yeah.” Ryan said graciously, and walked off.

“What did you whisper to him to get him to talk?” I asked as soon as he was far enough away.

“He has a lucky G.I. Joe. I think he kisses it before he goes on deck.” Wiki answered seriously.

“So that's what he's doing.” I said. “I could never tell. Well, whatever works.”

“He should try kissing it before he goes to play third.” Phoebe said.

Wiki was certainly around again, but she didn't go to our punishment practice or the Sunday game where we clinched a trip to the big Chicago Tournament on Chip's two-hitter, 4-0. She did let me know that we'd be on the case Wednesday night at about 8 and I should plan for it.

So on that Wednesday Phoebs and I showed up at Wiki's at 6:30 with a dinner that was a collection of things from my dad's restaurant in 3 deep sectioned trays of food my dad packed us. Phoebe said they were bento boxes. Wiki supplied the soda, which, strange as usual was also pretty good. It came from England somewhere. It was extra carbonated and in these extraordinarily thick bottles that Wiki said kept them from exploding. The only two flavors, gooseberry and white currant, were fairly pedestrian as flavors for sodas at wikis, and they were frankly more tasty than oddball, but the violent carbonation and bulging bottles easily made up for any weirdness shortfall in the flavor department.

We were about halfway through dinner when I noticed two bats leaning against one of Wiki's heavy duty shelving units. They were unmistakably James' Harmon Killebrew bat, only, there were two of them. I was well enough shocked and mystified, but figured if Wiki could be so nonplussed about Wiki so could I. So I gestured lightly to them and casually asked “Two of them?”

Wiki took a sip of her soda then waved at the fizz in her nose. “I had to buy a set of three to get what I needed.” She said. See, always nonplussed. If I was going to be jumping up and down I'd be jumping up and down all the time.

“So.” I asked “The third one is currently...?”
“At the home of Ryan and Michael Dundry.” Wiki answered.

“Where it resides with James' original bat?” I asked. It was a shot in the dark, but, delightfully, it hit.

“Well done.” Wiki said quietly. “And where we are going tonight. We should maybe get going. We might have enough time to get ice cream on the way to their house on the lake.

We cleaned up and did have time to get ice cream. We walked down streets of big 100-year-old houses eating from our waffle cones. We took the path on the lake and actually passed the Dundry house to give us time to finish eating. It was a beautiful, sultry summer night and we decided we were in no hurry so we just ended up circling the lake entirely. Wiki even told Phoebe and me the story that had her ending up at the Russian Museum. It was pretty interesting and one day, if two things happen, I might be able to tell you about it.

We arrived and knocked on the door of the Dundry's oversized home on a big hill looking over the lake. Ryan answered.

“What the hell do you want?” he inquired politely.

“Hot corner.” I said by way of greeting, winking and pointing trigger-like at him.

“We're here for the two Killebrew bats.” Wiki said politely, as if it were just simple business.

“What the f...” Said Ryan.

“Just let us in.” Wiki said tiredly. “And tell your dad we're here. He's expecting us.”

Sufficiently confused by this Ryan did let us in and went to get Mr. Dundry. We stood around in the foyer looking up at an ugly chandelier. Ryan came back with his dad who looked at us in astonishment and said “You're the ones who wrote? But you're just kids!”

“Competent ones.” Wiki said. “We need the bats. But we have some things to discuss.”

Mr Dundry gestured us in and we all sat in the living room. No refreshments were offered.

“First the bats.” Said Wiki.

“Get the bats.” Mr Dundry said to Ryan.

“Dad!” Ryan exclaimed.

“Get the bats!” Mr. Dundry said angrily. Ryan went.

“You should be nicer to your son.” I said “He's in danger of becoming a permanent asshole.”

“Why you little!” Mr Dundry said, starting to get up to, I don't know, strangle me.

“Hey!” Wiki interrupted. “We are holding all the cards here.” Mr. Dundry sank back down but still looked defiant so Wiki added “Two simple emails are going out to your ex-wife and your ex-wife's lawyers if things don't go very smoothly here.”

The fight sort of evaporated from Mr. Dundry. “What do you want?” He asked tiredly.

At that question Ryan came back with the two bats. I could not tell the difference, but Wiki handed me one and said “This one is James'.”

“How can you tell?”

She pointed to a little curve of pine tar about a third up from the handle. “Oh yeah.” I said. I looked up. “Why on earth would you two steal this bat?”

Ryan and his dad looked at each other. Mr. Dundry shrugged in a 'you might as well say' kind of way.

“We were going to give it back.” Ryan started. “Just, it made James into such a big deal. He's not the whole team. Some of us deserved to be noticed more.”

“God, Ryan.” I said. “It's not the bat. Everyone makes James into a big deal because he is.”

“I've got nearly as many homers as James.” Ryan said petulantly.

I almost felt sorry for him. “I am not saying this to offend, but James is also an unbelievable fielder. He's fast. He has a great eye, and he gets a lot of singles, doubles and triples too. He's batting .430 something, Ryan!”

Ryan just looked away.

“You put him up to this?” I asked Mr. Dundry incredulously.

“Like Ryan said, we'd have returned the bat.” Mr Dundry replied, hopefully with a touch of shame, though it was hard to see and I was looking hard.

“Winning isn't the only thing, it's everything.” I said. “I heard you joking with Ryan and Rolando once. But you weren't joking.”

“I think your friend here plays by the same rules.” Mr Dundry said with a smirk.

“I am interested in justice, not victory.” Said Wiki.

“Ryan.” Mr. Dundry said quietly. “Will you go and get my brown case from my office?”

Ryan and his dad exchanged looks and Ryan left reluctantly. Mr. Dundry said “Blackmail is a crime, Ms, what is your last name?”

“Magenta.” Wiki said without fear, then she said “I will shy from no crime if it brings justice.”

“That's good.” I said wide-eyed. “Who said that?”

Wiki looked at me sideways. “Me.” She said.

“Not that I am objecting to it.” Mr. Dundry said “But how is helping me keep some millions from my ex-wife serving justice.”

“Briefly?” I asked Wiki, eager to know what was going on.

“He hid some money from his wife that did not get accounted for in their divorce settlement.” She answered to my mild surprise, then she turned to Mr. Dundry.

“First” she said “I am not helping you. I am merely not reporting it. Second, what is between you and your ex-wife is not my concern, but when she abandoned Ryan she left the sphere of my protection.”

“Who are you?” Mr. Dundry asked, finally realizing some of the scope of Wiki.

“I am Wiki Magenta, friend of your son's baseball team, which includes your son. So I expect you to try and do better by him. You're all he's got.”

Ryan returned and handed his dad the case and sat down. His dad politely said “Thank you.” which seemed to surprise Ryan.

“Your welcome.” Mumbled Ryan. Well, it was a start.

“I will need a check for my costs on this case.” Wiki continued “And I expect you to fund the team's trip to Chicago at a nice level.”

“Jesus!” Mr Dundry exclaimed “Most of their parents can afford it just fine!

Wiki just looked at him admonishingly.

“Fine, fine.” Mr. Dundry said “And what about your discretion?”

“Fly right and we have no problem at all.” Wiki assured.

We started to get up.

“Wait!” Ryan said. “What'll you tell people about the bat.”

Wiki looked to me, which seemed quite nice. I thought a bit.

“Mr. Dundry left early on the day it was taken, so, the story is he had to go to a meeting and took some of Ryan's practice gear, including what he thought was one of his old bats. James and Keith get the truth about all this though because they deserve it and because they can keep a secret. Oh, and Wiki gets credit too. She figured out how Mr. Dundry must have accidentally taken the bat.”

Ryan looked a little sick at James and Keith knowing, but then seemed to decide it wasn't such a bad deal.

“Thanks.” He said, and put out his hand. While I was thinking about it he said “And I'm sorry.”

“Okay.” I said, and shook his hand. Then he did the same thing with Wiki. Mr Dundry looked a little surprised at his son, but not displeased.

“I'm sorry too.” he strangled out. He suddenly looked very young.

“You didn't lose, Mr. Dundry.” I said. And then, we left.

On the way home I asked Wiki how she knew the Dundrys took the bat. For awhile she was quiet.

“I thought it might be a jealousy thing and the roads kept leading to Ryan and his dad. I didn't know though, so I planted an extra bat. Them just keeping it made me sure.”

“Do you think they'll be okay?” Phoebe asked. She'd been so quiet really. I sometimes forget Phoebe's just 11.

“Probably not.” Wiki said gently. “But they have a better chance now, maybe.” Her confidence tailed off.

“Do you think we did okay?” Phoebe asked.

Wiki and I looked at each other and I saw a rare flash of uncertainty on her face. Then we both just smiled.

“We did great, Phoebe.” I said. “We did just great.”

Oh, and we did pretty good in Chicago too.