Her name was Vampadelle Summer and she wasn’t to be trusted.
No one understood this better than Rewind, who pushed down the trunk lid of the cranberry red Mercedes as delicately as if performing chest compressions on a hummingbird. He believed in respecting the solitude of the troubled; it was simply what one did, and no one did what one was supposed to do, when one was supposed to do it, better than Rewind. He was a caddie of the first rank.
Besides, 77 wasn’t the end of Western civilization, even if it did come in the final round of a U.S. Open.
“I’m a good iron player,” Nicky Smythe whispered to himself, staring blankly into the abyss from the passenger seat. “I am.”
The caddie slipped the key into the ignition and the Mercedes purred as Smythe moaned, his mind trapped in a recurring loop of one horrific shot after another.
“One of the best,” Rewind said flatly.
“Three greens. Who hits three greens?” Smythe asked the gods.
“You were distracted.”
“Wasn’t I, though?” Nicky sighed. This was not just any sigh. It was as if all the air had drained from a set of bagpipes. The truth was, it came down to one thing and one thing alone: Love was doing a jig through Nicky Smythe’s insides. Rewind’s player had been struck by the little man’s arrow squarely between his takeaway and his flying right elbow. And her name was Vampadelle Summer.
“Get some sleep,” Rewind suggested. “We’ll be there in a few hours.”
“Good idea,” Nicky replied, lumping his sweater into a ball and leaning against the window. No sooner had his head hit the cashmere than he passed out like a college freshman reading Paradise Lost.
Rewind was all too aware that the object of Nicky Smythe’s obsession was none other than the 5-foot, 2-inch author of the blog Trampoline Effect, who had just that winter planted her flag on the professional-golf circuit with the ruthlessness of Pizarro claiming Peru.
If someone took overly generous relief from the cliffs of Pebble Beach, she covered the story like a public hanging. If a player in the throes of anger management had taken a wedge to his mahogany locker with the gusto of a lumberjack, she had 1,000 words to describe whether or not he was employing an efficient single-plane swing.
There was no bit of gossip, no positive drug test, no rumor of dalliances too inconsequential for Trampoline Effect. Of more concern to Rewind, however, was that Vampadelle Summer had taken a reciprocal interest in Nicky Smythe. On the surface, it seemed unfathomable. What could the readers of Trampoline Effect find intriguing about a journeyman golfer? For that was the word that described Nicky Smythe better than all the others. Rewind’s player was neither tall nor short, handsome nor homely, rich nor poor. In every quantifiable statistical measurement, from the CoG to the MOI, he was certifiably average, which, on the professional circuit, was comfortable enough. Until romance pulls a club.
The proof of Vampadelle Summer’s fascination manifested itself in a blog entry waxing eloquent about the bachelor touring pro who rose, Phoenix-like, from golf’s minor leagues, valiantly clawing his way across the wasteland of the Crazy Horse Cabaret Mini-Tour in North and South Dakota. It was a tender portrait of a determined young man who had come to the U.S. Open via a seven-man playoff for two spots, earning his berth in the dwindling twilight of hope, yet determined to challenge the great Billy Wildheart for the National Open crown. This bit of journalistic fluff provoked in Rewind nothing less than that wrinkly old question of the chicken or the oeuf. Had Nicky Smythe played well in the early days of the U.S. Open because the comely Vampadelle Summer had seen deeply into his soul, or had she seen deeply into his soul because he happened to have played above his pay grade? Either way, Nicky Smythe was a goner.
Rewind knew that love was something a golfer should undertake with the same anxiety as a grip change or, perhaps, defusing an unexploded World War II buzz bomb. Like any battle-scarred caddie, Rewind was prepared for the worst.
So exhausted was Smythe, from either unrequited love or the confounding greens of Pinehurst’s No. 2 course—the site of the aforementioned National Open—that he stirred not at all during the five-hour drive from the Sandhills of North Carolina deep into the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, where the next stop on tour, the Pantheon Classic, was to be contested. He slept fitfully, his mumblings an unintelligible jambalaya of phrases, the sort a sports psychologist would have quickly identified as the subliminal scrubbing of a bilious 77.
Their ultimate destination, the Pantheon, had evolved during its century-plus of existence, sprouting colonnades, rotundas and cherubic fountains and, in the process, becoming just the sort of upscale mountain hideaway where hedge fund managers could decant port wine in the Bonaparte Lounge and reminisce about the gold standard as cries of “Fore!” echoed through the valley. As famous as it was, the Pantheon was not immune to the vicissitudes of market bubbles. Financial Armageddon had forced the grand hotel to change hands from time to time. One man’s called bank note was another’s blue-light special. The most recent rollover involved its purchase by Gideon Fitch, the baron of rare-earth elements. It’s no use trying to explain rare-earth elements here, other than to say they are not traded on a traditional bourse, but in private deals, much like cocaine, and with a similarly festive profit margin. Gideon Fitch did two things once the creative destruction of capitalism had placed the Pantheon in his care: He opened a casino, the Golden Fleece, and he founded a golf tournament, the Pantheon Classic.
Nicky Smythe was coming to West Virginia determined not just to salve his Open wounds, but to win the Pantheon Classic and, with it, the unbridled affections of Vampadelle Summer. Even if he was ranked 237th in the world, he was determined to be first in line for her dark heart.
Perhaps the hard-bitten bona fides of Vampadelle Summer need explaining.
She was born to an independent-minded Georgia businesswoman who owned Twice Possessed on Savannah’s historic Chippewa Square. It was a flamboyant used-clothing store specializing in plus-size sequined gowns and colorful boas for the discerning man. Vampadelle Summer’s father was a tugboat captain who by day guided enormous Korean freighters piled high with steel containers up and down the Savannah River, but in the evenings enjoyed a more provocative lifestyle as a piano-bar chanteuse. Socially, they were one of the city’s power couples. In every other respect, Vampadelle Summer’s childhood was meat and potatoes. She colored inside the lines. She sang in a Wiccan youth choir. After high school graduation—she was salutatorian—she attended classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she majored in theater and captained the women’s golf team, the Fighting Impressionists. After college, she worked as a reporter for the Charleston Bluenose Express and, as part of the newspaper’s coverage of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, produced an award-winning exposé dealing with the five-hour traffic jams in the public parking areas. The rest is history. She became so enamored of big-time golf that she quit her job at the newspaper, which was going bankrupt in any event, and, with the unflinching financial support of her mother, launched Trampoline Effect. Vampadelle Summer may well be the only person ever to cover championship golf whose work was underpinned by the profits of clothing sales to drag queens, though that’s far from a 100% certainty. While it was unclear exactly how her background informed her writing, one thing was evident: Vampadelle Summer was a person to be reckoned with.
So it was that, shortly after midnight, at the front of the Pantheon’s massive white portico, valets dressed like Oz’s flying monkeys swarmed about Nicky Smythe’s red Mercedes.
“Welcome to the Pantheon, sir.”
“Will you be keeping your clubs with you, sir?”
“You’re in luck, sir: The casino is open until 4 a.m.”
As fortune would have it, pulling up right behind Nicky and Rewind was the Pantheon’s black limousine, sent to fetch none other than Billy Wildheart, the newly crowned U.S. Open champion, who had flown in on his private jet after doing all those things champion golfers are obliged to do once the golfing has finished: autographing this, toasting that and explaining all the ifs and whatnots of world events. There is very little that elevates the IQ like winning a major. It was Wildheart who had played alongside Smythe that fateful afternoon and was witness to each and every one of the unfortunate 77 strokes. Although it would be wrong to suggest Wildheart took delight in the struggles of his playing companion, he was not altogether without cheerfulness about it. Coupled with his own sterling 65—for Billy Wildheart was a true champion golfer worthy of the name—and with the unsuccessful back-nine charge of the lanky Swede Lars Bjornagin, Wildheart was able to stroll to victory with all the worry and fret of a man who’d recently been informed that one of his ex-wives had been placed under house arrest.
“Careful with that,” Wildheart cautioned one of the undersized valets who was powerlifting the case containing the U.S. Open trophy from the limo’s trunk.
The scene gave Rewind pause. The reason became evident soon enough, when none other than Vampadelle Summer shot from the back of the black limo like a Pop-Tart.
“Hi, Nicky!” It was the fulsome blogger herself. That she seemed genuinely pleased to see Nicky Smythe was, of course, some consolation to him. That she should express this delight after midnight while exiting the stretch vehicle of the very man who had just beaten him like a meat tenderizer was less encouraging.
“I got an exclusive!” she raved.
Exclusivity, in the romantic sphere, was a subject Nicky had not yet found the opportunity to address with the green-eyed creator of Trampoline Effect. The competitive nature of professional golfers being what it is, however, Nicky was determined not to allow Billy Wildheart to get his name to the top of that particular leaderboard.
“I got some real insider stuff! The click-through rate will be off the hook.” Vampadelle Summer trembled at the thought of her next post. “Did you know Billy taught himself to juggle? He showed me how!”
“I bet he did,” Nicky mumbled.
Rewind, for one, knew quite a lot about Billy Wildheart. Who didn’t? Now the proud owner of two major championship titles, Wildheart had one four-toed foot in the Hall of Fame, having shot off the least useful one on his right foot in a dove-hunting accident when he was 14. Among the many things Billy Wildheart was capable of juggling were his three ex-wives: Wendy, Wendy and Destiny Wildheart.
Standing outside the limo, Vampadelle Summer slipped into the fur-trimmed backpack containing her viperous laptop. “The post goes up in the morning,” she announced while firmly planting a kiss on Billy Wildheart’s major championship cheek. “Thank you soooooo much. Off to reception!”
It was with a suitable level of admiration that Wildheart, Smythe, Rewind and each of the flying monkeys watched Vampadelle Summer and her shapely calves limp with athletic grace (Did I forget to mention that she had twisted her right ankle on loose pine straw and yet had soldiered on?) up and away on the twirling marble stairs leading into the Pantheon, a vision interrupted by a voice cascading down on them from above.
“Billy!” Gideon Fitch threw his arms open wide.
“Excuse me,” Vampadelle Summer said to Fitch. “Do you mind?”
“But of course,” the owner replied, stepping to one side with surprising light-footedness, for Gideon Fitch was a man of monumental proportions. His head would not have seemed out of place atop an Easter Island statue. His voice was capable of propelling words vast distances, and his handshake was less a greeting than an interrogation technique. As Vampadelle Summer disappeared through the grand double doors, the owner of the Pantheon lumbered down the marble stairs on a meaty set of legs.
As everyone knows, there is nothing that actually happens on the golf tour, or is rumored to have happened, or might conceivably one day happen, that escapes the unremitting scrutiny of the caddie’s gaze. And during the week of the U.S. Open, there was no juicier bit of scuttlebutt than the whispers that Billy Wildheart had been offered $1 million in free chips at the Golden Fleece if he’d play in the Pantheon Classic the following week. Of course, such under-the-table—or, in this case, on-the-table—appearance monies were frowned upon by the officials of the golf circuit, who, nonetheless, chose under all circumstances to look the other way whenever it happened.
“You’re in the Ponzi Suite,” Fitch informed Billy proudly.
This personal greeting by the owner of the Pantheon wasn’t so much a recognition of the rarified status of the U.S. Open champion as it was an example of Fitch buying low and selling high. It was true, Billy Wildheart was among the best the world had to offer at golf, but, just as impressively, he was in the absolute top drawer when it came to losing at cards. He scattered $1,000 chips with the stern calculation of a nymph tossing rose petals. While he could compute the plus or minus from level fours in his head with rare agility, the concept of 21 seemed far beyond his grasp. In brief, what the Almighty had granted him in wielding a middle iron, she had deducted on the other side of the ledger.
Gideon Fitch knew that the sooner he got Billy Wildheart settled at the blackjack table in the Golden Fleece, the sooner his million in chips, plus a tidy percentage of Wildheart’s winner’s check from the U.S. Open, would be earning interest in an offshore account.
Nicky and Rewind watched the two disappear up the stairs with Fitch’s arm draped across the shoulders of our national champion, muttering something about doubling down. It may have been nothing more than the lateness of the hour, but Nicky Smythe was suddenly struck by a tingling sensation of his own. He knew to a deadbolt certainty that the Pantheon Classic and the affections of Vampadelle Summer were to be his.
“I’m a big believer in fate,” he said to Rewind. “I have a good feeling about this. That’s all I’m going to tell you.”
Rewind sighed. Resilience is a bitch.
The mind of a touring professional, unmoored from the discipline of attacking a back-right pin, is fertile ground for mischief.
It was for this reason that Rewind was relieved to know that Nicky Smythe had taken to his bed in the rather cramped accommodations to which the 237th-ranked player in the world might find himself entitled at the Pantheon. So distraught was Smythe at the sight of Vampadelle Summer exiting Billy Wildheart’s limousine that, though Rewind was sending room-service meals to his player at regular intervals, Nicky was barely able to force even a single bite of lobster-and-cheese omelet or lamb with balsamic reduction into his mouth. Despondent at the thought of losing that which he didn’t yet possess, he was unable to eat, drink or tolerate even the slightest thought of golf.
The task of familiarizing themselves with Fitch National, therefore, fell entirely into the capable hands of Rewind. Before being recast in the image of its new owner, the course where the Pantheon Classic was to be contested was an original and heretofore untouched Seth Raynor design prized far and wide by golf historians. In preparation for his new tournament, Gideon Fitch commissioned a redo of Olde Oaks, its original name, by the architect of the day, none other than Trent Hendley Dent, who supervised the clear-cutting of 2,500 trees and created seven new dogleg-right holes where none had existed before. This was to accommodate the resort owner’s unwavering parabolic slice. After his initial handiwork, Dent returned some months later to bulldoze the Redan green on the par-3 seventh after Gideon Fitch six-putted it in the spring member-member. The owner was so proud of his eponymously renamed course that his new scorecards were emblazoned with the phrase “Fitch National: An Award-Winning Trent Dent Design,” though, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the only accolade it had yet received was when it was nominated the third-best 18-hole course in Popskull County.
While Nicky was stewing in his own bouillabaisse in a diminutive fourth-floor guest room, the U.S. Open champion was strapped to the $10,000 blackjack table, where the dealer, wearing a nameplate that said “Portobello,” was relieving Billy Wildheart of the burdens of excessive wealth. As you may have suspected, the dealer’s real name was not Portobello. It was Norvell Haysen, and he was from the town of Open Pit, deep in the hills 45 miles west of the Pantheon. What made Haysen an especially prized member of Gideon Fitch’s staff was his ability through practiced dexterity to produce whatever card was necessary at whatever moment seemed most opportune. In short, he was the Lance Armstrong of Bicycle cards. So wretched was Billy Wildheart’s gambling acumen, however, that Norvell Haysen’s prodigious talents proved, as yet, unnecessary. Billy Wildheart was perfectly capable of bankrupting himself, and the witness to this nightly bloodletting was none other than Vampadelle Summer, who, spurred by her unwavering sense of journalistic sangfroid, had sniffed out the million-chip slush fund and was determined to disinfect it in the blazing light of Trampoline Effect.
The differing plights of both Billy Wildheart and Nicky Smythe were, of course, common knowledge in the caddie pen of Fitch National, courtesy of anonymous sources.
“He dropped seven figures,” Upstate Woody said of the Open champion, leaning on his man’s golf bag and looking at his phone in the palm of his hand.
“Two mil, easy,” countered Finn McClure, upping the ante on Billy Wildheart’s losses as he gnawed on a protein bar and posted on Twitter.
The truth is, what really happened inside the high-rollers lounge of the Golden Fleece was known only to a select few. Whatever that truth might have been, neither Nicky Smythe nor Billy Wildheart set foot on Fitch National until Wednesday of the pro-am. The U.S. Open champion was, of course, partnered with the resort owner, first off the first tee. In addition to Gideon Fitch, he would be playing with the architect Trent Hendley Dent and Homer Stubbs, the president and CEO of Stink Damp Mining. Nicky Smythe and Rewind were going off 10 minutes later directly behind them.
His hapless gaming sessions notwithstanding, Wildheart was still enjoying cracking form in his golf. Introduced as the U.S. Open champion, he tipped his Pantheon cap—the newest of his sponsors—took two easy practice swings and delivered a muscular drive some 300 yards, easily clearing Slag Creek, the water hazard that meandered back and forth like a small intestine throughout the formerly wooded property.
Norvell Haysen, working as Gideon Fitch’s caddie, handed the rare-earth minerals magnate his driving club. Dressed in the Farquharson tartans of the Fitch clan, the owner of the Pantheon teed his ball with the promise of unimaginable violence. He addressed it with his back foot perpendicular to the line and the toes of his front foot angled ever so politely toward the target. The great movement began, first with a tremulous quiver of his upper lip, followed by a series of deep breaths that, in turn, initiated the backward jabbing of his right elbow. This, however, was merely prelude. The clubhead didn’t arc back so much as it seemed an attempt at some form of ornate skywriting. In Arabic, perhaps. What was even more impressive was Fitch’s balletic footwork, his lower body pulling all the parts together like a rodeo cowboy roping the legs of a calf. When the clubhead did finally arrive at the ball, it brought with it such a backlog of ill intent that even though Gideon Fitch hit the ground some considerable distance shy of his target, it was as if the quaking of the earth was sufficient to propel the ball far enough to plop it into the middle of Slag Creek.
“I’ll drop on the other side,” he said, as if this had happened before.
Trent Dent was next. Taking a hybrid from his bag, the architect waggled once, twice, up to 17 times, before letting fly a shot that cleared the threatening creek with inches to spare. He was followed by Stubbs, who as a young man had been the No. 2 player on a highly regarded Yale University squad. While his union-busting work at Stink Damp Mining didn’t allow much time for frivolous aboveground pursuits, he remained a respectable player and launched a well-shaped fade that took full advantage of Trent Dent’s redesign of Fitch National’s opening hole.
Now, there is no need to go the full six and one-half hours with Gideon Fitch, Trent Hendley Dent, Homer Stubbs and Billy Wildheart. It is enough to know that Vampadelle Summer, in searing journalistic fever, covered the entire 18 for us. In full view of Nicky Smythe, whose group was waiting with dwindling patience on every shot, the author of Trampoline Effect limped bravely along at the side of Billy Wildheart, who, Smythe feared, was developing designs of his own on the winsome blogger, perhaps with a view toward making her the fourth Mrs. Wildheart. This, too, was common knowledge in the wider bib-wearing world.
“Hey, Tweener,” said Upstate Woody. “You see that reporter this morning?”
“What about her?”
“She was about halfway up Billy Wildheart’s old buckaroo, that’s what about her.”
What transpired in the days following defies one’s ability to describe it.
For reasons known only to golf’s mystics, every tournament golfer is occasionally granted a patch of smooth sailing, when the hurricane of doom settles into a gentle trade wind, when the buzzards of expectation become butterflies flitting on the milkweed of red numbers, when suddenly, bingo, bango, bongo, you’ve got yourself a second, two other top-fives and a million dollars in the bank. Nicky Smythe was on just such a run. But Billy Wildheart was too. For the second straight week, they were at each other hammer and tongs, rangefinder and divot tool.
The quality of Wildheart’s golf at the Pantheon Classic bordered on the supernatural. His driving was elegant, his iron play sublime. In 36 holes, he hit the flagstick seven times. The strategic left-to-right bias built into Fitch National to suit the owner of the Pantheon also happened to be Billy Wildheart’s toast and jam. He opened with a 63 and went two shots lower the next day, surviving a penalty stroke after his tee shot on the once-famous seventh struck the pin only to carom back into Slag Creek, that wandering minstrel of water that guarded the green in Trent Dent’s design with the architectural foresight of a drunk in a doorway.
As wonderfully as Billy Wildheart was playing, however, Nicky Smythe was even better—that is to say, his short game was. Smythe was making putts from every corner of Popskull County. His pitches were diving into the hole like prairie dogs in the Black Hills. Bunker shots were finding the bottom of the cup on the fly. If he flirted with Slag Creek at all, his ball struck a rock and bounded onto the green for a tap-in birdie. He had yet to take more than 22 putts in a round. Of even greater import, their stellar play in the first two rounds ensured that Billy Wildheart and Nicky Smythe would be paired together in the final twosome of the Pantheon Classic’s penultimate round.
So it was that on a Saturday with the sky as blue as moonstone, Nicky Smythe made his move—on Vampadelle Summer, that is.
Do not suppose that the sheer genius of Billy Wildheart’s ball-striking escaped the attention of the author of Trampoline Effect, because it did not. How could one be immune to the elegance of his hands resting on the club as gently as a hairdresser’s touch, the artistic purity of his spine angle at address or the economy of his sultry backswing? But when it comes to rousing the blood, there is nothing quite as jaunty as throwing the ball in the hole from every corner of the globe. That day at Fitch National, it was one roar of shock and surprise after another. Once upon a time, golf professionals were known worldwide for the sheer brilliance of their tanned complexions. They were living tributes to melanin, billboards for the Palm Beaches. Given his floundering all-nighters in the Golden Fleece—the very antithesis of the skill he displayed on the golf course—a certain amount of pallor was to be expected of Billy Wildheart. It was nothing, however, compared to the cadaverous apparition that watched Nicky Smythe sink shot after shot after shot that Saturday afternoon. Equally apparent, with every successive hole-out, was the simple fact that Smythe was staking his claim not only to the Pantheon Classic, but to the affections of Vampadelle Summer as well. And there was nothing Billy Wildheart could do about it. His face was as doughy as a flour tortilla.
So impressed was the young blogger by Smythe’s mystical touch that, prior to Sunday’s final round at Fitch National, she and her Ace bandage–wrapped ankle planted themselves on her shooting stick in a particularly advantageous spot to watch the two leaders, Smythe and Wildheart, separated by a single stroke, warm up. For Nicky Smythe, her presence was a joy to behold.
As Rewind massaged the dirt from the grooves of Nicky’s irons, he watched his player flutter to and fro, from range balls to blogger and back again.
“Do you have an umbrella? It might rain. Don’t worry, you can use ours.”
But as certain as Nicky was that he had, at long last, lassoed the influencer of his dreams, he was taken aback by the distracted look on her face.
“Where’s Billy?” she finally asked him.
“How should I know?” Nicky said as he handed her a frosted donut with sprinkles. The fact that the player who was hot on his trail seemed to have gone missing had escaped him utterly.
“He’s in the casino,” Rewind said over his shoulder as he rubbed Nicky’s 7-iron with a wet towel.
This, as it turned out, was simply another piece of common caddie intelligence. So shaken had Billy Wildheart been after the third round of the Pantheon Classic that he’d retired immediately to the Golden Fleece and had yet to come up for air.
“We’d better find him,” said the author of Trampoline Effect. “I owe him that much.” Charmed by Vampadelle Summer’s sense of fair play, and because love is as rational as a shithouse rat, off the happy couple went to snatch the U.S. Open champion from the jaws of his own depravity.
As they descended the escalator into the bowels of the subterranean casino, Nicky pointed to the hunched shoulders of Billy Wildheart in a distant corner, the only player at a table facing the card shark Norvell Haysen, who had, judging from the pile of chips in front of him, been plying his trade with grisly effect.
“You OK?” Vampadelle Summer asked Billy as they took up spots on either side of the Open champion.
“Huh?” Billy replied.
“How much are you into him for?” Nicky asked Norvell Haysen.
“A few million. Right, Billy?” Haysen shuffled the cards.
Wildheart shrugged. “I dunno, maybe.”
“Let’s get out of here,” Nicky said, laying a gentle hand on the woozy Open champion’s arm.
“Huh?” Wildheart said.
“Get up, Billy,” Vampadelle Summer said. But Billy Wildheart would not be budged.
Realizing that the cards had a magnetic pull she could never equal, Vampadelle Summer knew what must be done. “One more hand,” she said to Norvell Haysen. “All in.”
The dealer looked across the casino at none other than Gideon Fitch himself, who nodded his approval with his massive head. Haysen began to shuffle.
“Not you,” Vampadelle Summer said. “I’ll deal.”
“Fine,” Norvell Haysen said, washing his hands of the cards.
Vampadelle Summer spread the deck out on the table and amateurishly stirred them with her palms, mixing them over and over like a laying on of hands. Trembling, she gathered the cards together and reassembled them into a full deck.
“Cut.” She put the cards in front of the dealer. He split the pile in half with his bony fingers and restacked it. Haysen pushed all his chips to the middle of the table, and Billy Wildheart did the same. Mixed among the chips was the gold medal he’d earned in Pinehurst.
Vampadelle Summer dealt each player a card, then one more, face up. Wildheart had a seven of clubs showing, Haysen a 10 of diamonds. The dealer flipped his hole card over. It was the queen of spades.
“Stay,” he smiled.
“Look at your card, Billy,” Nicky Smythe said.
Wildheart turned over a jack of diamonds.
Nicky sighed. Billy Wildheart’s brown eyes were like the bull staring down the matador’s blade.
“Card,” he said.
Vampadelle Summer turned over a four of hearts and placed it on Billy’s seven.
“Is that good?” she asked.
Haysen stared at her.
“Come on, Billy,” Nicky Smythe said, scooping stacks of chips into Billy Wildheart’s Pantheon cap. “We’ve got to get you to the tee. Protect the field, you know.”
Late that day on the 18th green of Fitch National, Billy Wildheart accepted the crystal trophy from the owner himself.
His bogey-free round of 68 was good enough to beat Baskin Trout by two shots to claim the first prize of $1.2 million. This was also the same day the ball stopped going in the hole for Nicky Smythe. He shot 73 and finished fifth.
Before the closing ceremony ended, Rewind was behind the wheel of the red Mercedes, driving Nicky Smythe and Vampadelle Summer out of the Pantheon, on their way to Reagan National Airport in D.C., headed for St. Andrews and the Open Championship.
“When you get to Ladbrokes, put a few bob on Billy Wildheart,” Nicky said as he put his arm around Vampadelle Summer.
“Hottest player on the planet?”
“Luckiest sonofabitch who ever marked a ball.”
Reaching into her backpack, she pulled out a deck of cards and fanned it open, then shut, in her dainty hands. “Take the top card.”
Nicky obliged. It was the four of hearts.
“Put it back anywhere,” she said. He stuck it in the middle of the deck. With hands as nimble as a raccoon she cut the cards, then turned over the top one. Four of hearts. Her fingers flew into action again, riffling, splitting, cutting, shuffling. She stopped and turned over the top card. Four of hearts. Then she did it one more time, her fingers a blur. Four of hearts.
“A girl has a lot of time to kill working summers on a tugboat,” she said.
Rewind looked in the rearview mirror and shook his head. Another exclusive for Trampoline Effect.