Disclaimers: None really needed. These are my characters fumbling around in a world whose resemblance to any real TV station, corporation or personalities is purely coincidental. Of course I could always say that I work in TV, I don’t have to make this stuff up. Even though this is a continuation of "The Deal," it should stand on it’s own, but it will make more sense if you read that story first. There’s some foul language and consensual sex between two women. If that bothers you, now is a good time to click away.

Please send questions or comments to mryan12@hotmail.com



Shell Game

By M. Ryan

Part 1

The Set Up

It should have been an easy story to do. Flood the car, do the bite, break the window and get out. A little bit of informative journalism to turn viewer’s heads during a summer sweeps month that didn’t really count. Only it wasn’t quite working out that way. The water was getting higher and the featured performer was getting a little nervous.

"It happens over eleven thousand times a year…a car goes under water. If it happened to you, could you make a clean getaway?" Chris Hanson waited for her videographer to clear her before she broke eye contact with the camera. "Sonofabitch this is cold! It’s July, how is that possible?"

"We’re still recording audio, watch your mouth Chris." The photog hefted the camera in its waterproof housing out of the water that was starting to cover the seat. "That’s a good one, let’s break the window and get out of here." Jody had worked with the blonde reporter enough to know that things never went as smoothly as planned.

"Just keep it rolling, we only get one shot at this." Chris gestured toward the window.

Jody toggled the record button. "Okay then, break it." He was interrupted by a tapping on the glass behind him. Turning, he saw a Sheriff’s Department diver pull a regulator out of his mouth and yell through the closed window. "The winch on the truck is busted. You’re gonna have to swim out. Break it and let’s go!"

Jody sighed. Nothing with Chris was ever easy.

The blond reporter had been chomping at the bit to get off the anchor desk and do an interesting package with a little more depth than her schedule usually allowed. She’d wheedled, coaxed and come perilously close to begging the News Director to let her do a series on escaping situations like a house fire, a stalled elevator or a flooded car. They staged the flooded car with help from the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, but now it looked like the fake disaster was becoming real as the water crept up to the dashboard and over the blonde reporter’s knees.

The premise was simple: When a car floods the electrical system shuts down. Power locks and windows are useless, and the occupants are effectively trapped. Chris wanted to demonstrate a way to get out. The Sheriff’s Department contributed the car. It was an old gold Buick with a white vinyl top that had mostly cracked and peeled away. The seats were a poor leather imitation that had suffered from too much heat, too many spills and an abundance of cigarette burns. It was just one of many clunkers that were used as training vehicles before they completely died and were sold to a junkyard.

"I’m rolling. C’mon." Jody squinted into the eyepiece and Chris started her spiel.

"You should consider keeping something in your car like this." She held up a spring-loaded nail punch. It was a tool that she’d purchased at the hardware store for about three dollars; one of the Deputies had recommended it. A hammer would do the job as well, but Chris had wanted a little more control, and a bit of a gimmick. Wincing slightly she pressed it to the base of the window. She heard the snick of the spring a fraction of an instant before the glass shattered and rained down on her exposed hand and arm. With a sudden sharp pain came the rueful realization that she could have planned a little better. Great. This is gonna be messy.

"Oh fuck, you’re bleeding."

"Watch your mouth Jody, we’re still recording audio." Chris shook the loose glass off of her arm and gingerly touched the oozing cut on the top of her hand. It didn’t look too bad, she thought, then swallowed back a feeling of nausea.

"Out of there you two. I’ll help," the diver at the window offered.

"Go on Chris, I’m still rolling."

Chris blew out a breath then climbed, splashed and pushed herself out of the window and into the less than crystal clear waters of the lake. She could touch bottom so she stood and waited for Jody to hand the camera to the diver and scrabble out himself. "She cut her hand," he told the Deputy as the three of them slogged back to dry land.

"That’s about par for the course, huh Chris?"

"Thanks Gerald." Chris said wryly.

"S’okay. Are you up on your tetanus?"


The shot left a deep muscle ache in her upper arm and Chris rubbed it absently as she watched the Doctor finish making notes on her chart. The nurse had just finished bandaging her hand that now sported six neat stitches. She nodded as she listened to the nurse’s instruction on how to care for the wound. Typing and writing was going to be awkward for a while, and then there was the on-air issue: show or hide. It’s always the simplest stuff that causes the most trouble.

"If you wanted to see me, you could just call and ask. We could do lunch or something."

"But then I wouldn’t get to watch you work." Chris answered with a lopsided smile. The blonde reporter’s frequent trips to the emergency room were as much of a joke as her penchant for wrecking station vehicles. More often than not, it was Dr. Reeves who tended to the collateral damage.

"That’s what you always say. Keep it dry Chris and I’ll see you in a week to take out the stitches."

"I could do it…"

"No you can’t. It’s your right hand, don’t do anything stupid." The Doctor flipped the chart shut and raised an eyebrow, "Like anything I could say would carry any weight."

"Sure it does." Chris hopped off the examination table. "I can’t help it, things just happen."

"Well, this was a pretty harebrained adventure, who came up with it?"

"It was a group effort."


"You let her do what?"

Laura Kasdan let the question out between clenched teeth as she looked across the desk at her News Director. She knew Keith was nervous by the way he was shifting from foot to foot and flexed her hands to keep from cracking her knuckles, her own outward sign of agitation.

"She was doing a Targeted Special Report on great escapes…you know, like from a burning building, stalled elevator, flooded car…" He trailed off as one eyebrow arched up in question.


"When she broke the window to escape from the car, she cut her hand. Six stitches I think. And a tetanus shot."

"A tetanus shot."

"Well, the lake was dirty."

"You knew what would happen," Laura accused as she pushed away from the desk. "You had to know…" Suddenly she stopped, snapping her jaw shut as though stopping the flow of water from a dam. Every muscle in her body seemed to be quivering. Forcing a calmness she didn’t feel, Laura coolly looked at her News Director and gave up another piece of control. "Okay. It’s your newsroom, your show. I can’t…" She stopped again as she formulated what she wanted to say. "You’d think she’d keep up on her shots," she muttered.

"She’s…pretty hard to stop."

You have no idea. Laura ran her hand through her hair and shook her head. "I will not second guess you. We have goals we need to accomplish, and I will hold you accountable for meeting them. I can advise, recommend, and make you aware of my wishes, but I cannot run the newsroom, that is your responsibility, regardless of what you think my personal interests are."

"That isn’t an issue."

Laura smiled wryly, knowing that Keith was uncomfortable, and by extension, so was she. "It is, or you wouldn’t be here. It would make your bullet list and I would inquire about how we would handle it on-air." She gave a short laugh, "Babysitting anchors is what News Directors do. Just a few words of advice from a purely professional and mercenary point of view; don’t get your Six O’clock anchor killed. It’s not particularly good for our on-air product."

"I see your point."

"Thought you might. What else do you have?"

Keith flipped through his legal pad and grimaced. "It’s Michelle. Her husband has taken a job in San Diego, she wants to be released from her contract."

Laura sighed. "Shit. Does she have an offer?" Michelle was the female anchor at Five and Ten and even though her numbers had fallen off, she did have a following.

"The ABC affiliate has offered her a reporter’s position. Her contract says she needs to go top twenty-five for an out. It doesn’t say it has to be an anchor job."

"Okay, I’ll give Erica a call and we’ll draw it up. We might as well get on the ball to find a replacement. Just when you think things are stable…" Laura shook her head and made a note, clicking her pen absently. She felt a vague sense of unease about calling the station’s lawyer, then shook it off. "See anyone you like lately?"

Keith nodded, "I’ve got a couple of tapes, there’s an anchor in Beaumont, Texas who looks really good. Her family’s from around here, so she’d like to make the move. Any problems with me bringing her in?"

"Advertise first. Let’s see what turns up."

"You got it. That’s all, I’m outta your hair." The stocky News director turned to leave, nearly bumping into Laura’s assistant.

"Sorry Keith. Kaz, Mark is here. You’re supposed to go to the Autoplex with him. I’ve got the numbers for the fourth quarter negotiations." June Sampson was a fiend for organization and had proven invaluable in teaching Laura the ins and outs of the General Manager’s position. Her patience was as boundless as her good cheer and they both shared a dislike of Mark Wilson, the General Sales Manager. Laura stood up and took the papers, flipping through them and frowning at the tables and numbers. How did this happen? How on earth did I get here from producer? "Thanks June. Lemme get this over with." After tucking the papers in her briefcase, she shouldered it and went out to the reception area where Mark was waiting. She never saw June sigh and shake her head before she bent to straighten the papers on the wide cherry desk.

"You look good today, Kaz." Mark Wilson gave his salesman’s smirk as she joined him at the door.

"Cut the crap, Mark. Let’s get this show on the road."

"I can sure tell you didn’t come up through sales."

"No, I didn’t."


The Autoplex was a huge cluster of car dealerships owned by one man who thought that if you offered as many different makes of car, as close together as possible, providing shuttle service from one lot to the other, you could effectively corner the car market in one small town. It also gave him a huge amount of leverage when it came to negotiating advertising rates. Frank Quinn had parlayed a small used car dealership that offered exorbitant financing for people with bad credit into an empire, and he ate salesmen like Mark Wilson for breakfast.

Laura Kasdan was different.

She listened to the greetings with barely concealed impatience and even though his information said that she was without practical sales experience, her questions were pointed enough to make him squirm uncomfortably. She kept Mark from caving on two of his demands, and when they were finished with the cash talks, Frank had the uncomfortable feeling that he had been bested. She’s just some damn newsy that got lucky. She shouldn’t have been able to pull this off. He lit a cigarette and pulled an ashtray closer. "So we’re good on the cash. What about the trade?"

Laura looked up at Mark. "Trade?"

The GSM turned his smile on her as though humoring a child. "Your car. We’d like to keep it under 50K, but you’re good up to there."

Laura kept her expression neutral, resisting the urge to slap the smile off of Mark’s face. "We need to take a break." She stood up. "Could you excuse us for a minute?" She tilted her head toward the door and with an apologetic glance at Frank, Mark followed her through the showroom and out to the lot. Turning, she narrowed her eyes at the GSM, "Fifty thousand dollars? For a car?"

Mark pursed his lips. "Yes, a car. The GM position comes with a car, and Corporate approved up to fifty thousand in trade. You’ll have to meet with clients, drive them around and so forth. You can hardly do it in that wreck of a Jeep." His tone was mildly sarcastic and Laura felt the boil that was her temper struggle to break free.

"There is nothing wrong with my Jeep, and how am I supposed to justify spending that kind of money for a car when we need a new audio board so that our News doesn’t sound like total crap on the air?"

For the first time Laura saw the Salesman’s veneer slip as his lip curled. "The position of General Manager requires certain…visible symbols. Something with which to impress others. If you look prosperous, the station looks prosperous. You need," he paused, "Certain trappings of your rank and station."

"And a luxury sedan fills that need?"

"Yes. Pick out a nice gold Lexus and let’s go home."

A gold fucking Lexus. Laura let the thought roll around for a minute, remembering all the GM’s she’d known and the cars they drove. "No." Her voice was soft as she looked at Mark and slipped her hands into her pockets.

"It’s part of your salary." Mark was impatient now.

"No it’s not. It’s part of yours." Laura hid her elation at figuring out the game. "You get commission on trade, don’tcha Mark?" She allowed a smile. He didn’t say anything. Gotcha. "No gold Lexus, no Acura, no Infiniti. No Beamer and no Mercedes. Here’s what we’ll do: I’ll pick out a nice sedan in the fifteen to twenty thousand range. I’ll be able to transport clients in it and we won’t clutter up our inventory with Autoplex spots. Is that agreeable?" She raised an eyebrow. "Of course it doesn’t matter, that’s what I want. Tell Frank whatever you like. I’m thinking a burgundy Accord, moderate trim package."

"You can’t…"

"You have no idea how tired I am of hearing that. Do the deal and let’s get out of here." Another enemy, Kaz. Probably shouldn’t have done that. She turned and led the way back to the glass walled office as Mark Wilson seethed behind her.


"How is it possible to lose the ability to find the keys when you’ve only lost the use of one hand?" Chris frowned at her bandaged hand, missing the ease with which she usually attacked the keyboard. The Newsroom was almost as quiet as it ever got. The Six O’clock ‘cast was over and most of the staff and reporters had gone home.

"Because." Danny Rendally, the senior reporter, gave no answer at all as he considered the side of the blonde reporter’s desk. "So does the loss of the Sheriff’s car count toward your total?" He waved a hand at the nine hash marks that decorated the black metal surface.

"No it does not."


"Because it was already wrecked and they’re going to be able to pull it out."

"Bummer." He smiled at Chris as he sipped from the coffee mug, handle out. "I thought sure you’d make a dozen before August." The marks were awarded every time Chris wrecked a station vehicle, whether driving or riding.

"Does that mean you lose the pool?" She gave a soft laugh and shook her head.

"Maybe, but I still have faith in you Chrissy."

She gave a brief snort as she finished the paragraph and closed the file. "Shouldn’t you be heading home? I’ve had enough for today."

"I’ve got a few more loose ends to tie up. Later." Chris watched him slide into his corner desk and shift one stack of tapes and paper before settling himself behind the monitor. His eyes were already focused and darting across whatever copy he was working on and she smiled. Of all the reporters in the Newsroom, she respected Danny the most. Deciding not to bring any work home, she stuffed her briefcase into the file drawer and pocketed her keys. Pushing open the glass door that led out of the newsroom, she clumped down the stairs and into the business offices of WBFC, toward the slash of light that still spilled out of the General Manager’s office.

Laura didn’t look up and Chris took the time to study her for a moment. Laura was reading something and a slight scowl darkened the new GM’s features. Chris pushed back a nagging sense of sadness, believing that making Laura Kasdan work anywhere but a newsroom or a golf course was a waste of good material. "You haven’t practiced in a week." The gentle scolding made Laura look up with a guilty start.

"I hit some at lunch yesterday." She tossed the paper she was reading onto the desk and winced as she tilted her head from side to side to work the muscles of her neck. "I’m playing tomorrow in that scramble anyway."

"That’s not the same as practicing." Chris wasn’t nagging but she was concerned.

Laura looked away with a tired sigh. "I know."

Chris crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe. "It’s going to be hard for you next month if you don’t…" She stopped. "Sorry."

"Don’t be. It’s going to let up here in a bit." It has to or I’m going to go out of my mind. "I’ll get back on schedule." The U.S. Women’s Amateur would take place in a little over a month and Laura was less than prepared.

"Mm. I had no idea what a GM actually did. I thought Art was goofing off most of the time."

"Art knew what he was doing. I’m starting from scratch." Laura said dryly. She cocked an eyebrow at the blonde reporter. "I had no idea he had such a high tolerance for idiots. I feel like I’m on the verge of strangling ninety percent of the people who walk through that door." She closed a drawer with a booted foot. "Irritated all the time, that’s me."

"You need to get out of here more."

"Yes, well speaking of getting out and great escapes, how is your hand?"

Chris rolled her eyes and pushed away from the door and held out the damaged appendage. "Keith is a dirty rat fink."

"Keith was afraid I’d tear him a new asshole."


"I didn’t. He’s got to learn to deal with you, and you don’t make it easy." Laura took the proffered hand and turned it gently. "Does it hurt?"

"No. Shouldn’t scar too badly, the Doctor made tiny little stitches." Chris smiled slightly. "Am I really just something difficult to deal with?"

"Nah, you’re…" The snappy comeback died on Laura’s lips as she looked up into amused green eyes. She cleared her throat slightly. "…Not too bad. I kinda like having you around."

"Hmm." Chris pulled her hand away slowly. "Come home with me?"

Laura looked at the papers on her desk and felt the exhaustion roll over her. "Please."


"I’m getting a new car."

"Are you selling the Jeep?" Chris let out a sigh of contentment as Laura wrapped long arms around her and pulled her close so that they were spooned together on the large bed. Biggio the cat was finding his own place at the foot and she could feel him gingerly walking around.

"No, I’m not getting rid of the Jeep. I’m supposed to have something a little more staid," Laura grumbled. "Something that suits my…what did Mark say? My rank and station."

"So what will the Kazmanian Devil be driving?"

"A Honda Accord."

Laura could feel the rumble as Chris laughed low in her throat. "How very respectable."

"There’s no need to be insulting."

"Only you would see that as an insult." Chris arched her back to get closer to Laura. "Do you think we could do something fun this weekend?" she asked almost wistfully.

"Sure," Laura slurred as she felt the heaviness of sleep start to take over. "What’d you have in mind?"

"Maybe a ballgame and dinner. The Aces are in town," Chris said referring to the minor league baseball team. "Are you gonna have to work?"

"I swear I’m not going to the station this weekend. Golf in the mornings…that’s all."

"Promise?" Chris pleaded softly.

"Yeah. No station." Don’t disappoint her, Kaz. It was her last thought before drifting off to a dreamless sleep.

Chris knew the instant Laura fell asleep and she sighed softly. Not restless and not ready to sleep, she lay still and listened to the other woman’s breathing. Despite the level of comfort and intimacy, there remained some uncertainty. She scratched a little at the bandage on her hand and smiled. Another day, another near disaster.


Laura blinked awake, slightly chilled because Chris had taken most of the covers and the bed as well. The smaller woman was on her stomach, stretched diagonally on the bed one arm thrown over Laura’s midsection, sleeping with the same abandon that she tackled everything.

Laura rubbed at her eyes absently, knowing that going back to sleep was out of the question, tired or not. Carefully sliding out from under the possessive arm of the other woman, she got out of bed and felt her way out into the hall and down to the kitchen. Yawning, she opened the refrigerator door and scowled at the contents. Tea and water were the only beverage choices that stared back at her. Gotta get some juice in here. Picking up a bottle of water she closed the door, extinguishing the light, and walked carefully through the living room to the French doors that opened onto the patio. She took a deep breath of the warm summer air, welcoming the change in temperature. She sank down into one of the padded chairs and looked out over the yard, tucking one leg under her. The buzz of insects played in the background and she sipped the water as her mind wandered.

A little work in the morning, a little golf in the afternoon, shouldn’t be too bad of a day. Now if I could just sleep through the night. She snorted in self-disgust. Easy enough to fall asleep, tough to stay that way. She stretched then froze as she heard the snick of the door latch behind her.

"You give up on sleeping too easily. Weird really, considering you don’t give up on anything else." Chris dropped onto the arm of Laura’s chair and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"Not true. You’re the one who never gives up."

"Mmm. It’s considered advantageous in my line of work." Chris ran a hand through her short blonde hair. "So when is Michelle leaving and what are we gonna do?"

"You’re not supposed to know about that."

"Newspeople are terrible gossips, remember? I interned with a producer who’s now working in San Diego. She gave me a call looking for the scoop on Michelle. You gonna let her out of her contract?"

"This conversation is off limits, Chris."

The reporter nodded slowly. "Can’t blame me for trying." Laura offered the bottle of water and Chris took it, twisting off the cap but not drinking. The boundaries were set; there were topics that they tried not to discuss and usually Laura was very meticulous, but she was the first to break the silence.

"I have to see Erica tomorrow."

Chris tightened her jaw and gave a thin smile. "Sorry. Hope it goes well." The thought of her old girlfriend made Chris’ stomach do a nervous somersault. The problem with old lovers and especially Erica was that they never completely went away. Laura and the lawyer were not adversaries per se; they just didn’t like each other.

"Just wanted you to know. No surprises and all." Laura’s voice was low.

"I see." Chris connected the dots: Erica handled talent issues and contracts, it wasn’t a regular meeting and Laura was annoyed. Michelle was probably going to be let out of her contract, which left openings on the 5:00 and 10:00 newscast. Without saying much at all, Laura had given Chris the information she was looking for.

Chris stood up and held out a hand to Laura. "C’mon, let’s try again. This time you’re gonna sleep through to the alarm."

"Easier said." Laura allowed herself to be pulled up. "Short of knocking me out, I’m not sure how to accomplish that."

"We’ll see." Chris rested her hands on the taller woman’s hips and placed a gentle kiss on Laura’s jaw. "Give me a little while, I’ll wear you out." Laura closed her eyes and fervently hoped that would be the case.


"Miss Lambert is here." June’s tone was chilly as she announced the lawyer’s presence. Erica entered Laura’s office behind the secretary. As always, she was impeccably dressed. Her pale gray suit screamed elegance and she made Laura feel dowdy in her khaki pants and polo shirt. Her slightly mocking smile didn’t reach her eyes as she reached across the desk to shake the General Manager’s hand. "Neat trick Kaz, second at the Open and landing in the big chair." She waited until June left, closing the door behind her before adding, "I guess you’d pretty much have to do a murder before Willie Simon would cut you loose."

"Lovely to see you too, Erica." Laura said sarcastically, releasing the lawyer’s hand.

The redhead threw back her head and laughed. "That’s what I like about you Kaz, I always know where I stand." She sat down and pulled a folder out of her briefcase. "Here’s Michelle’s release. Everyone steps away, no money lost on either side. Do you have a replacement in mind?"

Laura shook her head. "We’re going to advertise, and Keith says he has a couple of prospects."

"And in the interim?"

"Chris’ll do all three shows. We haven’t told her yet."

"The Christine Hanson Network. All Chrissy, all the time. It’ll fly." Erica smirked, "You do realize that would constitute a promotion and according to her contract she is entitled to extra compensation."

"No I didn’t. That’s why we pay you, to remind us about things like that." Dreading the verbal sparring that was to come made Laura glance at the clock. 45 minutes and you’re on the driving range. You can stand her for that long.

"So you could tell her she’s going to do the three shows and wait to see if she makes a fuss about the money." Erica made a note on a legal pad and then glanced up.

"No. We tell her that she’s going to do all three shows and give her a little bonus for being a team player."

Erica tapped the pen against her chin. "Corporate will say…"

"…Screw the talent, wait until she asks." Laura shrugged. "Budgets aren’t really your concern, they’re mine. We don’t know how long the search is going to take, and I don’t want a bitter anchor. Not when the numbers are finally beginning to climb."

"Fine." Erica made another note. "Any other issues? You’ll give me a little warning before you decide to make an offer on anyone, won’t you?"

"You’ll be one of the first to know." Laura said, leaning forward and opening the folder containing Michelle’s release, hoping her dismissal of the lawyer was apparent.

Erica was not taking the hint. "So you were right about Chris. She is the franchise anchor."


"The numbers bear this out?"

"Uh huh." Laura didn’t look up.

"A word to the wise…"

"Just one word?"

"You’re still walking a very fine line." Erica paused. "She’ll be more visible now than she was before. So are you."

"Your point?" Laura looked up, schooling her expression into mild curiosity.

"My point is that people talk." Erica flicked an imaginary piece of lint from her sleeve. "You two seem to get along very well…you’re seen around town together frequently, no steady men in sight. Don’t you think that raises some eyebrows?"


"Sure it does. I had no idea you were family, Kaz." The lawyer folder her hands and cocked her head at Laura.

Laura frowned and pushed the papers away. Should’ve seen this coming. For a moment the ticking of the clock on the wall was very loud. "Once again I think you’ve overstepped, Erica."

"Surely you see the potential for this to blow up."

All of Laura’s fears came bubbling to the surface, but she tightened her jaw, refusing to give the lawyer the satisfaction of seeing her remarks hit home. "I see the potential for some ugly rumors."

Erica held up a hand. "Rumors aside, you can’t protect her if you can’t protect yourself." She stood up. "I’m just saying that you’d better cover your bases. Burkett Falls isn’t ready for an openly gay anchor, and if you ever hope to play professional golf and make anything at all in endorsements, you can hardly afford to be out and about as well. All kidding aside, William Simon Communications would keep you…what a nice token." Erica’s smile was momentarily bitter. "I know all about tokens."

"Your concern is touching."

"It is real concern, whether you choose to believe it or not. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot, maybe you’re just…disturbed that Chris and I used to see each other. Whatever. I can’t afford to make this an adversarial relationship and neither can you. You don’t have to like me to understand that I always work in the best interests of my client. That would be you and this station. "

Laura weighed the words and considered the source and her motivation. "All right. Wrong foot. Do your job, I’ll do mine and we’ll see how it goes."

The lawyer gave a slight smile of satisfaction. "Have a good weekend, Kaz. Let me know if there are any problems with Michelle." Laura watched her leave before blowing out a frustrated breath. Once a bitch always a bitch. Both of us. She ran her hand through her bangs before deciding that the work would keep and she was due for a round of golf.


When Laura came to Burkett Falls, choosing a home club at which to play golf was more important than choosing a place to live. The generic apartment complex she ended up in was neat, tidy, and relatively inexpensive. Northridge Country Club was beautiful, expensive and PGA certified. It was also friendly to its women members. There were no preferential tee times for the male members, no grill for men only, and the locker room facilities were equal for both sexes. It was the principle reason she had chosen Northridge over the less expensive and older Burkett Falls Country Club, where the good ol’ boys network was alive and well and ladies never teed off before noon. Every year the old club held the prestigious Cadillac Tournament, a four-man scramble for charity. At two thousand dollars a team, or five hundred a person it was bound to be a moneymaker. KBFC was a longtime sponsor and Laura was obligated to play.

A cart pulled up behind the Jeep as she shut off the engine and hopped out, pulling a small gym bag and her clubs in a walking bag from the back seat. The boy that bounded up from the cart to take it from her couldn’t have been more than sixteen and he chattered with enthusiasm. "Miz Kasdan, we’re really glad you’re here. Is this all you’re gonna carry? Sign up’s in front of the clubhouse, I’ll take you up…hold on." Laura barely sat down before he floored the pedal and the cart zipped off. "I’m Robbie, if you need anything, just ask for me. Are you gonna do the long drive contest? Saw you in the Open, man, you sure boom it off the tee."

"D’you play Robbie?"

"Oh, yes ma’am. My Dad just bought me a set of Pings. Talk about sweet. I’m carrying about an eleven handicap. Wanna get it down to single digits this summer." Laura smiled and remembered what it was like when a new set of clubs promised a whole new game. "Dad said I could probably get a scholarship if I could get down to a five or six."


"If you don’t mind my asking, what was your handicap when you were, you know, fifteen?" He brought the cart to a stop in front of the clubhouse, the red brick and white columns sitting serenely among gardens blooming wildly with color where a small crowd of men was gathered.

"Two." She winced. The Junior Amateur. I washed in the first round.

"Whoa." He shook his head. "I ain’t there yet."

"Keep at it and you might be." Laura got the bag from the back and slung it over her shoulder. "Thanks Robbie. If I need anything, I’ll ask for you. No, it’s okay, I’ve got the bag."



"Cool." His smile was blinding as he zipped away and she turned up the walk. The sun was warm and she could feel the muscles in her shoulders loosening up after too much time hunched over a desk. I’m not playing enough and I’m working too hard. There’s gotta be a happy medium. Laura stepped up on the curb to the metal rail that was the bag drop and left her clubs in one of the slots. Weaving her way through the crowd and ignoring the stares from some of the men, she went to the first table. "Laura Kasdan, KBFC."

"You’re…her?" The stocky middle-aged man stopped flipping through his entry list to stare openly.

"Uh huh." Laura rolled her eyes slightly, uncomfortable with the scrutiny.

"We’ve got you down here. Um, guess you’re going to do the long drive deal. They’re warming up on the range. Here’s your goody bag. Could I…would you autograph my hat?" He whipped off his white cap and held it out to her, blinking nervously.

She swallowed back a laugh, "Sure." The surreal quality of her celebrity was startling even a month after finishing second at the Women’s U.S. Open. She scribbled something that looked like her signature on the bill and handed it back to the man. "Do I need to do anything else?"

"No, no, you’re good to go. You’re on team 9 and you’ll start on the ninth hole. Here’s your cart key."

"Thanks but I’ll walk. Locker room?"

"Top of the stairs to your left."

Laura took the stairs quickly and pushed open the heavy door. The ladies locker room was small, pretty much as expected and she changed into her shorts and golf shoes quickly, adding a hat and pulling her hair through the opening in back. The metal spikes slipped a little on the tile floor and she caught herself on the door handle. Talk about second class citizens, my livingroom is bigger. She opened another door that led to the interior hall and out to the proshop. With a shrug she left the locker room, went down another flight of stairs and out onto the manicured grass. A crowd had gathered at the far end of the practice range and Laura noticed that her clubs had been moved and was now clustered with several other bags at a rail close to where about forty electric golf carts waited. A cheer erupted from the crowd and Laura looked up as she pulled her driver out and stripped off the cover. With long strides she made her way to the range and sighed with relief when she saw a familiar face.

The Northridge Club pro turned at the sound of her voice. "Kaz! Save me. I’m at 310 and I told these clowns you could outdrive me. We’re ready to see that famous grip and rip."

Laura gave a short laugh and pulled on her glove, adjusting the Velcro closure. She was comfortable here, confidant in her ability to play the game. "I don’t do that anymore, but I’ll see if I can boom a few."

Peter grinned and introduced the contest official at the tee. "Here’s the way it works, you get six balls, three to practice, three to count. You gotta stay between the stakes…outside the stakes doesn’t count no matter how far you hit it. Take a few practice swings, you’re after Harold here."

She twirled the driver once then leaned on it to watch Harold hit. He looked to be about forty with a bit of a beer belly. He hit it straight though it didn’t roll much past the two hundred-fifty yard marker. The next two balls went a little further but he shook his head in disappointment as he relinquished the tee to Laura.

Grip and rip. It’s been a while. She teed up the first of her practice balls and stood back to picture the flight that she wanted. Power is all about swing speed. The trick is controlling it. Get wild here Kaz, and it’s gonna hook like a sonofabitch. Sure enough the first practice ball took a wicked left turn at the top of the arc heading past the stakes and out of bounds.

"That’ll get you on tour."

"Shut up Peter." The crowd laughed at the mild rebuke and Laura addressed the next ball. No, just swing like you always do, the power’ll come. It’s Friday afternoon and you’re not at work. This time the driver connected with a satisfying smack and the ball flew down the center of the fairway to the awed murmurs of the crowd gathered around the tee.

"Sweet." Was Peter’s appreciative comment.

The other four balls were sent on the same trajectory, the last one rolling just past the three hundred-sixty yard marker. Laura allowed herself a smug smile as she stepped away from the practice area to watch the other participants try to beat her best ball.

"What’s the deal Kaz? Haven’t seen you in a couple of weeks. Not like you to skip weekends," Peter chided. "Not that I mind teaming up with you today, ‘cause obviously you’ve been practicing."

"Actually I haven’t." Laura winced a little as she watched a man send a ball screaming into the woods.

"I find that hard to believe."

"Yeah, well, work’s kind of a time suck and I haven’t really…who’s that?" Her attention was caught by a young woman stepping up to the practice tee area.

"Um, who?" Laura lifted a hand to point. "Oh. Diane Hilary." Peter answered. "She goes to Duke, NCAA runner-up, Women’s State Amateur Champ. You don’t know her? She’s the other ringer."

"The other ringer?"

"Well, there’s you…"

Laura narrowed her eyes. "Nice swing. What’s her game like?"

Peter clicked his tongue considering. "Big driver, but an inconsistent short game. Plays out here, Butch Harmon’s worked with her. What’s he charge? Eight hundred an hour? Lotta money in that family."


"She’s one of those scary kids, Kaz. All that power, groomed to play, kinda like you. Only no control and a hell of a temper. A little arrogant too."

Like me.

"You’re gonna get to meet her in a bit." Peter smirked at the taller woman.


"Because she just tied your three hundred-sixty three yard drive."

"Laura Kasdan, Eddie Cerano and Diane Hilary," the official called the names from his clipboard. "You’re the top three. One more ball, longest drive wins."

"What does the winner get?" Laura asked Peter as they walked back to the practice tee.

"A big screen TV," he answered.

"Oh, the irony."

Eddie Cerano, the only man left in the competition was in his mid thirties, tanned and fit. A country club rat, Laura thought. She shook his hand and turned to Diane Hilary. "It’s a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise, you were impressive at the Open last month." The younger woman had a perfect smile set in a tanned expressive face. Laura couldn’t help but feel she was being measured when Diane said, "Will you be turning pro anytime soon or will you try for this year’s U.S. Amateur?"

Laura let her lips twitch into a very slight smile. "Amateur. Will I see you there?"

"I expect you will," came the self-assured drawl.

"Eddie, you’re the short man. You hit first." The official’s announcement was met by some good-natured jeers and some serious taunts about keeping up with the ladies from the men gathered around. His picture perfect swing whipped the ball away down the middle of the range and well past the three hundred-fifty yard mark. They waited until it was measured and the distance of 368 was posted.

"Miss Hilary?"

Diane took four practice swings, each one controlled and careful before actually addressing the ball. The real swing was the same as the practice; perfectly executed and powerful. The ball flew straight and long, past Eddie’s and the stake marking three seventy.

"A good hit," Laura murmured as she watched the official post the distance on the board after conferring over a walkie-talkie. 372.


She tugged on the bill of her hat and stepped up to the tee. Her routine was as familiar as breathing, twirl the club around twice, thump it on the ground, set feet, a waggle of the club and she was into her takeaway, all smooth movement until the reversal and then sweeping explosive energy through the ball. She knew from the sound that it was well struck and gloried in the feel.

380 even.

Peter was there giving her a playful shove, exuberant that his prediction was correct. Then Eddie added his congratulations. Diane Hilary was last as Laura pulled off her glove and slapped it against her leg. The crowd had dispersed to the golf carts to prepare to start the tournament proper. "I didn’t know you were a big hitter. I thought I could take you here." The young woman’s comment was matter-of-fact.

"Ah. Just because I don’t, doesn’t mean I can’t. There’s no trouble here; you just have to hit it long and straight. Of course gunning for all that power means you run the risk of being a little wild." Laura tucked her hands into the pockets of her shorts. "But you’d know that."

Diane nodded as though she had come to a decision. "You beat me today. That won’t always be the case." A calculating smile accompanied the comment, and then she turned and walked away.

Laura stood staring for a moment. Is there no end to the number of people I’m going to piss off this week? Get in line.


"I gave you a key but you never use it." Chris shook her head at the sight of Laura sitting on the porch swing drinking a Coke. "It’s gotta be ninety-five out here, couldn’t you go in where it’s cool?" She skipped up the stairs and dropped her briefcase before pushing Laura over to make room. "How was the tournament?"

"Good. I won two hundred bucks but I had to give it back because I want to keep my amateur status, so no dinner tonight."

"Bummer. Still, I think we can scrape enough together to go to McDonald’s, I’m in a red meat kind of mood."

"Oh, I think we can do better than Mickey D’s," Laura said dryly.

"Okay. How’d you win two hundred dollars?"

"Our team won and the payoff was eight hundred."

"Yes but how does that work?"

"We have a four man team, everybody hits, then you pick the best ball and everyone hits that and so on. The scores are really low because if you make a mistake, someone else can pick up the slack. Everybody plays and contributes." Laura took a sip of her drink. "Peter was on my team along with Don Owen from our bank and Mike Lowery from the City Council."

"So you did the networking thing."

"Yeah. Mr. Lowery thinks you are just precious and Don wants to jump you."

Chris hid a smile. "Hmm. I’ll remind Mr. Lowery of that the next time he ‘no comments’ me. I guess you didn’t see the Six?"

"How’d it go?"

"Passable. No major gaffs." Chris took the drink from Laura’s hand and took a long pull. For a minute Laura considered telling her that she was going to be doing all three evening newscasts after Michelle left, then decided against it. Nope, it’s gotta come from Keith. Just another piece of control you’re handing over.

"Hey," Chris interrupted her train of thought. "C’mon back, lost you there for a minute."


"Listen," Chris plucked at the edge of Laura’s shorts. "We could just order some pizza…stay in and then attack the weekend tomorrow."

"But you really wanted to go to Bear’s tonight." The restaurant was one of Chris’ favorites and it didn’t even serve Mexican.

"We can do the Bear thing tomorrow. You look wiped."

For the hundredth time that week Laura resented the time spent learning the General Manager’s job and how it had come to dominate every waking moment. You gotta do better. She doesn’t deserve this. "Okay, the Aces play at 2:05. We can sleep in, maybe get a late breakfast, do the game and dinner at Bear’s."

Chris smiled a little wistfully, "And no work from the station?"

"I didn’t even bring my briefcase home."

"It’s a deal then." The blonde anchor stood up and held out a hand. "C’mon, I’ll give you a backrub."

"It always starts out as a backrub, the next thing I know you’re all over me."

"That’s the general idea. Problem?"

Laura shook her head slowly and allowed herself to be pulled up. "No problems at all."



To Be Continued - Part 2

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