Rookie Move(6)

By: Sarina Bowen


It was all very unexpected.

Twenty-four hours ago, he was still working the line on an AHL team in Michigan, earning a salary of $42,000 and busting his ass for a shot in Detroit. Then, just after the morning skate, he got the big call from his agent. A few hours later he was on a flight to JFK airport. His paycheck? More than ten times higher than it was before the phone rang.

This morning he’d woken in a fancy hotel room a half an hour from where he was born and raised. It had been the most exciting day of his life so far, and it wasn’t even ten o’clock.

Standing there in his best suit, Leo didn’t have anything better to do than to admire the cool old factory building, with its exposed bricks and its industrial-looking ironwork. A couple of other guys sat perched on chairs by the windows, typing rapid-fire into their laptops. Whatever they were doing, it looked urgent.

Mr. Kattenberger’s assistant went to sit behind her desk, and for a few minutes nothing happened.

To amuse himself, Leo Googled “Dumbo” on his phone. He didn’t know why this Brooklyn neighborhood was named for a Disney elephant. As it turned out, Dumbo was an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. The O for “Overpass” was stuck on there for aesthetic purposes, he guessed. Without it, the neighborhood would be called “Dumb.”

Keyed up as he was, this idea hit him as hysterical. He actually snorted to himself as he put the phone away. Hell, he’d live in a neighborhood called “Dumb” if it meant he could play for this team. In fact—they could put “Dumb” on the back of his jersey if they felt like it. He wanted this opportunity badly, and he could barely believe that it was finally happening.

It was about a minute later when everything went south.

His first clue was an angry growl from the owner’s office. The assistant—purple-haired Becca—peered nervously at her watch. She was perched on a chair behind a modern, kidney-shaped desk and stealing glances at her boss’s office door. “I’m sure he’ll be right with you,” she said. “We’re going to have a crazy day today—there’s going to be a press conference announcing the brand-new coach.”

“Oh?” This was news to Leo. His agent hadn’t said anything about that. Everyone knew the Brooklyn Bruisers had been interviewing coaches for a year now. It was something of a joke in the press. Pundits had written that maybe Kattenberger wanted the job for himself. “Who is it?” he asked.

She winked her right eye at him—and the diamond stud in her nose twinkled under the antique lighting. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

“That would shorten my career,” he joked. “I guess I’ll live with the mystery.”

Though it turned out he didn’t have to. Because somebody began yelling behind Mr. Kattenberger’s closed office door. “I don’t want this fucking player! Find a way to undo it!” And, damn. That voice sounded familiar.

Someone argued back in a low voice that Leo couldn’t quite make out.

“Oh yeah?” The first voice again. “We’ll just see what the lawyers say. Send him right back to Michigan or where-the-fuck-ever.”

The realization that he was talking about Leo hit him like a crosscheck into the plexi.

And just to extinguish any lingering doubt, Becca leapt out of her chair and scrambled to tap on the office door. Then she opened it a crack and stuck her head inside to say, pointedly, “Mr. Trevi has arrived, sir.”

If only. His big entrance suddenly seemed a hell of a lot smaller.

There was a murmured reply, after which the door was yanked all the way open. That’s when Leo saw him—the coach who had once been his mentor, until the man had decided he wasn’t anymore. Coach Karl Worthington leaned forward, searing Leo with his beady gaze, grimacing as if Leo were a cockroach who’d just scuttled in.

For one fraction of a second, he felt like one, too. But then his blood pressure spiked. This was a big day for him—or it had been until a minute ago. It had always been a mystery to him why this man had turned against him. And now he’d been hired as head coach of the Brooklyn team?

Hello, roadblock. But fuck that. He wasn’t going to let Worthington ruin this opportunity for him, not without a fight.

“Hi, Coach,” he said. And maybe Leo’s smile was more of a grimace. But it was the best he could manage right now.

The moment dragged on while Leo stood there wondering—what was the shortest NHL career in history? Two games? One? If Coach Karl had his way, his might be a single hour. Leo fingered his phone in his pocket, wondering whether he could call his agent this early in the morning. The man was on West Coast time, but this probably qualified as an emergency.

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