General Fiction posted May 22, 2020


A mystery, out on the golf course.

A killing on the 16th tee

by Brad Bennett

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

Ron and Kevin eyed the man in the green blazer descending the hill.

"Looks like expensive clubs." Ron observed.

"Yeah," Kevin replied, taking a practice swing, his club nipping the top of the grass. "Probably custom-made."

Ron shielded his eyes from the bright mid-morning sun. As the man drew closer, he could hear the man's footsteps crunching in the loose gravel of the pathway.

He doesn't look like a golfer," Ron noted, his voice a little lower. "What's he shoot?"

"His caddy says he shot 86," Kevin answered, moving a little closer to Ron, "and he cheated to get that." Kevin took another swing. "Rich, too," he added. "The word around is he's crawling in the dough."

The man was almost upon them now, his big cart banging along behind him. Ron eyed the cart. He noticed it was crammed with every gee-gaw a neophyte golfer would buy.

"This is gonna be a turkey shoot." Ron quietly snickered.

"Excellent day for a round, eh." The man announced as he approached, sticking out his hand, "I'm George Norman."

Ron smiled and took his hand. "No relation to Greg, I hope?"

George laughed, revealing perfect white teeth against his dark tanned face. "Only in my dreams." He replied, "and you're?"

"Ron Jakes, and this is Kevin Brown."

Kevin reached over to take George's hand, noticing the big gold Rolex on his wrist. "I haven't seen you around the club before George, did you just join?"

"Well, actually, I'm only in town for a while," George allowed. "A friend of mine on the committee loaned me his card, so I could get in a few rounds."

Ron shouldered his bag as they began walking. "I hope you don't mind if we don't use caddies," Ron mentioned. "The club, um, frowns on the sporting game here if you know what I mean."

"Not at all, gentlemen." George replied with a big grin.

George parked his overloaded cart at the first tee. He pulled out a driver. "Well, gentlemen, what's the going rate for sportsmen here anyway?"

Ron gave Kevin a sly glance; they'd already decided to give George double the standard bet.

"How about two hundred a hole?"

George grinned. "That'll do for a start." He made a sweeping gesture to the fairway." You first."

Ron stood firmly at the tee. His eyes fixed down the course, he slowly brought his wood back, paused, and unleashed his swing. His driver came down, striking the ball with a loud crack, sending it straight down the fairway.

"Very good!" George exclaimed. "They told me to watch out for you."

Ron smiled to himself. Actually, it was one of the poorer drives he'd made on this hole.
The threesome played on, and the scores were close. But by the time they reached the seventh tee, George had yet to win a hole. He took out a handkerchief, wiped his brow, and turned to the other two golfers.

"Lets up the bet."

Ron grinned at Kevin; they had been waiting for this. "What have you got in mind, George?"

"How about two thousand a hole!" George replied without batting an eye.

Ron almost gasped, nobody played for that kind of money. He glanced over at Kevin, who was white as a ghost. "Did you say two thousand dollars?"

"That's what I said. You guys can cover that, can't you?"

Ron had to ponder this for a moment, was George trying to hustle them? If they lost, they'd be wiped out. But then again, what if George was used to waging this kind of money? Maybe it was peanuts to him. They could make a killing. Ron glanced over at Kevin for a sign. Kevin looked nervous as hell. But after some thought, he gave Ron the nod.

"Alright, George," Ron replied. "You're on!"

The morning sun rose higher, shrinking the shadows beneath the tall sycamores that flanked the fairways. But the added heat did nothing for George's game. Ron and Kevin, however, had improved noticeably. Now they were hitting the ball deep in the fairway and chipping to the fat of the greens. By the time they reached the fifteenth tee, George was down over ten thousand dollars. Next to the tee area was an inviting fountain. George found a shaded bench nearby and slumped down on it to rest and sip the cool water. His face was now bright red from the midday sun. He had chucked all the golf paraphernalia from his cart three holes back. He took out a handkerchief and wiped his brow again.

"Okay, gentlemen," George suddenly announced. "Why don't we make this game much more interesting."

"You want to play for more?" Kevin blurted out, trying to conceal his excitement.

"I've got something else in mind," George replied. "I'm proposing a whole new game."

Above the course at the clubhouse parking lot sat a huge, silver Bentley. The car loomed like a fat moored yacht among the lesser vehicles. As the three men approached the vehicle, one of them fished in his pocket for his keys.

"Ah, yes, here it is," George announced, opening the trunk of the car. Ron and Kevin peered over his shoulder as he removed an expensive leather briefcase and snapped it open. George removed a folded envelope from the case and held it up for the other two men to see.

"I have here a cashier's check," he announced dramatically. "It's made out for the sum of Two Million Dollars at a local bank. All I have to do is write your name on it, and it's yours."

The two men's eyes grew wide as saucers as George handed them the check.

"Let's waive the paltry ten thousand I owe you," George went on. "Let's play a golf game for real money." Ron and Kevin studied the check carefully--it seemed real enough.

"Good God, man." Ron sputtered as he handed it back to George. "Are you freakin NUTS? I don't know what anybody's told you George, but we can't raise that kind of money."

"Oh, you don't have to put up a dime," George came back, "I'll do all the paying, you'll be playing each other. I'll just be a spectator."

Near the sixteenth tee is a thick copse of woods that offers complete privacy to all but the most errant of golfers. Down through the wooded, little trail came George leading the two men. George then turned off the path, and they entered through the leafy branches until they came upon a bit of clearing.

"Right here, gentlemen," George announced, motioning to the open space," is where I propose our golf drama. Here it will begin, and here it will end."

"END?" Kevin blurted out.

"Oh, yes," George's voice now became suddenly grave. "I propose you two play the sixteenth hole, and just the sixteenth hole, for two million dollars. Then we will return here to this clearing where the winner will receive the check, and the loser will pay the penalty."

Kevin didn't like the sound of that, but before he could speak, Ron was all over George.

"What are you, some kind of pervert?" Ron yelled in George's face.

"Gentlemen, I assure you," George calmly replied. "This game is way beyond some simple sadistic perversion. What I'm talking about is on a much higher level than that. I'm suggesting a decisive competition of the highest challenge. The ultimate sport."

Ron was appalled, "I don't want any part of this," he snapped. "I don't know what the hell you're getting to George, but you can pay up what you owe me NOW!"

Kevin grabbed Ron's arm. "Wait, lets at least hear George out. He's talking two million dollars."

Ron stared at George menacingly. "Okay, make it quick, then I'm out of here."

George began walking around the clearing, waving his arms like a salesperson at a seminar.

"Just think of it, gentlemen," he told them. "One of you today will have a fifty-fifty chance of walking off this course a multi-millionaire. Haven't you always dreamed of having that kind of money?" He paused for effect, "well, it's yours, no more hustling for scraps to play golf. No more wondering if you will ever be anything other than just struggling golf bums. You could travel the world, see it all. Play the best course's in every country." He held the tantalizing check in front of the two men's faces. "Whose name shall I sign on it?"

Kevin looked at the check, he shook his head as if to make it disappear. "You said the loser would pay a sacrifice. I think you better explain that?"

George reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out a bundle of purple velvet. Carefully he unwrapped the folds until it revealed a small silver-plated derringer. He opened the breach and inserted a stubby bullet, then snapped it shut.

"This, gentlemen," he soberly announced, holding the gun for them to see. "Will be the loser's fate!"

Ron and Kevin stared at the derringer in stunned silence. Now it was clear, George was implying cold-blooded murder!

"You're willing to pay two million dollars to shoot the loser of a golf game!" Ron stammered.

"Oh, no, not me." George answered. "The winner would do that."

Ron looked at George in disbelief. "You're insane!"

"Insanity is relative," George quickly replied. "How many people go to auto races hoping to see the drivers splatter their guts all over the track? Are they insane? No. They go for the danger. It's the element of death, Mr. Jakes, that's what makes a contest exciting. It's as old as the Coliseum in ancient Rome."

"Yes, the race tracks are dangerous," Ron came back, "but the drivers don't agree beforehand to kill each other. It's accidental. It's not a God damn, deliberate killing."

"But it's there, Mr. Jakes." George added, "the competitors will do anything to win, and the spectators know it, and that's what I am. A paying spectator."

"Wait a minute," Kevin interrupted. "This is ridiculous. Someone will hear the shot. We'd be charged with murder."

George held up the weapon again. "It's a small caliber, no one will hear it, and as to the body," George smiled. "They'll find it in the victim's hand, an apparent suicide."

"This is crazy!" Kevin blurted out, turning away. "I want no part of this."

"Really?" George replied, "two million dollars is a signicant amount of money, are you crazy enough to turn it down? One of you will be set for life." He waited for a reaction.

"That's why you're doing this?" Ron said accusingly. "For the excitement?"

"Yes, of course," George answered as if the question was obvious. "I've traveled the world looking for the ultimate sport. The money's nothing to me; I'm a wealthy man, I'll pay anything for that one blood-rushing moment of life or death in the arena."

George could sense they were starting to listen. "The challenge gentlemen think of it. You're sportsmen, could you enter that arena? Do you have what it takes to play in the ultimate game?"

Kevin suddenly turned to face George, his voice now becoming lower and colder. "The winner gets the money today?"

"I'll drive him to the bank myself." George answered.

"Wait one god-damn minute here," Ron barged in. "How do we know you won't fudge the deal? You can renege at any time. It's the winner's word against yours, who in the hell would believe this story?"

"AHA!" George shot back. "You've touched on the nub of this whole affair--the turning point if you will." George pulled a miniature recorder out of his shirt pocket. "I've recorded everything we've said in this meeting, all the damning evidence is here in our voices. Once the end games completed, the winner gets the recording as the deal sealer. We both would have much to lose should this agreement ever become known." George then paused to emphasize his next words carefully.

"This then is the juncture. We must now make a critical decision. Do I erase this tape, and we walk out of here, or do we play?"

Ron looked over at Kevin, but Kevin said nothing. Ron turned back to George. "Answer me now George, are you this committed? Are you this serious?"

George held the check up one more time, "I can tell you now that I'm 'all in,' Mr. Jake's. For you, it's all about the money, but for me, it's the end game. That's what I'm paying for, and I wouldn't miss it for anything."

George then went and sat upon an up-rooted stump and waited for the men's decision.

The two men began arguing. Soon it became clear they were talking themselves into the bargain more than they were talking themselves out of it. Then finally, after much discussion, they broke off and stood apart. Now George knew he had them. With the decision near, the two men both realized they were now mortal enemies--obstacles in each other's path to the coveted check. Losing was unthinkable. Survival was all that mattered to each man now.

It was Kevin, who agreed first, the money George was proposing was his lifetime dream, but Ron still resisted. The thought of killing a man was just too extreme. He couldn't imagine doing it, but God, he wanted that money, and the odds were good. He was the better player of the two men. At one time, Ron almost had his pro card. But then again, Kevin was no slouch, and anything could happen on only one hole.

Finally, after a gut--wrenching ten minutes, Ron raised his eyes to meet George's. "All right, you bastard," he said grimly. "Let's play!"

The par four sixteenth was the most challenging hole on the course. It ran two hundred and thirty yards out, and then doglegged sharply right for two hundred yards to the green. A long drive would overshoot the dogleg and find the trees. A short drive would leave the golfer in front of another stand of trees with absolutely no chance to the hole.

The three men stood away from the fifteenth tee to allow two other players to pass, and then finally, they had the course to themselves.

Ron won the coin toss and elected to drive first.

Ron placed his tee and took his stance. He could feel his nerves starting to creep in. He had won many a dollar at this hole, but now he found himself staring down its menacing fairway in fear. This time the stakes would be much higher, the penalty much more severe.

"Focus, damn you!" Ron whispered to himself, as he stood frozen over the ball. Finally, he unleashed his swing.

The ball ripped high off the tee, and soared past the first group of trees. It carried straight, then dropped dead center into the mouth of the dogleg and rolled to a perfect lie.

"Bravo!" George shouted, "Bravo!"

Now it was Kevin's turn at the tee. He was shaking noticeably, he was the underdog, and he knew it. A bad swing here, and it was over. He gripped the club tightly and gathered all his strength for the drive of his life. He stood frozen over the ball for what seemed an eternity, and then unleashed his driver. The ball streaked away

Kevin knew it was a slice when he hit it. The ball climbed high towards the dogleg, but then began to turn towards the trees.

Come on! Come on!" Kevin screamed as the ball faded towards disaster.

The ball dropped dangerously close to the front of the woods, bounced back to the fairway, and dribbled barely into the opening of the dogleg.

"By God, I think you made it." George shouted with excitement.

"You're enjoying this, aren't you, you freaking bastard!" Kevin snapped at George, slamming his club back into his bag.

As Kevin approached his lie, he could see he had a clear shot at the flag, but a treacherous trap lay between his ball and the green. Ron's lie, however, was farther past the opening, but it offered him a much better angle to the hole. Ron was away.

Ron was confident now as he stood over his lie. He could disconnect his mind from his body, and let his natural swing take over. Ron brought his iron down smoothly, picking the ball cleanly from the turf, and sent it flying down the second dogleg. It carried high to the flag, plopped down in the center of the green, and rolled to less than five feet from the pin. A sure birdie!

Kevin had to stand in shock as George, whooped and hollered in a loud, obnoxious outburst of jubilation. Now, he must ignore Ron's perfect shot and clear his mind. Kevin paced around his lie, trying to get all the factors in focus. He took his stance and stared to the green, but the trap beckoned to him like a gaping monster, his hands began to tremble. He backed away.

Then he retook his stance. It was now or never, he resolved himself to fate, brought his club back, and swung. He caught the ball cleanly, arcing it high towards the green. But then it started to lose momentum and began to fall. It hit the fringe of the green, bounced back, and sank straight down into the trap. Kevin's heart sank with it.

Ron was waiting anxiously behind the green for Kevin's sand trap attempt. Now he knew he had the game cinched. He could sense the victory.

Kevin agonized over his difficult lie in the sand. It looked like he was dead, literally. He began repeatedly pacing back and forth from his trapped ball to the pin, trying to get a feel for the shot. The flag was a good 80 feet from his buried ball--all downhill, a wicked rise in the middle.

"It'll fly out of there for sure." George commented.

"Shut up!" Kevin snapped, glaring at him.

George fumbled in his pocket for the reassuring presence of the gun. He might need it if Kevin blew this shot.

Kevin finally stood hunkered over his golf ball. He dug his feet into the sand, trying to get a firm footing. He stared up at the sky as if asking for divine intervention, but there would be no salvation from above. He must now execute this impossible attempt to the flag.

Kevin lowered his head and committed himself to fate. He brought the wedge down with all his might. Sand exploded up onto the green. The ball appeared streaking across the turf. It sped through the rise--picking up speed--charging the flag. Ron watched in horror as the ball hit the pin, popped straight up, then plopped back down into the cup. A birdie!

Kevin whooped like a madman. He raced out of the trap, screaming. "Yes. Yes!"

Any bystander watching this little drama would have guessed Kevin had just won the Masters. But of course, this shot was much more significant than that.

Now it was Ron's turn, the putt he had for victory, was now for life or death.

Ron steadied his nerves, trying to conceal his shock. His head was reeling--the green spinning around him as if he was in some surreal nightmare. Ron took his stance and measured the shot, but the cup seemed to pull farther away. The putter felt heavy as lead. He couldn't shake off his nerves; it was no use. When Ron finally tapped the ball, it trickled wide of the hole.

He had lost.

There was no one in sight in any direction as George came forward with the gun. "Shall we go, Mr. Jakes?" he said, pointing towards the woods.

As they entered the copse, Ron thought of making a run for it. He would be a moving target for the small Derringer. But why risk it? When Kevin gets the gun, surely this farce would be over.

"Kneel right there!" George sternly ordered when they reached the clearing.

As Ron bent to his knees, George suddenly snapped a pair of handcuffs on his wrists. Now his arms were helpless; he had no escape.

"Congratulations, Mr. Brown," George announced to Kevin as he handed him the derringer. "It seems you're a wealthy man. Now all you have to do complete the agreement."

Kevin took the weapon and walked over to Ron, who was helplessly trying to get back to his feet.

"Throw it away, Kevin," Ron pleaded. "Let's get out of here."

Kevin said nothing.

"What the hell are you doing?" Ron's voice was becoming panicky. "Throw it away!"

Kevin pointed the gun at Ron's head. His face was cold as ice.

"For God's sake, Kevin," Ron screamed. "I wouldn't shoot you!" Kevin hesitated, then he lowered the gun back down.

Suddenly George stepped forward. "Don't listen to him, Kevin. Do you think if he had won, he would come back here and throw the gun away? Take the money!"

Kevin raised the gun again. "He's right, if I hadn't made that sand shot, I'd be here on my knees, you'd have the gun. And I'd be good as dead."

By now, Ron was a quivering mass, pleading with Kevin, but it was no use.

"I'm sorry," Kevin, he said coldly. "It's two million dollars!" He pointed the gun, turned his head away, and pulled the trigger.

A sharp BANG echoes through the woods.

There was no immediate slumping of the body. Ron remained kneeling. His mouth is wide open, his face a death mask. Kevin turned his head back.

There was no blood?

Suddenly the clearing filled with George's laughter. "It's BLANK." George roared. "It's phony, as phony as this watch, and this check."

Kevin stared dumbfounded at George. "What, what's going on?"

"You bought it all you greedy scumbags." George roared again, trying to contain himself. "Even I didn't believe you were so greedy you would go this far."

Ron struggled with the cuffs; he was screaming at Kevin in a fiery rage.

"You tried to kill me, you son-of-a-bitch. Get these handcuffs off me!"

Kevin backed away; he was emotionally spent. He slumped to the ground.

George pointed to the cowering Kevin. "Look, Ron, there's your partner. Is he shocked because he thought he'd killed you, or because there is no money? And you," he turned to Ron. "You couldn't wait to get back here when you'd thought you had won. To you, Kevin was already dead meat." He reached into his pocket, pulled out the handcuff keys, and threw them on the ground.

"Have fun, guys," he said, mockingly, he then began walking away.

By now, Ron had somehow managed to stagger to his feet despite still wearing the cuffs.

"You owe us money, you bastard!" He screamed after George, spit flying from his mouth.

"So, sue me," George yelled back. He took the recording from his pocket and held it up, "this will make for some entertaining evidence in court."

"Wait!" Kevin called after him. "Why? Why did you do this? Why us?"

George stopped and turned on the trail. "Do you remember an elderly man you scammed here two years ago exactly on this day?"

Kevin shrugged.

"I didn't expect you would," George replied with disgust. "You snakes played him beautifully, didn't you? You pretended to be his friend, acted like you were duffers just like he was. Then you slowly took him for everything he had, right here on the sixteenth hole. He left the course a broken man. When he got home, he collapsed with a stroke. I know. I watched him die. I was his son."

"So!" Ron yelled after George as he walked away. "He knew what he was doing. He wanted to play."

George looked back at Ron with all the contempt he could find. "Yes, just like you did today."

George wheeled the big rented Bentley out of the parking lot, and down the road leading away from the clubhouse. As he reached the gate, the guard smiled and waved him through.

"Have a good round today, sir?" The man asked as he drove by.

"It was beautiful. Thank you." George replied. "Most rewarding round I've ever played."

 



This is more than just a golf story, it will be fun if you are a golfer, I hope. But if you're not, it's still got a nice reward for you for getting through it.
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