…from Chapter 25
“Jay, where are you,” Chuni shouts into the cell phone in Joel’s ear. “Are you seeing this,” she asks, without giving him time to answer the first question.
In the time he’s known Chuni, he’s never known her to be theatric. It’s not her style. Now there’s a sense of urgency in her voice that borders on panic. This is not about a blown bio-chem final, obviously.
Joel and seven teammates are staggering back from a heavy Mexican lunch near the hotel. He passes from warm, winter sun into the cool of a building’s shade as she says two words that change his world: “Galtier’s gone!”
The next thing Joel knows, he’s dashing into the hotel’s vast lounge, where a flat-screen is mounted over the fireplace. A commercial for adult diapers is running; the spokeswoman is no older than his mother.
“Can we put this on ESPN?” he bellows toward the front desk. A hotel worker replenishing the welcome cookies looks up in question. Joel’s teammates come panting through the lobby, bewildered and holding their guts.
CNN’s ‘Breaking News’ promo flashes, yielding to a gorgeous redhead in the studio. She wears a grim and surprised look, as if she, too, is stunned by the news she’s about to relate.
“More shocking, bizarre news now on this New Year’s Eve. Sources have confirmed that MacReynolds Galtier, the star athlete for the University of Alabama, er, Tennessee, excuse me, football team, is missing. We know that law-enforcement officials are trying to locate him. Right now, let’s go to our correspondent Stacy Norris who is, uh, in Washington state. Stacy?”
A windblown blonde in a jacket appears near a freeway overpass. She too looks grim, even worried.
Joel hears the words, oblivious to all else around him. They are in English, certainly. But it all seems like gibberish until a picture of Galtier—his media-guide mug—appears next to a map of the country. A red line is clumsily drawn from east Tennessee to Portland, Oregon.
“He was here?” Joel whispers, thinking of home.
As the map zooms in on Washington, the red line zigzags around Longview and travels northeast to suburban Seattle. It ends with a Maddenesque ‘X’.
The jacketed woman continues to talk loud over the wind. “We understand that he, uh, that he went to a party a few nights ago. This was at the home of a Seattle Seahawks football player. Sources have not yet confirmed whose house, exactly, this was, or who Galtier went with or if he was alone. Like I ongsaid, much of this information is less than an hour old. But the manner of Galtier’s transport to and from the party is a mystery. As is, of course, his, uh, are his whereabouts at this moment.”
Split screen, now. The elder studio woman providing clarity and stability, asking reasonable questions. “Stacy, do the police suspect foul play?”
“Well, that is a possibility. Yes, a deep concern is that something has gone terribly wrong. I just got off the phone with the local FBI here in Seattle and they wouldn’t confirm or deny their involvement. However, with Galtier being who he is, one could presume that law-enforcement will use every resource and take extreme care to get to the bottom of this mystery quickly.”
Joel drops to a seat on the couch, feeling as if all the air’s been sucked out of the room. The news progresses on to other items. Moving images, talking heads. A car commercial. There is a tilt to everything.
He is holding his head when somebody says, “Oh man, this is great news!”