Read High Heat Online

Authors: Carl Deuker

High Heat

High Heat
Carl Deuker

Houghton Mifflin Company
Boston 2003

Copyright © 2003 by Carl Deuker

All rights reserved. For information about permission
to reproduce selections from this book, write to
Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company,
215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com

The text of this book is set in Stone Serif.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Deuker, Carl.
High heat / Carl Deuker.
p. cm.
Summary: When sophomore Shane Hunter's father is arrested for money
laundering at his Lexus dealership, the star pitcher's life of affluence
and private school begins to fall apart.
ISBN 0-618-31117-3
[1. Fathers—Fiction. 2. Family problems—Fiction. 3.
Baseball—Fiction. 4. High schools—Fiction. 5. Schools—Fiction. 6.
Suicide—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.D493 Hi 2003
[Fic]—dc21
2002015324

Manufactured in the United States of America
QUM 10 9 8 7 6 5 4

For Anne and Marian, who helped with all of it.

I would like to thank Ann Rider, the editor of this book,
for her help and encouragement.

PART ONE
CHAPTER 1

I'm a closer, so I can't live and die on every pitch, especially in the early innings of a game. I watch, of course. I want to know which batters swing at which pitches. But I watch with half an eye, filing things away. I've got to stay loose and relaxed, because my time comes later.

Things had been going well for me and for Shorelake, my high school team. We were 5–0 on the season, and I had three saves, which means there'd been three times when everybody had surrounded me on the mound to shake my hand and tell me what a fantastic job I'd done. There's no better feeling in the world.

We were playing on our home field. It's the best baseball diamond in Seattle, with lush outfield grass, a perfectly smooth infield, and great dugouts. You'd expect that, since Shorelake Academy is the most expensive school in Seattle. Greg Taylor, my best friend, had just smacked a leadoff home run to put us ahead of Cedarcrest by a run. I high-fived him
when he returned to the bench. Greg and Cody Miller and I were the only sophomores on the team, and the three of us were the team clowns, too. We pulled practical jokes all the time, like tying guys' shoes together or putting worms in their water bottles. Stupid stuff, but it was fun, so why not do it? I got that from my dad. He was always pulling jokes on people, making them look silly.

Greg stuffed his mouth with sunflower seeds. I grabbed some out of his bag, and Cody did the same. The three of us sat there spitting shells at guys' feet as Ted Hearn, our catcher, stepped up to the plate to take his cuts.

It was Greg who spotted the bald eagle. He pointed to it as it came out of the woods east of the baseball diamond. The bird was huge, and it glided effortlessly across the sky before disappearing over a tall stand of trees directly behind the parking lot. I watched the spot where I'd last seen it for a while, hoping it would return.

When I lowered my eyes, I noticed a big American car, a Ford or Chrysler, pull into the parking lot. That struck me as strange. The game had been going for nearly an hour. Who'd be coming now?

Two men got out, one of them a little guy who was nearly bald and the other much bigger and younger, built like a professional football player. He wore dark sunglasses and had a dark beard. Both of them wore coats and ties. Cody noticed them too. "Who are those guys?" he asked.

"Beats me," Greg answered, "but the little guy looks just like Mrs. Judd." Mrs. Judd was our social studies teacher. Cody laughed, and then their eyes went back to the game.

I didn't laugh, and my eyes didn't go back to the game. I knew the short guy. His name was Rausch. He'd been by our house a couple of times to talk to my father. I didn't know what he did or whether he had anything to do with my dad's Lexus dealership, but I knew my dad hated him.

I heard a bat make solid contact and looked back to the game. Hearn had smacked a single into left center. Our fans rose and cheered, and I did too. But when I sat back down, my eyes returned to Rausch. He was standing behind my dad's car, writing something in a notepad.

I looked into the bleachers to where Dad was sitting. He was right in the middle of all the parents, where he always sat. But he was quiet, which wasn't like him. The other parents' eyes were riveted on the game, but his eyes were on Rausch and his partner.

Rausch and the bearded man were crossing the parking lot, heading toward the bleachers. They walked fast—the way people at an airport walk when they're late for a plane. Cody was telling some long, drawn-out joke, and there was a bunch of talk up and down the bench and in the stands. When Rausch finally reached the bleachers, he didn't speak loudly, but I heard every word. "Mr. Hunter, would you please step out of the bleachers?"

I wasn't the only one who had heard. The parents—Mr. Miller, Mrs. Hearn—all of them turned their eyes toward my dad.

My dad looked down at Rausch. "It's Saturday afternoon. I'm watching my son's game. If you want to talk to me, call the dealership and make an appointment with my secretary."

"Strike three!" the umpire yelled. I glanced toward home plate to see Brian Coombs heading back to the bench, his bat dragging.

Cody stopped telling his joke. Greg nudged me. "What's going on, Shane?"

I didn't answer. My heart was pounding the way it does when I'm pitching with the game on the line. Things flashed through my mind: the phone calls in the middle of the night, the strange packages at our door, the jumpy way Mom had been acting.

"Don't make this difficult, Mr. Hunter," Rausch said calmly, and now everyone in the stands and half the players on the bench were watching. "Just step down out of the bleachers."

"I told you. If you want to talk to me, call my secretary."

"Have it your way," Rausch said. He reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet, opened it, and showed it to the parents sitting in the bleachers. "Police business," he called out. "I'd like you to move away. Now."

My dad didn't budge, but all around him was motion. The bleachers emptied, men and women scurrying off as if some sewer rat had just crawled up their pant leg. Within seconds it was just Rausch, the bearded man, and my dad.

"Mr. Hunter," Rausch said in a ringing voice, "you are under arrest. Put your hands on top of your head and come down out of the bleachers."

Dad smiled a crooked smile. "You're being ridiculous."

"Put your hands on your head," Rausch repeated, "and come down now."

The smile disappeared from my father's face. "I'll have your job for this."

"Come down out of the stands, Mr. Hunter."

Dad's eyes went steely. "Come get me."

Rausch looked at his partner, then the two of them started up the bleachers. When the bearded man grabbed his elbow, my dad twisted away.

My dad is big—he played first base and batted cleanup at Washington State—but Rausch's partner was both bigger and younger. He grabbed my father, pulling him forward and causing him to lose his balance and fall. In a flash the big man and Rausch were both on him, pushing his face down onto the metal bleacher. Then the bearded man yanked his arms up behind him, and Rausch snapped handcuffs on him. Next, Rausch planted his knee in my dad's back and kept him pinned while he patted down his pockets. Finally they yanked him to his feet.

Rausch took out a card and started reading. "You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to..." As he spoke, the two of them were half pushing, half walking my father toward the parking lot.

Dad turned back to me. "Shane," he called,"don't worry. This is all a mistake. Do you hear me? I'll be home before you are."

I stared after him, watching as the bearded man pushed him into the back seat of what I now knew to be an unmarked police car, watching it pull out of the parking lot, tires squealing. I stared until the car was completely out of sight.

That's when I looked around. The game had come to a
halt. Everyone on my team, everyone on the other team, the umpires, the parents—everyone was staring at me.

In the movies the heroes take on the crowds. "What are you looking at?" they shout, and the people look away. But I slumped down onto the bench, pulled my cap over my eyes, and kept them glued to the ground. The umpire yelled, "Batter up!" I guess somebody stepped to the plate, but I didn't watch.

It was the fourth inning when they took my dad away. I kept my head down for the rest of the game. Somehow I didn't feel real, if that makes any sense. It was as if I had no weight, no substance—as if I wasn't really there.

I knew the innings were moving by only because I could feel Greg and Cody sitting next to me, then leave to go to their positions, then return. I didn't look up until there were two outs in the last inning. Somehow I could just sense that the game was ending. Scott Parino, our pitcher, threw a strike, then a ball, then the Cedarcrest batter hit a little pop-up to first. We'd won, but there was only the barest applause from the parents behind us. Players on both teams shook hands quickly, packed up their gear, and headed to the parking lot. Some peeked over at me. Most didn't.

It wasn't until nearly everyone was gone that Greg's dad came over. "I'll give you a ride home, Shane."

Greg's house was in Sound Ridge, down the road from mine.

"That's okay, Mr. Taylor," I answered. "I can get home."

"How? You're five miles away. That's too far to walk. Come with me."

He was trying to be nice, but I couldn't bear the thought of sitting with him.

"I'll call my mom."

Coach Levine came over. "I'll give Shane a ride."

I looked to Greg's dad. "I'll go with Coach," I said.

He nodded. "Sure, Shane. Whatever you want."

CHAPTER 2

In the car Coach Levine didn't say anything to me. He drove along 130th until we reached Greenwood. From there I gave him directions to Sound Ridge, which isn't the kind of neighborhood a teacher could afford.

When we reached the gated entrance, Simon Chang, the security guard, stepped out of his small brick guardhouse and approached Levine's car. "Can I help you?" he asked, his voice courteous but remote.

I leaned across toward him. "It's me, Simon. Shane Hunter."

Simon always asked how my pitching was going. But that day he only nodded, then pushed the button. The gate opened and Levine drove through.

I directed Levine through the winding streets to my house. When we could finally see it, I understood why Simon had been so quiet. Three police cars were parked in front. Uniformed officers were walking down our driveway carrying away boxes filled with file folders.

Levine hadn't come to a complete stop, but I grabbed my equipment, opened the door, and jumped out of his car. "Wait a second, Shane," he called out, but I didn't wait. I ran up the long walkway and threw open my front door.

Rausch was sitting on the sofa looking at a clipboard. Mom
was across from him; she had a dazed look on her face. Rausch stood up. "I'm sorry about today, son," he said, "but your—"

"What's he doing here?" I said, turning to my mom. "Tell him to get out."

"He'll be leaving soon," Mom said, her voice not much more than a whisper.

"Tell him to get out now. This is our house."

"Shane, that's enough," Mom said, snapping out of her apathy. "These men have work to do. When they're done, they'll leave. Now let them do it."

My mother's words stung, making me feel childish, but I couldn't let Rausch know that. I glared at him before heading upstairs to my room.

It took a while to reach it. That house was huge—the garage alone was probably bigger than the little duplex we live in now. We had an exercise room, a computer room, an entertainment room, and other rooms I can't remember anymore. It seemed as if a police officer was in every one of them.

I wanted to be alone, but when I reached my room, my sister, Marian, was sitting at my desk, a plateful of Oreos and a glass of milk in front of her. She hadn't touched either. "Shane, what's happening?" she asked, her eyes watery.

Marian is five years younger than me, but she's smart, so I couldn't bluff her. "I don't know for sure," I said. "Dad's in some kind of trouble, though."

"Is he in jail?"

"He'll be back tonight, or tomorrow at the latest."

She sat there looking at me. "He is in jail, isn't he?"

"Yes, he's in jail." I waited a minute. "You want to watch a movie?"

"No," she said.

"Come on, Marian. You might as well. I'll watch with you."

"What do you want to watch?"

"I don't know. You pick."

She went to her room and got part one of
The Lord of the Rings.
I popped it into my DVD player, and turned the volume up. We sat on my bed, watching Frodo Baggins escape one danger after another. All the time, we could hear men and women talking as they opened and closed file cabinets and moved up and down the stairs.

CHAPTER 3

They didn't leave until eight. As soon as they were gone, Mom came up. "Let's go eat," she said.

"I'm not hungry," I answered.

"Neither am I," Marian said.

"Well, I am," she said, "so we're going."

We went to the Red Mill on Greenwood, not a place we usually go. I didn't think I'd be able to eat, but once I smelled the food, I was suddenly starving. I felt guilty ordering a hamburger and even more guilty eating it, but I finished the whole thing. Marian ate everything on her plate, too. It was Mom who pushed her food around.

Back home there was a message on the answering machine. Mom turned the volume down, but I recognized the voice. It was Mr. Anderson, Dad's lawyer. I thought Mom would call him right back, but instead she had Marian shower and brush her teeth. Then she walked her up to her bedroom and sat with her, staying longer than usual. When she finally
left Marian's room, she went straight to Dad's office and closed the door.

I left my own door open so I'd hear her when she headed back downstairs. Fifteen minutes passed, then another fifteen, then another. She stayed on the phone for over an hour before she finally hung up.

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