Bleachers

Bleachers by John Grisham Read Free Book Online

Book: Bleachers by John Grisham Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Grisham
Tags: Fiction, Suspense
him standing near the goalposts, and under it the record—418 wins, 62 losses, 13 state titles.
    According to the predawn gossip, Rake was still clinging to life. And the town was still clinging to him. The chatter was subdued—no laughter, no jokes, no windy stories of fishing triumphs, none of the usual spats over politics.
    A tiny waitress in a green-and-white outfit brought them coffee and took their orders. She knew Paul but did not recognize the guy with him.
    “Is Maggie still around?” Neely asked.
    “Nursing home,” Paul said.
    Maggie Renfrow had been serving scalded coffee and oily eggs for decades. She had also dealt relentlessly in all areas of gossip and rumor surrounding the Spartan football team. Because she had given free meals to the players she had managed to do what everyone else in Messina tried to do—wiggle in a little closer to the boys and their Coach.
    A gentleman approached and nodded awkwardly at Neely. “Just wanted to say hello,” he said, easing out his right hand. “Good to see you again, after all this time. You were something.”
    Neely shook his hand and said, “Thanks.” The handshake was brief. Neely broke eye contact.The gentleman took the hint and withdrew. No one followed him.
    There were quick glances and awkward stares, but the others seemed content to brood over the coffee and ignore him. After all, he had ignored them for the past fifteen years. Messina owned its heroes, and they were expected to enjoy the nostalgia.
    “When was the last time you saw Screamer?” Paul asked.
    Neely snorted and looked out of the window. “I haven’t seen her since college.”
    “Not a word?”
    “One letter, years back. Fancy stationery from some place in Hollywood. Said she was taking the place by storm. Said she’d be a lot more famous than I ever thought about being. Pretty nasty stuff. I didn’t respond.”
    “She showed up for our ten-year reunion,” Paul said. “An actress, nothing but blond hair and legs, outfits that have never been seen around here. A pretty elaborate production. Name-dropping right and left, this producer, that director, a bunch of actors I’d never heard of. I gotthe impression she was spending more time in bed than in front of the camera.”
    “That’s Screamer.”
    “You should know.”
    “How’d she look?”
    “Tired.”
    “Any credits?”
    “Quite a few, and they changed by the hour. We compared notes later, and no one had seen anything she said she’d been in. It was all a show. Typical Screamer. Except that now she’s Tessa. Tessa Canyon.”
    “Tessa Canyon?”
    “Yep.”
    “Sounds like a porn star.”
    “I think that’s where she was headed.”
    “Poor girl.”
    “Poor girl?” Paul repeated. “She’s a miserable self-absorbed idiot whose only claim to fame was that she was Neely Crenshaw’s girlfriend.”
    “Yes, but those legs.”
    They both smiled for a long time. The waitress brought their pancakes and sausage and refilled their coffees. As Paul drenched his plate with maple syrup, he began talking again. “Twoyears ago, we had a big bankers’ convention in Vegas. Mona was with me. She got bored, went to the room. I got bored, so I walked along the Strip, late at night. I ducked into one of the older casinos, and guess who I saw?”
    “Tessa Canyon.”
    “Tessa was shuffling booze, a cocktail waitress in one of those tight little costumes that’s low in the front and high in the rear. Bleached hair, thick makeup, twenty or so extra pounds. She didn’t see me so I watched her for a few minutes. She looked older than thirty. The odd thing was how she performed. When she got near her customers at the tables, the smile came on with the purring little voice that says, ‘Take me upstairs.’ The glib one-liners. The bumping and rubbing. Shameless flirting with a bunch of drunks. The woman just wants to be loved.”
    “I tried my best.”
    “She’s a sad case.”
    “That’s why I dumped her. She won’t come back

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