Authors: Lorena Wood
“Well, I do. You want to know
if I can identify the killer by hearing his thoughts in the crowd.”
“See, you know what I’m
thinking. Won’t you be able to catch the guy if you get close?”
“Well, there are so many
factors. There is a chance that could happen, but not a great chance. First, I
would have to get close enough, and there will be so many people and vibrations
around I won’t know where it’s coming from. Next, the person can’t be able to
block me. I forgot to mention earlier that some kinds of mental illness are
very hard to read. I am guessing that could be the case with this guy. Third,
he would have to be there tonight, at this specific game.”
“So you could do it!” Nick said
punching his fist into the air.
Whitney paused, and
then laughed. She liked his humor. It fit in perfectly with her own crazy view
of the world. He was smiling at the moment, but she could feel his tension,
hear his worries. He was worrying about her, the case, the kids, and in the
back of it all was his pain. He had failed before; he didn’t want to fail
again. It was like he was shouting it out at her.
“I have to keep her safe. Gotta
find this guy fast. What if I can’t? How many more will die? What’s motivating
this guy? I’m dog-tired. Don’t let yourself care so much Naylor. It could
happen again. You won’t be ready and someone else will die.”
Whitney could sense that he
carried around a lot of pain from the past. He blamed himself for something. He
was a cop. Cops are faced with situations all the time, and cops can make
mistakes. Mistakes could be hard to live with, she knew that. She had tried and
failed in the past, and the faces of the victims still haunted her.
They pulled into a dusty
parking lot next to a school. She couldn’t believe so many people would weather
this heat to watch a game of T-ball. This was one dedicated group. It was the
end of the school year in Arizona so this was probably an important game.
She could feel the tension in
the air as they walked to the sidelines. People were sitting on chairs and
blankets holding snacks and water bottles. Little children were running around
laughing and the teams were getting ready to get on the field. They even had
uniforms. They looked to be six or seven years old. Two boys were throwing the
ball back and forth near where they sat.
“See if you can catch this after
a bounce Todd!” The older boy threw it down hard and to the right. The little
one ran and got behind it like he knew exactly what to do.
“Good job Todd! Now wait while
I move back a little and see if you can get it to me.”
The boy had an amazing arm. She
could feel the pride of the parents around her, and their desire to see their
kids excel in this game. There were important people here today. The donations
from these individuals kept the SVWC going. She allowed herself to be open to
all the energy around her. It was hard to feel all the emotions, thoughts,
regrets and hidden secrets that people carry around. Normally, she kept up a
shield in a situation like this, or avoided it. With all the activity, she
didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary.
Nick and Teddy continually
scanned the crowd for any sign of trouble. These parents didn’t realize yet
that the murders were connected to their special group. It would come out
eventually, but for today they were unaware. There was a booth setup at the
edge of the parking lot with flyers and information about the SVWC. Many adults
were talking and shaking hands. It looked like they were also accepting
donations in one corner. Nick grabbed Whitney’s elbow and headed her that way.
“Let’s go see what that’s all
Whitney smiled as a woman held
out a flyer and welcomed her. “Do you two have a child interested in joining
Whitney glanced at Nick and
laughed nervously. “No, we just heard such great things about your organization
that we had to come see for ourselves. I can’t believe that such small children
can be so talented already. I don’t even think I can throw as far as some of
“We start when they are very
young,” the woman said flashing the smile of a proud parent. “It’s important to
expose the children to as many sports as possible to see what gifts they have.
By the time they actually join us, they probably know if they love baseball,
basketball, or every sport there is.” She laughed. “Some kids just excel at
everything they try. My son Dillon is nine now, and he is so tall you would
think he would be a basketball fanatic, but he just loves football so much. My
name’s Sarah Parker. My husband’s one of the coaches. Well, enjoy the day. We
have refreshments on the table, and we’re accepting donations in any size to
help us keep going. The box is over by Ann Marie.”
She pointed to a tall, blonde
woman in the corner. She was in the middle of a group that was laughing and
looking like they all knew each other. Nick led them in that direction.
As Whitney listened she could
tell from the thoughts buzzing around that this was the original founders
group. These were the men and women who had the insight years ago to invest
time and effort into their children. Some of them had children who had made to pro-teams.
Others had college scholarships. Some were just happy their children were
confident and strong young adults.
A handsome man in his late
forties turned and held out his hand. “Hello, I don’t think I’ve seen you at
the games before. My name is Eric Turner. My son is the one that just made the
Diamondbacks. All thanks to that woman over there, Ann Marie Kensington.” He
paused, but when Nick and Whitney just nodded he continued talking. “She’s
pretty proud today too. Her little one just made the cut for the STAR team next
year. He’s only six, but he is an amazing ball player. Ann Marie was one of the
first parents to get involved in the SVWC. Her other son was one of the first
ones to make a college football team from this group. She teaches over at Kyrene
del Norte and brings in more kids every year.”
Whitney smiled and nodded as he
continued talking. She glanced over at Ann Marie. She looked to be in her early
forties, very tall, and very energetic. She must have been an athlete in her
day. Then she saw an older boy sitting behind her. He was one of the few faces
that didn’t look thrilled to be here. He actually looked quite miserable.
Whitney walked over to say hello and try to relieve some of his boredom.
“Hi, my name is Whitney
Bentley. This is my first time here and I’m quite impressed.” He glared up at
her and she immediately felt his anger. He didn’t say a word, but she could see
he wasn’t happy. His anger was so overpowering it’s all Whitney could feel. She
backed up and tried to block some of his energy. He was glaring at Ann Marie
Kensington. She realized how much he looked like her and thought it might be
her son. Why would she bring him if he hated it so much? Then she felt his
anger grow and realized he was staring down at his legs. He was in a wheel
Whitney tried not to let the
shock show on her face. Why would his mother drag him to these events when he
couldn’t participate? She tried to open up to the mom’s vibrations, but all she
could sense was a genuine happiness to be here that day. She was thinking about
her little six year old and how great he was doing.
Before Whitney could spend any
more time trying to think of what to say to the boy, Nick took her arm and
started heading toward the other side of the field.
“I hear some parents arguing
over there. Let’s go check it out and see what we can find out.” She looked to
where he was pointing and could see the two dads yelling back and forth
pointing at two young players. One was sitting down holding his knee in pain.
“Your son intentionally slammed
into mine! That’s grounds for suspension. Look at him. His knee could be
sprained, or worse!”
The other boy stood cowering
behind his dad. “My boy was just sliding in like he was taught to do. He’s
safe, and that’s how the game is played. It’s all about winning! Your boy just
didn’t know how to get out of the way. Better teach him not to stick his foot
out like that when someone’s sliding into third.”
The only feelings Whitney could
receive were anger over the event and past jealousies from the families. The
little one on the ground was sure his dad would ground him until his leg
healed. His Dad believed there was no excuse for failure. He practiced with him
every day, and now he would be off his leg for a while.
The other boy was afraid his dad
would see the tears starting to form, and he walked away. He played on the team
to make his parents proud, but he didn’t really like all the pressure. He tried
hard to keep everyone happy, but the kids on his team got mad if he didn’t play
“This is nothing like the
T-ball games we have down in Baseline Elementary.” Nick whispered to Whitney.
“Most of the parents don’t show up, and when they do they are usually amazed
that their kid can even hit the ball.”
Just then two men in referee
suits slipped in between the dads and pulled them aside. One helped the injured
boy off the field with his dad while the other tried to calm everyone down.
Nick and Whitney moved away
from the argument and walked past a group of older boys. They looked like high
school students or even college kids. Nick stopped and introduced himself to a
boy with an earring in his nose.
“Hi, I’m Nick Naylor. You boys
play on one of these teams?”
“No way man. We just come to
watch the little kids get yelled at. Gives us something to do.”
Another boy spoke up, “I feel
sorry for them.”
“Why’s that?” Nick turned to
talk with the young man.
“Their parents push them to
play all the time. They never get to do anything else. If they don’t win, they
get in trouble. Look at their faces, do they look happy?”
Whitney and Nick both turned to
watch the field. They could see the boys were serious about the game, but a few
of them looked like they were enjoying it too.
The boy with the pierced nose
was watching with a look of disgust. “I used to play for one of these teams.
They said I wasn’t good enough. Now I have time to do the things I like to do.
Those little kids have no choice. They may look happy right now, but that’s
part of the act too. Once they’re older they can make their own decisions.
Right now they have to look like they love it or their parents won’t be happy.
Gotta keep mom and pop happy, you know.
“So what sport did you
play…um…I didn’t catch your name.”
“I didn’t give it.” Nick just
gave him his stern glare and the boy smiled nervously.
The smallest boy in the group
reached out to shake Nick’s hand. “I’m Jeremy. Jeremy Nash. They almost talked
my little brother into joining, but I talked him out of it. I hate to see kids
I know get sucked up into all this bullshit.”
Whitney’s look of surprise made
the boy smile.
“Hey, I’m eighteen. I can say
that kind of stuff. This is Joe and the one with the nose ring is Aaron. We
just stop by every now and then to see what new kids got talked into signing
“What happens when you see a
“If we know him, we try to talk
him out of it. We even talk to the parents if they’re interested. If we don’t
know them, then we just sit and watch the fun. It’s kind of funny watching the
parents get all upset ‘cause their little kids can’t hit the ball. They all
think their kids are special.”
“Do they get into arguments
like the one back at third base just now?”
“All the time. That’s what
keeps us coming back. We feel sorry for the little kids, but the parents look
like idiots sometimes. When that guy over there gets mad,” he said pointing, “his
face turns red and he has a vein over his eye that pops out. Some of the little
kids think it’s funny too. They call him volcano man. They’re waiting for his
head to explode some day.”
The other boys started laughing
and telling more stories about the parents. Nick thanked them for the chat and
headed toward the volcano man. He was busy talking with the skinny boy at his
“I told you to keep your eyes
open when you’re out there. I saw you looking over here. If Ted had popped a
fly ball you’d have missed it.”
“But I was watching. I just had
an itch is all.”
Nick was getting ready to
introduce himself to the father when he saw Teddy striding toward them. He
motioned at Whitney to follow and walked over to his partner.
“See anything Teddy?”
“Nope, how ‘bout you?”
“Yeah, a bunch of people living
vicariously through their kids. Nothing that helps with the case. Did you get
anything from this Whitney?”
“Sorry. Nothing to do with
kidnapping or murder. Seems like a pretty dedicated group.”
Nick noticed she looked a
little flushed from the heat and worried he was wearing her out. “How ya
feeling? Need to go sit in the car and rest a little?”
“Yeah. I was just thinking
that. You didn’t tell me you could read minds.” They all laughed and Nick threw
her the keys. “We’ll be there in about twenty minutes. Just want to look around
a little more.”
Whitney got into the car and
turned the air-conditioning on full blast. She had to step outside for a couple
minutes to let the car cool down. The inside of a car on a hot Arizona day
could reach very dangerous temperatures. Once inside, she aimed all vents
toward her face and body. Holding her blouse up and out a little, she tried to
get some air to blow through the bottom of it. Man, she was hot. It wouldn’t
have been so bad except that she was exhausted. She was basically assimilated
to the heat in Arizona. She lived in Sedona, just a few hours away, but it
didn’t get quite this hot. Her body was on edge from absorbing so much energy
from so many different people. She took in some deep breaths and tried to slow