Chapter 14 of Fast Breaks: My Life of Close Calls on the Road with Coach Cal
Miami again. Coach Cal looked out the window of the brunch place.
He was wearing Gucci shades. He always wore Gucci shades but not for the mothers. The mothers loved him anyway when he walked in the place. Women just felt comfortable around him, I dunno. He’d sit down on their couch and you know, just belong wherever he sat. I saw a mom leave her phone number for him once, the dad sitting right there. Dude is sitting right there and already gave him his number, and she’s sneaking him her cell right there on the back of his own business card that she hands back to him. He never called.
The shades were for the dads and the players. They made him an easy mark on the street but Cal was a man pushing sixty in four hundred dollar sunglasses. No one in four hundred dollar sunglasses cares if you see them. Hell, they want you to see them. It’s what Cal wanted, for sure.
I still thought it was stupid for wanting it today. Especially with the velour sweatsuit. It was damn near eighty degrees and he’s sipping a mimosa in a blue velour tracksuit. Outside. On the porch of a cafe on South Beach, no less. He’s not sweating a drop, but still.
“Cal, you goin’ inconspicuous today? Come on.”
Cal put the mimosa down. He was looking at the water I think, but it was hard to tell behind the shades. He might have been looking at the the car across the street was parked and two guys in bad suits sat in the front seat not-watching us. They were terrible at this but weren’t even trying to hide.
State guys, they might try to hide. The Feds? They wanted you to see them. They wanted you to sweat.
Cal only sweat on the court, though. He started talking without looking right at them.
“You see those guys??
“Right. Me neither. They’re definitely not the Feds. You know the name of those Feds who aren’t there?
“They’re definitely not Thamel and Forde. I definitely don’t recognize Thamel from the bad hair gel. Right?”
“Not one bit.”
“Of course not. And they’re definitely not here to pinch me. They here to pinch you?”
The Feds who definitely weren’t watching us started to get out of the car and walk across the street.
Cal smiled and started typing something into his phone. “Get ready to move.”
I thought: Move where? There was the street and then the sidewalk and then us, sitting there with nothing for cover but a table umbrella. There was a back door to the cafe, but that’d be covered. We were dead men holding brunch drinks.
I’d been in bad spots with Cal before. Climbing out of a Memphis nightclub through the HVAC system. Jumping off a recruit’s fire escape in Boston. The whole Derrick Rose thing. Jeez, lemme tell you, you don’t want that Interpol trouble. Cal handled it, but we got out of Monaco in the false bottom of a shipping container for a reason. Those dudes don’t play.
We’d smuggled Demarcus Cousins out of Mobile inside a Mardi Gras float. We’d been through some things. But this? This was bad. This was very, very bad.
Cal didn’t flinch. He took a bite of his toast and then started talking again.
“Look three tables down. What do you see?”
I looked. There was a guy in a velour tracksuit talking on a flip phone wearing what looked like Gucci shades. He had a mimosa in hand.
“That guy looks like you.”
Cal smiled. “That’s right. Now look two tables the other way.”
I looked again. Same thing: A guy about Cal’s height and build, wearing a blue velour tracksuit and the Guccis and with the mimosa and everything.
“Now don’t bother looking. There are a couple others. Maybe more than that. I dunno, I made a lot of calls. They’re all friends. I set a few of them up with tickets, some other stuff. You know, FOCs.”
“Friends of Cal, baby. Members. They’re about to earn those courtsides.”
Cal pressed what must have been “Send” on a text. I heard a bunch of phones ring at once, all over the porch, maybe a few inside, and definitely one in the hands of a guy on a bench at a bus stop who stood up in...yeah, a velour tracksuit and Guccis.
“We’re all going for a walk. Come on, it’s good for the digestion.”
The Feds hit the sidewalk but were already too late. There were at least ten of them. Cal and I got to the host stand and they were already between us and the Feds, all saying “excuse me” and “pardon me”. A couple of them flapped newspapers around for effect. A couple of them asked the two Feds for directions to places that didn’t exist, like the NCAA Enforcement Office.
The Feds were confused and started grabbing anyone in a blue tracksuit. I was in the middle and completely different. They could have gotten me but I wasn’t on the menu. They wanted Cal and knew I wasn’t gonna talk. Cal bailed me out of a Lithuanian prison, asked no questions, and helped me make a new life. Not many men would take that kind of chance on a busted-up mercenary looking at 15 years in the worst hotel in Vilnius.
But Cal? Cal isn’t most men.
A hand grabbed my wrist. We were walking. Not fast walking. More like a stroll, across the street and out to the beach beyond. Behind us I looked and saw the Feds. Thamel was running in one direction after two fake Cals. Forde was in the other direction. Neither noticed us, or the little boat pushing up to the beach ahead of us.
The little skiff pushed right up to the beach. Cal never broke stride. He just walked up from the sand, grabbed the pilot’s hand to get on the boat, and sat down. He still had the mimosa in hand. Didn’t spill a drop of it on the way out.
I climbed in. The Feds looked out and finally realized what had happened. They stood like a couple of schnooks watching. I couldn’t see the look on their faces but didn’t need to. They were definitely pissed just watching it happen. And if they weren’t pissed then, they were definitely pissed when Cal raised his glass and toasted them as the boat headed out to Cal’s yacht.
I yelled over the engine, pointing back at the shore.
“Why do they always have bad suits?”
“That’s not the question you should be asking.”
“No, no. The question should be: How do I always look so good?”
He threw the glass in the water. The One and Done bobbed in the water ahead of us. The menu for the Feds: Crow. For us: Lobster. Cal told the captain to head for international waters and adjusted his shades. I looked down at his shoes.
He’d gotten on the boat without ever getting them wet.