*Author's Note: Any and all persons engaging in any sexual activity are at least eighteen years of age.
Anthony Carrecci again mopped his sweating face as he dropped his duffel bag into the trunk of his 2010 Mustang. Coach Baggett had really pushed the University of Louisiana at DeGarde men's basketball team extra hard that afternoon. Even though he had showered after the work out, Anthony was still sweating profusely.
The car had been a high school graduation gift from Anthony's mother and step-father. It was candy apple red, with white stripes and white leather interior.
"It's a chick car," Frank Carrecci, his father had complained to his ex-wife.
"It's a chick magnet," Linda Guidry corrected, smirking.
"Trade you," John Guidry had joked, pointing to his Chevy minivan. "That? Now THAT'S a chick magnet."
'Chick Magnet' or not, no chick had ever graced the passenger seat of the car. Anthony Paul Carrecci was five feet, five inches tall and weighed two hundred and thirty eight pounds. His dark hair hung limply, and was quite often oily. At twenty years old, he still suffered the frequent acne breakouts of his teenage years. His brown eyes were mere slits in his pudgy face, a face that was further enhanced by a classic Roman nose. All of that was further highlighted by thick plastic framed glasses.
If he had shaved the top of his head, stuck a cigarette in his mouth and worn a permanent scowl, Anthony would be the spitting image of his father. His mother, while prone to chubbiness, worked out diligently and avoided the middle age paunch.
"Carrecci!" Jamal Nelson called out as Jamal unlocked the door of his battered Oldsmobile. "Good practice in there!"
"Thanks, my man, you too," Anthony called back, smiling widely.
Ed Baggett had balked when Dean Robert Sims had called him and offered him the job of head coach of the U.L.D. Storm.
"Come on, Robert, I'm retired, thirty five years at the mattress factory," Ed laughed. "Let me write you a check once a year and enjoy my retirement."
"Big Eddie seems I remember you were pretty good on the B ball court," Robert had pushed.
"Almost forty years ago!" Ed protested.
"Look, Ed, I've got three weeks before the season opens, and all my coaches decide to go on strike," Robert whispered urgently into the phone. "Word got out and I can't get a single soul in here to save my ass. You've been a hell of a supporter of U.L.D. all these years; I'm asking you to do a little more than just write me a check. Please?"
Daphne looked at her husband when he brought the Dean's request.
"So, I'm going to have to start liking basketball?" she asked, flinging her long red hair out of her eyes. "Hoo boy, it's about the most boring game on the planet, isn't it?"
"Almost as boring as tennis," Ed agreed.
"Oh no! Tennis has got those cute outfits," Daphne disagreed.
"Big Eddie, you do know you have to do it, right?" she asked. "Those kids need you. And TeddiAnn and I will be right there, cheering the Cajuns on."
"Storm. We're the Storm, U.L.L. is the Raging Cajuns," Ed corrected, smiling.
"Storm? Oh, that's cute," she smiled. "Go Storm!"
Dean Robert Sims was delighted when Ed Baggett called him and accepted the job.
Ed Baggett was not delighted when he walked onto the court to meet his team.
"I'm too late to try out?" a basketball shaped kid had asked, lumbering out onto the court.
A few of the players laughed as Anthony Carrecci waddled out. He was at least twelve inches shorter than the shortest one of them, and probably weighed a hundred pounds more than any of them.
"Not at all," Ed smiled tightly.
Anthony told all of them that he had played for the St. Thomas Aquinas Avengers, but had not played since graduating from that high school.
Ed Baggett called Coach Fred Dumas at St. Thomas Aquinas.
"Couple of years ago, you had an Anthony Carrecci on your basketball team?" Ed asked after they'd gotten the niceties out of the way.
"Best player I ever had too," Fred immediately said. "Coach Blanchard, that's the guy had my job before me..."
"Coached my son, Bill, back in Oh Two," Ed interrupted. "Mediocre coach in my opinion."
"Yeah well, he had Carrecci try out for every team and never gave the kid a chance, based solely on how the kid looks," Fred agreed. "I said 'hell, we're not winning any games anyway, can't lose any worse if I give this kid a shot,' right? Kid gets out there, gives one hundred and fifty percent, is a real team player, does anything you tell him and just won't quit until after the final buzzer. I tell you what, you give me one Anthony Carrecci, I'll give you three Michael Jordans, and I'll have the better deal."
"What position?" Ed asked, intrigued.
"Believe it or not, and yeah, I know, he's all of what? Five foot tall? I had him as our point guard and he was unbelievable," Fred said. "He thinks. The whole time he's out there, he thinks. Sees what they're doing, makes adjustments, sees what we're doing, and makes adjustments."
The next day, the players again snickered as Anthony waddled out onto the court and waited.
"Carrecci, where's your uniform?" Big Eddie barked out.
"I uh, I'm not on the team yet; I'm trying out," Anthony had stammered.
"Like Hell; mister, you're on my team, you hear?" Ed barked.
Big Eddie saw that Fred Dumas was not over-emphasizing Anthony's worth. He was indeed a thinking player and seemed to have knowledge and a love for the game. An added benefit was how the other players reacted. They were taller, slimmer, quicker, and should have been better than Anthony Carrecci. When he showed them up, they struggled all the harder to show him up.
There was one week until their first game; Anthony waved good bye to Jamal and got into his Mustang.
He drove north on Highway 27, merged onto Highway 19, and then pulled into the parking lot of Early's Grocery store.
After the fire, the grocery store had been rebuilt. But, newer fixtures did not do away with the small town friendliness of the staff. He could have picked up everything he needed at the Piggly Wiggly two blocks away from the U.L.D. campus, but preferred to do his shopping at Early's. And, there was always the chance he could get into Paige Guidry's line. Paige was his step-sister, had long brown hair, unbelievably large breasts, and a snotty attitude. Snotty toward him; she still saw Linda as the reason her parents divorced, even though it had been Sally Guidry that had decided to grab Paide and Chelsea and leave John for Ralph Theriot.
Lucy Gomez smiled as she sauntered down the street. Even though Marco, her boyfriend, had been arrested three weeks earlier, he assured her that he would be out in no time, and then they would get married.
They were supposed to have been married a month ago; they were going to elope, it was so romantic, but then she had caught him with that blonde bitch, Kirsten Ellis. He assured her that Kirsten had been a terrible mistake that he had been high on meth and didn't know what he was doing. Lucy decided that she loved him enough to forgive him, and then he got arrested right before they could get the bus tickets for their elopement.
They would have to elope; her dad hated Marco Juarez, said he was a no-good bum. Of course, the arrest had done nothing but confirm, for her father, his opinion of Marco.
The news that she was pregnant, two months by her calculations had sparked a raging fight between father and daughter that even her mother could not set right, and her father had kicked her out of their apartment.
No matter, Rosa Juarez, Marco's twin sister, had said that Lucy could stay with her until Marco got out of jail.
She skipped up the two flights of stairs and let herself into the apartment.
"Yo bitch," Kirsten sneered.
"Bitch, what you doing here?" Lucy snapped.
"Oh, hey Lucy, I wanted you to meet my best friend," Rosa laughed, obviously high on meth. "This is my best friend, Kirsten. Bet you didn't know Kirsten's my best friend, did you?"
"So you all knocked up with Marco's kid, huh? That right?" Kirsten asked, and then kicked Lucy in her belly.
"Yeah, Kirsten seen a picture of Marco and said 'ooh, he's cute, see if y'all can get me hooked up' and I'm like 'yeah, you my girl, know what I'm saying?'" Rosa laughed and punched Lucy in the face.
Paige looked up and groaned as Anthony waddled toward her register, carrying a loaf of white bread, a jar of crunchy peanut butter, a jar of blackberry jam, and a large jug of Gatorade.
She did not try to stifle the groan; if he heard it, Anthony did not react.
"Hey Paige, how's it going?" he asked as the twenty three year old sullenly rang up the items.
She didn't respond, just glared at him.
"Oh! Hey, I almost forgot; need a bag of ice; forgot to refill the ice trays this morning," Anthony continued.
A nod from her was the only indication that she had heard him.
"You're such a bitch to him," Shelley Timmons giggled as Anthony waddled away.
"Uh huh," Paige sullenly agreed and watched as Anthony hefted a bag of ice out of the cooler.
Lucy coughed, sending a spray of blood.
Rosa sped down Highway 52, heading west. She swerved around a candy apple red Mustang, laughing.
"Up ahead, Kirsten ordered and put her hand on the door handle.
Rosa slowed down slightly as they came to the short overpass.
Anthony did not speed up when the car passed him; his mother had told him, first speeding ticket would be his last speeding ticket.
"Here," Kirsten yelled, pushed the door open (which was not very easy to do; the air current around the car forced the door back), and shoved Lucy out of the speeding car
"Oh my God!" Anthony yelled as a small body flopped and bounced on the asphalt in front of his car.
He grabbed his cell phone as he lumbered out of his car.
Anthony was about to call 911; sure that there was nothing he could do for the small girl lying on the street when she coughed.
"Fuck, by the time the ambulance gets here..." Anthony muttered to himself.
He carefully picked up the small body and carried her to his car.
Her face was a mask of blood and welts; he could see where the girl had been struck repeatedly.
Anthony grabbed the bag of ice from the floorboard and held it against her face with his right hand, put the car in gear, and then stomped on the accelerator.
The forty mile drive from Highway 52, just at the Bender/DeGarde line, to the Emergency driveway of University Medical Center took under twenty fie minutes. Anthony was sure that he would have to replace the tires of his car; doubtful if there was any rubber on them any longer.
Twice he had debated whether or not to slow down, but then Lucy would groan and he would leave another strip of rubber on the highway.
The staff of UMC grabbed the girl out of his car, got her onto a gurney and sped her toward the Trauma station.
"Name?" the nurse's aide asked.
"Anthony Carrecci," Anthony said. "That girl? She goes to be all right?"
"No, no, not your name, the girl; what's her name?" the nurse's aide asked, exasperated with his response.
"I don't know, somebody pushed her out of a car right in front of mine," Anthony said, voice rising with his adrenaline.
Anthony had acted, grabbed the girl, put the ice to her injured head, and driven like a mad man. Now that it was over, and he was able to think rather than act, the adrenaline kicked in and he felt very near fainting.
The nurse's aide, not believing Anthony's tale, directed him to a hard plastic bench then discretely called the police.
Anthony wearily let himself into the apartment and put the fresh bag of ice onto the counter.
Dr. Charles Lapointe had personally come out and thanked him for his quick thinking.
"Probably saved her life, putting that ice on her head like that," he smiled.
"She going to be okay?" Anthony asked.
"Right now? I don't know," Dr. Lapointe had said honestly. "Soon as she wakes up, we'll do a couple of tests; let you know."
Anthony gave the doctor his cell phone number, glared at the now chastened nurse's aide, and left the hospital. The bag of ice was just a few chunks of ice, so he bought another bag and slowly drove home.
Home for Anthony Carrecci was Apartment 3 of the fourplex that his father owned.
Not to be outdone by John and Linda's gift, Frank had bought two fourplexes and given Anthony his own apartment. Frank didn't do it entirely out of the goodness of his heart, though. For free rent and utilities and his usual allowance, Anthony was now the apartment manager. The rent and utilities, Frank Carrecci wrote off as a business expense, the allowance was far less than he would have had to pay a real apartment manager.
After dumping most of the ice into his five quart drinks jug, Anthony put the bag of ice into his freezer. He then sat down on the lumpy recliner Paige and Chelsea had grudgingly graced him with as a house warming gift, and fell asleep.
Sunlight was streaming into the apartment when Anthony came to.
He hurried through his breakfast, grabbed his books, and hustled out of the apartment.
"My sink's still leaking," Mrs. Lewis, the tenant in Apartment 1, screeched at him as he bustled down the stairs.
"Look at it today; I get out of class at three," Anthony promised.
Lucy Gomez coughed; there was no blood; her punctured lung had been stitched and reinflated.
But other than the cough, there was no sign of Lucy emerging from her slumber.
"Anything?" Dr. Lapointe asked Yolanda Garcia, the head nurse.
"Nope," Yolanda said, looking again at the patient's chart.
"No one's called looking for her, huh?" he asked, noting that the space on the chart where the patient's name would go was still blank.
"Nope; shame. She's a pretty little thing," Yolanda said.
"Okay, Mrs. Lewis; got that done," Anthony called out as he tightened the nut on the faucet. "Anything else while I'm here?"
"About time," Mrs. Lewis grumbled.
"Yes ma'am, but it's done now; anything else while I'm here?" Anthony snapped.
"Not that I can think of," Mrs. Lewis snapped back.
Anthony used her sink and her soap to wash his hands, knowing that this was a pet peeve of hers; she would have the bleach out, scrubbing his dead skin cells out of her sink before he was even out of her apartment.
"Fucking pain in the ass old bat," he grumbled to himself as he lugged his tool box up the stairs.
After a quick snack, Anthony returned to U.L.D. for another practice.
Lucy coughed, groaned in pain, and then gasped as another wave of pain welled up in her.
"Hi Sweetie; can you tell me what happened to you?" Yolanda asked, pressing the button to page Dr. Lapointe.
Her first instinct was to lie; snitching wasn't cool.
"Know what? Fuck them," she decided. "Fucking bitches tried kill me and my baby; fuck them."
She told the nurse, and then the hot looking doctor that came in exactly what happened to her, who was responsible, and why it happened.
Yolanda got as much information as she could for her patient charts while Dr. Lapointe checked Lucy's vital signs.
"Okay, anyone I need to call?" Yolanda asked, pen poised to write.
"Mar... No, no one," Lucy said angrily.
"Mom? Dad?" Dr. Lapointe asked.
"No; they threw me out," Lucy wiped at her eyes.
"Honey, I'm sure they'd like to know you're all right," Yolanda said gently.
"Fine, bitch, waste your time," Lucy snarled and gave Yolanda her father's phone number.
"I do not know anyone named Lucy," Lucy's father said and slammed the phone down.
"Well, there's one guy I know would like to know she's all right," Dr. Lapointe said and gave Yolanda Anthony's phone number.
"Hello?" Anthony asked, mopping the sweat from his forehead.
"Carrecci, tell your lady friend call you later," Big Eddie teased and blew the whistle. "All right, defense!"
"Hey, that's great," Anthony enthused, then closed the cell phone and put it back into his bag.
Big Eddie pointed out Anthony's assignment and Anthony jogged over to where Jamal stood, dribbling the ball.
Jamal watched Anthony's hands carefully as he dribbled. He feinted left, and then drove hard to his right, only to watch Anthony take a three point shot with the ball he had just been dribbling a second earlier.
"Damn, that is one tricky ass white boy, huh?" Big Eddie laughed at Jamal's expression. "Ball security, men! They only let you play with one ball at a time and there's a bunch of guys out there want to take it away from you!"
Again, Jamal stood in front of Anthony, but this time he did manage to get around Anthony, but could not take a shot; Anthony was crowding him.
"There are other people on your team, any of them open?" Big Eddie bellowed. "Wasting your time trying to get off a shot when you could just pass to someone else?"
Jamal passed to Sean McKenna and laughed when Sean passed it right back to him, assuming that Anthony would relax his defense since Jamal no longer had the ball.
"Okay, why'd you do that?" Big Eddie bellowed at Sean as Anthony lazily dribbled down court and made an easy lay-up. "You were open, you had a shot at two easy points, but you just toss it back to Jamal?"
"Carrecci, get over here!" he yelled out. "Okay, Jamal, try getting the ball from Carrecci."
Jamal felt his anger growing; Anthony kept the ball just out of reach, then feinted to the left, then drove to the left and got away from Jamal.
"No, no, nuh uh, don't get mad at him, he's just doing his job," Big Eddie yelled when Jamal fouled Anthony, hard.
"Damn, man, shit, I'm sorry," Jamal apologized as he helped Anthony to his feet.
"Ain't nothing to it, my man," Anthony gasped for air. "Part of the game, right?"
Elise Simone pulled to a stop, eyes scanning the apartment building, the parking lot, and the surrounding area. Next to her, Jack Vogel, her former classmate and current partner, kept a rambling monologue, not noticing that Elise did not respond.
Elise checked that her .357 magnum was ready, her baton was clipped to her belt, and her can of pepper spray was ready.
Jack did not check any of these things, just flexed and posed, making sure that his muscular physique was displayed to maximum benefit.
Elise had gone to her step-father and complained when she had been saddled with the arrogant, loutish Jack Vogel.
"Honey," Sheriff Dick Davis had apologized. "After Eric got..."
It was still difficult for him to say, out loud, that one of his officers had been seriously injured in the line of duty. And of course, Eric's being injured in the line of duty had set Carmen Davis, his wife and Elise's mother, on a campaign to get Elise to quit.
"We needed new men; he's from here, knows the neighborhood," Dick weakly offered.
"He is an ass hole AND a danger," Elise had hissed.
"A danger?" Dick asked.
"He is sloppy with procedure, forgets that he has a partner, doesn't communicate, and doesn't pay attention to his surroundings," Elise ticked off her complaints.
Now, watching as he preened and posed, Elise tightened her jaw.
"Are you ready?" she snapped.
"Uh huh," he smiled, swaggering toward the external staircase of the apartment building.
"Look at this," Elise said, pointing a smudge on the window of Rosa's car. "That look like blood to you?"
"On the inside, too," Jack agreed, after trying to wipe it off with his thumb.
"Great, just fucking great, got your thumbprint on it now, shit for brains," Elise muttered, then touched her shoulder mounted radio.
"Dad?" she asked.
"Damn it, Elise, that's 'Sheriff,' how many times I got..." Dick yelled into the radio.
"Sorry, Sheriff, I got what looks like blood, 1985 Cadillac four doors," Elise said. "Left rear passenger window."