About Last Night: The V Syndicate
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here’s what you missed in sports on Thursday.
- LeBron James scored 32 points and grabbed eight boards as the Heat took an insurmountable 3-0 lead on the Knicks, winning 87-70. After the game, James huddled near his locker, speaking quietly on a cell phone. “Thank you, V,” he whispered. “It’s been as smooth as you promised since the extinguisher incident. But how do you do it?”
- Kevin Durant (31 points) and the Oklahoma City Thunder took a 3-0 lead of their own, beating the defending-champion Dallas Mavericks 95-79. At practice that morning in Dallas, Serge Ibaka hurried to his car in a near-empty parking lot. As he turned the key, he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw the silhouette of a man in the backseat. He wore a trench coat and a smug smile.
- Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees was arrested and charged with four misdemeanors on Thursday morning: minor consumption, two counts of resisting law enforcement, and battery (originally a felony). He was held in a South Bend jail, where he demanded his one phone call.
- Martin Brodeur made 25 saves and the Devils took a 2-1 series lead on the Flyers with a 4-3 overtime win.
- Scott Rolen hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th inning as the Reds overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the Cubs 4-3. After the afternoon game concluded, Rolen walked toward the visitors dugout, where a thin man in a Panama hat sat alone by the third base line.
- Drew Doughty had a goal and two assists as the Kings beat the Blues 4-2 to take a 3-0 lead in their quarterfinal series. Because it was the late game, Doughty got the call from Brodeur at 4 p.m. West Coast time.
- A former U.S. attorney hired by the NFL said that evidence is strong in the bounty case against Jonathan Vilma (suspended for a season) and other Saints.
- Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano told reporters Thursday that Tim Tebow’s improvement from 2010 is “eye-opening.”
- The greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, tore his ACL shagging fly balls before a game against the Royals yesterday evening. He will miss the rest of the season, and the injury may mean the end of a storied career. As of press time, authorities are treating it as an accident.
On the other end of the line, the voice crackled. It always sounded like Kermit the Frog, LeBron thought. “Are you on a pay phone?” V asked. “Please tell me you’re on a f***ing pay phone, because I know you wouldn’t be f***ing stupid enough to be calling me on your very f***ing traceable cell phone.”
“Hello, Sergio,” the man said. “You’re looking well.”
Ibaka gasped. “Why are you here, V?”
“Oh, just an off day,” the man said, leaning forward. “Thought I’d see some of the country. Dallas is a pit.” He slipped a piece of paper onto the passenger seat. “You have a good memory, don’t you, Sergio? You remember how well our last little enterprise went? How good it was for Oklahoma and Team España? Time to settle accounts. Call that number. Tell him we need the Baranquilla Baby.”
As Ibaka struggled to catch his breath, he heard the door open, and V slipped off into the rainy night. “My name is not Sergio,” Ibaka hissed, but all he felt was terror.
“V, it’s me,” he said into the pay phone.
“I’ve been reading about you, Tommy,” said the voice. “You’ve misbehaved. They might expel you.”
“I need out!” Rees screamed.
“And I need your services.”
“The trampoline paid our debts,” said Rees, struggling not to panic. “You said we were square.”
“Enjoy prison, Tommy,” said V. “And enjoy greeting housewives at Walmart for the next 40 years. I’d tell you that felons can’t vote, but I can’t imagine the political process interests a man of your … abilities.”
“Stop! Wait! Okay … okay. I’m in.”
Minutes later, the felony battery charge had been reduced, and Rees was out of jail on a bond.
That afternoon, when he checked his BlackBerry at lunch, Brodeur found an e-mail from one of his most reliable sources. “Urgent!” said the subject line. “V spotted in Dallas,” Brodeur read. “Lost his trail, but he was headed to American Airlines Center.” Brodeur clenched a fist. He’d spent a career trying to foil V, and it was just getting harder. What was in Dallas? Who was the target? Whatever the case, he knew there wasn’t much time. He left his lunch on the café table and raced out into the city.
“You texted?” the man asked, his voice thick with a Spanish accent.
“Got a very strange call this morning, from our friend Serge. He wanted the Baranquilla Baby,” said Rolen.
Edgar Renteria laughed. “Which means V wanted me, but needed to erase the communications trail. And he knows I carry no teléfono.”
“The less I know, the better,” said Rolen.
“How did V get you?” Renteria asked.
“2004, NLCS, Game 7,” said Rolen. “I hit the game-winning home run off of Clemens. Only it was a setup. Clemens was told to groove one.” He chuckled. “How he got Clemens, I don’t know.”
Renteria laughed. “I’m sure it was no muy difícil, with that capullo.”
“What do you hear about V in Dallas?” Brodeur asked.
“Who is this?” Doughty asked coyly.
“I swear to God, Drew, you fuck with me on this and I’ll tell every media outlet between here and Japan about your skates.”
“Hey, cool out!” said Doughty. “Fine. I don’t know why he’s there. But I did hear that he was responsible for Rose going down, and that Ibaka … well, Ibaka wasn’t too upset.”
There’s the connection, Brodeur thought, ending the call and hurrying away.
“What I’m asking myself,” said Renteria, speaking on a Cincinnati pay phone yesterday afternoon, “is how you got an NFL attorney, and why? Is it for Cam Newton and the Panthers?”
“That is not your concern, Baranquilla Baby,” said the Kermit-like voice. “At the moment, I require your Colombian connections. You’re one of the few Colombian big league players, but I’m sure you knew that. Your country … you export bananas, yes?”
“It’s one of our main exports,” said Renteria. “Legal ones, anyway.”
“I need the real slippery kind. And I need them in Kansas City.”
Renteria sighed. “I never should have called you up in ’97,” he said. “Much less 2010. But the glory … the glory is muy delicioso, I must admit.” He frowned into the phone. “Garfield and East 26th, by Spring Valley Park. You can pick them up at 5 p.m. Who’s the target? Who hired you?”
V laughed. “The target? Only the greatest of all time. And this one … this one’s not about money. This one’s personal.”
At 6 p.m., in a state of desperation after hours of phone calls, Martin Brodeur finally found Tim Tebow. “My God! Tim! You’re safe!” he said, hugging the quarterback.
“What’s going on?”
“It’s so hard to explain, but I’ll try. See, there’s a syndicate. A man named V. He hurts people. Derrick Rose, Joba Chamberlain, Amar’e Stoudemire. He influences games. He’s a supervillain, Tim. I know it sounds insane, but it’s true. And today, he’s up to something in New York. That’s all I could find out. The victim is New York. It has to be you, Tim! Who else? Who else is so high-profile? It has to be you. He wants you gone. He’s an egotist. He hates New York, and he hates anyone who takes attention away from him.”
“Who is it?” Tebow asked, suddenly panicked.
“I don’t know … I don’t know yet. He’s too careful.” Brodeur caught his breath and smiled. “Listen, I have a game. You’re coming to New Jersey with me. I foiled him. For once in my damn life, I foiled him.”
Rees touched down at Kansas City International Airport at 5 p.m. central time. His first stop was at a downtown Kinko’s. He proceeded to the apartment by Spring Valley Park, where a quiet man who spoke broken English handed him a bag of bananas.
“Are they slippery?” Rees asked.
“Sí, sí,” the man said. “Muy slippery. Buenos plátanos.”
Rees slipped him the envelope of cash. At Kauffman Stadium, Rees found the longest line at his gate. He was stopped by security. “You can’t bring your own food in,” the man said, spotting the bananas.
“I have a critical potassium deficiency,” Rees said. “I have a permit from the city.” He handed over the paper V had sent him over e-mail.
The usher, seeing the backed-up line, waved him through. Rees proceeded to the outfield, where he waited as the Yankees took batting practice. He ate the bananas, one by one. At the exact moment, precise to the instant, he let two of them fall out of his hands and onto the outfield. He stood up, as instructed, and left the stadium. He didn’t even stay to watch what happened.
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