“Okay,” Kelleher said, pausing just outside the press room entrance. “We need a strategy of some kind. I think we should split up . . .”
Excerpted from Vanishing Act: Mystery at the U.S. Open (The Sports Beat, 2) by John Feinstein Copyright © 2006 by John Feinstein. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
He broke off in mid-sentence as a middle-aged man with graying hair ducked out of the media center and made a quick turn away from them.
“Arlen!” Kelleher said, heading toward the man. “Arlen, hang on a second!”
The man half turned, still walking and waved a hand as if to say, go away. “Not now Bobby. I can’t talk. We’re organizing a press conference. We’ll let you know what’s going on in a while.”
He had slowed down enough that Kelleher was able to catch up to him. Stevie and Susan Carol followed at what they hoped was a discreet distance.
“In a while?” Kelleher said. “Come on, Arlen give me a break. Don’t give me that press conference crap. What happened out there. Where the hell is Symanova?”
The man stopped and turned to face Kelleher. Stevie noticed he was quite pale. He looked around as if to be sure no one could hear him and dropped his voice to a whisper so that Stevie, standing right behind Kelleher could barely hear.
“We don’t know,” he said.
For a second, Kelleher just stared at him. “What do you mean you don’t know? How can you not know? Wasn’t she on her way over to Armstrong with Walsh?”
“Yes she was!” Arlen said, clearly exasperated, still looking around as if he was afraid someone would hear him. “They were on their way over there and she disappeared.”
“Disappeared!” Kelleher shouted.
“Bobby please,” Arlen hissed, signaling Kelleher to keep his voice down. “Yes, she disappeared. You know what it’s like out there between the stadiums. We had four security guys surrounding the two players. A group of people cut across their path headed for the food court. The security guys got jostled. Walsh and her two guys kept going, no one bumped them. By the time Symanovs guys got untangled she was gone.”
“But how is that possible. . .”
Arlen held up his hand. “For crying out loud Bobby, if we knew, she wouldn’t be missing would she? We’ve sealed all the exits to the park but that’s the problem–we’re right on the edge of a park. There are plenty of ways to get off the property without walking through an exit.” He looked around again. “I’ve got to go. There’s a meeting in about two minutes. I’ve told you everything I know up to this minute.”
“Okay, okay,” Kelleher said. “Can I quote you on this stuff?”
Arlen smiled wanly. “At this point, that’s the least of my worries.” He turned and walked down the hallway.
“Who was that?” Stevie asked.
“Arlen Kanterian,” Kelleher said. “He’s the CEO of professional tennis for the U.S. Tennis Association. It means he’s in charge of the tournament. He talks to me because his brother Harry’s a friend of mine.” He took a deep breath.
“Okay, this story is officially huge. Beyond huge. We’ve got a big leg up on people right now, let’s do something with it.”
“Like what?” Susan Carol said, for once looking as baffled as Stevie felt.
Kelleher took a deep breath. “Good question,” he said. Then he snapped his fingers. “Listen Susan Carol, you can get into the junior girls locker room.”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“I’ll give you the short version,” Kelleher said. “There are so many girls under eighteen in the event that they have a separate locker room that the media isn’t allowed into because the parents freak out about men seeing their daughters half-dressed. Since female reporters are allowed in the men’s locker room, male reporters are allowed into the women’s. But not where there are women under the age of eighteen. It’s been a huge controversy for years because all the players freak out about us being in the locker room. The point is the junior locker room door’s not even marked and they usually don’t even have a guard on it because they don’t want to call attention to it. You take your press credential off, you can probably walk in there like you’re a player.”
“How do you know where it is?” Susan Carol said.
“Carillo showed me. Come on, let’s start walking. I’ll show you where it is. Meantime, Stevie, I want you in the players lounge. Once you’re past the guard, take your credential off and just walk around and listen. I’m going to the men’s locker room. We’ll meet back here in thirty minutes.”
“What exactly are we listening for?” Stevie asked as they started to walk down the long hallway.
Kelleher shook his head. “I have no idea Stevie,” he said. “But people will be talking and someone must know something.”
“And what do I do if I manage to get in?” Susan Carol said. “Won’t the other players know I’m a fraud right away?
“Sit in front of an empty locker as if it’s yours and listen. There are so many different events going on here at once that no one knows everybody. You never know when you’re going to be in the right place at the right time. If we’re in three different places, our chances are three times as good of hearing something helpful.”
“But what do we think is going on here?” Stevie asked.
“That,” Kelleher said, “is the multi-million dollar question.”
From the Hardcover edition.