Boca knights excerpt (2)
“What do you mean, phony?”
I looked out the window. The old lady had just reached her car, which happened to be near mine. I still had time. I held the hundred towards the Goth. “Take your hands off your nose Pinocchio and look. I’m not going to hurt you.”
He ventured closer, but his hands remained on his nose.
“Whose picture do you see in the watermark?” I pointed.
“Lincoln’s!” He said proudly.
“Good boy,” I said. “Now whose picture is in the middle?”
“Franklin’s,” he said with equal pride.
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem, Einstein, is that Lincoln’s picture isn’t supposed to be there.”
“Well, it’s there,” the kid said indignantly.
“That’s because it’s counterfeit money, numb nuts.”
I put the hundred in my shirt pocket and hefted my shopping bag. The old lady was in a Honda and backing out of her parking space. I threw my groceries in the back seat of my car and jumped behind the steering wheel. I followed the Honda east on Yamato and then south on Second Ave. I watched the car turn left into the potholed parking lot of a defunct auto-parts store. I turned left into the adjacent driveway and parked as close to the lot line as possible. Through the foliage I could see the empty Honda and another empty old car parked behind the building. The woman must have gone inside to meet someone.
I shut off my car engine and waited. About a half-hour later, the back door of the building opened. A blonde woman, who looked to be about thirty-five or forty, exited the building. She was followed by two large, balding white males with colorfully flowered short sleeved shirts worn casually outside their jeans. The woman walked briskly to the Honda. So much for a white-haired, old lady, I thought. The three of them exchanged comments and checked their watches. She got in the Honda and drove away. The men followed in the other car.
I decided to wait a while before approaching the building in the event they made a quick return. I got out of my car and surveyed the small commercial area. There was an air-conditioning repair shop, a vacuum-cleaner repair shop, and a body-piercing store. I also saw the initials P.A.L hand-painted above a metal door. In Boston, P.A.L. was an acronym for the Police Athletic League. I walked across the lot, opened the metal door . . . and stepped into my past.
The gym embraced me like an old friend. I heard the familiar rhythm of the speed bags mixed with the ponderous pounding of the heavy bags. I heard the whir of a jump rope. I smelled sweat. Across the room I saw an elevated boxing ring. Two black teenagers were sparring while an older white man stood on the ring apron coaching them. To my left I saw a weight-lifting area where six teenage boys in workout clothes looked me over stoically. I walked toward the elevated boxing ring and read the signs along the way:
FATIGUE IS THE ENEMY!
TRAIN HARD OR GO HOME!
DO NOT SIT IN THIS AREA!
There were flags hanging from the high ceiling advertising Title King boxing equipment and Contender Gloves. Posters announced coming events and events that had come and gone.
“Can I help you?” A man in a gray sweatsuit asked. I looked up and saw that the two sparring partners were resting in their corners.
“No, not really. I just sort of wandered in,” I explained. “I’m a retired cop from Boston, and when I saw the P.A.L. sign on the door, I had to check it out.”
“Welcome,” he smiled. “We’ve been getting a lot of visitors lately.”
“One of our kids just won a national Silver Gloves championship. The local papers have been playing it up big.”
“Hey, that’s great.”
“Take a break, kids,” he called to the resting sparring partners, who left the ring immediately. The coach descended the wooden ringside steps carefully. He was over six feet tall with a middle-aged body.
“I’m Barry Anson,” he told me, holding out his hand.
“Eddie Perlmutter,” We shook hands.
“Are you with the Boca Police?”
“Me? No. I’m just a volunteer trainer. I love the kids, and I love boxing.”
“Were you a boxer?”
“I tried, but I wasn’t much good,” he said frankly. “I just didn’t have what it takes. That’s why I respect these kids. They’re doing something very few people can do.”
“You got that right.”
“Were you a boxer?”
“I was more of a brawler.”
“Brawlers are tough to teach.”
“I know,” I laughed. “Do your brawlers ever beat your boxers?”
“Not often,” Anson said. “Golden Glove’s rules favor boxers. Three unanswered punches, and there’s a mandatory standing eight count. If there’s a knockdown, there’s a standing eight count. Big soft gloves and head gear do the rest. Not many knockouts, and only a handful of stops. Brawlers usually lose on points.”
He looked at his watch. It was almost four in the afternoon. “I better do some coaching,” he said. “Matt McGrady should be here any minute, and you can talk to him about the program. He’s with the Boca Police Department and really runs the show.”
The metal front door creaked open, and we both turned in that direction. A small entourage appeared, led by a slight Asian boy who looked like he was eleven or twelve years old. The boy was followed by a middle-aged Asian man, who I guessed was his father. A young man carrying a professional-looking camera and another young man holding a pad of paper and a pen followed them. The last one in the procession was a small, cream-colored boy of about eight. The photographer had begun taking random pictures in rapid succession upon entering the gym. The click, whir, click of the camera seemed to slow the frenetic pace of the boxers. Barry Anson and I had our picture taken. Click, whir, click. The Asian boy was talking to the reporter, who was busy taking notes.