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Boca knights excerpt (4)

“I don’t believe you.” The kid was getting aggressive.

“Tommy,” Matt interrupted. “Watch your manners.”

“There are a million fighters, Officer Matt. Why did he pick Barney Ross?” The boy glared at me.

“Barney Ross was my grandfather’s favorite fighter,” I explained. “And he told me I fought like Ross.”

“Were you any good?” Another challenge.

“Not as good as Barney Ross,” I said honestly.

“Course not,” the boy said. “Did you win any championships?”

“A couple.”

“I can look you up on the internet, you know.” He was testing me.

“You probably won’t find anything. It was a long time ago.”

“If you’re telling the truth, I’ll find you.”

“Tommy,” Matt said sharply. “Stop it.”

“It’s okay,” I said to Matt.

“No, it’s not.” Matt was annoyed. “Tommy, apologize to Mr. Perlmutter.”

The boy stared at Matt, then at me. “Did you know Barney Ross was a war hero?” He asked unapologetically.

“Yes,” I replied. “He won a Silver Star at Guadalcanal.”

“Did you win a Silver Star?”

“I wasn’t in the war.”

“Did you win any awards for anything?”

“A few,” I replied honestly.

“Like what?” the boy raised his voice.

“Tommy, I didn’t say I was Barney Ross.” I tried to calm him down. “My grandfather just compared me to him.”

“You can’t compare to Barney Ross,” Tommy shouted. He turned abruptly and ran towards a small office at the front of the gym.

“Tommy! Get back here,” Matt called after him, but the boy darted into the office and slammed the door behind him.

“Barry,” Matt turned to his assistant. “What’s with him today?”

Barry shrugged. “He’s probably on the computer checking Eddie out.”

“Don’t be too hard on him,” I said. “He doesn’t know me.”

“That kid’s a handful,” Matt said. “You know much about kids?”

“I know I like them,” I said. “I coached a youth boxing program in Boston for a while.”

“You did?” Matt said. “Well how about doing some volunteer work for us? We

could use you.”

“Let me think about it,” I hedged.

We walked around the gym and talked about the Boca P.A.L. program. It sounded a lot like the Boston version, with emphasis on creating a bond between the youth of the community and the police in their neighborhood. He gave me a brochure. “We do good work, Eddie,” he said earnestly.

I nodded and glanced at my watch. Forty-five minutes had passed since I entered the gym. “I have to get going, Matt,” I apologized. “I’ve got an important appointment nearby.” I shook hands with Matt and Barry. I was about to leave when Tommy Bigelow returned on the run. Tommy’s face was red, and he was wide eyed. He held up a stack of printed paper.

“Is that all about me?” I laughed nervously.

He nodded his head. “Me and the Professor found it,” He said proudly and started to read slowly, like an eight year old.

“‘Eddie Perlmutter, Massachusetts and New England Featherweight Golden Gloves Champion in 1959 and 1960, Massachusetts Middle-Weight Champ in 1961.’”

He looked up at me. “You moved up two weight divisions at sixteen years old. That’s unbelievable.”

“’Held your own’ you said’” Barry Anson chuckled and poked my shoulder.

“Get this, Matt,” Tommy said. “He had twenty-two wins, no losses, with nineteen stops. That’s incredible. Even Barney Ross lost four fights.”

“Barney Ross fought over eighty times as a professional,” I said. “I was an amateur. You can’t compare me to him, like you said.”

“I’m sorry I said that,” he apologized.

“It’s okay,” I said.

“I’m impressed,” Matt McGrady said patting my back. “That’s quite a record.”

“I got more impressive stuff here,” Tommy said.

“More impressive than an undefeated record?” Matt asked.

“Way more impressive, right, Professor?” Tommy said.

“Right,” the Professor answered. He took some of the papers from Tommy. “Listen to this,” the Professor began. “Eddie Perlmutter received two Police Department Medals of Honor, two medals for valor, three medals for merit, and a Mayor’s Commendation.”

“You were a super cop,” Matt said.

“It was a long time ago,” I said.

“Officer Matt, can I tell the other kids in the gym about Mr. Perlmutter?” Tommy asked.

“Call me Eddie,” I told him.

“Sure,” Matt said, and the kids were off and running.

“This is embarrassing,” I said

“You should be very proud of your record, Eddie.”

“I can barely remember the things I did as a kid,” I said checking my watch. “Hey, I gotta go.”

“Here’s my card, Eddie. Call me anytime.”

I thanked him and put his card in my shirt pocket. I started for the door.

“Hey Eddie,” Tommy called after me. “Wait up. The guys want to meet you.”

“I’ll be back,” I said, but I had no idea if I would keep that promise.

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