Even though he’d only been living in New York for a few months, the precocious thirteen year old had heard plenty about how the park wasn’t safe, especially at this time of day. People got killed and robbed and lots a bad stuff happened. Quick snippets of all the dire warnings people had told him quickly raced through his mind. This whole fantastic baseball card odyssey that was happening to him had made him feel even more uncomfortable. Maybe this was all a dream? After the events of the last twenty-four hours, it was difficult now to distinguish reality from fantasy.
Now he had lost his faith in science. In solving the mysteries of the universe. In everything. His interest was always more in patterns than in people. He was on the verge of making time travel just as plausible as email, tweets, three-dimensional printing, and instant messaging is today. He understood, as few did, the mysteries of the universe and the geometry of spatial elements. But, oddly enough, nothing engaged his imagination as did his love for baseball. The game of baseball had always been sort of an allegory of life and death. But where was he now?
The beautiful thirty-five year old woman’s harsh early life experiences had taught her to trust nobody. And nothing that had transpired over the last few decades gave her any reason to switch course now. She had helped her husband, Evan, build the baseball card shop into a collector’s paradise, having accumulated through trades, purchases, and consignment some of the greatest period cards in a rapidly, evaporating industry in America. Then came the fire. And now she had to disappear.
Named originally after his great, great grandfather, the legendary criminal, Arnold Rothstein as The Rothstein Company, Atherton Roth had shortened the company’s name to Rothco in the eighties, figuring that a harmless company moniker that conveyed the imaginative feel of a beloved, misunderstood artist like the esteemed painter Rothko, had the abstractness that provided the benign cover he was always seeking. It was also quite rich to him that this pentimento of corporate skin helped hide the real inner workings of how Rothco, the company, helped him make his considerable living.
Whether it was in his DNA or the ultimate power of manipulation that served as such a magnet for him, Roth always needed a little more than just the assurance that all would work out. Which was always the most favorable outcome for Roth. And the most profitable.
The larger of the two, by a good hundred pounds, was Jimmy the Lamb. A menacing hulk of a man and small-time wise guy, Jimmy had acquired his colorful moniker by beating a man to death with a leg of mutton. Built like a large fire hydrant but with even less intelligence, he’d been sent to Seattle from South Boston nearly twenty years ago and knew the ropes. He had never really wanted to leave his cozy wise guy community in South Boston, but when he heard that the word came down from the very top that he was needed in that area, he moved like the good soldier he always tried to be.