Call from a 310 area code I don’t recognize.
“Look outside,” an unfamiliar voice states. “Who is this?” I ask. “Outside,” the voice repeats. I walk to the front door and look through the glass. A limousine is parked by the curb and a driver holds the back door open. “What’s with the limo?” I question. “Get in a suit. Get in the limo. Ten a.m., my office,” he answers. “What?” I ask but the caller hangs up.
I look again at the limo to ensure I saw it the first time. I call for the wife to come here but hear nothing in response. I search the house. Nobody is home. The clock reads three minutes past nine. Limo. Suit. One of my friends has gone to great lengths to pull off a beauty of a gag. I grab my favorite black Armani suit, put on a striped purple and black Thomas Pink shirt and a violet Dolce tie. Might as well look good, I decide, as the thought of who may be behind this comes and goes. For now, I intend to play along.
The driver greets me with a, “good morning, Mr. Scribe,” to which I respond with a good morning back. Mr. Scribe, eh? Surly? Maybe. But this is too rich for his blood. The list of friends with my L.A. Kings lust and crazy enough to do this waltz through my head, each with a degree of improbability that won’t let my thoughts settle. Interstate 5 north to the 10 freeway west, 110, Pico exit, I know where we’re headed. So it is one of my Kings friends. I bet this was a joint effort with the wife. Has to be. I wear a smirk, ready for anything.
The limousine pulls into the Staples Center parking lot off 11th Street and down the private ramp. This is where the players enter. Wow. How much did the boys spend? And why? My birthday isn’t until July.
The limo stops at the bottom of the tunnel and the driver lets me out. An attractive 20 something year old woman with sleek black hair in a high ponytail, dressed in a tight gray pant suit and holding an executive notebook greets me. “Welcome, Mr. Scribe,” she shakes my hand, “please follow me.” She turns and walks swiftly to an elevator and I stay a step behind as her very fit ass forces my eyes low a couple of times. Into the elevator, she presses P, and we head down.
“So, where are we going?” I ask.
She pauses for a moment. “Everything will be explained shortly, sir.”
“What is your name?” I continue.
“Aubrey,” I repeat, “I hope they are paying you well for this performance.” I search her face. Nothing. Good form. She didn’t even crack a smile. The elevator stops and I can’t help but realize we stood in there for a good ten seconds. What is this far below ground, I question? The elevator doors open and before me is an expansive marble laced answer that stretches long and wide. She asks me to follow her. “With pleasure,” I agree.
The furniture in this place is magnificent, antique and turn of the century. The artwork on the walls resembles that of a museum. I slow at a Cezanne to make sure my eyes aren’t playing tricks but Aubrey’s pace doesn’t relent and I sprint a few steps to catch up. We stop at a set of double doors to our left and she delivers two deliberate knocks. “Come in,” a gruff voice answers. Aubrey opens the door and asks me to enter and I do. At the far corner is a man in a stripped black suit with his back to me. His right hand pours from a crystal decanter what looks like scotch or bourbon into two oblong tumblers. “Please, come forward,” he invites. I walk inside and stop behind two chairs before his desk. He turns and greets me with a rigid grin. “Macallan sixty two year,” he hands me the glass and I stare into Tim Leiweke’s eyes.
The shock takes a moment to wear off. “Holy shit,” I chuckle, “Tim Leiweke. How the hell did they get you in on this?”
“Have a seat, Bob,” he asks and walks to sit at his desk.
Bob. Usually, only judges and colleagues older than me call me that. I sit down and take a sniff into the tumbler. “Are you serious about the sixty two year?” I ask, referring to the scotch.
“A shot of that will cost you about sixty thousand dollars at the Beverly Hills Hilton,” he answers. Suddenly, I hesitate to drink it for fear of getting a bill afterward. I set the drink on the desk.
His grin widens. “You don’t like scotch?”
“Aberlour, 16 year, fifty dollars per bottle,” I respond.
“Maybe by the end of this conversation, you’ll change your mind,” he says and takes a sip. “The Kings are making a big announcement at noon today.”
“It’s not Trent Klatt as a top six forward, is it?” I shoot back suddenly feeling like my old self. Leiweke scowls and we exchange a moment of tense silence until he explodes into laughter that nearly lifts me off the chair. “Trent Klatt!” he blasts in mid roar, “that is funny. I remember that fuck. Those were good days. We sucked but at least we didn’t spend sixty million doing it.” He drinks the scotch in one shot and slams the empty glass back on the desk. “So you really don’t have a filter, do you Bob?”
“I have a filter. It’s just bigger than your glory hole, sir,” I respond with an internal wince as soon as I say it.
“HA!” he snaps. “My glory hole has been under assault by Anschutz the past three seasons. Do you know why?”
“I can guess,” I tell him.
“And you would probably guess right. Just under six years since I hired the son of a bitch and here we are, still on the outside looking in.” He walks to the mini-bar to pour another glass. “I give Lombardi full control of the team but for a few minor interventions, we spend to the cap and we still SUCK! Tell me why.”
“You really want to know?” I ask.
He suddenly turns, the rigid grin returned. “I do.”
He sits down.
I take a breath. “Because Dan Cloutier was garbage before he came here, players who have a history of injuries repeat them despite a change of scenery, first round picks a million miles off the board don’t pan out, a former captain who ripped the C off his chest isn’t a mentor and shouldn’t get a no movement clause, trading skilled forwards or letting them walk because they don’t muck and grind are symptoms of stubborn ignorance, coveted free agents want money and years and the L.A. lifestyle doesn’t bridge that gap, defense first and defense last coaches leave the offense wanting, Jamie Kompon couldn’t hold down a roller hockey career and trading away players to whom you assured longevity dents credibility and makes you an asshole…”
“Are you done?” he asks.
“No,” I tell him, “Stupid slogans with equations, Daryl Evans on legends night, hiring a Cubs fans who knows shit about hockey as your beat writer, piss poor video editing on the big screen and raising the fucking ticket prices when we have won exactly dick. You want to know why we suck? Because everything we do embraces it with both arms,” I find my frustration mount, “and what is this big announcement you intend to make? Another dumb move labeled as the one that will finally put this franchise on track?”
“Exactly right,” he states.
“You’re fucking awesome! Can’t wait to hear it. What is it this time?” I ask, my anger piqued.
“You,” he points with a glare, “as the next Los Angeles Kings general manager.”
Part II, “The Press Conference” coming soon.