by B.K. Stevens
A Sporting Chance has never before been published.
Diane couldn’t believe she’d let Hannah talk her into it again. After an exhausting day at work, she was driving to Hannah’s house, picking her up so they could go to the gym. On a crisp fall evening like this, Diane wouldn’t have minded a stroll through the park. But strolls weren’t Hannah’s style. She’d insist they run, lift, stretch, and suffer on every machine in the place. Hannah was big on health and fitness a jogger, a vegan, an aerobics addict who actually enjoyed sweating. Diane didn’t understand it, definitely didn’t feel like working out tonight, but Hannah was her best friend, and that meant putting up with her obsessions.
As she waited at a red light, Diane reflected that she had obsessions of her own. She was a news junky and, even more, a sports junky – not playing sports, but watching them. Briefly, she pictured herself curled up on her couch with a liter of cola and a bag of chips, watching tonight’s football game, feeling blissful. No such luck. Sighing, she turned on the radio; maybe she could catch some pre-game chatter.
“The search continues,” an announcer said, “for Jerry Hogan, who escaped from the state penitentiary today. He took a gun from the guard he overpowered, so police consider him armed and dangerous. During a series of daring bank robberies, two involving shootings, Hogan became known as The Cowboy because he always wore a ten-gallon hat pulled down low and a red bandanna pulled up high. Police suspect he’s hiding somewhere, waiting until dark so -”
Diane switched off the radio. She’d heard all this before, many times. Well, she had set her DVR. She’d watch the game later.
She reached Hannah’s house. Usually, when Diane came to pick her up, Hannah was on her porch, stretching. Not tonight. She must be running late, Diane thought and walked up to the porch to ring the bell. After Diane rang twice, Hannah opened the door an inch. “Sorry,” she said. “I should’ve called you. I can’t go. I twisted my ankle.”
“It must really hurt,” Diane said. “You look pale. Maybe you sprained it. I’ll drive you to the emergency room and -”
“No,” Hannah cut in. “I’m fine. I’ve ordered a pepperoni pizza from Mario’s. I’ll just enjoy it and relax.”
Diane half-laughed. “But you -”
“I’m fine,” Hannah insisted, cutting in again. “I’m going to bed early. I want to be rested tomorrow, because my sister’s flying in from Dallas. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to hear the latest gossip from Dallas. I really miss Dallas – I always love hearing news about Dallas. Understand?”
Diane stared at her friend’s tense face, at the way she was keeping the door closed most of the way. “I understand,” Diane said slowly. “And I’m sure you’ll be okay, Hannah. Take care.”
She hurried to her car, drove around the corner, and called 911.
An hour later, it was over. The police had surrounded the house, an officer wearing a Mario’s Pizza shirt talked his way inside, more officers swarmed in and The Cowboy was disarmed and taken away. Now, Diane and Hannah sat at the kitchen table with a police detective.
“So he broke into your house and held you at gunpoint,” the detective said to Hannah, “and after dark he would’ve forced you to drive him out of state, figuring police wouldn’t stop a car driven by a woman. I understand all that. But I still don’t understand how your friend knew he was here.”
“Because I know Hannah,” Diane said, smiling. “She’s a vegan, and she’s obsessed with health and fitness. She’d never order a pepperoni pizza unless someone held a gun to her head. Well, I guess someone did.”
“And I know you, Diane.” Hannah smiled back at her. “You’re so obsessed with news that I was sure you’d heard about the escaped convict. And I knew mentioning Dallas would make you realize The Cowboy was holding me hostage.”
“No, she doesn’t,” Hannah said. “I wasn’t sure Diane would remember that, but she’s a sports fanatic. I knew mentioning Dallas would make her think of a certain team, and I knew that would help her figure everything out. Right, Diane?”
Diane reached for another slice of pepperoni pizza. “Touchdown,” she said.
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