but Babe Ruth. My mouth must have flapped open.

It stayed open when three more Yankees appeared behind Ruth. I recognized Bill Dickey by his face and Bob Meusel and Mark Koenig by their numbers.

“Why do you want to see Coop?” Dickey asked.

“I’m working for him,” I explained.

Ruth nodded, and Koenig walked toward the lanky and squat guys on first base.

“Have a seat,” Ruth commanded, and I sat in the first row of wooden benches. Ruth eased himself next to me, and Dickey sat on the other side. Meusel stood back a few feet, looking at me.

The question must have been on my face.

“We’re making a movie,” Ruth explained. “The life of Lou Gehrig. Coop is Gehrig. Lot of people been trying to get in here. They find out, pester, you know.” I nodded, showing that I knew. “Some of them get unpleasant. You’re not going to get unpleasant?”

“I’m not planning to be unpleasant,” I said. Koenig was about fifty feet off, talking to Cooper and pointing in my direction.

“We’re not shooting anything today, just getting some publicity shots and helping Lefty teach Coop how to throw a baseball,” explained Dickey.

“How to throw a baseball?” I asked.

“He can’t throw,” said Ruth. “Arm’s been busted up from falls when he was a stunt man. Never played ball when he was a kid anyway.” Ruth looked around the park and down at me. His broad face and pushed-back nose were tired reminders of what he had been.

“A few years ago after a day in the ball park I’d go out and lay one on,” Ruth sighed. “Chicago, Boston, they have the best joints, even better than New York. Remember, Bill?”

“That was your game, Babe,” Dickey said with a smile. His round, strong face and short blond hair under his Yankee cap made him look ready to run out on the field.

“Stomach,” explained Ruth, pointing to his sagging paunch under the Yankee stripes. “Gone bad on me after all I did for it, all the good times I gave it, all the gals who admired it. Is that fair, I ask you?” Ruth winked at Dickey, who smiled politely. Koenig meanwhile was walking slowly back to us. He moved past Meusel and stood over me. I tried to rise, but he put a hand on my shoulder.

“Coop says this isn’t Peters,” he said.

I was about to be murdered by Murderer’s Row.

“It’s a mistake,” I said, trying to stand again. Dickey caught my arm and pulled me down.

“Yours,” said Ruth, who gripped my arm, but there was nothing much in the grip. “You think we can throw him over the fence? Can’t be more than fifteen feet high. Hell, five years back I could have done it on my own.”

“A mistake,” I croaked as the quartet lifted me up.

They carried me toward the entrance, and I shouted over my shoulder toward Cooper. “Mr. Cooper-the threats-I know what’s going on.”

I didn’t know what was going on, but I wanted to make some contact with Cooper, to explain and get some answers. I dragged my feet, but the former Yankees had no trouble with me. Then, just as we hit the turnstyle, a voice behind us said, “Hold on a second.”

We stopped, and I planted my feet and turned around to face Cooper and the squat man. Cooper was as big as I expected, but the touch of youthful enthusiasm he had on the screen was absent from the man. He definitely looked too old to be wearing the uniform.

“You say you were Peters or from Peters?” Cooper asked, pointing a long finger at me. His light eyes were unblinking.

“You’ve been conned, Mr. Cooper,” I said rapidly. “I’m the real Peters, and I can prove it. Someone has been pretending to be me, but I know about the case. Give me a minute to prove it.”

Cooper looked at me uncertainly and bit his lower lip. He looked at the Yankees for advice, but they had none to give. Ruth’s stomach grumbled next to me, and everyone waited for Cooper to decide.

“Let him go, fellas, I’ll give him a minute.”

They let me go, and Ruth said, “You sure? You want us to stick around?”

“No,” grinned Cooper, “Lefty and I can handle things here, can’t we?”

“Right,” said Lefty sourly.

“Keep what’s left of your nose clean,” Ruth told me.

“Hold it a second,” I told him.

Ruth stopped, surprised.

“Can I get autographs?” I pulled a pencil and my ratty notebook out of my pocket and thrust it at him.

Ruth took them and laughed.

“You got a nerve, kid,” he said and passed around the notebook for the other Yankees. I got the notebook back, and Ruth touched his cap in farewell to Cooper. I watched the four Yankees disappear under the stands, Ruth walking a little slower than the rest.

“Now talk, mister, and make it quick,” said Cooper.

What I wanted to do was ask Cooper why the letters and number on his Yankee uniform were backward, but what I did was talk fast.

“Some time, maybe three weeks, four weeks ago, you called my office, asked me to call you back. I got a message the next day telling me to forget it. I’d guess someone got in touch with you, said he was Peters and took the case.”

“What case?” grumbled Lefty.

“It’s okay,” said Cooper. “Give me a few minutes with this man, Lefty, and I’ll be right back with you.”

Lefty shrugged and walked back toward first base.

“From what I can piece together,” I said, “someone is trying to blackmail you or threaten you into working on a film for a producer you don’t want to deal with. Right so far?”

Cooper’s face twisted into a pained grin, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of my remarks or indigestion.

“This morning I was taken by two goons from Chicago for a ride to see a guy named Lombardi, who told me to help convince you to take the movie job.”

The name Lombardi struck something in Cooper’s sad eyes. He had been giving me part of his attention. Now I had all of it.

“Lombardi found the real Toby Peters-me. Threatened the real one.”

“I see,” said Cooper, removing his baseball cap and rubbing his sweating brow with his sleeve. With the cap off his face, he showed every one of his forty years. He looked like a man in agony.

“Then who is the man who posed as you?” Cooper asked reasonably.

“Describe him,” I said.

“Maybe fifty, roly-poly sweaty fella, bald head, smokes cheap cigars …”

“… and wears thick glasses that keep creeping down his nose,” I finished.

“You know him,” said Cooper.

“I know him and he’s no private detective. He’s a dentist.”

“A dentist?” gulped Cooper. “I’ve got to admit I wasn’t impressed with him, but you came recommended by a fella I know at Paramount and … okay. What now?”

“I’ll take care of the detective-dentist,” I said. “How much have you paid him?”

“Let’s see, about three hundred,” Cooper said, raising his forehead.

“You have a few minutes to answer some questions and tell me what’s happening, and I’ll take over the case.”

Cooper looked puzzled, which seemed perfectly reasonable to me. He looked into my brown eyes and saw no answers. He looked into the first-baseman’s glove in his left hand and saw no answers. He looked over at Lefty, who was kicking dirt behind first base, and saw no answers.

“Okay, give me a few minutes to change clothes,” he finally said and then shouted at Lefty, “Let’s call it a day.”

Lefty waved back and walked in our direction as Cooper disappeared under the stands, walking slowly. Lefty shook his head for the entire distance from first base to my side.

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