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The Case of the Missing Mojo - Part II
The doll had no idea what she was getting into when she poured herself into my office on a dreary summer night a couple of weeks ago. Then again, I had no idea myself that the hunt for the Twins' mojo would take me from the Twin Cities to the sunny California coast and all the way back east to Brewtown. The name's Twayn. I'm a shamus.
I'd been on the case for two weeks, trying to find out who had the mojo, but this puzzler had more twists and turns than a barber pole. It seemed clear as gin at first - the starting rotation had to have it. Pavano, Baker, Liriano, Blackburn, they were pitching like a carnival barker - hard, fast, crooked and all night long. How else could you explain the way they've been dominating on the mound? Then in San Fran the offense took off like a Chinatown rocket, at least for an inning, so maybe they had the mojo. One thing was sure, there was no shortage of guys suddenly playing better than they were before the start of June.
Just when I thought I was starting to figure things out, though, I got thrown a curve ball. As quick as it started, the winning streak stopped. Like the mojo was there, eight runs worth in one inning, and all of a sudden it vanished. Mojo's like that, I checked it out with a voodoo priestess in the Big Easy who owes me a few favors. But that's a long story for another time.
We wanted to get out of Frisco fast, but I had one more call to make before we grabbed a cable car to the train station. An old gumshoe pal of mine in the City of Angels, Frank Columbo. He'd been investigating the biggest mojo heist of the decade down in Chavez Ravine all year. If anyone knew anything about missing mojo, he was the guy.
Columbo is a real character. He may be the only man in Los Angeles who wears a raincoat, and he wears it everywhere. We met when I was doing some inside work for a movie producer with a wandering wife who turned up stiff in the trunk of a Packard. The Readers' Digest version goes like this: He tried to play me for a patsy, setting me up to take the fall while he got himself a .32 caliber divorce. LA's Finest fell for it, of course. A movie mogul's word carries a lot of weight in that town. But Columbo didn't buy it. Wrapped up in his own head, that ratty raincoat and a cloud of stogie smoke, he nailed my client and saved my bacon.
We got into Milwaukee late and had to rush to the ballpark. The doll was a good traveling companion - she could drink bourbon and play cards with the best of them half the night, and make it seem like wasted time with the other half. She also paid the bills - a hundred semollians a day plus expenses. I'm easy, but I'm not cheap.
The first few innings went by quick, with Baker looking every bit like there was electricity in his arm. Even when he gave up a run in the fourth and another in the fifth, he still looked like he could be the guy who had it. Until Danny 'The Juice' Valencia cracked a three-run circuit clout in the sixth, and Baker started to tire. Surely it had to be Valencia with the mojo. He must have taken it before his at bat. I figured after the game I would con my way into the clubhouse to nose around and check things out. I had a reporter's notebook and a fake press card in my breast pocket, that was usually good enough to pass as a visiting scribe.
But it turned out I didn't have to crash the locker room. Because after Valencia's round tripper, the mojo up and disappeared again like a Bert Blyleven one-cheek sneaker in a windstorm. Mijares went to the mound to face Prince Fielder with men on and no mojo. It wasn't pretty. It was the kind of scene where the flatfoots have to keep the cameras away from the body.
After the game we headed back to our hotel, adjoining rooms at the Pfister downtown. I had a feeling the double doors would be unlocked from both sides tonight. I'd have to remember to muss up the bedding in my room in the morning. A gent has to keep up appearances when he's traveling with a lady, after all.