NOTE: Ghost Town-ing is a series of stories that follow Pat and Sherry (Fast Break) as they explore some of the places Jesse and Jennifer (the Sweetwater Saga) visited. Although these stories are connected, each episode stands by itself and you do not have to wait for the entire series to be completed. Nor is it necessary for you to read the Sweetwater Saga series and Fast Break to understand these stories but it is highly recommended.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
WARNING: ALTHOUGH, A PORTION OF THIS EPISODE DEALS WITH THE SERIOUS MATTER OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, NO DESCRIPTIONS OF AN ACTUAL ASSAULT ARE PRESENTED.
THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION AND IS NOT INTENDED TO REFLECT OR RESEMBLE ANY ACTUAL COLLEGE OR PROFESSIONAL WOMENS BASKETBALL ORGANIZATION.
PART SIX – JUDGMENT
by Mickey Minner
“Hey, look,” Pat pushed the section of the paper she had been reading over in front of Sherry sitting beside her at their new dining table. “The road to Garnet is open,” she said, pointing to the spot on the page that carried the news about forest service road and campground openings and closures.
“Really?” Sherry lifted the page up to take a closer look. “Can we go?” she asked hopefully, turning her head to look at her lover. “Today?”
Garnet was one of the mining camps Charley Branson described in his journal as a place where his mother, Jesse, had driven freight wagons with loads of goods for the miners. It was also one of the few places that Sherry and Pat knew for sure they would be able to walk in the actual footsteps of the frontier woman.
Pat looked at the clock on the front panel of the microwave, it wasn’t yet mid-morning. “There’s plenty of time to get there but Mac said we should stick close to home today,” she frowned, disappointed that she wasn’t able to give a positive response.
“Damn,” Sherry muttered. “This stupid inquisition is ruining what little time we have left before the season starts.” She knew that once she and Pat were back at work preparing for the coming season with the Missoula Cougars they would have little time to trace the steps of the women that were becoming so important to both of them.
Pat was as frustrated as Sherry. She had been looking forward to exploring the old mining camps and ghost towns and wasn’t very happy that Michael Palmer’s antipathy was preventing them from doing it. “Let’s give Mac a call. She should know by now how many witnesses the panel expects to question today,” Pat offered. “If it doesn’t sound like they’ll be getting to us, we can go.” Pat switched her cell phone to speaker as she waited for Mac to answer and placed it on the table between herself and Sherry.
“This better be good,” Mac said as soon as she answered the ringing phone on her desk. “I was just about to go downstairs,” she continued.
“Good morning to you too, Mac,” Pat chuckled when she saw the look on disapproval on Sherry’s face at their employer’s phone manners. Not only did Mac never say goodbye at the end of her phone conversations but she rarely spoke anything that might resemble a greeting.
“Is something wrong?” Mac asked.
“No, we just wanted to know what the schedule looked like today. We know they plan to question Dawn and Mandy…”
“Don’t remind me,” Mac grumbled. “Mandy showed up last night just as I was sitting down to dinner. Had Dawn with her, acting as pleasant as ever I might add. I had to listen to my niece run off at the mouth for three hours about LA this and Hollywood that. You would have thought she’d been discovered sitting on a stool at some drugstore and turned into a movie star the way she went on. By the time she dragged Dawn out of my house and back to their hotel, my dinner was stone cold, my ears were ringing and I had a headache the size of Karen Goodsend’s ass.”
“Thanks for the visual,” Pat laughed.
“Okay, what do you two want? I’m already late as it is.”
“What are the chances they’ll be calling us today?” Pat repeated.
“Why? You have someplace else you’d rather be,” Mac laughed, already guessing the reason for the call.
“As a matter of fact, we do.”
“Alright, let me take a look at the list of witnesses. Let’s see they finished with Lizzie yesterday. So that leaves her two assistants, then Dawn and Mandy. Sherry is next and then they’ll call you, Pat, and announce their judgment. I doubt if Vanessa and Bill will have much to say and we all know how talkative Dawn usually is. Mandy, who knows?” Mac sighed. “I’m guessing they’ll get around to Sherry sometime this afternoon.”
“Oh,” Pat sighed.
“Look, I know you would like to forget this whole affair and go spend some time together but stick close today. If we’re lucky, and Mandy can keep her mouth shut, this should all be over by tonight.”
“Okay,” Pat smiled, encouraged by Mac’s prediction. “Thanks.”
“Good,” Mac said and the phone went dead.
Sherry picked up the cell phone, snapping the cover shut.
“You could mention her phone etiquette to her,” Pat smirked, taking the phone out of Sherry’s fist.
“Don’t be nasty,” Sherry snarled. “You know she probably doesn’t even know she’s doing it.”
“All the more reason to say something to her if it really bothers you.”
“Maybe,” Sherry sighed. She pushed her chair back away from the table, lifting her dirty plate and glass as she stood. “Come on, let’s get the table cleared and get dressed so we’re ready when they call.
“You mean you don’t want to go like that?” Pat teased, gathering up the remaining dirty dishes.
“In case you haven’t noticed Ms. Calvin,” Sherry turned to face her lover. “I’m naked.”
“Oh, believe me, sweetheart,” Pat placed the dishes on the kitchen counter then wrapped her arms around Sherry. “I have noticed. And I must say, it’s the way I like to see you best,” she smiled as she leaned forward to press their bodies and lips together.
Dawn sat before the panel, a look of annoyance unhidden on her face. She had told the panel little except her name and that she played post position during her one season with the Missoula Cougars. Most other questions she answered with a sullen ‘I don’t know’ and, when pressed by Goodsend to provide more detail, had stated she was too busy concentrating on her game to know what Pat was or wasn’t doing with Sherry or any other woman. When Goodsend expressed disbelief with her responses, Dawn had simply shrugged and muttered, “whatever.”
It didn’t take long for the panel to realize they would get nothing more from the ex-Cougar and Brantfelt excused her. Dawn stood then turned away from the table where the team of investigators sat. She walked across the arena floor and climbed up into the stands to sit a few seats away from Mac and her assistant while her lover, Mandy, testified.
“State your name,” Brantfelt said as soon as Mandy sat in front of them.
“Amanda Christopher. But everyone calls me Mandy,” she smiled at the panel.
“Your position with the Cougars?”
“I was my Pat’s administrative assistant.”
“By Pat, you mean Coach Calvin?”
“What were your duties?”
“I prepared the team’s travel itineraries and reserved hotel accommodations and arranged for transportation. As well as performed other duties required to keep my aunt informed of Pat’s activities.”
“Then you were expected to report on Coach Calvin’s behavior?” Goodsend asked, expectantly.
“Damn it, Mandy,” Mac muttered.
“Well, not exactly,” Mandy smiled at the woman. “I meant more that I was expected to make sure that Mac’s instructions were carried out by Pat.”
“Instructions regarding?” Goodsend smirked, believing she was finally about to hear the incriminating evidence she had come to Missoula to uncover. “Coach Calvin’s behavior.”
“Mandy, I’ll kill you,” Mac growled loud enough for Dawn to hear. She wondered what the panel would do if she marched down onto the arena floor and dragged her niece outside for a good old fashioned spanking.
Dawn sunk lower in her seat debating her choice of sitting so close to her ex-employer. Although she had warned Mandy about being careful with what she told the investigators, she was unsure what her lover might say in order to get even with the woman who had rebuffed her consistent advances. Concentrating as hard as she could, Dawn tried to send subliminal commands to Mandy to stop being so free with her answers.
“Pat’s behavior?” Mandy laughed. “Why would I have to report on that? She is so straight-laced that no one could break through that wall of principles she surrounds herself with. Believe me” she smirked, “I’ve tried.”
“Mandy, shut up,” Dawn hissed, causing Mac to glance over at her.
Goodsend, not quite sure what to do with the information just provided stared down at the papers in front of her.
“Ms. Christopher,” Brantfelt took Goodsend’s moment of confusion to regain control of the witness’s questioning. “Did you make the arrangements for the Cougars stay in Tulsa?”
“Several times,” Dawn grinned. “Were you asking about any specific stay?”
“Yes, the time when Ms. Gallagher suffered an injury.”
“Oh, yes,” Dawn frowned, unhappy to have Sherry’s name brought into the conversation. “She was a tad clumsy at times. I never did know why Pat kept her on the team.”
Brantfelt looked at his witness and frowned. Everyone in the room knew how Sherry had been injured and he wondered why Mandy was making light of what could have been a very serious injury. He shook his head to clear his thoughts then continued. “Did you make the room arrangements for that particular stay?”
“Of course. I’ve already said that was part of my duties.”
“Can you explain how Coach Calvin came to spend the stay in Tulsa in the same room as Ms. Gallagher?”
“The hotel shorted us one room,” Mandy huffed. “I offered to share Pat’s room since she always had me book a double for her even though she never had a roommate. Instead, she told me to stay in Pete’s room and told Sherry to stay in hers,” Mandy sneered, still smarting over Pat’s refusal to share her room. “As it turned out it was just as well,” Mandy continued, uncaring how the story she was telling sounded to the panel. “Otherwise, Pat would have just spent the night worrying about Sherry and would have probably kept me awake all night. Not that I would have minded her keeping me awake under different circumstances,” she smiled to herself as she imagined those particular conditions.
“Oh, shit,” Dawn groaned, sinking even lower in her seat.
“I feel sorry for her,” Mac’s assistant whispered as she watched the obviously perturbed player.
“Don’t,” Mac said. “She knew what she was in for when she hooked up with Mandy.”
“Ms. Christopher,” Brantfelt said, making notes on a sheet of paper on the table in front of him. “I’m not sure what we are to make of your testimony. Are you saying that Coach Calvin purposely chose to spend the night in a hotel room with Ms. Gallagher?”
“And that only the injury Ms. Gallagher suffered that day preventing them from sleeping together?”
“Oh, you must be kidding,” Mandy laughed out loud. “The chances of Pat sleeping with Sherry that night are about as likely as the chances of Ms. Goodsend getting laid while she’s in Missoula.”
Goodsend turned bright red as the arena echoed with uncontrolled snickers. “I want that comment stricken from the record,” she screamed at Brantfelt.
“Yes,” Brantfelt scratched his chin in an attempt not to join in the laughter at the woman’s expense. “Please strike the witness’s last comment from the record he said into the microphone in front of him.
“How do I know it will be?” Goodsend screamed again, her voice slightly higher pitched than before.
“I will speak with the transcriber myself,” Brantfelt assured the enraged woman. All testimony was recorded first then transcribed into written form at the end of the day. “Shall we continue?”
“There is nothing more I want to hear from this witness,” Goodsend snarled, glaring at Mandy.
“Well, I still have some questions,” another woman on the panel said. She had been an outstanding college player years before and was still quite well known. “May I?’ she asked Brantfelt.
“Ms. Christopher, during the time you were Coach Calvin’s assistant, did you ever see her make sexual advances toward any player or…?”
“Ha,” Mandy laughed again. “Believe me, if Pat had been inclined to get inside anybody’s pants, I would have gladly volunteered for the honor. A romp in the sack with Pat would have more than made my day. Or, even better, my night,” she grinned.
“Oh, godddddddd,” Dawn groaned, burying her head in her hands.
“But like I said before,” Mandy told the panel, “Pat is just too prim and proper to even look let alone do it.”
With a mixture of amusement and amazement, Brantfelt looked from Mandy to the panel members and back again. “I think we are finished with this witness,” he announced. When he heard no objection, he quickly added, “you are excused, Ms. Christopher.”
“That’s it?” Mandy asked, disbelieving her moment in the spotlight was over so soon.
“Yes, thank you,” Brantfelt smiled before Mandy could protest any more. Turning to the panel, he said, “I believe a break for lunch is in order. We will resume in ninety minutes with Ms. Gallagher.”
“Let’s go back up to my office,” Mac told her assistant. “I’ll call Pat and Sherry from there. And I want to make sure those packets are ready. It looks like we’ll be needing them before the day is over.” She stood and waited for the younger woman to do likewise.
“What about her?” the assistant asked, looking at Dawn who had yet to move.
“She’s a big girl,” Mac said as she started for the end of the row of seats in the opposite direction of where Dawn was sitting. “And I don’t think I want to be around to hear what she has to say to Mandy,” she grinned.
Pat paced across the floor of her office. Sherry had been called to testify moments before and, after a kiss for luck, Pat had been left alone to fret until her turn before the panel came. She wasn’t so much concerned over what her lover would say to the inquisitors but was anxious about possible accusations the panel might make. She wanted to be with Sherry to defend her if necessary but her request to sit with Mac during Sherry’s questioning was firmly denied by Brantfelt.
So she paced.
“Please state your name and position with the Cougar organization.”
“Sherry Gallagher. I play point guard and have recently been named assistant coach.”
Brantfelt nodded, surprised and pleased that the woman before the panel had been so frank in her response. He decided to skip past the preliminary questions asked of all witnesses and ask the ones that really mattered.
“Are you currently involved in a sexual relationship with Coach Calvin?”
“Does your recent change in position have anything to do with your relationship with Coach Calvin?”
“I knew it,” Goodsend crowed. “I believe that is what we came here to find out.”
“Let’s not jump to any conclusions quite yet,” Brantfelt glared at the woman. “We still have several questions to ask of this witness.” Turning back to Sherry, he asked, “Ms. Gallagher, when did you become involved with Coach Calvin.”
Sherry took her time to answer. She wanted to end the inquisition as quickly as possible but also wanted to be sure of what she told the panel and how she phrased her answers. Taking a deep breath to settle herself, she gathered her thoughts. “If you’re asking when I fell in love with Pat, I guess you could say I realized I had feelings for her during tryout camp. If you’re asking when we became lovers, the answer is after the end of last season and AFTER I had accepted the position of assistant coach.”
“You were in love with Coach Calvin the entire season and yet you did not become lovers until after?” Goodsend sneered. “I find that hard to believe. We’ve heard testimony that you spent at least one night with Coach Calvin in a hotel room.”
Sherry took another deep breath then smiled at Goodsend. “I’m sure you also heard testimony that I was suffering from a blow to my head at the time and unable to do much more then groan in pain,” she was smiling but her eyes were boring into the aggravating woman. “I would hope that the situation in Tulsa was explained and you know that the only reason Pat and I were forced to share the same room was that Miss Christopher purposely under-booked the room reservations in the hopes that she would be able to share a room with Pat. Or did Mandy leave that little tidbit out of her explanation?”
“You are not to question what we do or do not know,” Goodsend told Sherry sharply.
Brantfelt interrupted. “No, Miss Christopher did not inform us of that. But based on her other testimony, I must admit it does not come as a surprise. Ms. Gallagher, you have stated that you were in love with Coach Calvin the entire season. Is that correct?”
“Did Coach Calvin share your feelings?”
“Then why is it that your relationship remained on such informal terms?”
“Could you explain?”
“When it became obvious that we both felt the same, Pat made it very clear that as long as she coached the Cougars and I was a player on the team, we could never act on our feelings.”
“Coach Calvin said you could never become lovers?”
“Not as long as she was my coach.”
“Did you agree?”
“I understood Pat felt she had an ethical code to uphold and I supported her on that.”
Sherry smiled, “I’m in love with Pat. I would have, and offered to, quit the team so we could be together.”
“But you did not.”
“No. Pat refused that option. She said it would be unfair to the team and to Mac.”
“So in the period of time between Coach Calvin inviting you to tryout camp and you becoming a coach for the Cougars, you were never intimate with her.”
“No,” Sherry said decisively. She didn’t think the one evening by the lake when Pat cried in her arms fit the criteria of ‘intimate’ that she was being asked about. Besides, she would never reveal such a private and vulnerable moment to this panel of busybodies.
“Considering your feelings for Coach Calvin,” Brantfelt said. “I assume you would know if she ever had relations with any others.”
“I find that question to be quite insulting,” Sherry snapped. “Pat is not the kind of woman who jumps into bed with a different woman every night. She has too much self respect to behave in such a disgusting manner. And if those are the type of questions I’m to be subjected to, then I insist my appearance before this inquisition has ended,” she glared at each of the panel members, daring them to continue.
“Just because she refused to sleep with you does not mean she refused with others,” Goodsend glared back.
Sherry again took a deep, calming breath then stood. “Ms. Goodsend, it is unfortunate that you came to Missoula with your mind already made up. Perhaps if you hadn’t you would have realized that Pat Calvin is one of the most decent and caring people you will ever have the opportunity to know. I’m proud to call her a friend and even prouder to have her as my partner in life. I’m truly sorry that your prejudice and hatred has clouded your better judgment. But I can only say that is a burden you must bare alone because neither I nor Pat is willing to take it on. Good day to you.”
Sherry turned, taking deliberant and measured steps she made her way the length of the arena floor and disappeared into the corridor leading to the locker room and staff offices. Only when she was sure she could no longer be seen did she break into a run, needing to be held in Pat’s loving arms.
After Sherry stormed off, Brantfelt ordered the arena cleared of everyone but panel members while they considered the testimony and determined their findings. Less than an hour passed before there was a knock on Pat’s office door and the women were informed the coach was being summoned.
When her lover’s request to join her as the panel announced their judgment had been refused, Pat decided to take matters into her own hands, literally. She carried a chair in one hand and held Sherry’s hand in the other as they walked across the arena floor.
“Coach Calvin,” Brantfelt started as soon as he saw the women and realized their intentions. “Ms. Gallagher has already been told she could not join you.”
Pat said nothing as she set the chair next to the empty one waiting and smiled at her lover when Sherry settled onto it. She then sat, retook Sherry’s hand in her own, and addressed the panel. “Whatever this panel decides about my future in the league affects not only me but also my partner. I think it is only fair that she be here to hear your judgment.”
Brantfelt looked at the other panel members, most shrugged or nodded in agreement. Only Goodsend seemed to be displeased with the situation but she voiced no protest instead appearing resigned to the action. “Very well,” he said to Pat and Sherry.
Sherry smiled, “thank you.”
“Coach Calvin,” Brantfelt began. “As you are aware, over the course of the past several days, this panel has taken testimony from all the members of the Cougar team and other organization staff. Prior to our arrival in Missoula, we also questioned other coaches and players in the league as well as others who have come into contact with you in the course of your duties as Cougar head coach. And we have received and read hundreds of unsolicited letters and emails regarding the matter before us.”
Sherry tightened her grip on Pat’s hand.
“After hearing the testimony of the witnesses and examining all evidence offered, it is the judgment of this panel that all charges made against you cannot be substantiated and are hereby rejected. As far as the league is concerned, you have violated no moral, ethical or legal clauses in your contract and are free to continue your association with the Cougars and the league.”
“Wait a minute,” Michael Palmer rose out of his chair. “You can’t be saying this.”
“Sit down, Palmer,” Brantfelt told the man who’s, now proven false, accusations had started the investigation in the first place. He turned his attention back to Pat. “I must say that I was caught completely off guard by the amount and depth of support you enjoy around the league. I am truly sorry for what you have been forced to endure because of our investigation.”
Saying nothing in response, Pat turned to face Sherry and smiled leaning close to kiss her. “I love you,” she whispered when their lips parted.
“I love you too,” Sherry smiled back. “Let’s go home.”
“Are we done?” Pat asked Brantfelt.
“Yes. Our business is concluded.”
“Not quite,” Mac said as she made her way down to the arena floor, her assistant remained in her seat, holding a stack of large envelopes. “I would like to present some evidence to the panel.”
Pat and Sherry were already standing and looked at each other uncertainly.
“Why don’t you two go out for a nice dinner,” Mac said as she walked up to Pat and Sherry. “On me, of course. No need for you to stick around for what I have here, it doesn’t have anything to do with you,” she assured the women.
“Okay,” Pat agreed, she was anxious to get away from the league investigators and Michael Palmer. And since it seemed Mac had come up with a way to keep the reporters’ focus away from her and Sherry for a while longer, she wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to make their escape. Besides, a nice dinner with Sherry sounded pretty good to her. “We’ll talk to you later,” she told Mac as she started to walk away with Sherry in tow.
“Make it tomorrow, late,” Mac answered, smirking when Sherry’s face reflected a slight blush. “Go on, you deserve it.”
Mac waited until Pat and Sherry disappeared into the corridor that would take them to the parking lot where Pat had parked her pickup. Then she turned to address the panel. “As owner of the Missoula Cougars and as a woman who feels strongly about the future of our league, I feel it is my responsibility to make some information available to this panel,” Mac said, settling into the chair Pat had just vacated. “While you have been wasting your time investigating the ridiculous charges made against members of my organization, I have been gathering evidence of wrongdoing against Mr. Michael Palmer, the person you should have been investigating from the beginning.”
“What is this?” Palmer leaped to his feet. “I have done nothing wrong and I refuse to sit here and listen to these insults.”
“You’re free to leave, Michael,” Mac smiled at the man she was about to destroy. “But I would think you’d be just a little interested in what is in the envelopes my assistant is about to hand out. Gail, if you would bring them down please.”
The young woman, who had been waiting comfortably hidden in the shadows cast over the arena seats, stood. Steeling herself for what was about to happen, she carefully made her way down to the arena floor balancing the heavy stack of folders in her arms.
Recognizing the identity of the woman who was approaching the table where the panel members sat waiting, Palmer felt all the blood drain from his body. Dropping heavily back down onto his chair, he wiped at the beads of sweat that had instantly formed on his brow. He wanted to run from the room but his legs refused to move and he fought to keep his lunch from making a sudden re-appearance.
Gail slid an envelope across the table to each panel member then stepped in front of Palmer, holding an identical envelope out for him to take. When the man she hated refused to accept the envelope, she let it drop from her hands, the heavy envelope hitting the floor with a loud smack. Gail turned away from Palmer, carrying the remaining envelopes to where the members of the press were sitting. After distributing all the envelopes, she returned to sit beside Mac hoping that no one could see how hard her hands were shaking.
Mac smiled at her assistant and placed a reassuring hand on Gail’s knee.
“Would you like to explain what we have here?” Brantfelt asked, holding his envelope up.
“Inside that envelope is evidence that Michael Palmer is guilty of the very behavior you wrongly accused Coach Calvin of. It includes names, dates, circumstances and descriptions. It also includes signed affidavits from his victims as well as the attempts made to bring his behavior to the attention of those, like yourselves, in position to put an end to his describable actions.” Mac paused as panel members and reporters tore open the envelopes.
“What do you think was in the envelopes Gail was holding?” Sherry asked as Pat drove east on Interstate 90.
“I don’t know.” Pat was taking her lover to an old log building that over 130 years earlier had served as a stop along the stage road between Deer Lodge and Missoula. The depot had been made into a rustic yet charming restaurant and was a perfect place for the women to forget about the investigation and the reasons behind it. “Fact is, I really don’t want to know.”
“You’re probably right,” Sherry undid her safety belt to scoot next to Pat. “It is curious that Gail was there though,” she said, slipping the middle belt around her waist. “She’s such a shy girl. I’m surprised she’d want to be around all that commotion especially the television cameras.”
“It did seem unusual,” Pat agreed, draping her arm over Sherry’s shoulders. “But I’m sure Mac knows how shy she is, so she must have Gail there for a reason.”
“Wonder what it could be?”
“Don’t worry, love,” Pat placed a quick kiss on Sherry’s head, careful to keep her eyes focused on the road in front of them. “I’m sure we’ll eventually find out. For now, let’s just worry about us and dinner. Deal?”
“Deal,” Sherry agreed. “How far is this place we going to again?”
“Rock Creek. It’s not far, we should be there in ten minutes.”
“Good. Because suddenly I’m very, very hungry.”
Michael Palmer looked at the young woman sitting so confidently next to Mac. It couldn’t be her. She looked so different from the last time he’d seen her. Then she had been crying hysterically, begging him not to do what he was doing. But he had showed her who was in charge. And to be sure she knew she had no choice in the matter, he had told her the scholarship she was counting on to get her through college was not a sure thing. No, she would have to earn that scholarship and he knew exactly how she could do it.
Mac glanced at Palmer. He was white as a sheet and the cocky expression he had worn throughout the week had been replaced by one of sheer disbelieve and panic. “I have spared no expense Michael,” she spoke directly to the ashen colored man, “to track down every single one of your victims.”
“This is not very pleasant,” Brantfelt told Mac, his face twisted in disgust at what he was reading. “How can we be sure this isn’t just an attempt by you to get even with Mr. Palmer?” he asked the question because he had to. In his gut, he knew no one would make up the information he was reading.
“I would like to answer that, Mac,” Gail smiled weakly.
“Go ahead,” Mac said softly.
“My name is Gail Anthony and I am one of Mr. Palmer’s victims.”
Palmer felt his bowels loosen as the girl verified her identity.
“I was recruited in high school to play for Mr. Palmer at Middle State. It wasn’t long after I arrived on campus before Mr. Palmer forced me to have sex with him. He said if I didn’t, he would cancel my scholarship.”
“Why did you not report this before now?” Goodsend asked, but her voice was soft and lacked the animosity she had displayed throughout the week.
“I tried,” Gail continued quietly. “I reported it to the Athletic Director who told me I needed to grow up if I wanted to play college ball. I told the Dean of Students who said she sympathized with me but the program brought too much money into the college and it would be career suicide if she caused any trouble for it. After that first season, I quit school and gave up basketball. I never told anyone about it until Mac. I was too ashamed,” she said, struggling to control her emotions.
The panel members sat in shock. They had all heard the rumors and not just about Palmer. But none had taken the next step and tried to verify them or remove the offenders from their sport. Each had to admit that they shared some of the blame for what had happened to Gail and the countless other young women who had also been victimized.
“Thank you, Ms. Anthony,” Brantfelt finally broke the heavy silence. “I can assure you that these charges will be thoroughly investigated. We are adjourned.”
The reporters broke from their ranks, rushing forward in a mass of bright lights and shouted questions. They surrounded Palmer who remained silent as he sat dejectedly in the middle of the chaos exploding around him.
“Move back, please,” a masculine and authoritative voice said. The reporters were slow to obey and the command was repeated with much more urgency. “Move back, NOW.”
A path was cleared and two uniformed police officers walked up to Palmer. “Michael Palmer, we have a warrant for your arrest. Please stand up.”
Palmer could not move, his mind having joined his body in its paralysis.
The officers pulled Palmer to his feet, handcuffed him and half-guided, half-carried him to their cruiser parked in front of the arena. The reporters followed, still shouting questions.
“I don’t understand, Mac,” Pat stood in front of the floor to ceiling windows in the owner’s office, staring at the empty arena below. No evidence remained of the league’s inquisition of her. “If you had all that information on Palmer, why let the investigation go forward?”
“Simple,” Mac answered, sitting behind her desk sipping coffee out of an oversized mug. “This way, you have been cleared of any wrongdoing. If I had stopped it, there would always be questions lingering in the back of people’s minds. And who knows when they would rear their ugly heads again. But because the league concluded their investigation, the book is now closed on you two.”
“What will happen to Palmer?” Sherry asked. She was sitting in a chair opposite Mac’s desk watching her lover.
“Hopefully, he’ll end up in prison. The statute of limitations hasn’t run out on Gail’s case and I’m pretty sure there will be others who will come forward to file official charges against him.”
“I’m so surprised to hear that Gail was one of his victims,” Sherry said. Ever since Mac had filled them in on what had happened after they left the previous day, she had been thinking about the shy young woman who worked for Mac.
“So was I,” Mac said sadly. “It wasn’t until Palmer started spreading his lies about Pat that she confiding in me. I was blown away by what she told me and how the administration at Middle State handled the situation. That’s when I started looking into Palmer. And the more I looked, the more scum I seemed to scrap off the bottom of the barrel.”
“Do you think it will make a difference?” Sherry asked, concerned with Pat’s continued silence.
“Let’s hope so. The press is having a hay day with all of this. I’m sure by the time they’re done, the ranks of college coaches may be thinned a bit.”
“Don’t count on it,” Pat finally turned away from the window. “Gail was right. The programs bring in too much revenue to the schools and that is what really matters to them. The players are nothing more than the instrument needed for them to rake in the dough.”
“I hear what you’re saying Pat,” Mac sighed. “But I have to believe that things are changing. Maybe too slowly for you and me, but changing none the less.”
“I hope you’re right,” Pat said, walking to stand beside Sherry’s chair. “I guess we do need to keep hoping for the best, don’t we?” she said, placing a hand on her lover’s shoulder.
Sherry reached up, laying her hand on top of Pat’s.
“Yes. But more it’s even more important is to keep doing what you’re doing Pat.”
“The way you treat the Cougar players, you’re giving them a solid base of respect and dignity to learn from. I’m pretty sure that they are several future coaches under your wing and they will take what they learn from you and continue to pass it on. And let’s not forget all the young players coming up through the high school and college system who now know that just because someone is their coach, they still have the right to say no. And that is worth much more than getting rid of one Michael Palmer.”
“I hope you’re right,” Pat smiled for the first time all afternoon.
“I’m Mac, I’m always right,” the older woman chuckled. “Now for some good news, did you have a nice dinner last night?” she asked.
“Wonderful,” Sherry answered. “Pat took me to this quaint little restaurant on Rock Creek.”
“Ah, the old stage station,” Mac nodded. “Great place to eat but you sure can’t be in a hurry if you go there,” she laughed. The restaurant was known for its excellent meals and friendly, if a little slow, service.
“That’s just fine with me,” Pat said. “I don’t know why anyone would be in a hurry when they go there. It’s such a nice spot to sit and enjoy the company of your companion for a few hours,” she smiled at Sherry. “It was a nice way to end a rotten week.”
“I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy having to do what I did but I am glad it’s finally over,” Mac said. “Let’s hope we never have to go through anything like it again.
“All I can say is I’m glad that Brantfelt and the rest of the panel saw things for what they were. Basketball means so much to Pat that I would have hated for you to have to walk away from it,” she smiled up at her lover.
“Well I’m glad they did too,” Mac smirked. “It would put a real twist in my shorts if I had to replace both of you.”
“What makes you think that would have happened?” Pat asked. They had never told Mac that if the panel’s findings went against her, Sherry would have resigned from the team also.
“I’m smart enough to see how much Sherry loves you, Pat,” Mac smiled. “There’s no way she would have stayed if you had been forced out. A woman like that is worth keeping.”
“Right you are,” Pat said offering a hand to Sherry and pulling her to her feet. “So, if we’re done here, I’d like to take Sherry home and show her just how much I love her.”
“Go,” Mac laughed. “And, please, no details.” She continued laughing as Pat led her charmed but embarrassed partner out of the office. “Oh, those two are just too much fun,” she chuckled.
To be continued in the next episode of Ghost Town-ing
To view photographs of the places
Pat and Sherry visit in these stories
-- go to http://www.mickeyminner.com/photographs.html --
Return to the Academy