NEW YORK—The air conditioner repairman suits me and Fred stole from the truck over on 73rd did the trick. Our idea was still crazy, but we had to try something, especially after spending a day and a half on the Dakota Apartments’ sidewalk sweating our butts and brains off. Didn’t see John or Yoko come out of the building once, and the one limo we did see had the same rich Jewish lady getting in and out.
We already learned from a UPS guy what floor Lennon lived on, so then it was just a matter of fooling the doorman and getting in the building, which on a 106-degree day with 98% humidity, wasn’t too tough.
We were ready for anything when we knocked on the penthouse door—Lennon in his robe or birthday suit, Yoko with her hair in curlers, maybe even another seven-day peace vigil happening in their bed.
What we didn’t expect was a toddler boy swinging open the door who couldn’t have been two and a half. “Dada!!” he cried after taking one look at us, before John appeared in a T-shirt and jeans and scooped him up. He had a cigarette in his free hand and a stretched out telephone in his ear.
“Apparently we are far from an agreement then,” he said into the phone in his perfect King’s English, waving us inside. There were empty chinese food cartons on a counter, along with a forest of empty beer bottles. John had his shoulder-length hair back in a rubber band and looked pale and pretty hungover. I didn’t care. Seeing him in front of me was enough to freeze my feet to the floor, and Fred had to poke me from behind to get me moving.
“Fine. Then I will talk to good lady Melissa. Cheers.” He hung up, shook his nose into his son’s hair until the boy giggled, lowered him back to the floor. “Bloody money people. Sometimes you just want to holler. So which conditioner needs mending, lads?”
I was tongue-tied. Fred sensed it and scurried across a big open living room. “I’ll check over here!”
“Uhh…right. We need to tell you—”
“I mean, the boy has no problem opening a door for strangers, but when we took him to the circus recently, he was damn near terri—”
“We’re not air conditioner men, Mr. Lennon.”
He stared up at me through his round, tinted glasses.
“You’re not a pair of slags are you? You know, autograph seekers? What about the CIA or FBI? They bloody despise me.”
“Maybe we should sit down a second.”
“Maybe I should ring up security then—”
He reached for the phone and I grabbed his wrist. “We’re here to save you, man!”
He paused, looking amused and frightened at the same time. I let go and backed away.
“Listen. I know this is gonna sound weird, but we have good reason to believe—a very good reason—that this crazy guy is going to fire shots at you on the sidewalk in front of this building. When you come back from a recording session.”
“Oh really. And when is this ungodly event supposed to happen?”
“Well…in three years.”
Now John looked utterly baffled. I leaned closer.
“See, we’re from a new private agency called the um, CVP. Celebrity…Violence Prevention.” (Fred stood in the living room, rolling his eyes.) “We have many deep sources, and have learned that there’s an obsessed fan who is plotting to kill you.”
“In three years?
“In three years.”
John stared at me for a long time, then dropped the rest of his cigarette in a beer bottle. “Perhaps we should sit down. But not here. There’s a fine tavern down the street where no one bothers me. This might require a drink or two, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yo Beatle!” yelled Fred, “They got a TV there so I can watch the Yanks?”
“Er, American cricket is not one of my passions, I’m afraid. But yes, I imagine they do. Let me just ring our nanny up, and we’ll be off.”
* * *
John was right. No one bothered us, and we were hammered on Watneys Red Barrel beer before long. Lennon asked all sorts of questions about the CVP, forcing me to make up all sorts of answers, while Fred spent a lot of time at a jukebox in the corner, punching in one classic soul song after another with the pile of quarters John gave him.
“Another round, lovely!” John yelled to the annoyed waitress, lighting another cigarette and leaning back in the booth. he seemed elated to have someone to drink with.
“What did you think of Walls and Bridges, guv’nor?” he asked. I told him I liked it, especially the song “Watching the Wheels,” and he gave me this dumbfounded look. Damn! I had jumped the gun a little. But then, in the drunken state we were in, I figured it was as good a time as any to fill him in.
“Look John, my partner and I …are really from the year 2010. See, the hospital—I mean, office—sent us back in time to follow and correct a bunch of bad historical things. Mostly baseball things from this year, but also…you being shot.”
His face went blank, mind trying to focus. Then he broke into a fit of hysterical laughing. “To quote an old song from an ex-songwriting partner, this is just getting better all the time!” he shouted, and laughed some more. “Tell me, son, did we start another Vietnam War?”
“Umm, yeah actually. In Iraq. Twice.” This really got him going, until he sighed and ran out of laughs. “Just don’t tell me Peter Frampton becomes bigger than we ever were, okay?” He polished off his beer, tossed a wad of cash on the table and wobbily stood up. “Don’t want to spoil the party, lads, but I need to relieve the old nanny. Best of luck luck with further preventions!”
He started for the exit. “Mr. Lennon? You remember what I said, right? Three years and a few months from now?” He winked back at me and stumbled out the door. I made my way to the bar to join Fred, who was already cursing out Guidry for walking the park in the 1st inning at Cleveland. I had no idea if Lennon believed a word I said, if he’d even remember it, or if any huge cultural thing in the future would change, but I had to get back into the ball games, because if my team can’t pull this title out I might not be around to find out.
The Buzz Line (John Lennon edition)
YANKEES 6-10-0, at INDIANS 4-7-2
You Can’t Do That: Louisiana Lightning walks TEN Indians and wins anyway because the Tribe can’t drive enough in. Untimely errors from Duffy and Spikes don’t help the situation, and the Yanks get two cheapies in the 8th to win it.
RANGERS 2-9-1, at ROYALS 1-8-1
Hold Me Tight: Marvelous pennant thriller in K.C. Dock Ellis is tough, has a 2-hit shutout into the 6th when Wathan singles in a run. Harrah gets nailed at the plate by a Cowens laser to end the 8th. Patek doubles to lead the ninth, gets bunted to third, and when LaCock grounds into a force at home, Barker relieves Ellis. Wilson pinch-runs for LaCock, nabs second, and is stranded when Cowens whiffs. Texas is a half game back again and the rest of the league thanks them.
RED SOX 7-9-1, at ORIOLES 4-8-1
Instant Karma: The Birds rack up three singles, a walk and double for four runs on Tiant in the 3rd, only to have the Sox rack up three singles, a walk and double for four runs on Grimsley in the 5th. Hmm… Three innings later, a one-out Dauer boot, followed by a single and three straight walks off Dennis Martinez gives Boston the game and keeps them on New York’s heels.
at TWINS 15-21-3, WHITE SOX 10-13-1
Magical Mystery Tour: Steve Stone with a 6-1 lead in the 5th, mainly due to horrific Twins fielding. Like his chances? Not these days. Fourteen Minnesota runs later, complete with two 1-6 HR rolls by Rob Wilfong, the wild and wooly affair is complete. Two more Carew hits in five chances keeps him at .400, while the White Sox evaporation number drops to three.
at REDS 5-10-0, PIRATES 0-2-1
I’m Only Sleeping: The Bucs were due for a slumber party, but against Doug Capilla? Well, with Bill Robinson out of the lineup, I’m not surprised. Five Reds singles and a walk strung together off Reuss and Tekulve in the 7th put this one to bed. Cincy, for the record, is now 11-5 against Pittsburgh with six more to play against them.
at PHILLIES 6-11-0, EXPOS 0-7-1
Hey Bulldog: Luzinski back in form with two booming doubles and a single, and Carlton mows down the suffering ‘Spos, losers now of six in a row.
at CARDS 7-14-1, DODGERS 6-8-0
Misery: For the third time in the last week, L.A. turns in their worst loss of the year. With the Pirates losing giving them another great chance to pick up ground, Hooton is given a 6-0 lead through four and completely falls apart at Busch. A flurry of hits and walks cuts the lead in half, a 2-run shot by Simmons makes it 6-5 in the 8th, and a two-out, bases loaded double by Simmons in the last of the 9th off the suddenly toxic Charlie Hough gives St. Louis the shocking win to make them just 3-11 vs. the Dodgers for the year. That pillar of clutchiness, Steve Garvey, goes his usual o-for-4 in the cleanup spot and L.A. gets only two hits after the 2nd inning.
ASTROS 8-16-1, at CUBS 3-12-0
I Feel Fine: Let’s see, J. R. RIchard against Ray Burris. Any bets? The surprise is the Cubs getting only four less hits. Thrilled to be in an actual hitter’s park, Houston counters with two doubles, a triples, and four homers from the top of their lineup, including two dingers and a double by that great leadoff man Joe Ferguson.
American League through Wednesday, September 3
National League through Wednesday, September 3