WHO KILLED DON SNIDEST?
Who Killed Don Snidest?
A Locked-Yacht Whodunnit
Seth Baysos, recently retired founder of Nile, centibillionaire, stood at the front of the main deck on his new gigayacht Kōhuru, one of the largest sailing vessels in the history of the world. Baysos seemed content, yet also bristled with boyish enthusiasm. He craned his neck upward and peered at the foremast. Guests aped Baysos and craned their necks upward, including Immanuel Charonsky.
The foremast seemed to stretch up forever into infinity. How tall was it? At least 150 feet, maybe 200 or more.
“Baysos made a mast out of Jack’s beanstalk,” Chase Coolman said.
“Old Jack probably made a fortune on the deal,” Jim Raggans said.
“He wasn’t looking to sell,” Coolman said, “but Baysos made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
Charonsky was still peering up at the mast tip, or at least trying to, and heard only voices, the rough voice of Coolman, which made him think of a lumberjack, and the silkier voice of Raggans.
“One might reckon a magic beanstalk priceless,” Charonsky said.
“Wonder what that would be like,” Coolman said. “Be so rich that nothing material is actually priceless. Buy anything and everything you want.”
“Maybe not everything,” Raggans said.
“You think that’s what this shindig’s really all about?” Coolman said.
“Don’t you?” Raggans said. “What else could it be?”
As Charonsky tried to focus on the upper tip of the foremast, it blurred and danced in his vision, as if it were a fighter he couldn’t center in his crosshairs. Charonsky felt mild dizziness. The sunlight exacerbated the feeling.
Charonsky looked down from the mast and saw running back Jim Raggans standing with tight end Chase Coolman. Behind them, turquoise ocean stretched to the horizon. Raggans was tall, naturally handsome, lean and fit, with a chiseled face, curly white hair, and small, protruding ears. Coolman had a brutish forehead and nose, dominant ears, and bad skin. He looked like he could crack a coconut with his face.
Charonsky suspected that paradox lurked within the pair. His gut told him that beneath Raggans’ veneer lay a simple farm boy, albeit a smart one, and that Coolman might be more sophisticated than his appearance suggested.
“I can’t believe I’m sitting on Seth Baysos’ yacht with Jim freakin’ Raggans and Chase Coolman,” Thales said. “Talk about luck of the draw.”
“Second part wasn’t luck,” Coolman said. “We didn’t want the land walruses.”
Thales laughed. He had blond hair, bluish eyes, teeth like piano keys, and pleasing features, his mother’s features. Thales might have passed for Norwegian, were his skin lighter.
Charonsky glanced across the deck, at two morbidly obese exemplars of Lardassimus Americanus. One was tall with a gargantuan gut. His sidekick was short, had huge jowls, and seemed like an amoeba with limbs. Standing with the pair were quarterback Joel Thighman and defensive end Trace Jung, whose dreadlocks draped down to his shoulders. Thighman looked like a deflated, suave version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was speaking to, or more properly at, the land walruses with great animation. Both the walruses wore Hawaiian shirts patterned with the Washington Admirals logo.
“Joel loves the sound of his own voice,” Coolman said.
“Should have been a politician,” Raggans said.
“He is,” Coolman said.
“Constituency of one,” Raggans said. “The Don.”
“Joel tops my list of people to never end up stranded on a desert island with.”
“He could talk you to death all right,” Raggans said.
“Lot worse than starvation or getting eaten by sharks,” Coolman said.
“You think the Redscalps would have won more Superb Bowls,” Thales said to Raggans, “if Thighman hadn’t broke his leg?”
Raggans shrugged. Though he was in his early 70s, his shoulders were still thick and massive.
“I’m not real big on what ifs and coulda shoulda wouldas,” Raggans said. “What we accomplished is what we accomplished. What we failed to accomplish, we didn’t. No excuses.”
“But just suppose,” Thales said.
“We got our shot at a second title with Joel in Superb Bowl 18,” Raggans said. “The Invaders absolutely throttled us. Old school ass beating. Next year, that of the snap heard round the world, I had already retired and was more of an outsider. But I don’t think they get to the Superb Bowl, much less win it, even if Joel doesn’t get wishboned. He’d been in the league going on twelve years at that point. His skills had diminished and he wasn’t having a great season.”
Raggans answered several more of Thales’ obtuse hypotheticals with admirable patience. Charonsky sipped his Kalik. It had a crisper flavor than Corona, which he liked. Charonsky basked in the picturesque Caribbean morning. Sunny, clear blue sky, clearer waters, warm but not sweltering because of the gentle breeze. Charonsky listened to the soothing rhythm of the lapping waves. He breathed in deep repeatedly and let out long sighs of contentment.
Raggans and Thales were discussing how Thighman compared to other Superb-Bowl-winning QBs of the era such as Branshaugh, Schaubloch, Fontana, and Elrae, why Thighman hadn’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and if he should have been, when the tall land walrus turned to partake the forward vantage, treating everyone to a side profile of his gargantuan gut.
“Heyseuss Chreesto,” Coolman whispered. “Guy makes Randy Meid look like a bulimic.”
“You’re a cruel bastard,” Raggans said.
“But not unfair. It hurts to look at.”
“No arguing that.”
“Who you think has worse back problems, him or Christina Hendricks?”
Raggans glanced at Coolman with a dry expression.
“He could smuggle octopuses,” Coolman said.
“Octopi is the plural, I think,” Raggans said.
“Thanks, grammar nanny. Or maybe one just lives in there.”
The land walrus looked over.
Raggans and Coolman sprouted smiles and waved.
The land walrus waved back.
“Aloha shirt makes it worse,” Coolman said. “Alot worse. Clings to it like visqueen. You think he shits calamari?”
“Calamari’s squid, I think,” Raggans said. “Not Octopus.”
“You’re killing me here, Raggo. Feel like I’m talking to Jennifer Garner.”
“Thank you,” Coolman said to Thales and Charonsky, “for not wearing those God awful shirts.”
Upon arrival, each of the three pairs of fans had been presented a gift box which included Admirals hats, jerseys, and the Hawaiian shirts.
“One of Codger’s brilliant ideas,” Raggans said.
“Or his marketing lackeys. The FFL will brand anything.”
“And exploit anyone,” Raggans said.
A loud laugh somewhat distinct in pitch pierced the air. Most everyone glanced forward where the sound originated, including Charonsky. A waist-high wall enclosed the deck in front of the wheelhouse, and at the extreme front of it, Seth Baysos stood with his wife Lorraine, Federal Football League Commissioner Codger Goodale, Cowpokes owner Barry Bones, and Ponys owner Tim Persay. Only their backs could be seen. Baysos’ wife had great legs. Baysos was short, perhaps 5’8” tall, and more muscular than Charonsky expected.
Goodale said something to Baysos. He tilted his head back and laughed the same loud, distinct laugh.
A man in a civilian naval uniform with a sunworn face and crow’s feet exited the wheelhouse and approached Baysos. He stood behind Baysos at a respectful distance until Baysos noticed him. Baysos turned. He wore an unmarked baseball cap made of a purplish, denim-like fabric, and a plain t-shirt. The man approached Baysos. He and Baysos spoke. The man proffered a curt, salute-like nod to Baysos, and then returned to the wheelhouse.
Coolman spoke in a loud voice with a faux British accent.
“We shall beat to quarters!”
Everyone on deck turned and stared at Coolman, many with quizzical expressions. Coolman seemed indifferent to the attention.
“No one’s ever seen Master and Commander?” he said.
Baysos laughed. He glanced at Coolman, eyes replete with amusement.
The captain spoke over the intercom, informing passengers that Kōhuru was readying to make sail. They would hear noises as the machinery on the automated masts operated, and the booms, the horizontal attachments on the bottom of the masts, would rotate. The vessel might heel, tilt a bit, as the sails caught wind.
The captain continued to speak over the intercom, but Charonsky only half listened. Like most everyone except Baysos and Lorraine, he was peering upward again, at the masts tall enough to tickle constellations. No matter how many times you looked up at them, they stole your breath. And the booms! Each one seemed as long as Charonsky’s house. Thankfully, the booms were high enough above the deck that they would not hit anyone while rotating.
Baysos, his wife, Goodale, Bones, and Persay began gladhanding the fans. Tables had been set near the outer edges of the deck, one for each pair of fans and the two players chaperoning them. The other two pairs of fans were across the deck opposite Charonsky’s group. Each player pair included a star from the old championship Redscalps teams and a young player from the present losing Admirals team.
Baysos, and entourage, approached the first table, where an African American husband and wife who looked to be in their late thirties or early forties sat with two African American players, quarterback William Douglass, MVP of Superb Bowl 22, and the Admirals’ best young offensive player, wide receiver Larry McLean. They looked to be having a good time. Goodale began introducing everyone. Charonsky could not hear what was being said. Goodale’s movements seemed ritualized, almost robotic, and made the affair seem like some starchy Japanese business meeting.
Mechanical sounds which seemed hydraulic emanated from the masts. The booms on each mast began slowly rotating, individually at first, and then in unison. They rotated surprisingly fast, given their tremendous size.
Baysos, and entourage, approached the land walruses. Thighman was still talking and didn’t stop when Goodale approached. Goodale had to interrupt Thighman to make introductions. Baysos shook hands with each land walrus respectfully, smiling and making good eye contact. He did the same with Thighman and Jung.
As conversation proceeded, Baysos, and entourage, were careful not to glance at the gargantuan gut of the larger land walrus. They could not have avoided looking downward more scrupulously had a naked nun been lying on the deck.
Most everyone gaped again as the colossal sails started to raise, without any human sailors working them. The sails emerged from the booms and were pulled up the masts by glides, which ran in tracks embedded in the masts. The apparati reminded Charonsky of the mechanical rabbit at a racetrack. Multiple motors or hydraulics produced competing sounds, separate sets within the booms and masts or below deck, presumably, some unfurling the sails, others raising them.
Seth Baysos, and entourage, crossed the deck and approached Charonsky’s table. Baysos had stood behind Goodale for the previous introductions, but he accelerated in front of him and beelined towards Raggans. Goodale did not seem pleased.
Charonsky could have cared less about Goodale, or the team owners, or the wife, but he was curious to meet Baysos, a man whose audacity and vision had helped transform the world.
Baysos stood before Raggans. Raggans dwarfed Baysos by some six inches, perhaps as much as eight. Baysos looked up at Raggans.
“I don’t think I could tackle you,” he said.
Baysos laughed his loud, characteristic laugh. The more Charonsky heard it, the more it seemed a bit dorky, but endearingly so.
“You look more like a linebacker than a tech magnate,” Raggans said. “I bet you could take me down if you had to.”
Baysos smiled warmly and shook hands with Raggans. Then Coolman.
Baysos stood before Charonsky, his wife at his side, Goodale next to him, Bones and Persay on the flanks. Bones looked like an extra in a zombie movie. Persay seemed two-thirds Italian gangster and gave the sense of being strong but rickety. Up close, Goodale was even colder and more formal. He was a handsome, chinny fellow whose physique clung to remnants of an athletic past. Goodale would not look Charonsky in the eyes.
Lorraine Baysos seemed to be of Mexican or Hispanic ancestry. She had been blessed with natural beauty and a measure of voluptuousness, and seemed taut and fit. Her face was tightened and widened by plastic surgery.
As he always did when encountering beautiful women who felt compelled to resort to plastic surgery, Charonsky tried to imagine what Lorraine would have looked like without it. Older but better was almost always the answer, and it seemed so here. As he had countless times, Charonsky marveled at the boundless vanity of women.
Lorraine was but a few inches over five feet, which Charonsky supposed might be pleasing to Baysos. Most short men had complexes about their height and preferred women shorter than them, even if they did not acknowledge this fact consciously.
Charonsky’s overriding impression of Lorraine was not her beauty, body, or glaring plastic surgery, but rather her disposition. She exuded happiness and seemed to percolate with life.
Charonsky focused on Seth Baysos. Charonsky had met his share of rich and powerful men, and many had tangible presence and gravitas. Charonsky had read his share of history as well, and could not help but think of George Washington, possessed of so much innate physical stature, and grandeur, that virtually everyone who met him remarked upon it, and even strangers could pick him out of a crowd long before he was famous.
Seth Baysos did not have such stature. Though he was fit and muscular, there was nothing physically exceptional about him, especially not a palpable sense of greatness or gravitas. Had Charonsky not known of Baysos’ remarkable accomplishments and wealth, and happened upon him, he would have scarce noticed the man. Charonsky stood just over six feet, and was thus about a half foot taller than Baysos, like Raggans, and this certainly contributed.
The only singular physical feature of Baysos was his right eyelid, which seemed to droop a bit, making his right eye seem smaller than his left.
Baysos had dark, intelligent eyes. Despite his muscularity, he seemed cerebral, a touch nerdy, yet also sincere, unpretentious, and quite frankly likeable. As he did with most everyone, out of habit, Charonsky wondered if who Baysos seemed to be superficially bore any resemblance to who he actually was?
When Baysos looked at Charonsky, he conveyed the sense that he already knew him. And there was the slightest bit of hesitancy. Perhaps fear?
“Your PHYSEC briefed you,” Charonsky said to Baysos. “Or was it the FFL’s?”
“Mine,” Baysos said. “It’s an honor to have you aboard. Quite a pluck, having a fan contest select someone like you by chance.”
“Fate is ever vagarious,” Charonsky said.
Baysos smiled. They shook hands. Baysos’ grip was firm, strong.
“This is my son Thales,” Charonsky said. “As you doubtless already know.”
Baysos and Thales shook hands.
“Tell me you’re going to buy the Admirals,” Thales said.
His smile revealed nothing.
Nor did his friendly eyes.
“Please,” Thales said. “Please.”
He clenched his hands in a gesture of supplication.
“I’m begging you, Mister Baysos,” he said.
“Seth, not Mister Baysos.”
“I’m begging you, Seth. Please, please, please, puh-lease buy the Admirals.”
“I respectfully second that motion,” Raggans said. “The reign of Herr Snidest and his merry band of henchmen has been an unspeakable horror.”
Baysos smiled his fathomless smile.
“We’ve been languishing in the desert for more than twenty years,” Thales said, “and need you to lead us back to the promised land.”
Baysos was a gracious host who did not belie irritation or embarrassment at Thales’ groveling, but Charonsky felt both emotions. He was grateful when Lorraine laughed.
“Not the first time you’ve heard despondent Admirals fans beg for salvation?” Coolman said.
“Not the hundredth,” Lorraine said. “But you do plead with a certain verve.”
The triangular sails were steadily raising. They seemed impossibly huge, caricatures of actual sails. And the glides were only halfway up the masts.
“I know you have to play things close to the vest,” Thales said to Baysos, “given who you are. But come on, throw me a bone. You gotta pay a billion or two extra to get Snidest to sell.”
Baysos spoke with thick sarcasm.
“Just a measly billion or two,” he said. “That’s all?”
“Admittedly a large bone,” Thales said.
“A veritable whale rib,” Baysos said.
“I mean you can’t take it with you.”
“He’ll certainly avoid that problem,” Charonsky said, “with you as a financial advisor.”
Behind him, Goodale, Bones, and Persay glanced at each other.
“Here’s a bone,” Lorraine said.
She leaned towards Thales.
Thales leaned in close, his look conspiratorial, expecting a revelation.
“We like football,” Lorraine whispered.
Thales’ face flattened with disappointment.
Lorraine glanced at Baysos. He clasped her hand in his instinctively. They gazed into each other’s eyes.
Lorraine gave Baysos a kiss on the cheek. It left a lipstick impression.
“I think we should throw Thales one more bone,” Lorraine said.
Baysos batted his eyes at Lorraine and smiled a most revealing smile.
“Anything for you, my love. Strictly hypothetically. Suppose I was interested in acquiring the Admirals. The matter might be a bit more complicated than the armchair quarterbacks suppose.”
“You have to at least make an offer,” Thales said. “Don’t you? Worst the monster can do is refuse.”
Baysos smiled his unrevealing smile.
The colossal sails were more than half raised. The glides raising the sails were distant, at least 100 feet, and perhaps as much as 150 feet, above them. The white fabric of the sails now consumed Charonsky’s view, blocking out sky, ocean, even the horizon. Charonsky imagined one of the colossal sails floating above his house, being dropped like a handkerchief, and easily covering the house with room to spare.
Baysos glanced up at the sails. He smiled, lips closed, and watched them raise. Baysos wished everyone well, and then he, and entourage, returned to their choice view at the front of the deck.
Conversation abated for a stretch. Charonsky, Thales, Raggans, and Coolman watched the sails continue raising. It was a majestic sight, literally breathtaking. The sails were almost fully raised when conversation resumed.
“Seth’s surprisingly humble,” Coolman said. “He’s like a guy you could hang out with.”
“I wasn’t expecting that either,” Raggans said.
“You really think he could tackle you?” Coolman said.
Raggans glared at Coolman.
“Man, I hope he buys the Admirals,” Thales said.
“That kind of rang through a wee bit in your discourse with him,” Coolman said. “You were so dignified.”
“I think we’re all hoping for the same thing though,” Coolman said.
“It’s high time,” Raggans said, “that someone made The Don an offer he can’t refuse.”
Raggans smiled wryly. Perhaps cynically.
“Except you don’t think that’s going to happen,” Coolman said.
The raised sails turned into the wind in unison as the masts rotated, like synchronized dancers, with preternatural mechanical speed. The wind struck the sails, flapping them forward, creating staccato billowing sounds, until they expanded outward violently, tautening with explosion-like thumps. The hull heeled as the sails gulped wind, and Kōhuru raced forward.
“All these people espousing all these fanciful team sale scenarios,” Raggans said, “don’t seem to truly understand what a petulant, vainglorious, vindictive bastard The Don is. He’s got a dark, dark, dark fucking heart, man, and I don’t think he’ll sell to Baysos at any price.”