The tweet from @tommyh8ter stood out from the others in its directness: “you are worthless and hope you die.” It glared at Tommy from his timeline. It was till there, now two weeks on from Oklahoma. It was sent about ten seconds after Tommy threw his second interception. It was still there, after hundreds more, flooded in. There was a singularity to it and some sort of weird, poetic perfection to it. The simple conjunction of one absolute statement and one wish for his absolute absence.
“Dude, that’s fucking nuts, but you gotta let it go.” Andrew “Hendy” Hendrix leaned over from behind Tommy and closed the laptop’s screen.
Tommy stood up. “You’re right. But it’s crazy, isn’t it? I’ve heard pretty much everything, but this one takes the cake. This guy hopes I die. I mean, that’s like the worst thing you can wish on someone, right?”
“Hey, you don’t know. Dude may have lost a lot of money on the game. Maybe he’s some fucking wacko with a closet full of Golson gear and he wants to skin you and eat your liver with a nice chianti and some fava beans.”
“And maybe he’s not. You know what, Hendy? I’m going to find out. Maybe he’s a psycho killer and maybe he’s an account manager at KPMG on Randolph Street. Whatever.” He grabbed his jacket and opened the door to the hall when Hendy called out.
“Tommy! If you end up dead in a bathtub full of milk and a banana in your mouth, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Rees looked at Hendy, puzzled.
“The victim of a cereal killer, Tommy. Don’t do anything dumb during your off weekend”
“Fuck you, Andrew.” Tommy smiled, turned, and stepped out, the door clattering closed behind him.
Hours later, after film study and dinner, Tommy walked in the carefully illuminated darkness behind Fitzpatrick Hall, the looming frame of DeBartolo Hall ahead of him. Turning to look at the stadium as he continued on, he bumped into a woman in black, who dropped her notebook and phone, an envelope shhhhh’ing across the sidewalk. “So sorry,” she said, bending to pick up her items. Tommy dropped to a knee and picked up the envelope, tucking it inside his jacket. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.” They both stood and she smiled. “Neither was the guy you’re looking for,” she said as she clutched her notebook across her body and walked quickly away.
Some hours later, and in the dead of the Chicago night, Tommy, Hendy, and Malik “Rumble” Zaire, pulled up to the address they had been looking for. Hendy had been reading the envelope’s contents over the course of the ride, Tommy at the wheel and Malik, silent, in the back. Each one scanned the red brick apartment building.
@tommyh8ter graduated from Notre Dame with an accounting degree in 2000. From Facebook, they knew what he looked like and where he lived. From Four Square they knew where he had been last night. From Twitter and Instagram, they knew it had been a long night and that he was likely in for a rough morning. Actually, they were certain he was in for the roughest of mornings.
As it was, @tommyh8ter didn’t make it outside his apartment building until a little after noon. When he did, Malik was at the wheel and he dropped the truck into gear and drove slowly up the street while Tommy and Hendrix scrambled out and down the sidewalk after him. They followed him at a distance into the diner and watched him take an empty booth at the back. They stopped, pausing in the vestibule.
“You got it?” Tommy asked Hendrix as he adjusted his sunglasses. Hendrix pulled the Wilson football out of his coat and dropped it into Rees’s gloved hand.
Tommy looked at him while Hendricks put on his sunglasses. “Let’s do this.”
They entered the diner and walked purposefully down the center aisle. @tommyh8ter looked up from his chocolate milkshake as they stopped a few feet away.
“Do I know you guys?”
Hendrix shook his head as Tommy palmed the ball finding the laces. “Nah. But you fucked with me all the same.”
Tommy then spoke. “Is that milkshake chocolatey enough for you?”
The man in the booth was now wildly confused. “What? It’s fine. Who the…”
Tommy interrupted him. “Good. ‘cos that’s the last milkshake you’ll be drinking for a while, asshole.”
With that, Tommy took a step back and drilled @tommyh8ter in the mouth with a perfect spiral, the ball deflecting back into his hands as the chocolate drink exploded in a spray of heavy brown mist. He and Hendy turned and walked back down the aisle and out into the cool. Diners turned startled at the commotion and went to help the unconscious man in the booth, but no one saw what happened. Malik dropped the truck into gear, the exhaust into the air the only fading sign they were there.