Episode 29 — Chapters 33 & 34
In the light of a full moon, Calvin Cain stood on his front porch, gazing at the rolling hills painted white. Most years, winters were mild in the western part of South Carolina; often there was no snowfall at all, but this year a thin layer of snow blanketed the Cain cattle farm.
Even at midnight, Cain could see his breath. He pulled up the collar of his jacket and shivered. They should be arriving any minute.
Calvin had acquired his farm three years before, but this was the first year that he would personally welcome spring on the thousand-acre estate. Born and bred a Southerner, he was proud of his heritage. His great, great, grandfather had been a Confederate captain in the War Between the States, decorated for valor by General James Longstreet. Following the war, Cain’s ancestors performed back-breaking work as laborers on cotton farms, until his grandfather finally managed to acquire a small farm himself with the bank’s help. That farm had been later inherited by Cain’s father.
As a youth, Calvin had spurned farm work in favor of the far more enjoyable pursuit of baseball. As the middle son of five boys, he had been able to bribe and cajole his brothers to assume his tasks when it was game-time. There was no one more astonished than his father when Cain signed a professional contract just after completing high school for a handsome bonus. He then toiled in the minor leagues for several years before finally making the jump to the big leagues. He became an overnight sensation winning five of his first six starts.
Calvin’s height and brawn had proved a definite advantage as a pitcher, as his fastball was regularly clocked in the high 90’s during the first half of his career. Friendly and easy going off the field, he had been a ruthless competitor on the mound, who wasn’t afraid to dust a hitter off, if necessary, to gain an edge. The All-American looks of his early years had coarsened a bit with time, which along with his graying hair, marked him as one of the game’s elder statesmen.
It wasn’t until his mid-thirties that Calvin realized he wasn’t going to be able to play baseball forever. It was then he began reflecting on life afterwards. A longing to return to farm work gradually entered his consciousness, which surprised him, since he had despised farm chores as a youth and had vowed to forsake farming altogether once he became an adult. Some of that longing had to do with the bittersweet aroma of manure and pine; some of it had to do with the feeling that his five kids were growing up spoiled, never having learned the value of hard work. Much of it had to do with his wife’s influence—Annabelle wanted something more stable, more permanent, than just being a ballplayer’s vagabond widow. The farm they had acquired in the twilight of Calvin’s career had finally provided Annabelle a permanent home, regardless of which city Calvin was playing for. But more profound than all those factors, was the feeling Calvin had deep within, that he belonged there. His earliest thoughts were of picking strawberries, lying in the hay under the sun and squeezing milk from cows. He had evolved, developed and matured under the tutelage of the sun, wind and stars, and loving parents. He wanted the same for his children.
It would be so much easier though, if February wasn’t approaching. Every year since Calvin turned eighteen, he had gone south for Spring Training. It was right about now, that he would be renewing his annual love affair with baseball; pitchers and catchers arrived a week before position players. With Spring Training on the horizon, baseball would be on his mind and he would be running wind sprints to get ready for Florida. As much as the farm meant to him, Calvin would have traded it all for just one year at the top—pitching in the World Series. Fate had been so cruel, six years before, when his team had won the division by twelve games (with Calvin leading the way with a career-best 23 victories), swept their first round opponent and then led three games to one in the American League championship series, only to lose three straight nail-biters and miss the World Series by a hairbreadth.
Walking off the porch, Calvin picked up a small rubber ball, nearly the size of a baseball, which his two-year old son, Yancy, had left on the ground. Gripping the ball by the tips of his finger in knuckleball fashion, he wound up and fluttered it toward the lone maple tree in the front yard, squarely hitting its trunk. He had been working on the knuckler for several years–in earnest, the last three or four–and could make it do wonders in warm-ups or batting practice. But, once the bell rung, his wrist would tense, and he would end up throwing it too hard. Too often, the pitch’s trajectory arrived at the plate flat, before being rocketed out of the park. With his fastball losing speed, it had been his strategy to gradually mix in the knuckler more and more. Unfortunately, his confidence in the pitch had weakened each time another ball was deposited into the bleachers. Ultimately, some of the blame for his release last year was from the too frequent usage of that pitch. His 3-8 record and 5.72 E.R.A. from the prior season had caused his otherwise magnificent career to end on a bitter note.
Calvin’s attention was diverted by the sound of the motor vehicle coming up the dirt highway. He watched the Nissan sedan turn down the private road toward his home. Savannah had been very cryptic in her phone call, just indicating that she was bringing a special guest who needed temporary lodging. When he had inquired further, she told him it would be a surprise.
The car came to a halt and Savannah told her guest to remain seated for a moment. She exited the vehicle and ran over to her brother.
“It’s so good to see you, Cal,” Savannah embraced her brother tightly.
“I’ve missed you, sis.”
The trip to Anderson, South Carolina, covering a hundred and twenty miles, had taken them two hours. From Anderson to the Cain farm in Abbeville County was thirty-seven more miles; that had consumed another hour.
Savannah was anxious to see her brother and his family for the first time in almost a year. The two had a very special bond, despite the large age gap. Savannah had embraced the game of baseball with the same vigor as Calvin, and she also followed his career with more interest and enthusiasm than her other siblings.
“I brought a visitor.” Savannah said in a sing-song voice. She walked over to the passenger side of the car, opened the door and a young man exited the car and stood up.
Calvin extended his hand.
Savannah made the introduction, “Cal, I’d like you to meet Ty Cobb.”
Detective Kramer was ushered into Dr. Cantril’s office. Kramer was in his late forties, with bushy eyebrows, long sideburns, a pock-marked face and graying hair. He was eight inches shorter and weighed barely more than half as much as the doctor.
“What can I do for you, doctor?”
Dr. Cantril motioned for the detective to sit in the only other chair in his office, after first removing several texts on psychiatry which had gravitated there during the past several weeks.
“As I said on the phone, we obtained a temporary commitment order for a patient a few days ago. I’m concerned that he could be a danger to himself and others unless he is located and returned here at once.”
“What’s his name?” Kramer took out a pad and pen.
“I’m glad you’re sitting down. His name is Ty Cobb. He is convinced that he is the baseball star from a century ago. I assume you know who I’m referring to?”
“Sure, he’s still a celebrity here in Atlanta. So how does he handle a bat?” the detective winked.
“Good one, detective. This man has no means, no family, he’s probably living off the street right now. Who knows what he’ll do to himself and others?”
“Well, doctor. What has he done that causes you to believe that he could be dangerous?”
Dr. Cantril reflected for a moment. “Well, I can’t point my finger to anything specific he’s done. But he’s suffering from a severe case of grandiosity and paranoia. He thinks someone has gone to elaborate lengths to deceive him. He is convinced it is still 1911.”
“1911?! What the hell happened in 1911?”
“Who knows how he came up with that year.”
“So, I assume the family’s in agreement with his commitment?” the detective asked.
“He doesn’t have any known next-of-kin, detective. We’ve gone to great lengths to locate family members but haven’t found a soul.”
“Well, you know the law. There needs to be a person appointed to represent his interests. How were you able to obtain a commitment order without that?”
“It was an emergency petition; it’s only a temporary commitment for fourteen days.”
“I know how it works, doctor. I was part of the Georgia Police Task Force that worked with federal investigators a number of years ago, leading to the closure of Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome. I’m sure you remember that, doctor,” Kramer gave the doctor a steely stare.
“Of course.” Dr. Cantril tried his best to show no emotion, but he felt his face turn red; he was certain the detective couldn’t be aware of his previous involvement with that hospital. It had all been hushed up; that had been part of the agreement.
“Then you must know that federal investigators found that patients were dying or committing suicide at alarming rates there.”
Dr. Cantril looked away, fearing that his expression might give himself away.
The detective continued, “The landscape has changed significantly during the past decade, as I’m sure you know. Police don’t get involved unless the patient poses immediate danger to himself or others as evidenced by recent overt acts or threats. So, I’ll ask you again, what overt acts or threats has this Mr. Cobb made that require our intervention?”
Dr. Cantril felt his blood boiling, being schooled on the law by some low-level police detective. Exhaling hard to mask his indignation, he spoke in a raised tone, “Detective, a circuit judge has already ruled that Mr. Cobb be temporarily institutionalized for his own safety and the safety of others.”
“Well, if you want our help, we need a lot more than some judge’s order. Good day, doctor.” The detective stood up and walked out.
Dr. Cantril cursed inwardly at the alarming lack of respect the detective had displayed, and continued stewing for several more minutes. Had federal investigators identified him to the state police? Impossible! That would have been an egregious violation of their agreement. Nevertheless, it took Dr. Cantril twenty minutes of silent self-assuring before his heartrate finally began to slow.
Dr. Cantril picked up the phone on his desk and dialed a hospital extension.
A voice answered, “Brad Hodges, Legal.”
“Brad, I need your immediate help.”