The once rolling forest of the Allen-Boggs-Levitt Estates served as an ideal place for a golf course on the North Shore. It had all the things golfers look for, sweeping fairways, gently contoured greens, and sparkling ponds. It was a far cry from the cookie-cutter homes one of the estate’s namesakes, Levitt, built for GI’s returning from World War II. However, Levitt’s part in the creation of the North Hills Country Club and Golf Course was anything but assembly-line.
The 6730-yards, par 72 golf course’s gorgeous arboreal setting allowed members to enjoy a private island course less than 30 miles from Manhattan. It was there at the 18th hole, where all six feet of fifty-four-year-old Camilla, CJ, Jordan stood impatiently leaning on her club. A fair-skinned woman with freckles, CJ, was a brick house 1970s Commodores style with her long reddish-brown hair, 44-DDD boobs, curvy girl waistline, and firm round butt. At that moment, the curvaceous CJ’s eyes were set on her best friend and professional golfer, fifty-five-year-old Tyler, T-Shot Mitchell as he circled the hole again.
“Are you going to putt or square dance? You’ve circled the hole five times already.”
“Yeah.” He put his hand up. “I’m lining up the shot.”
Although over fifty, Tyler was still blond, toned, and tanned with a six-pack that rivaled men half his age. In terms of a sport to show off his swimmer’s physique, golf wasn’t on the list. Tyler grew up surfing and boogie boarding with his friends, many of whom were rich beach bums. Golf entered the picture courtesy of his grandfather. Tyler turned out to be a natural at it. He competed in amateur events all over California. Then a funny thing happened, wherever he played, there was a spike in female attendance from the amateur circuit to the NCAA. Everyone wanted to be near the golden boy. Tyler became golf’s first real sex symbol when he joined the PGA. His love life and exploits with women rivaled any NFL or NBA player. He dated supermodels, lead actresses, starlets, singers, and performers. He even married a supermodel turned entrepreneur and had one son. The marriage didn’t last. Tyler liked a la carte dating and relationships too much. Although conservative, the PGA overlooked his exploits. Tyler Mitchell’s name increased attendance and ratings.
Luckily for the PGA and Tyler, his good genetic fortune continued, but his fortunes on the green had taken quite a few hits as of late. At first, it wasn’t too bad. He only missed the cut for one tournament the year prior. Yet, after his disappointing performance in the subsequent cuts, he did make, he may have been better off not making the cut in the first place. He was in a slump and though no one came out and said it, everyone knew it. CJ was the last person he wanted to hear it from, but he knew it was coming.
While Tyler hailed from sunny California, CJ was a Long Island native from Manhasset. Already 6 feet tall by the time she got to junior high school, CJ confidently took auto repair and woodshop instead of home economics. At twelve she knew how to cook, but sewing gave her a headache. Once in high school, she captained the all-male debate team, then led them to four straight statewide and two national titles. Then she went on to hold the distinct honor of being the first and only female practice partner for UCLA’s men’s golf team. She was a man’s woman, but not a tomboy. She’d put on a dress as easily as a pair of jeans, fussed with her hair, and wore makeup, but could still roll with, talk to, and out bluster guys. Yet men continued to baffle CJ when it came to dating and relationships. A self-professed serial monogamist, she’d broken up with her longtime love a year earlier and wasn’t focused on much else besides business and golf. All of which meant, she had no intention of going easy on old T-Shot.
Tyler walked around the hole for the sixth time.
“Are you kidding me?!” CJ huffed. “I don’t think I have any chalk with me, but I can give you a red lipstick to use to mark up the grass. Give me a second, I’ll check my bag.”
“Fine.” He huffed. “Point taken.”
Tyler lined up his putt, swung, and it sailed past the hole. “Don’t say anything.” He tapped the ball in.
“That was anticlimactic.”
“You just had to say something, didn’t you?”
“What else could I do. You set yourself up. The only other thing I could say is I’ve seen you sink par 4 holes like this with your eyes closed.”
“You can’t help yourself can you?”
“Yes. I can. However, since you’ve taken to playing like shit lately, it’s becoming a reflex action.” She headed for the golf cart.
“I’m just off today.” He followed behind her.
CJ put the club in her golf bag. “No, an off day happens every so often. You were off for The Palmer Invitational, The Players, Quail Hollow…”
He cut her off. “I did take the green jacket at the Masters. What do you call that?”
“As of lately, a fluke. You’ve got to get it together Man.”
“Not everyone can be as stealthy as you, Priscilla.” He put his bag on the cart.
“I know how to separate personal from professional, especially in golf. If you have both going on in your head while you’re playing, you are sunk.”
“Not everyone can turn the ice on in their veins.”
“I don’t have ice in my veins. I keep my shit separate. Maybe that’s something you should aspire to.” CJ climbed into the passenger side.
“I’ll put it on my list of things to do.” He got in the cart. “We didn’t keep score, did we?”
“No, I was merciful for once.” She smiled. “Do you want me to make lunch at your condo?”
Tyler stared out at the course. “No, let’s drop the gear at the condo and have lunch in the club.”
“Works for me. You’re paying, right?”
“Aren’t I always?”
CJ laughed as they drove off.
Being wealthy and from California, Tyler liked anything that reminded him of the west coast and luxury. The Ritz Carlton Residences in North Hills fit the bill perfectly. His 2,000 plus square-foot condo was more than enough room for the bachelor and his usual parade of lovelies he called girlfriends.
CJ walked into the living room with her golf bag. “Where do you want me to put this?”
“Put it against the terrace entrance. I’ll have someone get it and bring it down to your car later when we get back. By the way, this is a full-service condo. You didn’t have to carry it in here.”
She put her bag down. “I’m sure people here keep the staff busy enough without me adding to it. I’ve been carrying this thing since I was a teenager.”
“Speaking of being a teenager, is that why you have that thing in your hair?”
“Oh, good grief. I forgot I put the scrunchie on.” She took it out and tossed her hair. “People find me less intimidating when I look like Gidget.” CJ put it on top of her bag.
Tyler chuckled. “Scrunchie or ribbons, you’re 6 feet tall, CJ you will always be intimidating. There’s a reason I call you Priscilla Amazon Queen of the Fairway.”
“Don’t I know it?” She smirked.
Tyler put his bag next to hers. “You ready to go?”
Lunch at the Governor’s Room boasted Michelin-rated food. It served as a banquet hall for larger events, but during the week, dining there for lunch or dinner was a culinary affair. CJ and Tyler took advantage of the warm weather and dined on the patio. A couple of luncheon-size steaks with salad and baked potato was just the thing to satisfy their appetites. Tyler had a beer while CJ stuck to sparkling water.
“The Memorial Tournament is coming up quick.” CJ sipped her water.
“I know. I’ve got a little time to pull it together.”
“You’re going to have to practice a lot and I know that’s not one of your strong suits.”
“I’ve grown up a lot since college, CJ.”
“You have, the women you date haven’t.”
“What? I’m just saying your current le chat du jour, is a black hole when it comes to her need to be the center of attention, especially when it comes to you. She practically demands your full attention.”
“She loves me. It’s nice to be wanted.”
“Being wanted by Alyssa makes the FBI’s ten most wanted list look like an informal invitation. Something about this girl.” She shook her head.
In the years since he turned forty, the age of the women Tyler dated skewed twenty years younger than him. He thought he was safe dating millennials. They weren’t into labels, so there’d be no strings. Then he saw tall, blonde, and lithe Alyssa Brummel at a red carpet event. She wore a neck-to-toe nude illusion lace bodysuit and Tyler couldn’t help himself. By the end of the evening, they went home together. A year later and the twenty-four-year-old, trust funder and bonafide Influencer regularly overshared everything, including her relationship with Tyler with her followers and the media.
“You’ve been talking to me about my love life for 20 plus years. Your love life…” he stopped.
CJ had a steak knife in her hand. “You were saying.”
“I can’t even with you.”
She laughed, and then looked up. “What is that?”
“What are you talking about?”
“In the sky. It looks like smoke.”
“Maybe someone’s burning leaves.” He kept eating.
“This is the gold coast part of the North Shore. People don’t burn leaves here.”
He looked up. “The smoke is too dark to be organic.”
CJ’s cell rang. She looked at the caller ID. “It’s Tim.” Hey, Tim. What’s going on?”
“Mom, have you been on Instagram?”
“Really, Tim? This is your mother you’re talking to. Of course, I haven’t been on Instagram. Why?”
“You need to go on it right now. Is uncle Tyler with you?”
“Yeah. We just played a round of golf and we’re having lunch at the club.”
“He needs to go on Instagram too. It’s Alyssa.”
“What do you mean, it’s Alyssa?” Tyler put his fork down.
“Tim’s saying that we both should go on Instagram to see.” She put the knife down.
Tyler took his phone out.
“Make sure you turn it so I can see.”
“Oh boy, Mom.” Tim groaned.
“I really don’t like the sound of that.”
When Tyler opened Instagram there was a live stream with Alyssa with ablaze and fire trucks behind her. She was ranting and raving.
“What the hell?!” CJ exclaimed.
Tyler watched frozen.
“It’s already gone viral, Mom.” He paused. “Are you there?”
“Yeah. It’s all I can do not to sail off into the atmosphere. “Wait, there are two bags. The bitch set fire to my golf bag.”
“Oh, no,” Tim said quietly. “I’m going to go, Mom. I know you want to talk to Uncle Tyler”
“I may do more than that. I’ll see you later.”
Tyler was stunned. “Where did she come from? She wasn’t supposed to be in New York. I spoke to her this morning.”
“She just did the golf equivalent of a burning bed, and you want to talk about when she got here? That’s the hill you want to die on?”
Tyler didn’t know what to say. Soon the whole dining room was focused on the patio.
“Everyone’s looking Tyler.”
“We better get out of here. I have to see what’s happening.”
“You have to see? It’s streaming live.” CJ got up. “I don’t know if you want me near her.”
“We have to be calm. It’s already horrible.”
“She just melted the bag my father gave me for my high school graduation. Thirty-six years I’ve had them and in one afternoon, they’re barbequed. You better hope the fire department got the blaze out. Otherwise, I may throw her shrimp ass on the barbie.” CJ huffed away full speed.
“No, CJ. I’ll make it right. I promise.”
“Bullshit. I’ll do it.” Head full of steam, she charged through the dining room with Tyler right behind her.
“No, we have to calm down and find out what happened.”
CJ stopped dead and turned around. “Please tell me what’s a good reason for setting a fire in front of private property and ranting like a mad cow. It’s stupid and fucked up.”
“Seriously. I will make it right.”
“How? She burned my shit. How are you going to make it better?”
“I’ll get your bag and clubs replaced with the exact same bag.”
“I don’t know if the company that made the bag is still in business. Or do you think that like a Phoenix, the bags will rise from the ashes?”
“You let me handle it.”
“Like you handled her when she showed up at Quail Hollow and trashed that poor woman’s room because she transposed the room numbers?”
The trashed room happened after the first round when Tyler went out for a beer with some fellow golfers and sport’s bloggers. He left his cell in his room. The next morning as he waited to tee off, he got the news that not only was Alyssa there, she was angry with him for not returning her calls. She flew in ready for a fight, but she went to the wrong room and furiously destroyed another guest’s belongings. Luckily, her father’s deep pockets compensated the guest for the damages plus suffering. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do the same for the damage to Tyler’s game which swiftly went down the tubes.
“You had to bring that up?”
“Yes. I did. Someone has to put some sense into that head of yours.” She exhaled. “You know what, let’s get going. We, or should I say you, have to see the damage. Thank God, I drove my car here. I’m going home.”
Tyler looked relieved. “I know you’re upset and getting in her face now won’t help anything.”
“What it will do is save her life. I was going to murder her on her live stream!” She took a breath. “Are you moving? Let’s go.”
Every set of eyes in the club was on Tyler. He knew this attention was only the beginning. He looked down at his phone. She was still going. “F my life.”
In the short time it took to get back condo, the residents’ parking lot was filled with police cars and fire vehicles. Tyler found a space in the secondary parking lot. Knowing it was imperative to get CJ out of there, Tyler flagged down a police officer to guide her out of the parking lot.
“You are one lucky son of a gun.” CJ scoffed as she hopped into her Range Rover.
“I’m not stupid. I’ve seen your temper.” Tyler closed the car door. “Well, you’re all set to get out of here.”
CJ started the car, then rolled the window down. “I don’t see any handcuffs. I bet she called her daddy.”
“That’s not fair, CJ.”
“You want to talk about what’s fair? I can still get out of this car and wring her neck.”
“Okay. You got me.”
“I don’t know why I am surprised. Girls like that always skate. You’ll be upset for another 10 minutes or so. Then you’ll move on to the makeup sex.”
“No, I won’t.” Tyler insisted. “You have to forgive people. They’re only human and make mistakes. You know you could do…”
“I could do what?” CJ’s eyes flashed with anger.
“Nothing. I’m sorry.”
“Right. I’ll email you the specs from my bag to replace it. I hope you know Merlin.”
“If I don’t, I’ll make a point to meet him.” He looked over at the officer. “He’s giving you all clear to back out.”
Tyler watched CJ drive off, then made his way over to where the action was. As he got closer to his condo, he noticed the placement of the bags. Did she throw them off the terrace? He traced the path with his eyes. Yes. She threw them off the terrace. He shook his head then made his way to a fire official.
He tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, are you the fire chief?”
A short, stout man with a ruddy complexion faced him. “Yes. Chief Carlson. You’re Tyler Mitchell.”
“Yes. Where is she? Is she under arrest?”
He pointed. “She’s over there by the property manager. The police are here, but I don’t know what’s happening.”
Tyler looked at the smoldering heap. “Was there any other damage?”
“The fire was pretty much contained to the bags. There’s some damage to the grass, but nothing horrible. Good thing the bags were real, a cheap one would have gone up like a Roman candle. All in all, it could have been worse.”
“Yep. Thanks.” He stepped away. What a parting gift. If she was going to be a firebug, at least the bags were made of good enough material that it only burned the grass, as opposed to burning the whole condo down.
Tyler nodded as he walked by some of his neighbors. Everyone waved politely, but he could feel residual flames burning through his back when he passed by. People began to part as he came upon Alyssa, who was in a blue dress with puffy sleeves and a white-collar. She looked like Madeline from the children’s book. All that was missing was a pair of Mary Janes. So, if Alyssa was the schoolgirl, building manager, Harrison Pinter, who was next to her, looked like the headmaster.
“Ty!” She ran up and put her arms around his neck. “I’m sorry.”
“You stopped streaming?”
“Yes. Daddy made a deal.”
“Your father what?”
“Hello, Mr. Mitchell.”
“Harrison. I would say it’s good to see you, but you know.”
“Ms. Brummel telephoned her father and gave me the phone. He offered to compensate us for the damages and the services of his crisis management team to handle the press.”
Tyler looked around. “They must work fast. I don’t see any other cameras here.”
“The powers that be okayed it?”
“Yes. They want it to go away quickly. I am sorry about the bags, Mr. Mitchell. It could have been worse if they weren’t so well-made.”
“Isn’t that something.”
“I’ll leave you to it. Good day, Ms. Brummel.”
Tyler waited a moment. “All I want to know is why.”
Alyssa batted her eyelashes; it was the prelude to her coquettish act. “It’s your fault.”
“I’m sorry. It’s my fault you did all of this. How?”
“You didn’t answer any of my texts this afternoon.”
“I didn’t get any texts.” He took his phone out.
She grabbed it out of his hand. “See. You have a bunch from me.” She fiddled through his phone. “You didn’t remember you put your phone on silent?”
“I always put it on silent if I’m playing golf. You know that. I was going to take it off silent mode after lunch.”
“Yeah. I remembered, but then I got here, and I saw this in the living room.” She held up CJ’s red scrunchie. “You were here with another woman.”
He shook his head. “That’s CJ’s.”
All the color drained from her face. “CJ’s scrunchie?”
“Yeah. She wore it on the golf course today. She offered to make lunch here, but we had lunch at the club instead.”
Still as pale as a ghost, she seemed to shrink. “The bag belonged to CJ.” She gulped and looked around. “Is she here?”
“She was going to come back. I convinced her to head home and cool down.”
“It was an old bag anyway. It couldn’t have been worth that much.”
“That’s not the point. Her dad gave her that when she graduated. Sentiment adds value. It was custom, like your shoes.” He paused. “We have to do something about this jealous streak of yours. You can’t keep having fits like this. Your followers aren’t substitutes for friends. If you’re mad, make like Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and phone a friend, use a lifeline. It doesn’t have to be a poll.”
“My followers are my friends. They have some good advice.”
“What poll said you should start a fire?”
She rolled her eyes. “I was angry. You didn’t communicate.”
“And that was communication?” He pointed to the charred pile.
“I’m going to do something to rectify that right now.” She began to fiddle with his phone.
“What are you doing?”
“Making sure you know when I’m trying to get in touch with you.” Her fingers flew across the screen. “Better.” She put it in his hand. “I gave myself a ringtone of a doorbell. Now you will know when I’m looking for you. And here’s the vibrate button. Use it. It’s quiet, but it buzzes.”
“I guess the problem is solved.”
“That’s right, Baby. Let’s go back in and forget about this. Someone will clean it up.” She kissed him then took his hand.
Alyssa was blind to all the disapproving looks and tut-tutting, but Tyler wasn’t. He was following her like a puppy on a leash. He kept his head low to avoid their gaze. Just before he went inside, he turned around and saw people with fireproof gloves pulling what was left in the rubble. I’m sure my pride is in there somewhere. I don’t want to think about how many people saw this live. He sighed and went inside. Before the day was over, there were over 6 million views and counting. Unfortunately for Tyler, even when it was over, it wouldn’t be gone or forgotten.
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