Another Ten Seconds
Chapter 9: A Bit of Fowl Play

by Jeff Rand

Staring out the window of the Beaver Creek dining room, Mark Bollman observed a sleek blue sports car coming from the direction of High Point. "It looks like Lieutenant Columbo has arrived," he said. Mark was, of course, referring to his brother, Dan.

Dan Bollman had an impressive record of Winter Camp attendance dating back to Winter Camp II, but was not actually one of the regulars. His return this year had a specific purpose. He would be giving leadership to the seniors' division of ice croquet.

Ice croquet had become a traditional Winter Camp favorite and was scheduled as the last of the morning's events. Beaver Lake would be the site of six separate courts. The smooth ice on the lake allowed for fast paced play, but required minimal effort in establishing and maintaining the courts.

Three of the courts were to be traditional fields, only a bit larger than those used for land play. The fourth court required the players to wear ice skates and this game usually bent the rules a bit. The fifth had been a recent favorite of the campers, due to its water hazards and potential for a serious mishap.

New this year, the seniors' division course followed all of the traditional rules, with a touch of class. Dan had arranged for the court to be bordered by a series of white benches and Greek statues, which he had delivered to D-A. For the court itself he had imported from Europe, the most elegant of wickets. There were one or two other surprises, which he intentionally kept to himself.

The appearance of Mr. Oatley, quite expectedly caught Dan by surprise and temporarily delayed his plans to set up the croquet court, as the two got reacquainted. Additionally, he spent a few minutes with the Old Timers, as they recounted the unusual events of the day. Dan left in a rush to get the croquet court ready for play.

The veterans chose not to elaborate on any of the details of John's strange illness when the mob of Winter Campers returned from the Conquest. The conquest event experienced a change in outcome with the departure of Bob Hartwig and Mark Hunt, putting the humans at a disadvantage. This enabled the Martians to destroy the invaders to claim victory.

The time came to begin croquet and the campers gathered their gear and departed for the lake, absent John and the doctor. When they arrived on the ice, Daryl Shorthose, the youth chairman for the event proceeded to divide them into teams.

The new court for the seniors' division would be limited to players aged 60 and above. This requirement had been specifically designed to anger Dave Milon, who was just a month shy of his 60th birthday. Dave retaliated by placing frozen turkeys on Dan's benches to serve as spectators for the match.

Before the first round commenced, Dan announced the appropriate attire for the seniors' division. He opened a large trunk and removed an item of clothing. He said, "Worthy competitors, croquet is a sport of gentlemen. It is not something where a casual appearance is at all acceptable. Each of you will want to wear a pair of these white shorts before entering the court. And my brother Mark will be pleased with the headwear. I am sorry that these white visors will do little to keep your heads warm."

Although the sun was in its winter glory, it had barely warmed the air to 10 degrees. Competitors that they were, each of the old men obliged and wore the shorts with fully bare legs. Dan generously allowed them to wear white V-neck sweaters over their shirts.

The various sets of competitors grabbed their balls and mallets and left for their assigned courts. As the seniors were about to commence play, Dr. Bob arrived with John Howey.

Dr. Bob addressed the veterans, "There is not much I can do for John right now. I think a little fun will direct his thoughts in a more positive direction. I would only ask that you keep noise to the minimum."

Seniors' division competition began as Steve Donohue led with a shot halfway across the court. His brother followed and took his shot straight at Steve's ball. The direct hit sent it careening into the sidelines. This set tone of play as subsequent players followed suit. Although silence predominated, each of the players proceeded with the most gentlemanly gestures, as he sought to knock his opponents out of the game.

It taken several rounds before a player had a shot through the first of the side wickets. It was Dave Oakley. John Howey followed with a nice one through the wicket that struck Dave's ball, sending it to the side. Dave did not care much for this act and sought to get even. As subsequent rounds emerged, the two became more competitive and sent each other further onto the unshoveled ice, which served as the rough. Eventually, they reached the edge of the next court.

John had enough of this madness and decided to send his ball clear across the rough, back to the seniors' court. The players in the junior court he had now entered ceased play momentarily, as John turned his back on them to take his shot. He decided to get a bit of a running start and began to step backwards deeper into the court, not realizing it was the one plagued with water hazards.

"Stop! Watch out! Don't step in the hole!" shouted the junior players.

John took another step backwards, as he saw a chaotic flash of color.

"John, please Don't move!"

A bright red flash was the last he saw as he fell into the icy water, wearing his white shorts and dealer's cap.

Immediately the players rushed to the hole. John was not to be found. Vainly they probed the waters looking for a sign of life. Soon it was obvious that he was trapped underneath the ice. In less than minute, the entire Winter Camp contingent had converged upon the disaster.

"Go get the SCUBA gear!" shouted Roger Horn to his son, Ken.

"Let's break the ice and expand the hole!" shouted Alex Howey.

Nearly 10 minutes had passed before John's limp body was brought to the surface.

END OF PART 1

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