They met by the first tee just before dawn. While the grass was wet and uncomfortable, the mist transformed an elite and very safe golf course into a mystic moor of a sinister character. Who knew what dangers might lurk in the gullies and thickets?
Dr. Sam Woodger, a man undeterred by fancy, led off briskly. It occurred to Dr. Stowe that, since they were walking rather than playing, they could as easily have started from the eighteenth green and gone backwards. However, Woodger's forward thrusting posture and mentality didn't seem destined, or even designed, to go backwards.
Dr. Stowe found that he could just barely maintain the pace. Even then, he suspected that his companion was holding it down for his benefit. By the third green, Dr. Stowe was fifty yards behind. By the fourth, he called ahead that he was taking a short cut, and would meet Woodger on the thirteenth. The other waved, apparently in agreement, and pumped his arms ever harder. Dr. Stowe slumped into a more relaxed mode as he headed across country, no longer following the holes.
As it turned out, he underestimated himself. After walking around the edge of a pond that served as a water hazard, and over a little wooden bridge, he found himself at the thirteenth green some time before Woodger could be expected to arrive.
The hole lay along the perimeter of the course with a little-used public road bordering it on the east side. However, woods blocked out a view of the road, and not even Warren Eliot believed that people drove there to ridicule him.
There were also woods on the west side of the hole, and since it was a dog-leg right, it was impossible to see the tee from Dr. Stowe's position at the green. After a minute or so spent in heavy breathing, he supposed that he might as well walk up to the half-way point. Then, when Woodger came into view, he could get a little head start for the sprint home.
Dr. Stowe had worn his driving glasses in the hope that he would at least be able to keep Woodger in sight, and he now walked slowly, trying to make out a mockingbird whose call he had heard in the woods. What he saw as he moved along the fringe made him stop abruptly. There were two people with rifles just beyond the tee. Surely, he thought, it must be illegal to hunt on the golf course. He had never seen any signs prohibiting hunting, but that was only because the rules committee had never imagined an influx of hunters.
Uncertain, Dr. Stowe took another peek around the tree. The people, not actively hunting, were just standing there. One was certainly Warren Eliot. The other was a woman, and, when she turned a little, he saw that it was Lee Howsam.
Then, suddenly, it made sense. She was Jewish, and Woodger was a virulent anti-Semite. On many grounds, Warren's sympathies would lie with her. But, then, there was something else. Woodger had dishonorably gotten Mrs. Eliot to contribute her husband's money to causes that he abhorred. There must be retribution.
With some mixed feelings, Dr. Stowe moved back to find a place from which he could see with almost no chance of being seen. It was ironic to think that, if Woodger had been willing to slow down for him, he would now have some company when he might need it.
From his persective, Dr. Stowe couldn't see the twelfth green, or most of the path that led from it to the thirteenth tee. But he could see Warren and Lee move behind trees when they saw or heard someone approaching. Then, just as Dr. Sam emerged from the path, arms and legs swinging with somewhat unnecessary exhuberance, his welcoming committee stepped into the open and raised their guns. Woodger stopped abruptly with a look of questioning irritation. It was as if a patient had flatly refused to spray his nose thrice daily. Indeed, it was obvious that he couldn't imagine any reason why anyone, let alone Eliot, would want to accost him with a weapon in hand.
Woodger seemed to be on the point of speaking, probably to demand an explanation, when two shots were discharged. He staggered back, still querulous. He hadn't gotten his explanation, but perhaps something in the nature of a clarification.
As the doctor collapsed and lay wriggling on his back, he made peculiar sounds which fell well short of constituting a grammatical sentence in English. Dr. Stowe wondered idly if they might have some meaning in some other system of communication. Sink might have some ideas on that score, and it was a pity that he couldn't bring the matter to his attention.
At this point, there was a brief conversation between Eliot and Lee, which ended with his handing her a pistol. She then ran to Woodger. Dr. Stowe understood immediately. He had once had to dispatch a ground hog that had been mauled by dogs, and had managed it with a large rock. The present procedure promised to be more efficient, but noisier. He consequently put his fingers in his ears.
Mr. Eliot remained with his rifle pointed down. Dr. Stowe knew how he reacted upon hitting various kinds of golf shots, but it was hard to guess his present feelings. Had there been the right feel when he discharged his rifle? Had there been the right sound when the bullet hit, or thereafter? Eliot did, however, seem immobilized in position. Lee grabbed him by the arm and led him quickly into the woods in the direction of the road.
There was something vaguely maternal in her treatment of Eliot. That, together with their shared involvement in a significant action, would probably keep them together. Dr. Stowe tried to imagine them living in a small town in North Dakota. What would Eliot do while Lee was teaching? A new hobby would be required. Throwing snowballs at fence posts?
As Dr. Stowe retraced his steps, he considered his own position. He certainly didn't want to fill out forms or answer questions. However, the chances were good that no one would even know that he had been out on the course so early. In the worst case of someone having seen him set out with Dr. Woodger, he could say, truthfully enough, that he had lost him after the first few holes. And, of course, he had a reputation of hardly seeing things that were right in front of him.
On returning to the first tee, the only person in sight was Mr. Hal Hinterburger. From their stylized conversation it became clear to Dr. Stowe that he was assumed to have just arrived. In fact, the other said,
"I'm glad I caught you. Mr. Rolfe called a little while ago. He's on his way out and he's hoping you'll be his partner."
"Certainly. I'll just have some coffee in the meantime."
The coffee urn wasn't yet in operation, and Mr. Hinterburger seemed disposed to conversation as he fiddled with it. He volunteered,
"Now that Mr. Eliot seems to have disappeared, you'll need a new partner."
"Yes. It's not clear whether Eliot will ever come back."
"From what I hear, he won't. His wife will be looking for someone else, so you'd better be careful, Dr. Stowe."
"Well, Dr. Sam Woodger has been visiting her lately. I think I'm safe."
"Perhaps. Anyway, Mr. Rolfe is just pulling up."
Dr. Stowe went out to greet his new best friend. He was looking forward to witnessing Mr. Rolfe's reaction if, as seemed likely, they were the first to come upon the remains of Dr. Woodger.