Alan Saxon, pro golfer and amateur sleuth, has hit rock bottom. After a disastrous season on the golf circuit, he is hounded by his bank, harassed by his ex-wife and on the verge of losing his current girlfriend. So, when his friend and fellow pro golfer, Zuke Everett, invites him to trade another dreary English winter for a tournament at the posh new Golden Haze Golf Club in sunny California, he leaps at the chance.
However, Saxon soon finds himself enmeshed in a tenacious web of violence and intrigue as he attempts to find his friend's killer and free himself from suspicion. Beatings, betrayal and police badgering are par for this, the most treacherous course of Saxon's life.
Double Eagle, Miles' second Saxon mystery, with its clever plotting, humor and breathless suspense, will delight readers - whether they golf or not.
About the Author
Keith Miles, who lives in England, is the author of more than thirty mysteries, one of which, written as Edward Marston, was nominated for a prestigious Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. He has also written more than forty original plays for radio, TV, and the theater; worked as a story editor for a movie company; and run his own professional theater group.
Read an Excerpt
I've never liked bank managers and I'm bound to admit that they've never really taken to me. Our relationship is doomed from the start. I'm just not their type. What they want are people who deposit more money than they withdraw, self-respecting citizens who are dependable, well-behaved and responsible. I fail on all three counts.
When you try to make a living as a professional golfer, you have to take the rough with the heavy rough. In my case, it's made me about as dependable as a three-legged racehorse and forced me into all kinds of erratic behaviour. As for being responsible, it's an attitude that I simply can't afford most of the time.
The net result is that the average earthquake has more stability than my bank balance. I inhabit a precarious world. The only thing I earn on a regular basis is Bad Risk status. It's the main reason that bank managers don't find me very appealing.
Donnelly is a typical example of the breed. Smug, watchful, offensively polite. He waved me into his office with a podgy hand.
'Come in, Mr. Saxon.'
'Happy New Year!'
'That's up to you.'
'Yes.' His false affability vanished at once. 'Have a seat,' he said, resting back in his own chair. 'This won't take long.'
I got the message. Evidently I was being fitted in between two much more important customers. Solvent ones.
While Donnelly looked through my crime dossier,I sat down and glanced around the featureless room. It had an overwhelming sense of order to it. Desk, chairs, filing cabinets, small table, computer, fitted carpet. Bare walls apart from a hideous calendar with a coloured photograph of the Tower of London as its illustration of the month. I tried to remember if it had ever been used as a debtors' prison.
'You didn't need to see me about this,' decided my host with suppressed irritation. 'Mr. Rhodes could have taken care of it.'
'But he couldn't,' I said. 'Mr. Rhodes is only an assistant manager and I wanted the top dog. I'm tired of being palmed off with one of your underlings.'
'I can't be expected to handle every account personally,' he retorted, his flabby cheeks quivering. 'You were passed on to Mr. Rhodes because he deals with this particular area.'
'And what area is that, Mr. Donnelly?'
'Minor disasters.' His eye fell on my file once more and he let out a sigh. 'This does not make happy reading.'
'Christmas has been a very difficult time for me. I had a lot of additional expenses. You know how it is.' He nodded grimly. Bank managers know everything. 'Things should even out a bit now,' I added, injecting a buoyant optimism into my voice. 'They always have in the past.'
'That is patently not true, Mr. Saxon,' he argued, flicking through the pages. 'Over the last few years, your current account has been consistently high on our problem list. You seem to have no idea how to organise your finances.'
'My income is a trifle irregular, that's all.'
'Doesn't it worry you?'
I shrugged. 'It terrifies me. I'm tortured with anxiety. I make at least three suicide attempts a week.'
'This is not a laughing matter,' he chided, then he leaned over the desk towards me. 'Have you never thought of using an accountant?'
'I've had several but they never seem to last the pace.'
Another sigh. 'That doesn't surprise me.'
'Mr. Donnelly,' I said, stating my case in plain terms, 'all I ask for is a little understanding and compassion. Bear with me for a short while and I'm certain that everything will sort itself out to our mutual satisfaction. Brighter days lie ahead.' A thought nudged me. 'Oh, and I'd be grateful if you could have a word with young Rhodes about his itchy trigger finger.'
'Yes. As soon as my account is overdrawn by the tiniest sum, he shoots from the hip and fires off a warning letter. And he doesn't use blanks either! Where do you train your staffthe OK Corral?'
'Our computer monitors any over-spending,' he explained, wearily. 'Letters are printed out automatically. Mr. Rhodes merely has to sign them. Besides ...' His third sigh explored a whole new octave of regret. 'Besides, Mr. Saxon, we're not talking about an account being overdrawn. We're discussing an overdraft facility which has beento put it mildlycruelly abused.'
'Christmas comes but once a year,' I reminded him.
He sat back heavily and appraised me with that mixture of antagonism and bewilderment that I have put on so many faces in the banking fraternity. Donnelly resented me because I came between him and his complacence.
'Do you have any other assets?' he asked, bluntly.
'Fourteen golf clubs and a winning smile.'
'What about property, investments, stocks and shares, premium bonds, accounts with building societies and so on?'
'Nothing,' I admitted. 'Apart from a controlling interest in ICI and the two million quid I've got stashed away in Switzerland.' I flashed my winning smile but it lost out immediately. 'Last year was a bad one, Mr. Donnelly: this one will be much better.'
'How do you know that?'
'I have this sixth sense.'
An acerbic note intruded. 'It's never seemed to work before.'
'Now, that's unfair!' I protested.
'This is not the first time you've assured us that your financial situation was going to improve, Mr. Saxon, but we're still waiting for the great day to dawn.'
Anger reduced me to pomposity. 'It may interest you to know that I've had some highly successful seasons as a tournament golfer.'
'Not since you became a customer here.'
'Those two facts may not be unrelated, Mr. Donnelly!'
'So you think we've brought you bad luck, do you?' he blustered.
'Let's just say that you'd never pass for a rabbit's foot.'
Covert dislike had now matured into open hostility and we glared at each other across the desk. When I had reached this point with previous bank managers, they usually invited me to leave the premises for good and to take my account with me. Donnelly resisted the temptation and sought instead to wound my pride.
'What puzzles me is why you didn't save more when you were actually making it,' he observed with condescension. 'I believe you were quite famous twenty-odd years ago.'
'Very famous,' I replied with measured calm. 'And it wasn't that far back.'
'So what happened?'
'Marriage. A child. Divorce. Three giant steps towards total bankruptcy.' I shook my head dismissively. 'But that's my problem.'
'And ours, Mr. Saxon. For the time being.' He pursed his lips and stole another glance at my file. Then he came to a decision. 'I will give you one last chance.'
'Thank you,' I murmured.
'We'll increase the overdraft facility by £500but only temporarily. The bank is not prepared to go on subsidising your financial mismanagement. You must get your act together.'
'How long have I got?'
'It'll be enough,' I promised.
'It had better be. If we don't see a marked improvement by the end of that period ...'
'You'll start bouncing my cheques like beach balls.'
'We'll do much more than that,' he threatened. A curt nod signalled that the interview was over. 'Goodbye, Mr. Saxon.'
'Goodbye.' I was on my feet at once.
'Oh, one thing ...'
'Yes?' I paused at the door.
'Have you ever considered giving up golf altogether? Before it gives you up, I mean?' He smirked at me. 'Have you?'
'Then what makes you keep on playing?'
'People like you, Mr. Donnelly.'
'I enjoy proving you wrong.'
Before he could answer, I went out of the office at speed.
When I left the bank and stepped out into the street, cold air hit me like a slap in the face. I suddenly realised what I had done. With the easy confidence of a man who has unlimited funds at his disposal, I had blithely undertaken the Herculean labour of sorting out my money worries in a mere six weeks. It was like volunteering to pay off the national debt by the following Saturday. I quailed.
The first few flakes of snow began to fall rather aimlessly out of a swollen sky but I hardly noticed them. Inside my head, a blizzard was raging. I walked along the pavement in a daze.
There was, of course, a solution.
That's what I kept telling myself, anyway. All I had to do was to play four brilliant rounds of golf and earn a large, life-saving cheque. It sounded so easy. Unfortunately, I wouldn't even get the chance until the Safari Tour started in the middle of February. Over a month away. And leaving aside the vexed question of how I'd raise the cash to get to Lagos to compete in the Nigerian Open, there was the problem of my persistent lack of form. It had dogged me for the best part of a year.
Could I still turn it on when it really mattered?
I consoled myself with the thought that I had actually played four superb rounds the previous summer. Each one was a gem that sparkled in the memory. Powerful drives, brave approach shots, deadly putts. Vintage Alan Saxon. Had those four rounds been in the same tournament, I would undoubtedly have won it by a record margin.
As it was, each day of magic had occurred in a separate event. A single immaculate round had not been enough to redeem the three indifferent ones with which it was partnered. In each tournament, I finished out of the money and out of sorts with myself.
Why should it be any different in Nigeria?
This mood of fatalism took me around a corner and into the side street where I had parked Carnoustie. Snowflakes were settling gently on her windscreen. She looked cold, bored, neglected. I unlocked the door and got in behind the driving wheel. After switching off the alarm system, I turned on the ignition and moved slowly away. When I reached the junction with the main road, Carnoustie stalled.
I gunned the engine again, waited for a gap and then swung left. Carnoustie responded without enthusiasm. A motor caravan is not the ideal means of transport in suburban London on a busy afternoon. Instead of picking my way through heavy traffic in a bulky vehicle, I could have come in by train. It would have been much quicker and far more restful. But it would also have exposed me.
In becoming Open Champion up at Carnoustie all those years ago, I did more than just find a name for the Bedford Adventura that is now my home. At a stroke283 strokes, to be preciseI changed from private man into public property. My unusual height and prematurely grey hair made me instantly recognisable and thus a ready target for the total stranger with the knowing grin. Fame is trial by ordeal.
As a result, I've learned to hide my grey hair beneath a hat and to travel in the secrecy of my mobile refuge. Only a stern summons from the bank could have got me into London at all. I tend to keep a very low profile. So does my income.
At the first set of traffic lights, Carnoustie stalled again. I gave her some choke, coaxed the engine back into life and edged forward with caution. Carnoustie was long overdue for a major service and she took every opportunity to remind me of the fact. I would have to nurse her carefully. It was going to be a long journey to St Albans but I had plenty to think about on the way.
I had reached crisis point.
It was not only my bank balance that was ruinously overdrawn. My emotional capital was severely depleted as well. Christmas was to blame. The festive season beganas it always doeswith a vicious wrangle about how and when I could see Lynette. My teenage daughter is eager to be with me and I'm desperate to spend time with her but there's a brick wall between us.
Rosemary. My ex-wife.
You never get divorced from a woman like Rosemary. All you do is to redefine the marriage. Though we haven't lived together for a number of years, she remains as crucial a part of my world as ever. A subversive presence. The court awarded her custody of our only child and the right to supervise my access to Lynette. She takes full advantage of that right.
Christmas always brings out the worst in her and she had a special reason for being obstructive this time. Katie. I should have known that Rosemary would never understand someone like her. It was a mistake even to try to explain.
Katie Billings had brought sunshine back into my life for the past three months. Her charms are not immediately apparent. Tall, willowy and red-headed, she has the kind of subdued loveliness that creeps up on you and catches you unawares. It certainly took me by surprise. We met at a party in Hatfield given by some mutual friends. At the beginning of the evening, I hardly noticed Katie. She looked rather dull and submissive. By the end of the party, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the room and I was lucky enough to drive her back to her house in St Albans.
She invited me in for coffee. I'm still there.
What I like about Katie is her devastating honesty. She has no time for those petty evasions and half-truths and wilful self-delusions that the rest of us seem to need. Over medium roast percolated coffee, she explained that she was a personnel officer in a local factory and that she was only interested in serious long-term relationships with men. Having recently parted from her live-in lover, she was now searching for his replacement. Later that night, she interviewed me for the post. By morning I had got it.
The honeymoon continued for week after glorious week. I came to believe that I could stay with her forever. Katie Billings had all the qualities I admire in a woman, including an ability to see me in the kindest possible light. Alsoa decisive factorshe wore silk pyjamas. I was hooked.
Then came my tactical error. I whisked her off to a quiet hotel in the Cotswolds for a romantic away-from-it-all Christmas. With a reckless disregard for the tremors if would send through my bank account, I booked the suite with the fourposter and had a bottle of their best champagne awaiting us in an ice bucket. A frenzy of last-minute spending bought me armfuls of presents to shower upon her.
It should have been the most perfect Christmas.
Instead, it was a disaster. While we could be relaxed and happy in a semi-detached house in St Albans, a quiet hotel in the Cotswolds made us tense and furtive. We had lost the very domesticity that had drawn us together.
Besides, Katie had wanted Christmas at home. Sainsbury's turkey with all the trimmings. Christmas pudding served with flaming brandy. Wine, crackers, laughter, celebration. Gentle love-making in front of the James Bond film on the felly. Washing up together.
We stayed one night at the hotel then cut our losses. I never did get to enjoy the wondrous combination of silk pyjamas and fourposter. The honeymoon was over. My days were numbered.
As I drove back to St Albans now, I wondered how much longer it would last. Donnelly gave me six weeks: would Katie allow me as much time as that? I doubted it.
The snow had thickened now, road conditions worsened and the British motorist was given every chance to prove just how stupid and inconsiderate he can be. As Carnoustie chugged along in low gear, we passed various examples of the national death wish. Some cars had collided head-on, others had merely exchanged dents and a lorry had spun off the road. At a major intersection, a bakery van had somehow managed to overturn itself. Delays were inevitable. Frustration levels were high. It was early evening before we finally reached the familiar cul-de-sac and groaned to a halt.
Katie owned a small, neat, modern house in red brick. I let myself in, put on the lights and basked in the warmth of the central heating. The telephone rang on the hall table. I lifted the receiver with a gloved hand.
'Alan?' The voice was unmistakable. 'Is that you?'
'How the hell did you get this number?' I demanded.
'That doesn't matter,' said Rosemary in her usual brisk way. 'I rang to let you know that Lynette has decided to go back to school a few days early.'
'But I haven't seen her properly.'
'That's not my fault.'
'Of course it is. You do your damnedest to keep us apart!'
'Please don't shout,' she replied with irritating coolness.
'I'm entitled to have access to my own daughter.'
'It just hasn't proved feasible this holiday.'
'Rosemary, we have a spare bedroom here,' I argued. 'Lynette could have stayed as long as she wished.'
'I'm not letting her share a house with you and one of your lady friends. Think of the effect it might have on her.'
Excerpted from Double Eagle by Keith Miles. Copyright © 1987 by Keith Miles. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.