Third Time's the Charm
(c)2000 Jim Farris, All Rights Reserved.
Rita Mahoney was an ace reporter with the
Daily Herald, trying to land her dream-job - a position at
the sports desk. Her first assignment? Interview
Tony D'Tillo, a hulking, mysogynistic boxer who hated her on
first sight. Yet, there was something more to this
hulking woman-hater than met the eye... Something
deeper, which would touch Rita's soul and change her life
A swiftly-paced Contemporary Romance, 'Third Time's theCharm'
tells the story of a man torn by two worlds and haunted by
his past, and the woman who steps into his life and heals his
"Third Time's the Charm"
manager took one look at Rita and shook his head. "He'll
eat you alive, lady," he replied, then burst out
Why?" Rita asked, surprised. 'Damn - my first major
break, after years of nagging my
editor to transfer me to Sports instead of the Entertainment
column, and this is what I get?'
Rita tried to
keep her expression smooth as she waited for Mr. Carstairs,
the manager of Carstairs' Gym, to stop laughing long enough
to answer. Behind her, through the open door that led into
the small, grimy office decorated with no less than twelve
(she counted) nude calendars, Rita could hear the steady rattatta-rattatta-rattatta
of the speed bag being worked over by some young hopeful, and
the low thump-thump-thump of another working on the
heavy bag. Rita found the calendars offensive, particularly
the current one, Playmates of 2004. 'Miss April' may
have been sexy to Carstairs, but to Rita, it was blatantly
lewd and crude. Rita tried not to breathe in the pungent,
sweaty air of the gym too deeply as she waited for Carstairs
to finally stop laughing.
lady! You may as well ask to interview a tiger in the zoo -
even if you live, the tiger still ain't gonna say
nothin'," he finally said, wiping tears of laughter from
his bald, wrinkled face.
- but why?" Rita insisted.
you're a woman!" he replied, still chuckling.
"Don't you know nothin' about Tony?"
that's why I'm here to interview him. All I know is that he's
thirty-two, an up-and-coming boxer, turned pro four years ago
at age twenty-eight, and in a month he'll be fighting a match
that could put him on the track to the heavyweight title, if
he wins. If I already knew what I needed to know, I wouldn't
be here, now would I?" Rita replied dryly.
grinned. "I like you, lady. You got moxie," he
said, and reached into his the pocket of his shirt, producing
a pack of Camels. "I'm tellin' you, though, you ain't
gonna get nothin' outta him, and might just get your
head bit off tryin'. Go back to your paper, lady, and tell
your editor to give this job to a man."
Rita shook her
head. "No way," she replied defiantly, and stifled
her reaction at Carstairs lighting his cigarette. It was his
office, she supposed he could do whatever he wanted here.
"So why is he like that? Why does he not like women
hell, lady - it's not women reporters. It's women in general.
Tony D'Tillo hates all of you," Carstairs
replied, blowing a plume of smoke from his first drag.
figures,' Rita thought. 'My first assignment, and
Sam gives me a boxer who hates women.' Rita resisted the
urge to wave her hand before her face and try to clear the
smoke - it wasn't like the air in here was particularly fresh
in the first place. "Why is he like that? Is he
stared at her for a moment with an astonished expression,
then burst out laughing again. "Oh, lady! You go ask
that to his face - just give me a few minutes to call the
ambulance before you do, alright?"
getting nowhere here,' Rita realized. Looking around in
the office, she spotted an autographed baseball on top of a
cabinet behind Carstairs. "Hey - is that Joe DiMaggio's
autograph?" she asked, grasping at straws.
what's it to you?" Carstairs asked, suspiciously.
"I'm not selling it, if that's what you're
just that he's always been my favorite player. Joseph Paul
DiMaggio, the 'Yankee Clipper'," Rita replied,
and put a nostalgic look on her face. "One of the
greatest, if not the greatest outfielder in
baseball history, and definitely the best all-'round player
in the forties. Played minor league in 'Frisco, then got
snapped up by the Yankees. Between '36 and '51 when he
retired, he helped the Yankees win ten AL championships and
nine World Series titles, though he was in the military when
they won the pennant in '43. In '39 and '40, he led the AL in
batting, with averages of .381 and .352 - his career mark was
.352, making him one of the best hitters ever to play, too.
Hit safe in 56 consecutive games between May 15th
and July 16th of '41. He played outfield so
relaxed, some people thought he was lazy."
wasn't, though! He was just damn good!"
Carstairs replied, grinning.
betcher ass, bud," Rita replied, which caused Carstairs
to chuckle again. "Got MVP three times, in '39, '41 and
'47, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in '55. His brothers
Vincent Paul and Dominic Paul were also major league
outfielders, but they never really did manage to step out of
the big shadow Joe cast behind him."
they were good, too. But Joltin' Joe was the best. So sad
that he's gone, now," Carstairs said with a sigh.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up and marry him.
It didn't work out, though - after Marilyn, he wasn't
interested in marrying again," Rita replied with a
looked up at her, and burst out laughing again. "Oh,
come on! You weren't even a gleam in your ol' man's eye when
Joe retired, if that! I'm sixty-six - I remember watching him
play when I was... Eight or ten, I think. But you? You can't
be more than thirty."
I'm thirty-four. But hey - a girl can dream, can't she?"
Rita replied with a grin.
guess you can," he replied, nodding and glancing over
his shoulder to his nude calendars. "Tell you what - you
can dream about Joe, and I'll dream about Marilyn,
okay?" he asked, grinning.
Rita replied. 'Bingo - she shoots, she scores!' she
thought to herself. It wasn't by chance she knew DiMaggio's
career statistics, nor was it some feminist impulse that had
made her push for a transfer to the Sports desk. Rita Mahoney
had always loved sports - all sports - ever since she was a
little girl, and she'd even played women's basketball in high
school and college. She'd always been a bit of a 'tomboy' in
that regard. She loved sports as much as any man she knew,
and knew more about sports stats than most men did. Rita read
the sports page as devoutly as many other women read the
fashion or society pages - though she read the fashion pages
to keep up with the latest trends, of course. Over the years,
she'd found that sports made a great way to 'break the ice'
with men, though in the end, her knowledge of sports often
ruined an otherwise perfect relationship. Most men can't
stand dating a woman who can argue sports stats with them -
siddown a minute. I'll try to tell you what I know of Tony
the Tiger, okay?"
good to me," Rita replied, and took a seat in the
rickety chair before Carstairs' desk.
Now, you gotta unnerstan' he wasn't always like this. He was
once a real nice guy. You know - opens doors for the ladies,
gets up when they come into a room, yadda yadda. Got the
picture?" he asked, and Rita nodded while he continued.
"Well, about two years ago, somethin' happened. Nobody
around here knows what. He was gone for about six months.
Didn't show up to work out, nothin'. I caught him on the
street one day, so I asks him. 'Tony,' I says, 'Why
you haven't been around?' 'Al,' he says back,
'I got a girl. First in a long, long time. She needs me, Al.
Can't work and take care of her and be at the gym, too.
Something had to give.' I want to ask him more, but he's
in a rush," Carstairs explained, and paused to pull out
another Camel and light up before he resumed his story.
thinking 'This must be serious, he's given up boxing, and
that was his life.' Still, nobody sees him around here.
Maybe his friends over on Clancy street see him, but not
around here. Then, one day, he just walks back in like
nothing happened. Well, the word's gotten around that he had
a girl, you know? So one of the boys asks him about it. POW!"
Carstairs exclaimed, clapping his fist into his palm for
emphasis. "Broke Johnny's jaw, knocked him out cold.
Anybody who asks him about his girl - same thing. And when
some of the boys have their girlfriends visit them
here..," he said, his voice trailing off. Carstairs
shook his head. "You can just feel it. You can
see it in his eyes. He hates them. All of
them," he said, then looked into Rita's eyes. "It's
no good, lady. Give it up. He ain't gonna talk to you - and
he might just knock your pretty little block off if you say
the wrong thing. Yeah, he's on his way up. He might even make
heavyweight champ in a few years. But lady, you haven't seen
him in the ring, I'll bet."
seen him fight. I got tickets to his last bout two months ago
- he was on the ticket with another boxer I was interested in
seeing," Rita replied.
chuckled. "A dame who likes sports. Now I've seen
everything," he muttered, then shook his head.
"Well, if you've seen that fight, then you know what I'm
talking about. The man is an animal. He hits so hard it makes
Tyson's punches look like love-taps. He knocked Eddie Fisher,
the guy he was fighting then, right out of the whole damn
ring! Did you see that when you saw that fight?"
Bell rings, three quick jabs to push him back to the side of
the ring, a body blow that doubled Fisher over and knocked
him into the ropes, then a right cross that sent Fisher
between the ropes and down to the floor. Ref couldn't stop it
when Fisher hit the ropes, even if he wanted to - it just
happened too fast. Fisher had a broken rib from where D'Tillo
punched him, and a broken elbow from hitting the floor."
right. That's why I'm telling you, lady - don't mess with
him. Just go back to your paper and tell your editor to send
a man out to do the job. You ask him the wrong thing, and
he's likely to put you in the hospital with one punch. The
man is an animal."
I'm not giving up," Rita replied firmly. "So when
does he usually come in?"
sighed. "Okay, lady. It's your funeral," he said,
and pointed behind Rita, out the open door. "See that
big gorilla in the black turtleneck walking towards the
and looked over her shoulder, out the door. "That's
him?" she asked, spotting an enormous, black-haired man
in a crew-cut on the other side of the gym, walking with his
back to her, a gym-bag under one arm.
just walked in while you and I were talking. Give him a few
minutes to change, then you can try to talk to him in the
gym. I'll stay here by the phone so's I can call an ambulance
after he decks you."
back to look at Carstairs, and was a little shocked when she
saw his expression - he wasn't joking. He was deadly serious.
"He-he hasn't actually punched a woman, has he?"
I know of, no. But then again, none of the gals who sometimes
visit here ever get close enough to find out if he will or
not. Trust me, lady - you can see it in his eyes. He hates
you. All of you."
"Well, I'll just have to be careful, then," she
replied, and stood, holding out her hand.
rose, shaking her hand gently. "It's been nice knowing
Rita went back
out into the gym, and waited. She tried to remain calm, but
it was extremely difficult. 'Come on, Rita. He
can't be that bad. If he was really
a monster, even Carstairs wouldn't let him in here - he does
have a reputation to maintain, after all,' she thought
minutes later, Tony "The Tiger" D'Tillo stepped out
from the locker room and strode over to the speed bag. He was
wearing black Nike's with white stripes, black shorts and a
black 'muscle' shirt. He also had a tiny black pager clipped
to the waist of his shorts, small enough to fit in Rita's
hand - though who might want to page this gorilla, Rita had
no idea. He seemed totally consumed, his eyes focused only on
the bag. The bantam-weight hopeful that was carefully and
precisely swatting at the bag sensed more than saw the
looming shadow behind him, and stopped. He turned, saw Tony
behind him, and blanched. "Oh - sorry, Tony. I guess I'm
done for now. I can use the other speed bag over there,"
he said, gesturing with gloves that seemed comically large on
alright, Jack. I can wait," Tony replied, in a voice
that sounded to Rita like nothing more than a deep growl.
really. Go ahead, Tony," the smaller man replied,
smiling weakly as he backed away.
Jack," Tony replied, and after taking a moment to adjust
the height of the bag to about his head level, he began
methodically bashing away at it. Rita noticed he wasn't
wearing gloves over his ham-sized fists - he merely started
unabashedly at the man. He was, in a word, huge. She hadn't
really been able to tell when she saw him fight two months
ago, as her seat hadn't been that close to the ring. Now,
less than fifteen feet from the man, she realized just how
huge he really was. Rita guessed, since he appeared to be at
least a head and a half taller than her, that he was probably
about six foot six. In build, Carstairs hadn't been too far
off with his 'gorilla' remark. He was enormously
broad-shouldered, with a physique that made Swartzenegger
look like a 98-pound weakling. 'Steroids, I guess,'
Rita thought to herself. His face, though, caught her eye
more than did his massive, rippling muscles. It wasn't that
his face was ugly, per se, Rita realized - it was actually
quite a handsome italian face. No, it was the scar.
He had an ugly
scar that ran from above his left eye, across the bridge of
his nose, down under his right eye and to the right corner of
his mouth. Rita couldn't tell what it was from, but it
certainly looked frightening. The scar twisted the right
corner of his mouth downwards slightly, to where it always
looked like he was frowning. The only other defect he had
that Rita could see was that the knuckles of his hands had
enormous calluses over them, but that wasn't unusual for a
With a sudden
motion that startled Rita so badly she nearly leapt out of
her skin, Tony clapped both his hands around the speed bag,
stilling it instantly. He then slowly turned to her, and
glared down at her. "Why are you staring at me?" he
Rita stammered, then composed herself with an effort.
"Mr. D'Tillo, I'm Rita Mahoney of the Daily Herald.
I was wondering if I might interview you for the sports
column of our paper."
down at Rita, and she blanched slightly. The expression on
his face was not a pleasant one - Rita imagined it
was the look Tony might give a cockroach, just before he
stepped on it.
alone," he rumbled, and glowered at her menacingly.
Rita backed up
a step, her heart pounding. Tony simply turned back to the
speed bag, and resumed methodically bashing it. Rita felt a
touch at her elbow, and jumped. She turned - it was
to tell you. You're lucky, I guess - no broken bones,"
Carstairs replied, grinning at her fear. He then looked Past
Rita's shoulder. "Hey, Tony? Where's Frankie
emphysema is bothering him. Got some kind of lung infection
yesterday. He's in the hospital. Doctor says he'll be out in
a couple weeks. You should lay off those cigarettes, Al, or
you'll be joining him someday," Tony replied. After a
moment, dawned on Rita that the same voice he'd used with
Jack and Al was the same one he'd used with her - a deep,
rumbling growl. Either he was angry all the time, or that
simply was the way he normally sounded. Judging by what
Carstairs had said, she was betting it was most likely the
Frankie?" Rita asked quietly.
trainer, Frankie Fiarello," Carstairs replied
offhandedly, then shrugged. "Well, lady, whatcha gonna
do now? Risk bothering him again, or give up?"
back to Tony, who apparently had resumed his focused
concentration on the speed bag, and was totally ignoring her.
'Jesus God. He really does hate
women. I wonder why?' she thought to herself. She shook
her head, and turned to Carstairs. "Well, for now I'm
going back to my editor."
"Ah - get
a man to do the job? That's best."
Rita frowned -
the failure at her first assignment for the sports desk stung
her pride. "Maybe. I don't know yet. I'll see you later,
lady," he replied, chuckling.
Available now from DiskUs
"This was a thoroughly
enjoyable and highly entertaining book. I especially enjoyed
the way Rita learned that appearances are not always what
they seem and that Tony learned all women are not alike. I
look forward to reading more of J. Farris' work."
~~ Kathy Boswell, The Best
Reviews, Member, Reviewers International Organization (RIO)
***** Outstanding! The author
did a bang-up good job on this story! And the ending ROCKS!
HUNTRESS BOOK REVIEWS
(Reviewed by Detra Fitch) http://www.huntressreviews.com/emodern.htm
"Farris delivers a one-two punch
straight to the heart with Third Time's the Charm,
creating dynamic characters you'll cheer for and a plot that
keeps you on the edge of your chair. It's a knockout!"
Leta Nolan Childers, Best-selling author of Best