An unconscious shiver loosened its grip on Manu Ginobili's spine. He remembered: the visitors' locker room in Detroit. His eyes struggled to focus through a fuzzy shadow. He had been talking to Pop, the Tarot cards... then what? Drinking?
In which Ginobili swats, Dracula spits, and Kobe doesn't know the game he's picked.
Manu watched Popovich pour a round from a fresh bottle into two paper Gatorade cups. Pop's eyes were completely black, as if the darkness lived inside his pupils. Pop gulped his Malbec. Ginobili watched his own hand reach for the other cup.
The Argentine knocked the cup over. The wine spilled with a hiss, burning a splash into the concrete. Manu swatted the cup from his Coach's hand, grabbed the bottle and hurled it against the far wall with a "¡Ya!"
There was no shatter, only negative hole devoid of sound, a silence -- the bottle vanished into the darkness. The Gatorade cups rattled on the floor.
"¡Basta con ..." Enough of what? Losing or something else? Something older, a hushed warning issued by abuelitas in his native Bahia Blanca? The first light of dawn wheedled its way into the locker room.
Pop continued to stare, Gino struggled lift him to his feet. The coach felt icey, his weight doubled. Manu did not know why, but he had to get Pop into the sunlight.
* * * * *
The Pacific outside the french doors stilled itself in deference to the Dark Prince's preference for silence. The 66.6" flat screen emitted a cold blue light, the only one allowed to burn on the 666 acre beach side estate. Dracula reclined on the Italian leather couch, his black Armani robe open. Following her Master's beckoning finger, a Laker Girl uncurled from a cat-like slumber to lay on her Master's lap. She undid the straps of her silk nightie, and swept back frosted hair to bare a still unmarked neck.
The Dark Lord muted the NBA league pass broadcast. He caressed his pet, working up a thirst, watching the Spurs lose to Oklahoma City, where ever that was... Manu had his jump shot blocked and fell to court. Dracula laughed.
The iron mind wandered: how could a dirt hole like Oklahoma have an NBA team when Transylvania did not? He would move the Lakers to Eastern Europe soon enough. The Dark Prince leaned in to leisurely sup.
With the Spurs down by one at the end of the third, Manu ran around the entire Oklahoma Thunder team to bank a reverse layup. Dracula spit out a mouthful of blood. It boiled on the marble floor.
Next quarter, Spurs up by only one and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma's 6'10" athletic super-star ,raced down the court for an easy bucket. Manu could barely keep pace. All Ginobili would do is get do is get dunked on Dracula thought and chuckled.
But for the impossible: Manu skyed to block the shot of a man four inches taller and ten years younger. At the apex, where Manu's hands met the ball, a golden light sparked to spread across the entire screen. Dracula shielded his eyes with a black sleeve and hissed. Spurs 95, Thunder 87.
Turning off the remote did not stop the light. The over-sized TV glowed like a miniature sun. The Dark Lord had to leave the room and shut the doors. The Argentine would suffer for his impudence. The Dark Prince strode to his practice court, steel claws texting his lackey Phil Jackson -- firm orders for a good opponent this time, not that idiot Bynum. The Dark Lord demanded a player worthy of his wrath.
* * * * *
Kobe Bryant parked his SUV in front of the stone estate. He had watched the tapes of Jordan vs. Dracula, nothing but black on black static punctuated by grunts and screams. Not much to go on, but no matter, Coach Jackson told him that the Master was ready for him. Ready to lose, Kobe smirked as he slammed the car door. He would prove that he is better than Jordan once and for all.