Short Story Saturday: The Price of Victory

Short Story Saturday: The Price of Victory - Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
as unPhoto by Pixabay from Pexels

Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled The Price of Victory. Loosely inspired by this prompt: Please enjoy.

It was an insult. A travesty. An outrage. To do such a thing to the world’s greatest goalkeeper, Juan Carlos Gabriel Martinez was unforgivable. They were bluffing. They must have been. The very gall, the very cheek of merely threatening to conduct such a heinous crime against an unparalleled star was a slap in the face. To actually go through with it was inconceivable.

He was having perhaps the greatest performance of any goalkeeper, nay, any player in World Cup history. Juan Carlos hadn’t even surrendered a single goal during the entire tournament, not even a penalty kick goal in the two games he played that went into penalties during the knockout round. This was an unprecedented feat, another one in a young but already storied career.

Juan Carlos was indeed a key part of the Manchester City Football Club’s Premier League championships, their UEFA Championship a year before, and a World Cup victory for his home country of Spain four years prior. Being awarded the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper for the third consecutive year was a testament to his contributions to those teams and helped in a microcosm describe his extraordinary career. A second World Cup title for the defending champion would be yet another proverbial feather in his cap.

Standing in his way was Digo Cardosa Rocha, a star of the Brazilian team who was for almost two decades considered the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the sport. Though the man was in the twilight of his venerable career, he was still a top-flight player and believed to be a formidable foe. Still, most sportswriters speculated that this match could prove to be the “passing of the torch” moment from Rocha to Martinez.

If it indeed was, it seemed that Rocha wasn’t going to let go of the torch without a fight. The World Cup Finals was instead proving to be something of his Magnum Opus. While Martinez certainly played at an exemplary level, the older player was his equal that day matching him save for save. Rocha even managed to make a couple of saves that made the younger man question whether he would have been able to do the same. Martinez then quickly concluded he would have been able to and that it was silly to doubt himself even for a second. The two men ultimately shut down every scoring chance their respective opponents had during the entirety of regulation and the two halves of extra time. With the score knotted at zero, it was time for penalty kicks.

With every kick, tension filled every heart within that stadium, from the players to the capacity crowd to even the billions watching on televisions across the globe. The offensive player normally had the advantage during penalties but on that night, one would have been forgiven if for a moment they believed the opposite was true. Normally at most a five round affair, not a single goal was surrendered. Good shots were attempted but each was thwarted due to some unprecedented feats of athleticism and skill exhibited by the two men. A sixth round was necessary to decide a victor, then. Then a seventh. Then an eight. Then a ninth. Then a tenth. As they headed into the eleventh round of penalties with the score still knotted at 0-0 it was clear that Rocha wasn’t quite ready to let go of the cliché.

A player from his Spanish side was lining up for his penalty kick when Juan Carlos received the news. Granted, he wasn’t sure what it was at first. All he knew was someone had hit his head with a wadded-up piece of paper from the stands. It was but one of many sent his way from the start of the match. He dismissed the previous ones as simply expressions of ire from the Brazilian fans. Hence, he was about to do the same to the one he received and was about to discard it when he noticed for the first time there was fresh bright red ink and frantic handwriting written within the crumples. Curiosity got the better of him, so he decided to smooth it out and read it.

“For the last time, we’ve kidnapped your wife. A lot of money has been wagered on this match. So for the love of God, give up a goal. Make sure your team loses. Or you will never see her again.”

Anger filled his breast as he looked towards the stands where his wife normally sat. The Norwegian beauty was nowhere to be found. How long she had been gone, he could not say. Juan Carlos had neglected to look for the woman before the game, a habit he formed during his amazing streak of games. For all he knew, she never arrived.

A cheer roared from the crowd. The Spanish defender who had taken the penalty kick had scored finally breaking the deadlock. He pumped his fists triumphantly as he celebrated his goal with his teammates. If Martinez saved the next shot or it otherwise did not go in, Spain would be victorious. Whether it would come at the expense of his wife’s well-being was still to be determined.

Many emotions vacillated as the goalkeeper positioned himself in front of his goal. He was enraged due to the sheer brazenness of the kidnapping. He was baffled by how such a terrible misdeed could happen to someone like him who was so good and modest. He was uncertain about his next course of action and didn’t have much time to think. He was afraid for his future. As his opponent lined up for the shot, Juan Carlos thought, for a moment, about intentionally letting him score.

He then thought of the night they were together on the Riviera when he handpicked an operatic gondola singer to serenade her on that romantic night. Of snorkeling with her along the coral reefs of Guana Island. Of riding into the sunset together in his yacht off the coast of Cayo Espanto, Belize. Of the Hollywood galas where his wife always arrived wearing some manner of Versace dress, designer hat, and expensive jewelry. Of the simple pleasure of spending a cool summer day wither at his multi-million dollar estate that was built along the Costa Blanca. Of sitting alone together on the overhang during the evening while being served lemonade and beer by one of many servants.

Juan Carlos shook the cobwebs out of his head. His expression turned to stone. He now knew what he must do.

His opponent delivered a thundering blow with his left foot towards the left corner of the goal. It was a risky endeavor as the penalty taker was naturally a righty but the gambit seemed initially to have paid off. The kick was a perfectly executed strike. A man would have had to have been clairvoyant to predict where the ball was headed. No one would blame him for allowing the score. It was far beyond anybody’s wildest expectations. Juan Carlos Gabriel Martinez was a good player, nay, he was the best, but he was still a man after all. He was not a god.

Or perhaps he was. After making a desperate leap and with the fingertips of his left hand, Juan Carlos barely managed to push the ball over the crossbar.

For a moment there was silence. Everyone was stunned that such an endeavor could be performed by a human being. Once the moment sank in, the crowd shouted a deafening cheer. Martinez’s teammates, as if in response, stormed the pitch to celebrate.

As the man was being carried off on his teammates’ shoulders, Juan Carlos reflected as he stared into the cloudless azure sky. Perhaps making the save wasn’t the right thing to do.

Had penalties extended to fifteen or even twenty rounds, it may have made the match that much greater and more epic. He shook his head immediately after and dismissed those thoughts. Juan Carlos reminded himself that much of the mystique of his performance came from not surrendering a goal. Not just during regulation and extra time, mind you, but even during the penalty kick rounds. The moment had already reached its apex. Allowing the goal would have only tarnished a legendary performance.

He certainly did not regret his actions when it came to the potential well-being of his wife. The note was a ruse, after all, and even if it wasn’t, losing wasn’t worth the financial risk. True, had he lost he still would have earned a multitude of endorsements. His play warranted that much. A victory, though, ensured he would only garner the most lucrative offers. It also left him in the proverbial driver’s seat when it came time to renew his contract with Manchester City or negotiate with someone else if they were too cheap to foot the bill. Incidentally, his timing could not have been more perfect. His contract expired at the end of the year.

Juan Carlos would miss his wife, sure, assuming the note wasn’t a mere hoax. Yet, such feelings would quickly pass as he was sure he’d be able to attract another woman in short order, one of equal beauty if not more so. He was Juan Carlos Gabriel Martinez, after all.

Besides, he would miss the luxury that his career afforded him far more than a relatively trivial thing like Holy Matrimony. Any risk to the lifestyle he had grown accustomed to, no matter how small, was not worth it. Moreover, if his wife really had been kidnapped or worse, he would garner sympathy and even more attention from the already sycophantic media. A smile crept onto his face upon thinking that venal thought. He almost hoped the note writer would make good on his threat.

As he continued to celebrate with his teammates, Juan Carlos Gabriel Martinez knew he made the right decision for his career, his financial well-being, and his legacy. If his actions cost him his wife, so be it. Sacrificing her was the price of victory.

If you enjoyed this story, then perhaps you’d be interested in reading more by pressing the “short story” tag below or clicking this(short story) link or this(genre and tags) link or this(story list) link. I would also urge you to share this story with others and comment below. Please check out my books page as well by pressing here. Thank you for reading my story.


2 thoughts on “Short Story Saturday: The Price of Victory

  • I guess he was a true professional. But was the wife killed? We may never know. This was a rather unusual story, but I liked it.

    • I like to think that the wife was testing her husband to see how much he truly loved her. Obviously, he passed with flying colors. Thanks for reading!

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