Just When I Thought I Knew...
by Judith Freudenthal
2000

Schanke settled into his recliner to watch the Leafs game, chips and soda as the perfect munchies. He wished his wife and daughter could be there with him but they were visiting friends.

Schanke nearly choked on his soda when the camera showed Nick and Natalie watching the game from rather good seats.

The next evening, Natalie entered the precinct and headed over for Nick and Schanke.

"Nick, you think they have a chance to win?" Schanke said, knowing there was another game tomorrow night.

"Yeah."

"Who?" Natalie asked, curious.

"The Leafs," Schanke said.

"I think they'll win. Did you see the game last night?" Natalie asked.

"Yeah. I wish I'd had tickets," Schanke said. "I couldn't believe it when I looked up and saw you and Nick onscreen."

Natalie grinned mischievously.

"How'd you get such good tickets?" Schanke asked.

"I bought them for us," Nick said.

Schanke grinned. "Not exactly where I'd go on a date."

"It wasn't a date. We're just good friends," Nick replied.

Detective Peterson approached Nick, Schanke and Natalie on his way back to his desk.

"Schanke, any word on when the precinct team tryouts are?" Peterson asked.

"Next week, I think," Schanke said.

"Ours are tomorrow. I hope I get off on time," Natalie said, enjoying the surprised look on her friends' faces.

"You're trying out?" Schanke asked.

"Yeah."

"You can skate?"

"Been doing it since I was five. I strapped on my first pair of hockey skates at eight. Richie wanted to learn how to skate so he could join the neighborhood team. I taught him everything he knew."

"This I have to see," Schanke said.

"How about you and me at the rink after work today?" Natalie said, grinning mischievously. "You can skate, can't you?"

"Of course I can. I'll see you there."

"Need a referee?" Nick asked. He knew this was too good to pass up.

"Sure. You can be impartial, right?" Schanke inquired.

"Yes," Nick said. "If I sided with one of you against the other I know I'd be in trouble."

"You have played hockey before, right?" Schanke asked.

"Yes. Since I was eight. How about you," she said with a wicked grin.

"Yes, I've played. Like you, I grew up playing hockey every winter."

"I'll meet you at the rink about half an hour after the end of our shift," Natalie said. "Here's the Grundy file."

"Thanks," Nick said as he took the file.

About half an hour after their shift finished, Nick, Natalie and Schanke pulled into the parking lot of the enclosed ice rink. Luckily for them, the rink was usually deserted at this hour.

Natalie and Schanke pulled their equipment bags from their trunks. Natalie grabbed a puck from her bag and slipped it into her pocket.

"You ready?" Natalie asked.

Schanke began to wonder if he'd made a mistake, but wasn't about to let anyone know.

"You bet," Schanke said.

The three friends headed for the entrance. They were dressed in t-shirts, jeans with a sweatshirt on top.

Nick and Natalie were both curious to see how well Schanke skated. Schanke was just as curious how well his friends skated.

Nick rented skates and a helmet as he didn't own either. He knew he didn't need the helmet, but it was the mortal thing to do.

Nick, Natalie and Schanke sat on the bench and laced up their skates, making sure they fit just right.

"This will be a good warm up for tomorrow's try outs. I haven't played much lately due to my schedule," Natalie said.

"Let's make this more interesting, shall we?" Schanke inquired.

"What did you have in mind?" Natalie asked as she strapped on her helmet, not willing to risk needless injury from the puck.

"Loser buys breakfast," Schanke said as he too slipped into his helmet, pretty much for the same reasons.

"Fair enough," Natalie said. "To ten points?"

"Okay," Schanke agreed.

Natalie and Schanke grabbed their sticks and headed out onto the ice, with Nick right behind them.

Nick had never been on ice before like this and found it most interesting. It was very slippery. He wondered if he'd be as graceful if he didn't have his vampire abilities. He found it interesting how the one slender blade supported his weight and didn't require too much effort to balance. Not to mention how little effort it took to glide along the surface.

The threesome were pleased to have the entire rink to themselves. They skated around for about ten minutes before they were ready to start. Natalie and Schanke faced off in the center of the rink.

"Which end do you want?" Natalie asked.

"That one is fine with me," Schanke said as he pointed to the far goal.

"Fine."

"Play fair," was all Nick said before he dropped the puck and got out of the way.

Schanke was the first to get his stick against the puck and took off for Natalie's goal. She was right on his heels.

Nick stayed close enough to observe, but out of the way.

Natalie stole the puck and headed for the opposite end.

Play continued for about ten minutes, the puck going back and forth before Schanke regained control, and tried for a goal.

"Yes!" Schanke said before Natalie's quick move retrieved the puck from the goal.

Nick and Natalie were surprised Schanke had scored the first goal.

Natalie and Schanke battled it out for several minutes before Natalie retained control long enough to score.

A few minutes later she scored a second goal.

Schanke gained control of the puck and tried for a goal. A last second block by Natalie deflected it. She gained control and headed for the other end of the rink. Schanke's stick just barely missed the puck as it whizzed by, stopping only when caught by the goal's net.

Schanke was quick enough to regain control of the puck and headed for his goal. He was not about to let her beat him. She tried to steal the puck and was successful. Schanke quickly regained control of the puck and scored.

Nick was surprised as both his friends were seriously battling. Each was totally determined to win. Natalie and Schanke remembered that the game was for fun. All three were surprised by their friends' skating abilities.

The score stayed within a point or two depending on who'd scored most recently. Schanke had scored three points to Natalie's one point. Schanke was currently ahead as the score was five to four.

Natalie quickly evened the score with a trick shot.

"Nice shot," Schanke said.

"Thanks." Natalie grinned as she claimed control of the puck and took off for the goal. Schanke tried to steal the puck but she was too fast and too in control of the puck.

Natalie reached the goal and slammed the puck in, leaving the score at six to five.

Schanke managed to outmaneuver Natalie long enough to score. He was fast enough to score again.

Natalie scored the next goal.

Nick announced the score. "It's even at seven points each.

Schanke avoided Natalie's attempts to regain the control as he skated towards the goal. Natalie tried to swipe the puck but he smacked it into the net before she could get her stick on it.

Natalie tried for a goal and it was deflected by Schanke.

"Nice shot," she said.

"Thanks," he said with a grin.

Now that Schanke was two goals from winning both he and Natalie became more determined to be the winner, but not so much so that they forgot it was a friendly game.

After several minutes of intense skating with the puck going back and forth between the two players, Natalie scored.

Nick was still keeping a close eye on the game, thoroughly enjoying himself. He was seeing a completely different side to his two friends.

Natalie and Schanke continued to chase each other around the rink trying to keep control of the puck. One would get it and the other would steal it. Both were getting tired, although Natalie was faring better due to being in a little better shape, and being about fifteen years younger than Schanke. She kept a close eye on him, not wanting him to overexert himself, and possibly have a coronary.

Natalie took a shot, only to find it blocked by Schanke.

After some more of the puck going back and forth between the two players, Schanke tried for a goal, only to have Natalie block the shot and take off with the puck.

Natalie snuck the puck into the goal. By the time he caught onto what she was doing it was too late.

He knew whoever scored next determined the fate of the game. If she scored it was over. If he did, then the shot after that would be the deciding factor. He was not going to make it easy for her.

Natalie and Schanke chased the puck up and down the rink, neither able to keep control for long. Nick stayed with them, but not close enough to interfere, not wanting their competitiveness to accidentally cause a problem. He didn't think it would, but knew how things could happen in the heat of the moment.

About ten minutes later Natalie was within shooting range and fired off a shot at the goal. Schanke tried to block it but it was just out of his reach. She hadn't been sure if he would've been able to block it or not.

"Yes!!" She said quite excited as she punched the air with her fist.

"Congratulations, Natalie! I'm impressed," Don said as he hugged her.

She hugged him back. "Thanks. I'm impressed as well."

"Congratulations, Natalie!" Nick said as he hugged Nat and gave Schanke a hearty slap on the back. "You did good, partner."

"Thanks," both Nat and Schanke said.

"I never would've guessed you two were so good."

"Nat, you'll have no problems at tryouts tomorrow," Schanke said.

"Thanks. That means a lot." Natalie said as she started skating again. She knew that if she stopped suddenly her legs would cramp. Her stick connected with the puck and she moved it down the rink at a more leisurely pace.

Nick and Schanke followed after her trying to steal the puck. Nick knew it would be way too easy to do so, and as hard to explain how.

The three of them played for another half hour, not keeping score, before calling it quits.

"Natalie, I promised you breakfast. Where would you like to go?"

"I'm in the mood for pancakes," Natalie said.

"Sounds good, to me" Schanke said.

"Nick, would you like to join us?" Schanke asked. He hoped Nick would join them.

Nick saw how much his two friends wanted his company. "Sure. Just don't expect..."

"You to eat," Schanke finished for his partner. "It doesn't matter if you eat or not."

Both Natalie and Schanke realized they were rather sweaty and wondered if they should go get cleaned up first. Both looked to the other for the answer to the unasked question.

"Nah, let's just go. We're not that bad," Schanke said.

"I agree."

The three of them skated to the edge of the rink, Natalie used her stick to escort the puck. She bent down and picked it up before she stepped out of the rink. They sat down and took off their skates and helmets. Nick returned his to the rental desk.

Natalie and Schanke wiped off their faces with a towel before wiping off their blades. They packed up their gear.

Natalie started to sling her bag over her shoulder.

"Would you like me to carry that for you, Nat?" Nick asked.

She shrugged, "Why not." And handed over her bag.

The three of them headed out to the parking lot. Nick set Natalie's bag in her trunk as soon as she opened it and then headed for his car. Each person left in their own car, and met up at the restaurant.

Natalie ordered chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, a small breakfast steak, and hashbrowns. She ordered coffee and grapefruit juice to wash it all down. Schanke copied her order except that he had orange juice instead. Nick surprised them both by ordering hash browns as they didn't make French fries that early in the day.

They talked as they waited for their food. Before long the waitress brought it to them. Both of Nick's friends were surprised when he finished off the two hash brown patties. Nick realized the last bite or two were a big mistake as he was starting to feel rather sick.

Natalie gave Nick a large smile for his accomplishment. She'd commend him later, when they were alone.

"Keep that up and you'll be eating Souvlaki in no time," Schanke teased.

Natalie laughed while Nick just wrinkled his nose, which caused Natalie to laugh further.

They talked for a few more minutes before Natalie and Schanke realized just how much their game had tired them out, now that the adrenaline rush was wearing off.

Schanke paid the check and left a good tip for the waitress. He knew how hard they worked, remembering when he'd done that job back in high school. After the first two days he knew it was not the career for him.

"Are you okay to drive home?" Nick asked, not wanting either of them to fall asleep at the wheel.

"I'll be fine," Natalie said. She knew the first thing she'd do was shower, then it was off to bed.

"I'll be okay," Schanke said. He couldn't wait to get home, shower, kiss his wife and go to sleep.

The End.

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