Little Big League

In the hours before he went missing, never to be seen again, Paulie Yellen drank his usual numerous beers at the bar of The Little Big League Pub and Tavern.

Paulie was in the joint most nights drinking his life into oblivion. He had already lost his reputation, his past, his marriage and his career because of his drinking and now he worked odd jobs to get by, living in a dumpy basement apartment and getting around on an old bicycle.

Paulie's longtime friend Felix Perris, who owned and ran the Little Big League Pub and Tavern, hired Paulie to perform morning chores. Paulie completed the work before anybody saw him doing the menial tasks and he periodically performed other part time work around town – folding pizza boxes at the Greenville Pizza House, sorting laundry at the dry cleaners, cleaning cars at Dalton Ford, and stocking shelves at the thrift store before eventually making his way back to The Little Big League to drink for the rest of the day.

Most people knew Paulie – partly because of his early successful legacy - but mostly because of his tragic fall from grace and the life he now lived. Greenville was the kind of town where everybody knew everybody's business and that became Paulie's curse.

Paulie Yellen would forever be remembered as Team Captain of the Greenville Little Giants Little League Team that made it all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where the team eventually lost in the finals and the feat remains one of the town's most rewarding moments in sports lore and history.

Felix Perris was also on that team and years later he bought the floundering Kelso's Bar and rebranded it as The Little Big League Pub and Tavern with a baseball motif and dozens of photos of local little league teams and, of course, the glory year of the Williamsport bound Greenville Little Giants.

But behind the façade of the friendly sports bar and tavern was simmering discontent, disappointment, bitterness and resentment among many of those who played on – and rooted for – the World Series bound Greenville Little Giants.

Most were proud of the team's successful legacy but there were those who felt let down by the inability of some of those young players to find success in their adult lives which critical fans perceived to be a failure of the initial success the youngsters once enjoyed.

There were forever disagreements of opinions and disputes that often erupted into years-long anger and feuds. Paulie Yellen represented everything that had gone wrong with that team of lore.

On his way to The Little Big League Pub and Tavern that fateful final day, Paulie Yellen passed many of those people he had squabbled with over the years. Paulie had a knack for bitching about minor annoyances that he considered major issues and he often instigated awkwardly uncomfortable confrontations that could have easily been avoided if he hadn't evolved into a petty, revengeful, bitter and problematic drunk.

Paulie could be loud, longwinded and at times amusing, but he also had a dark side that created difficulties for people.

Paulie took his usual place at the bar that night, surrounded by the familiar baseball memorabilia. He forever chatted with the regulars who stopped by to have a drink or a bite to eat and to get another glimpse of the baseball lore.

Paulie considered himself the tavern's main attraction and he loved to tell his endless baseball stories from his time in Williamsport to his later success in the nearby amateur Serguci Baseball League that played at Hillsboro's Beano Field.

Paulie never got tired of telling his stories even if the regulars had heard them all endless times before. If Paulie was aware that he had turned himself into a caricature of his former self he didn't let on.

And so on that fateful day, Paulie downed a series of drafts as was his customary routine, talking to anybody who would listen and to the wall if they didn't. Nobody realized at the time that it would be Paulie's final appearance.

Greenville Chief of Detective Mike Murphy walked into The Little Big League Pub and Tavern several days after Paulie's disappearance. Murphy had more than two decades of Police experience and he approached the case with an open mind.

The cop's hair close-cropped and he wore an understated uniform of dungarees and a blue polo shirt with the Greenville Police Department emblem on its chest, a ball cap, and sunglasses.

Murphy was no stranger to challenging cases — he had solved the murder of Greenville College Professor Nelson eighty years after it occurred and more recently he found the remains of a local woman who had been missing for thirty years.

And now he needed to figure out what happened to Paulie Yellen who had vanished amidst whispers of ill-will in a town where everybody knew his name.

Murphy grew up in Greenville. He knew all about the famed Greenville Little Giants team that played in Williamsport. He went to school with many of those players and he knew them as adults. This case was personal but he was a professional who wouldn't let his feelings cloud the investigation. Murphy's job was to collect information, evidence, and clues.

"Hey, Mike." Felix Perris went to school with Murphy too and he knew him well. "I gather you're here about Paulie."

Murphy took a seat at the bar and ordered a club soda. "You were one of the last ones to see him alive," the cop informed the tavern owner.

"He sat right over there," Felix said from where he stood behind the bar, pointing to the last stool. "Drank his usual amount."

"Did he seem bothered?" Murphy asked. "Anything troubling him?"

"No more than usual," Felix replied as he placed the club soda in front of Murphy. "I mean, let's face it, he was always moody, usually miserable. Drunk when he was in here."

"Did he say anything that gave you pause?"

"No," Felix replied. "His usual ramblings, complaints, and conspiracy theories but nothing that he hadn't ranted about before."

"How drunk was he?"

"Drunk enough to wobble his way out," Felix recalled, leaning against the bar with both hands. "But he wasn't falling down. I'd say his intoxication level was within his limits."

"Did he ride his bike?"

"I didn't see it outside when I left," Felix reported after giving it some thought.

"What was the last thing he said to you?" the cop asked.

"That he'd be by the next morning to do his chores," Felix replied.

"He cleaned for you."

Felix nodded affirmatively. "I tried to do what I could to help him out."

"But he didn't show up?" Murphy asked.

"I didn't realize it until the day barkeep reported the bathrooms were still a mess and the trash hadn't been taken out," Felix said.

"And that was unusual," Murphy stated.

"For Paulie, yeah," Felix verified. "He always showed up to do his job. He didn't want to let me down or screw up his sure thing."

"You were alarmed?"

"I wouldn't say alarmed," Felix replied. "Concerned perhaps. Maybe he wiped out on his bike. Choked on his puke. Fell down in the shower."

"So you went over there."

Felix nodded yes. "I figured it wouldn't hurt to check on him. I knocked but there was no answer."

"Did you see his bike anywhere?"

"No," Felix said. "The door was unlocked so I let myself in."

"And saw what?"

"His Giants ball cap and glasses were on table," Felix recalled. "There was some mac and cheese in the microwave. The place was a mess but it was always like that. No sign of foul play and no sign of him."

Perris' assistant manager Robyn Doherty strolled into the tavern. She was part of the high school clique too and she knew Murphy. She was wearing jeans, a Little Big League Tavern red tee shirt and a blue baseball cap. Her long brown hair was pulled into a ponytail.

Felix's face lit up at the sight of her. "Hey, Sunshine," he grinned.

"Hi," she replied, and then she did a double take when she saw Murphy sitting at the bar. "Hey, Mike," she said as she approached. "I take it this isn't a social call."

"He's investigating Paulie's disappearance," Felix told her.

"Oh?" She walked around the bar. "So, you suspect foul play?"

"Haven't ruled it out," Murphy confirmed, giving Robyn a long look as she busied herself with her opening chores.

She smiled in reply but didn't make eye contact with the detective.

A/N: Mike Murphy was previously featured in "Murphy's Law" and has a supporting role in "Finding Serenity".