Read Choke: A Thriller Online

Authors: Dani Amore

Choke: A Thriller






Dani Amore


Copyright ©2014 by Dani Amore

All rights reserved.

is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the author.





Dani Amore

“No pressure, no diamonds.”

-Thomas Carlyle


Vincent Keyes sits at his desk, typing on a Mac Powerbook. 

He has dark hair that's slightly graying at the edges, a slim build but with broad shoulders.  His office is contemporary and stylish, featuring black leather furniture, chrome, and avant-garde paintings.

The telephone console on his desk emits a soft beep, and he punches a button to put it on speaker.

“Dr. Keyes?” his secretary says.


“Vicki Lee is here for her eleven o’clock.”

“Okay, show her in, please.”

Vincent closes the laptop as his secretary opens the door.  Vincent stands and greets Vicki Lee, a petite, twenty-three-year-old woman whose beauty is impossible to ignore.  She is dressed in a sweat-suit top and tight yoga pants that show off her incredibly shapely legs.

She enters the office and sits in the chair across from Vincent's desk.  They smile at each other as Nancy hovers.

“How long until the Olympics?” the secretary asks.

“About fourteen months,” Vicki answers.

“I’m sure you’ll bring home the gold.  That’s what everyone is saying,” Nancy says.

“Well, if the good doctor here can help me concentrate and focus, maybe I will.  We'll see.”  She smiles at Keyes who nods to Nancy.  His secretary leaves and closes the door.

Vincent walks to the door and silently locks it.

He turns and Vicki is in his arms, kissing him hard on the mouth. 

“You know what the greatest part of the Olympics is going to be?” she says.

“When they’re over?” Keyes answers.

“Bingo.  And then we can quit sneaking around.  I’m tired of it,” Vicki says.

“We have to.  If the press got wind that you were sleeping with me, it wouldn’t go over well.”

Keyes is aware of his dilemma.  He would be in hot water for two different violations.  The first would be distracting an Olympic athlete the entire country is counting on to bring home a gold medal.  And the second is a professional violation.  Psychologists are not supposed to sleep with their clients.  It happens more than people think, but still, his reputation would no doubt suffer more than it could handle.

There is a pause and then Vicki places her finger on Vincent’s lips.

“Let’s not ruin a great hour.”

Keyes pulls her to him and they kiss again.  He marvels at her body and realizes that he simply can’t stop himself.


On an entire wall are clippings about Dr. Vincent Keyes, sports psychologist.  There are pictures of Keyes with sports stars, movie stars, and immediately recognizable heads of business.  There are magazine articles, newspaper interviews, and book jacket covers featuring the psychologist's face.

A man is sitting, staring at the wall.  He raises a cigarette slowly then exhales a cloud of smoke that briefly obscures the clippings on the wall.


Demetrius Carr has his mouth wide open and is screaming, flexing his muscles a la the Incredible Hulk pose.

He is a seven-foot, three-hundred-pound center for the Los Angeles Lakers.  He has just dunked a basketball and the crowd is on their feet.  The scoreboard shows the Lakers to be down by one point with fifty seconds left in the game.  The other team brings the ball down the court.

There is a ten-second differential between the shot clock and the game clock.  With eleven seconds left, the other team drives into the lane.  The shot goes up, but Demetrius swats it away and the Lakers race into a fast break.  Demetrius gets the ball and drives for the basket, but he is fouled.

The scoreboard now shows one second left.

Demetrius steps to the foul line.  Before the referee hands him the ball, he looks into the crowd.  From the sea of faces, he picks out Dr. Vincent Keyes.

Vincent is sitting next to Rachel Levin.  She is holding onto Vincent's arm as the crowd gets to its feet.

Demetrius makes eye contact with Vincent, and Vincent nods and holds up a fist. Several people sitting near Vincent turn to look at him, and Rachel squeezes his arm.

Demetrius is handed the basketball and begins his pre-shot routine.  He concentrates, and Vincent nods, going through the process with him.  Demetrius's mouth moves, saying words to himself, and Vincent's mouth moves with it, saying the same words.

Demetrius shoots the free throw and it swishes through the basket.  The crowd erupts.  Vincent cheers.


The man approaches the black Mercedes.  The parking lot of the Staples Center is packed with cars, and only a few security guards are out making vague, listless circuits of the perimeter.

The man, wearing black gloves, inserts a homemade wax key into the driver's door of the car.  He unlocks the car, then pops the hood.

Working quickly with a few small tools he brought with him, he manages to make several adjustments to the car’s engine.

He shuts the hood and walks away.


Demetrius Carr shoots the second free throw, it too swishes through the hoop and the crowd erupts.  The scoreboard shows the Lakers are up by one point. Vincent and Rachel cheer along with the rest of the crowd.

The opposing team inbounds the ball and tries a Hail Mary shot, but the shot misses.  The Lakers win and the crowd goes crazy.  They start chanting "D!" "D!"

Vincent makes his way to the locker room where Demetrius, clad in nothing but a towel, is surrounded by reporters.  He dwarfs the small reporters.  His huge shoulders and bulging chest are covered in a thin sheen of sweat.

“Demetrius, in addition to the game-winning free throws, you had another triple double tonight.  That makes five games in a row,” the nearest reporter asks, barely able to make his voice heard over the room’s general din.  “How does it feel to have won another game practically single-handedly and how does it feel to be carrying this team on your back?”

“It was a team effort all the way,” Demetrius responds.  “There are lots of good players on this ball club, lots of people working hard.  Every win is a team win.”

“Demetrius,” another reporter calls out.  “Last season you probably would've bricked those game-winning free throws.”

“I hear that.”

Reporters laugh again.

“Does your improved performance have anything to do with the sports psychologist you've been seeing?”

“Man, let me tell you something,” the star player says.  “It’s all about focus.”

Vincent slips through the reporter’s circle and shakes hands with Demetrius.  A few photographers pop off some shots of the moment.

“Great game,” Vincent says.  “You had the stroke going, didn't you?”

“That I did, my friend.  I was in the zone.”

“Like I said, D, good game.”

They shake hands again and Vincent makes his way through the reporters, but one catches up to him.  He’s short and thick, like a former football player turned reporter.

“Dr. Keyes, may I have a word?” he says.

“Sorry, but I've got someone waiting.”

Keyes doesn’t particularly want to talk to the reporter right now, he’d rather get back to Rachel.  He realizes that at some point he’s got to tell her about Vicki, and maybe it will be tonight.  Maybe tonight he can work up the courage to be honest with her.

“I know you did an interview with
Sports Illustrated
a few months ago,” the reporter continued.  “But I bet I could interest my editor in a story about you.  My name is Doug Eves.”

“Why do you want to do a story on me?”

“The country's hottest sports psychologist, the master of peak performance?  Why wouldn’t I?  You’re a shrink to the stars, famous actresses, business tycoons, anyone who needs to perform under pressure.”

“Look, I appreciate all the flattery, but I’ve got to run.  Here’s a card.”  Vincent hands the man his business card.  “Call me and maybe we can set something up.”

Vincent emerges from the locker room and spots Rachel waiting for him. 

They walk down the long hallway together.  She puts her arm around Vincent's waist and together, they walk toward his car.


Vincent and Rachel walk to Vincent's black Mercedes.  Vincent has his key out, but sees that the car is already unlocked.

“Looks like I could've made it easy for someone,” he says.

“What do you mean?” Rachel asks.

“I guess I forgot to lock it.”

Vincent shrugs his shoulders, and opens the door, climbs in, then maneuvers the big black car out of the busy parking lot.

“Wanna get a drink?”

Rachel reaches across and plays with his hair.

“I think you should take me home.”

Vincent smiles, but inside he is thinking about Vicki Lee.

He is behind a slow-moving truck in the fast lane.  Vincent pulls out into the center lane and passes the vehicle on the right.

“Why is it so hard to understand:  you go fast in the fast lane, slow in the slow lane?” Vincent says.


He accelerates and the speedometer creeps up over seventy.  The speedometer continues to climb.  Vincent takes his foot off the gas pedal, but the speedometer keeps going up.

“What the hell,” he says.

He taps the brake, but the car continues to accelerate.

“Hey Mario Andretti, slow down,” Rachel says.

Vincent hits the brake harder, but still nothing happens.

“You’re scaring me, Vince!” Rachel says.

She is gripping her door handle tightly, as if to brace herself.  She looks at Vincent, but he is staring at the speedometer, his mouth clenched shut.

Vincent is sweating, and his knuckles are turning white from gripping the steering wheel.  His arms are wooden as the speedometer creeps over ninety.

Vincent's hands, still holding onto the steering wheel, start shaking, but he doesn't let go; the shaking moves up his forearms and his shoulders until it seems as if his whole upper body is convulsing.

“Vince!” Rachel screams.

Vincent smashes the brake pedal down with both feet but the car continues to accelerate.

He narrowly misses a pickup truck by reefing the wheel to the left.  The Mercedes scrapes against the concrete median but doesn’t slow down. 

Rachel screams again.

Ahead, Vincent sees three semi-trucks are side-by-side, occupying all of the space and forming a wall.

Rachel sees the trucks ahead, too.

“Vincent, watch out!” she screams.

Vincent needs to swerve around the trucks, but his arms are now almost completely locked as he simply holds on.  He closes his eyes and the Mercedes plows between two of the trucks, the side mirrors rip off the car.

The speedometer is now over one hundred miles an hour. 

Rachel struggles to lean toward the steering wheel, but she is thrown back against her seat as the car ricochets off the side of one of the trucks.

“Shut it off!  Turn off the engine, Vincent!” she yells.

Vincent doesn't respond.  His hands, arms, nearly his whole body is shaking.

“Vince, goddamnit!” she cries out.

Finally, the Mercedes shoots out from between the trucks and Rachel lurches across the seat, gets a hold of the key, and slams it down.  The keys come free in her hand and she slams backward into her seat from the force of her effort.

The engine immediately goes silent and the car begins to slow down.  The speedometer drops.

Like a robot, Vincent manages to turn the wheel enough to guide the car over toward the shoulder where it finally coasts to a stop.

He painfully unwraps his fingers from the steering wheel.  His hands are still shaking and he's covered in sweat.

The Mercedes has long scrapes on both of its sides, and one mirror is dangling from a strip of metal.

Rachel throws open the passenger door and something falls off the car, hitting the road with a metallic clang.

She falls to her hands and knees on the gravel shoulder of the road and begins to cry.

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