The Picasso comes up, the diamonds, the $4 million. "That's all?" Jake says, then he waits for the joke to slide away.
Finally: "Did they ever get the cash?"
Everyone shrugs. It's getting late; Jake is beginning to flag. Fell says he can't believe that the anniversary is just weeks away. "Has it been a year?" Jake says.
He turns again and asks, "Did you know? They found my son's arm."
The losing doesn't mark him, at least not anymore. He lost again today, and though it was the French Open and his best surface and against an opponent you'd think he could handle—who knew that Andrei Medvedev would ride this first-round victory all the way into the 1999 final?—Dinu Pescariu shows up for an interview smiling. He cuts a sharp figure: black jeans, a blinding white T-shirt, thick black shoes shined to an inky gleam. He catches your eye and holds it, easily recounting why he played so poorly, how he failed.
But when the word Swissair comes up, everything changes. Pescariu crosses his arms, begins scanning the walls, ceiling and floor, a man in search of an escape hatch. His eyes start to shine. "No, no, it's too soon," he says, the words warped by his thick Romanian accent. "I don't like to talk about this. It is still with me. I can't."
But Pescariu doesn't move. He doesn't growl and stalk off at the mention of the flight, as Rosset did recently. Suddenly Pescariu begins talking.
He'd just lost to Jan Siemerink in die first round of the U.S. Open, and he didn't want to wait two days for his Wednesday reservation on Flight 111. So he went to JFK on Tuesday and arrived in Bucharest on Wednesday, had a nice evening and went to sleep. When his fellow pro Ion Moldovan called the next morning to tell him of the crash, Pescariu says, "I start thinking, What if? Many things for me have changed." He tries to smile politely. "I'm sorry. There's no way I can talk about this now. We can do it in one year maybe. Sometimes it's very bad. My heart, I feel my heart. It starts beating, and I feel like...."
He stops. "But this is all, because every time I speak about this, even now, and it's been a long time, I start feeling bad. I no like." He shrugs apologetically. "I don't know why. Maybe it sounds strange."
Few people outside the tennis world have heard of Pescariu, and now that he has hit age 25, the sport's unofficial line of demarcation, when all hope of a breakthrough is gone, few ever will. He is ranked No. 136 in the world. Pescariu was the European junior champion at 16 and used to beat up on players like Medvedev, but he never got better. It's his fate to be a footnote in the newspaper agate sections (Agassi d. Pescariu, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1). He's a victim and can earn $150,000 a year being a victim. Before last September he had accepted that. As long as he took no foolish chances, he could have a comfortable career and, perhaps, even handle the old family fear.