A witness, Tim Bonds, reported what occurred next: "Ere's wha' 'appens. Nobody like 'im ever 'ere at The At an' 'Ounds!" Bonds went on to say that the stranger, a thinnish bloke in his early 40s, reared back, one leg high toward the ceiling, cocked his arm and snapped it forward with such force that the dart went deep into the board. The pub's strongman, a sheet-metal worker named Nick Fairchild, had to brace himself with two feet against the wall to try to dislodge the embedded dart. In fact, in doing so, he pulled the entire dartboard off its moorings, falling backward onto a table. While this was going on, the stranger and the young woman left the pub and were never seen again in the village.
Item: A second spear materialized in the wall of a porch in Staffordshire, where four ladies in a bridge club were playing a hand. Recalls Mrs. Forrest MacLeod, "I had just raised my partner's heart bid to three, holding four of her suit to the jack-10 along with some outside help, when suddenly there was the thud of a projectile going into the wall above our heads. Charlene Smith to my left passed, and my partner bid a small slam in hearts, which she made, and we won the rubber. Very satisfactory."
The Staffordshire police looked into each of the odd occurrences. It was discovered that the cannonball that landed in Mrs. Applegate's parlor was actually an iron ball of the type thrown by shot-putters and that the two spears were, in fact, javelins used in track meets. When the report was published in a local newspaper, an alert SI reporter, vacationing nearby, went to the police station. He learned that near Mrs. Applegate's home the police had found a lone hiking boot with the carefully lettered initials SF on the heel. The police had brought the boot to the station more in the interest of groundskeeping than of linking it to the shot or the javelins. The SI reporter, however, made the connection: Sidd Finch! His assumption was that Finch had hurried from the scene, leaving his boot behind in his haste, worried about discovery and surely too embarrassed to retrieve his errant shot from Mrs. Apple-gate's parlor.
The SI reporter asked to see where the police had found the boot. Taken to the spot, he measured the distance to Mrs. Applegate's window: approximately 105 feet, more than a third again as far as Randy Barnes's 1990 world-record shot toss of 75'10�"! So the questions hang in the air: Is Finch dabbling in various field events, perhaps even contemplating a run at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney? (As it happens, Great Britain's Olympic track and field trials are being held August 12-13 in Birmingham; so convinced are the magazine's editors that Finch will show up—even though he is not technically eligible to compete—that they are sending a writer and three photographers to await his arrival.)
SI contacted Robert Temple (author of a sketchy 1987 book also titled The Curious Case of Sidd Finch), who has followed Finch's travels as best he could. The magazine apprised Temple of what its operatives had recently learned. Temple is convinced that Finch is preparing for the Sydney Olympics. "He has this extraordinary gift," Temple says of Finch, "this astonishing arm. He would surely wish to utilize it, as he once did by playing baseball."
Moreover, Temple thinks that Finch's girlfriend, Ms. Palmer, "will press Sidd to go to Sydney and unleash his talents, suggesting, for example, that if Finch wows the Australians at the Games, the newspapers will begin referring to the city as Siddney. Irresistible!"
Temple believes that Finch will concentrate on the javelin. The shot is a comparatively brutish instrument compared to the lean, aesthetic lines of the javelin. More importantly, the highlands of Tibet, where Finch had his schooling in Lung-Gom, are where the ancient spear-throwing implement known as the atlatl (a slinglike device strapped to the arm and used to great effect for hunting) is thought to have been developed. "Finch is a traditionalist," Temple says. "The javelin would appeal to him."
Oddly, the biggest problem facing Finch stems from the prodigious distance he can hurl an object. His heaves would almost certainly sail well beyond the confines of any Olympic venue. Temple's theory is that Finch can only throw an object at top velocity (remember the dartboard episode), that any diminution of his motion would throw the whole apparatus off-kilter. "Finch has great control," Temple says, "but he can't control distance." Temple is reminded of the adage of the golfing gorilla, who is handed a driver and hits a ball 503 yards to the green. Once there, he is handed a putter, looks down at the ball and hits it 503 yards.
Because of this problem Temple's notion is that Finch is learning to throw the javelin in a high arc, with the trajectory of a mortar shell, so that it will come down and stick in the ground far enough away to win a gold medal but not so far as to cause controversy or disbelief, much less injuries in the stands. This would explain the odd phenomenon of a javelin descending vertically out of the heavens and startling Cynthia Bosworth and her grandmother in the Staffordshire fen.
Recently, on the off chance that George Plimpton had been in touch with Finch since writing the original article, and might be able to add to Temple's speculations, SI telephoned Plimpton in New York City. The call was placed somewhat tentatively, since Plimpton had been dropped from the magazine in 1991 for embroidering his stories with what Mark Twain used to refer to as "stretchers."