But now, on the
other end of Sam's phone line, came another voice from New York, an old friend.
James needed a place to bunk for a few days, a new gym--perhaps trainer Freddie
Roach's place, not far from Sam's--and a new start. Sam already had a guest in
his cramped apartment, an aspiring actress from New York named Beatriz
Quiñones. But he'd just written a column for foxsports.com asking the world to
give the Hammer another chance, so how could he not?
James arrived and
sacked out on Sam's couch. A few days became a few weeks. James grew jumpy. He
didn't like L.A. He wanted to go home and hold the newborn son that he hadn't
seen in five weeks, the one he couldn't bear to see grow up without a dad, as
he had. One moment James seemed depressed; the next, so excited that the words
tumbled from his mouth. But he wouldn't take his medication, which had made it
so hard to train. He sat in front of the TV, making it hard for Sam to write.
They began arguing over little things. Beatriz felt the tension growing, packed
up and cleared out.
Sam called Max on
Oct. 6. Maybe it was only to argue Kobe-Shaq. Maybe it was just to dissect the
Yankees-Twins playoff game that night. Max will never know. He was at Yankee
Stadium, and the crowd's thunder drowned out Sam's voice. "I can't hear
you, Sam!" shouted Max. "Talk to you later!" But he got home late
and didn't call back.
Five nights later
another young actress, Claudia Salinas, went to dinner with Sam and returned
with him to his apartment. James was watching TV again. "I need to watch a
game for the column I'm writing," Claudia remembered Sam saying. "Can I
change the channel?"
"Yo, I've got
to work," said Sam. "I've got to see who wins so I can finish this
the commercials," growled the Hammer. It almost seemed as if he needed to
know whether even Sam would push him away.
"Let's take a
walk," Sam said to Claudia. He was in Kellerman quicksand: trying to help a
victim who was making him feel like a victim in his own home. "It's like
this all the time," he told Claudia. It was time, Sam decided, to say no,
to ask James to leave.
Sam, according to
police, was sitting at his computer the next day when the Hammer struck. He'd
once told a friend that if a larger man ever attacked him, the man had better
be ready to fight to the death. Was that why Butler's hammer struck 31 more
times? Or was that just the mathematics of rage and disease?
A $300 postal
money order to pay for James's flight back to Florida--sent by his boxing
manager, David Berlin--arrived in Sam's mailbox that day.