In any case, let me know what you think of the story so far. I've been amazed by everyone's reactions so far. I appreciate all of them, especially since they represent your valuable time and effort.
My only hope is to entertain a reader. Maybe, once it's fully published, I'll even entertain lots of them.
Warning: there's R-rated content here.
(Note: the first 4 chapters of the novel are here. Chapters 9 & 10 are here.)
"Now," says Sammy as he pays his blind and the cards for the next hand are dealt. "Since you all seem to know my name, I'd like to know all of yours."
He turns to the Filipino woman on his right.
"Starting with you," he says. The woman blushes and smiles.
"I am Thelma," she says. Sammy nods and looks to the player on the other side of her, a tall, middle-aged white man in a red cowboy shirt and thick glasses.
"Vance," he says with a tip of his bald head.
Then comes the kid, still slouched in his hoodie.
"Junior," the kid tells Sammy.
"Well, hello, Junior," Sammy says. "Nice to meet you."
The crowd eats this up. Even the kid chuckles.
Then Sammy's eyes are on me.
What I can tell, from his scent and his looks, is he's older than me, and much, much more powerful.
"Call me Henry," I say.
Sammy gives another little nod and moves on to the next player.
Once the rest of the introductions are made, we settle into the game. I still have the urge to flee, but I wonder how far I'd get.
Sammy's play is loose and his stack dwindles quickly. He falls for some obvious bluffs and overplays some weak hands. But he wins just enough to keep playing. He's not here for the poker.
I make sure to fold out of any hand he stays in on, even if I have something. This costs me, but not much. I still manage to build my own stack to over two grand.
Sammy continues to make lots of small-talk, charming everyone but rarely speaking to me. He orders rounds of drinks and has food brought to the table and set up on little trays for each player. He mentions he's in recovery, to explain why he just sips a bottle of sparkling water.
I nurse my own bottle of water, letting the tray of food next to me go cold.
At one point, when I'm big blind and he's deciding whether to stay in the hand, he says, "Henry, you're awful quiet. Where'd you learn poker?"
," I say, knowing he can tell if I'm lying or not. Costa Rica
"Oh, I've been meaning to go there," he says. "I have a friend in
Sao Paulo who just loves ." Costa Rica
Sammy calls, announcing it and putting his chips into the pot.
Then he says to me, "You ever been to
"I have," I say.
"Ever gamble there?" Sammy asks as the rest of the players around the table fold in turn, leaving just me, Junior, and Sammy.
"No," I tell him.
"Good. Because there aren't any casinos there," he says, which gets him more laughs. "I just remembered I haven't heard from my friend in
in a while. I should give him call. See how he's doing." Sao Paulo
He's saying all this to whole table, but the last part he says right to me.
"It's important to keep up with your friends," he tells me. "Without friends, life just isn't the same, am I right?"
The dealer lays out the flop, which is the ace of spades, the ace of clubs, and the jack of diamonds.
My hole cards are the king and jack of Spades, giving me two pair.
I check, planning to fold if Sammy bets, but Junior bets heavy. He's not bluffing. His pulse and breathing are quicker and shallower. He's not controlling them the way he does when he bluffs, and the heat of emotion blooms in him brightly, so I figure he's picked up something. He limped in with a pocket pair, and is now sitting on something even better. If he has aces, he's got a four-of-a-kind. If he's got jacks, he has a full house.
Sammy calls Junior's bet.
Junior has me beat, and Sammy didn't fold, so there's no reason for me to stay in this pot. I'm still way ahead of my original four hundred.
I'm looking at Sammy, at his unblinking eyes and wide-mouthed smile, when I say, "I call," and put my three hundred into the center of the table.
The dealer flips the turn card. It's the ten of spades.
I still have my two pair, but now I've got a chance at a flush, possibly even a royal flush. But Sammy is completely unreadable, and he must see everything I see. At the very least, Junior has a full house. So Sammy has to have something, maybe aces. Or he's bluffing. It's not like this money means anything to him.
Since there's only one card that will save me, I've just pissed away three hundred dollars.
I check again, saying it and tapping my fingertip on the table.
Junior says, "All in," and puts his last six hundred dollars into the pot.
Sammy calls and puts his six hundred in.
"Bet's to you, sir," the dealer says to me. "Six hundred."
I should fold. The odds against me are too strong.
I look at Junior, who is vibrating with excitement. He glows with it. He's pulled the hood of his hoodie up around his face and cinched it tight, pulling on his mirrored shades, as if he could hide his reactions from me. Or Sammy.
I look at Sammy, who now has a serious expression on his face. The smile is gone as he looks back at me and he has leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. It's a stern look, and, for all I know, it's pure theater.
I decide to play along.
"I call," I say and put my chips in.
The other players collectively exhale and shake their heads.
People on the rail murmur and clap.
The dealer burns a card and and then deals the river card.
It's the queen of spades. I now have a royal flush.
I take the rest of my stack, which amounts to twelve hundred and sixty-two dollars worth of chips, and place it next to the rest of the chips in the pot.
"All in," I say to Sammy.
Sammy leans forward. The smile is back. He makes a show of looking at his hole cards and then back at me.
"Well, then," he says, once again projecting his voice. "I call."
Sammy counts out twelve hundred and sixty-two dollars worth of chips, stacks them nicely, and puts them right next to my own stack of the same amount.
At this, I take my hole cards and turn them over and push them forward.
Applause and shouting breaks out.
Junior stands and gapes at my cards. Then he flips over his own hole cards. Aces, of hearts and diamonds, giving him four-of-a-kind.
More applause and shouting. Thelma crosses herself, muttering a quick prayer.
Sammy hasn't moved. He knows he's beat, but he also knows he's the center of attention.
"Well, this is one to remember," he says, standing and turning over his own hole cards to reveal the jack of clubs and the jack of hearts. A full house.
The applause and shouting becomes a roar.
The tall bald man, Vance, touches Junior on the shoulder and then reaches around him to give me a firm pat on the back. Thelma congratulates me and then shrugs at Sammy in commiseration. The dealer sweeps the pot towards me, and Sammy reaches his hand across the table.
I take it, and he gives a squeeze that would have broken bones in a normal hand. I'm uninjured by it. But it hurts.
"It's always better to be lucky, is it not?" he says over the noise. "Good hand."
Junior is less graceful.
He whips his sunglasses off.
"You had no business calling me," he says. "You should have folded at the flop."
Sammy appears at our side, having come around the table faster than I can react.
"It was well-played," he says to Junior. "You just had a bad beat."
Sammy has taken hold of my arm just above the elbow.
"Why don't you come with me?" he says and guides me a few steps from the table, leaving the dumbfounded Junior to fume on his own.
Then he turns back towards the table, addressing the crowd.
"There's no way I can top that," he says. "So I'm going to call it a night."
More scattered applause.
"And my friend Henry here," he says, releasing his grip but putting his arm around my shoulders. "He's coming with me, to give me some poker lessons."
To the poker room manager, he says, "Would you mind having our chips gathered up and cashed? We'll be right over there."
He points towards the entrance of the poker room, and without waiting for an answer, he leads me there.
As we step out, Sammy points across the casino floor towards the food court.
"Look over there, would you?" he tells me.
I look. Sitting at a table in front of the ice-cream stand is Yesenia, eating a soft-serve cone. She sees me and waves.
"Call her over here," Sammy says.
I wave her towards me. She smiles and gets up and starts making her way across the casino.
As I watch Yesenia, the poker room manager walks up, holding an envelope out to me. I take it. She hands a similar envelope to Sammy. He opens his envelope, counts out some of the cash, and hands it to the woman.
"I believe we forgot to tip the dealer for that last hand," he says. "Half of that goes to him. The other half is split with the rest of the shift. Understand?"
The poker manager nods and heads back into the poker room.
By the time Yesenia gets to me, she has finished her ice cream. She throws her napkin in the trash can next to us and gives me a hug.
"I couldn't sleep," she tells me. "I was hungry."
Sammy puts his hands on her shoulders and pulls her away from me. Gently but firmly. She can't resist him any more than I can.
He turns her so she is facing him, this young, long-haired, dark-skinned woman in a simple white dress and sandals.
"Henry, please introduce me to this ravishing creature," he says without taking his eyes off her.
"I'm Yesenia," she blurts out. I remember the look she's giving him. It's the one from just before we crossed the border.
"Oh, yes, you are," he says. Then, like a father, he puts his arms around both our shoulders and begins guiding us through the casino.
"And now you are my guests," he tells us.
Yesenia looks up at him, then at me.
"What about Zoey and Marcella?" she asks me.
Sammy begins laughing, still walking us past machines and tables, until we reach the main entrance and step through the doors.
A long black limo awaits us.
As we step up to it, a buzzing sound goes off. Then a long horn blast. Then more buzzing, the sounds alternating and repeating.
"Don't worry about that," Sammy says to us. "That's just the fire alarm."
A tall, suited limo driver, complete with chaffeur hat, steps around the front of the limo and opens its door for us.
Sammy nudges Yesenia into the limousine. I hear voices inside it, and laughter.
Sammy stops and turns towards me.
"That fire is in the RV park," he says. "I'm afraid your other friends won't be joining us."
Chapter 12 of my Vampire novel is here.
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