SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: My apologies to everyone for having missed last week’s post without providing any notice or explanation. At this time, I am temporarily putting my regular “topical” posts on hold while I complete the rest of the Gevaudan Chronicles. I have two additional installments planned after this one, which I will release two weeks apart. The next one after this – The Praetorian – should be available as of Monday, November 27, followed by The Watcher on Monday, December 11. After that, my regular weekly posting schedule will resume.
Without further ado, I hope you all enjoy The Player. Excerpt is available below, with the full version available for all subscribers.
You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.
August 5, 2007
The Corinthian Club
The game’s only rule was that there were no rules – only odds. Life began when you knew how to play them.
Alistair Blake placed his chips on the table and sipped from a glass of sherry. Outside red. The croupier called out “No more bets” and all eyes were on the wheel.
The ball span counterclockwise approximately nineteen times, the wheel itself moving in the opposite direction as twenty seconds passed over the course of a year. It bounced once, then settled into its chosen slot. Nine red.
Blake took another, longer drag from his glass. His cash was now double what it was before approaching the table.
There were seven other players plus the croupier. Most wore expressions somewhere between indifference and resignation. One or two were visibly jubilant. Another salvaged his remaining chips and left the game. All maintained a near-ghostly silence.
Chips clinked in place across a new combination of squares. Blake moved a stack of four from his own pile. Inside street – one, two, three.
“No more bets!”
There was even more attention on the ball than the previous round. An additional second passed in agonizing, relativistic slowness. Eight black.
Blake’s lips tightened in an expression that didn’t reach his eyes. He watched the croupier distribute fresh winnings across the table – his own absent among them.
His eyes met another pair across the table. The woman had fiery red hair that almost matched her partially-existent dress. She stood at the shoulder of another player – an older, balding businessman – but was clearly considering more virile fare. She smiled at him coyly.
Blake met the stare but returned no expression. His right hand deliberately moved the entirety of his chips. Inside fifteen – single.
“No more bets!”
This time the spin was quicker. Fifteen red.
Blake kept his eyes on the woman as his chips multiplied by a factor of thirty-five. One more play. Perhaps two. It would help to end things on a win. They would have a drink together – he would buy it, of course. He had an extra ingredient for it, but that might not be necessary, this time. Then a few minutes for rapport – they’d talk, get to know each other a bit. His room was on the third floor, which meant the elevator. Some extra time to make things particularly interesting…