” It’s a simple question” he shouted back from the kitchen as he made more coffee, laced with Irish Cream Liqueur.
” I know it is ” came my reply, ” But its a question that deserves a little thought don’t ya think”?
” Oh sure, take all night why dontcha ” was the sarcastic reply that was almost expected.
Its exiting, liberating, intoxicating living with a lover, but sometimes they can be a real pain in the neck. This was one of those moments. He posed the question expecting an immediate answer.
” If you would just be quiet a minute and concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing, I might be able to think “
I started to drift, the way it always happened when I start thinking to deeply. Thankfully, the coffee came, sweet, strong, with the wonderful aroma of liqueur to compliment it. I just never grow tired of drinking this concoction and he knows it, he knows it and me all too well.
We sat in silence for what seemed like an age, with only the distant whistle of a passing train for company. This place was always so quiet, just the way I like it to be, just the way I need it to be.
” Well what”? I had forgotten already what the well was referring to.
” Have you thought yet, sheeesh man, pay attention pl-ease”
” Sorry, I got lost again”
” It’s ok, no worries, just stay on terra firma if you can”
The peace enables me to do my ‘thing’ without interruption or disturbance. When I do my ‘thing’ I make money, lots of money and that money means we can afford to live where we do and pay the bills. The only real problem with doing my ‘thing’ is it drains me and takes days to recover from. The peace and quiet I get living here helps to that end as well.
” It’s a toughie and I can’t just throw out a random answer and hope it suffices”
” True, but it’s hypothetical anyway, you don’t need to think too deeply about it, it’s for fun, you know, ha ha ha”
There was that sarcasm again, damn, it is annoying, but when you love someone, you make do, warts and all.
” Yes, I know, I know, but you always do this to me”
” Do what”?
” Lighten up fella. Just forget it ok”
” No, not ok, I’ll answer you if you just lay off for five minutes”
So he shut up at that and the silence descended again. I wanted, needed to think, but not the deep thoughts of contemplation, just thoughts of the question.
Now if someone asked you the same question, how long would it take you to answer?
So I sat, with my coffee and lover and tried to shallow think. If I could, who would I invite to a dinner party. Anyone, alive or dead, doesn’t matter.
I guess the first faces to choose are pretty easy, but its the others that take up the thought.
” I think first on my list would be Albert Einstein just because he is Albert Einstein and we could talk theory until the birds wake up”
” Great choice” was the reply.
” Jesus, he could tell us tales of miracles he did or did not perform and He would also be interested in what Albert would have to say”
” Interesting one”
” For sure. Pele would be another must have for me. The greatest player of all time and man could we talk the beautiful game to death”
” Yeah, thought you would throw him in there. I don’t understand the infatuation you have for football, but I don’t mind it either”
” Gotta throw my old friend Charles Darwin in there as well. Imagine the discussions between him, Jesus and Einstein”
” Darwin the physicist, why”?
” No, Darwin the naturalist, you know, Theory of Evolution and all that. Jesus might just shed some light on the matter”
” Oh, that Darwin, sorry”
” No worries Xavier, it’s not your fault you are stupid, I blame the parents”
He took a playful swing at me and I so nearly spilt what was left of my coffee, he would pay for that, later.
” Would throw in Galileo as well. He would bring some interesting alternative thought to the discussion”
” Oh, too damned right” he said in his slightly acerbic manner, which I have learnt to ignore.
” Have to have Eric Clapton attend, just for some musical interludes”
” Good choice, I am sure the others would enjoy that too” was his rather jovial response.
” Phil Ivey”
” Why Phil Ivey”?
” Just want to know if you are that damned good” I laughed back at him
” Oh I am, I am, better believe it buddy”
We both laughed loud and smiled our love for each other. Moments like these, spontaneous, are what make a relationship special.
Maybe tomorrow, we would get to find out?
” Anyone else”? he asked,
I was in the flow now, but not deep, just surfing the surface.
” Charlie Chaplin, he would give us all a laugh and lighten the tone somewhat if things started to get real heavy”
He laughed at that, he knows I have a love of silent movies, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, et al.
” I think that’s about it. They would take some feeding for sure”
” Well, you never know, dreams do sometimes come true” Xavier said to me as I finished the last dregs of coffee.
” Are we all set for tomorrow”? I asked
” As ready as we will ever be”
With that, we hit the hay. I took up my usual position and lay in his arms. I always feel so secure there and I know he will protect me. Tomorrow is the big day, our biggest yet. If all went well, then retirement loomed large.
Slowly, I drifted off to what will always be a fitful sleep. I dreamt of the dinner party and the guests who could stay forever if they chose to. The banter, the swapping of stories, the debates on theology and science. That would be an occasion to remember.
We both woke up at the same time, as always. We showered and did a light breakfast of croissants’ and coffee. We began the process of preparation.
Once we both felt ready, Xavier picked up his keys and we shared a deep, lingering kiss. There were no words needed, or actions, we knew what had to be done and how to do it. Now the time for talking was over, it was time to do.
I settled back into the sofa and switched on the tv. It was company more than anything. The hours until we start are long and lonely, but a necessity. I drifted in and out of the real world.
As Xavier drew closer, my awareness grew, my anticipation heightened and the first trickle of adrenaline began. It would be a long night for sure but hopefully a profitable one. So far, we had never been caught, I seriously doubt we ever will be, or could be.
Xavier rolled into the sweeping driveway of the address he had been given. The place was a ‘holiday home’ to some very rich person or other. We never know names, just faces, if they are known to us. There was already an assortment of cars outside, all empty, and a couple of guards with some very mean looking dogs. There would be no intruders this night.
Xavier reached over to pick up the carryall. It was heavy, heavier than it looked anyway. He stepped out of his magnificent Aston Martin, custom-made of course and walked the short distance to the door. He opened the carryall to reveal its contents to the guard and was granted his admission.
These games pop up all the time. Week in, week out, some poor sap would think he was a poker player and that he could beat them all. We never tired of taking their money. The games were highly illegal, so they were hush-hush. All invites were sent via a personal valet to the games organiser. There was no way to detect these games, only the players ever knew they existed along with one or two trusted aides.
The buy in for tonight’s game was a cool million. Small change to half these numpties. They still hated to lose it though and enemies could be made very swiftly in this lark. The prize? only $10,000,000. Retirement beckoned.
Xavier took the large scotch offered as he entered the room. A couple of new faces, a couple he knew from games of long ago and the host and his friends. All confessed to being the best poker player. None of them were. Maybe if Phil had been there, we would see who was best, but Xavier wasn’t there to get into a pissing contest, he was there to take the money.
The dealer was setting out the starting stacks of $100k and checking the table for any signs of tampering or illegal devices of any kind. Theres one thing about these games, they were always straight. Cheating got you killed, very rapidly. These men knew men who knew men, if you get my drift.
So the ten players drew table position numbers and the dealer dealt one card to each, the highest card became the button. The button is the intended dealer.To the dealers left sat the two blinds, forced bets placed before any cards were dealt. The starting blinds were $500/$1,000 with no ante.
The scene was set, ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a game and $10,000,000 is on the line.
The game is Texas No Limit Holdem, the Cadillac of poker, as someone had once called it. A simple enough game. Two cards dealt to each player, three community cards, the flop, then the fourth card, the turn, then a fifth, the river, and you make the best hand you can with those seven cards you can see. Hand ranking goes from high card [worst] to Royal Flush [best] and the best hand wins the pot [money] bet on each hand.
All players have physical ‘tells’ we are told. A twitch of the eye, a lick of the lips, a scratch of the chin, that give away information to the observant. bullshit. Xavier has no tell, not one. He is totally detached from the game, but engrossed in every hand. He sees, or rather I see, all the hole cards. I know, so he knows, what everyone is holding. You think we cheat don’t you? Be honest, you do. Thats the only way we could know what we know, right? Wrong!
Xavier does the hard part, because he has a better poker face than me. I get too emotionally attached to each hand and that costs money. But I am better at what I do than he is, so it works well. We are a well oiled machine, a money-making machine that gets the job done.
Xavier and I met by accident. I was walking along, minding my own business, eating an ice cream and enjoying the sunshine when he bumped into me. The ice cream ended up down his new shirt and I couldn’t help but laugh. He looked at his shirt, then at me, then back to the shirt while I waited for a reaction. The look of incredulity was hilarious and my own laugh broke forth, I just couldn’t hold it any longer. Slowly he smiled back at me, then the smile became a laugh and there we stood, two men, one with ice cream all over his shirt, and laughed. We laughed so hard our faces ached. It was when we stopped that I knew. He knew as well. Somehow, in this city of millions, we found, stumbled upon each other. We have been together ever since, as friends and lovers. The other element we also both saw enables us to do what we do.
I had never had the pleasure of playing poker, well not seriously anyway. The odd game with friends or family, but that was all. Xavier on the other hand, was a serious player of all poker disciplines. He made some money at it, but not the kind you can pay the bills with every month. When he met me, that was all to change.
One evening we were at the casino and Xavier wanted to play some poker. I left him to it and headed for the bar. I had been drinking for an hour or so and wondered how Xavier was doing, so I sauntered over to the table he was playing and railed. Railing is offering support to a player who is involved by spectators and friends and family. You have probably seen it in televised tournaments like the WSOP.
It was there that I first noticed my ability. First time, I just passed it off as drink and mind playing tricks on me. The second time was coincidence, but the third time forced me to take notice. In No Limit Hold Em, only the player can see the two cards in front of him, his opponents have no idea what they were. By watching closely, you can pick up what is called ‘range’. This is the range of hands a player bets on at any time during a hand. Some players are easy to put on a range, others are a lot harder. But I didn’t need to try to figure out a players range, I knew what he was holding. I could see the cards, face down on the table. I knew when Xavier was going to win and when he was more likely to lose. I couldn’t sit behind him and tell him that. It would be too obvious. I can’t use some hidden listening device, eventually you get caught and bad things can happen to those who get caught.
I told Xavier about this phenomena as we drove home. He just laughed at me and made sarcastic comments about drink and drugs and me being off my head etc etc. To prove my point, when we arrived home I went to fetch the cards. Every poker player has a pack of cards at their house, you can guarantee it. I dealt two cards to Xavier, told him to look at them and then told him what they were. He thought it was a trick. I had mirrors craftily set up to see his cards when he looked at them. I just asked if that was also the case in the casino. That stumped him. So I played a few hands with him and took his money. Me, the home player taking money off the semi pro, how dare I? Then I returned to dealing cards and telling him exactly what his two cards were, never getting it wrong.
Xavier asked me how I did it. He took some persuading, but what I told him was the only logical reason I could do this. I saw through his eyes. What he saw, he somehow transmitted to me. Even cards he couldn’t see himself, all he had to do was look in their direction and I saw every crease, every mark, every detail of every card.
Over the next few days, we did nothing but talk and practice what we could do. Xavier tested me like a lunatic. Already the idea of where this could lead was formulating in his mind. But he had to be sure, certain, 100%. If we were to do what he was thinking we could do, it had to be failsafe. If not, we stood to lose a lot of money. It worked, like a dream, every time, I was never wrong, not once out of thousands of attempts. Xavier just glanced at two cards on the table and I knew instantly what they were. The fun part was to come, when I started projecting those images back at him.
We spent months, slowly building to this night. We played just about every casino in Las Vegas that existed. You can’t play like that for long, word gets around and suspicions are aroused and suddenly you find that the house wont let you play anymore. They take the fish money, but stop the sharks from entering the water. So you have to find alternative ways. Hence the game right here and now.
We began doing the rounds of the illegal games that happen every night some place or other. We had to get our faces known, or rather Xavier did. He was the player. We lost a few games along the way, big loses, just to keep the action sweet. You don’t win $10,000,000 by chance. Everything we did led to this night. The big one. After tonight, we quit. In a weeks time, we would be sat on a sunny beach earning 10%.
Xavier was doing his thing. I was home, doing my thing. I thought a card, he felt my thought. Our minds were congenitally linked. We became expert at doing our thing. Xavier learnt not to flicker when the images struck him. It was difficult at first, just by the nature of what we could do. But with time, he became accustomed to the assault on his mind and learnt to handle the information. A quick glance is all I needed. I had to be careful not to overload his mind though. I had to think clearly and not let other thoughts or events occupy my mind. The concentration was hard work, leaving me drained. Xavier never experienced that part, he just sat and configured the information sent to him and concentrated on playing poker. He lost small pots and won big ones. No one ever appeared to make that connection. You lose 3, maybe 4 hands in a row and players don’t notice that the big one you just won was x3 what you just lost. It was planned and carried out to perfection.
The table at the big game was down to three players left. Winner takes all here, second best gets you nothing. Xavier had the big stack which his opponents eyed with envy. To be final three with the chip lead is every players dream. Xavier just took chips off his opponents quietly ans steadily. They never really knew what he did or how he did it. Now and then, just to throw opponents off the scent, he would play back at the man holding AA or KK and lose a good-sized pot, but then slowly but surely take it all back. He never went stupid and tried to take a players money in one go. He oozed confidence, which is a great image to have at the tables. He played hands beautifully at times. He was a poker poet in action, the table his arena, the cards his weapons. He could leave his opponent scratching their head in wonder at what he had just done to them. They just never saw it coming. I did though, so did Xavier.
So here we are, Xavier at the table, me at home and we are closing in on that $10,000,000. I can almost feel it, smell it and I am 30 miles away. Three players left and all wanting to win, desperately.
The dealer is king in this domain, what he says goes. No one defies the dealer, no one. The cards continue to fall, the chips continue to add to Xavier’s stack. Then it all went terribly wrong.
Xavier was dealt TJs [ten, jack, suited] and was in position with a good chip lead. He had the Big Bind well covered and the Small Blind as well. The blinds were up to $5k/$10k. The SB has air [bad cards] and the BB has QQ. Xavier knows this in a second and will play back at the BB. The SB folds his cards and is out of the hand, the BB decided to raise the pot, by 4x his BB. Thats raising the bet to $4,000. Xavier knows this player and re raises the pot by another $5,000. The BB thinks for what seems like an age and just calls the bet. The flop comes down, TQK rainbow [Ten, Queen, King, different suits] The BB has a set of Queens, good hand. Xavier knows. The BB bets 3/4 of the pot and Xavier calls. The turn card is the Ace of diamonds. BB doesn’t improve, but Xavier has a straight now. The BB shoves all in to try to protect his hand and make Xavier fold. Xavier shoves right back at him and the river is a brick [improves no ones hand] and the cards are shown. Xavier wins, his straight beats the set. The BB is furious that anyone would call his shove at that point. He needs the money to pay off debts to people you don’t want to owe anything. He leaps off his chair, pulling a blade out in the process and lunges for Xavier. Now Xavier is usually quick, but he was busy raking the chips in, he was a split second too slow. The knife was driven deep. Xavier gasped as it pierced his lung. The man fell away, leaving the knife where it was. I could feel it in my own lungs and I was drowning in Xavier’s blood. No, no, this can’t be right. How can this happen. Each time Xavier tries to draw another breath, I bleed with him. My lungs are filling up, someone help him, please help him, or we are going to die.
The paramedics arrived too late. There was nothing they could do to save Xavier. They lifted his broken body, sealed in its black body bag and loaded him into the ambulance and set off for the morgue. I watched it all happen but was powerless to prevent anything.
We died together, drowning in our own blood. We were linked at a deeper level than we realised and that was to be our undoing.
So tomorrow, I am hosting my first dinner party and they shall all be there, with me and Xavier and we shall have the kind of endless conversations I have always dreamt of.
*~*~* The End *~*~*