Hobby and I were in a heap of trouble. Being the good citizens that we are, we cooperated with the LAPD to entice Pete Francone, a top level hood, onto Lazybuns to connect him with a multi-million dollar crime. When he boarded I gave him a priceless stolen locket. He had planted it in my jacket the night before during a poker game when he thought the Feds might catch him with it. We planned Francone would be nabbed by the cops when he left the yacht. Instead, he had four armed frogmen sneak aboard to take command.
After six hours in a cash poker game at the Bike, I was beat. "Thanks for waiting, Hobby. I could have taken a cab."
"I wanted to see how you'd do against the big boys, Joe."
"I'm taking home some of their money, but not enough to piss 'em off."
Among others at the table was Pete Francone, a high stakes poker player who is otherwise involved in the grey business world. I was in over my head, getting into a cash game with the likes of him, but I was suddenly flush after getting an unexpected royalty check for foreign book sales.
When the last hand of the night was dealt the countdown clock on the bomb under the poker table read 0:05:01.
On the button in a $50/$100 no-limit hold'em game, I peel off the felt the worst possible poker hand, the [7d] [2h].
I look to my right and I check out the sitting ducks. Huey, Dewey, and Louie have all called.
Donald Duck's $50 Big Blind. I call, as does Daffy Duck, in the Small Blind. The Flop is [8c] [3h] [Jd]. The Ducklings bet, raise, and re-raise. I call. Three bets cold. Daffy and Donald drop out.
[Read Part 1]
I was on the fantail of Hobby's yacht, Lazybuns, sipping a spicy bloody Mary. "Hobby, can you get a hold of your buddy who won the 7-card stud at the WSOP?"
"You mean Benny; maybe. What's up?"
"Get him on the speaker phone, please. I'm still working this out."
I go to the Police. I tell Detective Sweeny, "The House of Cards is a bizarre sado-masochistic poker game played for body parts." He throws me out.
I go to the FBI. I tell Agent Merry, "The House of Cards is a bizarre sadomasochistic poker game. . . ." She throws me out too.
I go to the Hospital. Jake's not there. House Of Cards players are.
I go to the Morgue. Jake's not there. What's left of Shemp is.
I go to The House Of Cards. Jenny and the Small Man are gone.
I go to Don Paulo's home. He's dead. There's a new Don.
"You have come to The House Of Cards," says Jenny, "because, for you, playing for money is not enough. Here the stakes are, literally, an arm and a leg. In the early rounds we will play Biblical Rules - the bets will be 'An Eye For An Eye.' We will then progress to Vampire Rules, Cannibal Rules, and finally, when we are down to the last two players, Shakespeare's Rules, when the bet will be 'A Pound of Flesh.'"
One by one The Small Man leads eliminated players away to the slaughter. Finally only Shemp and I remain. Only one of us will leave this room alive.
I tell Jenny, "I'm not the Spade thief. I didn't cheat the House of Cards. Gyp had two partners. I was there to cheat. The other, the player I call Shemp, was there to kill. He's the one you want.
You have to believe me."
"The Rules," answers Jenny, "say I have to let you play. Nowhere do they say I have to believe you."
The doorbell rings.
"That," says Jenny, "will be our final player." She opens the door. Standing there, holding up an As, is Shemp.
"Hey, Joe. Shake a leg; our reservation is for 7:30," Hobby shouted. I was still looking for my keys when I heard the doorbell.
"Get the door, Hobby. I'll be right there."
Hobby was turned sideways to a young guy in jeans and tee shirt. "He says he's your brother, Joe."
"What?" I said incredulously.
"I don't have a brother." I looked him up and down and said, "Who the hell are you and what's your game?"
"Well, if you're Joe Crest, I'm sort of your half-brother."
A Goon steps out of the alley.
I yell to the driver, "Step on it!"
"Where to?" he asks.
The Goon raises his gun.
"I need an address."
I scream, "Winslow, Arizona! Go!"
I collapse back in the seat. Close my eyes. Sleep.
The cab lurches to a halt, waking me.
"We're here," says the driver.
"Exactly where you asked to be taken. The corner of Winslow and Ari-zona."