"Don't you love being up here, Joe. It's like sitting on top of the world."
"The view is magnificent, Hobby, but I can't say I'm at ease." We were in Hobby's Beechcraft Bonanza on our way to Las Vegas. Hobby is a good pilot, but I'm not comfortable in small planes. "You sure we're going in the right direction?"
"Are you kidding, Joe. This baby has the best navigation system money can buy. Look at the display, you can see our route and follow it like a map all the way to Vegas."
"Clear!" shouts the paramedic. Ignoring my life-and-death struggle, Gyp says, "Not awl a' us at da game wuz kilt."
"You mean me?'
"No. As a matta a fact I don't. . . "
"think he's going to make it. You. . ."
"woodn' eider f ya'd tink out. Da problum iz ya haven't counted up the numba a . . ."
"dead! One more failed shock and we're declaring him dead."
". . . jus' like me an' da three poka playas. Nows iz dat"
I start breathing again. Jake says, "You were dead."
The Ugly Man is dying. He holds up the As, "Now they have to let me play at the House Of Cards! It's in the Rules. You show the Spade, you play. The game's tonight. All I have to do now is stand on the corner. . . ." He starts to drift off into unconsciousness.
I shake him awake, "What corner?"
"Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see . . ." His eyes roll up. I sit there helpless. Suddenly he wakes, shakes The Spade in my face, yells, "Gyp told me his partner at the table had an invitation to play at the House Of Cards. That was you, you lying son of. . . " and dies.
Honey's not talking about the House of Cards. Her bodyguard, "Big Elmo," lays sprawled, half-in and half-out of the front door of "The Girls," Honey's Strip Club/Poker Room. What's left of Honey herself is splattered all over her front steps.
Neither is Thumbs.
The City Morgue's "Meat Wagon" is parked in the alley behind "The Cat Flush Card Club." Thumbs lays under two white sheets ten feet apart.
We came to Japan to play poker; so far it's been anything but. We were rudely introduced to Japan's underworld, but survived an altercation which led to an invitation to visit Iwatasan, the number one mob chieftain. Our host Sugi Yamamoto, scored points with the big man and won assurance we'd be troubled no more. Hobby and I were ready to flee the enclave and return to Tokyo before anyone had a change of mind. However...,
"Mr. Iwata asked us to stay for dinner and overnight," Sugi said.
Danny, Megan, Earl, Maude and the Rookie were seated at a table at the rear of the Carnegie Deli, steps away from the Mirage poker room.
"Well," Earl asked the Rookie. "Are you sure you're ready to give it a try? No limit Hold'Em is a rough game."
The Rookie nodded.
"Ready as I'll ever be, Uncle Earl."
Danny leaned across the table, "Tell me again why you think so?"
"Been studying the game," the Rookie said. "Reading books. Running hands on the computer. Plus, I've been winning pretty regularly at the games in school."
"What's your major?"
Wheels screams for "Help!"
"Let's get out of here now!" says Jake.
"Wait!" I go to the closet and grab the Old Don's metal briefcase. Clutching it to my chest, I run for the alley door.
The man who has fallen through the trap door is on all fours trying to stand. I stop to give him a hand up. Our eyes meet. In total disbelief I stumble backwards. The Small Man pulls out his shotgun and fires at me pointblank.
I ask, "Where's the Don's $250,000 poke?"
Wheels should have worn sunglasses. His eyes go involuntarily towards a closet door on the far wall. "I don't keep it here."
I go to the closet, where the stench is overpowering, and I open it. A huge dog, its jaws opened wide, leaps for my throat.
In Dante's Inferno, Cerberus, the savage, flesheating dog that guards the Gates of Hell, is described as "a hideous monster fierce and strange." The Rottweiler that has gone for my throat is Cerberus' ugly cousin.
[Read Part One of this story]
Our host, Sugi, forewarned us as we left our Tokyo hotel that unscrupulous characters were trying to muscle in on his poker tournament, but we were not expecting to be sideswiped by a truck. Thanks to airbags we were just buffeted about. As I was trying to get my mind in gear, Hobby shouted, "Quick, they're coming."
Crash! A tray of drinks is dropped. While everyone (except me) looks away, Wheels trades cards with The Dealer.
"All-in," says Wheels.I move to go all-in, pushing my blue stacks forward before saying, "Wait, I've got one more chip!"
I lift up my plaster cast, revealing the $25 'Limp Inn' chip and splash it into the pot.
Wheels does not turn up his cards. Instead he nods to a passing waitress who screams, Ow! Who grabbed my ass!
While everyone (including me) looks away, a trapdoor opens under my chair. The Dealer calls to the Brush, "Open seat!"