Every hotel has a Pimp. Someone not connected to the hotel who, for cash, can supply its guests with “special services.” The Majestic’s Pimp is named Sonny – a wretched little pervert who specializes in human weakness: Want drugs? Sonny. Want sex? Sonny. Want sex and drugs? Sonny. Want a room, falsely registered, to which all of the above will be delivered? Guess who?
Red Penny and I walk into The Majestic Bar, Sonny’s hang-out, where, in a dark back booth we find Sonny, an effeminate little man, sitting in-between two very young blond girls who are wearing little enough for one. “Christina, Brittany,” Red Penny says to the two under-aged prostitutes, “it’s way past your bedtime. Get up and get out.”
They look to Sonny, who says to them, “Go, my darlings, go.” Sonny’s bodyguard, an ex-con named Luther Mope, who’s specialty is murder for hire, steps in directly in front of us. Sonny waves him away. Red Penny and I take the two seats on either side and slide up close to Sonny. “Talbot! Penelope! Together? What strange bedfellows. Can I rent you two a room?” Sonny giggles. “Just tell Sonny what you want. Anything you’ve ever needed. Everything you’ve ever wanted. I’m your guy.” I lean close to Sonny, “A Saturday night special was used to murder someone in the Poker Room. I think you supplied the gun.”
“Murder? Gun?” Sonny starts to whine, “I don’t know anyth . . . Oomph!” Red Penny has violently shoved her Smith & Wesson into Sonny’s lower belly. Luther emerges from the shadows and moves towards the table. The metallic click tells Sonny Red Penny has pulled the trigger back. Sonny stops Luther. Red Penny whispers, “Sonny, sweetie, Talbot has some questions for you. If you answer them I won’t shoot you.” She gives the gun another vicious shove. Sonny turns back to me, “Tal, what is it exactly that I can do for you and The Warrior Princess?”
“Tell me about the gun.”
Sonny laughs, “Is that all? Tell Annie Oakley to put away her ‘Shootin’ Iron.'” Red Penny’s gun does not move. Sonny shrugs. “Some hitchhiker wants a gun. Looks in the yellow pages under Gunshops. They tell him there’s a 5-day waiting period. He hangs up. Finds some mop squeezer or a luggage hauler who, for a little cash, sends him to me, who, for a lot of cash, sells him an untraceable Saturday Night Special. End of story.”
“Not the end of the story, Sonny. Your hitchhiker with the Saturday Night Special killed one and wounded another before I put him down.”
“Wounded? I heard there were two dead. . . .”
“The other one may live. What do you care?”
“I don’t. Just morbid curiosity.”
“Sonny. Did the hitchhiker say what he wanted with the gun?
“Why? Do you really think I’d ask why? Please. I’m not in the business of asking “Why?”
Red Penny asks, “Did he say anything about his wife?”
“Wife? I don’t know the hitchhiker had a wife. . . . Is she dead too?”
“More morbid curiosity?” I ask.
Sonny says nothing.
Red Penny says, “The wife’s missing. Maybe kidnapped. Maybe kidnapped and murdered. If you know anything about this. . . .”
“My dear,” Sonny says to Red Penny. “I’m in a low-risk, high-return business. Murder? Kidnapping? They’re so-o-o-o-o risky. To-o-o-o-o risky. I sell nice safe dry goods. I leave the wet work to others.” Luther looms nearby.
I nod to Red Penny who puts her gun away. We get up to leave.
Sonny is all smiles again, “So good to see you both. Anything you’ve ever needed. Everything you’ve ever wanted. I’m your guy. Do tell your friends.”
As we leave, Red Penny says to me, “I should have gut-shot him.” I don’t disagree.
We are outside the Majestic Bar. Red Penny’s beeper goes off. “Smash and grab on the Promenade. I have to go. Where will you be?”
“In the Poker Room,” I reply. “Captain Video promised me film.” We go our separate ways.
An hour has passed. I’ve spent it watching and taking notes on the late Scott Hadley’s ability to play Texas Hold’em Poker. Captain Video’s first tape, labeled “Monday Afternoon,” shows friendly, relaxed, Scott Hadley, buying into a $3-$6 Hold’em ligaz11 game a with a rack-of-red. In more than three hours of play he’s seen 110 hands.
He’s folded pre-flop over 50 times.
He’s folded on the flop over 30 times.
He’s folded three times on the Turn.
He’s folded once on the River.
He’s been in twenty-six showdowns.
He’s won twelve pots.
Minus the Blinds, Rake, and Tokes, Scott Hadley had managed to win a couple of hundred dollars. He’s played a solid tight-aggressive, no-nonsense hold’em game.
The second tape, labeled “Saturday Night,” shows an angry, surly Scott Hadley buying into the $500-$1000 Midnight Hold’em Game with five racks of purple. In half an hour of non-play, he sits like a zombie, stares, check his watch, pays the blinds, does not look at his cards, does not pay attention to the game. The first hand he enters is the last hand he plays. I don’t get it. I watch again. I still don’t get it. I am watching for the third time when Red Penny returns.
“I called the hospital. The Good Samaritan, Mr. Patrick, is out of surgery. It was touch and go. They think he’ll make it.”
“That’s the only good news for the night,” I tell her. “I’ve got nothing.” Red Penny sits down. “Talbot, tell me all the facts, only what you know to be true, about Scott. I’ll do the same for Audrey.”
“I look down at my notes, labeled Monday through Saturday, and begin: “I know for a fact that Scott had money.”
“Right. The job, the house, the car, the suite.”
“I know for a fact Scott’s Texas Hold’em comfort level was no higher than $3-$6.” I tell Red Penny I watched him wait more than twenty minutes on Monday to get a seat in the $3-$6 Hold’em table when seats at higher stakes tables were available.
“I know for a fact Scott was not a ‘gambler’ but a tight, careful, winning low-limit Texas Hold’em player.” I show Red Penny my pages and pages of notes from watching Scott play.
“I know for a fact that between early Wednesday and late Friday Scott raised a large amount of cash, $250,000. I know this from the telephone records and the Casino Cage receipts.
“I know that on Friday Scott bought a untraceable Saturday Night Special.” Red Penny rolls her eyes at the thought of Sonny.
“Finally, on Saturday night, an angry Scott buys into a $500-$1000 Limit Hold’em Game, in which he plays only one hand, betting all the money in front of him, almost $250,000. He holds the nuts but then surrenders his winning hand, giving the pot to a total stranger before, for reasons unknown, yelling “Give me back my money!” and murdering that stranger and sending another stranger to the hospital. Before I . . .” I do not say, “kill him.”
Red Penny, silent throughout my review of Scott, begins her own review of Audrey. “We only know two things for sure about Audrey. She was alive and well on Tuesday “”The slot farm and poker room surveillance tapes.”
“And she went missing Tuesday. . . . “
“The missing birth control pills for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.”
“. . . between 5:25 and 6:10 p.m.”
“The poker room and elevator lobby surveillance tapes.”
“Right. That’s the end of the facts. We put all the facts together, we come up with the following scenario.
“Audrey was kidnapped on Tuesday.”
“And it takes Scott three days, Wednesday through Friday, to raise the ransom. He turns traceable cash into untraceable checks and goes to the poker room on Saturday for the drop-off.
“Scott buys the gun as insurance that the kidnapper will return Audrey unharmed. The problem with all this is. . . .”
“While waiting for the kidnapper to show up he buys into a game he doesn’t belong in and kills a highly respected, elderly man who could not possibly be involved in the kidnapping.”
“Then why,” Red Penny asks, “did Scott enter the game and kill him?”
“The murder is a dead end. But we have two crimes, murder and kidnapping. If we solve one we can solve the other. Penelope, we need to answer this question: Who kidnapped Audrey?”
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