The man in the white suit crashed through the door and ran across the room. His arms flailed in time with his ungainly pace. Saro pulled himself to his feet; Diggs and Becker followed suit. Johnson raised his tumbler to his lips and let the heat of the Jack Daniels enter his mouth.
The deck of cards was still in the dealer’s left hand. The flop was out on the felt. Ace of spades, deuce of clubs, King of spades. Diggs, Becker and Saro had already folded and were more interested in the action off the table. A plain-clothes security guard had spotted the infiltrator, and raced across to meet him, walkie in his hand, calling in backup.
“What the fuck’s going on, man?” Becker shouted at the dealer, even though he was only two feet away. He’d been pissy since he misplayed his ladies and lost most of his stack to Diggs.
“Sort it out. Get him ouddahere.” Saro joined in.
The ice had almost melted. It had been frozen in a perfect cube when he received it. One rock. Always only one rock. Enough to bring the Jack to the right temperature. Johnson drained the glass and settled back in his chair.
His cards lay face down on the table; on top of them sat a heavy circular platinum chip.
“Get that clown out of here,” Saro barked again.
The dealer shouted, “Floor!” but all eyes were already on the man in the white suit. All eyes apart from Johnson’s and Bale’s. Bale hadn’t moved an inch, sitting there in seven, diagonally across from Johnson. They were the only ones still in their seats, still in the game.
Action was on Bale. Twenty-five grand in the pot, Johnson understood why Bale didn’t leap up like the others; he needed the money. His bankroll wasn’t big enough to let a pot like this go.
A waitress passed behind Johnson; he tapped her arm and waved his glass. She nodded, silently, and moved quickly, her eyes not leaving the man running across the casino floor.
The security guard was almost on him, and a second had entered from behind the blackjack tables. Two others moved in from the slots zone. Johnson looked at Bale, Bale looked at Johnson.
Bale was running a single five grand chip over the fingers of his right hand. He had twenty grand in front of him. He started the night with three hundred. Fortune had not favoured him. Either that or he was a bad player.
Diggs left the table, making a beeline for the Farley Skene’s office. Salo and Becker trailed behind him, half looking where they were going, half looking over at the man in the white suit. They weren’t going to get any joy out of the manager. Skene had been running the Lucky Lady for ten years and hadn’t gained his reputation by interfering in personal ‘incidents’. He’d gained it by staying out of them.
Bale looked at the dealer, looked at the pot, and spoke. “We can cancel this one, if you…”
The dealer’s look turned from panic to confusion. This wasn’t the kind of decision he usually had to make.
The first security guard grabbed the man. The man launched a kick into his gut, floored him like a sack of flour. He kept running.
“Under the circumstances...” The dealer started to make a ruling.
Johnson shot him a look.
The dealer gulped visibly and almost spilled the deck onto the table.
“We should finish the hand, sir,” he said to Bale, his voice impotent.
“Really?” Bale sounded incredulous. He waved his hand towards the man in the white suit. “Even though he is here?”
Johnson said nothing. His steel blue eyes never left Bale.
Bale’s exasperation was clear. He banged the table. “Okay, I check.”
The dealer looked over to the man in the white suit, only a hundred yards from them now; the two security guards from slots were almost on him. He was fat and slow. He’d let himself go.
In one cool move, Johnson threw a single chip into the pot.
“Twenty,” the dealer said.
Bale shuffled in his chair and sat upright, more alert, more focussed on the game.
“Big bet, Johnson. You think you have it?” Bale smiled too widely. “That old AK? The Big Slick. You have it?”
Johnson said nothing. A waitress quick-stepped up to him and handed him another Jack. He passed her a ten dollar note.
“I don’t think you have it,” Bale said. He looked down at his stack, and then peeled the corners of his cards up, checking his hand, smiling, smiling too much. “I don’t think you have shit.”
He looked at the dealer and spoke again.
“I’m all in.”
Johnson could hear the man in the white suit now. He was closing in. Fifty yards, the two security guards hanging off him, like baskets on a burro.
“Johnson. Johnson you piece of shit. Johnson.”
He kept running, barely held back by his two six-foot plus panniers.
Johnson took a sip of his Jack. It was the perfect temperature. Just the way he liked it.
Bale wriggled impatiently, but he didn’t look at the man, he stared only at Johnson, or more precisely at Johnson’s stack. He checked his cards again. Once. Twice.
Johnson leaned forward slowly and flicked a chip into the pot.
“That’s a call,” said the dealer.
“Johnson! Look at me you snake. Look at me.” The third security guard was on the man now, his arm hooked around his neck, trying to bring him down.
The dealer looked at Johnson, as if expecting a response, but Johnson’s eyes were on the board, waiting for the turn and river to fall.
The dealer gulped and ran the cards.
Turn seven of diamonds.
River eight of clubs.
“I guess you missed your flush draw, Johnson. Unlucky boss, unlucky.”
Bale reached across the table for the chips, without even tabling his cards.
“Sir?” the dealer said. “Showdown, please.”
“Mr Johnson here is bang out of luck…in more ways than one it seems.”
The man in the white suit was next to the table, only feet away. He’d thrown off the security guard from his back, and he strained against the arms holding him on either side.
“Johnson. I’m here for you. This is the end.”
Johnson took another drink.
He turned his cards to show two red deuces, and spoke for the first time.
“Not tonight, friend. Not tonight.”