Brian Garfield: Hopscotch

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Brian Garfield Hopscotch
  • Название:
    Hopscotch
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  • Жанр:
    Шпионский детектив / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Hopscotch: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Brian Garfield


Hopscotch

— 1 -

In Paris the gambling was hidden but easy enough to find. This one was in the fifteenth arrondissement near the Citroen factory. The thick door had an iron ring for a handle; a thug absurdly disguised as a doorman admitted Kendig and there was a woman at a desk, attractive enough but she had a cool hard air. Kendig went through the tedium of establishing the credentials of his innocence-he was not a flic, he was not Sicilian, he was not Union Corse, he was not this or that. “Just a tourist. I’ve been here before-with Mme. Labrie. There isn’t a message for me by any chance?”

There wasn’t. Kendig paid the membership admission and crossed to the elevator. There will be an interesting message for you tonight at the Club Rouge. It had been typed, no signature; delivered to his concierge by an urchin clutching a five-franc note.

He went up in a lift cage piloted by a little fellow whose face was the texture of old rubber dried grey by a desert sun: the look of an Algerian veteran. The old fellow opened the gate on the third etage. “Bonne chance, M’sieur.” Behind the smile was a leering cynicism.

Kendig’s fathomless eyes looked past the tables at a desolate emptiness of his own. The crowd was moderate, the decor discreet, the costumery tiresomely fashionable. Soft laughter here, hard silence there: winners and losers. The bright lighting leeched their faces of color. Kendig drifted among the felted tables. A croupier recognized him from somewhere and smiled; he was in the uniform-the tuxedo that only appeared to have pockets; to discourage temptation. Kendig said, “They’ve moved the poker?”

“You must speak with the maitre.” The croupier glanced toward a largish man in black who loomed over the neighboring wheel.

Kendig had a word with the maitre and had to show his bankroll to the cashier behind a cage. He bought five thousand francs in rectangular chips and the maitre guided him officiously past the tables to an oak door with massive polished brass fittings. Beyond it Kendig found the game, six players around a table that accommodated eight chairs. A houseman stood in the shadows.

There was one woman in the game; he knew who she was but they’d never met. He knew the American, Paul Jaynes; the others were strangers.

Jaynes gave him a debonair greeting and the others glanced at him but Kendig hung back until they had finished the hand. They were playing seven stud-unusual for a room like this. And the house wasn’t dealing.

The woman won the hand and gathered the pot; the maitre bowed his way out and Kendig pulled out one of the empty chairs and sat down with his chips. His place was between Jaynes and the woman, with the woman on his left; he knew Jaynes’s manner of play and it didn’t trouble him to be downwind of the American.

“Been a while,” Jaynes said with his beefy smile and Kendig nodded acknowledgment. Jaynes had a deep suntan and a huckster’s compulsion to touch anyone to whom he spoke. He was a film producer of independently financed sex-and-sandal epics. The others had the same look: businessmen, promoters-two Frenchmen, a German, a Swede. The woman he knew by sight and reputation; he’d seen dossiers on her-she’d spent a few years as patroness of American exiles in Algeria before she’d tired of the game or been frightened out of it by the professionals. She had been married to a banker but there’d been a divorce and she’d reverted to her maiden name.

“Pot limit of course,” Jaynes told him, laying out the ground rules. “Check-raise. It’s not table stakes-you can go into your pocket if you want to. Or you can tap out. We try to make it easy on ourselves.” He smiled; it was a little nervous-it looked as if he might have started with a larger stake than he had now. “Ante twenty-five francs to the player. The house takes one ante for its cut.”

“Seven stud or dealer’s choice?”

“Seven only.”

The woman said, “We decided by majority when we began.”

“Suits me.” It didn’t matter.

The game proceeded. He tried to take an interest in it but most of it came to him like the adult voices you half-heard when you were a small child dozing in the next room. It was one of the things he found soothing about gambling: its detachment from everything. He folded out of three hands on the first round of each; on the fourth he caught a pair of wired jacks in which he had little faith but he strung them along to the sixth card before he dropped out, unimproved; that cost him three hundred francs.

“You’re getting cool cards for a newcomer,” the woman said apologetically. “You must be disappointed.”

He made a soundless reply, a courteous expression. She was wrong, actually; disappointment only follows expectation and he’d had none of that.

After the first half hour he was a thousand francs in the hole and had won only two hands. There had been one extravagant pot; he had not participated in it; the woman won it. That was what the game amounted to-like surfing; you endured the ordinary waves while you waited for the occasional big one. The players who approached it professionally would have none of that-they played every hand to win-but the big ones came their way too and whatever their denials it came to the same thing. The woman was pushing the big ones hard and he saw she was the player to beat.

The Frenchman Deroget tapped out and left the table in vile spirits. He left nine thousand francs in the game. When the Frenchman was gone Paul Jaynes said, “More than two thousand dollars. Not much for a game like this one-but too much for a shrimp like him. I’ve heard it around that he’s in pretty deep. They’ll be keeping a close eye on him.” He meant the casino: if a man committed suicide his pockets would be stuffed quietly with money to discourage any idea he might have killed himself over his losses.

A few hands came Kendig’s way and he raked them in without particular joy. He was only marking time.

The fifth card of the hand was dealt around; Kendig’s was a queen and it gave him three hearts face-up. The woman had two nines in sight but she checked them. Kendig checked as well; Jaynes had a pair of fives showing and was eager to bet them-he was cheerfully transparent about it. There were a thousand francs in the pot by then; Jaynes opened the round’s betting with a hundred-franc wager and two of the players beyond him called the bet; the German folded and then it was Mlle Stein’s turn and she saw the bet and raised five hundred francs. It made a nineteen-hundred-franc pot and when Kendig saw the raise it doubled the size of the pot; and Kendig raised the limit. “The raise is three thousand eight hundred.” About a thousand dollars by the day’s exchange rate.

Jaynes called the raise without hesitation but he didn’t raise back; it meant he had his third five but not his full house. The Swede and the Frenchman folded their hands. The woman smiled a little, thought about it and then called the raise. It ended the round’s betting and there was a good sum on the table now: a little over fifteen thousand francs. Two cards remained to be dealt to each player; there would be two more rounds of betting in the hand.

Mlle Stein’s card was another four-spot and gave her two pair in sight, nines over fours. The Swede dealt Kendig the king of spades-no visible improvement of his three-hearts-to-the-queen. Jaynes bought the jack of diamonds: his third suit and no evident help for his matched fives. The three-handed betting began with the woman: she counted out five thousand francs into the pot. It could mean anything. Either she had her boat and wanted to build the pot or she didn’t have it and wanted to frighten her opponents into not raising.

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