Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

Between pitches, she raised her eyes and caught mine. She glanced up at the glass ceiling, a reflex most dealers develop under the steady gaze of the security cameras. I glanced towards the glass ceiling too, then returned her gaze. She blinked to cover her surprise and when she looked at me again, I darted my eyes toward the ceiling a second time. She seemed amused by my little game and gestured toward an empty chair. I stepped forward, staring into her deep gray eyes and removed my money clip. I peeled ten Franklins from the money clip from my pocket and tossed them on the table
“Hit me ten times.” She counted, picked up the money, and told the pit boss she was giving me ten chips. The boss nodded and then looked curiously at what I was going to do. I placed every chip in the betting circle.
“All in.” She flipped the cards around the table. I received my first card under and a king of spades up. Her pair was jack of diamonds and a four of clubs, totaling fourteen. The other players all folded; it was just the two of us now. I slashed my hand sideways to indicate I was holding the hand. She took one more card, a queen of diamonds, giving her twenty-four and putting her out of the game. I flipped over my under card, the queen of hearts, for a score of 20.
“King on top of Queen,” she said coyly.
“Works for me,” I responded. I scooped up all the chips. The other players at the table looked surprised at my quick exit. “Don’t run off,” the dealer said, nodding to a sign on the wall:YOU CAN’T WIN IF YOU DON’T PLAY But the fatigue was getting to me, and I headed for my room. When I swiped my key card in the door and opened it, the room was pitch black except for the blinking red message light. I flicked on the lights but left the drapes closed. I stashed my suitcase on the luggage rack and reached for the phone. “you have a message for me?” I asked the operator. The messages was from Drazik. I should meet him at the bar.
I placed my shoulder bag carefully on the bed and lay down beside it. I peered hard through the dark, waiting for my eyes to steady.
“Jim, I don’t like this place,” Angel whined. “you’re weak. you haven’t slept or eaten for two days.” “Angel, what difference does it make? Maria’s gone. Any hopes of a normal life flew away with her pilot. I should have killed him.”
“you could tell her what your life has been like, why it’s so hard for you to trust people, why you are so afraid.” “Right. I’ll give her a paid vacation inside my brain. That ought to turn her on. ‘Thanks for letting me know what a sick fuck you are, Jim.’”
“I hate when you talk like this,” Angel snapped. “And please don’t swear.”
“Fuck you,” I replied calmly. I sighed. A beautiful future with Maria was lost and there was nothing I could do. I would never see her again. She had been brilliant and now she was gone, vanished like a firefly in the night.
“Good-bye, my friend,” I whispered aloud.
“you are the one for me but you deserve more than the madness I have to offer.” I swung out of bed, placed my shoulder bag on the top shelf of the closet, and covered it with a blanket. I picked up a hotel envelope and ripped off a corner. When I left the room, I hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outside doorknob, and then wedged the envelope corner inside the doorjamb. If someone opened the door while I was gone, the corner would be on the carpet outside the door when I returned.
As I exited the elevator on the casino level, I fell under the spell of the hustle. Tomorrow would take care of itself. Today, I was going to play. The casino floor no longer felt like a minefield. It felt more like a trapper’s paradise, filled with leghold traps and snares to catch the fat, juicy tourists who hadn’t a clue how much they were being taken for. I found my way to a no-limit Texas Hold ’em game and watched the pros. Studying the players, I could see nuances that betrayed their hands: how the eye blinked, the face twitched, the way they held the cards. every player showed some reaction to every card, even the best.

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