The Symbiotic Club

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This work contains adult themes and is not intended for children.

Chapter 7 - The Rain Bet

Wanda told me that she would be on extended leave starting Thanksgivings Day. She didn't tell me where she was going or exactly when she would return.

She stressed that we wouldn't exchange gifts and I shouldn't even think about getting her a gift, even as a sign of friendship. Still, I wanted badly to get her something. I just had no idea what she would like or even what she would have that I could afford.

With a lull in local sports, I spent considerable time in the Atlanta malls. Really for the first time, I considered what money could buy. Browsing the stores provided a mini education both in terms of what was available and how much money I might need.

While in a book store, I saw a book by Hope Chamberlin, A Minority of Members. It profiled the political and the personal lives of 85 women who had served in the U.S. legislature. It was too right for Wanda for her not to appreciate it. The store wrapped it nicely.

I also bought both Revene's and Brawn's books on blackjack. They provided a possibility for me to make money. The basic strategies reflected almost exactly what I had learned at the club. I was well on my way to being able to count a deck by that lonesome Christmas Day.

I asked Freddy, the club manager, about tickets to the New Years dance. I thought there was a chance that Wanda could return by then and might want an escort.

"Those sold out weeks ago," he said, "but you know if you want to see Wanda Drake, you could help in the bar. You might find time to slip in a dance with her."

My face showed, I'm sure, my amazement at his statement.

"She'll definitely be here. She's in the Murphy party."

"Harrison Murphy?"

"Sure. That group of lawyers. She'd still dance with you."

I shook my head. It was too much for me to process. "I know nothing about working a bar. I don't really even drink."

"You can handle the beer orders. We could even station you at the keg. It's simple to draw a glass of beer. You can handle that. You'd be a big help."

I enjoyed filling the beer mugs. I felt useful. I felt included; most members called me by name. However, I couldn't see the dance floor. I got no breaks; there was no opportunity even to see Wanda.

I expected another onslaught when the band took its break at 11:30, but none came, only Freddy. "They're anticipating the champagne! You could help set up the champagne glasses. I'll hang around here. Most people'll clear out after Auld Lang Syne. Really no need for you to come back here."

I took the most direct route, placing glasses as I went, toward the lawyer's table. Wanda smiled big when she saw me and said, "There you are."

I nodded.

"I did bring you something," she said.

"You do? I have a little something for you also."

"You do? I'm pleased. Is it here? Good. When you finish with that tray, perhaps we can exchange gift. Or, better yet," she smiled again, "we can ring in the New Year together and then exchange them."

We danced the last dance of the year together. Her movements lacked their normal precision. With Auld Lang Syne, we kissed, a friends-type kiss, and then she kissed all of her lawyer friends. They weren't as friend-like as I might have wanted. Each man in turn swirled her around to the music. She was laughing when she ambled back toward me.

"That was fun! Your gift is in my car."

"Yours is in mine."

She staggered some as we walked. She took my arm. I felt better.

"Let me go first," she said as she nudged me toward her car.

"Well, okay. Let's get it and bring it back down to my car. It's parked more in the light."

I opened her present, a set of writing instruments, a decisive upgrade for me.

She admired first the wrapping on her book and then the box containing it. "I know this store," she said cuddling it against her breast. "It's one of my favorite in Atlanta!"

"Well, open it!"

"Oh, it's just the thing! How thoughtful!" She lean forward, and really before I knew it, her lips were fully on mine. Her free hand found the hair just above my collar. Then, she stepped back.

"That wasn't a good thing for me to do, was it? Not really like I want us just to be friends? I'm afraid I've had too much to drink and you are so sweet."

"I liked it. I liked it very much!" I said, but she was walking in the general direction of her car.

I said, "Perhaps I should drive you."

"You would like that, I am sure!" She giggled. "No, really, I can drive myself. I will see you at the dance. Gees, they are not having one this Friday. Can not have two dances in one week, I guess. I will see you at the dance, whenever."

There were twice as many games during basketball season as in football. However, the games were shorter. Also, the Saturday games at the college were always evening affairs. As it turned out I had more time for the club.

My newly gained skill at counting cards didn't yield much advantage upstairs. The players usually didn't reveal their cards, tossing them at the dealer when they bust and the dealer would pay without showing hands when he bust. Also, with seven players, the dealer shuffled on every round removing the opportunity to vary the bet size.

The exception was early Saturdays. Usually at that time, there were fewer players. I saw more cards and got more hands between shuffles. I understood that in Nevada, one could find similar conditions without difficulty.

Downstairs, the opportunities didn't improve much either. Wanda did seem to save some slow dances for me. However, she never invited me to her table nor would she join me at one. She wanted me to mingle with the Daltons. I was able to report to her that the date of the younger son, Sonny, had bruises. She had covered them with makeup, but the swelling was clear.

I harbored hope that Wanda would allow me to take her to the Valentine's dance. By then I had $1800 in winnings, including the $100 won from Buster. I could afford to treat her to a special evening. I asked her when we were dancing close.

She responded with an emphatic no. "And," she said, "don't send me any silly valentines or candy or flowers or anything that would suggest that we're anything but people who enjoy dancing together!"

"That's what you said about Christmas, and, then, there was New Year's Eve. You know there's more here."

"Look, Russell, you're really a sweet kid and I'm fond of you. But, we have no future. You need to get that out of your mind!"

The music stopped and she moved away from me. "I might as well tell you: I won't even be here that weekend. I have a date."

As she walked away her red hair was like a cape and I felt like charging. I wanted badly to show her that I could be the man she needed. She liked me; she just didn't think I was good enough. At that moment, she had good reason. I hoped to remove that reason. I couldn't do it with roses and candy.

The Friday of the Valentine dance, our receptionist told me that our printer was down. I knew that the machinist was on vacation; so, I went to help get the presses rolling again. By the time we got the edition printed, the delivery people were yelling. Since I was a mess anyway, I stayed and helped bundle the papers. The physical labor worked its therapy on me. I had no problem sleeping that night, but I did dream of Wanda.

The next day, I arrived early at the club. Sonny Dalton was dealing. His small hands maneuvered the cards just like Bob's. I placed a $10 bet.

Sonny said dryly, "You're starting strong today. I've got a $20 limit until Bill, Jr. gets here."

"That's fine." I thought that it was perfect since $20 was the most I intended to bet. He turned a blackjack while I was thinking.

"Looks like I got here just in time!" I had two face cards. The other two players tossed in their cards. Sonny picked them up without turning them. I had seen four negative cards, so I figured the count was down. I put a five on the table. He turned a six; I stayed on a fourteen. He had an ace in the hole.

He shuffled the cards. I placed another $10 bet and got two nines. He had a ten up. Both the other players bust. The count was up. He turned another nine. I bet $20. He turned a face card. I drew an eight to my fourteen. That quickly I was down $45. He shuffled again.

"This has got to turn around," I thought.

It didn't turn. Before Bob, Jr. arrived, I was down over $600. Six hundred should have been my limit. I should have left. The table was now full. They were shuffling every round. I had no advantage. I was betting $20 every hand. Bob, Sr. was betting $80 on my hand. I misplayed some hands, played them the way he might.

I thought, "You're praying not playing."

"That's cute," I said to myself, but it didn't lift my spirits.

I thought, "You should leave."

I was down slightly over $1200 when the dealing duo decided they were tired of dealing.

"Let's roll some bones." Sonny sounded like his dad.

Remembering my luck at dice when in the service, I hoped to recoup my losses.

Soon I saw how different the situations were. Here the roller could draw money at anytime. Also, the usual starting bet was $40. Bob, Sr. started with a $200 bet. Financially, I was clearly out of my league.

On my turn, I bet $20 and rolled a three, craps. I bet another $20.

Daddy Dalton bellowed, "Bet y'all roll a ace or a deuce on the next roll, Hunter." I didn't know what he meant, but I figured it wasn't a bet I wanted to make.

I rolled two threes. Dalton called again, "See, Hunter, y'all'd won. No ace or deuce on those dice. It's a good bet. Bet y'all there'll be a ace or deuce this time."

"What's that?" Coach asked. Bob told him. He pondered as I shook the dice. "I'll take that bet for $50."

I rolled a four. Dalton picked up his hundred. Again?" he wanted to know of Coach. West nodded and dropped another $50 on the table. I rolled. The dice turned a six and a one. Coach lost and so did I.

Wild West looked at me and said, "I guess he suckered me that time. You were smarter than I not to fall for it. I should've known not to jump too quick if Bob's selling a bet!"

As the dice moved around the table, I asked myself what I was still doing there. My $1800 winnings were down to almost $500.

The dicecame to Sonny. He bet $100 and rolled a seven. "That's more like it," he said. "The two hundred goes."

He rolled an eleven. "Lether ride!" It took only a moment for the matching $400 to be bet.

The dicerolled two twos."Four's easy. How's it going to come? Ducks a pair!"

The dice bounced two fours.

"That's alright. Keep urn even! "

They bounced two fives. "Other side! This roll! Turn urn over dice! It is! The four hundred goes, Boys. Get your money up there."

It took awhile for the other players to cover the $800. I thought it strange remembering my army experience. After he had made three straight passes, I thought it was less likely that he would make a fourth. The other players knew better.

"Still a hundred open," I heard Sonny say.

Then, I heard my voice, "Gone."

Sonny looked at me as if to say, "Are you sure," but, said nothing. Instead, he rolled a seven.

"Now we've got a crap game! Get out your money, men, we'vegot $800 to cover." The normally vocal Sonny was now nonstop.

It was at that time that I left. What strength directed my action at that particular moment, I can't say. In the internal struggle, the voices of reason finally agreed: I wasn't going to win that day. It was impossible to determine whether they were correct, but as I drove away I was glad that I still had at $400 in winnings. It wasn't much, but it could be a start toward what I needed to impress Wanda.

On Wednesday, I walked over to the courthouse. Wanda was prosecuting, without Mr. Bruce. I eased into the back row of the nearly empty courtroom. She had her back to me. I wished that she would turn around just once, but I knew that she never did. Equally futile was the hope that she would leave by the main exit; she had never done that either. My conclusion was clear: my only chance to talk to her was at the club. However, she wasn't there on Friday either.

The next week was a busy one for local sports. The college hosted an indoor track meet. Again, on Friday, Wanda was a no show.

It was almost 3:00 before I could get to the club the next day. The parking lot had only a few cars. Upstairs, Henry Ruth was dealing.

"Hello, Mr. Lucky. There's a seat open." Behind him sat J. D. Oliver. In cowboy apparel, he looked like a star straight from a Saturday western. In his seventies, he was tall with broad shoulders, high cheekbones and lazy blue eyes. In front of him were big stacks of bills, neatly arranged by denominations. At the table sat Coach, Miller, Dalton and his two sons.

"Come on 'round, Mr. Hunter," Dalton called. "Come change our luck."

"Well, you don't have to go that far," J. D. said as I sat down.

The Candy Man turned a face card.

"Somethin got to change it or you're gonna have no players left," said Coach.

"That's always my goal as a dealer: To be hot enough to run all the players off," responded J. D.

"Look 'round," invited Dalton. "Y'all've pretty much'complished your goal today."

Ruth rolled over another face card, "Cold turkey."

"That's enough for me," said Professor Miller as he departed. The count was minus two. Henry didn't reshuffle. I bet $2. He dealt me a blackjack and, then, drew an ace and a nine to his eleven.

J. D. paid me $3 and collected $160 from the other four players. "Surely there's something better to do than this," said Dalton's oldest son as he collected his money to depart. Ruth shuffled again.

"We're talking about us all goin to Vegas before y'all got here. Do y'all wanna go?"

"Well, I'd like to go. I don't know if I can afford it."

I bet $2 and was dealt a 13. Ruth had a four up. I stayed. Ruth drew to 21 and collected from the board. The count was up so I bet $5.

"Have y'all ever been there?"


"That settles it then. The first time is always the best. I want to see y'all's reaction when y'all see all them lights. All it'll cost y'all is y'all's air fare."

I thought, "Sure, you invite me now when I only have $400." I was dealt two face cards. Henry had a ten up.

I asked, "when?"

"Some weekend when it'd be convenient for everyone. We'd leave here on Friday afternoon and come back on Sunday."

It sounded good to me. I hope I could replenish my bankroll before we went. "I'd like to go. Why will I only have to pay air fare?"

Ruth had a face card down. Again he collected from the other players.

"The casino comp the room and food just to get us gamblers out there. They'll treat us like kings. They may take care of your plane ticket too, if you play enough."

The Candy Man added as he shuffled. "You play a $25 minimum for four hours a day, or you can play less for a longer time, and they give you the room. If you play more or for longer times, they'll provide meals and even your plane ticket."

"Y'all need to make the first trip with someone to show you the ropes," Dalton said to me.

With only a brief pause, he continued to no one in particular, "This deal ain't gonna turn around. I'm cuttin back." Dalton put a twenty in front of him where he had been putting hundreds.

I said, "I'd like to go, but I can't at this time." I placed another $2 bet and received a 14. Henry had a two up. I put my cards under my money.

Dalton told me, "We ain't talking about right now. After tax season."

Ruth drew a nine to his twelve.

"Shit, that's enough for me. The Old Lady's waitin for us to eat anyway."

"Looks like the game's over," West said.

"Y'all think about that trip say the last weekend in April."

"Yeah, that'd be better for me," said the Candy Man.

The game was over but I sat there. I had only lost one dollar, but it was a loss. J. D. and Henry divided their winnings. It was several thousand dollars.

They both looked relaxed, not in any hurry to leave.

"Have there been any developments in Rose Ann's murder?"

Henry shook his head.

"Rose Ann?" I asked.

"Rosa Ann was my daughter, my only daughter."

"And she was killed?"

Henry nodded his head and then looked at the floor. "It was a gruesome affair. They found her on the bank where kids go to park." He shook his head again.

"They thought he did it for a long time," said J. D.

"They still do, it seems. They aren't looking for anyone else! After four years, they seem to have forgotten all about it."

He paused for a moment and then looked up at me, composed.

"My tires matched prints leading to where the body was. I was in a game up in Atlanta at the time. They questioned me for hours. No way I'd tell them where I was."

"You don't want to get in trouble with those boys!" J. D. said.

Then J. D. said, "But you haven't stopped looking?"

"No, I aim to find the killer."

"You think it might be the Daltons." I meant it to be a question, but it came out more like a statement.

"Strange you should say that! You've been dating that Drake woman." His voice made it a statement, but he looked at me as if it was a question.

"Well, really more just dancing with her."

"See if she'll check Sonny Dalton's truck tires; they're the same as mine."

Their winning sat on the table before them.

Oliver said to Ruth, "Tell you what I'll do, I'll play you one hand, winner take all."

"I'll deal and you play?"

"Right. Deal!"

The Candy Man turned at a right angle to me as J. D. moved to the table's far edge to receive his cards. He cradled them close to his chest. Ruth turned a three.

J. D. waved his hand to indicate he would stay. Henry revealed a face card from the hole. J. D. sat stone faced. Henry looked worried. He slid a five off the top of the deck. He smiled. He'd made a hand.

"Just right," said Oliver. The slightest smile seemed to cross his face as he revealed his nineteen.

During March, there was madness. Both the college and the high school advanced in tournament play. My weekends were devoted to coverage. Never seeing Wanda, I was unable to invite her to any of the games. The college was eliminated at the regional, and I managed to gamble a couple of days.

On the Good Friday, the last one in March, there was no dance. On that Saturday, I partnered in the deal with O Henry and we won.

It was a long rainy weekend. Easter passed and there was little to do. There was never any activity at the club on Sundays. I had mastered Revene. I was nominally at the professional level of blackjack. My bankroll had increased to over $1200. I felt ready to go to Vegas.

The next Saturday when I arrived at the club, Ruth and Dalton were already behind the table. It was the first time I'd seen them deal together. There were four players including Coach and J. D. The deal was cold. Bob would deal for a few hands and bust his hand on about half; then Henry would do the same.

"Hey, Lucky, have you got your taxes done? I'm an accountant. That's why I didn't want to go out west until after tax season." He gave me his business card.

"Yeah, talkin about goin west, I'm ready," chimed in Dalton

"That's what I was thinking. How about weekend after next?" suggested 0 Henry.

"I can't then." said J. D. The other players nodded no.

"How about you, Lucky? We could room together. That'd help on the limit."

"That's great."

"I'll call the man in Birmingham and set it up," said Dalton, and continued in the same breath, "but, I've got to get out of this deal. A grand is enough to show me it ain't gonna git no better."

The partners had little money to divide. I counted my money. I was ahead over $100 dollars in the forty minutes since I had arrived.

Bob joined the players at third base. Ruth continued to deal alone. He didn't reduce the maximum. I watched J. D. play. He was following the system I had just learned.

Oliver and Dalton were talking about the rain. Dalton said, "Bet y'all it rains tomorrow. When it rains on Easter Sunday, it rains for seven Sundays in a row."

J. D. said, "Well it might. They're predicting rain tomorrow."

"Well, it ain't just tomorrow. What odds y'all give me that it will rain every Sunday for six more. Huh? Would y'all give me seven to one. I'll tell y'all what. I'd take five to one, any amount y'allwant."

"You're the one that's so sure it'll happen. Don't know whyI should give odds."

"Well think about it. What are the odds that it would rain seven straight Sundays?"

I thought about what Wild West had said about Dalton selling bets. He must have some angle. I said, "It's raining somewhere all the time."

"No, I mean right here in the county. It'll rain somewhere in the county every Sunday for the next six. What do y'all think the odds of that is? I've got $100 to y'all's $300 says it will."

"It would still be too difficult to determine," I said. "You could get someone in the county to say it rained at their house and we couldn't disprove it."

"Alright, we could use the paper. No, y'all work for the paper. We can use the radio station. If they record any rain, as little as a trace, then it rained on that day."

"I'll take $100 of that," said J. D.

"Put me down for $100, too," Ruth added.

"Well, Hunter, y'all did all the clarification, y'all want a $100 too?

I nodded yes. I could cover the $300 if I had to, and I was confident I'd win in Vegas.

As predicted, it rained the next day. The next meeting night, I dealt and won less than $50.

I went to the dance the next night. I wasn't at all optimistic. It had been five weeks with no opportunity to dance with Wanda, no opportunity to build our relationship. I hoped that Dalton's Easter principle didn't apply to romance. It had rained in my romantic county on Easter; I couldn't tolerate seven straight weeks of rain. However, she was at the dance that Friday and we got to dance and talk some. Hope remained alive.

On Saturday, Ruth and J. D. dealt. They were hot. I lost a little than $100. It rained all weekend. I paid for my plane ticket and had $1300 remaining. I didn't play the next Thursday; I wanted to be well rested for Vegas.

Mr. and Mrs. Dalton, Henry Ruth and I boarded an early evening flight. It was a long, but smooth flight.

When we arrived in Vegas, it was dark. I felt the effects of the plane ride. I knew not to play while tired. The others returned to the crap table after checking out the accommodations. I thought that Ruth and I would share a room, but we were each assigned a single. It was a suite: a sitting room with two curved sofas, a wet bar, a walk-incloset, a vanity, a bath, a whirlpool, and a bedroom with a circular bed. The view was of the strip with the city in the background. In such opulence, I felt as out of place as I had been in the jungles of Viet Nam. I unpacked, showered, and attempted to sleep. Lying on that round mattress, I had the sensation of being on a merry-go-round. I was activated. All the action was downstairs. I had waited, and prepared to play. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't stay on that bed.

Downstairs, the Daltons were still shooting dice. Henry wasn't with them. They didn't notice me. The table was crowded. I looked at the layout on the table, and found it confusing. Anyway, I had come to play blackjack.

We had been told to ask for a marker whenever we played. I selected a single deck table with a $5 minimum. I asked for a $300 marker. I planned to bet either five or ten depending on the count; three hundred was calculated to permit those bets. The dealer was a polite, middle-aged woman. She asked all the polite questions. I was able to answer and still count; at least, I believed I was. The pace of the game was infinitely faster than the one at the Club. She made herself winning hand after winning hand. My fellow player left in despair. I couldn't believe my misfortune. The time crept. My chips were gone before the hour.

My fatigued mind was confused as I wondered around the casino. The Daltons had left the crap table. I walked out into the night air. The wind was cool. I didn't walk far. The air seemed to refresh me. I convinced myself that I was playing well; I simply had been unlucky at the first table.

On my return, the casino was mostly empty. Fewer tables had dealers. All save one of those had players. The empty table was on the corner, on the outer row. It had a $5 minimum, with four decks from a shoe. I could be patient and count down this shoe. I asked for another $300 marker.

The dealer was a young man, about my age. He was friendly, but didn't ask many questions. He told me I looked tired. I told him I was. While he dealt, the count was always down. When he left, I was down $10. I still felt that I was playing well. A woman dealer came; she didn't talk at all.

The count varied while she was dealing, and toward the end of her stay I won four $10 bets and was actually $5 up when she left. Then another dealer and then another came. The count was up several times. Strangely, every time the count went up, a new player came to the table. The person was always in a hurry. The person always had chips. The player would place large bets, playing two hands, to my right. These hands were invariably good and I would lose. When the count went down, the person would leave. One dealer suggested that I move to the first-base position instead of the middle, but I didn't perceive the implications of her suggestion. When she left, I had only three red chips, $15.

Someone tapped me on the back. "I had a sneaky suspicion that I might find you here." It was 0 Henry. "Had any breakfast? Would you like some?"

I was hungry. The sun had risen. Time, that had at first moved so slowly, had accelerated. Each of the dealers had been at the table for most of an hour. Each seemed like a blur. I had spent my first night in Vegas unwisely. There was still 30 hours of our trip remaining and I was down almost half my bankroll.

I didn't want to talk about the night. Instead, I remembered to tell Henry, "Wanda does, indeed, know about Sonny's truck tires, but she needs something to link him with Rose Ann."

"Yeah, I'd think she'd have that!"


"Yes. Just before she was killed, I learned she was at a wild party at the Dalton's - drinking, drugs, sex very likely. I forbid it - ha! We argued. The police knew about the argument. I'd think they'd known about the party also."

After breakfast, Ruth and I played sitting together. I drew another $300 marker. We both lost some before the Daltons came down. They were on their way to breakfast. They eagerly told of their evening. They said I should have joined them. Together, they had won over $6000. All I could think was, "Is there no justice?"

While they were eating, I had my first winning session. When they returned, I had $320 in chips. I had won $5 since breakfast.

The Daltons wanted to take me on a sight-seeing tour. I looked forward to it. I thought they would show me some sights of interest. The first place that Mrs. Dalton suggested was two blocks away. It was a beautiful day for a walk, but Bob didn't want to exert himself. "Let' s take a taxi," he commanded.

Still, Mrs. Dalton argued with him, "It ain't fur enough for no taxi. The taxi driver would lose his place in line."

Bob ignored his wife and walked on toward the cab stand. The driver of the lead taxi of the long line mumbled loudly enough to be understood, "Why don't you listen to your wife, Bud? The walk might do you good."

"Y'all're here to serve the public!" Bob said opening the back door for his wife. "We're public. Come on an serve us!"

Mrs. Dalton climbed, reluctantly, into the back seat and Bob sat beside her. Henry shrugged his shoulders and entered the other rear door. I looked at the driver. He kicked his front tire and banged the hood as he walked around the car. I sat in the front seat.

"What's it to y'all if a walk'd do me good? Y'all ain't no goddamn doctor!"

"You don't have to be a doctor to see you have a weight problem!"

"Y'all don't wanna do y'all's job; so, y'all try to put it off on my weight!"

"Let me worry about whether I'll do my job or not!"

"The hell y'all say! When y'all hanged that license up, it means y'all have to carry all us people, can't discriminate again us fat old bastards!"

"I'm carrying you your lousy two blocks, for chrise sake!"

The cabby made his way onto the congested thoroughfare.

"Well, I sure don't like y'all's attitude! I'm a good mind to get out right here! I don't want to ride with y'all any further!"

The cab stopped in the bumper to bumper traffic. I heard the door handle open. I thought the driver was going over the seat after Bob. The driver checked himself in mid flight. "I can't let you out in the middle of the block! I could lose my license over that! My god! We haven't even gone a block!"

"That does it! Babs, get his license number. I'm gonna sure report his ass! We're gettin out!"

Then, the cabby did lean over the seat, almost taking my arm with him, staring at Bob. He glared at Bob for a full ten seconds. The cars in front of us went forward. The car behind us, surprisingly, didn't blow its horn. I couldn't see Bob, but I was sure that any minute there would be blows just over my head.

Then the driver spoke. His voice was more controlled, each word distinctively articulated, "Don't you dare open that door in the middle of this traffic. I'll let you out the first opportunity. Believe me, I don't want you in here any more than you want to be!"

With that, the driver turned and moved us forward.

"How about this alley up here?" said Dalton.

"Okay, that might work. It's not legal, but it'll do." He wheeled into the narrow drive which came to a dead end within yards of the entry. He would have difficulty backing onto the busy boulevard, and then he would have to continue in the direction we were going.

I quickly exited. My hopes of having a delightful tour of the Strip were forgotten. We had seen Bob's violent nature, but through it all, he had been controlled. Perhaps Sonny inherited the violence but not the control.

We went to four different casinos. They all looked fairly much the same -- gaudy, flashy. The card tables only varied in the design of their logos. We played for a short time at each place. I lost at three of them. I paid for the taxi ride back to our hotel and had $1212 in cash.

After lunch, I went back to my room. I wasn't having a good time, and worse, I was losing money. I was in a quandary. I believed that I was playing according to the book, but I was tired. I thought, "I could be deceiving myself. Again, the book could be a hoax, even encouraged by the casinos to lull players to town."

Then, this amount of misfortune was possible. I was down less than $700. I tried the whirlpool, but it didn't make me feel better. I still couldn't sleep. There was nothing to do except return to the tables and play my best.

Back down stairs, a woman told me, "All the dealers are hot today." She was correct. Soon, my $320 in chips was gone.

I only had cash for one more $300 marker. I had to use it wisely. I returned to my room and forced myself to sleep. I had been awake for 40 hours; still, sleep came with difficulty. I planned to sleep until 6:30, which would be 8 hours, arise, have breakfast and make my last stand. I awoke at 4:10, arose at 4:30, showered and returned to the same corner table at which I had lost the first night. The events of that morning paralleled the first night. When the count went up, I would increase my bet to two red chips. Someone would rush up to the table and spread green, $25, chips across the spaces to my right. They would get winners, I a loser. My chips were gone before 6:00. I had told Henry that I would meet him for breakfast at 7:00; so, I walked to kill the remaining time. On the way out of the restroom, I noticed steps leading to a balcony. The balcony overlooked the gaming pits. From the balcony, I could see the table where I had just lost $300. No one was playing there but I understood clearly how someone could stand where I was, count the cards, and rush down to place bets at strategic moments. That explained why the visitors seemed out of breath. I had done all the work and they had taken the profit.

Henry gave me the bad news over steak and eggs. The Daltons had made another killing with the dice while I slept. Bob had an exceptionally good roll. Ruth regretted that he didn't bet more. He didn't think that the good fortune would last and actually bet against the dice for part of the roll. Still, he had won some, enough that he was a winner for the trip. The Daltons had won over $15,000, bringing their total winnings for the trip to $22,000 and change.

I bought back the $1200 in markers, and tipped the bellman a dollar. Ruth paid the taxi fare back to the airport. We all slept on the flight back to Atlanta. I paid the parking fee of $7.50 and we drove home through the rain.

"This is the fourth Sunday in a row that it's rained, Gentlemen!" said Dalton.

"Yeah, yeah, don't rub it in!" we both responded.

I didn't go the club for the next week, and for the fifth Sunday in a row, it rained. My gambling funds were gone. If it rained for two more Sundays, I would have to use my own money to pay Dalton.

I didn't go to the club for another week. On the sixth Sunday, I awoke at 8:30. It was a cool morning, but I didn't think that it had rained. I went outside. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. It didn't rain all day. I stayed awake until midnight; there was no rain. I called the radio station early Monday morning. They hadn't recorded any rain during the previous forty-eight hours. We had won the rain bet.

I had $300 from gambling and it had paid for my trip to Vegas. Perhaps I was wiser for the experience.

I used $25 of the money to order the next lesson toward being a professional blackjack player. I needed all the instruction I could get to win enough to impress Wanda.

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