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 11 - The Fake Game
The officers obviously didn't like it that the gaming continued upstairs, even at a considerably reduced rate. Toward the end of September, as some of the gamblers began to return to the club, the officers removed the blackjack table.
Although no one identified exactly who took it, or for what reason, some members argued that it had been James Arnold, the current High Priest. They seemed to know that Arnold feared we would be raided. Perhaps there was reason for the fear. Tom Bruce was up for reelection in November. His divorce was seen as a negative and a raid might get him positive publicity. He was one of the few attorneys in the county who wasn't a member of the Stars. However, the more popular belief upstairs held the Priest of Piety, Richard Warren, responsible. More than one gambler reported first-hand knowledge that Warren had gone to Bruce to see what could be done about the gambling.
In this climate, Sampson designed a counter tactic. A select group of us would play for fun. "Yeah, you see, people play with chips when they are gambling to make it harder to prove they were gambling. We'll just reverse it. We will play with money as if we are gambling; but we will give all the money back when we are finished. That way it will look like we're gambling when we're not. Then we'll hope they do call the cops. We can all swear that it was all in fun, 'cause it will be, don't you see?"
Sampson added, "And we can play for big stakes."
The idea didn't seem to have much appeal, at first, but Buster persisted. "We could all start with five thousand each; we'd have one hellova game. And when it is all over we'll just divvy up the money again."
"That leaves me out," I said. "There is no way I can come up with five grand."
"Hell, I'll lend it to you for the game. No fear that you would lose it, don't you see. We'd just be playing for fun."
The players understood by now we were only using the money to keep score, literally. I certainly hoped they did. It would be a sticky situation if all the players didn't know that, this time, Buster wasn't joking. This time, he was serious. He wanted to play for fun just to see how the officers would respond.
So we planned the "big game." We planned it openly enough that everyone at the club would know we were going to gamble for high stakes, higher than before the ban, in apparent defiance of the rule. Buster selected an ideal night, a Thursday, when all of the officers were downstairs. If they hadn't heard of the big game before it started, they would certainly hear of it once we began.
To my happy surprise that week, Wanda filed to oppose Bruce for the D. A. position. Obviously, Freddy had been wrong about her intention to be Mrs. Bruce. Surely, he had also been wrong about her role in his divorce.
On Thursday evening, Sampson must have had $60,000 with him. He lent whatever the person needed to get to the $5,000 buy in. I borrowed $3,000. There were ten of us sitting at a large round table.
We all knew, I hoped, that we were just playing for fun. I wanted no trouble in repaying my loan. Many of the observers had no knowledge of the farce. The Candy Man took the deal. We each started with a hundred-dollar bet. I felt fairly confident that everyone playing would carry out the play straightforwardly, although with that much money involved, it was impossible to know for sure what might happen. Someone could be tempted to sneak some of the money from the table during the merriment.
More uncertainty surrounded what the officers might do once the game started. They could, indeed, call in the police. I thought perhaps that Sampson actually wanted to see the police, just for the excitement of it. But, more logically, he probably felt that this make-believe game was simply the safest way to call their hand, to show them that they could not actually, unto themselves, prevent so many people from doing what they had become accustomed to doing. If they wanted to force the issue, they would have to call in outside authority. He, probably, didn't believe they had the nerve to take such drastic action. I certainly hoped this analysis was correct.
As the game progressed, the bet size increased. Players pushed hundred-dollar bills out on the table as if they were match sticks. The gamblers also rejoiced in doubling 12's, and other plays they never would have made with their own money. Still, since it was legal tender that we were using as, the excitement was very close to genuine. I'm sure that to the naive observer the whole process had every appearance of being real: a dealer and nine players gambling for an average $500 a hand, about $5000 being risked per round.
At this time, Charles Lansburg came upstairs. The smile on Sampson's face became a little bigger. All the players hammed it up a little more. All the bets became bigger. One player bet a grand for our special visitor. Lansburg watched a few hands in silence. He did not smile. Then, he turned and marched out of the room.
The players murmured, "Do you believe that?"
"That's the first time he has ever been in this room."
Sampson said we needed to settle down. He seemed to know we would have more visitors, and indeed we did.
Next arrived Richard Warren and Arnold James. It was as if Richard had been afraid to come up alone, yet he had to see for himself. The only solution to his dilemma was to have Arnold escort him. And there they stood, side by side, looking down on us like two old maids watching young lovers in action. The observed became more excited by the observation.
The intruders stayed for a good twenty minutes; they shifted occasionally to gain a better vision of the show. During this time, they seemed to relax somewhat; their nervousness had probably lessened, but they were just as stern. Then, as if on some secret cue, the two of them turned together and exited.
With their leaving, the table turned unusually silent. The ball was then in their court; they could press the issue then or wait for another day. If they called in the police, we could all go to jail; we, and the club, would receive much negative publicity. It was their decision. All we could do was continue to play.
During all this time, I had continued to play my controlled game. I counted all the cards, and bet accordingly in units of $100. I counted my money. I had only $4000. Cold sweat covered my skin. I believed that it was a result of the loss, not the worry over being arrested. "It's all pretend," I told myself.
On that hand, I got a blackjack. "Let me have that deck," I said.
The players were playing worse than ever. One by one they lost their money. We played for another thirty minutes. I had twenty thousand in front of me. Then, I wished that it could have been for real.
At that time, Sampson said, "Well, I guess we've made our point. Let's divide up the money and celebrate."
For the only time, I got the slightest feeling that Sampson was anxious to get his money back in his pocket. He may not have liked the way I caressed it.
We counted out ten piles with $5,000 each, and had a fifty dollar bill left over. No one remembered putting in $50 too much, so we decided to donate it to the club.
"How about that," Sampson said, with his money securely back in his pocket, "we played all that time, for fun, with all that money on the table. And, when it was all over, we actually had more money on the table that we started with. It just goes to show what I've always say, there is no people more honest than a bunch of gamblers."
Obviously, I still hadn't learned the lesson. After we had made this great show of defiance, together, I thought, for sure, "The gamblers would again return to gamble."