"I didn't mean to startle you, Miss Ella, but it's time for your meeting. Peter will escort you," George says.
"Very well," I say, letting George lead me to the door where Peter waits for me.
"Do be careful tonight, Miss Ella. You never know what will happen. It's Vegas after all."
"I'm not scared," I say with a wink. Turning, I put my arm out and allow Peter to escort me along the hallway towards the second building in my unit.
I feel his eyes on me for a moment. It's a glance that hovers for a brief moment in time, but I feel it just the same. I see a small smile on his face and wonder what he thinks of the dress.
However, he doesn't speak and within a few steps we reach our destination. He presses the bell and crosses his arms at the wrists in wait. The door opens without delay and I see a large black man in the doorway. He looks like a bodyguard to me. Peter says something to the man I can't hear and I push forward trying to get closer.
"Ya, that me. What you want?" the man says to Peter.
"I am escorting Miss Ella Thomas," Peter says.
The man shrugs, but steps aside to allow us entry into the apartment. I follow into the living room. The only furniture in the room is a poker table with two chairs. It seems he made preparations for my arrival. Does he know why I am here?"
"I know why you are here," he begins, as if hearing my thoughts. "Please, take a seat."
He pulls one chair away from the table and offers me the seat. I sit and allow him to push me in, the size of him in close quarters unmistakable. He must be four hundred pounds. Hovering like a giant over me in the chair, he manages to offer me a thin smile before taking the seat opposite me at the table.
A third man enters the room, a slim youngish Asian man that assumes the position of dealer. He takes the cards into his hands and turns to me.
"The game is No Limit Texas Holdem."
"Just like that?" I ask. Nobody answers me and my opponent stares, waiting. "What are the stakes?"
"50k. Heads up. Play until one player has all the chips," the dealer says.
"Boring," I say. Neither of them acknowledge me and the dealer begins passing the cards. I look down to see the nine and eight of diamonds.
My opponent throws a 1k chip onto the table. I wait for him to announce the bet, but he doesn't. "Doesn't he have to say raise?"
"No," the dealer answers.
Seems George left a few things out of this game. I look at my stack and grab a 1k chip, tossing it into the middle.
"Call," I say.
The dealer spreads the flop and I see two diamonds. One more and I have a flush. I smile and watch my opponent think. The dealer points at me and I shrug as if I don't know what he wants.
"It is your turn, Miss."
"Woah," I say. That's a lot of money. This is just the first hand. Sigh. He wants to push me around and show me he is the man.
"It's your turn again, Miss," the dealer says.
"I know. I'm thinking. This guy bet 5k and I don't even know his name."
"Big. People call me Big," he says. I begin to answer, but he continues as if anticipating my questions. "Not Mr. Big, or Notorious Big, just Big."
"Well, just Big," I say, "I have no idea what you have, so I'm gonna call."
He smiles at me and I think it's obvious I didn't make a good play calling on a draw. However, part of me just doesn't give a damn.
The dealer places the next card, which is not a diamond. It's still likely that if I get a diamond, I'll have the best hand. How much will he...
"Just Big, what have you done?" I ask, expecting him to laugh with me. However, he crosses his arms and becomes motionless in his chair. He is going to play the pokers with me now. The thought makes me laugh harder yet and I can't help pointing at him. He thinks this game matters? Does he not know who I am?
I push twenty thousand chips into the middle, making the call with action, not words. He whistles at me and I wait on the dealer.
"You don't watch the news, do you?" I ask him.
"My business ain't on the news," he responds in an instant.
The dealer places the final card. It is a diamond. I have the best hand. Part of me feels disappointment.
"All in," I say.
His shoulders slump for a moment. He didn't want me to say all in. I laugh once more, though it all feels surreal. None of it matters. It's a charade.
"Call," he says, though he seems to know he lost. He flips over two black Aces and I give a golf clap as the dealer pushes the chips in my direction.
"Yay," I say in mock excitement.
"You won 50k on the first hand, at least act like you care."
I smile and stack the chips, watching him reload from a rack. He matches my 100k with his own and cracks his knuckles, as if getting ready for a long war.
"I'm not here for your money," I say as the dealer passes the cards for the next hand. "A pity you don't watch the news."