I went too far in that game… I should have played carefully… what if the customers now see that I’m a dealer that’s tough to play against?
Mordred clutched at his knees, rocking himself on his heels anxiously. The point of being a dealer was to make money for the casino against the customers who come in to gamble. And to some degree, at least a few would have known that dealers who could control a game exist somewhere, dealers who don’t let the luck fall into the gamblers’ hands, though fewer less than that would only know how to spot one.
But he never tried to underestimate his customers, whoever they were, whether he’d met them anywhere, before or never. He always watched whether a gambler had the talent to control the game apart from him, the dealer, or whether he was the sort who would flop at any game he played. But that took practice, and he still never came to one certain conclusion of any gambler he dealt cards for.
And now any skilled gambler amongst the watching crowd during his game with Garda might have seen that he had the aptitude to play against them, on a high level at that. Now they could avoid him knowing that he was a good player. That was not what he wanted to have happen.
And then there were the Bianchi. They were the problem.
The door to the locker room opened and he tumbled out of the low shelf of the locker he’d been perched in.
“Ah, you were here,” said Albert, peering into the darkness of the room.
Mordred hurriedly rolled onto his hands and knees. “What’s the matter?”
“The staff said you disappeared after the game with Ms. Garda, so I was worried about whether you were alright… but I see that if you had to hide yourself in here, you were probably sulking.”
“I am.” Mordred sat on his heels and dropped his head. “I’m about to go on a three day self-hiatus on my dealing skills and pretend that I’m actually a flop of a gambler who just won by luck. I shouldn’t have gambled.”
“Really, Mr. Mordred, people will just forget about your skill after today. It’s just something like a victory of the hotel. BEsides, all our other dealers on this staff are personally taught by you; they have skills similar to your level.”
“Tricking the cards is not easy. Controlling my shuffles and one of hers is not easy either, straight from a fresh deck.”
Albert’s eyes widened, then he chuckled. “You tricked three shuffles? That means you got one lucky?”
“First win was chance. I was letting her attempt to win her third and see if I might even win just once.” Saying that, Mordred looked up with relief. Then his face fell. “But I don’t want to pretend to be slightly awful at dealing just to make it seem like I’m at least an average dealer.”
“Come out of the locker room, Mr. Mordred. The furnishing group are about to finish up decorating the ballroom, so perhaps you might want to go over and personally thank them before they leave. It’s almost time.”
Mordred jumped to his feet awkwardly. “R-right. Okay.”
He staggered out of the locker, and the lights immediately blinded him. Since the locker had been dark, but he was used to being blinded by lights upon leaving the shadowed comfort of the locker room; the last time he took to it for comfort was last Sunday and it was because he’d handed over an essay to his literature professor, and as his writing took on a gut-wrenching anxiety, sitting in the dark stuffed with unused chairs, stools, and packages of spare uniforms for all staff on Hotel Mariposa comforted him.
Still it did leave him a bit hot and warm, since the room was small and had no conditioning, so he loosened up the vest and ran his hands through his hair to air them just a bit and to quicken the cooling. The cool hallways were just enough to whiff off the thin sheet of sweat by the time he reached the ballroom.
The decorating team were just about to leave, and Mordred thanked them profusely for their work. The Amy Heller co. was a company they always relied on for receptions like weddings and parties, so it was more a friendly procedure that happened every couple of months or so when the ballroom was scheduled for an event – which was usually often. It might as well be a partnership between them and Hotel Mariposa, who often drove their clients and customers to companies who were also patrons to the hotel.
Mordred toured the ballroom at Amy Heller and her team’s insistence, and so they did, with Albert right behind him, as his eyes explored the new decorations set up around. On rare days that the ballroom was not scheduled, it would be furnished simply as an extra lounge room apart from the lobby, where Mordred would spend weekdays after school spread out on a couch with a laptop.
“As usual, you did a good work making it unrecognizable in another way completely different from the last,” Mordred muttered.
Ms. Heller chuckled. She was a forty year old woman with greying hair with wrinkles on the corners of her eyes, the well-earned lines of proud smiles over the years since she formed her company. “Of course it’s a good job! We made sure of it!”
After making a full circle and another round of thanks and Ms. Heller saying that she would show up the next day with their clients to see the setting for a final round of approval, the event planners left.
Mordred pulled back the sleeve of his shirt. It was almost eight o’clock by now. “Is dinner ready at home?” he turned to Albert.
“Yes, sir. If you’d like to know what’s for dinner, it is a cauliflower and cheese gratin and a cheesecake slice for dessert.”
“Gratin?” Mordred whirled around to Albert. Excited, for a usually calm boy.
“Yes, gratin. What time do you plan to go to bed today? Usual time, sir?”
“Eleven. I’m going to the cafe to pick up herbal tea.”
“Then I will prepare a bath to be ready by ten-thirty and then go to bed by then.” With that, Albert left.
Mordred made his way to the cafe, just a short trip towards the lobby then crossing over to the entrance to the far right of the front desk where the hotel cafe sat, a quiet corner that would be open in the day for any ravaged man with insatiable appetite when the buffet meals were closed.
Here, he ordered a chamomile tea in a paper cup before sitting himself down in a lonely corner of the cafe next to a window looking out at the hotel’s courtyard pool. Since the pool was open twenty-four hours, Mordred could see a few people still hanging about it. The hotel preferred most of their places open at usual hours, so long as the guests did not bother anyone. The outdoor pools, the casino, the bar, all three the only places that had no closing hour save holidays.
In this corner, he stretched himself flat against the table and thought back over his status.
He wasn’t just any dealer of the casino; he was the heir to the hotel – no, the heir to 150 different companies, including the spreading branches, that were companies under the third richest man in the world, William Abasscia-Reid – otherwise, his father.
Being the son to a billionaire was nerve-wracking, which he was glad his father noticed of him as a child. But sometimes, Mordred felt like it was his fault some people ever got surprised during the rare moments his father pushed him into appearing in public, or he overheard his father boasting of this apparently ghost of a son that no one heard he had before. He’d seen most kids proudly talk of their fathers; Mordred was equally proud of his father, but if he tried to join in the conversation of boasting about awesome fathers, he was either ignored or not believed.
Sitting in the corner of the cafe as he did now, he simply looked like a lonely employee of the hotel, apparently slouching off his job. In truth, the matter was that he was an employee allowed to slouch off his job whenever he liked because most of his job took place besides the casino. In the absence of William Abasscia-Reid, Mordred was in charge of making official decisions of for this particular hotel, working with the other staff members, and practically needed to run from floor to floor to deal with whatever problems the staff ran into.
The job was tiring, but it was what he’d asked for anyway.
To inherit his father’s work. To inherit the position of billionaire and to carry on the Abasscia-Reid tradition of adding an extra twenty percent to their old family fortune.
Mordred then remembered the letter that Albert had given to him earlier that day when he walked in.
The quality of the paper gave off the feeling that it came from an expensive stationary, personalized with a bundle of inked flowers in the corner of the paper. The flowers were in the shape of scarlet auriculas, the flat petals of its blooms spread out as a plate. Mordred couldn’t help smiling at it before he began to read the letter; his mother’s favorite flower, which she had attempted several times to plant with much difficulty. The handwriting was the same as the one on the letter that dictated it to his father, a flowing script that might have come from a fountain pen.
The message was short, though:
Dear Mr. Reid,
We would like to inform you that your transaction has been passed. Please come down to the subway to receive the package you’ve ordered before midnight. If you do not receive it, you will be immediately disqualified. Sincerely, John Doe.
Mordred frowned. All the frequent ‘urgent’ fuss over a package. Speaking of, had his father actually order something without him knowing? And why should he pick it up in te subway? Had William forgotten to tell him about it? Then again, if that was it, then it wasn’t strange. William, as the owner of exactly a hundred and fifty companies and their numerous tiny branches, had a workload and he usually had several things filling his bowl.
And he also decided that the signer definitely wasn’t called John Doe.
He glanced at his watch. Nine o’ clock. At this time, Maria must have gone to bed, and Albert was probably eating dinner; both would need to get up early to start work. On the other hand, as automated every day, Mordred would also need to be back before ten o’clock, and at least asleep before eleven as he would need to wake up at six the next morning.
“Well, it won’t hurt to go anyway, would it?” He grabbed his jacket and slipped the letter back into an inner pocket before rushing out of the lobby.
Welcome, welcome, to our circus!
The Crimson Circus, we call it!
Let the trumpets sing to you!
Come, sit, sit close to the stage.
As for the ones in the back,
lean forward at the risk of backache
I, the clown called Karl
Shall lead you along the way
because our Ringmaster is-
I almost forgot, that is also me!
Let us ready our picnic baskets
Tomatoes, bananas, sandwiches, a watermelon
all projectiles ready to boo off
anyone who is uninteresting
Oh, I hope that that watermelon does not hit anyone
even we need doctors if someone gets hurt
Now let me introduce
The valiant circus troop of ours
Who will brave a storm of shame and vegetables!
The glorious Fire Dancer, Meisa
she will please your eyes
enchant you with the beauty of fire
and ease you into the show!
Applause for her!
The red Tamer, Leios
he will show you the slyness of his weasel
the knife-dodging speed of his seal
a dragon may even dance for you!
Beware of the dragon’s foul breath, though!
The poor Magician, Yura
She will make your kerchiefs disappear,
She may steal your watches
Your pets may reappear in her hat!
Please do spare me my jokes, little magician!
The laughable Mime, Phantom!
Silent as his name,
He may trip over his umbrella again
He definitely will make things go bump
Hooray for the silent one!
The magnificent Acrobats, Lorna and Maria!
Feast your eyes on the ladies of dare
They will juggle twenty glass bottles all at once
They will dance along the tightrope
They are spiders who will amaze you!
And finally, the foolproof Clown – that is I, Karl!
Do not underestimate my skinniness
For we thin lizard clowns are still clowns
I will even attempt my companions’ tricks
I may end up in the dragon’s maw, too.
Sit tight, sit back,
Lights! Shine on our crimson stage!
We do not need anyone who sleeps
in the middle of our performances!
Everyone, welcome to our Crimson Circus!
Reposted off an old blog that has long been out of action. I just liked the poem so I had to post it here again.
I made it. I finished the first draft of my novella!
The story is called the Lazy Man’s Trap – working title, but I’m tempted to keep it and maybe I will – and it’s a mystery story! I think I did fluff it up too much with jargon, though.
Right, perhaps I should explain now that the whole time I was working on Madness, I’ve also been busy with this novella, and I wanted it done. Two books. I always thought that I could work on two, because that was how I functioned back three years ago, writing three projects at a time and finding it rather easy. Recently, I’ve found myself working on one for a period of time, then switching projects for another period of time, then doubling back again. It’s funny, because I also realized that lately, I’ve been struggling by working on multiple projects.
Not to worry, I’m still going to post chapters of Madness here, this is an update on my novella – technically, it also belongs right here.
I’m not the best at keeping my resolutions. This year, I managed one only recently: to take better care of myself, which I’m sometimes tempted to drop because it feels tedious.
There was NaNoWriMo, too. I managed to reach 30,000 words, but at least it was better than last month, where I barely made it past ten thousand if I remember correctly. And at least I participated towards the last day! XD
Oh, plotting is a new skill of mine that I hope to improve next year because I’ve always been a pantser, so plotting stories is going to be something new to take on because I’m not fond of it. Sure, I write excessively long descriptions of my character during writing the novel and that satisfies me, but using outlines and growing them is not so fun because you feel like all the work you went through plotting it just goes to waste when you don’t follow the plot of a particular chapter and that changes how the entire story goes. That’s the problem with plotting, for me.
The end of this year is really busy because I’m working on three deadlines spanning across four months, and I’ve just made a list of all the things I want to do over the first six months of next year. I see a lot of things to work on, and a list of things I want to do.
And at the end of those six months, I hope to finally have a holiday and finally earn myself a good rest because I’ve struggled so much the past few years it’s better to get those things over with than let it stretch out.
Right, books. Reading. I want to read more books than I did this year. Preferably non-fiction.
And that’s just an inkling of what I hope to accomplish next year. I’d considered putting down a list of what I want to do, but I think I might not in the end.
“A-alright,” Mordred said slowly as he stepped up to the poker table, at which the young woman plopped herself into. “What sort of game do you want to play?”
“Five-card draw,” the young woman sang. “We play it three times and the winner takes the money.”
“And why specifically me?”
“Because you’re in charge of the casino, right? Or that’s what I heard. I’ll tell you right now, by the way, I’ve got a lot of luck with five-card draws, so I’ve got a higher chance of winning against you. And of course, the universal rule of ‘No Cheating’ applies to this.”
“It’s not like I’d dare to cheat,” Mordred narrowed his eyes. Amidst a watching crowd, now that they know his identity as the son of the man who ran this hotel, he had new consequences: turn it down and his reputation as a billionaire’s heir would go with; accept, then risk having that same reputation go down anyway. Now that he thought about it, if he cheated and got caught doing so, he’d lose it, too.
“We’re going to bet on all the money I won today,” the young woman pointed at the mountain of tokens in the middle of the table. “Oh, I forgot to introduce myself, right? You can call me Garda.”
“‘Garda,’” Mordred repeated; a weird name for a girl?
“Just ‘Garda,’” Garda said firmly. “I’ll just call you Mordred, okay?”
“Mor’s fine, too, since it’s what people call me all the time,” said Mordred.
Garda looked at him strangely, then said in the same firm voice, “Mordred. That’s your real given name, and I shall call you exactly that.”
Mordred reluctantly let that pass. “Alright. So the bet is on the money?”
“If I win, you’ll have to triple the amount right there. There’s about five-hundred thousand on the table there.”
“I see,” said Mordred. “So you’re asking for triple that, if I heard rightly.”
“‘Course you did. If I have to be more specific, you’re handing over a million and five-hundred thousand dollars.”
“And if I win?”
“You can take back the money I’ve got here, and I’ll work at this hotel for the next ten years. I heard you lost two dealers here recently, so I’ll take that.”
Mordred needed to let that sink in for a bit before he answered. “Are you serious? You could have gotten it with an interview.”
“An interview is impossible, and I’m not the sort who would wait her turn and then sit aside to see if she’ll get the job,” Garda laughed. “I wanted this to be a chance game by the world, to see whether I will get the job, or if I will become rich in one night.”
There was a murmur around the casino, and it was getting louder.
Mordred nodded, then said, “In that case, then I’ll accept the game. Can we settle with a new deck of cards, though?”
Mordred turned and searched for Luke out of the crowd, but Luke had been quicker than he imagined: out of nowhere, an unopened package of cards appeared on the table in front of Mordred.
“I recommend not playing, once again,” said Luke steadily. “Regardless your status, it would do you well not to gamble. You’re walking into a scam lazily placed for naive people.”
Mordred fumbled with his fingers. “I’m playing.” Garda chuckled across the table from him, and he felt that perhaps he was an idiot. Even worse if he lost. Also that he was being watched by the regulars of his casino against this strange and supposed-to-be-drunk-but-apparently-not-so woman. “Luke, if you meet Albert outside, tell him that if I lose, we’re losing money.”
Luke paused. His face seemed to have no emotion, but Mordred noted the slightest traces of a combination of reluctance and amusement. Finally, he said, “Alright. I will go back to work then,” With that, Luke left just as quickly as he appeared, leaving Mordred a moment to marvel briefly at his tact.
Mordred snapped the tape on the package and shook out the fresh deck, which carried the usual pungent cardboard of new cards. He looked up at Garda, who stared at the tokens eagerly. “Who’s dealing first?”
“You can do it,” said Mordred, pushing the cards over. “In case you think I won’t play it honestly.”
“This hotel is your home, and you have many employees as your disposal,” said Garda, shuffling the cards; her fingers moved so swiftly that Mordred began to feel anxious; that was the sign of someone who had played cards for a long time. “You could have them stand behind me and listen to you.”
“They all belong to my father, not me,” Mordred replied. “I only take advantage of them when I have my father’s permission – not that I would want to in a gambling game. No one here is under my control. They won’t come close to you and I won’t order them to help. They’re not paid for it either.”
“But your father might side with you, since you’re his only son.”
“Father will not.” Mordred put both hands against the table, leaning against it as he watched her hands. “He isn’t a normal father, after all. He’s the sort of person who would disown me if I lose this game.”
“I’m dealing the cards now,” Garda said, then placed five cards from the deck in front of Mordred. Taking five away, she looked at her hand, then smiled.
They placed their cards onto the table, spread out. Garda’s hand was an eight of spades and diamonds. Mordred’s was a jumble of cards with no order.
“Two of a kind. Win!” Garda laughed, collecting the cards. “Next one, I’ll win again. Care to ask for a handicap from me?”
“No,” Mordred shook his head.
“Your turn. You should shuffle, so no one thinks that I’m cheating, too,” said Garda, handing back the deck.
Mordred took it, split and shuffled the cards, and repeated it again. He wasn’t as fast as Garda and at one point almost dropped a few, but he could at least handle shuffling. He placed the cards down in between them and took out five cards.
“Four of a kind,” Mordred put down his cards.
“A straight flush,” Garda laughed, and skipped on her feet at the table. “See? I’m actually winning!”
Mordred said nothing, putting back the cards and pushing it to her side.
“That guy who gave us the cards earlier,” said Garda with a chuckle. “He was right about this being something like trickery. He was right when he said you were walking into a trap to play a game with me.”
“T-t-that was only two games,” Mordred muttered hesitantly, starting down at the table, at the cards.
“If you knew that, aren’t you just walking into a trap?” Garda chuckled, and she noticed his eyes following her hands as she began to shuffle the deck in her turn.
“Because I’m going to play, whether I want to or not. And I want to play.”
She drew five cards, and then Mordred took another five draw. “Your style is the stubborn player?”
Mordred put down his cards immediately, face up. “Four of a kind.”
The abruptness of his movements startled her, made her pause for longer than a second to register that the cards he put down were values higher than hers. She frowned. “Aw, I lost this round. Your cards aren’t rigged, are they?”
Mordred could hear whispers of people nearby, sense them gathering in a larger cluster than he thought they were before – actually, could they have been called over by friends who were watching them right now?
“If you want to know if they’re rigged, you can go outside and buy a fresher, cheap deck of cards that are yet to be unopened,” he said flatly as he gathered the cards. “Do you want to do that now?”
“Nope, too lazy.”
“Then we’ll settle for cards that are suspected to be rigged,” said Mordred, and began to shuffle the cards. “Although I’d like to assure you that our cards aren’t rigged – but there’s no proof except the smell and the fact that the box was just taped.”
“You’re right,” Garda chuckled. “Well, all I need is just one more win. You need two, but you’ve just got a low chance for it. I will win the next one.”
“No. I will.” He put the stack of cards down as he spoke, and Garda stared at him; he sounded so certain that it might as well have been a joke. From someone who had been so polite and quiet earlier, was it that Mordred had actually been shifting in personality since a moment ago? Garda felt as though something had changed about his expression.
He’s looking at me straight in the eyes! she realized.
“Cut the cards however many times you wish. Then you take your hand first,” said Mordred with a smile. He stood back, his eyes never leaving hers.
Garda cut the cards four times, restacked them, then a second time, three times. She drew her hand.
It was a good one. Two kings, two tens, one Ace of spades.
Mordred took his turn. “I said I would win.” He placed his cards down. 4 cards from the four suits, all nines.
Garda clutched the table. “Guess Lady Luck also loves you.” She smiled, but it wasn’t friendly, much less warm now.
The murmurs were getting excited; who was going to win, who will win? Who would be the shame? The star dealer of Hotel Mariposa? Or the gambler who had been winning the many games the past two hours? They waited with bated breath.
“I will leave the decisive shuffling to you,” Mordred put his cards down on the deck and passed it to Garda.
She jumped to her feet, light an inflexible ruler that bounced back to its original shape and picked up the cards. “Well, isn’t this fun? I guess it’ll also give me something to think about: will I win and be able to continue my streak in this casino, or will you win and bring me so much shame I’ll have to leave this place?” Her hands shuffled it quickly they seemed to fly through her fingers and when she finished, she placed them a little loudly against the table. “For a dealer, you really enjoy gambling, do you not?” She drew her cards. “Hah! A high flush.” She spread out a full suit of diamonds. [The author is getting increasingly embarrassed by her lack of gambling knowledge]
“I think it’s not that I like gambling,” said Mordred slowly. “The thrill with gambling is the thought that you might end up on the streets just because of one loss. No offense to some people here, but games and sports just don’t give me that sort of fun, never while I was growing up. But then it does get boring anyway if the thrill is all you ever come for, and no one shares the same thing. So I decided, I’d like to find someone with the same feeling. Someone who also loves gambling, someone who’s good at it, someone who can defeat me and make me lose all I have in one go!”
He spun the cards in his hand and the cards flapped onto the flat glass table, laid out straight in a row. Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten.
“Royal straight flush,” he smiled. “I win.”
PART ONE: THE GAMBLER
The giant creature in front of him resembled a frog: crouching back legs, stumpy front ones, the silvery skin in a color of greenish-yellow. Only it was probably several times mangled into a more hideous form with bulbous warts that seem more like blisters. One would be overwhelmed with disgust at first sight.
It was what Mordred felt, towards the demon that sat – or stood, but the back legs made her look as though she was sitting – in the middle of the alleyway leading towards the hotel.
“Greed… that is my title,” the demon chuckled in a low woman’s voice. It sent a chill through the air. “The one that people say is the most repulsive of all Sins. You, Mordred Reid, seem to fit my title quite well.”
And just a couple of hours ago, he’d been standing at the reception desk of Hotel Mariposa, musing over an important question…
+ + +
If a dice were thrown, what are the odds that I get the number five repeatedly? Mordred wondered, running a dice over his fingers. He tossed it with a sharp flick of his wrist; it bounced across the small table he sat at from his armchair, spun a bit before landing on the four. He turned it back onto the number five, picked it up, then tossed it again, this time loosely. The number five rolled up.
“But a loose toss would be considered partly cheating since I’m basically pretending to throw it,” he muttered to himself.
“We were supposed to be doing our homework,” complained Annika Thatcher across him, throwing down her pen in frustration, causing Mordred to flinch as he realized that he was sitting at a table with his friends. “We’re going nowhere.”
“Sorry,” Mordred muttered, snatching the dice up and putting it back into his jacket.
“This happens every time, though,” Annika scoffed. “Last week, you were trying to figure out how fast you can put back a Rubix cube, which you didn’t manage to do, but you still spent three hours doing it. Trent, say something!”
“Hi,” Trent Kearn replied, looking up from his textbook, which, now that Mordred, and then Annika as well, noticed, was not what he was reading, but the stapled notes he slipped between the pages.
“You’re not studying either!” Annika pulled away his textbook and frowned at his notes, which turned out not to be a written script.
“Hey, give that back! I need to memorize the words for the stage play on Sunday!” Trent snatched it back.
“You guys!” Annika sat back in her chair with a huff. “So I was the only one doing schoolwork, huh?”
“Sorry,” Mordred and Trent muttered at the same time. Trent returned to staring at his script. Mordred stared down at his textbooks. He looked up to Alexis again.
“Okay, so what did you want my help with?” he frowned, and Annika leaned forward back towards their books.
CHANGE ALEXIS TO ANNIKA
“I’ve got an essay to turn in tomorrow,” she muttered, spreading her notes out. “I’m basing it on why I plan to be a lawyer next year when I enter university, so I’ve got to make it convincing.”
“So a life story?” Mordred frowned. “You already researched on the work? You know it’ll be expensive.”
“Which is why I’m going to get a scholarship, and I need you to help me out with the essay I have to pass into the university,” said Annika. “This one will work for both. You’re good at writing, right?”
“I – I guess?” Mordred muttered uncertainly.
“Says the guy who won three essay competitions in a row in middle school on magic spells when he used to be in the Academy’s cram school.” Trent looked up from his script.
“I haven’t won any essay trophies in high school, so I don’t know what that part ammounts to these days!” Mordred huffed. “Anyway, you can just write it how you feel works, Annika. The basic pattern is just introductory paragraph, story-telling paragraphs, and then the conclusion.”
“Yeah, you told me that before, but how do I make it work?” Annika frowned at him. “You look at the drafts I made and tell me which ones suit it.”
“You finished how many?”
“I wrote five. If I have to write another one, then I’ll be done for.”
Mordred dragged her notes over to him, skimmed his eyes over it, then put them down. “Your voice is too robotic and long as usual. Grapple the reader with the first paragraphs; read a novel while you’re at it. You can jump straight into the reason you wanted to become a lawyer. From there, you keep the whole thing short.”
Alexis fumbled with her pen. “That’s it?”
“For now. You write your sixth draft with that, then I’ll-” Mordred looked up as a wiry middle-aged man with graying hair approached their table. He wore a stiff black suit with a striped blue and white tie, and bowed his head to them. “Hello, Albert. What’s up?”
“Mr. Mordred, I brought you a letter,” the man called Albert searched his jacket pockets until he pulled out a cream-colored envelope, with a printed address on the front, as well as his father’s name. “However, there is the urgent stamp on the front. Shall I forward it to him, or do you wish to open it today?”
“I’ll open it,” Mordred flipped the letter to the back, saw said urgent stamp on the back.
He slipped it into his jeans pockets. “When did it come?”
“This morning, sir.”
“I can make up for time later, then. By the way, how is the wedding setup happening? Any trouble?”
“None, except the client calling up today to tell us to change the menu options; his daughter’s fiance didn’t like eggs apparently, so anything with egg had to be changed to something else. But – trouble is somewhere else, Mordred. The casino, if you will.”
“What’s wrong there?”
“Seiden called up earlier saying that a drunk woman’s going berserk at the poker table.
Since thirty minutes ago, and security can’t get close to her to throw her out. I was about to head there.”
“I’ll deal with it, you continue the work with the planners,” Mordred turned to his friends. “Annika, send the draft through email and I’ll check on it more.”
“Thanks, Mor,” said Annika, relieved.
Mordred turned and rushed off through the hotel.
The heir of the billionaire, William Abasscia-Reid, the third richest man in the world, that was what Mordred was known as. It was understandable that his father’s employees kept some distance away from him as he walked rushed through the hotel. He sometimes wondered if they imagined him to be a pompous prat – it was a stereotype of kids his age through their eyes, apparently, and he’d been greeted by people who thought him that way several times and gave him sarcasm when the only exchange between them was a greeting.
Mordred stepped into a wide hallway that took him straight towards a large wooden double-door that he pushed into the noisy openness of the casino.
Hotel Mariposa’s casino. A noisy place where rumors are that millions are gambled here every day, and that strange people were usually the ones that betted highest. On equal rank in fame as the casinos in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, the employees hired to watch over the gambling that took part here had to be strong-minded or physically able.
From the front, the slot machines greeted him as he entered, and then abruptly changed to a mix of roulette tables, billiards table, the poker tables, leading towards the bar at the back of the place. Nowhere was the casino empty in its 24/7 timeslot; it was only on holidays that the place would shut down.
Mordred made his way to the poker tables, all of which were occupied; then again, it was a rare occasion that he would ever see on unoccupied, especially in this casino. The gamblers that played here were always a wicked sort, the ones desperate for something, be it money, fun, or a high.
But desperate people were the chaotic sort. There had been instances of such incidents where some damage has been caused somewhere there, and it was a fight to get them to take responsibility for it. Not to mention, big name people who came here to kill time; they were usually accompanied by personal bodyguards and the type to cause trouble if displeased with some service.
So he was surprised when he saw that one of these tables has just one woman sitting at it, her legs swinging underneath her chair. Her face was of simple structures: straight, sharp, nose, cheeks, eyes. Her hair was dark brown and curly, with flecks of gold in the lighting of the casino. The yellow dress she wore was short, its straps wrapped around her shoulders so the tattoo on her left arm of a gun and a frog stood out on her skin. She wore no jewelry, much less makeup. There were people nearby who stared at her, as though mesmerized by her studying of a deck of cards on the table; even passerbys glanced at her with curiously on their way around the casino.
“Mr. Mordred? You’re here?” a voice emerged from the crowd, and Mordred jumped and spun around to see Luke Seiden standing by him as though he had been here the whole time.
“D-don’t scare me like that!” Mordred gasped.
Luke chuckled. “Apologies. I rang up Mr. Griffin earlier, so I had not expected you to come here personally.”
“Albert told me what’s going on. That person there hogging a whole table to herself, she’s asking me to show up?”
“That’s right. She’s spent the past thirty minutes there without moving, only telling us to get you to come. What she wants is to play a game with you, a bet included.”
“A game of cards.” Here, Luke glanced at him with an unreadable expression. “As you’re my employer, I’d like you to sensibly refuse, but… you wouldn’t do that, would you?”
Luke had one particular trait that annoyed people around him: his lack of expression and response to the world, or even if he wore one, you still couldn’t tell what he was thinking. But to Mordred, Luke was Employee of the Year ever since they hired him three years ago that sometimes he wondered if Luke actually had a life outside of work; he was in charge of the gym and had two jobs outside of the hotel as coach for two volleyball clubs.
Mordred started to speak, but instead felt his chest pierce with shock when the young woman jumped to her feet with a bright smile and yelled loudly, “The person I wanted to bet with!” She pointed excitedly towards him.
He winced, as those nearby her or who had been watching her, turned towards him with surprise.
The girl was ignorant of her surroundings, as she went on breathlessly, “Mordred Reid, play a game of cards with me, with a bet on who wins!”
“W-why?” Mordred yelped, but she had rushed up to him.
“It’ll be short! We both draw three cards and whoever has the bigger hand wins!” She didn’t seem to have heard him as she tugged him towards the table. “Three rounds, by the way! Today’s a good day, so I’m definitely going to win against you!”
Mordred found himself dragged over to the table. “B-but I don’t think I can play! I mean-”
“Play!” the young woman whipped around to him with a snap, and Mordred flinched. If strange people playing in the casino was troublesome, a woman was worse.