The Game #52 The Final Hand

Edward pushed a small stack of chips into the center of the table.

“Two thousand.”  Including the small blind, this brought Edward’s total to twenty-five hundred.  Not enough to scare Darius off, but enough to prevent him from thinking that Edward was hiding a strong hand.

Darius called the bet, carefully sliding the chips into the pot.  Kenny burned the top card and laid the flop on the table.  Queen of clubs, jack of hearts and the ace of spades.  Three aces!  It took all of Edward’s self-control to maintain his composure.  Darius could easily have a straight; his bet would be in keeping with playing a king-ten.  Edward pulled himself together although anyone watching him would never have seen a change in his demeanor. 

“Five thousand”, Edward bet. 

Darius studied him for a few moments, trying to get a read on him. 

Good luck with that, thought Edward.  If anyone had ever figured out a way to read Edward Teraneau, he would not be the top rated poker player in the world.  When an opponent did manage to pick up on a tell, it was because Edward had left it dangling for them to find.  Many a poker player had surrendered their chip stack to Edward because they thought they “knew” what he was playing.  Edward shuffled his chips a little faster than normal.  He wasn’t doing anything over the top, like trying to rush Darius, but showing a little case of nerves might give Darius the wrong idea.

“I call”, Darius said. 

Edward studied him.  Was there a tic?  Did he push his chips in too fast, or too slow?  So far, nothing Darius had done had given Edward any kind of information on what was in his opponent’s hand.

Kenny burned the top card yet again and placed the turn card on the table.  The king of diamonds, four cards to an ace high straight, possibly the worst card that could have hit for Edward.  All Darius needed now was any ten.  Edward let just a bit of his nerves show to keep up his charade that he was losing control of the hand.  The odds were still in Edward’s favor, it was slightly better than twelve to one that Darius had the ten.  If a ten hit on the river, they would tie.  If the board paired, unless Darius came up with quads, Edward would have aces full and with no straight flush possible, he would have Darius beat. 

Edward let his mind go empty.  There was a  place he went to when he needed to fully feel his instincts.  He remembered the first time it had happened.  He had been in a ten thousand dollar tournament and was heads up against a local legend, Billy Sands.  Billy had been beating up on Edward all night, calling his bluffs and leading him into one trap after another.  Edward had gotten lucky on a suck out and found himself face to face with the man.  Billy had gone all in with three hearts on the board.  Edward had the straight, but not the flush.  He looked at Billy and suddenly, for some reason, his mind had gone blank.  The next thing he knew, he was calling Billy and taking almost eighty percent of his chip stack on busted flush bluff.

In the stillness of his mind, Edward felt it again.  Now was the time, no looking back.

“All in.”  Edward had Darius more than covered, and a loss here would not really put Mary in grave danger, yet.  Yes, everything about this move felt right.

“I call,” Darius said immediately.  Edward felt the rise of panic.  A snap call was not what he expected.  Had he missed the mark?  Did Darius have the straight?  Edward would have to pull himself out of a deep hole if that was the case.

“Showdown, gentlemen”, Kenny said.

Darius flipped over his cards; the ace of hearts and the king of spades.  Two pair!  Edward happily showed his aces.  Darius was drawing nearly dead; another king would give him kings full, but Edward would have aces full.  All Darius could hope for was a ten to give him a tie with Edward.

This is almost over! thought Edward.  He and Mary could get the hell out of this place and turn Darius over to the authorities.

Once again, time slowed for Edward as Kenny burned the top card of the deck and peeled the river, the last card, from the deck.  It felt like hours as the card was slowly turned over and placed face up on the felt.  A number card, covered with diamonds.  For  moment, Edward thought he saw a ten, but finally the nine of diamonds registered itself in his mind.  It was over.

“Game to Mr. Teraneau”, Kenny said, sliding the chips in front of Edward.  The water drained from Mary’s cell and the glass panel began to slowly rise up into the ceiling.

“Well played, Mr. Teraneau”, Darius said, extending his hand.  Edward regarded it as if it were a live rattlesnake.

“I will see you with a needle in your arm”, Edward said as he brushed past Darius’ extended hand and headed for Mary.

“Eddie!” Mary squealed with joy and threw her arms around Edward’s neck.

“Come on, Mary.  Let’s go home.”  Turning to Darius, he said, “I assume we won’t have any problems leaving?”

“Oh, no, you are free to go.  My men will show you the way out.  Until next time, Mr. Teraneau.”

Edward ignored the comment and headed for the open panel.  It will be a cold day in hell before I sit at a table with that monster,  he thought to himself.  As he and Mary walked down the hallway, Edward noticed that the light that had been filling the room was beginning to fade.  He held tightly to Mary’s hand and placed his other against the wall.  He could barely see and now it was becoming difficult to walk.  He felt like he was spinning; he felt Mary’s hand slip from his grasp.

“Noooooo!” Edward screamed as everything went dark

“Mr. Teraneau, can you hear me?”

Someone was talking to him.  Edward could hear them, but it was still dark.  With a monumental effort, Edward forced his eyes partially open.  There was a blinding white light and he had to shut his eyes against the pain.  Finally, he was able to open them again and began to focus.  There was a face above him.  He recognized it, but his mind could not put a name to it.

“Welcome back, Mr. Teraneau.  You gave us quite a scare.  You and your sister were quite lucky.”

Mary?  Was Mary here?

“Mary….?”  Edward croaked out the word.

“Oh, she’s fine.  As a matter of fact, you are both doing remarkably well.”  The voice was coming from the face in front of him.  The face with the crystal blue eyes.  The name tag on the white lab coat…… Dr. Thomas Darius.

“Darius!  It was you, you killed them…. !” Edward tried to pull himself up out of the bed, but his body would not respond.

“He’s still confused.”  The man, Darius, was talking to someone else now.  “Mr. Teraneau, you and Mary were on the bus that went off the bridge into the river.  Do you remember any of that?  You were the only two that made it out alive.  I’m sorry to tell you, but many of the people who died were friends of yours.”

Bus?  Edward didn’t remember any bus.

“What bus?  I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“The Poker Pros tour bus?  You don’t remember going with the other players and all those fans?  It will come back to you, just rest now.”

The man with Darius on his name tag turned and began talking to the other person again.

“His mind has probably blocked out the event.  Let’s give him some time to rest.  I’ll give him something to help him sleep, just check on him in an hour or so.”

The man turned back to Edward.

“Now then, Mr. Teraneau, you need to get some rest.  You’ve been through quite an ordeal.”

“You…. you killed them…. the game, with the cells…. Kenny was dealing….”

“I’m sorry, Kenny died in the crash also.”

The man leaned over and placed his face very close to Edward’s.

“And now, Mr. Teraneau, I have something of a surprise for you.  You were almost correct, but it is I who will see you with a needle in your arm.”

Edward felt the syringe penetrate his skin and the room began to spin and go dark.  How long had he been laying here?

There were voices in the background and Edward wished they would shut up.  His head was pounding.  He sat up and found himself sitting on a couch.  As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he saw several people in the room.  Their faces were familiar… and there was a table…. a poker table, in the center of the room.  A door opened and a man with the bluest eyes Edward had ever seen walked in.

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Darius and I am your host.  My apologies for the cold temperature, but our heat seems to be out at the moment.  If you will please join me at the table?”


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