The Gambler

It was midnight by the time D was deposited at the riverside motel. An early riser, the distinguished gentleman was in half a mind to let the receptionist have his way and escort him to the nearest dump. But his virgin travel experience had enough powder in it to make him stand up for the room number he ardently desired. Ready or not he could not really settle for anything less.

The man at the other side of the wooden counter was perplexed though he showed anything such. Never had he, in his short career, met a guest so fixated on the plate number of a room. Having just trained himself out of the bell boy position, he had to confer to his manager in order to sort out the issue. Wondering through it all, cursing through it all. If only under his breath.

For D, the journey to this quaint little town had been uneventful. Mindful of the packed hours the next day presented, he could do with some sleep. And yet, his preference for that number was never called into question.

An hour of wait he had to muster lolling around at the lobby as he sank into the drowsy sofa and muttered murder. His heavy-set eyes had been glazed over by the rickety town bus and the folded sleeve of his shirt provided succor to the room freshener at hand. The manager processed a lewd stare and settled with this eccentric guest.

They were not unaccustomed to hosting strange creatures in this facility. Just the other day, a lady with apparently royal connexions had perched herself onto the terrace and threatened to jump down the 2 floors unless her demand was met. Her demand – to provide her with all the telephone directories in the hotel was met with confused exchange of glances and shrugged shoulders.

Scorned lover! Attention seeker! Our own Kardashian! and several other epithets had rained down on the poor lady and the venom of the crowd beneath her pushed her further to the edge.

She was rescued finally by the bell-boy himself who brought the golden trolley right to the terrace. Filled to the curved edges with the yellow directories, the trolley was a magnet to mobile camera flashes. Oh the things that excite people these days and their constant desire to place everything in posterity.

Anyways, back to our gentleman in that drab grey suit who was now snoring so loud the doorman had to keep the doors firmly shut for fear of angering the decibel squad in the local police. It was not his fault really. He had placed his request to the top echelon of the hotel prior to booking the room and was assured that his demand, however whimsical, would be taken care of.

The caretakers themselves could not be blamed. If not for the lady, who had to be forced to vacate the apartment only an hour before D arrived at the scene, the room would have been tip-top by the allocated time. The delay, arisen on part of the lady in question, initiated a string of forced calamities that culminated in the fiasco of the century at the modest estate.

At precisely quarter to one, the door to the fateful room was finally sprung open for Mr. D, his suitcase deposited on the wooden ledger and a firm shake of hands before the door was slammed shut with an imagined ferocity. Within 5 minutes of this series of occurrences later, the stout man in our story was lying face down over the generous spread of white blankets, white cushions, white bed sheet and white bed cover. His shoes right at the place where the bell boy had left him, his trousers loosely thrown over the television and his shirt deposited firmly near the bathroom door.

The window had heavy drapes cutting out the streetlight from the road two floors down and the thick double-glazed glasses had been known to block every known element of human presence from outside the room. Suffice it to say that the room was being perused in a manner befitting a one-night sleep.

A bit of background on the gentleman in question here. Trained as a postman and working as an insurance agent, the distinguished middle-age man in sparkling white hairs and with unobtrusive tiny hands was a celebrity in his own town. Known best for his exploits in the local gambling den, and worst for the drunken bouts at the neighboring waterhole, the person had crafted a personality of his own. He often ran into problems with money and proudly proclaimed his own disinterest in getting an insurance for himself. A marriage of 18 years had transformed his once-sprightly little wife to a tragic heroine who loved to foul-mouth everyone and anyone within her hair’s reach.

Sometime near the break of the day, or maybe not because the curtains were drawn, D awoke with sweat pouring from his massive forehead. He thought he had heard a faint sound coming from somewhere in the room. Other than the sound of silence, till this point he had been perfectly in sync with the room’s furnishings. But this sound, he had not mistaken it he decided. But from where had it originated, what was the source and why in this room? He was perturbed though tired to look more into it. He lay still for just a second to check if the sound could replicate itself but the deafening noise of silence was all he could hear. He tried to go back to sleep by pushing the cushion to his head, shuffling to the left and to the right but could not force himself to. And just as he was about to turn in his wake again, he noticed a slight irregularity near the foot of the bed. A tiny black object seemed to be peeking out of the cavernous space the bed had created on the ground. What could it be he wondered? A shoe? Someone’s legs! Yes, that was it. There was someone lying on the floor beneath his cot.

He was wide awake now trembling in his anxiety. His mind took a feverish turn to the zoo and erupted as in an active volcano. Scurrying for varying explanations the tricks his imagination started playing became a burden too much to bear in a single span of a second. Could it be a burglar or a thief? Maybe it was a dead body! Or maybe… maybe.. NO! It cannot be! L could never know he was staying here this night. D had ensured his little voyage would remain shrouded in mystery until it was too late to be of any good. He had mentioned his escape to no one. No one could possibly know he had left his town in the middle of the day wrapped inside a station wagon first and onto the bus from the next town where the wagon had surreptitiously deposited him for half a quid. But could he? Could L have known all along and had let him play out his stupid The Great Escape so he can catch him at his own game? He could not!

He had to think of a possible way to escape before his stalker realized he has been discovered and makes his move. He has to ensure that he reverses the element of surprise onto the burglar. But how could he? He was in his shorts and could not reach for the telephone to call the porter for help. He was not in a position to raise alarm by shouting because he did not know what the person underneath was holding. He had to make a move fast lest his little discovery be discovered.

The door to the corridor was approximately 20 feet across the room and to make a dash he would have to run for the door keeping his hand forward so he can open the latch quickly and scamper to safety before raising an alarm. He had to make sure that the moment he jumps onto the floor and runs for the door L should not be able to grasp his legs and make him fall face-up on the floor. That would be disastrous and he would be ill-equipped to handle the kerfuffle that would result.

Either that or he could vainly hope to place a phone call mumbling help to the reception below. He would have to assume the man below is asleep himself and is not yet awake to carry out his own plan of action.

What can he possibly do to make his escape a success? Should he make a run for the door and wish that he is not pinned down or should he continue to lay above the cot hoping for the day to break and for the room-service to knock. No! Too much time between now and the scheduled room-service call. He has to think something and think it fast!

His wife must be comfortably nestled in her bed this whole time! How he wished he was there and not here. If only he could, he would take back the time that was yesterday when he lost about 1000 pounds in that dump shit hole of a game.

But all that is history and he needs to run to the door in order that he escapes this confrontation. What if he has a knife with him underneath? Would he be able to defend himself with his tiny hands? He doubts it and looks at his hands for confirmation. If only he could have stayed in a different room this might not have happened. His pen chance for this particular number was well-known and he had made the mistake of carrying it to this hotel. A different room would have made it impossible to discover him in this state – helpless and jailed. A jail it now seemed to him this room of his. He was bounded by the heavy curtains on the window as much as the padlock on the door. Only this time, the jail was of his own making. He should have been careful at the betting game with L.

An hour passed with D lying on the cot looking furtively at the dark shadow every now and then. He had to make a move but was unable to move an inch out of fear. The nature of silence had gradually shifted around during the hour and had settled into a comfortable pace making him assume that dawn was at hand and that the day was already in swing.

He must have dozed off because when he woke up there was a loud bang at the door. Quickly he scanned the foot of the bed again to make sure the foot was still there. Another knock and he was on his feet running to the door without looking back at his bed. The latch lifted and the door opened to a row of concerned faces with raised eyebrows and dirt around their eyes. Breathless because of the mighty sprint he hesitantly pointed at his bed with a finger on his mouth. The faces all turned to look at the direction and saw blackness staring at them from underneath the bed. There was no one there!


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