The sun disappeared outside, dropping behind low, long clouds like a tennis ball over a net. A pink-orange horizon bled into the light coming through floor-to-ceiling windows in the cardroom. Outside, fairways on the golf course were bathed in a dark pink hue. Inside the room, the final nine players were about to play down to a winner.

Dimitar was one of them.

He was talking with Sam, who had also made the final table. Once the last nine players were confirmed, seats were redrawn. Only one crucial thing. Before they reached the final table, Sam was on Dimitar’s right. Now, he was one place to his left in seat five, perhaps the best seat at the table. From there, one could see everyone a little better and certainly better than being squashed next to the dealer in seats one or nine. Dimitar took his spot in seat four. 

 Sam Houston, known as ‘NASA’, was the high roller among this group, which mainly consisted of recreational golfers more used to chasing the cups under the flags of holes 1 through 18 on the green than those handed out to poker winners. 

The situation would have been more cordial under normal circumstances as Dimitar was a guest of Sam’s, but they were not in anything that could be considered a normal circumstance. Chasing a million-dollar ransom, Dimitar was trying to spin his initial $1,000 bankroll up to seven figures within a month. If he couldn’t, then his girlfriend Elena, a hostage of Peter Serf, would be killed. 

He really needed the £150,000 top prize.

Dimitar had approximately the same chips as Sam but not the position. Only Sam and one other player, a semi-pro golfer called Jeremy Rundle sat with more chips. Rundle was the top dog and had a pretty clear lead. Dimitar knew he needed to fight for the top prize, but it was not going to be easy. He was outmatched by Sam, so the best course would be to let Sam take out the others so he could face Sam in a heads-up battle. Plus, he knew Sam was incentivized to help Dimitar win. By helping Dimitar, he’ll be helping Sofia, a long-time mutual friend. Dimitar had a suspicion that after their last trip to Barcelona maybe there was something more between Sam and Sofia.  All Dimitar could concentrate on was raising the million dollar bounty and paying off Peter Serf to free Elena from the disgraced businessman turned murderer.  * * * Unknown to Dimitar, at that moment, Elena wasn’t in the possession of Peter Serf. Instead, she was running for her life through the grounds of the hotel. The hotel was huge – nothing less than the best for Serf, the egotist, she thought, brambles whipping her ankles through the copse of willows at the East edge of the property – but it’s helping her to escape. Her dancer’s build and general cardiovascular stamina was far better than both Serf’s and the hotel employee who was helping to track her down.

She was running in a dead straight line, due East past a low, flat building decorated with faded 1970s stucco. The smell of freshly laundered sheets churned from an extraction chimney as she flew past it. She wondered if this was where the man came from, where he worked at the hotel, and whether he knew every inch of the grounds or had recently joined the hotel. 

Peter Serf clearly knew him, so it was possible he inserted his own man at the hotel. It was also possible that he was a hotel employee who had been bribed by Serf. It was impossible to know, but Elena knew he was helping her captor. She was one woman trying to escape not one, but two men. 

It was hard not to get carried away with the idea of escaping from the hotel and finding her way to the outside world, where she could alert the authorities or at least tell someone that she was a prisoner. As soon as she could speak to someone outside Serf’s control, she would be free. 

Then she saw the fence—criss-crossed steel painted green, embedded in the soft, woodchip-coated ground of the clearing. She followed the fence and saw that it went all the way around the outskirts of the hotel grounds, keeping out those who couldn’t afford it. 

And keeping her in. 

She heard the sound of fast footfalls on the woodchips. They sounded close. Quickly, she darted behind a tree trunk thick enough to hide her willowy form. The footsteps slowed, perhaps sensing how close they were, a primal instinct forged millennia ago but honed across centuries of human development. 

A twig cracked underfoot, not four feet from her, as she made herself as small as possible, turning her back to the tree trunk that was shielding her from discovery. 

Her captor was only a few feet away.

Chapter 3.3                                  Chapter 4.2

About the Author: Paul Seaton has written about poker for over 10 years, interviewing some of the best players ever to play the game such as Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth. Over the years, Paul has reported live from tournaments such as the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and the European Poker Tour. He has also written for other poker brands where he was Head of Media, as well as BLUFF magazine, where he was Editor.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.