Dimitar’s plan was working perfectly. Like an expert butcher slicing his way through a side of beef, Sam was carving a path through the golfers pretending to be poker players. The tournament was down to just four players. Only three poker players remained between Dimitar and £150,000 – a huge percentage of the million he needed to rescue Elena. With help from his device, he knew that the top prize equated to over $180,000. Winning at high stakes might be hard, but he still had the better part of four weeks to earn it and would already have 18% of the total – if he could pull off the victory. 

But it wasn’t yet guaranteed. Dimitar closed his phone and refocused on the felt, on the burning and turning of cards. The final female player in the event, a self-confessed ‘golf widow’ named Linda had just gone all-in. She opened her hand onto the table showing the ace and ten of spades. Sam had made the call and turned over a king-queen. He was approximately a three-to-two underdog, but he was priced in for the call. 

The dealer fanned the flop. An ace in the window, followed by a king and a five, in three different suits – a rainbow flop that avoided Linda’s suited spades. It was not good for Sam, though. Yes, he had a pair, but Linda’s pair was bigger. He needed to find more paint. A five joined the board on the turn, and Linda unconsciously settled deeper into her seat, presumptive of the double-up that would make Dimitar’s tournament a lot tougher. 

It was time for the river. The top card was burned and thrown into the muck followed by dealing the river. Another flick of the wrist exposed the final card of the hand – the king of diamonds. Sam won the hand, rivering a kings over fives boat, knocking Linda and her 2 pair to the proverbial nineteenth hole. Only three players remained. Dimitar allowed himself a moment of relief knowing he was guaranteed at least £63,400 for his efforts. It was a start, but he needed more – a lot more. 

The footsteps were right behind the tree now. She could hear his breathing, the man was close by. She hoped it was the hotel employee. Whoever it was helping Serf must have a simple reason for doing so. Maybe he’s being threatened, perhaps he’s on Serf’s payroll. But he couldn’t be a psycho. Could he?

It could also be Serf. If she closed her eyes, Elena could feel his hands around her throat, just as close as the tree bark was to her neck at the moment. Panic set in and she ran for the fence. She was halfway up when a hand grabbed onto her shoe. She kicked wildly, trying to shake off the hand. Once. Twice. Hard and fast. Screaming, she managed to wriggle clear and threw herself to the top of the fence. The top was sharp, the steel shaped into what looked like two crossed swords at each inch-wide space between lines of metal. It was beautifully wrought iron, decorative from the outside, and designed intentionally to keep people outside. 

Except she was inside, climbing out. She hauled her body over the jagged spikes and looked down to the ground. It didn’t seem so high from the ground, but from the top of the fence, it felt like a long drop. Too long. Maybe eight feet, possibly even ten. She started to feel dizzy. Looking back at the grounds, she saw the hotel employee. That’s who had found her, that was who was silently climbing up behind her, long legs, long arms, long hands grabbing for her. 

She jumped. 

Upon hitting the ground, Elena started to roll, not from years of training, just pure instinct


Elena heard her ankle crack. Was it broken? No. It was painful to stand on but she had to keep going. Jumping to her feet, adrenaline pumping through her bloodstream doing its job, forcing her into action out of sheer blind terror. The man is trying to climb, but he was finding the spikes just as difficult as she did. Thank God, she thought, turning to run, and – BAM!

Elena had run right into Peter Serf. 

‘Where do you think you’d run, my dear?’ his lips curled into a thin grin. ‘Excellent work, Hans. Please do stop by at our room this evening, after you’ve taken care of the CCTV footage.’

Hans smiled, happily heading off to do Mr. Serf’s bidding, knowing it meant a bigger payday. 

‘Now, my dear Elena, after our morning run, you must be exhausted.’ 

Then she felt it – the pinprick of the syringe in her arm. The almost-welcome buzz of warmth that flooded her body and mind, until light as a cloud, she floated away. The grass fell behind her as she soared up, up, up until she was enveloped in an inky black starless sky.

Chapter 4.1                                  Chapter 4.3

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.