Both of them stopped and stared at their phone screens. Below the creepy message was a link, presumably to download an app. Sofia went to flick it open. 

‘Wait, is that safe?’ 

‘Dad, this is hardly the time to worry about Malware.’ 

Sofia clicked the app and a spinning wheel of doom loomed into view, quickly downloading a page and showing a six-handed poker table. One of the seats filled, and a stack of 1,000 chips appeared in front of a seat on the bottom right of the screen. An avatar of Sofia appeared on the seat and her screenname: ‘Capitalgurl’. 

‘Who’s doing this?’ she asked. 

‘Well, it can hardly be Silvana, can it? She’s in the back of a police car!’ Ivan said. 

‘Did they take her phone off her?’ 

Neither of them knew the answer to that for sure, and a quick scan of the hallway did not locate it. Sofia told her Dad to accept the link and take his own seat. He did so and appeared to Sofia’s immediate left in the bottom left of the screen as ‘DaddyCool’. A humorless smirk flashed across his features. 

‘So, we’re supposed to sit here on our phones and play a game of poker until we’re murdered by the same person who killed Georgi?’ he asked. ‘Not me.’ 

‘Wait, what did you say?’


‘Well, you just said it. They’d be coming to find us, based on where our mobile phones are. They give off a location. I just had a thought. Did you get Georgi’s possessions back?’

‘Yes, they gave them to me in a box. To be honest, Sofia, I can’t bear to look inside it.’

‘I think we need to,’ she said as she logged into the app on her phone that could locate Georgi’s cell phone. 

The box was filled with the items you would expect to find in the pockets of someone who died unexpectedly. Georgi’s wallet held his driver’s license, photo ID and a handful of notes, but there wasn’t the sum of money they hoped would be there.

‘If he was running away, he wouldn’t have got far with this.’ Sofia said. Ivan nodded.

Next to the wallet were two passports. They opened one each. Sofia held open Georgi’s photo page with the same picture that was on his Photo ID. She teared up at seeing his face in duplicate.

Her father turned the other passport page with a photo on to face his daughter. 

‘Elena.’ She said. ‘They must have been going away.’ 

‘Someone prevented them from doing so.’ 

There was a bleep from Sofia’s cell phone. The same noise emanated from Ivan’s. 

‘Four more players have joined the table,’ Sofia said. She brought the screen up and showed her father. Four more players had indeed filled seats. Their names were ‘TrimTra1l’, ‘L3atherOne’, ‘SerferDude’ and ‘Georg1’. 

‘Well, Serf has to be one of them,’ Ivan said. 

Sofia looked at her cell phone. Georgi’s cell popped up on the phone locator app. 

‘It says that Georgi is to the East of the city,’ Sofia said. ‘Past the monastery, the football ground. It’s the river. It’s where his body was found.’


He ushered Sofia out of the house, and they got into the car. He locked the house and they drove off. 

‘Leather. That’s got to be Dimitar. But it was Georgi that always wore the leather.’ 

‘Someone knows that Dimitar was wearing his jacket at the poker night.’ 

‘Someone like Peter Serf?’ 


Ivan Angelov had looked certain of both his wife’s innocence and that nothing bad could come of the situation when he and Sofia had arrived home. That façade was falling away like a busted flush draw

                                                                       *                *                *

They drove fast to the location of Georgi’s phone. The Iskar River was a torrent of activity as it flowed beneath the base of what looked like a mountain from the valley floor. 

‘I can see someone up there,’ Sofia said, pointing up at the summit as Ivan screeched the car to a stop in the parking space. The Iskar Gorge loomed above them, soaring up into the sky. 

‘It must be a thousand feet high,’ Sofia said, craning her neck. She was short anyway, but it felt like the cloud-swathed peak was a world away from where she stood. 

‘980 feet, actually,’ Ivan said. He slipped his car keys into his pocket. The gorge itself stretched for miles, further than either of them could rationally approximate. 

‘We’ve not been here for years, Dad.’

‘Not since you were children.’ Ivan said, his voice faltering in the mist of twilight. ‘It links the country, like a spider’s web. It connects the capital with all the other cities in the country.’ They gazed up at the limestone walls of the West-facing wall of rock that shot up almost in a sheer drop. To the right, a much less steep path wound its way north up the peak. They had approached by the only road, but in the distance, a railway could be seen, leading a steel path through the Iskar Gorge.

The canyon itself was terrifying. Georgi had died at the base of it, but he couldn’t possibly have plummeted to his death, as his body was unmarked. Neither of them thought he had drowned, though. How had he died? 

They climbed the path carefully and soon spied the figure at the top. He was easy to make out as they got closer. The dark clothes, the slick hair, the sullen, sunken expression of a man who was angry and no longer had any reason to hide it. 

Dimitar welcomed them both as they reached him, at least 300 feet from the base of the peak. They all looked down at the canyon walls, whose limestone crags seemed etched in lightning by the metallic glow of early evening.

‘What are you doing here, Dimitar?’ Sofia asked. Dimitar was wearing a leather jacket. From a distance, he could easily have been mistaken for Georgi. 

‘I was sent an invitation,’ he said. ‘A poker game. By Georgi. I thought maybe you sent it, Ivan.’ 

‘Me? Why would I send it?’ asked Ivan, livid at the suggestion. His cheeks flushed and he balled his fists. 

‘To summon me here. I thought maybe you and your wife,’ he spat the word, ‘were going to get rid of me and Elena.’ 

‘You know about Elena?’ asked Sofia. 

‘I went to the nightclub. Elena was being loaded into an ambulance. I’d taken a call from the catering company suggesting a way to change the order to save money.  I went over to their warehouse, but they said they never called. I returned and saw her being taken away. Then I got this message.’ 

The app, as if summoned by Dimitar, sprang into life. The first hand was being dealt. Sofia grabbed the phone and saw that Dimitar wasn’t touching the screen. The three of them watched as the hands were fanned around the table by the digital dealer. Dimitar had pocket aces. Each of them had 1,000 starting chips and the blinds were 50/100. It was a crapshoot. Sofia and Ivan both got their phones out.  

‘The app said if we want to find out who Georgi is, then we need to win?’ Dimitar said. 

‘No, who killed Georgi,’ said Sofia. 

‘Well I have queen-nine suited,” said Ivan. ‘I fold.’ 

‘Wait,’ Sofia said. ‘I have pocket kings. If we know its not Dimitar, then we can lose our chips to him. That’ll give him the best chance of beating whoever is behind this. Look at the blinds. With three times his chips, he’s got to have the best chance of any of us.’

‘I suppose you’re right. But what if he’s behind it? It could be a computer program. Maybe you gave yourself aces.’ 

‘Wouldn’t I have brought a weapon if I wanted to kill you?’ asked Dimitar. ‘What Sofia says is right. With three times anyone’s chips, I should win. Then we can find out who killed your son. My best friend.’ 

They agreed, and before the timer ran out, Sofia raised and Ivan shoved. Both Dimitar and Sofia called it off and the hands were revealed. An eight-high flop almost killed off Ivan’s chances of winning and he was practically drawing dead after the flop. A king on the turn changed all that. 

‘I’m sorry,’ Sofia said, but the others shook their heads. 

Then an ace landed on the river. 

 ‘L3atherOne’, a.k.a. Dimitar, had the chips. The pot of 3,000 was moved to Dimitar’s seat and both Sofia and Ivan were eliminated.   

Sofia looked away from the phone with relief and saw a car pull up at the base of the mountain. Out of the driver’s side climbed Peter Serf. He looked up the mountain and held his cell phone out in front of him. He leaned back into the car and pointed back up at the three of them. Suddenly, he seemed to lose something in the car, and lunged in to get it.

A minute passed, and when he came out of the car, he had a cell phone in one hand and a gun in the other. 

He gestured to the person in the backseat and opened the door for them. Saskia, her wrists bound behind her back, practically tumbled out of the car and Serf held her hair. He half-dragged, half-pulled her up to meet the others at the staggered summit of the great rock face. He threw Saskia towards Sofia. She landed in a heap, her handbag clattering into her chest. She held it tight as if it were a shield.  

‘Don’t take her gag off,’ he barked at Sofia, pointing the gun in the direction of the group, ‘Nobody move.’ 

The four of them cowered in his shadow, the light seeming to die in the sky with the presence of Peter Serf. His whole body was contorted in anger, the veins on his neck standing out and his face flushed. 

His cell phone bleeped, but he ignored it.

‘I went for a haircut. Found her playing a game of poker on her phone… and you were all present,’ he snapped. ‘Thought about playing myself, got an invite. But then I figured I could try to find where you all are.’

Peter Serf paused, the wind howling around them all. Then he spoke again.  

“You see, I’ve been looking for you… Georgi.’

Chapter 9                                  Chapter 11

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.