Peter Serf looked directly at Dimitar, who shuffled on his feet. He looked like he was holding onto a secret that was too hot to remain in his grasp. 

‘You want to tell them, or shall I!?’ said Peter, his gun pointing at Dimitar’s chest. Both Ivan and Sofia looked utterly perplexed. 

 ‘Your friend here, Elena’s boyfriend… has been playing a very different part, haven’t you?’

Dimitar bowed his head and, in barely a whisper, said, ‘I’m sorry.’

‘All your poker smarts, Sofia, all your observational skills, and you still haven’t worked it out, have you? Dimitar told my wife that he was Georgi. She wasn’t fooling around with your brother; she was doing it with him!’ 

Peter’s finger tensed on the trigger. 

‘I’m going to kill you for what you’ve done to my marriage. You never loved my wife. You played with her so that the news of the affair would get back to Elena, and she’d see what Georgi was like. You wanted her to see that you were the man for her.’

‘It is true.’

‘You beat Georgi out of his money, you scared Elena off him when you told her what he’d done… and then you killed him.’

Ivan Angelov seemed to glow red. He went to grab Dimitar, who backed off, his hands up, palms toward the other men. 

‘I didn’t kill him. It’s true that I loved Elena, and I… was with your wife as Georgi. But I didn’t mean for it to happen.’

All the fight seemed to drain from Dimitar. He visibly shrank in front of them. 

‘The club was dark. She arrived to check it out, for her job… and assumed I was Georgi. For a moment, I wanted to be him. To imagine Elena on my arm. He didn’t love her. He wanted her, but only for the next week. He would have discarded her. I had loved her from the moment I saw her. I saw a way we could be together. But I didn’t kill Georgi.’ 

He turned to face Sofia. 

‘I didn’t kill your brother.’ 

‘You’re lying. Saskia found where your phone was, and then she searched for Sofia’s… and Ivan’s. You were all together here. Was that your plan, get everyone together, throw them off the summit one by one? Like you did Georgi?’ 

‘But I didn’t do anything to Georgi. He didn’t have a scratch on him.’ 

‘Don’t lie to me,’ Peter said, checking the gun was loaded and leveling it at Dimitar’s forehead.  

A moaning came from Saskia on the floor. Sofia hauled her up into her lap and her eyes pleaded at her friend. 

‘Can’t you just leave everyone else out of this?’ Sofia asked Peter. 

‘Come on, Peter,’ Ivan said. ‘This has gone far enough. If you kill Dimitar, they’ll throw away the key. We’re all witnesses.’

‘Don’t you see that I don’t care any more?’ said Peter as he turned to the car. Dimitar didn’t wait for an invitation, diving through the air, wrestling Peter to the ground. Dimitar knocked the gun out of his hand, and it clattered on the rocks. As the two men grappled, Saskia fell on top of the pistol, covering it with her body. Dimitar held Peter still, then pulled him to his feet.

Sofia pulled the gag from Saskia’s mouth and removed the rope from the wrists of the young hairdresser, who rubbed feeling back into them. There were raw burn marks just below her hands and they looked sore. 

‘Thank you, Dimitar,’ said Saskia as she beamed at him. With the same practiced, artistic flair Saskia used with her scissors, she flicked the gun around in her hand, aiming it at Peter Serf. 

‘For a second, I thought you were going to prevent me doing this,’ Saskia said as she shot Peter in the stomach. He fell to his knees in agony and Saskia stepped forward. 

‘I think we’ve all had enough of your silly little game, Peter.’

‘Saskia, what’s going on with you?’ said Sofia. Her face was a picture of horror. 

‘With me? Don’t make me laugh. Peter came in for a haircut to make sure I was in on your stupid little poker game. You thought you’d find out the truth, but when you did, and your wife pointed at ‘Georgi’ here, you couldn’t handle it.’ 

Saskia laughed. It was higher pitched than usual, and Sofia didn’t like the sound of it at all. Saskia stepped forward and with Peter still doubled over in agony, gave him a hard kick to the ribs. He groaned, stumbling on his knees, before tumbling down the mountain path. He traveled a few hundred feet before he came to a stop, his limp body falling still on a bed of small stones, a trail of dust settling in his wake. 

‘Now that he won’t be bothering us anymore, perhaps we can all have a civilized conversation,’ Saskia snapped. ‘Or do I have to kill someone else?’ 

She told them all to move towards the edge of the peak. There was a thousand feet between them and the ground. A sheer drop would certainly kill anyone who went over it, and below them, the wind whipped around rocks that looked like fists that had punched up through the earth before turning to stone.

‘Saskia, please, don’t do this. None of us have to die. What do you want?’

‘That’s a good question. One that none of you cared about until a second ago. Suddenly, it’s a bit more important, right?’ 

Silence indicated she was right about that. Dimitar glanced down at the screen in his hand.  Both ‘TrimTra1l’ and ‘SerferDude’ had busted. The player who called themselves ‘Georg1’ was letting their time bank run down. This made sense. They all knew that player was Peter Serf now. 

‘All I wanted was to be important to all of you. Sofia, I wanted a friend, but you had to travel all the time. You were never happy with what you had here. I was always the listener, and you talked, talked, talked. Sam, Georgi, your father. All you cared about was yourself. Dimitar was even worse. You only had eyes for Elena, but you couldn’t see what was on your doorstep. I’d always liked you, but at the club the other day, you looked right past me. So did Peter; all he wanted was to chat Sofia up.’

‘What about my brother?’ Sofia asked, tears in her eyes. 

‘He was the worst of you all. He came here with Elena. But he poured his heart to to me in the chair while I cut his hair. She was just the latest in a long line.’

‘A line you were never in?’ 

‘Shut up! I would have been if he hadn’t wanted Elena so badly. I couldn’t stand it any more. I made sure his drink at the hairdressers had something extra in.’

‘You drugged my brother?’ Sofia asked. She remembered how quickly Saskia had found the sleeping pills, how happy she was to give them away. 

‘It was so easy. I had loads of those pills. I used to get terrible anxiety. Used to worry about money, love, all that stuff. But they really helped. And they allowed me to put Georgi to sleep. I lay him in the river while he was out of it and watched him go still.’ 

Tears ran down Sofia’s face. All the color had drained from Ivan Angelov’s face. His expression hinted that the cliff face no longer harbored any terrors to him.

‘If it’s money, you can have it,’ he said eventually. 

‘You want to buy your way out of this? I don’t want money. I want stature, a place in this city. But you can help me have it. It was me who fired the rifle at the poker night. I wanted to stop you both getting on with Dimitar, I wanted you to see what he was really like. But it was Silvana’s nail varnish on the gun. Guilty as charged for the first bullet, right. I made sure that I stabbed Elena with a knife from your kitchen, just to make sure.’

‘You’re a monster,’ said Ivan, thinking of his wife and son. 

‘A monster you can marry. You’ve done it before, traded up. You like a younger model, don’t you? Sofia, we can be like sisters. But you, Dimi…’ 

Saskia smiled, but there was no joy there at all. The smile never got close to reaching her eyes. She raised the gun and marched Dimitar right to the edge of the cliff. He could feel the roar of the wind in his ears, and all he could see when he closed his eyes was Elena’s face. 

‘I want you to walk off, Dimitar,’ Saskia said. ‘You’re going to be the murderer. You were jealous of Georgi, you slept with Peter’s wife. Don’t you see, it’s perfect. Now move!’ 

Dimitar walked to the edge of the cliff. His feet hung inches from the frayed grass at the threshold of oblivion. 


‘I… I can’t do it,’ he said.

‘Then I’ll shoot you. Three, two…’

Dimitar closed his eyes, heard the number one spoken then heard the ear-splitting roar of a gun being fired so close that he felt his eardrums might burst. Then he opened his eyes. 

Saskia staggered on her feet, the blood pouring from her arm. The gun she’d been holding fell to the ground, and Sofia lunged for it, tossing it over the cliff. Behind her stood Silvana, rifle leveled at Saskia from five feet away. She smiled at her stepdaughter and her husband. 

‘Released without charge,’ she grunted. ‘Now walk, yourself.’ 

She shot Saskia again, this time in the chest, and the hairdresser staggered towards the precipice. She took one last look at Sofia and smiled a horrible smile, blood emerging from behind her sharp teeth. Then the wind took her and she fell. It was one thousand feet down, onto black rocks. 

The four of them stepped back from the edge and huddled together. 

Silvana discarded the weapon and the police arrived only a few seconds later.

Silvana told them that she only shot Saskia in self-defense. The only witnesses, Ivan, Dimitar, and Sofia backed Silvana’s every word. They went with the authorities down the hill and when they reached the bottom, they saw that a police cordon was being set up at Peter Serf’s car. 

‘So it was true, then?’ Ivan asked the police officer who was accompanying them down the hill. ‘He really did kill his wife?’ 

‘It would appear so. The woman in this car died at the scene.’ 

‘I can’t believe he really killed her,’ said Sofia. She thought about how attracted she’d been to him at first and it sent a chill down her spine. 

‘Did you take him to the morgue?’

‘We’ve not located Peter Serf at this time,’ said the officer. 

‘He’s alive?’ Sofia asked. Silvana, Ivan, Sofia, and Dimitar exchanged a glance. Peter Serf had managed to escape. But how long could a wounded man run? 

At the station, police took statements from everyone involved. Once they’d finished, night had fallen, an ink-black sky without stars overhead.

Ivan held Silvana’s hand on the way out, Sofia along with them both. She had made up with Silvana over Styrofoam cups of tea and the three of them were looking towards a future when they’d be a real family again. Sofia had asked to move back in with her father and Silvana, just until they caught Peter. They’d been more than happy to accept. They all wanted to mourn Georgi. 

As the Angelovs went home, Dimitar was left on the steps of the police station. He hailed a taxi and told the driver to head to the hospital. 

When he arrived at the hospital, he asked to see Elena and was told she was in the recovery ward having successfully made it through surgery on a ruptured abdomen. 

‘She was lucky,’ the Sister on the ward said when Dimitar arrived. ‘Many people don’t survive. She is strong. We’ll be keeping her in for a couple of days, just to make sure, of course, but we’d expect her to make a full recovery.’ 

He had arrived at Elena’s ward, and the nurse drew back the curtain. 

The bed was empty. 

‘Where is she?’ asked Dimitar. The whitewashed walls seemed to creep a couple of inches closer to him. 

‘I’ll check with the… ah, here she is. Nurse, where is this patient?’ 

‘She checked out with her father,’ said the nurse, hurrying past to the sound of an alarm being pressed at another patient’s bedside. 

A short, balding man arrived at their side and interrupted them. 

‘Excuse me, but could you tell me where my daughter is recuperating?’

‘Sorry sir, but right now, I’m just trying to help this man…’

‘But her name is Elena…’

‘Who are you?’ Dimitar said. 

‘I’m her father. You’re the man from the nightclub, aren’t you? I’ve seen you when I’ve picked her up.’ 

It was at that moment that Dimitar’s phone sprang into life. A bleep showed him that the poker game he’d been in when halfway up the Iskar Gorge had ended. ‘Georg1’ had ended up with all the chips. He almost looked away, but a message popped up in the app. 

You lost the game, so I took the prize with me.
If you want to play again, you’ll need to find the buy-in. 


$1 million in one month… or Elena dies.

Dimitar felt like the room was spinning.

Peter Serf had won. He’d escaped with Elena. Dimitar made his excuses and left. He had to find Elena. He’d need to raise a million dollars to get her back and he only knew of one way he could do that. 

 He’d have to play poker…. and win.

Dimitar Will Return in…

Dead Beat.

Chapter 10                                  Dead Beat 

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.