‘It’s never easy to win a game of heads-up poker.’ Ivan Angelov slurred. 

He had way more chips than Dimitar, but the bouncer and barman seemed to grow in the jacket he had been wearing since the sixth level of play. At his side, Elena smiled encouragingly at him. She had only been dancing at the club for a couple of years, but she’d almost always played poker. It felt like an out-of-body experience to her that she was there – they were all there – without Georgi lighting up the room. 

Georgi’s jacket. It didn’t fit him quite so neatly, thought Sofia to herself, watching from the bar with Saskia. The two of them sat together, Sofia on a seat at a poker table adjacent to the bar, riffling chips absently with a decent view of the table in front of her. Ivan sat to the left, Dimitar to the right. Silvana was acting as the dealer, having taken over when heads-up play began. Her maroon painted fingernails shimmered under the glow of late evening lights from the chandeliers above.  

‘I am not only winning for myself, but for Georgi. He was my brother.’ Said Dimitar, looking over at Sofia. A guilty flash of emotion crossed his eyes at the word. Sofia’s smile softened. They were brothers. As long as Dimitar had been there at the club, he had idolized Georgi. In a way, everyone did. He had an aura that seemed to radiate warmth like a magnet; he brought others closer to him naturally. But she could still see the misty look in Dimitar’s eyes – he looked up to Georgi like he was an older brother to him as well. He had always wanted what Georgi had. She was surprised he didn’t already have his own jacket of the same design. 

The early exchanges were peppered with barbed, drunken words from Ivan, but as he lost a few pots, the words dried up. His chip lead diminished a bit but he still had 75% of the chips on the table. Dimitar had started the duel with barely any hope but now there was a chance. 

‘How much money is there for the winner?’ asked Ivan to his wife. Silvana spread the latest three-card flop with a flick of her wrist. Bangles of gold and silver bounced against each other with a muffled metallic chime. 

‘$4,200 euros, my love,’ she smiled, her perfect teeth glimmering across the room. 



Teeth my father paid for, thought Sofia. 


Sofia could practically hear Dimitar trying to slow his breathing from three meters away. He needed the money, that much was clear in his expression alone. Sofia hated how her father used his money to hold power and control over those who had so much less than him. 

Dimitar reached for a pile of chips. 

‘However much it is, I’ll call your bet.’ Said Ivan, needling his young opponent. 

‘400,000.’ Said Dimitar. Half of his stack. 

‘I call. I’m a man of my word.’

‘I know you are. Good luck, Ivan.’

‘I don’t need luck. I have money.’ 

The flop was king-high. The king of diamonds stood out, sitting in the middle of two low black cards, the three and four of clubs. 

‘I call your bet.’ Said Ivan, tapping the table to check. 

‘Then I am all-in.’ Dimitar replied, pushing his single stack of chips over the line and towards the center of the felt. 

Ivan called and turned over his cards – the five and six of diamonds. An open-ended straight draw. Dimitar quickly revealed a pair of black kings. He’s hit top set and any pair on the board now will give him an unassailable full house.

All of Dimitar’s chips were in the middle of the table. Silvana neatly stacked the pile of Ivan’s chips that Dimitar could win next to it. The chips would be even if the young bouncer could survive the turn and river. 

‘How about we make this interesting?’ Ivan asked, edging his hand out towards his wife to pause the deal even though there was no official round of betting to come.

‘It’s already interesting to me, Ivan.’ Says Dimitar. 

‘How about more interesting? If you win, I’ll make it €10,000. But if you lose, you get nothing.’

Dimitar had to think about it. It was serious money, a lot to risk, but a lot to gain. 

‘My son, Georgi, would already have agreed to the proposal, you know that.’ Ivan gloated. ‘But then, my son had courage. He had stones.’

Ivan thumped his chest with a closed fist and Dimitar shook his head. 

The ace of diamonds landed on the turn. Now Ivan had both a straight and a flush draw and Ivan asked again. 

‘How about now?’ You are still a big favorite to win. 70%.’

Dimitar nods. He was almost 75% after the flop, but now, with only one card to come, his odds had gotten worse. 

‘Let’s make it €20,000.’ Said Ivan. That number swung the balance. Dimitar nodded, Ivan stood up.

‘A nod is not a handshake. Let’s shake on it.’

The two men clasped their right palms together, Ivan looking into Dimitar’s eyes.

‘I said ‘I agree’.’ Said Dimitar. 

‘I know you agree. The odds and the pot favor you. I just wanted to look into your eyes. See if you were capable of killing my son.’

At those words, Dimitar threw off the jacket in disgust, as Elena jumped in front of Dimitar to keep him away from Ivan. And while her physical presence was not enough to stop Dimitar, the emotion etched across her face was enough to hold him back from an act of violence. 

Sofia has never seen him explode like that before.  

Ivan sat down and instructed Silvana to deal the final card. The eight of diamonds. Ivan won with the nut flush. 

‘I did not kill your son. But watch your back, old man!’ shouted Dimitar, who shrugged off Elena’s arms and hurried for the door without looking back. 

‘Didn’t you know, Dimitar? Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.’ Says Ivan, reaching out his right hand and touching his wife Silvana’s left. He brushes his fingers across the solitaire-encrusted ring on the same finger as her wedding band. 

Dimitar had already left, but Sofia was determined not to be too far behind him. Surely if things were going wrong at Glitter, then Dimitar would be even more reliant on Ivan’s support. He knew what Ivan was like, but still didn’t care. He just steamed out of the room, but why? 

Sofia quickly said her goodbyes, leaving her father and Silvana in the room. On her way out of the door with Saskia, the two young women left arm in arm with only a quick look back from them both, Sofia noticed the rifle. It was laid over another table, inert now that the bullets had been removed from the gun’s magazine.  

There were dark red marks on the trigger. Nail polish… or blood? 

They arrived at Glitter at its peak time. The waiting staff who had come to the poker game were back at it. Serving drinks behind the bar and dancing on the stage like they had a night off, but everyone was there. In some ways, it was the hub of the North East quadrant of the capital city. All of humanity’s youth was represented there, paused and replayed endlessly through the staccato flashes of strobe lighting. A harsh beat blasted out of the speakers just a few feet to Sofia’s right. She could feel the




pulse in her stomach every time the beat came out of the speakers which towered over her. 

‘We have to come here?’ asked Saskia. ‘I’m tired – aren’t you?’ 

Sofia grunted. She wasn’t tired, she was wired. 

‘Go if you want to. This place is important, I know it. Something happened here. I need to find out what. Stay here and order two drinks. I’ll be right back.’ 

Saskia did as she was told, spinning around on the chrome stool to face the bar. Elena was serving someone else, a tall, mature man with greying hair. Saskia considered him for a free drink, but then the nearest barman asked what she fancied. 

‘Two soda and limes’. She said. It was so loud that she had to shout it twice more before he heard her and went to pour the drinks. 

Sofia knew the club well, but not like her brother. It took her a few minutes to negotiate the route to his office. When she got there, a bouncer stood directly in her path, but Sofia flashed him a smile. He stepped out of her way, not through attraction but fear – he knew who her father was, and that Georgi was dead. It was more than his job was worth to question the daughter of the man in charge of his livelihood.

Once inside the office, Sofia shut the door and made sure it was locked. She didn’t know her way around Glitter’s inner workings, but she could find her way around Georgi’s office. He was pretty organized and had things in the same places she might have. They had always thought alike and it was intuition that led her, within a couple of minutes, to the company accounts.  Glitter wasn’t making a huge profit. In fact, it was losing money. Not much, but a little could be enough to finish them off. With her father bankrolling it, however, it would always survive. But why was it only surviving? The profit margins looked good; they were charging the punters more than enough. Staff outlay was a little high, but drinks didn’t serve themselves, and having live dancers helped a lot in the city center. 

Then she saw the payments. A series of them from the main company account to Georgi. Almost €30,000. A lot of money, and the difference between profit and loss. The money was coming from a series of payments from Ivan Angelov which was to keep stock coming in and pay for maintenance on the building, but the trail was inconsistent. The money came in slightly less money went out, but the club was still losing funds. The payments to Georgi had begun two years ago. 

So where had the money gone? She looked across the desk at a small stone statuette of an angel. She’d never seen it before. It was on top of Georgi’s notepad, which had telephone messages, diary events, and other seemingly unrelated information inside. Sofia put the notepad into her handbag. The police would doubtless be here in due course and the office would be out of bounds.

Sofia quickly made her way back out through the office door, thanking the bouncer who locked it behind her. When she returned to the main dancefloor, she scanned the room. Elena was dancing on a small podium with a few of the other dancers. Neon lights flashed between their forms, casting them as silhouettes. They all seemed to look the same, like moving mannequins to Sofia. She missed Georgi’s profile. She would have known it anywhere. 

Rounding the corner, she saw that Saskia had bought two drinks and was still at the same stall. Behind her, however, was a familiar face. A tall man, topped with smooth grey and black hair. He turned and smiled amiably in her direction.  

Why was Peter Serf standing at the bar?

Chapter 5                                  Chapter 7 

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.