The next morning, Sofia arrived at Saskia’s salon feeling like she had stepped from one world into another. The neon of Glitter and the gloom of the Serfs from the night before had been replaced by bright daylight. Sun streamed through the windows into Saskia’s salon. Mercifully, it was empty, so Sofia accepted a cup of tea as Saskia washed her hair while regaling the tale from the previous night. 

‘I can’t believe he tried it on with you. And you liked it? I mean, I like an older man, but I never saw you as the type.’ 

‘What do you mean?’ 

‘Mature, I guess. You’re so young and vital. There’s an energy about you.’

‘There was about him too, and his creepy wife. I can’t imagine she was my brother’s type at all. She was short, brunette, blunt with the way she spoke.’

‘So, what’s your point? Georgi liked a challenge.’

‘He also likes lightweight blondes like that airhead dancer at the club.’ 

‘Elena? She’s yesterday’s news. He went off her when you were away, told me as much in this chair.’ 

‘I’m kinda surprised. They seemed hot on each other before I went to Barcelona. I almost thought we might be hearing wedding bells.’ 

‘With Elena?!’ Saskia asked, a laugh creeping into her voice despite herself. She flicked the red-handled scissors across Sofia’s fringe, neatly trimming her copper-colored locks. The scissors matched her fingernails.

‘I’m so glad you cut my hair, babe. I’m exhausted. I’ve hardly slept at all since Georgi died.’ 

‘You want some pills? I take them at night if I can’t sleep. You know what it’s like in the city.’


‘That’s OK.’

Saskia disappeared for a minute and came back with the pills. Sofia took them and put them in her handbag. She felt bad about duping her friend into helping her do what she wanted to do, but she’d apologize afterward. 

‘Elena and Georgi… they seemed happy,’ said Sofia. ‘The only time they weren’t together was when Georgi was playing poker.’

‘So, every day then?’ Saskia said. 

Sofia frowned. She played poker with Georgi once a week at her father’s house, but other than that, she didn’t know he had the time. The club took up the majority of his existence. Saskia read her friend’s face. 

‘He played at the club. Not in the club, but the office. He and Dimitar were running a game for a while, he told me. Strictly big buy-ins. Dimitar was winning a lot and they split the profits. But Georgi told me the game was getting bigger. He said you knew all about it.’ 

‘You should have told me. He was lying to you. But I wonder why. He loved poker, but Dimitar was levels above him.’

Then it all made sense. The withdrawals, and the deposits being a lot smaller. Georgi was playing poker with Dimitar off the books. Maybe even without anyone knowing other than Dimitar himself. He was putting money to one side, even at the cost of the club, but why? 

‘Did Georgi have a reason to want to leave?’ Sofia asked Saskia, who was blow-drying the ends of her hair. She’s taken off the towel and was nearly done. 

‘Leave? Georgi? I don’t know why he’d want to do that.’ 

‘It makes sense. He plays money with Dimitar and some businessmen. Splits the profits, but Dimitar is jealous. Maybe he wants to keep the money for himself. But Georgi is putting it by, bit by bit. He tells his father the club is losing money, but he’s pumping it into the cash game. What for? Surely he was running away.’

‘You think Dimitar could have killed him to make sure he got the other half of the money he’d won?’

‘Maybe. I don’t know. They seemed like good friends. How good did Dimitar look in Georgi’s jacket? I mean, how neat did it look on him? They could have been brothers.’ 

‘Something about what you say makes sense, but I can’t figure it out.’

‘Me neither, but no-one tells me anything. Not really. I only get half the story of anyone’s life standing here.’ Saskia said, moodily raking a fine-tooth comb through the ends of Sofia’s now-perfect locks. 

Sofia looked down as she stood up. Severed strands of her hair littered the tiled floor beneath her feet. She stepped clear of the hair and paid Saskia the money. The room seemed full of mirrors, like a nightclub. It was odd. The same feeling as walking into Glitter when the lights were all switched on, like you were intruding, caught inside a museum after closing time. Sofia felt a chill shoot down her spine. 

‘Georgi was sleeping with Mrs. Serf. I don’t trust either her or her husband, but it doesn’t feel like they’re violent people. They’re all talk. A gun went off at that poker game, and I have no idea who fired the shot. But someone must have. I need to go.’

‘Where?’ asked Saskia, starting to sweep up.

‘To see Elena or Dimitar. And my father. He knows more than he’s letting on, and I trust my stepmother about as far as I could throw her.’ 

Saskia smiled, the lopsided twist on her face a perfect expression of sympathy.

‘I wish I could help, but the salon is open until five.’

‘I know. Just… let me know if you speak to anyone else.’

‘Of course I will.’ 

They kissed the air between them, and Sofia thanked her friend. At least there was one person left who had her back.  

Sofia took a ride to her father’s mansion next. When she got there, it was only Ivan in the house. Silvana was out shopping, and after Sofia had rolled her eyes at that fact (“It’s the weekly shop for food, she’s not spending money on jewelry, Sofia.”) she sat down with her father. 

‘I know that you know more about Georgi’s death than you’re letting on, Dad.’

‘Again with this, Sofia? I know as much as you. I’m happy to help you in any way I can, but…’

‘Except with money?’ 

‘You know where I stand on this, Sofia. I want you both… I want you to stand on your own two feet.’

‘You mean Silvana does?’ 

‘I didn’t say that.’

‘You don’t need to. So there’s nothing about Georgi’s death that you think is suspicious?’

‘Only the location of his death. He never climbed a mountain in his life. What was he doing there?’ 

‘He was found in the river, Dad.’  

‘Near to the base of the mountain. Maybe he fell.’

‘No marks on him, Dad. The autopsy said that they couldn’t find even an abrasion on his skin. Maybe there was something in his blood, but toxicology will be weeks. All I know it that I saw him on that table. He looked immaculate like he was ready for a night out. Except he was pale.’

‘Georgi was never pale. My son…’

Ivan Angelov dissolved into a bout of tears that Sofia suspected he usually saved for the moments when he was alone. She excused herself to the toilet, allowing him the time to pull himself together. While she was upstairs, she found the rifle that had been fired the other night. She was careful to carry it by the barrel, and on arriving back downstairs, laid it near the front door. They went to the kitchen so that she could pour her father a glass of water.

Sofia asked him what he meant by what he had said about the location.

‘The mountain where he was, or even the river if he went there to kill himself.’

‘I can’t ever believe…’

Ivan Angelov held up a fat palm, accepting Sofia’s point. 

‘Even if. What was he doing there? Why not jump from a bridge in the city? Hell, he could have flung himself from the roof of Glitter. But instead, he drives out to a mountain and drowns himself in a foot of water? It makes no sense at all.’

‘What else is around there, Dad?’ Sofia asked. 

‘Most people thought I named Georgi after the Iskar Gorge where he was found. Even he used to believe it when he was a small child. It’s true that your mother and I used to go walking there. We climbed the mountain, but we were always careful. It’s almost a kilometer high at its peak. No, I named him after the stadium.’

‘The stadium?’ Sofia enquired, passing her Dad a glass of water from the tap. She opened up her phone and tapped a few buttons, sliding it back into her pocket without him noticing. 

‘Yes. They finished their fourth pitch the year he was born – 1989. I went to the first game. They won by a single goal, and there were 700 people in the stands. A year later, there were 12,000. I sponsored them, and they changed the name from the Septemvri Stadium to the Georgi Benkovski stadium. I helped them build modern changing rooms, the press conference hall, even put my name to the coaches benches, put in CCTV outside the entrance. I named my first born after the stadium.’

‘Did Georgi know that?’

‘Eventually, but I never suspected that it meant too much, I met Silvana, and we would sometimes visit. I think she understood that to a large degree, the memories I had there included your mother, but they helped me remember my son was still my first born, even after you both flew the nest.’

‘We didn’t fly far, Dad.’ 

‘Nor did Georgi, I wonder.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The stadium. It’s only a quarter of a mile from the Iskar Gorge.’ 

‘Ivan Angelov went to put his water down, but his hand cramped up, and it slipped from his grasp. Sofia neatly ducked to catch the glass before it could smash, but then it was an easy catch. She knew it was going to drop. She guided her Dad to the nearest chair and let him slump into the cushions.’

‘I love you Dad, I’m really sorry I had to do it. They’re only sleeping pills. You’ll wake up in a little while. Maybe I’ll have found out the truth by then.’ 

Sofia left, and her Uber arrived almost instantly. She took it to the nightclub, and when she arrived at Glitter, she went directly to the backstage area where she knew Elena would be. It was mid-afternoon by now. Sofia thought she’d find her either rehearsing or drinking. But she didn’t.

She found Elena bleeding.

Chapter 7                                  Chapter 9

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.