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            Lucy had arranged for William to sit in on a game. 

            “Okay,” William said.  “So these guys are like, really good?  Because on Celebrity Poker Survivor, they’re gonna be sharks.  So I need people who will really, you know, test my skills.”

            Lucy looked skeptical. 

            The inside of the apartment was dim.  Kind of macho.  Tobacco colored walls, leather furniture.  There was a big table in the main room and a bunch of guys, about half of them already seated.  One guy, sharp-nosed with a receding hairline, was already shuffling cards.  “Hey,” he said.  “Weren’t you on The Cosby Show?”  William didn’t bother to correct him.

            “This is my driver,” he said, gesturing to Lucy.  She took a magazine and went out on the balcony to read.

            In the first hour he lost $800.  By the time Lucy wandered back inside, he was sweating.

            She stopped for a minute and watched the table, her face expressionless.  She had taken off her jacket and rolled up her sleeves but she still had her hat on.  One of the guys looked up at her and smiled.  Everybody loves a girl in uniform.

            Next deal he had a chance on a flush.  Lucy said sometimes you just had to go on your gut.  His gut told him this was the time to go.  He reached for his chips.

            Lucy had a coughing fit. 

            He started.  The guys at the table looked at him.  “You calling?” one of them asked.

            Lucy had another coughing fit.  “Sorry,” she said, her voice husky.

            How did she know he was going to say yes?  Damn it.  She was always talking about tells.

            “I’m folding,” he said.

            Next deal.  The king and ace of hearts.  Keep a straight face, William, he told himself.  No tells.  No tells.  There was a heart in the flop.  He was good, he knew it.  He glanced back at Lucy. 

            Her face was dead white and he could see goose bumps standing on her arms.  She looked…weird.

            He stayed in, waiting for another coughing fit.  It never came, and he made his flush on the river, winning back almost a hundred bucks. 

            Next hand was a nine of diamonds and a six of clubs.  The flop was more diamonds and he stayed in for a couple of cards before folding with four showing.  He glanced back at Lucy and she was, if anything, paler than before.

            “You okay?” he asked.

            Everyone at the table looked up at her.

            “You need something to drink?” said the guy who’d smiled at her.  “Help yourself.”

            “No,” she said.  “I’m okay.”

            The river came down.  She was watching the hand as if everything depended on it.  It was the ace of Spades.

            And then, it was as if the room took a big sigh.  The color came back in Lucy’s cheeks.  She stood for the next deal.  William reached for his chips and she started coughing again. 

            The sharp-faced guy with the receding hairline looked at William and looked at Lucy.  Lucy said, “Sorry.”

            William knew guilt was all over his face.

            “I think maybe you should leave,” the guy said.


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