The League of Unusual Guys

Last week's chapter.

“We need to disarm it,” Eric spoke quietly, as he unfolded a map of the house. A large man next to him motioned to the men, all dressed in black clothing, sending each into a different direction. They spread out from the room, disappearing into the hallway and adjacent dining room. Ryan followed the one man that went in to the dining room, sneaking behind him into the main hallway. The man started up the long stairs, taking two steps at a time. He reached the corner landing, half way up, and pressed against the wall under a painting of a noble lord in Renaissance dress.

Ryan watched the figure hiding in the shadows, he was staring up at the balcony, waiting for something. All was quiet amid the potted plants with their large leaves and the doors on each side of the open foyer. Even in the dark, the rich stained wood stood out against the pale blue walls. The banister rose proudly along both sides with its fancy spindles. Then the man darted up the final flight of stairs, crouching next to one of the plants. Ryan took this time to make his way up to the landing. He stopped just in front of it and peeked around the corner. He couldn't see the burglar. He quickly scanned the balcony until he found him just down the hall near the door.

Ryan quickly moved to the top of the stairs, but then a light came on, catching him by surprise. Mrs. Bennett was moving about again. She stepped out of the side room and made her way towards Ryan, humming some big band tune. Ryan gritted his teeth as Mrs. Bennett's small stature moved within a few feet of him. She continued to pass with her blue flower robe. Ryan was about to breathe a sigh of relief, when he heard the burglar breathing just around the railing from him. Ryan could make out his dark form bent down by the plant at the top of the stairs. Ryan raised his hands, and in a quick blow knocked the foe out cold.

“Oh!” Jared twisted his face up at Cartier's cards. “You beat me with a nine high straight flush of spades.”

“Nine high straight flush wins,” the dealer cried out. She pushed the large stack of chips towards Cartier. The slender French man reached out and pulled his winnings in towards him. He pulled at the tip of his thin mustache and smiled pleasantly at the Texan.

Jared looked down at his few remaining chips. He shook his head and grabbed a big drink of his root beer. “Well, boys and girls. Looks like I'm down for the count.”

“Better luck next time, chap,” Alex consoled him.

Jared pulled off his cowboy hat and held it down in front of him. He quickly swept the few chips in to his hat started to get up. “You gents tell that lackey of Bergeron's that I'll be back for the next contract.”

A thin young man stood up in protest. “Hey, I'm not a lackey. I'm Senator Bergeron's aid, Mike, as you may recall.”

“Son,” Jared stated calmly. “You are a senator, and you just'en do what he says. That makes you a lackey.”

The young man, with his nerdy glasses, sat back down and tried to look calm, but he was nervous, especially since the senator, himself, was charged with murder. He knew his position was temporary at best, even if he was granted the power to fill the missile contract.

“New game, gentlemen,” the lady dealer called out. “Mr. Croft, you are the first blind.”

Alex Croft tossed in two red chips, then Howard pulled from his stack of chips two red ones and slid them across the green felt to the center. The young lady quickly slid cards from the deck, passing them out to each player. She made one round with the cards, then another, finishing up with Howard. She turned to Cartier nodded with a smile. “First bid to you, Mr. Cartier.”

The French man in his white suit carefully bent up the edge of his cards so only he could see them. He looked around the table, as each player was checking their own cards. Cartier looked each man in the eyes, reading their expression. Howard was the first to give something away, and Cartier took note. He found it harder to read Kevin, with the sweat slowly beading on his forehead. He looked more like someone being sick then worried about a game. Then Cartier looked over to Ackerman, he waited to see if he would rub his chin. He always seemed to do that if he wasn't sure he had a chance to win the hand. Ackerman was still. Lastly Cartier glanced a Croft. The man was almost impossible to read, but Cartier looked for the little tale tell signs. Nothing showed up. Cartier tossed out two red chips.

The lady turned to Kevin, “One hundred dollars to you, Mr. Morgenstern.”

Kevin wiped his forehead and scanned around the room.

Ryan couldn't see anyone in the hallway downstairs. Then darkness filled the room. The decorative glass on each side of the dark ominous front door, refracted the light from outside across the floor. The broken light beams danced across the floral Persian rug. A fancy crystal chandelier hung above, with two tiers of candle lights, waiting to be turned on. A small cry called out towards Ryan, and he froze in place, wondering if the cry was for him.

“Bill,” the voice came again. “Bill. Don't you have your ears on?”

Ryan cautiously turned out and found one of the thieves looking at him. He suddenly realized that the burglars were dressed in ninja outfits, the same as he was. He surmised that he was being mistaken for 'Bill,' and shook his head, touching his ear. He tried to convey that his radio was broken. The other man seemed to understand, and he inched his way closer.

“Where's the old hag?” he whispered.

Ryan pointed up the hall towards the bathroom she was in. The other man turned and started to make his way towards the door. He motioned with his hands indicating he wanted to surround the door. Ryan gave him the thumbs up, and followed in behind the burglar. Ryan raised his hand up, preparing to strike the man in the head, when suddenly the bathroom door opened up, filling the hall with light. The two sneaks turned tail and darted down the stairs in a rush. They braced themselves against the banister on the lower stairs. The hall became dark again, and they could hear Mrs. Bennett humming her tune. They both carefully stretched their heads just above the banister, and they watch as the dark shadow of the old lady moved across the hall back to her bedroom. They sighed in relief.

The man next to Ryan motioned him to follow. The burglar started to make his way up the stairs. In a quick thump, the burglar fell to ground, and Ryan pulled at his body.

Croft pulled the chips in close to him with a big grin across his face. His light blue eyes sparked against his blonde hair. Howard stared in disbelief, as his full house was beaten by Croft's four of a kind.

“Four sixes wins,” the dealer cried out.

Howard sank his head down looking at his small pile of remaining chips. He breathed heavily and pulled his chips into his hand. “Looks like I'm out of this match,” he said dejectedly.

Kevin was disappointed that Howard had to bail out. Kevin tried to cheer him up, “Better luck next time, Howard.”

“Thanks, Kevin.” Howard frowned, and got up from his tan leather seat, and the short man made his way across the room. He sat a small table facing the game. He set his chips before him, and toyed with them dishearteningly. A young waitress came up beside him, asking if he wanted anything to drink. Howard shook his head, not looking up from his chips.

Kevin stared at Howard from his seat, the sweat still beading on his brow. He wiped at this forehead again.

“Shall we take a small break?” Ackerman called out. “We've been playing for almost an hour.”

“Sounds good to me,” Croft chimed in, and the rest nodded in agreement. The players got up from their seats. Kevin pulled at his coat, struggling to get it off. With much effort he finally got it off. His large muscles filled his white dress shirt. The collar of his shirt was wet with perspiration, but the rest of his shirt was dry. Kevin looked around the room, as the patrons made their way to the bathrooms or the bar. He saw Howard still seated at one of the few tables in the room. Kevin frowned and made his way to him.

“Hey, Howard,” Kevin sat down beside Howard.

Howard looked up to acknowledged his visitor and then back to his chips. “Oh, hey, Kevin.”

“You did pretty good out there.”

“No, I didn't,” Howard gloomed. “I only won two hands.”

“I only won two, as well,” Kevin tried to cheer Howard up.

“Yeah, but you didn't lose like I did.”

“Well,” Kevin was at a loss for words. “You beat Jared.”

Howard had not thought about that, and he began to perk up. “You're right. I did. And I didn't lose everything.” Howard added.

“See,” Kevin smiled. “It's not all bad. I got to run to the bathroom.” Kevin got up from his seat. “I'll see you in a bit.”

Howard nodded. He watch after Kevin as he walked across the room. He suddenly realized that Kevin had a tear in his pants, and he could see smiling faces poking through the rip. Howard chuckled in spite of himself.


© Copyright 2011 Gary Deken and Ryan Deken