Little Ms. MarkerbySir Galahad©
My name is John d'Eaux, pronounced like the female deer. Please don't try to make a funny joke about it. I assure you, I've heard them all and they weren't funny the first time. My ancestors came from France. Leave it at that.
My folks died when I was little, leaving me to be raised by my Uncle John, a successful stockbroker and confirmed bachelor who hadn't a clue how to deal with an orphan dropped into his lap. Not knowing what else to do, he sent me off to the same boarding schools he had attended as a boy, and camps or chaperoned tours in the summer. We corresponded and telephoned regularly, and when we could get together he taught me many things. The best was how to play poker.
Not just the rules or the psychology, but the odds on turning up specific cards as each card is exposed in the many variations of the game, was what my uncle taught me. I was a fascinated pupil. I'd inherited his mathematical and logical aptitudes, the very things that made Uncle John so successful on Wall Street.
By the time I was a junior at my prep school I had acquired a reputation as a cold, calculating thinking machine at the poker table. I also acquired a Porsche, a professional grade stereo system, several Rolexes and Patek Phillippes, and most of the walking-around money of schoolmates that played the game with their hearts instead of their heads. I accepted their markers if they got in past their allowances, and they usually made good on them promptly. If they didn't, well, explaining to Pater and Mater what happened to the fill-in-the-blank was not my problem.
About then, Uncle John began arranging summer internships with various brokerages (not his) for me. I did the scutwork interns do, of course, but the practical education in how the stock market actually works was priceless. By the time I was eighteen, I knew enough to invest money wisely. When I graduated from Harvard (BS in Economics with a minor in Mathematics, summa cum laude), I was worth more than three million bucks and landed a job a couple of steps above what even an Ivy League grad could reasonably expect.
Work kept me busy for a number of years until my fortune reached take-off point. I quit work in the Street but didn't stop working. Instead of working for someone else, I went into the business of managing my own money. I continued to play poker when I could, mostly at casinos but from time to time with classmates and friends.
It was my skill at the poker table that propelled me into one of the most memorable episodes of my life.
One afternoon I got a call from Fast Eddie Phillips, a buddy who went back to the first day of private school. Eddie's one of my favorite people. He can call me anywhere, anytime for help and get it, no questions asked. This time, though, he was asking a lot.
"Johnny-boy, would you do me a big favor?" he asked.
"If I've got it, you've got it," I replied without hesitation. "What's up?"
"Burry St. Edmonds needs a fifth for a veddy, veddy impawtant poker game tonight. He's trying to close a big deal and needs to impress a couple of people. They're heavy hitters and they supposedly know their way around the table. I told him I'd be there and he asked if I would call and invite you. He doesn't know many good players he could ask for a favor like this.
"Will you come?"
Bradford St. Edmonds, called ‘Burry' as a result of a failed prank that left him covered in stickleburrs, is not one of my favorite people. A trust fund baby, he'd never have made it into a top prep school or Harvard if he hadn't been a legacy, the scion of a family whose pedigree went back to before the Revolution. He'd been coasting on his connections all his life. He was the one I'd won the Porsche from, and I did not think much of either his manners or his morals. He had tried to weasel out of his wager, and had been very put out when I had insisted he sign the car over at once instead of waiting until the next quarter when he could pay me in cash out of dividends from his share of the family business. It should have taught him something, but Burry was a slow learner.
He was skinned in frat house games so often the brothers nicknamed him ‘ATM.' I refused to play cards with him any more after one marathon session in which he lost $53,000 to me that he didn't have. It took the threat of having Uncle John speak to his father about the matter to get Burry to sign over voting stock in the St. Edmonds Company sufficient to cover his debt. Being caught short once in a poker game can be called a mistake, and twice is called a habit; but Burry had elevated habit to a way of life.
Playing cards with somebody like that is a trial at best, but a promise is a promise. I sighed.
"I'll do it because it's you asking me, Eddie, but I won't enjoy it. When should I arrive?"
At nine o'clock I climbed out of a taxi in front of Burry's townhouse in Washington Mews carrying a briefcase. The briefcase contained $100,000 in bank-wrapped bills in addition to the $20,000 I had in my coat. The chances were I wouldn't need anywhere near that much but one always brings cash to the table, even a game that is supposedly just friendly. I knocked on the door.
Burry opened it. "Johnny!" he cried. "Long time no see!"
"Long time," I allowed as he wrung my hand. He'd lost hair and put on weight since I'd last seen him five years ago, but what was interesting was the look of quiet desperation in his eyes. This deal had to be very important; a make or break the company deal, perhaps?
"Just give your coat to Li," he went on, motioning to a girl who stood silently just inside the inner door of the townhouse. I gave her a quick glance, then a slow second look.
She was Chinese, with an impudent uptilted nose. Her shining black hair hung straight to the middle of her back, cut square across in traditional Chinese style. Her eyebrows were plucked into perfect parentheses over almond-shaped green eyes and flawless pale gold skin. Her lips and long nails were painted bright scarlet and she wore a gold herringbone bracelet on each slender wrist. She was dressed in a translucent black dress that fit so closely it might have been sprayed onto her. Although covered, her breasts and nipples were clearly discernable beneath the taut fabric. Firm round buttocks were scarcely concealed as they tested the strength of the cloth over them, and although the treasure between her legs was hidden by her too-short dress while she was standing, I suspected she'd have no secrets when she sat down. Long, well-formed legs with small feet in black stiletto pumps completed the visual package that was Li.
Burry saw where I was looking and slapped me on the back. I loathe being slapped on the back.
"I know what you're thinking, Johnny! A vision! A nice little piece to keep around, right? I got her in California six months back; won her in a poker game as a matter of fact. She's the perfect maid. ‘Fucking me in the bedroom, buttering up the master, puttering all around the house,' as the old song says," he leered, misquoting from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
"Interesting," I said, a touch of annoyance in my voice. The game hadn't even begun and Burry had already had one too many, unless he had evolved into an even bigger jackass than I remembered. Of course, to my way of thinking even one drink is too many if you're going to play serious poker. The irritation I felt with myself for coming in the first place transferred to Burry. From across the room, Eddie caught my eye and excused himself to the two men he was talking to in the corner, coming to my rescue.
"Burry, are we ready to play?" he asked tactfully. Our host, belatedly remembering that his guests were there for a poker night, motioned to his maid and walked through the archway into the parlor. Li undulated through my line of sight, gracefully following her master – if that is in fact what he was to her. Eddie led the way to the others and performed the introductions Burry should have made.
Daniel O'Malley ("And never Danny-boy, if ye don't mind"), six feet of craggy black Irishman dressed in Savile Row style, represented a group of Dublin investors. They were considering carrying the St. Edmonds line in their stores. I took note of his Oxbridge tie. P.G. Wodehouse's books notwithstanding, neither Oxford nor Cambridge is noted for graduating dummies. As befitted an Irish gentleman, his glass held Bushmills, neat. Altogether I figured him for a plunger, not a cardsharp; he had that look.
Zeb Walker, named for the man who had discovered Pike's Peak, owned a chain of specialty shops in cities from Abilene to Santa Fe. He was dressed in the height of Southwest style, right down to the string tie secured by the gold and silver steer's head slide over the Western shirt and the rodeo champion buckle on the belt that strained to hold his stomach in. Like O'Malley, he was considering adding St. Edmonds to his stores' stock. Smoking a cigar the size and color of a big goose turd and just about as foul-smelling, I noticed he was drinking Perrier with a twist. He looked jovial, but his smiles and chuckles never touched his eyes. I judged him to be as serious a competitor with the pasteboards as myself.
Fast Eddie's style of play, of course, I already knew. Playing with optimism for the turn of the next card or for the next hand, he relied on inspiration that might or might not show itself. Not a bad trait in a whist player, but a liability in a poker game. With Burry's hunch-playing, try-to-read-your-opponents kind of play in the mix, tonight's game looked to be more entertainment than enjoyment.
The table in the townhouse's game room was an antique that looked to have done time in a high-class speakeasy. A green glass-shaded overhead lamp accentuated the 1920s look of the room, and the seats were padded leather captain's chairs. A cashbox and a large rack of chips sat on a side table. Li discreetly took her place behind the built-in bar adjacent to the card table. Burry reached into his coat, opened the cashbox and dropped a banded bundle of greenbacks into it.
"Bank's open, gentlemen. Blues are hundreds, yellows are fifties, reds are twenties, and whites are tens. Help yourselves."
From the pile in front of Burry, he had staked himself to at least $10,000. Fast Eddie took a wad of bills out of his wallet and cashed in for the same amount. Walker frowned, took a roll of money from a coat pocket and tossed it into the box, helping himself to twice what Burry and Eddie had taken, mostly in blues. O'Malley matched Eddie and Burry with a $10,000 buy. I went last and purchased $20,000 worth of chips. Eddie waved Li over, telling her to take our drink orders. The Irishman motioned for a refill of his whisky; Burry and Eddie emulated him. Walker asked for another Perrier. I looked at the girl and requested a San Pellegrino with lemon, a Perrier with lemon if not, please. She bowed and retreated as Burry reached into the drawer of the side table and withdrew a fresh deck of cards, ceremoniously showing that the seal was unbroken. He opened the pack, tossed the box and the jokers into a conveniently placed trash can and expertly shuffled the cards.
"Shall we cut for deal, gentlemen?" he asked.
"No need," said O'Malley. "You start, and we'll rotate the deal clockwise from ye, if that meets with the approval of all here?"
The rest of us nodded. "Shall we open with a round of Texas Hold ‘Em?" said Burry with a chuckle. The chuckle sickened and died as he looked at us. The expressions around the table ranged from mere annoyance to utter contempt.
"Five card stud, then?" asked Burry meekly. Hearing no objections, he dealt the cards and the game began.
For the next three hours, we played steadily. Each of us took the measure of the others. The poker varied from stud to draw and five-card to seven-card, with Burry's attempts to introduce exotic variations of the game being received with disdain by the rest of us. Walker was the big winner, I was not far behind him, Burry and O'Malley were well down, and Fast Eddie was nearly cleaned out. Li had been delivering drinks as called for and twice she had offered us a tray of nibblements ranging from small dishes of nuts to tiny skewers of broiled meats. I noticed that as far as she discreetly could she stayed out of Burry's reach, although this didn't prevent him from stroking a thigh or squeezing a buttock as she delivered the food and drink. His actions got less discreet as his alcohol consumption rose. I looked at my watch and stood up.
"Daniel," I said, it being his deal, "please deal me out of this hand. I hate to mix business with pleasure, but there is a phone call I must make. I won't be long."
"I understand," said O'Malley. He looked around the table. "In fact, I think we could all use a break. How say ye?" Nods, stretches and the pushing back of chairs answered him.
"Half an hour?" suggested Burry. Murmurs of agreement from everyone as we got up from the table, heading variously for the bar, the bathroom or the living room. Burry caught up with me in the hall a minute later as I considered where to go to make a private call.
"If you like, Johnny-boy," he said, slightly slurring his words, "you can use my study." I barely managed to restrain my tongue. The number of people who can get away with calling me ‘Johnny-boy' I can count on my fingers with a couple left over, and Burry isn't one of them. However, perhaps by his standards he was being a gracious host.
"Lead the way," I said.
Burry's study was in gentlemen's club style, with heavy oak and leather furniture and bookshelves on the walls. It was similar to my own, save that mine was furnished with restored antiques and not with what to a trained eye were obvious reproductions. He motioned toward his desk, inviting its use. I accepted the offer of his chair, but pulled out my own satellite phone. It has signal encryption built right in and is about as secure as a portable phone can be. I didn't become wealthy by showing my cards to all and sundry. He cleared his throat before I could dial.
"Uh, Johnny," he began, awkward as a teenager caught with a bottle in his hand and the liquor cabinet open, "I need you to – do me a favor," he finished in a rush. He looked uncomfortable, as if he didn't want to be asking for whatever was to come.
"After the last time we played cards together, Burry, you aren't exactly in my good graces," I pointed out. "What kind of favor are you talking about?"
"Zeb says he wants to play real poker. High stakes poker. And I don't have that much cash available. I'm stretched thin at the moment. This deal I have cooking is important to the company and to me personally.
"Could you – would you back me to the tune of, say, a quarter-million?"
Whoa. This Walker character really meant business, in both senses of the word. I put my arms on the desk and steepled my fingers, staring at the oval defined by my thumbs and index fingers. It's a technique Uncle John taught me for concentration. I thought hard and looked up at Burry.
"I'll have your note of hand." It was not a request.
"But surely – "
"No buts. Here are the terms; take them or leave them. I'll accept your note and marker for $250,000, repayment without interest due by 4 P.M. tomorrow at my home, in cash or voting shares in the St. Edmonds Company. The note is for the money. The marker shall be Li.
"If you bring what you owe me by that time, I give you your note and the girl back. However, if you default by so much as one minute, Li stays with me and you will still owe me the quarter-mil plus ten percent. Fail to repay me in seven days, and I will take it up with the chairman of the St. Edmonds board of directors. I believe that is your father.
"It's your call. Write the note including the part about Li, and we have a deal. Or don't, and look like a wimp in front of Walker and the others. It makes no difference to me."
Burry looked at me, his face pale, little beads of sweat starting on his forehead. I looked back at him without expression. Eddie told me once this habit of mine when dealing with people, the cold eyes and the supernally calm voice, was why Wall Street traders had nicknamed me The Iceman. Burry pulled his desktop scratch pad to him, picked a pen from the vaseful on the desk and scribbled. He signed the paper, tossed down the pen, tore off the top sheet and spun it across the desk to me.
"This is a helluva thing to do to a classmate twice over and a frat brother to boot," he grumbled.
"Who has tried to stiff me twice before, you may remember," I reminded him. "I'm simply protecting my investment. I don't like welshers. Now, if you'll excuse me, I do have to make this phone call." Burry started to leave. I let him get to the door.
"Oh, and Burry?"
"Yes?" he asked, turning back to me, his face a study in mixed gratitude and resentment.
"Be so kind as to send Li in here, would you?" I heard his teeth grind as he closed the door behind him. I smiled and dialed.
A short time later, Li entered Burry's study. She waited, head down and hands crossed in front of her, as I completed my deal and ended the call. I looked at her.
"Has Mr. St. Edmonds spoken to you about your changed status?" I asked. She lifted her head and looked at me.
"Yes," she said softly in a pleasant contralto. "He says that for tonight, and until tomorrow afternoon, I am yours to do with as you like." She looked down at the carpet again. I got up from behind the desk and walked to her. I reached out and tipped her chin up, looking into her eyes.
"I will not do anything that you do not wish me to," I said. "I give you my word on that. Do you understand?"
Li responded by flowing into my arms and reaching up to pull my mouth down to hers. She sighed as our lips met, her arms tightening around me. Our tongues touched, the tips caressing each other, and she moaned against my mouth. The kiss turned hot as she pulled herself closer and moved her legs slightly apart. I responded by dropping my left hand to her tight ass, squeezing a handful of girl-flesh through the silk. She took her hand from my back and reached between us, caressing my rampant cock through the fabric of my trousers. I continued to knead her marvelous buttocks, but now with my hand under her dress. My free hand tangled itself in her hair as I broke the kiss and looked at her, her face flushed, her eyes hot and seeking.
"What do you want, Li?" I asked.
"Fuck me!" she whimpered. "I need to feel your cock inside me, splitting me open, filling me up! Fuck me hard like the whore I am! Please, please! Fuck your slut-toy!"
I led her to the leather couch in front of the fireplace and draped her over the back, her arms stretched out, her breasts struggling to escape the confinement of her dress. I popped them out so they hung free, inviting a man's hands to cup them and pinch the nipples engorged with hot blood, eager for a lover's touch. I flipped the skirt of the dress up over her ass so that it gathered at her waist and left her quim open for my inspection and stepped out of my trousers and boxers. She was naked under the dress. I ran my erect cock over the labia, gathering her honey-dew on it. Li moaned hoarsely with her need and pressed backwards. Using two fingers, I gathered more of her juices and anointed the head of my prick with them before I eased my way past her outer lips. Taking hold of her hips, I thrust forward, entering her.
"Yesss!" Li hissed as my ramrod parted her inner lips and sank deep inside her. I could feel her pussy muscles rippling around my penis as she responded to the prod filling her. She tensed as I withdrew and thrust back against me as I pressed forward again, this time sinking into her up to the hilt. "Aaahh, yes! Fuck me hard! Fuck me like an animal! Use me! Let me pleasure you!"