Read Foresight Online

Authors: EJ McBride

Foresight (7 page)

'This is Hocus Pocus, a trendy nightclub and Hotel just off the strip in Vegas.'

'Team road-trip!', cheered Clara, her joke making Robin chuckle but not even registering on Boal's radar.

'They're also one of the fastest growing casinos in all of Las Vegas. Their casino has doubled in size in the last two years, and they're taking away some serious business from some of the big names. It's trendy enough that the celebrities and super-rich like to be seen pissing away their money there, and is as we speak pushing for the contract to host the World Poker Tournament there this year. As part of that bid, they're hosting a pay-to-play tournament with Tony Jepsom.'
 

Boal paused, glancing away from the projector screen to look at the two.
 

'Yeah I'd never heard of him either, but apparently he's the number two ranked player in the world.'

'Let me guess', muttered Clara, 'you've bought us a seat?'

'Wrong', replied Boal. 'I've bought YOU a seat.'
 

He pulled out a chair and sat down, clicking a button on his phone as the plasma screen projected an image of a white guy in his mid-twenties, unshaven and scruffy and sporting a designer baseball cap. 'You're going to get into the casino, join the game, convince people that you're an amateur player, and then beat the second best player in the world.'

'That's a pretty severe case of '
beginners luck
' wouldn't you say?', asked Clara, the sarcasm in her tone clear.

'It's up to you to manage that', replied Boal. 'This isn't just about beating some guy at poker, this is about reading a room. Your objective is to walk out of that casino the winner, but without anyone smelling a rat. You're often going to have to convince people that what you know, what you're able to do, is nothing more than coincidence. And beating the number two ranked poker player in the world at his own game is a pretty good test of that. I'm serious, we don't want anyone thinking something's up'

'And by anyone, I assume you mean security?', asked Clara.

'Sure, security are going to be looking at you to see if they spot any cheating. But they don't know how to look for the kind of cheating that you're going to do. They're trained to look for wires, electronic devices, hand signals and facial ticks. You don't need any of that, so I'm sure you'll be fine.'

'And if we're not?', quizzed Robin, his first word since breakfast.

'Like I said, we're not going to let you get into trouble', replied Boal. 'We obviously can't give Clara a wire, but we can give you one', said Boal, his eyes focused on Robin. 'You're not going to play this particular mission. Your job is to make sure Clara does what she needs to do without any interference. If you think things are going wrong, you've got a direct line to us. We storm in, wave our badges and pull her out. Seriously, you've nothing to worry about.'
 

He paused for a moment, letting the pair digest the last few sentences, before looking back at Clara.
 

'Unless you think this is too much, in which case we can swap the roles?'

'Fuck you', snapped Clara.

'Excellent. You know how to play poker?', Boal asked.

Clara chose not to answer, staring directly into Boals' eyes, fully aware that she wasn't going to see anything, instead focusing her energy on willing him to drop dead.

'I'll take that as a yes', said Boal. Your car leaves in 2 hours.'

Chapter 06

Hocus Pocus was located off the main strip in Las Vegas, it's relatively young age and comparable lack of funding meaning it had to settle for being an '
up and coming
' as opposed to one of the Vegas mainstays. Compared with the Bellagio or the Mandalay Bay it was small-fry, but by real world standards it was a sight to behold. A modern building, the premises began it's life as a high-class nightclub for the rich and famous, the kind of place that the latest Atlanta rapper or British movie star could be photographed hobbling into a taxi at 3 in the morning. The proprietors later realised that most rich and famous people don't want to go home after a big night out, and so they added a hotel which was then followed by a restaurant. The casino was the newest addition to the business venture having just celebrated it's third year in business, but the gothic styling and ultramodern vibe meant that it was so far proving as successful as the rest of the place.

Clara and Robin arrived at the front door with their cover story in place. They were a young couple, married last year, and this was the vacation they'd been promising each other since the honeymoon but never got around to doing it. He was a big shot in New York, she was a stay-at-home socialite who rarely stayed at home, and the Agency ensured that their clothes and car both looked the part, albeit completely fictitiously. The top-spec Aston Martin that Robin had been tasked with driving to the door was on a short-term lease from a local company whose clientele usually consisted of middle-league sports stars and celebrities, the type that couldn't quite afford to buy the $400,000 car but wanted to show up to an after-party in one anyway. It was without a doubt the most expensive vehicle that either of them had ever spent any time in, and acting as though this was 'the norm' proved difficult, Robin especially having to try extra hard to keep the grin off of his face when they pulled up to the front. The pair stepped out of the car, Robin in an Armani Navy suit, Clara in the kind of evening dress that wouldn't look out of place on a Paris catwalk. The pair felt and looked awkward, something that wasn't helped by Robin's failure to leave his keys for the valet and having to be prompted by one of the Casino's doormen, rushing back outside when he realised his error, a queue of cars building behind his luxury vehicle. But, new money or old money, in Vegas it really didn't matter, and with Robin using the wad of notes the agency had given him to tip everyone from the valet to the cloakroom attendant, they were soon getting the VIP treatment, drinks in hand as they entered the main casino room.

'Boal said he wanted us to spend a few minutes taking a walk around, familiarise ourselves with the exits', said Robin.

'I know', replied Clara under her breath, focusing her attention on looking the part. 'We were in the same briefing.'

'Sorry. I talk too much when I get nervous.' Robin gripped the bow tie that was around his neck, twisting and loosening it a little before taking a neck of his drink.

'Easy tiger', said Clara, 'it would suck to draw too much attention before I've even played a hand.'

The interior of the Hocus Pocus casino was much like they'd expected any casino to be, although a little bit less gaudy than some of the places Vegas was known for. In the bar and restaurant, the voodoo, witchcraft and vampire themes that the place was clearly based on were allowed to run wild, with a section of the bar known as the 'Blood Bank' where luminous cocktails would be served, and a VIP area called the 'Twilight Lounge'. But in the casino, the designers had kept things much more in-keeping with the standard, unwritten Vegas casino rules. The fact is, you can theme things up as much as you like, but when people go to a casino it's because they want to gamble their money, even in Vegas. And when people want to gamble, they like to be able to see what they're doing, so the atmospheric moody lighting was out, the enormous chandeliers and spotlights were in. The floor was carpeted with huge, industrial style patterned carpet, hardly in-keeping with the rest of the decor and almost as though it was an afterthought, like the Project Manager had left it off of the list and had to plump for the cheap option at the last minute. The owners clearly took security very seriously; everywhere you looked along the ceiling, the ominous round black orbs representing 360 degree surveillance cameras, all linking back to a main control room known as the 'eye in the sky', a room that was situated toward the back of the casino. To most gamblers, you couldn't even tell it was there, but as Robin paced the floor he noticed a spot around from the slot machines and near the restrooms where you could still look reasonably inconspicuous but also get a look at the room. He couldn't see anything of what was going on in there, but he could at least make out how many people were in there; he figured that if he spotted a sudden burst in activity, they may be in for trouble. The place had even opted for lower tables and chairs, large comfy ones that wouldn't look out of place in an up-scale hotel lobby. The theory was that by removing the stools, where people could quite naturally drop their arms down behind their backs and signal to one another, you removed an entire method for people to cheat. After all, you'd have to work really hard to be able to reach your arms behind the back of an armchair.

The pair took a walk around, stopping occasionally to watch someone else's game, the odd trip to the lounge to refresh their drinks. They had both received clear instructions that they were to act the part, to behave like the young and in-love couple that they were, which they both felt totally awkward with. Robin decided to make the first move, opening the door for her whenever he had the chance, pulling her seat out before she would sit down at any of the tables, and occasionally stroking her back as they walked along. With 30 minutes to kill before her poker game, the pair decided to take a seat in the lounge, a slightly raised area on one side, Robin deliberately choosing them a table with a great panoramic view of the entire casino.

'You're not bad at this', said Clara.

'Bad at what?'

'The whole, 'being a gentleman' thing. You bring a lot of skill to our bullshit relationship', joked Clara, raising her glass to him and flashing a wry smile.

'You too Miss Phelps', said Robin, clinking his glass against Clara's.

'It's 'Mrs Burr' in case you'd forgotten, and no, I'm not good at this at all.'

'What makes you say that?', quizzed Robin.

'I dunno. Lack of practice I guess.' Clara paused, waiting to see if Robin had flinched at what she just said. An advantage to their weeks spent with the agency was that the pair were now both better than ever at hiding their thoughts from hypothetical 'other' readers, although neither of them were perfect. They'd spent time confiding in one another to a certain degree, but both had agreed to make a concerted effort not to read the other unless they absolutely had to. Privacy of thoughts had never been top of their agenda until they realised they weren't the only ones who could read minds. Clara stared at Robin for a moment, wrestling with a thought.

'You ever had a girlfriend?', asked Clara. The question was as uncomfortable for her to ask as it was for him to answer, Clara's face wincing immediately after she asked it, as though the words had come spilling out of her mouth by accident. Regardless, she held off from apologising, just to see what Robin would say in return.

'Ever? What if I have one now?'
 

Robin looked at Clara, waiting to see her reaction. She scoffed, seemingly unimpressed with his show of bravado.

'OK Johnny Depp, tell me about her', she quipped.

'I said '
what if
', I didn't say I had one.'

And just like that the conversation stopped, almost turning sour, the game of emotional poker unfolding in front of them before any cards had been dealt, neither one of them wanting to break their poker face and show a sign of weakness.

'It's, not easy', said Robin. 'I'm telling you this like you don't already know. I dunno, I guess there have been girls.'
 

Robin waited, staring into his almost empty drinks glass, as if he were hoping that the script, a prompt for what to say next might be engraved onto the bottom of the glass. He thought for a moment longer.
 

'The problem with relationships is that people tell you they're built on honesty, when you and I know that's bullshit.'
 

He looked across at Clara, not needing to read her thoughts to know that she understood what he was saying. He fidgeted awkwardly in his seat.
 

'I used to try and convince myself that I could live with someone even though I knew their every thought, like that wasn't an issue. I used to tell myself that it wasn't ok to read them, that it was an invasion of their privacy.'
 

He looked at Clara with a firm and intense stare. 'I don't know about you, but I've never been able to just switch this off', he said.

Clara nodded. 'It's like your boyfriend asking you to look after his secret diary for him without taking a peek at what he's written'.

'Exactly!', replied Robin. 'So yes there have been girls, but no there isn't one now. Relationships might be built on honesty, but it's the lies that keep them afloat every day. You take away the lies, you give everyone in the world the ability to see nothing but absolute honesty. Then what?'

'You're assuming that everyone has a hidden agenda', sniped Clara, her tone clearly referencing a crime that Robin hadn't committed yet, but in Clara's mind was only a matter of time from doing so.

'I'm assuming that the little white lies have the power to cripple a relationship when you can't use them anymore.'
 

Robin sat upright, took a sip of his drink before swirling the glass in his hands. 'My Mom used to worry about money when we were growing up. We weren't poor, my Dad worked for a construction company and he had a pretty good job, but Mom used to like to play catchup with the neighbourhood. We had to drive the better car, we had to have the new kitchen appliances when her friends came to visit, stupid shit really. My uncles used to joke with my Dad, tell him she was taking advantage of him. Of course, they used to
think
she was a gold-digger, but my Dad was a big guy and they knew better than to say that to his face. And my Mom was everything to my Dad, she was his sweetheart, ya know? So when I was like 11 years old, my Dad gets laid off. And he's faced with two options. He can tell my Mom that he's been laid off, that there's no more money, which would upset her, and make her worry, and make them argue. Or he can fix it. My Dad spent two years working two part-time jobs while he was looking for another job, and he did it all without my Mom ever knowing. He used to get up early and get into his suit, told my Mom that he had to do unpaid overtime, and then he used to go work a shift changing tyres. He'd get cleaned up in the bathroom at lunchtime, wash all the oil out of his fingernails, the grease off his face, miss lunch and then go work an afternoon shift as a cab driver. He used to avoid any calls for our neighbourhood in case someone he knew spotted him and told my Mom.'

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