Chapter 3, page 1

I knew who the targeted clientele were, but that hadn’t even begun to prepare me for what I saw. If you had blindfolded someone and brought them into this building, they would never have been able to tell they were inside a warehouse. It was as if I had been transported from a seedy neighborhood right into a five-star hotel. There wasn’t a single, typical American warehouse feature anywhere. Granted, everything I knew about warehouse interiors I had learned from television, but the stereotype made sense. I mean where were the unfinished walls and the endless array of shelves with their uniform boxes?

While the boxes and shelves would have had to be moved so we could play, this was just a massive shock to my system. Without looking around I could sense the eyes of all the other players falling on me, sizing me up. I quickly guarded my face as I pulled my eyes away from the unexpected décor. With a mental grimace I hoped that I hadn’t done anything to betray the image that I belonged here. As I began to take in the others I could see that most of them were in the process of looking away from the entrance and me. No one seemed to have noticed my slip so I felt safe for the moment. Is this the natural reaction for first time players?

I eased myself away from the entrance and began analyzing my surroundings. My first thought was that, apparently, Dempsey just didn’t know the meaning of the word restraint. Each of the walls were identically golden. And I don’t think it was gold paint, I actually think it was gold leaf. I would have to touch one of the walls to be sure but it had the shiny factor you would expect from precious metal. The only break in the golden walls was the rose chair molding that, from this distance, seemed to be made of either marble of granite.

It took me a moment to rip my eyes away from the opulent walls, but when I was finally able to do so, I began to gauge the distances. I noticed that the room we were in accounted for roughly half of the warehouse. Well that was my best guess at any rate. Perhaps my recon was good for something after all. Thanks to my prep work I also knew this building only had the one entrance. And that meant that one of these golden walls, most likely the one across from the entrance, had to have doors despite the fact that it looked like an uninterrupted wall.

Well, they were practically uninterrupted, there were a pair of bars built into both corners of the wall opposite of the entrance. The top of those bars were lined up perfectly with that exquisite molding. Image was everything and that encircling piece of stone helped to enforce the whole “there is no way out” thing Dempsey had going. I stopped looking at the decor and shifted my attention to the six individuals sitting at each of the bars and dozen or so others who were milling about the tables scattered throughout the room.

If Dempsey had stopped with just the walls and the two bars with their accompanying stools, the room would have been opulent enough. But I guess it wouldn’t have satisfied the man’s taste
for the extravagant if he hadn’t included those tables. Scattered around the interior of the room there were twenty-four circular tables with five chairs pushed under each. From this distance, the tabletops appeared to be hand-sculpted and made from various types of stone, probably some collection of marble or granite. In order to hold their weight, those tabletops needed something serious for legs. Well, wrought-iron columns would certainly do the trick. The chairs were made of the same wrought-iron pattern and were topped with fancy, plush cushions, colored to match the tabletops.

Oh yes, and this gathering looked to be catered, what with all the waiters and waitresses walking in and around those works of art. They all appeared to be genuine, as evidenced by the ease and comfort with which they deposited the food and drinks. With everything I was seeing Dempsey had to be making an ungodly amount of money from these tournaments. There was just no other way to justify showing the players this kind of five-star treatment. Well, I had a part to play and there was no time like the present to play it. So I veered to the left and headed straight for the bar. There were two bartenders so I headed for the nearest one, which happened to be the only one free.

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