Chapter 30: Christopher
Nassau, Bahamas - 1994
Thirty percent of three-hundred thousand dollars was ninety-grand. Split three ways, it was thirty grand each for a week’s work. Clark and Michael brought the clients, so they split a third. Cat did the counting, so she got a third. It was Christopher’s idea, and he babysat Cat, so he got a third. This was only their first week. They were figuring out the kinks and ramping up more players. Their early success had convinced Christopher that by the end of the month, they’d be clearing a hundred grand each week. Happy clients, happy Christopher. How long could he keep it up before the risk forced him to branch out to other casinos on the island? He wasn’t sure. Cat said they should only play for a month and then lay off for a few months, but that was crazy. The money was there to be taken.
Cat had fallen into her role like a natural. It turned out she was quite a talented actress. If Christopher didn’t know any better, he’d be convinced she was a New York heiress. He was eating his words to Clark and Michael. Maybe he could date trash after all. What a power couple they’d be. He imagined them in Monaco and Vegas, cleaning up the tables, enjoying the luxurious nightlife, and then maybe each other. Hell, he’d even go to Atlantic City.
“So, who’s the guy tonight?” Cat said.
She’d been pouring him a drink in the kitchen, and he started in surprise when she entered his living room. She was in her full working gear, a tiny beaded black cocktail dress he hadn’t seen before, her wild hair restrained into a bun with fetching curls tickling her long neck. God, he could bite that neck. Plus, she was wearing even more bitable red glossy lipstick. She was like his own little My Fair Lady. A fizz of excitement pushed blood to his groin. He’d made her.
Christopher took the drink from her hand, brushing his fingers along hers. It satisfied him to see her cheeks flush. He could have her if he wanted. Did he want her? Or was he just caught up in the flush of money and power? He’d have time to think it over. She wasn’t going anywhere. All she needed was a few finger brushes, an arm around her shoulder, and a glance across a room. She was on the hook, and he had plenty of time to reel her in if he decided she was worth it. She may have transformed physically, but it still couldn’t erase where she was from. His clients may not know the pond he fished her out of, but he did, and that pond was pretty scummy.
“His name’s Marcus Sutton. He went to Spence with Clark. His Daddy is Oliver Sutton of Sutton and Baird. You know them?”
Cat shook her head. Of course, she didn’t know them. Ridiculous. Only the most influential family in New York law, and she was clueless. The tiny burst of excitement fizzled, and he felt disdain flash across his face. She didn’t notice.
“How well does he play?”
“Not well. But Clark spent the weekend with him running the signals, and he’s got brains, so you shouldn’t have a problem.”
“Does he have a cap?” She asked.
They’d capped their client’s winnings. With a cap, their own share of the winnings took a hit when they stopped playing, sometimes pretty quickly. But some of these guys had been playing in this casino for years. It would make sense if they had a lucky game occasionally, but it would raise suspicion if formerly mediocre players had five lucky games in a row. They needed to ramp them up to the bigger winnings. It was more realistic and made them look like they were learning as they played. Christopher also made them agree to a significant loss now and then. A few complained about losing, but those were Christopher’s rules. They’d get it all back in the long run.
“Yeah. Let’s leave him at about fifteen grand. If he keeps playing after you’re gone and loses it, that’s his problem. You’ll have the count.”
Cat could not only count cards but also tally and record the winnings of the entire table in her head. All clients agreed to go by her stated totals.
“Will you come tonight?”
She never failed to ask. Cat knew he couldn’t come to the casino. The only people who would associate Cat and Christopher together were his family, and, although they were never there, he still couldn’t risk being seen with her. The pit bosses would get curious about his relationship with this stunner, who came out of nowhere and seemed to be staying at the hotel for an extended period. That was Cat’s story, anyway. To anyone who asked, she was running from her ex on her daddy’s dime. Plus, he couldn’t risk the gossip getting back to Jessica. Maintaining a relationship with Jessica was the only way he could keep his mother off his back and out of his business. So he kept up the tedious charade. But Cat was still nervous without Christopher around. She hadn’t clocked her skill set yet. Her confidence had grown above the pond scum level, to be sure, but she still looked to her creator to give her a boost.
“You don’t need me, Cat. You look like a million dollars. You play like a shark. You count like a fucking banker. You’re my fair lady.”
“Pygmalion.” She said.
“Nothing.” Cat picked up her sparkly bag thingy from his side table and gave him a shaky smile. “You’ll be here afterward?”
“No. Can’t.” He said. They’d taken to holding a debrief after every session. Just the two of them. It meant he had every minute piece of intel, which he could hold over the boys, and he got to keep Cat securely under his thumb. Several clients had asked her to stay for drinks or a party in their suite. He couldn’t have her influenced by other people or other plans.
The look of disappointment on Cat’s face was almost comical, and he fought a grin. She was his alright.
“I have to go out tonight. But you can save all your news for tomorrow. You should head back to Water’s Edge and get a good night’s sleep. You need your beauty rest.” He had another reason he wanted her to spend more time at Water’s Edge. He’d been considering Cat’s fear of spending too much time in the Hanna casino, and yesterday, he’d received some inside information from Clark. Clark had met some cute little foxy lady at the Green Parrot. A little lady who had a very interesting relative. “And Cat?”
She lifted her eyes to him immediately, eager to please. “Yes?”
“Can you do me a favor?” He didn’t need to wait for an answer to that question. “You have a roommate at Water’s Edge, I hear?”
Cat’s smile faltered. “Um… How do you know that?”
He laughed, “Haven’t you realized I know everything? What’s her name? Paris or something?”
“Her name’s Parisia,” Cat said. “She’s… she’s great. She’s been helping me a lot. She’s the one who took me shopping when I first arrived.”
“Well, she has good taste.” He needed Cat as buttery as possible for what he would ask her to do. “You always look amazing. Can you have a chat with her?”
Cat’s brow wrinkled. “What kind of chat?”
“She works at Carnival Casino, right? A croupier?”
Cat hesitated. The poor thing was fighting with her loyalties here. He would win. “I… I think so. Yes. Yes, she does. A pit boss, I think.”
Christopher nodded. Even better. “I’ve heard they had some trouble with counters last month. They caught them, though. It was some team from MIT. You know what MIT is?” Cat shook her head. “It’s the top fucking college for geniuses in the United States. It’s nearly impossible to get into that school. And what do these assholes decide to do with their brains? They count cards. Do you see what a genius you are, Cat? They haven’t caught you. You’re better at this than an entire team of superstars from MIT.”
“Oh my God, Christopher. If they got caught, I would definitely get caught. How can I…”
Christopher placed a finger over her lips, “Shhhhhh… Don’t panic. One of them got dead drunk and screwed up. That could never happen to you. But that’s not the point. I want you to find out from Brad’s hussy if they’ve put any protections in place since that event. We might need to expand our horizons.”
“Okay,” Cat said. “I’ll try.”
“Oh… and don’t do it in front of my brother.”
“He told me he was a fisherman.”
“Who? Brad?” Christopher burst out laughing. “He wishes he was a fisherman. It’s all he’s ever wanted to do. Fish and cook. And isn’t that ironic?”
“Why?” Cat asked.
“Because, my beauty, he has MY job, right? A job he doesn’t even want. Stay away from my brother, Cat. He’s a prick. The guy disappeared from the island when I was five years old and came back as Mr. High and Mighty control freak. Brad thinks he’s the boss of this family, but he was never even here growing up. Did you know he wants to cut us all out? He hates me and my mother and treats my dad like shit. The only person he listens to is Ulysses, and that’s only because Grandfather scares the shit out of him.”
“He disappeared? Where did he go?”
“Got sent to boarding school. Only the best for the family star, Bradley. He got everything. From the moment I was born, Ulysses gave him everything, and I got nothing. But now I’ll be the family star, won’t I? Because now I have a secret weapon. I have you. Who needs Brad and this family? I can make it on my own.”
“Of course, you can.” She gave him a look of such compassion that he lifted a thumb to her face and ran it lightly across her cheek.
“My beauty.” Cat flushed again. She really was quite charming. “Go straight home tonight, alright? You aren’t safe with these clients away from the blackjack table, you hear me? I’ll send the driver to your usual pick-spot.”
Cat tucked her bag under her arm and went to leave before turning back.
“You know there will be bad days, right?” She said. “Like, we’ve been really lucky, but you know there will be days when we won’t be. There will be days when we lose. Maybe big.”
“So you’ve told me.” She had, too, and they’d ensured the client agreement covered that possibility. “But it hasn’t happened yet. You’re magic at this.”
“But it will happen.” She reached for her curls, then changed her mind, tucking the hand under her elbow of the arm holding her bag. “When it does…You won’t be mad, will you? I mean, you’ll know it’s not my fault. It’s just how this game goes.”
God, sometimes she was so flaky. Get some balls, woman, he thought, but would never say. He liked her just the way she was because the truth was, Cat had all the power here. If she decided to find her own clients? He was screwed. She decided to hook up with one of his clients who would pay her more? He was screwed.
“Catriona…” Christopher stepped toward her and pulled her into a hug. “You are my beautiful genius. I could never be mad at you.”
Her shoulders trembled slightly beneath his palms, and he smiled to himself. She was his alright. His sweet, pond-scummy, golden goose. She’d make a better wife than Jessica. There would be no demands or sobbing arguments from lovely Catriona. She’d be grateful to him for the rest of her life. What a thought. One he’d have to ponder.
If you know someone who might enjoy “When The Tides Turn” please share!