“The Walton Casino” is a serial story told in parts. This is one of them…
“The Gem City”
The time was 11:48. The atmosphere at the Walton Casino was beginning to deflate. As the night wore on, the “Gem City,” as it was called, was losing its lustre. Gone home were the energetic dancers in their shimmery gowns and glittery garbs, intoxicated on bubbly spirits.
The music still emanated from the halls, the smell of booze radiated in the fabrics of the poker tables. Just a casual crowd remained: the types of people comfortable with relaxation in the presence of so many strange faces.
True enough, the Walton did have a rather charming ambiance, a soothing type of scenery where the who’s who of Ohio came to mingle.
Just past the expansive area of roulette and other chance games, the main staircase cast a presence over the high stakes poker table. Polished and gleaming, the twin oak handrails seemed to gather the lights in the room and bloom magnificently.
At the top of the stairs, a shadowy figure loomed over the railing, keeping a close eye on the poker game below. His structure contorted in the darkness. The only illumination put forth was the burning end of a cigar.
He could feel it now: a thousand needles ever-so-slightly digging their sharpened points into his neck. Of course, this was only nerves, but if Tom lost this hand, he might wish for it to be all over anyway.
The dealer, with his thick Poirot moustache, did nothing to calm him. Tom hesitated, peering under the edge of his thick-rimmed cap. Surely now all eyes at the table were on him. With a sudden swift movement, he cupped his fingers across his chips and pushed them forward.
A gasp went up. The spectator was quick to muffle her voice. It was all up to the cards now. Tom took his final swig of bourbon. He could feel the pressure rising, he knew of the consequences. The owners ran the casino but didn’t play by the rules.
This wasn’t just a game. This was all or nothing. This was a deadly debt.
The cards were dealt; he tried to make a break for it, but was quickly wrangled. He repented his decision to come to the Walton; he hated himself for his selfish ways. He knew this was bound to happen.
Just then, the shadowy figure glided down the marble steps of the staircase leaving a trail of wispy white cigar smoke in its wake. A man appeared in front of the games table.
Standing in a three-piece suit with a contrasting double-breasted waistcoat, Mr. Henry Goldcliff doused his cigar against the underside of the poker table and snapped his fingers. The casino guards quickly released Tom and took a few short steps back.
Mr. Goldcliff reached into his inner jacket pocket and pulled out a single sapphire gemstone. The green glint from the jewel glanced off the corners of the casino.
“This should do for the man’s release.”
Tom felt faint. Who was this man sweeping down to rescue him? And why?
Mr. Goldcliff tossed the bright green jewel to the games warden and, just as soon as he had arrived, he turned and made his way back up the stairs into the dimly lit private quarters.
Before he was shown out, Tom glanced up to thank the mysterious gentleman who saved his life.
As he struck a match and lit another cigar, Mr. Goldcliff calmly raised two fingers and gestured a farewell to Tom.
Who is Mr. Goldcliff?