Chapter Fifteen

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All the traffic of the Hudson River has disappeared. Eli is facing the ocean, standing where two railings meet to form a corner on an upper deck of a ship. He has his left hand resting on the port railing and his right hand on the railing that overlooks the main bow deck. The sun warms him in spite of the brisk March mid-Atlantic breeze in his face. He looks up and back over his left shoulder. Right next to him is a lifeboat hanging from two metal poles. John Ericsson is painted on the side of the lifeboat below the gunwale. He then turns around completely and while using a tight grip of his left hand on the forward railing leans backward over the ocean side railing to attain a view of the side of the ship to the aft. There are three decks above him. This ship’s overall design and appearance is very similar to the passenger cruise ships of that period. Eli pulls himself back to vertical stance and is met, nose to nose, with the face of a soldier who warns, “Kinda risky leaning over the edge backwards like that isn’t it?”

“I had a good grasp of the railing,” Eli matter-of-factly retorts then, not waiting for a reply, steps around him to walk along the forward railing over the main deck. There are hundreds of olive drab

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dressed soldiers sitting on and dispersed among big crates and large artillery guns which are lashed to the deck. Most are wearing helmets and all are wearing jackets. He makes his way to a gap in this waist high solid wall, the top rail of which he had used for his death defying grip. He pauses there with both hands holding the top rail at each side of the gap and looks over the forward main deck one flight below him. To the bow of the ship from Eli is probably over a hundred feet. There is a row of deuce and a half trucks down the center of the deck. To each side of that row are jeeps and more deuce and a half trucks. There is no empty space anywhere. Eli sees no Navy personnel in sight. This ship obviously has been converted from civilian use for the sole purpose of troop and equipment transportation. Eli looks down at the near vertical stairs before him then steps down to that deck. He continues his inspection of his surroundings as he carefully steps over sprawled legs and the lashings on every type of battle waging equipment. As he is studying the lashing system someone yells, “Bailey!” Eli glances toward the source of the shout and sees a group of men between this pair of trucks at the front wheels. Two are seated with legs crossed using the trucks’ front wheels as backrests. The man with his back to Eli is squatted on his haunches. The man opposite and facing Eli is kneeling on one knee. Eli immediately recognizes that man as Booth. He turns to head a different direction but all other options are blocked by clusters of men leaving the only paths available as the one he came on or the one toward Booth. Booth again shouts but this time more loudly, “Bailey.” Eli reluctantly decides to go to Booth’s group as he takes a stride long enough to make it over the knees of two pairs of outstretched legs.

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Eli keeps his focus on Booth as he approaches. He stops at the back of the squatted man. Booth greets, “Glad to see you Bailey. Sit down and join us. We are fighting boredom by playing poker and we’re short players.” All the men turn their heads toward Eli as he scans the group. Booth waves his left hand toward the man to Eli’s right leaning against the wheels of the truck. “This is Koutsky.” Koutsky tips his head towards Eli. Booth nods at the man to the immediate right of Eli as he says, “Carter.” Carter tilts his head up then quickly back down. Lastly he nods to the man at Eli’s left and announces, “Corriveau.” Corriveau responds “Hah-ya doin’.” Eli returns a nod to each man in turn.

Koutsky has swept the cards up from the ship’s deck and as he starts to shuffle he chimes in with, “Yeah Bailey, four guys is not enough. Please sit in.”

Eli asks, “What are you playing? I hate wild card games or anything like that. In fact I’ll only play seven card stud.”

“That’s perfect,” Booth agrees, “cause that’s what we were playing. You have to bring some money into the game though.”

Eli confesses., “I sent most of my money home and then we had that last night out in Atlantic City but I guess I have enough to play a few hands. Okay, Koutsky, deal me in.”

Carter, still on his haunches, tips back to set his butt down, folds his legs in, then lifts himself up with his hands as he shifts toward Koutsky until their knees touch. Eli also crosses his legs in front of him as he sets between Corriveau and Carter. Eli sits at a slight angle toward Corriveau because there isn’t room for his knees if he faces the center of the group. Still looking at Koutsky, Eli asks, “What’s the ante?”

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Booth doesn’t let Koutsky answer as he interjects, “It’s a two-bit ante but bets and raises can be as little as a nickel. I went around and bought up all the change I could get so you can buy some from me if you need it. Oh, and we agreed to a dollar maximum bet and a three bump limit.”

“Okay,” Eli settles as he reaches into his left pants pocket, pulls out a small collection of coins and places them neatly into a small pile in front of him. He then takes a quarter and sets it on top of the other quarters on the deck of the ship then continues, “I’ll buy change as I need it.”

Eli is watching intently as Koutsky starts the deal by pushing the top card off the deck with his left thumb into his right hand then pitches the first card to land in front of Carter face down then repeats that process in a clockwise rotation to Eli next. Then the card to Corriveau flies under Booth’s leg but without comment Koutsky continues the deal to Booth then himself. Corriveau yells, “Hey, watch how you throw the cahds. You can hit Cahtah and Bailey but can’t see me?”

Koutsky ignores Corriveau’s complaint as he does another round face down then pulls the next card on the deck off towards himself with his right hand as he rolls that card up so he can see it. After looking at it he flips it to Carter face up and announces, “Five of hearts.” The next card to Eli he announces, “Seven of hearts,” Corriveau gets Eight of clubs,” then he says, “Queen of spades,” as he flips a card to Booth. Koutsky rolls the next card face up toward himself and he places it on the ship’s deck. Without looking at his hold cards Koutsky pulls a half dollar from his shirt pocket and announces, “King of hearts bets four-bits.” While pushing down on the center of

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the coin with his thumb he releases the edge with his forefinger so it makes a loud snap on the deck. Eli picks up his face down cards while leaving the seven of hearts face up. He holds his cards high enough so as he looks at his own cards he can see the faces of the other men. His eyes dart around quickly so he doesn’t miss any possible expressions as the men look at their cards. He observes that each of the men are expressionless as they look at their own cards except that Booth looks up at Carter’s face in what may be an innocent glance but, being forever suspicious of Booth, Eli intends to keep an eye on them. Carter calls Koutsky’s bet as he drops two quarters into the pot. Eli has the king of clubs and the five of spades in his hold which he thinks is unlikely to yield anything good but still decides to see one more card and puts a half dollar in the pot. Corriveau and Booth each call the bet and Koutsky deals another round. He tosses the card to Carter and says, “Jack of diamonds, no help,” and continues the deal. As the cards fall he announces, “Four of diamonds, no help. Five of clubs makes two clubs to Corriveau. Eight of diamonds, no help.”

Eli now has all four suits in as many cards and no pair so he thinks to himself, If everyone checks I’ll stay another round but otherwise I’m out. Eli is watching both men as Booth and Carter receive their cards. They exchange a simultaneous look to each other. They have been subtle enough that Eli doubts anyone else has noticed them but as they have done this twice in two rounds of dealing Eli vows to himself to keep watching them closely.

Koutsky who is now showing a six of hearts with his king of hearts says, “My king is still high, I’ll bet two-bits.” Carter follows silently by dropping a quarter in the pot.

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Eli says, “I’d need ten more cards to fill this hand. I’m out,” as he turns all his cards face down in front of him. Corriveau and Booth each pitch a quarter into the pot.

Koutsky starts the next round with a card to Carter and announces, “Nine of clubs, no help.”

“So, Corriveau, are you from Boston?” Eli wonders.

“No, why?” Corriveau asks as he still keeps his attention on the card landing in front of him.

Koutsky announces Corriveau’s card, “Queen of diamonds, no help.”

Eli replies, “I’ve heard your accent before. I was just curious.”

“Well, your close Bailey,” Corriveau admits.

After Booth’s third face up card lands, Koutsky says, “Four of spades, no help and I got the three of hearts, no help either.” Booth again looks at Carter by just raising his eyes.

Corriveau continues, “Actchully I’m from Sawthbridge, west a Bahstin but I got cousins in Bahstin and spent a lot of time thea. Ya the one with the weid accent. Whe-rah ya from?”

Now everyone except Booth is looking at Eli waiting for his answer. “What is this? The ladies aid?” Booth blurts loudly. “Are we gonna talk or play poker? Koutsky, you’re still high. Make your bet already.”

“Well, I was wondering about Bailey’s accent too,” Koutsky barks back. “What are you all worked up about anyway? You’re the one that said we are just passing time. If we want to have a ladies aid meeting, we’ll do that and then all of us ladies will shove the cards up your ass.”

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Everyone’s eyes are drawn back to Booth waiting for his response. He is just staring at Koutsky with a blank expression obviously at a loss for words. Eli looks back to Corriveau and replies, “I’m from Iowa but I don’t have an accent.”

Note to the reader: I will not irritate you further by writing the Boston accent but Corriveau continues talking with his accent.

“Well, at least people know my accent and I know I have one,” Corriveau snaps back with a laugh. “You mean to tell me that no one has ever commented on your accent before?”

“Yeah,” Eli confirms, “a couple of times at Claiborne but everyone there has a southern accent so I just thought my lack of an accent was an accent to them.”

“Well, Bailey,” Corriveau comments, “you do have an accent so from now on when people ask, just tell them you’re from Iowa and maybe someday it’ll be known like a Boston accent is known.”

“Okay,” Koutsky interrupts, “we’d better play cards cause Booth is going to get his britches all in a bunch here. King bets two-bits,” as he snaps the quarter on the deck. Everyone but Eli calls the bet. He then continues his announcements with each card dealt, “Carter gets the ten of spades, three cards to a straight. Corriveau gets the jack of spades, no help. Booth gets the ace of spades, three cards to a flush and I get the nine of hearts, possible flush. We got a new boss, ace bets,” Koutsky states as he waves his hand toward Booth. Eli watches Booth’s eyes turn to Carter so Eli looks at Carter too. Eli sees Carter scratching his ankle without Carter looking back at Booth. When Eli returns his eyes to Booth he is looking back at Eli and he gives a nasty look that Eli interprets as ‘mind your own business’.

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Booth looks away and immediately responds with, “Ace bets a dollar,” as he proudly puts a silver dollar in the pot. “Well, the price of poker just went up. Booth must have gotten his flush but I have one of those sucker hands. I have to call,” Koutsky complains as he drops a dollar bill in the pot.

Carter boasts, “I’m feeling lucky so I gotta bump ya another dollar, Booth,” as he drops two dollar bills on the pot.

“Shit, you’re killing me,” Corriveau complains. “I’ve got a good hand here and one more card coming. I’ll call,” he moans as he puts in two dollars.

Booth puts in two more dollars as he says, “I’m calling your dollar and raising another dollar, Carter.”

“Cut it out you assholes,” Koutsky demands while Corriveau lets out a loud groan. Then he drops two more dollars in the pot.

“You are really going to hate me now,” Carter observes with a laugh then continues, “I’m bumping another dollar,”

“I can’t even keep up with this,” Corriveau complains. “What the hell do I owe now?’ he asks.

“You owe the pot two dollars,” Booth demands. “And quit your complaining. You guys agreed to the limits.”

“Yeah, we agreed to a three bump limit too,” Corriveau reminds Booth then turns to Eli and asks, “Bailey, how many bumps have we had?”

Booth butts in, “What are you asking him for? He’s out.”

“Exactly,” Corriveau concurs. “He has no stake in this so I know I’ll get an honest answer.”

“That’s three bumps,” Eli comments. “Booth bet a dollar, Carter bumped then Booth bumped then Carter bumped.”

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“That pot is getting big,” Corriveau observes. “I wonder how much is in there.”

Eli looks over at Carters hand. With each card that is showing he can recall what had happened. “If you all call Carter’s last raise there will be twenty-one dollars and six-bits in the pot,” Eli calculates.

“You mean you been keeping track of the money and you’re not even in?” Corriveau comments in astonishment.

Eli replies, “No, you asked and I just calculated it now.”

“Oh yeah?” Corriveau questioned in disbelief. “Tell me how you calculated it.”

“Holy shit!” Booth loudly yells. “Let’s get on with this already. Are you gonna call or not, Corriveau.” Now

Koutsky butts in with, “Shut up Booth. I wanna hear this. Go on Bailey.”

“Well, okay,” Eli complies then pauses for a moment while he looks at Carter’s hand to recollect all the data in his head. “We had a two-bit ante with five in, that’s a buck and a quarter. A four-bit bet with five callers, that’s two-fifty. A two-bit bet with four callers, that’s a buck. A two-bit bet with four callers, that’s a buck. Then we had a dollar bet with three dollar bumps that’s sixteen bucks for this round if everyone calls for a total of twenty-one seventy-five.”

Everyone is looking at Eli with their jaws hanging open except Booth who just appears disgusted. Then Koutsky says, “Well, I kept up with you Bailey and you are right. So, what are you going to do, Corriveau?”

“Are you kidding?” Corriveau responds as he puts two dollars in the pot, “That’s almost two weeks wages and if I fill I am going to take it.”

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“I call,” Booth says as he pitches in a dollar.

Koutsky also puts in a dollar as he comments, “Me too. Let’s get on with this.” Then he deals the final round of face down cards. “Okay, Booth, you’re still high. What are ya gonna do?”

“Well, I’m not going to stop now,” Booth declares as he puts a dollar out.

Koutsky admits, “I didn’t think you were. I have a decent hand. I have to think on this for a minute.” He mutters as he thinks aloud, “I’m sure we are going to have all this bumping going on again. I’ve got about five bucks in and it’ll be nine if I stick around. I guess I’ll cut my losses and drop,” he concedes as he flips his cards over.

Carter admits, “I’m not stopping. I’m raising another dollar,” he gloats as he puts two dollars in.

They are waiting on Corriveau who is just gazing at the pile of money and appears to be in deep thought. Booth complains, “Alright, call or fold. Make a choice.”

Corriveau admits, “I am just making up my mind. You might be bluffing. My hand might beat you.”

Koutsky advises, “Well, like I said if both of these two exercise all of their raises it’s going to cost you four bucks. Is it worth that for you to be able to see their cards? On the other hand it looks unlikely that either of them is going to fold so hopefully we’ll get to see them anyway.”

“If all raises are met how much will be in the pot when the betting is over?” Corriveau asks while looking at Eli.

Eli responds after a moment of thought, “Thirty-three seventy-five.” This time no one doubts him.

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Corriveau’s mood immediately transforms to excitement as he commits, “Okay I’m in. In fact I am so in I’m calling Booth’s bet and Carter’s raise then raising both of you,” as he puts three dollars in the pot.

“Okay,” Booth responds as he places three dollars in the pot. “I’m calling Carter’s raise and Corriveau’s raise and raising another buck.”

“Okay,” Carter mimics Booth as he places two dollars in the pot. “I’m calling Booth’s raise and Corriveau’s raise.”

“Okay, you two assholes,” Corriveau jokes as he drops another dollar then continues, “I’m calling Booth. Show me your cards.”

Booth requests, “I want to see Carter’s cards first.”

Carter immediately puts his hold cards down face up and announces, “Jack high straight.”

Booth concedes, “You got me beat,” and turns all his cards face down.

“That’s not how it works, Booth. You made the original bet and we called you. Show me your cards,” Corriveau angrily demands. Eli thinks Corriveau must suspect Booth’s treachery too.

Booth complains, “I don’t have to show my cards, I admit defeat.”

“Corriveau is right, Booth show your cards,” Eli insists.

“You keep out of this Bailey,” Booth shouts, “You didn’t even call me.”

“I’m not saying I called you, I’m saying Corriveau is right,” Eli corrects Booth.

Now Koutsky chimes in with, “They are right, Booth. Gimme those cards,” Koutsky yells as he grabs Booth’s face down cards and flips them face up out of Booth’s reach.

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“What the hell is this, Booth?” Corriveau protests. “You don’t have a flush, you’ve got shit. An ace high hand and you started all that betting and raising?”

Carter starts to sweep in the pot and Corriveau shouts, “Hey, what are you doing Carter? I haven’t shown my hand yet.”

Carter insists, “Show me your hand then. You gotta beat a straight.”

“There is something fishy going on with Carter and Booth but I don’t know what!” Corriveau exclaims.

Koutsky agrees, “Yeah, they’re up to something. What are you doing, Booth?”

“I’m not doing anything,” Booth replies.

“How do you explain betting the moon when you can’t even beat Corriveau’s queens that are showing let alone my triple threes?” Koutsky demands,

“I was just bluffing,” Booth explains, “When you said I had a possible flush I thought I could capitalize on that and maybe I could just buy the pot and push you out. Which I did, but Carter and Corriveau wouldn’t drop.”

Koutsky admits, “Yeah, I guess I can buy that. Okay, let’s see your hand Corriveau.”

“Well I don’t buy it,” Corriveau protests. “What do you think, Bailey?”

Eli answers, “Well, I think they are running a betting scheme….”

Booth butts in with, “Bailey, you don’t know what you are talking about. Why don’t you…”

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Then Booth is interrupted by Koutsky, “Booth, shut the hell up before I jam my fist in your mouth. Can you just once let Bailey talk without interrupting? Go on Bailey, about this scheme.”

Eli continues, “After they received their first up cards I noticed Carter and Booth give each other a look which I thought was suspicious so I watched them after each round of cards. Each time before betting, they looked at each other again. After that fourth face up card Carter scratched his leg while Booth was looking at him. Right away Booth bet a dollar and that is when all the raises started. I don’t think they cheat at the cards that are dealt but they control the size of the pots. Before the game they must have agreed to signal the other one if he has gotten a likely winning hand. They probably planned to share their winnings.” Eli has been looking at Koutsky while talking but out the corner of his eye he sees Booth start to make a threatening move. Eli instinctively and immediately rises to his feet.

Booth is now lunging forward as he yells, “Bailey, I’m going to…”

Eli is already standing when Booth reaches him. Eli sidesteps slightly to his left as he places both hands on the back of Booth’s head then pushes down and in the direction of Booth’s motion. This causes Booth to lose his balance and fall forward. As Booth goes by Eli slides his right arm under Booth’s right arm and placed his hand behind Booth’s neck. With his left hand he grabs Booth’s left wrist. He does this with one fluid motion and continues by bringing Booth’s left wrist up the center of his back while applying pressure to his neck with his right hand. Booth’s right armpit has become the fulcrum for Eli’s right arm to act as a lever on Booth’s head, giving him a half-Nelson in wrestling terminology. In less than a second Booth has both his arms

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disabled and is forcibly bent over at the waist. He is silenced by the pressure on his throat with his chin tightly pinned to his chest. Eli has the strength to lift Booth and turns him around so he faces the group. Booth struggles for just a couple moments but Eli applies more pressure so Booth soon realizes he is completely restrained and he relaxes. Eli, however, retains his iron grip on Booth. This has all happened so fast everyone in the group is just starting to rise from their positions. Even the money and cards are, for the most part, undisturbed.

Carter blurts out, “I can see this was a big mistake now but when Booth explained his plan to me it didn’t sound so dishonest. He said we are just making the most of the cards we get dealt. I am really sorry. You guys can have the money. I don’t even want to see Corriveau’s cards.”

“No, I only have three queens,” Corriveau points out as he shows all his cards, “so you won this hand.”

Koutsky responds, “Well, since we have the human adding machine here, Bailey could tell us what each of us has in the pot and we just take our money back. We end the game right now and it’s just like none of this ever happened. No harm, no foul. Except now we all know not to trust Booth. Can you keep Booth hogtied and still figure it out Bailey?”

“Yeah, I can,” Eli confirms. “Are you going to behave yourself Booth?” Eli asks as he gives Booth’s head a momentary harder push with his right hand. Booth can’t even nod so he waves his free right hand. Eli eases up slightly on the pressure to Booth’s head and lets his left hand down a few inches but still retains a firm grip. “Spread your hand out there so I can see it, Carter. I need to see the cards so I can

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replay the events in my head.” Carter gives a puzzled look then complies as he shrugs his shoulders. Eli begins his calculations and in a moment reports, “Okay, I’ve got six bits in. Koutsky has five and a quarter. Everybody else has nine and a quarter.”

Koutsky gathers up the money and counts it out into five piles. When he finishes he hands Carter and Corriveau their money as he states, “That settles you two.” Then as he stuffs money into his front pants pocket he claims, “This is mine.” He grabs Booth’s right hand, turns it palm up and places money into it. While folding Booth’s fingers closed he commands, “Don’t let loose of that cause we’re not going to help chase it down. Okay, release Booth Bailey, then take your money.”

Eli forcefully releases both hands at once and Booth stumbles forward a step. Booth lets out a low groaning mumble that I can’t understand as he spins around to face Eli. He stops about five inches from Eli’s face then, in low volume he growls, “That’s twice. I’ll get you someday, Bailey.” Booth charges past Eli. Eli watches him until he reaches the back end of the trucks and turns out of sight.

Eli turns back around to the group and Koutsky is holding out three quarters in his palm. “Thanks,” Eli says as he holds out his hand palm up.

“I don’t know what the ‘that’s twice’ was about but I’d watch my back if I was you,” Koutsky suggests as he drops the quarters into Eli hand.

“I’m not afraid of him,” Eli declares. “I can easily handle him.”

“Yeah, I see that you can handle him,” Corriveau concurs. “You had him pinned like lightning. But I have to agree with Koutsky, just

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don’t go near the railing. He could sneak up on you without you seeing him and push you over the edge.”

“I believe he would do that too,” Koutsky agrees. “There is something wrong with that guy. Come to think of it, all of us had better stay away from the railing.”

“I-I-I hope you guys don’t think there is something wrong with me,” Carter stammers. “But maybe there is, he recruited me so easily.”

“Well, I’ll tell you, Carter, you aren’t the first person to be duped by that jerk,” Eli asserts. “Back at Camp Claiborne he was forever trying crap like that. He just can’t operate like a stand-up guy. When he called me over here I wanted to avoid him but I had nowhere to turn, the men are elbow to elbow on this ship.”

“Well, then that’s a good reason not to go wandering around the deck,” Corriveau reasons. ”Booth left his cards and there are four of us. There must be something we can play.”

“Five-hundred is a good game,” Eli offers. “At least I enjoy it and it takes four players. We have to partner up.”

“I know that game,” Corriveau remarks. “My cousins and I got through many a winter’s night playing five-hundred. We can while away some of the hours on this ship.”

“Well, okay then. You gotta teach me though,” Koutsky insists. “Let’s get back to our comfy seats here on the deck. Carter, are you in?”

“You bet!” Carter affirms as he lowers himself and folds his legs under him. “But I’ve never played it before either.”

Corriveau decides, “Okay then you’ll be my partner and Bailey will be Koutsky’s partner. We need something to keep score on. Do any of you have some paper and a pencil?”

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“Yeah, I think I do,” Carter claims as Eli watches him reach inside his jacket.

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