THE WRITERS POST

(ISSN: 1527-5467)
the magazine of Literature & Literature-in-translation.

VOLUME 2 NUMBER 1

JAN 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUONG NGUYEN PHAM
______________________

The lucky compulsive gambler

 

Nicole has been going out with a boyfriend since she was 14 years old. His name was Steven, just five years older than her. They lived in the small town of Fort Supply, Oklahoma. He dropped out of school to find a job since the age of seventeen. Steven was working as a plumber and a carpenter for a construction company. He now had enough money to date Nicole and maintained a firm relationship. Although Nicole's Mother, Karen, was very sensitive about her daughter's situation, her experience with her past, childhood boyfriends allowed her to remain tolerant and open minded. Seeing Nicole dating at a young age make her concerned and she advised her daughter to be prudent and focus mainly on her education to finish junior high school.

In order to ensure this goal, Karen laid ut rules to supervise Nicole's dates: She must be home at ten, with no exceptions. If she refused to follow this rule, Karen would forbidden her to ever date again. Nicole told her mother where she was going, what she's doing, and explained to her the events of that night. At the time Karen required, Nicole to take birth control pills. Until now, nothing traumatic had occurred between the two. Nicole had been able to balance her life with dating and education. When she became a senior at the age of nineteen, the relationship began to lose its intensity.

Steven met another girl, Laura, who attracted him although he never actually liked her personality. But because he was greedy and wanted to catch fish with two hands... during the day in the mall with Nicole, he happened to meet Laura. Both of them stood there talking and while she waited, Nicole went to the restroom for a while. When she came out, she could not believe her eyes! Steven was embracing Laura and they had their lips locked in a compassionate sort of way. Nicole felt like she had been ripped apart and madly, she ran home, with Steven trying to catch her in order to apologize. Nicole felt betrayed because this was the young man she committed to for three years and now he had left her for someone else. Her attitude toward the relationship was usually appropriate, she rejected numerous boys in the past that had asked her out for years, and she had her heart on only Steven. Now that this incident has occurred, she could not suppress her sorrow and anger because of the betrayal.

After Nicole had told her mother the story, she felt that it was best that she should not see Steven again. She did answer any of his phone calls apologizing, even though Karen had helped both of them to get along with each other. During her rage, Nicole told Karen that she would get revenge on Steven by dating other guys. She allowed herself to be manipulated by other boys and abused sexually just to get back at Steven. Despite this act, Steven still loved Nicole and Karen wanted to help them to get back together.

After hanging out with a bunch of friends, Nicole became more social. She did not feel bothered by outside interference anymore than this inspired her to be friendly. Karen was surprised seeing Nicole liked to talk with Terry, an old friend of her husband's. Terry was 30 years older than Nicole. He had come to her house to visit and play billiards with her father for 10 years. Terry regarded Nicole as his niece and he came to her birthday. Terry usually bought her expensive gifts, and she liked that. Steven and her boyfriend were always asking for gifts, but preferably money. Whenever her parents didn't give enough spending money, Nicole always went to Terry for help. Karen was aware of this.

During this time when Nicole and Steven were broken up, Karen was advising Nicole to be careful around boys. Terry happened to drop by and overhear the conversation. He decided to talk things over with Karen about how to persuade Nicole to get back with Steven again. Nicole thought that the two of them were on Steven's side and she became enraged. She immediately ran up to her room and slammed the door without letting anyone in. Terry and Karen tried to talk to her, but Nicole would only allow Terry in her room to talk. On the outside, Karen could hear their conversation as Terry was speaking:

"Why? Why all of a sudden do you despise Steven like that? You have been going out with him for almost three years now. Don't you think you have treated him unfairly?"

Nicole replied, "You have no idea about Steven. I'm fed up with him not only because he is selfish, but his lust compels him to act illogically and break out commitment. How can you expect me to get back with him? I'm definitely not seeing him anymore!"

Following the conversation, Karen was able to hear Nicole tell other stories about Steven's flaws and she sighed and walked downstairs. Karen kept thinking what to do in order to experience this intimate relationship. Nicole had mentioned that if Steven broke up with her, she would die happy; now after seeing him kiss another girl, she decided to end their relationship forever.

After more than an hour, Terry came down and winked at her. Karen smiled because she knew Terry had somehow managed to convince Nicole to give Steven a second chance. She was not surprised; because Terry was an expert at persuasion. His job had involved selling cars for almost 20 years. Usually his verbal skills managed to persuade the customers to agree with his deals. It has made him financially successful for years and he is unreluctant to flaunt his money in front of his friends. Now that he had brought the couple back together again, Karen felt relieved and grateful to this man. From then, she regarded him as important to her daughter's future.

Two weeks gradually passed and Nicole was able to meet Steven again, with the help of Terry, of course. Whenever they had a conflict, they talked it over with Karen, most of the time they went to Terry for advice. Sometimes, when Nicole was angry, she walked to Terry's car dealership and expressed her feelings about Steven's behavior. He listened intently and gave the appropriate suggestions. Sometimes, Nicole went to the extreme and followed him home expecting him to serve her dinner while she explained her problems. Terry willingly obliged out of politeness. At night, she would drive home safely without a care.

One day, Nicole came home crying loudly after she had a serious fight with Steven. That night, Karen came home late from work so she didn't come in to check on her daughter. The next morning, she knocked on her door, but there was no answer. So, Karen immediately pushed open her door and saw that Nicole was gone with her luggage and clothes. She immediately assumed that Nicole had ran away from home. Shocked, Karen immediately called Steven and Terry about the incident. The manager at the car dealer told her that Terry had left to visit his family since his parents were sick. Karen thought that Nicole had left to follow Terry, but she was not sure. What if Terry had already left earlier? Perhaps she could be elsewhere preparing to commit suicide. She could only hope that Nicole is somewhere safe, probably at one of her friends' house. Karen decides to call Steven's friends to investigate.

Meanwhile, Steven grew angrier with each moment. He knew that Terry was a gentleman and was ten years older than Karen. He knew Terry did his best so that he and Nicole would have a good relationship. But by constantly seeking Terry's advice, Nicole only grew more dependent on Terry and she became more sensitive as time passed by. Terry's ability to talk others into accepting his ideas made Steven envy Terry's skills despite his efforts to help Nicole.

She learned, Nicole did end up following Terry. At this point, Terry no longer felt the same way about Nicole. He did not regard her as a child, but instead, felt a strange attraction to her. Now everytime he was close to her, his heart beat rapidly. That night, Nicole began to think about her problems again. Suddenly, she threw herself onto Terry and embraced him with kisses. This time, Terry just allowed it to go on. He did not have the will power anymore to resist. Usually he would urge her to go out to his car that he could drive her home. But this time, he felt tired of fighting something that did not give him any satisfaction. Later he thought about taking Nicole to a place where he could start his new life with her and maybe start a family, where they could be happy together for the rest of their lives.

To prepare, Terry withdrew all of his money from his bank account. He also asked to resign at the car dealership to look for better opportunities and perhaps start his own business. With his experience, Terry knew that perhaps he could not get a new job and if he failed, returning to his old job wouldn't be bad.

Now that he had his own girlfriend, Terry knew that he must decide to find a place where he could spend the night with her under the romantic moon. He thought about an old friend who had a car dealership in Las Vegas. This sounded like a good idea since Terry had always wanted to live in a big city. Nicole also dreamed of visiting Las Vegas having grown up in a small town. She felt confined and restrained by her community. Now that she had the opportunity, she willingly agreed to go and live there for the rest of her life with him.

Even though Nicole was engulfed in a sea of happiness, she did not forget her family. During the night in the hotel in Las Vegas, Nicole called her mom and told her everything. She never wanted to hide anything from her parents. After Karen learned of the whole ordeal, she felt ashamed, but she knew that Nicole was out of her control. She could now run her own life whether Karen agreed or not. Karen could only hope for her daughter's safety and wish for the best in her life.

Nicole listened to her mother obediently. Her mother knew that Terry had the charisma and personality to make Nicole happy, but Nicole was worried with her financial stability. Gradually they began to notice that their money was running out. Terry knew that if they wanted to spend more romantic nights in Las Vegas, they would have to work to earn for their mini-honeymoon.

Terry managed to meet his old friend at the car dealership and he was offered a job. Nicole, with the help of her looks, got a job at a casino as a card dealer. She quickly learned the techniques of the gambler and soon she was a certified card dealer in the casino. After working about 8 hours a day for about two weeks, she started becoming attracted to gambling. After she finished working, she would walk to other casinos nearby and gamble with part of her money. The addition has begun.

How many people who gamble in Las Vegas turn out to be rich? If that happened, how does Vegas obtain its profit? Even though Nicole had trained for gambling through her own job, she still suffered from the price of gambling. As we all know, gambling depends on luck and chance. Since Nicole had been losing her money and some of Terry's, she felt very unhappy that she was not able to win more money.

To make matters worse, one day a handsome gentleman comes into Nicole's casino and sat at her table. He was dressed in expensive clothes and looked like a shrewd gambler. When she dealt out all the cards, she began to notice that the rest of the gamblers lost all their money while he always won. Probably this guy has had experience. Nicole knew that if a person was desperate enough and were greatly in debt they might sell their car in order to get more money to pay off their debts.

There was math professor in California who used probability and statistic techniques in order to win everytime at casinos. Now casino owners don't like those kinds of people because that way, they would not make a profit. They would agree to pay these people a small sum so they would stay out of their casinos. Of course, the professor agreed, but sometimes he just wanted to come because he loved to gamble. That was Nicole's opinion of this lucky guy. She followed he every move in all the other casinos. Nicole noticed that he lost some and won some. This made her even more suspicious. Later, the man introduced himself as Leon and told her the reason he was on a roll was because she was his card dealer that night. Later on, he invited her out for a drink so they could get acquainted.

Nicole told him, "I really think you're a very skilled gambler, and not because of my dealing."

Leon smiled. "A little bit of both. If it did not include luck, then my chances would be low. I've been gambling for many years and so I know. My luck however, comes from my proximity to beautiful girls."

"Then where is your girlfriend? Surely you would bring her along for good luck."

"Girlfriend? I hardly have time for a relationship. Maybe it's because I'm addicted to gambling and so this trait probably turns them off."

"Perhaps you haven't the right person to gamble with you yet."

"I guess you're right... hey! If it alright if I invited you to the casino across the street tonight? I mean, you get off from work at seven right?"

"How do you know my shift so well?" Nicole replied. "Oh, that's right. I always see you hanging around in my casino from morning till dusk. Well, let's see... I guess since my boyfriend is working late tonight, I can joint you until eleven. You must show me some of your gambling secrets."

"Of course," said Leon. "Remember, at seven I'll come back to pick you up. Right now I have to go over there first."

That day Nicole felt delighted. Before she went back to her casino, Nicole had to change back into her uniform. While staring at the mirror, she began to wonder what was it about her that attracted this rich man. Was it her hair, clothes, eyes, or personality? Even though she was still confused, Nicole felt excited and happy as she walked back to her casino.

Exactly as Nicole described it, Terry had been preoccupied with his jobs. Not only did he have to sell cars, but he also has the job of being a manager of a casino. Because of this, he usually came home late from 9 until 4 in the morning. But it was worth it since Terry was willing to sacrifice his rest in order to gain enough money for Nicole's happiness. However, Nicole felt neglected because of his absence every day.

Leon was seven years older than Nicole. He was a handsome young man whose origin was unknown. No one knew where he came from or his background. But he wore expensive clothing, talked with style and always wanted to win at gambling. Because of this, Nicole was hoping that she could take advantage of his talent to help her in the future.

That night, Leon came on time to pick up Nicole. They both walked to Caesar's Palace to eat dinner and later on gambled at Treasure Island. Afterwards, they both walked out in front to watch the spectacular stunt show performed at the casino. Cars driving by could see it as they passed. Nicole thought back when they first arrived, Terry was never punctual and they ended up only watching the last half of the show. Now, with Leon, she was able to see that entire show as she wanted. It had everything from swordfights and gunshots with pirates versus the English.

The casino, TREASURE ISLAND, like other casinos in Las Vegas, had its own specialty to attract customers. M.G.M. had tall buildings, while EXCALIBUR had its casino constructed as a castle back in the medieval times. Even the LUXOR was shaped as a pyramid to give its unique appearance.

In the past months, Nicole had attended all of Leon's gambling matches. She found plenty of time to be with him since Terry had to work late at night. At first Nicole thought that Leon was in love with her and planned to win her love. But in fact, Leon saw her as a good luck charm and nothing more. That's why he took her to every session she could attend.

Being with him so often, Nicole was certain now that he was right, Leon used her for a good luck charm. In all the sessions, Leon always set the rules not letting her to touch his disposed cards. Sometimes Leon would lend her some chips so that she could play on her own. However, she was not able to win more than she had started out in the beginning.

Leon always found opportunities criticize Nicole's techniques. He taught her some tricks to get by when playing Blackjack or Poker. As in Poker, a straight flush usually beats a full house; three of a kind can beat two pairs. By using his advice, Nicole was able to improve her skills.

Later, Nicole was able to win all the money she had lost. Every time she won, she became more enthusiastic, and motivated to keep playing. Even Leon, seeing that his teachings worked, became more obsessed and played on regular basis from early morning until late at night. He always tried to keep Nicole beside him as much as possible.

Nicole had noticed how gambling had affected Leon's personality. He seemed to be more interested in gambling than her beauty. The only affection he would show her was to kiss her on the cheek when they parted for the night. Nicole began to doubt Leon's attraction for her and thought that he looked down on her. She thought that maybe he was sick or afraid that Terry might catch them having an affair.

One night, because of Leon, Nicole was able to win a great deal of money at the casinos. She wanted to give him a kiss as a thankful gesture for all that he has done for her. Seeing that he did not resist, Leon immediately started to have a new respect toward Nicole and this compelled him to like her more deeply. When Leon drove her home, Nicole asked if he would like to come in for a snack before leaving.

"Because of you, I gained so much tonight. Let me repay you by preparing a special treat."

"I'm afraid," said Leon. "That maybe your boyfriend will find out and lose his temper. Perhaps we should stick to just gambling for now."

Nicole retorted, "My boyfriend won't be back until 4 o'clock in the morning. He even wrote me a note that I have in my room. If you don't believe me, go see for yourself."

Leon glanced at his watch and said, "Okay, I'll come in for a few hours because it's only midnight. Remember that I need a good night's sleep so tomorrow we can have enough energy to gamble some more."

"You're so obsessed over gambling! It's no wonder you don't have a girlfriend!"

Leon replied, "Hey, don't get me wrong sweetheart. I know how to love and charm the pants off any old gal anytime."

Immediately saying that, Leon grabbed Nicole and gave her a hard kiss that seemed to block all of Nicole's breath. Nicole, unprepared for this impulsive act, felt as if she was a victim of a trap. She felt relaxed all over her body.

She whispered into his ear, "Park your car first darling, and then you can do whatever you want!"

Both of them just had a big night and now they felt a sudden urge of eroticism. They sexually embraced each other in the cozy den that Terry had set up for them. They threw their clothes on the floor and started tumbling on top of each other.

Because of Leon's seduction, Nicole forgot about everything. She forgot about who brought her to Las Vegas in the first place. She forgot the long hard hours Terry had to work so that she and Terry could have a happy life with financial stability. She forgot the days when Terry would willingly stay up all night to earn money to satisfy her gambling desire. She was able to convince Leon to leave before her boyfriend came home from work that night.

In the meantime, Terry had been working hard every night. Because of his background of martial arts in the field of Taekwondo, the Hotel MGM had entrusted him with the job of security supervisor of the casino. His job is quite simple, wearing a nice suit and just walk around carrying a rubber stick in case anyone started a fight or vandalized the machines. This usually happened since there were people who can't afford to keep gambling on the slot machines since they've lost all their money by their gambling. This caused frustration and anger leading to violent behavior towards others. Terry also had a can of mace in case of dealing with a man larger in size. This chemical which is very effective in his protection, is commonly used by women.

During his work hours, Terry always thought of his girlfriend. Terry was planning to marry Nicole as soon as he had enough money for a fancy wedding. Although he did not have connections with many of the people of Las Vegas, Terry wanted it to be a big occasion for his future bride. He always pictured her sleeping beside him at night with her soft warm laid across his naked chest. This gave him more enthusiasm to work, unaware of what's happening with her life. Little did he know that his girlfriend was now having an affair with another man.

"If you stay out too long at night, sooner or later you will see a ghost." East and West had met each other in this fate. One certain night, Leon and Nicole forgot about time and slept together through the night. When Terry arrived home, planning to take a quick shower before hopping into bed with Nicole, he immediately noticed that there was someone else on the bed beside his girlfriend. Then he turned on the lights and Leon sat up, shocked at what was happening around him. Terry recognized him because he usually saw Leon hanging around Nicole's casino. He pointed a finger at Leon and said in a low voice,

"I'll give you three minutes to get dressed and get your ass out of here before I strangle the living hell out of you."

Terry was nervous and upset by this situation, but he remained firm in his position and kept a formidable stare at Leon as he started to get dressed. Nicole sat upright on her bed with the bedsheet wrapped around her. As Leon started to walk out of the room, he paused and glanced back at Nicole as if it were his good-bye. Then as Terry allowed Leon to walk past him, he immediately threw a strong punch toward his face, causing Leon to cry out in agony. Leon tumbled into the outer room still grasping his clothes in helplessness. He sat there on the floor.

Terry waited patiently for Leon to stand up before he punched him again. He boomed,

"I'm going to give you a taste of my fist of fury, so that it will convince you not to mess with my girlfriend ever again."

Leon just looked on but did not answer Terry. He quietly reached into his shoe and pulled a hand held small gun that was used for his own protection. He pointed it at Terry's face and said,

"You must look me in the eyes and apologize for what you have done. Then I will consider sparing your life."

Terry, perplexed by this statement retorted, "You slept with my girlfriend and now you want me to apologize? Go to hell!"

Leon calmly answered, "You know why? It was your girl who seduced me in the first place by inviting me up to her house for a snack. Now do you understand?"

Terry looked at Nicole. She just sat there with a guilty look on her face with the bedsheet still wrapped around her. Suddenly she darted into the bathroom, leaving the two men alone. At that moment, Leon started to stretch out his hand in order to speak. When his attention was diverted Terry gave a front kick to Leon's hand that was holding the gun, causing it to fly out the window. Seeing that he was unarmed, Leon ran to the den and grabbed the sword that Terry had displayed above the fireplace. He pulled the sword out of the hilt and advanced toward Terry. Terry grabbed the hilt in order to protect himself. He received several cuts from Leon as the two were chasing each other around the house as if it were a cat and mouse game. Leon managed to stab Terry in the chest, causing him to bleed badly. Then Terry jumped on the bed and grabbed the pillow. He used it to cushion the blow of the sword causing Leon to stumble on the floor when the flipped the sword over. Then Terry jumped on top of Leon and broke one of his hands causing Leon to lose grip of the sword. In the meantime, one man had his hand broken and the other's chest wound caused his shirt to be soaked in blood. The two tumbled on the floor. It was obvious that Terry was much physically larger, which is how he managed to get on top of Leon. Terry started to choke Leon with his two large hands to force him to give up. Unable to barely breath, Leon moved his hands desperately in all directions and accidentally his hand was touching his lost gun which was covered by clothes on the floor. The gun was kicked away by Terry earlier. Nicole managed to peek out of the bathroom to see Terry choking the life out of Leon while Leon held the gun. Leon fired two shots into Terry's chest before he was able to kill him. Terry slowly fell to the floor with blood streaming all over his body. Gradually, a pool of blood surrounded him on the floor. Nicole just stood there staring as it was her first time to see a man killed before her eyes. Leon stood up and said :

††††††††††† "Very quickly, I would have died at his hands. The police are going to arrive any minute, but I can convince them that it was self-defense. However, I don't want to go through that trouble because they will keep question me and make me fill out reports. So I'm leaving town right now, and if you want to be the witness, that's fine with me."

††††††††††† Nicole was still trembling when she said, "Please take me with you because I have nothing left. I don't know anyone here except for him."

††††††††††† "All right then. Hurry up and put on some clothes so that we can leave immediately."

††††††††††† Leon started to put on his suit again and while he was doing so, he looked outside the window to check to see if anyone had heard the gunshots and was already outside. Meanwhile, Nicole started packing all her clothes and was frantically getting ready to leave her once desired paradise.

††††††††††† When the two were ready, they quietly slipped down the stairs and waited for the door. Leon saw two police cars pull out of their garages in the middle of the night. He assumed that this was a couple that worked together at an early job and knew they were harmless. He and Nicole quietly walked to Leon's car. Although Terry's car was parked right behind Leon's, in his rush Leon managed to ram the front of Terry's car, causing his rear light to shatter. But Leon didn't care because he was focus on getting out of Las Vegas as soon as possible so that the police won't find him. As they were driving, they passed a police car that had its lights and sirens on, heading for Nicole's house. Leon just calmly continued to drive alongside the other vehicles in Las Vegas. He started thinking that maybe the police wouldn't notice him even though he was driving in front of them. All in all, Leon continued to drive cautiously. He saw Nicole with her face flushed and replied.

††††††††††† "We were lucky to have left at the right time. even now it's too late to turn back. I have nothing to worry about but you. The people who work there saw you and they also can find your name among Terry's belongings. but don't worry now. We had no choice because it would be a problem facing the police. I don't want to waste time."

††††††††††† After he said that, Leon seemed more relieved and drove through the city. At this time, all of the stores except for the casinos had their lights off. People were always gambling throughout the night because of their addiction. Leon then took Interstate Highway 15, then switched to highway 5. They stopped at a gas station to refuel and eat an early breakfast of cold sandwiches. that day, the sky was gray and cloudy. All the while, Nicole just stared at the sky and remembered seeing her dead boyfriend lying pale on the floor with his body and shirt stained in a pool of blood.

††††††††††† Nicole looked over at Leon. He was steadily focused on the driving and he wasn't as tense as earlier. Nicole began having flashback of how she and Terry spent their first few days together in Las Vegas. She remembered the splendid food she enjoyed at the fabulous restaurants and the sights that she indulged with Terry. This all occurred before she decided to make the fateful decision to leave her wonderful life behind to escape responsibility.

††††††††††† All of a sudden, Nicole felt a personal fear of Leon. She realized that she didn't know much about this person. either he's an ex-con or an immoral person. She even had no idea where he was taking her, and .Nicole was afraid to ask. this was the person that killed Terry, her boyfriend. Why did she choose to run away with him? He didn't love her since Leon loved to gamble more than anything else. When they had sex, Nicole thought that he was only repaying her for the lucky evening. At that moment, Nicole contemplated the past events.

††††††††††† Nicole remembered the cloth Leon brought her as a token of his appreciation. Then she realized that Leon meant nothing to her and that her love could only be for Terry.

††††††††††† When she thought about it, Nicole felt repentant for the death of Terry. She was guilty of the entire ordeal. Of course she also felt that if Terry hadn't punched Leon, none of this would ever have happened and he wouldn't have died. After all Leon had a short temper and he was still a young man. The more she thought about it, she felt sleepy. Soon, she dozed off while the Lincoln bounced gently over the hills of Los Angeles.

††††††††††† Nicole woke and wondered where they were, Leon answered that they were approaching San Francisco and he had been driving for six hours.

††††††††††† Nicole asked, " Where do you think we're going?" Leon just smiled and continued driving.

††††††††††† "Are you sure about driving to San Francisco?"

††††††††††† "But, of course, my dear."

††††††††††† "Why? I've never been there in my life."

"Why? Because San Francisco is a very beautiful city with a pleasant climate unlike the extreme weather in our Oklahoma."

††††††††††† "Then what's the plan?"

††††††††††† Leon explained, "Okay, I have a hotel over there where I can keep you safe for the time being. Now I have my own plans and so you will have to be alone for a while. I'll call you to check on you from time to time."

††††††††††† Nicole was surprise. "What? I'm going to be all alone? What if the cops find me?"

††††††††††† Leon smiled, "You worry too much. I was the one who committed the crime, and so you are in no danger. You are only the witness of the case, and if they find you, it will take a while. Don't worry girl."

††††††††††† Even though she did not trust Leon, Nicole still want to follow him. But after one hour of arguing, Leon refuse to give in to her. When they arrived in the city, Leon brought her suitcase into the hotel. It had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and plants covering the backyard. |Leon kissed her good-bye and she hugged him because she was scared being isolated in her predicament. then Leon stepped into his car and drove away quietly into the early morning.

††††††††††† The next day, Nicole spent the day observing the scenes around her and watched television to see the news. but later on, she felt bore and turn it off. Later on that night, she finally had the courage to walk downstairs to eat dinner in the small restaurant of the hotel. There were two couples present and they were surprised to see a young, beautiful woman sitting alone eating dinner..

††††††††††† Nicole become more sad. She had no motivation to explore the enormous city to see the famous sites. Instead, Nicole spent the rest of the evening waiting for Leon's call until 11 o'clock that night. When he did not call, she made up her mind to call her mother.

††††††††††† Karen was surprised to finally hear from Nicole after all this time. She asked how was Terry, but Nicole avoided the subject by stating on how he's always worked late at night. Then Nicole talked about how much fun she had at Las Vegas and how Leon had taught her to gamble so well. Most of the time, Nicole mentioned Leon's name which made Karen wonder if Nicole was avoiding Terry and if her daughter had a new boyfriend. then, Karen told Nicole that her niece lived in California at Sacramento. She was attending U.C.S.F. studying to be a nurse.

††††††††††† Kathy was older than Nicole by four years. Karen suggested that Nicole should look her up if she had nothing else to do. Nicole willingly wrote the address just in case she wanted to meet Kathy. However, she thought if she went out with Kathy, then when Leon came back, she would not have the opportunity to leave with him. Suddenly she realized that she had been talking too long on the phone and Leon could call any minute. Nicole thought about how Kathy was an intelligent person and in their childhood they were very close.

††††††††††† Later, Nicole kept waiting until she finally assumed that Leon was never going to call because he never loved her to begin with. She knew that it was because she seduced him that drew him into her bed that fateful night. There was never love in the professional relationship.

††††††††††† Driving her to San Francisco and keeping her alone in the hotel was probably all part of his plan. He didn't want her to be close to him because of his lack of passion for women. Gambling was the real love of his life. Nicole realized that Leon was using her all along. He probably abandoned her because Leon thought that she no longer was a good luck charm. Maybe he went to search for another woman for gambling in the future.

††††††††††† Nicole thought that he did this in order for the police to waste their time searching around for the killer. Knowing Leon, he probably went elsewhere to gamble and because of this murder, he considered Nicole as bad omen. So Leon had given Nicole some money and paid in order that she could spend two week at the hotel.

††††††††††† Nicole kept thinking about how she betrayed Terry to have an intimate relationship with Leon. Everything seemed so outrageous. the scene where Leon shot two bullets into Terry's head lingered in her mind. Then she ran away with Leon and she left her without saying anything made her feel repentant. But still, she still wanted Leon to call her because in her heart there was still an attachment.

††††††††††† On Tuesday night, Kathy unexpectedly called and said that Nicole's mother had given her the phone number to call the hotel. She told Nicole how Karen had explained that Nicole was waiting for a boyfriend and was living alone in the hotel. So, Kathy decided to invite Nicole to come over to her house in order to save them money paid for the hotel. Nicole willingly move, but she left her new address and phone number with the hotel manager in case Leon came back for her.

††††††††††† Days passed but Leon never called her. Nicole kept thinking that maybe the hotel owners lost her address since they usually don't have the time to keep track on these things.

††††††††††† On the weekends, Kathy usually found time to talk to Nicole. Seeing Nicole depressed suggested that her boyfriend had abandoned her, Kathy knew what Nicole was going through. She too also had experience with former boyfriends. Kathy decided to attempt to cheer Nicole by taking her sight-seeing throughout the city.

††††††††††† In the next few days, Kathy took Nicole to many interesting places. She took Nicole to see the famous Chinese shrine and a large fish breeding factory. Using a BART car, they went to visit Oakland, the Golden Gate Bridge and many museums. Kathy always carried a pistol in her hand bag.

††††††††††† Kathy actually witnessed a kidnapping in day light. As she was walking along the street, she saw a Chinese woman strolling down on the other side carrying her groceries. All of a sudden, a car sped up alongside her that had a white and two black men in it. They immediately jumped out of the car and seized her. She struggled, but they were too strong. Then she was thrown into the car and carried away. Days later, they found the corpse of a dead Asian woman in the alley raped and murdered. After then, Kathy became cautious and paranoid toward strangers. that's why she never left home without a pistol.

††††††††††† After seeing Kathy's pistol, Nicole thought about Leon's personal gun. \However, everytime she thought about it, she would think about Terry being shot in the head.

††††††††††† More days passed and Leon did not called her. Nicole was just about ready to give up. Now she had to deal with living with Kathy by paying half for the food and rent. Karen also called to invite Nicole to return to the Fort Supply because even though Nicole abandoned Steven, he was still in love with and waited patiently for her return. but Nicole did not want to go back. She enjoyed the life of a metropolitan city and decided to get a job there. With the help of Kathy, Nicole managed to get a job at a deli that sold to passing customers. However, her new boss warned her that at night, robbers could be passing by the deli.

††††††††††† Nicole decided to purchase her own gun. In order for her to be able to use it, Kathy took her to a shooting range so that she could practice. Later, Nicole was able to shoot with precision quickly. She carried it in her purse every time she went to work.

††††††††††† Living with Kathy was an exiting life. The two girls usually talked with each other during the night and behaved like two flowerchilds. It was almost as if they was lesbians but in a different way. Nicole still in love with Leon. Every time a man that looked like him came into her deli, her heart started pounding. There were many times when Nicole often thought how good it was when they first met at the casino when Leon teach her all of his gambling skills.

††††††††††† In June, Kathy managed to get her nursing license at the university. To celebrate this, Kathy decided to invite Nicole to spend a few days at Reno, the second largest casino city in Nevada. Reno also had Lake Tahoe, a famous vacation getaway, where everyone could enjoy sports such as skiing and swimming. They managed to drive there in a few hours and gambled at the casinos a bit. Afterwards, they went to enjoy the natural landscapes and swam in the cool lake. All of this made Nicole very relaxed and content. However both of them still carried their pistols along just in case. they had left home early that day. Kathy drove as carefully as she could. The California traffic was calm and not crowded at the time. the lanes were perfectly designed so that cars on the other lane could tell where and when they could cross. Nicole just sat back and enjoyed the world as it passed her. When they got to Reno, both of the girls quickly unpacked their bags at the hotel since they had called ahead of time for reservations.

††††††††††† Both of them were itching to gamble right away. Kathy loved too gamble, but she had the will to control herself unlike Nicole. Whenever she started winning, Kathy usually gambled more nut as her losses outnumbered her wins, Kathy could always stop gambling and move on to other exciting things in order to relax.

††††††††††† Nicole on the other hand knew that she did not have as much will power as Kathy. She also knew that she could never be as wise as Kathy. However, because of the gambling tricks that Leon had taught her, she had no problem with gambling even though Kathy was just as lucky.

††††††††††† On the first day, the girls gambled until early morning when they decided to crawl back into her rooms. but the next day, Nicole began to notice that she had been losing more than she should. It seemed that every time she had the advantage in poker, she pulled out three of a kind and the other would always beat her by four of a kind. This seemed almost like a coincident. She immediately moved on to the next table, but she kept losing and pretty soon, she lost all her money. Getting desperate she decided to ask Kathy to lend her some money but she stopped. She knew Kathy was superstitious about lending, because she believed that the amount that she loans away will also be lost to gambling. So Nicole forgot that idea and started to go to other casinos to see if anyone there she knew would help her out. then as she started walking, a hand immediately covered her eyes. Nicole thought it was Kathy joking with her, but as she turned she immediately recognized that it was Leon, her former boyfriend who had abandoned her. \Leon held her hand intimately and said :

††††††††††† "Nicole, I've missed you for so long. Why did you leave the hotel without telling me?"

††††††††††† Nicole answered, "I thought you didn't want the burden of having my back luck around with you when you gamble."

††††††††††† "I guess you don't know the truth. Didn't the people working there tell you that I've tried several times before?"

††††††††††† Nicole was flushed. She did not know if Leon was telling the truth or if this was one of his latest schemes to apologize. Her voice shaking, she replied,

††††††††††† "Really, I never had any one calling me the entire time I was there and so why should I believe you?"

††††††††††† "I admit that at the beginning, I was very busy and so I could only call you only on Friday nights. Do you want to argue now?"

††††††††††† Nicole was red with anger. "I lost so much money today and that's why I'm angry even though I've use your technique."

††††††††††† Leon replied, "I've been having the same bad luck. I was walking over to this casino to see if my luck changes when I ran into you. Say, since you're here, would you like to go back to the old times?"

††††††††††† "Okay, but I'm not gambling. I'll just watch you and if you win, lend me some money so that I may continue."

††††††††††† "Alright. Let's go over to that casino there."

††††††††††† Perhaps Nicole was a good luck charm, and Leon started to win again. When Kathy managed to find Nicole, she was surprised to see her holding a great deal of money. then Nicole told her that she met her boyfriend that she thought had abandoned her. But Nicole explained why the hotel manager threw away her address, and so Leon wasn't able to contact her.

††††††††††† Nicole told Kathy that at night, she would follow Leon although she said that there was the alternative of going with her back to San Francisco so that she could continue working there. Nicole was still suspicious of Leon's motives. she did not want to be abandoned ever again and so this time she thought ahead and prepared for it.

††††††††††† In the following days, Kathy became lonely because Nicole spent most of her time with Leon. Kathy thought about going back home for the rest of the vacation, but she remembered their agreement. She decided to stick it out for the last few days.

††††††††††† Before she left, Nicole calling Kathy saying that Leon still had doubts about whether he would take her or not. Since Nicole didn't want to be a victim anymore, she decided to go home with Kathy after all and continue her life there.

††††††††††† That morning she ran out of money saved for gambling, Kathy decided to go down to the lake and rent a boat. When she got there, she saw a couple happily paddling along the shore. This made her realize her past broken relationship with her boyfriend and she was no longer motivated to go boating. Instead, she decided to take the car and drive to see the sites.

††††††††††† As she was driving along, she saw a beautiful site with lovely trees and a flowing river. Kathy decided to get out and use her binoculars to see everything that was far on the other side of the canyon.

††††††††††† She followed a small doe as it walked toward a hiking path, the road led people to climb mountains. Then Kathy saw a couple in sweats jogging down the path. When the deer saw them, it quickly ran away. Kathy focused her binoculars on the couple. She was shocked that it was Nicole and Leon together. this made her jealous because it seemed like that Nicole still wanted to follow Leon but he refused her. Because of the distance, Kathy could not hear their conversation. But Nicole seemed very angry at Leon, in fact, Nicole was still trying to convince Leon to have her live with him in Reno. Nicole was telling Leon:

††††††††††† "I usually give you good luck. Ever since we were together, you have been winning a lot of money. I'm a good luck charm. So why don't you let me come live with you?"

††††††††††† Leon answered. " How many times do I have to tell you? I may have been winning, but lately my losses have been increasing and pretty soon I'll have nothing left. I need to get a steady job in order to buy a house. When I'm financially stable, I will contact you so that we could finally live together. That's why you need to remain with patience."

††††††††††† Still Nicole remained persistent. "I can stand the hardship you know. I had to live with Kathy because I had no choice, but here I can get a job to pay for my own food and shelter. You can still move around freely and gamble as much as you please. because I want to be with you and I love you so much. So please, I beg you..."

††††††††††† "Enough! Please don't make me use harsh words. I have no reason to be living nor the motivation to have a woman in my life at this time. I love gambling more than anything at this point. so don't even mention that subject again!"

††††††††††† Nicole still remained placid. " If you don't accept a long term relationship, then please let me follow for just a short period until I can find a job here. I decide not to go back to San Francisco because Reno is much better. So when I get settled, you can finally leave me."

††††††††††† "No, no, no! I don't want it that way. Let's don't talk about it anymore."

††††††††††† Nicole finally realized that she had used up all her strength for Leon. She was so confident that she would be able to forgive Leon and spend the rest of her life with him. But since he turned her down, she began to feel anger and betrayed because she had sacrificed so much for this gambling man including her former love, terry. then she began to think back on how Terry died with Leon shooting the bullets through his head. now after her impulsive run with Leon, he left her alone in a hotel and intending to never contact her again. This made her even more angry and she decided to change the man right now. Nicole pulled out her pistol and aimed it at Leon.

††††††††††† "Look Leon. You have manipulated my feelings so many times that I can no longer bear it. Now, I want you to kneel in front of me and ask for forgiveness, right now!!!"

††††††††††† Leon just remained calm. " Now girl, don't be messing around with that. you could hurt somebody. Put it away now."

††††††††††† "Not on your life. I want you to get down now and beg for forgiveness! Now!"

††††††††††† "Now hold on a minute. If you pulled the trigger, you will be charged with assault do you understand?"

††††††††††† "I will report that I had to fire for self defense because you tried to rape me ... one...two...three!!!"

††††††††††† Leon had no time to react before Nicole fired a shot into his leg. He was on the ground grabbing his leg in agony.

††††††††††† "Oh my God! You are a very crazy woman! You've shot my leg!!! So much pain!"

††††††††††† Subsequently, Nicole demanded. "Now I'll aim for your head unless you beg for forgiveness. I want to avenge Terry, my true boyfriend. Beg now! One ... Two..."

††††††††††† "What! You are a crazy woman...Help!!!"

††††††††††† Leon immediately began running toward the tourist center where there could be people around for protection. But it was too late. Nicole was right behind him and she managed to shoot a bullet through his chest and one through his head. Blood splattered everywhere. then the dead body was surrounded in a pool of blood. Nicole was nervous as she threw her gun into the woods. She stooped down to pick up her purse and tucked her shirt back in. She decided to leave the scene and walk back to the car and call for a taxi to take her back to the cabin so that she could return to San Francisco with Cathy.

††††††††††† Meanwhile, on the other side of the canyon, Kathy was hiding in the big trees and saw the whole thing. She saw how Nicole and Leon were arguing and when she pulled out her gun. Then she saw the shocking scene when Nicole shot Leon several times. This amazed her because she never knew that Nicole could kill so easily. this made Kathy feel responsible because it was she who brought Nicole to the shooting range for practice. this would have never happened if Nicole had no gun. Feeling shaken, she ran to the nearest payphone to dial 911 and tell them of the situation.

††††††††††† In the distance, the sky was partly cloudy with the sun reflecting through the clear sky. Leon body lay calm and quiet with his face to the ground. His blood-stained shirt shown brightly off the surface with few leaves that had dropped from the nearby trees. The started his life as a gambler and was successful. In the end, he received nothing but a helplessness and death. In the distance, the sound of police sirens could be heard heading toward the scene.

LUONG NGUYEN PHAM

(This English translation version has been published in Songvan Magazine [ISSN 1089-8123, discontinued in 2000], issue 11 & 12, 1998, which is under the same ownership and editorship of The Writers Postís publisher and editor N. Saomai / Nguyen Sao Mai).

 

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