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"A Rose By Any Other Name"
"A Rose By Any Other Name"
"No more Bets!" called out the dealer waving her had across the table.
Albert watched as the small white marble started the first of its numerous revolutions around the roulette wheel. A few moments later the shinny orb began its descent toward the center engaging in a feverish dance with the red and black numbers while barely noticing the two opposing green ones. Eventually it would come to rest on the number 21. Not only was it odd, but it was also red, which meant Albert's two bets of one and two hundred dollars respectively would give him an additional three hundred in winnings.
Another glance at the watch strapped around his left wrist showed it was five minutes ahead of 6:00pm.
"Any minute now." he thought to himself.
He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small cloth handkerchief to blot the sweat from his forehead. Although the air conditioning kept the casino at a constant sixty-eight degrees regardless of how much heat or humidity was outside, Albert found himself needing to pat his head down every couple of minutes anyway. You'd have thought he was sitting in the middle of a sauna rather than the on the gaming floor of a luxury Atlantic City hotel.
"Congratulations Sir. " the dealer announced as she slid another small pile of chips in front of him. Albert however, didn't seem to notice. "Sir . . . are you alright?" The young woman behind the table inquired.
The old man seemed, at the vary least, flustered. When he looked up he realized the pit boss was heading his way and the play at the table had momentarily stopped. Gathering his composure, he assured the dealer that he was fine. Probably just needed to take a break for a while and perhaps get a bite to eat, he'd tell her. The pit boss seemed to be satisfied that everything was under control and continued his rounds about the floor. Albert slid a his colored chips into the center and asked to be cashed out. The dealer counted out just short of a couple thousand dollars in house chips and told him he could take them to any of the cashiers if he liked or preferably he could hold onto them and come back after dinner to try his luck again. He thanked her, left a couple of twenty-five dollar chips behind as a tip and was on his way.
Rather than heading for one of the many restaurants in the casino, Albert made his way toward the elevators and up to his room. After a brief struggle between the electronic lock and key, he managed to open the door and slip into the room. His eyes immediately shot in the direction of the nightstand where a blinking light indicated there was a message waiting for him. A rush of both exhilaration and apprehension washed over his body as he sat at the edge of the bed and pressed the play button. Nervously he waited for the words. When they came, only two were spoken.
He heard a low raspy voice say, "It's done." (CLICK)
In that instant he knew his most recent wife would be a burden to him no more. Never again would he have to listen to her incessant complaining about every little thing he either did or did not do. Best of all, he and Leena, the woman he'd begun seeing on the side, would be free to live out their affair without fear of discovery.
Albert lay back on the predictably firm hotel mattress, tucked one of the under stuffed pillows behind his head and retraced the plans he and his mistress had concocted. It really was quite brilliant he felt. While he was several hundred miles away, his wife Rose would be at home as she was every Saturday evening. Ironically, she would be waiting for Leena to come by. You see, for the past several months, Leena had taken up the self appointed responsibility of bringing her upstairs neighbors a care package each week. Among other things, it would always include the evening edition of the Palm Beach Tribune and a small bag of dark chocolate peanut clusters, Albert's favorite. Rose always thought it curious that an attractive, unattached woman like Leena, who could easily fill her weekend evenings with much more lively entertainment, would choose to spend one of those nights with the two of them. What Rose didn't know was that some of Leena's lively entertainment did actually take place at the apartment building, but it was typically on Sunday afternoons while Rose was at her weekly bridge game and Albert was doing his own "neighborly business" downstairs.
Well, the plan went something like this: Albert had met up and contracted with a friend of a friend he'd met during his union days with the steel workers local 542. This particular "friend" was known by a select few to provide favors for a certain level of compensation. The favor Albert was seeking would come to the tune of twenty-five grand. As per their agreement, the first fifteen (in cash of course) had already been paid. The remaining ten would be neatly tucked away in an envelope, top drawer of the bedside table at the couples downtown apartment. The friend known only as Tony would go to the apartment at 6:00pm on the appointed night. Once he had completed the job, he would go to the bedroom and acquire the second envelope. At this point, he and Albert's obligations to one another would be complete. A few minutes later, at around 6:15 pm, Leena would drop-in for her weekly visit only to find Rose crumpled on the floor with a blow to the back of her head. Leena would then call the police with a tale of tragedy she'd happened to discover. The police would arrive on the scene, start to investigate the murder and eventually inquire as to the whereabouts of the late Rose's husband Albert. Leena, in the most distraught voice she could muster, would tell the cops that he was up in Jersey on a weekend getaway. They would track down the casino's name and phone number he'd left behind with Rose in case she needed to get a hold of him. They would call with the terrible news. He would be devastated and say he would hop on the next plane back home. An in depth investigation would ensue, but no one would ever be caught or even charged in what the police would dismiss as a random burglary gone terribly wrong.
A smile worked its way across Albert's face as he thought about how perfect his plan was, and now that everything seemed to be falling into place, he decided to stretch out and take a short nap. About an hour later he awoke from some of the most peaceful sleep he'd had in the past four years. He figured he'd hit the shower, maybe grab a quick bite to eat, then hit the tables again before his big acting debut began.
The steaming hot shower was every bit as refreshing as he'd hoped for. Trading in his shorts and flower print shirt for a bit more sophisticated evening attire, Albert was just about ready to greet the town with a new spring in his step. He was nearly out the door when he realized he'd forgotten his wallet. He walked over to the bed stand to grab it when he noticed the light on the phone was blinking again. Apparently another message had come in while he was in the shower.
"That's odd," he said out loud, "I assumed it would take them a while longer to call with the news."
For a moment he thought about ignoring it and listening to it later, but then he figured "what would it matter?" He could listen to it now and then go out claiming he hadn't heard it until later in the evening when he returned.
He hit play and waited for the Palm Beach Police to tell him there had been an accident and to return their call immediately. What he heard however, caused him to instantly buckle at the knees. Instead of the police leaving him a message, it was Rose's voice, and she was panicked!
Through uncontrollable sobs she cried out on the recording, "Oh my god Al, please be there. Pick-up honey . . . It's Leena . . . she's . . . she's dead!"
She went on to tell him that her sister had unexpectedly come to town and taken her out to dinner. She continued telling him, "I knew Leena would be coming over around six, so we tried to get back home, but we were just a little bit late. When we got here, we found her on the floor of our apartment. Oh my god . . . Albert, please pick-up!"
Rose sobbed through a couple more comments that were barely recognizable, but what she said next pierced Albert's ears like a dagger through his heart. "The police found a note in her pocket that had the phone number of the hotel you're staying at . . . Why would she have that number? . . . Oh Albert, please call me!"
By now Albert was shaking as he sat on the edge of the bed taking it all in. His house of cards was crumbling right before his very eyes (or was that ears?). Of all the days for Rose's sister to come for a visit, why did it have to be this one? It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Then he realized if the cops had found a note with his phone number on it, in a dead woman's pocket, they were sure to be coming with questions he wouldn't want to answer.
His mind was reeling, and he was already formulating an escape plan when he heard, "KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK, Mr Montgomery, Atlantic City P D, may we have a word?"
Please consider joining us next month. I'll have the pictures for the next one up on Friday 12/19. Hope to see you there!
(Thank you in advance to Dr John for January's photographs)