Another One Word Story, written in one minute a day using a string of words suggested by www.oneword.com
Winner Alright - A Oneword Short Story
The fix was in. A plain brown envelope, packed half an inch thick with pictures of a president, would swing the judges his way. Hell, for that amount, even the wind would blow in his favour. He smiled confidently as they walked out on the court, but what he didn't know was that there were other envelopes full of presidents changing hands that day; the playing field had been leveled.
The game began, and both teams played like tigers, fighting for glory. Killen watched from high in the stands, impressed by their spirit, but feeling slightly sorry for them, knowing as he did that the result had been decided beforehand.
He had been planning this scheme for months, most of which involved waiting for the right game to come along. Once it had presented itself, things moved quickly, and it took him no time at all to find a buyer for the opportunity he was selling.
The problem with betting, Killen had figured out long ago, was that it involved leaving things to chance; and assuming that even if you lost most of the time that you could still, at least some of the time, win. He did not like this level of uncertainty, and had resolved to find a way around it.
Another problem Killen found with the world of betting was that even though the art of gambling started out with agreements between gentlemen, there were very few true gentlemen left in the business today.
He didn't like the way the business worked; too many innocent people getting caught in the crossfire, but that was how the game was played.
Others complained about the uncertainty of the business, - too many ups and downs; but people who don't like ups and downs should never even be in an elevator, let alone in business.
At least every body knew going in, - or should know, that the stakes were high, and there would be a lot of what is now known as "collateral damage".
And by definition it was an uncertain field of business; nobody but nobody knew exactly what was going to happen.
And it was not the only line of business where the ones most at risk were the ones in the trenches, with the least to gain, while those who stood to make the most from the outcome watched from a safe distance.
You could be working away, minding your own business, not bothering anyone, and then out of the blue Lady Luck hits you; as random as a bolt of lightning. Whether she hits you with cupid's arrow or a sniper's bullet, you never see it coming.
Another thing Killen had learned a long time ago; - the hard way, of course, - was that sometimes the best way to get ahead was to just do nothing and wait for the other guy to slip up; which they would eventually.
In the front row sat a man in a wheelchair. He only used it when he wanted to get a good seat. Those who knew him well enough to know he didn't need a wheelchair, knew him well enough to know that mentioning that fact to him would be a bad idea.
They didn't allow drinks in the arena, so he kept his bourbon in a Canada Dry Ginger Ale bottle. And like all the other ways he bent the rules, it was an open secret; everybody knew about it, nobody talked about it.
Seven thousand people were watching the game, unaware that it had been hijacked by a small group of people, armed only with mobile phones and the most powerful weapon of all, money.
The game ended, and no one noticed anything unusual in the result. Killen and the old man sat in the penthouse of the hotel, their drinks resting on the sill of the open window. The wheelchair was parked in the corner, unneeded now. They had just cleared twelve million dollars in one night, and those young men downstairs celebrating with Gatorade
thought they were the only winners.
Killen's drink was refilled by a gorgeous young girl, who smiled blankly at him as she put it down. Their eyes met for an instant, but he felt that she didn't even see him. Looking down at his glass, he noticed a tattoo on her wrist. A number, designed to look like it had been done with a stencil, as if marking a piece of equipment. The old man made all of the girls who worked for him get one.
The old man came in, and sat down opposite him. The girl placed a large glass of brandy, and an equally large bowl of taffy, in front of him. Killen could not help looking at it, and the old man smiled. "I see you've discovered my only weakness!" He took one, and started chewing, but did not offer any to Killen.
Ten minutes later, Killen had finished his explanation. The old man thought about it for a while, chewing slowly. "I suppose it's plausible," he said, looking up at Killen; "but that doesn't mean it's a safe bet!" Killen smiled back; "Nothing ever is!".
Killen returned to his car, which doubled as his office. The old man was in on the deal, so now he had a lot to do. First and foremost, he had to cover his ass, to prepare an escape route in case it all came crashing down.
Because in this business, you just had to be ready for any unplanned events, even though his whole "plan" was based on a horserace, the outcome of which nobody could predict.
His basic idea was simple, like packing a suitcase with too much in it. Pressing down on different parts until the whole was just the right shape for the clasps to shut. The problem was, you really could not open it again until you got where you were going. But in Killen's case, he would have to keep adding to it until right before the takeoff.
Carrying out his plan would be not so difficult, the only struggle would be to do it so slowly, and with subtlety so that no one would notice it happening. If people noticed what was going on, they might join in, and that would make it complicated.
And of course, if you didn't want people to notice what you were doing, involving a nationally televised event was a bad idea. But Killen was hoping that most people would consider it such a horrendously bad idea that they didn't give it a second thought.
He had spent months, once he had come up with the idea, looking for the perfect race on which to execute his plan. Dissecting race cards according to a particular set of rules he had devised, he had covered most of the year's race meetings before finally returning to the one race that had stood out among them all. The big one; the Grand National.
Once he had decided on the race, he had started to watch the betting trends. As the race day approached, there was a progressive increase in betting on four particular horses. Killen started placing bets heavily on these four, and four outsiders. The rest, he would keep an eye on, and tweak them as needs be. His plan was under way.
For three weeks before the race, he had a team of men working a network of betting shops, putting on small to medium sized amounts, never visiting the same shop twice, so that no one would notice any trends in the betting. It probably didn't matter, but he even had them change their appearance between shops, so that the same person would not show up in security videos from more than one store. Even their appearance; not too unkempt, not too stylish, was specified, so that they would be remembered by nobody. Because it had to look like nobody was doing this.
It was indeed a tiresome task, unlike those scams one would see in the cinema, where the boring, repetitive part of the job is glossed over in a few seconds, usually with a catchy backing track, and some cinematic trick to indicate the passage of a substantial amount of time. But for Killen, it was a hard slog. Watching odds fluctuate, calculating the spread, and sending his team of bet placers around the betting shops of London, and eventually further afield. As Race Day approached, it became more intense, as the average punters started placing their once a year just-to-make-it-interesting bets and tipped the balance towards a few select horses. By the day before the race, Killen had used up almost all of the ten million pounds the old man had fronted him, but was certain to win it all back, and still make a minimum profit of two million on the day. He would need to keep an eye on the odds fluctuation right up until the white flag was raised, but he could finally relax a little. Nothing could go wrong now.
He sat down in front of the television to watch the race. It was a clear, warm day, and as the horses lined up at the start, the camera flashes from the grandstand were like a starlit sky, only in daytime. The white flag that would signal the start of the race was raised, but did not fall as several of the horses bolted from the line. "Fuck", he stuttered, sending foam from his beer onto the carpet; " A false start!". Then he remembered, he didn't care who won, because he would win regardless. He leaned back, and waited for the restart, but the television commentator was getting increasingly excited. Several horses were still running! He watched in disbelief as the race descended into chaos. Fifteen minutes later, the announcement was officially made. The Grand National, for the first time in its history, had been declared void! His glass fell to the floor and his mind went blank. In a plan where he had covered every possibility, the impossible had happened!
The phone rang. He knew it would be the old man. "Do you have any children?" he was asked. "No..."
"Good, cos I don't want to be making them orphans... which is what would be happening if you don't convince me that you have a way out of this mess!" Killen presumed from the silence that followed that it was safe to speak.
"All bets will be refunded. We're back to square one. They will rerun the race in a couple of weeks, and we just do it all over again!"
"The hell you will! I can't have my funds tied up in this thing that long. Get me my money back, we're done!"
Killen went to meet with the old man for the third time, and returned all his cash. "You don't seem too put out about this?", the old man questioned him, almost teasing? "Being philosophical? Lessons learned, and all that shit?"
Killen smiled. "You could say that."
What he didn't say was, that two hours before the race started, he found himself with about a hundred and fify grand left over, and a very nice looking 3 to 1 shot in another race at Doncaster; which, of course, he bet on; and which, of course, won. So by the time he had paid back the old man, and paid off his runners, he was left with just over four hundred grand for his trouble. As the saying goes, "Winner Alright!"
- The End. -
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