Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 4
The bet to call was $100,000. Lin Pza Pza looked intently at the board. She held the Ace and King of hearts. She’d flopped two pair. The remaining card was of no consequence, the five of clubs. The board held a rainbow, one of each suit, so she wasn’t afraid of a flush. A straight was a possibility, but she doubted that would hit.
With a click of her mouse button, Lin called.
Another Ace turned. She now had a full house. Aces full. All she had to do was trap Imagr8player. She looked at his stupid Monty Python avatar.
“Bet, sucker. I’ll nail you this hand.”
He’d managed to suck out on her with the river on three consecutive hands. No one could get lucky every hand. She was going to nail him to the wall this time. The prize didn’t matter. She was too young to claim it anyway. Being only seventeen, she’d never be able to make it to the World Series of Poker no matter how much she wanted to. It was all about the competition. She just wanted to win and Imagr8player had been a thorn in her side during the entire final table with all his suck-outs. If it weren’t for luck she’d have put him away a long time ago.
He pushed all in. Lin ran through her mind how he’d played. He had pushed in with a lot of draws, gut shots, pairs, and trips. He’d push all in with nearly anything. If he had pocket kings, she’d still have a better full house. She doubted he’d be in a straight draw at this point, based on his bet on the flop and the straight didn’t matter to her. She’d have to commit all her chips, but she had the better of it.
He hadn’t bet very strongly pre-flop though. Perhaps he was holding fives and the ace had given him a full house. That had to be it. His modest pre-flop raise must’ve been to indicate he had a small pocket pair. That being the case, only one card could win it for him. He wasn’t going to suck out this time. She had him. She was at a 98% advantage to take the hand. He needed a miracle.
As her timer popped up to force her to bet, Lin called and pushed all in. As she did, she was glad to see that he was the dog. The donkey had overplayed his hand and did indeed have pocket fives.
“Yes! You suck! I finally got you. Wiggle out of this one.” She smacked the side of the monitor and stood up. Her poker face, being that she only played online in a house by herself, needed some work, but right now she didn’t care. She’d bested three hundred people who’d bought in at $500 to get into this tournament and she was going to win. Of course she’d have to find someone to take her seat at the World Series of Poker, but that wouldn’t be difficult. She could give it to a client.
Lin took a step back from the desk. “Let’s see a deuce! End this.”
The final card came up.
The case five. The miracle card. Imagr8player had sucked out one final time and it was over. A polite message popped up, “You have finished in second place. Thank you for playing at tendeuce.com”
“No!” She couldn’t believe it. She’d been beaten by quads. How could one person suck out so many times?
She closed ten-deuce down. She’d lost. She got money for second, sure, but first place was what she’d been after. Winning was everything, wasn’t it? Wasn’t that the point? To win? Wasn’t that the point of everything?
Lin didn’t sit back down at the desk in her bedroom. After a bad beat like that, and for the game even, she had to cool off. She clicked off the monitor and walked down the narrow hall of her trailer to the kitchen. The fridge contained a multitude to choose from. It’d been stocked just yesterday. Once a week she’d e-mail her inventory needs to the store and they’d deliver. It worked great. She had been the one to set it up, so why wouldn’t it work?
In fact, Lin now owned the local grocery store. She’d gotten tired of hearing, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, we can’t order that special for you.” She figured if she bought the store outright, she could stock it with whatever she wanted. She’d also brought in the delivery trucks and started a grocery delivery to the area which had tripled the revenue of the store within a few months. Now the elderly could phone in what they needed and get it delivered. She’d even worked with Medicare and Medicaid to get the delivery cost covered, which only served to boost profits.
But that was all a drop in the bucket. In fact, she didn’t even manage the store anymore. She’d turned all that over. She just wanted to get her own items like tapioca drinks and energy drinks imported from Japan. Things she could order on the internet, but it was less expensive to order them in bulk. She couldn’t store such large quantities in her trailer or the basement, so she did the next best thing: she bought a store that could hold it all for her.
Lin always had extreme demands ever since she’d gotten her Master’s Degree in abstract computer theory at the age of ten. She’d finished high school at six and wanted something that would challenge her intellect. By age twelve she was a multi-millionaire, but her parents controlled all her assets. The process of emancipation was completed on her thirteenth birthday, upon which she started a new venture and had gotten fat government contracts. By age fifteen she retired to Minnesota. She didn’t want the fast life anymore and after a life of people poking and prodding the little protégé, she’d had enough.
She’d hired Sam, a nice guy, and Casper to dig her basement. It took them several months, but she didn’t care and they were happy with the money. Sam and Girlfriend didn’t seem to have much, so she’d bought him some big-boy toys to keep his interest in the job. Girlfriend had also benefited with a satellite uplink so she could keep in constant touch with her parents. Casper she’d bought a Bronco he’d had his eye on. Such simple things for simple people.
Lin didn’t hold power or money over the people in the trailer park. In fact, when she’d bought it from Mrs. Bilkins, a fact she demanded in the contract that remained silent, she kept the rents at the same price and would not raise them, ever. People in this part of the world didn’t have much, but they all either worked hard or had worked hard and now lived a retired life and deserved to have it made as easy as possible.
In her wildest dreams, Lin had never thought that she’d own 20,000 acres in northern Minnesota. She held domain over two lakes and a massive preserve area where hunters were allowed to go only with permission. She liked that kind of control. She needed it.
She’d also used Sam to fill her basement. Though she’d retired, she still had a service agreement with the government to maintain their servers. The main ones were in her basement in a clean-room environment. A backup power generator, a T3 connection with additional satellite connectivity, and environment controls to keep it 65 degrees year round made for an ideal secret location. An identical location had been set up in Manitoba just in case anything ever happened, but she doubted anything could defeat her security or discover her location.
Nothing in the fridge looked good. Her stomach ached after getting dealt a bad beat. She thought about logging into the admin control for tendeuce.com and deleting Imagr8player’s account. She did, after all, run the business. Since she ran it out of the Canadian site on a reservation, she could do so legally. It made her laugh, because she was interested in playing poker, she wanted to make sure it was on her own system. She made a tidy sum off of it, but nothing compared with the millions she’d made with private ventures and filling government needs. Those would continue to bring in money for decades.
A flashing red light from the living room window caught her attention. Police? What were they doing here? Nothing ever happened in this trailer park. She closed the fridge and went to the window. She was amazed at the number of police and other emergency vehicles. She’d seen the occasional ambulance arrive to take an elderly resident to the hospital, or heaven forbid, to the morgue, but never anything like this. It looked like a full-blown emergency.
Lin rushed back to her bedroom and clicked on the monitor. With two clicks she brought up the security cams for the park. No one knew that she’d installed them. She’d had fun being out late at night installing them, and took pride that she could see anything going on in the park at any time. She flipped to the cam over the Sandy Bar. That’d give her the best vantage. In a smaller window, she brought up the cam over the office. It looked as if the entire community had walked or rolled their way to the front entrance. A gurney rolled out of the woods, dragged by two paramedics. Something was on it, but far too small to be a body, wasn’t it? The sheet draped over it looked to be over a head and torso, but what about the legs? The torso seemed to end abruptly.
What or who could be under that sheet? She hadn’t installed mics, as she had never suspected she’d need sound. She zoomed the camera in to the back of the ambulance. She saw Sam sitting there with his arm around, who? Pops Jasper? Why would Pops be there? One of the paramedics lifted up the sheet. Pops burst into tears and Sam hugged the old man.
She wondered if her cameras could have picked anything up. Lin minimized the cam window and opened the log files. They were put into twenty-four hour blocks starting at six in the morning. Since her camera pointed to the front entrance, it would only show people leaving or coming, but maybe she could find out something.
The files played back at double speed. She sped it forward to two in the morning. The bar would have closed at that time. A couple of pickups left, along with a couple of walking patrons. Nothing special. She watched in fast forward. Julie wouldn’t have left until around three or three-thirty. Casper exited the bar followed shortly by Julie, only the tops of their heads visible, at 3:32 am. Two minutes later, Julie got in her car and sped away, without Casper. Two minutes after that, the camera blinked. Not a pausing blink as with the stop motion it ran under, but actually blinked like there was a power surge or even a possible failure.
Lin felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck as the woods across the street changed and the night sky brightened. Not just changed, but the highway went away too. Could that be right? The timer kept running as it always did, but something changed. It was all different.
Casper reappeared at the front of the bar and stared momentarily at the same scene Lin looked at, then he walked away. Three minutes and twenty six seconds later the screen flashed again and the highway and backwoods returned like magic. If she hadn’t seen it, she wouldn’t have believed it.
How could that be? And what happened to Casper?
She scanned the rest of the cameras, but nothing gave her a good angle and all had the same ‘blip’ in the video. If that denoted a drop or loss of power, she should be able to see it on her server logs.
She opened a telnet session and accessed the server in her basement. She opened the power logs. At 3:36 am the generator had been activated due to loss of power but powered off just before 3:40 am. Something had dropped the power and brought it up again. And the woods. What happened to the woods? And the sky?
Lin sat back and stared at the screen. She had a lot more video to look through, but she felt nervous about doing that. She instead scrolled through the power logs.
“Damn.” There it was, plain as day. The generator had been activated several times over the past month. Every time at almost the same time of night and only for minutes at a time.
What is going on?
Lin wanted answers, but she needed to do some more digging. She may even need to call in some help. But who?