Chapter 1 The Gambler Who Loves Her
IN NEW YORK'S Runyonland, where women are dolls and men are guys, it is a universal fact that when a doll chases after a guy, he runs faster and farther away.
Save-A-Soul Sergeant Sarah Brown knows this to be true in songs and stories, but never thought she’d find herself in such a predicament. Should she run after her guy who has walked out on her, afraid he might not come back? Or should she follow the saying, “If you love him, let him go, for if he returns, he was always yours. If he doesn’t, he never was.”
After much self-deliberations, Sarah decided to stick to the bible and hoped to beat the odds, “Let me rise then and go about the city, through the streets and squares; Let me seek him whom my soul loves.” Song of Songs 3:2.
Sister Sarah is a stunningly beautiful doll who heads the Christian mission station on Broadway. Twice a day she marches with her mission band around Times Square, stopping at street corners where she stands on a soapbox and extolls sinners to come to her mission and repent. If, for her looks alone, large crowds gather around her, yet to her dismay, nobody comes to her mission for repentance.
The irony is, while she denounces the evils of drinking and gambling, Sarah finds herself hopelessly in love with a gambler, who, in turn, has fallen in love with her. His name is Sky Masterson, best known among his peers as the highest and toughest player of them all.
But tonight, he has walked out on her. She loves him dearly; but being a missionary who denounces sin, should she really want him back?
As Sarah continued to walk desperately looking at every face in the night, she saw Sky’s friend, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, apparently following her.
“Sky is at his hotel; he knows you’re coming,” Nicely said, as if reading her mind.
“He knows I’m coming?” Sarah cried, relieved to know Sky hasn’t left town yet. But what if he refuses to come back?
Nicely had seen the silent drama that went on between Sarah and Sky at the prayer meeting that night. Earlier in the evening Sky herded more than two dozen gamblers into the mission, to the delight of Sarah’s visiting superior and staff. The sinners were what Sarah needed to prevent her inactive mission from closing down. They did not come on their own. Sky Masterson has won them in a hard-hitting game of crap.
Unfortunately, the police have previously accused Sky of enabling his gambling cronies to use Sarah's empty mission for an illegal crap shoot while she was away on a date with him the night before.
No matter how much Sky denied the accusation, Sarah really believed he has taken her out of the way so the gamblers could freely violate the sanctuary. Apparently disheartened by the accusation, Sky announced at the meeting that he was leaving town. Sarah was visibly shaken when Sky walked out the door without saying goodbye.
The rejection must have been hard for Sky, too. For he is not only the highest roller among the gamblers, but also the smartest, toughest, and the handiest with dolls. No doll has ever crushed Sky Masterson until this mission doll came along, Nicely shook his head as he recalled.
“I appreciate your looking out for me, Mr. Nicely,” Sarah said, breaking his silence. “Would you mind walking with me until I get to his hotel?”
“Much obliged, Miss Sarah,” he replied, “And thank you for protecting us from the police.”
MEANWHILE, IN HIS HOTEL ROOM, over brandy and cigarettes, Sky Masterson sighed, shook his head and laughed to think of what has become of his short relationship with Sarah: A fly-by-night Broadway romance, indeed! Funny that he could be the one flying out by night.
If the break-up was funny, why is he hurting inside? Why is he taking so long to pack his few things and move on?
He has had tougher, more exciting times in the distant past that were easy to get in and out of. There were intermittent periods of gun slinging, fistfights, hustling at horse races, pools and golf games, travelling the underworld, high-stake gambling, and taking any number of dolls whenever he pleased. Yet those incidents, though long past, were nothing compared to what had happened in the last three days that crushed him almost to the ground.
TUESDAY MORNING, after breakfast at Mindy’s, Sky chanced upon his old friend, Nathan Detroit, operator of the largest illegal floating crap game in the city. Unknown to him, Nathan was broke and desperately needing $1,000 to secure the only venue left that could host the next night’s big game. All other sites have shut down, what with the police putting on the heat. Nathan was definitely in a bind, especially with all the big rollers coming to town expecting some action.
Their buddy-talk, as always, turned to the light-hearted topic of dolls. Sky couldn’t believe Nathan was still stuck with Adelaide, his fiancée of 14 years, who has been pressing for marriage. Why wouldn’t Nathan do like him, who took a doll only when he wanted one? For Sky, no guy should be stuck with just one doll. Dolls were all the same and were available everywhere as far as the eye could see. They were interchangeable, indistinguishable, replaceable and could be had at any given notice, like cough drops. In fact, Sky loudly boasted he could take any doll of Nathan’s choosing on his trip to Havana the next day.
Whereupon Nathan called Sky's bluff and laid down a $1,000 marker on the proposition that Sky would not be able to take out one very special doll: The prim-and-proper Sgt. Sarah Brown of the Save-A-Soul mission, who just happened to be soliciting donations to charity on the sidewalk fronting Mindy’s that very moment.
Sky took one look at the mission doll and suddenly his heart sank to the bottom of his stomach. He couldn’t believe any doll could be so breathtakingly beautiful, least of all, a missionary.
Sgt. Sarah Brown is young and slim and has a first-class shape. Her skin is smooth and fair; her hair is dark brown, almost black. And her eyes are like, Sky did not know what, except that they are 100% eyes in every respect. Right away he knew he had gotten himself into something his late Daddy had warned him about: Never bet on something you cannot win, or you’ll find your ear full of cider.
Realizing it was a sucker bet, Sky must pursue the gorgeous mission doll, or be marked as a chump among his peers. With merely a day to court the sergeant, he bravely approached her mission station, feigning he needed spiritual help to give up gambling. But right away, he was rebuffed by Sister Sarah who thought him uncouth, untrustworthy, unrepentant and hopeless as a gambler seeking salvation.
Sky persisted, poured on the charm, and turned to playful teasing. He claimed her “Thought for Today” sign misquoted the bible, and he was proven right. He told her, point-blank, the reason her mission was failing was because no sinners have been showing up for repentance.
Needless to say, the truth embarrassed Sarah, and she started to pay attention to him, albeit cautiously. He then signed a “marker,” a promise to deliver a dozen “genuine sinners” to her upcoming prayer meeting on Thursday night if she would have dinner with him tomorrow, Wednesday.
At first Sarah seemed agreeable to the idea, until Sky told her that it was to Havana, Cuba that he intended to take her. Havana, the city of sin! What did this rogue gambler think of her, a chump? Offended by what she thought was a cruel joke, Sarah yelled to kick him out of the room. Instead, Sky grabbed her and stole a long, lingering kiss. Sarah immediately rewarded him with a hard, humiliating slap on the cheek and slammed the door.