GRACE THE WILD CARD

Chapter 10 Nathan's Mettle

FRIDAY 9:00 PM. What a downer. Of course, the crap game going on in Joey Biltmore’s garage was nothing of the excitement Sky Masterson has expected, because practically everybody in the world was broke.

Sky only stood around watching the play and talking with other guys who were also standing around and watching. Many of those guys were very high shots during the post-WWII boom, although most of them were now as clean as a surgeon’s scalpel, and maybe cleaner.

The only guy spirited enough to want the game to continue was the Chicago mobster Big Jule, wagging his thick bankroll and challenging everybody to play on credit.

Suddenly alert, Nathan Detroit got up and demanded everybody’s attention, ”All right, Gentlemen, let’s have some action here.” And addressing the mobster, “Big Jule, here’s a proposition for you. Your own gun for your bankroll last night.”

Nathan drew out the gun from his pocket and aimed it at its owner. “Have we got a bet?“

Big Jule instinctively patted his left side and suddenly remembered he didn’t have his gun with him. He lost it last night when Sky Masterson knocked him down with a one-two and Angie the Ox threw a raincoat over his face. Masterson had quickly divested him of it and tossed the gun to Detroit for safekeeping.

Blood drained off Big Jule’s face now that his own gun was pointing at him. Every guy in the room was stunned.

It was Harry the Horse who broke the tensed silence. “Let me get this straight,” addressing Nathan. “You want Big Jule to bet all his winnings from last night against his own gun?”

“Correct,” Nathan said, moving forward, quickly glancing from one face to another, but holding steady the gun at Big Jule. “If I win, everybody gets back what Big Jule stole from him last night. If Jule wins, he gets to keep both the money and the gun.”

When Big Julie remained stupefied, Nathan continued, “All right, let’s sweeten the pot. Big Jule will get back his gun, win or lose. But he will lay last night’s bankroll on the line. And I will have the honor to be the shooter. One roll, fair enough?”

Rusty Charlie asked, “If you win, we get all our money back, but Big Jule gets his gun back, too?”

“Win or lose, Big Jule gets back his gun,” answered Nathan. “But the money, he’s got to lay on the line. Have we got a bet?”

“Bet,” Big Jule finally answered.

Sky, as stunned like all the rest, wondered what Nathan was up to.

Nathan continued, “And because Big Jule was incapable of writing his own marker, as you’ve witnessed last night, each of you write a marker for him to sign. Put down your name and the amount that he stole from you last night. Then get in line and make him sign all his markers with his signature X.

“I hereby appoint Harry the Horse as the escrow who will temporarily hold the money until all markers are made good, if Jule loses. Or give it all back to Jule, if he wins.

“Gotta have my gun back,” Big Jule mumbled. Reluctantly, he handed the wad he was previously brandishing over to Harry the Horse.

Nathan continued, “And I’m appointing Sky Masterson as security.” Nathan said and tossed the gun to Sky which the latter was quick to catch. “Sky will see to it that every marker is signed, and Horse holds up the money for all to see.”

Sky did as Nathan ordered, pointing the gun at Big Jule while keeping an eye on Horse and the money. The guys wrote out markers and got Big Jule’s X on all 40 of them.

After a long while, Nathan approached Big Jule, “I will now use your own dice, Big Jule. The same dice you used on us last night. Sky will see to it we follow your rules, the rules that you imposed on us last night, fair enough?”

Sheepishly, Jule fished out the blank dice from his pocket and handed them to Nathan.

Maintaining the tough stance, Nathan got ready to roll. He blew on the dice and shook them and threw them bouncing on the floor, against the wall, amidst a resounding cry of “Huh!”

“Lucky us, we won!” Nathan shouted.

The crowd roared.

Nathan ordered Harry the Horse to pay off all markers while Sky continued to hold the gun, this time pointing at Horse and keeping an eye on Big Jule. When all markers were made good, Nathan signaled Sky.

“Gun’s empty,” Sky said coolly as he threw the gun over to Big Jule, “Nathan has unloaded the bullets.”

The Chicago mobster caught the gun, fell on his knees and elbows and cried like a baby. The din of the crowd got louder, but abruptly fell as Nathan once more addressed the crowd.

“Gentlemen, I will be suspending the Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game for a cycle or two. We will leave you know when and where it will float again,” Nathan paused. “And it’s not Brannigan. It’s Miss Adelaide.”

Once again, the crowd chattered, “It’s ever-lovin’ Adelaide?” Then silence.

“I will marry Miss Adelaide tomorrow afternoon at six. All of you are invited to the wedding. It will be an open-air wedding, in Times Square. Please tell everybody and your brother. Come early; it’ll be a huge crowd!”

In a heartbeat, the guys crowded around Nathan with profuse congratulations. Sky held back, still unbelieving, when suddenly Nathan pulled him and Benny out the door. “Hurry up, guys, call a cab; I’ve got to propose to her.”

“She’s not at work. She’s at home. The Hot Box was raided tonight.” Sky said. “How were you able to pull this off?”

“Remember, Brannigan can’t live off on his salary alone,” Nathan said excitedly, “All raids are over by tomorrow and everything goes back to normal.

“Brannigan also offers to take care of the street arrangement and the getaway car. He’ll block off all traffic on Broadway and have the entire police force man the crowd. He also wants to give away the bride.”

Sky was incredulous.

“Cool,” Benny said happily.

SKY AND BENNY STAYED IN THE TAXI and watched Nathan ring Adelaide’s doorbell. In an instance she opened the door and Nathan fell on his knees at the doorway, right there and then.

Nathan blurted out, “Adelaide, darling, will you marry me?”

“Nathan, Oh, Nathan!” Adelaide gushed, “Why, yes, Nathan, darling, unconditionally.” And with her voice going up a few decibels, “Oh, Nathan, darling, how could you even think I wouldn’t!”

Sky and Benny rolled their eyes.

Nathan stood up, held and kissed Adelaide. “My ever-loving Adelaide, you have bravely held on for 14 years. It’s time we got our reward,” Nathan said tenderly.

Then he kissed her again and said, “Times Square, my darling. Tomorrow afternoon at six. Lt. Brannigan will pick you up and escort you with the entire vice squad at 5:15. And don’t be late.”

“Don’t worry, Nathan, darling, I’m starting to get used to being picked up by the police,” she said. “Oh, darling, I’m so happy. Won’t you come in?”

“No time, dear, we’re off to the mission to set it up with Brother Arvide.” They kissed goodbye and Nathan excitedly jumped back into the cab.

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