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Copyright © Arno Le Roux 2016

All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronically, electrostatic magnetic tape or mechanically; including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author.

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A tribute to "Rama" Viljoen. Attached to the then Political & Violent Crimes Investigations Unit, pre- 1994

“Politics is the Devil’s casino… it sucks life from good people, and The House always wins…” RIP “Rama” Viljoen.

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Synopsis

Call it resourceful well timed strategy or call it dumb luck, but let’s agree at least that it’s all mixed with relaxed recreation, boisterous entertainment and a generous helping of bright lights in tune with an eternal supply of exhilaration. It’s the lively world; both supplying and deriving oxygen from and to the casino gambling machines, that we know and on occasion visit.

But… running second for second, parallel with this, is another stranger world, breathing at a faster and more purposeful pace. And the ones, who know, who has pain as a constant companion, may quietly share with you… in a whisper… “…it’s not so much a world, but an entire different cosmos… with its own unalterable orbits, shooting stars and invisible greedy black holes, giving and taking life. Birthing and rebirthing… evolving, and to accommodate all types of life, it’s even cursed with own version of heaven and hell…”

Prologue

Three hours before in Johannesburg.

“Call him…! Give him whatever he wants…!” “Yes sir, I will sir, now sir…” The authorising instruction came from a sixty something, flustered, silver grey businessman. His head was shaking from side to side and eventually found a resting place in the old ex amateur boxer’s bruised hands… the result of venting his consuming anger; on a worn leather boxing bag in the corner of his extravagant glass penthouse, for the third time since breakfast.

Russian Folksong

The “Kalinka” (Russian: Калинка) is a Russian song written in 1860 by the composer and folklorist Ivan Larionov and first performed in Saratov as part of a theatrical entertainment that he had composed. Soon it was added to the repertory of a folk choral group.

Калинка, калинка, калинка моя!

В саду ягода малинка, малинка моя!

Ах, под сосною, под зеленою,

Спать положите вы меня!

Ай-люли, люли, ай-люли, люли,

Спать положите вы меня.

Kalinka

Little red berry, red berry, red berry of mine!

In the garden (there is) a berry – little raspberry, raspberry of mine!

Ah, under the pine, the green one,

Lay me down to sleep,

Oh-swing, sway, Oh-swing, sway,

Lay me down to sleep.

Far from Johannesburg…

A tall well-tanned visitor was quietly humming an old song in the deepest of base voices, it was his most favorite of all songs… as he quietly stared into the open boot of the luxury silver trimmed Mercedes Benz… then closed it softly. It was a twenty minute freezing walk from Norbert’s home, but the aromatic roasted coffee offered by the host still kept him warm and was simply delicious. He thought of the good deals they shared and how much he would miss Norbert’s deep laugh. Norbert was an ex employer. To the second, twenty minutes later, he put his luggage down in reception.

Faithfully punctual for any and all engagements, from the most salient of business meetings to the most nonessential of quick pop-in’s at an old friend for coffee. These were him to his last cell, and were the exact qualities the people inhabiting his world, admired, even depended on. If the world around Ivan was a house with probable’s on one side and possible’s on the other, then he was the sentinel in the passage, keeping them apart… as far as possible. And indeed it was a house… and the accompanying cliché would need no introduction…

He was a freelancer of sorts, known only to the people who mattered… No one in the lower ranks needed to know things that “were none of their concern” as Igor, his mentor used to say. His employers met him once only, to outline the scope of his duties. Although he did most of the talking and they… most of the listening. Repeat meetings were never held again after that, and they never needed. “They” wanted prompt results… “he” produced it with a stamped quality… and “they” paid instantly… No if’s or butts… everyone was happy, and that was that… simple, and to the point.

Wholly inconsistent with his character, he discounted the call and the mobile phone’s anxious neon blue alert lights went back to sleep again. It switched to voicemail, which could have meant it wasn’t work related. Ivan’s employers never left voicemails. Voicemails were loose ends, and that would have been careless of them, and they didn’t own the top of the business ladder by being careless. Quite the opposite… in their world they were incomparable strategic thinkers, and their coldness were matched only by how calculated they were. Hungry accumulators of massive sums of money, directed by two forces, “their” night and day… A: More money… and B: Politics. If ever there was a thick black carpet that things were swept under, it would be theirs…. being major financiers that they were, a typical business day meant evaluating owed money at ridiculous interest or pulling in “favors” if deadlines weren’t met… Mainly for election campaigns, lining, or more correctly “filling” political begging bowls in exchange for favors, those were the high level meetings where agendas and notes were verbal only.

It was during one of his first visits to one of the oldest family businesses in frozen Russia, that Ivan’s incredible talent was discovered, and he returned home again… Resurrected, to a new life yet unknowingly, as he rose up those icy grey granite stairs to fame. He returned home, or so his uncle had hoped. For three years, the elaborately decorated casino where he laundered money, became his home and the training ground, and his career as sophisticated money launder on behalf of an African government’s corrupt leaders who still owed favors to Russia for setting up training camps and yesteryear’s arms supplies; became a distant memory. Ivan always wondered how strange it was that for decades, both churches and rock bands, who generously donated to “the cause” and who were indirectly responsible for the training and subsequent bombings by freedom fighters…, but that only Russia kept record and was paid back with interest and business favors, for the hand they lend up to the early 1990’s.

The overly tattooed business entrepreneur, and owner of the casino was so impressed with Ivan’s voice and his love for folksongs like the “Kalinka”, in addition to his comprehensive ballistic knowledge of the consignment Makarov and Tokarev pistols headed for the training camps in Zaire and Zimbabwe, that he invited him for dinner. The lavish dinner and the wine flown in from France, initially pivoted around the normal topics that tickle people. Sport, music and Russian politics. Igor and his business partners, all casino owners, suggested a good cigar, and a friendly game of Blackjack to round the evening off. After Ivan received a brief crash course from Igor on all things Blackjack; as up to then his card plying skills were limited to Rummy and Snap, deep inside his OCD, number loving mind, something just clicked into place. It was as if the cards were “talking” to Ivan; as proud Igor who loved the credit for “teaching” him, said. Igor was in awe. In the following weeks Igor spent far too little time at his office, as his fascination for Ivan’s ability grew. They would like well-oiled machines, play game after game, in endless cycles, while an amazed Igor tested the limits of Ivan’s ability to recall faultlessly; up to three decks and later four and within a while, five… the number, suite and sequence of cards already dealt and played… Right there, ex KGB Igor, and his extensive global casino partners decided that Ivan, would be their man.

He deliberately swopped his legs and let his good knee also rest on the couch cushion, allowing both his feet to share the heat from the fireplace on the other side. His homestead type hotel room in Switzerland was lazily lit only by the fire he started earlier. But the fire was for the third time now competing to illuminate the room with an insistent mobile phone’s beaming light. Again he ignored it and made no effort to even look in its direction where it was vibrating, craving Ivan’s attention; on the low wooden coffee table to his left.

There was little that well-read Ivan hadn’t read about his industry. He stared at the fire and leaned over and back to his right and flicked the switched of the copper lamp on the antique table. Looking down at his lap, he opened the book he reluctantly purchased at the airport; that he had closed when dusk set in earlier, and paged it. He was looking for change for a locker, and had to purchase an item in order for the rude cashier to open the till. As books were the only items he ever collected, or rather hoarded, he thought another addition on the casino world wouldn’t hurt.

He meticulously paged, finding key words on each page that he read earlier, which would allow him to accurately replay the scenes on each page he read so far. He continued his quirk till arriving where he left a Jack of Spades as bookmark and read further…

“… the psychological effect of the seeming absence of references to time is exploited for profit. Psychologists play as important a role in the design of casinos as architects do. The strategic placement of cash withdrawal banking machines for newcomers, the lack of clocks to refer to the time spent or what time of the day it is, the room temperature…” Ivan was bored reading about things he knew already and had been part of for many years and skipped a few pages by fanning the book like he was getting ready to shuffle a deck of cards, to where he saw a blank page hoping for a new chapter; and pursued his need to pass time. “…Card counting is a casino card game strategy used primarily in the blackjack family of casino games to determine whether the next hand is likely to give a probable advantage to the player or to the dealer. Contrary to the popular myth, card counters do not need unusual mental abilities to count cards, because they are not tracking and memorizing specific cards. Instead, card counters assign a point score to each card they see that estimates the value of that card, and then they track the sum of these values – a process called keeping a “running count…” “Oh… so I’ve been doing it wrong then, have I…?” He said under his breath, smiling at the sum total of the markedly one sided research done by the author.

An abrupt but faint double knock on the hotel room door was followed by a man’s apologetic, heavy accented voice in the passage outside… “Sorry to disturb sir… sorry to disturb…” and the double knock repeated. Ivan placed his favorite bookmark at the top of the page and closed the book. Not a new discovery for him, he noticed that his bad knee was stiff and wouldn’t bend as immediate as he wished, so getting up and a brisk walk over to the door wasn’t an option. “Yes, I’m coming…” he politely warned that he’s on his way.

The patient adeptly dressed messenger’s upright pose reminded Ivan of a new army recruit standing at attention, awaiting an order, and he greeted him with a warm smile. Only, the messenger had his left hand behind him, and with his right hand, balanced a highly polished silver tray, presenting a thick white and sealed downward facing envelope. A downward facing envelope was Ivan’s sign that his duty was done to satisfaction and that he could leave. Not saying a word, the messenger was seemingly inspecting Ivan, or rather rudely… staring. And for good reason… something Ivan grew used to already in his late teens. While the messenger stood at an easy six foot four, he was facing Ivan’s lower chest when Ivan opened the door a few uncomfortable seconds before. For the first time in his career, Derrick the messenger was literally looking up to someone. Dressed in a tailored wide shouldered black suit, and fitting black velvet bow-tie, an almost eight foot tanned client was towering over him. Ivan bent down slightly to look out into the passage from the room. “Wie gehts…?” Ivan politely greeted the now little more nervous messenger who took a step back. “G… Good day sir…” the messenger insisted startled in his heavy accented English. “Pardon me sir, but how do you know I’m German… not Swiss…” the messenger enquired curiously but carefully. “Lucky guess I suppose… suppose like you confusing me for an American…” and he smiled and swopped the envelope for two notes folded precisely double, one inside the other. Ivan thanked him, winked, and pulled the door closed. The embarrassed hotel staff member turned bright red, while reluctantly lifted his tip from the tray. He discovered that the biggest denomination, folded double, was flush inside a smaller note. Feeling his jacket pocket, he retrieved the larger than life client’s earlier tip in the reception area for booking him into number 21 rather than number 22. Again the client had done the same, setting a hotel record for tipping for what was really just doing his work. Derrick recalled, that at the time he was in between shift changes and writing, and at no stage had he even so much as bothered looking up at the giant, neither did he show any appreciation for the more than generous tip. As the client walked away from the reception desk, he whispered to his colleagues in his mother tongue that Americans were a stingy bunch…

Ivan removed his shoes again and placed them neatly near the fireplace as he sat the envelope down on the coffee table next to the phone, which had just indicated a fourth missed call. Finishing the chapter he was reading earlier, taking his time, he inserted his favorite bookmark and placed the book on top of his mobile phone. He wondered how the client in Sandton, Johannesburg was reacting to Ivan’s reluctance to answer his pressing calls. The Johannesburg client and his Swiss partner, severely underpaid Ivan a month before when the caller’s casino had a team of recurring card counters, and having lost millions in recent days at the hand of a suspected different group at this client’s other casinos; Ivan learned of the man’s intention to meet with him personally… an attempt to repair the now broken trust.

Ivan felt the considerable weight of the envelope and shook it nonchalantly from side to side. After slicing the narrower side of the envelope with his pocket knife, he turned it at an angle for the contents to pour out into the large crystal ashtray on the coffee table. Quite fitting he thought, as the Maserati key and chain, and a black leather strap with “21” embossed in gold on it, landed perfectly on a silver metal box with glass lid. Inside, packed to the top of it, a collection of black and red casino gambling discs with a personal handwritten note from the owner, “With compliments”.

Ivan pulled the phone out from under his reward for out maneuvering an overwhelmingly confident four man Turkish team of card counters who had been scavenging Switzerland and Italy. Having lost their entire fortune back to The House; which they would never have parted with voluntarily, as well as a stiff measure of money gained elsewhere, in a single sitting of “old school” Blackjack, they bid a sad good bye to the establishment. The severe limps they contracted as part of the casino’s entertainment department’s goodwill, went unnoticed by excited crowds whom they passed on the way out to the waiting limousine headed straight for the airport – with compliments from the relieved hotel owner.

In reception a red faced Derrick apologised to a hotel visitor; who was signing himself out, for the owner not being able to meet with him. “Uncharacteristically, Norbert’s phone is going straight to voicemail… not sure what time he’ll be in this morning…”

A week later a vehicle’s boot closed quietly in a much warmer Sandton… and The House won, once more…

The End

ENTER THE WORLD OF ARNO LE ROUX

South African born Arno Le Roux is affiliated with a number of Charities and he has a long history with and still has some affiliations with both Finance, Banking & Insurance Industry as well as his past in the Safety and Security Sector, Crime Prevention, Pathology, Serious Economic Offences investigations, intelligence gathering, Riot and Crowd Control, commercial and military firearm & ammunition identification, etc. Holding various impressive honors and awards within these sectors, he also is a Certified Realtor dealing in both commercial and residential properties. His passion for the mechanics of corporates and commerce, religious history, and psychology are interwoven in his fiction.

CURRENT PUBLICATIONS

The Reaper’s Design – Trilogy Book 1

Things That Don’t Rhyme

How To Pause A Monster Called Time

The Librarian

How To Muzzle A Monster Called Time

Only Good Men Deserve Yesterday

Bringing The House Down

Yesterday… Today… Tomorrow…

Mutate

Midnight Crew

The Counter

Poetry & Perception Vol 1

Poetry & Perception Vol 2

Poetry & Perception Vol 3

Poetry & Perception Vol 4

FUTURE PUBLICATIONS

The Reaper’s Design Book II

Fictional – Pharmaceutical Industry vs the global population.

Hands Up!

Fictional between Insurance and Debt- How it Controls Humanity.

Polished Boots

The necessity of war to fund military research in Space to find a next earth.

Voters Remorse

The underbelly of politics and replacing leaders with corrupt tenancies.

Taking Stock

The need for corrupt politicians to ensure a foothold in mineral rich countries.

One Tablet Before Meals

Running and managing drug and slavery cartels for funding black ops groups.


The Counter

Synopsis Call it resourceful well timed strategy or call it dumb luck, but let's agree at least that it's all mixed with relaxed recreation, boisterous entertainment and a generous helping of bright lights in tune with an eternal supply of exhilaration. It's the lively world; both supplying and deriving oxygen from and to the casino gambling machines, that we know and on occasion visit. But... running second for second, parallel with this, is another stranger world, breathing at a faster and more purposeful pace. And the ones, who know, who has pain as a constant companion, may quietly share with you...

  • ISBN: 9781370025602
  • Author: Arno Le Roux
  • Published: 2017-01-18 17:35:22
  • Words: 3043
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