PREVIOUSLY ON POP CULTURE MYSTERIES..
AND NOW THE POP CULTURE MYSTERIES CONTINUE…
Sergei Yakubovich chomped on a cigar and studied his hand like a sinner looking for a loophole in the bible.
“You are bluffing, Mr. Hatcher.”
“There are two things I never do, Sergei,” I said. “Bluffing’s the first.”
“And the second?”
I took a hearty swig of of scotch.
“Drink with a commie.”
I motioned for the waitress to fetch me another.
“But in your case, I’ll make an exception.”
Sergei had a permanent dour glare on his face, as if someone was perpetually pooping on his party.
He looked down his nose at me over a pair of circular spectacles.
“You are full of the shit of a bull, American swine.”
Yakubovich held himself out to the world as a legitimate businessman, though it had long been rumored that he had secretly made his scratch by using his politburo contacts to obtain and sell Russian arms on the black market.
One of the many reasons why I despised the pinkos. The guys who always got on their soapbox about how the villagers should share toilet paper rations were always the first ones to get all capitalist when it came to their own personal wealth.
“Only one way to find out.”
The waitress, a darling auburn haired lovely in a skimpy black dress, set another scotch down in front of me.
I flipped her a chip.
“Keep ’em coming, doll.”
“Oui oui, monsieur.”
Muffy rested her chin on my left shoulder. One whiff of her perfume was all I needed to feel like a man.
“I thought I was your doll?”
“You know you are, my sweet souffle.”
Sergei pushed a large mound of chips into the already heaving pot in the center of the table.
“Prepare to be crushed, comrade.”
Count Rickard tossed his hand down on the table and backed away.
“Mr. Hatcher,” my former client said as he stood up and fastened the top button of his coat. “If there’s one lesson I learned when you bailed me out, it’s how to not be drawn in by greed a second time.”
Signora Isabella Bellavenuti was quite a sight. She was an Italian fashion designer of world renown, though what passed for trendy finery back then always amazed me.
Coincidentally, it still does today.
She wore a white mink stole, likely produced from the pelts of a hundred deceased varmints and an elaborate hat, festooned with feathers and miscellaneous plumage, curving at various, oddly chosen angles.
PETA would be up her ass with an electron microscope if she were around today.
“This is, how you say, ‘Too rich for my blood?'”
She too backed off and sucked on her filtered cigarette as if it were her last.
Yakubovich and I engaged in a stare off. Neither one of us was going to budge
“Your will is like that of your countrymen, Hatcher,” my Soviet adversary said. “Bloated, lazy, and soft.”
I belted down my newly arrived scotch.
Then, I pushed the remainder of my chips in.
“Au contraire, Yakubovo-whatever,” I said. “Your resolve is like the Communist Party’s motto: sacrifice is great, especially when the other guy’s doing it.”
The tension between us grew thick and palpable. You could cut it with a knife, eat it up and still have enough left over for seconds.
Signora Bellavenuti lightened the mood.
“Marone! Had I wanted to witness a pee pee measuring contest, I’d of watched my last two lovers duel over my hand! Show your cards already!”
Yakubovich splayed his cards out on the table. Eight, seven, six, five, four. All hearts. A straight flush.
The looky lous who’d gathered round the table emitted a collective gasp.
“Sacre bleau!” Muffy cried.
Old Sergei had played better than I gave him credit for.
“What in the name of Barbara Stanwyck’s underpants?!”
The Russki snickered and started raking the pot towards his side of the table with his hands.
“I guess I underestimated you, Yak-a-boo-boo.”
“Is Yakubovich,” my nemesis said. “And yes, you failed to recognize Russia’s might, just as your leaders will when we fly the hammer and sickle over the White House.”
“Over my dead body,” I said.
“That is idea.”
I stood up. I looked around the room. All eyes were on me.
The French waitress brought me another shot. I drank it, then slapped the empty glass down on the table.
“That’s good,” I said. “That’s really good.”
“Do not embarrass yourself, Hatcher. Take your lumps like a man.”
“Say Yaka-bo-bo, what did the Queen do after she dropped a big steamer?”
I tossed down my hand.
Ace. King. Queen. Jack. Ten Spot. All clubs.
You could have knocked that Bolshevik over with a feather.
“A Royal Flush?”
Cheers. Applause. Accolades. And most of all, money. Sweet, glorious cheddar.
It was mine. All mine.
Twenty-five thousand smackers.
I know, 3.5. That sounds good, but not life changing, right?
Wrong. Adjusted for inflation, I was staring at the modern day equivalent of a quarter million.
Muffy hugged me like she wanted to push herself through me. She planted her lips on mine and we sucked face like a pair of flounders who’d just crashed into one another on the ocean floor.
And not for nothing, but as soon as that bread was the property of yours truly, a lot of chickadees in that joint started giving me that look. You know the one. Like we were on the plains of the Serengetti, they were jaguars, and I was a nice, ripe, juicy caribou butt that they wanted to sink their teeth into.
But as far as I was concerned, Muffy was the only kitten I was interested in.
Outraged, Yakubovich slammed his fist on the table and stormed off.
Count Rickard shook my hand and it was congratulations all around.
An attendant gathered up my chips.
“I’ll cash you out sir.”
I accepted adulation for awhile until Fabian’s wife, Arianna, the Countess Rickard, found us. She was an average looking broad. Wouldn’t knock your socks off but you wouldn’t turn her down in a pinch either. She had a slight hair lip, though it was nothing that a little hot wax couldn’t have cured.
“Muffelia! I’ve been looking all over for you!”
The Countess had taken a real shine to my better half, treating her like the daughter she never had.
“Come dear,” the Countess said. “I simply must introduce you to the Duchess of Shropshire. I think you will both get along famously.”
“Merci. Excuse moi, Jacob.”
The missus wasn’t gone for more than a few seconds when I felt a strong hand slap me on the shoulder.
I turned around.