A.H. Scott's Contemporary Romance, "Over My Head"
Over My Head
Lawrence Chase felt himself lucky. A good job and great wife were all signs of fortune. Married to his employer's daughter, his future seemed brighter than a thousand stars. Angela Carter's passion and spirit filled him with overwhelming joy. Larry found a gem in Angie.
With light temperament and coy smile, Angela had a varied effect on every man she came in contact with. Angela's own sense of fortune, was reflected in being adored by all the men in her life. From her husband to her father, she had the persuasive gift in wrapping each of them around her manicured finger.
Yet, even with the ease of the feminine power that Angela Chase had, her husband Larry waltzed with a mistress that no spouse would ever compete with.
Lawrence's luck began to slip with every losing hand from a blackjack table at the Rabbit's Foot in 1979.
Beneath the shimmering surface of the Chases' relationship, there existed jagged shards that pricked away at the portrait of marital tranquility.
Doubts and misgivings that had been locked away in internal silence within husband and wife, suddenly began to sound once again with the jangling keys of secrets and lies.
For Lawrence, he thought staying on top of his losses at the Rabbit's Foot and a few other locations around the state, would be a secret that would be easy to keep from his wife. But, he knew in the back of his mind, that Angela would be the precious petal being betrayed by a spouse whose ego had gotten the best of him when the truth came out.
As for Angela, there were the lies that she told herself about Larry not gambling anymore. But, beyond the financial storm that had begun to swirl around her world, there remained something far more destructive than a husband's rising debt.
It was something that neither of them wanted to face head on or speak of. But, a lie of the heart would never stay buried forever.
Alas, life wasn't as placid as this couple would have wished it to be.
During a period within the first two months of their marriage in 1975, Larry's gambling debts became an accepted burden which Angie paid off. Like any other loving spouse, she wanted to help her husband with any complications that arose.
Pulling Lawrence's neck out of that financial noose, Angela sold several savings bonds.
Pity this husband didn't learn his lesson back then in those blossoming days of marital bliss.
One thing that Larry didn't want to do at this present time in 1979, was to go to his wife for those funds as in prior days of their marriage in 1975 for the sum of thirty-five thousand dollars.
At an unlicensed gambling establishment off Highway 44 and 49 in Fairwater, Wisconsin, Larry's debts began to rise with several digits. He knew this reality couldn't be placed on his beloved Angie's subtle shoulders.
The Rabbit's Foot seemed an unlikely place for him to stand on that tightrope of self-destruction. Yet, there Lawrence Chase was on a June night in 1979.
Rommoulus Thorne, manager and owner of The Rabbit's Foot had physical similarities to film noir actor Sydney Greenstreet. His large frame and commanding presence intimidated many unfortunate patrons in this Fairwater gambling establishment.
One person who was on that descending scale of favor was seated at the blackjack table.
June 19th seemed like any other night at the Rabbit's Foot for this regular patron. Man who sat at the table was a slightly anxious businessman from Eau Claire, dressed in tan suit with a white shirt and black tie. Hand after hand of cards coming up short to the number twenty-one, was making him begin to squirm in of the red chairs seated around the black gaming table.
Thorne and two of his employees stood near a column nearby the blackjack table, watching the spectacle of lost bets by this single man seated there.
Born Rafik-el Rommoulus Talami, this Turkish native had been in the United States since the late 1950's. After changing his name to the more innocuous Thorne, from a trip to the Thorne Market in Fond du Lac, Rommoulus began a new life of prosperity.
Having had prior visa problems that led to a sizable fine by the IRS, Rommoulus was blocked from a full licensing of the Rabbit's Foot in 1966. Without the liquor license needed for full expansion of his business, The Rabbit's Foot would always remain on the shady side of the gambling world.
The last thing that Rommoulus Thorne needed was a blackjack table that had little to no action occurring around it. Thorne made a decision to talk to the seated patron.
Six words that no gambler ever wanted to hear came from Rommoulus Thorne, "The table is closed to you".
"Listen, just one more bet" ,pant of urgency rolled from Larry's lips, as two cards rested upon that dark green velour table top, "I've got a good feeling about this next one".
Thorne placed his hand onto the blackjack table, as fingers tapped the two cards that were just dealt to this man by the dealer, "Larry" ,Rommoulus nodded to the dealer and the neatly dressed croupier walked away from that table slowly.
Lawrence Chase had taken many an evening sojourn East on I-94 from Eau Claire to Fairwater and saw no reason to exit early.
Childish petulance came over Larry, has he wished to stay at that blackjack table, "No" ,raising voice to a level pitch where several other patrons gazed at him, Chase lowered his voice and smiled, "I want to continue".
With a diplomatic flair, Rommoulus Thorne bent over slightly and whispered downward to Chase's left ear, "Don't make a scene, Chase" ,not wanting their business to be known by anyone else on the gaming floor of the Rabbit's Foot, "I want you to stand up and come with me".
Dejected at not having a winning hand at the moment, Lawrence Chase stood and began to walk with Thorne and two other men behind him, "I just don't know what went wrong" ,shaking his head in disbelief at the possibility of a losing streak washing over him, he added "I was up 50".
The quartet walked across the gaming floor and towards the back of the building, where some offices were located. Pair of other males stopped a few feet from the last office in the rear and waited for further instructions from Thorne.
Ambling through his office door, Rommoulus waved him inside and closed the door behind them, "And, now you're down 250" ,Thorne pointed to a straight-back, black leather chair, "Sit down, Larry, we need to talk".
Slightly agitated by the owner's request, Larry sat down and sputtered, "I've got to get back out there" ,almost feeling that itch of the gambling bug nibbling at his essence, Chase gently squirmed in that leather chair.
Fairwater business owner laid this client's digits bare to him, "Lawrence, you owe the house 250" ,Thorne took the patron's history into account, "Now, I let your credit get that high, because in the past whenever you owed a large chunk it was paid back quite quickly". Alas, for Rommoulus Thorne, past performances were negligible.
Scratching head at the thought of that debt dangling above his head, Larry exhaled with a hint of desperation, "Well, that sum might not be so easy to come up with".
"This is why you are in here" ,Rommoulus inhaled deeply and dropped a verbal bomb on Chase, "The door will not let you in anymore".
"But, I-" ,Chase paused and thought of all the times he'd been in the Rabbit's Foot over many months, "I've been a good customer to you".
Thorne chuckled at the optimistic fortitude that Chase tossed his way, "Good? Well, that's debatable" ,getting right to the core of why Larry was in that office, "Your losses outweigh your winnings".
"You know me, I'm good for it" ,Chase made no bones in the past to Thorne about who his employer was in Eau Claire. And, at this point in the waning night, he was going to use any ace of remaining at the Rabbit's Foot that was available to him.
Maybe, Carter Manufacturing Corporation held weight in Eau Claire's financial spreadsheets. Yet, in the back room of an unlicensed gambling operation in Fairwater, the only weight that mattered was Rommoulus'.
"The house can no longer cover your credit" ,Thorne rested large frame against sturdy structure and folded arms, "You are no longer welcome here".
The Rabbit's Foot's owner laid out the reality of what was happening that June night to this faltering card player, without frills or puffery.
Lawrence Chase was fitting the mold of the gambler that could see a winning hand just over the horizon. Yet, was unwilling to just give up his place at the gaming table, "I'm just having a bad streak, that's all. It will pick up soon".
"I'm sorry, Larry" ,slowly he walked behind his black Lucite desk, pulled a single paper from its drawer and placed it next to a gold ballpoint pen, "I need you to sign this note for the 250".
Lawrence Chase signed the paper quickly, thinking that he'd be able to get in a few more hands of blackjack before leaving for that night, "Now, what?"
Adorned n a light colored suit, Thorne spoke, "Don't be the rabbit, Larry", smirking at the thought of how unlucky that foot was for the hare, another bewildered beast came to this elder male's mind, "Or, in this case, the ostrich".
Larry's luck became a figment of his own ego. Being a gimpy bunny was one thing of misfortune. He could outride the losses in future months. Alas, turning into that flightless bird that didn't realize the depths of financial loss Chase actually was in, transformed into a shame that not even his wife would be told of.
Blindsided by these events in the Rabbit's Foot, he was a bit baffled with that comparison, "I don't understand".
As a man who'd known the bitter brew of revenge from his youth in Turkey, Rommoulus ruminated to Larry, "In my country, when a man doesn't pay his debts, the dawn never rises for him ever again" ,for the present moment, a tempered reaction was needed, "But, then again, Mr. Chase, this isn't my country. It's yours".
Wanting to wash Chase out of his hair, Thorne made a decision of what should be done with this unfortunate gambler. Larry had come to the end of the line.
Rommoulus walked to the door and motioned for two of his employees to enter the office. No violence would ever come from this Turk on the American shores. A dismissal of this losing patron was best for all involved, as he spoke to a pair of men, "Please, show Mr. Chase outside".
Motioning out of the chair, Larry muttered, "Are you throwing me out?" ,almost unable to believe that his time could ever be up at the Rabbit's Foot, Chase shrugged and gazed at Thorne and this pair.
One man in his mid-30's had a slim build with a dark suit on. As for the other person, he was a tall Nordic blond in his early-40's. Larry had seen them around the Rabbit's Foot many times and knew what their duties were. Sad for him, they would be acting upon throwing out the unpaying trash of this evening.
"No, no, no" ,Rommoulus Thorne became amused at this circumstance of Chase, "Think of this as a final escort" ,right hand waved Larry away, "Hope your luck changes soon, Larry" ,letting out a sigh of relief, "Good night".
To some, the stuff that dreams were made of were seen as an elusive black bird, while others viewed it as a shaky hand holding a wad of crumpled dollar bills. The latter remained foremost in Thorne's mind.
Life wasn't a motion picture in the mold of John Huston's 1941 classic. But, the similarities between fiction and reality had those moments of clarity. And, this for Rommoulus Thorne and a departing Lawrence Chase transformed into one of them.
Not giving up on his chase for recapturing any prior luck at the table, Chase walked through the gaming floor towards the front entrance with the pair of men, "Fellas, just one more round?"
Slim man in dark brown suit placed a hand on Larry's back, while giving him a slight push outside the doors, "Sorry, Larry".
"Take care of yourself, Chase" ,Tall man with slicked back blond hair stood by that open door and shook Lawrence's hand for the final time, "Good night".
Walking out into the moonlight alone, he walked to his car quickly. Chase became a scattered soul, while entering the Volvo and opening the glove compartment.
Grasping a handful of objects and tossing them onto the passenger seat, Larry began flipping through several bank books in a frantic search for funds. Taking a notepad and pen from the open glove compartment, he began scribbling down several numbers onto paper. From seven different bank accounts, the total cash that was available to him at that late moment of June 19th was only forty-five thousand dollars to pay the house back with.
Ironically, it was conversation during a fishing trip with friends on Beechwood Lake that originally led him to Marigold Isle Casino for a few spins of a roulette wheel. Locals at that casino in Beechwood, were actually the ones who pointed him from Sheboygan and into the direction of Fairwater's gambling Mecca of the Rabbit's Foot.
For Lawrence Chase, that lucky symbol of a rabbit's foot seemed as unlucky for the hare as it was to his own fractured financial horizon.
Three weeks after that dismissal in Fairwater, several markers of various denominations were brought up by an Eau Claire resident. It would be that being, who would hold several former Wisconsin clients' monetary future from the Rabbit's Foot. One of which, was Lawrence Chase.
As three men sat inside an Eau Claire location on July 17th, a small pile of yellow papers were stacked in the middle of a tan colored table.
Male of caramel hue spoke to another next to him, "It's 250, right?", scribbling black ink onto white paper.
Second man nodded, "Yep".
With pen in hand, he held paper upward for the second male to respond, "Are you sure you want to keep this marker?"
"As I live and breathe", looking at that item in his friend's hand, he laughed.
Dark eyes and baldhead, gave the third man a striking appearance, "Well, the air is expensive in Eau Claire".
Man seated in the middle acknowledged that fact, "As are the ladies, Iris".
The location was the Eight Ball. Gennaro Esposito held the pen and papers, while follicle challenged; Iris Mendoza sat to the far left of the second male. And, the owner of this business, Nicholas Bell, remained the contemplative core of this trio.
For an astute acquirer of information and debts, Nicholas Bell polished those coins of cache.
He knew that someday his investment in time and treasury would bear flourishing fruit. Maybe for Bell, someday might be just across the horizon of destiny.
Unlucky person that owed that sum was Lawrence Chase.
Eau Claire lawyer, Edward Longfellow had several clients that were connected to Marigold Isle Casino in Beechwood. During a conversation with one of them, the name Chase came up. As if it were a bell ringing in his ears, Longfellow was set off on a mission to find out more. From Beechwood, a little legwork led him to the Rabbit's Foot in Fairwater.
Lawyer Longfellow wasn't just an unknown entity to Lawrence Chase. He had a connection to Larry, because of his business and personal ties to Angela's father, Arthur Carter.
Eddie finding out about the monetary mess that Larry had gotten himself into, led him to think about Angie being hurt by her husband's actions.
An unpleasant task of giving Angela Chasse the grim news about her husband, was complicated by Edward knowing who owned that hefty marker.
There were two paths of existence in Eau Claire .One, which Arthur and Angela Carter Chase glided along a silken road. Two, was Nicholas Bell and his compatriots maneuvering a more gritty path. For Edward, it was this factor that made something simple suddenly complex.
Far more than just corporation counsel for Carter Manufacturing Corporation, Edward Longfellow had dual alliances with both Carters. Both professionally and socially. Second of which, were events that occurred a year after his longtime friend's daughter had gotten into some knotty legal problems.
Coincidently, the aforementioned community service that the college graduate was sentenced to didn't turn out as she expected.
Angela had a secret of her own.......
End of Chapter One
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