Bill Hammons: Writing and Running in Boulder, Colo.

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3

Henry slammed the phone back in its cradle, then just stood and stared. The cell phone of the adjacent waiting area’s lone occupant rang, and Henry looked aside to watch him fold his newspaper while keeping it held in front of his face. There was a gruff “yeah” followed by an “I know,” and then Henry was shouldering his rucksack once more and heading for the baggage-claim area.

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“Seventeen, sir.”

“Hit me.”

“I suggest you hold, sir.”

“I’m playing for airfare. Hit me.”

The dealer sucked in his breath and turned over a queen of spades. Then, with a very subtle shake of his head, he pulled the cards and the chips away from the player who had already pushed himself off his stool.

Henry shuffled down a casino corridor, his rucksack hanging off one shoulder and his one suitcase rolling along behind. He had walked less than twenty yards when a heavy-set man in a gray suit and red tie approached him from the side. “Say, I’m sorry to see you lose like that.”

Henry looked at the stranger with a dazed look. “What?”

The stranger jabbed his thumb in the direction of the now-empty table. “Blackjack. I overheard you were playing for airfare.”

“Yeah.” Henry lost his daze. “What’s that got to do with you?”

The suit took a step back. “Not trying to be nosy. I just thought you’d like some help.”

Henry looked straight forward and started moving again. “Whatever it is you’ve got in mind, I’m sure I’m not interested.”

“Contempt prior to investigation.” The suit fell into step beside the graduate. “But you might be interested. Larry Cohn.”

Henry didn’t shake the outstretched hand. “Bacon. Henry Bacon.”

“It’s nothing nefarious. Just an Internet start-up.”

Henry didn’t slow as they neared the casino’s bay of revolving front doors. “So you’re recruiting for a dot-com at one on a Tuesday morning, in a Las Vegas casino.”

Cohn stepped in front of the door Henry was about to step through. “Let me buy you dinner, kid: I know you haven’t eaten in a while. Then you can tell me to get lost.”

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“Filet mignon. Rare.”

Cohn waited to light his cigarette until the waitress had taken Henry’s order and departed from the table. “So, what’s your SAT?”

s.t.u.d. by W.R. Hammons:

1/ 2/ 3/ 4/ 5/ 6/ 7/ 8/ 9/ 10/ 11/ 12/ 13/ 14/ 15/ 16/ 17/ 18/ 19

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