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I N PARIS THE gambling was hidden but easy enough to find. This one was in the fifteenth arrondissement near the Citroën factory. The thick door had an iron ring for a handle; a thug absurdly disguised as a doorman admitted Kendig and there was a woman at a desk, attractive enough but she had a cool hard air. Kendig went through the tedium of establishing the credentials of his innocence-he was not a flic , he was not Sicilian, he was not Union Corse, he was not this or that. "Just a tourist. I've been here before-with Mme. Labrie. There isn't a message for me by any chance?"
There wasn't. Kendig paid the membership admission and crossed to the elevator. There will be an interesting message for you tonight at the Club Rouge . It had been typed, no signature; delivered to his concierge by an urchin clutching a five-franc note.
He went up in a lift cage piloted by a little fellow whose face was the texture of old rubber dried grey by a desert sun: the look of an Algerian veteran. The old fellow opened the gate on the third étage . " Bonne chance, M'sieur ." Behind the smile was a leering cynicism.
Kendig's fathomless eyes looked past the tables at a desolate emptiness of his own. The crowd was moderate, the decor discreet, the costumery tiresomely fashionable. Soft laughter here, hard silence there: winners and losers. The bright lighting leeched their faces of color. Kendig drifted among the felted tables. A croupier recognized him from somewhere and smiled; he was in the uniform-the tuxedo that only appeared to have pockets; to discourage temptation. Kendig said, "They've moved the poker?"
"You must speak with the maître ." The croupier glanced toward a largish man in black who loomed over the neighboring wheel.
Kendig had a word with the maître and had to show his bankroll to the cashier behind a cage. He bought five thousand francs in rectangular chips and the maître guided him officiously past the tables to an oak door with massive polished brass fittings. Beyond it Kendig found the game, six players around a table that accommodated eight chairs. A houseman stood in the shadows.
There was one woman in the game; he knew who she was but they'd never met. He knew the American, Paul Jaynes; the others were strangers.
Jaynes gave him a debonair greeting and the others glanced at him but Kendig hung back until they had finished the hand. They were playing seven stud-unusual for a room like this. And the house wasn't dealing.
The woman won the hand and gathered the pot; the maître bowed his way out and Kendig pulled out one of the empty chairs and sat down with his chips. His place was between Jaynes and the woman, with the woman on his left; he knew Jaynes's manner of play and it didn't trouble him to be downwind of the American.
"Been a while," Jaynes said with his beefy smile and Kendig nodded acknowledgment. Jaynes had a deep suntan and a huckster's compulsion to touch anyone to whom he spoke. He was a film producer of independently financed sex-and-sandal epics. The others had the same look: businessmen, promoters-two Frenchmen, a German, a Swede. The woman he knew by sight and reputation; he'd seen dossiers on her-she'd spent a few years as patroness of American exiles in Algeria before she'd tired of the game or been frightened out of it by the professionals. She had been married to a banker but there'd been a divorce and she'd reverted to her maiden name.
"Pot limit of course," Jaynes told him, laying out the ground rules. "Check-raise. It's not table stakes-you can go into your pocket if you want to. Or you can tap out. We try to make it easy on ourselves." He smiled; it was a little nervous-it looked as if he might have started with a larger stake than he had now. "Ante twenty-five francs to the player. The house takes one ante for its cut.