Closed Monte: The Girl at the Bar
“Mark is in town on business, and is sitting in a quiet, expensive bar near his hotel. It is late, but he is intrigued by a beautiful, sexy lady who is sitting alone at the bar. Mark watches until he’s sure she isn’t waiting for someone. He approaches her, and the two begin to talk.
“The girl, Dianne, is both flirtatious and in high spirits. She is dressed well and acts like she has money.
“Mark buys her a drink. Dianne warms up to Mark, and he begins to think this night might be more interesting than anticipated.
“A second man, Jack, comes over to the bar to order a drink. Dianne engages him in conversation, and pretty soon Jack begins to compete with Mark for the lady’s attention. It turns out that Jack is an amateur magician, and he does a few simple card tricks, but they are not very impressive.
“Dianne is wild about them. “You’re really great! Do you do that thing with the three cards? Like they do on 42nd Street?”
“Jack launches into a lecture on the trickery involved in that swindle, and explains that no one can keep up with the cards when they are thrown by an expert card sharp such as himself.
“Dianne insists on a demonstration, and gets ticked off when she is wrong several times in a row. She is obviously very competitive, and doesn’t like to lose.
“Jack tries to quit as he begins to sense that the game frustrates her. She refuses to let him quit. “Look, I’ll bet you twenty. Don’t be such a chicken. It’s only money for Chris’ sake. Come on. Twenty on the ace this time.”
“She shames Jack into playing for money.
“Each time she plays, she misses.
“Dianne turns to Mark all in a twist, “Can you follow this? I can’t figure it out…”
“Mark says he can keep up with it pretty well. He was right every time so far, after all.
“Dianne bets another twenty, and when Mark suggest a card, she turns it and wins. She puts her palm on Mark’s chest, “You’re great!”
“Jack says, “Well look, I’m not going to play against the two of you.”
“As Jack orders a drink and is talking to the bartender, Dianne winks at Mark to get his attention, and then touches her lips with a finger. She then marks the back of the ace on it’s corner with a smudge of lipstick and gives Mark’s hand an excited squeeze.
“When Jack turns back, Dianne is insistent that he give her a chance to get the rest of her money back. Jack is now obviously unhappy with the way things are going.
“He refuses and starts to leave.
“Dianne holds him by the arm. “Oh, come on. I’ll bet you $500 that I can get it this time. I’ll put up $250 and my boyfriend here will put up $250.”
“Mark starts to protest. Dianne squeezes his knee and whispers into his ear, “Let’s you and me spend his money tonight! Come on, baby, help me show this sleaze up!”
“Mark still hesitates. Dianne whispers again, “Oh, you’ve got the money—I saw it when you bought the drinks. Don’t be an idiot. Nobody passes up a sure thing!”
“Mark gives in.
“Jack is now copping a real attitude. He puts down his stakes, and Mark and Diannematch. Jack throws the cards and turns to Dianne, “But you have to pick the card, not him. And no help.”
“Dianne stands right up to Jack. “The bets already up. We didn’t agree to that. We both put up money, its up to us to decide who chooses. Go ahead, Mark. You pick one.”
“Mark reaches for the card with the lipstick on the back. The card that he knew was the ace…
“It’s a loser.
“Jack looks up at Dianne and Mark. “You two tried to cheat me, didn’t you?”
“He picks up the money and turns away, as he walks off he says, “Shouldn’t try to kid a kidder…”
“Dianne turns to Mark. “I can’t believe it! I think I’m going to be sick. How could that have happened? Look, buy me another drink, I go to go to the ladies room.”
“Mark sits at the bar nursing two drinks for what seems like a very long time…”
— From School for Scoundrels Notes on Three-Card Monte by Whit Haydn
Photo is from a painting by Sophie Evans’ father, John Dupret.