I played the odds.
Pamela Chance held her throbbing head in her hands as though it might fall to pieces. The young brunette had been waiting at her father’s bedside for hours at St. Mary’s critical care unit, listening to the droning beep of his heart monitor. She couldn’t help trying to calculate what the chances were if the next beat would be the last. If it were, could she change it?
I changed the odds.
Pamela lifted her bloodshot eyes, finally dry of tears, and looked at her father, who lay motionless on his bed save for an uneven pattern of breathing. Splotches of blood seeped through the bandages on his chest, as it heaved awkwardly up and down—every breath a struggle.
I made the odds, for God’s sake, and it still didn’t work.
It never works!
The police said that the gunman’s pistol misfired. The resulting explosion blew the assailant’s hand clear off, and the shrapnel ripped open his stomach, causing him to bleed out in a terribly painful way. The apartment neighbors called 911, and by the time the police and paramedics arrived, the would-be murderer, a presumed enforcer for the mob, had already expired. His intended victim, one Walter Everett Chance, was found tied and gagged naked to a chair—his face beaten to a pulp, his left knee shattered by a sledgehammer. Worst of all was the shrapnel from the gun explosion that tore into Walter’s chest.
The police believed Walter was kidnapped and beaten in an attempt to blackmail a loved one into paying off his gambling debts. The total amount of money owed would never be known, however, as the bets he made were not through Nevada-regulated games. The cell phone the enforcer had used was indeed Walter’s, but it had been damaged beyond repair in the blast.
Pam lied when the police asked her if Walter had tried calling her. How was she to explain the text log with her father?
Shoot him. Fire the gun.
They would never understand she was trying to save his life.
Yes, your plan worked perfectly, Pamela. Your father would’ve been better off had you just aimed the gun at his chest and pulled the trigger yourself!
Pam’s thoughts were interrupted as the room’s door opened, and a handsome clean cut face poked its head in. The man’s hazel eyes found Pam’s. “Pamela Chance?” he asked with a British accent. “Are you Ms. Pamela Chance?”
Pamela wiped her eyes and stood up. “Yes,” she answered. “I’m sorry, are you a doctor? I only just got here twenty minutes ago. The nurse sent me right in.”
The man, dressed in an expensive, tailored Italian suit and tie, entered the room and gently closed the door behind him. He smiled. “I’m not a doctor,” he answered while offering his right hand. “My name is Mr. Trevor.”
Pamela cautiously shook it. “I don’t understand. Are you with the hospital or not?”
Pamela became more anxious. “Why are you here?”
“I’m here to help you. In turn, I hope you’ll help me.”
Does he know? “Now isn’t really a good time, Mr. Trevor.”
Trevor pulled out a manilla folder and quickly scanned the file within. “According to the police report, your father was brutalized because he owed money to the mob.” The man in the tailored suit sensed Pamela’s growing discomfort. “I’m not with the mob, Ms. Chance. You can relax.”
“How did you get that police report?”
“I have access to many resources. In fact, the party I represent is willing to take care of your father’s gambling debts. It’s a matter of a phone call. If that doesn’t happen, we both know the mob will come after him again. They’ll come after you. How can you be so sure you’ll be lucky enough to evade them twice?”
“How do I know you’re not working for them?”
Mr. Trevor glared at the young beauty before him. “Because I told you so, and I am a man of my word.”
“Right,” Pamela folded her arms. “And what, pray tell, would your ‘party’ want in return for showing such kindness?”
“We’ll start with an explanation,” Trevor flipped a page in the report. “Your father’s assailant died from wounds inflicted when his gun misfired and exploded in his hand.”
“How did you know that was going to happen?”
Pamela swallowed. “How on Earth would I know that was going to happen?”
Trevor selected a couple of pages from the manilla folder and dangled them in the air. “It certainly seems like you knew it would happen the way you kept taunting the gunman in these text messages.” Trevor waved the papers.
Pamela snatched the transcript from Trevor’s hands. “How did you get these?” She examined the contents—her stomach turned. “Who gave these to you?”
“I told you. I am resourceful.”
Her eyes flashed at Trevor. “If you know so much, Mr. Trevor, then you know I don’t take kindly to being blackmailed.”
Trevor smiled. “This isn’t blackmail, Ms. Chance. Weren’t you listening? I’m here to help you, in the hope that you’ll help me.”
Pamela stood her ground, unconvinced.
Trevor pressed forward. “I’m not adverse to the unusual. There are things in this world that are not easily explained by conventional science or theory. I’ve suspected for some time that you fall into that category. My employer believes you have a very special talent, a talent we seek to employ to help us find someone very important.”
Pamela put on her best poker face. “If by ‘talent’ you mean a knack for attracting misery, you are positively clairvoyant.”
“The man who attacked your father was a trained killer,” informed Trevor. “The kind of operator who knew his weapon inside and out, yet somehow it misfired for probably the first time in his awful career. Tell me, what are the odds of that happening?”
Pamela innocently raised her eyebrows. “Probably not very good.”
“Put a number to it.”
“I couldn’t possibly.”
“I once met a mathematics professor who believed that for every event that could ever happen at any given time, there is a numeric value that can be ascribed to it. A percentage, however remote.”
Pamela sighed. “I get the sense you like the sound of your own voice.”
“And let’s say, for the sake of argument, the chances of that gun misfiring were a million to one. A million to one! You’d have a better shot at winning the lottery. And yet it happened, the gun misfired and you knew it would.” Trevor waved the transcript again. “I think you made it happen.”
“I was nowhere near the gun, Mr. Trevor. There is no way I could have physically sabotaged the—”
“That’s not what I’m talking about.” Trevor spoke as if he was used to calling bluffs. “I can’t explain it, but somehow you bent the odds in your favor.”
The statement gave Pamela great pause. “You’re insane.”
“You changed the odds from a million to one, to a one hundred percent certainty.”
Pamela’s heart raced. Since she was a teenager, no one, not even her father, had ever understood her ability to influence the odds simply by thinking about them. Perhaps it was because people found Pam so unlucky to be around—whatever terrible things she worried about seemed to find a way to inexplicably happen. Even when Pam focused on changing the odds for the better, that evil genie of probability found a way to screw her over. Now, this stranger comes out of nowhere and thinks he’s figured it all out? “You pompous ass, it doesn’t work like that!”
Mr. Trevor tried to hide a smile. “How does it work?”
Pam frowned at her own sloppy admission. Was there a part of her that wanted Trevor to understand? She sighed. “There is never one hundred percent certainty of anything. That’s not how the universe works. Any quantum physicist will tell you that. There are only probabilities,” said Pam. “Since I turned sixteen, for some reason, if I concentrate—if I can clear my head—I can bend those probabilities toward a specific outcome.”
Mr. Trevor could no longer contain his smile.
“But it’s a terrible gamble,” Pam warned. “There are always unintended consequences.” She tilted her head toward her father. “You’d be better off not involving me, Mr. Trevor.”
The tailored man was positively beaming now. “Fascinating.” He looked into his manilla folder again. “You believe yourself to be your own worst enemy—that might explain why, despite all this ‘power,’ your finances are upside down or why you haven’t been able to hold a job.”
“Go to hell,” growled Pamela. “You came to me. And you haven’t offered a goddamn thing!”
Trevor closed the manilla folder and handed it to Pamela. Surprised by the offer, she cautiously took it from his hands before rifling through it. Her eyes scanned blurbs, reports, bank statements, and the occasional long-lensed photograph all providing a rich mosaic of her last ten years. It was a surreal experience reading a stranger’s interpretation of her own life.
“The organization I work for has been following you for some time now,” explained Mr. Trevor. “Your father’s winning streak in Vegas attracted more than just the attention of the casinos. After he was exonerated of cheating, we first thought he might have the ‘gift.’ But Walter’s streak ended when you permanently left his side at the tables. Your father went into financial ruin and gambled everything away. You were making money hand over fist. Why did you leave?”
Pam frowned. “I thought I was making things better—but the money was never enough for my father. He kept upping the ante. The mob got involved—another unforeseen consequence. I wanted no part of it. So I left.”
“Why not gamble for your own profit?”
Pam sighed. She hated this next part. “I—can’t seem to change my own odds.”
“Perhaps I can help you overcome that,” said Trevor. “The organization I work for discovers, sponsors, and trains people who have demonstrated rare and unusual ability. We are called the Collective. We are privately funded and operated, though many on our governing board have held senior positions in various governments. We work in secret, so as not to attract those who would exploit our knowledge.”
Pamela grimaced. “What keeps you from exploiting it?”
Trevor let out a short chuckle. “Only an oath to put humanity’s interests above our own. But as with any organization, there are those you trust, and those you keep a closer eye on. Which brings me to why I am here. If you’ll look at the photo on the last page I handed you . . .”
Pamela thumbed through the documents until she found a black and white photo depicting a vantage point from just above a grocery checkout counter. In the captured moment, the clerk could be seen handing change to an older woman buying an inordinate amount of cat food. Behind her, a teenage boy pretended to have a bored expression while sneaking a peek at the shapely woman’s cleavage behind him. Finally, at the end of a line was a tall man in overalls, a plaid shirt, and a cowboy hat. His head was turned to the side as if noticing something. The date on the photo indicated it was taken just months ago on March 7. Pamela pored over the picture again and again. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be seeing,” she admitted.
“This was taken in a Quickie Mart before a massive explosion demolished it and the neighboring twenty blocks, tossing debris so high it damaged an airliner flying overhead.”
Pamela grimaced. “This was taken just before the Bloomington Blast?”
“So? It was a fertilizer explosion.”
“That’s the story the press was told,” Trevor tapped his finger on the man in the cowboy hat. “The only reason this picture exists is because we were tracking this man. Our team hacked the store’s surveillance system to get a remote feed.”
Pamela wasn’t sure which revelation made her more uncomfortable—the fact that the press had perpetuated a false story about the deaths of thousands of Americans, the fact that the seemingly innocent-looking old man in a cowboy hat might have had something to do with it, or the fact that Mr. Trevor’s resources were so vast that he seemed to be able to find out anything he wanted about anyone at any time. As much as Pam’s moral alarm was screaming at her, she felt it wise to play along. “Who is he?”
“A simple farmer,” answered Trevor. “And the most dangerous man this world has ever faced.”
(Copyright 2014. Dave Cravens.)