Every year the Josep V. McKee Trauma Center recognizes its best, most reliable nurses. This year’s winner is Eleanor Riley. Nurse Eleanor has been recognized for her commitment to duty. The nurse of the year cemented her claim to the award during a recent blizzard which dumped two feet of snow on the city.
That day half of the staff could not make it to the hospital due to the condition of the roads. The buses and trains were not running. Eleanor was determined that nothing would stop her from making it to work. So far as she was concerned, there were lives to save. Thus, the reliable, committed nurse bundled herself up, had a hot cup of cocoa, squeezed on her snow boots and headed off to the hospital on foot. She was mentally prepared for the two-mile journey, or at least, so she thought.
Late that afternoon trekking across Pelham Parkway as the knee-deep snow continued falling, Eleanor thought to herself “The Bronx has become my own private winter wonderland.” There wasn’t another living soul in sight, no cars, no buses – nothing. The city seemed to have become a ghost town.
Then suddenly out of the corner of her left eye, she noticed a red and grey dog bounding towards her. The K-9 was leaping through the freshly fallen snow like a giant rabbit as fast as it could. Eleanor became horrified and began to run. She feared dogs more than anything in the world ever since she had been bitten by one when she was only five.
As the four-legged assailant, closed in on Eleanor, the Joseph V. McKee Medical Center came into view. It became a race between the nurse and the unleashed dog which was now in hot pursuit. The frightened nurse was fast, but the big red dog was faster. Eleanor started to scream, confident that she would soon relive the most traumatic experience of her life.
What the committed nurse did not know was that the dog’s name was Piper and that he was a gentle, playful Belgian Tervuren. Piper had bounded up a snow drift in his backyard and managed to find his way out on to the street. Piper was harmless and only wanted to play in the snow. Thanks to him not only did Eleanor make it to work at that afternoon, but she was also able to overcome her 21-year phobia of dogs.
On a frigid New Year's Eve in Times Square, seven stories above the crowd below, which had gathered to usher in the new year, there was a high-stakes underground poker game going on at 1560 Broadway. It was Breezy's game.
Breezy, the 27-year-old, streetwise Irish-American kid from Yonkers, had set it up in a vacant office space which had been rented just for tonight, the colorful stacks of clay chips were exchanging hands in a very lively game. The players were having drinks, reminiscing about the past year, and playing good poker.
The game was Breezy’s own lucrative business which he shuffled from location to location around Manhattan two to three times per week. He had built up a following on the strength of his trusted name. Thanks to the advent of smartphones and the internet his illegal operation had stealth and mobility which past underground game operators could only have dreamed of. In New York, it is unlawful to operate such poker games, although they are technically not illegal to play in.
With a steadily growing list of players, Breezy has no difficulty putting games together for his customers. The average player shows up with $10,000 although the minimum buy-in is only $2,000. On any given night there is easily $100,000 on the table at all times. Most of the players in Breezy’s game are well-heeled businessmen, professionals, and even a few pro athletes.
Breezy deals the game himself with the help of Veronica, his chip runner, and Stacy, a professional escort, whose job is to offer free massages and “take care of” the players in other ways. Breezy nets no less than $6,000 a night from his games. Sometimes much more, and the best part is that it’s all cash.
Breezy has billed tonight’s fully catered game as a big event – a New Year’s Eve celebration. Eight of his biggest customers have been playing each other for hours already as the 12,000-pound ball atop One Times Square is now less than an hour away from dropping. He would have had nine players, but for the fact that New York Jets running back, Jamal Anderson canceled at the last minute.
These were Breezy’s best customers, regulars who provided him with a very comfortable lifestyle. He always went out of his way to make sure that his players were pleased and happy. Tonight, he went even further. Veronica had already placed the Dom Perignon on ice in anticipation of the impending celebration.
Then at 11:09 p.m. there was a knock at the door. This was a cause for alarm so far as Breezy was concerned because his game was by invitation only, and everyone who had been invited was seated around the green felt covered table. Veronica answered the door.
“Who goes there?” the slender brunette wearing a magenta cocktail dress asked through the locked door in her unmistakable Brooklyn accent.
“It’s Nathan. I’m here to take Jamal's place in the game,” replied the man in a deep, deep voice from the other side of the door.
“Jamal? You mean Jamal Anderson, the football player?”
“Yeah, that’s right!”
“Hold on a minute Nathan.”
Veronica gave the full report to her boss. Now Breezy had to make the call. He had Veronica deal the next hand as he answered the door.
Breezy packed a .22 caliber pistol, which he wore in a concealed carry waist holster. As he opened the door, he came face to chest with a huge 6’ 10” 295-pound giant of a man. Like his “friend” Jamal he was an African-American.
“What can I do for you, sir?” Breezy asked the man.
“My name is Nathan. Jamal sent me to take his place in the game,” the hulking man said in his deep voice sounding more like a giant than a mortal.
“Okay, give me a second to call Jamal.” Breezy took his hand off his pistol and removed his iPhone from his waist instead.
The man calmly said, “I think he’s in the Bahamas with his girlfriend to celebrate the New Year, but he did send me with money to play for him.” The imposing figure of a man then opened a waist pack revealing what appeared to be at least two stacked bundles of $10,000 each.
“You see?” The giant man said with a broad smile on his face.
Benjamin Franklin’s resigned facial expression on the face of the one hundred dollar bill was familiar to Breezy. Upon glimpsing the contents of the big man’s pouch, Breezy put his phone away and welcomed him to the poker table like a VIP. Introducing the titan as a friend of Jamal Anderson of the New York Jets. The other players at the table loved the newcomer even more than they loved Jamal Anderson. “Nathan” was by far the worst player at the table, or what they call in poker vernacular - a fish.
“Nathan” was donating chips to everyone. Until five minutes to midnight, when he was dealt a pair of aces, the best-starting hand in poker, and went all in with his last $3,000 only to be called by all the other players who figured they’d just gamble with “the fish.” It was a massive $27,000 pot.
When “Nathan” revealed his hand, there was a gasp of shock and disgust from everyone at the table. On the flop he was good, on the turn he was still holding the best hand, but then came the last card, the river card. It was the deuce of spades, and it cracked Nathan's hand. The player seated on the button just so happened to be holding a pair of deuces and had “rivered” a set. Thus, cracking Nathan's aces, taking all of his money.
The other players at the table began laughing uncontrollably and kidding him over both his poor play and misfortune.
What no one knew, was that the fish’s name wasn’t Nathan. His real name was Hollis Newkirk. Nor was he a friend of New York Jets star running back Jamal Anderson, although Jamal Anderson was now dating his ex-wife. In fact, it was his ex who had informed him of Breezy's game and loaned him the 20k to play, Hollis was a recently released ex-con who had just served an eight-year bid for narcotics trafficking. His real intention was to rob Breezy, and so he did.
"Sorry, assholes! Everybody get up and face the fucking wall with your hands in the air.” The angry giant roared as he brandished a 9mm handgun aiming it directly at Breezy’s face. "I want all your money, and I do mean all of it mother fucker."
Hollis robbed the place and made off with every dollar in the room, $123,000 in all. Just what he needed to get back into the “coke game.” Thus, the new year began horribly for Breezy, but not so bad for Hollis.
Hi, I'm Lester Patterson,