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A Novel

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Twenty-Three


“I apologize for being late. I only found out you wanted to talk with me a few minutes ago. Iman Aziz will be here shortly. By the way, she and I have never worked as a team—or ever been in the same casino at the same time. She has several disguises she uses, as you know. Yet she means no harm and is ready to talk about the problems you have had; and our winnings.” The door in the far corner opened again. A short spare woman with a slight limp eased toward the gathering.

Donny Dale said as Iman approached, “Mr. Mazel, I was wa ___”

“Xavier, please, Donny, Xavier.”

“Sure, okay Mr.—well, Xavier.”

Iman Aziz reached the outer limit of the assembled group of owners and operators of the Las Vegas casinos.

“I’m late. I’m sorry. I apologize to all of you. I meant no harm or insult. She sat on a spare chair on the outer edge of the group.

“Oh, Mrs. Aziz, please come up here; please. You can sit next to Mr.—Xavier. May I order you a drink?

“Oh that would be very kind of your, thank you. I rather like gin and tonic, please.”

All the others moved to get a clear view of Iman. No one could believe the clear, young, voice issuing from this tired looking old woman with a stoop in addition to her limp. Donny Dale did a double take along with the others.

“Hello Xavier,” said Iman, “I’ve missed you. You haven’t been to Eliat lately.”

With a kind smile, “I have missed you too, Iman, but your employers have grown weary of my presence—and my winnings. That is what we are here to discuss, all right?”

“Fine with me, Xavier, just fine with me.” She took a double gin and tonic and emptied the glass. “I’ll have another if it’s not too much trouble, thank you.”

By now, the forty gathered owner’s and operators were transfixed by Iman Aziz. She was not even close to her age with her habits. She downed the fourth double like a glass of water. She smiled. She showed no effect of her alcoholic tour de force.  Before they could deliver another for her, Donny Dale was up on the dais. He asked Xavier and Iman to join him.

“No thanks, Donny,” said Xavier, “let’s all just sit here and discuss this matter as friends. We have no ill will toward you, although I know all of you have some toward us—and with good reason. That’s another factor we’re here to discuss.”

Xavier’s tone of voice was hypnotic. Not that he was putting them under a spell or any form of hypnosis; he spoke in a tone packed with the wisdom from millions of years. He was neither a psychic nor a fortune-teller; just a man who had come to understand every emotion, every habit, and every desire of men and women universe-wide. He was a man steeped in the history of civilizations across an unimaginable period of time.

Iman was likewise endowed with the ability to guess personalities and actions of men and women on earth. This knowledge also guided her at the casinos. She knew when to bet on any particular card game; for how much and for how long

“I have arranged a Zoom meeting with the other ninety-five interested parties. We will all be able to see and hear each other. How would you like to start this, Xavier?”
Xavier rose to his full height. “Hello everyone, my name is Xavier Mazel. I have good news and . . . more good news. Beside me is Mrs. Iman Aziz. At one time or another we have successfully managed to win a lot of your money.” A gathering roar of indignation erupted. Xavier held up his hand. “As of today, that will cease.” A murmur rippled through the ballroom. On the giant screen, one could see relief and disbelief on the faces of the participants.
Xavier continued. “Mrs, Aziz and I have a special talent for playing your games involving cards. We are both hopeless in games such as roulette and craps.” Several nodded. Others scoffed.

“We are here today to tell all of you that we are going to return all the money we have won at card games in your casinos.” Xavier and Iman expected shouts, cheers; perhaps a standing ovation. There was only silence; a deep disbelieving and distrustful silence. The members on the Zoom screen were slack jawed with narrowing eyes.

“I’m sure you all have someone at your elbow who can tell you how much that is. We don’t need to keep all of you from your work while those numbers are calculated or found in your folders and briefcases. The point is: all that money will be returned to you on one condition.” Laughter and joy, untarnished bliss, imbued every person in the meeting. Over a five-minute period, everyone smiled, laughed, hugged; some shed tears.

“You all have several employees. Most of you have families. There are a number of children in your own families and your extended families. I want you to talk with them about our one condition. Iman and I can immediately give you back your money but the condition is that after talking it over with anyone and looking deep into your souls, you come up with the charity or charities, which you want to receive twenty-five percent of the amounts we have taken from you. The only catch, as you say here, is that the charities must be in the United States—or a foreign charity that has been thoroughly cleansed of any fraud or skimming. That’s it.”  

Another silence fell over the room. Xavier continued to stand.  “I should emphasize something that may have been lost in the moment here. You can deduct these charitable contributions from your taxes.” A flurry of laughter and happiness ruffled through the assembled forty. Those on the Zoom screen were, for the most part, overjoyed, knowing full well that their bottom line losses would be shrunk to negligible amounts.

Xavier was speaking again. “I know there are places in the world where charitable deductions are not allowed. Iman and I will pay you that amount of charitable contributions you would have saved on your taxes in America.” The chorus of ‘yeses’ mingled with the tears of relief from those who were on the edge of bankruptcy, either at work or at home. Eventually, through the rolling sounds of glee came the question.

“Why are you doing this, Xavier—and Mrs. Aziz?” Xavier remained standing, waiting for the room to reach hush level. The faces on the Zoom screen appeared to move closer to their webcams.

“We have a special talent. We used that to win. We decided that this is unfair to you. We know the house wins most of the time. We never lose,” silence thickening, eagerness everywhere, hope draining, “that’s right,” pausing, taking a deep breath, straightening his shoulders, “and after a few discussions, we thought it over and decided to undo our unfairness and that’s how we came to our decision; why we met you here today,;why we feel much better about you and about ourselves. Thank you, Donny Dale. I will await your loss figures, certified by a reputable licensed accountant. Anyone found fiddling with the figures; ‘cooking the books’ I think you call it, will be denied an amount in the sum of the amount unfairly placed on your list of losses. Everyone has to play fair, We didn’t, but are now; you must now as well. Any other questions?”

There were none. The silence of relief and the harbored warmth of happiness lulled all tongues to sleep. Most of the forty in Las Vegas were gone in fifteen minutes.  Donny Dale turned off the Zoom gang in ten minutes.

“So, Iman, we’ll see who is honest and who is not, but I got the impression that all of them saw the benefit of the tax deductions aspect, there are no other ways we can help them.

Xavier hugged little Iman and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Now we’ll have to figure out how to play those games without cards.” They laughed, both wishing never to see the inside of a casino again; for any reason.

“You are not to give back your winnings. Surprise Corporation will cover them.”

“Oh, no, Xavier, dear, I must return mine as well.”

“No Iman. I insist. I know you have been giving almost all of it away to one charity or another. Now is the time for you to look after yourself. By the way, how old are you?

“Depends on which part,” Iman looked up at Xavier with a smile. Xavier thought it best to leave that one alone, “I want to give most of it to the family who has hidden me for so many centuries.” Xavier gave her a tight hug. No need to speak.


End of Chapter Twenty-Three 


Submitted: January 26, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.


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