The Proposal

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 15, 2017

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Submitted: August 15, 2017

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The Proposal

It was an outrageous proposition. 40 grand was 20% of his rainy day fund. Her proposal was too risky; everyone knew; it was difficult to guarantee the outcome of one race let alone three. Billy Maxwell had been a punter all his life; he grew up reading the “Sporting Life” and the “Racing Times”. Even with the connivance of trainers, the chances of guaranteeing a successful treble are less than zero; and for a professional like Billy the proposal seemed insane.

 He’d been studying the odds ever since he was a kid. At school his form teacher Dr Flynn always said he’d come to no good; gambling is a sin the old Jesuit would say. Billy had gone to a Catholic boarding school run by the Jesuit order and discipline was strict. Mind you it didn’t stop the boys’ playing cards for money in the dormitory after lights out. Brag was the game; each bet was limited to sixpence but Billy made all the spending money he needed during a time he’d rather forget.  Billy was always good with numbers you see, and since he ran the games of brag and was always the banker; it was difficult to lose.  Although he hated school, Billy looked back on those days with great fondness. He’d been able to play the system. Just enough school work to keep the teachers happy, had left him enough time to indulge his great hobby of horse racing. The school had been in a racing town and at the age of twelve Billy was captivated by the thundering hooves on the gallops close to the school playing field. From that point on Billy was hooked; he followed racing results from all round the country; he preferred flat racing during the summer but most of the local trainers ran horses over the sticks in winter so Billy had a year round hobby. Right from the start Billy had taken his hobby seriously; during that first year he drew up a graph. On one axis were the 59 race courses in the UK, on the other all distances from five furlongs to three and a half miles. Billy then recorded the record time and the average time for each race track over each distance. The idea was that on race day he could compare the times of his selections over a given distance; at a particular track. For the first nine months or so, it had just been a paper exercise; but then fate took a hand. He met “Jimmy” or rather Mr Green; James Green the school caretaker and odd job man. Billy had been caught one Saturday morning skiving in the dormitory reading the Sporting Life when he should have been playing football. He was discovered by Dr O’Flaherty the maths master; who immediately confiscated the Sporting Life and then proceeded with a lecture on the evils of horse racing and the gambling it encouraged. Normally Billy got on well with Dr O Flaherty; Billy was good at maths and the old boy treated him kindly; but on this occasion O’Flaherty saw red. In addition to a restriction of privileges; which meant Billy would have no free time for a week; Billy was sent to assist Mr Green stacking bricks. The old cricket pavilion had been demolished and was due to be rebuilt; the mountain of bricks from the old building were being recycled and Mr Green was stacking them into neat piles ready for use. It was back breaking work for a twelve year old and Mr Green; Jimmy was interested to know what heinous crime had incurred such punishment. Even for a Jesuit institution it seemed a bit harsh. When Billy explained the situation Jimmy laughed; it’s alright for you snapped Billy. Anyway, after three hours and what seemed like 10000 bricks later the job was done; and just as Billy was about to leave; Jimmy said if you ever want to put a bet on just let me know. And that was it; Billy; if you’ll pardon the expression was off and running. In the beginning he just invested the cash he won playing brag; he made £30 in his first year as a punter; a fortune for a twelve year old. The next year he branched out and became the school bookmaker; he’d take bets from the rest of the school; if Billy thought the bet stood no chance he’d accept the risk himself; but if it looked likely to win he’d lay it off with Jimmy. It became a regular cottage industry.  At a bob each way or two bob to win; or the bet a lot of the boys preferred a six pence each way accumulator. Billy racked up £97 in his first year as a bookmaker. Biggest problem was hiding the paperwork and cash from the teachers. Billy knew it was an expulsion job if ever he was caught; but the gods’ of the turf were with him. That and the help he received from Jimmy kept him out of trouble till the day he left school.  As Billy told himself much later he departed St Josephs Academy with three “A “levels and an honours degree in bookmaking.

When he left school Billy went to work for a bookmaker; he was there for about a year; settling bets in the shop and occasionally making book at the local race track; he learned a lot during that year. Then his aunt Rose died; Billy had been her favourite nephew and the kindly old girl had left him £15000 in her will. Apparently she’d stated the sum was to get Billy started on the housing ladder; but Billy had other ideas. Fifteen grand was enough to bankroll his ambition to become a professional punter; and that’s what happened, Billy became a successful gambler. Now at the age of 26 he owned an apartment in Newmarket and all the trappings of a successful businessman. He’d met his girlfriend Rebecca two years ago and they were now part of the racing fraternity’s in crowd. They got invited to all the party’s; met trainers owners and some of the jockeys; for Billy it was an ideal lifestyle. As a professional gambler Billy didn’t bet often; but when he did have a wager the stakes could run into thousands or tens of thousands of pounds; and among a certain group of people Billy was a legend in his own lunch time.

Rebecca and Billy had been invited to a dinner party with a young lady trainer; Melisa Martin; she had 25 horses in her yard and was something of a rising star; she’d had three winners already this season.  During the course of the evening she’d given Billy a sob story about how difficult it was to run a small yard; and how the only way forward was to expand the business. She needed £70000 in a hurry to take on another 10 horses. The proposal was simple; she could fix the results of three races; Billy would wager £40000 on the treble and collect well over 300 grand; she got £70000 and Billy could keep the rest. It’s a mad scheme was Billy’s first reaction; and if it’s so certain why don’t you invest the 40 grand yourself. I don’t have that kind of cash available at the moment she said, and these opportunities don’t come along very often; and anyway if the bets were traced back to me it may jeopardise my trainer’s licence and that would defeat the whole purpose. In seven days time I have two horses running that I guarantee will win. Billy looked puzzled; you said it was a treble; who trains the other horse. Before he could raise any more questions Melisa jumped in. That’s the clever bit she said the third horse won’t run! Suddenly a light went on in Billy’s brain, so you’re fixing the odds as well he said. After a lot of discussion Billy understood;

The following Saturday Billy was glued to the racing channel on TV and at 2.30 “Abbots Hope” duly obliged at six to four; two hours later, at the same meeting “Bach Minor” won the “Badger Handicap” at six to one. Billy’s 40 grand was now worth £360000. If he deducted his stake and Melisa’s 70 grand he was still £250K up; not bad for a day’s work. It was a nervous wait for the 6 30 race from Wolverhampton; sure enough “Election Promise” had been withdrawn at the last minute. The official note said; horse lame on entering the saddling enclosure; withdrawn by stable vet; did not go to post”. Yes; said Billy.

Later that evening when Billy was basking in the biggest win of his professional career so far; he shouted to Rebecca who was in the kitchen; hay Beccs, we’re celebrating where do you want to eat this evening. At that moment the apartment’s entry phone buzzed; he could hear Rebecca say ok come up.  When Rebecca stepped into the room she had an odd look on her face; Billy there’s a policeman and a man from the Jockey Club here to see you.

 

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© Copyright 2017 Peter Piper. All rights reserved.

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