The Lottery Killer

THREE

The day started badly and just got slowly worse. I was sat in my office playing poker and the cards were being unkind, too unkind perhaps. Many of my colleagues had told me that all online poker sites used software that had been specially developed to operate in favour of the house. I'd argued that it wasn't possible; the poker companies were audited regularly by firms of accountants and therefore could not possibly risk rigging the software used.
Gary who ran our Data Centre argued that the online casinos added a couple of computer players called "Poker Bots" to every single poker table, thereby having control over the play. I had laughed at him and again used my auditing argument. Somehow, I was beginning to think he was right. I had entered an online single table tournament on World of Poker about an hour ago and whilst I was one of the six remaining players, my pot was the lowest and I had had no luck with any hands so far.
I ran an Internet Web Hosting company and we were one of the bigger players in the UK. Broad Fast Hosting had been operating since 1999 and had over three thousand customers in countries all over the world. We looked after over two million domain names with thirty staff who all worked from home.
I sat looking out of my office window. The view across the garden led down to a huge Koi carp l ake where I swam most mornings in the summer. The computer beeped at me informing me I needed to make a decision. I had the ten of clubs and a six of hearts. I should have folded but the guy calling himself "coolhand55" had pissed me off and puffed me in. We were now head to head; the other four players had folded. I wish I had too. Coolhand55 raised me another fifty dollars. I was in deep now and there was no way I was going to back out. The cards on the table were a three of clubs, a six of spades and a seven of clubs. I had a measly pair, but if two more clubs came up I would have a flush. Not a great one, but a flush all the same. I raised him by $100 dollars and waited.
It was seven am and I had not slept well again. I put it down to a combination of stress at work and the loss of my mum. I still really missed her and had been suffering from nightmares. I guess you could call me a real mummy's boy. It had been over five years since she her death. She and I had been close and I had taken it really badly. I had struggled to get back to work and my father had become more reclusive than ever. He ran the family farm in Rippingale, Lincolnshire. He and I had never been really close and when I'd decided to follow my love of technology and computers and got a job selling e-commerce software i nstead of taking over the farm, dad had got more distant.
I really hadn't ever been a country boy and whilst dad had tried his best to get me into tractors and the farm, I had spent most of my teenage years sat in front of the telly playing on my Nintendo and writing basic game programs on my computer. The only time I ever did properly enter country life was at the end of the summer when dad insisted I help with the hay making. I did enjoy it, but it was hard work and dad made such a small profit on selling the excess hay I used to wonder why he bothered. He was up every morning at five am and as a young man the thought of having to get up that early filled me with dread.
Coolhand55 called me and the dealer turned over the next card, a three of clubs. Not great for me really unless the final card was a club too. I checked and Coolhand55 went for my jugular. He bet one hundred dollars, I matched it and he raised again. Bloody hell, I wasn't feeling lucky. The pot was now $350 and all riding on my pair of sixes or a potential flush if the river card was another club. Was it worth risking a further $100 just to call? Oh what the hell. I called and waited for the river card to be drawn. It seemed like an age. I had another sip of now cold coffee from my lucky Snoopy mug. Thanks for nothing Snoopy! I glared at the cartoon dog.
The river card appeared on the screen. It was the ace of spades. I had a pair of sixes and knew there was little hope of them winning me the $450 pot. I was right. As I folded, instead of mucking his cards Coolhand55 showed his winning hand. He had two pairs, aces and sevens.
I clicked the poker screen shut and the screen asked me if I was sure I wanted to leave the table. Too right I thought. I should have left ages ago. I walked along the hall and down stairs to the kitchen to make a fresh coffee. I had this year's budget to write and smiled wryly thinking I couldn't even budget my own finances let alone the company's. The post arrived but brought nothing exciting, just a postcard from my brother on his holidays in Spain and my credit card bill.
I had a quick shave and shower and was sat back at my desk by eight thirty. I logged onto our admin system to see how business had been overnight. The beauty of running an Internet business was that we were open twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. All the staff logged in via our secure admin system and so we could all see who was online at any one time. We all, myself included had to enter how we were feeling each day via the "How are you?" monitor. The system simply gets each member of the team to rate how they are feeling from one to seven. One was "rather not be here today". Two was "not great". Three was "average for the time of year." Four was "not bad at all." Five was "first rate and smiling. " Six was "Toptastic." And seven was "not felt this happy for a long time."
I logged in as a three which I thought reflected my success at the poker table earlier. I wasn't feeling motivated and sat looking at all the emails whizzing into my inbox as they downloaded. The day began as normal. I had telephone conference calls with the senior management of the sales team and the technical team. I then opened the budget that had I been working on and tried to work out what products and services were going to be pushed over the next year, what levels of advertising and marketing budget would be needed to achieve my aggressive sales targets.
The day was going as well as could be expected when the doorbell rang. I had been talking on MSN Messenger with one of the guys and so signed off and ran down the stairs.
I took a step back when I saw two police officers on my doorstep.
'Mr Gary Roberts?' one of the officers asked me.
'Yes. How can I help?'
'Would you mind if we come in?'
I sensed an air of unease about the policemen and began to worry.
'Um, yes, yes of course. Come on in.' I stood back to let them through. 'What's this about then?'
I shut the door and led them into the lounge.
'We're the bearers of bad news I'm afraid Mr Roberts. Your father was murdered this morning.'
I sat down with a bump on the settee. I sat staring at the policemen shaking my head. I had heard them, but it was as if my brain wouldn't let me process it. My father had been murdered. I blurted out a load of questions. 'How? Why? What had he done? Who did it? My father's never done anything or hurt anyone.'
'Mr Roberts we're really sorry. We do not know any more details. The police in Lincolnshire are running the enquiry. They contacted us and asked us to contact his next of kin.'
I was completely numb. 'There must have been some motivation surely? How was he killed?' I asked.
'We don't know. I will pass your details onto Lincoln and ask one of them to contact you as soon as they know more.'
'OK, that will be fine.'
The officers went to go. 'We're really very sorry Mr Roberts. Here's my card. If I can help in anyway, please just give me a call.' He handed me his card.
'Thanks.' I closed the door and leant against it. Thousands of thoughts were rushing through my head.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Armour