“Man, I just cannot read this dude.” Sammy finished off his highball and sighed.
Dean Martin threw a $100 chip in the pot. “I’m in.”
Peter Lawford folded quickly and all eyes turned to Frank.
Sinatra exhaled a long plume of smoke and called the bet. “All right, kid. What’ve you got?”
The alien flipped its hole card with a long, spindly claw and attempted to grin as it exposed a fourth king.
“Read them and weep,” it said in a growling monotone.
“Dammit,” Sammy stood quickly, kicking away his chair. “We’re in deep trouble, cats.”
Lawford chimed in, “He’s right, Frank. There’s no stopping this guy.”
“Cool it.” Sinatra leaned forward, stared into the alien’s eyes. “I’m changing the deal."
“The terms and conditions were preselected and confirmed by all parties,” the alien growled. “There can be no alterations or amendments to the contract.”
"Let’s call it simplification,” Sinatra said, lighting another cigarette
Dean leaned over. “Now hold on just a minute, Frank—“
“Nope. It’s done. We’re gonna take care of this thing once and for all.” Sinatra swept the table clean, sending chips and cards clattering to the floor.
“I do not understand,” the alien began.
“That’s right,” Sinatra said, standing. “You don’t understand. We don’ t play it this way on our planet. Here, we go all or nothing. None of this penny ante crap. We’re gonna do this like men.”
He grabbed a fresh deck of cards from the side board.
“One hand,” he said, slowly unwrapping the cellophane. “You and me. For all the marbles.”
“Marbles?” The alien sounded intrigued.
Sinatra handed the deck to Dean. “You deal.”
“You can’t do this, Frank,” he protested.
“It’s done.” Sinatra took his place at the table.
Lawford downed his drink and looked around nervously. Sammy simply shrugged.
“You name the game,” Sinatra said. “We’ll play one hand. Winner takes all.”
The alien blinked. “If I win, the invasion begins.”
“If you win ,we return to our home.”
The alien sat in silence for a moment. “One hand.”
Sinatra took a long slow drag. “One hand.”
“You forfeit the right to pit your entire crew against me.”
“You got it.”
“I accept the terms.”
“Name the game.”
The alien clicked its claws. “High card.”
Lawford gasped. Sammy sat down at the bar, buried his face in his hands. Dean just shook his head.
Sinatra allowed the merest sliver of a grin onto his face and, without looking over, said, “Do it.”
Dean shuffled the deck, set it on the table. “Who draws first?”
Sinatra took another long drag, exhaled. “I defer to our guest.”
The alien clicked his claws happily, then reached down and picked off a short stack of cards. He took a look, then whipped the stack around to show the others.
“King of spades,” he growled.
Lawford began pacing. Sammy cursed under his breath. Dean didn't move.
Sinatra stubbed out his cigarette, reached out and picked the top card from the deck. Without even a glance, he flung it down, face up, on the table.
Ace of hearts.
The others gasped. The alien stood, knocking over his chair.
Sinatra leaned back. “Now scram.”
The alien stood in place, his claws clicking. Finally, he turned and stormed out of the room.
“I can’t believe it,” Lawford said, rushing to Sinatra’s side. “That was amazing.”
“You want to know what’s amazing?” Sinatra said. “How long it takes for a man to get a drink around here.”
Sammy poured a jigger of Jack and brought it to Sinatra.
“How’d you do that, man?”
Sinatra took a sip, shrugged.
Dean chuckled. “Cool as a damned cucumber.”
Sinatra winked at him.
“Ring a ding ding, baby. Ring a ding ding.”