Want to Bet?
Steve Dunbar walked out of the bookmakers and looked down at the wallet that was in his hand. It was empty as usual. Steve sighed as he tried to think of a good excuse to tell his wife. He knew she would go raving mad that he had done this to her again and yet he just couldn't resist the thrill that went with betting. He loved the entire atmosphere that went with the betting shop and had done his whole life. He even found himself craving the sighs of disappointment and the whoops of joy that were heard wafting out of its windows every night. However, recently Steve hadn't really had the time to stay in the betting shop and had taken to checking the winners at home on his computer via the Internet.
On this occasion he found himself feeling particularly glum about his betting addiction. Not because he was unhappy having a quick bet here and there, but because of the consequences that were now going to make his life a misery for the next week. The thought of all the bills he owed and all the yelling his wife was going to do kept popping into his head and he began to get a headache. He had paused outside the bookmakers for a moment to try and gather his thoughts so that he would know what to say when he walked through the door.
If only he could win his troubles would be over. He had bet a good half of his £270 wage packet on at least four different races, and winning could mean that he doubled his stakes. However, Steve knew he was unlucky at placing bets at the best of times, but recently he was having a particularly bad streak. He had lost all of his last five wage packets and put himself in tremendous debt already. Now he seemed to be digging himself further into the hole he had fallen into.
Suddenly, a feeling of being watched interrupted his thoughts. He felt an unnerving presence behind him and he turned around quickly to find a young man standing there. 'Lost it all again? Your wife isn't going to like this much is she?' asked the stranger, smiling at him.
Steve stared at him blankly. How did this guy know that he had been regularly losing his bets? How had he read his mind almost word for word? Steve was in the betting shop nearly every day of his life but he had never seen this man before. However, the man seemed to be acting like they knew each other from somewhere and was far too friendly to be a stranger.
'No, I do seem to be a bit unlucky with thins recently, but I'm sure I'll wind this one. A lot of them are sure things' smiled Steve. The man looked at him and gave a little laugh of doubt that clearly said he thought Steve had no chance.
'Would you like more luck? I have ways I can let you know who the winners are if you like.'
Steve laughed. He had now come to the conclusion that this man was definitely no older than 30 years of age and seemed to be a bit nuts. He dressed rather unfashionably and looked more like a tramp than someone who knew the 'sure things' of a race. In fact, in some ways he felt quite sorry for him. However, he decided that it would probably be best to humour him so that he didn't get too offended.
'Oh, you can do that if you can,' he smiled. 'I could do with a bit of a tip to bring me luck.'
The man became a little agitated and started to fiddle with something in his pocket. Finally, he brought out a pen and paper and began to write. Once he had done this he gave the piece of paper to Steve and pushed it into the palm of his hand with a force that surprised him a little.
'This is my name and address, if I get you winning then you'll have to share the loot with me' he smiled.
Steve raised his eyebrows and decided the man had gone mad. He wasn't even going to give him a tip, and yet expected him to hand over half his cash if he won! He agreed to take the number and contact him just to be civil. He didn't care much for this strange man or his peculiar ways and by now, he really just wanted to be left alone. The man bid him farewell and Steve sighed with the relief of getting away from him. 'Definitely a bit mad,' he thought to himself on the way home.
By the time he had reached the front door of his house any thoughts of the strange man were well out of his head and were replaced with thoughts of things that he could tell his wife and all the work he had to do for the office tomorrow. As Steve entered his house he sneaked into the study to find out the results of the latest races that he had wagered on. As he logged on to his computer he found that he had lost the whole lot again, and closed his eyes with dread. What was he going to tell his wife this time? Then suddenly, as he opened his eyes, he realised that the screen on his computer had changed to a different colour. He studied it for a minute and tried to focus on the words that were written on it. He read out the title in his head. 'Tomorrow's winners' it said in big, white writing, followed by a list of all the winners of tomorrow's races. He looked open-mouthed at the screen and for a moment was unable to register what he was really seeing. He then realised and began to jot the names down one after another on a piece of paper on his desk. He had never written anything down so fast in all his life, but they only disappeared the second he wrote the last winning name, as if they had been on some kind of secret timer. He went out to his wife and decided the best thing to do was lie. He told her that he had lost the money on the train home from work.
After dinner, he made an excuse that he had to go the local shop and called into the betting shop to make his bets. Steve had never felt this kind of adrenaline rushing through his body before. This was the last half of his wages and if he lost them they would be broke for the next week, but he didn't care at the moment. He was in some kind of trance, and the fact that there was a chance that these were actually winners of the next race was making him oblivious to any kind of detail like that.
Once he got home the thoughts began to flood back into his mind like someone busting a dam open and letting everything drown. He began to feel the dread and the doubt gather inside of him as he looked at his wife tidying the house. What if he didn't win? What was he going to tell her this time? They were already in debt to the point of the final demands coming through the door. He sighed and tried to forget about it. There was nothing he could do now.
The next day Steve waited until the last race had taken place, then sneakily logged onto the web site that would tell him the results while he was at work. To his amazement, all of the horses had won and he had made at least £700. 'There was plenty to pay off all the bills and debts and still have some money left over!' thought Steve. Then, just as he was about to log off, he realised that the winners of tomorrow's races were on the screen again. He couldn't believe his luck and started to write them down immediately.
This kept happening everyday, and in the end Steve became considerably well off. He and his wife decided that the best thing to do would be to open their own shop with the money he had made from betting. There was plenty there, and he hadn't liked his own job for years. It was a risk, but Steve was always one for gambling with everything, not just money. He opened a small betting shop as it was the thing he knew the most about, and eventually he opened several because he was making a lot of money with them. Because he knew the winner prior to the race, he knew what odds there should be on each horse so he didn't have to pay out much.
He and his wife were now considerably rich and truthfully, Steve was lapping it up. He had become quite complacent about the fact that he would always know the winners to any race he wanted. Until one day the results did not appear on his screen as they usually did. Steve panicked and started to hit the television set until a picture flickered up onto the screen. He looked at it in hope. 'Please God let it be the winners,' he thought. However, he was confronted with something much worse than he had ever imagined.
On the screen was a news flash with tomorrow's news on it. The heading said, 'Death of well-known bookie' followed by a picture of himself. The image cut into Steve's brain like razor blades and he tried desperately to get off that web site. However, every web site he knew was displaying the same terrifying message.
Steve took a quick, sharp breath inwards with dread and ran out of the house to his car. He had to tell his wife what was happening and that they had to leave the area immediately. He didn't know who was responsible for this but he knew that he was in trouble. As he ran to get into his car he heard a noise coming from behind him. He looked up to see a bus hurtling towards him at a tremendous speed. As he screamed he realised that the man driving it was the one who had said he would give him the tips. Steve tried to move out of the way but was not fast enough.
The local news teams were there almost instantly and his wife arrived slightly later as she had to make her way from London in the middle of rush hour. The headlines the next day said, 'Death of Well-known Bookie' and were identical to the image that his wife later found left on his computer screen.