A short story by Barbara Godfrey
JASON PRING meticulously filled in the final details of the football pools coupon. As he sealed the envelope he muttered: “And let’s hope you’ll bring in a fortune this time.”
He and his three friends, Bob Jocelyn, Harry Benson and Martin Kester, had filled in the coupon together, completing a 100-line permutation, and left the posting as usual to Pring. They had been doing this regularly for eight months, ever since Bob had suggested one evening at bridge: “Why don’t we form a syndicate? That way our pools are sure to come up sooner or later.”
The others had agreed at once. They all felt this would be an ideal New Year’s Eve resolution to bring them luck in the coming year 1970. The syndicate was started that same week after the inevitable question: “Whose name do we do it in?” had been settled. Not that there’d been any trouble about that. Quite naturally, it seemed, the choice had fallen on Pring. Ever since the little group of four lonely bachelors had become close friends – drawn together partly by their solitude – Pring had been the strong character, the unofficial leader.
“Right, if that’s OK by you, we’ll put it in my name,” he had agreed. “Then we just sit back and wait for the big share-out.”
Week after week they had gathered together for the pre-bridge ritual of filling in the coupon. Week after week Pring had posted the envelope – and week after week the four friends had waited in vain for their luck to turn. Each man had his own pet dream of what he would do with his fortune.
Bob Jocelyn wanted to buy a small pub in the country and become a popular “mine host” – perhaps because he had a secret longing to be admired and surrounded by people.
It wasn’t good fellowship Martin Kester wanted. He planned to buy a cottage on a lonely island off the coast of Scotland, first making sure there were at least three other people on the island who could play a good game of bridge.
Harry Benson’s ideas weren’t even formulated. “I’ll just put the money by, and one day when I’m old I may put it to some good use,” he told the others.
“Fantastic, not wanting the money for anything,” thought Pring when he heard Benson’s comment. “Money is everything and I, for one, will appreciate it. I’ll know what to do when our pools come up!” There would be all the things he wanted but was too poor to have – a luxury yacht, a villa on the Riviera, expensive clothes, glamorous women, perhaps even an exclusive bridge club in London. And a million other things.
Pring the optimist was quite certain that before long their Treble Chance would come up, and his friends somehow had faith in him and were infected with his enthusiasm.
The week their Treble Chance did come up, Pring, who kept the copy coupon, was the first to know of their good fortune. When he had checked the coupon against the broadcast results and realised they had the maximum number of points, he sat quite still, unable to move. He’d been expecting this moment would come – but now it was actually here he felt stunned.
It was fully five minutes before he pulled himself together. The friends were all due to meet later in the evening at Kester’s for bridge, and Pring didn’t tell them the good news until he arrived at the lonely bungalow.
Each man reacted in his own particular fashion.
“Well, now, that’s fine, isn’t it?” was Benson’s placid comment, though he did look surprised and pleased.
The other two were more demonstrative. But then they had plans for their money, unlike Benson.
“Let’s see, we should get at least £50,000 each, I suppose,” said Kester. “You said we’d got the only eight draws, didn’t you?”
“That’s right,” replied Pring, producing two bottles of Scotch. “Come on, let’s celebrate. We’ll forget our bridge for tonight.”
The whisky flowed freely, and soon the second bottle was opened and emptied. A third bottle appeared – and the merriment grew more and more muddled.
“Here’s to us,” mumbled Jocelyn, raising his glass. “Here’s to our marvellous money and to my little pub in the country. I think I’ll call it the Treble Chance.” He laughed and spluttered and slapped Kester on the back.
“Money, marvellous money,” sang out Kester, waving his glass and spilling whisky over Pring’s foot.
Yes, marvellous money, echoed Pring in his thoughts. He felt quite calm by now. His big moment had come, the moment he’d been waiting for all these months, and he knew exactly what he was going to do. He smiled, but in his eyes was a calculating look, a watching look that showed he was not getting drunk like the others.
“Come on, cheer up,” said Kester, thumping him on the back. “After all, this is the moment of a lifetime. It’ll never come again.”
His speech was getting more and more slurred, and as he reached again for the bottle of Scotch he staggered and crashed against the table, knocking everything on the floor. The other two, as drunk as Kester, rocked with uncontrollable laughter.
“We’re rich, man – rich. Just think, £50,000 each,” Kester guffawed.
“No, not £50,000 each,” Pring breathed as he stood up. “I don’t win a fortune to share it with a bunch of drunken fools.”
Unnoticed by his friends, he grabbed the heavy steel poker from the grate and had smashed it into Kester’s skull before the others realised what he was doing. They were still staggering to their feet, their mouths hanging open in stupid disbelief, when Pring felled them to the floor, the heavy poker crashing into their heads.
He still felt quite calm. He had a foolproof plan to dispose of the bodies to give him time to “disappear.” With nearly a quarter of a million to himself it would be a simple matter to be reborn elsewhere under a new name.
Then, as he looked down at the three corpses at his feet, something caught his eye. In the slaughter it had jerked from his pocket. It was a pools envelope. HE HAD FORGOTTEN TO POST THE COUPON.
Pring knew his plan to disappear was now useless. Only the money would have made it possible. With trembling hands he picked up the phone and called the police.
Two days later in jail, Pring had a visitor from the Pools firm. “You’ve won the top dividend – £242,000,” he was told.
Pring thumped his fist as he realised the awful truth.
The coupon he’d forgotten to post was the previous week’s.
© 2007 Copyright by Barbara Godfrey
The story Treble Chance is an original work protected under copyright law, and may not be reproduced or adapted without the written permission of the author.
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