Late at night.

It was no different from any other night, at least, on the surface. And what it was on the surface was just the San Diego Zoo. Closed. Opening again at 9AM the next day. That’s what everyone thought. Not for John. He was going to use his access as the zoo caretaker to his full advantage. For John, it was one of the biggest nights of his entire life. If he managed to pull this off, he would be rich enough to be anywhere he wanted, do anything he wanted.

Only if he could pull it off. If he couldn’t… well he wouldn’t be leaving the zoo. Maybe ever.

He was walking through the deserted zoo, the silence and darkness disturbing him and much as thinking about what he was about to do.

He made it to the lion enclosure, and started to undo the chains that locked the door marked “DO NOT ENTER”. The room was strictly off-limits to the public, and well, usually to him too, but tonight was different. He was here under invite, and, let’s just say, you didn’t ever turn down a personal request from the owner of the San Diego Zoo. 

He entered and shut the door behind him. The pathway he found himself in was brightly lit. John shielded his eyes for a few seconds to let his eyes adjust from the sudden brightness. After a few seconds he started walking down the narrow pathway, passing many doors the further he went. He pulled the piece of paper from his pocket just to double-check again: “John Sandon, please join me in Room 49 at 1 AM. A key will be left on your desk in your office to unlock the padlocks to the door just past the lion enclosure. Texas Hold’em. Don’t be late.”

When John had first read the message 2 days previously, he knew exactly what he was getting into. He had heard rumors for years about the owner of the zoo holding these covert, secret poker games. He had also heard that there was serious money involved. He never dreamed of turning it down, and decided to start learning all the rules of Texas Hold’em the second he got home.

He felt prepared now.

Room 49. Here it was. And he knocked.

An extremely tall man, wearing a full suit and darkened glasses stepped out from behind the door. He stared at John for a few seconds. To John, it seemed, that he was dressed in an extremely cliche outfit, for a security guard of a secret poker game. That still didn’t stop John being terrified of the man.

“Come in, Mr. Sandon. Mr. Demetrius has been expecting you.” He stepped aside to let John enter.

Inside was a big room, filled with a big bar, and a large aquarium set into the wall. Huge fish were swimming around in it, drifting.

Right in the center of the room, sat a large poker table, made for at least 12 player. However there was only 7, and a dealer, dressed in the same clothes as the security guard John had just passed. Evidently John was the 8th player, and all the men looked around at the noise of the door closing.

“Ahhh, Mr Sandon! The finest caretaker of the San Diego Zoo we have seen for quite a while!”

It was the owner of the Zoo who had spoken, Mr Demetrius. He had a broad smile on his face.

“Come, come!” He gestured for John to come and sit beside him at the table.

John walked slowly towards the table, staring at the other men waiting for him.

“Mr. Sandon, this is-“

“Call me John, please, Mr. Demetrius.”

A flicker of annoyance crossed Mr Demetrius’ face for a second, but instantly changed back to his broad smile. Had John imagined it?

“John, this here is Mr. DiTore.” He gestured to the man in the seat right beside Mr. Demetrius’ own. 

“And here is…” John stopped listening. He didn’t care about these men, he just wanted to play and get out of here. Something didn’t feel right. He felt it would be worse to leave suddenly without playing.

After Mr. Demetrius had introduced John to everybody around the table he spoke directly to John again; “Well, John, shall be begin?” He was smiling again.

“Ah, yes sir, let’s start.”

And so it began. John was trying exceptionally hard to remember all the rules and tips he had learned from the Internet. After a few hands, Mr Demetrius spoke directly to him again.

“So John, do you like working here?”

John was taken aback.

“Yes, sir, yes, of course! I love it here!”

“And do you love sneaking around in my private business?”

The general happy vibe of the room was instantly quelled, and lapsed into a deep silence. Everyone’s eyes were on John.

John was stunned for a few moments about what Mr Demetrius had just said, and stuttered heavily over his next words.

“W-w-what? S-sir, I-I w-would never even begin to try and sneak around your private life! Honest!”

It didn’t sound very compelling, John though, and obviously Mr Demetrius thought so too.

“So you haven’t been trying to find the lab? And checking the income in my office?”

He was asking a question, but sounded as if he already knew the answer.

“What? No!” It was true, John had done no such thing.

“Somehow, Mr. Sandon, I don’t believe you.” He looked around the table at his friends. “What about you guys? Reckon he’s lying?”

“One Hundred Percent lying!”

“Liar!”

Mr Demetrius smiled and turned back to John. “See? We don’t believe you. But you’re going to die tonight, so we don’t mind telling you the truth you were trying to find out. Yes, Mr Sandon, you guessed right, the zoo is just a front for the cocaine business we’re running. And you were extremely close to figuring us out, weren’t you? But we got you first, and now, you’re going to die. Here. Now.”

He did a sharp nod to the security guard standing by the door, and he stepped forward, reaching for something on his belt.

“WAIT! WAIT! I haven’t done any of that! I had no clue! Please! I didn’t try and find your business, I swear Mr. Demetrius!”

Mr. Demetrius held up a hand to the guard, and he halted.

“You really weren’t trying to take me down?”

“No!”

“Oh well then.” He smiled more broadly than he had done so far, and gestured to the guard once more.

In a matter of seconds, and one loud gunshot later, John lay dead upon the floor, his blood draining into the carpet.