WRIT LARGE: Ch 6, Part 2
Air that Fills the Void
In this part, Lucas has an epiphany in the steam room about who should write Cathie Wood’s biography and races to invite Leann to brunch with them both. On his return to the relaxing sauna, he meets two men who work for Gentings Resorts who invite him to play poker with them that night at the casino with Cathie Wood.
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I wonder what Leann is doing this morning. Will she have allocated precious relaxation time to her busy schedule; it seems a natural part of Asian culture, the constant striving for wellbeing and peace of mind, and one that western cultures could learn much from.
I smile inwardly at Leann’s attempts to join my Writer’s Guild. She will be a worthy addition and I look forward to giving her the good news. Her writing, to date, has been magnificent, and despite her obvious wealth and upbringing, her modesty is wholly refreshing. Having been introduced to Bernard Arnault by Leann, I would be interested to watch her interaction with my brunch companion.
My eyes fly open. I am still alone in the steam room and yet in my mind I am taking brunch with Cathie Wood and Leann is joining us, because … because Leann would be able to don her mask and entice a hundred thousand words from the woman’s mind without her even realising. Leann is the perfect person to write this biography.
Ensuring that my towel is fixed snugly around my waist, I leave the steam room and head directly to my room, barefoot, a smile on my face. A door opens and Olivia appears, her hair curled perfectly over her shoulders, her makeup natural, her clothes crisp and coordinated.
“Lucas!” She steps backwards as though she is the one who has been caught wearing nothing but a towel. “You’re … early.”
I smile and tell her that I wanted to take advantage of the steam room before anyone else stole my idea. It doesn’t have quite the same effect when shared with six other naked people.
She deliberately avoids roaming my bare chest and the surgery scar which is still prominent and quite livid.
“You’re heading the wrong way,” she says. I confirm that she is correct again and that the steam has already helped me to reach an epiphany.
“Let me guess,” she says. “You’re going to email your agent and ask him to approach Ewan McGregor for the role of Bernard?” I laugh. It is something that is easy to do in Olivia’s company. When I inform her that, alas, she is wrong, she tries another angle.
“You’re going to tell Ms Wood that you cannot possibly make brunch because you have a serious nut allergy, and you’ve just discovered that the hotel chef has prepared everything using peanut oil.”
It’s a most creative excuse, I tell her, but no, I am going to invite another person to accompany me, someone who I think will be far better suited to writing the woman’s biography.
She grins at that and stands a little taller. “I’ll be taking breakfast by the pool with the boys after I’ve spoken with Bernard. Would you like to join us? No nuts, I promise.” I tell her that I would love to and will meet them in an hour, after I have spoken with Leann and returned to the steam room for my clothes.
In my room, I call Leann from my mobile phone. I slide a bottle of still water from the mini-bar and take a couple of quick mouthfuls pre-empting Leann picking up. I can picture her face when I tell her that I have good news regarding the Writer’s Guild. She’ll know that I’m going to ask her to join, and I’m hoping that will be sufficient to persuade her to take on the biography over brunch. I can barely stand still, crossing my room to peer out at the serene pool, and back again to study my reflection in the mirror. The call goes through to voicemail and I leave a hurried message apologising for the early hour and the short notice of the brunch invitation. I save the best for last – my Writer’s Guild prompt – when the voicemail cuts off. I stare at my phone screen. This is the reason why I avoid leaving messages. I can only hope that she heard enough to convince her to meet me here at 11am.
The steam room is no longer empty when I return. I nod to the two young men who are now occupying the room, towels across their laps. I recognise them from Bernard’s entourage at Universal Studios, but although they greet me cordially, I am not certain they have recognised me as the man sporting the eye-catching Groot T-shirt. They are discussing the four-hand massage treatment they both received the previous day from the hotel’s spa. They are singing the masseur’s praises and one asks me if I have had the opportunity to visit the spa yet. I tell them that I haven’t, as I only checked in last night as a guest of Monsieur Arnault. “I thought I recognised you,” says one. “You should book a massage if you have the time. You will not be disappointed.”
I tell them that I will certainly try to accommodate a treatment while I am here and ask if they are also guests of Bernard. “We were Monsieur Arnault’s hosts at Universal Studios last night,” says the other man. “We work for the Genting Group in Kuala Lumpur.” They tell me that they were flown in specially for the evening by their boss Lim Kok Thay, Genting’s Chairman, as Genting Group owns Universal Studios, Sentosa.
I comment that people in Singapore seem to use private jets the way people in Sydney use taxicabs, and that I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the numbers of zeroes associated with those I have met since my arrival.
“You should pay no attention to zeroes,” says one young man. “We are simply trying to offer the best service possible, the same as any other business, and if that happens to make money, then so be it.” Their modesty is refreshing, and I am certain that it has not been adopted purely for my benefit. They go on to tell me that their company owns the largest number of casinos in the UK, including the exclusive Crockfords in London’s Mayfair. I tell them I vaguely recall my father mentioning the casino in relation to the Australian tycoon Kerry Packer who reportedly lost £11 million in a poker game. “Regretfully, we cannot comment on that,” says one man, and I assure him that it would have been way before his time anyway.
“Do you visit the casinos in your leisure time?” asks the other man.
I pat my chest and tell them that unfortunately I don’t think I could handle the stress of losing vast sums of money in a game of chance. “Ah, but there is a certain amount of skill involved with the game of poker,” they say. I agree with them. The son of a good friend of mine is a professional gambler; he makes a decent living from his unusual career choice, albeit his gambling is performed online, and I suggest that he might not fare quite so well should he take his practice into the high-stakes world of the real-life casinos.
“Do you play poker?” they ask. I tell them that I do but only at Christmas after a couple of glasses of port and the cheese board. “We will be playing tonight in the hotel’s cigar lounge. Please join us.” I tell them I still haven’t decided if I am staying a further night, a choice that will follow my meeting later this morning with Cathie Wood. “Oh, but Ms Wood will be joining us also. It will be the perfect opportunity for you to iron out any unresolved issues from your meeting.” They are persuasive, as though they have already pre-empted my acceptance.
I can see the benefits of spending the evening in their company with Cathie Wood, and I have already envisaged adding Leann to the mix. With her well-practiced social persona, who better to have perfected the ultimate poker face? I ask if I may bring a guest.
“Of course, please do,” they say. “It is an open invitation.” I reiterate that I am not the greatest poker player, and they may need to be patient with me. “You will watch and learn,” they say. “There is nothing to it.”
I'm so glad I was able to catch up on reading the written sections. I like that they are written in small sections, which make it manageable for busy readers like myself. Each section really leaves me wanting to read more to know more about the characters and the events. Thank you for sharing this story with your readers.