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MAD BRIDGE 11: Southern Exposure

 

After the German doctors had left the table, Peggy leaned forward and spoke to Draper in a low voice. “How did she ever find that killing lead?” she asked. “There was no clue from the bidding, was there?”

Draper smiled. “Silly girl. You'd know if you'd been around as many con men as I...” He stopped abruptly, realizing that he was about to disclose one of the dark secrets of his past, how he'd learned the tricks of the trade as a teenager in the bordello, living with women whose trade was tricks.

“Didn't you notice all that coughing?” he continued after a moment.

“Yes, poor man. Getting sick in Sunny California can't be much fun,” said Peggy, innocently.

Draper grinned. “He seemed perfectly healthy afterwards. But look, here come our next opponents,” he said, nodding in the direction of the oddly-dressed couple approaching their table.

Don and Peggy's next opponents in the Mixed Pairs were a small, dark-haired woman in a voluminous skirt that looked like it was held up by scaffolding and a mustachioed gallant in a military-looking gray tunic. Peggy's eyes widened in amazement. “They look straight out of the movies.”

“Probably do. After all, this is Hollywood.” Draper was about to say more when the woman reached the table, waited for Mr. Tunic to hold her chair for her, pushed her skirts to one side and sat down.

“Well fiddle-dee-dee!” she exclaimed in a high-pitched voice. “We're ever so sorry you've had to wait for us. But you see, I'm finding it very hard to get along without Vashti, since those Yankees said she didn't belong to me any more.”

 Peggy felt the need to stand up and curtsy, but Don and Mr. Tunic had already pulled their cards out of the board.

The skirted lady hadn't stopped talking. “East-West is very difficult, but we couldn't sit in the other direction. Neither of us could ever, ever, ever sit North, you hear.”

The gent in the tunic cleared his throat. “Standard Confederate Gray Card, 16-18 no-trumps, fourth from longest and strongest,” he announced.

Here was the first deal:

 

S. Gent
A10
K1076
J10
AJ1094
Peggy
J32
Q432
AQ64
83
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P

 

Southern Gent led the J, top of an interior sequence, to partner's 5 and declarer's K. After a moment or two of what appeared to be deep thought Draper, who was usually pretty quick when playing dummy, led a diamond to dummy's ace and a second diamond back to the king, noting the fall of West's J-10.

He stopped again, thought some more, half-smiled to himself and led a small spade. Southern Gent followed smoothly with the 10 and Draper won the J, while Southern Belle followed with the 9. The Gent was forced to take the next trick after Draper led a spade to the K in the closed hand.

The crucial point had arrived, and Southern Gent paused to count declarer's points – K-Q, K and K, had already been seen, or were obvious, adding up to 11. The A brought that total to 15 for sure, leaving room in declarer's hand for either the Q or the J. Or, for that matter neither, in which case he could cash four club winners and set the contract, unless that 15-17 on the convention card was some kind of Yankee illusion. Next he tried counting declarer's probable tricks – one club, three diamonds, two spades – and, at best, two hearts, if he led a heart declarer would win dummy's queen. There was no reason to risk giving up a trick in clubs yet, no reason to hurry. The tricks seemed sure to come back to him.

Declarer won the queen of hearts in dummy, played a spade to his hand and a diamond to dummy's queen. Southern Gent had no trouble yielding a heart on the first of them. Things were a tad more difficult on the second; if the club queen were part of declarer's 15-17 no-trump opener, discarding a club would expose him to an end-play in hearts if the haircut that reminded him of a carpetbagger had started with KQx or KQxx. And the belle sitting opposite him was protecting her hearts if declarer had started with the doubleton ace. Southern Gent steeled his manly shoulders and discarded a heart.

It was over faster than the flash from a gunbarrel. The next card was the A, felling Southern Gent's now-solo king and his pretty little partner's J simultaneously. Draper showed the good 9 next and claimed. "That'll be nine tricks folks -- two spades, three diamonds, one club, and three hearts," he smiled.

S. Gent
A10
K1076
J10
AJ1094
Peggy
J32
Q432
AQ64
83
S. Belle
9876
J5
9852
Q52
Draper
KQ54
A98
K74
K76
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Southern Gent looked at Draper's cards in a mixture of amazement and anger. Drawing in his breath to calm himself, he turned to partner. "You had the queen of clubs, sweetheart. Why didn't you show me, or better yet play it on my jack at Trick One?"

Southern Belle fluttered her eyelids. "I do declare," she said. "Was I supposed to do that, darlin'?"

The tall gent with the mustache shrugged. "It's called unblocking. I could have cashed my winning clubs when I took the ace, for one down. Not knowing where that lady was hiding turned up the heat."

The dark-haired belle stood up. "Well fry my chicken," she said. "I've been educated that a girl's got to protect her honor. It's the ladylike thing to do."

 

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