Getting Hillie and Willie over for a night of bridge at 1600 wasn't easy. Hillie's current job required her to accumulate lots of frequent flier miles to destinations all over the world. Meanwhile, Willie was busy commuting between his foundation's offices in Lower Manhattan and 125th Street in Harlem, with occasional side trips to the Apollo Theater.
But after some effort, 'Chelle had finally succeded in making a date. Slipping past the security guard into Bar's office after his morning briefing, she told him the good news. “They're coming on Tuesday evening,” she said. “It'll be dinner and bridge, have you any menu ideas?”
“We have to be careful. I've heard he turned Vegan,” said Bar.
'Chelle frowned. “I don't care when he goes to Las Vegas, baby. I want to know what he eats.”
“Vegans are the strictest kind of vegetarians, baby,” he replied. “And Panetta, who worked with him when he lived here, says he's sworn off meat, dairy too.”
“A Vegan,” said she. “At least he didn't turn Republican.”
After a suitably healthy dinner, Hillie and Willie seated themselves at the bridge table. As she was about to deal the cards (there was no need for Red decks this time around, since the crowd was all-Blue), 'Chelle turned to Willie.
“ I hear that you've had enough spare time to polish up on your bridge game,” she said. “Rumours 'round town have it that you've been seen at the table with a top woman player, is there any truth to them. Was it really Kitty Munson Cooper?”
Willie twisted slightly in his chair. “These seats aren't quite as comfortable as they were when we lived here,” he said. “Did you have them re-upholstered?”
“Matter of fact we did,” said Bar, who rarely paid attention to household matters. “The previous occupants had them covered with animal skin, maybe it was saddle leather." 'Chelle and I decided on a nice Hawaiian print, in honor of my birthplace.”
Willie grinned. “An African or Indonesian print would have been a bad move indeed. But let me get one thing straight. I did not play bridge with that woman,” he said. Hillie put on her best Tammy Wynette face to demonstrate that she was indeed standing by her man.
There was no denying, however, Willie's improvement, as demonstrated by his prowess as declarer on one of the first deals.
Willie, as dealer, opened 2♥, promptly alerted by Hillie.
“It's part of the Multi 2♦ system I picked up during a break from meetings with the EU in Brussels,” she said. “2♥ indicates a two-suiter, probably 5-5 in hearts and a minor, less than an opening bid.”
“Alert!” said Willie, when his wife bid 2NT. “That's forcing, asks me what I've got.”
The auction now picked up speed – 3♠ by 'Chelle, 4♦ from Willie to show his second suit, 5♦ from Hillie.
Bar was sure there wouldn't be any overtricks. “I think I'll double that,” he said. After the rest of the table passed, he placed the ♦A on the table, followed by the ♦K and a third diamond.
Though he maintained a calm smile on his face, Willie realized that the situation was desperate. “I've been in bad spots before,” he thought to himself, “and going down in 5♦ doubled is no worse than what Ken Starr had in store for me. I can pitch a heart on the ♠A and maybe even establish another spade for a heart pitch, but that won't do me any good 'cuz my problem is with the third heart, not the fourth or fifth.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Willie took the third diamond in hand and led a small club to the ♣10, showing visible relief when that held. Now he played ♠A and ♠Q, covered and ruffed, with the ♠9 falling from Bar. He then led a small club to the ♣K, and led the ♠10, covered with the ♠J and ruffed with his last trump.
Another club to dummy and the now-master ♠8 put paid to Bar, in this position:
Willie discarded a heart and Bar folded his cards. “Slick, Willie, slick. You really squeezed me on that one,” he said. “But that's not the kind of play that you learn at the local duplicate back in the Ozarks. Are you sure you didn't...”
Willie cut his host off. “I've said it once and let me say it again. I did not play bridge with that woman, I did not play bridge with Kitty Munson Cooper.”
Plus... it's free!