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Ancient Artifacts and Modern Rituals

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Attention students: Friday is the last day of classes before Spring Break! Just a reminder that if you do decide to head to Mexico or Florida and engage in unwise practices involving alcohol or controlled substances of course we want you to be safe, but also be sure to wear your Greendale Human Beings t-shirt while you do! A reputation as a party school is better than no reputation at all!

Britta rolled her eyes. “Like I’d ever go to Florida for spring break,” she said.

“Really?” PIerce asked. “A buddy of mine has a house in the Keys, and since I have the plane this week—”

“What plane?” Jeff asked. “You have a plane?”

“Oh, I bought into one of those private plane collectives,” Pierce replied. “In the name of my Buddhist church, of course, so I could take the write-off.”

“Tax fraud, nice,” Jeff said.

Troy scowled, confused. “So, it’s like a time-share plane?”

“Yep.”

“Well, I’m going where you’re going,” Troy said.

“Me too,” Abed said, exchanging high fives with Troy.

“Annie and I are going to New York,” Shirley said.

“I’m going to a leadership conference,” Annie added, sitting up a little straighter in her chair. “But the entrepreneur’s club lost my registration—which I still don’t quite understand as I sent it in on the first day—and by the time I realized it the hotel was full of some convention for people who run city parks.”

“So I invited her to stay with my aunt,” Shirley said, patting Annie’s hand. “My boys are going to be with my husband’s parents this week, and it will be good to get away. I have some … thinking to do, and talking to my aunt has always helped.”

Britta smiled. “You’ll have a great time!

“We so will,” Annie said. “Especially since we got tickets to a dress rehearsal of TGS with Tracy Jordan and I managed to get an extra one for Shirley!”

“Okay, no,” Britta said. “I can give you some places to go, some of my old hangouts that aren’t run over with tourists!”

“Oh, that’s nice!” Shirley said. “Do you miss New York?”

“Sometimes, yeah,” Britta admitted.

“Then we should all go!” Pierce announced. “On my plane!”

“New York, awesome,” Troy said. “They have black and white cookies there.”

“Wow, thanks, Pierce,” Britta said. “I can call a friend and stay with them.”

“No, no,” Shirley said. “You should all stay at my aunt’s house, uptown. Plenty of room.”

“What about you, Jeff?” Annie said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jeff replied.

Chang poked his head in the door. “Hey guys! Making spring break plans?”

Jeff turned to Shirley, who shook her head almost imperceptibly. “Uh, yeah, Chang, we’re thinking about going to Vegas.”

“Vegas!” Chang said, smiling. “Man, I’ve been there dozens of times! I know all the good places!”

“I bet you do,” Annie said.

“Great! I’ll meet you at Mandalay Bay, at the roulette wheel.”

“Well,” Britta said, “we haven’t decided we’re going—”

“Of course you are!” Chang said. “Come on, it’s Vegas, am I right?” He walked away.

“Yikes,” Jeff said.

“So Jeff,” Abed said, “If you come to New York with us, then it will be like a vacation episode.”

“Well,” Jeff replied, looking around the table, “how can I say no to that?”



Pierce not only covered the plane, but also got a limo to take them all up to Shirley’s aunt’s house in Harlem.

“I’m never flying coach again,” Troy said. “The seats reclined! We got more to eat than Sun Chips and a cold cheese sandwich!”

“I’m sure Abed was glad he didn’t have to go through security,” Pierce said.

“I’ve never had a problem,” Abed said. “Just gotta get there early. You know, like four hours before the flight.”

“Ugh,” Britta said, shaking her head. “But it was nice not to get the usual twenty questions at the airport.”

Jeff raised an eyebrow. “You’re on the Do Not Fly list? Really?”

“No,” she replied, “but get arrested at the UN protesting the capitalist system and the system will have its revenge.”

Shirley shook her head. “I’m just glad we didn’t have to go through those new machines. No security guard is gonna get a picture of my va-jay-jay.”

Annie looked out the window. “How far is the house?” she asked.

“It should be right up here,” Shirley said. “Yep, on the corner!”

The driver let them off in front of a large, old brownstone. “Wow,” Pierce said, looking up and down the street at the other tidy yards in front of rows of brownstone houses. “The houses up here are much nicer than I was expecting.”

Jeff scowled. “Pierce, if you keep talking like that someone is going to punch you in the nose.”

At that moment the door opened and a small black woman with close-cropped natural salt-and-pepper hair and wearing a dark sweatsuit came out onto the stoop. “Shirley!”

“Auntie Mavis!” Shirley said, embracing the woman. “So good to see you!”

“And these are your friends?” she asked.

“Hi,” Annie said, stepping forward. “I’m Annie Edison. Thanks for inviting us to stay here, Ms.—”

“Please, call me Mavis,” she replied. “Well, come in, come in, don’t stand around out here!”

After Mavis gave them all a tour of the three-story house, and everyone had settled their things into one of the several bedrooms, they gathered around a dining room table laden with food. “Oh, Mavis,” Britta said, “you must have been cooking all day.”

“Easier to cook for a crowd than just for one,” Mavis said. “I did some communal living when I was younger, so I’m used to it.”

“Nothing better than a beautiful woman who can cook,” Pierce said, leering in Mavis’s direction.

“Oh my god,” Troy muttered, shaking his head.

“Pierce!” Shirley said. “I’m sorry, Auntie; I had some trouble with this one when we first met.”

“I’ve met gentlemen like Pierce before, sweetie,” Mavis replied, patting Shirley’s hand. “I can handle them.”

“I bet you can,” Pierce said.

“Enough,” Jeff said. “Now you’re embarrassing me.”

Mavis chuckled. “So what is everyone doing with their time in the city?”

“Shopping,” Abed said.

Troy nodded. “Yeah, so like, in Chinatown? There’s a bunch of stores selling games and anime and kung fu movies and posters and toys and all that cool stuff so we’re gonna go check that out.”

“I’ve got the first day of my leadership conference,” Annie said. “I’m so excited!”

“I’m sure it will be a thrill a minute,” Jeff said. “I’m planning on taking the Britta tour of New York and seeing all these groovy underground places she mentioned.”

“You still don’t believe I lived here, do you?” Britta asked.

“Anyone who pronounces bagel like you do couldn’t possibly have lived in New York,” Jeff replied, “much less spent your time here sticking it to The Man.”

“How do you pronounce it?” Mavis asked.

“Bag-el?” Britta said.

A loud laugh erupted around the table, and Britta scowled and crossed her arms.

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Mavis said, “but he does have a point. And you, Pierce?”

“I thought I might accompany you young ladies on your adventures,” he said.

“Much as I’m sure we’d love that,” Mavis said, “we’re going up to the Cloisters to spend the day in quiet contemplation. Shirley has some thinking to do, and that atmosphere has always helped her.”

Shirley nodded. “That’s where I decided to go back to school,” she said.

“Well, I’m sure I can find plenty of things to do. It is New York after all!”

Britta leaned over to Jeff. “I don’t know if Pierce running around New York by himself is such a great idea.”

“You want to babysit him?” Jeff asked. “Because I don’t. I don’t think he can get into that much trouble anyway. You know, without Leonard around.”

“I hope not,” Britta said.



By three p.m. the next day, Troy and Abed had almost gone through the money they’d brought and were laden with bags and packages. They were wandering the little streets just above Chinatown when a jacket in one window caught Troy’s eye. “I need to have that.”

Abed cocked his head. “I think it would look better on me,” he said.

“We can go halfsies and share it.”

“Okay,” Abed said, “but we’ll have to work out a custody agreement. Maybe Jeff can write it up.”

“Sure, sure,” Troy said, walking into the shop, which was crowded with neat stacks of sweaters, racks of trousers, and shirts hanging from the ceiling.

Troy tried on the brown leather jacket from the window, which fell to mid-thigh. “Man, I look like Shaft in this,” Troy said, turning back and forth in the mirror. “All I need is a turtleneck.”

“And the sideburns,” Abed said, taking the jacket for his turn.

As he’d predicted, it did look better on him. “Damn,” Troy said. “Well, let’s get it anyway.”

While they stood at the counter to pay, Abed rooted in the pockets for his wallet, out of habit, and pulled out a key. “Hey, look at this.”

The guy behind the counter, a sullen downtown type, said, “That’s a PA locker key.”

“PA?” Abed asked.

Counter Guy rolled his eyes. “Port Authority Bus Terminal? Over by Times Square? You guys aren’t from around here, are you?”

“Yeah, well, we know people uptown,” Troy said, “if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah!” Abed said, though he didn’t actually know what Troy meant.

“No need to get huffy,” the guy said, raising his hands.

“Oh I’m not huffy,” Troy said, taking their change and backing out the door. “Just letting you know what’s up.”

“Whatever,” the guy replied.



“Okay, okay, uncle,” Jeff said. “Fine, you know every bar in New York that used to be a speakeasy.”

“Remember that next time you doubt me, hipster,” Britta replied.

“Hipster? You’re the one who knows a bar that serves shitty gin in teacups. Which, by the way, was a bit of verisimilitude I really didn’t need.”

“You loved it,” Britta said. “And I know something you’ll love even more.”

“Trust me, that won’t be difficult.”

Britta smiled. “Half-price imported cashmere sweaters.”

Jeff’s eyebrows flew up. “Seriously? How?”

“I know a guy,” Britta said, shrugging. “It’s right around the corner.”

“These streets are all so tiny,” Jeff said. “How do you even find your way around here? All the bridges even look the same. It’s like you want visitors to get lost.”

“We kinda do,” Britta said. “But really it’s that this all used to be tenement housing for immigrants. And now it’s full of hipsters like you.”

They walked to a small shop where a well-dressed man was arguing with the clerk behind the counter. “What do you mean, you sold it?”

The counter guy shrugged. “Dude, that’s what we do here. It’s a clothing store.”

“But I put that jacket on hold!”

“Shoulda bought it.”

The man turned to the door, scowling, then suddenly broke out into a smile.

“Oh shit,” said Jeff and Britta, almost at the same time, then glanced at each other in surprise.

“Jeff Winger?” the man asked.

“Fred Jackson,” Jeff said. “How are you, man?”

“Well, I’ll be damned! What doing in New York?” Fred asked.

“Vacation. My friend Britta used to live here and was just showing me around her old hangouts. You know about this place, too?”

“Who do you think told Britta about it in the first place?” Fred asked, giving Britta a hug that didn’t look too comfortable. “You know, lady, when you left town I almost gave you Jeff’s number, but it looks like you two found each other anyway.” He grinned.

“Fred,” Britta said, pushing against his chest to regain some personal space, “it’s not what you think. We met at school.”

“Oh that’s right,” Fred said, snapping his fingers. “You were going back to Colorado to get your GED. Good for you for sticking to that!”

“Well, thanks, Fred!” she said. “But actually it’s a … a graduate level anthropology program. I just said that about the GED to make you feel good.”

“Yeah,” Jeff said. “Anthro, the whole human condition thing, really helpful in court.”

“Well, you’re not the only one expanding into academia,” Fred said. “Got myself a little side business running academic conferences. Students will pay a surprising amount of money to come to New York and sit in a conference room listening to someone spew bullshit. Almost like having my own law firm but without having to actually win any cases.”

Jeff cocked his head. “Yeah, that’s perfect.”

“So how do you two know each other?” Britta asked.

“We went to law school together,” Jeff said.

“Jeff was a legend,” Fred said, swinging an arm to pat Jeff on the back so hard that Jeff had to step forward to keep his balance. “No way I would have made it through law school without this guy. He started a ‘study group’”—Fred mimed the quotes with his fingers—”that facilitated like-minded future lawyers giving each other the answers to all the exams.”

“Wow,” Britta said. “Kinda makes you feel sorry for the students who actually studied.”

“I know, right?” Fred said, shaking his head. “Poor slobs.”

“So how did you two meet?” Jeff asked.

“That’s a funny story,” Britta said.

“I don’t know about that,” Fred said, and then his phone rang. He glanced at it. “Oh, gotta take this, sorry. Go for Jackson. … Hey! Thanks for calling back man! … You’re in town? Can you do it? … Man, you are a lifesaver. Where are you now? … Okay, I’ll come to you man. Do not move!” He hung up and looked back and Jeff and Britta. “Well, I’d love to stay but I have to go put out a fire at one of my conferences. Great to run into you!” He shook Jeff’s hand, pulling him close and whispering in his ear, “Be careful with this one. She’s hot but she’ll take you for everything.”

Jeff pulled back and shot Fred a dubious look as he left a lingering kiss on Britta’s forehead before walking out the door.

“Well, I feel gross now,” Jeff said.

“Tell me about it.”

“And, you never said how you two met.”

Britta sighed. “Look, being an activist and a bartender didn’t always pay the rent, okay?”

“Wait, you were a—”

“No! Of course not! It was more of a free meals and clothing and pawnable jewelry kind of thing.”

“Mmm,” Jeff said. “That makes more sense. I mean, to be honest? You’re way too hot for him.”

“He’s got a lot of money,” she replied. “Kinda evens the score in this town.”

“And to think I could have moved here,” Jeff said. “Talk about an opportunity missed.”



“Why would a port authority run a bus station?” Troy asked. “Buses don’t need ports.”

Abed looked around at the grimy floors and walls. “I thought they cleaned up Times Square.”

“Maybe not this part of it.” Troy scanned the wall of lockers. “Here it is,” he said, kneeling down and inserting the key.

“Wait!” Abed said.

“What?”

“This is crucial. What we’re about to find could be like the earrings in Desperately Seeking Susan, or like the tiki god in The Brady Bunch Hawaii episode.”

“Good point,” Troy said, nodding.

“But I’m thinking that the power of our friendship might neutralize whatever bad energy is in the locker.”

“Okay. How about we turn the key together?”

They each put two fingers on the key and turned it slowly. The locker popped open. Troy and Abed glanced at each other, then reached into the locker and pulled out a flat box.

Abed opened the box, slowly.

“Is that what I think it is?” Troy asked.

“Mm-hm,” Abed replied.

Troy smiled. “It’s beautiful.”



Shirley stretched her legs and sighed. Going to the Cloisters had been exactly what she needed. The atmosphere cleared out the cobwebs, the confusion, the lingering resentments. She still wasn’t sure what decision she was going to make, but now it felt possible that she could make one. She patted her stomach as she sipped her tea.

“Wanna help me make dinner, pumpkin?” Mavis asked. “How many are we expecting?”

“I’m not sure,” Shirley said, putting down her mug.

Jeff and Britta walked into the kitchen carrying a wrapped box. “Hello, ladies. How was your day?” Jeff asked.

“Peaceful and refreshing, thank you,” Shirley replied. “And yours? How was Britta’s tour?”

“Enlightening,” Jeff replied. “Mavis, we got you something, to thank you for your hospitality.”

“Oh, would you look at that?” Mavis said, taking the box and sitting down at the kitchen table. “You really didn’t need to get me anything.”

“It’s our pleasure,” Britta said.

“My goodness, is that cashmere?” she asked, pulling out the deep violet sweater. “It’s beautiful, thank you!”

“Glad you like it,” Jeff replied.

“Here, let me get you two some tea,” Mavis said.

Moments later Troy and Abed joined them, carrying a box.

“Ooh, what do you two have there?” Shirley asked. “I thought you were shopping for games and what not.”

“Yeah, we already brought that stuff up to our room,” Troy said.

“We found this in a storage locker,” Abed said, opening the box to reveal a jade necklace and empty spots where two bracelets had been.

“Wow, Abed, that’s gorgeous,” Britta said.

“Where are the bracelets?” Jeff asked.

Troy held up his wrist. “We thought the amber was a fitting symbol of our manly friendship,” he said.

“But we decided to give the necklace to you, Mavis,” said Abed.

“But it must belong to someone,” Britta said.

“There was a card inside that said Dunder Mifflin, but Google says that’s a paper company or something?” Troy said. “Kind of a dead end.”

“Well, I’ll be,” Mavis said, picking up the necklace and inspecting it closely.

“You know a lot about jewelry, Mavis?” Britta asked.

“Britta does,” Jeff said. “Ow! Don’t kick me, jeez!”

“Who me? No, no,” Mavis said, setting the necklace down. “I was just thinking how nicely it would go with the sweater Britta and Jeff just gave me.” She reached into the box and held up the sweater for them to see.

“Wow,” Pierce said as he walked into the room. “I’d like to shake the hand of whoever gave you that sweater. Cashmere really hugs the curves.”

Britta tutted her disgust.

“Pierce, what have you been up to today?” Jeff asked.

“I’ve been at the library writing up a speech,” Pierce replied. “Got a call from a buddy to fill in at his conference last-minute as the keynote speaker. Usually I can give speeches like this in my sleep but I wanted to make this a good one. You know, New York and all. The big time!” He scratched the back of his neck. “I saw a barber shop down the street. Do I have time to get a hair cut before dinner?”

“Um, Pierce, I don’t think you should go to that barber shop,” Troy said.

“Why not?”

Mavis stood and put a hand on his shoulder. “Why don’t you let me give you a trim, right here in the kitchen?”

Pierce smiled. “You’d do that?” he asked.

“Of course,” she said. “You just go take a shower and leave your hair damp, and then come back down here, and I’ll get my smock and my hair scissors.”

“I always suspected that all black women are hairdressers,” Pierce said. “Should I leave my shirt off?”

“Um, no,” Mavis said. “No need for that.”

“Okay!” Pierce said, and headed upstairs.

“Wow,” Jeff said. “Dodged a bullet there.”

“Yeah, thanks, Mavis,” Britta said.

“It’s my pleasure,” Mavis said.

The front door slammed. “Oh, my,” Shirley said.

Annie stormed into the room. “I have had it!” she said, thumping down into a chair. “This conference has been a complete waste of money. First they lose my registration, then they put us in a hotel in midtown so completely generic that it doesn’t even feel like New York, and now they’re switching the keynote speaker. They promised us the founder of Google!”

Britta and Jeff exchanged glances. “Okay, Annie, we’re gonna need you to do us a favor,” Jeff said.

“What?” Annie asked.

He leaned in closer. “Look, we’ve got a good idea that the new keynote speaker at your conference is going to be Pierce.”

“What?!” Annie shouted.

“Shh!” Britta said. “You should have seen him earlier. He was really excited. He’s even getting a haircut.”

“But—but—but—”

“Sweetie,” Shirley said, putting a hand on Annie’s, “if it were any one of us you’d be asking us to be supportive.”

Annie looked around the table, her eyes wide, then slumped back and crossed her arms. “Fine!” she said. “But if I have to go, we all go!”

“Nice job, Jeff,” Troy said, rolling his eyes.

“I’m sure it will be nice,” Mavis said. “I’ll have an occasion to wear my new sweater and necklace!”

“The shower stopped,” Abed said.

“Okay, everyone play dumb,” Jeff said.

Pierce walked into the room. “I’m ready for my haircut!” he announced.

“Pierce!” Shirley shouted. “What did we say about putting on a shirt?”



The group, minus Pierce and plus Mavis, sat around a table in a hotel conference room, shocked into silence as the room emptied.

“Wow,” Shirley said.

“I’m shocked,” Britta said.

“Wouldn’t have called that in a million years,” Jeff said.

Some students from the next table walked over. “Hey Annie,” Garrett said. “Pierce was pretty good up there.”

“Yeah, he was,” Annie said, smiling. “He invented Hawthorne Wipes after all.”

“Um, sorry we messed up your registration,” Garrett said. “We’ll make it up at the next meeting.”

Annie shrugged. “That’s okay,” she said. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go congratulate my friend.” She rose from the table and walked away.

“Damn,” Troy said, “she’s getting really good at that.”

By the time the rest of them caught up to Annie she’d reached the space the conference was using as a green room. Pierce was being congratulated by another man in a sharp suit.

“Hey, Pierce!” Annie said. “You were great!”

“Thanks!” Pierce said. “Done it a bunch of times. Oh, meet my pal Fred; he’s running this whole shindig. Fred, this is Annie.”

Britta saw Fred and leaned over to Jeff. “Oh my god, you were totally right.”

Abed was just behind them. “Right about what?” he asked.

“The guy running Annie’s conference is an old law school buddy of mine, an old boyfriend of Britta’s, and also knows Pierce,” Jeff muttered.

“Wow, it’s like all our New York storylines are coming together,” Abed said. “Wonder what his connection is with Troy and me?”

Troy walked into the room past him and reached out his hand to shake Pierce’s. “Wow, man,” he said. “I didn’t realize you knew so much about … business stuff.”

“Well, I’ve picked up a few things here and there,” Pierce said, smiling.

Fred, however, was staring at Troy’s wrist. “Where did you get that?”

“What?” Troy asked.

Fred grabbed Troy’s arm. “The bracelet! Where did you get it?”

“Yo, dude, we found it, all right?” Troy asked.

“Found it where?” Fred asked, reaching into his pocket.

“He’s got a gun!” Annie shouted.

A gasp rose up in the room. “So that’s the connection,” Abed said.

“Fred, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Britta asked.

“You know Fred?” Pierce asked.

“We both know him,” Jeff said. “This can get you disbarred, Fred. Put the gun down.”

Fred turned the gun on Jeff. “You’re not the only one that got into trouble with the bar, Jeff,” he said. “Why do you think I’m running this conference scam and smuggling ancient artifacts?”

“You mean the founder of Google doesn’t have the flu?” Annie asked.

“I don’t even know the founder of Google!” Fred said. “Now give me the rest of the jewels!”

“I don’t know where they are!” Troy shrieked. “This was all we found.”

“You,” Fred said, pressing the gun into Troy’s neck, “are lying.”

Jeff glanced up at the door and saw Mavis and Shirley walking in, and tried to silently warn them away.

But Mavis was determined. She glanced around the room and then suddenly came up behind Fred and struck him with a perfectly-executed karate chop to his shoulder. Fred dropped to the ground, unconscious, and she kicked the gun out of his hand, then pulled her cell phone out of her bra. “Captain? Mavis Jones. You’d better get down to the ballroom at the Hyatt. I found your smuggler for you. You owe me. Again.” She hung up. “Let’s find something to tie him up with until the cops get here.”

“How did you know?” Shirley asked.

Mavis looked up at her from where she was tying Fred to one of the water pipes using a table cloth. “When Troy and Abed gave me that necklace,” she replied, “I recognized the ancient Burmese design of the carvings in both the jade and the amber. An alert had gone out on them just a few weeks ago—stolen from a museum in London.”

“You’re Mavis Jones?” Britta asked. “I’ve been staying with Mavis Jones and didn’t even know it? You’re one of my heroes! Your time in the Black Panthers, and then leaving them when they refused to treat you like an equal? Wow, when I was in jail, getting your letter meant so much!”

“Thanks, pumpkin,” Mavis said. “Letter to Britta—you must have been one of the UN Six! Come here and give me a hug, girl!”

“Wow,” Jeff said. “I thought all that anarchist stuff was crap.”

“Mmm,” Pierce said. “I do love a woman who can beat me up.”

“Oh, great, backstory,” Abed said. “Now we know where Shirley learned to swing that baseball bat.”

“How do you stay so nice?” Britta asked. “I mean, after all you’ve seen, and all you’re still working for?”

“Let me tell you something,” Mavis replied. “You know how they say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?”

“Yeah,” Britta said, rolling her eyes.

“Well, the real trick? Lure them in with honey, then hit them upside the head with the fly swatter.”

“Believe me, Mavis,” Jeff said, “these three ladies are all very familiar with that particular maneuver.”



After the police were through with them, and Troy, Abed and Mavis surrendered the stolen artifacts, they returned to Mavis’s house in Harlem. Shirley looked around the table at all these good, supportive friends, friends she hadn’t had the last time she came to see her Auntie. “Well, that was quite a couple of days,” she said.

“New York does seem somewhat anti-climactic now,” Annie said, nodding.

Pierce said, “There’s still my buddy’s house in the Keys.”

“I could do with some sun,” Britta said.

“Oh, and they have all those tiny deer,” Shirley said, “and we can watch the sun set!”

“Are there jet skis at the house?” Abed asked.

“Yep,” Pierce replied.

“We’re there,” Troy said, exchanging a high five with Abed.

“And Mavis,” Pierce said, “I’d love to return your hospitality.”

“I’ll accept,” she replied, “provided you keep your hands to yourself.”

“Jeff, you in?” Britta asked.

Jeff cocked his head. “Sure, why not,” he said. “Gotta keep the vacation episode going, right?”

“Actually, now that we’re going to Florida,” Abed replied, “it becomes a beach episode. Totally different. Much more fan service, which for us means Jeff will be naked.”

“Hey, I can take off my shirt just as well as he can,“ Troy said. “Why can’t I be the fan service this time?”



At the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, a man in a white tuxedo sat nursing a scotch and flipping a $1000 chip against his fingers. “Put it all on twenty-one,” he said, tossing the chip to join the large pile on the table in front of the roulette wheel.

The crowd around him gasped. The dealer sent the wheel spinning, and the ball landed.

“Twenty-one red!” the dealer shouted.

The crowd cheered, but the man didn’t even crack a smile. He drained his scotch and set the glass down, then pulled his chips from the board. He took his initial stake of $1000 and put it in his pocket. “All the money in the world,” he said, “won’t fill the hole inside my heart.” Then he took the rest of the chips and threw them into the air. As the crowd swirled around him, grabbing for the money, the man leaned back his head and shouted, “SHIRLEY!”