Free drink in hand, he walked over to the seating plan mounted on an easel. Relieved he was alone. The pinkie of his left hand made two rapid downward strokes at the corner of his mouth. He spread his legs apart in order to fully possess the space in front of the plan. He took two fingers and rubbed them across his brow twice. It was bound to be hot in the hall under the lights, but out here in the atrium it was pleasant enough.
That last seating plan in London had been so baroque, so ornate, with bunting and glitter and everything. At least this one's calligraphy was easy to read, unlike London's curlicues and other ridiculous flourishes, which had meant he couldn't even recognise his own name. It had taken him three (count 'em) trawls through the list. The names there had been arranged table by table, so there was no way to short cut straight to himself. He was so het up by the time he'd located his table, that the day was an absolute write off. He kissed a brace of knuckles on his hand and pressed them against the table plan in front of him. It could almost be taken for a gesture of gratitude.
For here at least it all seemed far more orderly. Surnames first, followed by Christian names rather than an initial. No 'Mr', "Mrs' or 'Ms'. Table six. Not his lucky number. But there again neither was it particularly a jinx. He tapped his ribcage twice in quick succession.
Then his eye naturally scans for other number 6s to the right of names. The first was about two-thirds of the way down the first column. Leslie Conway. Damn, one of those names that could be either male or female. Twofold he clicked thumb against finger. No telling if he was sat next to him/her or opposite. North, east, south, west. That was one flaw with this plan. He took a sip from the drink, smacked his lips, then wiped them with the back of his hand. He examined the fine hairs standing up. Such self-anointing had become a bit of a ritual with him at such events.
Returning his gaze to the board, he tracked down a second name prefiguring a 6. Steven Taplow. The name was vaguely familiar, but he knew it wasn't held in the little black book contained in his head. He'd never had the pleasure, until tonight seemingly. He made a pair of circuits of the rim of his glass with his index finger. The glass didn't sing.
Now the third name, the one that always held a sense of doom for him by dint of being third and last. He crossed himself twice, even though he wasn't particularly a believer. Gemma Cartwright. No mistaking her gender. Luck be a lady tonight flashed through his mind. He pulled at his earlobe a couple of times. It would be a delight to make your acquaintance Gemma, since again she was new blood as far as he was concerned. A completely fresh slate for him at this event. That was good. All the enmities, grudges and bad blood that could knock him off his game must be sat at other tables. He drained the rest of his glass, smacked his lips and then wiped them with the back of his hand. This time however, he felt no compunction to inspect the hairs.
He had stayed here long enough, now that others had assembled and were getting fidgety behind him. Besides he had what information he needed. He stepped into the hall and headed straight for table 6. None of his partners for the evening were yet sat in place. He double-circled the table anticlockwise, before pulling his chair back to sit down. Immediately the chipsman was on him and laying them out in their denominations on the table to his right. He pushed his sunglasses tight against the bridge of his nose twice. As soon as the man had withdrawn, he moved them over to his left and built them into twin stacks. He brushed his hand through his hair twice, patted his left cheek twice and cleared his throat twice. He was ready to play poker. Let's see what the seating plan had in store for his chances tonight.