I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness, the dealer satisfying my fix each time the cards hit the table like laudanum to my lips.
I could leave this table now and live comfortably for the rest of my life with whiskey and whores on tap to my heart’s content, yet still it is never enough. I crave the attention, feed off the fear when my opponents realize who I am and what I’ve done to amass my fortunes, love the looks of disdain from the saloon women when they are shunned for a bottle, getting a pocket full of chips instead of the love of a legend between their legs. I should be grateful, they say, that a woman of their ilk would even give a slant-eye the chance, yet is it because of their ilk that I am disinterested, their haughty, painted-on faces and facades. Not a true woman among them.
We were the last two at the table when he ordered up a bottle of vodka, raising an eyebrow above darkly-tinted, round spectacles, bottle poised above my glass. I nodded in wordless acceptance, neither of us being men of speech when the game was afoot, he downing the first shot and then another quickly before laying out the first two cards dealt by the dealer.
Ace and Queen of Spades – good set up for a flush, the Devil’s Hand as I liked to call it. Nice. Bold move showing his hand before the flop.
He’d had some amazing luck, matching me hand for hand, his rounded features impassive and expressionless, body language under the thick denims and duster hard to read, wide-brimmed hat shadowing any distinguishing features. The only tell was a small smirk that played about his lips, which wasn’t truly a tell at all because it occurred even when his hand was trash, leaving me bemused and quite interested to see what this man was truly made of.
It would be such a shame to have to kill this one.
The dealer lay out the flop, the smirk on my opponent growing ever wider as the King of Spades hit the table, my finger twitching involuntarily as the Jack and King of Hearts followed suit, companions to the Nine and Ten in my hand. I was prime for a straight, only way he was winning this was if the turn and river flowed in his favor.
“You owe me some money, cheatin scum!”
Wasn’t the first time a gun was pointed at the back of my head, wouldn’t be the last, I reckon, so I sighed in boredom, ready for the next inevitable phrase.
“No way you can be that lucky, that good, you chink bastard!”
My opponent raised his eyebrow, smirk gone from his face, a flicker of movement from his hand below the table giving me the signal and I threw myself from the chair to the sawdust floor, a huge Bowie sprouting from the gunman’s head, my opponent on his feet in an instant, pistol in hand, hat flying off as – SHE? – lay waste to the gunman’s partner in crime, head exploding upon a horrified barmaid.
The woman, my opponent, looked me square in the eye, holstering her pistol and dusting off her hat, placing it upon her head flowing with flame-red locks.
“No one messes with my winning hand,” she winked. “By the way, thanks for those chips, cowboy.”
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