I shouldn’t have dropped my guard but I did, now I’m paying for it. What can I say. These things are bound to happen to the most cautious of us. I needed to blow off some steam and found myself in a familiar situation. I decided to spend an evening out in what would be known as a less than scrupulous game room, were it to be known. Not that there were unsavory types here, myself excluded, but this wasn’t on someone’s approved list of city establishments. There are people, all Brits of course, which come of a slightly higher status than I’ve been accustomed to of late. While picking up a few items in the market, I had been recognized as an associate of Al’s, and that apparently garnered an invite to such a fine non-establishment. This made the hair on my neck as straight as a boar’s brush but I eventually relaxed as I realized the invite genuine. Seems Al has more connections throughout the city than I originally thought. A quick assessment of this small fortune seeker lot had me guessing there were favors owed, which would be my humble guess but what the hell. I really needed a good game.
So it’s overall a quiet evening with some of the most savage poker hands I’d seen in a long while. I was pretty down on my luck and not far from finished for the night. In fact, the last time I laid eyes on cards of this genuine caliber was when Ol’ Willie Olsen was caught cheating some years back. Now I’m no card expert but a little intuition can kick you in the gut pretty hard. I was sure we were being duped. I hadn’t caught Mr. Dennington but I was damned sure, he was playing an Ol’ Willie on us, since he was the nights leader by a long shot, so I watched even closer. Wouldn’t you know it, after just a few hands, I saw how he did it. He’s sure as the day is long, a sly one. Palmed a card and had to have been doing it all night with none of us the wiser. Or so he thought. Soon as he completed the maneuver, I cleared my throat and he realized I was looking him dead in the eye. In hindsight, the look I gave should have been my poker face the whole night. I’ll work on that later for certain. On slick fingers Dennington though, I saw the slightest of a tense in his right jaw muscle. He’s now marked, that was his tell. The show was up and now he knew it. The quick glance around at the other players staring at him told the story to everyone seated.
Now this is the part of the story where I should be able to reminisce about how I handled the matter in a dazzling fashion which talked him into confessing and earning a great deal of face for Mr. Dirk Johnson. What a swell guy he is after all. Unfortunately, I let him get the draw on me. I’m fairly certain that he felt the absolute need to seize the moment due to any number of rumors that had to be floating around about my involvement in the last year’s worth of saga. The slimy toad did it too but a slight bit of fortune, it wasn’t a gun. I’m ashamed to say I was so focused on ensuring my message was wired to him direct, by deadly gaze, that I didn’t notice the knife that suddenly materialized in his hand. If there’s any ounce of luck in my bones, it was cashed when he sat to my immediate left. I had just swapped my gaze to the steel jittering back and forth from the force used to wedge it through my hand and into the table. Had it been my right hand, well… That’s not what happened so we’re not goin’ down that path. Let’s just agree, things could have been much worse for me.
Dennington had jumped to his feet and produced a second knife while starting toward the door. The attack had only happened a scant few seconds ago but he was sure to make it out the door and into the night. It had been a long time since I’ve seen a mortal man run for the hills with that kind of speed. To be honest, till I yanked the steel from it’s lodging, the fire hadn’t started to burn. Probably a good thing too otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to have solid mind enough to pull the blade out. The flick of the wrist toward slick fingers would have seemed to come natural but I can tell you, I’ve thrown knives before and it ain’t natural. I’ll take the luck though, which was probably only given out of pity by whatever puppet master is pulling my strings. The timing of it’s re-acquaintance with Mr. Dennington was spot on because he flailed as he dropped to his knees instead of slashing at the closest man to the door. This chap happened to think it a good idea to put his unarmed person in the way of a knife wielding bull charging through a china shop. I hadn’t even noticed him in the way until afterward but I’ll admit. I had other things on my mind. I later learned the would be hero, Mr. Turlington, owned the property and ran the gambling house so there was a good deal at stake if Slick fingers pulled this off and got away. Not my rodeo, so I’m staying out of it.
To wrap the story up, I got a lot of astonished nods by the blokes as they drug the whimpering slick fingers out of the room. A little help to wrap my hand and pats on the back with gratitude. I think the most helpful was Mr. Turlington ordering one of the men to get me a whisky before walking out with his boob prize. They weren’t stingy either, a glass filled almost to the brim. I could be wrong but I swear there was a second or two of silence as I knocked back the glass in one pass. A bit of a hiss as I took the first breath after. I don’t think I spoke a word though until I stepped out the door, looked back in, tipped my hat, and simply stated ‘Gentlemen.’ I turned on my heals and made my way back to the old lodge. Now I think I owe Al another bottle.