Chapter 1, page 10

“I’m must not have heard you correctly just now…” This time, it was clear from his tone that he was furious. “The Marcus I know wouldn’t be so incredibly stupid as to even consider walking into an illegal poker game in some random warehouse!”

Yup, zero to fight in less than a second. I was too tired for this, physically and mentally. Normally I don’t really mind arguing with Matt, it can be fun, or as I like to see it, a challenge. But the renewed vigor in his voice let me know that if I let this go on, fun was the last thing this conversation would be. The game was tomorrow, I needed to rest and clear my mind. Again I found myself wondering why I had picked up the phone in the first place. But then, I already knew the answer to the question, I was feeling a little bit guilty. Sighing, I decided to make the argument that I knew would get me out of this discussion, not that I was proud of what I was going to do.

“Matt, where did you think a game like this was going to be played? Did you think Dempsey would just rent some office space? There is a reason I set up surveillance on the building.” I had to be very careful not to let my lack of good surveillance slip out. “I’m also not downstairs drinking heavily tonight. I do know what I’m voluntarily getting myself into. I will be fine. Okay?”

“Was that supposed to be a hint?” I could tell that he was resigned to what was happening. I must have sounded angrier than I thought because I have very rarely heard him give up an argument so quickly.

It made me feel like a heel and there was no reason I had to let him know that it had been intentional so I lied as best as I could. “I hadn’t intended it to be one.” And I held my breath hoping that it would work.

“But you’ll use whatever you’re dealt, is that what you’re saying.”

Either it worked or he knew what I was doing and decided to let it pass, for the moment. Fortunately it did not matter which was the case as long as he let it go. “Something like that. Hey, I’m not expecting to be able to place very many phone calls while the game is running so I’ll give you a call when it’s all over. And when I get back dinner’s on me so don’t cheap out on the choice of restaurant.”

“Sounds like a deal. Just do me a favor and try, I mean really Try not to transform any of the cards you’re dealt. I’ve enjoyed our friendship far too long to see it end at Dempsey’s hands. Besides, I want that dinner.”

I smiled at his words and bit back any pithy retort that I might have had, I was ready for the conversation to come to an end. “I promise to do as little mischief as possible.”

“That’s not the same thing, Marcus. Remember what I said, this isn’t some back-alley game, this is Dempsey you’re dealing with. Changing anything could get you into trouble and you know it.”

“Matt he’s not arrogant enough to make any of these people disappear. Remember, they can afford to pay his entrance fee, he would rather keep them alive so that they will keep coming back for more.”

“Marcus you don’t need to win.” It was a last ditch attempt, just so he could say “I told you so” in case things really fell apart later on. Any fire that had previously been coursing through his words was now gone.

“I’ll see you when I get back, my friend.”

And just like that Matt let me end the conversation. There had been no final goodbye; no wish for luck, there had been only the silence that comes when someone ends a call. Had I pushed him too far this time? Could this be the straw that broke the camel’s back? No, I was reading too much into his momentary depression. Matt always got right back up and was stronger than ever. Once I win the tournament, I’ll go home and we’ll spend the next two months plotting our next mark and having fun, at least once he got his revenge.

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