Chapter 1, page 4

Not all that hard, I thought instantly though, I was somehow able to keep myself from letting it out. A feat made all the more impressive by the fact I was only giving Matt a slice of my attention. After all, I was in the middle of surveying the warehouse I was going to play at tomorrow and he knew that. Normally, he would hang up and let me continue on with the surveillance. But then, I had been ignoring him for more than a week, and I hadn’t been rectifying that in this conversation. What ever happened to his not carrying a grudge?

It shouldn’t have surprised me to hear him use my name the way I had tried to use his. He definitely had that skill down pat. With a slight shudder I asked him to repeat the question that I had missed, which he did, though a bit begrudgingly. But before he said a word I knew what he was about to ask. Why did I pick up the phone this time?

“Did you ever manage to find out who was orchestrating this little tourney that you just had to go too?” He placed a bit of scorn into those last few words solely to remind me what he thought about my participation in this tournament.

And with that question, I realized that I should have known better. I should have stuck to my guns and ignored this call too. I would have owed Matt a pretty big favor, well bigger than the one I apparently already owed him at any rate, but I really should have just let him leave me another voicemail, if he even could have left one. I never listen to my voicemail.

I would have answered most any other question, but this was the exact question I had been trying to avoid. Now despite the fact that Matt could, upon occasion, keep secrets from me, this didn’t mean that I didn’t know him. You can’t know someone for as long as we have and not know all the different tones of their voice, their body language, mannerisms, and all the rest. No I knew him. But it happened that he knew me just as well, if not better. Even over the phone I had never been able to outright lie to him. I could stretch the truth when necessary… if I was

lucky, a feat that I had accomplished only a handful of times. I had even been able to get away with a lie of omission face to face, granted those had taken place fairly early on in our friendship. But I have never been able to lie to him.

So instead of attempting something that had zero chance of success, I decided to use different tactics and try to keep him from learning things that would only upset him. One such tactic had been ignoring his phone calls so he wouldn’t be able to ask me who was orchestrating the tournament. When I originally found out about the tournament and entered my reservation, I honestly had no idea who was pulling the strings, and I hadn’t cared. I only knew that in order to play, one had to either have a direct invitation or a referral from someone who had one. I had the latter. Thus, I had a roughly vague idea of what I was willingly walking into. Matt, on the other hand, was never much of a risk taker, which is fine. There will always be men who dine upon caution, they balance men like me.

But I had decided that I needed to keep his level of caution away from the game, and that was before I even found out who was in charge. Now it was a downright necessity. He would either politely ask me to withdraw, or somehow get down to New Orleans, and physically drag me away from the tournament. Okay, so I knew which was more likely, and I didn’t want to deal with that. Truth be told I had contemplated withdrawing for a day or two once I learned who was backing everything.

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