Chapter 1, page 5
I certainly could have done that, after all this tournament had quite a long waiting list, which those not fast enough with their reservation had learned very quickly. But I decided to stay in, despite the man behind the curtain. And it was not the money that kept me around. While it was quite the enticement, I didn’t really need it, I mean I could always make more on my own whenever it got a little scarce. No, the real reason I stayed was simply the allure of the challenge. I had a real weakness for hold’em, and it was getting harder and harder for me to find a game back home.
Unfortunately, trying to keep Matt from finding out about the game now meant trying to withhold certain information, and that simply worked better when I wasn’t asked a direct question. So I bit my lip and decided to take my chances and try to fib my way out after all, “You know Matt, I haven’t quite been able to track…”
“Not a chance Marcus!” Did I mention that Matt knew me fairly well? He sniffed out that lie from the word go. “I’ve known you far too long for you to try and pull something like that. Who’s running this tournament of yours? I knew that was why you’ve been ignoring my calls, so tell me now.”
That was quite the leap, even for Matt; there was no way he could have known what I knew. But I wasn’t done trying to weasel my way out of answering the question so I decided to try and irritate him into forgetting the question entirely, it worked sometimes. I laced my voice with absentmindedness and started speaking, “Excuse me…”
“Don’t play games with me, Marcus!” And there went that idea down in spectacular flames. I could plainly hear just how upset he was, there was real ire in his voice now. “Not with me!
You only beat around the bush like this when you KNOW exactly what you need to say but, for whatever reason, you’re unwilling to say it. Now spit it out.”
Resigned that I would be treading a potential minefield I took the necessary time to prepare myself for the ordeal. I could mitigate the blowup if I was careful and, at that moment in time, I had to be extra careful. “From what I have seen through my glass circle and the fact that he’s the only real power in that part of the city, my guess is that Dempsey is the puppeteer.” This was a lie, but it was rooted in enough truth that I thought, maybe, I could get away with it. Unfortunately for me, I knew Dempsey was the one backing the tournament. I had known this little fact for almost a week. I hoped that Matt would be too irate to realize how long I had known this information.
After a few moments of silence that were being tortured into an eternity, I began to think that maybe I had unnecessarily feared Matt’s reaction. When had he managed to mellow out without my knowing about it? But I quickly dismissed this idea, there was no way he could be so calm. With a twinkle in my eye I thought that just maybe the call had been dropped. Perhaps even, maybe it had dropped before I had mentioned Dempsey’s name. Ever the optimist, I pulled the phone away from my face so as to check the display. No luck, we were still connected. Had I sent him into cardiac arrest or something, why was he so silent?
As I was bringing the phone back to my ear Matt finally broke his silence. “What in the name of all that’s good and holy would convince you that walking into that tournament is a good idea?” I yanked the phone away from my head as fast as I could, but it barely helped. I hadn’t realized that the speaker on this phone was so powerful or that Matt had that type of lung capacity. With my ear drum ringing I latched upon the only positive in the tirade, it sounded as if he had truly missed the timing. Granted, it wasn’t much, but under the circumstances I would take what I could get.