Author: meridian-rose PM
"It's not that I'm not good at poker," Guerrero clarified. "It's just that I don't like to bluff." Guerrero attends a poker game, but the stakes are higher than his opponent realises.Rated: Fiction T - English - Guerrero - Words: 1,787 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 1 - Published: 01-04-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7709074
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Summary: "It's not that I'm not good at poker," Guerrero clarified. "It's just that I don't like to bluff." Guerrero attends a poker game, but the stakes are higher than his opponent realises.
Notes: Beta-read by dorothydeath with my thanks. Any remaining mistakes are my own. Written for Yuletide 2011
It was a room like a thousand others, somewhere at the back of a seedy bar, filled with the smell of cigar smoke and whisky and sweat. The furniture was old, the chairs battered and the table scarred with burn marks and deep scratches. It was after midnight, although in here, with no windows and the dim lighting, you could never be sure of the actual time.
The game had started with five of them, but Billy-Joe or whatever his name was had gotten cleaned out early and left, and Marv had caught Gregory cheating and taken him outside to teach him a lesson. Guerrero knew Gregory by reputation and felt not the slightest pang of guilt over slipping the extra ace into the unsuspecting man's pocket.
So now it was just Johnny and Guerrero. Johnny took a swallow of whisky and studied his cards. Guerrero had already identified all of the man's tells; Johnny was holding a good hand, as evidenced by the way he'd rubbed one thumb across his jawline before picking up his glass.
"Too bad about Gregory, hey, Slick?" Johnny said. "He's such an easy mark. I'd have cleaned him out good."
Guerrero shrugged and concentrated on his own cards.
"I learned poker at my daddy's knee," Johnny went on. The man loved the sound of his own voice. If Guerrero were a less patient man, Johnny would already have lost a tooth or finger by now. "He said that everything you needed to succeed in life you could learn by playing poker. When to raise, when to call, when to bluff."
Daddy hadn't taught him to hide his tells, though, had he? But then maybe he'd never had the opportunity before Johnny had literally stabbed him in the back to take over his profitable, if illegal, business interests.
"You know, poker's not really my game," Guerrero said in the same conversational tone.
"You're not doing too badly," Johnny said generously, though Guerrero had been letting him win. Never scare off someone you're hustling was probably another one of his daddy's rules.
"It's not that I'm not good at it," Guerrero clarified. "It's just that I don't like to bluff."
"Bluffing's the fun part," Johnny said.
"No. Winning is the fun part," Guerrero said. "Taking money from those who deserve to lose it. Restoring the cosmic balance by outwitting fools and liars."
Johnny shifted in his chair, seemingly uncomfortable with this philosophical turn in the conversation. "It's just a game."
"Everything's just a game, dude," Guerrero said, discarding his cards. "Especially to people like you. You don't think about the consequences of your actions."
Johnny glared at him. "Who are you talking about?"
"Don't worry, Johnny," Guerrero said. "I'm not talking about the drugs you smuggle or the guns you sell or even the ransoms you've collected."
Johnny's eyes widened. He threw down the playing cards and reached for his gun.
"No dice," Guerrero said. He placed Johnny's gun on the table. "I took the bullets, but you can have the piece back. I've got my own gun. Don't make me show it to you."
"Wha- how?" Johnny spluttered. He glanced at the door – stupidly, he'd let himself be seated opposite it, with Guerrero between him and the only escape route.
"Chill, dude. Have another drink," Guerrero said. He drained his own glass and refilled both their glasses with the amber liquid. "It's not bad stuff, for a place like this."
Johnny swallowed, rubbed his thumb across his chin. "I'm not afraid of you, Slick. You're what, five-four, five-five?"
He wasn't the first to underestimate Guerrero on account of his height, and he wouldn't be the last. It didn't annoy Guerrero. It simply meant that his opponent would go into the fight unprepared.
"You've proven you're a pickpocket, but you don't look that tough." Bravado took over and he added, "And I've got back up outside."
"No, you don't." Guerrero had seen to that, too. Johnny's driver had called Johnny's cell phone not five minutes after they'd sat down at the table with a story about a family emergency that he had to attend to. Guerrero quickly pocketed the money from the pot; maybe a thousand dollars.
"What do you want?" Johnny demanded. "You know who I am, what I'm capable of. You must know then that I've got money." The businessman façade returned and he went on smoothly, "Whatever your angle is, I'm sure we can come to some arrangement."
Guerrero shook his head. "I want revenge."
"For what you did to Christopher Chance." When Johnny showed no recognition, Guerrero said, "Colombia, seven years ago. Chance was rescuing one of your kidnapping victims. She got away, but he was stranded. You put two bullets in him and left him to bleed to death."
Johnny's eyes widened. "Right. Chance. He died?"
"No, or I'd have killed you already. I want you to suffer like he did. Bleeding out slowly on the forest floor, fighting the infection that set in and nearly killed him, the month or so of memory loss from the trauma and resulting fever. He didn't know if he'd saved the girl. That ate at him more than the pain, until I could prove to him she was alive." Guerrero kept his tone calm. He was always calm, always centred, at least on the outside. It wasn't that he didn't get angry. It was merely that he'd spent his life learning to control his emotions.
Inside him now, his emotions rose and boiled, anger and hate and a deep desire to spill Johnny's blood all over the already filthy floor. Chance was one of maybe four people in the whole world that Guerrero cared about, one of only two he'd unhesitatingly trust with his life. Chance was family, and while he'd never be so maudlin as to admit it out loud, Guerrero loved him. Always had. Always would.
He'd been waiting for this day for a long time, but there had always been other, more important concerns than Johnny. Then things had suddenly fallen into place, and Johnny was here and Guerrero was here, and all the plans were put smoothly into motion.
"I was a different person then," Johnny protested. "Look, I will apologise to Mr Chance. I will make recompense. Please, I have a daughter."
Who hadn't seen her father since just after her first birthday, when Johnny had fled Costa Rica, fearing both arrest and a drug dealer he'd ripped off. Guerrero had made sure the girl and her mother, who'd had to relocate without the benefit of Johnny's money, would receive the contents of one of Johnny's bank accounts, all of which should now be empty.
"I've taken care of the recompense for you," Guerrero said. "Your bank accounts are cleaned out. Your cars and both your houses are repossessed. Word's out that you've been snitching to the feds, so forget about contacting any of your old pals. In spy parlance, you've been burned. But you know how spies are. Melodramatic."
"You're lying," Johnny said, although he sounded uncertain.
"I told you, Johnny. I don't bluff."
Johnny, anger over-riding his common sense and fear, made a grab over the table for Guerrero. He'd been waiting for an attack however, and Guerrero leaned back, kicking at Johnny's knee. Johnny fell sidewards, cursing as he hit the floor. Guerrero shoved the table away so hard that it slammed into the side wall, the sound echoing in the enclosed space. The whisky bottle fell to the floor and smashed – a pity, Guerrero thought, but these things happened during a job.
Johnny rolled over and ended up crouched a short distance from Guerrero, a slim blade in his hand. Guerrero was impressed with the speed with which he'd drawn it, but there was a slight shake to Johnny's hand. He'd probably spent too long as the boss, delegating the violent aspects of his business to his underlings. A few years back he might have posed a threat to Guerrero, but now – it was almost pathetic.
Guerrero made a movement with his hands as if in surrender, drawing Johnny's attention, and delivered a kick that sent the knife flying from his grasp. It spun across the floor while Johnny shrieked in pain, slumped over and clutching at his wrist.
"Dude," Guerrero said, smoothly pulling out his pistol and pointing it at Johnny. "I'm good with ruining your life, but if you want to try for your death, I'm happy to oblige."
"Bastard," Johnny spat, but he didn't dare to move from his undignified position.
Guerrero tossed him a bus token with his free hand. It hit Johnny in the nose. "I suggest you get out of town, Johnny. Good night." He took two steps backward and turned to reach for the door handle.
"Slick," Johnny hissed. "I am going to hunt you down and kill you."
Why did people say things like that? Did he want to get killed? Was it more bravado? Maybe he'd just watched too many movies. Whatever the reason, the threat held no fear for Guerrero. If a punk like Johnny could get the drop on him, he'd deserve to die.
"Good luck with that, Johnny," Guerrero said calmly. "And the name's not Slick. It's Guerrero."
He had the pleasure of seeing Johnny turn pale and shrink back. Then Guerrero opened the door and walked away.
Chance must never know about this, of course. He wouldn't understand. But the next time that Guerrero saw the jagged scar on Chance's flesh, the legacy left by Johnny's actions, he wouldn't have to remember how close he'd come to losing Chance. Instead he could think about Johnny, penniless, huddled on a bus and terrified for his life. And instead of a momentary flicker of red hot anger, he'd feel a sense of utter satisfaction.