A Fool and His Money

The two travel weary men sat in the opulent front receiving room and tried not to get too much caked mud and dried travel dust on the plush comfortable arm chairs that had been offered to them. The front hall, just as the rest of this impressive ranch house was filled with exquisite artwork and fine expensive carpeting. There was also a distinct South American feel to the numerous sculptures and finely crafted furniture that adorned the spacious room, something that had not been present the last the time the cousins had come to visit.

A plump Mexican woman smiled sweetly at them and offered them sherry from the decanter and light white cake from the silver platter. She was an older woman but her dark features still held onto the classical beauty that had been her trademark in a younger day and she still carried herself with the dignity and self-confidence of someone who was used to being in charge.

"Will your husband be much longer?" Heyes finally asked as the woman helped herself to a glass of sherry and sat down opposite the two men.

She smiled at them and their impatience. "He will be along shortly," she informed them in her heavily accented English. "Sit. Relax. Enjoy the company of his wife for a few moments."

Both Heyes and the Kid looked around nervously. A number of well armed men adorned the corners of the room and another stood guard over the front door as though expecting the two guests to attempt a run at it.

"Ah, what is it your husband wants, Senora?" Kid ventured to ask. "We completed the job. All he has to do is pay us and we'll be on our way."

The senora smiled again. "I believe he has another job for you," she informed them again. "but that is men's affairs and I will leave that for him to discuss with you."

Both men groaned. Normally talk of a second job and therefore more money paid out would have been good news but on this particular occasion and with this particular patron, it could only spell trouble. A quick look was exchanged and the two men quickly got to their feet.

"I think we'll just be on our way," Heyes announced.

"Yeah, he can wire us the money," Kid seconded. "we'll let him know where."

They turned to make a bee line for the door only to find themselves blocked by the muscle with rifles. They sighed dejectedly and turned back to face the senora. They should have known better. Why did they always allow themselves to be talked into this? It had never been cut and dry and it never will be but as usual the lure of good money reeled them in like fish on a hook and they fell for it every time.

"Please, sit back down," the senora suggested. "My husband should not be too much longer."

The two dust caked men sat down again into the armchairs, making sure to stay within the dirty borders of the imprints left behind by their backsides' previous occupancy. Heavy sighs came out in unison as bored expressions covered the anxiety they were both beginning to feel. Then they heard the booming voice that they knew so well as it rolled out like thunder from the the entrance to the games room. All three people stood up in greeting as the large mustachioed rancher made his presence known and he lumbered his way towards them, his hand outstretched for shaking and a smile upon his face.

"Boys, boys!" he greeted them. "Wonderful job you did for me. I knew I could count on you two."

"Yeah, thanks a lot Mac," Kid grumbled as they all shook hands. "We could tell you were pleased by the reception party at the front door."

"Yeah Mac," Heyes put in. "What's the big idea? You hired us to do a job and we did it. Why the guards?"

"Oh c'mon fellas! They're not guards!" Big Mac assured them. "They're just here to protect my interests."

"Uh huh," Kid grumbled again. "Your interest in what, exactly?"

Carlotta McCreedy gracefully came to her feet and held out her hand to the visitors. Both men graciously accepted it as she bid her farewell.

"Gentlemen," she smiled at them a third time. "It has been a pleasure to see you both again. But I see that matters are turning to business so I will leave you men to your discussions."

"Yes ma'am," Kid agreed. "It was nice seeing you again too ma'am."

"Senora," Heyes sent her a dimple through the dust and she returned to him a slight courtesy.

"I will see to dinner preparations," she told her large husband. "I will inform the staff that we will be having guests."

"Ahh, guests?" Heyes asked.

"Yes indeed my dear," Mac told her. "Two more for dinner!"

Carlotta left the gathering and while Kid stood quiet, looking suspicious, Heyes turned his charming cold smile towards their host.

"Dinner?" he asked again.

"Of course you're staying for dinner!" Mac boomed back at him.

"It's only 11:00 in the morning," Kid pointed out. "What reason could there possibly be to keep us hanging around here until this evening?"

"Yeah," Heyes agreed. "Just pay us and we'll go. Pay us now and we still have time to catch the 1:05 heading north."

"Oh come now boys!" Mac sounded insulted as he poured himself a glass of sherry. "You know tonight is the poker night! You need to stay and join in. I made certain there would be a spot open for you Joshua so no reason why you can't sit in on a game or two."

"No reason?" Heyes was getting irritated. "I can think of one really good reason. Actually I can think of more than just one, but the first one is sufficient enough."

"Oh, and what's that?" Mac quietly asked like a snake in the grass.

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Heyes stated sarcastically, "but isn't this the game that has a twenty thousand dollar buy in?"

"What's your point?"

Heyes and the Kid snorted and exchanged looks. Kid rolled his eyes.

"The point is," Heyes snarked. "that even once you do pay us for the job we just completed for you, we won't have anywhere near the amount we'd need for the buy in. And even if we did we wouldn't be risking it at one of your poker games. You forget Mac, we know how you play poker."

"Oh come on boys!" Mac assured them. "It's not going to be like that! Just a good honest game of poker!"

The cousins snorted again and started to make moves towards the door.

"Still the same problem," Heyes pointed out. "We don't have money for the buy in."

"I'll loan it to you," Mac announced, stopping them in their tracks.

"Loan it to us!?" Kid was incredulous.

"Yeah!" Heyes shook his head. "You take us for fools Mac? You're offering to loan us twenty thousand dollars to sit in on your poker game and you expect us to lap it up and say 'Gee thanks Uncle Mac, that was real generous of you.'! There's a catch in there somewhere. I know it, you know it and the Kid knows it."

"No catch," Mac quietly assured him.

"No catch!?" Heyes was incredulous. "You're probably going to rig the game to make sure I lose it and then we'll be in your debt! You know darn well I can't repay twenty thousand dollars."

"You won't lose," Mac informed him.

"Oh, you know that for a fact do you?" Heyes demanded. "Sorry Mac. I'm not taking the bait. I don't know what you're up to but there is no way I'm getting myself into debt to you. Now just pay us what you owe us so we can be on our way."

"Alright, I tell you what," Mac wasn't letting them go that easily. "it's not a loan. It's a bet."

"A bet?" Heyes couldn't believe his ears. "On what?"

"That you won't lose," Mac told him. "I'd say that's a pretty fair bet; that Hannibal Heyes will come out the winner at just about any poker game he sits in on."

Heyes sent a quick glance back towards the guards standing nearby and then a warning look to their host. Mac laughed and shook his head.

"Don't worry about them Joshua," he assured the ex-outlaw, "They're loyal to me to a man. I'd shoot 'em myself if they weren't." He smiled knowingly. "So what do you say? I'm willing to lay down a twenty thousand dollar bet that you will win tonight. Then you can pay me back and keep whatever else you bring in. I won't even charge you interest."

"And if I lose?"

Mac shrugged. "Same as any other bet. If you lose, I lose. You won't owe me a thing."

"And you'll still pay us for the job we just finished for ya'." Kid wanted to be clear on that point.

"Of course!" Mac laughed and with an arm that seemed to encompass the whole room, he ushered the two men deeper into the scheme of things. "C'mon boys! Enrique is already drawing up a couple of baths for ya' as we speak. Get yourselves cleaned up and you'll be good as new. I even had the tailor in town bring you up a couple of nice suits so you'll fit right in..."

Heyes and the Kid found themselves being drawn deeper into the bowls of the large ranch house. Both of them were feeling like two flies caught up in a spider's web and wondering why, yet again they were allowing themselves to be talked into one of Big Mac McCreedy's schemes. But it was too late to turn back now.

Ten o'clock that evening found our boys scrubbed, fed and rested all in preparation of a long night in the games room. Mac welcomed his two guests to the game and introduced them around to the other players.

"Well you two already know Peterson there," Mac commented dryly.

"Yessir," Heyes smiled and shook the banker's hand. "Good to see you again."

"Howdy boys," Peterson shook their hands heartily. "Back for more punishment are you?"

"I certainly hope not," Heyes commented as he sent a warning smile over to Big Mac. "Just interested in a nice friendly little game."

"Sure ya' are!" Peterson laughed his usual annoying bellow and slapped Heyes on the shoulder. Before Heyes could react, the big banker turned his attention to the Kid. "How about you? We have room for another player. You going to join us this time?"

"Ah nope," Kid told him. "This game is a little too rich for my blood."

"Ha!" Peterson gave him a solid slap as well, "It's a good thing no one else in this town thinks like that or we'd have no game at all!"

Kid smiled patiently. "Yessir, Mr. Peterson. So I'll just be ah, over here readin' the paper."

Jed gave his partner a pointed look, letting him know that he was there in case things got messy. Heyes responded with a barely perceptible nod and turned his attention to the other players in the game.

"You remember ole' Snyder from your last visit don't you Joshua?" Mac motioned over to the weasily little man in the gray tweed suit.

"Yessir, Mr. Snyder," Heyes nodded and shook his hand. "good to see you again."

"Hmm," came back the response. "Smith isn't it?"

"Yes, that's right."

"Yes."

Heyes smiled wondering how many of these people might actually know who he and the Kid really were. Mac had promised to keep his mouth shut about that, but with Big Mac McCreedy one could never be sure of the ground beneath their feet.

"And this over here is Paul Masson," Mac continued with the introductions. "He bought the neighbouring ranch six months ago and just recently joined in on our little games here."

Hands were shaken again as the two men greeted each other.

"And our final player tonight is Malcolm Hutchinson. He's retired railroad."

Heyes' smile froze but he recovered quickly and gave the railroad man a friendly handshake. The newspaper behind him rustled quietly and Heyes knew that Jed had taken note of the spoken profession as well.

"Mr. Hutchinson," Heyes greeted him. "Nice to meet you."

"Indeed," Hutchinson looked down his nose at the young man in front of him. "And who are you to be included here this evening, Mr...?"

"Smith," Heyes reminded him.

Mac was quick to step in and take over. "These boys are my nephews!" Mac announced pointedly and Heyes wasn't sure if he was relieved or irritated at suddenly being included as a family member. "That's Thaddeus over there. He don't play poker at this level but he still likes to watch the masters at work. And this here is Joshua. Now he's a fine poker player and being my nephew he has every right to be here at this table."

Mac's voice had lowered to a warning growl on that last sentence and the meaning of it was not lost on Mr. Hutchinson.

"Yes, of course Pat," he back stepped. "Didn't mean any disrespect. Just curious that a man this young would actually be able to come up with the buy in, that's all."

"Well he did come up with it and that's all you need to worry about," Mac informed him. "Now! Time is wasting. Let's get settled! The game is about to begin!"

All the players got themselves settled into the chairs around the circular poker table and the first boxed deck was brought out to begin the play. Heyes smiled and was really beginning to enjoy himself until he glanced up to find Hutchinson looking at him resentfully. Was it just the natural anxiety of an established player having to accept a newcomer into the game; an unknown commodity that could shake up the comfortable regime? Or did this railroad man recognize Hannibal Heyes for who he was and was simply biding his time before setting the trap?

The deck was shuffled, the cards divvied out and the players set about capturing the elusive best hand of the evening. With a $20,000 buy in and six players the pot was already substantial but all is relative and the play started out slowly with each man at the table giving themselves time to become comfortable with the deck and and new dynamics of the room.

Heyes was tentative at first, still having his doubts as to why Big Mac had insisted he sit in on this game. He bet small and carefully, feeling his way and deliberately allowing more than one pot to go elsewhere, giving himself time to become intimate with the deck. He watched the other players, looking for their tells and pinpointing them faster than he did at a penny-ante saloon game with cowboys and dirt farmers. Give a man money and you rob him of his sense.

Peterson had always been easy to spot. He didn't care what tells he was sending out because he didn't care if he won or lost. Coming to these weekly poker games was not about winning as far as Peterson was concerned. It was about good business and socializing with current and potential customers. He was a wealthy man; he bet small and could afford to lose. And though he lost a lot, he always seemed to be the one having the most fun.

Snyder was more serious. He wanted to win but he was such a bad poker player that Heyes hardly gave him a second glance. Heyes didn't need to watch him as his own decisions were so bad he always cut his own throat without any help from the other players. His right eyebrow also went up when he thought he had a winning spread.

Mr. Masson was a good player. He enjoyed the game and did reasonably well but his memory wasn't as sharp as Heyes' and he often lost track of where the cards were during the shuffling of a new hand. He lost more than one pot because he was sure no one had the Ace only to have it show up in his opponent's hand.

Mr. Hutchinson was a typical railroad baron. Hard, cold and calculating. But no intuition. When his hand was weak, he played weak. Tentative bets and constantly looking at his spread of cards as though he expected them to change for the better with each new glance. When his hand was strong, he was like a bull in the ring; charging forward with large bets and a fire in his eyes.

Mac, well; he was Mac. This was his house and his game and it wouldn't do for the host to always win the pot so Mac was just there to have fun and create an atmosphere of camaraderie with his neighbours. You just never knew when you might need a friend. Mac was loud and boisterous and downright irritating at times, but he knew how to put on a good game. The food was plentiful, the alcohol restrained, until later and the games honest. He was popular enough and like Peterson wasn't too concerned about winning unless a lot of his own money was on the line. Mac didn't like to part with his own money.

Heyes looked up from his mediocre hand and smiled at the other players. They were all looking at him, checking him out, figuring him out. What was his tell? Why was he here? Was he a ringer? Or was he really Pat's nephew who just happened to like playing poker? Jed continued to read the paper and drink his coffee; the sandwiches weren't bad either. He'd know if and when his cousin needed him and in the mean time, life was good.

The evening progressed along. Pots came and went with nobody really dominating the game at this point. Snyder seemed to be winning more than his ability would support, but sometimes luck just fell into place and anybody can have a good night.

Having soaked up all the information he needed, Heyes began to play for real. His photographic memory kicked in and he watched the cards like a hawk, though no one watching him would have been able to tell. He looked bored most of the time; his expression blank and his features relaxed. No one could tell that his mind was flashing like quick silver and a question mark was growing stronger and stronger behind the warm chocolate eyes.

Concern struggled to take over his focus. Was he loosing his touch? Were all those drunken nights and knocks on the head finally taking their toll? Was he loosing his memory? No matter how hard he focused, no matter how many times he counted it the cards were not coming up the way they were suppose to be. With each new shuffle, with each new hand played the cards would start out correctly and Heyes would know, before the card was dealt him what it would be, and what the card to his neighbour would be and so on.

Then suddenly there it was! A card out of sequence. A card that wasn't suppose to be there, yet there it was. Heyes was becoming uncomfortable and Jed couldn't help but pick up on it. He put down his paper and began to pay a bit more attention. Heyes was playing to win now, but he wasn't winning; he was loosing. Pot after pot. And Snyder was winning. Heyes watched every move the weaselly little rancher made; looking for him to be palming a card or playing partners with another man at the table. He couldn't spot anything.

He sent a glance over to Big Mac and the rancher was watching him from under his eyebrows. Realization struck and suddenly Heyes knew why Mac had been willing to risk $20,000 just to get him into the game. The rancher knew there was a card sharp playing a con and he knew that as host of the game it was his responsibility to weed the scoundrel out and send him packing. It was an insult upon his house and to his reputation and he had no intentions of allowing it to go on.

When you have Hannibal Heyes at your disposal and you know what motivates him, you can make miracles happen. Get the boys down here on some trivial job, then get Heyes into the game. He'd spot a problem within the first hour and Mac knew the ex-outlaw was an honest player. He might be a crook and a conman in other aspects of his life, but when it came to poker, Heyes had his morals. He despised cheaters.

Heyes drew in a deep breath and slowly let it out through pursed lips. All eyes turned to him but Heyes simply looked back at them and grinned.

"Everything's fine gentlemen," he assured the group as he picked up the deck for his turn at shuffling. "Time to start playing some poker."

"I thought that's what we were playing," Hutchinson growled.

Heyes simply smiled at him and began to deal.

Two hours later and Heyes was still loosing. He was down to $15,000 in front of him and he still couldn't spot the trick. Snyder was winning big and doing an excellent job of looking extremely pleased with himself. Heyes was getting frustrated even though he knew that he couldn't let it get to him like that. Let frustration rule the night and he'd start making mistakes. He had to stay detached—he had to focus.

Another hour went by and Heyes was down to $10,000. He was watching the other players like a hawk and then he noticed it. Snyder licked his lips as he glanced at the pot in the middle of the table and snuck another look at the cards in his hand. The right eyebrow went up.

Heyes felt realization come to him. The pot was huge—the biggest it'd been all night. The amount in front of Snyder was substantial but his previous few hands had been low so he hadn't been betting long on them and letting the smaller pots go to others in the game. Peterson of all people and Hutchinson had both been falling behind, but then caught up with Snyder being shut out. Most of the players just took it as luck of the cards, but Heyes knew better.

Snyder was being set up. Give him hands that would get him winning all night. Get him used to betting big and winning then snatch it away from him. Give him bad hands, so bad that even he wouldn't dare to bet so he'd retain his large winnings but others in the group would be given the chance to catch up. Then when the pot was big enough and Snyder's frustration at having his winning streak come to an end, give him another hand that just couldn't lose and watch him explode.

It was playing out right in front of Heyes' eyes. Snyder's thoughts were like fire written on his forehead. If he bet everything in front of him, he'd shut out all but one other player and the chances of that man having a better hand than Snyder's were slim—but was he willing to take that chance? Lose the bet and he'd lose everything but win it and he'd walk away with $82,000. No one had walked away with that much money before, not from one of these games. They'd stop laughing at him then.

Heyes' eyes slid over to Hutchinson, the only other man in the game who had won enough in the last three hands to challenge Snyder for the pot. That man was watching Snyder like a wolf waiting for the chicken to come out of the hen house. Silence settled over the game like a suffocating blanket and all eyes were on Snyder. It was his move and he knew it. Everyone else had already folded, everyone but Hutchinson.

Finally the decision was made. Heyes had seen it even before Snyder knew it himself. The weaselly rancher bit his lower lip and pushed everything he had in front of him into the middle of the table.

"I'll meet your $5000 bet and raise you another $17,000."

Hutchinson smiled and pushed in his own $17,000. "Call."

Snyder smiled triumphantly and placing his cards on the table, he spread them and showed his hand. Everyone sucked their teeth and eww'ed and awed over Snyder's luck of the evening. It was an excellent hand and a good bet to win, but it wasn't going to. Heyes knew all along that it wouldn't. Snyder had been set up and played and he was going to lose.

Hutchinson didn't even smile. His eyes turned hard and cold, like a shark tasting blood as he set his own cards on the table and spread them out.

"Not good enough," he stated.

Silence once again covered the room. Snyder went white as a ghost, not wanting to believe his eyes; the only hand that could have beat his was staring him in the face. Hutchinson did smile then and he reached out his hands to rake in the large pot for himself.

"STOP!"

Everyone jumped and all eyes turned to Heyes.

"What do ya' mean 'stop'?" Hutchinson complained. "This is my pot."

"Thaddeus?"

"Yeah."

Heyes smiled. It didn't surprise him that his partner's voice came from directly behind him. "I want you to go around to every player here and write down what cards they each have in front of them."

"Now wait just a minute..."

The kid's gun was out in a flash and Hutchinson was stopped in mid complaint. Most of the players were looking at the Kid with mouths gaping and it was Hutchinson's turn now to go white as a ghost.

"Now, everybody just relax," Mac advised the group. "You newcomers might not have noticed it, but those of us who have been playing poker here for years did notice. There's been some hanky panky going on here at this table and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. Now, if you'll all just be patient and do what my nephews say we can put an end to this nonsense."

Everyone complied, though Hutchinson was looking decidedly nervous. He was trying to convince himself that nobody could prove anything but there was something about this dark-eyed 'nephew' of Mac McCreedy's that strongly suggested otherwise.

Kid re-holstered his gun and getting paper and pencil from Mac, he went around and dutifully wrote down each man's hand.

"Okay Thaddeus," Heyes smiled. "Now if you would collect up all the cards and give them to me."

Kid did just that then stood back with a satisfied smile and waited to see what his cousin had un-covered. Heyes smiled around at the players, then began to set out the cards all according to their suits. Once all the cards in the deck had been laid out everyone but Heyes was surprised that there were still two cards left over. Heyes' grin grew as he set down an extra King and an extra Ace. Angry muttering began to grow and dark eyes were turning towards Hutchinson.

"That doesn't prove anything!" the ex-railroad baron protested. "Anyone could have put those in there." His face contorted with anger and he made the mistake of pointing an accusing finger in Heyes' face. "You probably just did it yourself to try and prove..."

Heyes was on his feet instantly and grabbed the outstretched hand while the Kid stepped behind Hutchinson, preventing him from pulling away. Heyes rolled the man's wrist over and slipping his nimble fingers under the sleeve cuff, neatly pulled out a fifth Queen.

The room erupted with the scrapping of chairs and the angry cursing coming from the other players.

"Settle down!" Mac bellowed above the chaos. "Everybody will get their money back. In the mean time we'll let the law deal with this!"

xxx

Heyes and the Kid watched with sorrowful eyes as Mac counted out the $20,000 he had given to Heyes on a bet.

"Ahh, Mac?" Heyes ventured. "Don't ya' think you're forgetting something?"

"Hmm?" Mac glanced up from his counting. "What?"

"Don't you think you kind of owe us...?"

"Owe you what?" Mac asked all indignant. "I placed a bet that you wouldn't lose my $20,000 and you didn't. It's not my fault you didn't win anything for yourselves. What kind of fool do you take me for?"

Heyes and Kid exchanged defeated looks.

"No kind of fool at all Mac," Heyes assured him.

"At least not when it comes to money," Kid added.

"Hmm, fine."

"But there's still the matter of our fee for the job you brought us down here for," Heyes reminded him.

"Hmm, what? Oh...well. Yes...I suppose..." Mac reluctantly counted out two thousand dollars.

Heyes took it and folding the bills in half tucked them into his inside pocket.

"So," Mac continued. "I'm still waiting for you to tell me how Hutchinson was doing it. How did you know he had those extra cards in the deck?"

Heyes smiled and shook his head. "Uh uh."

"What to you mean 'uh uh'?" Mac asked indignantly. "I gotta go into town later and give that sheriff my statement. I need to know what he did."

Heyes' smile broadened even more. Jed was looking pleased.

"Not our problem," Heyes told him. "We came here to do a job, we did it and you paid us for it. Now since you don't seem to think that what I did for you here this evening is worth anything extra then I suppose we can just pretend it never happened. We can pretend that, can't we Thaddeus?"

"Sure," Kid was quite confident.

"Without a statement that sheriff just might have to let Hutchinson go!" Mac pointed out.

"Again Mac, not our problem," Heyes repeated. "He's probably just going to get a slap on the wrist anyway. Besides, there were other witnesses. I'm sure they'll support whatever you tell him."

"But I don't know what to tell him!" Mac bellowed. "You're the only one who knows how he did it!"

"Yup," Heyes agreed. "C'mon Kid, how about we get some breakfast at that nice little cafe in town."

"Good idea Heyes," Kid agreed. "Playin' poker really works up an appetite."

"No boys! Now wait a minute! Carlotta! Tell the cook; two more for breakfast!"

"Oh, I donno Mac," Kid shook his head. "That little cafe serves a mighty fine breakfast..."

"Alright alright!" Mac started to quickly count out more bills from his stash. "How about...another $2000?"

"Sure," Heyes agreed.

"Each," Kid added.

"Each!?" Mac was incensed.

"Sounds fair to me," Heyes stated and Kid nodded agreement. "I mean if the Kid hadn't been there to back me up Mac, I don't think I could have controlled that room. But as soon as they saw his gun everyone settled down and co-operated. I'd say that's worth another $2000."

"Yup," Kid agreed. "Mighta' turned into a real mess if I hadn't a' been there."

Two sets of innocent eyes stared at the big rancher.

"Alright alright!" Mac grumbled as he counted out the remainder. "Here! $4000! And my mother raised a fool to be handing out money like that! You drive a hard bargain boys—a hard bargain!"

The partners shared smiles as Heyes pocketed the extra cash.

Xxx

"So Hutchinson came into the games with those three extra cards every week," Heyes explained over a mouthful of bacon followed by a gulp of coffee, "just to practice and get his technique down pat. You had a couple of extra players in there tonight so it was the perfect game for him to play the scam for real. Snyder was set up perfectly; Hutchinson handed him a high card every time he was dealing, and Snyder was so happy to actually be winning for a change that he didn't even think to question it.

"Then when the hand was played and the cards brought in to the deck again, Hutchinson simply held back one of his own cards so the deck would never come up heavy. He was taking a chance that five cards of the same suit might show up in the one play but he was pretty quick to get that extra face card out again as soon as he could.

"It was sloppy really. Anyone paying close attention to the cards would know there was something going on. Throwing those extra cards out there like that messed up the sequence of all the other cards being dealt. It would start out with the cards showing up just as I expected them to, then suddenly it'd change and everything was off. I couldn't figure out what was happening at first, or who was doing it. Of course Snyder was the big winner so he was the obvious suspect but he was too excited when he won and disappointed when he lost. If he'd been the one controlling the cards he would have been hiding it a bit better than that.

"So I started watching the other players. Then I saw the set up plain as day and could see the close coming on it a mile away. All I had to do was wait until Hutchinson laid his cards on the table and I knew I had him. I suggest you check everyone from now on Mac. Make sure nobody's bringing in things to the game they shouldn't be."

Mac huffed. "I don't want to insult my company."

"Why not?" asked the Kid. "You do it to us all the time."

"You boys aren't company," Mac pointed out. "You're family. That's different."

Heyes and the Kid exchanged looks over their scrambled eggs and salsa.

"Right," Kid nodded. "Family."