The bag of personal effects was small: a wallet with a few credit cards, a photo of Charlie, no cash; a comb; a set of keys; a receipt from a slot machine. Michael stared at the small slip of paper, an indictment for harsh words and anger.
All the times. All the times Nate just wouldn't listen and wound up catching hell from their father, Madeline shaking her head at Michael, silently blaming him for not looking out for his brother.
It wasn't his fault. He'd told Nate to keep a low profile, to stay back, to watch. Just to watch. And yet…
When Michael had seen Nate standing there behind Anson, he had been so proud.
Nate had always been one of those people that never seemed to catch a break. No matter how hard he tried, luck kept slipping through his grasping fingers. The gambling, the scheming, the constant flow of new business opportunities and get-rich-quick, pie-in-the-sky ideas – the constant requests for money – had driven Michael crazy. But in the end, it was Nate's big, hopeful, gambling heart that meant Michael could never really walk away. Nate was always there for him, always ready to get back in the game, to risk it all for one big payoff.
More than once, that payoff had been Michael's life.
So Michael must have known, somehow, that calling Nate back in after he'd beaten him down, told him he'd screwed up yet again, Michael must have known that he was giving a gambler something he couldn't refuse: the chance to win it all back. He must have known that telling Nate to hold back on Anson would be about as effective as telling him not to put his last dollar on that sure thing in the final race.
And Nate's face.
Michael couldn't think about Nate's face, couldn't get it out of his mind.
The receipt crumpled in the ball of Michael's fist. It was, as always, a losing ticket.