The Poker Payout

Calvin Carter has uncovered a bribery scheme. Now, he just needs to set the trap. With his penchant for drama, the former actor decides the best way to expose the ruthless criminal boss Jeffrey Tobias is over a poker game.

What could go wrong?

Plenty.

Available at Amazon.

Excerpt

Sitting at a poker table, Calvin Carter smiled. It took him awhile, studying the movements of the dealer and the other men around the table, but he finally figured out how they all were cheating. The deck was marked. That much was clear. He, however, didn’t have time to figure out what the markings were. Percy Johns was too busy winning another pile of chips.

“What are you smiling at, Carter?” the man across the table asked.

Carter fingered his tie and made his smile bigger. “I just can’t get over how lucky Johns here is.”

“It ain’t luck,” Johns growled, throwing a menacing look Carter’s way. Johns’s suit was rumpled and his tie askew, owing to his constant fiddling with it on his winning streak. “It’s all skill.”

“Oh, it’s skill alright.” Carter cocked eyebrows. “But I’m not sure it’s yours.”

The man across the table paused in the act of raising his highball glass to his lips. The light of the oil lamps overhead glistened on his shiny cufflinks. Slowly, he lowered the glass, the whiskey still swilling in the glass. “What are you implying, Mr. Carter?”

Carter held up his hands, palms out. “Absolutely nothing, Mr. Tobias. I was merely noting that every man here at this table has a certain degree of skill at this game. Sometimes, a man’s skill at poker can win him more hands than the cards indicate. Other times, a man can falter, no matter how good he is.” He patted his chest. “My skill just seems to be lacking here tonight and Mr. Johns is the benefactor.”

A small crowd had gathered around the table as Johns racked up his winnings. A game of chance had sprouted among the onlookers, seeing as there wasn’t going to be a vacancy at the table for the time being. With each successive hand, money and coin exchanged hands, to the choruses of cheers and grunts. A few of the working ladies hung on the arms of some of the men. Despite their earnest entreaties, none of the men would leave.

Jeffery Tobias drained his glass and held it up over his shoulder. One of the dark-suited men directly behind him took the glass and waded the crowd to the bar. With a last, long look at Carter, he said, “Well, Mr. Johns, I don’t care what Mr. Carter thinks about his own lack of skill, you’re playing a mighty fine round of poker. If I count your chips correctly, your winnings are rapidly advancing on a little bonus.”

“Bonus?” Johns said, lacing his voice with extra curiosity.

As a trained actor, Carter felt the massive urge to give Johns acting lessons. Nonetheless, Carter smiled to himself. Things he had suspected were coming to pass.

Tobias sucked in his cheeks as he took a lungful of smoke from his cigar. He let the smoke waft upward as he spoke. “Yes, Mr. Johns. A bonus. Any man who earns four hundred dollars at the table is entitled to a room with one of my ladies.” He paused and smirked. “Free of charge.”

Johns actually blushed and Carter fought the urge to roll his eyes.

“Let’s get on with the next hand,” Peter McKay said. He sat to Carter’s left. He was a bearded man and had sweated through his clothes, clogging the smoky air with his stink. Absently, McKay wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. It made a wet sound.

Carter sniggered, “You must like losing more than I do, McKay.”

“Shut up,” McKay said. To the dealer, he said, “Deal.”

Anderson, the dealer, looked at Tobias who nodded. The cards began flying across the table. Carter kept his cards face down, pulling up the corners to determine what he had. As usual, it was junk. He examined his small pile of chips in front of him. He might be able to stretch his presence at the table for a round or two more but, after that, he would have to leave.

Time to force the issue. But first, he was going to have some fun.