This short story is another one I wrote and originally posted on the Beasts of War forum.
I hope you enjoy,
The Fifth Ace
The saloon is a roar of life all the way into the late hours of the night. Tobacco smoke lingers throughout the air and the piano is playing a merry tune on stage. Everyone in the room has smiles on their faces and seems to be having a good time, except for the four men at the table in the corner. Their concentrated faces staring at cards. Their foul moods mix well with the stink of sweat and bourbon.
“Its last call boys,” says the barmaid as she comes by; a pretty little thing with the bright blue eyes.
“Another round would’cha please, on me, for my friends here,” says the youngest man at the table, a ranch hand. Smiling he lays down his cards showing three queens. “It looks like my luck is changing.” Disappointed grumbles are the replies he gets from the other men.
A long sigh goes out from the old prospector as he watches longingly at the pile of money sliding past him. “Welp the lady sure seems ta be on ya side now young’in,” giving a half hearted laugh, “It’s a good thing my wife aint living to see this.” He leans back on his chair and wipes his balding head with a dirty old handkerchief. “Don’t worry Max,” the young man says, “I’m ready to call it a night.”
“Like hell you are!” says the hard looking man with a sun cracked face, “You went from loosing almost all your earnings ta having the biggest pile of chips at here table, lets see how long this winning streak lasts.” The firm stare he gives leaves no room for debate. Piling the cards together he places the deck in front of the cocky kid then leans over and spits out tobacco juice. With a grim face he says, “The next deal is yours Jimmy and I want a chance to get my money back.”
“Well if you say so.”
Jimmy stops counting his chips and starts shuffling the deck in a fancy manner. With a devilish smile he addresses everyone at the table, “Since this is the last hand how about we play big, winner takes all? Wha’da say?” With a heavy sigh and shaking his head the old man slides his chair back and departs the table leaving the remaining men and plants himself up on a barstool near the bar.
“You guys ready for then?” smiles Jimmy.
He tosses the well used cards out to the players. A soft silence drifts over the table as each man takes a look at his cards. Stern faces are all Jimmy sees as each man throws out unwanted cards. Forever smiling, Jimmy takes the top cards from the deck, “Two cards for our quiet fellow here, three for you, and the dealer will take two.”
He picks up his cards and starts rearranging his hand. Not one bit of emotion even shows on the other players faces as they take their new cards. Careful eyes start scanning the other players for clues as to what each man has. They are all one moment away from glory or despair. The tense moment is only broken by the returning barmaid.
“Here’s your drinks boys,” she says smiling. “Looks like ya got a serious game going on.”
“That it is,” says Jimmy, “but it’s just about to end and if ol’ Lady Luck is still with me, I’ll be buying you something pretty come tomorrow.” The barmaid then proceeds to slowly circle the table and places the drinks at each man’s side.
“Alright boys, time to show’em,” chatters Jimmy, “Let’s start with you.” The quiet man leans over and lays down four of his cards. “Well looks like you got two pairs, jacks over tens,” snickers Jimmy. The hard man flips over just three cards, “I got a full house kings and eights.”
“Well I’ll be,” says Jimmy with a solemn look in his face, “that sure does beat the two pair in my hand.”
“Ha! I knew your luck would run out eventually,” the hard man said smiling as he leans over the table to pull the winnings towards him.
“Not so fast, don’t you want to see my cards?” asks Jimmy with a grin. Slowly pulling out two cards from his hand, “Cause you see here I got a pair of aces,” then lays down two more, “and another pair of aces.”
Suddenly and without warning the table is pushed over to the wall and a knife appears in the quiet man’s hand as he lunges towards Jimmy only to stop within a hairs breath of his neck. The room grows silent as everyone looks over at the commotion. Speaking in a low harsh voice between his clenched teeth the quiet man says, “No eres más que un truco sucio!”
“W..wa…what did he say?” asks Jimmy, his eyes growing large and white. “He says you’re a cheat,” replies the hard man, “Now I wonder why he thinks that?”
Pointing with a tobacco stained finger, the knife wielding man directs the others to his last remaining card laying face down on the table. Walking over to the table the hard man picks up the card to look at it. “Oh now I can see why,” he flicks the card to land on Jimmy’s lap face up. “You were playing with a fifth ace!”
With a shocked gasp the barmaid drops the drink she was carrying, letting it crash to the floor.