Card Trick

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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Excerpt

he game was stud. There were seven at the table, which makes for good poker. Outside of Nick, who banked the game, nobody looked familiar. They all had the beat look of compulsive gamblers, fogged over by their individual attempts at a poker face. They were a cagey-looking lot. Only one of them was within ten years of my age.

"Just in case, gamblers," the young one said. I looked up from stacking the chips I had just bought from Nick. The speaker was a skinny little guy with a sharp chin and more freckles than I'd like to have.

"If any one of you guys has any psi powers," the sharp-chinned gambler said sourly, "you better beat it. All gamblers here will recoup double their losses from any snake we catch using psi powers to beat the odds."

He shot a hard eyed look around a room not yet dimmed by cigar smoke. I got the most baleful glare, I thought. He didn't need to worry. I'd been certified Normal by an expert that very evening.

The expert was Dr. Shari King, whom I had taken to dinner before joining the game at Nick's. It had gotten to be a sort of weekly date—although this night had given signs of being the last one. For a while that spring, desoxyribonucleic acid had begun to take second place in my heart. This is a pitiful admission for a biochemist to make—DNA should be the cornerstone of his life. But Shari was something rare—a gorgeous woman, if somewhat distant, who was thoroughly intelligent. She had already earned her doctorate, while I was still struggling with the tag ends of my thesis.

"Poker, Tex?" Shari had asked, when the waitress was bringing dessert. "Is this becoming a problem? You've played every night this week."

"No problem, Shari," I said. "I'm winning, and I see no point in not pocketing all that found money."

"Compulsive gambling is a sickness," she said, looking at me thoughtfully. She was wearing a shirtwaist and skirt that had the bright colors and fullness you associate with peasant dress.

"The only sick thing about me is my bank account," I grinned, relishing her dark, romantic quality. "I need the dough, Shari. I've got a thesis to finish if I ever want to get a job teaching."

Her thick eyebrows fluttered upward, a danger signal I had learned to look for. "That's a childish rationalization, Tex," she said with a lot more sharpness than I had expected. "There are certainly other ways to get money!"

"So I'm not as smart as you," I told her.

"Smart?" She didn't think I was tracking.

"I wasn't as shrewd as you were in picking my parents," I said. "Mine never had much, and left me less than that when they died."

She threw her spoon to the table. "I'll remind you of how silly these remarks sound, after you've hit a losing streak," she told me.

I laughed at that one. "I don't lose, Shari," I said. "And I don't intend to."

Her lashes veiled her violet eyes as she smiled and said more quietly, "Then you are in even worse trouble than I thought. I hear a lot about what happens to these strange people who never lose at cards or at dice or at roulette. Aren't you afraid of winding up in the gutter with your throat slit? Isn't that what happens to people with psi powers who gamble?" she insisted. "What's your trick, Tex? Do you stack the deck with telekinesis, or does precognition tell you what's about to be dealt?"

"That crack isn't considered very funny in Texas," I growled....