"This seems to be just the night for some trouble." I muttered to myself almost oblivious to the rain pelting my shoulders and hat. I looked up to see the sign through the dancing water drops. Long Branch Saloon
I sighed. "Well, better get in there."
A table was set in the back of the room, four men sat together, quietly. They seemed too quiet. My eyes opened wide when I saw the man farthest from the door, almost sitting in the corner, all dressed in black. The notorious killer, fast gun, and fearless. I held my breath a second then approached the bar.
"Malt please." I requested taking the drink I moved over to the table. They had been waiting for me. Girls weren't suppose to gamble North of the Deadline but tonight an exception was made to accommodate the stakes of the night. I sat down in the seat that was left. I looked around the table without a word I took not of the faces, and familiarities. The town marshal was at the table along with the notorious train robber. The stake was over 20 grand tonight so everyone agreed ahead of time to use chips and no money was to be used at the table. Everyone would have their chance to deal, order and turns.The game was suspected to run well into the next day and I had rested all day to make sure I'd have the energy for the ordeal.
Gambling was what put bread on the table everyday, its what paid for the doctor's when the kids got sick, it was what I used to furnish the house, what I used to lavish in life's delicacies. Without a man at home and two kids to feed, a woman needs to indulge herself often. Gambling was the only time I feel adequate at what I am good at. Sure I can take care of kids and house, but I was legendary at poker.
"Seems as though we are all here, just as discussed in the telegram." One of the unknown faces began. "Let's draw to see who goes first." He passed the deck to the man dressed in black. He drew up a 4 of clubs. The lawman was next to draw, he got an 8 diamonds. The next man drew a 2 of spades, and the last man received a 4 of hearts. I took the deck next and drew an ace of spades. I dealt first and we'd go clockwise from there.
"Five card stud. Everyone alright with that?" I questioned as I shuffled the deck. I fanned the cards, rifled and turned them in my hands until everything as gone around several times. There were no complaints from anyone so I handed the deck to the lawman who was sitting to my right. He cut and I began dealing. Five cards down. "Ante is 30 dollars." I announced then after everyone's ante was in the pot I threw face up cards to everyone at the table. Two 2s, one 4, one ace, and a 7. I had an ace in the hole with one face up so I took the first bet. "100 dollars."
The man dressed in black didn't look at his card, with merely a 2 on the table he says. "Your hundred, raise you another hundred." He barely looked at me from under his hat. I could see his ice blue eyes he had red lining the outside of his eyes as though he hadn't slept peacefully in weeks. I looked away. The lawman through his money in and the unfamiliar cowhand did the same. The saloon owner who sat opposite of me through his cards to the deadwood pile.
Dealing another round of face up cards I eyed the man in black again. 3, 5, ace, 7. The cowhand now had a 2 and an ace face up, myself showing an ace and a 5. The man in the corner had now a 2, and 3 in front of him. He pulled out a handkerchief and began to cough roughly into it. I saw sweat on his brow, I couldn't figure out if maybe it was a fever or nervousness but I looked on, raising the bet again this time to one grand. And again the pale figure in the corner raised it by double. The lawman looked at his hole card a moment then studied the cards laid out on the table. He comfortably raised three grand. He figured that one of us were bluffing.
Two more rounds, a pot of 10 grand, by this time the lawman backed out throwing his cards to the deadwood pile after gaining nothing with an 8 and having myself another 5 on the table and the other a 6. By this time all the cards were out and The saloon owner, lawman, and cowhand watched the two of us uneasily and anxiously.
The man coughed a few more times into his handkerchief. I eyed him a moment. Then set the deck down in from of the cowhand to my right. "Let's do something different. For this pot, I want to do double or nothing. And I want this man to deal us two final cards." I stood, I knew full-heartedly that I had won this one, for I have a full house and if he was hoping to win at all he'd better have a flush, but even then he didn't stand a chance. I live for this kind of action, and tonight was the night that I'd risk it all. I had studied the pot awhile. "Looks like 18 and some change, let's call it 19, we will double that making it a total of 38 thousand dollars."
He nodded and looked to the cowhand. "Well, would you do us the honor of drawing us a card each?"
The cowhand nodded and looked at me. "No, him first." I looked to the sick man and waited while the card was drawn. It was a Jack of spades. I smiled a half smile, almost nervous now I looked at the cowhand. He drew a card and turned it over gently, it read King of hearts. I stared long and hard at the sick man in the corner. "That's it." I stated grabbing the pot. "You are not very good at this are you?" I mocked him. "Actually I think I've seen yelle'r cowboys win sometimes."
He stood up and came around the table to face me. He stood about 5' 10" and was bonier than a schoolroom skeleton. His ice blue eyes melting with rage. "You want to restate that?" He asked in a southern drawl thick with anger.
"Nah, I like it just the way I stated it. And you know what, it's a shame they don't allow women to gamble this side of the Deadline, we'd kick you pups right out of the territory."
He sighed and glared at me. He seemed to want to say something but looked as though he was in pain.
"I would just crawl back to your mother if I were you-" I got cut off suddenly by a strike in the jaw.
"No one ever insults my mother!" He yelled at me after punching me to the ground. He was on me now, his light frame with strong bicep muscles holding me to ground, I tried to scream when he slapped me again. "Do you understand!? My mother has nothing to do with this, may she rest in peace!" He yelled half... half... sobbing? Was this man crying? After he violently punched me and jumped me, he was yelling and now he was crying?
"Wait!" I yelled trying to get his attention as his fist went in the air again. I used my one free hand to reach up and wipe his face. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize...." I mumbled almost breathless now. Pain hitting my face like being punched all over again.
He began coughing and his frail frame shook as he took out his handkerchief, he leaned back resting himself on my legs while he coughed violently into his white cloth. I leaned up onto my elbows to attempt to help him. He appeared to be having trouble breathing, so I moved quickly out from under him and with him now sitting on the floor I began rubbing his back. "Everyone back up!!" I yelled. "Give him some space!"
His white handkerchief was now soiled with phlegm and blood. He was breathing hard, tears still in his eyes, now probably from the pain of his convulsion. Sweat dripped off his forehead and down his face. His breathing was ragged and heavy. I stepped in front of him. "Let me take you home." I offered a hand and after he stood a shoulder in which he leaned heavily on.
Thank you thank you..... now just gotta finish and submit.... ha ha ha