The Wild West was known to have some wild characters; yet, none were as wild as the bunch gathered in the Salt over the Shoulder Casino in the town of
. The patron Mr. House looked over the poker table with a strange amount of interest that night and so did another scruffy individual who lowered his Stetson hat when he began to attract too much attention. What was attracting their attention was in fact another flashy individual by the name of Michael Mitchell. The card player, also known as “The Spider” was known for having one hand on the table and an extra seven underneath it. He hadn’t lost a hand and the patron and the dealer both signalled to one and other which brought Mr. House and the scruffy cowboy to the table as well. “New players have joined big blind at $20 and small at $15. Are you in sir?” The scruffy cowboy nodded and Michael smiled stroking his perfectly trimmed beard “You sure you can handle it kiddo, this ain’t no playground, the big boys play at this table…” Chance
“Don’t worry, I’m real big.” Said the rouge dropping down his $20 big blind and nodded towards the dealer to start the game, the Spider waited patiently for his hand and then two cards glided across the table towards him. The scruffy cowboy stroked his own stubble and checked his cards patiently; “It’s your move Michael…” he said smiling to himself “You’re not too scared are you?” Michael looked at the three cards in the river: the three of clubs, ace of spades and the four of diamonds. He looked at his own hand. It was nothing special a king and a queen. Yet, it only took him a second and a slide of his hand to turn the two cards into the aces of hearts and diamonds. He smiled, throwing down another $20 as if it was nothing to him. He sat silently, Mr House still witnessing the game first hand and the dealer sweating that if Mr House thought it was something to do with the poor runaway; Mr House would not hesitate to take the boy round the back of the casino and line his head full of lead himself. This game had a lot more at stake then a simple few dollars…
As the game went forward into the night and more and more whisky made its way to the table courtesy of Mr House. Michael was letting his pride once again get the best of him, the plan was to lose small but win big. Yet, he had over done it, the house was now suspicious of his methods and he knew what the whisky was for, it was there for him to slip up. That’s why he hadn’t touched it. Neither did the scruffy looking cowboy, whom over the course of the game had reached a plateau with Michael. They were both all in at $150. Who ever was going to win would walk away a very, very happy man but the Spider with his pride, refused to be beaten by some unknown who had just sat down. He seemed to have no skill and had hardly said a word. He only ever spoke as if to goad Spider into making mistakes. He thought he hadn’t, except for one. He hadn’t learnt this man’s name. “So, sir, do you mind sharing with us some information more illusive then your hand?” asked Spider, taking off his hat and running his free hand through his cropped hair “Cause, the way I see it, you got nothing but a pair. The highest card you have is four. Show me.”
The scruffy cowboy lifted his Stetson from over his eyes and smiled gleefully towards Spider “My name is Paul Graham; and I have three of a kind, three aces – spades, hearts and diamonds.” Paul finally took a swig of Mr House’s finest whisky and Spider not wanting to seem weak dusted off his coat, smiled and masked the panic that was now welling up inside him. He looked at his cards “Well, Spider show us.” goaded Paul. The cards once again, as if by magic changed into a two and a five. Suddenly he had a straight and he flipped both cards in an extravagant motion making them flip forwards.
“Flush beats three of a kind,” said the dealer “Mr Mitchell wins.”
There was the sound of a gun cocking and Michael about to leave the table had the strangest feeling that an iron was pointed straight at him, when he turned around he saw the sawn-off shotgun in Paul Graham’s hand and the Stetson once again over his eyes. “You’re coming with me Spider,” he said menacingly puling out another sawn-off shotgun from his duster “You’re wanted for fraud, cheating and theft from the saloon over the hill in Justice.” The bounty hunter as Paul was now revealed to be edged towards Spider taking his winnings and took out his rope. Mr House, enraged watched as Michael’s hands were tied and he was lead outside and tied to Paul’s horse.
The horse was black, magnificent and stood like a proud giant with its head held high. Michael though, saw the whole situation as funny “I was about to say, that if you couldn’t stand losing don’t take a seat.”
“Only seat you’re gunna be having is a nice cold bench with two other guys in the slammer, Spider, try cheating your way out of that.”
“So how much they wanting for me in justice nowadays?”
“Tough gig, huh boy?”
“I ain’t your boy Spider, now shut up or I’ll gag you as we make our 2 day trek to Justice and hell I may even forget to let you drink or even shit.”
Michael’s bots jingled as he trudged behind the horse, his polished spurs glinting in the moonlight. The horse was pulling the weight but wishing to go faster. The silence that had been present for the past two hours was almost unbearable to Spider; he fidgeted relentlessly scratching at the chaffing ropes. He straightened his hat, looked towards the bounty hunter upon his horse and sighed. “You don’t think my slight of hand is only for cards, do you Paul?”
“Well, if so why haven’t you escaped Michael?”
“Cause I’m interested in you Paul,” cried Michael “You’re something, y’know. You knew I was cheating all alone, I knew you were lying, so how about we split that money me an’ you and we go and chase another bounty.” Paul’s horse came to an abrupt stop and Michael walked into the back of it rather suddenly.
“You think that I’m just gunna turn tale and go outlaw with you Spider?” asked Paul getting off his horse, taking his water canteen off his pack and throwing it towards his prize. “You be one crazy son of a bitch.”
“It’s something we have in common because you ain’t gunna turn no money in Paul, $550 for me $300 winnings. You almost have a grand.” The card shark slipped his ropes with eases and waved his free hands about with such theatricality that he almost fell over. “See, waiting for the opportunity dear Paul,” laughed Michael “You have no gun, are too far from your horse to get one before I pull my own pistol out and if you’ve done your homework… I am a crack shot, a great crack shot.”
The bounty hunter took off his Stetson and raised his hands in the air. He was also smiling and soon the two of them were laughing loudly at one and other. Spider wiped his eyes of the tears laughing had brought to his face and Paul fell on the floor and was now sitting in the sand.
The two of them stared at one and other as they both soon sat in the sand, a fire roaring between the two of them and the pair of them chatting like old friend cracked out the whisky and began to look back on their lives. Michael sat in awe of Paul whom had tracked him town by town, picked up the pieces and finally found him in chance a small town built on gambling. The reverse was the same with Paul admiring Spider’s theatricality and confidence to show off his talent for deception; the more they talked the more Spider’s offer became appealing.
“So, why a bounty hunter?” asked Spider, half drunk.
“So, why a card shark?” retorted Paul in return, raising his tin cup and meeting Spider’s with a clunk. “Y’know Paul,” said Spider staring into the fire “You ain’t half bad, do you want to conquer the West with me?” The question however unbelievable set a glint in Michael’s eye which would make any man believe that he was sincere. The truth was he did want to conquer the West; he just needed the team to do it. He was looking at Paul to be its start; he wanted the ultimate gang of outlaws to achieve wealth beyond their wildest dreams. He didn’t care by what means they achieved their goal. He just wanted it to happen and Paul was also feeling the ambition. “You crazy son of a bitch Michael Mitchell, whatever you wonna do I want in.” laughed Paul “Me and you Spider, we’re gunna take on the world!”
The two of them fell back and stared at the night sky, their drunken ramblings making them look upwards. “You think God will be angry at us?” asked Spider.
“Why?” Queried Paul confused.
“Cause I hear he’s a good friend of Lady Luck, and we’re gunna need her on our side if we’re gunna go pulling this off, y’hear?”