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Thursday, 5 May 2011


(AUTHOR'S NOTES: Taken a while but finally here Dead West, chapter 1!)

 It had been two years since Spider and Paul’s fateful night under the stars where they had talked about frontier domination and much like that night, the sky once again sparkled as a dusty traveller made his way across a rickety bridge towards the all too familiar town of chance. Paul felt as if he had come full circle, pulling off his hat and brushing the grey clinging dust of it. He cursed under his breathe but continued into the small gambling town.

 He soon realised that, in two years, Chance had not changed at all. It was still the same hovel; filled with addicts with all different poisons. Gamblers, alcoholics and opium smokers all lined the street begging for money for the next fix. Their pleas fell on Paul’s deaf ears as he rode down the main street not taking his eyes off the road, his black horse covered in sweat from what had been such a long and immense ride. Paul spat and grinded to a halt in front of a once again all too familiar place: The Salt over the Shoulder Casino. He tied up his horse by the water troth and made his way inside; by the newest addition to the door frame, the bouncers, and wandered into the place as if he owned it. His head held high and his hand on his gun.

Although Chance itself had not changed at all during Paul’s two year absence the casino where he had first met Spider had in fact changed substantially. After the suspicious passing of Mr. House Senior; his mantle was taken up by his well educated son, who actually managed to make the place one of the most successful casinos in the entire frontier. He had stomped out all competition in Chance and now ran the whole gambling scene; from fighting to the slots Mr. House Junior had a hand in it all. No one was quite sure of how he had managed to acquire such an immense fortune fresh out of school but rumours did fly; bank robberies, train heists, inheritance and even that of magic’s presence in his ascension but Paul knew what had happened. House Junior had been clever, he’d taken all the money his Father had made and doubled it, quadrupled it even as a loan shark to the other struggling casinos. He had effectively made them sign their own death warrants with every contract. He was ruthless and as ruthless with people as he was in business…

 However, Paul continued unafraid as he swaggered past another set of bouncers by a velvet rope and towards House Junior’s office. For Paul was actually in his employ. The young man had sent for him especially, calling him the best bounty hunter in the land and stressing how Mr. House Senior had always had him in high regard. Paul took off his hat and knocked gently on the door until he was beckoned in by a soft male voice: “Come in.”

 Paul entered as he was told and smiled as House Junior turned in his chair to greet him. The youngster smiled and beckoned for him to sit down “Whisky?” he asked the bounty hunter getting up and making his way to a small cabinet “Only the best, obviously.” As pompous as House was, Paul loved his taste in whisky, he quickly snatched up a glass and soon the two of them were opposite one and other talking business. “So, what can I do for you?” asked Paul taking a small sip on his whisky.

 House Junior seemed taken aback that Paul wanted to be done quite quickly. “You seem surprised.” Hinted Paul “Does my haste bother you, Junior?” House wiped his hands through his greased hair and composed himself “No, No, not at all Mr. Graham I’m quite glad you cut to the chase…”
“I wish you would.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Graham; I’m just not familiar with these sorts of circumstances. Forgive me.” As mild mannered as he was making out, Paul was no fool to this nice act; in fact he saw straight through it, the white suit, and clumsy manner. He knew that House knew exactly what he was doing; he knew that he had employed bounty hunters before and he knew that Mr. House Junior was well versed in the ways of bounty hunters for after all he had found Paul in the first place. It was then the door opened and a black haired individual came through the door smiling. The new presence in the room looked goofy but in his hand was a box and he quickly brought it towards the table without a second thought. He was of Italian descent with a strange black beard and black curly hair. “Ah,” groaned Mr House “Tommy meet Mr. Graham. Mr. Graham, Tommy Turner my front of house manager.” Paul looked him up and down. “I say, nice to meet you.” Turner said graciously.

“My father always had an eye for talent Mr. Graham,” went on House “You he spotted lots of it of and boasted about your abilities so… I have come to you for help, the casino is loosing money we believe there is a cheater in our midst a very famous card cheat you know very well from two years ago…”
“Michael Spiderman Mitchell.”
“Precisely, I thought you had dealt with him? You took our money with you as well; may I ask where that went?”
“It was supposed to be evidence, redistributed after Spiderman’s trial. However, that’s not the case…” Paul paused “He escaped and the Marshall’s were bent as a nine dollar note. They high tailed it with all those winnings. I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault Mr. Graham, in fact, small change now to me. You just did as you were told, right?”
Paul didn’t feel under pressure at all, he sat back calmly sipping slowly on his whisky. His mind was more focused on the extra body in the room in the form of Tommy Turner. Paul got up and smiled putting down his glass gently. “So, what’s in the box?”

 Tommy looked towards House and House gave him the signal to put the box down. He did but in doing so knocked over Paul’s glass and the whisky flew in the air and spilt all over Paul. The bounty hunter was angrily trying to dry himself and Tommy rushed over to aid him as Mr. House cursed profusely. Once the fiasco was over though; the box was opened and what was inside was revealed. Paul laughed to himself. Cheeky bastard he thought…

The box was filled with Salt over the Shoulder Casino chips. There was around three hundred and fifty dollars worth in the box and Paul’s suspicions were right. House was smart. “There’s three hundred and fifty your pay, any chips you also manage to earn in the course of proceedings will also be added but you cannot cash out until the job is done, you take Mitchell. You will also not be able to leave until said task is done.” Paul again laughed to himself as he watched House’s fa├žade disappear and the ruthless streak break out from inside. He thought he had Paul trapped, this was not the case. Paul could leave but he wanted to bleed this arrogant sap for all he had. He’d ripped off the Father before, now the son was to suffer the same fate. It wasn’t until he got up though that his face changed. He looked towards Turner and signalled him closer “Come here.”

 The waiter suddenly looked rather sheepish as he approached Paul; House also looked confused as to what the bounty hunter was thinking but as soon as Tommy got close enough, a huge spectacle would unfold. In the blink of an eye, Tommy’s hand was on his boss’s desk with his fingers splayed out neatly on the chestnut finish. “Do you think I am stupid Tommy?” asked Paul rather calmly.
“No sir, I do not.”
“Then why did you think you could steal my last five bucks and my ornate penknife?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

House pursed his lips as Paul searched the waiter. He found both his money and knife and kept Tommy’s hand pressed firmly against the desk. “In Mexico, you know, if you get caught stealing. To make up for what you took… they take your hand.” Tommy suddenly began to sweat as Paul flicked out the knife’s blade and began to spin it around his own fingers. He then began to skim it along the house manager’s fingers, counting to himself. House had a sick smile on his face whilst his employee looked as if he was about to soil his nice trousers. So Paul, getting bored let the knife plunge, with all the force he could muster in his arm he stabbed downwards towards Tommy’s stuck hand…

“A very remarkable shot there Mr Graham. Impressive.” complimented Mr House as he admired the precision of the blade’s handler. It had landed between Tommy’s fore and middle fingers with tremendous force, rocking the desk and draining all the colour from Tommy’s face. However, Paul seemed unimpressed with himself pulling the blade from the desk with ease and groaning to himself: “That was bullshit I missed.” Tommy already pale, seemed to loose even more colour at this revelation and grasped desperately at his now free hand. “Tomazo, do you not have something to say to Mr. Graham?” spat House venomously.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“I know it’s your job. Get close steal something for the boss, you’re a thief who extracts information. Your job is just a front.” Paul looked at House with an evil glint in his eye “Ok, I’ll do this but for your Pop. Not you, you evil conniving, son of a bitch.” House pursed his lips again and smiled evilly as Tommy backed away from the desk and Paul got up to leave. “Now, we’re on the same page Mr. Graham. Now we’re on the same page.”

 “A room is ready fir you so you can… uh, ‘freshen up’ before you hit the floor Mr. Graham.” winced Turner still clutching his hand. Paul smiled and made his way to the room quickly, he didn’t want to waste anytime and his game plan was already in swing. He knew what he had to do and as he passed Tommy at the door he stopped and whispered to him, so as to stop House from hearing as well “If you ever get bored working for him,” smiled Paul “You come find me.” With that he left and within an hour hit the casino floor like a tonne of dynamite.

 Unlike when he came in relatively unnoticed Paul was now turning heads, all save one of his target: Michael Mitchell. Although Paul was still relatively scruffy, the flamboyancy he was displaying was second to none; the first part of his plan was in motion. The first stage was to grab everyone’s attention except his targets. This would single him out in the crowd and then make it easier to commence phase two. All he had to do now was to take his newly earned high-roller status and double the chips House had given him. He presumed House had meant for him to get Spider under any means necessary, so, cheating was legal.  He would attract Spider’s attention via a different method, phase three; stimulate the greed. In appealing to Spider’s greed by having earned a lot of winning, he would trap Spider in a game he could not win, clean him out and then take his and Spider’s winnings as House had said. It was that simple and with Paul’s skill relatively quick to do. Within an hour he had successfully taken out four of the other high-rollers in the Salt over the Shoulder that night in one high risk game; effectively quadrupling his chips and luring Spider in. The bait was set and the trap primed…

 “Mind if I sit here, Paul?” asked Spider mockingly pulling up a chair showing he in fact didn’t need Paul’s permission “So, what brings you here?
“Same thing as two years ago.”
“Oh, you mean me?”
The two stared at each other with an intensity unlike any other, the room seemed to heat up from just their stairs and the crowd gathered to see what was effectively going to be the biggest game in the History of the Salt over the Shoulder. “How about a wager?” asked Paul suddenly “If I can beat you again, as well as your chips; I take you in?” Michael laughed to himself, he stroked his beard curiously and laid his chips on the table; not a hint of fear in his eyes. “Do you really think you can beat me again Graham?”

“Why yes.”

 Spider took a moment, he sat back and looked at Paul with the utmost analysis looking for a tell or give away as to whether the bounty hunter was bluffing. He wouldn’t find one but grew ever more impatient in his search. He tapped his finger on the table, debating with him self also, as to whether to take Paul up on his offer. “What’s in it for me Paul?” he asked calmly “I ain’t doing nothing that won’t serve me well.” Paul pushed his hat from over his eyes, he was wearing a smile and he too stroked his ginger beard as the battle of wits grew all the more intense. “Pride. You can walk out of here a free man with a hit load of money.” Paul knew this would trap Spider, a man all about pride. “Alright then! All in, all five cards in the river. Straight up.” Crooned Spider banging his fist on the table “There’s no way I’m going to loose to you twice.”

 Paul lowered his hat once again for he knew Spider most certainly would.

“One and a half grand and your freedom is a lot to ride on the cards Spider…” lectured Paul as the crowd shuffled in “Still sure?” Spider banged a fist hard on the table and smiled “Damn straight!” he replied, skilfully swapping his cards with every card that was revealed in the river. The two looked as if they were paying no attention to the game at all; however, this was most untrue as both cheated there way into the lead with every card. The crowd sweated and Spider smiled obnoxiously to himself as Tommy and House observed from a height…

“Paul’s not walking out with those chips is he?” asked Tommy
“Don’t be silly.” Replied House menacingly: “Now go cash up for the night.”

 As Tommy disappeared into the office the last card in the river was revealed and it stood as so: The queens of hearts and clubs, the ace of spades and another two fours. Spider looked anxiously as the dealer commanded both players to reveal their hands. The crowd were shocked as both men laid down a winning hand: Four queens…

 The crowd grew restless and soon the air was very, very tense. Mr House from his balcony smiled as he declared to the congregation: “These two cheats shall be dealt with! Boys, Show them out.” Suddenly both Paul and Spider were being seized and escorted from the building. “HOUSE! WHAT ABOUT OUR DEAL!?” yelled Paul defiantly throwing off the henchmen. The balcony was empty, House had long gone though and Paul walked out with Spider of his own accord and both men looked at each other disappointed. “Well, that could have went better.” Joked Spider “At least we didn’t have to shoot our way out, huh?”

“Fuck… this was all for nothing.” said Paul mounting his horse and riding forward ahead of Spider with his head down. Their con had failed for once; although the two were almost always successful, their winning combination had been beat and it was time to head home and think of a new plan. When Spider eventually caught up t Paul they were just hitting the edge of town when a familiar voice hurtled through the night air…

“HEY!” yelled Tommy flapping his arms as his horse galloped towards them: “WAIT!” Paul smiled to himself as his partner turned around in confusion unsure to who the youngster was. “What you doing here boy?” Spider asked Tommy “House finally realise you were stealing his silver ware?”
“Let the boy talk Michael…”
“House’s Father was a good guy, I could stomach working for him but Junior back there fell far from the tree. He doesn’t honour his deals, so I thought; I would, in his stead.” He pulled a bag from off his horse and opened it revealing a green glow of paper notes wedged in tight. Tommy had cleaned House out. “So am I in or what?” the youngster asked. Spider and Paul went to talk about the matter in private, the deliberations were cut short though as shouts could be heard from the direction they had just came, meaning House had realised his money was missing and that the three of them needed to be gone and quick but the agreement was made that Tommy Turner was now a member of the posse. The three smiled at each other and Spider before they sped off to bid a quick goodbye to the small town of Chance made one final suggestion…

“To Carol’s then?”