Chapter Twenty | The Cowboy in The Continental Suit

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Cash and Boss had been ushered to the second floor of the Casino, passing through the Keno room, second-floor bar, and low-stakes poker room. The high-stakes poker room, where they found themselves now, was the closest you could get to Calvera's personal office without actually stepping foot in the thing.

The lamps that lit the room had been turned down to a low glow just bright enough to distinguish the cards by. The walls were lined with dark wallpaper in a green pinstripe pattern that complemented the round felted table taking took up most of the space. Tokens of every type were stacked carefully in front of each chair and the drink of choice before each player.

"If you're going to be in this room, Ms. Guthrie, you're going to have to play." Calvera grinned slyly.

"Fair enough," said Cash, tipping back her hat and taking the open seat next to Boss. The other players were a surprising pair, given Calvera's humanist predilections. There was a tawny brown Caelifera, whose slitted eyes glowed ominously in the moody lighting, and a female Jontar even more massive than Tate, as the women of that species were want to be. Cash, Calvera, and Boss made up the rest of the table.

"Boss, would you do the honor of dealing?" Calvera asked after a sip of his fresh mint julep.

"Of course." Boss smiled saccharinely.

Her hands confidently folded over the deck and began to shuffle. Cash admired the slender curve of her fingers as she brought the cards to a bridge and then threaded them. Boss took her time distributing hands, arching them toward each person with careful grace. Cash couldn't help but wonder if she was buying every second she possibly could.

Cash glanced down at her poor hand, a two of hearts and a six of clubs that combined with the queen of diamonds, ace of clubs, and 10 of spades on the table for a stunning pile of nothing. It was almost impressively bad.

Cash decided to bluff her way through this one and as the turn came around to her she raised the pot, drawing wrinkled brows from both humans at the table. Boss eyed Cash as she dealt out the turn. The two of spades. Could have been worse.

As the bets came around again Cash raised for the hell of it.

"Oh my," cooed Calvera.

As Boss played the river card the Jontar huffed through her nose and folded. Boss raised. Calvera held. The new card was the jack of clubs. Cash licked her bottom lip and inwardly cursed as Boss caught the tell and smirked. Cash knew that Calvera and Boss statistically speaking might, probably, definitely had better hands.

She folded.

"Too bad," Calvera said, revealing his hand of a ten of spades and a ten of hearts. "Three of a kind."

Boss smiled. "Well...you win this round," she said revealing her hand to be two-pair queen of hearts and two of diamonds.

"Too bad," said Calvera with a wolfish grin, pulling his winnings toward himself.

***

Gideon, Asimov, and Csy argued for a moment before deciding it would be best if they split up for the next phase of the operation. The Vox's face stared up at Asimov with worry, her ears pressed back in a flat line.

"Be. Careful," she ordered, needling him in the chest with her small finger.

"Thanks for the concern," Csy said with a roll of their eyes.

Gideon turned on them and gripped the lapels of their suit jacket, pulling the Therian down to her level. Csy stared at her in wide-eyed surprise.

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