The card game – short crime fiction (400 words)

I sat back with a smoke and drink in hand, watching the table as one watches the countdown to a building demolition. The game had been going on for hours, as it did most nights, and multiple expensive cigars and amber-coloured drinks had fuelled the remaining players onwards. The lush dark-green felt was the setting for the infamous card game at Pauly’s place. The room was comfortably large and yet intimate, its central focus enhanced by the yellow lamp tinge above the round table, complemented by the almost continual banter and smoke spirals.

Held every first Thursday of the month, the game was pleasing to watch, more due to the nature of the players involved than the quality of the poker itself. But tonight was different. Ever since Loud-Mouth Rikki had gone away on multiple charges, a few new players had been trialled to take his spot. This time, a young kid had taken his seat, an ambitious type by the name of Charlie. He knew his place, only speaking when spoken to, but the tension in the room was evident simply due to the fact that this new kid was winning – and by quite a bit – amid the experienced sharks.

The card dealer got up to go to the toilet and everyone seemed to relax and forget the game for a second. Big Ivan was engaged in conversation with one of the other players and I got up to pour myself another drink.

‘Who is dealing next?’ Charlie asked.

No one seemed to pay him any mind as he picked up the translucent glossy poker button. He rolled it towards the player next to him and spoke softly as if not to interrupt the ongoing conversations.

‘Ivan, you’re big.’ Charlie said. 

Everything in the room came to a halt and all heads turned towards Charlie. The sound of the ice cubes clacking as I brought the glass down from my amused lips seemed to increase the tension.

‘What did you say to me?’ Big Ivan said.

The dealer came back in the room and stopped in his tracks, watching the scene.

‘You’re big blind next hand. No disrespect. Everyone calls you Big Ivan anyway, right?’

One of the players’ head dropped as he seemed to mourn for the young man in advance. I raised my left wrist and a quick glance at the Daytona surprised me as to how long the kid had lasted.

‘Everyone?’ Ivan put his smoked-out cigar in the ashtray next to him with a restrained ease. ‘And who the fuck are you?’

(400 word scene in generic fiction prompt)

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