Chapter 14, Poker
The two made their way down the street, heading for the saloon. They waked in and waited for their eyes to adjust to the dim light of the saloon from the bright afternoon sun. Luke Holt looked up from his card game and motioned them over. He finished his hand and excused himself from the table to talk to the brothers, leaving his money on the table to hold his spot. Not that there were anyone waiting to get into the game. Kelvin watched the other players while Luke and Donni were talking. He watched to make sure if anyone was eying Luke’s stake. There wasn’t much there so no worries about theft, but it was interesting to watch how the players acted when someone was gone, and how they reacted when the person came back. All information at a poker table was good. It helped to develop a tell on a player and Kelvin had a need to make some money before noon the next day. He needed to get into the game.
“Cousin Carlton took off with Jed Thornton and the other two rangers. They’re gonna go look over the ranches to the west, talk to some of the cowhands to find out what has been happening. They said they wanted to get a feel for which ranchers were doing what in the area. See how many hands have been hired on to different spreads and stuff like that,” Luke relayed, “Carlton said he hoped to be back for supper, but not to count on it. He then gave me specific instructions to give you two if you was to get out of jail. He said to make sure that you stayed close to the boarding house. Not to be causing any more problems for him.”
Donni snorted, “Thanks Luke, we sure will. I think I’m gonna take a little ride out to see Phoebe. Watch Kelvin, okay? Make sure he doesn’t get into trouble.”
Luke stared at him for a few seconds letting his statement sink in, “Sure thing, cousin,” he said shaking his head. Donni chuckled as he headed for the door.
Kelvin, still focused on the game, glanced up while Donni was leaving, “Where are you going?” Donni waved over his shoulder and left. Kelvin looked worried, “Where’s he going, Luke?”
Luke shrugged, “Cousin Donni said something about going to see that girl. Have a seat, we’ll deal you in,” as he settled back into his seat at the table.
Kelvin looked at the still swinging barroom doors then looked at the table. Damn it Donni, Carlton is going to be mad, probably at me, and he really had work to do to get his fine paid. There might not be enough money in this town to pay his fine so it was going to be a long session and he really liked it when Donni was watching his back at the table. Not much he could do about it now. He sat down in the offered chair and flexed his fingers, “Okay. Deal me in.” Kelvin smiled at the other three players and helped himself to some of Luke’s whiskey while putting $50 on the table. “What game are we playing?”
“Five card stud,” an older cowhand said as he eyed Kelvin with speculation.
Kelvin assumed a dumb expression, “What’s that?”
Luke rolled his eyes and then looked at his cousin before glancing at the cards he had just received, trash. Laying his cards down Luke announced, “Actually I think I’ll get something to eat gents. I’m played out.” Luke got up, collecting the $40 or so dollars in front of him, and left the three other players to Kelvin’s untender mercies. He knew better that to play Kelvin so moved over to an adjoining table where he could watch the door and the game and waved over the younger barmaid. Kelvin could hear him ordering some food and asked the barmaid to join him. Food would be good too but right now he had work to do. Kelvin just wished Donni had stuck around. Luke was not going to be much backup if things went bad. He didn’t figure it would but Carlton always said be prepared.
Several hours later, mid-evening, Luke left the company of the young barmaid and made his way out of the saloon, saying something about going to the boarding house, getting some dinner, and then sleep. He had been drinking whiskey since before Kelvin and Donni arrived. He hadn’t slowed down much neither. Kelvin, roughly a hundred or so dollars to the good, barely noticed him leave. He had gotten into the swing of the game and there was more money on the table now. A few players had come and gone, mostly busted. The game had grown to six players, including the vaunted town Doctor, Doc Farnsworth. Who had examined Zeb Barker the day before. Kelvin was looking forward to a long evening of good pickings. The sun set and the crowd in the saloon grew as Kelvin and the good Doctor tried their wiles on each other. It was a pretty quite gathering.
A couple hours after sunset the bar had gotten quite busy and a crowd had started watching the poker game. Players kept coming and going with both Doc and Kelvin’s money piles growing from all the others who had tried their luck. Neither had gotten an upper-hand on each other. The sheriff showed up for a few minutes and watched Kelvin closely. A few of the rougher looking “cowhands” left when he arrived. The sheriff couldn’t see if Kelvin was doing anything illegal and was about to continue making his rounds when Kelvin noticed him. Kelvin called him over and handed him $150 from the table. A few of the players at the table complained about him taking money from the table, but when they looked at the face of the sheriff they quickly quieted down. “I hope that pays my fine and makes us even sheriff,” Kelvin said. That had pretty much wiped out his winnings for the night, and put him at a disadvantage at the table, but Kelvin wouldn’t have the feeling of doom about paying the sheriff’s fines weighing on him. Besides he had a pretty good read on the other players at the table now, except Doc, so getting ahead again shouldn’t take long.
“It does, but we are not going to be even until you leave town.” the sheriff replied.
“Thanks sheriff, sorry to hear that,” Kelvin said with a hint of remorse in his voice. “I will be around to pick up a receipt for payment in full.”
“Umph,” was all the reply he got as the sheriff turned and walked out of the saloon. Seeing the sheriff leave with most of the money Kelvin had won a couple more “cowhands” left the saloon.
Around midnight the crowd started thinning out. Kelvin had finally figured out Doc’s play and was slowly busting all the players at the table. He had gotten the best of the Doc and it had begun to rattle the doctor, making him easier to read. Kelvin glanced at his new pocket watch, the deputy’s old watch, and for a moment felt a spasm of worry. Where were his brothers? Shouldn’t they be back by now?
“You in?” Doc asked anxiously.
Kelvin sighed, “Yeah, I’m in.” After all, nothing too bad could be happening to Donni or Carlton, right? He didn’t expect that Donni would be back until morning but shouldn’t Carlton be back by now? Besides he had found out that the bartender would be shutting down the saloon soon.