There was something brutal about him. He sat there across the desk from me, in a straight-backed plastic chair, and the frown on his face and the set of his shoulders just screamed primal. Vicious. Like at any second, he might up and knock your head off.
That was good. That was what I wanted to see in my boys. That was what I taught ‘em.
He slipped on wet stone, and cursed as the light flew from his hand. It bounced once on its padded side, then fell front-first with a shattering crash on a patch of sharp rocks.
The darkness was immediate and complete.
Colorful spots filled his eyes. He blinked hard, several times. Dropping the light had been stupid, but there was no need to panic. Rule one of cave exploration was to always bring a backup light. He reached to his belt, pulled light number two from its loop, and flipped the switch.
Harsh light filled his eyes; stale, sweaty air his nostrils. The hum of voices, the jangling of slots, the rattle of a roulette wheel blended to batter his ears, a roaring wind. Focus was gone; cards in all suits and ranks scattered across his brain.
He fumbled for an inner calm that stayed just out of reach. Maybe the struggle itself kept calm away. Did it matter? It was time and past time for him to leave—he was losing his edge. Had lost his edge. That last hand, with the Kid sitting there smirking when a lucky card—no, push it aside.
Poker was no place for emotion.