Prelude to a Betrayal

“It’s all there.” A large wad of bills rolled across the table.

The old man picked it up. “Course it is. Isn’t enough to even bother cheating me on.” Thick and gnarled fingers ruffled through the bills. They remained uncounted.

“It’s enough for you to do what you need to do. You’re not having second thoughts, are you?” There was a faint hint of an accent to the voice, something from northern Europe. The man’s hair and clothes had already marked him as an out-of-towner; the voice confirmed it.

Charlie rubbed one of those gnarled fingers over an itching and empty eye socket. “No, no second thoughts. Regret, sure. But no second thoughts. This is just how the game is played.”

“Is that how you think of it? A game?” The foreigner looked amused, like a guy watching kids make up the rules to a game only understood by the players, the kind of rules that falls apart once you’re outside.

“Sometimes. But it’s not a game you win; you just do your best not to lose.”

“And the mark?”

“He loses. Tonight.”

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