“Jean, you suck at gambling. Why did you even agree to play your mark in a game of poker?” Damien asked me as I had one of the waitresses get me another $5000 worth of poker chips.

“Because, it was part of the contract.” I replied to the Dragon grafted to my soul and living in my head.

“Your job is to kill the stupid fuck, not lose all your money to him at the table.”

“Well the client wanted the poetic justice of the cardshark who swindled him to lose a game before he died.” I replied. The chips were brought quickly, another clacky stack of red and black pseudo-cash I was just pissing down the drain.

“Well the client is an idiot for betting his wedding ring in the first place- killing an honest conman isn’t going to get his wife back.”

“You and I both know that,” I said, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t make a quick 10k offing a stupid rube for a stupid schmuck.”

“You’ve already spent five thousand dollars losing to him.”

“Shut up Damien.”

Besides, it's not like I did it for the money these days. My mark across the table raised, I called, the dealer flipped and I lost another small stack of chips. Death by a thousand calls. The casino was off of a highway a few miles outside of a small town just a few miles inside North Carolina.

“I know who you are, and I know why you’re here.” My Mark said to me.

“Is that so?” I asked nonchalantly. I couldn’t see his eyes behind the mirrored aviators, but I could see the grin. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d killed a man who thought calling me out would save his ass. It never did.

“Yeah, yeah. I know who you are,” Mark said, leaning in across the table, “You’re a loser. You’re a loser that thinks you’re a big shot and you’re here at this table with something to prove.”

I chuckled, but didn’t reply. Mark seemed to like that and threw his head back with laughter. The dealer dealt and we both called. That seemed to make Mark even happier.

The whirling carnival of lights in the Casino reflected off of his glasses, a madcap swirl of amber and gold that shifted with the tiniest shake of his head. It was kaleidoscopically hypnotic, and as far as casting a glamour on someone they were a neat trick.

You need more than a neat trick to get into my head though.

“Says the man now 6k deep to the guy he’s supposed to be killing,” Damien said, “As a Dragon I can keep his hedge-magic out of your head but there’s nothing I can do for your stupid pride.”

Thirty minutes later I needed another stack of chips- at least Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino was paying for my drinks now.

Mark was having a grand time. It was just us left at the table at this point- everyone else had lost their money fair and square and walked away. I had the luxury of the Jester’s bankroll to keep me at the table. No one had come to take the seats vacated by the smarter losers; there was a near electric tension between Mark and I that kept everyone else away like birds and transmission lines.

“I’ll happily take more of your money- but its gonna go the same way. You’ve got an open book for a poker face kid.” Mark laughed. The casino was paying for his drinks too, and he was feeling it more than I- my liver game is strong.

“You know me so well huh?” I slurred out.

“Some liver game.”

“Yeah, you’re a -hic- sucker.” Mark said.

“Yeah well, maybe I’m a sucker,” I finished my drink and pushed all of my chips into the center of the table, “Or maybe I’m here to take you out!”

Mark laughed so hard his drunk ass almost fell out of the chair. He took a moment to calm down and wiped a tear from under his mirrored glasses.

He started counting chips.

“No really,” I said, “I’m a hitman. I’m here to kill you.”

“Jean you drunk motherfucker.” Damien said exasperatedly, “The dealer’s eyes are going to practically pop out of his head.”

“Then he better get that shit checked out.” I shot back.

 Mark laughed even harder, “I’ve heard a lot at the tables but that’s a knee slapper.” He finished counting his chips while he wiped away more tears. Every time he looked up he chuckled again “A hitman he says.” He laughed.

The dealer evidently decided Mark was right and I was just bluffing. His eyes weren’t bulging and he’d relaxed, though he was looking at me with a different set of eyes- he’d probably seen just a bit more than Mark. He dealt what would be our last hand of cards.

“It’s true,” I said in mostly ‘H’s, “A couple months back you -hic- took a wedding ring of the wrong guy- now you gotta pay for it.”

“Jean that’s just ridiculous, you aren’t even this drunk”

“Fuck this, I’m ready to go.”

“Twenty thousand dollars later…”

I couldn’t see past Mark’s mirrored glasses, but he’d stopped smiling now.

“Hey hey hey, he lost fair and square!” Mark insisted.

“Doesn’t matter.”

“I can give it back!” Mark shouted across the table.

“He wants you to pay for it.”

“I’ve got the money to!” Mark was nearly incoherently drunk and blubbering at this point.

“Nah, my instructions are pretty clear,” I said, through a shlur, “He wants you to feel the heat.” With that I took a cigarette out of my pocket and twirled it in my left hand. I held my right hand out and open. Once the smoke was to my lips I called a handful of Dragon flame to my palm, directed it to my finger which i used to light the cig, and then blew out the blow torch coming out of my index finger.

Mark and the Dealer both stared; the dealer because he was in the presence of the supernatural; Mark because he was a one magic trick pony and was sitting across the table from someone with real power. Someone with real power that was here to kill him.

Mark’s eyes were frantically roving from the chips to the cards to my smoke to the front door to- he was fucked and the chip count meant shit. The Dealer was gone.

“You know the Illuminati is going to hear about this.” Mark stammered out, “They’re gonna get you.”

“Oh sure; especially as high on their list as I am.” I said- I can’t gamble or do accents but my drunkcent would put Mel Gibson to shame. I pulled on the cig, and dealt the next few cards of the top of the now abandoned deck.

“Jean what’re you doing? You’re breaking Facade and the Illuminati is already mad at you.” Damien said.

“Trust me, I’ve got a plan.”

“That’s what worries me.”

“Honestly,” I continued to Mark, “They’re probably already on the way, and you know any hedge-mage in my presence is gonna be considered an accomplice.” I shook my head sympathetically before I cleared my throat and eyed the cards.

“You’re fucking insane!” Mark said and got up from the table.

“Buddy I’ve got eight rounds of .45 in my jacket that says you better sit the fuck back down.” I said. I was still pretty jovially drunk I thought.

He was torn. I reached up under my arm, and he sat down fast.

“Look, come one, we can be reasonable here.” Mark said to me, “Look, how ‘bout it. One last hand huh? You wanna play cards yeah? Yeah yeah, come one we’ll play a hand.”

He was sweating bullets and shaking as hard as he was stammering. I didn’t need to see his eyes to read the terror radiating from his frame. I was looking at a very broken man with no fight. A coward.

I nodded my head and he picked up his cards. He traded two, I traded one, I took over the roll of the dealer. Mark wasn’t stupid enough to try and touch the deck.

“How ‘bout this.” Mark started when all was left was to show the cards, “How ‘bout this, how ‘bout whoever wins this hand gets to- I mean well if you win this hand I’ll give you all the money, the ring, and all of his money too.”

“Yeah?” I asked him, just drunk enough to maybe be talked into it.

“Yeah yeah, and If I win,” Mark said faster as he talked, “If I win then I get to walk away. I’ll leave you the money, the ring, and all of his money too. Either way you win, you know?”

I nodded my head for a second, rubbed my face with my still warm right hand.

“I don’t like it Mark.”

“My name is- look it doesn’t matter. Come on guy, we can get to a deal right?”

“Don’t think so buddy.”

“Look man look, if I win I’ll do anything you want, please just don’t cook my fucking head off. Please. I am literally, literally begging you. I’ll get on my fucking knees. I’ll suck your-”

“Jesus, enough already.” I interupted him, “Have some respect for yourself. I prefer moustaches anyway.” It had been a few minutes since the dealer had walked away. If he’d ran away I didn’t have to worry about security for a few more minutes. If he had gone to his pitboss I had maybe a few seconds. I didn’t see anyone paying attention to me or heading my way, so maybe I’d terrified him.

“Look you know what?” I asked Mark, “You got a deal. If you win you will do whatever I want, and then I won’t cook your head off.”

“You mean it?”

“Yeah. Sure.” I said to him.

We showed our cards.

Mark won.

That fact hung in the air for a while.

“So uh-”

“Get your fucking chips. Walk the fuck away.” I said tersely. I dropped the drunk act and put on an angry one. Mark’s drunk and fear weren’t fake.

The drunk bastard just stared at me.

“Get. Your. Fucking. Chips.” I said as furious as I could seem.

He scrambled for them and gathered them all up in his arms.

“Cash them in, and get the fuck out.” I said. He nodded wordlessly and practically ran from the table to the money changers. I watched him for a few minutes with a rueful grin; he was walking out with a small house’s down payment and twice what I was gonna get paid.

“Shut up, Damien.”

There was a tap on my shoulder,

“Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave the floor.” The Pit Boss said when I turned to face her. There were two big men who could have been college linebackers ten years ago flanking the diminutive woman in the white suit before me.

“I was just leaving.” I said politely, I didnt even bother finishing my drink before getting up and walking away. No sense sweating them- Mark had finished cashing in his chips and was on his way to the front door.

Conveniently, I didn’t have any chips to cash in so there wasn’t much complicating my departure. I kept an eye on Mark as he walked out into the night.

“Finally,” Damien sighed, “I thought you’d never get him to leave.”

 I followed behind Mark far enough back that he wouldn’t see me. The lot was poorly lit, dotted here and there with tall lights that cast scattered islands in the darkness but were few and far enough between to be basically useless. The parking lot was huge, it took him a while to find his ride. He definitely wasn’t in a position to drive but that wasn’t going to stop him from trying.

His car was parked far enough away from any of the lighting in the lot that I was barely more than a shadow behind him. He never saw me, never saw the suppressed 1911, and didn’t hear the two quick shots that I put in the back of his head.

I kept walking and left him to crumple against his car, and then to slide slowly to rest in a heap on the ground. I disappeared into the night, leaving the corpse behind in a growing pool of blood. I left Mark’s money- he’d won it fair and square.