Killjoy glanced at his cards and then at his watch. It was 12:30; most of the big rollers would have arrived by now. He had more than enough money now to get into one of their games, so this would be his last round at this table. It would be increasing his pool of cash a little more, he didn't even have to see Bulldog's signals to know that. Four of a kind will win just about any game of poker, particularly one of five card draw. He continued to pump money into the pot, walking the line between too much and too little. Too little and the game wouldn't hardly be worth playing; too much and he would scare off the other players. The bid was called and the cards were down. Killjoy raked in the pot and began to organize the coins and bills.
"Well, gentlemen," he said to the other players. "It's been a pleasure playing with you, but I think it's time to take this to the next level."
"The big rollers?" the dealer asked, motioning with his head to the rich patrons who had trickled in over the past half hour. "Do you realize what kind of stakes they play for?"
"I do," Killjoy said. "I've lost several fortunes to them in the past. I've won several as well."
"Good luck getting in," the dealer said as he dealt the next game. "They're kind of picky about who they play with."
"I know," Killjoy said. He stood and walked toward the rear of the tavern. Several large men were guarding the area, but Killjoy knew how to deal with these brutes. Putting on an air of arrogance, he held his hands behind his back and strode forward with a sense of purpose. For a moment he actually thought it would work, then one of the bouncers put a beefy hand on his chest and repelled him.
"You don't go back there," the bouncer said.
"Really," Killjoy responded. "I'm here to play poker, just like all of the people back there."
"I've never seen you before," the bouncer said. "How do I know you're not a cop?"
"I'm sure that I know someone back there who could vouch for me," Killjoy said. "Hey, Andrew," he called to a man in a pinstriped suit. Andrew looked at Killjoy and the bouncer.
"You know this man, sir?" the bouncer asked.
"I do indeed," Andrew answered. "Lost a planet to him once. Won it back two hands later."
"That was you?" Killjoy asked in surprise. He walked past the bouncer and toward Andrew. "I must have been really slammed because I don't even remember you being there."
"You were pretty drunk at the time," Andrew agreed. "I almost felt bad for beating you except that practically everything that you had you won from me."
"Hey, that's the way of the table," Killjoy said lightly. "You win some and you lose some. If you're smart, you get out before you start to lose."
"Then you're not very smart at all," Andrew said with a laugh.
"Not at the table, no sir," Killjoy answered. "So which of these games is the highest stake? I need to make some money and fast. It's kind of a life or death thing."
"High stakes?" Andrew asked. "That be Mr. Jacobs' table." He pointed to a table tucked away into a corner. "That man runs the pot through the roof almost every game. Usually wins too."
"I'm not looking for something that high stakes," Killjoy said. "You know as well as me that you can't risk everything on one game. Gambling doesn't work that way."
"Well, the table that I play at is usually pretty moderate," Andrew said.
"In that case, as long as you don't mind losing your money to me, I think I'll jump in with you," Killjoy said.
"I never mind losing what I gamble," Andrew said. "Because I only gamble what I don't mind losing."
"That, my friend, is what makes you a smart gambler if there ever was one," Killjoy said. After a moment he asked, "Out of curiosity, what exactly is it that you do? For a job, I mean."
"I own an outfitting company," Andrew answered. They had arrived at his usual table, and he took a seat. "I sell and install all kinds of ship parts, repairs, and modifications."
"That's interesting," Killjoy said as he took a seat. "The money pretty good in that business?"
"As long as we stay in this war it is," Andrew answered. "Practically every ship has to be outfitted and repaired or modified every time that it comes back from a deployment. Long as they keep coming back, I keep making money."
"So kind of like job security," Killjoy said as he picked up his cards and looked at them. He had squat.
"So what about yourself, Jacob?" Andrew asked. "What is it that you do for a living?"
"Old money," Killjoy answered a bit belatedly. He was taken off guard by the use of his given name. "My father used to be in the investment business. Was good at it too. He died and now I'm sitting on a fortune with nothing to do with it."
"You ever consider investment?" one of the other players asked.
Killjoy pretended to examine the speaker while simultaneously looking to where John was playing pool. Of the five other players at the table, there was two high cards, one pair, and a three of a kind. Andrew was positioned such that John could not see his cards. With this information in mind, Killjoy took a good look at the player who had spoken of investments. He had a greasy, conniving look about him, and Killjoy decided that he would trust him about as far as he could throw him.
"Never considered it," Killjoy finally answered. "Known too many people to lose all of their money that way. I figure, why do that when I can just keep it in the bank and know that it's not going anywhere?"
"Unless you lose it gambling, am I right?" Andrew said with a laugh. The bid was to Killjoy, so he threw in enough to call.
"Amen to that, I lose enough of it there," Killjoy responded to the remark.
New cards were dealt out now, and everyone fell silent while they reevaluated their hands. Killjoy pitched four cards, hoping for something good. The cards slid in and he picked them up slowly, one by one. Two queens, a seven, and an eight to go with the one still in his hand. Two pair; not good enough to beat the three of a kind unless...
"Who's bid?" Killjoy asked, placing his cards face down on the table.
"Mine," Andrew said. "I'll pass."
"Tough luck," Killjoy said. "Not much in there? I'll bid one hundred." He cringed inwardly as the laid the money on the table for though it was a modest bid at best at this table, it was a lot to him. The bid went around the table and was raised twice.
"Call," Killjoy indicated and threw in the appropriate amount of money. It was important for him to lose the first few games so that it wasn't obvious what he was doing. The cars went down on the table now. Two pair, three of a kind, the other three dropped their cards face down on the table and Killjoy followed suit.
"Unless it goes away to the poker table, huh?" the winner taunted.
"Just takes me a bit to warm up," Killjoy excused the loss. The cards were dealt again. This time he had a descent hand. Throwing some money out as an initial bid, he started the round. This would be a long night, but if he played things right, the Safe Haven would have a new core come morning.