The two men entered the house and found Cooper and Coupe sitting at the kitchen table. The food was still there but now they had a pack of cards. Coupe was showing Cooper some sort of card trick. They were smiling and giggling as Coupe manipulated the cards.
“Boys, how are you doing?” said Chief Dale walking in.
Cooper looked at him and just nodded, with a smile
Coupe put the cards down and looked at him. The smile dropped from his face. “We’re both fine, sir.”
Chief Dale sat down at the table and Everett joined them.
“So what’s the game you’re playing,” the Chief asked.
“It’s not a game, it’s a trick. Watch.”
Coupe took the deck of cards that was sitting close to his chest between his two hands and pulled two aces and a queen from the top. He laid them face up on the table, the queen between the two aces.
“This trick is called spot the lady. I am going to turn the cards over and move them around. All you have to do is point to the card that you think is the queen, think you can do that, Chief?”
“Okay, I’ll give it a try,” replied Chief Dale.
Coupe turned the cards over and began to move them around the table. He started slowly but picked up a bit of speed, but not enough to fool the Chief. Once done he pointed to the card on the right. Coupe turned it over. It was the queen.
“Pretty good, Chief. Care to put some money on the next round?”
The Chief smiled. “Gambling is illegal.”
“I know,” replied Coupe without looking up. “It was a test. You passed. Still, things are going to get more difficult.”
Coupe showed them the cards again, turned them over and shuffled them along the table as he did before.
“Which one is it now, Chief?”
Chief Dale pointed to the obvious queen. He had seen that the corner was slightly folded so it made it easy to spot. But when Coupe turned it over it was an Ace.
“I can see this is getting difficult for you, Chief, so let’s say I dump one of the aces and add two queens.” Coupe grabbed the deck and found two more queens. He put them on the table and removed one of the aces. Now the Chief had three Queens and one ace to pick from. The Chief smiled. Even if the kid was slick – which he was – the odds were in his favor.
“Okay, Sin--, Coupe, let’s see what you got.”
Coupe smiled and said, “You can call me that, I don’t care. Everyone else does.”
Then Coupe picked up the cards, two in each hand, held between his thumb and first two fingers. He could see the ace was in his left hand in the front.
“You ready, Chief?”
Coupe’s hands now moved very quickly. He put the cards down, then he shuffled them around so quickly the Chief could hardly keep his eyes on the ace, but he was pretty sure he had. When Coupe’s hands finally stopped all the cards were laid out on the table in front of him, he quickly pointed at the card farthest right. He was surprised how in to the little game he had become.
“You sure, Chief? You sure you want to pick that card?”
“That’s the one,” he said.
With a flash of his hand Coupe quickly turned the card over. Out of the four cards on the table, the Chief had picked the Ace.
Son of a bi—” The Chief caught himself quickly. “How do you do that?”
“I am the byproduct of a misspent youth, Chief.” He flashed him a smile and winked. The chief could see a gap near the back of his teeth where the Hannigan boy had knocked one loose. He would be going to the Hannigan’s place to have a word with Kevin’s father about this once he had taken care of Coupe.
“I feel sorry for you, Chief, so I am going to make it really easy for you.” Coupe picked up the deck. He found the last queen and also pulled out a joker. “Here’s the deal. There are four queens, one ace and one joker. Coupe held the cards up in his fingers, three on each side. Once again the ace was in the lowest card in his left hand. The joker was the lowest card in his right hand. The queens were stacked behind them.
“See them all, Chief?”
“I see them.” He said smiling back at Coupe. There was no way he could lose now, the odds were in his favor for sure.
“So here’s the deal,” said Coupe. “All you have to do is pick one of the four queens and avoid the ace, okay?”
“Sure. What’s the joker for?”
“The joker’s for you, Chief. I am pretty sure that you are going to pick it and if you do, the joke is on you and you have to pay a penalty.”
“If you pick the joker out of those six cards, you have to pay me a penalty of twenty bucks.” Coupe saw the Chief begin to protest, but quickly cut him off. “No, no, it’s not gambling, it’s a penalty. Just like the tickets you hand out. If you can’t pick one of the four queens out six cards with an extra safety card and the one card you do pick is the joker, I get to write you a joker ticket for twenty bucks, payable on demand.”
Chief Dale quickly started to work out the odds of picking one card out of six.
“You have a 16.66% chance of hitting the joker, Chief. That means you have an 83.33% chance of winning. You’ll never get those odds down at Foxwoods, so what do you say? Care to chance a $20 penalty?”
Chief Dale smiled at the boy. He was charming in a peculiar way. He appeared as if had all but forgotten the trauma from which he had been relieved only a few hours ago. Coupe didn’t seem to be phased at all. He could see the boy studying his face intently and then Coupe said, “I’m a quick healer. So are you in or what?”
Chief Dale smiled at him. “You don’t have to pay me anything if I win, right?”
“Nope. Risk is all yours.”
Chief Dale stared at him for a moment. “How about this: I pick the joker, I pay you twenty bucks. I pick any other card – including the ace – you agree to have an honest talk with me and answer my questions."
Coupe’s head snapped up and he looked at the Chief closely. He looked at his eyes, and his mouth and the way his eyebrows moved ever so slightly. He even looked at the side of his neck, seeing a steady slow pulse. Then he looked at Everett and Cooper who were waiting with obvious ignorant interest. Then he sniffed. He turned his attention back to Chief Dale.
“Okay Chief, you have a deal.”
Coupe held up the six cards again so the Chief could see where they were. Then he went to work. There was no way that the Chief’s eyes could keep up with the speed of Coupe’s hands. He was stunned watching just how fast he could move. They moved so quickly they were almost a blur. When he finally dropped the final card on the table, he began to manipulate them – up and down – side to side. Chief Dale knew he had lost sight of the joker, he would have to rely upon the favorable odds to beat the boy. Suddenly his hands came to rest and the six cards were laid out in front of him.
“Okay, Chief, which one is it?”
He chose as he did the last time – the last card on the right.
“Well, that was predictable,” said Coupe noticing the pattern. Then he smiled up at the Chief. “Why don’t we start on the left?” he said, turning over the card farthest left. It was a queen. “One down three to go.” The Chief gave Coupe a quick smile, knowing the odds were still in his favor, but now wondering if they ever were. Coupe turned over the next two cards quickly. Two more queens. Coupe was now grinning. He looked directly at the Chief and turned over the next card. Another queen. “Uh-oh, not looking good, Chief. But the ace is your safety card. If you picked the ace you win. You’ve got a fifty-fifty chance now.”
Coupe began to turn the next card and then stopped. “I'll tell you what, Chief. I’m a generous person and I like to give people chances, sort of make up for their mistakes, you know what I mean? So if you want to, I am going to let you switch your choice. You picked the card farthest right, but if you want you can change to the card I have my hand on right now. What do you want to do, Chief?”
Chief Dale looked up at Coupe. He realized for certain now that the kid had been playing with him. Playing with him even now. Coupe obviously knew which card was the joker and which one was the ace but he was willing to let him switch cards. Chief Dale looked at Coupe. The boy was studying is face, his eyes darting up and down. He sniffed a little and smiled.
“Have I got you a little rattled, Chief? It’s just a trick. Go on, pick a card, either one.”
Chief Dale stared back at him. He figured the kid must be trying to get him off his choice. That had to mean he had picked correctly. “I’m not gonna bite,” he said. “I’ll stick with my pick. You can keep the card you have your hand on.”
Coupe smiled widely. “Chief Dale! Everyone knows you always go with your first instinct! Good for you!”
Coupe quickly grabbed the card Chief Dale had picked and flipped it over. It was the joker.
“Son of a bitch.” Chief Dale didn’t hold back this time.
Behind him he heard Evelyn clear her throat.
“Sorry, Evelyn,” he said. “I was sure he was trying to get me off that last card.”
Coupe then grabbed the one remaining card and turned it over. It was also a joker. He flung it down in front of the Chief.
“Joke’s on you, Chief Dale.”
Coupe’s smile faded and he got up and walked away from the table. Cooper followed him out.
“Son of a bitch!”
This time Evelyn remained quiet. She was staring at the cards with open amazement. Chief Dale looked over at Evelyn and Everett. “Did I just get played by a fourteen-year-old boy?” Everett scratched his head and looked away but Evelyn smiled at him.
“You’re not done yet, Altus. He sat here and talked to you already. Now you owe him twenty dollars. Go pay your debt and see if he will talk to you anyway.”