I'm a cheat - a cardjacker. If you look up Persona Non Grata in a Latin Dictionary, it says, "Person Not Wanted." If you look up my name in the Poker Room Black Book, it says, "Wanted For Cheating." Cardjackers, like me, are, by definition, cheats and liars. When you play poker for a living, these are your good qualities.
For months now, I've paid a small time hood named "Gyp" Maggiolo to set up a highly profitable "goldfish" game for me. Every Saturday night Gyp fills the table with amateur hold'em players with more money than skill. The funny thing is I don't have to cheat. These players, always drawing to no-odds inside straight draws, cheat themselves.
Tonight it all went wrong. For reasons unknown, Gyp and the players he'd brought in, have been massacred. I, by a freak accident, escaped. Some blond floozy has fingered me as the triggerman. All I know, and all I can tell all the people who ask, is that the real killer, the Small Man, said this to me: "No one cheats the House Of Cards."
The game is now threehanded: The Cops. The Mob. And me.
The Cops think I'm bluffing. Homicide Detective Sweeny, who doesn't believe there is a House Of Cards, thinks I'm the killer.
The Mob thinks I'm slowplaying. Gyp's Godfather, Don Paulo, who doesn't care if there is a House Of Cards, thinks I know the killer.
Jack Thayer, that's me, is the only player at this table who has no hand to play, while everyone else has put me on the nuts. The cops will throw me in jail. The Mob will throw me in the river. I stand on the empty street corner and feel sorry for myself. I put both halves of my "Lucky Deck," torn in half by Don Paulo's Big Big Goon, into my shirt pocket and ask out loud, "Can this get any worse?"
A voice behind me answers, "Hey, fella, you think you've got it bad?" I turn and see, half-hidden in a shadowy doorway, an ugly man in a ragged coat. At least someone is worse off than me tonight. "Can you spare some change?" he asks. I go into my pocket and take out a $20 bill, holding it out to the homeless man.
"Thank you," he says, reaching past the $20 and grabbing my wrist, "Thank you, Mr. Thayer," he says again as he raises his other hand and drags me into the darkened doorway.
The Ugly Man screams, "Give it to me! Give me your invitation to the House Of Cards! and again punches me in the face. I am hogtied in an alley where, for the last ten minutes, I have been beaten almost senseless.
"I don't have one!" I tell him again, "I have never, ever, before tonight, even heard of the House Of Cards. All I know is what I was told, No one cheats the House of Cards. I told that to the Cops. I told that to the Mob. I told that to you. I don't know anything about "invitations" to the House Of Cards. I can't give you what I don't have!"
The Ugly Man, in a wild rage, yells, "I know you have one! Give me your invitation or I'll kill you." When I tell him I can't! he pulls out a knife and plunges it into my chest.