We all do stupid things, but sometimes nobody will believe you, even when you tell the truth. Take this guy, for example…
by P. Orin Zack
Let me give you a little advice: never bet your lamp, even on a sure thing.
It was supposed to have been a friendly game. My old gang doesn’t get together much any more, so when we all found ourselves with the same weekend off, we arranged to get away for a bit of fun. Anyway, what with one thing or another, I succumbed to the lure that had gotten me into this line of work in the first place, and agreed to a no-holds-barred round of KlurgSheld.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew it was a dangerous game the first time I played it. But there was no way I could turn down the opportunity to pit my skill with both chance and magic against Tydner. What I hadn’t counted upon was her ability to distract me.
But then, it wasn’t so much the game that I wanted to tell you about, as what happened afterwards. So I won’t bore you with the tangled skein of moves that led to my taking that bet, or even with the improbable things that happened around us once the Shelds started coming up chance.
Instead, I’ll get right to the point: Tydner cheated. Well, maybe not the usual way, but she certainly didn’t play by the rules. While I was busy fending off a concerted attack by the Glurnack twins, she was bending my ear with tales of her most recent escapade, the one that had gotten her the weekend off in the first place.
‘There’s a city,’ she whispered, ‘that’s devoted to luring visitors into games of chance. Magic never enters into it. In fact, they make a big thing about pretending to use magic, even though nobody there is able to.’
The Glurnacks and I were busy working though a long and predictable sequence of moves intended to trip one of us up through boredom, when she coyly mentioned that she’d actually visited this place. In velvet tones, she added that while there, a genie could neither cast spells, not have any cast on them.
‘Yesterday,’ she said, flashing that luscious smile of hers, ‘my master returned to the city, only this time, I arranged for him to forget to take me along.’
There was something fishy about her story, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to call her out on it.
I guess I should have known, but I was too busy setting Juris Glurnack against his brother to realize that Tydner wasn’t just being friendly. Her line of patter was actually a devious ploy; one that I hadn’t realized was fully within the rules. But then, with KlurgSheld, you can never be too sure.
So, after the twins disappeared into a puff of smoke, I looked Tydner in those devilish dark green eyes of hers, and challenged her to prove her story. She laughed, of course, but at the time I didn’t know why. And then she set the hook. Since I’d laid the challenge, she got to pick the stakes.
Back when we were still working together, she always pestered me about the risk I took every time I went out on a job. ‘That lamp’s a security risk,’ she’d say. ‘What happens if someone gets their hands on it while you’re not around?’
But how could I abandon it? That lamp wasn’t just my home; it was a tradition handed down by dozens of generations in my family. Well, as I said, a game of KlurgSheld had gotten me into the business, and the lamp came with the territory.
So anyway, she chose the lamp. If she could prove her story, she’d get to transport the thing anywhere she wanted for the remainder of the weekend. And I was stupid enough to agree.
All that was left was for her to present her proof. It sounded simple enough. Anyway, that’s how I ended up in Vegas. She cast a spell to drop me here, and all I had to do to win the bet was to transport back.
I tried. Believe me I tried. But like she said, magic just doesn’t seem to work here.
You do believe me, don’t you? I’ve explained all this to the officer that brought me in. I don’t have any ID, I don’t have any money, and I don’t even know where my lamp is. Tydner could have sent it anywhere.
The Public Defender sat back in his seat and shook his head. “Well, I suppose we could try an insanity defense.”
Copyright 2006 P. Orin Zack