Two of Hearts: 'Death Row'

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The man in black walked into the dingy saloon, hand near his hip in case one of the local boys decided to get nasty. He sat down on the bar stool, knocking on the bar to get the 'keep's attention.

"'Ey there, boy. Whatcha drinkin'?"

The man in black replied in a deep, gravelly voice. "Nothing for me, thanks. I'm just wondering if you saw a weaselly little feller. Name's Clarkson. He's a pudgy little guy, little shorter'n me. Baldin' a bit in the back."

"Oh yeah, Clarkson. That little banker from Minnesota? Yeah, he's been working at the local bank. Little shitstain accountant, couldn't tell the differnce 'tween cooze and a cougar." The barkeep chuckled at his own joke.

"Thanks, pardner," said the man in black, leaving a coin on the bar.

"Hey feller, ya left a coin! Only need to pay when ya buy a damn drink!" By then the man was gone, so the barkeep pocketed the coin, a look of confusion wrinkling his face.

---

It was an uneventful day at the bank, but then again, it almost always was. The only time it ever WAS exciting were the robberies, and rarely got any of those nowadays; what with the whole "Card" legend that was spreading like wildfire, they were busy chasing Guns around. Clarkson sat at his desk, his hands repeatedly rubbing his own personal Card, the Five of Clubs. Granted, being an accountant wasn't the most threatening persona that a Gunslinger could wield, but Clarkson didn't steal this piece to be part of some ridiculous game, he stole it to get leverage over those he couldn't simply bribe. Nothing said leverage, after all, like one of the legendary Guns.

The man in black stepped through the door, his boots clicking satisfyingly off the marble floor.

"Yes, sir, can I help-" Clarkson looked up and instantly paled. The nauseous feeling in his gut meant only one thing: this man was carrying a Card. His hands went to his holster, but his chubby fingers betrayed him. The man in black pulled his gun out of his holster and two-stepped to the desk, pointing his small Derringer directly at the accountant's head. Clarkson felt a warm stream run down his leg. He let go of his pistol and rose his hands into the air.

The man in black looked him straight in the eyes. "Richards sends his regards." Clarkson felt like he was going to vomit at the mere mention of the name. Francis Richards was the man he had stolen Five of Clubs from. The accountant closed his eyes for what he truly believed to be the last time. The man in black cocked back the hammer, and pulled the trigger.

The gun made a quiet little click as the hammer hit the empty chamber. Outside, the Church's bell sounded off. It was noon.

"Bang!" said the man in black. He pulled his gun back and laughed, a deep guttural chuckle.

Clarkson opened his eyes, and nearly cried from his relief. "Sir, that was not funny."

The man in black stopped laughing, and reverted to a more serious composure. "Lissen to me, and lissen well. You lied to yer boss and stole from him, and now, he sent me ta kill ya. Now, I'm a man of honor. I think that even a little shitstain like yerself's got to have a chance at redemption. So, how's about a duel? Town square at noon, three day's time. I reckon my tiny little Card'll be no match fer that baby you've got on yer belt. Whaddaya say?"

Clarkson thought about it for a moment. Why not just kill him here, before he has a chance to react? No, Clarkson thought, he'd probably draw his Gun and blow my head off before then. How can I hope to duel him? I could run away... No, he'd find me, just like he already did... Then, it hit him. "I'll duel you," he says, chunky fingers playing with his shirt button, "if you agree to do something... You're a lot better than I at drawing (and probably shooting) that there Card. So, how's about a bit of a handicap on your part?"

The man in black's face perked up. "Whatcha got in mind there, fat boy?"

Clarkson looks him in the eye. "Wear your Gun on the side of your boot. If you're REALLY better than me, you can still win, even with such a huge handicap. Why, chances are good I'll still lose. I am, after all, nothing but a fat little city slicker..."

The man in black laughs a bit, a deep, grating chuckle down in his throat. "'Kay. Sounds like a plan, boy... See ya in three days."

With that, he left, black boots clacking on the floor. Clarkson ran home fifteen minutes after, his short legs carrying him as fast as they could. Later that night, lying in bed, he could hardly sleep. The back of his neck hurt, a deep burning pain that reached down to the bone. He figured it was probably just his nerves. Not only that, but when the man in black pulled him forward, his neck jerked a bit. I'll be fine, he thought, it'll go away. Sure enough it did, after three hours of restlessness. He finally slept. That night he had dreams of death.

---

Three days later, Clarkson stood in the town square, the only person currently there. Everyone else in the town hid and watched. Clarkson looked at the church clock. 11:56. Would the man in black be late to his own duel? Sure enough, Clarkson heard that damned laugh coming from behind. He spun, the man in black looking him square in the eye. As per the deal, the Gun he wielded was in a holster around his foot. "Ready to do this, pilgrim?"

Tick. Tick. Tick. The silence was broken only by the sound of the clock, counting down the moments until the action would begin. The man in black stood on the east, Clarkson the accountant on the west. 11:57 went by, then 11:58. 11:59... Tick. Tick. Tick. 30 seconds. Tick. Tick. Tick. 15. Tick. Tick. Clarkson wiped a bead of sweat from his fat face, eyes tensed, hand at the ready. Ten seconds, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four...

Three.

Two.

One.

The bell went off, and there was a single, dull thud.

---

The man in black, Crockett, moved forward to Clarkson, laughing that damned infernal laugh. He looked on the corpse's neck, at the small heart shaped mark burnt into the back of it. He grabbed the Gun and reverently stored it in a wrapped blanket, then one of his horse's saddlebags. "Ya'll can escape for so long," Crockett said, putting a cigarette into his mouth and lighting it. "In the end, though, everybody's on Death Row."


Wild Cards
Spades: 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A
Hearts: 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A
Clubs: 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A
Diamonds: 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A
Jokers: Red Joker - Black Joker
Introduction - The World - Gameplay - Stories of the world
On the Attainment, Ownership and Passing of The Cards
Variant Rule: Hands