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Game You'll Never Win

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Henry was too old to let it get to him.

Oh, he could get jealous, right enough, but he hadn’t lasted so long in this game by being fool-headed.

A man knew what he had and what he could get. A con man knew it better than most. Henry made a living of getting what he couldn’t rightly have by cheating chumps out of their wallets.

But, there were some things even a good con couldn’t win him. You had to hook ‘em, you had to play ‘em, and you could only grab a man who wanted what you were offering.

Johnny Hooker wasn’t looking. Didn’t even know the offer was there.

All the better he didn’t, really.

Henry doubted he’d have Johnny at his side or watching his back if he knew Henry was watching something else when Johnny wasn’t looking his way. Sometimes did it even when Johnny was looking back.

You shouldn’t play your friends like marks – but you didn’t have to show them all your cards either.

For a man like Henry, he’d gotten good at watching without being seen. Ain’t many men who expected him to want what he did. Weren’t many men who he wanted like this, but Johnny had been different from day one.

A bad idea waiting to happen, but too tempting for any good grifter to turn away.

A year later, Henry was still here.

He’d taught the kid everything he knew, let Johnny trail after him as they rode the rail up and down America. They ran con after con until there was nothing left for Johnny to know that he couldn’t work out himself.

But, Johnny hung around and Henry didn’t turn him away or leave in the middle of the night. Sky blue eyes and a smile to charm the birds from the trees. Henry wasn’t going anywhere.

Not unless he got caught looking when he shouldn’t. Not unless he had to fold and step out of the picture rather than linger where he wasn’t wanted.

Because Henry might be good at pretending it didn’t get to him, but it didn’t mean Johnny hadn’t hooked him, line and sinker.

It didn’t mean watching him leave with another dame didn’t make Henry wish he had something tempting enough to tug Johnny back.