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“You don’t want my help,” the woman stated, finality etching into her tone.
“If that were true you wouldn’t have been here when I walked in.”
“I don’t think you understand,” she sighed.
Felix held his hand out to touch her, but she averted his touch, moving her hand away to avoid contact. “Trust me. Having me around is a bad idea.”
He frowned, thinking. Biting his lip at an idea, he nodded to her. “I don’t have bad ideas. I’ll prove it.” Then, he turned to the rest of the bar.
“Everyone!” He shouted. “I have an announcement!” A few men stopped what they were doing to glance back at him, but the rabble of the building wasn’t deterred.
“I will pay ten thousand dollars to the man that can roll anything other than a one on any die in here.”
The room stilled.
Then, the clamor resumed with revitalized spirit. Everybody was grabbing all the dice they could.
“Dangerous game to be playing,” the woman said, facing the room but in a voice only meant for him. “Men envy those with more Luck than them.”
“Only because those men they envy are invulnerable.” Luck did, of course, extend to life or death scenarios. A Lucky man would crash at a hospital if he drove drunk. He could find something to defend himself with if a rabid dog attacked him, and bullets would go wild and miss if he was being shot at. Felix looked back to the woman, reaching into his suit pocket and pulling out a deck of cards. “A man’s Luck is both a man’s greatest weapon and his greatest defense. Shuffle this for me, would you?”
She took the deck with a suspicious hand and inspected the cards.
“They aren’t trick cards,” he laughed. “As if I would need such a thing.”
She was a little disconcerted by the fact that around them, it was blatantly apparent that everyone had begun to roll ones on every single die on every throw. The shock and bewilderment sent out more than a few curses, but it seemed that everybody was too astonished at the sheer implausibility of the matter to even come up to Felix claiming they had rolled anything else. She took to shuffling the deck as requested, too amazed to do anything else.
“So,” Felix began. “What’s your name?”
“Lovely name. Now, I know you’re special. I knew I would meet somebody special today, you see. But I’m not sure how. I trust you can help me with my cause, if you’re willing. All I’m asking is that you meet me halfway.”
She made no reply. Instead, she passed the deck back to him. By now the amazement in the rest of the pub was reaching an uproar, and many of the men were getting visibly angry. It wasn’t so much that seemingly free money was out of reach, since more than a few of them were probably well supplied with funds as it were, but they were so shocked that their various degrees of Luck held no water to Felix’s own that the tension in the room enflamed.
Felix took the deck, and, without ceremony, played the cards face up, one at a time, to reveal that every single card was in order by suit. The number of combinations of a simple deck of cards, fifty two factorial, is a number over sixty digits long. Felix had taken a number that dwarfed the amount of microseconds that have occurred since the beginning of time, and he had picked out the result he wanted.
He leaned in and stared into her eyes. “I know you can help me. I don’t know how, but I know you can.”
She knew in that moment that he could have any life he chose. Any life that could be achieved for any man, and perhaps even some that no normal person ever could, was within Felix’s hands. And he chose her, in a sense. Who was she to refuse him?
“You have no idea how stupid you are to entangle yourself with me,” she smiled.
He shrugged. “I guess I’ll find out, then.” He took the cards and placed them back into the box before tucking it into his suit once more. He placed a hand on her wrist and winked. She drew breath in shock at his touch, as though she had never experienced the sensation before. She tensed up, her face a mask of consternation. He let go swiftly but with caution, trying to refrain from further damage.
“No,” she whispered, eyes closed as if she had lost a battle.
Felix frowned, trying to discern what he had done wrong. He turned his attention away from her only when he heard movement of people drawing near. It wasn’t until that moment that he had realized that most of the bar had gone quiet once more.
“Is there a problem here, miss?” A voice said. Looking up, he noticed they were surrounded by a group of gentlemen that looked ready to pound somebody into dust if they had to. None of them were exceptionally hard-bitten, but Felix himself wasn’t a large man. His body tensed at the sight of direct opposition in such close proximity.
Mallory frowned, obviously apprehensive. In spite of that she shook her head. Felix sat up into a more defensible posture before speaking.
“Is there a problem, gentlemen?” Felix asked, drawing their attention to him. His tone was professional, yet comfortable, though he himself was more than a little worried, at least for Mallory’s sake. “Did one of you manage to beat the odds?”
“No,” one said, his voice higher pitched than Felix would have imagined. “But as it so happens we’re not so happy somebody with as much Luck as you has the nerve to come into our place and ruin our fun.” He glanced back at Mallory at that last bit, though his glance wasn’t directed at her face.
Felix held his hands up. “I’m sorry, sir, it wasn’t my intention to ruin your fun. I simply thought it could be enjoyable for all if there was a little sport thrown into the evening. You could have gone back to your games if you weren’t interested.”
“Hard to gamble with dice when all anyone can do is roll ones,” another man said. He had a point.
“Are you one of the guys that owns the lotteries and casinos these days?” A third asked.
He wasn’t. But it seemed as though these guys weren’t going to back off until their bloodthirst had sated.
“Look, I don’t want any trouble. I’ll give you each some money if that’s what you’re after.” Out of his periphery, he managed to find Mallory’s hand and covertly grab it, squeezing it gently for assurance. She didn’t try to break his grasp, but made no reply, by sound or touch. She was probably far more scared than he was, and rightfully so. She clearly didn’t have the same sort of protection as he did.
“We don’t need your money,” the high pitched one said.
“Oh,” Felix sighed a fake breath of relief. “Then we’ll be on our way, if you don’t mind.”
With that, they both stood from their stools, though Mallory did so reluctantly. Felix pushed past the men as affably as he could manage, smiling the whole time, still holding her hand and leading her along. The men, miraculously, made no move to stop them.
They were almost out of the bar when somebody said something too quietly for Felix to make out. Out of the corner of his eye, he turned to see one of the men pulling a gun out of his suit and pointing it at the two of them. Time slowed as Felix pulled Mallory back and out of the way, pushing himself in between her and the gunman.
A shot rang out.
For the first time, Felix saw his own blood.