It was more money than Freddie had ever seen, but it was just barely enough.
It wasn’t his, either, and probably wouldn’t be.
Ten of hearts …
Jack of hearts …
King of hearts …
Ace of hearts …
Three of spades.
That was after all the discards and redraws, too, which left Freddie with a choice — throw in his last gold pieces and try to bluff the other fellas … or fold and lose the family ranch.
Movement caught the corner of his eye, and Freddie turned his head to find a battered brown Stetson bobbing through the smoky crowd. Daddy!
How had the old man made it into town? When Freddie left the farm earlier that evening on their only riding horse, Daddy had been sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his hands, bemoaning their sorry situation.
No matter now, because Daddy was making a beeline for his son. He held a finger to his lips, warning Freddie to stay quiet.
The broken rancher wrapped his meaty brown hand around the cards Freddie held and looked his child square in the eyes. “You can’t tell anyone,” Daddy said. “They wouldn’t believe you anyway.”
As quickly as he appeared, Daddy was swallowed again by the saloon throng. Confused, Freddie looked at his cards — the three of spades had become the queen of hearts. Royal flush! Freddie was stunned.
“You in?” one of the other players barked.
Freddie nodded and pushed his last pieces forward, then threw down his cards. As he pulled in his booty, heavy footsteps approached from the saloon door.
Sheriff Anson stood in front of the table. “Freddie, I need you to come with me.”
Freddie flushed with dread. “What’s wrong, Sheriff?”
” We found your Daddy hangin’ from a rafter in your kitchen ’bout an hour ago.”