The Caroline

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The groundwork is laid..

As Wyatt closed the door to his cabin behind him, he found Leonie waiting for him again. He did not light a lamp. She took his arm as she gently brought him to sit by her on the bed. She was calmer now than she had been on the previous night, and matter-of-fact about what was to happen.

“There will be no other opportunity after tonight. We reach Helena tomorrow or the day after, and he will leave this boat if he is not stopped. He may not have been able to dispose of her as he wanted to, but he will try to kill her again, eventually. That is why he must not leave this boat alive if you wish to really protect her.” He knew that for himself. Caroline had become an added complication in his life again, but a welcome one.

“I have helped that Henstridge man to win, up until now, except for last night, but that was also part of his plan. He has no need to mark any of the cards, as he usually does, and to risk discovery. He knows that Culbertson would be able to see marked cards a mile away, and I told him of his reputation and his short temper. He is rumored—I told him—that he had killed the last man who tried to cheat him. At least with me helping him as I am, there is no need to risk being discovered having marked any cards or doing any of those other things that he believes Culbertson will be watching for. If only he knew how mild and gentle my father really is. When this fails for him, as it will when he recognizes that the hand of every man at that table is against him, he will try to kill you and me, as well as those others.”

He smiled, hoping to comfort her. “I know. I am counting on it, but he will have to go through me to get to anyone else. It will not take him long to realize that the only way he might recoup everything is to kill me just as they once tried to do when they were trying to protect all that they valued at one time, an inheritance, though how they discovered our plans to run off together I do not know. What a strange turn of events!” She picked up the conversation to tell him what he needed to know.

“I shall switch decks for that last hand as Culbertson will suggest as a matter of fairness with so much riding on the outcome; and I shall deal Henstridge, three aces in the five cards, and you, three kings. He will ask for two cards to replace the two he will discard. One of them will be the fourth ace. You will ask for two cards when you throw away two of your kings while making sure you keep the king of spades, to match the suit of the other two cards you were dealt, the ten and nine of spades. This will give him four aces and you, four kings, or so he will believe. The two cards you get will be the queen and jack of spades to give you a straight flush, which beats four of a kind no matter how high.” She chuckled at the way it would unfold. “It will be interesting to see his face when he sees that hand on the table. When he thinks about it, he will realize that I must have doctored the hand and that you and I were collaborating. It will be obvious that I must have been helping you and not him. If you do not soon kill him after that, then he will come after all of us. He will kill you if he sees an opportunity to take it all back from you, and preferably before you have chance to leave that room.” He was aware of all that she said for himself, but she needed to be sure that he understood.

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