"LOLZ P-Diddy47. Do u want me 2 take all yr $$?" The writing appeared in the chat box at the bottom of the game screen. Parker grimaced. RickyBoy364 always taunted him when Parker lost a hand.
Parker checked his account. He still had $80 left of his original stake. He pressed the button to chip in for the next hand. His cards flipped up. An ace, a four, an eight, a ten, and a Queen. Not brilliant. More writing appeared in the chat box. Jasmine277 asked if anyone had time to give her relationship advice between hands. Newbie23 complained about his bad luck with poker. Parker scowled at the poor bluff.
"Parker? Are you home?"
His mother's voice drifted through his open bedroom door.
"Yeah, Mom," called Parker.
He clicked on the ace, eight and Queen to hold them. Parker didn't really have much hope, and clicking at random seemed to work as well as having a clear strategy.
"Could you help me unload the car?" called Parker's mother.
Parker sighed. He typed 'afk' in the chat box and pressed 'deal' before getting up to leave his room. The new cards flicked into place as he headed down the stairs.
His mother stood outside on the front path. Bulging bags of groceries leaned against her legs. Parker hefted two of them onto his hips and headed inside.
"I didn't interrupt anything important, did I?" asked his mother as she followed him to the kitchen.
"No, Mom. Just chatting to some dudes online," replied Parker.
"You weren't playing that game again, were you?"
"No, Mom." Parker hoped his ears didn't colour and give him away.
"Good. You know those blasted cards were the death of your great-great uncle."
Parker made several return trips to clear the path of bags. He left his mother unpacking the goods in the kitchen. He dreaded to think what abuse RickyBoy364 might have left in his absence from the game.
Parker walked into his bedroom. He yelped when he saw the figure sitting in his chair. A Stetson sat on his head, and blond hair curled down his back. The figure swung the chair around to face Parker. The man's piercing blue eyes fixed on Parker, his lip twitching beneath a bushy blond moustache. The man pointed an antique Colt at Parker's gut.
"Who the hell are you?" shouted Parker.
"You got the Dead Man's Hand, son," replied the man. He faded and flickered as he spoke, as if Parker was watching him on an old TV set.
Parker looked over the man's shoulder. Two aces, two eights and a Queen flashed on the screen. A tirade of abuse from Rickyboy364 scrolled along the chat box beneath the cards. A dialog box asked Parker if he wanted to add the $70 to his account and leave the game, or play again.
"Oh hey, I won!" said Parker.
"You got the Dead Man's Hand, son," repeated the gun man.
"What does that even mean? And who are you? What are you doing in my room? I'm calling the police," said Parker.
"You got the Dead Man's Hand, son," said the man with the Colt.
Parker reached for the phone. The man fired, flickering out of existence as the bullet slammed in Parker's gut. Parker hit the floor with a thud.
The Dead Man's Hand was the last thing he saw as his room faded to black.
* * *
This is the second of a loose trilogy based around the Dead Man's Hand, the hand of cards allegedly held by infamous gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok when he was shot in the back while playing poker in a Deadwood saloon on August 2, 1876.
Part I appeared last week, here.