Revenant Files Book 1: Back From Hell
Johnny Despereaux has a specific set of skills particularly geared towards the super natural crowd. This will suit him well while bounty hunting in ghost infested New Orleans.
1 – The Wicked Easy. The easiest place to sin in Sulfur, Louisiana.
The large sign held the attention of a young man in a long, dark trench coat who stepped out of his car into the dark, rainy night and adjusted the strap on his eyepatch. He certainly hoped it proved to be so. He strode to the entrance but a large bouncer blocked his path.
“You look a little young to be here,” the man said and noted the long blond hair, thin skin, and sharp features of the new arrival. With the eyepatch and the resolute look in his other eye, he did briefly question his deduction. Still, rules were rules.
The young man held his coat open slightly with one hand and slid the other in to retrieve his wallet and show him his ID. The bouncer read it somewhat skeptically. According to the card, he had turned twenty-five a few months earlier and his name was Jack House.
“IDs are easy to fake,” he said and tapped the bottom right of the card before he produced his to point out that the young man’s was missing the intertwining pattern.
“True enough,” he admitted with a sigh, took his wallet out, and produced a collection of twenties and fifties. “This seems real enough though, don’t it?”
The bouncer studied the stack—which appeared to be around three hundred dollars—and decided there were times when it was in his best interest to fuck the rules. “Welcome to The Wicked Easy,” he proclaimed as he took the stack and opened the door for him.
With a nod of thanks, the customer walked inside and looked around. The venue was bustling for a seemingly sleepy town. Tables were stacked with drinks and an abundance of smoke had already formed almost a haze throughout the room. He nodded, moved to the bar, and grinned at a couple of barely clothed ladies who all but purred at him as he passed.
Still smiling, he sat on possibly the only empty stool but it took a few minutes for one of the bartenders to approach him. The thin, tanned, mustachioed individual greeted him with a wily grin that revealed one gold-capped tooth in place of his right canine. “Good evening. Are you looking for some debauchery?”
“Is that the special?” he asked and studied the man. He was very well dressed in a black vest over a red shirt with some kind of swirling black pattern and black slacks with a golden chain. The outfit made him wonder if the proprietor was originally from Las Vegas. He should probably have checked into that before he came.
“Every night,” the bartender said with a laugh before he looked quizzically at him for a moment. “You seem a little young to be here.”
“I already settled it with the good man outside,” he responded. “Can I place an order?”
“Sure thing.” He propped his elbows on the bar. “What’ll it be, my friend?”
He slid his hand into his coat again and retrieved another bundle of cash with a deft hand. “I need some information,” he explained and placed the notes on the counter. “And I’m looking for the proprietor of this bar.”
The barkeep looked at the money for a moment and pursed his lips before he chuckled as he tapped a finger against the wood surface. “Well, you are certainly no cop since that would be a badge and not a bribe. And even if you were, you would merely be returning what we already paid you.”
“True enough.” The customer rested his hands on the bar and looked into the man’s eyes. “But that’s not the information I’m looking for.”
In response, the other man chuckled and followed it immediately with a sharp whistle. “Hey, big guy. Clear the table!” he ordered and another large bouncer nodded silently as some “woos” and “ahs” erupted around the bar. The barkeep picked the cash up. “We’ll consider this your entrance fee into our game,” he said as he began to walk out from behind the bar and gestured for the young man to join him.
He stood casually from the stool and followed, his hands in his pockets as the many gazes in the bar watched him stroll to a round red table the bouncer had cleared before he placed a black box on the surface. The bartender rolled his sleeves up and opened the box to reveal a deck of cards with shining red-and-black designs on the back, reminiscent of a demonic face. “You’ve played blackjack, I presume?”
The young man took his seat, slid his hand into his pants pocket, and produced another small black box, which he opened to reveal cigarettes and a lighter. He lit one and took a puff. “I certainly have.” The bouncer placed an ashtray next to him. “Appreciate it.”
“Good,” the bartender-turned-dealer said with a devious smile. “Then there is no need to explain the rules except how the bets will work.” A stack of ten black chips was placed in front of the dealer and the gambler. “We don’t play for money here, only special prizes.” He gestured to his ten chips. “We play one chip for one chip. If I lose all my chips, I’ll tell you anything you want.”
“And if you win?” the young man asked after another drag and let the smoke slide out between his words.
The dealer’s smile turned to one of mockery. “I’m damn sure you know,” he said with a hissed laugh. “You aren’t the first to come in with…interesting orders.”
“I had to ask.” He gestured to the cards and shrugged. “I guess with the motif you have there that the wager is ‘my soul?’” he asked and gestured theatrically with his fingers.
The dealer shrugged casually. “In a manner of speaking. Let’s simply say you’ll be indebted for a favor owed. That’s how things work around here.” He pointed to the party behind them in the main lounge. “It’s not like it's anything too bad. Some of them owe favors and they don’t look too sad about it, huh?”
“What about him?” he asked and pointed to the silent bouncer. “He doesn’t seem to be having a fun time.”
The dealer shrugged. “He’ll loosen up after a while, trust me.” He placed his hand against his chest. “Now, to officially get this started, let’s take a moment to introduce ourselves. My name is Lucien and I’ll be your dealer.” He pointed across the table. “And you are?”
“My name’s Johnny and I’ll be your player,” the young man replied with a small smirk of amusement. His stare became determined when the other man extended his hand to shake.
“Well, Johnny. My information against your soul. What do you say?” The dealer picked one of the cards up and held it beside his face as he mimicked the demonic grin on it. “Are you up for a little sin?”
He chuckled at the man’s overt theatricality, nodded, and shook his hand firmly. “It might be a sin but I’ll take your bet and you’ll regret it.”
The other man laughed as his hand grasped Johnny’s and shook it hard. “That’s the spirit!” A white shimmer encased the chips for a brief moment before it vanished. The dealer shuffled the deck. “All right, what will your first bet be?” Johnny gathered all ten of his chips and placed them into the pool without comment, much to the other man’s surprise. “You aren’t very patient, are you?”
“More than you might think,” he responded with a shrug, “but in this case, I still have things to do so let’s hurry this up.”
Lucien leaned back toward the bouncer. “This is gonna be an easy night,” he declared with glee before he straightened and dealt the first two cards—a jack for Johnny and a seven for himself. The young player’s next card was an eight and the dealer placed his second card face-down. “So then, what will you—”
“I’ll stay.” The young gambler said and waved his hand over the table. The dealer pressed his lips against his teeth to stop himself from laughing. This boy might have played blackjack but he did not know the real rules—one never let the dealer dictate the game and more importantly, shuffle the deck. He flipped his card, prepared for the nine he had snuck to the top of the deck, and stared at the queen in surprise. Seventeen. He couldn’t hit again.
Johnny leaned closer as both Lucien and the bouncer gaped at the outcome in shock. “I guess that means I win,” he stated flatly and pointed at the dealer. “Now, tell me where Ciro is.”
“Ciro?” the man asked, utterly gobsmacked. “How do you know about—ah!” He spilled the chips as he lurched across the table. Everyone nearby looked at them in surprise as he stared at the other man and tried to clench his teeth to stop himself from talking. “Ciro is in the…baasemeent…” His words strained as he attempted to hold them back. “S-sssecret entrance… I-i-in the k-kitchhen. P-pull the chain.”
“I appreciate it.” Johnny pushed from his chair and turned to leave but his path was blocked by both the new bouncer and the one from the entrance. “Huh. I thought we had an understanding.”
“Play again,” Lucien demanded and used the table to support him as he stood, his slicked-back hair now as wild as his eyes. “You cheated!”
“Can you prove it?” the young man asked as a large hand settled on his shoulder. He sighed and nodded. “Well, since this seems to be for pride, all right. One more game.” As he turned to face the challenger, he slid his hand inside his coat. “We need a new bet, though. I don’t have anything else I want from you so if I win, I get to shoot you.”
“Do what?” the dealer asked in disbelief.
“You heard me.” He pulled out of the bouncer’s hold and moved to the table, where he thumped his hand onto the surface. “Deal the cards.”
“Like hell will I accept a bet like—” A card flew off the top of the deck to settle in front of the player’s hand. “What?” Lucien gawked at the king of diamonds as another card landed beside his hand that now clutched the table even more desperately. He tried to move past the unfortunate truth that it was a two while the deck dealt the player the ace of clubs.
“Well, would you look at that?” The young man slid his eyepatch off slowly to reveal a pure white eye with a glowing white iris, something that caused dread in the other man when he saw it. It seemed the boy knew the real rules of the game after all. A silver revolver clicked against a button on the long coat when Johnny drew it and Lucien stared down the barrel at a familiar blue light. “Blackjack.”
This scene was reminiscent of ” The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. Who knew Johnny had a few tricks up his sleeve or eyepatch. Get ready because the rest of this tale unfolds on September 29, 2021, when Revenant Files Book 1: Back From Hell is released. Available for pre-order now.