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The Three Amigos


It was a classic Mexican standoff. The three of them sat round the table in the smokey bar. Beer stained and fly blown and sticky to the touch, the table spoke volumes about the class of establishment Taggart had chosen. "Nice place."sneered Wilson. "I've been in worse," joined Frenchie. Taggart said nothing but continued to play with the spent matchstick in the corner of his mouth. Moving it from one side to the other, then back again. All the time eying up the other two men. "Will I die from something if I get a drink in here?" said Wilson. Without asking, Taggart barked out, "Three beers."to no one in particular. The flies buzzed and the ceiling fan whirred, ineffectual, almost apologetic. Frenchie spoke next, "I haven't got all day, can we get on with this?" "What's your hurry?"chipped Wilson, "we've all got places to be but this is important, can't be rushed." He leaned back in his chair and raised an eyebrow at Taggart. The greasy looking barman slid over with the three beers and hovered for payment. Taggart waved him away with the barest gesture of his index finger. The barman retreated into the gloom at the back of the bar and drew on the cigarette he had left smouldering on the end of the counter. Excepting the cranky fan and the flies, silence returned.
Out in the dusty road, a dog barked and Taggart cleared his throat, "OK, let's get to it," he took a long draught of his beer and pulled out a pack of playing cards. He placed them in the middle of the table and leaned back in his chair. Wilson and Frenchie looked at each other, then at Taggart, then at the cards. "Is that it?" asked Frenchie, "we play cards for it?" "Let's keep it simple," answered Taggart, "we cut, aces are high and high takes it." Wilson smiled sardonically, "Suits me, let's do it." Reaching for the cards he was taken aback when Frenchie stayed his hand, exclaiming, "Now just hang on here a minute. There's a lot at stake here and we're supposed to risk it on Taggart's stacked deck?" "Nothing wrong with the deck," Taggart shot back, somewhat irritated by Frenchie's insinuation, "'sides, you got a better idea?" "Well I wanna check em." spat Frenchie, grabbing the cards and fanning them. He made a great play of taking some cards from the fan and holding them up to what passed for light in the gloomy bar, inspecting them for any marks or 'tells'. A futile exercise as they were so well used and grubby that any marks would be indiscernible.
Frenchie shuffled the pack, slammed them down onto the table and took a slug of beer. Taggart turned to Wilson and gestured towards the pack, "You wanna check em, Frank?" Wilson demurred.
"Who wants to go first?" Joe Taggart made an open handed gesture and glanced at Wilson then Frenchie and back to Wilson. "Hell, I'll do it." Wilson cut the pack about a third of the way down and sat back with them against his chest. "What you got Frank?" Frenchie asked, taking another slug of beer and wiping his stubbled chin with the back of his hand. Wilson drew the cards up his chest and angled them forward so only he could see. A wry smile flickered momentarily on his lips then he slowly rotated the cards to expose the jack of clubs to the other two protagonists. "Jeeesus!" exclaimed Taggart. "Shit."spat Frenchie. Wilson returned the cards to the pack, gave them a shuffle, then replaced them on the centre of the table.
Taggart nodded to Frenchie and gestured towards the pack. "Naa," drawled Frenchie, "you next." Joe Taggart leaned his substantial frame across the table and cut, millimetres from the top of the pack and placed his pick face down on the rancid table. Sitting back he took a long, slow drink of his beer and tapped the top of his cut with a gnarled index finger. Shifting in his chair, Frenchie was decidedly uneasy. "Turn the damn thing over." his voice hoarse with tension. Taggart lifted a corner and in one fluid move turned the cards face up. Wilson and Frenchie's eyes arrowed in on the upturned King of diamonds. "Shit!" Frenchie had a limited vocabulary. Wilson gave a resigned shrug and slumped back in his chair. "Now you, Frenchie." Taggart shuffled and placed the cards in front of the squat Cuban who hesitated then quickly cut the deck roughly in half. Time stretched and a bead of sweat trickled down the Cuban's neck and onto the off-white collar of his knock off Lacoste polo shirt. As he raised the half deck to his eyeline, the 'tell' in his eyes was unmistakeable to the other two. They knew it wasn't good and they knew the Cuban well enough to know what would happen next. In a flurry of cards and scraping furniture, suddenly each man was holding a gun, pointing at first one then the other man. The classic Mexican standoff. They knew whoever shot first would be shot by the third guy whilst he was busy shooting the second guy. To win you would need an extra gun so that two guys would be taken out. Dilemma.
For what seemed like an eternity, the three half stood, eyes like gimlets, flicking from one to the other, their gun hand following. Taggart broke the tension. "Well, look at the situation we have here. Let's not be hasty, fellas." With his free hand, Taggart made as if to swat away a bothersome fly. This was a signal. Prearranged with his brother-in-law, who owned the bar, to shoot Frenchie as Taggart had his gun trained on Wilson. At the sound of gunfire, out on the street a dog barked.


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