I rolled the penny across my knuckles, then quickly palmed it, making it disappear from view. Palming a penny was easy, rolling it across knuckles was not. But Eva, unimpressed with my coin work, rolled her eyes at me.
I picked up the deck of cards, instead, rapidly shuffling and manipulating the cards. Our first meeting had been at a poker game where she had dealt. I had managed to keep up with a good bit of her card work. She also knew when I held back cards, but now we were reversing roles.
The deck had been subtly cut. Reversing certain cards made it easy to keep track of them throughout the deck, and manipulate their location. And while this was pretty standard for card tricks, I also had a more subtle trick up my sleeve.
“I met him, you know.”
“Who?” Eva kept her eyes on my hands as I shuffled.
“Harry. Houdini. He came to Frisco in ’23. Of course he was doing only escapes, then, but I did ask him about his card tricks.”
“You won’t distract me that easy. Houdini was impressive, sure, but my eyes aren’t budging.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. He gave me a couple of pointers when it came to the cards, though.”
I rapidly flourished the deck, spread them along the table in a neat arc before scooping them back up. But then I slowed it all down, making my movements clumsy, at least seeming to be clumsy. A missed bridge after a riffle resulted in a small spray of cards that I had to put on the bottom of the deck. I then moved into a new riffle. I cut the deck several times sometimes using a slip cut, but also messing them up by dropping cards after each cut. I went back into a series of riffles and bridges, also working in a few zarrows and some false cuts, all the while working those cards I accidentally dropped up.
I dealt the hands, then.
“Really, Slater? A pair of jacks? I expected better from you.”
I shrugged, laying down my king high hand of nothing.
“Guess I messed up somewhere along the way. Houdini did say it was a pretty hard trick. Maybe I should have gone for another cut?”
I dealt out a second hand.
“You may have fast hands for pick pocketing, but your technique is really sloppy for shuffling.”
“You know, that’s what Houdini said.”
“Well, maybe you should have—” She looked up from her cards, glaring at me. She put her cards down, displaying the aces and eights, the classic bad luck hand popularized by Westerns. I laid down four kings.
“Sloppy isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to cards, so long as it masks the real work,” I grinned.
“Shut up and show me again. And I can still pick a lock better than you can.”