Swamped Chapter 28 Page 9

“You play cards?”

You can’t think of a response for a while, so you just blink a few times. Finally, you decide to just give up on a direct answer.

“That’s a sudden change of subject.”

“Bear with me a sec. I’m takin’ another angle here. Might be one that’s good for you, even.”

Well, here the truth seems essentially harmless.

“A little. There isn’t a lot to do for fun out in the desert, especially when the winds pick up, so a number of us play cards in the tent. I only join in every once in a while, though.”

“Why’s that? You got something else you do?”

Well. That part, you definitely don’t want to get into too much detail on. It might lead to uncomfortable questions about why you’re out there in the first place.

“I handle a lot of the work that isn’t weather-dependent. So I tend to be busier than most of the crew.”

“So what sort of games do they play?”

“There’s no gambling, if that’s what you’re asking. We play fairly low-key games; Three Leaves, Swords and Shields, sometimes we play a touch of Rebellion… oh, and there’s one we made up called Sand Pit. I only tried that one once and didn’t quite understand it, though.”

“You any good?”

You shake your head.

“We’ve got a scoreboard. It says I’ve played fifteen games and won twice. So, not particularly good, no.”

“Right,” Crosswinds says. “I’m satisfied. You may be a troublemaker, but you’re not the poisoner.”

There are more than a few of your team members who’d throw a laughing fit if they heard you were called a troublemaker, but you’re going to let that slide.

“What the hell was that about?” you ask as Crosswinds unties you.

“Figured I’d change to a less charged subject. Get your guard down, get a better read on when you’re hiding things and when you’re flat-out lying. Seems the only outright lie you told me was your name, which I don’t give two shits about.”

“So can I finally get out of this swamp now?”

“Not just yet. I need to report your desert fever theory. And I’ll need you along to back me up. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Razor doesn’t do anything rash.”

You really don’t like the thought of meeting someone who goes by the name Razor. Your immediate thought is to flee at the first chance you get.

But – you’ve managed to earn some goodwill from Crosswinds, and it wasn’t easy. Perhaps you shouldn’t squander it so readily – especially if you’ll get a chance to leave if you cooperate here.

What should you do?

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Go with them, but put your mask back on. No sense getting desert fever.

forget to take the smoking wood out first. look, it’s been a long, weird day