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Craps: Fiction by Steve Carr
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Hacked Off: Fiction by Pamela Ebel
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Steve Carr: Craps

Art by Kevin Duncan © 2023



Steve Carr


Leon Manzetti was backed into a corner, a corner he found himself in when there was nowhere else to go. The door was locked and on the other side of the room. Standing between him and the door was Lester Earnings.

Leon had been in another corner, but he left it and, with his back pressed against the wall, he slid to the corner he was now in. Lester hadn’t moved; he didn’t need to. The corners that Leon occupied were equidistant from where Lester stood. Leon was terrified; the look in his eyes of a trapped mongrel said it all. Sweat poured down his face and formed stains in the underarms of his white shirt. The room smelled of urine—his—that flowed down his leg, acrid and warm, almost hot; it stung.

Lester was dangling a nylon rope that was tied like a hangman’s noose.

Leon’s teeth chattered. He could barely get his words out. “Whaddya goin’ to do with that?”

Lester had his eyes locked on Leon’s. “You know what I’m goin’ to do,” he said, softly, as if whispering sweet-nothings. The voice and the pronounced veins in his forehead and the way his nostrils flared didn’t match. He continued swinging the noose.

“I said I’d give it back. All of it,” Leon said, his voice as high pitched and tight as a plucked violin string.

“It’s not the money. You cheated. Your dice were loaded.”

“I made a mistake. I’ll never play again.” He pointed north, as if he could see beyond the room. “I’ll leave town and never come back.”

“Once a cheater, always a cheater,” Lester intoned. “There’s no room for cheaters in craps.” He finished the last knot and then held up the noose. He dangled it from his hand, swinging it slightly.

“You have any last words?”

“Please don’t do this,” Leon screamed.


Thick fog shrouded Seattle. Lester got out of the Uber and entered the northern end of Pike Place Market. He made his way through the gaggle of tourists and mostly upscale Seattleites milling about the large trays of carnations, roses and assortments of herbs sitting on large tables, and then past cases of candies and finally past the cases of fish on ice, where salesmen standing behind them yelled out the daily specials. He went out the door with the sign “Employees Only” and proceeded down the wooden stairs past doorways leading to offices and storage rooms. He wondered how the entire market had escaped going up in flames long before this; the entire structure was mostly wood.

At the base of the stairs, he stopped at the last door before the exit and a set of steps that led down to the restricted beach.  He knocked and waited a minute before turning the knob and going in.

Sitting at the back of the large room, visible through a narrow aisle crowded on both sides with crates and boxes, sat Marge Turnbull. The bare, dim lightbulb that dangled on an exposed wire from the ceiling to about a foot above her head cast her fleshy face half in shadow, hiding her eyes in darkness. She was fifty-four but in the lighting, looked over a hundred, easy. She was sitting at a table she used as a desk. Her hands were resting on it, clasped tightly.

He knew she was watching him, like a hawk watches its prey. She watched everyone that way.

He closed the door, returning the room to its usual darkness, except for that lightbulb, which was always on whether Marge was sitting there or not.

“The job is done?” Her baritone voice was raspy. A heavy smoker’s voice, masculine.

“Yeah, it’s done,” Lester replied. “He pissed himself.”

“He know why he had to die?”

“He knew.”

She let out a loud fart and waved away the smell. “We gotta get back to my games being clean and aboveboard and weed out the cheaters. “You know who to see next?”

“Not exactly.”

“See if you can find Pat Luzi. That weasel gets around.” She opened a tin box and took out a wad of hundred-dollar bills and summoned him with a wave of the hand to come get it. “This should cover your expenses.”

It was then he noticed a teenager, ragged and unkempt, obviously fresh off the streets, standing in the shadows among stacks of boxes watching him and Marge.

Lester took the cash and walked out of the room without looking back to see if she was watching him, because, of course, she was.


In the Capitol Hill area of Seattle, Lester had an early dinner at the upscale Italian restaurant Altura. He left on top of a linen napkin a $100 tip. The napkin was twisted into a cord, not that it meant anything, but it had become a habit. He did the same thing at every restaurant. He walked down Broadway, stopping in front of the only vacant shop on the street, and looked around before surreptitiously slipping down the narrow walkway between it and the building next to it. The heat of the day had warmed the tight space between the buildings, perfuming the air with the scent of bricks. Around the back of the shop, the crapshoot was already in progress. Six players were assembled in a semi-circle around the shooter. Bills – mostly tens and twenties – were being laid down as fast as the dice were being rolled. The shooter was having a run of luck.

Lester recognized only one of the men, Pat Luzi, a small-time thief, mostly purse snatching and dime store burglaries. Pat was skinny to the point of looking emaciated, and tall, as if his body had been shaped in a noodle-making machine. The bright pink scar that ran down his left cheek was put there courtesy of Lester. That was back in the days when Lester was a master with the switchblade, before he took up the noose which he found to be cleaner, less bloody; he also liked watching how, with the noose, his victims squirmed. Pat had made a crack about Marge that didn’t sit well with Lester. Say what you will about him, but be careful what you say about Marge. It was the last time Pat made a crack of any kind about Marge. He was lucky that Lester hadn’t killed him.

Lester could feel the dice in their royal purple felt case inside his back pocket wanting to get out and join the game, and he was salivating to get in on the action.  But the crapshoot would have to wait. He tapped Pat on the shoulder, leaned forward and whispered in his ear, “Marge says you know who’s been using loaded dice at her high stakes crapshoots.”

When Lester breathed on you, it wasn’t just warm air that came out of his mouth; it was hot, like having a lit match applied to your skin. Pat stood bolt upright, and, without looking at Lester and still watching the dice being rolled, said, “I didn’t know anyone was cheating.”

“Marge is losing money, and as you know, Marge doesn’t like to lose money.”

Pat gulped audibly. “ I don’t know nothing, I swear.”

Lester patted him on the back. In any other circumstances, it would have been seen as a friendly gesture. Lester wasn’t the back-patting friendly type.

Pat’s knees buckled slightly. “I know nothing first-hand, just rumors, you know, street chatter.”

“Tell me about the chatter.”

The two of them stepped back from the others. Pat told Lester everything he had heard. Lester gave him a hundred dollar bill—“for your trouble”—and made his way back out to the street.  It was growing dark. In the back, the boys would soon be rolling the dice by flashlight until the middle of the night.


“A cheater at dice, a cheater at everything else,” Marge once told him. Her husband had just deserted her for his girlfriend and headed East. Marge found in his sock drawer a box of loaded dice, some of the spots on them changed in such an obvious way that she wondered how he had gotten away with it. For the next ten years, Marge played the craps, cleanly, not even a hint of cheating, and amassed a lot of money. She was good. Lucky. When she found Lester trying to hustle tourists out of a few dollars and looking as wild as a feral cat, she took him under her wing and taught him everything she knew about rolling the dice. He was sixteen at the time. She was forty. There was nothing sordid or sexual about their relationship. They regarded each other the same as a patron of the arts regards a protege.

The salted taffy and pecan bon bon export company that she ran from Pike’s Place Market was just a front for her crapshoot activities that involved some of the wealthiest dice players in Seattle and men and women who came to Seattle from all over the world just to play in one of her games.

Lester was her chief lieutenant. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do if she asked him. She paid him handsomely and had taught him everything she knew about shooting craps. If he ever set out on his own, she had prepared him for it. He was better at rolling the dice than anyone knew, including her. He played craps all over Seattle but managed to keep his skill with the dice a secret.

Connie Mateo was one of those people who embodied what Marge thought about cheaters and cheating. She had money to burn and played in one of Marge’s games on those occasions when a man she was interested in was also going to be there. Her husband was too busy running an international tech software company out of Vancouver to worry about what his wife was up to.

Lester had called her earlier to arrange to meet her at her mansion in the Medina suburb, the wealthiest part of Seattle. He didn’t need to tell her why he wanted to see her. She made her own assumptions about the reason.

She opened the door, dressed in an expensive flesh colored negligee. It was tight, revealing and practically see-through. It was hard to tell where the negligee left off and her skin took over. “I gave the staff the evening off,” she cooed. “The place is all ours.”

“That’s good,” he replied. “I don’t think we want word getting around that I paid you a visit.”

“I’ve had my eye on you for some time,” she said. “I was wondering when you’d come to see me.”

He walked in, closed the door, and after a moment of  being stunned by the garish lavishness of the foyer and winding glass steps leading to the second floor, he adjusted the gloves he was wearing and said, “Word has it you’re not always on the up and up with the dice you been rolling.”

She looked stunned. “That’s a lie. I know better than try to cheat in one of Marge’s games.”

“Do you? I have a reliable source that says otherwise.”

“Hey, what’s this all about? I thought you came here so that we could become better acquainted.”

“We’re getting acquainted,” he replied. He had a thin nylon cord noose tied around his waist, the loop hidden in the back. He deftly took it off and held it up, the loop dangling at the end of the rope. “You know what this is?”

She knew exactly what it was and what it meant. “Okay, you’re right. I have used loaded dice on a couple of occasions. Just for kicks. I can give the money back to Marge. There’s no reason to threaten me.”

“This isn’t a threat. It’s a death sentence.”

 She screamed, turned and ran up the steps. He wasn’t going to give her a chance to get her cellphone, and took off after her. He caught up with her at the top of the stairs, lassoing her with the noose. He tightened the noose as he pulled her close.

“Please don’t do this,” she begged. “I’m sorry. Please stop and tell Marge it won’t happen again. I don’t know why I did it.”

“Some people just can’t help themselves.”

Strangling her was easy. She struggled and clawed at him at first, but with her windpipe cut off, she dropped to her knees and remained there until she died. He removed the noose and threw her body over the railing. It landed with a soft thud on the marble floor.


His name was Cooper. Marge had saved him from being arrested for vagrancy, giving the cop about to arrest him a bribe to hand the teenager over to her. “You ever shoot craps?” was the first thing she asked him.


“I’ll teach you how,” she said. “You do everything I ask and you can lead a very comfortable life.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He had watched when Lester arrived the first time, curious about the guy who Marge said would teach him everything he needed to know about shooting craps in Seattle.

Lester entered Marge’s “office” in Pike’s Place Market to report to her that another cheater had been eliminated. She introduced him to Cooper who was casually sitting on the end of her desk.

“I found Cooper on the streets just like I found you,” she said. “Show him the ropes.”

“What’s he going to be doing?” Lester asked.

“Eventually the same thing as you.”

Cooper followed Lester out of the market and stood back while Lester hailed a taxi.

“Where we going?” Cooper asked as they got in the back seat.

“Alki Beach,” Lester told the driver.

They rode in silence all the way there. Lester led Cooper to one of the trails.

“We haven’t done it yet, but you must know. Does she like her sex kinky?” Cooper asked, trailing behind Lester.

Lester had already made up his mind what was going to happen to this punk, this nobody, this kid who Marge threw in his face and had now insulted her. He knew cheaters and cheating and this had all the earmarks of that. He removed the cord from around his waist, turned, and in a matter of moments he had the noose around the kid’s neck. “Marge is too good for the likes of you,” he said to Cooper as the teen’s eyes bulged out, his face turned bright red, and then he stopped breathing.

Two hikers told police everything they had witnessed.


A year later, as Lester was led to the gallows, escorted by two guards, each holding on to one of Lester’s arms, he couldn’t help but smile at the conversation they were having.

“We’ll use my dice,” one guard said. “I don’t trust you.”

“I don’t cheat when it comes to rolling the dice,” the other one replied.

“What you guys rolling for?” Lester asked.

“High roller gets the stuff you leave behind. It’s crazy what people will pay just for a smelly pair of your underwear.”

“Since Washington is one of the last states that allows hanging, your things will bring in higher prices,” the other guard interjected.

In the courtyard where the gallows had been erected, the guards marched Lester up the gallows stairs, stood him on the trap door, and lowered the noose. Lester refused to have his head covered, preferring to see the noose slide down past his eyes to his neck. One of the guards rolled the dice; Lester watched them intently as they tumbled near his feet.  They came to rest a second before the trapdoor opened.

Snake eyes.

Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, had over 600 short stories—new and reprints— published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies since June 2016. He had seven collections of his short stories published. A Map of Humanity, his eighth collection, published by Hear Our Voice LLC Publishers, came out in January 2022. His paranormal/horror novel Redbird was released in November 2019. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.

Steve Carr passed away on November 8, 2022.

Kevin D. Duncan was born 1958 in Alton, Illinois where he still resides. He has degrees in Political Science, Classics, and Art & Design. He has been freelancing illustration and cartoons for over 25 years. He has done editorial cartoons and editorial illustration for local and regional newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His award-winning work has appeared in numerous small press zines, e-zines, and he has illustrated a few books. 

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2023