“Quality fiction and real history make a great match, and Sarah Angleton’s Gentleman of Misfortune offers the best of both. This is an engaging story with surprises on every page”.
— Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Gunfight and Manson
Gentleman of Misfortune: A Sneak Peak
from Chapter 1
A single small stone dropped onto the six of spades on the Faro table, drawing the attention of the only two men in the noisy smoke-filled gambling hall shrewd enough to notice. The dealer frowned at the development. All night he’d proven as quick as he was crooked, compensating for his small stature with his cold stare and quick hands, winning the house far more than strict probability allowed.
Equally interested in the stone was the player who sat to the dealer’s right with an unimpeded view of each man around the table. Lyman Moreau, more observer than gambler, had played poorly enough all evening to attract little notice from his companions. Now he leaned forward in his chair, his eyes on the unusual token as the dealer indicated the offending object.
“What the hell is that?” Betting and conversation halted around the table at the dealer’s words. Startled men followed his gaze to the tiny blue green stone etched with the outline of a beetle. His impatient fingers tapped the top of the box containing the remaining cards. “Get that thing off my table.”
But Lyman watched the man who’d caused the commotion, a well-dressed, self-described merchant who’d been bragging and gambling and drinking all night.
“That, sir,” the merchant slurred, “is an Egyptian scarab unearthed in the Valley of the Kings.”
The dealer sucked in a breath and puffed out his chest. “I don’t care what you say it is. If it can’t buy a man a drink, it doesn’t belong on my table.”
“It hardly seems worth slowing the game.” Lyman had said little throughout the night, preferring instead to listen. Gamblers of all classes came looking for trouble in this part of the city. Those who couldn’t hold their liquor and their secrets usually found it. And now the merchant had presented an opportunity. “I say let it play.”
The dealer scowled at Lyman, but gestured toward the table and said, “Any more bets?”
Several men slid coins from one card to another, some placing copper tokens on top to wager on a loss. Lyman placed his bet on the jack to win. Satisfied, the dealer pulled an ace, followed by a four, an empty space on the table, and another victory for the house.
The dealer slid his winnings into the bank and play returned to a furious pace.
Lyman suspected the box, or shoe as it was known, contained a mirror that allowed the man to see what cards to expect and how to most advantageously manipulate them. But the cheating didn’t concern him, as he had seen the prize he most wanted and felt sure the dealer’s indifference would work in his favor.
Three pulls later, the dealer placed the six of hearts beside the shoe and the merchant’s shoulders slumped. When the second card, the jack of clubs, hit the table, Lyman fought hard not to smile. The dealer had no such concerns.
Grinning broadly, he slid the scarab toward Lyman. “I think this’ll be your winnings then.”
Lyman shrugged and scooped up the stone, dropping it into his coat pocket as he pushed back from the table in a single fluid motion.