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A Simple Wager
by Charles Matthias
Charles Matthias -- all rights reserved
 

Copernicus looked at the dartboard hanging from the wall in The Blind Pig Gin Mill, and stared at his score. It was abysmal, he always seemed to just miss the high numbers. While he was good at pool, he seemed, at least tonight, to be completely off on darts. The others in the bar where paying attention to their own concerns, each talking amongst each other, a few eating, most in their typical spots. The only one even paying attention to him was Darkwolf who had decided to show up; he was chewing on a rather rare steak, watching Copernicus whimsically.

"Having problems?" Darkwolf asked the herpamorph, licking the blood stains from his black jowls. Though he claimed to be a polymorph, nobody had seen him in any shape other than that of the black wolf. His elusive nature precluded most from getting close to him, though he was on speaking terms with all but Posti who would never even acknowledge the man. Copernicus had mixed feelings about him, he was rich, and very generous with his money, and he also played pool, very well in fact, though Copernicus could frequently defeat him at his favorite game.

Copernicus got an idea just then and nodded, trying to hide his devious smile, "Yeah, I just can't seem to hit the high numbers. I'm sure you can do it. You could probably do it blindfolded."

Darkwolf shrugged, "Probably, I always enjoy a good game of darts. Would you like a few pointers?"

"Sure, anything to help my game."

Darkwolf got down from his stool at the bar and walked casually over to Copernicus. He was still dressed in his business suit, with the beret perched between his upstanding ears. He had never bothered to explain why he wore the beret, but he was always seen with it. Copernicus watched him carefully, noting that all eyes had glanced at Darkwolf as soon as he had moved. Seeing what he was doing, they all quickly turned back to their previous conversations. Copernicus wondered if Darkwolf had noticed that, but he did not appear to have caught on.

"Now, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that you have the proper grip on the dart. Let me see your grip." Darkwolf watched as Copernicus held the dart between his thumb and middle and index fingers, his claws extending out above the padding. "That looks like a reasonable grip to me. Now let me see your cast."

"My cast?"

"Your throw. I liken it to a cast because it is so similar, at least for me, to the practice of casting the line in recreational fishing."

"You fish?" Copernicus asked, amazed that Darkwolf would reveal anything about his personal hobbies.

"On occasion. Now let us see your throw." Darkwolf admitted, his eyes watching him intently, though not probingly.

Copernicus drew his arm back, and cast the dart into the air. It stuck to the board, in the eleven slot again. Every time he aimed for the twenty he seemed to hit the eleven.

Darkwolf nodded, "You seem to have most of the technique down, it's just a matter of aiming. Now I want you to throw again, but this time leave your arm extended out."

"You think my aim is off?"

"Yes."

Copernicus nodded, it might have been, but he had been doing this for a long time. He made another toss, aiming once more for the twenty. Again, he hit the eleven. Another idea came to mind. He hid it by shaking his head, "I always miss the twenty!"

"You see where you were aimed though, your index finger seems to be pointed a bit crooked, I think this might be slanting your shots a bit." Darkwolf explained, demonstrating with his own hand. "Now let me see if I can hit the twenty making the exact same shot as you did." Darkwolf pulled back his arm, and threw the dart straight and true. He hit the twenty dead on, straight up the center. He grimaced. "Let me try that again, my hand reflexively flows in the right position." He pulled back once more, and threw a second dart, and this one sailed in the wrong direction, missing the eleven, but still going in that general direction.

"Okay, I see it." Copernicus nodded. He then sprang his trap. "Did you need to use your eyes to do that? I know you can make shots in pool blindfolded, but can you throw darts blindfolded?"

Darkwolf nodded, "Certianly."

"Okay, I have a simple wager then. No money, just for fun. You blindfold yourself, and well throw three darts each, and see who makes the most points."

"Sounds fair," Darkwolf smiled. He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a strip of black cloth and wrapped it over his eyes. "I'll need you to put the darts in my hand though." He held out his paw, pads-upward.

"Of course." Copernicus smiled, no longer afraid to reveal his devious concept. He removed the darts from the board, and then pulled the numbers twenty and eleven from their places on the board and then switched them.

He turned around and noticed at a lot of people in the bar were now watching him. He held up a finger to his mouth, silencing them, and then returned to Darkwolf, placing the three blue darts in his hand, keeping the green ones for himself.

"Should I go first or should you?" Darkwolf asked.

"Oh, you can go first." Copernicus offered, being careful not to let his voice betray him.

Darkwolf nodded, and threw his first dart straight and true, landing in the top of the dartboard, right underneath the number eleven. Copernicus couldn't help but smile, and he saw that he was getting a few thumbs up from other people at the bar who were now smiling. The Lupine Boys all looked like they were ready to give him a standing ovation for his devious trick played on the most inscrutable person that any had ever met.

"Good shot," Copernicus said, "I guess now it's my turn." He threw his shot, aiming for where the eleven now was. Much to his glee, his shot sailed downwards, landing right in the wedge where the twenty now was.

There was a now hushed silence over the entire bar, Jack had stopped playing long enough to watch, each face imprinted with delight at what they were seeing.

Darkwolf raised his arm back for his second shot, this one landing right next to the first shot. Again there was a few smirks, but nobody made any sound to give away Copernicus's devious switch. Copernicus launched his second shot, landing in twenty's new space as usual. He smiled to himself, this was going wonderfully, Darkwolf didn't even have any idea what was being done to him.

Darkwolf pulled back his arm, and threw his third dart. It was unerring, landing right between his first two darts, squarely in the eleven slice.

One person, Copernicus couldn't tell who, let out a muffled sound of laughter. He looked at Darkwolf's face, and he did seem to look a little suspicious, but obviously realized that there was nothing he could do about it. Copernicus threw his last dart, and was greeted by rounds of cheers from the Lupine Boys as well as most of the other patrons. He basked in the glow of their enthusiastic response to his pulling the wool over Darkwolf's eyes.

Darkwolf looking very concerned, and he pulled the mask from his face. He took one look at the dartboard, and then his jaw dropped noticeably. He turned and looked at the smug Copernicus in complete shock. His expression turned to a smile after a few moments, "My hat's off to you Copernicus, it has been years since somebody has tricked me so cleverly."

Copernicus shrugged, "Maybe I should have asked for money?"

Darkwolf was still shaking his head, laughing to himself. "Don't worry Copernicus, I'll make sure that you earn every penny of it. Simple wager! Ha!" Darkwolf dug into his meat again.

"Thanks for the lesson though." Copernicus replied, after the din of laughter had died down and the other members had returned to their usual conversations.

Darkwolf smiled, still shaking his head, "No problem. It seems you learned more than I thought I taught."

Copernicus nodded. "I guess so." He picked up another dart, and threw it, making sure to make the adjustments to his fingers that Darkwolf suggested.

It landed squarely in the eleven. "I always hit the eleven!" he complained sarcastically. Darkwolf looked at the shot, and just started laughing loudly, unable to stop himself for several minutes. Copernicus joined him, knowing finally that Darkwolf was a human being after all.

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