Wisdom, Daring, and the Winning Hand

Wisdom, Daring, and the Winning Hand

Posted on November 29, 2021 at 5:40 pm by Jeffrey James Roberts

”Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb but refuse. They cling to the realm, or love, or the gods…. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is. But they’ll never know this. Not until it’s too late.” – George R. R. Martin



Little Eli.

Valiant effort, my dear. So close, but yet so far… again.

It shouldn’t have surprised you. I did warn you after all. Did you enjoy meeting my friend Arthur? He’s such a nice young man. Promising that one. Full of drive, full of ambition. Useful, to be sure.


You’re a doe caught in the headlights, desperately sprinting through the trees and falling into a pit despite yourself. You can’t help yourself, you are who you are after all. We are all only what we are.

If you had been more observant, perhaps you would have seen it coming.

You see, there are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns. Patterns are hidden by patterns. Patterns within patterns. If you watch closely, history does nothing but repeat itself. What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random are just patterns we can’t decipher. What we can’t understand we call nonsense. What we can’t read we call gibberish. Chaos was the law of nature. Order was the dream of man.

There is no free will.

There are no variables.

My real discoveries come from chaos, from going to a place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.

Because that’s what I’ve created, haven’t I? This is not just for little Eli Dresden, but for everyone. We all get to eat from the same table. I’ve created chaos because I alone pull the strings. I alone have been granted the favor and power to enact his will.

The most dangerous people in the world are not the tiny minority instigating evil acts, but those who do the acts for them. History says that invading forces are often able to bribe locals to kill off their own brethren who resist occupation. They were hired to kill others of their own kind on behalf of the enemy for the paycheck. Even today, there are mercenaries in Africa, corporate armies from the Western world, and unemployed men throughout the Middle East killing their own people – and people of other nations – for a paycheck.

To act without a conscience, but for a paycheck, makes anyone a dangerous animal. The devil would be powerless if he couldn’t entice people to do his work. As long as money and power continue to seduce the hungry, the hopeless, the broken, the greedy, and the needy, there will always be war between brothers.

So, if chaos is a necessary step in the organization of one’s universe, then I am well on my way.

No need to be frightened. No need to clutch your pillow tightly in your bed while staring out your window and wishing on stars like children. Look deeper through the telescope and don’t be afraid when the stars collide towards the darkness, because sometimes the most beautiful things begin in chaos.

My free time is limited. My world outside the walls of my cell consists of short walks from one set of guards to another, into a ring to do combat, then back again.

Something new now. How exciting.

A lottery, I’m told. I’ve also been told what is expected of me, yes. Yes, I have. I’d love to delve deeper into each of those who could possibly be chosen for me, but I believe it’s best to be surprised. You never know beforehand what people are capable of. You have to wait, give it time. It’s time that rules the day, time is our gambling partner on the other side of the table and it holds all the cards of the deck in its hand. We have to guess the winning cards of life, of our lives.

Some will take the coward’s way out, not even throwing their hats into the ring. I would never do this, of course. It’s hard to walk away from a winning streak, even harder to leave the table when you’re on a losing one.

But I am proving to be far more compatible with this line of work than most expected, I think. A funny thing, taking a man like me and forcing him to fight for a purpose. One way, I think, the whole thing of fighting is hurting somebody else, deliberately, and particularly when it is not necessary. Two men who have nothing against each other get in a ring and try to hurt each other, to provide vicarious fear for people with fewer guts than themselves. And to cover it up they call it ‘sport’, and gamble on it. I had never looked at it that way until now, and if there is any single thing I cannot endure it is to be a dupe. Maybe that is what was expected of me at first. No more.

There is an ever-increasing line of people begging for another shot at getting their revenge on me. I like it this way, obviously, and I no longer come to the party alone. My advice for these poor souls: learn to accept it.

A poker player would explain to you that there’s a particular moment at which players are extremely vulnerable to an emotional surge. It’s not when they’ve won a huge pot or when they’ve drawn a fantastic hand. It’s when they’ve just lost a lot of money through bad luck or bad strategy. The loss can nudge a player into going ‘on tilt’ – making overly aggressive bets in an effort to win back what he wrongly feels is still his money. The brain refuses to register that the money has gone. Acknowledging the loss and recalculating one’s strategy would be the right thing to do, but that is too painful. Instead, the player makes crazy bets, takes crazy chances — attempts ‘revenge’ — to rectify what he unconsciously believes is a temporary situation. It isn’t the initial loss that does him in, but the stupid plays he makes in an effort to deny that the loss has happened. A person who has not made peace with his losses is likely to accept gambles that would be unacceptable to him otherwise. Even those of us who aren’t professional poker players know how it feels to chase a loss.

I still have nothing to lose, though. Gold? Yes, perhaps. But not really. If I were to cling too tightly to it, surely it would be lost as quickly as it was won. I’ve been the dregs of humanity my entire life. I’ve never had anything material of note, and I take comfort in that. Believe me, you’re much more likely to receive my gift than you are others working here. Yes, I’ve watched, and I wait patiently. Trust me. It’s much harder to twist the charitable arm of a lottery winner compared to that of a man at his lowest ebb. It sounds like the wrong way round at first, but when you really put your nut to it, people are more frightened of losing the big shit than of having fuck all, to begin with, and losing a bit of that. Having fuck all, to begin with, is pretty much my life story. This is new territory for me, and I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it.

Playing the lottery is foolish until you win more than you have ever spent on lottery tickets, and wise, as soon as you win the jackpot.

We are all equal in this, today. All of us were tossed into a hat and pulled from it by him. Cries of favoritism, bias… But at the gambling table, there are no fathers and sons.


”You enter the cave of the bear to become its master or its meat.” – Kerry Cue


Department of Corrections.
Gainesville, Florida.
January 16, 2010.

Three hours after being interrogated by Detective Rona Callaway, Jeffrey James Roberts still sits in the primary interrogation room of the Gainesville Department of Corrections.

Roberts has no expression on his face, looking around the room as if bored, and sighs.

Moments later, two men enter the room, detectives. One, a balding man in his mid-to-late forties, is dressed in gray slacks and a light blue button-down shirt, with a tie hanging in the middle of his chest near a name tag that reads “Simmons.” The other, a younger man, is in his late twenties or early thirties, and of Latin descent, with a slightly darker complexion to go with it. He, too, has a button-down shirt over a pair of slacks, with a name tag next to his tie that reads “Rodriguez.”

Roberts looks at them briefly, then back at the glass of the two-way mirror.

Simmons walks around near the glass within Roberts’ view and leans against the wall there.

“Found your boots, Jeff.”

The younger man crosses behind Roberts in the other direction, leaning against a second table just to the right of the main table in the room. He crosses his arms.

“Lot of blood, taking off a head. Tough to wash out.”

Roberts shrugs, scoffing. “But not impossible. We’re just talking here, right?”

Rodriguez nods.

“Right. Just talking.”

Roberts allows a small smile to come over his face. “And I’m free to walk out anytime I want. Most people think they have to stay…. Talk. Dumb civilians.”

Rodriguez chuckles.

“Not you, though.”

Rodriguez keeps the smile on his own face, then looks over at his partner. Simmons cocks his head to the side slightly.

“What are your thoughts on this guy, Jeff? I mean, why did he take their clothes off? He’s not raping them. What’s the point?”

“Hmm,” Roberts furrows his eyebrows in thought. “Good question. Uh… control? Humiliation?” His smile grows.

Simmons stands up, no longer leaning on the wall of glass, and takes a step toward him.

“It’s tough, getting a woman’s clothes off when she’s not willing.”

Rodriguez shrugs off to the side. “Must’ve been scratching, kicking, fighting. They fight you a lot, Jeff?”

Roberts’ smile grows again.

“Statistically speaking, victims rarely fight back when a weapon is used in the commission of a crime. And you mean ’him.’

Rodriguez nods his head, looking at Roberts, tracing every move of every twitch in his face. “Well, like we said, just theorizing.”

“Hypothesizing,” Simmons interjects. “We appreciate your insight, Jeffrey.”

Roberts grins back at him.

“Any time.”

Detective Rodriguez stands up and walks toward the table. A squealing is heard as he pulls a chair back from the side opposite Roberts and sits down in it in reverse, arms resting on the back of the chair as he leans forward just a bit.

“So why do you think he picks the fighters, the survivors? Only the ones who try to fight back?”

The smile on Roberts’ face fades slightly, a self-satisfied smirk beginning to take its place.

“Wants a challenge,” he chuckles. “That’s obvious.”

Simmons nods in agreement. “Once he finally tracks them down, I bet they’re not so uppity anymore, huh?”

Simmons looks over at Rodriguez, who nods slightly himself.

“And then he teaches them a lesson.”

The detective looks back at the smirking young man sitting across from him. Roberts’ smirk grows colder.

“Oh, I imagine there are many lessons taught… in the swamp.”

Rodriguez holds his stare on Roberts, and for a few brief moments, they stare directly at each other, until the detective turns and looks up at his partner standing a few feet away.

“Know what I think? This guy? Never got laid once in his life.”

Both Simmons and Rodriguez chuckle. Roberts’ jaw works, but he remains silent.

“Because, you know, it sounds to me like he’s got a real problem with the ladies. You know?”

Roberts looks up, grin gone, smirk gone, just a cold, cruel stare. “You’re the one with the lady problem… from what I hear. Nothing that a little Thorazine can’t fix.”

Rodriguez’s smile fades. He takes a step toward Roberts.

“Don’t you talk about her.”

Simmons reaches out, putting a hand on his partner’s shoulder.

“Carlos…” And shakes his head no.

Roberts turns his eyes now to Detective Simmons. “You know what I mean, Lieutenant. Got a few lady problems of your own.”

Simmons turns to look in his direction.

“Is that right?”

Roberts shrugs. “Ex-wife who hasn’t spoken to you in ten years, the daughter who only pretends to love… her… daddy. Those second-rate medals hanging in your second-rate office. Were they really worth it?”

Roberts looks up at him, then to Rodriguez, then back again.

“As I said, I can stop talking. And I’m done talking to you.”

Roberts turns his back to the two detectives, and they look at each other, frustrated.


”You get as many chances as you want; as many as you dare to make for yourself.” – Edward Bloor


You can’t outwit fate by standing on the sidelines placing little side bets about the outcome of life. Either you wade in and risk everything you have to play the game or you don’t play at all. And if you don’t play, you can’t win.

My greatest obsession is that I believe in myself.

You think you want to win this gold I’ve taken. This belt means more to me than I ever expected it to, and it means more to everyone because of what I do to people. But I am convinced in myself that you have no chance; you, the general you, whoever you may be.

This belief runs far more deeply than I could ever explain and is more powerful than the mightiest flood. For I only abide in the deep waters. If you want to test my waters, you better know how to swim.

I had a little bite taken from my shoulder last week, a weakness that my opponent tried to exploit. But she put all her cards on the same colored number because she is ultimately at heart a fool. She dreamed of revenge, but if you can imagine something, you should at least imagine it with legs so that it has a chance to go somewhere.

Was a small flesh wound on my shoulder meant to be the coup de gras, the trump card laid on the table? A child, thinking childish things. Most people can be described this way, so I won’t hold it against her too much. Yesterday is over. You will never get another chance to do what you were not able to do. I am changed, forever changing. I know the new reality: evolve or become irrelevant. Innovate or die.

I don’t have the benefit of years of professional training. I don’t have a happy story to tell. I was born in the bottom of the barrel. But I’m not down there anymore am I? Where there was weakness, there is now strength. I never in my wildest dreams guessed that I would be where I am right now. My life was thrown away, and I don’t even regret it, but because I can be used for something else, I find myself in a new place. I’m free in ways far more meaningful than the physical. It is a romantic thought… in fact, what could be more romantic than the sudden revelation of the thing you didn’t even dare to hope for?

I could call the bluff, lay my cards on the table and choose to walk away, back into my comfortable glass and stone and steel prison, listening to my records and whiling away my life reading and studying art, sleeping, and eating, recounting the beautiful faces of my victims as I fall to sleep each night. It would probably be an act of wisdom to depart immediately, to go back… but wisdom is itself the product of knowledge; and knowledge, unfortunately, is generally the product of foolish doings. So, to add to my own knowledge and to enhance my own wisdom I shall remain another day, to see what occurs.

But knowledge is not enough anyway. Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

And that’s what is new. That is the key.

I have begun to understand more than I ever have before. I see it so much more clearly now. I know you fear me. Great minds are always feared by lesser minds.

Superiority complex? No. Superiority belief. What once was weak is now strong. What once was meek is now bold. What once was a fool is now wise. Last becomes first.

I send this letter not to inspire you. I don’t care if you are inspired or not. Sit in your little chairs in your little rooms and rattle your brain around trying to think of your response. I’ve made certain to get this to you early. Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.

I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.

Oh, my wickedness persists, and why shouldn’t it? Imprisonment has changed nothing. I have been enhanced if nothing else. Besides, good boys may go to heaven, but bad boys go everywhere.

I am flawed. I am vain and wicked, as a genius should be.

The universe runs on the principle that one who can exert the most evil on other creatures runs the show. I’m willing to bet my life and yours that I am all of that and more. You think you want what I have? I’m willing to bet you don’t.

Not such a bad gamble after all.


”Cross: a thing they nail people to.” – Frank Cross