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Noir: The Ace of Spades (IC)

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It was a no-good bar in a no-good area, where no-good losers went to drown their sorrows with cheap liquor.

The only thing that was good about the Wild Joker was the music. Jazz, blues, soul...the bands were good, the tunes were mournful, and that only helped the patrons spend their last dimes faster on liquor they would drink faster.

The mob were there, for sure, taking their cut as always with greedy paws and intimidating smiles. Nobody messed with the mob in freedom city. Nobody that wanted to stay in once piece, anyways.

The band were good, tonight. Agnes the Angel. She could hold a Jazz tune with a wicked blue twist that made men weep, or die. Or maybe sometimes both.

The barman, Harry "Croak" Long, was serving drinks today. He was short, strong, and ugly. A drunken customer had tried to slit his throat many years ago, and left a scar along his neck - and a voice that could croak words or laugh like a sawmill.

That customer didn't have a nice ending.

The mobsters sat on the best table, drinking the best whiskey. Tonight, "Hatchet" Jones was in town, a tall, lean snake of a man who refused to pack a pistol. Instead, his favourite tool was always tucked in his white jacket. The man's face was pockmarked and had a scar down one cheek. If it wasn't for his skin, he would have had a handsome face to match his piercing blue eyes.

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The light went down and Agnes and her band once again begun to belt out another round of soulful jazz tunes. She sang from her broken heart, pouring her wounded soul out to an uncaring audience.

She’d played some of the finest club’s in New York and Freedom City and still could; with no false modesty she was too good for this place. But this was the place she could find the people who'd brutally murdered the man she’d loved.

Finishing her set she sauntered over to the bar lighting up a cigarette as she did, once there she attracted Harry’s attention.

“Harry a Whisky on the Rocks, easy on the Rocks.â€

Soon she’d have the chance to kill the man who torn her entire future from her.

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"Evening Angel" croaked Harry, pouring Agnes a double and giving her a long lingering look.

"Sure was a fine set today. You even got Hatchet's approval" he said, nodding to the tall thin hit man who was eyeing up the singer.

Although Croak was not immune to her charms. Far from it. His gaze lingered on her with barely concealed lust - or love - or both.

"I gotta say, baby, you look a million bucks. And with Hatchets eyes on yer, maybe you oughta think about forgettin' the past, and hitchin up with me. Ill make sure I keep an eye out for ya..." he smiled his eyes flashing his desire.

Hatchet was leaning over to discuss something with his colleauges, never taking his eyes of the singer.

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She threw back the whiskey with a single motion and put the glass back down on the counter.

“You know you couldn’t afford to keep me Harry, though if you keep me supplied with these all night I might gift you a kiss.â€

She took a puff from her cigarette and scanned tonight’s audience. It’s then she caught the eye of Hatchet, saw that look of true recognition.

“Fill her up Harry, I need to powder my nose.â€

She choose a path through the club to pass right by Hatchet’s table, but he couldn’t see her. It seemed her timing was perfect as she heard him say.

"Isn't that Edwin's gal? She fine pretty, I see why he liked her. I'd like a taste of her too...ha ha! Maybe we should get her on the payroll too...."

With that she lost her footing, giving a couple of young men a surprise. Picking herself up she managed to stumble to the restroom.

This was it, she’d found the man who’d did it, who killed her beloved Edwin. She was almost tempted to just get her gun and shoot him there and then. But first he had to suffer, to feel the pain and loss she’d felt.

Gathering herself together she managed to walk confidently to the bar, to wait for her chance to gain her revenge.

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Here, maybe I can find someone who knows this city's underworld, maybe a few loose lips will drop the words I need to save them...

The doors of the bar slid open, disturbed from their bitter and liquor-soaked dreams of better days by an engaging young man with quite dark skin, bristling and close-cut hair under a hat, and a trim beard wearing clothes only mostly soaked by the wet snow of the dismal night. Taking a moment to glance around, Roi tentatively removed his sodden coat and scarf, the cold wind rushing outside almost as chilling as the eyes that met his.

The floor was slick under his step as he walked up to the bar, slick like the pin-striped men at the table he passed, and the words he heard drop from a scarred face only a few feet from his elbow.

"Isn't that Edwin's gal? She fine pretty, I see why he liked her. I'd like a taste of her too...ha ha! Maybe we should get her on the payroll too...."

Starting as a similarly-complexioned young woman seemed to almost lose her footing, Roi was among the many concerned faces that began to offer assistance before they saw it wasn't needed. "Pardon me miss! A-ah, never mind" Roi said, voice quickly dropping and a smile of relief passing over his gentle face as the lady righted herself.

The tailor was right after the singer at the bar, smiling at the barman and saying in his lightly-accented voice "Excuse me sir, but may I have a beer?" doffing his hat he added with polite smile to Agnus "Good evening, madmoiselle"

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Croak gave Roi a hard look. A get out of the lady's face look. And he meant it.

"A beer is it?" he croaked, pulling a pint slowly without taking his eyes off Roi.

"You ain't from around here, are you, Frenchy boy?" he said "Just stepped off some liner into Freedom City? Well, you get your Freedom here, but nuthin ain't free..." he said, slamming the beer on the bar.

"And that includes the dames. So don't be hasslin' what you can't set your sights on, my friend. That wouldn't be wise. Although if you chose the wild Joker as the first bar in town to walk into, I don't s'pose you got much in the way of wisdom. You best mind you get some, lest you end up havin' not much in the way of lungs..."

He turned his attention to Agnes, slamming another double whiskey her way.

"On the house, baby. On the rocks as always. And stop bustin' my balls" he said, with a broad lecherous smile. "You know you want me! I could give ya all the whiskey ya need, and pearls and flowers too!" he said, putting his hand on hers and quickly flicking Roi a "back off" look.

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Agnes almost absent minded offered up a five dollar bill, it was an old routine between her and Henry. She wasn't a sucker for a hard luck story, but something in the way Henry spoke stirred up old feelings. She’d never known her real parent’s but she knew she’d been conceived in France during the Great War. Beside he could be useful to get closer to hatchet, she might need some muscle when thing’s went down.

“The Beer’s on me Henry, keep the change. And leave the kid alone Harry, this dame can look after herself.†She offered a hand to the newcomer “Name’s Agnes, welcome to the Wild Joker’s"

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Roi smiled again "No sir, I am not from around here. And I quite understand, I have no intention of not paying."

Croak's unfriendly greeting wasn't the worst Roi had had so far, the dull ache on one rib reminded him of that, but it still made his warm smile quaver. Roi still gave the unsavory man a winning smile as he reached into his pockets and pulled it out totally empty, except for a battered deck of cards.

Staring in horror at it for a second before he recalled that shivering urchin with the pleading eyes on the bridge, the Frenchman began "My apologies, but perhaps I could work off the-"

“The Beer’s on me Henry, keep the change. And leave the kid alone Harry, this dame can look after herself.†She offered a hand to the newcomer “Name’s Agnes, welcome to the Wild Joker’s"

"-cost." With a deferential nod and grateful look to his savior, Roi took a quick sip of the bitter drink and shook her hand willingly after taking off a partially soaked glove "Roi Suvou, Agnes. Thank you for the welcome." he took a seat a little closer to the singer, explaining cheerfully "I am from France, Rheims to be specific. I'm here to visit some relatives." the last was added quickly, almost self-consciously.

Taking a sip to steady his nerves he asked Agnes "How may I repay you, mad-miss Agnes?"

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Mad was she mad, there was the man she been hunting for months, and she was calmly talking to a complete stranger. But she’d need to get her gun, and she couldn’t be sure that he wouldn’t leave. Maybe he could come in useful.

“Can’t a woman just buy a man a drink?†she offer up her cigarette and waited for a light “Beside it’s stop Harry hassling me too much. It’s Alla by the way, Agnes Alla. Some call me the Angel they seem to think I sing like one.â€

She sipped her Whiskey and leaned provocatively against the bar.

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"Oh, I have no objections to that, made-do forgive me, miss Agnes" he said apologetically "the English 'Miss' is not automatic to me. As I was saying, I have no objections to your charity, but I do hope I can repay you. It is quite dishonorable to live on the kindness of others if you can support yourself. But if you insist on being my angel, I cannot justly refuse Heaven's aid." Roi grinned at her soubriquet.

For all that the rest of the city was cold, this corner of it had some warmth of humanity left. It was helped by the match he struck for her cigarette, which he narrowly avoided burning his fingers on when it at last burst into flame. He suddenly frowned at the jazz singer's mention of one of her troubles.

"Harry is...persistent, I take it? I regret to say Agnes I can understand him. You have are lovely." stirring the beer by gently swilling it he watched the amber liquid for a moment before adding "I am sure you have nothing to fear from me." he scowled at a remembered accusation and took a swift and long drink. Taking out his cherished deck, he set it on the bar and idly counted the cards again.

They were all artful and intricately designed, though the colours were faded and the designs were grim. The resplendent kings wept at some tragic loss and the magnificent queens were mute with horror.

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Great a sap and a gambler to boot that made him the worst kind of idiot. He’d think that everything was a case of good and bad luck and she was somehow his lucky charm. Still she wasn’t sure how long she had before Hatchet would call it a night, so she needed to get him on side as quickly as possible.

She lent forwards towards him, the dress she choose helpfully show all the good she could was promising him

“For someone like you I don’t mind being taken advantage off.†Her voice took a more sultry tone. “Those are an interesting pack of cards.†She tapped them with an elegantly manicured fingernail “Are they some kind of family heirloom?â€

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Looking slightly unnerved at her sudden closeness, Roi edged nearly imperceptibly away, glanced at the cards and replied "I do not think so Agnes, my family had no memory of them at all when I asked." he helpfully fanned the deck out so the singer could see all the cards at once.

"They are interesting, yes, but they do me little good." he went on grimly, the Frenchman's eyes narrowed "Wherever I go with them they bring trouble. I had almost a hundred dollars in the same pocket they were in, and now...nothing." he pursed his lips as he looked over the ancient deck "But they have...a power. Something secret and old is buried in them, and if I can bring it out..what good could not result?" he asked Agnes with an eager smile, which quickly turned to a much politer one as he remembered himself.

"And they aren't a full deck either, more's the pity. But enough about them, what band do you sing with Miss Agnes?" he asked with real curiosity "I have heard jazz a few times, your voice reminds me of those melodies."

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A solo blues guitarist, blind Jim Goat, took had taken the stage. He sang like a goat, but played wonderfully. Nobody was really sure if he was blind, half blind, or just wore dark glasses and pretended to be blind. But he had a good stage act, that was for sure. Everybody just wished he would stop caterwauling every so often and just play his strings.

"Got my tongue all bent,

Cos of what I said...

Yeah, I got my tongue all bent,

Cos of what I said..."

Hatchet nodded, with a cold knowing smile on his lips, and a steel gaze at Agnes. He silently put one finger to his eye, then pointed at her.

I'm watching you...

Croak gave Roi an evil look.

"My heart gonna fade...

My rage been made..

"Come on Angel! I been bustin' my :love: over you ever since you walked in here baby! you gotta give me some satisfaction! not go spittin' my eye with some off the boat loser like Frenchy here!" he growled in his scarred voice. For all his paternal clothes, he was giving off a nastier streak right now.

"Like the ace o' spade...

Like the ace o' spade...

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Agnes blew Harry a kiss, even though her heart wasn’t really into it.

“Well if it doesn’t work out you’ll be the first person I call.â€

Her mood hadn’t been improved by the music, the music wasn’t very good but the words seem to cut to her very soul. If she hadn’t already been all cried out over Edwin.

“You don’t sing Jazz you live it! If you can’t feel the very soul of the music then you have no right to be preforming Jazz. They call me the Angel because of the sweet sound of my voice, not something I’m inclined to disagree with.â€

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The melancholy song drifted through the smokey air and sank deeply into Roi, though it didn't sink as deeply as it seemed to want.

He smiled faintly "So I have heard! The musicians and singers in France, they pour out their very souls into every note, their life into a single song!" he glanced at the Queen of Hearts, who looked at the verge of tears "I have heard only your normal speech, and I agree with them already. Heaven wishes it could call as sweetly as you."

He suddenly closed his eyes, ran a finger across his forehead and said crisply "Apologies, miss. What can you tell me about that man over there?" he asked, gesturing discreetly to Hatchet "He seems...to be of an underhanded nature." he said 'underhanded' with a scowl and a slight grimace, though he didn't so much as turn his head to look.

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She gave him a thin tight smile.

“Stick around I’m doing another show later, I’ll sing to you like a canary.â€

She lit up another cigarette and offer one to Roi, she gestured towards him with her cigarette, adding more smoke to the already smoky atmosphere. Her tone suggested she wasn’t exactly his biggest fan.

“He’s a made man, that means he’s a member of the local Mafia, one of the worst of his breed. You want someone dead you call him, but he doesn’t use a gun, knife or even fist, no he has a much more insidious methods…â€

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Taking the cigarette gratefully and taking a long drag from it, Roi blew a spiral of smoke towards the ceiling with a smile of relief. The tobacco began to kick in, and the smokey room became a far more relaxing place.

Besides the Mafia man nearby, of course. Spinning the cards one by one into a full deck, he said quietly, gaze intent on his busywork "A made man, hm? That is what they call his kind here...like what they are named in France, filled with meaning."

Taking another drag on the cigarette he glanced back at Agnes "What does he use, a blowgun? Grand pianos falling from the window? Perhaps..." he struggled briefly and failed to appear nonchalant as he said it "...playing cards?"

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Agnes couldn't have wished for a better response this stranger was as interested in Hatchet as she was. That was something she could use to her advantage, what he gained from it wasn't her concern.

“He uses poison’s to kill his subjects, but he’s not one to do such things anomalously. He always leads a calling card at the scene of his crime The Ace of Spades, from a deck of cards not dissimilar to you own.â€

She tried to keep an note of emotion out of her voice, but there was still a hint of hurt in her voice.

“Strangely though he always seems to use the same card, and it never seems to stay in police evidence…â€

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'The Ace of Spades?!' Agnes' luck with responses held. Roi's vague and hasty assumption of something belonging to the poker face family totally failed to conceal his shock and simultaneous eagerness.

Looking away from the lounging singer for more than one reason, and staring at the bar and the cards the lean tailor said with affected nonchalance "Is..is that so? Curious. I would have thought the American police would be better at keeping murder weapons out of the hands of their owners." He smiled shakily, an expression which vanished as things clicked into place. Her tone, the fact she knew what the card looking like...

Turning to face Agnes he surveyed her for a moment, then flicked his strange blue eyes at Hatchet. Turning back to Agnes he asked quietly, in a voice tinged with very real sympathy "I am sorry. Who did he-" the wiry man bit his lip as he gathered his nerve "Who was it?"

'At least I now know what it does. Cold comfort.'

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Whenever she thought she managed to overcome her pain at the loss of her beloved Edwin something else came along to open the wound. The pain was still raw red wound on her soul, but somehow she managed to keep the keep the hurt inside and not show it one her face. Her voice still cracked a little as she replied to the stranger’s question.

“He was someone very special to me, someone special enough to consider serious measures.â€

She was starting to consider this Roi as something more than just a patsy in her plan; maybe just maybe he could become an ally in her planned revenge.

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With a brief look of quiet horror, Roi focused intently on the golden beer in front of him. He knew what that was like. All too well, he knew what she was talking about. Taking a sip, he started to think about how he'd felt first walking into that room, the feeling of helplessness on seeing the huddled  figure on the floor, the desperate wish to do something...and his narrow jaw clenched.


Turning to Agnes he looked the lovely singer in the face. Her beauty and performer's presence had started to get some strange edge from the alcohol, but her story was what sealed his decision. And his fate. In a low voice he said "Agnes...can I help you take those measures?"

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With a smile she leant in until her sweet red lips were almost touching Roi’s ear. So close in fact that there two bodies were almost
touching, he could smell the sweet sensual smell of her perfume. When she spoke is was a seductive whisper.

“I’m after justice. But there two kinds of justice, the corrupt law enforced by people who are in the pocket of men like him, and an older more Old Testament kind of justice.â€

She moved back into her seat and took a puff from her cigarette, holding it out seductively in one hand.


“I know what kind of Justice I’m after Mr Suvou, what kind of Justice do you want for this man?â€

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His ear quivered briefly under Agnes' hot breath, the sensation of her closeness commingled with the alcohol in his veins. With a smooth movement, he swept the cards back into his pocket and buttoned it shut with his dark fingers.


Turning to the songstress he re-lit his cigarette from hers, raised it as if toasting her, and said "Well, Agnes, I always have been more an Old Testament sort of fellow."


Some wit broke through the fog of his mind, and his eyes glanced around "Perhaps this is not the best place to plot, non? Ah, and please," his smile turned as friendly as it had been when he first walked in "Call me Roi, Angel."

Edited by Arichamus
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Agnes still wasn’t quite sure if her new found ally would yet be partner or her patsy. He seemed to be after the same thing, but she’d been in this game long enough to know not to trust anyone on first impressions. She stubbed out her cigarette and drained the last dregs of her whiskey.


“I have a little changing room out back, it’s not much this place doesn’t have many comforts for its star. Except Harry of cause.†She blew the barman a little kiss “I have to get ready for a show soon anyhow, Maybe you could join me backstage Roi?â€


Without waiting for an answer she began to sauntered away almost sure that the Roi would follow her.

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The showgirls and singers didn't have their own rooms, just cramped and smoky halls lined with cramped and smoky mirrors, the flutter of make up powder intermingling with the ever - present waft of cigarettes. 


"Look who it is, the weeping angel" sneered Molly Webb, another singer. She was taller than Agnes, and older too. Perhaps, in her youth, she would have even been more beautiful. But, whilst still striking and full of swish and allure, her features had begun to draw in, taking the sting out of her looks. She had broken many hearts, and no doubt would break several more, but the years of alcohol would not leave her unravished for much longer. 


"Cry me a river honey, you do it so well!" she laughed as she powdered her nose. 


Molly's tounge was a sharp as a sword and full of acid. She wielded enough power in the club that a few nervous laughs followed her taunt. 


"And you leave that nice young Frenchy you were talking to alone. I fancy a bit of continental for breakfast!" she giggled. 


Just outside...


Croak put an iron arm on Roi as he got up. 


"You ain't going anywhere near backstage, sonny" he croaked, the scar across his neck livid and dancing as he spoke, his eyes communicating the anger. 


"Staff only. And the Angel, she's mine, you get it?"


Hatchet raised an eyebrow and looked on, studying the scene for across the smoke filled club. 

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