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Saturday night, 2nd August...


The High Steaks was a sleek, upper crust joint, even amongst the casinos that it loitered in. It was not, technically, a casino. Its lower level was one of the finest eateries in Freedom City, new, fresh, modern with a classical twist. Or classic with a modern twist. Its steaks were the finest in the City, perhaps the country, Perhaps even the world. 


Expensive as that was, it was dwarfed by the real money. Overlooking the dining area was the top table, where the finest food was eaten, the finest wine drunk, and the most exclusive poker table in the City stood. Millions were lost, millions were won. Tears were cried, and joy was sung. The balcony of the top table stood over the high steaks, and had a view over the city. 


THe High Steaks was a tall glass building. A few years back, it had been home to a Vampire Attack although nobody really knew if this was a legend, a myth, or the truth. It seemed the myth had done business no harm, anyway. The High Steaks fed on anxiety and excitement. 


And tonight was the grand prize. Nobody knew what the prize was, for sure, although gossip flew this way and that. Whatever it was, some big guns had arrived for the game. The rules were simple: Winner takes the prize, and the seller took all the money that was brought to the table. The more money you brought, the more chance you had of winning. And some major organisations and wealthy individuals had brought a lot of money...

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Keeping up with the criminal rumor mill was like listening to the chatter of a talkative high school clique.  It may not always be as inane as overhearing the opinion of 'Jenna's outfit in fourth period English', but, the chatter always flowed.  There was plenty of talk of an upscale combination restaurant/casino away from the prying eyes of the police.  Hell, it fed on the idea of exclusivity and secretiveness.  With a vampire attack to boot.  Which in Erick's opinion that probably added to the appeal as opposed to scaring people off.  Tonight, the big talk wasn't about vampires in the night.  But of some big grand prize that was being sold, likely illegally to garner as much interest as was honed in on the prize.


Peter Kravinsky was a young criminal upstart.  His father was Russian Mafiya that held a big foothold in New York.  Peter had come to make a name for himself, while using his father's reputation to do so, in Freedom City.  His poor attempts at smuggling found little welcome by the Italian Mafioso that already had a claimed on the territory.  The threat on his life came swiftly and for the first time in his life his father's reputation carried no weight.  Peter grew to rely on his own wits, and sleight of hand to get by.  Cheating  money out of the local casino's, and even making a name for himself in underground poker games.  Where being caught would have likely meant death.


Things were going well for him.  So well, he was even invited to prove himself as a high roller in this exclusive event on behalf of some big mafioso's who wanted the Grand Prize for themselves.  Unfortunately his hands weren't quick enough to prevent Foreshadow from getting the drop on him.  Turning him over to the police with evidence of his wrongdoings.  The consequence was a minor period of incarceration until he could pay a fine as restitution.  Wiring the money around should have been long enough to keep him from attending the event.  It would have been such a shame to let an invite go to waste. So Erick took it upon himself to go in Peter's stead.  


When 'Peter' ascended from the stairs to the top of the skyscraper, it was immediately apparent, the white suit he had chosen was tailored to perfection.  Not only fitting his form excellently, but made by a designer that was just expensive enough to seem as if he could still desire a higher station in life.  A greyish bowler hat adorned upon his head complimented the outfit further.  His black loafers made not a sound as he took his first steps in.  Less in part due to the material and more due to his general fleet-footedness.  The bulge coming out the side of his jacket was a bit more questionable.  With many assuming he had simply carried a firearm, like others of ill repute.  In reality Erick had simply placed his collapsible Escrima Sticks on a side holster to give the illusion of pistol.


'Peter' had clearly gone to the trouble dress up and it hadn't gone without notice even in such a classy joint, the fair faced man's entrance attracted some modicum of attention.  Looking around he was privy to the fact that there were no slot machines in sight.  The high class establishment only relished in the thinking man's games of chance.  A sly smile presented itself upon his face, as 'Peter' adjusted his cufflinks.  "Well then a drink is in order."

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Tonight, it was all about the pearls.
Lynn Epstein had been a fae creature for quite some time, and the fae are defined, if they can be defined at all, by change. In the many years that passed since her transformation, she'd learned how to alter herself in many ways, but sometimes even her basic form had evolved. Since she's learned how to put more of herself into her glamoured creations, she'd lost the ability to fashion metal of any kind. It was annoying, but there were of course workarounds, but they all required a lot of thought and preparation.

So then, the pearls.
This evening, Lynn was tall, blue-eyed and blonde, wrapped in an icy blue sheath slit far up one leg; perhaps she had watched Frozen a few too many times recently. Her hair was up in an elaborate arrangement that would have cost more than a month's rent for some people; good thing the shapeshifter didn't have to pay for it! There was a string of pearls around her delicate throat, pearl studs on her ears and a pearl bracelet. A white mink stole was draped over her shoulders and a small leather clutch was in one hand.

'Lynda' stepped out of the rented limo, alone and confident, and made her way into the casino.
Okay, so as entrances go, this is definitely overkill - yes! I've still got it!

- - - -

Cred0, one of changeling's new employees had been talking about the exciting world of high stakes gambling, and how High Steaks was the place to go on the Boardwalk. It had been a while since Lynn had been out on the town, but on a whim she decided to hit the streets and see if everying was above board.

Thankfully, it wasn't.

- - - -

The stunning blonde suddenly appeared at 'Peter''s elbow and flashed a dazzling smile.
"Could you make that two?"

Edited by Heritage
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'Peter' tapped on the bar making an addendum to the lady's request.  "Make sure to have both on my tab.  Which we might as well just open opened up now."  Erick didn't drink alcohol often.  But having a glass full of the stuff served as a powerful weapon in social engineering.  "A gentleman doesn't let a lady buy her opening drink of the night."  He knew she was competition, like everyone else when it came to trying to get one's hands on the prize.


If it became an outright biding war at the end of the fun games, it wouldn't hurt to impart a good enough impression on the various criminal types  Even better if those criminal types were stunning women showing just the right amount of skin for his taste.  Ever cognizant of the fact that many of the parties involved were likely to carry an air of ill repute if the grand prize was as heavily sought after as the rumors implied.  


Of course the night still could prove itself to still go rather uneventfully.  An expensive meal, a little hustling money out of the hands of those who didn't need it, and a chance to acquire some unknown good that a lot of people were willing to toss a buttload of money to get their hands on.  On second thought, 'Peter' would bet money on uneventful not being in the cards.

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 "A gentleman doesn't let a lady buy her opening drink of the night."


'Lynda' smiled and cocked her head slightly to one side. "Ideally, a gentleman doesn't let a lady buy her drinks at all, but sadly we don't live in an ideal world." She gave 'Peter' a playful wink, then turned to the bartender. "Vodka martini, please." Lynn had decided five foot eight was about as tall as she could stretch herself without getting scary skinny, like one of those Calvin Klein coat racks; once you added in the three-inch heels of her ice blue pumps and the architectural marvel that was her hair, she was well over six feet, and the overall effect was fairly impressive.


Another player here for the big game? More than likely. Has the money for nice clothes, but still has that feral glint in his eye; probably a thug of some sort, but at least he's a cultured thug.


Once she had her drink, the cool blonde turned to rest one elbow on the bar. "So, are you here to play, or just...take in the sights?"


Ugh, really? 'Stay classy, Lynn!'

Edited by Heritage
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When Lucy had learned that High Steaks had reopened it was a given that she'd be back, she was after all responsible for it closing in the first place. Despite all her subtle checks so far drawing a blank she couldn't discount the Masters influence. He wasn't above testing his children with thinks like this.

Whilst she couldn't completely hide her identity she'd tried her best to minimize being spotted. She wore brown contact lenses, her original eye color, to hide her inhuman eyes. As a double bluff she wore oversized sunglasses over the top.

The dress was a stylish black number a little longer than she'd like, she was after all trying to appear as a socialite. She'd called in a favor with Rene for something she hoped was as indestructible as the suit she normally wore. Being one of Rene creation it bought a whole to meaning to painted on...

One gaining entry Lucy went straight to the bar for a Gin, partly out of habit and partly so she could get a feel of how the place had changed since her last visit.

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Ricky, aka Ricardo, was one of his patients. Someone who couldn't keep his nose clean or his head out of gambling. He showed up mumbling enough about the game to get Tyrone interested in what the 'prize' was. Illegal, most likely. Still, he hadn't been gambling in quite a while, so he decided to steal the name for a bit, and go to High Steaks.


Tyrone was a man who seldom felt the need to dress up. His job often required slacks and dress shirts, but all of that was off the rack and of a middling price. What Tyrone, aka 'Ricardo' wore to High Steaks was not off the rack.


He stepped out of his car in a black suit, custom tailored and soft. Under the jacket he wore a black silk tie and a dark gray. His was slim, dressed to the nines, and handsome. Goatee was neat, hair was neat, Tyrone looked the best he had in months.

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"Ladies and Gentlemen, the first round is about to begin. Please take your seats"


The compere was simply the thinnest man anyone had seen. He was tall, too. About fifty, bald, with bulging blue eyes. He wore the most impressively cut black tie, and pressed his hands together in an almost subservient manager. 


"I have been tasked with comparing the evenings entertainment. Please, do follow me..."


The upstairs level was now open. 


A magnificent green table was open to all. The thin man took his seat, obeserving the events with unblinking eyes. 


"Do please have a drink at the bar...." he indicated the handomse upper level bar, full of the most expensive drinks, and a beautiful dark skinned hostess, who wheeled around the drinks with precision and skill. 


"All drinks are on the house courtesy of the master of the High Stakes..." he smiled. 


There were six other people at the green table, but first off...


There were also five men. Well dressed. Very well dressed. But nothing could detract from the fact these guys were guns for hire. Not your regular thugs either. For a venue like this, with money like this, these guys would be nothing but elite ex special forces. They were big men, fit men, but not stupid either, with eyes like hawks. 


And one of the men was giving everyone a rub down for weapons as they came up the stairs to the top table. 

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"Well you'll just have to excuse this one his little bit of social injustice on this occasion.  As we apparently are living in an ideal world.  The drinks are apparently free"  'Peter' winked before reaching over and taking a vodka martini of his own.  Avoiding taking an immediate sip.  Planning on milking the sole beverage as long as he could.


"I have no complaints to raise about the ambiance.  And all it's various...sights.  But, that's not why I'm here.  Of course, I didn't come to play.  No madam, I came to win."  'Peter' began to scan the room once more as the thin man's explanation ran on.  Taking note of the mandatory massage coming their way soon.  Well, let's see how long we can avoid getting into too much trouble.  Push come to shove, I'll say it's a walking stick.  The fake card shark prepared himself to put actual sleight of hand into application.


Out of the corner of his eye 'Peter' caught on to the sight of an all too familiar acquaintance.  Even if they hadn't worked together before, it would have been hard to not recognize her for a hero operating in the Southside.  You'd be hard pressed to have a better attorney on retainer when avoiding a hail of mafia gunfire.  And in his case worse pressed to try and keep up an act when it came to.  I'll make sure to avoid Miss hollywood glasses for now.  Might as well see if we're playing up the same angle, when there aren't too many prying eyes.


Soon the thugs came 'Peter's' way for the aggressive pat down.  "Make sure to buy a guy dinner first next time." His quips were merely a means for misdirection as the hired guns sneered in response.  When they were satisfied with their findings, he raised his glass taking a sip.  "I suppose sitting is in order."

Edited by HG Morrison
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"I have no complaints to raise about the ambiance.  And all it's various...sights.  But, that's not why I'm here.  Of course, I didn't come to play.  No madam, I came to win."


'Lynda' smiled and raised her glass in salute. "As did I." There were two more arrivals; a pale-skinned skank in a black dress that must have come in a freaking bottle, and a rather charming-looking rogue with a bit of swagger in his step.


The competition continues to get more and more interesting.


When the pat down began, Lynn knew she had nothing to fear; she never carried weapons, and the only things in her tiny clutch was a wallet (all cards and IDs fake), lip gloss, mascara, a travel pack of tissues and a pack of sugar-free gum. Oh, and a crisp fresh strap of fifty dollar bills. As her goon approached, she tilted her head slightly and gave him a steady glare.


"Better watch those hands, boy; this kitty has nasty claws."


The pile of muscle looked at her impassively as he did his work with robotic efficiency; when he was done, she cleared her throat and found the gaze of the thin man.


"Where do I purchase my chips?" She pulled the bundle of bills out her clutch. "I'd like five thousand."

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'Ricardo' simply raised his arms and chuckled. "Alright, alright boys. Go ahead. We both know I would never sully such a fine suit with something as ugly as a gun." When they finished searching him, he stepped over to get a drink.


"Scotch on the rocks. Good stuff if you'll give it up, but I'm not picky." He said, grabbing a highball glass of the stuff. He walked over to the rest of them. "Ladies, gentlemen, nice to meet you all. No worries, no hard feelings. This is gonna be a hell of a night, win or lose." He gave a mischievous grin. "Let's make this interesting."


He was planning on buying his chips as soon as he knew how. He'd never been in a gambling institution like this one, but he did have a certain amount of skill at games like this.

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Lucy never did see the need to carry weapons instead she tended to improvise as need, she couldn’t help but eye up the playing table as a possible weapon if things got too hairy.

“If you hand are going to wander too far I insist on dinner and a drink first.†she gave the guard a smile as she raised her arms to submit to the search.


Having submitted to the search Lucy went to gather up the necessary chip for what was apparent a high stakes games. She been in one or two in the past and whilst wasn’t brilliant she had always had a pretty decent bluff, came with the territory.

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The thin man studied all four carefully, with the very faintest of deference. 


"Peter Kranivisky...." he nodded to Foreshadow. 


"Lynda Reynolds, Enchante..." he said, kissing the hand of Grimalkin. 


"Monsieru...Ricardo...." he said, with a hint of disdain at Graft. 


"And Madame Harker, delighted..." he said, gaily holding Revenants hand limply, but not kissing her. 


Please allow me to introduce the other four members of our little game...


"Monsieur Abola, from Africa, I understand he is new to the world of gambling, but he has put a very high stake in tonights event". The man was a large, muscular man, with dark skin and dark eyes, taking in everything around him. He looked like a panther holding cards. He was dressed in an all black number, with his shirt undone and a gold medallion. 


"Madame Yi, from China. Unfortunately not fluent in English, but I understand an uncanny woman with the cards" he said. Ms.Yi was a tiny old woman, with razor sharp eyes and a slight tremor that revealed some tattoos on her arm, covered by a silk gown.  She looked quietly confident and very demure, giving a polite nod to the four heroes. 


"Monsieur Card. An appropriate and dubious name" he said with some disdain, introducing a large man with a white jacket and black tie. He was in excellent shape and had a hard, cold stare. A hint of a tattoo on his neck, and a shaved head with one or two scars. "Mr Card" had seen action. 


"And lastly, Monsieur Lock" he said, happily introducing a handsome man in his late fifities, extremely well dressed and elegant, with a winning smile and grey hair. Mr. Lock gave nothing away but politeness. 


"Please have a glass of wine on the house. A most excellent vintage I hear!" said the thin man, snapping his fingers at the lovely bartender, who smiled and brought out what seemed to be a very old, expensive bottle of red. 


"Also please note we have now scrambled the radiowaves of this area. A precaution, you understand, to avoid subterfuge and cheating..."

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Madam Yi and Monsieur Card as they were supposed named instantly caught 'Peter's' attention.  Both were dangerous for very different reasons.  And both gave further hint to just the sort of company being kept at the event.  There was also the doctor, or Ricardo as he was going by.  It had been some time since Carnival, but he rarely forgot a face.  It raised more than its share of questions.  But none that would be safe to approach in this environment.  After all, the bar that they had met back in Brazil wasn't exactly on the up and up.  


As if their current situation was a far cry from Rio.  The fact that their spindly host wasn't too keen on entertaining the lady lawyer's attention also furthered went on to reinforce just how big of a fan their host was at avoiding the long arm of the law.  It meant just like Yi and Card, the others were probably enrolled in their share of criminal enterprises.  With the obvious exception of Lucy of course.  The option of letting Dr. Sin's associate believe he didn't speak the language was there.  But, it wouldn't go as far as trying to play the carefree card.  


"Hello, It's good to meet you all.  Let's enjoy ourselves tonight.  Make a few bad decisions.  And make me just a tad bit richer in the process"  So he coyly teased his way into an introduction with Yin as well.  <Mandarin>"Pleasure to make your acquaintance.  Let's not let a little thing like language stop me from running away with your money."</Mandarin>  Flashing a smile at the rest of the table immediately afterwards.


"Oh, let's have a look see at that wine then.  Quaint little chateau.  I won a bottle of this in an underground game against Charlize Thoreaux.  Mmm French card player, funded by the comforts of being an heiress, legs that went on for miles that one.  Exquisite creature that she is, comparatively this wine is nothing short of divine.  It's really quite fascinating how long the grapes were kept to bleed out."  

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'Ricardo' ignored the man's obvious disdain. He was used to those kinds of looks from people. Tyrone had no shame in himself. He earned everything he had, and he was doing his best to make the world a better place. He simply shrugged and ordered a steak. Strip steak, his favorite cut, medium rare. He didn't know his wines, but he did know meat.


"I gotta say." He said. "This steak is exquisite, folks, just exquisite." He grinned and shrugged. "The company isn't bad, either." He said with a nod to the ladies. "'Course, we're all going to turn into sharks once the gaming begins, but what can you do?" He neatly ate another piece of steak. "I have no idea what you just said, but it looks like good wine to me."

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Once 'Lynda' got her rack of chips from the cashier, she happily accepted a glass of the red; it was quite good, but she didn't know too much about wine, especially not the treyf stuff. Maybe she should have passed, but Lynn tended to get a bit sloppy when it came to drinking.


After all, you gotta have something to atone for on Yom Kippur!


The rest of the gamblers were indeed very interesting, though she was only familiar with two of them, and one rather indirectly. She raised her glass to Mr Abola and did her best to acknowledge him with a glance and a tilt of her head, but was unsure if he got >her message.


And our Mr. Kranivisky knows Mandarin; that is very interesting! Maybe he works for the Triads? If so, he probably knows Cantonese, too. Now me, I'm not gonna let on about my Gift of Tongues. Not yet, at least.


While all this was going on inside her head, 'Lynda' for her part looked rather bored as she took a seat next to Mr Lock. "I don't eat before I play poker; I like to stay hungry."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lucy couldn’t taste the wine to be able to identify it’s form, beside normally she didn’t drink wine, so she politely sipped the drink whilst trying to get a reading on her fellow gamblers. In her younger days she moved with some of the more important people of the city, admittedly doing something that was at the time illegal, but now she spent a lot of time on the street meeting a wide range of people from different places. So no one here was really from any circles she currently travelled, though she’d be surprised if she was the only hero here.


She took a stance of a bored socialite waiting for things to finally happen, something she saw a lot back in the day, mostly as a way of saying look at me I’m pretty and important.

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"Ladies and Gentlemen, if you would take your seats, we will commence play. The rules are Texas Hold 'Em, Five Cards. We will play in three stages. Each stage will have raised stakes. You have the option to buy in at later stages"


The thin man spoke in thin, precise tones. 


A number of playing card packs, preshuffled, were available in wrapping. Each round would use a new pack. It seemed that cheating was going to be tough, if not impossible. 


The dealing went clockwise: Peter Kranivisky (Foreshadow), Lynda Reynold (Grimalkin), "Ricardo" (Graft), and Lucy Harker (Revenant), followed by the four gamblers already there, "Monsieur Abola", "Madame Yi", "Mr Card", and "Mr. Lock"


The first pack of cards was given, gently, to "Peter Kravinsky". 


Mr. Lock raised an eyebrow at "Peter" and gave an amused smile. 


"Nice of you to join, us Peter. I remember playing you in Saudi Arabia with the Prince. Took him for some serious money, if I remember...and I think I remember you well..." he said with a blank face and blank smile. 

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Well this is a fine mess.  'Peter' knew a bad situation when it was sitting on his face.  Someone apparently knew the real deal.  Or rather they thought they did.  Bluffing started long before the cards hit the table.  And this would have to be no different.  "I don't know what you think you remember.  I can't be bothered to keep track of every person whose money I've taken.  Prince or not.  Let's see if we can make your losses more memorable this time around."


His own expression remaining resolute in his resolve to appear calm.  Lock had yet to openly make the accusation.  But between the two men it was palpable enough.  Claiming his own memory of the event as murky served a purpose on its own.  Lock needn't doubt that he played against someone on that day.  Just that the other person wasn't the real Peter.

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To be honest, Grim was not a great poker player; sure, she knew the basic rules, but the finer aspects of probability were far behind her rudimentary math skills. But she did know a lot about BS; her father used to play every Friday night with a bunch of guys from work, and sometimes she would hang around the edge of the group, watching the men's faces and listening with delight to their cussing and playful banter. Her father told her a bit about strategy and tells, but mostly she looked at the men's eyes and listened to the tone of their voices, because that's where you could see the truth.

Now all these years later, her BS meter was a well-honed tool; despite her time in college, her knowledge of psychology was still fairly fundamental, but she knew a nervous fidget when she saw one. Of course, now she also had a few other weapons at her disposal; the force of her personality and the intensity of her gaze were nothing to sneeze at, but then she let her mink stole slide off her pale shoulders and turned her smile up to five thousand watts...

That's right, boys; take a good look and see if you can focus on my tells!

Edited by Heritage
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It had been a while but Lucy had played a little card back in the 20’s, though she was more of a whist player, the old lawyers like to show of their prowess with the cards whilst smoking big cigars and drinking whiskey (despite the fact it was illegal at the time). She use to enjoy soundly beating them then and it seemed that things hadn’t change much in the last ninety years.


the only danger was that everyone was looking at each other for all those little tells, and in such scrutiny it wouldn’t be long until people started to notice important things. Like the fact that se didn’t blink or even breath. It was difficult to fake such things and concentrate on the game at the same time.

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