The Boys are in Town and the Chips are Down

Somewhere in the back of his mind Gladstone was aware that he had at one time had a very serious threat made against something precious to him.  Namely his own personal self, he had been told in no uncertain terms that if he ever returned to Las Vegas that there wouldn't be enough of him left to ship home in a champagne flute. 

 

But... somehow he was here.  He stared out at the skyline from his high roller suite.  SHUSH had pulled some strings to get him diplomatic immunity (so to speak) and now... well, he was here, in one piece, no nutrabullet or champagne flute in sight, and it was weird.  Jacob had given him the broad strokes of what the plan was over the phone but insisted that they meet here to go over the specifics.  Jacob had called him. HIM. To help. Gosh.  Something about a poker game... well, specifically winning a poker game. It only made sense that he'd been tapped to help. He was unstoppable in his element, and boy was this ever his element.   But even still, he was nervous.  The last time he'd been here hadn't been great toward the end, what with the threats, and the last adventure he'd gone on with Agent Mallard had left him... well... he wouldn't like to repeat the last leg of that little trip anytime soon. Not to mention that temptation and Vegas went hand in hand. And with a good thing waiting for him back in St. Canard he was feeling the pressure.  He was going to have his work cut out for him to behave himself and not fall back into old habits.

 

Now... all he needed was Jacob to show up-he self consciously fixed his cravat- and for even a hint of the no doubt sexy international intrigue he was about to be tossed into.

 

But hopefully not too sexy.  He put his hand to his forehead.  Oh.. he was screwed.

 

    • DarkwingPsycho
      DarkwingPsycho

      There was the sound of the keycard beeping open the suite, followed by a knock as the door opened.

      "You here, Lucky?" a familiar growly tenor called into the overlarge room.  The door closed behind the agent as he moved inside.  "I do hope you haven't already drained the bar, I find myself in need of a drink."

      • Gladstone Gander
        Gladstone Gander

        There was a glass offered to him as soon as he came into sight. Bourbon, no ice, just the right amount. The gander that held the drink was dressed to the nines. His usual green replaced with a dark plum that was accented with a black shirt, white cravat, and gold cuff links... but more noticeably he  looked nervous despite the smile on his face.

        "Haven't even started yet. Just got in about twenty minutes ago.  You'd think I was a felon with the honor guard I had to keep me away from the casino floor.  How's uh..." where to start.  "...the stab wound? The leg? The leggy lady who wanted to stab you at Matt's house? A bit of both worlds that one." Stab. Leg. Not in a veiled statement of a literal other world. He was lucky enough not to know about the Negaverse in any way.  Which was just as well with his curiosity. 

        Once the drink was passed off he moved back over to the well stocked personal suite bar and started a concoction for himself. 

         

        • DarkwingPsycho
          DarkwingPsycho

          Jacob, too, was dressed even better than usual in an expensive black suit with a light grey vest, white dress shirt, and black silk tie.  He accepted the drink readily with a grin.  "Ah, I see I didn't catch you unawares."  He downed a mouthful before answering Gladstone's questions.

          "I took care of her," the agent responded smoothly.  "The stab wound is healing into a nice scar, and the leg's about as good as it's going to get.  What about those arms of yours?  I can see you're at least able to fix drinks, which is the important thing."

          • Gladstone Gander
            Gladstone Gander

            The anxiety seemed to drain out of him as Jacob spoke.  It was hard to be nervous when met with such a collected suave companion.  It was like his confidence was infectious. Gladstone shrugged at the inquiry into his own state or at least the state of his mixology. 

            "I do still seem to have the magic touch." He said lightly splashing an amber liquid into a glass for himself and leaning on the bar with both elbows. "I'm a bit of a pushover though, nearly ripped out the stitches a few times on some recent adventures but can't really complain. They'll be real conversation pieces once they heal properly I suppose."  He lifted his eyebrows at Jacob as he drank his own cocktail and once he had swallowed he brandished the glass at the agent warningly. "I'm not sure I'm really interested in adding more to the collection yet though if that's what your asking. Although I'm sure there's plenty of pit bosses who could get real creative with it. I may have made quite an impression on my first, and supposedly last, voyage to the City of Sin.   Yet here I am. And here you are.  Watch out Vegas."

            • DarkwingPsycho
              DarkwingPsycho

              Jacob was curious about Gladstone's other adventures, but there was the task at hand, and they had to prepare.  "Yes, so I've heard," he affirmed with a devilish smirk.  "Which brings me to why I called.  The string of casino thefts seems to be linked somehow to these high stakes poker games being held in the evenings.  The crimes generally occur while the game is taking place, and while there are multiple crossovers, the only player to be present at every single game is one October Amberleigh.  Coincidentally, she has also won every game."  He showed the gander a picture of the female black cat on his SHUSH-issued smartphone.  "We need to tail her, so to speak, and see if she is linked to these robberies.  SHUSH informants believe that there is a crime ring she is a part of or at the very least knows about in relation to all of this."

              He paused to take a drink.  "While my poker skills are passable, I need your certain brand of help to get close to this woman.  She only affiliates with those she deems worthy."  His eyes glittered as he smirked boyishly.  "We'll just have to show her how worthy we are."

              • Gladstone Gander
                Gladstone Gander

                He took in the feline's picture with open interest, although winced at the sight of her.

                 

                “Black cat.” He observed with a weak smile. “Bad luck.” But he didn’t interrupt any further, opting to let the Agent finish his explanation.  

                 

                “’Worthy’ is it? Well, I think there’s a heaping helping of humble pie about to be served to Ms. Amberleigh.  I wonder if she’s cheating?” He sounded thoughtful but grinned taking another drink. “Not that it matters, my luck is particularly impressive to cheaters. Well, maybe not impressive to them, probably another ‘I’ word, ‘irritating’ possibly.” Or “infuriating” or “insufferable” or “I am going to kill this pompous little-“. 

                 

                “And a possible crime ring? This is sounding more and more like a rat pack jaunt. I approve, so it doesn’t end with us having to break into the vault and crashing a helicopter into the mock up Eiffel Tower out there-“ he nodded toward the sprawling, glowing, view outside. “-I might consider this a dull evening. So you’re probably going to be packing heat, are there other SHUSH guys around in case things go South? Or are we on our own?  Because… I’m not-“ He absently rubbed a spot near his heart. “-terribly fond of guns myself. Never shot one, wouldn’t like to start.”

                 

                Most likely  a terribly naive thing to say to veteran spy who had to dirty his hands regularly, but Gladstone was a civilian, regardless of the crazy things he’d done or  survived, he was still very much a civilian.   He’d like to keep it that way.  He’d already done enough he couldn’t take back he didn’t want to add shooting people or at people to the list.

                 

                “I’d probably be a crack shot too…” he muttered more to himself in his momentary disconnect from the situation.  The thought somehow made the idea seem even worse.

                • DarkwingPsycho
                  DarkwingPsycho

                  "It's just you and me, Lucky.  But don't worry, I've got plenty of 'heat' for both of us."  He smirked suggestively.  "What about a knife?  Any good with that, just in case?"

                  He finished off the rest of the bourbon in one gulp and placed the glass on the bar top.  "Game starts at 7 sharp.  We've got a couple of hours to kill...wanna check out the showgirls downstairs?"

                  • Gladstone Gander
                    Gladstone Gander

                    "I cut a mean portion of steak? Small enough not to choke?" He flashed an apologetic grin. "Not exactly a weapons kinda guy but... I guess I could take a knife?"

                    At the mention of showgirls he started nodding automatically. 

                    "I think that's a very solid plan. Although..." he tapped his fingertips together as if weighing the words to come next. "-I'm kind of seeing someone, and while the 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' thing looks good on billboards I am not good at keeping secrets. So I can talk you up and send them your way Double O, you're heartbroken I'm sure." he snorted suddenly and waved a dismissive hand. "Like you need any help who am I kidding?  Jacob Mallard is his own hype man."   

                    • DarkwingPsycho
                      DarkwingPsycho

                      "Here."  Jacob handed the other man a switchblade.  "Not that I think you'll need it, but it never hurts to be prepared."

                      At Gladstone's confession, he raised a brow.  "Are you, now?  And who's the lucky lady?"  He neglected to mention that he was, in fact, seeing someone, too.  Seeing her pretty regularly at that.

                      He clapped the gander on the back and started leading him toward the door so that they could make the show.

                      • Gladstone Gander
                        Gladstone Gander

                        He took the switchblade and started patting himself down trying to figure out where to stash it and laughed a little nervously at the topic of conversation.  The blade was secreted away in the cuff of a spat and he jumped slightly as the hand collided with him but allowed himself to be lead.

                        "Well uh... you know her." He froze for a moment completely forgetting to walk. What  a horrifying notion. Jacob was so smooth, so nonchalant with the ladies what if he and Lilly... no, he shook his head regaining himself. No, that wasn't.. well. It was unlikely. Probably. Hopefully? Oh god. Start talking again, and walking.  He did both. "I mean, it's, that is she's... Lilly Teal? Matthew Halden's niece. You haven't-" he lapsed into embarrassed silence. "I mean, not that it matters but... I mean you being you and she works at the Coatl." Where you seem to make the rounds pretty easily. 

                        But would Lilly fall for a charming, sophisticated, well dressed, confident... older... man...

                        "...I'm freaking myself out. Can you just tell me if you and her have ever... because it's giving me performance anxiety and she's over a thousand miles away." 

                        • DarkwingPsycho
                          DarkwingPsycho

                          They were almost to the elevator when Gladstone suddenly stopped walking.  At the expression on his face, Jacob could only surmise what the other man was thinking.  It was a pretty amusing expression, soon explained by his follow-up statements.  Jacob smirked.

                          "Ah yes, Lilly," he replied nonchalantly, pressing the button to call for the elevator.  "A lovely girl in more ways than one..."  He let that statement hang ominously in the air in an attempt to mess further with Gladstone's head.  It was obvious from his apparent nerves that Gladstone was very much in love with her.

                          In truth, it had crossed his mind to seduce her to further his aims, but he hadn't really needed to.  That plan all but fell away after she had introduced him to Matthew...Iron Hook.  She had been too innocent and naïve, really, to pick up on his advances, anyway.  And he still had what he had wanted in the first place - 24/7 access to the portal to the Negaverse.

                          None of that was relayed to Gladstone, however, it was all considered in the span of seconds.

                          "Would it make a difference, my boy, if we had?" he asked with amused curiosity.  "Would that change anything about how you see her?"

                          • Gladstone Gander
                            Gladstone Gander

                            The statement that drifted into the abyss slid down his spine like an ice cube, no too small, a glacier. His eyes were fixed on the lit up little button, not trusting himself to look at his companion. The very strong urge to find a brown paper bag and hyperventilate into it in a corner for the foreseeable future came over him. What had he been asked?

                            "I mean..." Was the tightness and panic in his chest a yes?  But no, that was about Jacob. That was about trying to imagine how high the bar had been set. He tried to sort through it all, but Lilly.  Oh maybe the tightness in his chest was because he had forgotten to breathe. He did so now and shook his head. "No. Does that make me a sap?" He glanced at the older and more experienced man. "Kinda got my self all tangled up over this one." 

                            How tall was this casino anyway? This elevator was taking forever.  His fingers slid around the phone in his pocket, maybe Lilly would still be awake... the moment Jacob wasn't looking he'd calmly flood her inbox with messages of varying levels of inquisitive panic.

                            • DarkwingPsycho
                              DarkwingPsycho

                              Finally the elevator opened and they moved inside, thankfully the only ones on board.  At least for the time being.

                              Jacob chuckled, unable to help himself at Gladstone's clear awkwardness, and nudged him.  "No, Lucky, she and I were never a thing.  I don't think I'm her type."  He winked, deciding to throw the other man a bone.  "But just because that's true, don't think I won't hunt you down and string you up by your entrails if you hurt her."  This was said with a spark in his black eyes and a small smirk, but there was also a seriousness there too, however remote.

                              It was at that moment that two hotel guests, also dressed up, entered the elevator.

                              • Gladstone Gander
                                Gladstone Gander

                                The nudge rocked him like a forceful blow, he was feeling a little off balance until the truth came into place, he hadn't even noticed how stiff his shoulders had become until they relaxed.  Ah, he slid his hand over his eyes feeling himself going  a little pink in the face. He was such a chump.  The threat didn't even seem to phase him. The new additions entered the elevator at this point. 

                                "Get in line." he chuckled to himself. "I'll help you find a ladder if there's anything left of me after Halden gets through with me." He considered this for a moment. "Although I don't really want to hurt her, I never mean to hurt anyone though so..." He shrugged and seemed to regain his composure allowing the other occupants a chance to see his face. They blanched at the sight of him. Gladstone held up his hands quickly. "I'm not going to play on the main floor it's all you! Woodchuck's honor!" They eyed him suspiciously. "...You can even rub my head for luck if you want." Why did he, ugh, all he could do was wince as the two occupants set to work destroying his carefully coiffed hair in their enthusiasm.

                                As he was assaulted his eyes slid to Jacob and he shrugged defeated.

                                "How about you, you never seem to have a shortage of eager adoration directed at you.  Any particular one of the many make your heart beat faster?" 

                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                  Jacob nodded at Gladstone's confession that he'd never mean to hurt anyone, and even in their short time of knowing one another, the agent knew that to be true.  Gladstone wasn't the type to be malicious.

                                  He chuckled at the display of folks completely mussing the gander's hair, then the smile faded at the question.  Instead, the elder mallard put on an unreadable expression of nonchalance.  "What can I say, Lucky?  You know me.  String of broken hearts and all that."  He shrugged, not really offering much else.

                                  "Come on, we're in Vegas!  Let's enjoy it while we can..."  He clapped Gladstone on the back again and led him out of the elevator and away from the handsy passengers.

                                  Two hours later and multiple drinks later, it was time for the poker game.  They were a ways off from where it was being held, and Jacob was going over a few of the details.  "I'm going to be around, but scouting for anything suspicious.  You can hear on the wire okay?"

                                  • Gladstone Gander
                                    Gladstone Gander

                                    Gladstone had managed to get his hair back under control.  In fact in typical Gladstone fashion it looked even better now than it had when he'd really tried.  And for a weird twist the fact that he'd been trying to behave himself had made him irresistible to the opposite sex. His pockets were so chock full of showgirl's numbers he was almost tempted to dump them in the nearest garbage can.  But that would just be rude. 

                                    "Wire. Yes. Loud and clear." He tapped his ear lightly but his eyes lit up and he suddenly  bounced from foot to foot excitedly. "Are we using code names? AM I GETTING A CODE NAME?" 

                                     

                                     

                                    • DarkwingPsycho
                                      DarkwingPsycho

                                      Jacob chuckled.  "Do you want a code name?  It's just the two of us, you know.  You're not unfamiliar here, so we can't give you an alias, per se.  Now, give me a phrase to indicate that I should pull you out if things go south."

                                      • Gladstone Gander
                                        Gladstone Gander

                                        "I would like a codename." He said firmly but seemed to consider the phrase question. "...how about 'Poker, but I don't even know her!'"

                                         

                                        In the near distance a hogfaced man, one familiar from Jacob's briefing dossier as an owner of this casino, Jermaine Swinestern,  held open a door for a glamourous cat woman, her black fur sleek and shiny against the golden dress that clung to her like a glove.  It was their mark, Gladstone was too interested in the espionage to notice her.  The goose patted his own chest excitedly.

                                        "Can I be Emerald City or NO! NO!  Green Leader! Ah! Wait-" a few gamblers looked up from their slot machines at the scene the gander was making.

                                        • DarkwingPsycho
                                          DarkwingPsycho

                                          "Sssh," Jacob said gently with a grin.  "Okay, that phrase will do provided you're not trying to entertain the table.  Our mark just showed up, so look alive Envyman."  It was a play on "everyman," and Jacob thought himself clever.  He was already guiding Gladstone away with a gentle push.

                                          "I'll be in the wings.  Counting on you here."

                                          • Gladstone Gander
                                            Gladstone Gander

                                            Gladstone finally realized he was drawing attention and then nodded with a bit of a showy wink.

                                            “Nice, got it. Love it. I won’t let you down I’ll-“

                                            “Mr. Gander, please follow me this way we’ve been expecting you.” Swinestern motioned to the pair and gave Jacob a respectful nod. As the mallard neared he whispered to the agent. “I hope that everything is in place, I’d hate for my casino to meet the fate of the others.” With empty coffers and lots of questions.

                                            The gander clapped the two of them on the shoulders roughly.

                                            “Don’t you worry about a thing chief. This guy’s the best of the best. He's your ace in the hole. AH!” he snapped and pointed at Jacob. “That’s yours: ‘Ace in the Hole’.” He let out a suggestive little laugh. “This is fun isn’t it?” Before any response was given the grinning gander was gently pushed toward the door by the owner as the hog wore a concerned frown. Gladstone was whisked inside the private room by a lithe, elegantly dressed female handler who was shadowed by a  burly looking security guard.

                                             

                                            “You’re sure about this? You’ve basically just brought a nuclear weapon into my establishment. I just want to know that-“ Jermaine sent a quick look around. “-SHUSH knows what they’re doing.” He covertly offered Jacob an unlimited access swipe card masked as a handshake.

                                            • DarkwingPsycho
                                              DarkwingPsycho

                                              Jacob was about to respond to the hog when Gladstone replied for him.  He only smirked at the other man's jovial enthusiasm.  When Gladstone had been taken into the room, Jacob gave Jermaine a reassuring expression.  "I'm sure.  He's the best chance we've got."

                                              He accepted the card and surreptitiously slid it up his sleeve once the handshake was completed.  "I'm going to do a quick sweep of things.  I don't mean to imply your security is inadequate, but...well..."  That was exactly what he was implying.

                                              • Gladstone Gander
                                                Gladstone Gander

                                                Jermaine nodded grimly.  Let him try to find the weaknesses in his security.  He was confident it was strong but so were the other casino owners and… well they were left with a mess on their hands. It all was down to his own establishment and Cassidy Pierce’s Silver Horseshoe and the fact that SHUSH and… that particular person… was here instead of there was enough to know that Cassidy’s casino was probably safe for tonight. If he had to suffer the anxiety of the living embodiment of luck in his gambling halls having SHUSH go over his security with a fine toothed comb seemed the only perk.

                                                “I’m sure you’re familiar with the layout? You’ve been… briefed or whatever you people call it.”

                                                 

                                                Gladstone tried to turn his head to see what was happening with Jacob as he was ushered away but couldn’t see much before the doors closed behind him. This was nothing compared to what was infront of him. The space wasn’t huge but, goodness if it wasn’t swanky.  There was a spacious poker table in the center of the room with green crushed velvet chairs surrounding it. A stone faced dealer sat in the center seat, a massive amount of chips piled in four neat corners of the table. The starting cash was set at a miniscule two hundred thousand dollars he’d been told and seeing the relatively small stack of chips sitting at each chair was surreal.  While being the luckiest person in the world would lead one to think that the sum of money he’d be gambling with would have no effect on him that was a mistake for those who didn’t know the gander. Gladstone’s luck normally applied in small sums over a span of time, twenty dollars there, maybe a thousand here and there, mostly it was raffles or physical prizes.  The most he’d ever accrued and was allowed to keep was to the tune of twenty thousand at a rinky dink casino on some island somewhere in the Pacific. But… Two Hundred… THOUSAND.  He felt very thirsty all of a sudden.


                                                “May I get you a drink Mr. Gander?” asked his picturesque handler.

                                                “Sure, uh… whiskey ginger. ….please.” He glanced around at the only other people in the room and was startled to find one of them closing in on him.

                                                A trim egret jabbed a finger into his chest harshly.

                                                “I know who you are!” He fumed. “You’re Gladstone Gander!” Another poke. “What the devil are you doing here?! I demand to speak to Swinestern this INSTANT!”

                                                “What’s the matter?” Gladstone smirked lightly as he fought the urge to smack the hand away before it prodded him again. “Afraid you’re going to lose?”

                                                “I’m not some kind of –“

                                                An arm looped through Gladstone’s and he stiffened as a wave of flowery perfume washed over him and a tender purr rattled from the warm body pressed to his side.

                                                “So you’re the infamous, unbeatable, and devilishly handsome Gladstone Gander?” The feline was staring at him with predatory interest.  “Well, I can confirm at least one of those claims already.  I like your hair.”

                                                “Oh… well. Thank you.” He tried not to notice the silken shimmer of her black fur and how green her keen eyes were. “Guilty as charged Ms.?”

                                                “October. October Amberleigh.”

                                                “Ms. October?” He smirked as his eyebrows raised lightly. “Is that a name or bullet point on a resume?”

                                                She laughed and pulled him toward the table.

                                                “Oh you’re funny too? I like you, you’re going to sit next to me G, you’re name is too long, you don’t mind if I call you G do you?”

                                                “I’ve been called worse.”

                                                “Well, sit down here Gman, and we’ll see if you can go toe to toe with me.” She sat in one of the plush chairs, shaking out her shoulder length hair, sending the opal earrings along her ears sparkling. “And who knows, you might even get luckier than you think tonight.” She lifted an eyebrow and took the cocktail his handler had presented him, taking a long drink for herself.

                                                Gladstone felt the code words form in his mouth, he needed extraction to save him from himself.  He just hoped that Jacob could hear this, wherever he was. This was going to be a long, interesting night.

                                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                                  Jacob smirked as he moved carelessly through the casino as if he were just another security guard.  Gladstone was making out great so far.  "Keep it up, kid," he muttered, sliding the card to gain access to one of the back server rooms.

                                                  He'd blown off the casino owner with assurances that yes, he HAD been "briefed or whatever."  He at least knew the important bits, which was all he ever really bothered to look over.  He was now standing in front of the panels depicting the security footage all over the casino, and he was watching for anything suspicious.

                                                  • Gladstone Gander
                                                    Gladstone Gander

                                                    He nearly jumped at the agent’s voice in his ear, forgetting that these things worked both ways but somehow he maintained his composure, which was great as October was staring him down. Gladstone took the seat he'd been lead to.  The woman who had brought his recently stolen drink returned with  another which he reached out to take but was too slow to stop the feline from snatching that one as well.   He blinked slowly at her before he shook his head.

                                                    “Thirsty? Or are you hoping I’ll try to take them back from you?”

                                                    “Maybe both.” She flashed him a lovely smile filled with pointed teeth.

                                                    “Well,” He leaned in waving her in closer she met him halfway her eyes admiring his openly. “-I’m not really that parched.  You can keep them.”  Gladstone settled back in his seat busying himself with becoming familiar with the denominations of the chips and trying to ignore the loud purring that had started from the seat beside him.

                                                    “You’re such a tease.” She didn’t sound upset. “Am I just going to have to dazzle you with my poker skills to chip through that little shell of yours birdie?”

                                                    “The only chips I’m interested in are piled up infront of you.” 

                                                    “Are you playing hard to get with me?” October slid a paw across his shoulders. “Because I like a challenge.”

                                                     

                                                    Speaking of challenges, there was so much activity in the casino there were so many things to distract anyone trying to keep an eye on the security monitors. There was a fight going on at a blackjack table between two down on their luck drunks. An eager couple putting on quite a show in what they thought was a remote private corner of the parking garage.  Even a bit of a catfight going on between several of the showgirls that they’d encountered earlier.  And so on and so on.  It was so active that anyone looking for something out of the ordinary was going to be hard pressed to find something that WASN’T weird.  Except… except for one screen that was completely unremarkable. A lone figure was sitting at a slot machine near the stairwell doors, playing only when someone official walked by.  Clearly a female but any other features were hidden by a lightweight coat and a mass of curly hair.  Not suspicious per se, but strange compared to how unremarkable it was. Lucky he had even noticed her at all really.

                                                    • DarkwingPsycho
                                                      DarkwingPsycho

                                                      Luck had nothing to do with it...right?  He was totally just that good...

                                                      He didn't bother with explanations or why he was particularly interested in that woman, but he did keep coming back to her after reviewing the rest of the feed.  Something felt...off about her.  Especially the way she was and was not playing the slot machine.  Was she timing the security rounds?  Or was it just happenstance that she pulled the lever when she did?  Unlikely...

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