2010-06-15: High Stakes

Starring:

Maggie_V5icon.pngAdam_V5icon.pngColi_V5icon.pngIvory_V5icon.pngStefano_V5icon.png

Date: June 15th, 2010

Summary:

Some people join an illegal high stakes poker game to win cash; some join to find a missing girl. It doesn't look like either party is going to get exactly what they want.


"High Stakes"

NYPD

"Sarah Grace Carson, age twenty-three."

At the NYPD precinct, Detective Maggie Powers addresses a few of her peers and colleagues in the bullpen, gesturing now and then to information spread out on a board behind her as she goes over what they know — because today is an important day for this case.

"She's from Missouri and so far we don't know why she's in New York, but we know she's missing, and we know she's hurt," the detective goes on, authority mixed with concern. Time's running out for Sarah Grace Carson; it might already be gone. "The restaurant that matches this logo is clean, but we know it's connected to Sarah, and by proxy, our victim, John Voorhees. Unfortunately for us, the owner is out of the country. Fortunately, though, we know he's connected to the Takahashis."

Maggie holds up what looks like a playing card, Four of Diamonds, with a colorful rooster on the back. "Thanks to our witness who escaped the Irish gang, we know this card is a ticket — to a Japanese gambling parlor that moves around Chinatown. These cards are expensive, and they're hard to get, so that means serious gamblers and very desperate people only— most likely Sarah was the latter. They're so valuable they count as a half the buy-in. They're fitted with security measures; the parlors probably have a scanner kind of like what's used to check money to tell if it's counterfeit."

She turns, pointing one finger onto a map behind her where an address has been circled in red. "The next games are tonight on 4 Elizabeth Street — across from Diamond Queen Incorporated." Beside the map is a grainy security camera photo of a Japanese businessman, and the now-familiar Takahashi symbol. "We're looking for this man— and anyone with this symbol as a tattoo. Since we already have a ticket…"

4 Elizabeth Street — Chinatown, NYC

The building could be any little building squeezed between neighbours in Chinatown. An unlocked door leads to a narrow, claustrophobic upwards stairwell, its walls battered, dirty, and sprayed with fading, outdated graffiti, and leading to a small door. 4 Elizabeth Street doesn't look like a high stakes gambling parlor. It doesn't look like much, except decidedly shady.

But inside, past that door, is a bouncer, with a certain high-tech machine and a discerning eye. And past him…

The class of the place ups considerably. It could be a restaurant; maybe it was, once. It could be a club. Tables surrounded by chairs are spread out everywhere, almost all of them full. Rife with red and black, from the swirling design on the rug beneath patrons' feet, to the dark walls and their art, to the velvety red drapery and the matching outfits of servers — every one of them female, Asian, and pretty as can be in their short satin dresses. Low voices create a hum, peaking every now and then with a laugh or its opposite— a shout when a game gets out of hand and tempers flare.

One table, just left of center, still has a couple of empty seats, what looks like the set-up of a poker game in the making yet to start.

The clicking of heels, dark red heels can be heard as the woman in them strides into the place. Dressed in a gold dress that ends mid thigh with a pair of black leggings underneath. Coli is dressed for work and she openly grins as she surveys the place.

Light brown eyes look at everyone as she looks for a chair to sit in. The private investigator is trying to stay mysterious but standing out with her outfit. You have to look cute right?

"Who wants to rub me down?" she asks with a tilt of her head and a raised eyebrow. She looks at the bodyguards and then allows them to 'check' her. Then with a snort she makes her way to the nearly empty table. Eyes alight with excitement. She takes a seat and crosses her legs at the knee. "Gentlemen." She says and leans forward with a bright smile. "Which one of you have the biggest balls, huh?" a chuckle escaping the young woman.

Black and red isn't just on the walls and carpet and servers — it's also on Adam Monroe. Where there's a high-stakes anything involving the Takahashis, Adam's pretty much involved or around in some capacity. A black Italian suit, a red silk shirt unbuttoned and without a tie, black wingtips…it's all his normal dress really, color coordinated for tonight's poker game. Some people may bother with shades for their poker game; Adam and his centuries of poker experience don't require them to keep a straight face.

Laid out on the table in front of Adam is the 'ticket' card and a stack of chips as well, already bought into the game. He's twirling a chip over and over in his fingers watching and waiting for the game to begin. A martini sits well within reach on the table, half-consumed, but forgotten as he checks out Coli, refraining from replying for the moment.

Before…

"Count it again." The voice belongs to a one Ivory Wynn. He's currently standing in a room that doesn't look like much, but it sure as hell doesn't need to, considering the suitcase that's on the table and the stacks of Hundred Dollar Bills that are in and around the suitcase. A couple of his men are doing the counting and packing thing, whilst Ivory fiddles with his earring. After all, he's going to a high stakes game of something or other and he has to look good. Once the earring is the way he wants it (which doesn't really look any different than the way it was initially, but whatever), Ivory reaches down onto the table in front of him and picks up a playing card: Four of Diamonds. He eyes it for a moment, flips it to reveal Colorful Rooster and then he smiles.

Now…

Having already enthral— dealt with the bouncer (what can I say, the Wynn's likable!), Ivory Wynn is currently making his way to the one table, just left of center, with a smile on his face. He's with two girls, one on each arm, Cookie & Cream: Bodies like Bang! Boom! Pow! Cream is the one carrying the suitcase full of cash, because Cookie is the one that has some klepto issues that still need to be resolved. Also, Cookie is not the race you're thinking of and vice versa for Cream. Just go with it.

"I swear to God, I saw this exact set up in a Robert DeNiro flick one time. Granted, less Asians, more Italians… but I'm tellin' you, same exact set up." Whether he's talking to his women or anybody that's at the table already, it isn't really clear. But maybe it becomes a bit more obnoxious when he throws his Italian impersonation into the mix, "It's like I'm in a freakin' movie, over hea!" Oh dear Lord.

Cookie pulls out Ivory's chair and helps him take a seat, whilst Cream handles the exchanging of cash for chips. Ivory's attention slides over to Coli and he just smirks. "Somebody get her a drink…" Ivory then glances over to where Adam is sitting, "… on his tab." Ivory snaps his fingers at some random Asian worker bee. "And I want what he has." Cream shows up with chips of stackedness and sets them down in front of Mr. Wynn. "Next round's on me, no worries."

"Oh, that'd be Billy Bob over there," Stefano offers, not missing a beat in answering Coli's question. "Everything's bigger in Texas, right?" Lit cigarette still in hand, his cards face-down near the edge of the table, he gestures toward a ten-gallon hat across the table whose gray-mustached owner already stinks of cheap beer and raw nerves. If he's lucky, he'll only get cleaned out within the first hour; if he's not, he might catch a slug to the gut for his trouble as well. The Italian, meanwhile, leans back casually: hardly the match for Adam's stone face, but he's relaxed, confident in his own chances.

As Ivory settles in, he looks up and smirks. "Yeah, if you got anything left by then, Mr. Double or Nothing— if we don't clean you out, your gals will. Speaking of" - here he points out Cookie, who clearly doesn't have enough to keep her occupied - "come over here and gimme a kiss? For good luck."

The remainder of the table is occupied by men who appear very much at home here; they have a stake in the establishment itself, rumour has it. Two Japanese men. One across from the PI, middle-aged, stern-featured, dressed in sharp business attire (though not the man Coli could ID as the one who left Adgency the night of John Voorhees's murder — yet similar enough they could be brothers!). He twirls a dealer's token between his fingers and seethes impatience. The other is younger, seated between Stefano and Adam, hair slicked back, a gold chain around his neck, wearing a wife beater. He very clearly bears the Takahashi tattoo on his wrist.

The parlor's servers are quick to attend to the table's needs. They're also trained enough to eye the women Ivory brought in with suspicion. They had better not be there to help him cheat, or there's going to be trouble.

There's one empty seat left at the table, next to Coli. Convenient, since they're about to get another player.

Across the street, and down a ways, the atmosphere is very different than that of the high stakes poker game. It's dark, with intimacy of a different sort — that of close quarters, with barely enough room to move around functionally in. The back of a police van. It's not marked as such; it could be anyone's, left on the street and looking more or less abandoned.

It is not especially high-tech, but a set-up of audio/video equipment is spread out in the back of the van. Detective Powers touches a device in her ear, cringes for a moment, and promptly gets over whatever offending noise resulted. She doesn't appear to be going undercover tonight: the jeans, loose cotton blouse of washed out blue, holstered weapon obvious, definitely do not say 'I'm rich enough to join a high stakes poker game'. The man across from her, however, wears a nice, but casual, blazer.

Maggie hands him a small mess of wires while he affixes a minuscule object to the button of his shirt; a camera, to go with the covert audio equipment that's being given to him. "Okay, Detective," says Maggie. "Are you ready?"

"Thanks," she levels Ivory with a grin and looks the two women up and down. "But no thanks. Sober tonight." She says as she stretches out and runs a hand through her short hair-do. She's not drinking on the job! When Stefano speaks, a smile is thrown his way. She loves her some white chocolate.

"Hmm.. I'd agree.. I hope you're from Texas." Coli says and then she gets up from her seat when he motions to Cookie and she holds a hand up to the other woman. "I'd like to give him luck, thanks." She winks at Cookie and then leans over, inches from Stefano's face. "Are you gonna take your luck.. or not?" An eyebrow is raised and she winks at the man.

A hand comes up and rests on the table as her head cants. "Or are you gonna disappoint? I'd hate to ask old Billy Bob there." Drinking no.. kissing on the job.. hell yeas.

"Oh good lord…are we here to play poker? Or are we here for some sort of…love game? Dealer, if you'd be so kind?" Adam seems a little impatient at his place at the table. While he certainly can appreciate the view, particularly when Coli bends over to give Stefano a little smooch, he's here to win some dollars, some big bucks, a few cold millions.

Ivory's eyes are cutting this way and that, since there are players at the table. He's just taking a bit of stock in who's around the table and things of that nature. Not that he recognizes any of these faces. He wouldn't. He's been dead until recently, as far as anyone is concerned. But whatever. He still has his own recognizable face, but who's really going to pay that much attention to him? Honestly?

Ivory offers a bit of a shrug. "Make that two for me then!" is tossed at whatever Asian worker bee is still close enough to tend to his needs. Ivory gets himself nice and comfortable in his own seat, whipping out his cell phone and immediately starting to type away at something.

Twitter: Poker Night. High Stakes. Time to get PAAAAIIIIIIID!

The phone is set down on the table and Ivory looks up to his girls. "You girls go mingle. Spread the word about my place. I'm sure somebody in here's gonna' need something better to look at." As his drinks arrive, Ivory grabs one and sips at it. "Too much Lucy Liu is bad for you, y'know what I'm sayin'?" Nobody probably does, but whatever.

Cookie and Cream get ghost. Off into the club to shamelessly plug Ivory's club. Curves Away!

Stefano leans over, just far enough and long enough to give Coli a quick peck, then draws back again. Always leave them wanting more. "Man's got a point," he says afterward, "we got plenty of time for that kind of action later." No cell phone for him; the only visible bulges that have anything to do with technology are his wallet and smokes.

It's then that a new, would-be card player's hand touches the back of the one empty chair: straight out of the police van and into the gambling parlor without a hitch, the young man in the blazer. He's sort of a generic-looking guy; that's probably why he was sent in. "Hey— is this seat taken?" Glancing around and seeing a few impatient looks, he just sits down. "Steve," he offers his (fake) name.

The dealer gives a grunt, eyes the newcomer who fills the last spot, and waits only a few more seconds for everyone to settle down before he does his thing. The game has begun.

"That's Coli Anthony, the PI," Maggie says in the ear of the undercover detective — inaudible to everyone but him. Out in the van, she leans over a computer screen, watching the figures at the poker table bob this way and that as "Steve" gets situated. The sparkle of gold that is Coli, she picked out right away. She's not alone in the van — a couple of other colleagues linger for necessary back-up. Neither of them happen to be anything even vaguely resembling a partner, however.

"Oh quit grumbling." She says to Adam and winks down at Stefano. "Let's make good on that hm?" she then takes her seat and is all business. She's ready to take all of these men's clothes and see just who really does have the bigg- oh wait. Playing for money.. rightttt.

When "Steve" enters and takes his seat, Coli's eyes flash and she dips her head at him. "Good to meet you.. Steve." Yeah.. she knows him. Uh oh, the police are here.. she's not trying to get shot tonight damnit.

The game's on…finally. The dealer slides the cards out to each of the players, two to everyone, then kills a card, then turns three face-up for all to see. With hardly a care in the world, Adam casually lifts the two dealt cards, looking them over, and, then matching whatever the bet is. Then raising. Doubling up. What's he care, afterall. A lopsided grin is put on his face, and he looks the table over again. Bait? Bluff?

Indeed! The game is on! Ivory's in the middle of playing with his phone again, when his cards are dealt to him. His little fingers are fluttering away on his keyboard…

Twitter: And the cards are dealt! I feel like that dude with the bleeding eye! #CasinoRoyale

The phone is dropped back to the table and Ivory peeks at his cards. His expression only changes a bit slightly, before he's throwing chips out to match, raise and double up too! Copycat.com.

"Man, we need some music for this. Anybody got some Luda on they iPod?"

Billy Bob follows the herd. Of course he does, it's what cattle ranchers are trained to do, right? Then Stefano glances at his cards for half a second, and promptly folds: at least one of these guys is probably bluffing, but all three? Bad odds there. Better to lay low and watch for a while, see if anyone manages to slip up.

"Lose the phone," the dealer interrupts with a stern eye to Ivory, his voice almost imperceptibly accented. He reaches across the table, hand out. "You'll get it back. At the end of the game. Anyone else have phones— hand them over."

The game at this able is just getting started when a game at another, at the rear of the parlor, to the dealer's back, is ending. Another will probably follow, so dedicated are the losing players to winning back what they bet away, but for now it's time for a breather. Chairs slide back, people stand up. Out of that crowd of people is a tall man, similarly structured to the other table's Japanese dealer. The Japanese businessman. Turning, he seems to recognize Coli as much as Coli may recognize him, and gives one short, unreadable stare before striding straight for the poker table. He leans down toward the dealer (whose hand is still outstretched for phones) and murmurs a few stern words of Japanese. Quiet, but understandable … to anyone who speaks Japanese. «She is a loose end, too suspicious. It is no coincidence.» he says. The dealer replies: «Take her downstairs.»

Steve, after half-smiling at Coli, is playing it similarly cool as Stefano, following suit in folding. If he has a phone, he doesn't say so. He also doesnt say so when he recognizes the standing Japanese man, but he does glance to the private investigator and murmur, "Looks familiar…" under his breath.

The voice in his ear says: "I only got a second of his face. Watch where he goes."

"Fuck." she murmurs as she watches the man begin to speak in a different language and she tenses up a it before she folds as well. She's getting the feeling that she won't be playing for long. Coli smiles brightly at the men at the table. "Well boys.." she starts and then she's winking at Stefano. Play it cool.

"Oh…that's a shame. I guess you won't be joining us in the beautiful, dirty, rich club tonight then," Adam replies to Coli as she gets up. Emphasis on dirty, little less on rich. Clearly he thinks they're both already in the beautiful club. The game seems to continue on autopilot while he enjoys the rippling gold of the woman getting up…and apparently the fact that she's earned the ire of a few business 'partners' here.

Yes, that's right, Mr. Brittania here speaks Japanese. Big shocker huh? While he leers, he shifts a bit on the chair, freeing up his jacket to reach inside and pull out his own phone; the handle of a pistol peeks out from under one shoulder.

"Oh hell no. You ain't gettin' my phone." Ivory holds up a hand and shakes his head, tucking his phone away into his pocket. "I'll put it up, but yo' ass ain't gettin' it. I don't trust you!" The words come off as quickly as possible, without trying to sound like he's a racist or anything.

Ivory keeps his hands up, just to show that he's not trying to pull a fast one or anything, before he gets to looking at his cards once again. He's all about trying to stay focused on this game. Because that should keep him from getting involved in anything else that doesn't have to do with himself making some moolah.

Why, thank you, Ivory! Stef loves it when someone else makes a big spectacle of themselves; it means an opportunity for him to sneak something past them. One of his cards is quickly knocked a few inches to the side, sliding toward Ivory's face-down pile: then, nodding to the hired help, he takes out his own phone and hands it over. It's a cheap-ass pay-as-you-go one anyway, no big deal if it gets lost or stolen or thrown onto the subway tracks for that matter.

It's one of those moments where everything takes a nosedive at once.

First, there's the issue of Coli. Then that guy who looks like the ex-Senator won't ditch his phone. To a group who plays strictly by their own rules, he's a rule-breaker.

The people under the Takahashi gang empire, they don't abide rule breakers.

The dealer, strangely, seems willing to look past this; he takes Stefano's phone, ignores Ivory's protests and the disappearing of his phone. His comrade at his shoulder, on the other hand, looks past Ivory and makes a curt get over here gesture to someone by the entrance. That someone happens to be the bouncer, who lumbers over, in all of his six-foot-something and Asian tattoo-covered capability. It only takes a look from the businessman to prompt him to lay a hand roughly on either side of Ivory's shoulders. "You don't play by the rules, you go outside."

The businessman at the dealer's shoulder wastes no more time in moseying around the table of players toward Coli.

Undercover "Steve" watches him until both the man and Coli are in the same line of sight. "Excuse me, gentlemen," he apologizes (brusquely) to the others before leaning down by Coli's ear, soundly clamping a hand over the woman's mouth and hauling her away from the table. He is one-hundred percent calm, even as the commotion loudly knocks down Coli's chair. "Unfinished business."

Bouncer and businessman, they're both prepared to drag two people off — to very different destinations.

Steve almost leaps to his feet, but something — like the voice in his ear — causes him to sit back down just as fast.

To Adam, this sort of shady business isn't anything out of the ordinary. They aren't sneaky. They aren't subtle. They're making one hell of a scene. Despite that, Adam just reclines in his chair, cool, calm and collected as can be in the face of a double-kidnapping. "Oh, give it a rest. If it's unfinished business, let me settle up the lady's debts. No need to eject her from the game over the matter of a few dollars. In fact, I wouldn't mind having her back at the table…gives me something to play for!"

Adam's giving a debonnaire grin as he stands up from the table - still cool and collected of course. Maybe not so smart is that he starts to reach into his jacket for a wad of cash, banded-up inside a pocket. Of course, those pockets are pretty good hiding places for other things…or holsters over the shoulder…

"Oh hell naw! I know you just didn't touch me! I KNOW you didn't just touch me!"

Ivory holds his hands up and shakes his head, shrugging away from Bouncer McBouncerson. "Now see, I was gonna' hook you up with one of my girls, but I'm feelin' mad assaulted. So this is what I'm gonna' do…" Ivory keeps his hands where people can see them and pushes up from the table. "I'm gonna' take my phone, this asshole's gonna' give me my money back and I'ma' get the hell out this lame ass Kung Fu flick. And if Kareem Abdul Chinatown tries to touch me. Or if Asian's Eleven, over here, tries to keep my cash? I'ma' kick everybody's ass up in here, then I'ma' call the police and have 'em put this place on the Most UnWanted list because I can tell you, and I mean this as seriously as I can possibly state it…" Ivory pauses to snap his fingers at Cookie and Cream, making sure they come up to stand on either side of him and make him look all the more pimp.

"This place?"

Dramatic Pause of Awesome.

"… Needs More Bruce."

For the most part, Stefano just shakes his head in disbelief. He would've been just as happy to keep quiet and take the loudmouth's money, but since that's apparently no longer up to him, he'll settle for getting in a couple verbal potshots. "Dude— where the hell do you think you are, a movie set? You know what, I would love to see you try to kick some ass, just so I can see how many pieces of you are left after." With that said, he leans back and waits for the mooks to get on with it; he's still got plenty of other people's money to make a grab for.

It isn't always this way; they like to run smooth games. But with high stakes everywhere you look, things are bound to run hot in a place like this. This time, it's not even about the money. The man acting as dealer shoots up with a speed that defies his middle-aged appearance, holding a hand up to Adam that is both warning and placating — just in case. "It is our business," he insists coolly. "It is what the boss would want. You know the boss does not like loose ends."

Then eyeing Ivory sternly, considering, he nods once. His other hand parcels off some of the table's cash and slides it toward Ivory and his pretty entourage, with a glare to Stefano for good measure — though it would seem his untoward motives are missed.

The bouncer ("Kareem Abdul Chinatown") lets go of the very ex-Senator, but waves his hand toward the exit. "Better luck next time, hey, pal. Let's go."

The businessman waits just a second to gauge the thoughts of his colleague at the table before hauling off with the private investigator, no matter how much she squirms. He makes an exit stage right. Between artfully pinned up curtains is a narrow corridor where the lights are not turned on, and it's down there that the he disappears with Coli.

Steve wears his pokerface, but still looks somewhat uncomfortably between Adam and Stefano.

The comment about loose ends elicits a sly grin from Adam…before he reaches over the table and snatches the dealer by his shirt. He pulls the man close and leans in, spitting poison at the man, verbally. "Of course I know the boss doesn't like loose ends. I've been living as one for the past year," he growls out. Then the man is let go, and Adam even smooths down the front of his shirt. "Sorry old chap, but that's a sore subject for me." His piece said, he slumps back down into his chair and clicks chips together.

Cream snatches up the moolah and it gets stuffed back in the briefcase. Which, for the record, is all of his money! And that's all Ivory really cares about. Of course, that and the women. "Yeah, yeah." Ivory throws his hands up and hopes to gain the attention of most of these fools. "ATTENTION EVERYONE IN THIS DUMP! BETTER CARDS, BETTER VIEWS and BIGGER PAYOFFS! COME TO THERAPY!"

With that shameless plug in, Ivory is escorted by both of his females, in addition to the Bouncer of Asian Doo (He's BAD) and makes with the getting the hell out of this damn place. It's time to add a new feature to Therapy, it seems.

Oh, and don't forget the second coming of Kanye bogarting all the women he can get his hands on! Yeah, that'll put butts in seats. At least Stefano's family knows to stick to the customers actually worth doing business with— and if the Asians hadn't figured that out up front, then at least they're learning it as they go.

Reaching for his drink, he narrows his eyes, turning his focus to the ones still remaining. Billy Bob's already near to cracking. Adam had the whole bad-ass image going for a while, but he's got buttons to push too, it's just a matter of figuring out what they are. Steve… hmm. Hard to tell which way Steve's getting ready to jump.

The dealer has one thing to say to Adam: "If you want to play the game — you will not touch or look at me again."

Ivory's attention-grabbing exit garners a few stares, glares, and grunts from other players and the people working the parlor, but a few of the ladies serving the place have a glimmer in their eye. He might be seeing them again.

Steve, meanwhile, clears his throat. "Is the game still on or…" He shifts his eyes down the hall. "You know if we're going to pause, I'd like to know if there's a restroom…"

The exit, for Ivory and his companions, is back down the narrow stairwell, and that's where the bouncer is content to leave them, closing the door at the top of the steps. And when the door to the gambling parlor — so ambiguous from the outside — opens…

"Hey." A female voice, whispered intently, off to Ivory's right. Cream's left, actually, but the quiet call for attention isn't directed at the women. Detective Powers has — very recently — situated herself against the building, facing the street. She inches sideways closer toward the exiting gambler. "Don't move," the woman warns, though it hardly sounds like that — it's reassuring. Not like: "I'm a cop," which she says next, stepping off the wall slightly with an NYPD badge brandished in her palm. "Despite this being highly illegal I'm not here for the gamblers tonight. You have a ticket? One of those cards. I'll be needing it."

"Little hard to play the game if I can't look at the dealer, yeah? I know a lot of languages, but sign language isn't one. If you'd prefer I spend my money elsewhere…like at that fine gentleman's Therapy club, I'd be more than happy to take back my buy-in and leave." Adam sits sideways to the table, arm up over the side clicking chips together…and brings his head around to stare right at the dealer. "But if you'd like to maybe make a few bucks - or a few thousand bucks, however it may be - I'll stay. Just remember, there's not a thing you could do to make me afraid of you." Hope he doesn't know a particular secret!

Ivory stops. He doesn't move. Mostly because he knows all about Rodney King and the things that happen when you do anything besides what a cop says do. "You'll never take me alive, see! Nyeah!" Granted, Ivory has no idea what's going on, but he does turn (with his girls) to pay attention to Maggie as she speaks. "Hold on. I don't know anything about anything. I especially don't know anything about any card that you'll find on the ground when I walk away. I don't know the place that I didn't just come out of. And I didn't see anything that may or may not have happened in there."

While saying all of this, Ivory has definitely let the 'ticket' slide down his leg and to the floor. He's very good with the sleight of hand in that regard. "Right?" His foot is on the card, just in case this cop person doesn't like this particular idea.

Inside the club, pleasantly oblivious to the new player liable to be joining the fray in a couple minutes, Stefano glances over toward Steve. Time to throw some stuff at the guy, see if any of it sticks. "I'm good to go, but I tell you what— if you wanna take a break, I can go ahead and play your hand for you until you get back. Promise not to go all in for at least the first five minutes."

"And since you don't know what's going on in there," the detective says as her observant gaze trails down to the card on the sidewalk, "you don't have to tell anyone, especially… anyone inside, that I was ever here. Because where's here?" Maggie gives a small, fleeting smile to show how cooperative she is to this arrangement and raises both hands in a pacifistic surrender before tucking her badge in the back pocket of her jeans. She is not even remotely dressed like anyone else inside that building — entering at all is a gamble of her own. She waits.

Inside, Steve gives a mild grunt to Stefano and flattens a hand over the cards on his edge of the table. "I don't think so, nice try. You been to these games before?" A glance down the hall. "Is it always like this?"

The dealer has been staring down Adam this entire time. "Just play the game." A stern eye goes around the table. "No more changes! No one leaves. No one joins. Play your hands."

Just to make a statement - or is it because the cards really are bad - Adam tosses his hand into the middle of the table. "I fold." The corner of his mouth is pulled back into a sneer. Happy now, Mr. Dealer?

Stefano glances at his cards for entirely too short a moment, sets them down again and tosses a healthy pile of chips into the center. "What the hell, I'll take a shot." He doesn't dignify Steve's question with an answer: the greenhorn can rise or fall on his own beginner's luck, probably fall if his poker face is really as bad as all that. On the other hand, if that is his bluff…

Steve isn't as green as he looks — at least not when it comes to cards. He's good; that's why he's here. Looking at his hand of cards, he slides a fair share of his own chips toward the center. For a time, the game is actually without interruption.

On the street, Maggie watches the strikingly familiar man and his … women … move along before she crouches to pluck the card off the ground, turning it over to see both sides. 4 of Diamonds, rooster on the back. That's the one. Eyeing the door skeptically, she heads inside.

Luckily for the detective, the system used to scan the cards doesn't check to see how many times they've been used — even if it was just recently and by another person. A ticket's a ticket and hard enough to come by as it is. Or maybe she's unlucky, stepping into an unfamiliar lion's den… but she gets inside, after an intensely skeptical eyeing from the bouncer. It doesn't let up. They're keeping an eye on this one — she doesn't seem the type.

The blonde hair, jeans and plain blouse of the detective are only glimpsed here and there, once she's inside— wherever she's trying to get to, it isn't a poker table. For awhile, she disappears…

And the game goes on.

Until: "NYPD, EVERYBODY FREEZE!"

It's "Steve", leaping up from the poker table gun in hand after laying down four aces. A team of police pile in through the front door, bypassing the bouncer, and it's a safe bet to say … they're surrounded.

(FADE)

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