Lambeth, London Metroplex
Tuesday 11th April, 2051
Sharktooth Tony pushes back his plate, still laden with lean roast beef, potatoes and peas, all genuine rather than made of molded algae, and sips at a glass of dark red wine as he burps enthusiastically. Around the big table, which appears to have once been a map-table for the British air defense of the South East from Luftwaffe bombers, his lackeys and the Lazarus Group are also finishing meals that were entirely of real, expensive, ingredients.
Producing a long, thin dagger, Tony begins picking debris out of the sharp dental work that gave him his nickname, then looks towards his American guests. “So, Candy told me you need to get safe to Nottingham, and will need somewhere to do a bit of interrogatin’. That right?” he asks.
Pitbull inelegantly scarfs his meal with wild abandon, his only callback to table manners being chewing with his mouth closed and eating with silverware, as he murders his beef roast.
Pushing his seat away from the table, his meal finished, Able smiles up at Tony, his teeth back to their normal typical perfection. “That’s correct. Are you able to provide something suitable?” Mac politely stacks his seventh plate atop the others, looking sidelong at Pitbull. He rolls his eyes and looks towards Pacoy, then Able before resuming studying Tony.
Pitbull gulps down a cartoonish mouthful of food before throwing his two cents in the conversation. “Don’t worry about finding an interrogator. I got that shit down. We just need the guy an’ somewhere quiet, I reckon.”
Pacoy wipes his mouth, stifling a sigh at his comrades’ table manners while waiting for a response to Able’s question.
Tony nods, “That I can, fang-face. I’ve an associate who sends me real food from the countryside. E’s got a dairy farm and a pig yard up there in Notts, with a couple of outbuildings that’d be ideal – miles from anyfink, y’know? But…’ere’s the problem. What’s in it for me? I’m a businessman and your man Candy, while a good bloke, isn’t worth maybe havin’ that location over-run by rozzers to me, not on ’is own. So ’ere, as they say, is my quandary. What do you have that would make it worth my while?”
Mac smiles and looks around before leaning forward and gesturing casually. “You, friend, have asked the question that has stumped every dame on the arm of a rich bird. What do you get for the man who has everything? You have food, influence, a wonderful little establishment. What, I would wonder, are you lacking?”
Pitbull finishes his helping and lets off a loud raunchy belch before setting it with his other three palates of previous helpings. He lights himself his after-meal cigarette and leans back in his chair, cigarette in one hand, wine glass in the other.
Tony grins at Mac, “Well now, that’s a good way to put things, Yank. I like the way you think, I really do. What I lack would fill a bleedin’ book, but what I most find meself short of is the kind of expertise a team of professional Edgerunners could offer. I could think of three problems of the top of me ‘ead that such a team could solve for me, and I’d be willin’ to sweeten the pot my end too if you were inclined to put it all on a turn of the cards.” He pulls out a deck of pristine playing cards. “What do you say, yanks? I can provide a guide,” he nods at Marquis Deeds, “military firearms and even some intrusion tech, as well as transport. I’ll bet all of that against three small favors, three hands of poker to decide who gets what.”
Pacoy grins, “Oh, that sounds more than fair to me, provided my comrades have nothing against it?” Pacoy looks to the other Edgerunners.
“Of course, I’d want a little more detail on what I’m getting before we cut cards,” Pacoy adds, “Sweeten the deal, maybe?”
Pitbull H.U.D. texts Pacoy. “Don’t make any bets. Seriously, I don’t want to be indebted to this guy.”
Mac shakes his head in agreement with Pacoy. “A man of means such as yourself must know what we can accomplish, and that our services may require some additional…” He waves his hand in the air.
Able leans forwards, a frown on his face. “Before we agreed to anything, more details would need to be on the table. You are not our only option here.”
“But rest assured, even if business isn’t in the cards for us, cards could still be in business,” Pacoy smiles.
“Well, I’m always up for a friendly game for just money, but let me be clear here.” Tony leans back in his chair, thinking for a second. “OK, first hand: I can arrange a safe house and transport out of the country after your job is done, by boat from Peterborough. That’ll also let you meet an associate of mine, by the name of Finn, who might be willing to pay you very well for any additional information you pick up from your kidnapping, which I assume is either a corporate headhunt or a vengeance mission against some Republic bigwig. In return, I’d want a rival either removed or seriously inconvenienced with no track back to me”
He grins. “Second hand. I bet four British Army assault weapons and two Stealth Suits, along with a jammer drone and controller. You would bet having one of your number be a ringer in a prize fight, someone who could go down when told to and stay down.”
“Third hand. I want some more supplies. You blag a commercial pharmacy supply for me, I in turn provide Deeds here as a guide for your whole trip, along with a truck that I’ll guarantee can smuggle you and any equipment safe over regional boundaries.” He leans forward, “Wanna cut?”
Able leans forwards, interested now that the cards are on the table. “What kind of rival, and what security precautions does he take? I’ve done target elimination jobs before; their worth always depends upon the target." Pacoy thinks over the deal, “This does sound a lot better, and may friend here,” hooking a thumb towards Pitbull, “Is a beffy guym and I’ve heard he has no issues going down.”
Tony nods, “I thought maybe you had. He’s a gangster with maybe a dozen serious toughs and that again in wannabes, hangs out in an old factory in Stepney that’s been converted to a nightclub.”
Mac idly twirls his pocket watch, considering Tony’s offer, considering Pacoy’s talents at cards. His mind pulls back images of his last bout in the gym with Pitbull, not entirely relishing the concept of anyone intentionally losing a boxing match.
“How deniable do you want it? So much so that it’s unclear whether he was even taken out or it was just a tragedy, or just no direct connection the police can make to your operation?”
Tony considers a second. “All I want is to make it clear he can’t protect his own, without starting a war among the local bosses.”
Satisfied, Able leans back and nods his head. “We can do the elimination job.” He turns to the others, allowing them to take the lead on the other two ‘hands’.
Mac nods. “Second hand’s a go on my end. Both Pitbull and I have had some rounds of boxing between us. Could put up a decent show. I’m no roundheels, so there’s no worries there.”
Mac spins the dial on his pocketwatch, sending a message to his teammates as he does. “We could take the deal as it stands… a bit of work on our end, but it’s a gamble if we go with cards. I’ll back Pacoy if he’s game on playing, but we stand to walk away with nothing at all. Or we get his assistance for free.”
Pitbull shifts some dishes around as he listens in on the negotiation. He jets out a cloud of smoke from the cigarette clenched between his teeth, as he H.U.D. texts the team. “Thinking about it, I think I’d be a shitty dude to throw a fight. If he gets a good hit in on me, I don’t think I’d just lay down after that. I’d turn that asshat into a greesy smear. I think Mac’d be a better choice, dudes.”
Mac nods, idly knocking on the table, looking back and forth between Able and Pacoy, trying to gauge their desire to gamble certain help for the possibility of not having to put out any favors.
Mac silently sends out another message. “We could probably take a partial deal. We can take the fall of the boxing, leaving the choice of the other two.”
Pacoy nods to Mac, “We can take the fight for the first deal and play for the other two hands, if that’s okay with you? No sense in anyone risking going away empty handed.”
Mac nods. “Tony, pal. How’s this strike you. We’ll take the fall in your boxing match – you get your pick of fighter, depending on who we’re up against. We’ll play the other two hands. Maybe you get our help cheap as chips, maybe not. That’s the rumble, what do you say?”
Able flashes a note to his comrades. “Watch out for Tony; he’s notorious as a gambler, and that big playing card tattoo on his face isn’t there for nothing. He’s done this same type of deal before, and it’s quite possible we’ll lose everything. I’d vote that we only do the gambling for the option we’re least likely to need and do the other two jobs for him.”
Tony looks confused as he mentally deciphers Mac’s offer. “What did ’e say?”
“Don’t mind him. He’s just seen Sunset Boulevard a few times too many. I lose track of what he says too.” Pitbull growls, ashing his cigarette.
Mac simply smiles, sending to his comrades a silent message. “I’d tell him that we’ll do the first two jobs, and we’ll gamble on the last if that’s what you’re keen on, A. Someone tell this cutter.”
Finally Tony nods, “Yeah, OK yank, I’ll provide the good gear if one of you will fight my man and go down in the second.” He pauses and passes the pack across the table to Pacoy as he nods to his men to clear an area of table. “Cut the cards.”
Able leans forwards, putting his hand on the card table. “We’ll take care of your rival problem, too. Just the gamble on the last deal on the table.”
“7 Card Stud, I presume?” Pacoy asks, cutting the deck.
Mac looks at Pacoy, then intently at the cards. “Wish this were a game of rats and mice. Then I’d put ‘em all on the line. But hey, that’s what our Redhot here is for.”
“The only poker that matters, my old son.” Tony replies. “Y’know, I know a couple of Phillipinos, one lass in particular runs a sweathouse over in Brixton, works girls with no ID until they’re fit to die and pays them in porridge. You related to her, by any chance?” Mac’s eyebrows raise as the hair on the back of his neck bristle.
“Could be, Family in every port, like they say,” Pacoy answers with a shrug, “Anywhere there are porters, nurses, or sweatshops, I suppose.”
Tony’s lips thin as he deals the cards, “Yeah, life can be cheap here in Britain. Must be the same all over. Your family do alright though.”
As the game progresses, his face stays tight-lipped, not a flicker of emotion showing as he rattles on about how to feed a corpse to pigs.
Pacoy sighs as he sees his hand, Poker is a game of skill, but luck plays a major part – the fewer hands, the more luck is a factor.
The final turn of the cards shows three Kings for Pacoy, but a Flush for Tony. Finally his face moves, “Looks like no road-trip for you, Deeds…unless you want to go double or nothing on the gear, Mr Phillipino?”
Pacoy drums his fingers on the table for a beat, bite his lip, and finally shakes his head sighs, “I think I’m going to have to leave the call to my friend here,” Pacoy points to Mac, “I tend to get a little hot under the collar.”
Mac nods almost imperceptibly to Pacoy. He subvocalizes to the team, “I’ll take the hit in the face for you, but if we don’t win back that third ‘prize’, we’re taking a chance on getting buttoned by the law. Not keen to spend the rest of however long I’m designed to live rotting in an English jail.”
The silence stretches until Tony pushes the pack across the table to Pacoy. “Don’t be a fanny, son, deal the fuckin’ cards.” Pacoy shrugs his shoulders and starts dealing.
The game goes swiftly as Pacoy deals additional cards with adriot skill, and the room is totally silent as the last turn of cards is reached…
Pacoys three Tens is narrowly beaten by Tony’s four Queens, however, and Tony smiles as he collects the cards. “Sorry son, you win some and you lose some, eh? I’ll have my guys clear out a room for you all, so you’ve somewhere to lay your heads. The fight is in three days, and I expect the whole deal to be completed in ten, clear? Now, I have some things to do so I’ll bid you all a good night.” He stands and walks away from the table without a backward glance.
Pacoy hangs his head for a moment, then adjusts his collar, “Sorry, guys, looks like we are on the hook for all three. We’ll plan the pharmacy job extra careful, so we don’t have to install Limey Hoosegow Survival 2.0 in Mac.”
Pitbull purses his lips as he stubs out his cigarette on a dinner plate. “Son of a bitch…” He growls to himself.
Mac winces. “Thought I had figured one of his tells. Looks like I’m going to have a date with Karma in three days, get bruised up for this. Sorry.”
Able frowns at the table. “Pretty unlikely to wind up with those results on two hands. Too bad.” He shrugs. “Oh well. It’s not like we can’t do those jobs he wants, anyways. And I’ve got an idea on how to go about it nice and easy…”
Mac sits on the historic artifact. “Shoot, Able. Planning those sorts of jobs ain’t my specialty, unless we need to tail ’em or dig into ’em.”
Able shrugs. “Well, we have to get a nice set of pharmacy supplies – and that’s likely to attract police attention. And we have a gang we need to take down a peg or two, in a nice and deniable fashion. Well, how can we knock down one bird with another in our hand?”
Mac grins. “Hadn’t thought about that. So we pull an Up and Down on them? Quite clean, quite clean. Then all that’s left is for me to try not to break my nose, and the flimflam is complete.”
“Don’t worry, Mac, I’m sure I can fabricate a new nose for you in a day or two!” Pacoy jokes to hide his embarrassment for putting the crew on the hook for extra jobs.
Soon, the team are shown to a room which appears to have once been a gallery area. faded and grafittied paintings of ancient generals and admirals line the wooden walls, and two military-style green metal bunk beds have been dragged in to provide sleeping space. Each of the team is given a “night jar” and a cup of hot cocoa by a slim woman in shabby but authentic French maid’s uniform and an electronic collar, then they are left alone.
Mac sags a little when the cocoa is presented. “This country is dragging on my spirits. I’m less than thrilled with our host’s attitudes, to boot.”
“Well, not every host can afford to decorate with nude, semi-formed copies of your body, Mac,” Pacoy teases, “But yeah, A-1 creep vibe all around.”
Mac feels his face flushing with artificial color. “Just missing home a bit is all. Never been… homesick… quite like this. Well, ever since a month ago, I had never been homesick at all. I just miss our thugs and mooks… straightforward and honest to deal with. Nothing like cloak and dagger under surveillance from the entire country…”
Able sits down on his bunk, looking down at the shaking of his hands caused by his failing neurology. “I don’t think we can take the full ten days. Things are starting to get worse.”
Pitbull stomps over to a bunk and hurls himself onto it. “Aaaaah. So uncomfortably comfortable. It’s just like the Army days…”
The main museum lights go off with the thunk of a shut-down generator somewhere down below, leaving the team with just some LED lamps as lighting. It’s getting late, and they still haven’t adjusted to British time. For all other than Mac, it’s time to sleep after a busy day.