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Gambler: A Tale Of Betrayal

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Gambler: A Tale Of Betrayal Empty Gambler: A Tale Of Betrayal

Post by Lazarus Carter Sun May 19, 2013 2:50 am


Born With Everything, Die With Nothing

It used to be that the highest stakes on a poker table, the only phrase that made everyone shut up and turn away from their drinks or their mistresses to the actual game, was two words: “all in”. In the universe I work in and know, that means perhaps a little more to me than it will to you.

The likelihood is that you wouldn’t believe me if I told you the greatest wager runs a whole deal higher than that: and I’m not talking about material possessions, or betting slaves, or anything quite so primitive as that. I mean your life. In certain, high-octane situations, or action movies, most people associate the phrase “gambling with your life” with 1980s movie villains conforming to one of a handful of various clichés, but here the statement certainly does ring true more than most realise.

I’ll put this simply: in my workplace, individuals can very much gamble with their lives.

The life of a gambler is pitiful. Occasionally one or two win big and make their money, or another handful learn a method for cheating the system, but ninety-nine times out of one hundred, a gambler comes into the casino and the house cleans them out. They take out loans. They mortgage their house. They sell their car. And it gets to the point where they owe so many venues so much that they have little else to bet. But certain casinos, like the one I work in, can offer an alternative.

Think of it this way: even if you lose everything, you have one thing left. Your humanity. Signified by a universal red chip marked with “LIFE” instead of just another string of numbers sitting on top of your little pile of chips, cashing in your life means you are really gambling with it. The casino only offers this, or so they say, to the people that have lost everything. They promise to even their debts, wipe the slate, even give them some more money to get going with, all for the metaphor of gambling with one’s life. Only the stupid think the entire thing is easy. The others are just too broken, too far gone, to care.

They think their luck is so grand: and perhaps they win a game or two, but sooner or later, they start getting greedy. They’re making their chips back, they’re putting everything they have into the game, before, finally, that last face card that wasn’t supposed to show or the pair the dealer wasn’t supposed to have renders the pathetic, drunken fool totally broken, and bereft of everything. The house takes them for all they’ve got.

When someone’s life has been lost to the casino, this is where I come in.

Anyone who exchanges their life for this universal red chip is fitted with a tracker – compulsory in almost all high-risk underground casinos where this goes on. The mainstream ones in Vegas keep it out of everywhere else. Once your life is casino property, you have an initial meeting with an official, and you’re told that you have seventy-two hours to tie up all your loose ends: of course, they’re not totally callous, now, are they?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure whether those three days are a boon or a curse. Me? Personally, I’d just rather have the barrel of a gun waved in my face and have it all over with as swiftly as possible. But, no, these heartless bastards like to see the poor fucks squirm. And so they do.

Once those seventy-two hours expire, they send a special individual hired by the casino to collect your body. What they do with it is entirely up to them – some have their memories wiped and become domestic slaves or dealers, some go into organ harvesting, and perhaps some are even auctioned off on the black market for the depraved scientist’s fun. That’s not where I specialise in. I’m the collection agent. I’m the guy that turns up on your doorstep once those seventy-two hours are over and tells you to give it up.

Now, considering the amount of incidents when furniture, a car, or other material possessions are liberated in this manner is one thing: but when you lose your life, almost everyone thinks they have nothing to lose, thinks they can take what meagre items they have left and truly run for it, leave the world behind and start anew. It never works. Everyone thinks they can get lucky. They can’t.

The casino still pays me for bringing in a body broken, torn, or even shot to shit. Even dead bodies are useful – a certain amount of reconstruction ensures they’re of some limited purpose to alternative markets. And this is why these casino individuals, or as they’re called, evictors, have to know what they’re doing – because these people have already gambled with their lives. They’ve got nothing left to lose. They are the most dangerous of the dangerous, and they’re not afraid to do anything in pursuit of that light at the end of the tunnel – freedom. They’re not afraid to do what they have to survive. Some of the wiser ones just give it up as soon as they see me or another evictor get close, but that’s only a handful. The rest run. And once they’re caught, they break down until you disable them in one way or another, knock them out cold, and drag them back to your boss for whatever depraved things he’ll do to them or sell them on for.

Morality aside, it pays the bills, I suppose.


"Wipe the blood from your halo."

|| English (yellowgreen) || Demon (dodgerblue) ||

Lazarus Carter
Lazarus Carter

Posts : 979
Join date : 2013-04-18
Age : 26
Location : Washington D.C. or London

Case File
Power Level: 3
Character Faction: Nephilim
Player: Ross

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Gambler: A Tale Of Betrayal Empty Re: Gambler: A Tale Of Betrayal

Post by Lazarus Carter Sun May 19, 2013 2:53 am

Chapter One

Empty Chances

My name is Clyde Baxter.

More commonly, I’m called Baxter, in a world of authority where everything has to be official. A sleek world, where deals are made and friendships crafted on the basis of surnames and little else. “First-name basis” is a concept unknown to me, my employers, and my co-workers. We’re here, in this business, working this way, for one thing, and one thing alone: money. That great, fat paycheck at the end of the month, rolling in with bonuses for just how adequately we perform.

My name is Clyde Baxter. I spend half of my working hours inside at a streamlined-looking little black cubicle flicking through manila folders and tearing open unmarked envelopes looking for details, the make-or-break factor when it comes to my particular area of expertise. I look for name, age, weakness, personality type, hair colour, eye colour, tells, ticks, base psychiatric evaluation, anything to further compound my analysis of a target or a mark.

My name is Clyde Baxter. That label is an identity, it’s a brand, and it comes with so much more than just an appearance or a string of syllables. It’s a title, one that strings along with it connotations of a corporate world where I don’t create the rules, or even necessarily agree with them: I simply enforce them. I spend the other half of my working hours chasing malnourished and paranoid individuals, choosing to don the tattered remnants of ragged clothes, through the dankest alleyways of the city – individuals with not even a cent to their name, and nothing left but their life. This... is worth more than most believe.

My name is Clyde Baxter, and it comes with decorations and achievements; it’s a rank, this name, it’s a mark of history and exploits. “Clyde Baxter” means much more than “the man with slicked-back hair in cubicle 675-G”. “Clyde Baxter” means “the supreme”, “the higher”, “the elite” and “the one with a record amount of evictions”. My name is Clyde Baxter, and it is part of who I am. My name is Clyde Baxter, and my feats are recognised only by my employers, and these accolades to my name are present for one thing, and one thing only. My occupation. My job.

My name is Clyde Baxter, and my job is who I am.


The night air whistled over my head. A streamlined shape of a scalp, a prominent black-topped oval sitting in the night above two piercing emerald eyes, the charcoal black long coat with matching trousers and boots wrapped around an imposingly subtle frame providing immediate evidence of who I was. In this world, I was segregated, separate, alone. I was the overwatch, the ugly truth no-one wanted to confront.

I stood on the roof of a small convenience store and peered down over the edge into the alleyway below, letting a smirk slide onto my face, before looking back up and regarding the starlit scenery of the city with a gentle sigh. Such a quaint ambience at this time of the morning, only the muffled sounds of cars rushing by, fading into existence and then straight back out a moment later.

I checked my watch. Local city time, it was closing in on 4AM. The sun was hidden below the horizon underneath a backdrop of clouds and stars. I had time. Dusk was when I operated best. We worked in the night, lived in it, and thrived in it; the evictor was a nocturnal creature. As soon as the first rays of daylight pierced through the slats of my blinds, I knew it was time to yank them shut and pass out.

Timing was everything in this occupation, and my target was just about to discover that for himself. Just as a window of silence – or the closest this area of the city would ever get to it – washed over the area, screams in the distance and the general sounds of hubbub began to echo through my periphery. I smiled. They always, somehow, managed to find their way into my path. I tugged the coat tighter around my form until it hugged every curve of my figure, and produced a pair of thin, black gloves from an outside pocket, slipping them over my fingers, the material clinging to my hands with tailored perfection. Last, but not least, I went to the breast pocket of the coat, and removed a pair of sleek, streamlined, tinted sunglasses – my identity was something best kept hidden, but my occupation needed to be made clear – before unfolding them and propping them onto my head. Showtime.

Even at this time of night, the city was always alive with the sound of footsteps and bustle. During the hours of the living, it was housewives making grocery runs, schoolchildren sprinting along the sidewalk; now it was the time that the city’s ugly nightlife decided to rear its corrupted, tainted head, jerking back and forth. Prostitutes. Drunkards. Junkies, so high on whatever the city’s fresh new obsession was this week that they were as far away from the surface of the planet as the stars they giggled at with their freshest hit coursing through their veins. The cars seldom driving past didn’t obscure this background track, but simply added to it.

But when something broke the tune of the night, something irregular, something jagged, a trained ear could hear it; and after working the streets like this for almost a decade in this area, after everything I had attributed to me, my ears were trained indeed. Like something spat out from the very bowels of the Earth indeed, like a tiny ripple in the black world of conceit and sin that this city had made for itself, I could hear my target in and amongst the crowd, pushing his way through frantically, his footsteps breaking the natural rhythm as he sprinted in his lurching, manic pattern, ironically moving in exactly the wrong direction. Towards me.

I’d planted a few false leaks to flush him out; it was a simple technique, the more intelligent marks were wise to it and simply kept their heads down and hoped for the best. But the fact that it had worked on this man told me a lot, more than the contents of the folders and manila envelopes I’d been handed back at The Ballista ever could. This man was not smart, he was not complex, and he was, by every definition of the word, simple. He had taken a step too far into the wrong territory, he had bet his life, and now it belonged to us. I was simply the courier. It was these jobs that I could complete with a smile on my face; knowing that scumbags like these disappearing wouldn’t detract from an ideal world, that their vanishing wouldn’t prove to be anything negative, didn’t stop me from sleeping at night; in fact, it did the opposite. It gave me a sense of clarity, a liberation that’s difficult to explain on paper. It made me feel like I was contributing towards something – in a twisted, dark sense – more than my “early retirement” fund.

But, that said, I went back over the facts that I’d been given in my head.


“He’s a bum,” The words echoed through my head, and I was back in that room. Cigar smoke and expensive whiskey vapour clung to the air as if it was part of what we breathed in here. “No close family, no friends in the city that he hasn’t pissed off by borrowing from...” I looked up to the man talking to me as he rubbed one free hand against a fresh layer of almost perfectly-maintained stubble, shrugging. “Typical mark, Baxter. Nothin’ to be afraid of.”

I stretched back and looked around. This sleek little corporate box was the office of my senior “co-ordinator”, as the casino liked to call them. This was The Ballista, the casino I worked for. Automatic, hydraulic-operated doors that opened with a satisfying hiss when you waved your hand. Small, rectangular office, one desk, three chairs on the side closest to the doors, one throne on the other. The desk was the room’s ornate centrepiece, with a few antiques sitting upon it – no pictures – including one of those old green lamps from the 1950s, and a few well-kept files. One of ACI’s newest corporate products – the ACI ScreenPad 30Max – was sitting a little further right, just a small silver stem that projected a holographic desktop-style interface when you waved your hand or snapped your fingers in front of a small motion sensor at the top – barely a dot. Apparently they were useful for managerial jobs. My co-ordinator seemed to enjoy his.

Two chromed corner shelves, and a frosted floor-to-ceiling window on the right of the room as you entered, a shredder and a self-incinerating waste paper basket... it was a fairly upmarket office, but it was clear it was little more than that. The focus of the room wasn’t the desk, or the chair, or the computer, or the windows, not even the folders; no, it was the man sitting opposite from me, in a grey jacket, an open white shirt and a cigar in his hand, lit and burning, a long Montecristo that he puffed on every now and then with vigour. He had a long face, gaunt in a sense, with brown hair that had an organised sense of messiness to it, as if he actually attempted to make it look slightly unkempt every morning – without fail. He had cold, emotionless grey eyes, like balls of blank clay, which could mould and reshape themselves to adhere to any emotion that his face wanted to display.

Ethan Carver was my boss, the guy directly above me, to make things simple. He gave me the folders, told me to do my job, and gave me my check at the end of every mark. Our relationship was simple, but, considering the amount of time I’d been working for him, Carver and I were exceptionally good friends, more so than the other dozen evictors he looked after. We’d occasionally go out for drinks and enjoy ourselves, indulging in the city’s baser pleasures, but, things were otherwise kept strictly business. He reported directly to the casino’s owner, the head honcho, the big man: Clayton Alvarez. So, as one could imagine, his name carried weight in just about every floor of The Ballista.

“I’m not afraid of anything, Carver,” I responded with a tired undercurrent to my voice and a sigh, looking down at the folder on my lap as my boss tapped the ash of his cigar into a tray he quickly moved onto the table. As he lifted the cigar back away, a pair of metal slats slammed shut over the ashtray’s surface, and a minor whirring sounded from within, muffled and somewhat silenced, before opening again in just a moment. As it did, it revealed that the ashtray, as it had been just a moment ago, was pristine and glistening – the moment the weight of the tray’s bottom changed by even a milligram, it slammed shut and cleaned itself. For some people, it was the little things. “You know this as well as I do.”

Carver chuckled in response and shook his head. “You’re cocky, Baxter. One day, it’ll bite you in the ass.” I unclipped the folder and ignored his retort, drawing a cigarette of my own from my pocket and propping it into my mouth. Cigars, to me, were just too much hassle. They smelt and tasted beautiful, but I preferred a more familiar poison, and one that didn’t mean I’d be lingering in Carver’s office for much longer.

Claus Reinhardt. That was his name. The mugshot didn’t make him look particularly dignified – they never did – but, even then, he was an unkempt bastard by any stretch of the imagination. Ragged grey beard, receding hairline, balding cap... his face was knotted and scarred, his eyes small, beady, and, in this image, seemed to be struck with some sort of fear. The image was shoulders-up, so I could only see a cheap, worn jacket and a stained old garish burgundy tie. This was your standard gambler gone too far. His obsession had lead to almost everything that had once been respectable about him decomposing; he’d sold every luxury and stayed at the bare minimum, just so he could keep himself to the game. Addict philosophy 101.

The pack said that he was in his late fifties, and had switched from a German to an American passport a decade or two ago. He had come over here and fallen in love, it seemed, but his wife left him after only two years of marriage, due to – bingo – gambling problems. That only lead to a further self-destructive cycle, and Reinhardt slowly grating away at all of his life savings and everything he’d ever earned to try and get a shot at the jackpot. He’d bet his life first five years ago, and managed to earn himself enough that time and the second, but the third was two nights ago: and he’d lost. Badly.

And that was all she wrote.

“Any ideas as to where he’s hiding?” I looked up, closing the folder and keeping the envelope. I never forgot a face, but it was protocol to keep a couple of surveillance images just in case – the most recent ones were always the most useful. Carver took another drag of the cigar and shook his head with a sigh, moving his knuckles up to his temple and spreading his fingers to knead both of them slowly, in circular movements.

“No exact details – removed his tracker – just that he’s gone as far downtown as he can make it without crossing into the slums. Probably in junkie territory, squatting somewhere. This guy won’t make it far.” I nodded as Carver finished. That was as vague as they came, but, fortunately for me, locating Reinhardt would be almost all the battle. Most people who lost after betting their life managed to remove the tracker, but once they did we usually had a bearing on their general location anyway. Its implementation didn’t hurt.

“I’ll flush him out,” I stated, setting the folder back on the table and tucking the folder into the inside of my jacket, drawing out a faded, beaten Zippo, and lighting my cigarette, before snapping it shut and sliding it into my pocket. I took that first drag and sighed, exhaling as I sat back. That was the bureaucracy taken care of, the details; now came the most important issue of the meeting, and the reason I was sat in that very office. “What’s the pay?” The three words that Carver knew, without fail, I’d utter at the end of every meeting.

“Fifteen in casino credit, thirteen-five in cash.” The co-ordinator took another drag and smiled. “Extra two bonus if the body’s intact.” I arched an eyebrow. That was fifteen thousand and five hundred dollars for a nobody.

“Why’s Alvarez paying so much for this guy?” Average payout for someone as unskilled as this was maybe seven grand, at a push.

“You don’t need to know that,” Immediately Carver’s brow furrowed, but it loosened a moment when he remembered that this was Baxter that he was dealing with, a man with over fifty separate successful evictions to his name, over a dozen of which had been totally flawless. He was one of the casino’s greatest evictors, and he hadn’t ever sustained serious or debilitating injury whilst working for them. “But, between you and me...” The co-ordinator leaned closer with a smile. “Alvarez reckons he can turn this guy into a PR goldmine for the European customer sector.”

I shook my head with a sigh, and let the basis for a smile slip onto my face, before standing up, and stubbing out my cigarette, in spite of the fact that I’d only just lit it. I checked my watch – it was closing up to late afternoon, now, which meant I could try and flush Claus out for tonight, ready up, and bring him in, hopefully, before the morning rush tomorrow. “I’ll catch you tomorrow, Carver.”

“Pleasure to see you, as always, Baxter.” With that, we had a brief handshake, I slipped on my sunglasses, and pivoted on my heel, tucking in the chair behind me and leaving the room.


Eleven and a half hours after that, however, I was stood on that very same convenience store’s roof, waiting for Claus Reinhardt to turn the corner and fall in, just as I’d set the bait into, before the real pursuit could begin. Some might have called that variant of me a sadist, but, no; I merely derived what precious joy I could from the tracking of my marks. It wasn’t even taking pleasure in their misfortune, or knowing that they would end up less human than they had begun on that particular day... perhaps just the fact that at some level, I was wired to enjoy that adrenaline, that thrill of the hunt.

With a sly smile, I looked down to my hands, grasping one in the other over my waist. I cocked from left to right and waited as the fast-paced footsteps shattering the lulled city ambience grew ever closer and ever louder, their proximity to my position growing and growing, before, finally, my target shot around the corner and down into the alleyway. The psychology of it was fairly simple; the road beyond lead straight onto a freeway, and sprinting down that would only draw attention to Claus. The rumours had sent him straight from his safe haven directly into my hands.

And, now, it was time to do what I did best.

He took a moment to catch his breath, hoarsely panting. The wind settled in the sky, and for a second, everything seemed to separate around the scene as I stood over, watching Claus Reinhardt as he regained his energy, slumped against the alley wall, running a hand through his ragged black-grey hair, matted down with specks of cold sweat. The cars stopped coming down this particular road. People were too far away from the alleyway turning to be of any real significance. Even the clouds parted in the sky about a glistening crescent moon, and almost ominously, the moonlight danced against the slick, polished material of my boots from above. It was almost perfect.

With that in mind, my body twisted straight from an idle stance into motion, contorting with insane agility at only a moment’s notice. I swung myself around and dropped to the ledge, grasping onto it with my leather-clad hands, before releasing, only to land on the rickety frame of a fire escape. It rattled from side to side, echoing in the narrow corridor of the alleyway, and Reinhardt looked straight up to me, a shadowy figure clad all in black, face obscured by the night. I could only comprehend a single expression on his face: that of pure, absolute terror. Suddenly, he realised everything. This was all part of the plan. He’d walked straight into my little trap. I let a smirk curl upwards onto my face, and in that split-second where he was too stunned to move, I finished my descent, sliding down the stairs with aplomb and vaulting over the railing of the fire escape’s last level, before finally landing on the dirty, gritty, wet ground with both feet, my stance widening and body lowering to absorb the shock.

At this point, Claus had decided it was a good idea to begin to turn and run, and, so, he did exactly that. But this man had bet at the highest-stakes table in the most dangerous casino in town, and he had lost. It was his choice to gamble. It was his choice to agree to the terms. I was doing nothing wrong. I didn’t make the rules. I just enforced them. My hand went to the pistol sitting heavy in my holster and I sighed, my fingers drumming against the cold gunmetal of the weapon’s frame.

Claus spluttered and panted in fright as he staggered to his feet and made his way down the alley. Moving with a stride halfway between sprinting and stumbling, it was apparent that I clearly hadn’t given him enough time to properly catch his breath. His lungs were burning, his skin clammy and pale, his blood searing hot beneath his veins. His mouth was hanging open like a demented terrier’s, his jaw shaking from side to side and spraying spittle as he moved. Everything in his body ached, but he ignored it as the adrenaline pumped through in a lethal mix with that lactic acid that made everything hurt and sting. That fight-or-flight response kicked in, and Reinhardt had chosen the latter. That was his greatest mistake in the chase. He’d overestimated his abilities, and underestimated mine. But that was no surprise. They all did.

“If you don’t stop, I’ll shoot you.” I said plainly, clearly, and loudly enough for him to hear. The irregular smacking of footsteps against worn tarmac continued to provide a rhythm for my head to follow, and after a few microseconds with no slowing, and still another couple of hundred metres of alleyway to go, it became apparent that the German was showing no signs of halting. I drew my pistol and sighed once more, easing back the hammer with a straining of leather and a soft click. “Last chance, Reinhardt. This’ll be less painful if you stop.”

Still nothing more as a response. Perhaps he thought he could outrun me, with a head-start. Thus far, Claus was halfway down the alley. This was pushing it. I raised the pistol, deciding that I’d given him enough chances, and that I only wanted to use a single round. “Your choice.” With that, I pushed my whole body into a stance, outstretched my arm, took aim, and pulled the trigger. A soft thwunk followed by a rapid whistle. Squelch. Crack. Thump.

Perhaps he thought he could outrun me, with a head-start. But he wasn’t going to outrun a bullet.


"Wipe the blood from your halo."

|| English (yellowgreen) || Demon (dodgerblue) ||

Lazarus Carter
Lazarus Carter

Posts : 979
Join date : 2013-04-18
Age : 26
Location : Washington D.C. or London

Case File
Power Level: 3
Character Faction: Nephilim
Player: Ross

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