Settling Accounts

We lost the game. In fact, we lost three, but not once did I have to hand over so much as a speck of dust. Our opponents didn't protest either, though I did catch a few funny looks straying over from other tables - though I suspect that was more due to the fact that there were several very scantily dressed women draped around the shoulders of some of the players than anything else. Then, at the end of our third match, the dealer tapped my shoulder.

"Mr Ryder, would you please step this way. The manager wants to speak to you regarding your shares in the game."

I nodded and followed the dealer out of the main hall and into a small back room.  A rusty bronze sign with the words "Manager's Office" clumsily etched into the metal hung from the door and, judging by the smell, the room was clearly situated very close to the sewage pipes. I wrinkled my nose, and Kris made a noise of disgust, but our guide seemed oblivious to the stench of human waste that hovered pervaisively in the air around us. He held the door open and, as we stepped into the room, he nudged the door closed and slipped a simple bolt and chain into a rusty lock on the door before striding around and sitting up on the edge of a great desk.

"So," he said, "what brings the city's two most famous escapees to my humble abode?"

Despite Kris' uncomfortable shifting, I quickly explained our situation. Well, most of our situation - I left out the minor details of the File, Lucatz's refusal to help us, and my plans for my share of the money. I am a good liar, but I reckon he knew that I was leaving things out - our story sounded very strange indeed without the mention of the File that had resulted in this plan. However, he seemed impressed by the idea, and declined to ask any particularly awkward questions.

"Break into the Arena eh? They say you gotta dream big," - he chuckled - "and it don't get much bigger than that. Like you said, we'd certainly make a handsome profit, eh? Just one little question - how are we going to do it?"

"Kri - sorry, Phoenix," - I indicated Kris - "is going to turn herself in. We're hoping she's a big enough name in the Arena to draw a crowd. While they're distracted by the match, the rest of us can sneak in."

"Simple, but logical," the dealer nodded appreciatively. "And how many people are you going to want for that?"

"As many as it takes," I said. "I reckon five or six at most. Most of the guards will be watching the match, but there might still be a few skulking around. Besides, we're going to need alternative teams in case one runs into ... issues."

"I like it," the dealer inspected his nails. "I'll think about it."

"How will I know when you've made your decision?"

The dealer only winked at me, and I barely supressed a smile. He reached out one deft, bony hand, and we shook.

"Pleasure doing business with you, Mr Ryder," said the dealer.

He showed us to the door and let us out into the night without a backward glance. Kris wheeled on me, "That's your Raven? Some slimy little casino owner who refuses to give a straight answer?"

"No, of course not. The Raven knows better than to come personally to anything," I sighed, "have a little patience Kris, I know what I'm doing."

Kris scowled at me, "You'd better."

The End

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