From the outside, the building looked fit for nothing but demolition. The old brick facade was cracked, and one dilapidated old wall had already started to crumble away, linking two windows into a gaping, ragged hole. No windows had survived the passage of time, and most of them were boarded over and covered in red, black and green graffiti. A couple fragments of glass still lingered, resiliently clinging to the pieces of decomposing wood to which it had long ago been mounted. In the day the gleamed dully, covered in the grime that could only be created through uncounted years in rank city air. It was not the kind of place that any self-respecting man would want to find himself. And yet, twice weekly, men from all over the great state of Virginia would find themselves in these shadowed alleyways, carefully bundled up in the oldest jackets they owned, the kind of rags that they would otherwise never have let into their house, if they hadn't been needed for just such purposes. Underneath the hat and jacket, however, rich, brightly colored silk occasionally caught the dingy streetlight, and priceless gems held that musty fire in their center, drawing the eye. They came to blow money the way only rich people, people who would never need to worry about where the next luxury would come from, could understand. After all, this building was owned by the most successful underground casino chain in the Eastern US.
A passerby would not be able to tell from the outside, but one room inside the building was intact. And from that point onwards, everything changed. The broken old concrete walls were changed to carefully smoothed plaster, coated in a layer of warm, rich paint. The cracked floors changed to a thick red carpet, carefully patterned to distract the eye without seeming overbearing. The lighting was soft and comfortable. and everything was carefully staged to give the impression of a luxury hotel. Down a long flight of dark wooden stairs, covered in a red carpet runner, and the walls opened into a massive domed room. Lights were artfully strung across the ceiling, giving the whole room an even lighting and keeping any corner from being hdden in shadow. It was the perfect casino, with tables upon tables, and cameras blinking from every alcove. There was no place to hide, and no way to cheat unnoticed. Or so they would like to believe.
It was the kind of place that you couldn't get into without knowing someone. The "hobo" huddled by the door eyed everyone who passed, and a single word from him would lock the door from the indie. If that wasn't enough to chase away a curious bystander, the small pistol strapped to his back certainly would be. It was a place that you couldn't get into without the right contacts, or a great deal of luck. It was a good thing that Ethan Sryker dealt in luck. He walked into the building moments after another couple, a limpid lady hanging on her man's obese arm. His chubby fingers gripped a bill, and he proffered it to the doorman. But, just as the man reached out his own dirty fingers to grab the bill a gust of wind raced through the passage, snagging the bill and tugging it right out from between their fingers. Ethan laughed silently as he watched the bill quickly carried away, and slipped through the door as all three people turned, the doorman reaching out desperately for his reward. By the time they turned back, the door had already silently swung closed again.
He shed his own dirty coat as soon as he entered the room, revealing a neat black suit with a green tie that offset the color of his eyes. He ran light fingers along his stubbled jaw as he handed the suit over to a neat man in a red jacket who was waiting by the door for just such a purpose. And then he set off down the stairs, well polished shoes leading him into the room.
It was too easy. Had he wanted to, he could have ripped the casino for every cent it had, and they would never have been able to prove that he did anything. After all, how could he possibly control how the randomly shuffled cards were put together, when there was no way to predict what card was coming yet? After all, he couldn't possibly control where the roulette ball was going to come to a stop, and which slot machine would spew out the winning pattern, now could he? But he didn't want to rip it all, after all he wanted to be able to come back. He had entered the casino with a hundred dollars in his pocket. When he came back out, he planned to have over five hundred thousand. That would take care of the bills for the next couple months.
He was sitting at a high stakes poker table when he noticed the first flicker of something odd. He paused, staring at the thread of chance that had drawn his attention, until the person by his side coughed politely, reminding him that it was his turn to bid. He was only a thousand dollars into the game, and that persistent reminder wouldn't stand to be ignored. He folded, and stepped away from the table, leaving a hand that would doubtless have got him several hundred thousand closer to his goal.
But how could he ignore the fact that, within the next fifteen minutes, there was a ninety-five percent chance the FBI were going to come bursting through the door.
Even as he stared at this visual representation of something his brain instinctively understood, the number flickered, and bumped up by two percent, as some unknowable situation that might have prevented their arrival passed without an issue. It was time to go. But as he walked calmly over to the counter, traded his chips for a nice pile of cash, and put his hand on the door, he noticed something else.
If he left in that way, right then, there was a sixty-eight percent chance he was going to get shot by a member of the mob. Ethan swore quietly, raking his fingers through shaggy blue-black hair. As he stood there, deliberating over a sixty-eight percent and how likely it was he could cause the bullet to miss, the number jumped by six percent. He turned around, walking calmly back to a table near the exit. He reclined, looking serene, but behind calm eyes his mind was racing. It looked like there was someone at this casino tonight, someone both the mob and the FBI had a reason to acquire. And, of course, the FBI would certainly take advantage of this situation to bust as many people involved in this operation as possible. If he wanted to get out without having to face down the mob, he was going to need to take advantage of the arrival of the FBI. He concentrated for a moment, and watched as the numbers flickered before his vision, so quickly that, had they not only been inside his head, they would have been impossible to follow. The chances of them arriving in less than eight minutes were so infinitesimally small as to be completely discounted. That gave him eight minutes to figure out what it would take to get an unfortunate FBI agent to leave with him firmly in hand. He walked over to a doorway, and took a full minute to make sure that, when he stepped through it, there was no chance, not even the slimmest possibility, that he would be seen. When his action was certain, he stepped into the back room, and walked briskly down the corridor and into a side room. And what should he find there but a rack of the suits worn by the wait-staff. What a fortunate coincidence. He laughed, pleased with himself, and quickly traded out his own neat suit for a proper uniform. He walked over to a locker, and lifted firmly on the latch. What were the chances that the mechanism holding it all together would malfunction just as he did so, and that waiting for him in the corner was a gleaming gold name tag. For the rest of this evening, he would be Walter Bryce. There were worse names in the world.
He walked confidently out into the corridor, counting of the fact that no one would care enough to recognize that he didn't belong, and ensuring that those who did had something minor to keep hold of their attention. Even if he was caught, the worst they would do would be to throw him out, and considering that the FBI had the highest chance of being here in less than four minutes, they would probably wind up grabbing him anyways. It was all up to chance.
His grin was warm and friendly as he nodded politely to a passing couple, the woman flamboyantly dressed in a vivid pink dress that v-necked all the way down to her belly, and the man struggling to keep himself from running into anything in front of him as his attention wandered. He settled a little ways from the door, in clear view for when the agents came bursting in, and assumed a look of abstract busyness. The chances that anyone would bother him before the tactical team arrived were small indeed.
Ethan laughed softly, a wide smile spreading across his lips. It was going to be fun to see how much effort it took to get away from America's finest.