The casino floor was like always a hub of activity. Extravaganza was ubiquitous in the Tops casino and all of the visitors donned their most expensive and remarkable clothes, determined to stand out in the hustle. Some had dressed themselves in togas in a desperate attempt to garner even more attention by matching the interior design of the casino. Women dressed with feathers and accessories and one had even attached a tail of peacock feathers to her ermine dress. Men in three-piece suits manned the slots and gathered around the poker tables. Even the croupiers weren't unaffected by the burlesque and their white outfits were lined with gold stitchings and had gilt epaulettes. Everybody was vying to be the king or the queen of the casino, they all wanted to be the top man or woman, the epicenter of attention. Except for one person.
Rawne Wessex was used to earn his money by remaining unnoticed. There were times when standing out could work to his advantage, but this wasn't one of those times. He was wearing a pair of average trousers made from an average fabric and dyed in an average color. He was the complete opposite of his surrounding and strange enough, it made him stand out more than all the tools that had spent hours fixing their make-up and sowing peacock feathers on their clothes. He was sitting at one of the poker tables, a glass of prime quality scotch in one hand and a thick Cuban in his mouth. His fingertips touched each other as he contemplated his next move. He had lost most of his money to the house following an unlucky bet and he could ill-afford to lose so much money. His funds were dissappearing at an alarming rate. They were pretty close to Mars now and he had already wasted three quarters of his life savings on alcohol, cigars and strippers. His face showed none of his concerns.
Rawne took a glance at his cards without so much as lifting them from the table. He didn't trust the other players one bit. There were four others playing at the same table. An elderly asian chap in a white suit with a fu manchu and a large feather stuck to his hat. Next to him, a femme fatale pur sang in a red velvet dress that left little to imagination played with her auburn hair. Her skin was covered in glitters and her feminine fingers tapped an upbeat rhythm on the edge of the table. But it wasn't those two that Rawne didn't trust. The woman wasn't there to win but to pick up a wealthy rich man and she was already releasing her charm offensive on the asian. Minutes before, the man had had a perfect poker face, but now he couldn't stop smiling as the woman's hand rested on his lap and she crawled ever closer to him. The fourth player was dressed in a black suit with an italian shirt made of silk. He didn't have a lot of hair left forcing him to do a comb back.
"Your move miss, gentlemen," he said with a silken voice.
HIs name was Leopold Ducomte and he was without a doubt the richest man playing at the table. Before the femme fatale had turned her attention on the old man she had tried her luck on Ducomte, but he had rejected her without so much as a blink.
So the asian man was out. Rawne still doubted his next move. He had a seven and a queen in his hands and a seven, a ten, an ace and a three were turned on the table. One last card remained upside down.
"Call," the femme fatale stated, her voice a husky whisper that was barely audible in the loud casino. She moved a stack of red chips forward, her fingers trembling a little as she handled the huge amount of money.
"You turn mr. Wessex."
Ducomte's cocky behavior could only mean two things. He was either bluffing and trying to scare him off or he actually had good cards and was trying to make them believe he was bluffing so they would call. Ducomte was the only one Rawne couldn't read. The women didn't have anything - which is why she trembled - but she had put her hopes on the asian instead of on the game to win money. The asian had folded so he didn't have squat. Whenever the old man had good cards, his eyes would twinkle with joy and the corners of his mouth would tense up, as if he was fighting not to smile.
Ducomte's intolerable smile stayed the same, like it was chiselled permanently on his face.
The croupier - who had little work left as Ducomte was calling all the shots - turned the card. A seven! Rawne's face split into a smile. Now he had three sevens and his chances of winning were a lot bigger. Unless Ducomte had two aces, two tens or a seven in his hand, he would lose.
"Check," Ducomte said. He was still unreadable, his emotions an enigma for the former spy. Rawne didn't trust people he could read and he never felt at ease in their presence.
"Threesome of sevens," Rawne grinned, showing his cards.
"I'm afraid it's not your lucky day," Ducomte laughed as he turned his own hand and revealed two tens.
Rawne's face returned to its original, uncaring state but inside, he was boiling.
"Congratulations," he said, his voice void of emotion.
"If you'll excuse me, I have to make visit to the men's room. I will be back in a minute."
Rawne pushed himself a way through the crowd to the restroom and he barely managed to wait until the door was closed until a stream of curses erupted from his mouth.
"Son of bitch! That's just my fucking luck."
The words were loud enough to be heard in the ladies room. After a moment, Rawne recollected himself and left.