Lowlife Friends


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Scene Title Lowlife Friends
Synopsis Two old friends reconnect and have a chance encounter with a third.
Date November 18, 2011

Las Vegas, Nevada: Bang Bang

There's blood in the air.

The riots that are spreading across the country haven't yet been lit with the glitter and neon of Las Vegas, but only the most deluded think that'll last forever. There are bookies taking odds on how long the martial law decree will last, and there are protestors objecting to the curfews that are closing the casinos early every night - nearly heresy to people in a city that doesn't really come alive until the sun's disappeared beneath the horizon.

Many still pretend that things are the same as they ever were, and that all this will blow over tomorrow. They may not believe it in their hearts, but they pretend. And Vegas has always been a city for those who want to bury themselves in sin and forget the consequences of life.

In another time, it would've been the perfect stomping ground for Richard Cardinal. These days, he's a different man.

The lights of the club glitter off the mirrors and spill across a stage bearing a chrome pole, drawing the eye to that main attraction. Scantily clad women work the sparse crowd this afternoon, rumpled suits and shadowed eyes common amongst the few that've chosen to come here at this hour. Most of them here to forget what's going on in their lives, not to notice anything else, which made it a perfect location for a meet.

Richard's hand comes to rest on the edge of a booth, a smile tugging up at the corner of his lips despite himself as he looks to the man within it, a man who he hasn't seen in years. A welcome sight all the same. "Gilbert fuckin' Tucker," he observes in a drawl, sliding into the booth, "As I live and breathe. Fancy meeting you here." As if they hadn't set up this meeting, which of course they have. Cardinal's dressed in worn jeans and a grey t-shirt, the tattoos mottling one of his arms visible today. No sunglasses, which he always wore thanks to his ability before, reveal the dark bags beneath his own eyes from lack of sleep. A few scars are healing on his lips, where frost had split them a week before.

Sin City is eternal, but only if the 'sin' part stays in place, only if the illusion remains. Have a look behind the curtain, and it becomes obvious quickly how it's all built quite literally on sand.

It really has felt like running in the desert for Gilbert Tucker these last few years. He'd try and try to get up to speed, but his feet kept sinking. Any increase in pace was an illusion. But he's has a completely unexpected reversal of fortune - one that he's been trying to keep under his hat.

"'Fancy' isn't what I'd call this place, Mister Cardinal. If you wanted fancy, I coulda shown you a place or three." Which is a strange way to say hi after all these years, but there you have it. "Do you realize, no one ever uses 'fancy' in that way except in that idiom? English is weird."

He both does and doesn't look the same. His hair's been shaved back to a short buzz, and there's a slight beard where he was always clean-shaven before. It definitely makes him look a little tougher, but there's still the little twinkle in his eyes. His worn acetate frames hang off the front of a faded tee with the logo for some band that no one has ever heard of and might not actually exist. He's also wearing a blazer in pale blue with matching pants that were definitely not ironed - not wrinkled, but not crisp, either.

"You look like a ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag. Hi," there's that twinkle again. He reaches out for a handshake.

The hand's taken with a firm grip, revealing another strange change in Cardinal; there's a black mark across half of his hand, in the shape of another hand clasping his. A curious tattoo, if a tattoo it is. That smile widens a bit at the man's banter, admitting once he reclaims his hand, "I feel like it. Only the bag's wet, and it's about to split open…"

Idly his fingers toy with a bracelet of red and black leather woven around one wrist, "It's good to see you, man. Seriously. Seems like it's been a lifetime."

Tuck snap-points at Cardinal. The gesture seems to be, 'you said it, not me.' He idly glances out at the room, shifts forward in his seat, then looks back at the other man. "I was pretty durned surprised to hear from you. Shocked, really. Not a lot of people'd want to look me up. Not a lot of people'd know even where to look. Yet, here you are." He motions. "I assume that means you need a thing. Because you don't look like someone who's got a lot of time to just visit old lowlife friends."

"I keep track of people. You never know when you might need a friendly face, eh…?" Cardinal folds both arms on the table's edge, leaning forward in a slouch against it. He's bantering, but the man really does look like hell, and not just from lack of sleep. Haunted, that gaze of his. "Wish I could say it was just for that, honestly. Have a drink, a few laughs… but yeah, I do need something."

He jerks his head as if to indicate east without really being sure which direction that is, "I need to get back to New York State, as soon as possible." At least he's not asking for New York City, because most of it is gone.

"A drink? Still not having any of those, which I will tell you, in this day and age, in this city? I'm a fuckin' picture of restraint," Tuck scratches his eyebrow with the edge of his thumb and exhales with a nostril flare. He drops both hands to flatten them on the tabletop. And when the penny drops, his brows go high. "Mhmmm. Should I even ask why? Is that a thing I want to know? Wait, no, I probably don't. It's probably heroic and stupid or reckless or or or." He rolls his wrist.

At the confirmation that the man has stayed off the wagon all this time, Richard's brows go up. "I'm impressed," he admits, "Should've had more faith in you there, man. Good for you." A hand comes up, rubbing at his jaw as he considers the other man's words. "You know…" A breath, a short laugh, and he shakes his head, "Nine times out of ten you'd be exactly right. But— no. Not this time. I just need to get my family out've there before everything really goes to hell."

The idea of Richard Cardinal having a family is probably a surprising one.

"I am not arguing with your choice of locations, sir, but everywhere is going to shit. Dog shit is on everyone's shoes and they're tracking it everywhere they go. What makes you think New York State'll be any better?" Tuck waves a hand back and forth. The mention of a family is met with a look of vague surprise. But hey, even he has a kid and a quasi-sister-in-law, so he isn't really one to talk about the unliklihood of families. "How many people we talking?"

"Nah, not— I mean, they're already in New York. Once I pick them up… we're going Midwest, going to ground for awhile," Cardinal admits, evasive about the exact location he's going to. Tuck's an old friend but some details you keep close to your chest. "So just me, really, that needs to get out there. You should get out too, soon. Go offshore, or the midwest, would be my suggestion."

And Tuck certainly isn't the guy to push on details. Need-to-know has always been a subtext in their dealings, and it's understood that the omission of details is not a personal slight. Plus, as he's learned - a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. "I've been thinking of going back to Toronto. My sister hasn't been well. We haven't been close in a long time, but…" he lifts a shoulder.

He goes quiet for a moment and considers, air sucked between his teeth. "I'm guessing you're looking for inconspicuous rather than comfortable. I have a friend-of-a-friend who flies cargo planes. I might be able to persuade him to take a shipment out that way. Well, what I'd do is buy enough shit to fill the plane's hold to a significant enough degree. So if you want any supplies that aren't going to draw suspicion, I could maybe make it a twofer."

"It's a good plan," Cardinal says with a dip of his chin, "Get out as soon as you can, honestly, and take what you can with you." He may be a crazy motherfucker, but he's always seemed to have his finger on the pulse of what's going on in the larger sense, at least. He'd moved on to a higher level of the game than was played on Staten Island, but he'd never stopped playing. He sounds honest, raw, and… a little afraid, deep down.

Things really are about to get bad.

Then he smiles, faintly, "That sounds perfect. I don't really need any supplies; maybe some MREs or something easy to transport for food. I travel light."

"I meant…" Tuck gestures, indicating something broader than just him. He lowers his voice, "If anyone out there needs anything." He may have spent the last while putting his head down, but that's not the same as head in the sand - even though Vegas does have a lot of sand in which to bury oneself. He can smell the bad on the wind, too.

It's an offer that brings Cardinal's brows up a little. "Heh. You've changed, Tuck," he notes, leaning back a bit and bringing one hand up to rake back through his hair, "It's a good change. I like it. I… think we'll be alright, but I'll keep in touch. I know some other people going up to Canada that might need some supplies."

"Shhhh," Tuck presses a finger up to his lips. "Nah, I'm still a cynical bastard, but if I was gonna send a cargo plane to New York State anyway…" He's such a liar. He's been a lot of things, but 'cynical bastard' isn't one of them. Pragmatic? Yes. At times, cowardly. Selfish? Occasionally. But always a bit of a soft touch given the right circumstances.

"Anyway," throatclear. "I can afford to be a little generous seeing as I've come into a bit of money. Slot machine, if you can believe it." He runs a hand over his own head in unconscious mirroring. "And I trust you to not go throwing that around. I've already lost a big chunk because some old bill collectors called in their tab as soon as they heard."

"Well, far be it for me not to take advantage of an old friend while he's feeling generous…" Cardinal crooks a wry smile, one brow lifting at the same side as the twitch of his lips, "Non-perishables, blankets, first aid kits, bottled water. I can get them to some people who'll need them while they get the hell out of dodge… I know all that'll be hard to get together, though, since, well." A snort, "We're not the only ones who can see what's coming. Any idiot who turns on the news can."

"Hey, I might as well spend it while it's still worth something," says Tuck. He shoves on the handle of the coffee cup sitting in front of him. The liquid in it has been cold awhile. "I probably won't be able to get you a cargo plane full, but I can get you enough to fit in a flatbed truck at least. There're a lot of survivalists around here who might be tempted to part with some of their stash." He raps his fingers on the table. "How soon do you need to go wheels up? Obviously the priority is getting you out more than a palette of water."

"As soon as possible. A couple've days, at the latest…?" Cardinal's head dips in a nod to agree with the priorities there, "The longer we take, the worst things're going to get, too. They're already— Christ, I'm sure you've been watching the news. Fuckin' killing kids in the street, Jesus." One hand comes up to rub against his face, "I should've— anyway. Thanks, man. I really— really appreciate this."'

"Mmmkay, so here's what we're going to do. I'm going to set things in motion, and the plane lifts off as soon as it can, with whatever we can shove on there in time. Sound good?" Tuck's jaw clenches and he clears the sudden tightness in his throat. "Ah, yeah. It's…yeah. A fucking -" a hard slap of a hand on the table, "- a fucking…ssssssheeeyitshow. Say, you got a place to crash, huh? Cause I can put you up somewhere with a marshmallow bed. Nobody's at capacity and I got a lot of assholes who owe me."

A deep breath's drawn in, and exhaled as Cardinal drops that hand back down to the table's edge. There's a tightness in his own expression that he tries to push back - a pain, a guilt, that says there's a lot he's not sharing. Which is probably for the best. "I'll be good. I appreciate it, though," he allows, motioning a bit with one hand, "After all the smoke clears, though, you and me gotta sit down for a hand of cards, just shoot the shit and all, like old times, eh?"

Assuming the world that's left allows that sort of thing.

This little reunion is an opportunity for Tuck, in a sense - to make up for all the running away he's been doing since things started to collapse back in New York. He's always had a talent for stepping out of the way just before the anvil drops, but that comes with survivor's guilt. This may be guilt money spent, but at least it does have a purpose.

He digs into his pocket for his phone and starts to text off the message that'll set everything into motion. "Yeah, yeah. We'll do that. I'm sure we'll both have stories." Whether they'll want to tell those stories is another thing entirely. He puts his phone away and glances across the table. "And we thought things on Staten were bad, huh?" He chuckles dryly, and a bit darkly. "Funny, I'm almost nostalgic for those days, sometimes. The simplicity…" he reaches into his pocket now for a package of cigarettes, "…of petty crime."

"Seriously." Cardinal's hand lifts in a gesture to the other man, "You have no idea what I'd give to just be sitting in the back room of your pawn shop, choking on cigarette smoke and playing cards, some days. But like the man said…" A darker note to his voice, a joke in black humor the other man won't get, "The way back is closed."

"Even after the bridge, the first explosion - all of it. Things still made sense, y'know? There was a path. Not a great path, but there it was," Tuck points with two fingers off towards the other side of the room, one eye winking closed. He drops the hand afterwards and fiddles with the pack of cigarettes rather than drawing one.

He does not get the joke, but he gets that something is being referenced. "One day, you'll tell me a real good story, man. And that story'll have a happy ending."

"We don't offer those here," comes a husky voice from behind Tuck, and slightly to his left. In the dim light, a tall blonde woman comes into view, stopping at the edge of their booth. "You'll want the Ultra Luxe." A ray of fuchsia shines down on her from a neon tube overhead, staining her hair and pale skin vibrant pink. Makes her look otherworldly with the shadows it casts across her face. Her eyes look too deeply set. Ethereal and slightly terrifying.

"Richard fucking Cardinal."

The high ponytail, the dramatic make-up, and the manicured fingernails - french tips done in red instead of the traditional white - suggest that she works here. The high neck, long sleeves, and ankle-length hem of black chiffon gown says she's not dancing. Red painted lips that match the shade of her nails curve upward as she sweeps a glance over Tuck. His is a face she hasn't seen in a long time. "I'll be damned."

Just about to answer that hopeful idea, Richard's cut off by the sudden appearance of the woman from just past the other man. He's still not used to being surprised from the shadows, and for a moment he tenses up… and then he recognizes the blonde, and all that tension washes out of him in a heartbeat. His shoulders drop back, his head thumping against the back of the booth.

He just stares for a moment, and then he starts laughing softly, one hand coming up to rub between his eyes.

"…of all the… of all the strip clubs, in all the cities in the world, I had to walk into yours," he says between those sounds of mirth, sounds that a clever ear might notice are half hysterical, "Of course. Fuck. It's good to— " His hand drops, and he looks up at her with tired eyes and a half-hearted but genuine smile, "It's fucking good to see you."

"Nothing good ever comes when someone gives you 'fucking' as a middle name, or says 'I'll be damned' when they see you," says Tuck as he hears the voice from behind him. He turns, though it takes a second to place her through the makeup. "Oh, look! It's a reunion. And gee, I lost my nametag." He pats his chest.

He eyes Cardinal, "You can't blame me for this coincidence. You're the one who picked this joint."

"You had to walk into mine," the woman echoes. There's amusement in her tone, but also an undercurrent of something acrid. Through the make-up Tuck recognizes her for who she is. Through her bitterness, so too does Richard.

"Hello, gentlemen." Jessica Sanders slides into the seat next to her former employer, nudging him gently with her hip to make space. She very deliberately does not settle back against the seat, her spine straight and posture not quite rigid, but not quite relaxed, either. "You like it? I own the damn place. I decided I was tired of working shit hours for nothing." That had been Peter's idea. Low profile and all.

"To be fair, I gave that one to myself," Cardinal admits with a shrug of one shoulder to Tuck's warning. He did, after all.

"I've been in worse joints. Classy," he allows, his voice that forced lightness of someone who's making themselves do small talk when they have so much else they'd like to say, "Girls are lookers." He hasn't even really looked at them. "Drinks don't seem watered down." Nor has he ordered a drink.

Tuck can feel a change in the air. He doesn't know what it's changed to, but it's a shift. He looks at the two of them, then knocks on the table. "As much as I'd like to stay and chitter-chat, I gotta get things moving on a favour. Which, by the way, is actually one of those that I might call in one day," this to Cardinal. "And I mean that. Not in the like…handwavey, oh-yeah-you-owe-me-oh-I-owe-you way we used to do. F'realz this time." It's not for real. "I'd say stay outta trouble but I think you're physically incapable of that." A pause, "…both of you."

That parting remark gets a quick lift of Jessica's brows. She'd forgotten how much she likes Tuck's levity. It's something she can appreciate about a person. She inclines her head, wearing a rare and genuine smile for him. "Stop by and see us again sometime, Mister Tucker. We'll make sure to keep the coffee nice and hot for you."

One hand lifts from where it had been sitting on her lap under the table. She's produced a business card from seemingly nowhere. She holds it out to the man. "If you need anything, you flash that card to whoever's at the bar, and they'll make sure I come find you, or that you know where to find me." There's a phone number printed as well, and an e-mail address.

Richard is glanced at from the corner of her kohl-lined eye. Whatever they need to discuss - and she knows from that edge in his voice earlier that it's something - it can wait until they're alone.

"You ever need anything, Tuck…" A dip of Richard's head to the man as he makes to depart, "…just get word, and I'll do what I can. I mean it." He does. One hand lifts up, two fingertips brushing to his brow and away in a casual salute, "Talk to you soon, eh? Just send me a message when things are set up."

Pointedly not looking at Jessica just yet.

This is where Tuck's talent for keeping his head down and staying out of the line of fire comes in. He could be nosier, he could push and try to figure out what it is these two are about to talk about. That would lead to one thing, which would lead down a path to whatever gave Cardinal the bags under his eyes. And hell, maybe he could even help. But at the end of the day, he's not the face-first hero type. He's not a hero at all. But every now and then, he can help the people who're doing the real work out. And that's something.

He takes the card from Jessica and examines it. "I 'ppreciate the thought, madam. But a little birdie told me it might be smart to leave Vegas soon. And I tend to listen to this particular winged friend." He pointedly doesn't look at Cardinal. He tucks the card away anyway, then looks to them both. "Card, I'll be in touch soon." A beat, "Good use of 'eh.' You'd blend in well with my peoples." And then, with a wink, Gilbert heads for the exit.

Jessica watches Tuck depart, waiting until he disappears into the crowd and out the door before she turns back to her remaining companion. She could move to the other side of the booth, claim the seat their departed company had occupied. Instead, she keeps the proximity to him. The better to keep her voice low, and it makes her look like she's working an angle. Keeps the staff from bothering them.

Not that they would ever dream to bother Jessica anyway. "What are you drinking?"

So, too, does Cardinal's gaze lingering on the man from his past as he departs out the door. As soon as Tuck's gone, he slumps back against the table with folded arms, one hand coming up to rub against his face, hiding his eyes from sight for a few moments. "Whatever's strong," he says quietly, "The stronger the better."

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