Three Up, Three Down


evan_icon.gif laura_icon.gif

Scene Title Three Up, Three Down
Synopsis A magic trick played on an unsuspecting subject turns into a wager that both parties manage agree to lose simultaneously.
Date June 6, 2010

The Corinthian Hotel: Bar and Lounge

Situated on the uppermost floor of the building, the Corinthian Bar and Lounge boasts an arched ceiling whose many small, square panes of glass double as a huge skylight. Of course, the large and open room is also lit by a dozen half-dome chandeliers suspended from that double-height ceiling and several high wall sconces. Brass fixtures gleam in the warm light, while the room's scattered potted palms drink it in with their bladed foliage. A ring of doubled marble columns supports the weight of the skylight dome and defines the two sections of the room: that lofty open space in the center; the quieter, slightly darker and more private edges of the lounge.

The tables are elegant rectangles of fine black glass, the seating a mixture of russet-upholstered couches and comfortably-padded oaken chairs. Most of the floor is covered by carpet shaded in the reds and golds of autumn, save for a runner down the very center of the room which is colored the exact shade of purple found in wisteria blossoms. The bar food at the lounge is much like its decor: expensive and beautifully arranged; but unlike many such spendy places, it's also very good. So is the alcohol.

Things are looking way up since the last time Evan was in here. He could choose to be here, for one thing; with the temperature finally above freezing again, he's been able to return to his apartment, on a high enough floor to have escaped the worst of the damage. He's also got a lot of time to kill… the university managed to dodder along through the end of the spring term, but has largely closed for repair and recovery for the summer.

Setting down a just-emptied glass on the bar, he motions for a refill, then turns around to get a fresh look at the crowds milling about. Except for the people over at the casino — the jangling noises and flashing lights leave no doubt that they're back to business as usual.

Laura is not part of business as usual at the Corinthian — but to look at her, no one except the regular employees would realize that fact. Her ruffled white shirt is free of any wayward stains, cabochon teal-blue buttons the only spots of color on it at all; the lower half of her garb is equal but opposite, consisting of black mid-calf-length skirt, black tights over pale skin, and black shoes. A bowler hat with broad teal band and two trailing ribbons completes the ensemble — that, tasteful yet somehow decidedly not understated makeup, and a deck of cards seems to complete the young woman's ensemble.

Idle hands casually cut one half of the deck into the other as she walks alongside the bar. Blue eyes settle on one Evan Langford, and a characteristically impish smile crosses Laura's face.

Abruptly sliding into the neighboring seat, Laura offers him a broad grin — and a fanned-out deck of cards. "Pick a card, any card. I daresay you know the drill, every magician has a dozen variations, but you know you want to play along anyway." That grin brooks no denials.

Going by looks alone, Evan is nothing all that special: dark jacket and slacks, white button-down open loosely at the collar, the tie left behind at his office earlier in the evening. So why'd this woman pick him in particular? He doesn't know, but he does know there's only one proper response:

Up the ante.

"All right, how about this one?" he replies, reaching into the center of the fan and pulling out two cards at once, moving to set them face down atop an extra cocktail napkin. One of the hotel's subtle signs of real class, they never run out of fiddly little supplies like lemon-scented napkins.

That grin just broadens: Laura isn't ruffled in the least. Rather, one might say she approves. "This one it is," she agrees, collapsing the fan and proceeding to shuffle the deck in-hand without resting it against the bar counter. "Now, of course, I might suggest you look at your cards. I think you'll find it useful to know what they are before we progress further into this little trick." Shuffle, shuffle. Fan. "And then put them back into the deck. Anywhere you see fit."

Not missing a beat, Evan flips one of the cards up just enough to peek at the corner, before slipping it back into the fan, more off to one side this time — not that it necessarily matters, if this is one of those trick decks where one end is a hair's breadth wider or something. At the same time, with his other hand, he slips the second card beneath the Beautiful Assistant's hatband.

Laura refrains from even glancing up as Evan tucks the card into her hat, grinning cheerfully as she shuffles the deck a few times. Full shuffle, bridge and all; no clever cutting of the deck. She keeps up a stream of chatter all the while. "Now, of course, the trick is usually to find your special cards again in all the cards of the deck. Obviously— " The young woman bobs her head, drawing attention to the card she can't see but knows is up there with her hat. "— no one at all would have any trouble finding one of them. But any magician can pick out your other card," she continues disparagingly, as she fans out the deck and plucks a single card from its midst. This gets dismissively tossed on the bar. (Face-up: it just-so-happens to be the card in question, of course.)

"A real magician," Laura continues in a chipper tone, still looking at Evan as she cuts the deck into two and sets one half aside on the bar, "doesn't just stop there." She cuts the deck again, this time folding sections back into the other half; repeats that action; splits this into half and again discards one portion. "The real trick, you see, isn't finding your card." The quarter-deck still in hand gets fanned out, and two cards picked from near the middle. "It's finding the next ones up," she announces, setting both face-up on the bar and smiling triumphantly at Evan.

At the suggested breaks in the patter, Evan nods dismissively, acting as bored as she is. It's a lot easier for him, of course; he doesn't have to worry about moving the cards around properly at the same time, just about the slight rough edge that the drink has put on his thought process. Finally, as the sequence is completed, he arches a brow and nods. "You're right, that's a better trick than the usual." He reaches up again to retrieve the second card, placing it face down on top of the first trio. "Don't suppose you can pull it off twice in a row?"

Bored? No one said Laura was acting bored. Far from it. Whether or not this particular trick is routine, she at least seems to be enjoying every minute of it. Evan's query earns him an injured look from the young woman. "You wound me! So little faith!" she declares. The expression would come across more sincere if there wasn't so much mischievous humor in her eyes. "Just for that, if I succeed again— " She can up the stakes, too. "— what's your forfeit?"

Well, okay, not bored, then: looking down on those who are content with merely the usual. But by now, they've both left the usual far behind. Evan's lips quirk upward — no one throws out an 'if' like that unless they fully intend to back it up — and he meets her gaze. "If you succeed again, I'll go anywhere in the city that you tell me to." Should be open-ended enough to be interesting. "But speaking of forfeits, suppose you don't… what's yours?"

Pale brows rise at that wager. "Go anywhere, is it?" she echoes, grinning impishly. "Most men settle for buying drinks. I like the way you think." Previously established only by implication, that fact; now stated directly. The cards begin to move: cut, fold. "I could say…" Recut, fold. "…I'll do anything you ask me to, within the bounds of reasonable fair play and the walls of this hotel." Cocky, confident grin, as she fans out the cards. "But then, I won't have to," Laura concludes, setting two more cards on the bar — face-down, this time.

"Go ahead, turn them over."

Without missing a beat, Evan picks up and flips all six, leaving the first set face down on top of the second. Entirely within the letter of Laura's instructions, while playing merry hell with the spirit.

"I like your style," he murmurs, hands still resting comfortably on top of the cards. "Would you prefer it if we just decided that we both lost?" Was he, in fact, playing to lose the whole time? It doesn't seem out of the question.

Playing to win, playing to lose — playing the game, either way. Laura sits back in her chair, a hair dramatic in the drawn-up posture she adopts, hands folding in her lap around a quarter-deck of cards. "Agree to lose?" she rephrases, regarding Evan archly. The young woman purses her lips thoughtfully. "Could be, could be…" Laura looks at him for a moment longer — and then grins. "I think I can call that."

Rising from his seat, Evan eases an arm around the young woman's waist — if she lets him, but given what's come before, why wouldn't she? — and gestures toward the elevators. "Does the roof count as within bounds? I haven't seen it yet." Before going anywhere, he tosses some bills onto the bar — and flips the rest of the cards over. But sets them down again without looking; Laura can so indulge herself, if she wishes.

Laura slides out of her chair after Evan, perfectly equable when it comes to the arm about her waist — why not, indeed? — and showing no curiousity for the identity of those two cards as she leaves the remainder of her deck on the bar. It was her trick, after all. "Well," she muses aloud, tilting her head to look up at him, "I think we can technically say that's within the space four walls describe, no?" Sounds like a perfectly reasonable justification to her. Towards the elevators it is.

Behind them, the bartender picks up both bills and cards, shaking his head slowly.

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