Gambit: Endgame #1
Wednesday, July 28th, 1993
New York City, NY
“Pawn to D4”, grumbled the old man, moving his chess piece and then hitting the clock with the heel of his hand.
“Pawn to… D4!”, chirped his rival, excitedly, as she slid her pawn forward and also hit the clock.
The old man smiled at his seven-year-old granddaughter. She smiled back innocently. “That is D5, actually. See,” he pointed to the squares on the board as he counted for her. “A, B, C, D… D1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. D5. That denotes your position in the rank and file of the game board, see? Although…”, he got lost in a thought, “rank can be a matter of perspective in informal games, so, I suppose you could very well be correct.”
His granddaughter stared blankly at him, her eyes glazed over. “Ahem… but, of course, you knew that didn’t you”, he said with a playful grin, focusing back on the game. “I know what you are up to! You think you can outsmart Grandpa so early on, do ya?”
They sat out in Bryant Park, one of the busier parks in New York City, on a sweltering July afternoon. They lucked into nabbing a prime chess table, in part because of the old man’s reputation, and in part because of his granddaughter cherubic cheeks.
He studied the board for a bit, peering over his horn-rimmed glasses. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he declared exuberantly, “pawn to C4!” His granddaughter giggled as he hits the clock.
Just then they heard a loud explosion quickly followed by several more. The old man swiftly darted over the table to protect his granddaughter, turning to see what caused the noise. Across the street pillars of water shot into the air, two pillars per block for the next three blocks. Children screamed with delight as they ran to play in the raining water of the exploded fire hydrants. The grandfather breathed a sigh of relief as he let his granddaughter run across the street to play.
Seven minutes previous
In a luxurious New York penthouse suite, a guard, dressed casually in a hawaiian shirt, walked slowly down the hallway in his socks, passing a door on his left and checking the same crevices he had checked time and time again. One could hardly expect the most thorough of searches every time from the man. He rounded the corner and continued down the hall.
Just above where the guard passed, the ceiling shifted. A sheet the color of the beige ceiling dropped to the floor. Braced in the coffered ceiling and supported by what looked like a metal bar lurked a gaunt ragged man with long oily brown hair, wearing plum-colored satin dress pants, a floral Barrymore collared lavender and blue dress shirt and a muddy-green trenchcoat. Certainly not the reserved attire one might expect from a thief. With the push of a button on the metal bar, it retracted and the man fell and landed as silently as a cat on the ground. He slid the metal bar, no longer than a ruler now, up his sleeve, stuffed the sheet in his jacket, and snuck to the door frame nearby. A keypad guarded the door, but the man gently touched the keypad with his index finger. A brief red spark and a soft sound of a fizzle were followed by the unmistakable sound of a door unlocking. The man cracked open the door, spun inside and gently shut it.
To his surprise, the thief found himself in a child’s nursery. He looked quizzically at the keypad and then back at the rest of the room. A crib sat in the middle of the light blue and white room, empty. Looking out the windows, the man could see Bryant Park eight floors down and across the street. He squinted and peered around the room, his dark eyes giving off a faint red glow. Almost unnoticeable.
As he stepped forward he hesitated, turned his head to look at the corner of the ceiling and then suddenly dropped down to hide on the side of a nearby dresser. He pulled the metal bar out of his jacket and raised it slowly in front of him until he saw in its reflection a surveillance camera. Using his other hand he pulled a paperclip out of his jacket and deftly straightened it. Between his fingers, the paperclip began to glow red and the man speared it behind his head, striking the lens of the camera with a pop that shattered the glass. He winced, fearing the noise might have been too loud.
He quickly stood, checked his watch, and then began examining the room. Looking at the crib, he lifted the mat to look underneath, causing a silver rattle on top to roll slightly. He grabbed the rattle and casually pocketed it in his trenchcoat as he moved to look at the walls. Noticing the air vent near the baseboards he crouched down and gave a sly grin as he pried the vent cover off. There sat a small, simple cardboard box. He opened it, checked the contents, and then slipped the box into his jacket.
Suddenly the door to the room kicked in and the guard in the hawaiian shirt was pointing a gun at the thief. “Don’t…”, the guard said calmly. The thief kept his eyes trained on the guard, his arms stretched out. “Just kneel down slowly and keep your arms out away from ya sides.”
“Hey der’, chief,” the thief said in a thick cajun accent, “no need fo’ da itchy trigga finga.”
“Huh?”, the guard replied, confused by the accent. “Uh… just keep your mouth shut and lay down on the floor, okay?”.
The thief slowly knelt, glanced out the window and back at the guard. “You may wanna covah yo eyes, mon ami”, he said, calmly. Suddenly a series of explosions went off outside, the fire hydrants bursting open, and in that distracting moment the thief flicked the metal rod out from his sleeve, and in one fluid motion extended it to smack the gun out of the guards hand and then charged the end of the staff to a bright glowing red and slammed it into the ground at an angle beside him. The staff exploded the floor below them, sending out a blinding white light and simultaneously collapsing the floor and propelling the thief and staff out through the window.
Thursday, July 29th, 1993
San Francisco, CA
A chime sounded. Wearing a loud purple crushed-velvet suit underneath the trenchcoat, his hair pulled back in a short ponytail, the thief entered an upscale jewelry store in the Financial District. Showing the briefest face of disgust at the man’s appearance, the young woman behind the counter quickly changed to a welcoming smile.
“Hello, sir, my name is Melodie. Is there anything I can help you with today?”
“Jus’ lookin”, the thief said as he scanned the store, noting two other elderly women looking at jewelry. He walked up beside one of the women, rested his hands on the jewelry case and looked at a pair of sapphire earrings.
“Very lovely,” Melodie remarked as she crossed over to the counter where he stood. She kept an eye on the man. “Are you looking for earrings for someone in particular?”
“Might be I’m lookin f’you, cher,” the thief smiled, meeting her gaze. A slight red flicker in his eyes caught her off-guard and suddenly she found her disgust with the man transforming into intrigue. Perhaps…. attraction?
During this exchange, out from the side of the man’s trenchcoat, a third arm quietly slid and opened the purse of the shopper next to him. The hand grabbed a pocketbook of credit cards and cash and pulled it back into his jacket. The hand returned to the purse and closed it before sliding back into the coat undetected.
“Go on, den. Try dem on fo’ me, yea?” the thief told Melodie. Blushing, she, looked sheepishly at her oblivious co-worker and then at the elderly shopper next to the thief, who smiled and nodded her head approvingly. Melodie pulled out and tried on the earrings.
“Belle dame,” he remarked. “Der yers, cherie.”
Taken aback, she objected, “Oh, but I couldn’t!”
“Sure ya can,” he said, reaching in his pocket and handing her the recently stolen credit card. “All it cost ya is a date wid me tonight, eh?”
The chime to the front door rang as a man in a plain black suit, black tie, and sunglasses entered the store. He looked at the thief and nodded his head, beckoning the thief to follow him, before exiting the store again.
“Just sign here… and my number is on the receipt,” giggled Melodie.
Distracted, the thief quickly scribbled a signature and turned to walk out the door.
“Sir, your receipt–”, the woman exclaimed as the door shut behind him.
Outside, the thief turned and followed the man in the suit into an alleyway where a black SUV with tinted windows was parked. As he approached the car, a tall blond man in a slim Armani suit stepped out to greet him. He extended his hand and the thief’s right arm reached out from under the other right arm to shake it.
“S’a fake arm”, the thief explained to the bewildered man. “So, Senatah Kelly,” the thief said, pulling out and lighting a cigarette. “You got mah money?”
“Shhh– Geez, thats so unprofessional!” Senator Kelly cringed, forgetting about the decoy arm. “Why do we have code names if you aren’t gonna use them, Gambit?”
“Nobody around, homme. You ain’ gotta worry”
“Use my codename anyways, please.”
“You got it, …Jazz.”
“Thank you. Yes, we have the money. The object?”
Gambit pulled the small cardboard box out of his jacket and handed it to Jazz. Jazz opened the box, quickly looked, and then threw the box in the dumpster next to him. Gambit looked taken aback.
“Hotrod, pay the man.”
Gambit gave a sigh of relief as the annoyed looking bodyguard pulled an envelope of money out of his suit jacket and handed it over.
“Merci, Hotrod.” Gambit grinned as he looked over the cash. Hotrod’s face flushed with anger and embarrassment.
“The mission was just a test, Gambit,” the Senator said. “That,” pointing to the object in the dumpster, “was just a plant to see if you could pull off the heist. We have a much bigger job we would like you to do for us now.”
“Don’ take mo’ den one mission from da same client, mec,” Gambit said cooly, annoyed that he just completed a false job. “Specially from someone, tinks de can use me like some mari-nette.”
“Well, the details of the mission, along with your compensation, will be waiting for you when you get home. Take a few days and think about it. Get back to me on Sunday with your answer, ok?”
Jazz and Hotrod climbed into the car and drove off, leaving Gambit to consider things in the alley.
Saturday, July 31st, 1993
New Orleans, LA
Gambit sat at the back of a dark, empty dive-bar, practicing card springs. His cigarette reached the filter. He stubbed it out and flicked it into the ashtray two tables away. He put another cigarette on his lip and charged a playing card to a light red glow. He swiped it across the tip, lighting the cigarette, and the card returned to normal.
The band finished setting up in the corner of the bar and began to play.
“Jazz…”, Gambit muttered to himself and chuckled. He continued shuffling the cards.
“Care for a game, bro?” Three young college kids wearing their fraternity shirts and beaded necklaces approached his table.
“Deese here ain’ playin cards,” Gambit said dismissively. The kids slunked away, disappointed. Behind them stood a beautiful woman in a skirt suit, looking very out-of-place in the bar.
“But I certainly got time fo’ a game wichoo, cher,” Gambit’s eyes flared red as he grinned.
“Nice try, Remy. Your charm won’t work on me,” the woman said.
“Remy? On’y mah friends call me dat. …an’ I ain got no friends.” Gambit glared at her.
“Kelly may prefer the silly code-names. Me? Not so much. The names Bobbi.”
“You mah new mission?” Gambit raised an eyebrow at her.
“These missions don’t arrive at your doorstep through the mail, Remy. Someone gets the boring task of tracking you through this filthy city and hand delivering it.” She handed him the folder of documents he hadn’t noticed she was holding until now. “And you are a pain in the ass to find.”
Gambit picked up the folder. Written on the front were the words “Project: Endgame”. As he opened the folder, Bobbi sat down across from him.
“You stickin around?”
“You don’t get to keep the folder. Hurry up now. I’ve got a date to get to.”
“Here in filthy ol’ Nawlins?”, he lit another cigarette with a match.
“Just read,” she said, annoyed.
He looked down at the first page and was surprised to see it led with ‘Compensation’. Then he read what the compensation was and the cigarette fell from his lip. He quickly grabbed it and stamped out the butt, then looked up at Bobbi. She looked bored and put-out. He returned to the folder.
On the next page was the mission. “So you wan me steal some ol’ documen’s called ‘Projek: Endgame’, eh? That don’ soun too tricky.”
“Look at the where,” she said, filing her nails.
Gambit looked down and read and then quickly looked back up.