Chapter 2: Matthias

10/26/07

Smith came back much sooner than I thought he was going to, and not only that, he came back with a hundred thousand or so dollars more than he started with. And, to top things off, he brought one of the greatest card cheats I've ever met with him. Clearly my choice to bring Smith along on Projekt Oktober was no mistake. There appears to be more to him then meets the eye, I'm actually surprised I missed it, but he seems to be very good at getting people to like him. That's not really any bizarre skill like Nick's, not the type I've been trained to pick up on, but it's still a very useful ability.

Now, I think I need to take a moment to talk about Renard, the card cheat. As it happens, he does possess a bizarre ability. I can't really think of a better way to put it than he did himself; He's lucky. He's extremely lucky. And that is very powerful, in fact it's dangerous, I'm going to try and keep Renard as close as possible. However I don't think I need to be too worried about it, he's clearly not very used to this talent. After all, if he had any kind of grasp on how powerful he could be, he wouldn't be spending his time cheating Vegas out of a couple hundred thousand everyone year.

Jones showed up around four in the morning, he didn't know I had heard him come in, and went straight to bed. I assume he thought we were all asleep, but didn't bother checking. Nick and I (Natasha isn't staying with us, she chose to stay at a motel instead, and is just using taxis to get around) let him sleep until ten, at which point he woke up. He was frantically excited, almost to the point of it being comical, but refused to tell us what was going on, and after scarfing down a quick breakfast, dashed out of the room. A half-hour later he came back with Renard and a deck of cards.

"Oh, so you're engaged," said Nick upon seeing Smith enter with Renard, "That explains it."

"Stuff it," Jones said, "This is Renard. Last night, he and I made one hundred thirty-six thousand, seven hundred eight dollars. In about two hours." That caught our attention.

"You don't say..." I muttered, sizing-up Renard.

"Show 'em," Smith handed Renard the deck of cards. He asked me to pick one, and I did. Ace of Clubs. Then he made me put it back in the deck, shuffled it a few times, then turned on the ceiling fan, and tossed the cards at it. They went everywhere. The next ten minutes were spent picking up each card, finally I had them all in my hand.

"I fail to see exactly what the trick is," I said.

"Did you happen to pick up your card?" Renard ask.

"I'm pretty sure I did."

"Why don't you check." I went through the whole deck, my card was missing.

"Alright, that's a neat trick, but you really need to work on your flair factor," I said, Renard laughed.

"Flair, eh? How about this, I bet you I can call an elevator to our floor by doing absolutely nothing," he picked up an apple, "Except tossing this apple out into the hallway."

"How much?"

"Fifty bucks sound good?"

"Absolutely," I said. Renard grinned walked out into the hallway (Nick, Smith, and I followed him) took a bite out of the apple, and nonchalantly tossed the apple down the hall. A hotel employee was delivering room service to the guests a few rooms down for us, and the unfortunate man stepped on the apple, and tripped. He then fell forwards on to his cart, flipping the whole thing over and sending a fork flying through the air. The fork punctured a loosely secured fire extinguisher, which then began rocketing through the air down the hallway like a jet. As it expended itself, it knocked a bellhops cart and sent it spinning... into the stomach of a nearby patron who fell back, winded. Desperately the man reached for something to grab hold of, instead just hitting the wall, or more specifically, a button on the wall. The elevator's down button. There was a ding and the doors of the elevator slide open.

"Huh, the elevator was already on this floor," Renard commented.

"... The physics, of what just happened are so questionable... I can't... where do I even start?" Nick couldn't formulate a decent sentence for the rest of the day.

After that, we all went back inside and started talking. Renard had an offer for us, he needed funding, and said that he would repay us in total, then split the profits fifty-fifty. But he thought small, he said we could hit one casino for about two hundred fifty thousand, and then we'd have to bolt because the security teams would be after us. That kind of thinking is on such a miniscule scale that I can't even fully comprehend it.

"I have a better idea. I think we can walk away with a million dollars," I said, "By hitting four casinos in the same night."

"That's... ambitious," Renard said.

"Well where would we be if there weren't ambitious people, right? Anyway, the issue isn't so much winning the actually money, the issue is that we're going to be ripping off the casinos, and they aren't going to like that. But if we go to a variety of casinos, that greatly improves our chances of evading being caught. And with Smith here being our resident disguise expert... I'm thinking we could each have two disguises per casino, switching between them once we reach half-way on our projected gain. Actually, it's not even necessary for us to all switch our disguises, just you, and whoever is going to be helping you. The rest of us won't even be near the table when you're playing, we'll just be wandering the casino, looking for any signs that we're going to be busted. And if we don't always go as a group, and change between each casino, this will be a piece of cake," I paused, "Alright I'm going to call up Natasha and we're going to work out the specifics of this, I recommend you all find a way to occupy yourselves in the mean time. Just make sure you're all back here by eight, we've going to a show tonight. Renard, I'll buy an extra ticket for you."

"So we have a deal then?" Renard asked.

"Oh yes, we most certainly have a deal. Just make sure you don't even set foot in a casino today, and whatever you do don't pick up any cards, we don't want to arouse suspicion. Though you may have already with your little escapade last night..."

Nick, Smith, and Renard went shopping, and I called up Natasha. The plan is pretty much the same as I just wrote it above. Tomorrow, we're going to start this little operation at eight, at the Mirage. Natasha will be posing as Renard's date, we've decided that she's going to the best one to accompany him, seeing as she can serve the dual purpose of distracting the other players (poker players are lonely people), and watching for any security personnel making a move for Renard. And, if it comes down to it, she's the best one to have close in a fight. Smith, Nick, and I will all be roaming the casinos, eavesdropping to see if we can hear anyone getting suspicious, and generally keeping an eye on what's going on. After the Mirage, we're hitting the Luxor, the Paris, then we're finishing at the Wynn. Natasha won't be joining us at the Wynn, instead she'll be getting our stuff packed up from our room, checking us out, and waiting with the car running for when we're done. Because when we're done, we're leaving, we don't want to risk anything.


***

Cirque du Soleil is very impressive. We saw Ka at the MGM Grand, and it was astounding. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who steals my journal and reads it. Yes, this means you. Anyway, I sadly wasn't able to enjoy the show fully, Natasha and I were talking the whole time, finalizing plans. Luckily, we had our own box, so we didn't disturb anyone except Smith and Nick. Renard was listening to Natasha and I, but he didn't add anything except for a few questions every once and a while.

Everything is set for tomorrow. I think I'm going to spend the day relaxing at the pool. Renard is meeting us at seven, we're going over the plan one more time, getting into costumes, then heading over to the Mirage. Anyway, I think I should get some rest, I've got a rough day ahead of me. I think in one of these previous entries I mentioned I've been to Vegas twice. The first time was when I was twenty-one, I was just out of college. I knew some sleight of hand, and tried to pull a fast one while I was playing poker. Security escorted me out of the building... and into an alley, where they beat me senseless. Of course, things have changed since I was twenty-one, for one thing, I know how to properly use a knife in a combat situation.


10/27/07 - 10/28/07

When I was eight, I used to say "this was the best day ever" almost daily. I had a good life when I was eight, and I was easy to please. One day, my father told me "Don't keep saying that, you don't know if the next day will be better, or if the day after that will be better, just save it for when you are absolutely sure that you've had the best day of your life". That stuck with me, I never said it again.

This was the best day ever. I'm with the rest of Projekt Oktober, counting through wads of cash and zipping down the highway. The sun is coming up, and a purple-orange is cast over the desert with the mountains and plateaus casting mile-long shadows. I want to remember exactly how this moment looks and feels. It's a hard emotion to explain to someone who has never experienced it, the afterglow of a completed project. Especially one that was whipped up and improvised, and went off better than you could ever have expected. We made two million dollars tonight. That's five hundred thousand from every casino. I'm going to try and record the night as best I can, just as it happened, almost novel form. I have my hunches that Midas might want to hear more about what we just pulled, and he'll especially want to hear about Renard.


***

"Seven sharp," Nick commented when Renard showed up at our room. We were all in our disguises already, although they weren't much, just some fancy clothes. We weren't wearing latex or make-up or anything, we didn't even dye our hair, just formal wear. We'd use the more complex disguises later. I was wearing a business suit and a green tie, Nick had on a tuxedo, Jones was in a Hawaiian shirt, and Natasha was wearing a red cocktail dress. Renard changed into his own tuxedo, and we were we left.

We probably could've walked to the Mirage, Renard and Natasha took a cab, Smith walked, and Nick and I took a different cab. We arrived within fifteen minutes of each other, but didn't meet up. Renard and Natasha were already at the poker tables when Nick and I got there. We took some seats at a nearby bar and started talking about "Hydroponics International" (some company we made up). I think we played our roles as business associates pretty well.

Renard was fantastic, I'm amazed by him. He was clever, only every four or so hands were wins for him. It was enough for him to still rake in a profit, but not enough to raise too much suspicion. He was doing so well, putting on such a show, that we all forgot to pull him out before he made to much. About an hour and a half into our time at the Mirage, Smith came up to us at the bar.

"Well 'ell thar mates, oi ain't you fancy," he said, in one of the most ridiculously overdone imitations of drunkenness I've ever seen. I pulled him in close.

"What do you think you're doing, Jones?" I asked.

"I think I'm warning you about the security that's beelining for Renard from across the casino," Smith muttered. Staying in character, I tossed him back.

"Come on Scott," I said to Nick, "Let's find an establishment where we can discuss Hydroponics in peace." I stood up and Nick followed suit. Both of us made for the exit. Smith stayed behind a few minutes, then he too left, and Natasha took notice. A few minutes later we were all half-walking, half-running away from the casino.

"Matthias, if you ever let security get that close to me again, I will not hesitate to end you," said Natasha.

"Scott?" said Nick.

"The important thing is that we made it out with the money, right? Speaking of which, how did you cash the chips?" I said.

"Really, why did my name have to be Scott?" asked Nick.

"The security guard tripped and had a nasty fall face-first into a slot machine why I was exchanging them," said Renard, nonchalantly.

"I knew a Scott once," commented Smith, "I hated him."

"So how much did we make?" Natasha asked.

"I hate all Scotts, Scotts just suck," said Nick.

"Uhm, a bit more than we intended... five hundred thousand," said Renard.

There were a few moments of stunned silence, then we erupted. We were running through the streets screaming and jumping like children. Had this been any other city, we would've looked like maniacs. The rest of the night went smoother, we took the Luxor for six hundred thousand, Paris for four hundred thousand. Around three in the morning, we headed over to the Wynn. Jones had given himself a beard and glasses, and was dressed as a rabbi. Nick on the other hand, was wearing a bright purple suit, and floppy purple fedora. Around this time, I think Smith was just having way too much fun with the disguises. Renard and I were both wearing white tuxedos with black ties. Natasha had gone off to pack our stuff and pack it all into Katie.

Everything was going perfectly at the Wynn, we made three hundred thousand, went out for a bit and swapped disguises, then came back. Just as we hit the four hundred thousand mark, I noticed two guards coming our way. Renard folded, grabbed his chips, thanked everyone for a good game, and we both started walking away. The security picked up their pace, and so did we. Smith and Nick were nowhere to be seen, and Renard was looking panicky.

"What's the matter, mate?" I asked.

"This is twice that we've been noticed, I don't like it," he said, and glanced back. I grabbed him.

"Hey! HEY! Don't look at 'em! Okay, just, be cool, we're going to walk out without cashing the chips, you can always come back in a week or so, he lemme help you with those." Renard had been stuffing chips into his pockets, but was running out of space. He handed the rest to me, and look back.

"Piss, piiiiiss, I think one of them just reached for his gun," Renard whispered, I glanced back.

"Yes, yes he did," I said.

"What do we do? Huh? I've never been this close to being caught..."

"We run."

"What?"

"RUN!" And we did, we bolted through the casino. There were no gunshots, I had expected that, the security was just trying to scare us. At least, until we got out of public area, then they would do a lot worse. We made it outside the Wynn, and Natasha was nowhere to be seen, neither were Jones and Nick. Renard and I flew down the street, and the security bolted after us. Apparently we had pissed them off enough that they were content with just driving us out of the casino. Renard took a sharp turn into an alley, and I followed even though every instinct I had was screaming at me not to.

The alley was a dead in. Renard cursed loudly, and repeatedly, and I reached for my pocket knife. There was a hole in my pocket. I joined Renard in his profanities. Seconds later, the security was slowly approaching us from the opening of the alley.

"Get on you knees and put your hands in the air," said one, holstering his pistol, opting for a police baton instead.

"No you," came a voice from behind them. It was Natasha. She had a baseball bat. There was a loud crack, and one of the guards was on the ground. The other fumbled for his gun, fruitlessly. Another crack, this time Natasha's bat snapped.

"You took your sweet time," I said, concealing the panic and anger in my voice, "Where were you?"

"I figured you would probably end up getting chased," she started walking out of the alley, "And I knew that if I was in the car waiting outside they'd be able to get the licenses plate number from security cameras, so I figured that wouldn't do. As I saw it, you'd only make it so far before dodging into an alley to catch your breathe, and I thought it was a safe guess that you'd go right out of the casino, so I just waited here."

"Renard was the one that ducked into the alley, thank you. And I call bull," I said.

"Oh you do, do you?" Natasha asked, "Look across the street." I did. Katie was parked there, and Smith and Nick were sitting in the backseat.

"... I don't know how you do what you do, Natasha," I said, and we all crossed the street. I hopped in the passenger seat, and Natasha got in the driver's side. I turned to Renard.

"So," I said, "How do you feel about coming with us for a while, Renard?" He shook his head.

"Nah, I've had my fill of adventure, I'm gonna go my own way. You guys were great though, this was the best I've ever done here."

"Oh come on, you have to at least stay with us a bit longer to sort the money," said Smith, "Plus you don't have a ride."

"You guys already have the cash, I'll just keep the chips I got from the Wynn, I'll come back and cash them in a week, with my luck no one will notice."

"And what are you gonna do for a ride, bigshot?" Nick asked.

"See the Ferrari behind you guys? Someone left the keys in the ignition," Renard smiled and walked over to the car, "I think I'll be just fine," he said as he got in and turned the key. It roared like an awakening lion. Renard pulled out, and drove up next to us.

"Hey by the way, does your little gang have a name?" he asked.

"Oktober. We're Projekt Oktober," I said.

"Well 'Projekt Oktober', I'll see you around," Renard looked off down the street, "Oh hey, no traffic." And with that, he floored the pedal and speed off into the sunrise.

"Man, some people just have everything don't they?" Nick asked.

"Hey, Matthias," Smith said, "You remember that card trick Renard did, the one where he made your card disappear? Do you still remember the card?"

"Yeah, I do, why?"

"It wasn't an Ace of Clubs was it?"

"How did you know-" then I saw it. Taped to the steering wheel, there it was. An Ace of Clubs.




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