The dice bounce across the table.
I stare out across the casino floor, savoring the expressions of fear and anticipation. I take notice of a few mortals. I smile to myself and lightly wave my hand as the dice hit the wall of the table.
I love addicts.
As the dice settle, a cry of disgust rises from the players crowded around the craps table. “Seven again?! Come on, man!”
“I have to go make a call,” another player says as she runs out of the building in tears.
My little back alley casino is thick with the smell of cigar smoke, bourbon, and shattered hopes. To me, there is no better scent in the world. I am Caerus, God of Opportunity, Luck, and Favor. I run a ten table joint on the upper east side that caters to the wealthy elite. No celebrities here, they prefer to play at cushy hotel games in the Plaza like the one Molly Bloom ran. Not that I mind losing potential patrons to games like that, in fact, I prefer that the attention whores and paparazzi bait don’t come here. I run a quiet place that luckily never gets raided, and that’s what people in the know come for. I may have even had a slight hand in helping Ms. Bloom get off with a light sentence so that her story could be told, and people would look for those games instead of searching for mine.
I smile as the dealer at table 4 shuffles for another round of Hold ‘Em. A slight wave of the hand, and I’ve assured that player two will go all-in on pocket rockets, which will eventually turn up nothing. Some people may call it cheating, but as a god with no need for money, and no control over my own life, that feeling of power is all I’m willing to settle for.
I turn to my assistant and summon her over. “Anita, go fetch the Ukrainian for me. Make sure Victor searches him thoroughly, and if he finds anything, tell Victor to break his fingers for disrespecting the rules of my house.”
She nods politely and walks out the double walnut doors.
“I hate to see her leave, but I love to watch her go.” I curse myself for speaking like that out loud.
Knock that off, it’s how you lost the last one, Caerus. The mortals who don’t know what you are, get creeped out by it, and the immortals that do, never leave you alone if they see you’re interested.
I turn away from the one-way mirror and sit in the large, high-backed, dark brown leather chair at my desk. I open the middle drawer and grab the velvet bag inside. I stick my fingers inside and take out the pair of transparent green dice, rolling them around my palm before tossing them onto the table.
Six. Could go either way.
I pick them up and place them back inside the velvet pack and gently set it into the drawer as I hear a knock on the door.
“Come in and set the case on the table, please.” As the light spills into the office, I take one look at the silhouette of the colossus who enters, and sigh out loud.
Why do they always send a brute instead of someone with more than two brain cells to rub together?
“Care for some ice with your whiskey?” I say as I walk over and uncap a bottle of Hedonism.
“No.” The singular word comes out short and staccato. The steel case slides across the table, and its owner slumps into the lone, stiff wooden chair I’d had Anita place in front of the large mahogany desk.
Maybe he only has a single brain cell. Just once can new partners respect me enough to have at least someone from mid-tier management come to a first meeting? I set the glass down and take a closer look at the brute. He’s another stereotypical meathead, a bit of stubble, a shaved head, and an accompanying long scar across his cheek. This is new, they’ve sent me the ugliest one of the lot.
“Mr. Kravchenko, it is my pleasure to do business with you.”
The thug scowls. “My last name is reserved for family members and fellow members of my nation. As you are neither, you will call me Denys.”
I roll my eyes so hard I can almost see the back of my skull. Will you ever stop following me, Dion?
“I’m curious, son of a tailor, a product of Dionysos, why did they send you to deal with me?” I walk back to my side of the desk, glancing at the bookshelf. Every item meticulously curated, something to remind me of where I come from.
He grimaces again. “I do not know what you mean. I was simply told by a man in my organization to bring you the product and pick up the money. This whole affair with disarming me, bringing me here to this tiny office filled with lavish ornaments, and pestering me with questions was not what I was told would happen. Normally, new players have a bag man make the exchange, they are too busy for the minutiae of such a transaction. However, you are here in person, offering me expensive drinks, explaining to me the meaning of my own name, and asking strange questions. Can we please just make the exchange, so that I may go on with my other business?” He shoves the case across the table towards me.
Such arrogance. This is why most mortals will never rise above their station. I place my hand on the only other item on the desk, my black and gold deck of cards, and shuffle it a few times.
“Did you know that the odds of shuffling a deck of cards the same way twice, is smaller than the odds of being able to pick a specific atom randomly out of all the atoms in the universe?” I savor the puzzled look on his face for a moment before I toss the cards at him and leap over the desk. My hands wrap around his throat as a wicked grin spreads across my face. “Who sent you? Was it that bitch Morrigan? It’s been a while since I’ve seen her, she does love keeping tabs on me.”
I realise that my prey cannot breathe, let alone speak. I loosen my grip and wipe the foam that had frothed at corners of my mouth.
He gasps for breath and scuttles out from under me. “What are you? Some kind of devil with all that strength in that body?” His voice comes out raspy, as if I broke his airway.
I tip the scales back into balance and stand up, letting him breathe once again. “Not a devil, just lucky.” He stares at me in bewilderment. “I apologise for my outburst, let us resume negotiations.” I help him to his feet and set the chair upright once more.
His eyes are wide with fear and confusion. “I know not what you are, but please, do not kill me, I… I can help you!” His pupils are wider than any man’s I have ever seen before.
You’re losing your touch, Caerus, reel it in. “Mr. Kravchenko, I accept your plea. You will take the money from Anita and go back to your bosses. You will pretend that nothing out of the ordinary happened here, and you will begin reporting anything unusual about your organization to me.”
He slowly lowers himself back into the chair and wordlessly nods his head in agreement.
I suppose I have to work with what I am given. “Tell me, what is the name of your direct superior?”
He thought for a moment before answering, “Vladisnoff. His name is Vladisnoff.”
I walk back around the desk and open the case. I survey its contents before closing it. “Very good. Go home, Mr. Kravchenko. Tomorrow, Mr. Vladisnoff will have an unfortunate accident on his way home. You will be promoted, and you will follow the terms of our agreement. If you do not…well, I will leave that to your imagination. Pick up a business card from Victor on your way out. I will be in touch soon.”
He took the cue and practically ran from the room, slamming the doors behind him.
“Maybe not worthless after all. The pawns are in place among the Ukrainians, the Irish, and the Italians. Once I lock the Germans down, I can strike.” I walk over to the cards and stretch my hand out over them. They slowly float back to my palm and assemble themselves in order. I clasp my fingers around them and place them back on the desk, before pressing the button underneath the overhang on the side. The middle of the desktop shimmers away, revealing the safe underneath. I quickly spin the wheel and unlock it, revealing the single letter inside.
Caerus, the Petulant
Always a flair for the dramatic with that one. I trace the wax seal on the back, and debate opening it. It’s been three weeks, and no one has come to fetch me yet. It can wait. I place the envelope back in the safe, and wave it shut. I press the button once more, and the desktop shimmers back into existence. On to more pressing matters. I open the case again and stare at the deep red vials inside.
“They’re calling it ‘Ichor’” I say to no one in particular, “which if you ask me is fitting.” I pull out a UV light and shine it over the tubes. They glow ever so slightly. “Curious indeed.”
I pick up the phone and call my most trusted friend in the world. “Get over here as soon as you can. I’ve discovered something more about Ichor.”