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Chapter 9 - Good and Evil

There was roughly an hour until the first race of the day was scheduled to begin, and so they agreed to use that time to formulate their strategies. Jack was led to another room by Leonard's men. He was also accompanied by Halle, who would serve as his 'advisor.' Leonard's adviser would, naturally, be Nike.

'I take it just running away isn't an option? I mean, I'm free and all...' Halle said once in the room.

Jack shook his head. 'Even if we did manage to get away, which isn't especially likely, he's not the kind of guy to just let this go. If this method doesn't work, he'll just do something worse. Worse for us, of course.'

'Y-Yeah, I suppose you're right...' Halle said.

'Okay, forget it. Just had to ask.'

As Jack had noted, however, the odds of them being able to run away weren't particularly promising to begin with, as Leonard's men were likely to be everywhere. They pondered their predicament for a moment.

Halle broke the heavy silence. 'Hey, Jack? Has Leonard always been a bad guy like that?'

Jack couldn't help but smile slightly at the childish way she phrased her question. As far as he was concerned, the vast majority of gamblers, himself included, were to some degree or another 'bad guys.' He knew what she meant, though. Both he and King had been part of the criminal underworld, but they had their morals and lines that they wouldn't under any circumstances cross. Back in the day, that had been true of Leonard and Nike, too, but now...

'So they weren't, then? I wonder what changed them...' Halle mused.

Jack had a pretty good idea of the answer: King's death seven years prior. After that, Jack had lost his drive, his passion. His despondency had in turn caused Nike to become disappointed in him and leave his side. Leonard, meanwhile, found a new life of his own, away from gambling.

It wasn't long after that that the news of Leonard's move to politics reached Jack's ears. It was a transition that made sense to Jack, too; Leonard had always been one who loved flashiness, loved to stand out. In short time, though, less pleasant rumors began to spread about him. The whispers never left the realm of hearsay, but the content was enough to make Jack concerned. Bribes, suspicions involving organized crime... It was often said that power corrupted, but Jack hadn't expected it of someone he knew so well.

'Nike really is pretty, though,' Halle said abruptly.

You sure you're completely over her?'

Flustered, Jack could only gape for a second before stuttering, 'Wh-What makes you think I wouldn't be?! Of course I am!'

His expression told a different story, though, and Halle immediately regretted pressing him on the subject.

'A-Anyway...' Jack said, 'This isn't going to be easy while he has Nike on his side. There are many who call her the 'Goddess of Victory' for the luck she brings to men.'

' 'Goddess of Victory,' huh? I'm guessing you're one of those men, too, 'Victory Jack'.'

He couldn't deny it; she was completely right. Nike's gambling skills were just as good as Jack or Leonard's, and whenever she and Jack had worked as a team, they had never been defeated.

Halle looked intrigued when he mentioned their teamwork. 'You guys worked grifts together?'

He nodded, and it seemed as though there was more she wanted to ask, but she dropped it and changed the subject. 'You aren't going to look at all the race data they gave us, then?'

'Nah. I follow the races here as it is, so I pretty much know all that stuff already. Besides, numbers don't tell the whole story. You gotta get a read of the atmosphere out on the track if you really wanna score big. Looks like we'll have to wing the first one blind, though...'

A quick glance at the clock confirmed his dismay: the start of the first race was rapidly approaching.