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Nov 30 - 04:49:17
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Leases, Lists, and Lawlessness Started by: Barbara_Braganza on Nov 04, '20 04:00

Bench space in the city was prime realty. Every bum, hobo, and hoodlum in the streets was perpetually on high alert for the sweet, sweet comfort of anything other than gutter ground. And amidst the clusters of Hoovertown-chic cardboard, damp newspaper, and broken crates, a proper bench was like the Taj Mahal. Any other day, that alone would have been enough to justify Barb’s content smile as she lazed across a sun-warmed park bench like a spoiled house cat. But today wasn’t quite like any other day.

 

One leg slung over the back of the bench, Barb stretched onto her back; notepad held skyward for proper reading as she perused her new list of objectives: 

- Deliveries

- Apartment (House?)

-Business Front

 

Chuckling, she retrieved a pencil from somewhere in the untamed nest of curls that spilled from what looked like it could have been a bun like the stretched springs of some long-broken and rusting machine. “Just what KIND of front,” she mused softly to herself, chuckling as rolled onto her stomach to jot more gleeful notes. 

Excuse me, miss. Kindly move your feet,” a hopeful youth piped up, trying his very best to look like Tiny Tim as he chewed his bottom lip and gave her the best ‘puss-in-boots’ eyes he could muster. Shooting him a cutting glower, Barb hissed, “Get lost kid. Yas barkin’ up tha wrong tree,” before literally giving him the boot... laughing maniacally as she chucked a balled up twenty after his retreating head, “And buy yas motha somethin’ nice, ya little prick!

Returning to her previous musings, she ignored the boy’s excited, yipping dash as he darted, skipping, from the park. And, likewise, missed Johnny’s scoffing chuckle as he approached from opposite direction. 

 

Art dealer? Too obvious. Maybe. Title Company? Apartment Complex? Legal Aid? General Acquisitions? Ooo... CASINO. Too big. Maybe SMALL casino. Grocery store? We could do a grocery store... general goods. More general than yas know,” she giggled, “Cleaners... could gets us in with private collectors.” There was a small gasp as a sudden thought struck her,” Restorations... I could DEFINITELY do restorations...” 

The list grew on and on as annotated her her own dictations, completely oblivious to the bustling park around her. 

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Johnny listened as she prattled on to herself, completely in her own little world. Shaking his head, he finally interrupted and announced his presence. "You could definitely do restorations. Go legit. But seriously, a grocery store? Do I look like a store clerk to you?" He posed, entering scenario and smiled at no one in particular. "Thanks for shopping with us today, sir and or madam," he acted, placing imaginary groceries into imaginary bags. "Would you like to buy any stamps this afternoon?" He paused for a moment, frozen in time, before dropping his arms and looking at her. "Yeaaah, no. That doesn't work for me."

Chuckling, he lifted her legs off the bench and sat himself down in their place. "But, I do like the restorations. I know people in Vegas that would pay big money to have some of their collections restored. Mostly some of the big casinos. But, that's big mob, and I'm not really welcome in the city until someone does away with Micky and his goons."

Leaning back and resting his head on the bench, Johnny stared up at the same sky that Barbara did, questioning what to do. "I suppose I could always start a magic shop here in town. One full of tricks and things to sell to the interested masses. Sell my tricks, ya know? But I'm really at a loss what to do aside from use it for planning out other jobs. I mean. We could sell name brand knock-offs in the shop... I guess." He chuckled.

"Ohhh who am I kiddin' Barb? I have absolutely no idea what we should do. I have big job ideas, but I don't know what to do for legitimacy in the meantime." He raised his head and looked at her. "So if you've got anything, aside from grocery store, then I'm down to give it a go." He shrugged. "Just lemme know where ya need me, and I'm there."

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Ruffled, Barb plopped her boots back in their place... right on top of his lap. “I neva said nothin’ about going legit,” she smirked wickedly, “Yas don’t just restore the original and gives it back, ya putz. Yas forge it, gives ‘em the fake, and black market the original.” She nodded, seeming quite proud of her definitely-moblike-thinking. “Samewise, the grocery store’d just be the front... hire youngun’s that we scope for runners. And yous and me work OUR business outta the back... forgeries, black market goods, money laundering. Yas gotta think outta the box.” 

Eyeing him for a moment, she doubled over and devolved into a fit of giggling... which seemed to quickly becoming a habit between the two. Sitting up, she shouldered him playfully, “Or is yas too usedta puttin’ brawds IN the box ta get outta it?” Aaah... magic jokes. As far as Barbara was concerned, they would NEVER get old. 

Honestly, even on the front side a things, I can’t see a magic shop doin’ too hot these days. Blokes don’t gots the money ta waste, yeah? And, ifs we’s gonna do this right, then we’s prolly oughta have separate fronts as partners... thata way there’s more hands for stuff to pass through. The way I sees it, that’ll make it harder to trace when some bloke finally sobers up enough to get the wiser. Yeah?”

Tilting her head to one side, she continued musing, “I knows casinos do well in Vegas. Far as anyone out here is concerned, ya just a big-time Vegas street name lookin’ to expand, yeah? Yas got the know-how and the charisma. I gots the skills ta forge yas collateral and what not. Far as I know, Philly ain’t got any place like that yet. Maybe we could make a move?” 

Her pencil tapped an unconscious little beat on the pad as she brainstormed, “Or, tha little birdies say that old piers goin’ up down by Race Street again. Maybe we’s could get in on a place down there... somethin’ small with room for yas ta do yas thing. Y’know... TOURISTY.” She chuckled lightly as she cringed just a little. Barb HATED tourists. But she hated poverty more. “Yous tha one that said the world’s our oyster here. So... get ta pushin’ out that fat pearl, Mr. Miracles.” 

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It was almost as if Johnny's lightbulb BURST as she spoke from the energy that coursed through it.

"BRILLIANT!" he exclaimed, "Barb, I could KISS YA!" He chuckled, then stared into her eyes for a moment too long as they both paused. It was fleeting, before she finally smacked him and they both shook their heads away from the thought. Regardless, he chuckled and sighed. "We could do both. The touristy thing that can get people to come see a big show. By the way, yes. I am used to putting dames in boxes. Cutting them in half too." He winked, "You applyin' for the position of my assistant? It pays great, but has a terrible life insurance policy." He smirked, giving her a playful shove back. "But really, imagine if we ran a casino like ya said? The things we could do? I can train all the card holders and teach them to look for good marks." He smirked. "I should probably train your eye as well. Unless you're good at that kinda thing already."

Johnny shrugged and smiled at her, popping open his cigarette case and offering her one. "Anyone ever told you ya got a beautiful brain, doll?" He paused, finally lighting his cigarette.

"You're right, the world is our oyster, and I say we make it on tha half-shell. I like your idea too, for the restore and switch routine. So many good ideas, but focusing on the right one is best. First thing, we need to figure out how to keep our names outta fed ears and mouths." He chuckled.

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Barb rolled her eyes as she took a cigarette and sparked it. “I swears, I’m gonna end up the brains a this operation, and you’s just the pretty face,” she laughed as she inhaled. “Keepin yas hands clean is easy. Yas just run everything through a shell. Make up a company, forge a years worth or so a financials under an assumed name, and yas good ta go. Iffin yas really wanted ta do a casino, then on paper YOU wouldn’t even own it. That way, you’s just tha showman that handles tha entertainment. That’s all. Hand off. Hands clean.” 

She shook her head again, as if explaining something stupidly simple to a child. “But, I thinks yas right. Picking the right ‘what’ is gonna make all the ‘how’ that much easier. And there’s lotsa ‘whats’ that wes could do. Title company... get otha people in business and then run our shit through their backdoors... Hell, wes could flat up JUST do entertainment on tha pier. I’ll do caricatures and you do yas magic bit... and we scope marks on both ends. I mean... it ain’t a store front, but it’s dishonest work,” a giggled danced through the smoke that she exhaled as she shook her head. 

Anyways, that ain’t why I called yas out here.” Her soft smirk slowly turned into a full Cheshire grin as her hand dipped into her pocket, “I thought yas might wanna see where yas money been goin’.” Slowly, she produced an intricately detailed deck of cards, fanning them out face down just like he was so used to doing for others. “Pick a card, any card...” she smirked. 

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Chuckling at her display, he nodded. "Alright, alright. Let's see whatcha got, doll." He smirked back as he studied the cards. Intricately drawn backsides were seemingly identical to one another as his eyes scanned over the deck. "So what do we have here? Which cards are these?" He noted that each one had a tiny notch in one of the corners. Identically placed to be either upper right or lower left. Not sure what the notches were for but seeing the gleeful expression on Barb's face as she held them out further, urging him to pick a card, he finally chose one. Far right in her hand, he snagged one of the card and flipped it over to look at it. The Queen of Spades. Of all cards, why the mother of misery? The most heavily weighted card in Hearts and other similar card games...

Agonizing over his luck, he chuckled and looked at Barbara who he assumed had no idea what card he'd drawn. "Alright, now what chief?" he chuckled out, as he studied the intricacies of the face side. It was beautifully well done and absolutely one of a kind. He flipped it face down so she couldn't see and looked at it's back, then the rest of the cards once more before holding it up again and smiling at it. It was certainly the best looking card he'd ever held in his life. In fact, he'd almost be sad if these were the fire deck...

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Grinning like the Cheshire Cat, Barb pulled a marker from her mess of curls. Which, always seemed like a magic trick all it’s own considering there always seemed to be FAR more up there than any bun should hold and her curls did such a fine job of camouflaging it all. “I want you to take this and sign it. And then put it back,” she instructed, veritably bouncing in her seat as she watched him. Carefully, he slid the card into the deck, and she giggled like a school girl as she turned away to shuffle them. Glaring over her shoulder, she stuck her tongue out, “My hands don’t work as fast as yours and I don’t want to give it away.” 

The ruffling of cards drifted over her shoulder for a moment, until she turned back around and fanned the cards out on the bench. They all LOOKED the same. But he knew that there HAD to be SOME catch. 

A little faked concentration and some ‘woowoo’ looking hand waving, and Barb plucked a card from the deck with self-assured confidence. Holding it up, her face fell at his perplexed and somewhat disappointed expression. It was the queen of hearts. Definitely NOT his card. 

Aw, shit! Did I do it wrong?” Her voice whined a little as she glanced at the front of the card and then up at his face. She let him lean in and only just begin to explain how magic takes a certain finesse and everyone gets it wrong at first before an impish smile spread across her face. “Are you sure,” she cooed, flicking the back of the card hard. 

As her nail caught the center of the design, a spark of a flash rippled around her fingers. The tiniest puff of smoke rose from the back of the card like an old photograph, the intricate design burning away as the FRONT of the card ‘magically’ shifted to reveal his signature... letter by letter as if written in real time. 

Squealing, Barb shoved the deck to one side and pulled another card from her pocket, holding it up for him to see. “Maybe it THIS ONE?” 

​​​​​​​She watched as the interest and confusion in his expression piqued. This one was blank. What was she playing at? Watching his expression, she pouted again. “God damnit, I must be really bad at this,” she snapped her fingers in mock defeat, flipping the card Between them like a coin as it ‘poofed’ again... the queen of spades revealing herself through the smoke as Barb offered it to him with a flick of her wrist. 

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She'd tricked him the first time, and he'd not even caught it. Just assuming she'd fucked it up was his first mistake and he refused to make that one EVER again. At least knowing how these cons worked in a sense, he simply watched as she revealed the Queen of Spades. An impish smirk tugged at the side of his lips until he was grinning equal to her most Cheshire of looks.

"That, was absolutely fantastic!" He chuckled. "So, give me the rundown on these, and how quickly can you produce the decks? I can only use them once per show and I'd prefer for the whole deck to go up in smoke after the tricks so people 'know' I'm not 'tricking' them." He air quoted the taboo words when it came to magic; know and trick.

Still smiling, Johnny tugged his money clip out, "And better yet, what exactly is it going to cost me for the setups?" He chuckled lightly. "And don't lowball yourself, Barb. You've done fantastic work for this first show and tell!" He was astounded, giddy even, at the way she'd stumped him. At least at first. That didn't happen often and it was incredibly, fascinatingly, excitingly arousing in the most interesting of ways. No one quite intrigued him the way that the lovely enigma of Barbara Braganza teased at his most inner of thoughts. His heart raced with anticipation now that she'd gotten him started. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, got Johnny on board quicker than someone able to pull the wool over his eyes. So to speak.

He held his money in his hand, waiting on her price and her explanation of the way the cards worked, which seemed flawless to him in the moment with her perfect execution. Certainly he'd add some flair in, if the cards could handle the friction... His shuffling was much better than hers. And he could pull off the switches right in front of someone's eyes without having to shield it... But he wasn't honestly certain she hadn't done just that and he'd simply missed it. Perhaps Barbara Braganza was more talented than even HE'D assuaged. Just maybe, she was his perfect match after all. And maybe the Mistress of Misfortune, that Mother of Misery, would become his Lady Luck instead?

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Barb chuckled, pushing his money away with a shake of her head. “Slows ya roll, tiger. I’m still workin’ the kinks out logistically. It’s gonna takes me a week or so ta find the right distributors and price out a practical average. I ain’t too hot on the idea a scrapin’ matches every time yas need a new deck. I’ll do it if I has ta. But I’m hopin’ I won’t.” 

Plucking a random card from the deck, she held it up as she continued with her answer, “The mechanics is pretty simple, as long as ya gots the right finesse. And I’m optimistically confident thatchyas can manage.” There was a brief pause as she winked. “The trick is the cards is actually two parts,” she gestured down to the notches in each corner. At first glance they appeared flat, a mere ink blot or design flaw. But as she flexed the card, their function became self evident as a piece of paper - thinner than the skin of an onion - curled away from the rest of the card, “See?” 

​​​​​​​Carefully, Barb peeled the top layer away, leaving the card face untouched. Handing the both over she continued, “The idea was makin’ interchangeable faces. So, for example, yas signature,” she grinned, holding up the marker she’d handed him, “It’s just Acme disappearing ink mixed with lemon juice. It dries as ya shuffle and ‘disappears’. But then tha heat a the flash back makes the lemon juice reappear.” Popping the cap, she marked a long X across her list in the right blue ink... which faded as she gave it a Polaroid shake. Watching his amused expresssion, she then waved her zippo under neath the paper, just barely allowing the flame to kiss the paper, and the glaring mark reappeared. “It’ll fade again after a little while, but it holds long enough to pull a good stunt.” 

Reaching into her pocket she dew out a stack of slightly thicker tissue paper, sliding it on top of the card she’d already peeled. Before his eyes, the opaqueness of the paper veritably erased the numbers and symbols beneath. “This one works along tha same lines. Except the heat makes it fade,” she explained, pulling it back and letting him watch as her zippo made it almost cellophane clear. “The way I figures, there’s a million different ways yas can toy with the combinations, just so long as yas got the finesse ta make the shift without it being noticeable.” 

​​​​​​​Leaning over, she guided his fingers as she notched the paper into place atop the card, “Just like that.” She smiled, confident that he could make it happen without drawing attention. Rolling the card over in his hand, she drew his attention to the back, her fingers still stained the same red, blue, and gold as the card itself. “Back here,” she pointed at the center of the card where she had previously flicked, “is where yas haveta  be careful. That little gem there is tha ignition point. It’s friction AND pressure sensitive, meanin’ yas gotta have both ta make it light... So y as oughta be able ta do plenty a flashy shit without too much worry. But when yas packin’ ‘em around, yas gotta be mindful. Capisce?” Nodding sternly, she didn’t wait for home to reply as she continued, “Tha rest a tha design is temperature reactive... sos tha red,” she traced it with a stained finger, “is gonna turn. And the black and gold stays.” 

​​​​​​​Reaching for the Queen of Spades, she pulled it carefully from his breast pocket with a smile as she flipped it, revealing a royal looking design in BLACK, blue and gold, with his name embossed clearly in the soot-stained ink where previously there had only been red scrolling. She smiled... really smiled... at the sparkle that played across his features. “I thought so,” she cooed, tucking the card carefully back into his pocket with a pat. ​​​​​​​“Now, I just gotta find a reputable place ta buy the phosphorus that won’t ask too many questions... OR we’s gonna haveta start payin’ street rats ta scrapes it off matches. I don’t care which. But the backs won’t work with out it. So what ta ya think?”

​​​​​​​She didn’t really NEED to ask. His face said it all. But, truth be told, his excitement was often a bright spot in her otherwise grey days. So, she was loathe to let him go without soaking it up just a bit. 

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Johnny's eyes sparkled brightly and his face was practically glowing with excitement; like the flash of a photograph captured in the reflective lenses of his dilated pupils. His grin stretched from ear to ear, and the beginnings of crows feet peaked around the corners of his eyes. A soft red tint shaded around the tops of his ears, growing deeper in color nearest the ear's crest. There was no poker face in Johnny's repertoire that prepared him to hide the abundant joy that had overcome him. If she wasn't able to tell he was ecstatic by the dumbfounded look of a child at Christmas written plainly across his face, then perhaps he really would need to train her eyes to be able to read people better.

"Whatta I think? Holy Me, Mother Mary of GOD! I think they are absolutely amazing! And these are just the prototypes? Regardless, I'm sure with my finesse and your quick tutelage, I'll be adeptly able to handle these in no time, with no trouble at all." He still wore that same stupid look of merriment on his face as he spoke. "See if you can't find somewhere that we can get ahold of that phosphorus." Johnny, speaking of phosphorus, tugged his case of smokes back out as he tossed his long burned out one to the ground and plucked another to take it's place.

"I'll do the same, keep my ears to the ground. In the mean time, though, I'll convince some kids from around tha block that I gotta job for 'em. We can pay'em a nickel for every five books of matches they shave, yeah? Or, ya think maybe a nickel per book? EHHHH I don't know. I hardly ever pay attention to how much I spend on matches, ya know? So I'll weigh that out next time and do some calculations. We'll still come out on the top for that," he snickered. "I'll pick up all the free match books I can find so the cost is lower."

Finally lighting the cigarette hanging from his lips, he looked at Barbara. "So whatta I think? I think I found the absolute best business partner I ever could have asked for." Taking a heavy pull from the   THAT... That is what I think."

He leaned his head back to rest on the bench as he exhaled, blowing a plume of smoke upward. Laying there, he simply stared up at the sky. It all of a sudden seemed so much brighter and much more blue than it had earlier that morning. There was always something about a well planned and executed trick that made Johnny's day. Even if it wasn't his own trick.

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Barb smiled, his happiness almost contagious. “Works for me,” she piped, snagging a crumpled, hand rolled ciggy from one of the many cavernous pockets she always seemed to have in abundance. Lighting it, she flopped unceremoniously onto her back once more, crossing an ankle over her knee as her head found a comfortable position in his lap. It was almost too natural, the slightest pause of consideration coming only AFTER she’d already committed to the move. Too late now. Oh well. Ignoring whatever expression he might’ve made, she took a long drag from her cigarette, one cheek resting against the cool metal of his belt buckle as she glanced up at him. 

So I been thinkin’...” she stretched to drop the ash somewhere above her head, well away from the slick fabric of his crisply pressed pants. “We’s gots ourselves a pretty good partnership goin’ here. Seem ta be movin’ in tha same direction. Yeah? Yas seen what I can do. I seen yas wallet enough ta knows what you can do. I’m in a shit hole. You said yas in a slightly less shitty hole. Sos... assumin’ we’s gonna be seein’ a lot a eachother anyways. Maybe we could help eachother outta the shit and intos a better hole? Yeah?” 

She glanced up through a dancing pillar of smoke, “Strictly business, a course.” 

“Y’know... like a central headquarters for management or some shit. I mean... unless there’s a missus Christ thata need her personal space or whateva,” Quiet for a moment, Barb seemed contemplative as she took a long drag from the glowing cigarette. She hadn’t considered that possibility until now. Perhaps she’d stuck her foot in her mouth. That would be unfortunate. But, surely, she couldn’t have misread him THAT badly... right? Sure, there was no ring... but that didn’t NECESSARILY mean anything. Especially in this line of work. 

Shaking the thought from her head, she exhaled, “Y’know what, fuggedabout it.” Sitting up (just a little too fast) flicking the burned down stogie away. “Eventually we’s gonna have a brick and mortar a some type to front out of, right. That oughta be central enough. ‘Specially if all’s we need startin’ out is a few hoodlums ta work tha matchbooks,” she mused quietly, marking a few things off her list. “We’s oughta have enough to go our separate ways for a good long while after that gym sale goes through. I jus got ta thinkin’ maybe goin’ in together might make it go even farther. Starving artist mindset and all that. Don’t mind me.” 

​​​​​​​Barb waved a dismissive hand at the thought, as if the motion could somehow erase the conversation. “Anyways, yas should take these,” she gathered up the remaining cards and the few spare flash sheets that she’d brought with her, “I gots a spare set back at my place to fuck with while I’m workin’  tha kinks out. I’ll send tha Queens over as replacements. Thata way yas gotta whole deck ta play with for now.” Stretching, she stood, no more smiles as she began tucking things into her pockets and hair, “I... uh... I should prolly get on with it. Real estate ain’t gonna scope itself. So... yeah... um... have fun with those.” Uncharacteristically awkward, Barb shot Johnny double ‘finger guns’ as she hovered on the spot... seeming half stuck between the bench space and whatever lie she was selling about needing to leave. But... maybe she really DID have plans to look for fronts? Or houses?? Christ - both of them - knew she needed the FUCK out of that hell hole with George. That was for sure. 

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"There's no missus," Johnny spoke out as she waffled on the spot, stuck somewhere between 'see yas layta' and 'ya don't say'. "Ain't never been a missus Christ. Biblically or otherwise." He grinned. "Though skeptics say Magdalene was close to it." Johnny chuckled with a shrug.

"If ya really got somewhere to go, sure... Otherwise, stick around a bit and lets toss this idea of gettin' outta shit holes around. Cause I knows we could both use it. You especially. I mean, I'm tempted to say just come and stay at my place but we're gonna finalize that sell soon enough that I might be stayin' at yours!"

Shaking his head, Johnny shoved her arm playfully. "Don't fret, ma chérie. It's an idea at least worth considering, and I'd be lying if I hadn't pondered the idea myself. Strictly business speaking, of course."

Johnny's gaze studied her face. He was near certain she didn't really have anywhere to go...

"But, don't let me keep you if you actually have somewhere you need to be. We can broach this topic another time." He slapped his legs and pushed himself to his feet. "Or not if you decide not to, eh? That's up ta you, Barb." Sticking his hands in his pocket as he puffed the cigarette hanging between his lips, he kept his eyes on her. He wasn't going to make a move until she made her decision to walk away, or stay and discuss. Either was fine to him, and regardless, he knew that he'd given her something to seriously consider. Whether now, or over the next few days mattered none.

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Trying her hardest to hide both her bluff and her flub, Barb jerked her head toward the sidewalk in a silently conceding invitation to take a walk. “Gnostics. Not skeptics,” she winked, taking a rather leisurely turn toward the residential section of Bella Vista, “But goods to know either way.” Teasing her fingers into the matted mane of curls that danced like snakes in the afternoon breeze, she used the temporary camouflage of her arm to hide the micro-twitch of a smirk that tugged at the corner of her mouth. “Unfortunate... hard to believe given that pretty boy face yas got. But good to know. And, I’s guess, kinda understandable given yas work an’ all,” she chuckled a little, her curls bouncing brightly as she nodded. 

Shooting a glance sideways, she assessed him for a long, cold moment before shrugging. “Sos... I gotta ask. Yas pretty well know mine comes from where I’s do. But... uh... ‘Ma Cherie’, hm?” She paused and glanced over again, “S’that justa cheesy cutesy thing yas picked up for yas act... or is dear Johnny lettin’ a bit a his color show through all that stage makeup?” Pivoting on the spot, she faced him and walked backwards, hands in her pockets as she continued, “And for that matter, I get that ‘Johnny’ is catchy for whatchyas do an’ all that. But is it whatchyas actually prefer? Not John of Johnathan?”

 

Rounding the corner, she gave a rather ‘Vana White’ wave of her arm as they neared a long stretch of housing. “So here’s what I’s been thinkin,” she smiled, as if the rows of neighborhoods were somehow precious and secret treasure. “This here is the low end a town. It get’s newer and fancier the farther up yas go. And it’s all relatively central to our associate’s goings on. I figure, with everything we gots comin’... and the extra i just pulled off a dumb luck investment - which we can discuss later... that we start at the bottom and works our way to the top until we find somethin’ that’ll meet us in the middle. Nice, but doable. Enough room... whatever yas thinks that means. Y’know... agreeable.” Turning back, she veritably bounced on the spot as she continued, “I figure we’s walk until the place feels comfortable... and then we’s walk a little further. Yeah?” 

And then, once we’s gotta feel for jivin’ outside our comfort zone, we’s can have a sit and chat about logistics... in an environment what pushes us to be big... bold. Y’know? Whaddaya think?”

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John of Johnathan... He knew it was a slip of her tongue, but still it made him smirk. In his head he immediately saw the British crown addressing him as Sir John of Johnathan, and it struck him as odd but delightful. Shaking it off, Johnny turned his gaze on Barb as she continued to walk backwards and stare at him.

Putting on his best Southern Louisiana accent, he smiled, "Ma chérie, you can call me Edouard." Edward? Really? Chuckling, he shook his head. "Honestly, Johnathan, John, Edouard all work. That's my middle name, since I can see the wheels spinning in your head." Johnny shrugged helplessly as he shoved his own hands in his pockets, hastening his steps to catch up to Barbara and fall in stride next to her.

 

Smirking at Barbara's display of showcasing the housing, Johnny nodded in agreement with her plan to walk until they were comfortable. "Just so you know, I like my luxuries," he chirped out, more chipper than normal as they walked along. "I mean, I'm not looking for something gated and magnificent or anything. Modest, but not necessarily humble, if you follow me?" He chuckled. "But, at the same time, I'd live in a cardboard box in an alley if I had to. So, I suppose pick something you like and feel comfortable with and we can see what happens."

They continued down the street pointing out different housing choices... Some were to gawk at and pray for the tenants, others to consider but ultimately decide they should keep moving. They were just barely to the 'I'm comfortable' housing and, as agreed, they'd keep walking to make them be a bit bold.

"I think we should get something that's going to force us to make sure we're getting jobs done. Something that's just a shell bit more than we should probably be looking at, a bit just out of reach." Johnny looked at Barbara with a smile and shrugged. "Or not, just a thought. Though, that place looks pretty nice... I guess. I mean, any of the places right around here are pretty nice, actually. Whatta you think? Seem doable? Or, should we keep going?" Shrugging yet again, Johnny let out a soft chuckle as he looked back at the semi-disconnected style of the row housing. Certainly seemed more private than the alternatives earlier down the street.

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There was no hiding the goofy, ticked chuckle that escaped her as barbed turned her face away from his accent. She couldn’t possible be THAT easy, could she? Rolling her eyes at herself, she shoved her hands in her pockets as did her best not to react further. “I didn’t ask what works. I’s asked whatchyas prefer,” she chided teasingly, without turning back to face him. Shit. He could see the wheels? Could he see ALL the wheels? 

That thought didn’t help at all... on any front. There were FAR too many wheels to imagine them being on display. Not good. Not good at all. Shift focus. SHIFT FOCUS! 

Seems ta me that accent yas got might be just a little too natural,” she grinned, “Almost like somethin’ authentic.” Barb grinned as she teased, poking at the heavy weight of a constant front. “It’s kinda nice... prolly not somethin’ ta be throwin’ around in the streets... unless yas workin’ it on purpose. But kinda nice all the same. Definitely ‘get-used-to-able’.” 

 

She hadn’t, in fact, been paying much attention to the houses for several blocks. Largely ignoring the first few, knowing they were too similar to their current situation. Blinking up at the relative monstrosity he’d picked, she couldn’t help but chuckle. “Acourse a southern boy’s gonna somewhere with a PORCH,” she giggled uncontrollably. Though WHY it was so funny seemed largely lost on her companion; his blank blink sucking the wind from her snickers. Clearing her throat, she straightened, giving the house a proper once over. It certainly wasn’t AS fancy as she’d expected from a Vegas boy... but it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad at all. 

For a few long moments, she paced the street, peeking first down one side and then the other, the wheels REALLY spinning now. “It’s awfully big, don’t you think,” was all she said at first, her gaze counting windows and mentally measuring each room. There was a touch of apprehension in her voice. Just enough to tickle at pushing the envelope. “Do you think we’ll need that much space?” .... “Oh... maybe we could rent rooms... or board associates.” 

One finger found it’s way to a loose curl, twirling it into a smoothe ringlet as silently chewed her lip. Did her hair actually clean up with the right amount of effort? What would that even look like? “It’s definitely doable, if yas like it. I certainly don’t NOT like it. It could be cute... cozy like. Y’know... if we bought it outright, we’s could fence in the top a that porch area and makes it a balcony. Those little windows are easy enough to pop out, and I know just the place to filch some antique doors ta replace ‘em. Y’know... just sayin’.” 

 

I mean... ifs yas like it. Elsewise we can keep walkin’.” 

 

She didn’t really look like she wanted to keep walking. This was VERY far out of her normal comfort zone already. But the half-scared, half-exhilarated glint in her eye told him she’d walk as far as he wanted to go.

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Johnny waffled a bit as he walked up the street to look down one side, and then back down to stake out the other. He liked her idea of boarding, and of enclosing the top of the porch for a balcony. It all sounded pretty good to him, honestly. However, there was something he really missed about all the flashing lights and high-rises of Vegas. He still wanted his penthouse. He'd always wanted a penthouse. Some day he'd get one. But, like all things, starting small and working your way up was never a BAD idea.

"I like it. I say we stay. Plenty a room for us to have our own spaces, and enough to rent more out if we need be. I agree, we propose a deal to buy it outright. Then we can do whatevas we want to it."

He looked at her, smiling. "Yes, we knock the windows, enclose for a balcony, and put a nice set of antique, double doors in. I'm good for it. Don't mind the idea of housing more associates like us. Or, if we's ever make somethin' of ourselves, maybe we get associates of our own wantin' in the good graces like we're tryin', here? Then we house our runners and makers." He chuckled.

"Regardless, get tha number off tha sign. I'll make a call later and come back to ya with the deal. Or, you can come by my place tonight and we'll call together... Partner." Johnny couldn't help but smile at the way that partner sounded when talking to Barbara. There was just something so natural about it.

"How's about that, hmm?"

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Barb grinned, “Nah! I says we take the address, walk in unannounced and slam cash on the table... big money style.” She chuckled, “Unless a course it’s not big enough for yas.” There was a wickedly perceptive and impish glint in her eye as she sized him up. “We’s can go all the way ta the old Market District, if yas want. There’s still manors an’ stuff up there that’s empty now with everyone down on their luck... we could buy one up, make it a bordello or some shit.” 

She spun on her heels, pacing a circle around him as she spoke, “Girls rooms downstairs, casino on the second floor, our house on tha top.” She grinned, trying not to realize how easily ‘our house’ rolled off her tongue. “Hell... we could revamp the whole market if yas wanted... one piece at a time. Rival the pier altogether... make a name for tha Coven, and for yous an’ me.” 

“How’s about that, hmm? Partner?”

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Johnny stood stunned for a moment. She wanted to continue walking? He watched her for a moment. No. No, she didn't want to continue. She just wanted it to be his idea to stop. He could tell from the way she rocked on her heels subconsciously that she was further out of her comfort zone than she liked. But, he could also tell just how serious she was about following him as far upscale as he wanted to go.

Smiling, Johnny shook his head.

"No, this is the one. I like it. It's got that certain, je ne sais quoi," he smirked, then looked at her. "But, I like the idea of rivaling the pier and doing something with the old market as well. One piece at a time. We buy here, we have more money to put to that. Which means, making more money for the Coven."

He turned and looked back at the building, then side-eyed the street further down it. Pondering in silence for just a moment, he wondered if they could pull off a revival of the old market. Though, with Barbara by his side, he felt like the sky itself wasn't even the limit for what they could achieve. That was a good thing, right?

Looking back to the home, he nodded. "Yeah. This one. We'll make it into boarding and charge a little rent for people, hey say maybe Ginger can come live there. Ya know. Pay her to take care of the house and clean it? That way she's always at home with the kids? And the place stays tidied? I don't know. Just a thought. Others though, they can pay rent and that can fuel our other plans."

Looking at Barb, he shrugged. "As long as we're better landlords than that fucking sod George, -rest his bastard soul-, and that asshole Jerry, -rest his alive but dead on paper soul-, then I think we'll be alright. I mean, I refuse to let the house get anything -near- that so long as I'm able to do something about it or pay someone else to do it for me." Smiling, Johnny nodded. "So, big money style, yeah? Let's find out who's sellin' it and what they want for it. If we got it, let's do this. Today."

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Barb smirked, finally able to let him in on the other half of what made this such a glorious day. “Oh, we gots the money Johnathan,” she positively purred his name as she flashed the smallest peek of her breast pocket. More cash than he’d seen in one place since Vegas tickled and teased him ever so briefly, before she pulled her coat tight once more. 

“I toldjas, Lady Luck smiled wide this week,” she winked at his curious expression. “Iffin yas in, an’ I mean like Flynn, cuz I can’t pull this one with out help. No way, no how. But if yas really in... to be HERE for the long haul... no more bright lights, big city unless WE’S build ‘em... then I’m willin’ to put it down TODAY on making this happen. The house, the Market, all of it. An’ we’s can discuss it comin’ out in tha wash after.” 

The smirk on her face was undeniable. Even as closely as she usually tried to guard her expression around him, THIS ONE was clear as day. Because she’d pulled off not one, but TWO surprises. And she hoped... if he was as transparent as she thought... that would make him truly excited for a vision here. They both needed that. The crew needed that. Hell, most of Philly needed that one way or another. And, as long as she wasn’t betting on the wrong horse - so to speak - this venture MIGHT just prove big enough to pull the whole damn district up by the bootstraps. 

But they’d have to actually buy the place first. 

“Whaddayas think? ‘Partners’?” 

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His eyes widened... Really widened. What had she done, bet on a horse? Regardless, the smile that followed his widening eyes was certainly enough to blind most as his pearly whites glistened ever so slightly in the sunlight.

"Fucking hell, Barb! Whatta I say? FUCK YES! That's what I say! I love the vision you have, and better yet, I love the opportunities this opens up for not only us, but the crew as well! Pull this off, and we'll show the Coven what we're good for! Let's build this city, Barbara! You an' me. Let's fuckin' do it! I bet the crew would help too if we pitched them the idea you got!"

He chuckled, and veritably beamed like a school child on a Friday with a three day weekend ahead of him. "I gotta ask though... How'd you come into so much money?"

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