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Casino night!! Come and gamble at my island. $3K entry and $2K per dig. Follow the golden roses to get to the casino. If you dig up sticks that = a NMT. DM for dodo code! (I got this idea from another player and can’t wait to try it out)
Help with ideas for holding local gala/ charity casino night...
(Be nice, I've had too much gin. This idea is 3 mos old.) I want to hold a gala/ casino night charity event in mid-October 2016. I'm passionate about helping our local LGBT community, but how would I start? Is there another community/ organization that is in more(?) need?
Yes, it's my truck and No, I won't help you move and No, you can't buy it for 50 bucks!
This is long, so grab a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever keeps you happy and reading. I live in a senior housing community for people aged 55 and older. We all have identical 1-bedroom cottages that’s set up in groups of four or quads so that all of our front doors face inward toward each other. So, if I open my front door, I have a very clear view of the front doors of my 3 neighbors and because I am in the back of this quad, I also have a view of the parking area. I think the purpose of grouping the houses this way was to create a friendly and safe atmosphere; however, it’s just creepy in a “you have no privacy” kind of way. I am F57, disabled, and have a 16-year-old pickup truck that gets me where I need to go most of the time. If you’ve ever owned a pickup truck, you’ll understand my frustration. If you haven’t owned one, talk to anyone who has and they will tell you that according to friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, and even complete strangers, you have it so that you can help them move, haul furniture or a tree they cut down, and anything else they can’t fit in the trunk of their car. AND because it is a pickup truck, it can be mistreated, abused, dented, scratched, beaten up, and treated like a piece of heavy construction equipment and you shouldn’t care because well. . . it’s a truck. I have a neighbor (F - about 65 years old) that has kind of made a pest of herself since the day I moved in. I’ve done my best to be neighborly, nice, and accommodating, but each time I interact with her, I’m left feeling used. The neighbor, let's call her Karen, has come over pretending to want to visit with me, which she does for about 2 minutes, and then asks me for something. In the 3 years that I’ve been here, she’s asked me to set up 2 TVs (at different times), take a new alarm clock out of its packaging and then teach her how to operate it. I’ve been asked to fill out her food stamp paperwork, fill out information for her lease renewal, read a piece of mail to her and explain it because she didn’t understand it, to take her places and to “loan” her money for the bus. That’s just a few. Now that you get the idea of what I’ve dealt with before, it’s time for the story. One Monday morning, Karen comes beating on my door (she does what I call a “cop knock” – loud, hard, and repeated) around 8 a.m., waking me up. (I am a night owl, by the way.) I go to the door and she is standing there holding her natural gas bill telling me how she needed a ride to the gas company's office to talk to them about paying the bill and hands me the bill. I look at it, hoping to find a phone number for her to call, but there isn't one, but I do see that her bill is for about $17. So, I take her across town with her providing the directions since I had never been to this building (the gas company did not have an office in town, so I guess this was maybe a payment center). I drop her at the front, park, and wait for her. Karen comes out saying that they can't help her there and asks me if she should just call them to make arrangements to make payments since she didn't have the money. I tell her that's what I would do and bring her back home. We basically made this trip for nothing. Two days later, there is another loud, repeated banging on my door waking me up just before 9 a.m. Karen is back and seems to be a little frantic. She needs a ride again. This time she's very vague about why she wants to go, but left me with the impression that something was going to get turned off, repossessed, or turned over to collections if she didn't go. She's also vague as to where she wants to go. She keeps tell me that it's down by the casino, across the street from the gas station. I told her I'd take her but she would have to point me in the right direction since I've never been to the casino. She gives me turn by turn directions until she has me turn left onto the entrance road for the casino. I'm looking around for any other businesses or even the gas station and I'm not seeing anything other than the casino in front of us and open land on either side. So, I ask her where am I supposed to be dropping her. Karen points to an upcoming sign and says, "See the sign that says 'Valet'? Just follow that sign." Yep, you guessed it, Karen had me drop her at the front entrance to the casino. She'd lied to me by omission. She didn't ask me to take her to the casino (which I would probably have done since it's none of my business how she spends her money), she asked me to take her to a business near the casino. Yeah, well, I wasn't happy. On Monday she couldn't afford to pay her $17 gas bill and on Wednesday she's going to the casino by tricking me into taking her. A week goes by and I am in the office paying my rent when Karen comes in. Karen: Why didn’t you tell me you were coming here today. Girl, I just walked all the way here. Me: Didn’t know you needed a ride. I can give you a ride back to the house if you would like. I wait while Karen pays her rent and we walk out together. Now, I’m expecting to get in my truck and drive the 4 blocks back to my house. Karen had another idea. Karen: Take me to Everything’s Cheap store. Me: Where? Karen: To Everything’s Cheap. Just turn here at the stop sign and I’ll show you. It’s not far. Me: Karen, I’m going to take you there, but I’m not shopping and I’m not going to sit in the parking lot and wait for you. You’ll have to get another ride home or walk. Karen: It’s fine. I won’t be long. I drop her at the front door and I go home. A couple of hours later, she bangs on my door. Karen: Where did my ride go? Me: Home. I told you that I wasn’t going to wait for you. Karen: I had all my stuff that I had to carry home. Now my back hurts. Me: I’m sorry, but I warned you. Karen walks away muttering things that I didn’t understand and slammed her door. Skip ahead several months and I run into Karen again as I am paying my rent. She wants me to give her a ride to the Social Security office. I tell her that I can't as my truck is not running right and I can't get too far from home in it until I get it check out and fixed. My truck started having issues and it's been difficult trying to get it fixed with lock-down, a back issue that left me bedridden for several weeks, and 2 major hurricanes this year (there’s nothing major wrong with the truck - just needs a new starter and gaskets to fix an oil leak that's caused the starter to go bad). Karen: But it's just a few blocks away and it's hot out here. Me: I can't trust my truck not to leave me stranded with no way to get it home. Karen: It will be fine. Me: Maybe, but I'm not willing to risk it. Karen slaps the side of my truck and continues on her walk and I go home in my truck. Another 3 days go by and more banging on my door and again I am awakened (it's 7:15 a.m.). This time I'm angry and I snatched the door open. Me: What? Karen (standing there with her purse and house keys in her hand as if she knows I'll say yes): I need to go to the mattress store. I need to pick up my new queen size mattress. Me: No. My truck still isn't running right. Karen: But I need your truck to haul the mattress home. Me: No. Karen: It's not a heavy mattress. Me: Oh, so who’s going to help you get it in and out of my truck and carry it into your house? Karen: The two of us can do it. Me: Karen, I have degenerative disk disease. The disks in my spine are disintegrating. I can't lift nor carry a mattress even with someone helping. Karen: But I already bought it. How am I going to get it home? Me: Call friends or family to help you. Karen: They don't have a truck and you do! Me: Yes, I have a truck, but there is no sign anywhere on it that says Free Moving Company. I close the door on her and go back to bed. An hour later, more knocking. This time, it's an older man. Man 1: Excuse me, but is that your truck? (He points at my truck in the parking lot.) Me: Yes. Man 1: I have an upright piano I need to move and was wondering if I could use your truck. Me: No. (I glance over at the neighbor's house and I see her peeking through a crack in her door - I have a sneaking suspicion she has put this guy up to this to see if I would help him.) Man 1: You can drive the truck. I just need to have the piano hauled to my storage unit. Me: How are you going to get an upright piano into the bed of my truck? Man 1: I'll just roll it up a ramp and into the back. Me: Do you know how much an upright piano weighs? One person can't push it up a ramp. If you use a ramp on my tailgate, you will break the tailgate and probably lose the piano in the process. My truck is large, but the rear end is not made for hauling a piano and will cause the front end to lift off the ground preventing my front wheel drive truck from gaining traction and straining my 16-year-old engine. Man 1: Well, could you call 4 or 5 of your male friends to help lift it into the back of the truck? Me: No! I close the door on this man, too. He didn’t come right out and say it, but I felt like he wanted to borrow my truck so he could go pick up the mattress for Karen. Yeah, I’m a little suspicious. The following morning . . . *sigh* . . . I ignore the knocking that occurs every half hour or so over a 3-hour period until she finally gives up. Later that afternoon, I open my door to get the mail out of my box when a second man approaches me out of nowhere. It’s like he was hiding around the corner waiting for me to come out of my house. Man 2 (points at my truck - it irritates me every time someone does this): Is that your truck? Me (feeling very annoyed and snarky): What gave it away? Is it because it's parked in a space clearly labeled with my house number? Or is it because someone told you who the truck belonged to? (I point at Karen's house.) Man 2: Does it run? Me: Listen, I don't know what you're wanting me pick up, deliver, move, haul, transport, or tow, but I am not a moving company, taxi, uber, delivery service, or a tow truck. I won't be doing any of those things and before you ask, I won't be allowing you or anyone else to drive my truck either. Now, do you have any other questions? Man 2: Uh, do you want to sell it? Me: What?! Why would I want to sell it? Man 2: Well, since it needs fixing, I thought maybe you would want to sell it to someone who could afford to fix it. Me: How do you know it needs fixing? Man 2 (turns bright red and can't take his eyes off ground): I just thought if you sold it, you could buy something else and I could fix the truck. Me: Tell Karen that I'm not selling you my truck so that you can fix it to give to her. Man 2: I wasn't going to give it to her. Me (pointing at his huge truck parked in Karen's designated space): You want me to believe that you would rather have my 16-year-old truck that needs repair than your brand-new truck? How stupid do you think I am? As the older man silently stares at the ground, Karen flings her door open and marches up to me. Karen: Just sell him your truck so he can fix it. You clearly aren't going to do it any time soon. At least I will put it to good use. I need it and I need it more than you apparently do. Now, he’s willing to get it fixed for me, so just sell him the damn truck already! Me: My truck is not for sale! When or if I get my truck fixed is absolutely none of your business. Karen: I’m going to call the office and tell them that you have a broken-down truck sitting in the parking lot that needs to be hauled to the junk yard. They’ll make you get rid of it or fix it. Man 2: Karen, they can’t do anything to her . . . Karen cuts him off. She’s so angry, she’s crying, shaking, and spitting as she screams Karen: SHUT UP! STAY OUT OF THIS. I WANT THAT TRUCK AND I’M GOING TO GET IT! I’LL CALL THE POLICE. THEY WILL MAKE HER GET RID OF IT. Man 2: Karen, the police aren’t . . . She cuts him off again. Karen: YES, THEY WILL. THEY'LL LISTEN TO ME. She storms off to call the police. In the meantime, I brought a chair outside along with a can of soda and a bowl of microwave popcorn. I figured this was going to be a good show. Karen and Man 2 have gone inside her house to wait. The neighbor to my left has come out to see what’s going on. Let’s call her Mary. Mary can’t stand Karen, so she drags a chair out and sits next to me and we share my popcorn. Enter Cop 1 and Cop 2 The cops arrive in about 5-6 minutes and walk up to Karen’s door and knock while glancing around at Mary and me and grinning. She answers and tells them that I have created an eyesore in the neighborhood by having an old beat up, broken-down truck sitting in the parking lot and she wants it removed immediately. Cop 1 (pointing at my truck - yep, he does it, too and I can't help but roll my eyes): That truck? Karen: Yes. Cop 1: That truck is clean, shiny, no dents, no scratches, new tires . . . are you sure that’s the eyesore? Karen: Yes. It’s 10 years old and broken and she doesn’t want to fix it. It’s just sitting there doing nothing for months. Me: It’s 16 years old. Cop 2 (spins around, surprised): Seriously? That truck is that old? Wow! It’s in great shape. You’ve taken good care of her. Me: Thank you. Karen: I want that truck gone! Cop 2 walks over to me to discuss my truck’s mechanical history. So, I explain to him that in the 16 years that I have owned her, I have changed her oil every 3-4 months, given her a bath once a month, got her a new set of tires 6 years ago, and when I first began having problems with her starting, I bought a new battery (the old one was the original battery from when I bought the truck off the showroom floor), and when the battery wasn’t the problem, I had a mechanic come and look at it. He determined that it was the starter and the gasket was leaking. All I was waiting on was my friend to come and help me start her (someone needs to get under the truck and tap the starter while someone else turns over the ignition) so that I can get it to the mechanic’s house for him to work on it. Karen: She’s lying. That truck hasn’t moved in 3 months. Me (offering popcorn to Cop 2 who took a handful): Wrong. It hasn’t moved in 4 days. It’s had problems for 3 or 4 months. Cop 1: Ms. Karen, there really isn’t anything the police department can do for you. Her truck definitely isn’t an eyesore nor is it sitting there in pieces creating a safety hazard. Karen: She’s driving down property values. Cop 1 (starts chuckling): Ms. Karen, you are renting a house in government subsidized senior housing. Cop 2: Why don’t you tell us the real reason why you want her truck removed. Mary (who has been silent until now - stands up and turns on her best diva soul-sister voice and attitude and gives the cops the greatest Deep-South Beautiful Black Woman sermon I’ve ever heard – I’ll try to write as best I can): Ohh, Lawd Jesus, help us all! Dis here woman of the night, want everything she can’t have, Lawd! I think it’s cuz she pulls her hair back so tight, Lawd, she can only see what’s in the back o’ her mind! Uh huh! She wants her Old Saggy Boy Toy of the Day here to buy my friend’s pick’em up truck, so she can go and pick’em up, Lawd, mm-hmm, if ya gittin' what I’m sayin’. He buy it and trade it to her for a little roll on her nasty sheets! Lawd Jesus, help us! And she think she all hot and sexy so you believe her and take away my friend’s truck. She a fool, uh huh. She think she can fool you, too, uh huh! How da hell do ya think she got those 2 big ass TVs in there? Mmm-hmm! Cop 1 is bent over laughing hysterically while Cop 2 is standing with his mouth open and his eyes wide. Cop 2 (turns to Man 2): Is any of that true? Man 2 (embarrassed, humiliated, and just looking tired): She wanted the truck and 50 bucks. Karen and Man 2 are arrested. Not sure what the exact charges were but I heard words being thrown around like pandering, solicitation, scamming, and false complaint among others. A couple of days later, Mary told me that Karen returned home. I guess she found a way to get bailed out. I haven’t seen her and I am hoping that I don’t. As for my “pick’em up truck”, I’m still waiting to get her to the mechanic. My friend will be here on his next day off (he doesn't get them often) to help me. It’s a good thing I’m a patient person with a super diva as a friend and neighbor. It's also good to know that my truck is at least worth one 20-minute roll on the sheets and 50 bucks. EDIT: Thanks for the awards everyone! And just a little side note for those of you rolling your eyes at the fact that I offered a cop popcorn and he took it - I live in the Deep South in a small-ish college town. The cops here are helpful, friendly (until provoked), and generally good guys. When construction workers stole from me after Hurricane Laura, two cops came to investigate and afterwards I offered them both a bottle of water and they accepted.
Stokes's Bristol Nightclub incident in detail (From: The Comeback Summer by Geoff Lemon)
IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a place where misadventure could begin, you can’t go past Mbargo. The nightclub’s streetfront is painted a purple so bright you’ll see it in your dreams. Strings of giant sequins shimmer in the breeze. Its phonically inventive name is spelt in silver letters that climb its three-storey terrace facade. Inside are strips of burning neon, a few booths, floorboards so marinated in drink that they have an ingredients list. Bristol is a student city on England’s south coast crowded with music and nightlife and street art. This is Banksy’s home town, and the tourism board suggests in rather strong terms that ‘you would be a fool not to see his amazing work firsthand’. The same organisation describes Mbargo as ‘intimate’, which is fair for a place where you can catch an STI standing up. Students cram into its modest dimensions while people with names like DJ Klaud battle for billing with £1.50 drink deals over seven sloppy nights a week. To get a sense of the story about to come, consider that it’s the kind of place open until two o’clock on a Monday morning, and that at two o’clock on a Monday morning, Ben Stokes still thought it had closed too early. The Ashes of 2017–18 had disciplinary bookends. It was after that series that Australia’s two leaders went off the rails in South Africa. It was a few weeks before that Ashes tour that England’s biggest star windmilled his way into his own disaster. In the early hours of 25 September 2017, Stokes and teammate Alex Hales were barred from re-entering Mbargo after a night out on the piss. A Sunday thrashing of an abject West Indies in an ignored series at the fag-end of the season apparently required ample celebration. After arguing with the bouncer and hanging about at the door for a while, they wandered off to find a casino in the hope of more drinking. They’d barely made it around the corner before getting in the middle of a conflict between four locals. As is said on the internet, it escalated quickly. The 26 September reporting was bloodless. Withholding names, police stated that a man ‘was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm’ while another went to hospital with facial injuries. England’s director of cricket Andrew Strauss separately confirmed that Stokes was the arrestee, adding that he had been released without charge and that Hales had gamely offered to ‘help police with their enquiries’. Administrators had a good chance of hiding behind that investigation, and the next day Stokes was named in the upcoming Ashes squad as expected. But that night the video emerged. Bristol student Max Wilson had shot it on his phone, then offered it to The Sun. What he thought was playing hardball was actually lowball: his opening price of £3000 was snapped up by a tabloid that would have paid ten times that. The Sun went on to make a mint by syndicating the rights worldwide. From a window above the fray, the vision showed six men on the street below performing the muddled choreography of a melee. One was right at the centre of it. One was waving a bottle, one dipped in and out, one tried to calm it. Two others floated around the edges. The central figure was unmistakable: red hair burning even in the streetlight as he launched into a series of blows against two of the men, falling to grapple with them on the ground, then following both across the street, swinging punches the whole way. Hales trailed behind, repeatedly and impotently shouting ‘Stokes! Stop! Stokes! Enough!’ The ECB could fudge issues that existed only in thickets of legalese, but not those captured in moving colour. Stokes was stood down from the next West Indies match, then suspended indefinitely. It emerged that he had broken his hand during the fight, something he’d done twice before while punching objects in dressing rooms. The response in Australia was fierce: Stokes was a thug, a lowlife, a selection that would disgrace England. It was not entirely coincidental that a ban for England’s best player would be handy for the Aussie team, but there was also a cultural split. In England, plenty of people still minimise pub fights as lads letting off steam. In Australia, heavy media coverage as a succession of young men were killed had inverted that tolerance. The discourse now saw any punch as potentially deadly and accordingly reckless. This was more poignant in a cricket context given that David Hookes, the dashing Test batsman and state coach, was killed in 2004 by a pub bouncer’s fist. The PR situation was bad for Stokes as details emerged of the injuries to the men he’d hit, and that one was a young war veteran and father. Stokes wasn’t officially removed from the Ashes squad through October but stayed behind when his teammates left, hoping for police to dismiss the matter in time for a late dash to Australia. His annual contract was renewed on the due date in case that came to pass. Then 29 October brought a twist in the tale. ‘Ben Stokes praised by gay couple after defending them from homophobic thugs,’ ran the headline. Kai Barry and Billy O’Connell had emerged. Not entirely out of nowhere: while Stokes had made no public comment, this story in his defence had initially been leaked to TV host Piers Morgan after the fight, as soon as the video appeared. Police body-camera footage played in court would later show that Stokes had given the same story to the arresting officer on the night. But no-one knew the identities of the fifth and sixth men in the video, and police appeals had turned up nothing. It was The Sun again with the breakthrough. Kai and Billy were perfect for a readership not keen on nuance. ‘We couldn’t believe it when we found out they were famous cricketers. I just thought Ben and Alex were quite hot, fit guys,’ said Kai, who was memorably described as a ‘former House of Fraser sales assistant’. The paper had the pair do a full photo shoot: layering the fake tan, showing off chest waxes, mixing Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton into a range of outfits. Their best shot had them standing back to back, heads turned to the camera, in a mirror-image Zoolander moment. Suddenly The Sun was the England team’s best friend. ‘Their claims could lead to the all-rounder being cleared over the punch-up and freed to play in the First Test in Australia next month,’ it gushed, then gave a tasting platter of quotes: ‘We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero.’ ‘If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.’ ‘We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman.’ Would it be known forever as Kai and Billy’s Ashes? No. While the Bristol boys provided spin for Stokes’ reputation they didn’t influence the police. With charges still pending there was little choice – not given Strauss had previously sacked Kevin Pietersen for being annoying. Stokes remained suspended through the Ashes and a one-day series in Australia, and lost the vice-captaincy. It was January 2018 before the Crown Prosecution Service laid a charge. That charge surprisingly came in as affray, a crime that can carry prison time but is classified as ‘a breach of the peace as a result of disorderly conduct’. The men he had punched, Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, faced the same count, charged as equal participants in a fight rather than Stokes being charged with assaulting them. Alex Hales was not charged, despite being seen in the video to aim several kicks when Ryan Ali was lying on the ground. Given the underwhelming standing of the offence, Stokes was cleared by the ECB to tour New Zealand, and kept playing until his trial in August 2018, which he missed a Test to attend. None of the three defendants would be convicted. The reasoning behind the charges was never released and was attributed vaguely to ‘CPS lawyers’. The service gave the case to Alison Morgan, a prosecutor of a class known as Treasury Counsel who usually handle serious criminal matters. Morgan had a scheduling clash and never ended up court for the case, but in 2018 and 2019 she would go on to win damages and admissions of libel from The Daily Mail, The Times and The Daily Telegraph variously for incorrectly reporting that she had been responsible for the inadequate and inconsistent charging decisions. Morgan’s successor on the case was Nicholas Corsellis QC, who on the first day of trial was permitted by the CPS to request two assault charges be added against Stokes. ‘Upon further review,’ claimed a CPS statement, ‘we considered that additional assault charges would also be appropriate.’ This was patent nonsense from the service that eight months earlier had chosen the lesser charge. Any lawyer knows that no judge will allow new charges once a trial has begun, because the defence hasn’t had time to prepare. But such a request could deflect criticism of the prosecution service by technically making the judge the one who disallows the charge. Working through the story from the trial and the tape is complicated. You had a Ryan and a Ryan, a Hale and a Hales, a Billy and a Barry and a Ben. You had several versions of events as to who knew whom, who was drinking with whom, who had insulted whom and who had merely engaged in ‘banter’, a word that in modern Britain has to do an unconscionable amount of lifting. The reporting had constantly mixed up the Ryans as to who had which injury, who was in hospital, who had played which part in the fight, and whose mum had which stern words to say about it. Let’s agree that from now Ryan Ali is Ryan One, the firefighter who ended up with a fractured eye socket and a cracked tooth. Ryan Two can be Ryan Hale, the soldier who scored concussion and facial lacerations. Mr Barry and Mr O’Connell are best known per The Sun as Kai and Billy. In scorecard parlance we’ll leave the cricketers as Stokes and Hales. Amid the confusion, Stokes and his lawyers built his case in a straightforward way. The UK legal definition of affray is ‘if a person threatens or uses unlawful violence or force towards another person, which causes another person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for their safety’. That means it doesn’t account for violence that harms a target, but violence that might frighten a theoretical bystander. The wiggle room for Stokes was with ‘unlawful’, because the charge excuses violence in defending oneself or others. This interpretation hinged on the beginning of the video, where Ryan One waves a beer bottle about and takes a swing at Kai. The version from Stokes was that he was minding his own business walking down the street when he heard homophobic abuse. He intervened verbally and was threatened verbally by Ryan One – something that Ryan One denied but that couldn’t be proved or disproved. In fear for his safety Stokes had to nullify that threat by bashing Ryan One before it went the other way. He registered Ryan Two in his peripheral vision as another possible threat, and again had only one recourse. Stokes also had to convince the jury to disregard testimony from Mbargo’s bouncer that he had been looking for a fight. A solid lump of a man, Andrew Cunningham had not enjoyed his patron’s attempts to get back into the club after the bouncer declined an offer of a bribe. ‘He got a bit verbally abusive towards myself. He mentioned my gold teeth and he said I looked like a cunt and I replied, “Thank you very much.” He just looked at me and told me my tattoos were shit and to look at my job.’ Cunningham described these words as coming in ‘a spiteful tone, quite an angry tone’, and said that Stokes still seemed angry as he walked away. These were details the doorman had nothing to gain by inventing, but each of them Stokes denied. By his own accounting he had drunk a beer at the game and three pints at his hotel, then ‘potentially had some Jägerbombs’ along with half a dozen vodkas at the club. He insisted that after all of this he was not drunk. If I may take a moment here to call upon the wisdom of experience – a person who cannot definitively say whether they have had any Jägerbombs has definitely had some Jägerbombs. A Jägerbomb is an experience that does not pass one by. Further to that, a person who says they have ‘potentially’ done something has definitely done that thing and doesn’t want to admit it. A person who has had between 15 and 24 standard drinks in one evening is shitfaced. A person who tries to bribe a bouncer £300 – three hundred quid! – to get into Mbargo – Mbargo! – is beyond shitfaced. If Stokes admitted that he was drunk then the prosecution could say he was out of control. He claimed clear recall of assessing a threat, feeling fear and deciding to protect himself with force. He confidently denied details from the bouncer’s testimony, like using the word ‘cunt’ or mentioning gold teeth. Yet on other details he claimed a ‘significant memory blackout’. He didn’t remember the punch that saw Ryan One taken away by ambulance. He didn’t remember what the Ryans had said to Kai and Billy, only that those words were homophobic. With no head injury, as one of the few people who hadn’t been hit, he had supposedly suffered this memory loss despite being sober. The version from Kai and Billy was compatible but vague: they had been walking along, they ‘heard … shouts’ of abuse from an unspecified source, then Stokes ‘stepped in’ and thus they avoided possible harm. They claimed to have been bought a drink by Stokes at Mbargo, although CCTV showed them meeting outside. The overall implication from both accounts was that the cricketers had been pals with Kai and Billy, while the Ryans as per The Sun’s headline were a roving band of thugs. The reality though is that the Ryans were the ones hanging out with Kai and Billy at Mbargo. Police discussed CCTV from inside the club in questioning and at trial. On that footage the four Bristolians bought drinks for one another, danced together, and Kai was noted to have variously touched Ryan Two’s crotch and Ryan One’s buttock. Ryan One told police that all of this was taken lightheartedly and wasn’t a problem. Indeed, when the Ryans called it a night the other two left with them. This much is clear from footage out the front of Mbargo, which shows Kai and Billy exit the club and start talking with a subdued Hales and a demonstrative Stokes, who are stuck outside. The vision was played in court to determine whether Stokes was antagonistic towards Kai and Billy, as he appears to impersonate them and to throw a lit cigarette their way. More interesting is that after a few minutes the Ryans emerge, and all six actors in the fight video briefly form a prequel in the one frame. Ryan Two pats Billy on the chest in friendly fashion with his right hand before clapping him on the back with his left. He moves past and does the same to Kai before leaving the shot. Ryan One stops to speak to Kai. They lean in for a moment, talking, then Kai turns and they walk out of frame together. Billy hangs around for a few seconds at the door and then looks after them and races to catch up. Stokes and Hales remain outside the club to remonstrate further with the bouncers. Whatever discord develops around the corner is between four men who left amicably together minutes earlier. There’s no way to know what caused that friction. If Ryan One did use homophobic slurs, he might have been drunkenly obnoxious for no reason. He might have had an insecure macho response to some extra flirtation. He might have thought unkindness was funny – ‘banter’ once again. Or he might have said something that was misunderstood, as both Ryans insisted in court that they had not used nor had the impulse to use any abusive language. What clearly didn’t happen was an attack by bigots on random passers-by. This kind of crime is regular enough that an audience understands the horror of it, and this is what was evoked by the public accounts of Stokes, Billy and Kai. All we know is that there was some verbal dispute among the Bristol locals, and that Stokes came along behind them and put himself in the middle of it. Ryan One responded to the interference aggressively and away they went. There are plenty of reasons to look sideways at the idea that Stokes was a saviour. Foremost, neither Kai nor Billy was called upon as witnesses in court. You’d think it would be ideal to have Stokes’ story backed up by those who benefited from his selflessness. But his defence team had developed the impression that the pair had shown a changeable recall of events amid a hard-partying lifestyle, and would be dismantled by the prosecution on the stand. That raises the question of whether The Sun coached their quotes for the 2017 interview. Despite missing court, Kai and Billy clearly enjoyed the attention. In 2018 after the trial they did a follow-up spread in the same paper about how poor Ben had been mistreated. They got a television spot on Good Morning Britain and glowed about his heroism. In 2019 The Sun wheeled them out once more to say that Stokes should get a knighthood. In 2017 they had ‘never watched cricket’ but by 2019 were supposedly volunteering sentences like, ‘He saved us, now he’s saved the Ashes.’ Whether they were paid for these appearances is not known, but the chance to be famous for a day can be lure enough. If you find this cynical, consider that on the night in question, the Bristol boys were so deeply moved and thankful for Ben’s intervention that they left him to be arrested and never attempted to find out who he was. Seconds after the video ended, an off-duty policeman reached the scene. You might think that someone grateful to a saviour would speak on his behalf. Instead, said Kai, ‘it all got a bit scary so we walked off. It was too much for me and we went to Quigley’s takeaway for chicken burgers and cheesy chips.’ They didn’t give their hero a thought for over a month while police issued multiple appeals for witnesses. As for Stokes, he told his arresting officer that ‘his friends’ had been attacked. After three minutes of chat outside a nightclub, these friends were so dear to him that he has never contacted them again: not after the newspaper piece, not after the verdict. He didn’t want to see how they were or thank them for their support. He didn’t mention them by name in his solicitor’s statement after the trial. The Stokes defence rested on Ryan One’s bottle, which he had carried out of Mbargo to finish a beer, not to use in a Sharks versus Jets amateur production. But once he turned it over to hold it by the neck it became a weapon. Intent and interpretation can change the material nature of things. Part of Stokes’ justification in court was that the bottle implied that the two Ryans might have ‘other weapons’ hidden away. You can understand how a jury could decide that created doubt. Not being convicted, though, doesn’t give the contents of the video a big green tick. It does not, as his lawyer claimed, vindicate Stokes. Looking in detail, Ryan One is belligerent but his movements telegraph a bluff. Hales is the person he’s gesturing at, but they’re several metres apart when Ryan One cocks his arm ostentatiously, showing off the bottle rather than bracing to swing. He skips forward but Hales skips back and Ryan One doesn’t follow. Kai stretches out an arm to impede Ryan One, who has a drunken stumble, nearly eats pavement, then staggers towards Kai and hits him in the back. That hand is still holding the bottle, but his strike is a side-arm cuff on a soft part of the body. It’s all pretty tame. This is where Stokes gets involved. Having moved across to protect Hales, he now takes three large steps to run around Kai and booms his first punch at Ryan One. They fall to the ground and the bottle clinks away. Stokes gets to his feet to punch down at the fallen man, while Hales arrives to kick him ineffectively then runs off across the street for some unknown reason. Ice-cream van? Stokes is soon back in the grapple having his shirt pulled up to show off his Durham tan. Ryan Two steps in for the first time to pull Stokes away, prompting a couple more random punches at this new target, then Stokes trips backwards over Ryan One and sprawls in the street. Hales chooses this moment to return and aim some solid kicks at the head of the man on the ground. Nothing so far is a triumph of moral philosophy or the pugilistic arts. But if it all stopped here, perhaps you could say it was somewhere approaching fair. Ryan One has behaved like a turnip and it’s not an entirely unjust world that would give him a whack across the chops. The antagonists have disentangled, Stokes has some distance, it’s time to dust off and go home. Ryan Two steps forward for this purpose with his palm raised in conciliatory style and says, ‘Settle down, stop.’ So Stokes punches him. It’s roughly his fifth punch overall, and he really winds up into this one. He misses so hard that he stumbles away into the shadows of the shop awnings along the road. Hales starts shouting for him to stop. Ryan Two backs into the street, still holding his palm up. Stokes closes on him from about five metres away, six large steps, to where Ryan Two is standing on his own. Stokes pushes him a couple of times, as Ryan Two keeps trying to placate him and saying ‘Stop.’ Stokes throws his sixth punch, largely missing as his target ducks. Ryan Two keeps pulling away and reversing, into the middle of the street now. Stokes follows him, grabbing his sleeve to drag him back. By this point Ryan One has found his feet and walked around behind his friend. Both of them are in the same line of sight for Stokes, and both are backing away. Stokes aims his seventh and his eighth punches, which Ryan Two tries to deflect, as Hales walks up behind Stokes to grab him. Stokes yanks away from his friend and switches to Ryan One instead, taking seven paces to grab him before throwing his ninth punch of the night. He grabs again; Ryan One blocks that arm and pushes himself back away from Stokes. Ryan Two again intercedes, putting himself between the two with his palms up and his arm extended. Stokes throws his tenth punch, a right-hander at the face of Ryan Two, then shoves him backwards. Ryan Two backs away once more, four paces. Stokes follows, steadies, lines up, then launches his strongest punch yet, his eleventh, a proper right hook from a solid base, one that cracks across the man’s head and gives him concussion. Ryan Two ends up flat on his back in the middle of the street, his hands still outstretched for a moment in useless protest until they twitch and drop to the blacktop. Stokes isn’t done. He once more shoves away the restraining Hales and follows Ryan One, who keeps backing away saying, ‘Alright, alright, alright.’ Five more paces from Stokes before another blow at the man’s head. Kai and Billy are now standing over the poleaxed Ryan Two. The video ends, but seconds later Stokes will punch Ryan One hard enough to knock him out too, before off-duty cop Andrew Spure arrives on the scene to bring down the curtain. When the body-camera footage kicks in some minutes later, Stokes is in handcuffs but Ryan One is still laid out in the street. Ryan Two has regained consciousness, folded his shirt under his friend’s head and is asking police for an ambulance. ‘At this point, I felt vulnerable and frightened. I was concerned for myself and others.’ This was how Stokes described that sequence to the court. An elite athlete with years of gym work and training to snap a bat through the line of a ball with astounding power and precision, swinging fists as hard as he can at men with none of those advantages. Punching so hard that he breaks his hand, and repeatedly shoving away a friend so he can punch some more. Frightened and threatened by two targets shouting ‘Get back!’ and ‘Stop!’ The off-duty officer testified that Stokes ‘seemed to be the main aggressor or was progressing forward trying to get to’ Ryan One, who was ‘trying to back away or get away from the situation’. The student who filmed the video can be heard on the tape at one stage exclaiming ‘Fuck!’ and testified that it was because ‘I felt a little bit sorry about the lad that had been punched and it looked like he had his hands up’. That tallied with the prosecutor’s depiction of ‘a sustained episode of significant violence that left onlookers shocked at what was taking place’. The defendant stuck to his strategy. ‘No, my sole focus was to protect myself.’ All up, in the 33 seconds of footage after he falls over, Stokes takes 35 steps forward to keep hitting two men who keep trying to get away. Not once is he hit back. After the verdict, Stokes’ solicitor positioned him as the victim. It had been ‘an eleven-month ordeal for Ben … The jury’s decision fairly reflects the truth of what happened that night … He was minding his own business … It was only when others came under threat that Ben became physically engaged. The steps that he took were solely aimed at ensuring the safety of himself and the others present …’ The statement was impossibly self-righteous and self-absorbed. If there was anyone to feel sorry for it was Ryan Hale, the second of our two Ryans. He’s the one who emerged from the club with a friendly arm around the shoulder for Kai and Billy. He’s the one who interposed himself to end the fight, then kept putting himself back in the firing line, trying to calm an intimidating stranger while dodging blows. For his show of restraint he got laid out regardless, concussed in the street, then was issued a criminal charge equal to that of the man who hit him, and described in national media as a violent bigot in an untested story to support that man’s defence. Lawyers for Ryan Two made a more convincing post-trial statement, noting that Kai and Billy, ‘neither of whom were relied upon by the prosecution or the defence team for Mr Stokes, have taken the opportunity to speak with various media outlets about the alleged homophobic abuse that they received in the early hours of September 25. Mr Hale has passionately denied this allegation throughout the course of this case,’ it continued. ‘It is upsetting to Mr Hale that although he was acquitted, the accusation that he was the author of such abuse remains. Both Mr Hale and Mr Ali were knocked unconscious by Mr Stokes, and although Mr Stokes has been acquitted of an affray, Mr Hale struggles with the reasons why the Crown Prosecution Service did not treat him as a victim of an unlawful assault.’Good question. Avon and Somerset police were the investigating force, and they were frustrated by the decision. Ryan Two was filmed clearly not hurting anyone, but police were instructed by the CPS to proceed with a charge. Hales (the cricketer) was filmed fighting but ‘a decision was made at a senior level of the CPS’ not to proceed. Police expected Stokes to be charged with assault but the CPS declined. It doesn’t take a wild cynic to think that placing the same lukewarm charge on three men for vastly divergent behaviour might ensure that none would be convicted, even as the trial would maintain the pretence that a defendant of influential standing had not been given a free pass. A couple of years down the line, the original interview with Kai and Billy has disappeared. All traces have been scrubbed from The Sun website, its social media history, and even from the Wayback Machine internet archive. Given its headline of ‘homophobic thugs’ and text that names Ryan Two but not Ryan One, the libel liability isn’t hard to spot. Later interviews with Kai and Billy take the passive voice – they ‘suffered homophobic slurs outside a Bristol nightclub’. The article that was once claimed to exonerate brave Ben Stokes now links only to a missing content page, with a picture of a dropped ice-cream cone and the phrase ‘legal removal’ inserted into the web URL. In terms of consequences, Stokes missed one tour. When he resumed his career in January 2018, the Australians hadn’t yet ruined theirs. Their year-long bans looked much more stringent. But the Stokes case dragged on in other ways. With no criminal liability, the Australians confessed promptly enough for the sporting world to give them the full length of the lash. Their situation was ugly but there was closure. Stokes got stuck in legal stasis, unable to be fully backed or condemned. Instead his issue was always present, a browser full of open tabs that the ECB swore they would read any day now. Through 2018 Stokes was back but he wasn’t back, in the sunglasses and finger-guns sense. In his return one-day series he nearly cost England a match with 39 from 73 balls in Wellington. His first Test hit was a duck as England got rolled in Auckland for 58. At Trent Bridge while Stokes was injured, England posted a world record 481 against Australia. With Stokes three weeks later at the same ground they made 268. He crawled to 50 from 103, the second-slowest any Englishman had reached that milestone in 20 years. That span covered Alastair Cook’s whole career. It was apologetic batting, acting out responsibility via the scorecard. Stokes was creeping back into the team like he’d been kicked out in a blazing row and was hoping to tip-toe to the sofa. It was December 2018 before the ECB disciplinary committee ruled on him and Hales. In a ‘remarkable coincidence’, wrote Simon Heffer in The Telegraph, ‘the punishment both players faced in terms of bans from playing at international level was covered by the amount of games they had already missed when dropped by England’s selectors, in the furore that followed the incident’. The verdict compounded the omissions around the case by not addressing the violence at its heart. Nor did Stokes, apologising only ‘to my team-mates, coaches and support staff’, and then ‘to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game into disrepute’. The implicit next step was to rebuild that reputation. It might have been easier had his court defence not meant that he wasn’t game to admit any fault at all. It might have been easier if he or his advisers had been willing to change tack once the trial was done. Imagine a world where Stokes had stood outside court and apologised for overreacting, for the injuries he’d caused, and for the time and energy he had sucked out of other people’s lives. That would have been a show of responsibility beyond a scorecard. When the time came around to assess forgiveness, it might have meant forgiveness was deserved.
I work at a crooked casino. You don't gamble with money here.
Hi, everybody. My name is Sid, and I’m an addict. It took me a long time to accept that. But when you take a job in a casino just so that you can be there all the time and try to gain an edge, you’re an addict. It’s obvious even to me. More so to my family and friends, who I barely see anymore. It’s not pills or coke, booze or heroin that I’m hooked on. I’m addicted to gambling. The casino that made me so obsessed is not an ordinary one, though. It’s far from ordinary. You don’t play for money at Fantasy Casino. You play for your dreams. I hear you laughing. But have you ever had a really, really great dream? One that got so good you snapped awake the second it started to get really excellent? Well, imagine that times a thousand. Times a million. A dream so real and so perfect that all of your fantasies become reality. Time stretches out. You feel like you are there forever. A lifetime passes before your return. Infinite wealth, the ability to fly like superman, you’re surrounded by sex and beautiful people all day as you relax in a palace built to your mind’s most exacting specifications of perfection. But then you wake up, and in an instant it is gone. The power, the wealth, the endless sex and supernatural powers. Everything is suddenly NORMAL again. And so you go back to the casino. I went back to the casino. But the problem with gambling is that you don’t always win. And when you lose, suddenly the winnings are gone as well, vanished without a trace. All I knew was that I had to have that feeling again. So I went inside the giant building and then followed the secret signs which led to a door that led to a staircase going downwards. I went down the stairs and knocked on the door marked “Private” and waited for an answer. “Password.” The voice on the other side of the black door waited for my response. “Seramth Gin.” I said the unnatural words carefully and deliberately, still not knowing their meaning. A friend had told me the password, a fellow gambler who I would later find dead in his apartment. His corpse white, bloated, and maggot-infested. His eyes were black and filled with blood which streamed from his eye sockets like tears. He had bit his tongue clean off and his fingernails were found lodged in various surfaces throughout his apartment. Like he had been trying to claw his way out of a steel box that only he could see. But I’m getting ahead of myself. That was later. At this point I was still hopeful for another wonderful dream. Still thankful for his advice to seek out the place. The door opened and I walked inside. It was the same as it had been the day before, only less busy at this time – still early afternoon. I approached the table I had been sitting at the night before. Poker – Texas Hold ‘em: Ten dream limit – the sign read. The rules were simple. You got a stack of chips. If you doubled them, you received a dream. If you lost them, you lost a dream. I wasn’t concerned about losing dreams yet, I still didn’t understand exactly what that meant. When I lost my first stack of chips, I quickly bought in again. And again. And again. Pretty soon I realized I had lost eight dreams with no winnings whatsoever. I was in a slump. A losing streak. I decided to go home and count my losses. Literally, since I had no idea what that even meant. As I got up to leave the table, the dealer looked at me. His eyes were remorseless and cold. “See the cashier on your way out,” he said, handing me eight black chips. I gulped and walked over to the glass window where the cashier sat waiting. Handing him the eight chips, he raised his eyebrows and clicked his tongue. “That’s a shame. Hold out your hand please.” Two men in black suits came up behind me suddenly and stood on either side of me, intimidating in their stature and demeanour. I did as he asked and held out my hand with the palm facing up. The cashier pulled out a strange-looking device from beneath the counter. It had a vial of vermillion-coloured liquid at the top that was attached to the rest of it which resembled a gun with a hypodermic needle at the end. I screamed and tried to pull away, but the two men grabbed me and held my arm through the window. Thrashing and elbowing them, I tried to get away but it was useless. The cashier injected the stuff into my veins quickly and it felt cold and slimy going through my system. I could feel it suddenly in my heart, turning it cold and then up into my mind and my lungs and all extremities causing me to shake and violently seize. I writhed on the floor, blood pouring from my ears and my eyes. Finally the feeling settled down into a numbness that prickled the insides of my blood vessels. It wasn’t until later, once I realized what the casino really was, that I found out what they had done. I went home with the certainty that they had injected me with something. If winning had resulted in the greatest dream I had ever had – essentially an almost never-ending fantasy – what would happen after a loss? Nightmares. That was what it would be. I was sure of it. I settled into bed that night and closed my eyes, drifting off to sleep quickly after such an emotionally exhausting afternoon. As soon as my eyes closed, they opened again and it was morning. It felt as if I had not slept at all. My mind was fuzzy and it was difficult to focus. My eyes wanted to close again but my alarm was telling me that it was time to get up for work, so I hit the “dismiss” button and hopped in the shower. I threw on my clothes and went out the door. At work I noticed a few people looking at me strangely, but I didn’t realize until someone pointed it out to me that my shirt was on inside-out. At this point I was still working in an office doing commodities trading and such lapses were frowned upon. If you couldn’t focus enough to put your shirt on properly in the morning, how could you focus enough to get the work done in such a demanding environment? Millions of dollars changing hands with each transaction meant that such trivial things were put under a magnifying glass and coupled with other subsequent mistakes each following day after that, I found myself in the boss’s office by the end of the week being handed my walking papers. Desperate for rest after days of not feeling any benefit from sleep, I went back to the casino. They knew just by looking at me how to dig their claws in further. After a couple hours I had managed to win myself a dream. They handed me the complimentary cocktail as they had the time before. I hadn’t realized the significance of it and still didn’t, despite the unusual vermillion colour of the drink. I swallowed it in one gulp and went out the door practically dancing and clicking my heels, ready to go home and feel rested again. My dream that night was wonderful. Everything I had hoped for in many ways. But not as good as the first time. I wanted that feeling back again. Knowing that it was a dream the whole time and realizing that it was going to end seemed to shorten the fantasy, made it seem hollow and manufactured. If I could win again maybe it would be like that first time, I thought. The casino drew me in again and again. I found myself a zombie most days, exhausted, at my wit’s end. Ready to call it quits for good and say goodbye. But then I would win again and it would all seem to be alright for a while. My debt kept growing and growing with nearly every trip. The hypodermic needle would be plunged into my skin and every time they had to hold me down. Every time I would feel a little more empty. A little more hollow. Waking up every day began to feel the same. Nothing had definition or purpose. “You’re here all the time,” one of the goons whispered to me as they shot the needle into my vein the time after that. “Haven’t you figured it out yet? You should just get a job here and then at least you’ll be in on the secret.” I applied the next day and got an interview with the boss. I would find out later that if you got someone to apply there you got a one dream bonus. In his office, the well-dressed man was sitting behind a massive polished ebony desk. The room was adorned with paintings, sculptures, and other high-priced artwork. He had photos everywhere of himself shaking hands with world leaders, new and old, for hundreds of years. His face never changed. Never aged. “So, you want to work with us? Tired of dreamless nights without end? You want to have some relief, is that it?” “Yes. Please. Anything. I’ve been coming here for so long and it’s an endless cycle. I want back what I’ve lost but I keep finding myself more and more in debt with each visit.” “Ah, so do you understand it now, then? What the ‘injections’ are?” It finally dawned on me, sitting there. Not injections at all. They weren’t putting something in us. They were taking something out. The vermillion-coloured liquid in the vials – our dreams. “If I take a job with you, will the same rules apply? Will they still take my sleep, my rest, every time I lose?” “Yes. We can’t have the employees living by different rules than everyone else. But we will give you an alternative injection, so that you feel well-rested when you come in for your shift.” “I’ll do it. I need to rest. I need to get some meaningful sleep. My life has been miserable ever since coming here.” “Well, I can’t promise that this will help,” he said, getting up from his desk with a hypodermic gun in his hand. The vial of fluid sitting atop this one was jet-black and looked evil and poisonous. He rolled up his sleeves as he primed it and I watched a few beads of it drip oil-like out of the tip of the needle. “What the hell is that!? I don’t want that stuff in me!” “But you need to sleep, my dear worker. I can’t have you passing out at the blackjack table like a narcoleptic! You agreed to this, after all. You wanted to rest, and the only way for that to happen is for you to have SOME sort of dream. Not everyone is as lucky as you, you know. To have that wonderful vermillion fluid in your veins. Some people come to us begging to take it from them. Some of our employees for example, the ones who do the recruitment for us, are full of this black stuff.” “What?” I had gotten up from the chair and was backing away from him towards the door. But I found it was locked as he approached. “First you have to tell me the password, Sid.” “Seramth Gin.” I said the words that I had said every time to gain access to the casino, only this time I pictured the letters and rearranged them in my mind. “Nightmares.” He smiled as he injected me with the vial of black hate, and it went into my veins feeling hot and unpleasant. I began to sweat and the beads of it turned cold on my skin as I shivered. I’ll sleep tonight. I might even wake up feeling rested. But as long as I live and work at that casino, I’ll be afraid to dream again. Because now my unconscious hours are occupied by the most terrifying experiences imaginable. Nightmares beyond imagining in their awfulness. That is my fate. Unless… Just maybe, I can win one more time. JG TCC
(37M) Just finalized divorce yesterday, and it feels great AMA
I wish I had found this sub years ago. Reading through these posts is really eye-opening and I see so many similarities to my own marriage. Long post ahead. I married at 18 for all the wrong reasons. She was 21. We were high school sweethearts. We were in love, but, in retrospect, neither of us were ready to get married. I kind of knew it at the time, but I went against my gut and did it anyway. We were married for 19 years. No kids. There were so many red flags over the years, but, in my eyes, none of them were worth ending the marriage. I never cheated. To my knowledge, neither did she. It just became a never-ending cycle of her treating me like a man-child which got progressively worse over the years. I even have a text message thread from several months ago where she claimed I wanted her to be "my mommy" (this couldn't be further from what I wanted) and that's why she treated me like this. She pushed me (not in a good way, but I'm glad she did) to advance my professional career. Any job I had was never good enough for her, and I never made enough money for her. Red flag. However, this caused me to rapidly climb the corporate ladder in my 20s. At 29 I was able to quit my FT 6-figure job and start my own business, doubling, then tripling, then quadrupling my income over the next couple of years. Certainly no regrets here. We have also been able to buy several houses, become landlords for 6 years, and pretty much live where we wanted. But she resented me for it. I was required to be at the office *a lot* and she hated that I wasn't home until 9 pm on any given weekday. Our last house was a solid 2-3 hour drive (depending on traffic) from the city center. So I often had to leave the house by 6:30 am and wasn't back until late in the evening. Yeah, she was lonely. She wanted me to watch TV with her every night (I became very disinterested in TV anyway) which just wasn't possible. I could have kept a somewhat cushy corporate job that wasn't demanding in terms of hours, making much less money, but that wasn't good enough for her. Rewind back to 2001. I put her through college and sacrificed my own college education for her. I worked 2 jobs, 7 days a week, for years to support us when I was 18-21. We were living in a crappy apartment and barely making ends meet. But she was going to make something of herself, then I was going to go to college and do the same. Like you are supposed to do. I tried to go to college while working 2 jobs for 60-70 hours per week, but it was way too much. My grades made it unable for me to advance, so I dropped out. She graduated in 2004... then never really tried to get a decent job. The 'best' job she ever had was a retail store manager for a small store (making like $15/hr) and she hated it. She was perfectly capable of making 6-figures at a corporate job, but she never even made an attempt. She hopped between entry-level and minimum wage jobs, never spending more than a couple of months at any of them. Don't take this to mean I ever really cared about how much money she made. What I cared about was the effort she put into being a responsible adult. We were still having trouble making ends meet. In 2006 (married for 5 years) I got my first big pay jump when I switched companies. I increased my income by 70% overnight and I was starting to see light at the end of the work-till-you-die tunnel. It was finally going to be good with my new income and hers, right? Wrong. A couple of months into my new job she brought up the idea of her quitting her job to be a 'full-time homemaker'. Remember, we didn't have kids and didn't want any, and she is the one with the degree and the college debt we would be paying down for the next 15 years. It started as an idea, then over a couple of weeks, it turned into her begging me to let her quit her job for good. I resisted, explaining to her that it made no financial sense. Besides, how was she going to keep herself occupied throughout the day? Laundry only needed to be done once a week, dishes only take a few minutes a day. So, against my wishes, she quit working for good and never looked back. She did take to cooking more, but she basically sat at home and watched TV. This went on for years. She knew I was against it. Without her income, we were in a worse financial situation than before I got my new job. But, (her words) because I was the man, "I was supposed to support the family" She was bored all the time. The free time gave her much more time to find things to get upset about and dwell on. For example, she would start a big fight if I left a single bowl in the sink for *me* to wash later. Or if I used the stove or microwave and she found a single spec of splattered food. Or if I turned a perfectly functional knob on the washing machine to wash my own laundry. She would absolutely blow up -- "I did [insert thing here] on purpose so I could get out of doing [the thing] in the future." Thank god we had our own bathrooms. She resented me for these things and I had no chance for retribution. She did do most of the housework for a few years, but I always did 100% of the yardwork. And almost 5 years ago we bought and lived on a farm -- got several dozen animals from horses to sheep to donkeys to ducks and geese. Just like in her professional 'career', she helped take care of them for a little while. Until she decided it was too much work. Then I was the one left by myself rounding up the animals, fixing broken fence, thawing out frozen water pipes, etc at 2 am on a weeknight when I had an 8 am meeting the next morning. As you would expect, the sex decreased significantly over the years. It was good when we were in our teens and early 20s. But she became less and less interested over the years. It went from several times per week, to several times per month, to every few months, to... almost never. She wanted sex to be very mundane. She didn't like it when I went down on her. She absolutely refused to go down on me, and never did. She didn't like it when I tried to use my hand to please her. She didn't like foreplay. She never wanted to do anything other than missionary. We talked about how to spice up our sex life for years. I brought all sorts of ideas from the table from roleplaying to toys to things on the kinkier side, but she never actually wanted to do anything about it. I had also been struggling with PE throughout my later 20s which made the situation worse. And the PE was "my fault" and "I needed to do something about it". I did see a urologist who diagnosed me as perfectly normal and sent me on my way. He suggested both of us see a sex therapist together, which she was not ok with -- because this was "my problem". Until we separated and I put myself out there, I hadn't had sex in about 4 years. Fast forward to 2018. I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer -- like fewer than 100 cases per year in the entire country. The physician knew very little about it -- the hospital hadn't seen a case of it in over 5 years -- and referred me to a specialist in a city a few hours away. It was a few months before I knew anything definitive or could get it treated. When I told my ex about the diagnosis, she preceded to inform me how I don't "have cancer" (but I did) and made it clear it was my own problem. I had an all-day surgery with the specialist to remove it -- I told her it was going to be an all-day surgery in advance. A couple-hour drive each way. Did she offer to drive me there or support me in any way? Nope. I got to drive myself there and back. Did she help me clean the huge surgical wound (it was like 10 inches in diameter) I had for the next 3 months? I even asked for her help cleaning and dressing it. She refused. So I had to figure out how to do it by myself. Did she express the slightest interest in talking to the specialist about it to get her own answers and put her mind at ease? Nope. She already knew better. This when it became painfully obvious she didn't care about me at all. And I still financially supported her 100%. At this point, she hadn't had a job for over 10 years and spent most of any given day watching TV. In 2017 she started an Etsy sewing shop -- which didn't take much of her time, but it gave her something to do. We were vendors at lots of local festivals together when those were still a thing. We were doing this almost every weekend from April through December. She didn't have more than 200 orders per year until 2020. When the lockdowns and mask shortages started in March she started sewing cloth masks. She did really well for a couple of months, doing 50-100 orders per day. I told her I was proud of her. I also tried to help her when she was having trouble keeping up. I spent a whole day helping her get caught up on orders. I can't sew, so I was helping her pack envelopes, print shipping labels, and iron decals onto the masks. She showed me how to do the iron-on transfers. It's so easy a 10-year-old could do it. I did a couple hundred of them that afternoon. She came to inspect them before they got shipped out. And she blew-the-fuck-up. I did it *exactly* how she showed me and they looked great. But she could still see a crease in the fabric where it was folded. It was "my fault" and, as usual, I had done it "on purpose" so I could get out of helping in the future. Sound familiar? I immediately stopped helping and left. I was done with her acting like a child. She is 40 years old and still acts like she is 12. Did she ever thank me for helping? No. Did she still ship the orders? Yep, so they weren't bad were they? Did she apologize for blowing up again? Nope. And I forgot to mention -- we have been basically separated for the better part of 4 years. Sleeping in different rooms in the house. I've been living in an 'apartment' in the basement of my own house. She kicked me out of the bedroom when she was throwing a fit about a short business trip I was going on. I needed to "tell them I wasn't going". She threw all of my stuff down the stairs and that was the end of that. I wasn't allowed to use the stove that I paid for. If I had food in the microwave and she wanted to use it, she would throw away whatever I had in there. She would throw away my dishes if I wasn't watching; I found them in the trash all the time. I spent the next several months thinking about all of this and much more. One thing I came to realize: in the 19 years we had been married I couldn't think of a single instance where she apologized for blowing up about something meaningless or admitted she was wrong. Not a single one. I even challenged her about it. Could she think of a single time she did either one of those? She couldn't come up with one concrete example. BTW, I apologized thousands of times. I never once blew up about anything in our entire relationship -- that's not the kind of person I am -- but I have apologized for things I said that made her feel bad and admitted I was wrong many, many times. At her insistence, I even admitted to doing lots of meaningless things that I didn't actually do just to put a fight to bed and keep the relationship in-tact. There is no point in fighting over BS. 2020 also brought on a lot of financial stress. At the beginning of the year, I had signed contracts that would make this the biggest year since I started the business. Clients were in sports, restaurants, casinos, and live entertainment. I lost all of them, and most of them are unlikely to survive 2021 without a bankruptcy. I laid off my entire staff. Our income took a nosedive. We burnt through most of our savings because she couldn't control her spending habits, and she had zero interest in financially contributing to the household. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. She made it abundantly clear she didn't care about me, and, at the same time, she expected me to financially support her do-whatever-she-wants consequences-be-damned lifestyle. I prepared the divorce papers and presented them to her on a whim when she was blowing up about dishes in the sink or something like that. I just couldn't deal with it anymore. I don't know why she acted surprised. She had told me she wanted a divorce plenty of times in recent years, and a couple of times in 2020. But she never had the balls to do it. This was something I had been thinking about for a few years, but I was likely to be on the hook for $10k/month in alimony for the rest of my life if it weren't for COVID. We live in a midwest state with divorce case-law which strongly favors women, and I have lots of male friends/colleagues who got screwed royally in a divorce -- even if their spouse cheated. So it was kind of the perfect storm. Depleted savings and drastically reduced income meant there was nothing for the court to grant. All we really had left was retirement savings and home equity. The house sale is closing in 10 days and we already liquidated the 401k, which she used to buy her own house. That was everything. Sorry for the long post, but I needed to rant to some strangers on the internet. There is obviously much more to tell over 19 years of marriage, but I'll leave it here for the sake of brevity. This post may sound very one-sided, but I really tried to keep it together. I tried to be a good husband. To give my wife what she wanted. To be there for her when she needed me. To make her happy, at the expense of my own happiness. Happy wife, happy life, right? As I put in the title, the court granted dissolution yesterday. It was very easy. No attorneys, we didn't fight about any remaining property. We each own our own vehicles free and clear and had no interest in the other's. She stole a few thousand more dollars from our joint account and sold some valuable things without my permission, but it wasn't worth fighting over. I just let it go. I'm finally free and I feel better than I have in years. Ask me anything.
Class Trial 66: The Murder of Sonia Nevermind - Part 1: 1stMIX
Let’s suppose, hypothetically, just for the sake of the argument, that you were in need of an explanation of the rules of the Class Trial. And, further, let’s assume that I am the one capable of providing you, in this hypothetical scenario, with such an explanation. It must, without a doubt, logically follow that this explanation would be summarized as “you all need to find out who murdered Sonia Nevermind.” Okay gang? The idea that it would amount to anything other than that is just silly. It’s just... wrong! Axioms don’t care about your attitudes!
Monokuma File: Sonia - The victim of this case is Sonia Nevermind. She was found dead at the bottom of the middle of the Three Lakes between the Casino and Hotel Kumasutra. She died during night time. The cause of death is asphyxiation.
Winter Wear: The victim was found wearing generic winter clothes to stay warm such as a jacket, pants, and some gloves. In addition, instead of her trademark neck ribbon, the victim was found wearing a fluffy red neck scarf.
Sonia’s Shoes: Extensive scuffing marks on the back of the victim’s red high heels and tears on the back of her black leggings were discovered.
Sonia’s Scarf: Worn by the victim instead of her trademark neck ribbon. It has been wrapped to cover the victim’s neck. On a free end of the scarf, there is a small hole, and near it are traces of blood.
The Motive: For the first motive of this Killing Semester, Monokuma threatened that if a murder doesn’t happen in the next twenty-four hours, then he will make their parents forget they ever existed.
Emergency HVAC Maintenance: A malfunction in the outdoor HVAC system was detected some time in the afternoon, so Monokuma had to repair it overnight. He announced that temperatures in the Courtyard would drop to -10 C (14 F) during the night. The system was reactivated to normal operation at 8 AM when Monokuma gave the morning announcement. All indoor areas maintained room temperature overnight.
Free Access to the Labs: In the prologue to the Killing Semester, Monophanie announced to the class that all Research Labs at the Academy would be open and its doors kept unlocked 24 hours a day, allowing anyone free access to utilize them.
Wax Residue: Visible traces of black wax were found at the lower-level Plaza next to a bench adjacent to the TV post.
Letter to Gundham: Delivered to Gundham’s dorm room some time yesterday afternoon. It reads: “Gundham, I may have found a way to escape. Do not talk to me today. We are being watched and everyone is potentially dangerous. Meet me at 6:30 AM outside the Dormitory. -Sonia”
Letter to Sonia: Found on the victim’s person during the investigation. It was delivered to Sonia’s dorm room some time yesterday afternoon. It reads: “Sonia, I may have found a way to escape. Do not talk to me today. We are being watched and everyone is potentially dangerous. Meet me at midnight at the Shrine of Judgement at the lower level of the Courtyard. -Gundham”
Gundham’s Account - Sunrise: Gundham claims to have left the Student Dormitory at 6:25 AM this morning to meet with Sonia at the Shrine of Judgement at 6:30.
Gundham’s Account - Sonia’s Corpse: Gundham further claims to have found the victim’s corpse at 7:00 AM lying on top of the middle of the frozen Three Lakes. He claims to have attempted to save her by walking onto the ice to extract her from the frozen lake, but in his attempt fell immediately through the ice and passed out to hypothermia shortly after exiting the lake.
Flattened Patch of Grass: During the investigation just after 9 AM, Gonta, with his extremely sharp vision, noticed that there was a small patch of flattened grass of approximate size 30 centimeters by 15 (12 inches by 6 inches) behind the TV stand at the lower-level Plaza. According to Gonta, taller grasses like those found in the Courtyard when flattened typically do not stand up until twelve hours have passed.
Sonia’s Belongings: Kazuichi was granted permission to search Sonia’s dorm room and her belongings during the investigation. Among other things, he found the last book she was reading, “Spooky People and Spookier Places,” which covers cults, the occult, and serial killers, as well as Sonia’s Monopad, which seems to have been there for some time as it has sunk into the mattress. You can read the book HERE.
Sonia’s Wristwatch - During the investigation, Sonia’s corpse was found wearing the watch on her left wrist. The watch seems to have been broken at some point: its hands are stuck, and turning the crown on the left side no longer changes the time. Monokuma assures the watch kept an accurate track of time up until it was broken. A visual is available in Supplements in the Summary Sheet (not yet up as of now) .
Sonia’s Wristwatch Supplement - The watch is made by TIMELY, a Novoselic-based watchmaker. It is a simple yet expensive and luxurious golden watch with white even-length clock hands and a rose-pink dial.
An Account of Wax Dolls: During Daily Life, Angie, Gonta, Kaede, Mahiru, Maki, Makoto, Rantaro, and Sayaka discovered lifelike wax doubles of each student hidden away in the Art Room closet. Knowledge of their existence was kept to themselves.
Rantaro’s Account: In the prologue to the Killing Semester, Rantaro went up to the Ultimate Survivor’s Lab in search of dossiers he prepared at an unknown prior time. Upon arrival, he discovered they were missing.
Click [HERE](LINK) to visit the Summary Sheet. (not posted as of now)
In the Summary Sheet, you can easily access alibis, catch up on key moments, and inspect materials supplementing the currently available Truth Bullets. The Trial has finally started! Let’s get this show on the road. You have seven days to solve this case (ends 12/24 at 1900 UTC-5, 12/25 0000 UTC). I may make comments here as the Trial progresses.
Press briefings will be on Thursday from now on (exception of next week, which is Wednesday for Thanksgiving)
Good news: Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 95% effective (data released Monday/Tuesday), RI will pilot Pfizer vaccine distribution - "there truly is light at the end of the tunnel"
Until the vaccine is available (hopefully some availability by the end of the year, anticipating widespread availability by Spring), we must double down on following restrictions so as to not overwhelm hospitals
See numbers above
'Targeted restrictions' have not helped the situation
Trending data is "alarming" - we have passed all three thresholds (5.9% weekly positivity, 247 hospital admissions, 535 cases per 100,000)
"I have tried to avoid a lockdown" - targeted restrictions are NOT working
"Severe restrictions" being laid out today
Intro - Rationale
With so much community spread, it's hard to pinpoint a single activity/location/group to trace source of infection
Patterns among people testing positive: At-home social gatherings, people going to restaurants/bars, people with others outside household
"Need to reduce mobility, reduce connectivity with people outside household"
"We know that schools are not major spreaders" I can already guess what's staying open...
High schools are more problematic than others
Path from now to end of the year
Current restrictions will be extended until the Sunday after Thanksgiving with two exceptions, effective immediately:
Social gathering limit is lowered to a single household (No social gatherings with people you don't live with)
All "big box stores" (>30,000 square ft) must have a plan for Black Friday crowds and cannot allow anyone without a mask cannot enter (stores should pass out masks)
Please do not travel
If planning to go to a restaurant, please use extreme caution
Stay at home with the people you live with
Rapid testing available at TF Green Airport Sat/Sun/Mon after Thanksgiving and Nat'l Guard to remind anyone who is returning from out-of-state to quarantine
Beginning 11/30 - "RI on Pause"
"Two week pause" in effect until 12/13
Hoping that this will ONLY be two weeks - if it does not work, total lockdown
High schools will shift to limited/hybrid plan after Thanksgiving at discretion of superintendents
Social gatherings limited to one household
Indoor dining at 33%, outdoor dining/takeout not affected
Retail at current capacity limits
Houses of worship limited to 25% capacity with a max of 125 I understand distancing but that's insanity
Colleges will have NO in-person instruction after Thanksgiving and will test all students before they leave campus for the holidays
All offices must move to remote work for everyone who can (521-HELP for technical assistance)
Bars (drinks can be delivered to tables but no bar areas open)
Bowling alleys, gyms, casinos
Indoor sports, gyms, group fitness classes, all sports except college/professional
Stimulus grants announced next week for affected businesses
Comments on "pause"
"This will only work if we do it" - threatening a full lockdown if this doesn't limit our numbers in 3 weeks
"I have been utterly ineffective in getting people to follow rules in their own homes" - jokes about memes showing her arriving at people's houses (one of the few candid moments I've seen from her lately)
Figuring out if it's working - reservation data at restaurants, test positivity, traffic data, enforcement data
Hospitals are currently at 97% of COVID beds filled - we do NOT want to ration beds/limit care
If COVID beds get filled, we may need to start cutting off other procedures incl. cancer screenings, important surgeries to make room for COVID patients
We are on track to need Cranston field hospital by week after Thanksgiving
Hospitals are working with colleges to hire medical students
There will still be greater restriction after 12/13, but cannot comment on exactly what as it depends on how this goes
Improvements to testing
2,000 daily asymptomatic tests added
300 daily symptomatic tests added
Expanding testing site at Wickford Junction
New site at McCoy opened today
New sites at Waldorf School and Stop & Shop in Greenville coming soon
Contact tracing is behind but we are continuing to hire more staff
Check results constantly and immediately isolate if positive (even if RIDOH has not called yet)
Increasing hotels available to people who need to isolate
Expanding food delivery services
Q: CDC saying that in-person learning is dangerous (I'm glad someone asked) A: "I believe that question is a mis-characterization of the data" - referencing Dr. Jha She sounds MAD about this question "we could argue about the risk, but children will suffer irreparable lifelong harm not being in school" She is trusting HS students to follow rules and "districts should keep kids in school if they can" Q: "Wasn't the idea with PPE/testing that we wouldn't have to go back? What happened?" A: "It turns out people don't follow rules very well when we have to do it for so long" Q: What is the goal in terms of ease of scheduling/getting test results and do we need to scale back asymptomatic testing? A: It isn't a perfect system (waiting to get tested) but we are working to fix it. "It's hard for me to believe you can't get a test at all" Personal note: I'm currently trying to get tested (possible exposure at work even though I have no symptoms) and I had to go online to CVS at 3:00 in the morning to get an appointment 3 days later Q: Isn't distance learning with a teacher better than in-person with a substitute? Is there a percentage (like NY) where we would switch to full distance? A: High schoolers work better with distance learning but younger kids really struggle. NY: We do not use a single metric to determine whether to shut down - "as long as schools can keep the environment safe" we will keep them open. Q: Thoughts on a possible 4-6 week lockdown or advisory to governors to do so under President Biden? A: "If congress would do their jobs" and send an appropriate stimulus, we could discuss a lockdown in RI Q: Why is Twin River open until 11/30? A: "If I could shut everything down immediately I would do that" but there is a need to be practical (restaurants who have increased inventory for next week will still be able to use it) Q: Crisis standards of care? A (Dr. Scott): Principles to help hospitals make difficult ethical decisions about care - we do NOT want to get here. (Gina): We cannot staff that many beds - patients may have medical students as nurses or not get checked on at all. We may have to "shut off" non-COVID procedures Q: Nursing home staffing (can people volunteer to bathe their family members, etc)? A: "Caregiver exemption" is in the works (allowing family to get certified to give care similar to CNA) Q: Is RI still independently validating vaccine data despite Pfizer pilot program? A: Yes. Q: Will you get vaccinated? A: I will not be first in line (not necessary), but yes. My apologies, I missed a few questions Q: General assembly? A: They will need to meet before 12/31 to pass a 2021 budget - a space is being set up at the Vets to allow a safe in-person meeting or they may choose to do so virtually Q: HS sports? A: Winter season cannot start until January - no practices at all during pause
I found a small casino resort about 3 hours away from me that offered a wild blackjack game. It's so good that they must of screwed up the odds on all levels of management. This is the game. -Single deck with a 90% penetration. -Pay out 2:1 -Minimum $5 to $500 -Stand on soft 17 -Splits on any pair -Unlimited splits -Ace splits get one card only -You can double down on any 2 cards. -You can surrender. -Once you double down you have the option to surrender. I have no idea who approved this in a casino. I know someone will be fired over this house edge. But I was able to play this game for two days while I was there. Needless to say I am already rushing back. I stayed at this place for 2 nights. At first I thought the dealer was miss paying 2:1 instead of 3:2. But then I had been paid out for blackjack 2 or 3 times before the pit boss came over and watched the payouts. Then after a few minutes the casino swapped out dealers. I was still really confused because I have never seen an actual $5 single deck before. I has surrendered a couple hands before the new dealer. Once she got to the table I was dealt 5,6 vs deal 10. I doubled down and got an ace. The dealer then asked if I wanted to surrender. At this point I thought that all the dealers had no clue what they were doing. Again I have never seen a true $5 single deck with a 2:1 payout and now a double down surrender? It was kind of hard to hear the lady when I asked what she meant due to barriers and masks. At this point the pit boss was walking over to mark the two chairs the frat guys sat in to be cleaned due to COVID. He explained how normal casinos don't offer a surrender like that but most people don't use it because they are smart. I want sure if this was slight heat but I was more confused than anything. I played a few more hands and walked away. The only reason for walking away is that I wanted to stand back and see if the situation was right. I got my girlfriend, walked around, got dinner and walked back to the floor. We walked around and observed everyone flocking to the 6 deck games for $5. I sat down and kind of played dumb. I asked the table why everyone liked blackjack vs craps or roulette. After some answers I slowly slipped in asking "Why are those tables of blackjack so empty?" A dealer replied that "The only players that play that are usually throwing down high bets and drunk or are from out of town. Locals want to play a game that doesn't stop to shuffle every 5 minutes". I looked around and on a Tuesday night I could only see elderly people playing penny slots, college kids getting drunk and making really bad plays and bets, and obviously gambling addicts jumping from slots, to craps, to game to game. At this point my friend and I decided too leave upstairs and get some sleep. The next day we walked around the town. I called a friend who runs a casino business about the game. He told me to go back like I was going to and look over the rules again. Once the tables opened up I grabbed my girlfriend and gave her $100. She doesn't gamble at all and kind of knows the rules. I told her to not ask me anything but ask the dealer when she is confused on how to play so I could hear them explain it. She sat down at the table and I followed after sitting down across from her. This night I observed the same thing from 2 new dealers. But this time they gave weird advice on doubling because "I can feel it" on a players 16 vs the dealers 10 and things of the sort. Overall it still confuses me. This happened a week ago. Needless to say I put in to take time off of work to travel back comes up soon to hope it wasn't some weird alternate universe.
I wanted to share with the group some due diligence and speculation I have done around Gamehost (TSX: GH). I want to start by saying that this is not a situation where you urgently need to buy this right now and ride up a wave, there will be no rocket ships on this post and I strongly encourage you to perform your own due diligence and see if you want to buy this stock. This is an extremely low volume stock and if you rush to buy it, the price will go up far past the supply of sellers. I do not intend to pump this but only to get critique. Gamehost is an owner and operator of 3 casinos located in Alberta, 2 hotels in Grande Prairie and a retail store rented to a liquor store near one of the casinos. The 3 casinos are: Boomtown Casino in Fort McMurray, The Great Northern Casino in Grande Prairie and the Deerfoot Inn and Casino in Calgary which they own 91% of currently. As you probably guessed by these locations, the casinos are cyclical and make a lot of money when oil prices are up and go through downturns when prices are low and projects stop. All 3 casinos are not destination type casinos like you would find in Las Vegas where people come from all around to visit, but are very reliant on their local communities. The Boomtown Casino is the only casino in Fort McMurray and the Great Northern Casino is the only proper casino in Grande Prairie with a much smaller limited one in town. The Deerfoot Inn and Casino is 1 of 7 (yes, 7!) casinos in the Calgary area. It primarily focuses on the Southeastern portion of the city and the surrounding suburbs and still serves a market of about 200,000 people in just that area. All 3 casinos are also very focused on live events and have become gathering points for live events and nights out for their communities. Although all 3 casinos have been affected by oil downturns all 3 communities they serve have much higher median income than the country as a whole. The casinos have remained profitable throughout the entirety of the oil downturn and despite a dividend cut in 2016 they have still paid a consistently strong dividend until the COVID-19 pandemic (more on this later). Grande Prairie’s economy is more focused on natural gas extraction which has been consistently profitable. Calgary as a major city does have a diversified economy as well which leaves just Fort McMurray to be the lone straggler in dealing with oil prices. No new casinos have been built in Alberta since 2006, which has left people still coming to the doors of the casinos regardless of the economy. All three cities have seen consistent population growth greater than 10% from 2016 according to Statistics Canada’s estimates which is far greater than the national average. People are still coming to these cities and are still making a fairly high wage compared to the average Canadian. The second thing that has likely come to your mind is why casinos when they have been shut down during the pandemic? As the vaccine is currently being implemented the orders will not last forever. When the casinos have been opened even with reduced services, they have remained profitable and the management has responded by using the pandemic as an opportunity. They have been consistently buying back thousands of shares every day and cancelling them. If you look at their SEDAR profile you can see that they have not missed a single day to cancel at least 2,000 shares per day. Since the company had 24.5 million shares issued, they have bought back about 1-2% of the float so far which has made the stock even harder to buy on the open markets due to the lack of volume. They have also been approved to expand the operations of the Deerfoot Inn and Casino which should be completed by the summer. The insiders have followed by accumulating many shares in their personal accounts over this period of weakness. In the third quarter of 2020 the company posted EPS of 12 cents per share down from 16 cents a year ago. Revenue was down to $4.9 million from $6.7 million. This is with severe restrictions and limitations on the amount of people that can come in the casino and what they can do. All live events were cancelled, table games were restricted and yet the company was still making enough money to buy back significant shares and improve their existing assets. The management has essentially channelled the dividend into making the number of shares decrease in a time of strong price weakness. There is interest in this space since the largest casino operator in the country Great Canadian Gaming was acquired recently for almost double what they were trading for in the spring. Private equity firms have been looking into casinos as a post-recovery play. Unlike companies in airlines or movie theatres, these do not have significant issues staying profitable during intense downturns, they only become less profitable with a sudden surge afterwards. I am speculatively buying this stock on the idea that as COVID-19 restrictions are gradually lifted there will be an awkward window where people will be back almost to normal within Canada and will have a strong urge to go out and do activities that they have been restricted from doing for months. At the same time they will be unable to travel internationally due to different countries having different vaccination schedules, planes still operating at reduced capacity with many airlines being in trouble and governments being reluctant to remove limitations abroad. This will significantly bring business to casinos and other live event focused businesses within Canada. I anticipate that in the 12 months past restrictions being lifted that the business will see a significant bump in EPS. They will reinstate the dividend and the share price will grow significantly. My personal price target is $12 per share but I could see it being anywhere from $10-$15 per share. This is without oil prices budging at all. In the long-term the price will be cyclical based on oil prices unless they start diversifying geographically. It is extremely difficult to get a licence to open a casino, which leaves the company with the only option of acquiring other casinos. This is a possibility down the road but something I will look more into once I see a significant bump in EPS due to increased demand. I do believe that in the current market with the price having barely recovered from the March lows, that the stock is a very good contrarian play in the 12-24 month range. Holding after that could potentially be risky depending on your own views on how the oil industry will play out and if the management has what it takes to diversify. Online gambling is an even longer term threat but since these casinos are focused on live events and have become a staple of the communities that they are in, this is not likely to be a threat for some significant time. Please let me know what you think, feel free to criticize. If you guys like my analysis I could do more on other small or mid cap companies. There have been a few I have kicked myself over missing.
This chapter was a labour of love, heists are hard. Big thanks to u/eruwenn for helping tidy up this bag of snakes. First / Prev / Next
“Ranjaz K’Lua, you thieving scumbag!” the Kah’Ree in the purple suit exclaimed loudly as he spotted them across the busy room. “As I live and skral, I never thought you would have the Jolos show your face here again!” Two J’Rami in suits detached themselves from the lobby wall, walking towards the Kittran and his friends. “Alfor, my old friend!” Ranjaz smiled broadly. “No need for the welcoming party, I’ve got your credits” —he gestured to Cygna— “and a sweetener, for all the trouble I caused last time.” Alfor paused, lecherous eyes assessing the Fae’Dan. “You know I have a thing for purple.” He chuckled at his own joke and waved the guards back to their posts. “How about we have a drink, and discuss your forgiveness.” He pointed to Thor and Eruwenn. “Brought your own security, or are these Gal. Fed. goons? Everyone knows about your probation.” The Kittran gave a broad grin. “I got a Tulseria-damned pardon, a new ship and a very lucrative opportunity.” The Kah’Ree smiled. “How’d a thieving cat like you get a pardon?” He gave Ranjaz an appraising look up and down. “Oh? Now, let me guess, you need something from me and my brother?” Ranjaz fired his finger guns. “You were always the smart one Alfor, that’s why you run the casino floor.” The Kittran stepped in close. “The item, do you still have it?” Alfor tilted his head back and away from Ranjaz. “Your little guarantee?” He looked back down at Ranjaz. “We have it somewhere safe. Had some unusual people come by after you got caught. Asked a lot of questions. Made a lot of threats.” His face contorted in anger. “We got audited thanks to you.” The Kittran smiled. “If only they knew you better, they could have simply paid you for the information.” “We give nothing for free.” The Kah’Ree gave a sinister smile. “House rule.” Ranjaz walked forward to put his his arm on Alfor’s back. “Let’s go see your brother. Have a few drinks, maybe gamble a little, and discuss our future riches.”
Ripley stood in the shadows of the staff shuttle bay, watching as the numerous employees of assorted races came and went. Loud laughter caught her attention, and a very strangely dressed Niham broke away from a small group and walked towards her. Ripley tried to maintain her low profile as the scantily clad female strutted towards her in long black boots with pointed heels that clacked loudly with every step. Deliberately avoiding eye contact the Awakened tried to will herself into the wall but it was too late and a voice called out to her. “Hey Darling! You must be the one I’m looking for.” Ripley shook her head. The Kittran had said the contact was an Ashi pirate captain, a master gambler and expert in procuring the unusual. “I don’t-” “Listen cutie,” she interrupted, “you’re the one lurking in dark corners drawing attention to yourself. I’ve got your security card. You tell that fluffy little stud he owes me. And more than a bottle of Fae’Dan wine and a good time, if you know what I mean.” She held up the card between her fingers, just a little out of Ripley’s reach. The Awakened considered the phrase ‘fluffy little stud’ and decided that, despite her hopes, this was probably her contact. “You’re Captain Whiplash?” The Ashi laughed genuinely, the jiggling of tightly squeezed breasts bursting at shiny black restraints making Ripley nervous. “Oh, Darling! Only my little pets call me that! You may call me Sho’Na.” Ripley was momentarily confused. “So, you aren’t a pirate captain?” “I’m anything they pay me to be.” She smiled at the silver-haired woman's naivety. “You really are new to this.” Ripley, caught off guard, simply nodded, then replied, “I’m a quick learner.” “Good for you, Darling.” Sho’Na handed over the card. “Just make sure you get paid up front, and don’t use your real name with clients. Ruins the mystique.” Ripley was unsure of what was being said. Turning the card over in her hands she saw that the holo-image on the front was of a male Arkellian. “This isn’t me?” “Honey, I was given half a cycle to get you a level three security card. Just be glad it’s a biped.” Sho’Na looked Ripley up and down. “Our mutual acquaintance told me you were some sort of master of disguise who could even trick Selva Blaster.” Ripley paused, then smiled. Her appearance had become such an integral part of her identity she had forgotten that it was entirely optional. “It won’t be a problem.” She looked at the card again. “Unless the owner comes looking for it.” Sho’Na gave another bosom-trembling laugh that threatened to spill out at any moment. “Oh, don’t worry, he’s tied up at the moment.” The Awakened considered the risk. “Hmmm, but for how long?” The few strips of shiny black material that comprised Sho’Na’s revealing outfit strained under her amusement. “Don’t you worry, Darling. He paid for the whole night.”
Eruwenn had reassessed her opinion of Ranjaz many times since meeting him. The criminal. The loyal friend. The lazy trouble-maker. All were true, but now she was seeing something new. He sat opposite Toran, the brother of Alfor, in a game of dalcho she wished she could have taken part in, but was equally glad she did not. At first she had thought the Kittran was outmatched, a few reckless mistakes costing him dearly as the Kah’Ree deftly selected his tiles. Toran was clearly a seasoned gambler, using a blend of the Remee Le’Bow Gambit and the Kowals’Kee Analysis she hadn’t seen before. It seemed to be dismantling Ranjaz’s tiles before he could even prepare his cards. A few fortunate dice rolls and he had taken a strong lead from the outset. The Kittran appeared desperate, playing any tile available to try and slow the defeat. It had all been a ruse, she saw it; Ranjaz had saved his best tiles and carefully thrown hands to manipulate the cards. In just a few rounds he would be able to dominate the board and raise the stakes, recouping his losses and changing the course of the game entirely. She had encountered few players who could manipulate the game so deftly, using memory and layers of strategy to corner their opponent. It was magnificent. Eruwenn couldn’t tear her eyes from the board as she stood beside Thor. The Awakened had shown no interest in the game, studiously watching the opposite door as Toran’s staff came in and out. When a waiter entered and began preparing drinks at the small private bar in the executive gambling room, Thor coughed. It was a strange thing for an Awakened to do, and Eruwenn finally looked up from the table. “Are you ok?” Thor nodded. By the time he had looked towards her, she had returned her attention completely to the game. “You don’t seem concerned about your friend?” he asked. The Anatidae watched as Ranjaz used a blind double feint, and the sheer audacity of such a move made her swallow hard. She didn’t look back to Thor, but mumbled a response. “I’m very confident in her abilities.” The waiter was methodically placing drinks by each of the players, but when they stood behind Ranjaz the Kittran surged to his feet, shouting, “Hey! No cheating Toran! Getting your waiter to look over my shoulder? That’s a dirty move I’d expect from your brother!” Thor had reacted faster than Eruwenn, pinning the arms of the Arkellian waiter in a vice-like bear hug. Toran slowly stood. He was big, heavily muscled, and the veins on his neck bulged as his anger rose. “Don’t accuse me in my own place.” He cracked his knuckles and glowered down at Ranjaz. “I run a straight game.” Fearlessly the Kittran walked right up to the Kah’Ree and stared up into his face from waist height. “Don’t try and intimidate me, you son of a Vogel.” Ranjaz puffed out his chest and began pushing the burly casino owner. “Nobody cheats me!” The blow caught Ranjaz across the cheek and sent him sprawling across the room. Eruwenn winced at the impact, but maintained her composure. Toran laughed. “Watch your tongue or I’ll add it to my collection.” He walked round the table and kicked Ranjaz in the stomach, glaring at Thor and Eruwenn, daring them to act. “Know your place trash. You’re at this table because you put credits up front. You are a dishonest thief, begging for scraps, and cosying up to me any my brother to get your little trinket back.” He returned to his seat. “Why would I need to cheat against the likes of you?” Ranjaz stood, brushing himself off. “Fine, fine.” He waved a hand and Thor dropped the Arkellian. Ranjaz tapped him on the chest. “My mistake.” He sat down and picked up his cards once more. “You’re right Toran, you run a clean game. I’m just a sore loser.” He shuffled the order of the tiles that were still face down on the table. “To show my sincerity, how about we double the buy for the rest of the game?” Toran snorted. “Double?” He looked at the Kittran, scrutinising his opponent. The game was already over; he had control of the board and his tiles occupied the three prime positions. Was the thief trying to buy his favour, he wondered? How much was the trinket he wanted truly worth? He decided it was worth testing. “Triple, and I’ll forget you dared touch me.” The Kittran swallowed hard, his ears flat to his head. Toran momentarily worried he’d pushed for too much but a decision seemed to be reached. “Fine. Triple.” The look of defeat was delicious to the Kah’Ree.
Cygna had done her part and lured Alfor to a private room away from his security. She had danced, skipped and side-stepped his groping hands so far, maintaining a playfulness that ensured he complied. This sort of thing was not new to her; she had spent time undercover in the past. Fortunately, there had been little call for it since she had joined forces with Eruwenn. Alfor’s eyes scanned her body once more. “The Kittran has very good taste.” He licked his lips, a small amount of drool escaping and running down his chin. He wiped it on his sleeve. “Now, I brought you somewhere quiet. How about you show me how sweet you can be?” The Fae’Dan smiled coyly and continued her dancing just out of reach, glancing to the doorway where Alfor’s two guards stood watching her. “With an audience?” She raised her eyebrows expectantly. With a sly grin he waved the guards out of the room. “Now come here and let me satisfy you like only a Kah’Ree can.” His eyes wandered over her body once more. Cygna smiled, her own eyes moving from the Kah’Ree’s hands to his shoulders, then up towards his neck. An interesting fact about the Kah’Ree was the thick blood vessels on the side of their neck. They often bulged when a Kah’Ree was angry or excited, like Alfor’s were as he leered at her. She danced closer. Another interesting fact was that their brains were not as efficient as those of other species, hence the requirement for additional blood flow; more oxygen per limited thought. He leaned forward, his eyes locked to her swaying hips. Cygna turned slowly, and his head tilted to appreciate her assets. The third, lesser known, fact about the Kah’Ree was that an interruption to the blood flow while they were in this excited state caused them to lose consciousness rapidly as their brain burned through the available oxygen. “My eyes are up here.” She smiled as he looked up at her with his head still tilted. He sneered. “Who ca-” The Fae’Dan struck the side of his neck with the edge of her hand, targeting the throbbing blood vessel with a powerful blow. The interruption to his brain's oxygen supply worked perfectly and he fell face forward onto the ground at her feet. She let out a sigh of relief and looked down at his unconscious body. “Thank you, that was particularly satisfying.” She walked over to the door and peeked out, finding the guards standing either side. “He said to order us some drinks.” One of the guards nodded and immediately put his hand to his lapel communicator. Back inside the room, Cygna used her foot to roll Alfor to his back and began searching his pockets. She came up empty. Her eyes caught a glimmer from his collar and she found a heavy gold chain, at the end of which was his security key. She removed it just as a knock came at the door. A deep voice from the other side called out. “Your drinks, boss.” The Fae’Dan quickly messed up her hair. Using the back of her hand she smeared her lipstick sideways, and then pulled the strap of her dress down off her shoulder. She opened the door and, to her surprise, was faced with an Arkellian waiter. The bodyguards noted her dishevelled appearance and shared a smirk, and she said, “Oh, I wasn’t expec-” The waiter pushed the trolley into the room. “Don’t keep the boss waiting, lady.” Before Cygna could reply they were inside and the door closed. “Relax, it’s me.” Ripley’s voice sounded bizarre coming from the male Arkellian form, and Cygna’s eyes went wide in shock. Her sharp mind quickly adjusted to this new information. Of course the Awakened could change their physical appearance; she had just never seen it. They all seemed quite attached to their chosen human forms. “Neat trick.” She held out Alfor’s key. “Did you get the other one?” Ripley nodded. “The Kittran played his part well. I didn’t see him take it, and didn’t feel it when he placed it in my pocket. Now that was a neat trick.” The Fae’Dan smiled. “I think I’ll pass on that dalcho game.” The Arkellian Ripley smiled. “Probably wise.” Turning, she slipped the key into her pocket and headed back out of the door.
Ripley entered the elevator to the owner's private offices on the top floor. Thanks to the distractions downstairs, the two large desks in the centre of the room were empty. She walked straight past them to the large leokas painting on the wall and swung it forward. Behind it was a Fae’Dan safe; she took out the two keys and a small homemade device the Kittran had given her. Attaching the device to the bio-lock and standing before the safe, she elongated her arms to reach both key positions at once. There was more than one reason she was the one chosen for this task. The device beeped twice and small lights above each lock lit up. She simultaneously turned both keys, and there was a satisfying clunk. She raised an eyebrow. The device had worked. The heavy safe door swung open and she began her search. Ranjaz had been very specific: while there was one item she had to get, she was to grab as much as possible to obscure their true target. Quickly grabbing as much as she could she retrieved the keys and ran back across the room towards the elevator.
Cygna hauled Alfor back onto the seat, putting him in a more natural position and messing up his hair. She looked away as she began unbuttoning his clothes, pulling his trousers around his ankles and opening his shirt up to bare his chest. From a secret pocket inside her dress she pulled out a lace thong, setting it on his head like a bandana. She also had a small box which she opened, inside of which was a replica mouth with lipstick that matched her own. Cygna carefully applied kiss marks all over his exposed skin before popping the fake lips back into the secret pocket. She took the Fae’Dan wine and partially filled two glasses, making sure to take a long drink from one and leave more lipstick marks. The rest of the wine was poured into the ice bucket. She heard the sound of voices outside the door. The guards were arguing with someone, refusing them entry, but when the name Toran was mentioned it was Ripley who entered, still in uniform but now looking much like her usual self. She smirked at the Kah’Ree in his derobed state. “I can see you had fun.” The Fae’Dan chuckled. “That’s the idea.” She looked at the Awakened in her true form. “You look… better.” Ripley cocked her head. “It would be strange if the waiter came back to deliver a message.” She tossed the necklace key to Cygna, who replaced it on Alfor’s neck. Reclining on the sofa and picking up her glass, Cygna took another long drink. “Get the other one back to Ranjaz quickly. This one won’t be napping much longer.” The Awakened gave an almost Ranjaz-like grin. “You could always hit him again.” Before the Fae’Dan could reply she had ducked back out of the door. She caught the eye of one of the bodyguards and gave a head tilt back towards the room. “The boss is really enjoying himself!” As the suited pair chuckled, the larger of the two got a message in his ear piece. “Hey, silver hair.” He grunted. “Boss has an important guest. Meet them in the foyer and bring them to the dalcho room.” Ripley was relieved – she needed a reason to get into that room. “On my way.”
Toran was seething as he watched as the Kittran flipped his final tile. Why would he have waited so long to play the Wings of Tulseria tile? His stomach sank, and he couldn’t hold back his anger any longer. “Damn you!” Ranjaz gave a full-fanged grin. “Looks like my luck turned at just the right moment.” “Luck!” Toran’s tile snapped between his fingers. Why had he let the damned cat goad him into constantly increasing their bet? The cycle had started with him owing the brothers a million credits plus interest, and now the infuritating Kittran had won nearly forty times that. “Nobody is that lucky.” “Woah!” Ranjaz held up his hands. “I would never cheat, well... certainly not a second time. After you caught me, I’d be a fool to try.” “Hmm.” Toran looked at the two behind the Kittran. The big one would be a problem, but the Anatidae looked to be nothing special. “How about I give you back your little trinket and we call it even?” “My trinket?” Ranjaz shook his head. “I had to convince you it was worth the million I owed. Why would you think I’d trade it for thirty eight million credits? I’ll pay what I owe, take my trinket and my winnings and leave.” Toran folded his arms and looked across the dalcho board at Ranjaz. “And why would I let you do that?” The atmosphere in the room changed as the two security guards changed their stance. “Transfer the credits back to the house.” Ranjaz dropped the grin, replacing it with a defiant glare. “What happened to you running a straight game?” “The game was straight. You won, didn’t you?” He leaned forward, his eyes cold and hard. “You’re just in no position to collect.” The Kittran was about to argue when the door behind Toran opened. He looked up as Ripley entered, and his eyes widened in shock. She wasn’t alone. “Toran, you bastard! You sold me out!” “For ten million credits.” Toran stared hard at Ranjaz. “Care to make a better offer?” Eruwenn’s eyes blazed with anger as the grey-suited Niham pulled up a seat and sat down beside Toran. “Now, now, you lied to me about having the item before. Don’t double cross me.” Sentinel Krast placed his hands together on the table, interlacing his fingers. “I’m not somebody who forgives easily.” He looked directly at Eruwenn. “Isn’t that right, former Councillor? A little far from your new Ambassador position, aren’t you?” Ripley stood back against the wall. She had no idea who the newcomer was, but this most definitely was not the plan. The golden green Anatidae walked forward to stand behind Ranjaz. “Oh, I had a little vacation time saved up, and decided to spend it with my good friend here.” She placed a hand on the Kittrans shoulder. “And what brings a Sentinel here?” Krast’s lips curled in what might approximate a smile. “I’m also acquainted with Mr K’Lua. In fact, we go back a very long way.” He turned to look directly at Ranjaz. “Now, return what is mine.” Toran looked from Ranjaz to Krast. “Yours? You don’t look like the tiara wearing type.” The Sentinel didn’t turn his head. “Ah, so you hid the data chip inside some shiny bauble. As inventive as ever, Mr K’Lua.” The Niham finally acknowledged Toran by looking at him. “Bring. It. Here.” The Kah’Ree sucked air through his teeth. “Well, seems like we have something mighty important, and two very interested parties.” He stood and walked to his two security officers, who drew their weapons in unison. “Now then, I believe you” —he nodded to Krast— “offered ten million. How about it Ranjaz, old friend? What’s your counter offer?” The Kittran had been sitting, silently seething at his double cross being double crossed. He looked at Krast. “Were you the one?” Toran was surprised at being ignored, but before he could reply Krast answered, “The one?” Ranjaz’s eyes narrowed, his ears alert, his tail swishing aggressively. “The one who took my friend!” he snarled as he felt Eruwenn’s hand holding him back gently. Krast’s eyes glittered as he saw the impotent rage in his opponent’s eyes. “Ah, the poor deceased human?” He smiled his mannequin-esque smile. “And if I was?” Toran snatched a pistol from one of his men and fired a blast at the ceiling. “Your quarrel can wait. Let’s settle our business first and you can kill each other after I’m paid.” He paused, then added, “but, not in my casino. Body disposal costs extra.” Eruwenn’s hand gripped Ranjaz’s shoulder harder, and he braced himself. In one smooth move she both threw him backwards and to the right, and kicked the dalcho table up and forward into Krast's face. The Sentinel fell backwards as a blast from Toran struck the table, but Eruwenn was already on the move, sidestepping left and ducking forward into a cartwheel. Toran's gun had been following Ranjaz, but as her leg swept down it knocked the weapon from his grip. Once she stabilized, her fist, already primed with momentum from the cartwheel, struck Toran below the ribs and knocked the wind from him. The guard, whose gun the Kah'Ree had been holding, lunged forward to grab Eruwenn but she simply deflected his hand, pairing his forward momentum with her rising elbow to swiftly render him unconscious. The second guard had just begun to raise his weapon when a huge fist struck him in his chest, sending him careening backwards into the wall. Thor loomed over him, shaking his head as he retrieved the energy pistol. “Too slow.” Ripley helped Ranjaz to his feet as Krast pushed the table off his chest. Toran was coughing and struggling to breathe as Ranjaz pressed the retrieved energy pistol to his forehead. “Double cross me?” He dragged the Kah’Ree forward. “I want to see the item, then I’ll pay what I owe.” The two of them awkwardly made their way back towards Krast, so Ranjaz could point the gun in his face. “Then we can talk about your body disposal fee.” Krast stood, and his phony smile was gone. “You can’t kill me. The Sentinels will tear this place apart, hunt you down and kill you. You think I came alone? My ship is in orbit and waiting for my orders!” Ranjaz grabbed him by the jacket, pulling him down to his level, and struck him in the face with the butt of the pistol. Thor cooly kept his stolen pistol pointed at Toran and the one conscious guard. By the third blow Krast’s face was bloody, his nose broken and he began to struggle against Ranjaz’s assault. A muted boom caused everyone present to stop in their tracks. Alarms began to sound and Toran swore loudly. He pulled out his communicator, ignoring Thor’s pistol. “What the hell was that!” He held the device close as he listened. “My office?” He patted his pocket. Finding his key in place, he looked to Ranjaz and then Krast. “Seal the casino! And where is my brother?” Ripley suddenly understood why the Kittran had told her to leave his device on the safe door. After a brief further moment of shock, which she kept from showing on her face, she realized that she had been carrying an explosive without being told. If they survived, Ranjaz was going to need to explain himself. Thoroughly. Eruwenn, Thor and Ranjaz had backed away to the opposite side of the room, standing by the door. Krast stood alone, holding his profusely bleeding nose. The opposite door soon opened to reveal scrambling casino security, with Toran and his guard standing nearby. The unconscious guard was carried out without comment, and the Kah’Ree turned to Ripley. “Why are you still here?” She nodded and slipped out of the door, leaving one less concern for the remaining three. “Alright, which one of your skrolg-licking bastards broke into my private safe?” Krast spat blood onto the floor, pointing at Ranjaz. “He’s the thief. You and I had a deal.” The Kittran smirked. “I’m a better thief than blowing up a Tulseria-damned safe. If I wanted to steal it, I would have done just that. I would not have announced my arrival and sat down to a game of dalcho.” Toran looked between the two of them. “He’s got a point.” One of his men handed him a pistol, and he continued to talk a little distractedly into his communicator. “Well, check everywhere!” Ranjaz stirred the pot. “He’s the bastard who double crossed me, why would he honour your deal?” Eruwenn nodded. “A government agent can’t be seen working with criminals.” Krast's face contorted in rage. “Don’t be a damned fool, Toran!” He pointed at Ranjaz. “This is clearly some convoluted distraction.” Toran shook his head. “They had the upper hand. You were the one getting your face ruined.”
Cygna watched nervously as Alfor began to stir. Things were taking a lot longer than expected. Finally, her signal came; it was not as subtle as she had been led to believe. As soon as the explosion went off the two bodyguards quickly came into the room, glancing from Alfor’s sleeping body to her. She staggered forward, wine bottle in hand. “We need more drinkshh!” The guard ignored her as he saw the condition of his boss. “Not again,” he groaned. “Toran will kill us for letting him get like this.” The second guard stepped out into the corridor. “I’m not dressing him! Last time he tried to kiss me!” Cygna paused, not having expected it to go this way. The first bodyguard walked out as well. “He pissed on my new shoes the time before that. I’m not moving him.” Their communicators went off and their faces became more serious. Bodyguard two spoke first. “Damn it. Toran wants him.” The first turned to look at the increasingly bewildered Cygna. “You!” He smiled. “You got him undressed. You can dress him.” Cygna spotted Ripley running down the corridor towards them, causing her confusion to grow further. The Awakened shouted one word. “Sentinels!” The Fae’Dan’s mind raced. The plan was clearly blown, and they had to get out. Fast. As the guards were now facing Ripley, she took the opportunity to kick one in the back of the knee. He fell forward, and as the second turned he was met with the upward swing of a wine bottle. The first guard discovered first-hand the shocking truth of how hard the knee of an Awakened could be, and both were unconscious by the time they hit the ground. Cygna smiled at Ripley. "Thanks." The Awakened gave a swift nod of acknowledgement. “A Sentinel turned up, so Ranjaz set off the diversion he promised. The other brother is busy trying to figure out whether it’s us or the Sentinels robbing him.” Cygna took on board the new information quickly, knowing she needed to help the others. “I have an idea. Lie over there and look dead.” She ran back into the room, where Alfor was groaning and starting to move. She slipped the chain from his neck and dropped it into the ice bucket, where it sank out of sight below the dark Fae’Dan wine. She began to slowly shake him. “Huh,” he grumbled, and slowly opened his eyes. “Wha.. what happened?” Cygna clung to him tightly. “Oh thank goodness! I thought they killed you!” “Killed?” Alfor’s head was pounding, his memory blurry. “Who-” He caught sight of his downed guards in the open doorway. “What the hell happened?” He began pulling at his clothes, and swiftly checked that his trousers were dry. “While we were.. You know…” He nodded; he was buttoning up his clothes. He didn’t remember, but he knew. “Some scary men burst into the room and shot you! I was so scared.” She hugged him tight, pressing herself against him. He put his arm around her. “What men? Be brave, and tell me what happened.” She looked up at him, trying to make her eyes as big as possible, adding a lip tremble to really sell it. “I don’t know! They wore grey suits. And one of them took your necklace!” “My necklace.” He clutched at his chest where it should have been. “Damn Sentinels! I told Toran we couldn't trust them!” He stepped into the corridor, where Ripley lay on the ground with a terrible energy weapon burn on the side of her face. He pulled out his communicator. “Toran.” He instantly got hold of his brother. “I didn’t answer because I was knocked out. Damn Sentinels took my key, killed some of our guys.” He looked around. “Nobody important, just some waiter.” He finally pulled the underwear from his head. “I’ll go to the security room and look at the video.” He ended the call and turned back to Cygna. “You stay here.” She smiled. “Sorry, we can’t let you check the security footage.” “Wha-” Ripley struck him from behind and he crumpled to the ground, her fake burn melting from her face. The Awakened looked around, rechecking that all was clear. “I think that’s all we can do; we should get out of here. Come with me, my shuttle is in the staff bay.”
Toran closed his communicator and motioned to a guard. “Search him.” Eruwenn wished she had some way to capture the look on Krast’s face when the remote detonator was pulled from his pocket. She'd have to hug the light-fingered Kittran later. The Sentinel grit his teeth. “That’s not mine.” “Sure, sure,” Toran agreed, while simultaneously shaking his head at the Sentinel. “Looks like you really didn’t come alone.” Krast was furious, yelling, “I’m telling you-” He broke off when Ranjaz shot him in the leg, falling to the floor. The Kah’Ree pointed his pistol at the Kittran. “Can’t let you kill a Sentinel in my casino, even if they did just rob me.” Ranjaz was surprised the Kah’Ree had believed them so easily. “What about us?” Toran sighed, lowering his weapon. “Take your winnings and get out. If you stole the thing once, I’m sure you can steal it again.” Eruwenn and Thor both made to leave. Ranjaz paused, knowing he might not get another chance. “And him?” The Kah’Ree looked at the Sentinel holding his wounded leg. “We’ll send him back to his ship. As much as I hate it, the Sentinels are untouchable.” Ranjaz raised his pistol. “He took my friend.” “And we’ll get him back,” Eruwenn said softly. “Then we’ll all deal with him, and the rest of the Sentinels.” Krast sneered and spat blood once more. “Your human is dead.” Ranjaz fired. Krast screamed and grabbed his other leg. “You bastard!” Toran and his men raised their weapons as the Kah’Ree yelled, “Get the hell out of here!” Ranjaz turned and followed the others out of the door, but just as it was about to close he poked his head back in. “Oh, one last thing.” Toran could be seen looking up just as the Kittran fired again, but he ducked out of sight before the true outcome of his shot could be seen. The shrieks of agony, however, followed the trio down the corridor as they broke into a run. Eruwenn spared a glance down at Ranjaz during their retreat. “What did you do?” The full-fanged grin had never been larger. “Made sure we’ll see him again.” On the floor of the dalcho room Krast was screaming in agony. He turned over to stare at the closed door. “I’ll kill you! I will hunt you down and kill every last one of you!” Toran spoke into his communicator. “Tell the Sentinel ship to come get their man. And, bring a doctor. A really good doctor.” He nudged one of his guards and finally let out a chuckle. After all, the Sentinels had just robbed him. “You double-crossing scum always get what you deserve.” The J’Rami guard raised an eyebrow. “Not sure anyone deserves getting shot in the balls.”
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How to Throw a Casino Party - Casino Party Ideas ...
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