Issue Date: December 2004
Story Title: House of Cards - part 3: Sleight of hand
Staff: John Layman (writer), Georges Jeanty (penciler), Don Hillsman II (inker), Tom Chu (colors), VC’s Randy Gentile (letters), Stephanie Moore & Sean Ryan (assistant editors), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
With Dan Downs carrying two full gas cans, Remy purposely bumps into a guy carrying a bowling ball in his bag, and switches it for a cabbage. They continue towards the Penrose residence, and Remy asks Dan to place the cans in the middle of the road. They continue walking, and Remy asks Dan to remain outside and keep a look out. To create a diversion, he then bowls the ball, now filled with kinetic energy, straight at the gas cans to create a diversion. Inside the Penrose house, Morgan Penrose has guests that include New Orleans’ supernatural elite. Morgan explains that the deck of tarot cards he wishes them to see, possibly the original deck, was crafted by monks from the Order of Frater Inficio more than seven hundred years ago. They were affected by their time, caring for the mentally afflicted people with ‘poisoned’ minds, and the deck was created as a result of their studying these people’s minds, particularly their mind’s primal recesses. It contained four more cards than a normal deck, and these cards were excised from subsequent decks to ensure human safety, and sanity. The deck is extremely powerful. Remy’s explosion gets the exterior guards out of the way, and he enters the house, taking out the security system with ease. He doesn’t count on Lili Penrose being there, and she’s had a bit to drink. Dan calls Remy on the radio to explain that Orlean Cooper has joined the party, but Remy has more important matters in hand, namely getting it on with Lili. Soon, their dalliance is over and Remy gets back to work. He takes out the two guards in the room containing the deck, and uses his agility to make his way through a laser beam field. He then picks the lock, and removes the deck. Morgan Penrose arrives with his guests, finding the guards unconscious, and his most prized possession gone. Remy returns to Dan Downs, but finds him groggy, and leaning against a tree. Before he can think about what’s happened, he is electrocuted by Jack Jessup, who takes the deck from him. He will ensure Remy is blamed for the theft.
(24/7 Gas & Groceries)
It’s evening, and a ten-pin bowler proudly shows off his ball to a friend. It’s in a bag and he isn’t allowing his friend to get his greasy mitts on it. He’s named it Lucille, and he intends to use her to roll his way to a league championship. Gambit and his friend, Dan Down, are strolling towards them. Dan is carrying two full gas cans and Remy a grocery bag. Remy collides with the guy carrying the ball. He quickly apologizes before continuing his journey. Once they’re out of sight and nearing their destination, Remy asks Dan to leave the gas cans in the middle of the street, four blocks from the house he’s planning to break into. Dan thinks this is strange, but does as he is asked.
They continue past the Penrose house, and Remy tells Dan to keep walking, eyes straight ahead. He reckons it’s dark enough outside for them to pass as locals out for an evening stroll. He asks Dan to try and look inconspicuous. His goal tonight is to be in and out of the Penrose house, without attracting attention and without anyone even knowing he was there. All Dan has to do is stay there and look out for trouble.
Remy reaches into his grocery bag and pulls out the $350 bowling ball he switched with the guy outside the gas station. Dan wonders if it’s the right time for Remy to attempt this, what with Morgan Penrose having some kind of dinner party tonight. Remy replies that it’s perfect. He’s after a deck of cards. With all those guests, and all this commotion, there’s just more chance of them blaming each other after it’s all over. He charges the ball up with kinetic energy, and hurls it down the street, back towards the gas cans. He needs to throw them off the scent, he says, with a well-timed bit of misdirection. As the ball rumbles towards the gas cans, the guy with the bowling ball bag opens it to discover a cabbage in the ball’s place. He is rightly furious.
(The Penrose residence, flashback)
Morgan Penrose is explaining to his guests how the Inficio Aquilus came about. He explains that it was crafted more than seven hundred years ago, in Northern Italy. The monks from the order of Frater Inficio were charged with tending the mentally afflicted; people with ‘poisoned minds.’ These mad people who spoke in tongues and who were plagued with visions claimed to communicate with the divine… or the damned. For five decades, this brotherhood spent their time trying to understand some of the most powerful resonating imagery within the most primal recesses of human consciousness. Five more decades were spent trying to recreate those images; the intention being to harness their power.
Sometime toward the completion of it all, proximity to all that derangement and darkness had a profoundly corrupting effect. The monks fought with each other; violent thoughts stemming from the most gentle of minds. The end result was the Inficio Aquilus, one of the original decks of tarot decks; maybe the original tarot deck. It is certainly the most powerful.
It contains eighty-two cards; twenty-six in the major arcane, which is four more than contemporary decks. These four cards were excised from subsequent decks, and their histories largely erased. The cards were deemed too dangerous to be seen, and removing them was the only way to ensure human safety, and sanity.
Morgan’s guests listen intently to this story. He invites them to join him in an event which has not even been dared in a century; an exclusive viewing of select cards from the Inficio Aquilus. “Just a viewing, Penrose?” one woman asks, “Not a reading?” Morgan replies that it is quite likely that many among them could not survive a reading from the Inficio Aquilus. As it is, they’ll just be viewing the minor arcane. Anything more than this could result in blindness, arrhythmia or even worse repercussions.
Outside the house, the charged bowling ball connects with the two gas cans, which explode, creating a huge ball of flame and an enormous boom. Penrose’s security guards leap into action and head off in the direction of the blast. Remy takes out two security cameras with cards, and uses his bo-staff to leap over the fence and into the Penrose residence grounds. He is clearly enjoying the excitement.
As he runs towards the house, Dan Downs calls him on the radio. He thinks this is bad news. He’s concerned that the assembled group aren’t simple party guests. They’re a who’s who of the easy’s supernatural elite. As Morgan calms everyone down and assures them he has his staff investigating, Remy tells Dan that he has forty-nine seconds left to input an override code in the system, now that the cameras are out. Otherwise, an alarm will sound out to Brint’s Home Security, and then the New Orleans Police Department will descend on this place like fat guys on a comic convention.
As he somersaults up a tree adjacent to the house, he apologizes to Dan, but there’s not a lot of time for chit-chat. He extends his bo-staff and stretches it across from a sturdy branch to the house. Engaging in a little funambulism, he crosses to the house and uses a miniature blowtorch to burn a hole in the window. He enters, and squats at a computer, accessing it using codes provided by Madame Camille. He has succeeded with just two seconds remaining.
He calls Dan on his radio and informs him that the hard part’s done. The rest of the cameras are blind and the guards are occupied, ‘cept for a couple guarding the deck. There are just a couple more hoops to jump through before they’re in the free an’ clear. Not a single soul will be the wiser. Behind him, a voice says, “Guess again Gambit…”
Remy turns to see Lili Penrose standing in the doorway; and she’s looking good. Dan informs Remy that they have a problem. Stepping out of his limo is Orlean Cooper. Dan wonders what a mutant gangster could be doing hanging out with the séance crowd. Remy has no idea. He replies that Cooper has fingers in many pies around town, so it doesn’t strike him at being all that odd. He asks Dan to keep an eye on things outside. This gig’s just hit a … complication.
Lili explains that her uncle insists she attends all his monotonous functions. He thinks she’ll one day become smitten by one of his horrid mouth-breathing warlock friends. She leans over to Remy and tells him that, when she heard the explosion, she just knew he was behind it. She also figures that coming up here would be his next move. Nobody else would be so brash.
She inches closer to him, and tells him she like his style. He’s an adrenaline junkie; that’s why he does this. He thinks danger’s a turn on. Well, Lili adds, so does she. With their lips only inches away from each other, Remy extends his arms and pushes her gently away. He reminds her that she isn’t exactly sober, but Lili replies that she’s had a few, but only enough to tolerate all those mystical blowhards. Remy asks her to get back downstairs and to make sure she mingles. She’ll need an alibi, and he hasn’t the time for this.
Lili begins to undo her top, and lets the whole dress drop to the floor. Remy is shocked. “I said no, woman!” he says, “C’mon, Lili, if you want me to get these cards, I’ve got to go.” Lili grabs his jacket collar and replies that she wants the cards, but that’s not the only thing she wants. She drags him back inside the room. An undetermined length of time later and Remy emerges. He grins. Maybe he is Homo superior, but he’s still only human.
Gambit is soon back in serious mode. The two guards guarding the decks are taken out with ease, as Remy prepares for the last obstacle. He removes his long trench coat, and somersaults gracefully between laser beams in a field guarding the deck. Elsewhere, someone reactivates the cameras and Remy is shown picking the lock to the box holding the deck. Morgan Penrose, meanwhile, leads his party to the room, telling them they’ve waited long enough. Tonight, he assures them, is a night which none of them will ever forget. Unfortunately, he is correct.
He enters the room to find the two guards out cold on the floor. Morgan’s face drops, as he realizes his prized possession has been stolen. Behind him, Orlean Cooper is unable to suppress a wry smile.
Soon, Remy is outside and dashing across the road towards Dan’s location. He arrives to find Dan slouched against a tree, worse for wear. “Dan?” queries Remy. Out of nowhere, ‘Fast’ Jack Jessup swings from a branch and zaps Remy with a powerful taser gun, causing him to drop the deck as he passes out. Jack drops to the ground. He thanks his unconscious competition for doing his job for him This city is his turf. The best part about it, is that everybody’s gonna know Remy did it, and just as soon as he wakes up, they’ll be coming after him.
Morgan’s guests (including Brother Voodoo) and waiting staff
Morgan’s house security
Orlean Cooper and chauffeur
‘Fast’ Jack Jessup
Several ten-pin bowlers
Monks from the order of Frater Inficio
The guy who lost the bowling ball clearly wasn’t paying attention. A bowling ball is considerably heavier than the cabbage it was replaced with.
The Easy refers to New Orleans’ nickname, the Big Easy.
This Issue has been reprinted in:
Gambit: House of Cards (Trade Paperback)
Issue Summary written by: Fantomex