Slick pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay, explain to me how this guy has been goin’ in and out of our hideout for who knows how long and no one thought it was weird or alarming at all? Are we running a halfway house here?” He looked around the table that they usually planned their heists at at his fellow crew members. Deuce and Hearts were avoiding eye contact as if embarrassed while Droog was doing the same, but instead looked like he was thinking.
Droog flicked his cigarette absentmindedly. “Far as I can tell, he’s only been here for about two weeks. Hearts saw him first, then Deuce, then you, then I saw him yesterday. All somewhere in the hideout each time, always acting like he belonged here and knew us.”
Spade turned to Boxcars, causing him to snap to attention. “Why didn't you say anything?”
The big guy tried to defend himself. “He wasn’t actin’ fishy. He was just watching TV.”
“You didn't even ask what he was doin’ here?” Slick bared his teeth.
Hearts put up his hand defensively. “I did though. He said he knew Deuce from somewhere and he let ‘em in.”
They all looked at Deuce for a beat before Slick grimaced. “Fair enough.”
“Hey!” Deuce protested.
The second in command felt this was the time to cut in. “You are a bit free with your key.”
“It's small and gets lost easily.” Clubs face was getting red.
The largest man shrugged. “Put it on a chain and wear it as a necklace. S’what I do.”
Slick slammed his hands on the table. “Can it! Deuce! What was he doing when you saw him?”
Deuce looked around the room seeing if the answer to the question was somewhere on the walls. “Uhhh...he was writing- or maybe drawing- in this little leather book. I didn't wanna bother him, he looked busy. I was just going to ignore him and go to the kitchen but he said ‘Hey Deuce.’ like he knew me as I walked past, which made me think that I actually knew him and had just forgotten and I didn't want to make things weird so I said hi back. I figured Hearts had invited ‘em in as the latest love of his life.”
Hearts swiftly cuffed them over the head. “Watch it, I don't do that stuff willy nilly.”
“He just looked like your type is all I meant!” The shorter man rolled his eyes and rubbed his head.
Boxcar cuffed him again, but with less feeling this time. “Ya don't know my type.”
Slick snapped. “Shut!” The two of them cut it out with Slick seething in irritation.
“He do anything else, Deuce?” Droog cut in smoothly.
Clubs thought for a moment. “Well, he got down some cereal that I wanted.”
“You asked him to get you some cereal?” Droog looked deadpan as always.
The short man frowned trying to defend himself. “No! I went in there intending to get the cereal and as soon as I walked in he got it down and set it on the counter like he knew that's what I came in there for.”
Spade dragged a hand down his face in exasperation. “Is that a time power? If those Felt assholes got one past you guys-”
“He wasn't green and weird.” Deuce cut him off in frantic defensiveness.
“And what's this ‘you guys’ business? You saw ‘em to and didn't say nothing.” Hearts added.
The leader of the group threw his hands up emphatically. “I was sloshed at the time! He gave me more booze! It was three in the morning!”
“You're always sloshed.” Droog deadpanned, inhaling deeply from his cigarette.
Deuce looked confused. “He gave you booze?”
Slick pointed a claw at Drooge. “Watch it, rhinestone.” Droog narrowed his eyes as the boss turned next to Deuce. “Yeah, I was coming home from the bar and I wanted to make sure I had some hair of the dog for later. I walked in and as soon as he saw me he pulled out a bottle and slid it over to me. I woulda questioned it but I was half sure I hallucinated it from alcohol and sleep deprivation. After I woke up to find the jack was real, I realized he probably was too and by that time Droog was calling me about him. What he do with you?”
Droog shrugged. “I was reading in the lounge. Went to light a cigarette but I was out. He walked and I was about to ask him who the hell he thought he was but he just pulled out two cigarettes and handed them out to me.”
“And you took it?”
“I took one. He took the other and then he lit them both.”
“Shit could have been poisoned. Thought you were the ‘smart’ one.” Slick sneered with a sarcastic smirk.
“He didn’t know which one I was going to pick and if he had picked the wrong one he would have been poisoned. Though, now that I hear what all of you say, he might have known. Didn't smell any time bullshit on him though.”
“And then what happened?”
Droog shrugged again. “I kept reading and he left after we sized each other up.”
“And you just let him leave?” Slick was
“I thought one of you all let him in and he didn't do anything threatening.”
The leader pulled his hand down his face. “Then I came out ranting and this whole cacophony of bullshit came to light. So. Now we have to figure out who this guy is and why he's doing this.”
“My name’s Jape Bower and this was my resume.” They all turned around readying their weapons and pointing them at the man calmly smoking in a chair in the corner. Looking at his small notebook and not at them. He makes a small mark in the book before closing it and sliding it into a pocket.
“Alright who are you and-“ Slick started to interrogate.
“Already answered that.” He interrupted.
“Resume for what?” Hearts questioned.
“Well, obviously I want to join your little band of misfits. You don't exactly put yourself in the paper and as far as I count, you’re still outnumbered in quite a large margin by the Felt, not that it matters with their brains being made of plush toys.” Slick was about to speak but Jape didn't give him the chance. “No, I'm not with the Felt, my powers aren't time based, I simply rely on studying people's past behaviors and personalities to make educated guesses on what they do next.” Three of them look confused as he knew they would. “I count people instead of cards. Guess what they do before they do it.” He pointed at the man getting angrier and angrier. “Yes, you can keep the booze.”
Jack finally yelled after being cut off for so long pointing his knife close to the mans neck, who didn't flinch. “Listen buddy you can't just barge in here and immediately demand to be in the crew.”
“Should I do errands first? Maybe light cigarettes and get down cereal boxes?”
“You going to call me a dick or an asshole?” He looked at his book. “I have it pretty fifty-fifty.”
Jack was about to blow as he pressed the knife harder to the mans neck speaking through his teeth. “Listen. Buddy. I don't care what you're selling, now leave before you do it in a box.” Jape leaned back slightly because while he was confident he wasn't knife proof.
Droog pulled him back evenly and leaned towards him. “Slick.” Jack turned to him and leaned in though he doubted how much that would help. “This guy is an asshole, but he's proven himself to be able to get past us and if he can do this counting cards thing on bank tellers and the Felt, could make fighting them a lot easier.”
Jape spoke from where he was writing in his notebook again and almost done with his cigarette. “Say fun not easier. He doesn't want it to be easy. But fun? Well, everyone likes fun.”
Droog pointed at him silently in warning not saying anything. He didn't need to. The flashing of his eyes was just as much of a threat as Spade’s knife. Jape raised his hands. “Noted. I'll stop. I'm just doing it to demonstrate myself anyway. Carry on, I'll play church mouse.” He did as he was told. Jack and Droog turned to the other members but still kept aware of the man behind them.
Jack grumbled. “I say we kill him. Four’s a nice even number we don't need any more.”
Hearts deadpanned. “Or we could just tell him to stick it and not try and pick a fight with a guy who already knows all our moves.”
Deuce piped up. “Or you could eat him.”
Hearts sighed. “Or I could eat him. I don't like doing that you know. Stop suggesting it in every fight.”
Droog took a drag. “I dont care one way or the other. I can tell he's not using magic. Could be useful to keep track of what all of the Felt are doing, especially with all the time powers.”
Jack growled under his breath. “I hate time travel. And I hate know it alls.”
Droog spoke smoothly. “But which do you hate more?”
Jack gnashed his teeth in thought before turning around. “You. Joker.”
“Jape.” He corrected standing closer than Jack wanted.
Jack grimaced and went to push him backwards, but the man stepped back before he could. Jack sneered before changing tactics and grabbing the man's shirt and pulling him closer instead. “Your act’s getting old buddy, but if it it gets us money and puts holes in green bodies I'm willing to overlook it.” He dug his claws farther into the mans clothes being sure to leave holes. “But don’t push it.” He let go of the man. “We’re running a heist as a trial. It gets leaked, we kill you. It fails, we kill you. You try and take it all for yourself, we kill you. Got it?”
Jape smiled a sharp smile that was only slightly less smug than previous. “Got it, boss.”
Jack narrowed his eyes at it, almost satisfied with his winning but it still rubbed him the wrong way. He made an ‘I’m watching you’ movement before turning and walking deeper into the hideout, most likely to finish off the bottle of jack Jape had gotten him and to keep planning the heist now having to shove in an extra guy somewhere. Droog moved past him slowly not needing to speak or even move to get across the same message Jack already had.
Jape turned from meeting his eye and looked at Deuce who blinked at him. “Something you want to say?”
The short man didn't like the way the new guy could guess that. He hoped he couldn't read his mind. “Well you explained how you did your whole mind reading thing, but that doesn't explain how you got in.”
Jape smiled at him. Not smug, but like he was telling a joke. He dug into his pocket and pulled out something before throwing it at Deuce, who caught it. It was his key. Jape winked. “Should get a keychain. Drop these things like bread crumbs.” He sat down and pulled out his notebook again as Deuce stared at his key and Hearts stared at Deuce. “Don't worry, very low probability Slick will find out.”
There was also 100% probability that everyone in the house thought this new guy was a smug asshole and might kill him out even if he was useful. Jape smiled as he outlined plans in his notebook.
He guessed he would have been stabbed by now. This was going better than predicted.