The Rumble Rally
Episode 4 (a flashback):
“Poker Night at the Casino Royale”

This episode finds us in a flashback sequence at the Casino Royale, Potzdorf, in the Kingdom of Carpania, some years ago.

The role of the Baron will be played by Count Alexander von Beregshasy, and the Dowager Empress by Baroness Ilse von Beregshasy. Please note that the Dramatic Fictitious Character Re-enactors Guild insists that any role portraying a titled personage must be played by a person with an actual title. Count Backwards (a.k.a. Lord Ruthven) has been granted a special dispensation in exchange for his kind offer of non-intervention with a knuckle-duster.

A while back and somewhere other than here...

After having escaped the asylum and fleeing into Europe, we find that Pandora Pitstop has ensconced herself in the royal court of Carpania, in the capital city of Potzdorf, as a courtesan and mistress to the wicked and conceited Baron von Stuppe.

Also having escaped from the asylum, Aubrey Lord Ruthven has been almost completely lost to his alter ego, the evil Count Backwards. Now an official card-carrying no-goodnik, he’s travelled to Carpania to sell an assortment of film prop firearms to an unsuspecting Baron planning to overthrow the throne of Carpania. (It really is amazing what you can pick up in the Exchange and Mart under the heading “unwanted gifts”).

Lady Lavinia Kydd-Leatherette is continuing her post-graduate (or is that post-expulsion?) grand tour of all the best gambling houses in Europe. She is in town trying to achieve the means to get out and has organised a little fund raising soirée in the form of a private strip-poker all-nighter at the Casino Royale. Miss Kitten Kaboodle is at the Casino testing a new card counting device she recently acquired (stole) for her employer The Hooded Claw. She has assumed the identity of another player Lady Lavinia had arranged who suddenly fell victim to some sort of mysterious seizure moments before the first hand was dealt. The seclusion of a private game seemed to be a good way to test the device to Kitten. What she didn’t know was the revealing nature of this particular private game.

Our flashback begins in a lavish rococo-decorated, chandelier-lit private salon in the exclusive Casino Royale. Here, six people are sitting round a table in various states of disrobement. The atmosphere is tense and hazy with cigar smoke. The floor is strewn with various items of clothing, empty champagne bottles, and crisp packets. A pile of chips, a lacy red garter, a set of car keys, and a dry cleaning receipt sit in the middle of the table. At this desperate stage of the game the stakes are high and anything – yes anything – goes. Above the mantle piece a portrait of the Dowager Empress Angelique la Magnifique dominates the décor. The Empress gazes serenely down with glassy green eyes. No one has noticed that the Empress’ eyes should actually be pale blue.
But first let’s introduce tonight’s players, starting with the dealer – Lady Lavinia – who is wearing little more than a corset and nipple tassels. (The intentional diverting of other players’ attention is just short of cheating in some rule books). Needless to say this cool hustler possesses most of the chips and is likely to cash them in and then quickly dash out of town after the game.

To her right is the wealthy tobacco merchant Senior Emilio Vargas, an Ambassador from a banana republic in central South America. At the moment he’s got most of the table cloth guarding his dignity. He is a gentleman smoother than a dish of guacamole and a gracious and generous loser too. He’s spent most of the night giving personal demonstrations of his rather professional cigar rolling technique on Lady Lavinia’s thigh.
And on his right is Madam Marina Ihopoven, the mysterious heiress to an international waffle fortune. She’s hanging onto her fur coat, high heels, and jewellery, but only just. She’s also been developing a nervous twitch all evening as she keeps tugging at her ear and flinching, thus finding it impossible to maintain a poker face.

Next to her is Baron von Stuppe, a lesser member of the Carpanian Royal House of Hammer-Hapsburg.

He’s managed to keep his frilly shirt, breeches, and buckle-shoes. Flamboyant in dress and flamboyant in nature, this high-maintenance high roller likes to hang out in casinos, as their so glittery lighting displays him to his best advantage. But the determined look on his face is due to his desperate need to win back his chateau from Lady Lavinia, which he lost to her in a previous hand through a bluff with a pair of two’s.

On his right is Sir Otto Redenbacher, the Carpanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, a hopeless gambling addict and complete lush. He’s sporting only a large monogrammed handkerchief on permanent loan from The Baron. And finally, on Lady Lavinia’s left, is Lord Ruthven, a shifty looking foreign business associate of the Baron’s who’s down to his boxers and boots with some strange not quite military issue head gear. A bit of a letch, he shamelessly flirts with Lady Lavinia during the game, bragging to her about his title and family name, but she believes there’s something not quite right with him as the Baron keeps referring to him as “Backwards.” His car keys are on the table now in an attempt to keep his shorts.

Meanwhile, behind the Dowager Empress’s portrait in a secret passage, Pandora Pitstop is perched on a ladder, peering down on the game with interest. Ms. Pitstop is alarmed to see Aubrey in Carpania and wonders if he has followed her, seeking revenge for the incarceration of his favourite man-servant Boris. But why should she worry? She has the protection of the Baron and the Royal Court. When she arrived in Potzdorf, Pandora sought refuge in a house of ill repute, “The Annette Funacello Memorial - Five Star Bordello,” where she was talent-spotted by Baron von Stuppe who could clearly see that she had a finishing school “education” and could be groomed for far worse things. From there she was moved to the Baron’s chateau and as his paramour, granted access to the Dowager Empress and given a place in the royal court. For the past several months she has kept her eyes and ears open and her mouth shut. She’s explored every inch of the chateau, court palace, and even the casino and knows exactly which buttons to push to get results. On her day off, however, she likes to take private tuition from Ivonavich Dragomilov (at the Assassination Bureau’s Potzdorf office) in the art of “erotic inhumations” – just for fun of course. Most of all she has found out how to access the Dowager Empress’s treasury – but not until the time is right – for she realises that the political climate of Carpania may be about to change. So for now she’ll continue to observe the game from her hiding place, trying to figure out why the women at the table look so familiar to her. Are they part of her long-forgotten past?

Back at the table, Madam Marina Ihopoven sits nervously holding yet another bad hand. Her real game is Australian Rules Black Jack (you figure it out!). The miniature camera concealed in her rhinestone brooch relays information back to a remote screen viewed by the Hooded Claw at a secret location. He’s enraged at this waste of time and expense on an ineffective card counting invention. Miss Kitten cheekily insisted it be disguised as a Faberge cigarette case, but it’s proving to be as much use as a tissue paper fish bowl. The Hooded Claw continuously harasses Madam Marina through the audio link hidden in her earrings. She squirms in her seat, uncomfortable in her state of undressed distress. Miss Kitten usually enjoys her work as an operative in Claws Accomplice Team, but not when she has to take a business trips with her tyranical boss “HC”. The Hooded claw is an underworld investment crime boss but moves freely in the legitimate world of finance as the well respected Sylvester Sneekly, an independent financial advisor and accountant to the stars. His thrill is gambling on the stock market with other people’s money and dabbling in stealing unpatented inventions like the device Miss Kitten is testing without much success.

We join the poker game already in progress.

“I’ll see your dry cleaning receipt for your wife’s mink and raise you,” says a slightly bored Lady Lavinia to Sir Otto as she casually tosses a handful of chips into the pot.

“My dear child you have ruined me,” Sir Otto says with slurred speech as he folds. “It has, however, been an interesting pleasure nontheless. I only hope I have better luck tomorrow with the Ruitanian Prim Minister. We cannot afford to go to war.” Sir Otto slumps forward onto the table, knocking over what’s left of his tenth blue martini.

Lord Ruthven leans his chair back on its rear legs and takes a long casual drag on his cigar, then blows a few smoke rings at the Baron across the table and drawls, “One man’s war is another man’s wage.”

The Baron, gurned at Lord Ruthven, kicks him in the shin under the table and sends him tumbling backwards to the floor, taking the table cloth and everything on it with him.
Ambassador Vargas blushes at his lack of camouflage, but a quick thinking Lady Lavinia passes him an empty cigar box with a sly wink.

“Now things are getting interesting,” she thinks.

Lord Ruthven pulls himself up, brushing cigar ashes out of his singed chest hair, and says, “It’s a sellers market and I’m open to offers.”

“We have a deal, you can not renege on!” says the Baron sternly as he stands up and tries to intimidate Lord Ruthven with his height.

“Well, gentlemen and lady, it would seem the game has come to somewhat of an unnatural end,” Lady Lavinia interrupts as she quickly gatheres up her winnings from the spill on the floor and swiftly scoops it into her travelling case.

Just then the whistling audio interference that has been plaguing Madam Marina throughout the game has finally gotten to her. “Enough already!” she blurts out, taking off her earrings and thrusting them into her coat pocket. Everyone stops what they are doing and looks at her. Sir Otto just snores. She realises her audience is waiting and says as she gets up “Well, thanks for a lovely evening; we really must do this again sometime soon.” She then grabs the useless counting device/cigarette case from the floor and – not wanting to stick around for the post-party fight – flees the salon quicker than a soggy rat up a drain pipe.

Ms. Pitstop is trying desperately to stifle her giggles at all this but then realises that the Baron was quite serious about something, but what? She begins to try to put two and two together; was this brewing storm between the Baron and Aubrey actually the winds of change beginning to raise a light breeze? She continues to watch as the two agitated aristocrats square up to each other and began to exchange insults.

“Am I right in thinking you mortgaged your chateau up to the roof tiles to try and pay me?!” shouts Lord Ruthven. “I thought you had the cash!”

“It’s a second mortgage actually, how else was I to get the funds? My family is very old and respected; we just lack the readies.” pleads the Baron.

“You mean the chateau wasn’t yours to bet?!” questions Lady Lavinia as she pulls Sir Otto off the table and onto the floor. She then rolls him up in the table cloth, leaving him to sleep it off, and finishes packing up her loot.

“You foreign aristos are all alike – all show with no go, and all you cash wasted on blow! This deal was for cash, all of it up front.” Lord Ruthven is seething now, his short temper now giving way to his alter ego Count Backwards. “Sir, you insult me and I demand satisfaction!” Count Backwards picks up one of Lady Lavinia’s opera length satin gloves and throws it at Baron. “I challenge you to a duel, pistols at dawn!”

The Baron is furious and begins to roll up his deep lace cuffs. “How dare you! Why you little preposterous impostor, I ought to.…”

Senior Vargas is also ready to make his exit quickly in as dignified a manner as he possibly can. “Uh, excuse me dear lady, could you show me the “back way” out of this room please?” He continues to closely hold the open but empty cigar box in front of himself.

“It’s right over there, to the left of the fireplace mantle. The catch is in the ear of that bust of King Rudolph the Reluctant.”

“Thank you lovely lady; it’s been a charming evening,” and with that he kisses her hand and bows. “Gentlemen, if you will excuse me...” he says while backing his way towards the mantle. He hits the hidden switch and backs into the empty secret passage, for Ms. Pitstop was already gone, having put “Plan B” into action.

Lady Lavinia closes her travel case and takes Count Backwards’ car keys. She thinks she’ll make good her escape while the boys are otherwise distracted. As she leaves the salon she just catches sight of Count Backwards taking an upper cut to his glass jaw. The Baron whimpers and puts his aching hand into a champagne bucket of ice.

Outside the casino is the Palace Pier and casino car park. Miss Kitten
Kaboodle stands to one side at the end of the pier, taking in deep breaths of fresh sea air. Soon she’ll have to face her irate boss, but for now she’ll just watch the sun rise. She takes the card counting device out of her fur coat and opens the case – yanking out the mechanism – and drops it into the sea. She’ll keep the Faberge case as compensation, though.

Lady Lavinia leaves the casino –still in her “unmentionables” – and looks for Count Backwards’ car. Upon finding it she puts her travel case in the back seat and, while conducting a thorough search for booby traps, discovers some strange, violent looking things in the boot and incriminating documents in the glove box (parking tickets, a hip flask of laudanum, and some envelopes and documents on headed paper from Arkham Asylum). She stuffs all this into her case. Typical of Count Backwards, he has left the car in reverse. She starts the car and it roars off the end of the pier backwards into the ocean.

Kiss Kitten watches and waves bye bye to the car as it is still in mid-air and headed for the water. She then wanders off down the pier and into the distance. A soaking wet Lady Lavinia surfaces, having only been able to save her travel case containing the cash and documents. She climbs back up onto the pier just in time to be picked up by
Senior Vargas, now driving a Bugatti and dressed in an immaculate white suit.

Ms. Pitstop was last seen looking out the window of a private compartment on a train headed out of Carpania with a large jewel case on her lap. The Dowager Empress’s coat of arms was on the lid.

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