1963-09-12 - Card Tricks
Summary: A 'Magic Show' leads to a true show of Magic and the meeting of Mystic practitioners.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
strange clea 

The Hellfire Club hosts a range of events that do NOT, strictly speaking, require either narcotics, excessive libations, or toplessness. As a man will sing in about twenty-five years - if this world should live that long - some people get their kicks above the waistline, Sunshine.

One of the smaller gaming rooms, usually occupied with baccarat, is one of them. A magician - his name seems to be Dieter Weinrich, though he speaks with an accent that's more Lower East Side than East Germany. There is a sign, in fact, announcing a Magic Show.

Weinrich doesn't have a lot of people watching. (Why is he here? Perhaps it's a rehearsal for something else. Maybe he's someone's nephew. Maybe something deeper.) Mostly a small group of old men who may themselves be drunk, a person of intermediate age with a starlet on his lap, and… sitting off, mostly to herself, holding a philosophical glass of wine, a woman with strange white hair.

Who, in the middle of some complex card force, declares suddenly, "Oh! I see how you do it now!" Weinrich's response is to drop his entire deck of cards.


It wasn't a huge hassle to find the place that his old friend had described to him - 'Best place in town for a night on the town!', the man had declared over the phone while Strange had half-smiled at the enthusiasm. The hassle came when Dr. Strange attempts to step past the bouncer without announcing an iota of his intentions. Words - and money (and thankfully not a curse, since Strange has developed an inordinate amount of patience lately) - are exchanged and he enters the foyer, but not after giving the wide-shouldered bouncer a knife-like glare.

As he scans the place, he's struck by the stained glass window that runs the length of the wall and clearly separates the entryway from the deeper recesses of the club. Giving a thoughtful 'hmph', he continues forwards into the lobby-proper and is immediately stopped in place by the appearance of a young and nubile little server.

"Welcome to the Hellfire Club, sir!" she chirps, all smiling cheeks and twinkling eyes and just enough clothing to be appropriate. "What can I do for you today?"

Strange is taken aback at such fast service and his mouth hangs open for a moment before he replies hesitantly, "Soda water, please…with a lemon." The perky thing nods and whisks off before he can add anything else and he watches her leave with raised brows. "Well then," he murmurs to himself before taking a moment to straighten the jacket of his suit. At his neck, disguised as part of a bolo tie, the Eye of Agamotto sits, its green gem reflecting back the warm, muted lighting. Before he can really explore further into the Club, the little waitress returns, drink in hand. She presses it to him and he takes it with a rushed, "Oh, thank you," and then she's off again. Strange observes his soda water briefly, his eyes dropping to it before rising up to eye the departing server, and then he shrugs and sips it.

His travels lead him towards the gaming rooms and he's becoming suspicious that his friend is, in fact, a no-show. It would be a shame. He used to have the best fun with Dr. Hatcher back in medical school. A sign catches his wandering eye and he scoffs. "Magic show," he mutters, his gaze narrowing as he pauses in the doorway of the room. He's just in time to hear a feminine voice announce that she knows how it works and he hides his amused smile behind the rim of his glass as he glances over at her. What interesting…fashion she wears. Strange steps into the room and then off to the side, within whispering distance of the woman, and watches to see how the magician reacts to her claim.


As Strange slips in, Clea's gotten up. Weinrich is moving to sit down huffily, having surrendered a deck of cards to Clea and apparently turning red over the entire thing. He may be thinking of complaining to the management, but hopefully he won't pop a gasket in the process.

Clea is studying the cards with sufficient interest that she does not quite notice Stephen's arrival. "I mean these aren't all that hard, really." She examines the back of one and then looks over, giving the new arrival a brief smile, before saying, "Yes, shouldn't I ask… one of you pick a card."

"From your hand?" says one of the old men.

"No, I mean, I think I understand how this is done. Just tell me one!" Clea says.

"The queen of hearts," one fellow croaks.

Clea twists her hand and produces it out of thin air, holding it up to mild surprise and pleasure from the 'crowd.' By now Stephen's gotten close enough to detect Chanel No. 5, but probably more telling is that it is extremely obvious what Clea did to the sight of even a journeyman of the mystic arts: She just CREATED that card from thin air.

A weaving-spell, probably literally hidden in her sleeve. Clea does the hand flick again to produce a second, identical card. "What do you think? Did I get it right?" she asks Stephen then, holding the two cards up. (Despite being the Queen of Hearts they seem to show a pretty foreboding woman with black hair. Identity uncertain. Very loose resemblance to Clea.)


There had been a slight buzz in the air when he'd entered the room, but Strange dismissed it at first, blaming it on his nerves. They'd been strung rather tightly ever since his last meeting with his not-quite-apprentice. But now…

Not just a rather singular perfume at this distance, but indeed, the sleight of hand is much more magical than any sort of limber-fingered card handler could ever perform. Both of his dark brows rise now and he stops short of sipping his drink. The rim hovers before his parted lips and he gives the white-haired woman a narrow look. It's a simple spell, the creation of a small square of inked paper, and gives him only a base idea of her repertoire. When she speaks to him specifically, he lowers his crystalline glass and laughs softly.

"I believe that's the correct card," he replies - and then is struck with a sudden sense of cheek. Gently pulling one of the Queen cards from her hand, he flips the card first face down, showing only the patterned backside. A subtle will of magic down his arm and through his fingertips to rearrange the face card's design. He does a flourish with it, nothing too fancy, merely something he might do when opening a gate, and then offers her the card once again. "But this is the one I picked," and the card is turned over between two of his fingers to reveal the Ace of Clubs.


This gets some minor gasping. (One crusty fellow says, in a blaring tone that is simultaneously easily heard and probably not urgent, "Is this the real act?" 'Dieter' looks even redder.)

Clea takes the card and looks at it. She even turns it upside down as she half-turns away from him. "Oh, is that so?" she says, before giving him another look. There is a pause - and a second look from Clea, momentarily more crafty and more vulnerable at the same time.

But: maybe she does have the makings of a magician! She doesn't hesitate as she twirls the card around in her hands. "The Ace of Clubs… To some people it means secrecy. Of course, there's a lot of meanings to a playing card. And - oh!"

Clea scrapes her thumbnail over it, and there's an impression of something. At a distance it's just that she swapped cards somehow, because now she's holding up - "The ace of hearts! THIS was what you were looking for, right?"


A chuff of a laugh escapes Strange's lips and he gives her a duelist's nod, glancing about him as he claps his hand gently against his wrist and not spilling a drop of his drink.

"Ah, yes, that must be it. Very well done," he adds with a speculative look. "Just visiting this place briefly, of course. Though, now that I remember…"

And with a last fluid roll of his wrist and fingers, he flicks out a playing card that he too has summoned from thin air. This one is different from the rest of the deck that 'Dieter' was using. Rather than the flat-printed matte, its backing is deep storm-blue with a hint of iridescence in just the right angle of light. Stamped in its center, in golden ink, is the Seal of the Vishanti, the Anomaly Rue, sigil of the Sorcerer Supreme himself. On the face side of the card is the King of Clubs, arraigned in robes of crimson and dark of hair. "You were looking for this card." With gentlemanly ease, he slips his Mystically-made card into her hand and then retreats to the back wall once again, in order to watch this fellow practitioner give the false magician more of a run-around if she so chooses. He sips at his drink as he eyes her, a small and smug smile curving both lines of his goatee.


Clea accepts the card.

Her expression loses its light playfulness as she looks at it. She has very expressive eyes! After Strange gives her the card, she is ensorcelled - so to speak - for several seconds.

"Well, if you're finished," Dieter says - before Clea gives him a Look. This too is a passage of mystical energy that is doubtless transparent to Strange, and it's much less friendly - though he would also spot that Clea simply and abruptly made him fall asleep, rather than anything worse. Doing so with a mere sharp glance is rather telling, though that man, of course, has no real magical talent. (Just dexterity. He'll be fine.)

Soon enough she's sidling up to Strange. No, not sidling. She pauses, a quite neat and distinct arm's length away.

After considering intently on what to do, to say, Clea finds the option. "Buy me a drink?" she says, eyes darting up. "Though, here, I don't pay, but it's the thought that counts, I think."


The last sip of soda water rests on his tongue as Strange, with quiet consideration, watches the crowd approach the now-unconscious 'Dieter' and the nearest server brushes past him expediently to attempt to help the heavily-sleeping man. A memory of his apprentice flashes through his mind as the lady-mage's impulsive move is quite similar to something young Rasputina would do.

He swallows his mouthful as the pale-haired woman approaches him and keeps her distance. He's not surprised, not really - for anyone who dabbles in the Mystic Arts currently, the card is more than just a calling card; it's a quiet warning and reminder that he has his eye on the recipient. His gaze flickers down her body and up to her face before he replies in a smooth tone,

"Being thoughtful doesn't seem like a difficult trick at all. I'd be honored." Shifting the highball glass to his other hand, he then offers his nearest arm to her. "Very well done with the cards, by the way." Now the volume of the words is sotto-voce, low enough that he has to lean in slightly towards her. "It takes a good deal of focus to keep the ambient effects of the magic from appearing around the cards and your hands. I'm impressed."


Clea takes a deep breath as she weighs things in response to the thanks from this man. This man, she thinks, who may be who she has been looking for…

Or someone here to clean up after things.

Could one of the people back home create the sign of the Vishanti? Certainly. Or something near enough to fool her at a casual glance without invoking their wrath.

"Thank you; I was certainly impressed by you," Clea says, reaching out, carefully, to put a hand on his proffered arm to get guided towards the bar. As she does, and with obvious tension in her poise even so, she asks, "And how are things back home?"


It's not a completely novel sensation, but there is some…rediscovered delight in having the gentle weight of her hand resting on his forearm as they make their way back towards the main portions of the Hellfire Club. Strange glances over curiously at her when she asks such an unexpected question.

"Oh, well…" His lips remain still as he ponders how to respond. His memory is wracked for a name to put to her face - is this someone he knew as a young child or perhaps as a young adult? Nothing comes to mind and he's left to answer as best he can. "Assuming that you know who I am by my card, things remain quiet and under control as far as I can foresee. I can't dabble in too many problems at once, but Earth does remain spinning, despite my many hours spent over a good book and cup of tea." He gives her a half-smile, muted by halves by wondering internally if he's perhaps made too much of an impression. "What would the lady like to drink?" He asks in preparation of reaching the bar, which is now no more than a few sauntering strides away. The bartender is already shining the nearest section of bartop to reflective smoothness with a pristine-white rag.


"I'd like a caipirihana," Clea says, possibly getting the Brazilian drink slightly wrong. "A big one."

Her lips purse. She didn't smile back. Instead she says, finally and with some ponderous politeness to her tone, as if she's leaving an act behind, "I wish to assure you — assure you that if I have caused harm to your demesne, to this realm, it has been an accident." Clea weighs inwardly whether to — no, she won't blame Amora. Not this time at least.

"Are you him, or one of his disciples?" Clea asks.


"You heard the lady," Strange announces to the bartender and the young man gets working on the drink chop-chop. He leads her to a bar stool and then gestures towards it while he leans casually on the bar.

"I assure you, I would have known in less than a heartbeat if you had caused any harm." Realizing from her manner and tone of voice that he has disturbed her somewhat, he bows slightly from the waist, his eyes never leaving hers. "Forgive me, I should have implied earlier on that you have done nothing of the sort. Dr. Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme," he says softly, for her ears alone, "Disciple of the study of the Mystic Arts."


Clea sags visibly. She seems on the verge of fainting but she ends up on the stool instead; fortunately this is not anomalous behavior from the Hellfire Club, so other than a brief glance from the bartender, things seem to be alright. This does break eye contact.

"By the Faltine," she breathes quietly. "I have sought for you - or one in your position - for so long, I had despaired… or thought I would have to travel to another land entirely!"

Clea did not mention that she hadn't really left New York City to look around. Why would you need to?


Strange would have reached out to catch her but for the barstool. He's glad that it is there to keep her from ending up on the floor. Her drink is finished moments later and the bartender gives them a chipper nod.

"Anything I can get you, sir?" The good doctor considers a moment before deciding that, despite the inclinations of the club-goers and general rule of thumb, alcohol is a bad idea.

"Another soda water and lemon, please," he replies, and the young man disappears down the bar to tend to other drinkers. His attention flicks back to the woman before him and he raises both eyebrows in muted surprise as he replies, "Sought me? Whatever for?"


"The tale is long… and perhaps not for this place's ears," Clea says as she slumps back up to some attention. As she gets her drink she, perhaps surprisingly, drains half of it in a long gulp, but seems unaffected. Minty!

"Though they have given me what little aid they could. I do not come from this realm, Doctor Stephen Strange. I come from one far more distant, and dire… one underneath the boot of he who you may know as -"

Clea pauses.

She coughs then, glancing round the bar. "The Dread Dormmamu," she says quietly, with an air of anticlimax. "This place is pleasant but it does have a monotony to it."


A tale, huh. Strange's lips rise in a thin smile of amused disbelief. However, he begins to feel like he shouldn't be acting quite as jaded once half of her drink remains in her glass. The last time he saw someone drink like that, that someone was facing a crisis.

They make a rather interesting pair, with how he's leaning in to hear her softly-spoken words. One might think that they're discussing something quite scandalous. Well, and then she says…that one title.

He straightens slowly until he's barely leaning on the bar, only the line of his forearm lying along the marble surface. The bartender swings by to drop off the soda water, sees the expression on Strange's face, and then moves on his way with professional ignorance of it all.

"May I have a name to go along with your…place of origin?" The doctor is pensive stillness now, like a large hunting cat deciding whether or not to strike.


Clea swallows another sip of her drink. Less heroically. She then says, glancing at Stephen from the side and crossing her ankles below the level of visibility on the bar, "Oh…"

"Clea," she says. "I'm a little less famous." And significantly less Dread.


The white-haired woman's name doesn't ring a bell, but Strange commits it - and her face - to memory. His stance relaxes a bit, more weight being added to his forearm still astride the bar, and he reaches for his soda water. He doesn't take a large swig of it. That would be ridiculously disastrous with the bubbles in it.

"Well then, Miss…Clea," he says her name softly, lingering on it as if uncertain to trust it as well as the woman before him. "You'll find my address on the card you were given earlier. My days have been busy as of late, but…I might find time for a tale." He sets the unfinished drink aside and straightens the lapels of his dress suit jacket. A gentlemanly nod, one slightly archaic in nature and reminescent of earlier chivalrous eras, is given to her. "Write the time and date on the card and I will see it in my scheduling book. Perhaps I can offer you tea in exchange for your story. For now, enjoy your evening."

He strides away from the bar then, intent on returning to the Sanctum for some much-needing meditation; if he grinds his teeth any harder, they'll crack. Still, just before he passes the famously-designed stained glass wall of the club, he glances back over his shoulder at her. Despite the reveal of machinations via his greatest foe, this night has been…delightfully different. A shame that his friend never showed. Or is it? Regardless, he departs into the cool night and heads back to the Sanctum.


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