24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

7:00 am Tokyo time
Casino #5, somewhere in Europe
Jadeite, Kunzite, Zoisite

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"Your cousins," the man behind the desk said.

"Yes," Jadeite said. "You noticed the strong family resemblance. The ones who look like me take after our mutual grandfather, and the ones who resemble Mr. Cherry take after our grandmother." Zoisite started to hiss something at him, then stopped himself. "And Mr. Stone is the very image of our great-grandfather, as are the cousins who look like him."

"I see." The man's voice made it clear he didn't believe a word of it.

Behind the man's shoulder, where he couldn't see her, Thetis rolled her eyes at Jadeite. He directed a glare back at her. If she wasn't going to help, she could at least refrain from rolling her eyes at him.

"And the reason for this coordinated assault on a number of the world's highest-stakes casinos is -?"

"This was not an assault," Zoisite muttered. "If we were assaulting your casino, believe me, you'd know it."

Jadeite silenced him with a sharp look. "Please ignore my cousin. He has an unfortunate violent streak." Zoisite gave the casino manager his best evil smile. Jadeite went on. "It's our grandmother's one hundredth birthday next month. She's asked for very little for herself throughout her life - she's an angel, the most selfless person you'd ever want to meet, in fact I remember this one time when I was eight years old -"

"Yes, yes, the old lady is a good sort, I'll take your word for it. Get on with it before my employees start to get bored."

Jadeite's own personal security guard cracked his knuckles again. "Yes, of course. Although she's always lived a modest, humble life - she only owns two dresses, one for everyday and one for Sundays, and she eats the chicken necks so that everyone else can have the good parts, and claims she likes them so that the rest of us won't feel guilty -"

The man at the desk growled. Jadeite decided he'd better move on with his story.

"Anyway, the one thing she's always wanted is a private island of her own." He'd heard some of the highest bettors at the roulette table comparing their own private tropical islands. "There's a nice one in the Carribbean available right now that we think would be perfect for her. Just the right size, with plenty of bananas, which is her favorite fruit. But, of course, private islands don't come cheap, not even small ones."

"Of course they don't," the man said.

"Since we're competing with another bidder for this one -" More talk he'd heard from some of the wealthier men at the tables he'd played at "- we need to get the money as quickly as possible. If we approach them right away with a cash-in-hand offer, they'll be more likely to accept it." Jadeite let out a breath as he finished his story, and sat back in the hard, narrow chair. He was sweating from more than just the close, stuffy air in the office.

"So this is all so you and your, ah, cousins can buy your worthy grandmother a private tropical island for her one hundredth birthday," the man at the desk repeated.

"As you said," Jadeite said.

"With bananas."

"Of course."

"An outdoors chaise lounge and a nice fruit basket won't do."

Jadeite gave the man a reproving look. "That might be good enough for your grandmother, but not for ours."

"Then, of course, you won't mind telling me the name of the island and the seller?"

"Er..." Now what? Jadeite wondered.

"I'm afraid that's impossible," Kunzite said.

"Oh?" The man behind the desk raised one bushy eyebrow.

"We're under a rather strict confidentiality agreement. The seller wishes the matter to remain... private," Kunzite said. "I believe it has something to do with taxes."

"Of course," the casino manager said. "It's always taxes. Unfortunately, I am under a different set of requirements. I am responsible to the owners of this casino, and its investors, for the security of their money. Your story may or may not be true - I've heard stranger things, and they turn out to be true as often as not - but until you can prove to me beyond question that you were not cheating in your quest to win money to buy your esteemed grandmother her own private island, or whatever you were planning to do with all that money - I really don't care - you will have to remain here in custody."

Jadeite looked at Nephrite's expensive watch, wondering briefly how much he could sell it for if he had to. He'd probably be accused of stealing it. There was only a little more than an hour left before they had to meet Nephrite in Tokyo. Getting there would be instantaneous, of course, but first they had to find a way to get out of the jam they were in without turning themselves into international fugitives or losing all their money. He slumped in his chair, not bothering to hide his disgruntlement - anyone would be feeling put out at this point - as his guard cracked his knuckles yet again, slowly and with great feeling.

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury