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Las Vegas Casino Night Gone Wrong

Categories: Creative Writing Prompts Tags: creative writing exercises, creative writing prompts, writing prompt.

You’ve been playing cards with your friend at a Las Vegas casino for a couple of hours now and he’s up big. Suddenly, a pit boss grabs you and your friend and hauls you both off to a back room, where several rough-looking guys are waiting for you. “What’s going on?” you ask. “Your friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here.” Write this scene.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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325 Responses to Las Vegas Casino Night Gone Wrong

  1. Layne says:

    “There’s no card-counting is baseball!” I slammed my fist hard on the table. Wiley snorted out a laugh beside me. I was drunk, and he was probably a little drunk too. The security team – five guys in mis-matched suits glaring at us from the other side, two seated across Wiley and me, the others standing in various menacing poses behind them – did not get the movie reference. Or the joke.

    These guys.

    “Seriously, I don’t count cards,” said Wiley. “I’m just really fucking lucky tonight. This morning. Whatever.”

    “He smells like luck,” I leaned over Wiley’s shoulder, took a deep whiff. Cigarettes. Jack Daniels. Sweat. Toffee or molasses or coffee. I licked his cheek and he snorted again. “Lady Lucy’s got balls tonight, gentleman, and those balls are on this man.” I jutted my thumb out to indicate Wiley, just in case they thought I was talking about a different lucky dude with balls.

    “Lady Luck, you mean.”

    “What? What did I say? I thought I said Lady Luck.”

    “You said Lucy Luck.”

    “The fuck is Lucy?”

    “I don’t know, you said it.”

    “Lady Luck is what I meant.” Drunk as a skunk.

    “Sir, Ma’am,” the pit boss interrupted. There was a ‘thunk’ and Wiley and I turned in sync, our eyes finding the pit boss’s ugly mug, then trailing down to the surface of the table, finally resting on a large, black, hard object. It was sitting there like, ‘What, like you’ve never seen one of these before, wink, wink’.

    “I wasn’t counting cards,” Wiley said, and I swear I heard him gulp.

    “You threatening me with a dildo?” I said. Like a lady.

    “It’s a gun, Ma’am.”

    “Shit,” I screwed up my eyes and the blurry penis turned into a gun. Right. “Ok. Gun. Got it.”

    “Listen, man, we’re just betting, like, betting and playing. Normal Vegas shit. No reason to get all hard on us,” Wiley said. My turn to snort. Wiley looked at me and – I swear to christ almighty – he was giving me that, ‘don’t you fucking do it’ look.

    But, really, why the hell did he keep me around? Of course I was going to do it.

    “Oh, wait, wait, Wiley. Wiley. What if they’re using a shit bullet. No, seriously, what if they’re using shit bullets?” Wiley stared, an adorable crinkling between his eyes like a hobo’s paper sack, all wet and sad like, no, the cops can’t tell this is a beer. “You eat a bullet, then you shit it out, then you shoot someone with it and even if they don’t bleed out or whatever, they eventually die. Of dysentery. Like, fucking dysentery, Wiley. This is some Oregon Trail shit, here.” I turned to the pit boss. “For shame.” He actually looked ashamed for a moment, then cleared his throat.

    “No Ma’am. No shit bullets. Just the regular, uh, bullet-bullets.”

    I huffed, crossed my arms and leaned back in the chair. “Then you aren’t even trying.”

    “Uh, Pearl?” Wiley said.

    “Yeah,” and, ok, I may have sounded a little pouty.

    “Do you really believe in shit bullets?”

    I slammed my fist on the table. Again. Because, fuck yeah, we’re in Vegas, baby.

    “How can you not believe in shit bullets?” I let a little spittle fly this time, catching the pit boss on the nose. “This is real life, Wiley. You can’t hide from it. There’s gun,” I pointed to the gun. “There’s us,” I vaguely pointed at my boob. The one on the right. It was the bigger of the pair. “And there are shit bullets.” Check. Mate. Bitches.

    No one, not even Wiley, seemed impressed.

    “Can we go?”

    “Yeah,” the pit boss said.

    “That’s right,” I said. Wiley grabbed my arm, pulled me from my chair and we were escorted out of the building.

    Outside, I leaned on Wiley, inhaled his lucky musk. The sun was just a peek on the horizon, showing her ever-loving-face to the world like a women wiping the last dusty crumbs of coke off her nose, looking around the room for the first time in hours and realizing, shit, where the fuck am I.

    Ah, Vegas.

  2. PromptPrincess13 says:

    My husband gave me the nod and I didn’t hesitate, not for a moment. I barely had to think about what I was doing, just slumped over the table and pressed my age-abused cheek against the felt, making sure my legs slipped away from the chair ever so slightly as I did so, moaning with a fragility in my voice that was laughable. I sucked in my stomach and pushed my shoulders down and to the left, so that I lay twisted, my back so accustomed to being used like this, I didn’t even mind the pain anymore. I forced my eyes to stay shut tight, the felt against my face making me cringe inwardly. It wouldn’t be much longer now, just a second more…

    “Ma’am, are you alright?”

    Bingo. Distraction complete.

    I shuddered back into life, making hugely exaggerated gasps as I flailed to “steady myself” against the scrawny arm of the dealer who was surely coming to check on my poor soul. I added in a few convulsions for good measure, hiding a tiny laugh behind a groan. That’d been almost too easy.

    As my arm found the person who’d “revived” me, my groan turned genuine. This wasn’t the arm of a poker dealer.

    I creaked up to my full height while sitting, trying to look demure as the pit boss ran his gaze over me and cracked a smile full of broken yellow teeth. Recognition flashed in his face, a brief twinge of bitterness mixed with amusement.

    I glanced over at my husband as the pit boss and his goons started hauling us away. He glanced back. And with that, we said all we had to say.

    I heard him growl as they tossed us into a back room, flinging us into chairs at opposite sides of the room as if we weren’t two defenseless seniors, and sighed. My hubby wasn’t happy to have been interrupted when up so big. This wasn’t going to end well.

    “What’s the problem, misters?” I tightened my grip on my purse, readying.

    Here it comes, 1…

    “You’re friend over there was counting cards and we don’t approve of that over here.”

    “Him? No, I think you’re mistaken.”

    2…

    “It’ll be easier if you two cooperate, there’s no escape this time.” The pit boss gestured at his grossly built, clumsily shaved goons. They smirked.

    3…

    I swung my purse hard, letting out a laugh as the peanut-brittle tin in there cracked against goon 1′s skull. One down.

    5 minutes, a tube of dentures glue, and a length of dental floss later, the three of them were tied up and crying for their mommies.

    We raced out of there fast, scattering game chips and shoving plates of fries into my purse as we went. The guards at the door went down with one blow of a cane and a paper cup of ketchup in the face.

    Finally, we scrambled into our car, laughing like we hadn’t in twenty years

    “Good job today, Bonnie.”

    “You too Clyde. You too.”

    The Untold Story Of Bonnie And Clyde

  3. rainyk says:

    Mae saw him coming out of the corner of her eye, a beast in a pinstriped suit, flushed and sweaty in the summer heat. Leonard never noticed until the pit boss laid hands on him and yanked him out of his seat like a toy. Leonard was a crumb. Drank too much, played too loose. He was going to get them killed.

    “You too, doll face,” the boss growled in Mae’s ear, spraying spittle. “Follow me like a lady or I’ll have to put my hands on you.” A sleazy chuckle.

    Without hurrying, she tamped out her snipe in the ashtray, knocked back the rest of her gin, and followed Leonard and the boss to a door in the back of the speakeasy through smoke so thick it burned her eyes. She tucked her handbag under her arm, felt the hard bulk of the pistol press against her ribs.

    The boss shoved Leonard before him into a dimly lit back room. Leonard’s fedora went flying as he stumbled and fell against a table, knocking over an empty bottle of booze. Mae ran to him and helped him up.

    The boss turned his small pig eyes on Mae. “Your friend’s been counting cards,” he said, “and we don’t approve of that here.” His gaze flickered to the back of the room. “Skinny, Bruno, take care of it.”

    Shapes moved in the shadows, materializing into two men, one tall and wiry, the other portly and broad-shouldered with a disfigured nose.

    The boss moved closer to Mae and brushed her cheek with a soft, meaty hand. He reeked like a bull she remembered from the farm in Kansas, musky and feral. “Leave the lady,” he added before ducking out and slamming the door.

    The thin man, presumably Skinny, moved toward Leonard, while Bruno fixed his eyes on Mae. As Leonard scrambled backward, knocking over chairs, Mae slipped her hand into her bag and grasped hold of the cool metal.

    “You’d be well advised to step away from me and leave my brother alone,” she announced as she pulled out the gun, her voice husky with smoke and fear.

    The goons paused and exchanged glances.

    Bruno snickered. “Pretty little dish like you with a bean shooter? Who’d a thought.”

    “Gotta like a gal with spunk,” Skinny added with a greasy grin.

    “A Lincoln says she don’t even know how to use it,” Bruno rejoined.

    “It’s a deal.”

    Despite his size, Bruno moved like a cat. As he lunged for her, she aimed for his hand and pulled the trigger. As a child on the farm she had shot prairie dogs and squirrels, wrung chicken necks, even slaughtered a pig. Since leaving Topeka she had shot more tin cans, bottles, and stumps than she could count while practicing with Leonard. But she had never put lead in another human being.

    Now Bruno’s thumb was missing. Blood spurted from the wound as he screamed.

    Skinny swore and barreled toward her, ignoring Leonard, who cowered uselessly in a corner. In the moment before the goon reached her, Mae brought the pistol up, aimed it at his oily face, and fired.

  4. Tannai says:

    “You’re friend here has been counting cards, you see.” The smug pit boss crisp Italian voice said. The man clearly upset and on the verge of doing one of two things; A.) beating the blood and bones out of Dallas and I or B.) beating the blood and bones out of Dallas then I, gathered his large Superbowl sized rings onto his steroid enhanced knuckles.
    He grabbed a small gray lawn chair similar to the ones his minions had tied our feet and hands too before leaving the boss to get to work, and placed it in front of us. Sitting backwards in the chair the Godfather look alike cracked his ringed knuckles loudly; the small popping sounds echoing off the underground dark sewer system of the club. “I don’t like cheating, neva have neva will, boys.”
    There wasn’t much we could do at the moment but tremble with fear. It was our first time to luck out at playing cards, winning just above 500 grand in chips. We’d been working on our techniques for quite some time. The risks of playing the dangerous game, lost in our tremendous winnings, were very much apparent now.
    “Lets cut a deal.” I looked over at Dallas confused because his face gathered a short smug smirk in light of our current situation. I’d expected his usual recklessly ambitious personality would have dumb-ed down in the heat of our capture, but just like high school he found a way to gather some kind of testosterone fueled courage that always did get him beaten first. This time, I feared it’d get him killed.
    Al Pacino slid his chair over an inch in front of Dallas. The amusement in his face masked in aggravation. “I neva liked wise guys either.”
    The sweat accumulating off Dallas face wasn’t enough to stop his stupidly daring act. “ I’m sure we could work something out. You look like a family man, Mr?”
    His face tensed. “Derachini.”
    “Ahhh, Derachini, you got kids?”
    Like any boss with blood on his hands, he knew better than too reveal his personal life to anyone. Disinterested by my friends attempt, he threw his chair back full force, and swung his arm a great distance back; his target Dallas face. My eyes clinching with fear, I shut em quick and turned away from the murder I was sure was about to take place.
    A slight wind, assumingly carrying the boss’s fist, pushed past my ear, and then, astonishingly stopped dead in its tracks as Dallas threw out a curve ball neither I or Derachini had seen coming.
    “ You have a little boy, Alonzo 5, and a daughter Alana 3!”

  5. Amyithist says:

    Continuation of my last two posts.

    When I woke up, my head was heavy and I felt as if the entire room was spinning. I didn’t recognize my surroundings. The concrete wall in front of me was laden with black mold. When I looked up, I realized the roof above me was nearly completely gone. The stars above twinkled at me with placid disregard. I felt a cool desert breeze slip in through the dilapidated building and I found myself wishing I had a jacket or sweatshirt to slip into. I was sat up and looked around the empty warehouse.
    Old, rusted pieces of equipment silhouetted in the dark. Tiles and pieces of paper littered the dirty floor. I stood, my body swaying against itself as I did. I walked toward the open door, my heart fluttering in my chest. Something bad must have happened for Kirk to have allowed this to happen…
    I stepped down from the stoop, looking into the surrounding hillsides. I shivered. From somewhere in the distance, I heard murmurs. I walked toward the sounds. As I drew closer, I could hear Kirk’s voice.
    “I don’t have the chip,” he muttered. The sound of someone being hit thundered through the quiet air. Kirk laughed. “That’s what you got, cupcake?” I heard another punch landing on Kirk’s body and I closed my eyes. What was I supposed to do?
    I took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the wall. The man standing in front of Kirk turned and looked at me, smiling. “Oh good. I was wondering when you’d come join the party,” he snickered.
    I swallowed as I studied the predicament. Two men on either side of the big lug dishing out the punches grinned back at me. “This is what I like to call leverage,” the big man said. He snapped his fingers and the man closest to me approached, grabbing me with is meaty hands. I cried out as he forced me into the center of the circle. “You don’t want to tell us where the chip is?” The big man slapped me to the ground. My ears buzzed as I grabbed my face.
    “You shouldn’t have done that,” Kirk said lowly. I watched as Kirk jumped up, freeing himself from the handcuffs that had previously bound him to the chair. In a flash, he punched the guy to the left, turned, swung his fist into the man advancing on him. Both men hit the ground with a thud. He kicked the man closest to him in the face and he sprawled out, completely unconscious. The big man grabbed me by hair and yanked me up, cradling me in his frame. I gasped as a knife clicked open and pressed against my neck.
    “Please,” I whimpered. I looked at Kirk, tears beginning to well in my eyes.
    “Don’t worry, baby,” he said calmly. “Everything is going to be okay.”
    “Don’t lie to the poor girl,” the man hissed, tightening his grip on me. “If you don’t tell me where the chip is, I’m going to slit her throat here and now.”
    Kirk sighed and hung his head. “Fine, fine, Mack, you win. It’s in her bra,” he said coyly.
    I groaned as Mack eagerly reached around my shoulders and began to pull my top open. Before he could get any further than my clavicle, Kirk bent low, grabbed the gun from the unconscious man and fired. Mack grunted and stumbled back. His grip on me stayed tight and I felt myself fall back with him. “Help me,” I screamed.
    Kirk reached me and tore the dead man’s stiffening limbs from my body. I collapsed to the floor, gasping. “What the hell was that,” I cried.
    “Nothing distracts a man more than a nice set of boobs,” he said, chuckling.
    I frowned at him. “Glad to see you’re so cool and collected. I’m shaking like a leaf here!”
    He bent low and gathered me into his arms. I struggled at first, but I exhaustion and complete panic rendered me useless. “What is this chip they keep talking about,” I whispered, leaning into his frame.
    “I don’t know,” Kirk said. “I kept telling them they have the wrong guy, but…”
    I pulled back, studying him. I had known Kirk my whole life and the little glimmer behind his eye told me one thing: He was lying. I sighed, deciding it was probably best I didn’t know and leaned back into him. He opened the door to an impressive Hummer and eased me into the plush passenger seat. I snuggled into the leather and closed my eyes, ready to succumb to a comfortable sleep.
    The driver’s side door opened and I watched as Kirk climbed inside, slamming the door shut behind him. “Well, this has been a fun weekend, huh?”
    I raised my eyes at him and shook my head. “I’ll tell you one thing, Kirk. I will NEVER accompany you to another ‘vacation’ or ‘getaway’ again. You couldn’t pay me.”
    He laughed and started the Hummer. “Fair deal,” he said. “But what about our honeymoon?”
    I sat upright, looking at Kirk with complete surprise. “Honeymoon? Kirk, we aren’t even…” Before I could finish my thought, he leaned over the console and pressed his lips to mine. The kiss was deep and passionate and left me aching for more. As he pulled back, his green eyes glinting with michief and adoration, I realized fighting the feelings I’d had for him most of my life was a futile war. I’d never win. “I’ll go on our honeymoon under one condition.”
    He smiled. “Name it.”
    “You leave the chip at home.”
    He chuckled and threw the Hummer into gear. “Deal.”

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Thanks for giving us closure, Amy. Put all three together, tweak here and there and submit simu. to several magzines. Really makes a good, complete story line. I really enjoyed the trip.

      • Amyithist says:

        Thank you Kerry! What tweaks would you make, if you don’t mind my asking? I enjoy feedback. :)

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Just a couple of suggestions:
          1. Instead of “I felt a cool breeze slip in”…………., you might try, A cool brreze slipped in …… [Her feeling the breeze is assumed.]
          2. “I stood, my body swaying against itself, as I did. I walked through the open door, my heart fluttering in my chest.”
          Try it this way…………” Walking toward the open door, my body stumbled and righted itself to the rhythm of an uneven heaertbeat.”

          This allows the reader to slip into the awareness of the MC and feel as the MC does. This is just an opinion and I’m no expert in anything except building houses, and even then, most of the time, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing. Anyway, I love the story. .

    • jmcody says:

      Thank you, Amy. I really enjoyed the whole thing. Hope I will one day write fully imagined plots like this. I have one tiny tweak — wishing for a sweater seems odd and out of place in the middle of all this high drama. That’s it! It was awesome.

  6. AChaye says:

    I could feel the rage rushing under my skin. It felt red hot and messy, like I could never scrub it clean. What in the world was going on? I whirled around ready to demand answers, but before I knew it, I was surrounded by the roughies. I drastically searched the room for Henry; he probably knew what these men wanted. Suddenly my eyes landed on his crumbled mess of a body. Horror washed over me, as he slowly lifted his head towards my direction, wincing from the pain. His eyes were full of guilt, and I instantly understood why.
    I turned my attention back to the men, who were now glaring at me with even more hatred. I shrunk in fear as their eyes seemed to pierce through me.
    “I’m sorr-” I struggled to croak out, but was interrupted before I could even finish.
    “LEAVE” The toughest one spit at me.
    Trembling, I nodded and scrambled over to Henry. Inspecting the damage, I noticed he was just busted up around his face. He would be fine. I slung my tiny arm through his and slowly helped him stand up. I tried to hurry up his pace, but his limp kept us in there a lot longer than I wanted. I could feel a dozen eyes burning into my back-we were leaving this place and never coming back.
    Once we were outside I let go of his body. I heard him fall onto the grass with a thud.
    “Henry! What were you thinking!?” “That is a casino, not some trash dumb you can scam!” I fumed as I yelled at him.
    “I’m sorry Emma” was all he whispered back.
    Even though I was furious, I felt lucky to get out of there in one piece. I couldn’t stay mad at my best friend, no matter how many stupid things he did.
    I signed and bent back down to pick him back up. Come on Henry…let’s go.

    • swatchcat says:

      You wrote nicely for putting the reader in the moment, helping realize the frantic feelings. Of the entire thing, the only question is the end, “signed” maybe should be “sighed” and if not then what did they sign in the end?

  7. Critique says:

    This was our second trip to Las Vegas in eleven months. We were primed to win. After three days at the black jack tables we were on a roll.

    Tonight, Morley’s concentration was like a machine. The mountain of chips was growing.

    Several hours into the game I was sidetracked when I noticed the men in suits. The same ones from the
    casino down the strip that we’d played at the last two night. They stood to the right of me and behind Morley. We were being watched. Morley was on his own now – no more confirmation signals from me.

    Since graduating from high school last year, we practised our secret formula for thousands of hours. We had it down to an art. I doubted we had tipped anyone off.

    The stakes were at $1900.00 when Morley split his hand and asked for an increase on the bet. I didn’t let my face know that I thought it was a bad move in light of the fan club behind us. I held my breath as the dealer, a gorgeous brunette – I think she liked me – shuffled the deck. From the looks of the discard tray there were two decks left. She dealt Morley two cards. He peeked, then slapped them on the table and raked in the chips.

    Without warning one of the suited guys grabbed my arm and the other guy grabbed Morley’s arm and we were hustled through the casino into a back room. Two rough looking goons stood in the room staring down at us with cold eyes.

    I felt a niggle of apprehension.

    “What’s going on?” My voice cracked as I was pushed unceremoniously into a metal chair.

    “Your friend’s been counting cards.” The pit boss was none too gently patting down Morley’s slim frame. “That’s not allowed here.”

    Morley glanced my way giving the look we’d practised. They had nothing on us.

    “You know what this is?” The second suited guy slapped a form down on the table in front of me. “ “This is a Trespass Act banning you both from our casinos.”

    “We’ve done nothing wrong.” Morley glared at the pit boss. “ I’m not signing anything.”

    The goons moved closer. The bigger one flexed his enormous biceps.

    “You and your pal will sign it now.” The first pit boss gestured at the goons. “Harvey and Curtis here are experts at getting folks to cooperate.”

    I recognize a stalemate when I see one and scratched out my name on the bottom line.

    The body heat emanating from the goons closing in was enough to get Morley to sign his name too.

    We were lucky they let us cash in our chips. The goons literally threw us out the back door. We headed back to our hotel nursing bruises and battered egos.

    We figure we’ve got our life ahead of us to hone our skills. Morley says we’ll be back.

    • Tannai says:

      I really liked your story. I got a good sense of the scene and characters without it being too overwhelming and detailed. I did enjoy how young and reckless Morley and his friend appeared to be as they stated they’ll be back. It showed the true mindset of young people still somewhat fresh out of high school. I do however feel the story became somewhat bland slightly before the end. I’m glad you picked it up though. It even made it me chuckle a little. -Be Blessed.

  8. lionetravail says:

    Title: “Sorry, I Couldn’t Resist Writing This One”

    “Your friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here.”

    I thought about that for the time it deserved. My eternally nervous friend, the one in question, tried to stammer something past the hairy hand which covered his mouth, but I couldn’t understand it.

    It didn’t matter- he was weak-minded anyway, and I put up with him mostly because I didn’t have anyone else who would much listen to what I said. I had put up with him for a long, long time because, for the most part, he was the only game in town.

    “Well?” said the pit boss angrily, who towered over me. I didn’t let the size disparity bother me- pretty much everyone towered over me, and I’d gotten used to it.

    I swiveled to look over at my friend again, the one who’d been counting cards, and considered. It wasn’t the first time he’d gotten me in trouble, that was for sure. And he was always yammering about how cold he was, or how miserable he was, and, well, hell, he was certainly the most negative person I’ve ever known. For all I knew he had been counting cards! And now, here I was in hot water all over again, because of him.

    I swiveled back to look at the pit boss, and thought: “Well, screw him! I’m so, so totally done with that guy.”

    So I said: “Beep”. And I swiveled around to trundle out.

    My “friend” managed to get his mouth free of the grasp over it enough for me to hear him wail: “But R2D2, you can’t just leave me here…!”

    The door hissed shut behind me. As I rolled out, I couldn’t help wonder why that Wookiee had put him back together back in Cloud City, since 3PO was such a jackass most of the time anyway….

  9. Ted says:

    Borrower nor Lender Be

    491 words

    “Nick is here.” Frank said to his wife, Shelly, over the phone.
    “You mean our neighbor—your friend—the louse who’s been avoiding you ever since you lent him money? The Nick that’s driving a newer car than us?”
    “Yeah.”
    Frank watched Nick at the poker table. So cool and charming as he flirted with the female dealer, so much a rat
    “Tell him you want your money.”
    “I will, but it looks like he’s winning, a lot. I don’t want to mess him up,” Frank said.
    “You don’t want to mess him up? He owes you ten thousand dollars―”
    “You’re breaking up,” Frank said, dowsing his iphone into his pocket. A curvaceous brunette began snuggling close to Nick, ogling the growing pile of chips.
    “Excuse me,” Frank said to her.
    “Hello, Nick.”
    “Frank! What are you doing here?” Frank watched Nick slip a stack of chips into his pocket.
    “Electronics convention,” Frank said coolly. “What about you?”
    “Me? Blowing off some steam. I haven’t found work yet. I’ve been looking for the right thing, you know?”
    Nick turned his cards over, revealing a flush. “The gentleman wins,” the dealer said, sliding more chips to Nick.
    “Nick, remember last year, when you lost your business?”
    “Yeah, that was a bad time.”
    “Well, remember the―”
    “The loan, yeah, don’t worry Frank, I’ll pay you soon.”
    “Well, maybe since you’re up so much―”
    “Yeah, he’s up, but not for long,” a tall man displaced the brunette. “You and your buddy, you’re coming with me.”
    “What’s this about?” Frank asked.
    “Just follow me,” the man said. He led them past the slot machines and toward a dark corner of the casino.
    “Should I run? Is this legit?” Frank wondered.
    A door marked “No Admittance” clicked behind them. A bald man sat at a desk. “You’re friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here,” the bald man said.
    Nick sniveled. Frank’s phone vibrated in his pocket, probably Shelly, wondering if he’d gotten his money yet.
    “It was Frank’s idea,” Nick said, sobbing into his hands.
    “Quiet!” the bald man said. Nick collapsed onto the floor, crying.
    “He did it,” Nick said amidst his tears, pointing at Frank.
    “Okay, mister,” the man said to Frank, “you’re free to go.”
    Frank turned, tripping into a lamp as Nick grasped his pant leg.
    “Frank’s the one,” Nick blubbered.
    “What about―” Frank began.
    “Bud, the less you ask the better. This guy has been fleecing us for three months, and we finally figured out how. I don’t think you have anything to do with it. So go now, before I change my mind.”
    Several months later, Frank watched from the living room window as a constable taped a yellow eviction notice to Nicks’ door. Nick’s lawn was over a foot tall. Nick had vanished.
    “I don’t think you’ll ever get your ten thousand back,” Shelly said. Frank leaned into his recliner and closed his eyes.

  10. Kerry Charlton says:

    Hello Amyithist.

    Just to let you know, the replies to your follow up are going to be at the bottom of Tannai’s story and not yours. To Tannai, when you post a new story, scroll all the way to the bottom of the prompt. You’ll see a post box there for new stories. When commenting, click onto the story you’re talking about. Hope this helps in your next post.

    • Tannai says:

      Thank You Kerry Charlton. I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to post my stories so thank you very much! Sorry for any confusion or inconvience i caused anyone.

  11. BezBawni says:

    “What’s going on?” I ask trying not to stare at the butt of a gun conspicuously black against the white shirts of the security.

    “Your friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here.” The meathead in charge sounds like a pissed off grizzly bear. When I hear my friend Ned speak, I think I might never unhitch myself from the back of my chair again.

    “Yeah, I did, actually we both did,” Ned says. “Took you, what, a couple of hours to notice, genius?”

    “Ned…” My voice is quiet, but intense, because the meathead approaches us, very slowly.

    “Bet, you’ve watched us from every angle. Did you see my finger?”

    “Ned…”

    “This one, with the ring. I think it accidentally stuck out a couple of times.”

    “Ned!”

    “Like this.” Ned flips the most impeccable and explicit bird I’ve ever seen, but I’ve no time to admire the artwork, because the meathead snatches the finger and bends it.

    “Ned!!” I jump to my feet to Ned’s yowl and lunge at the meathead. I might as well have pricked a hippo with a rose thorn. The next thing I know – I’m hitting the wall behind me and slump to the floor, shaking my head so I wouldn’t black out.

    “Oh, yes , I noticed, alright,” the meathead says, hardly bothered by my little intrusion. “So, I thought you didn’t need it anymore.”

    Ned is whimpering, but after a second I realize it’s laughing. “Old Gary would want me to keep it, trust me on that.”

    I see the meathead let go of Ned’s finger and step back, the other two goons exchange a look.

    “Nah, bullshit. You can’t know Old Gary.” The meathead relaxes, but takes another step back. My head’s spinning, and I have a hard time figuring out whether it’s from the hit or from what-the-jack-is-going-on situation.

    “Me and Gary, we go way back.” Ned leans back rubbing his sore finger. “We’re buddies.”

    “No, we ain’t,” I hear another voice and everyone snaps their heads towards the exit. A bold man in his late forties strides into the room, his tuxedo tails escape by a thread’s-breadth being caught in the door. The man points a gun at Ned.

    “Wait, wait, wait!” I shout struggling to my feet, and my desperate “Let’s just all-“ is met by a chorus of “Shut up!”, Ned included. I close my mouth and stare at my friend, who is grinning.

    “What now, Gary boy?” he says. “You want me to give you one good reason why you shouldn’t kill me?”

    “There are way too many why I should.” Gary spits to the side and pulls the trigger. Ned and I both give out something that is a mix of ‘holy’ and ‘shit’, but the click of the gun comes across louder than it is. Gary violently pushes the trigger again, but clicks is all that comes out. Ned starts to laugh.

    “It’s a sign, Gary boy,” he says, wiping tears from his eyes. “Let’s talk business.” Ned beckons me to come closer and I wonder what I, a measly architect, have to do with all of this.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Tight drama done in a Mickey Spillane way. I loved it. Tough guys of the old school. Shoot first and ask questions later. Lots of tension here for the reader admires Ned’s flippiant behavior in the face of real dangerand doesn’t relish seeing his head blown off.

      A good entry into a casino mystery, full of dames, goons, double crosses and murder. Why not continue with it?

  12. andnostar says:

    You turn to the doughy goon with the cauliflower ear.
    “This nitwit couldn’t count to twenty with his socks off.”
    Unswayed, the gorilla gives the slightest of nods, and two of his simeon lackeys take hold of Jim.

    Sausage fingers on ham fists dig clamp on to his arm.

    Four ham fists with sausage fingers, and the grip of a vice clamp on to his arms. One squeeze at his wrist until Jim’s clenched fist pops open, fingers splayed and white, blood flow halted at the joint.
    The gorilla clomps toward Jim at a looming pace, takes hold of his smallest finger, and bends it back until it snaps.
    “Twenty one, blackjack”
    Jim shrieks.
    “Twenty two, bust.”
    Jim swoons.
    A slap wakes him up.
    And, smart ass that he is, Jim replies
    “Hit me.”
    And he is obliged.
    With a sic thud the gorillas fist slams into a Hawaiian shirt and four comped drinks and a four dollar buffet splatter on the tile floor.
    Horrified, you add your own colour commentary.
    Two more freight train fists, and then, through broken teeth and split lips, you hear a wheezy
    “Stand”.

    In keeping with blackjack word play, one is produced.
    8 ounces of lead in a leather sleeve is dealt out over several hands.

    Jim is draped across your shoulders like a bloody human stole, as you shuffle him out. Escorted out by the back room hospitality staff, you make your way through the jangling chaos of the casino floor. No one bats an eye.
    No one but the gorilla. He tracks your progress from his seat at the bar, swollen knuckles in a bowl of ice.
    The house always wins.

  13. Silver Sister says:

    Silence weighed down each moment, making them drag. I prayed for Kent. Then for myself. Everything hinged on him being the kind of man he seemed to be. After accusing Kent of counting cards, security had escorted us from the casino floor. They separated us in the dingy hallway. It took three men -all studies in steroid use- to drag him away.

    I waited alone in the boss’s office. It felt particularly posh after the dizzying glitz of the floor. Instead of cigarettes, it smelled faintly of ‘mountain rain’ air freshener. I should’ve been able to breathe easier; I couldn’t.

    “No news is good news,” I muttered. That’s what Mother always says. I didn’t believe it this time. Somebody needed to let me in on what was happening. Even if I dreaded it. Oh, what was taking so long!

    The doors finally opened. Oliver’s arrival surprised me. He usually sends my big sister, Shae, to soften the blow. I tried to keep my unruly hope in check.

    My bother-in-law grinned. “Your boyfriend is thrashing against restraints, threatening my security team with grisly and inventive deaths if you so much as chip a nail.” Oliver looked supremely satisfied. “I think he even rattled Fats.” Eyeing me, he handed me a tissue. “This is great news, Justine.”

    Embarrassed, I dashed away a tear. “After six times I was beginning to lose hope.”

    “Lucky number seven.”

    When Oliver pulled this stunt the first time – several years ago – he did so without my knowledge. Or consent. “I had to,” he’d sworn. “That loser was no good. Shae and I both knew it. We just had to get you to know it, too”

    Video from the backroom confrontation vindicated Oliver. My then-boyfriend screamed that it was all me and he barely even knew me. The betrayal blindsided me. I was in on the ruse from then on. Three guys threw me to the wolves. I thought I was making progress when the others didn’t mention me. Oliver disagreed. “If a guy sees two henchman take his girl and says nothing. . .”. He scowled. “That’s not a guy you want.”

    I didn’t want to test Kent. My instinct said go all in. My family encouraged me to give him a chance to prove himself. Now Oliver confirmed what I had known for a while. Kent is The One. And maybe, please God, he feels the same about me.

    “I know this has been hard on you, Justine.”. Oliver shook his head. “We couldn’t let just anyone walk away with the biggest jackpot in Vegas without vetting him first.”

    My family may be nuts, but they love me.

    Oliver glanced at his watch. “Time to make my appearance, assure him this was all a misunderstanding and offer him some wonderful comps for his trouble.” He winked. “Then I’m going to return him to you before he tears my casino apart brick by brick.”

    This time I waited patiently. I reflected on the games being played in this casino. None of them were as high-stakes as the one we’d just played. You have to play big to win big, though. Tonight, I was the biggest winner in Vegas.

    • bilbobaggins321 says:

      Nice, Silver Sister. I really liked this one, especially since my book I just started has a MC named Oliver. Keep up the good work.

      • Silver Sister says:

        Small (literary) world. Thanks for the kind comment – glad you liked it!

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          A really tight, fast moving story, Silver Sister. If she has a family that loves her that much, she’s a lucky woman. Seven tries to get a good man, leads me to believe her judgment of the opposite sex is slighty weak. But them look at all the beautiful and powerful women in the world that continue to marry losers.

          It smacks of realism. She’s worth a lot of money if she’s in a casino family and the story makes a lot of sense. That the key I look for when I read or when I’m writing. A good story has to be believavle, even Sci-fi or ghost stories fall in that catagory.

          • Silver Sister says:

            Thank you, Kerry. I don’t know much about goons or gambling, so I tried another direction. With Justine’s seven suitors, I tried to show that she was maybe a little naive , but mainly it was a barb at the ‘save yourself’ mentality running rampant these days. Thanks again for your generous comments.

    • snuzcook says:

      I really appreciated this story, SilverSister. You were able to tell a story about gambling, but not the superficial flashy casino-type gambling. You used this prompt in a creative and very satisfying way.
      And your big old heart shone through once again.

    • jmcody says:

      Silver Sister, you have a great imagination. I had trouble with this prompt too, not knowing much about gambling or casinos and having no interest in stories about crime or fighting. I loved your take on it. Very satisfying.

  14. Amyithist says:

    A continuation of my previous entry (because I love writing and why not?)

    I pulled out of Kirk’s grasp and looked at him for a long moment. The man who had been standing idly at the Blackjack table not ten minutes ago was now replaced with a suave and dangerous stranger. I felt my legs beginning to buckle from the whirlwind emotions trailing through my body. Before I crumbled to the floor, Kirk wrapped his arms around me and began to carry me up to our shared room.
    “Are you okay, Lids?” I cringed at the old nickname and frowned at him as he stepped onto the elevator, cradling me in his arms.
    “It’s Lydia,” I retorted. I turned my head and watched as the numbers above the door lit up, indicating we were now on the fourth floor. When we reached the eighth, the door slid open and Kirk stepped out into the dim hallway.
    “Hmm,” he murmured, looking around. “That’s…odd.”
    I felt my heart flutter and I subconsciously gripped his neck a little harder as I looked around the empty corridor. “What’s wrong,” I whispered.
    Kirk set me down, pressed me against the wall and looked into my eyes. “Stay here,” he said. “Don’t move and if anything happens, I want you to call for me. Otherwise, stay quiet.”
    I nodded and watched in horror as he dashed around the corner and down another hall. I felt sick. I didn’t want to move; yet, I was terrified just standing there. I couldn’t help but feel like a sitting duck. What was odd?
    Maybe it was the dim lighting. I couldn’t remember if the lights had been brighter upon arrival or not… I sighed and slid down the wall until I was flush with the floor. I’d dressed to the nines and my high heels were beginning to bite into my swelling feet. I was in the middle of cursing Nine West when the lights suddenly went out all together.
    I gasped and pulled myself up, feeling the texture of the wall against my trembling fingers. “Kirk,” I whispered. The silence engulfing me was heavy and impenetrable. My eyes were wide, but all I could see was black.
    Suddenly, from somewhere in the dark, I heard footsteps approaching. My skin broke out with goosebumps. I waited, praying it was Kirk. They drew closer and closer and closer; each thud penetrating my psyche with terrifying persistence. The footsteps suddenly stopped. I could hear someone breathing in front of me… Slow. Steady. Like a tiger studying its prey just before it pounced…
    I screamed as two hands clamped down on my shoulders. A voice I didn’t recognize hissed at me through sheet of dark. “Be quiet. Or I’ll kill you.” I whimpered. My heart pounded recklessly in my chest and before I could stop myself, I fainted into the arms of the stranger standing before me.

    • Tannai says:

      The men were rather tall and bulky and accused me of assisting my friend Christian illegally in a game of cards. The blows hurt, but I’d never been one to scare easily.Christian on the other hand, quivered and begged for mercy, as they threw punches at his face left and right.
      “Alright, enough.” Blood spilling from my lip I commanded. Christian nearly unconscious followed with a weak “Please.”
      With the snap of the boss’s finger, the two brutal men rolled up their sleeves and took a step back, removed there stained knuckle rings, placed them in a small dish , and huddled around their shorter leader.
      I took the few seconds we had to access the scene. Pipes dripped above our heads. The floor cold and bare trailed its way to a short stair way. My head stiff from the swelling i was unable to look behind us for another escape route. The stairway proved to be our only exit.
      ” Ple-ase.”Christian out of breath whispered. ” Tell, Tell them.”
      Eyes closed, his head dropped onto his chest.
      Looking back on the night, I could hardly understand how Christian could have won nearly 500 grand as drunk as he was. It seemed as though it were luck. I threw in a helping hand here and there, but I knew nearly nothing about the game of cards.
      “Think hard son. Are you gonna let your’e friend die, before you tell the truth?” The largest of the three men said.
      So I thought.
      “I did it.” the words slipped from my mouth. The men evilly grinning began to place the rings back on their hand. Two untied Christian from his chair and hauled him up the dark staircase, hopefully to safety.
      The next few hours i was brutally beaten. I woke up in a hospital bed three days later, remembering them tossing my fragile body on the sidewalk of a busy street. Christian sat in a round visitors chair waiting for me.
      “Why’d you do it man.” He said, mercy and anger in his voice.
      “Where’s the money?” Weakly i retorted. He looked stunned, and then a short grin came over his face.
      “How’d you know?”
      Christian hadn’t had a drink of alcohol for nearly six years, but memories of our younger years showed that it took more than nine drinks to get him over the edge and i his accomplice in high school took nearly all of his beatings.
      “You only had three drinks.”
      “Damn, you can still take a good beating.” He laughed, hauling the winnings from last night in a small brief case behind him. The next few minutes I spent explaining my genius plan as we laughed and counted the cash I was “rightfully” for not being apart of Christians scam.
      (Any comments are very much appreciated especially constructive criticisms. To further help please email NobleLaureate21@yahoo.com)

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Nice follow through, Amy. It’s even better than the first part. But there’s one problem I’m sure you know about. You left me, you left me high and dry. So I’m asking you to write a third part and for God’s sake, give some kind of wrap up or I’ll jump into these pages here and look for you. Oh, by the way, you’ve a lot of talent to your writing. Someone jumped in below your story . This response may end up below their story and not yours.

  15. lionetravail says:

    Sorry for yet another- call this one “Whimsy”- I couldn’t resist this testament to my youth :)

    “Your friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here,” said the pit boss, standing in the circle of light cast by the bare bulb overhead.

    I sat in my chair, hands tied behind me, and privately worried about my friend the, card counter. I looked over at him, sitting observantly in an identical chair, his hands also tied behind. His face was pale, though it always was, and he wore a dark blue knit ski hat down over his ears despite the relative Vegas heat. He raised one eyebrow at me, clearly leaving me to handle the next play.

    “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

    The pit boss backhanded me across the mouth, and I felt a trickle of blood start there after my vision had cleared. “You want to try again?” the boss said.

    I considered which story to tell. It was improbable that anything but the truth would have any impact, but the truth was right out. First, it was unlikely he’d believe it. Second, it could completely change the timeline, in which case I might single-handedly wipe out billions of people.

    The boss leaned close, and since I didn’t want to wipe out anyone including us, I thought fast. “Actually, Mr…?”

    He looked over his shoulder at one of the muscled hoodlums who’d tied us to the chair. “Get a load of this guy!” he said. He turned back to me. “Sharkey,” he said.

    “Mr. Sharkey then.” I ignored the snort of laughter from the pit boss and the guffaw from one of the goons. “You see, my friend over there doesn’t really count cards, not the way you mean. He’s just a really smart guy who always computes the odds in everything we do.” I dropped my voice, and the pit boss leaned closer. “And I mean, everything! It’s really annoying, in fact… he even goes out to decimal places!” I said.

    Sharkey was trying to follow me, but seemed to be having some difficulty. “Yeah? Well it still sounds like card counting, and we still don’t approve of that here!” he said belligerently.

    “Mr. Sharkey,” said my friend from his chair. “Poker is a game of odds with only a finite number of permutations possible. Careful calculation is the key to improving them to avoid favoring ‘the house’. It would be quite impossible for me to avoid calculating the rather simple odds of your game.”

    The pit boss looked like he was about to backhand my friend the way he’d done me, when a noise came from just outside the room. He turned to the goon who had guffawed. “Maxie, go see who’s out there.”

    Maxie went to the door and opened it, and I heard a crunch, and Maxie flew back past me. Sharkey had time to say: “Who the hell…?” before a beam took him in the chest. Two more beams flashed and the remaining tough guys fell without a sound.

    “Keptin, are you alright?” came a familiar Russian voice. I felt hands untying my knots.

    “Yes Mr. Chekhov, and your timing was excellent. I assume Scotty got the transporter fixed, so let’s get Spock free and back to Enterprise…”

    • BezBawni says:

      Wow, lion, this was so much fun to read) I love startrek and to see my favorite characters at the end of your story was the biggest delight I could ever have from a prompt story)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Your story has a nice flavor to it and it kicks ass with an incredible ending. Great job.

      • lionetravail says:

        I’m ecstatic you enjoyed! I had to admit I was chortling a bit as I wrote this: putting myself in the (in)famous Captain Kirk’s head on a “classic Trek” trip into their past? Priceless! (And, for added benefit, cracked up my wife in the process :))

  16. abhijit jiwa says:

    Natashka Andronikov looked beautiful in her black evening dress, that clung to her full breasts like an engineering marvel. White legs flashed through the cuts of the black dress . She smiled as she caught me watching her. Seated next to Ryan, she seemed absolutely entranced with Ryan’s game. “You play really well” She said in a slight Russian accented English. Ryan bows. “Thank you ma’am. I practice well you know.’
    “Too well” she laughed knowingly.
    Ryan winks at her, deliberately making sure the cameras catch the wink.

    Ryan’s winning streak was on. Never a surprise there. Exceptional mathematical genius,a phenomenal memory, and incredible focus made him a winning machine. The cards were plus eighteen on a eight deck game , and it was time for Ryan to double the bets. He layed chips on the table , and waited for the deal. I looked around the casino. They should be down any minute. And if they didn’t , the casino would rank low on my list. I make it easy for the pit boss though. Looking around often, staring at the cards, tying to look sweaty and shifty enough for the camera. Just don’t miss it boys. I know you’re watching. Come on down. Papa is waiting. There was a lot at stake here, excuse the pun.

    The lab needed blood samples. Natashka was the daughter of Valentin Andronikov. The target we were after, Valentin was the focus of a multiple pronged investigation. Valentin sold high grade weapons to countries that didn’t have access to them. And some of these weapons were not of the everyday kind. He was on our radar since the day he had entered this country. And now Ryan and me were just inches away from his daughter.

    “The Mosquito” as the guys at the lab called it, was an exceptionally clever device. The size of a large diamond, mounted on a ring, it was worn on Ryan’s index finger. The head itself faced down, while the ring was plain metal, so as not to draw any attention. All you needed to do was grab your marks hand, and the Mosquito went to work. It did two things; one, it would collect a blood sample, and two, it would embed an RFID nano-bot-tracking-device into the blood stream, and the mark wouldn’t feel a thing. Last night Ryan and me had pasted a dozen tracking dots on Natashka’s car and hotel room door. The mobile unit would release the micro-drones which would hone in on these dots and follow them around if they were mobile , their tiny cameras recording and broadcasting everything to the crew in the van. Officially called the Robotic-Insect-Micro-Electro-Mechanical-System or RIMEMS , these micro drones were so advanced, they could be made to fly in formation , if so required.

    Just on time, the pit-boss, a heavy set guy, with a big belly, makes his way to our table, flanked by two big hairy apes. The pit boss places a hand on my shoulder. “You and your friend need to come with us please” “What’s going on?” I asked. “Your friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here.”
    I laid on the acting pretty strong. I needed this to escalate quick. “Counting cards? Are you saying we are cheating?”
    “Yes” nods the Pit-boss. “Definitely cheating.”
    “Take your hands away from me” I tell the pit boss, looking him straight in the eye. The two hairy apes move in closer.
    When the punch came, the trick was to fall back on Ryan hard, so he could grab Natashka’s hand. And it came. Hairy ape one swings round with a huge fist to punch me in the face. I block the punch, enough to stagger back right into Ryan.
    As I fall, I catch a glimpse of Ryan falling down , and grabbing Natashka’s hand. Natashka stumbles and joins us on the floor. I look at Ryan, and he nods. Mission done.
    Time to go. I spend a moment, helping Natashka up.
    “Sorry” I said. “See you later, perhaps…. ”.
    Ryan and me spend the next three minutes laying it on for the hairy apes and the pit boss. They were not difficult to put down. Ryan gestures to me, and we run toward the exit. As I turn the corner, I take a last look at Natashka. She is steadying herself, a worried look on her face , I knew this wasn’t the end. Sixth sense said I was going to see her again .
    It was written in the cards.

    • abhijit jiwa says:

      I’ll be honest. I have never actually played in a casino. The only time I did go to a casino, was this one time in Goa. It was packed full of Russians and I was very conscious of the $50 or so cash I had in my pocket at the time. The visit was pretty brief, and my $50 was safe and sound, and lasted me a couple days enough to feast on the exotic Goan food and Feni.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A very intense and spy-like read, abhijit. Almost Ian Fleming in nature. Can’t wait for the next chapter. You did a beautiful job in setting the scene not only for your story but for an entire novel. Natashka comes off as a fabulous character, meant to be pursued by the MC, for more than one reason. I hope you take this further and keep us in the stream.

    • snuzcook says:

      I enjoyed this story, abhijit jiwa. It is an intriguing mix of iconic gambling den drama and high-tech espionage. I would enjoy reading more!

    • jmcody says:

      I agree with the others that this contains all the elements of a full-blown drama. Very imaginative, and makes you want to read more.

    • BezBawni says:

      It is a very entertaining story indeed, I loved it)

      P.S. If I may, if you’re opting for a real Russian name, then it should be ‘Natasha Andronikova’ )), because ‘Natashka’ is a very informal variation of the name (with a touch of rudeness to it) and ‘Andronikov’ refers to men.

  17. Carlos Hammer says:

    Touch of Death

    “Your friends been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here,” the pit boss said gesturing towards William who was standing surprisingly defiantly in the corner of the concrete room.

    “You see how much we care?” William said waving his hands like there was still a drink in them. I looked from the pit boss to the two mean looking men on either side of them. Dressed in the same clothing, wearing the same ugly face that said:

    “We’re ready to beat you any time, just waitin’ for a signal.” But, like William, I didn’t care about the goons or the pit boss at all.

    “Yeah, we’re shaking,” I nudged William and smiled. He smiled back, we could take these guys.

    “Very well,” the pit boss said, “I’ll just leave you alone with my… friends… and let them talk to you about what we do to cheaters,” and he exited the isolated room.

    “So,” William looked at the two large men. They looked like they belonged in comic books rather than standing here, in real life, about to pound our faces in. “Who’s gonna start this fight?” One of the goons groaned as if he were a monster incapable of talking and pointed at William, smirking.

    “I want this one,” he said beginning to walk towards William as the other one approached me. We both punched our goons and, despite the feeling of punching a rock I had in my fist, they both immediately fell. William looked down and shrugged,

    “Sorry,” he smirked, “touch of death.” He turned to high-five me. Ever since that deal he’d made we’d been invincible and what better thing to do when you’re the most powerful being on Earth but go make some money. So, we went down to the casino with our new powers and counted cards. However, as Williams hand came closer to mine we both realized our flaw. Deals with the devil never turn out good and, oh though we knew that, it was fun while it lasted. Once our hands met we both fell like the goons had. I wondered what would the pit boss think when he came back to see no one “roughed up” as he had planned, but instead everyone dead without a scratch on them. The man we’d made the deal with was suddenly in the room too, the devil. I wanted to turn my head to look over to see if William was seeing him too but I couldn’t, I was dead. We had high-fived, died, and now the devil was here to take us away, forever.

    “Sorry,” the red beast smiled, as if people could laugh while looking it in its fiery eyes, “touch of death.

  18. Carlos Hammer says:

    Touch of Death

    “Your friends been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here,” the pit boss said gesturing towards William who was standing surprisingly defiantly in the corner of the concrete room.

    “You see how much we care?” William said waving his hands like there was still a drink in them. I looked from the pit boss to the two mean looking men on either side of them. Dressed in the same clothing, wearing the same ugly face that said:

    “We’re ready to beat you any time, just waitin’ for a signal.” But, like William, I didn’t care about the goons or the pit boss at all.

    “Yeah, we’re shaking,” I nudged William and smiled. He smiled back, we could take these guys.

    “Very well,” the pit boss said, “I’ll just leave you alone with my… friends… and let them talk to you about what we do to cheaters,” and he exited the isolated room.

    “So,” William looked at the two large men. They looked like they belonged in comic books rather than standing here, in real life, about to pound our faces in. “Who’s gonna start this fight?” One of the goons groaned as if he were a monster incapable of talking and pointed at William, smirking.

    “I want this one,” he said beginning to walk towards William as the other one approached me. We both punched our goons and, despite the feeling of punching a rock I had in my fist, they both immediately fell. William looked down and shrugged,

    “Sorry,” he smirked, “touch of death.” He turned to high-five me. Ever since that deal he’d made we’d been invincible and what better thing to do when you’re the most powerful being on Earth but go make some money. So, we went down to the casino with our new powers and counted cards. However, as Williams hand came closer to mine we both realized our flaw. Deals with the devil never turn out good and, oh though we knew that, it was fun while it lasted. Once our hands met we both fell like the goons had. I wondered what would the pit boss think when he came back to see no one “roughed up” as he had planned, but instead everyone dead without a scratch on them. The man we’d made the deal with was suddenly in the room too, the devil. I wanted to turn my head to look over to see if William was seeing him too but I couldn’t, I was dead. We had high-fived, died, and now the devil was here to take us away, forever.

    “Sorry,” the red beast smiled, as if people could laugh while looking it in its fiery eyes, “touch of death.

  19. Carlos Hammer says:

    Touch Of Death

    “Your friends been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here,” the pit boss said gesturing towards William who was standing surprisingly defiantly in the corner of the concrete room.

    “You see how much we care?” William said putting waving his hands like there was still a drink in them. I looked from the pit boss to the two mean looking men on either side of them. Dressed in the same clothing, wearing the same ugly face that said:

    “We’re ready to beat you any time, just waitin’ for a signal.” But, like William, I didn’t care about the goons or the pit boss at all.

    “Yeah, we’re shaking,” I nudged William and smiled. He smiled back. We could take these guys.

    “Very well,” the pit boss said, “I’ll just leave you alone with my… friends… and let them “talk” to you about what we do to cheaters,” and he exited the isolated room.

    “So,” William looked at the two large men. They looked like they belonged in comic books rather than standing here, in real life, about to pound our faces in. “Who’s gonna start this fight?” One of the goons groaned as if he were a monster incapable of talking and pointed at William, smirking.

    “I want this one,” he said beginning to walk towards William as the other one approached me. We both punched our goons and, despite the feeling of punching a rock I had in my fist, they both immediately fell. William looked down and shrugged,

    “Sorry,” he smirked, “touch of death.” He turned to high-five me. Ever since that deal he’d made we’d been invincible and what better thing to do when you’re the most powerful being on Earth but go make some money. So, we went down to the casino with our new powers and counted cards. However, as Williams hand came closer to mine we both realized our flaw. Deals with the devil never turn out good and oh though we knew that, it was fun while it lasted. Once our hands met we both fell like the goons had. I wondered what the pit boss would think when he came back to see no one “roughed up” as he had planned, but instead everyone dead without a scratch on them. The man we’d made the deal with was suddenly in the room too, the devil. I wanted to turn my head to look over to see if William was seeing him too but I couldn’t, I was dead. We had high-fived, died, and now the devil was here to take us away, forever.

    “Sorry,” the red beast smiled, as if people could laugh while looking it in its fiery eyes, “touch of death.

  20. Silver Sister says:

    I , too, especially liked the first paragraph. Good, strong start. Likening Greg’s head to a watermelon was a very telling image.

  21. snuzcook says:

    Okay, my face went through all sorts of contortions reading this story–which is a good thing.
    I absolutely loved the first two paragraphs–spare but rich with imagery and attitude (face grinning).
    The progression through the violence was well written and believable and incredibly graphic (eye squinting, grimacing).
    Then the alien thing — I was flailing (pun intended) to figure out how the tentacles fit in (eyebrows on top of my head). Was it hell like O.Tim said and Jason gets to torment Greg for eternity because he was disloyal? Or was the whole thing an alien induced illusion? Not quite clear on that.
    Overall, very entertaining!

  22. Trinity Apostol says:

    “I can’t believe you dragged me here.” Kaze groaned.

    He turned to his friend Eiji who was sitting at the table currently in a game of Black Jack. Eiji was sitting there dressed in his black and red-stripped button up with his nicest pair of jeans. Finally, a pair of Jordans on his feet and of course his fedora on his head to match. Eiji wasn’t paying any mind to Kaze as he was consulting with the dealer.

    “Hit me!” Eiji ordered.

    The dealer did as Eiji told and once again, Eiji won the game. Kaze looked nervous since this was bad. Though he knew Eiji was up to his no good tricks swindling his poor victims as usual. This must be the price to pay being friends with someone related to the Trickster God, Loki. However, Kaze think he went a little too far.

    “Okay maybe we should get out of here.” Kaze warned him.

    Kaze had a bad feeling about this. He wasn’t sure why, but he think it was time they got out of here before something happens. As usual, the self-absorbed Eiji ignored Kaze’s warning. Taking off his fedora and rubbing his snowy white hair, the young demi-god looked at his red haired friend before rolling his eyes in annoyance.

    “Stop being such a pansy.” Eiji told him. “I got this, nothing is going to happen.”

    Kaze sighed not saying anything more and watched the game continued. It wasn’t long before both Eiji and Kaze was grabbed by one of the security and brought back into the office. There stood a man behind of desk as his eyes narrowed with disapproval. Kaze swallowed hard since he knew this was bad. Eiji tried to play calm and play it cool as always. Kaze finally got the courage to ask though he was nervous.

    “What seems to be the problem, sir?” Kaze asked.

    “Your friend was counting cards.” The man replied.

    “Oh really, so what proof you got?” Eiji asked.

    Kaze shifted his gaze to Eiji with the expression: “Are you an idiot?” Eiji ignored him and the guy chuckled though it wasn’t one that seemed amused. He turned on his television in his office which showed him the camera of all of Eiji’s games.

    “So you’re telling me that you’re that lucky huh?” The man asked Eiji.

    Turning to the two boys another question seemed to arise. Arching his eyebrow the man leaned back in his chair before gazing at the two.

    “Don’t you two look a little young to be playing at a casino?”

    “How old do you think we are?” Eiji responded.

    ‘Oh crap.’ Kaze thought to himself. ‘We’re so screwed.’

    “All right smart ass, let me see some ID.” The man ordered.

    Eiji and Kaze exchanged glances since they knew that were in trouble. Eiji used his abilities to make fake IDs so that they can get into the casino. It may fool the other people but would his trick and illusions fool this guy?

  23. jmcody says:

    “Would you get a load of that one,” said Lenny, eyeing the security monitor.

    “Yeah,” said Vincent, “Check out the big eighties hair.”

    “Not the big hair, you dope… the big winnings. And the big mouth.”

    The bleach blonde on the monitor was screaming, jumping up and down and clapping with every hand she won. And she was winning every hand.

    “Nobody that stupid could be that good at Blackjack. She’s got to be cheating I just can’t figure out how.”

    Just then Lenny’s cell phone rang. “Yeah, boss, I see her. Counting cards? Yeah, she keeps looking at that guy she’s with, but all he’s doing is rolling his eyes and pretending he’s not with her.”

    “Can’t say I blame him,” muttered Vincent. “That is one tacky tomato.”

    Lenny hung up the phone. “Focus, dummy! We gotta go pick up the ditz.”

    At the blackjack table, the spandexed, hair-sprayed blonde clutched her cards to her cleavage, her long white talons curving around them like a fresh caught meal.

    “Larry, what do I do now?” she bellowed over her shoulder.

    “I think it’s time to go, Theresa ,” said Larry, who seemed to be desperately trying to become invisible.

    “Hit me again Claude!” she shouted at the dealer. And then there was Theresa doing her jiggly victory dance again. Only this time, her revelry was interrupted by a tap on the shoulder.

    “Excuse me, ma’am,” said Lenny, “please come with us.”

    “Oh, hey big fellas,” Theresa said, taking in the goon-sized Lenny and the even meatier Vincent. “What’s goin’ on?”

    “The Boss wants to talk to you.”

    “The Boss wants to talk to me? What for – gamblin’ tips?” She cackled at her own joke.

    “Step this way please. You too, sir” Vincent motioned to Larry.

    In a dimly lit basement room, The Boss sat behind a desk.

    “You’ve been counting cards, and we don’t like that here,” said The Boss.

    “Whattaya mean? I wasn’t countin’ no cards,” said Theresa. “Besides, everybody knows, there’s 52 of ‘em, silly!”

    “I don’t think you comprehend the trouble you’re in,” said The Boss.

    “Sir, she don’t know about no countin’ cards,” began Larry, “She’s just…”

    “Lar’, let me…” interrupted Theresa, suddenly becoming quiet and nervously licking her lips. “Ya see, I’m a medium, which means I can communicate with the dead.”

    “What kind of crap are you trying to pull…” said Lenny, advancing toward Theresa.

    “I see a mother figure,” Theresa began. “Did someone here lose a mother recently?”

    “Yeah, I lost my mother, just last month. What about it?” said The Boss.

    “Well, she says…” Theresa faltered. “No, I can’t say that…”

    “What? What does she say?” the boss’ interest was piqued.

    “Well, she had kind of a special name for you.”

    “Go ahead, say it. There’s no way you could know that. SAY IT!”

    “OK, if you insist. Loser. She said it, clear as day, that you always were a loser.”

    “Mommy!” the boss’ demeanor suddenly went soft and childlike.

    “Hey, I know who you are!” chimed Vincent. “You’re that lady from TV, what’s it… that Jersey Shore Madam!”

    “It’s Long Island, not Jersey. And I’m a medium, not a madam. Big difference,” said Theresa.

    “Can you believe this guy thinks we’re from Jersey?” Larry elbowed Theresa.

    “Ooh, me next! Do me next!” Vincent was jumping up and down and clapping. Lenny punched him in the arm.

    “You got a lotta spirits followin’ you around, and some of them ain’t so nice,” said Theresa.

    “Who?” demanded The Boss, “Who’s following me around?”

    “Oh, I don’t like these spirits. That’s it… I’m shuttin’em down,” said Theresa, “I surround myself with pure white light…”

    “Knock it off with the pure white light crap. I wanna know now who’s following me around, or would you rather talk about how you were counting cards?”

    “Okay, okay, geez…” said Theresa. “Does the name Dom mean anything to you?”

    The Boss blanched.

    “Says he was your business partner, but you double crossed him.”

    “Dom… that rat was trying to double cross me!” roared the boss. “You tell that no good son-of-a…”

    “He says he’s waitin’ for ya, and he ain’t exactly stayin’ in the penthouse, if you know what I mean.”

    The boss was standing and pacing now. ‘What… what… what do I do?” he looked desperately at Theresa.

    “Well, you could start by apologizing,” said Theresa, examining a chip in her manicure, “Just sayin’…”

    “I’m sorry!”

    “Ya gotta mean it, dummy! And ya gotta be a little more specific.”

    “I’m sorry I had to do it, Dominck, that I had to smoke you, but I couldn’t let you get away with it. It was you or me pal, and I wasn’t gonna be the one to end up in a trunk.”

    “I don’t think he’s feelin’ it” said Theresa.

    “Aw, Dom, we were pals, since we were kids. I didn’t wanna do it. What’d you have to go and get greedy for? I didn’t want to shoot you in the head and dump you in the desert.”

    “Hey, Boss?” Theresa interrupted him.

    “Yeah?” said the Boss shakily.

    “Dom says he’ll see ya in hell.”

    And with that, a swarm of FBI agents burst into the room, tackling Lenny, Vincent and The Boss all at once.

    “I’ve been busted by the Long Island Madam!” wailed Vincent.

    “It’s MEDIUM!” yelled Theresa. “Maddon’!”

    Once the trio had been cuffed and hauled away, “Theresa” pulled off her blonde bouffant wig, her sleek black hair tumbling to her shoulders. “I guess all those acting lessons paid off after all. My Mom would be so proud.”

    “Yeah, today Vegas, tomorrow Broadway” said “Larry,” ruefully shaking his head. “I should have been a pharmacist like my Dad told me.”

  24. Leond says:

    The Gambler

    “You’re friend’s been counting cards,” the man said, coldly and without emotion. “We don’t approve of that behavior.” In the dim lights, my eyes were drawn down to the glint of metal in his hands. I realized that it was a gun.
    I had a feeling that we weren’t going to get a reprimand and an escort out.
    But while I was sweating at whoever this man was, the gun in his hand and all the people standing around, Sam was remaining perfectly cool. He did that a lot. It scared me.
    “Yeah,” he answered. “I was. Your dealer was crooked. I was evening the odds.”
    The man smiled. “But you still kept on playing?”
    Sam shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a gambling man.”
    The man waved his hand, and all of the other people started to leave the room. “All for the better, because gambling is what I had in mind.” He slid the gun in his hand towards us. I noticed that it was a revolver. With six chambers.
    And, I realized instinctively, one bullet.
    “Here’s the deal,” he said. “You play an honest game of chance with your friend. Whichever of you wins goes home. And if neither of you play…” He reached in his pocked “Neither of you go home.”
    Sam laughed. He picked up the gun almost mechanically, spun the barrel, pointed it at his head and fired. For a second, I could almost hear the bang. But there wasn’t one. Just a click.
    And then, he slid the gun towards me. I reached out towards it, hesitantly, then pulled my hand back. Then I reached out again, but I couldn’t get the strength.
    Sam picked it up spun it, then leaned towards me, holding it out. I heard him whisper in my ear “Don’t worry. It won’t go off.”
    So I took it. I trusted Sam. Sam was a good gambler and he had tricks up his sleeve. I didn’t know what he had done this time, but at least I knew I was safe for now.
    The gun clicked. The man laughed. “You two are good players. But the game’s only just begun. Remember. One of you leaves.”
    Same took the gun, spun. Then took a breath. He held up the gun…
    And then pointed it at the man and fired. The man dropped back. There were brains spattered on the wall.
    “Get his gun,” he said. “The guards won’t be expecting that and they won’t be expecting to of us. We can escape.”

    Two hours later, back at the hotel, I finally could ask the question. “How’d you know?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “That the gun wouldn’t go off when I fired it. And that it would when you fired it at him.”
    Sam shrugged. “I didn’t. It wouldn’t be gambling if I did. And what can I say? I’m a gambling man.”

  25. PeterW says:

    Ace of Spades: the muscle, three ex-Iraqi veterans with anger issues, beat the shit out of your friend, punch you in the throat; then drive you out to Moapa Valley. They dump onto the sand and the pit-boss, sleek nosed, Italian, flicks a single blue chip out the window of the black SUV. “Better luck, boys” is the last thing he says. The morning sky is a bruise, and in the east, a pupil-less eye half-opened upon a ridge.

    Ace of Diamonds: sunset and red neon and green felt. Theater-lights fixated on the table. Where the cards slide, the chips stick, and the fingers tap, the mouths harmonize in endless chatter. Your drinks perspire. Your armpits perspire. You are both in undersized suit coats. Matthew is wearing his father shoes circa 1980. He keeps winning. Every-hand. Then his drink is only ice-cubes. He nods his shaggy head to the dealer, to the table, collects his chips. You exit w/ cash. You ask, “Man, do you count the cards?” He says, “Lets buy some new clothes.”

    Ace of Clubs: you are left alone in the back room of the Magdalena. It is the kind of room that has a latticework of pipes overhead. “Shit, shit,” says Matthew. “I’ll talk to them,” you say. Then the pit-boss is back. “Sir…” you say. “Shut the fuck up,” he says; then to Matthew, “you like games of chance?” Matthew shakes his head. “I did not think so.” “Sir, this is bullshit and illegal, we didn’t do anything.” The pit-boss punches you in the throat and you hit the concrete, gagging. He shows Matthew a blue chip. “I give you a chance. You guess the side, I let you leave unharmed. Ok, boy?” Matthew nods.

    Ace of Hearts: all streets are a whir of headlights, taillights, pedestrian voices, glitter, flush, and sidelined with vast palaces of adult fantasy. The taxi door slamming and the dry desert air. A late-night suit-shop seems ridiculous, but in this city, well here it is. There, Matthew insists; you say, “Man, I will pay you back.” He says, “No need, no need.” The large black man who has fitted you in pants, shirt, suit-coat, shoes, ties, hands Matthew and you business cards. “For your hair. Yes, boys it is still open.” he says. Back in the street, you say, “ To the hair-dressers then?” Matthew shakes his shaggy head; his gleaming eyes seize the white dome a block down. “There, the Magdalena,” he says. He turns those eyes, full of neon and sparkle and streetlight, on you. You shake his hand. Reciprocal grins. True friends.

    • don potter says:

      Your imagination and sense of drama are true gifts. This post was unique and a good read.

    • agnesjack says:

      As usual, PeterW, you’ve created a haunting, beautifully descriptive atmosphere here — the use of the Aces was very nice. It all fits the feral fantasies of the Vegas strip.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        You paint scenery, moods and characters like a master painter creates images either from real life or from imagination. You’re driving my witless, PeterW. I have to learn how to do this. It’s hypnotic in beauty and character.

    • snuzcook says:

      Each of these vignettes is well drawn. I imagined each is a scene opening with the turn of a card.
      Very nicely and tightly done.
      My linear mind was second-guessing your intent: were the cards being dealt from the bottom of the deck, so the Ace of Spades scene was the end of the story? Or were they in a forward progression from Spade to Heart, so the newly suited friends are drawn back to the Magdelana and more risky business?
      Final cut? Loved it!

  26. mongoose says:

    “I thought this was a casino or am I bloody mad?” I retorted.

    “You’re attracting the kind of attention we’re avoiding. You’ll have to leave.” A man said. His nametag said Ivan and he spoke in a gruff voice and gave off the smell of something sinister, almost evil.

    My friend, Arnie, the one winning big, was having a hard time holding his tongue. He was never one to hold his tongue anyways, ever since middle school he was always so outspoken. So outspoken he ran for debate team president and won without the nearest lick of competition!

    “I have a right to be playin’ casino games in a casino! No old coots gonna’ tell me otherwise.”
    Arnie tried for the door but there was a blockade of muscular men in black suits guarding it with arms like military tanks.
    “I’m an old coot huh?”

    “Yeah! So lemme out before I call the dogs!” Arnie yelled angrily.

    “Ain’t no dogs gonna hear once I’m through with ya!”

    Everything happened so quickly it’s almost impossible to recount them in perfect sequence. I remember a pistol. I remember blood. I remember black cotton undershirts that gave off the stench of pork. I remember Arnie screaming my name. Ludwig, Ludwig please help, he screamed. Then there was black. I remember waking up in a burning casino with Ivan waiting outside. I remember a chopper, one of the big kind, takin’ us away to Thai. I remember rice.

    Rice was Arnie’s favorite meal, if his mom had allowed it, he would’ve had rice for every meal back in high school.

    Everything, he would say, tastes better with rice.

    Too bad he isn’t here to taste this Thai stuff.
    Ivan had kept me locked p day in, day out, only feedin’ me a bowl of tongue-burning Thai rice with some California Rolls. One day while I was eating a C-roll, I spotted a tiny sticky.

    kill the prisoner, it said, written in no caps, as if it was just a passing statement. An ordinary thing. kill the prisoner. As if it was written in the books of etiquette.

    That was the day I lost my appetite.

  27. mongoose says:

    “I thought this was a casino or am I bloody mad?” I retorted.

    “You’re attracting the kind of attention we’re avoiding. You’ll have to leave.” A man said. His nametag said Ivan and he spoke in a gruff voice and gave off the smell of something sinister, almost evil.

    My friend, Arnie, the one winning big, was having a hard time holding his tongue. He was never one to hold his tongue anyways, ever since middle school he was always so outspoken. So outspoken he ran for debate team president and won without the nearest lick of competition!

    “I have a right to be playin’ casino games in a casino! No old coots gonna’ tell me otherwise.”
    Arnie tried for the door but there was a blockade of muscular men in black suits guarding it with arms like military tanks.

    “I’m an old coot huh?”

    “Yeah! So lemme out before I call the dogs!” Arnie yelled angrily.

    “Ain’t no dogs gonna hear once I’m through with ya!”

    Everything happened so quickly it’s almost impossible to recount them in perfect sequence. I remember a pistol. I remember blood. I remember black cotton undershirts that gave off the stench of pork. I remember Arnie screaming my name.

    Ludwig, Ludwig please help, he screamed.

    Then there was black. I remember waking up in a burning casino with Ivan waiting outside. I remember a chopper, one of the big kind, takin’ us away to Thai. I remember rice.

    Rice was Arnie’s favorite meal, if his mom had allowed it, he would’ve had rice for every meal back in high school.

    Everything, he would say, tastes better with rice.

    Too bad he isn’t here to taste this Thai stuff.
    Ivan had kept me locked up day in, day out, only feedin’ me a bowl of tongue-burning Thai rice with some California Rolls. One day while I was eating a C-roll, I spotted a tiny sticky.

    kill the prisoner, it said, written in no caps, as if it was just a passing statement. An ordinary thing. kill the prisoner. As if it was written in the books of etiquette.

    That was the day I lost my appetite.

  28. PLANNING
    ========

    Everything was going according to plan. Everyone had their roles to play. Amy was dealing and Scott was running the table, losing just enough to keep the eye-in-the-sky at bay. Just the same, Billie became increasingly nervous. The pit boss had taken an interest in their little fiction. Amy warned them that Big Mikey stood as the wild card. She nudged Scott in the ribs and said “He’s here’.

    Her brother frowned at the interruption. “So?” he said to her. “I got this.”

    Amy knew that look very well. They’d been down this road before. The signs screamed at them to stop. Statisitics and an eidetic memory were no substitute for situational awareness. That was her job.

    “Seriously, Scott. Let’s cash out. You promised we’d go dancing. It’s my birthday after all.”

    “You’d better listen to the lady,” said Amy, shuffling. She shot her eyes quickly to Mikey and back to Scott. He finally understood.

    He passed her a chip. “A tip for you, Miss. Time… to dance!” said Scott in a flourish of latino posturing. He hooked his arm around Billie’s waist, pecked her cheek and made for the door as swiftly as they dared.

    Big Mikey blocked their egress. “The House would like to thank you for your patronage and comp your evening. Please follow me.” It wasn’t a question.

    The siblings were led to a back room, accompanied by some toughs who Billie dubbed Beefcake One and Beefcake Two. The small space was poorly lit and smelled of coppery dust. It was hot. The lock clicked and the duo were alone.

    “Don’t say anything,” said Billie quietly. “We’ll be okay.” However, there was little evidence that would be the case. Scott didn’t deal with stress well; people like him needed structure. They were off plan and things were about to go very badly.

    “We only needed to play one more hand,” he said. “One more hand.”

    The door opened suddenly and Amy was shoved inside. Her eye was blackened, blood dotted her blouse and her arm hung strangely. She was crying. Scott charged the door and was met with a fist. He crumpled uselessly to the floor and the lock clicked again.

    Billie found some linens on a shelf and fashioned a sling for Amy. Without water, there was little else that could be done.

    “It’s not as bad as it looks,” said Amy. “Mikey had to make it look authentic.”

    Billie glanced at Scott, who was starting to come around, then back to Amy. “What are you talking about?” she asked.

    “Trust us,” said Amy.

    “So, Mikey’s in on it? That’s a four-way split. That wasn’t part of the deal.”

    “Better that than a desert grave. I had to improvise.”

    “You have a point.”

    “How’s Scott?” asked Amy, wincing uncomfortably.

    “He’ll be fine once we get out of here. We are getting out of here, right?”

    The door opened again and Big Mikey entered. “Let’s go. We have ten minutes.”

    The girls helped Scott to his feet. “Where are we going?” he slurred.

    “Baja,” said the larger man.

    “Are things all arranged?” asked Amy.

    “Yeah. The car’s just outside the emergency exit.”

    “The cash?”

    “Benny took his 20% of chips off the top, but the rest is cash in the trunk.”

    “Good. Thanks, Mikey. There’s just one thing left.”

    “What’s that?”

    “It’s only a three-way split. Sorry.” Amy grabbed a pistol off the top shelf and shot Mikey between the eyes. The big man dropped like a stone.

    “Where’d that come from?” asked Billie.

    “What can I say? I’m a planner.” She smiled and kissed Billie warmly.

  29. bilbobaggins321 says:

    I guess I should have picked up somewhere along the line that choosing to be a roommate with “Rowdy Jeff” wasn’t going to help my writing skills. Especially on that one certain Sunday.

    “Touchdown!” He roared, dancing around the sofa, his hand pumping. “Yeah! Woooo-hoo!”
    I sighed wearily. For the tenth time, he tugged at my arm.

    “C’mon! You said you would watch!”
    “I’m trying to write here,” I replied, annoyed.

    “Whatever you’re writing can’t be more important than this.” He paused from his tirade to look back at the screen. “Go Seahawks! Come on, you can do better than that!” He did another jig.

    “It’s my future livelihood,” I snapped, “once I get out of here, eventually. Besides, it’s about this guy in a casino. You dad used to have a gambling addiction, right? See, this is important.”

    He collapsed back into the sofa. “Writing’s for sissies, except when there’s crime involved.”
    “Yeah, well, there is,” I countered, “this guy is falsely accused of counting cards, by some goons that drag him into some white room with clubs.”

    He was the couch potato who found a heads-up penny every two steps, while I was the genius who had my security system stolen. I just couldn’t make sense of it. In addition, he was the finest junk connoisseur in the entire Tri-State area. I still vividly remember when he cried himself to sleep the night that Twinkies were discontinued.

    “Oh, so torture and all that stuff are included?” I nodded.
    “How about he gets all of these dots on his skin and he suddenly collapses and dies?!”
    I held up my hand. “Hold on, let’s stop thinking irrationally here…”

    “And then the doors swing open and there’s two 8 foot tall guys just standing there with two Gatling guns, and they just spray the whole place until the walls are red!”
    I scribbled the ideas hurriedly on my pad, whilst peering at him with looks of derision.

    “What a silly idea, Jeff. The main character has to survive, somehow…”
    The cow kept on giving milk. “Yeah, but, then…” he chewed cud for a few seconds, “then he somehow springs up from his chair into a ventilation shaft right before they open up, and he sneaks into this underground ninja hideout, so they give him a katana, and he just cleans out the casino!”

    I casually went to the tiny kitchen and poured some pop. “Does he get any other weapons?”
    “None, Chuck.” He popped a Ruffle in his mouth, practically swallowing it whole. “Not to mention that he hooks up with that dealer at the roulette two tables down.”

    I took advantage of his relaxed state to sneak out. “What an imagination you have. Now let me go upstairs and type out this wonderful idea that just popped into my head.”

    So, here I am. I’ve launched five books off of his ideas I’ve collected in my notebook. And he’s still unwittingly chewing on his favorite bag of chips every evening. Some days I consider telling him. But I never do. I just attest to it in my own way. Whenever anyone asks where I get my ideas, I point to the living room, to the faint sounds of the commentators.

    “There’s the real bestseller.” And I quietly steal upstairs for another look at the bottom of my glass.

    (I was extremely uncertain as to whether I should post this or not, since it isn’t really about the prompt at all, but I didn’t want this idea to be wasted. Go hobbits! I think I forgot to add that last time.)

  30. Observer Tim says:

    I AM NOT POSTING COMMENTS TOO QUICKLY! STOP LYING TO ME, WORDPRESS!

    Now that’s out of my system, I’ll go back to reading responses.

  31. don potter says:

    “Let’s go boys,” the biggest of the burly guys said as my friend, Cliff, and I were muscled away from the casino — leaving a stack of chips on the table — and into a windowless back room.

    “Hey what’s going on? We were just playing blackjack. Can’t stand to see somebody win at this casino?” I stated defiantly.

    “You can win but you can’t do it by counting cards,” the pit boss said as he entered the room and the thugs pushed the two of us down onto a couple of folding chairs. “We don’t approve of that here.”

    “What are you talking about?” I protested.

    “Your friend knows,” the boss said waving his clenched fist in Cliff’s face.

    “I wasn’t doing it the entire time. I just started when the new dealer came on.” Cliff stuttered and sputtered as he spit out the incriminating words.

    “He’s guilty and you are too,” Mr. Pit Boss said as he turned to me and took off his casino blazer with the hotel logo emblazoned on the front pocket.

    “We have our rights,” I said. “I insist on speaking to the casino manager.”

    “You’ll speak to him when I’m finished with you.”

    “Don’t hurt me,” Cliff stammered.

    “Stop acting like a baby. You were man enough to try cheating us out of money, so be man enough to take your punishment.”

    “He suffers from a disorder and may go into a seizure if he’s under too much stress.”

    “Cut out the crap.” The boss said as he rolled up both sleeves, exposing Popeye-size forearms along with a faded tattoo partially hidden by matted black hair.

    Before the man could take any action, Cliff raised his hand to his mouth and coughed. He slipped to the floor and began flopping around like a freshly landed trout. Bubbling saliva oozed from his mouth.

    “Get ‘em out of here,” the boss said. “Don’t want anybody dying on us.”

    Next thing we knew Cliff and I were outside on the loading dock, all alone.

    “You okay?” I said to him.

    “Think so, but let’s scram before they decide to come back and check on us.”

    We scurried to the hotel across The Strip. The valet brought us our car. And we headed back to LA. Once safely on Route 15, Cliff handed me a bunch of bills from his pocket. I added his stack of Benjamins to mine, turned on the map light, and began to count our winnings.

    “Good thing I kept cashing in the chips throughout the evening,” I said.

    “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without my pulling off the acting job of my life,” Cliff said, proudly.

    “But whose idea was it to do the seizure routine and pop an Alka Seltzer into your mouth to make the frothing look authentic?” I replied.

    “Let’s just say you’re the director and I’m the star of the show,” Cliff allowed.

    “Yeah, but we won’t be appearing in Vegas again for a long, long time.”

  32. agnesjack says:

    Rusty hated casinos — the sounds, the smells, the claustrophobic dimness. He remembered this woman, Edie, who would play the dollar slots. She’d sit there with a cigarette hanging from cracked red lips, her black hair piled haphazardly on her round head, and a too-tight tank top that was always peppered with cigarette ash. Rusty was a kid at the time, but he never forgot the motion of her fat arm feeding the ravenous maw of the machine with coin after coin after coin.

    “Watch the kid, Edie, would ya?” his dad would say before disappearing into the sunless, timeless recesses of the casino. His dad always dumped him on Edie because he knew she wouldn’t abandon him when Security made him leave because of his age. She’d just take him to a private poker game, or buy him ice cream if she had the extra cash.

    After his dad died of lung cancer, Rusty ended up in foster care. He met his wife Mo in one of the homes when they were both sixteen. They hit it off immediately because her mom had died young and her dad had been an alcoholic. Mo’s real name was Maureen, but Rusty learned early on not to call her that. It’s what her dad had called her.

    It was Mo’s idea to stop in Vegas on their way to Colorado, where Rusty had an offer of construction work. The thought terrified him, so he insisted they go to one of the newer casinos away from the main strip.

    “One hour, Mo, O.K.?” he said, as they pulled into the parking lot. He felt sick just being there.

    “Yeah, yeah, I know, babe. It’s O.K. It’ll be fun,” she said and kissed his cheek.

    Rusty didn’t want to gamble, so he stood behind Mo at the blackjack table. She was pretty good and started to win. At first, it was exciting, but when an hour passed and then two, Rusty started to get nervous. The electric look that he had seen too many times in his father’s eyes was beginning to creep into Mo’s.

    “Come on, Mo. Gotta go.”

    “Just one more hand,” she said for the twentieth time.

    Finally, he excused himself saying he had to go pee. When he came back, he was a little edgy but Mo didn’t even notice. She was fully zoned in now.

    Suddenly, a big security guy came up and put a hand on Mo’s shoulder.

    “You’re done here, Miss,” he said.

    “What? What the h—,” she said, as he pulled her to her feet and grabbed her chips.

    In the room in the back, the Manager made Mo feel like a criminal.

    “No one gets away with counting cards in my casino. Got that, Maureen? Now, get them outta here!”

    The security guy escorted them out and when they got to the door he held it for Mo, then he stopped Rusty and gave him a quick smile and a wink, which Rusty returned.

    “Let’s not do that again,” Mo said a little shakily when they got into the car.

    “O.K. with me,” Rusty said with relief.

    • Tannai says:

      I’m Supposed To Be Getting Married But…
      Michael loosened the pearl tie around his neck, and removed his dark tuxedo jacket, placing it on the bar stool beside him.
      He gave a heavy sigh. “I’m supposed to be getting married,” he said looking forward, away from me. He called the bar tender over and ordered a considerably large amount of shots for himself. One after the other they were downed.
      “I’m, I’m supposed to be getting married.”
      It had occurred to me that when I’d invited him to the pub I’d need to present some part of the conversation, but his performance seemed to have taken the words I so eagerly wanted to confess to him, since our break up nearly two years ago.
      “I’m supposed to-”
      “Be getting married.” I interrupted. The words began to sit too heavily on my conscious, so I reached over, grabbed a few of his refilled shots and began drowning my thoughts with the liquor.
      One after the other we drank. The bar tender eagerly passed us our next set while tallying the bill. There were no words spoken for what felt like a long couple of minutes. We both drank, the way we did together in our younger days; sitting on a bare kitchen floor, the refrigerator wide open. Our legs interlaced as we fed each other shot after shot. Drinking games that always led to passionate eventful nights followed by hungry mornings.
      It began to feel as though both he and I drank to memories through the silence. His hand wobbled for a second as his fourth glass of liquor slipped out of his hand; spilling all over his right pants leg. His tolerance had finally been breached.
      He took another heavy sigh and turned himself to face me. We looked at each other for a good moment. His eyes sung of apologies and missed memories. The tension between caused my brown eyes to spill lustful tears.
      He placed his hand in his pocket and removed a small black phone. Dialed a number and waited for its receiver.
      “Michael, Michael, I love you!” A frantic feminine voice shakily yelled.
      His eyes glued to mine, he reached over and held my hand. Warm and familiar, I placed my remaining hand on his.
      “Michael, I love you. Where are you?”
      “Julia. I’m supposed to be getting married to you, but…”

      • Observer Tim says:

        Interesting story, Tannai. I like the way Michael is stuck like a broken record on the one phrase.

        I have two nits to pick, neither directly related to the story. First, it’s posted on the wrong prompt, and second it’s posted as a comment to someone else’s story. Many people have been caught by these, so it’s not a major problem. Just something to watch out for.

    • don potter says:

      Your description of Edie was typical of those poor souls who hang out in the low-end casinos on Fremont in downtown Vegas. The people there are sadder than those frequenting the neighborhood casinos. “The sunless, timeless recesses of the casino,” said it all. Nicely done.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thanks, don. I spent about thirty minutes in a Las Vegas casino when I was much younger. I saw so many people like Edie. I thought it was one of the most depressing places I’d ever been in, and I guess the experience really stuck with me.

    • don potter says:

      Sorry, Nancy. I posted my comment following the story below, so please scowl down.

    • don potter says:

      I can’t believe it, but I did it again. Both my posts intended for you can be seen below.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Nice human twist at the end Nancy. He must really love her a lot to protect her from the spell of the gamble. Two people who weren’t given an even chance in life, to find each other in love, is sweet and romantic. I know people like this that have climbed out of the darkness of life. You portray it beautifully and heartfelt. Way above par on this.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thanks so much, Kerry. I’ve known people like this, too, and I’ve always wondered how they had the strength to climb out of the pit they were born into. The resilience of the human spirit, I guess.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Nancy, for some reason, my answer also is below after the story below along with Don’s. At least, I’m in good company. Kerry

    • Observer Tim says:

      Rusty is a clever manipulator, Nancy. I guess that’s the advantage of having grown up in the casinos. You told the tale well, and it’s heartwarming in a Las Vegas kind of way. Great story and inspiring.

      It looks like you won the lottery this week (the prize is to have someone post their story on top of yours so linking the comments to the story doesn’t work). I wish I could think of a way to stop this from happening, but I can’t think of anything that WordPress can do about it.

      • agnesjack says:

        Rusty had to learn to survive and that instinct carried over to protecting Mo, with whom he had such a special bond. Yet, maybe, the instinct was really to protect himself from having someone he cared about fall into that abyss.

    • agnesjack says:

      To all who commented on the story posted above. This happened because Tannai posted his/her story in the reply section for my story instead of at the posting place for a new story at the bottom. I’ve seen this happen before. It’s an easy mistake for a new member.

    • This is a great vignette. I enjoyed the imagery very much. Edie is a sad and realistic character.

    • snuzcook says:

      Good story. Love it when someone does something sneaky for the right reasons and it works out.

    • Silver Sister says:

      Great characterization! Lots of good writing here. I enjoyed it.

    • jmcody says:

      Redemption amidst the wreckage… a classic and beautiful theme. Thank you, agnesjack.

  33. lionetravail says:

    “Your friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of dat here.”

    “What friend?” I said.

    “Dat one,” the pit boss, dressed in a slick 3-piece suit and with hair slicked back to make me think suddenly of Andy Garcia, said, jerking his thumb over to his right.

    “I don’t have any…” I started to say, but as I looked over where he’d been pointing I saw that there was someone sitting in a chair mirroring mine, slightly catty-corner to the desk. “Wait, who the hell is that?” I said.

    “Dat’s what I was asking you, bonehead,” Andy said menacingly.

    I stared at the guy in the other chair, trying to place him. He had a day or two’s growth of stubble, dark hair, a deeply cleft chin, and a little deprecating head bob that made me think of George Clooney. I had no idea who he was.

    “We’re not friends,” I said. “I’ve never even seen that guy before!”

    Andy looked around at the bruisers scattered around the room and behind me. “Uh huh, dat’s why you two came in to da place togeddah and were buddy-buddy at da table, right?”

    This was impossible. I had no idea what he was talking about, and I was starting to get frightened. I could feel my heart beating faster and my breath come faster. I didn’t know that guy, I didn’t even know what casino I was in… I didn’t remember coming in, for all that, though it felt like I had… and here I was…

    Suddenly, I heard one of those movie-quality *thuds* and saw that one of the toughs had moved from the back corner and socked George in the chin so hard he went over backwards in the chair, hitting the ground with an “Ooof!”

    I looked back to see Andy Garcia in closeup, eyes maybe 2 inches from mine, and my heart took another leap. “And you’re gonna get it worse, ’cause I hate people what come in ta rip me off,” he said in a low, venomous voice.

    As I heard George rolling on the floor, I felt the extreme urge to pee.

    “Low life punks,” Andy was saying. “Come in to my club naked and rip me off?”

    Wait, what? I looked down and realized I had no clothes on. When…?

    “First I’m gonna have dem beat da snot outta ya, then we’re gonna take you for a drive out to see the desert, unless you goddamn WAKE UP!”

    I came awake to Holly saying: “David, please, wake up, you’re having a nightmare!”

    It was dark. I was upright in bed, half covered in blanket and sheets showing evidence of a good thrashing. “Holy crap,” I said weakly. I so had to pee.

    “Was it that ‘Oceans 11’ thing again?” Holly said, sympathetically.

    I didn’t say anything as I sat there, listening to my thudding heart slow and thinking about the bathroom. Instead, I had one crystalline thought.

    “I am SUCH a freaking loser!”

  34. megsylegsy says:

    Sorry I’m a bit late to the party but I did manage to get it down to 500 :D

    “I’ll just bet you don’t”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “Looked like there were a coupl’a cards missing there, pal. Makes it mighty hard to win a game honestly with only half the pack.”

    The words barely leave my mouth before a hand smashes me across the chin. I taste blood, metallic and thick on my lips. I catch Daniel’s eye and laugh, turning back to the pit boss in front of me.

    “I really wouldn’t do that if I were you mate”

    The heavy looks at me like I’m a few fries short of a Happy Meal and shoves his ugly snout into mine.

    “Oh yeah? What are you gonna do about it? Eh, wiseguy?”

    I look across at Daniel again and smile. There’s a savage ferocity lurking behind his dark eyes and the fire’s starting to kindle. I smirk back at the slab; this is going to be fun.

    “Alright mate, your funeral.”

    The goon turns to his pack and laughs, like he can’t believe I could be that stupid. He spins round and catches me full across face, sending me and the chair crashing to the ground. My head cracks against the stone floor and for a second there’s a complete blackout. I hear the men laughing, like this guy’s just cracked the joke of the century. By the look on Daniel’s face, the jokes about to be on them.

    I picked Daniel up a while back now. Crazy guy, wild but fiercely loyal. He was devoted to Sam, would do anything for him. He was absolutely crushed when he… when he died; ruined by Festry and his casinos.
    Time for vengeance. Time for justice.

    Daniel sprang into action, easily wrenching his hands free from the plastic ties holding him to the chair. Then just as easily wrenching the pit boss’ arm from its socket. He won’t find it so easy to sock people from now on. Daniel makes quick work of the others and I wriggle free of my own bonds to join in. A few more punches, coupl’a well-aimed kicks and we’re home free.

    “Now then,” I say to the slightly-still-conscious pitboss, “the computer control room would be where, exactly?”

    He stares at me in disbelief, then shakes his head, grimacing at the pain in his arm. Daniel leans forward, grabbing his bad arm and twisting the other.

    “Don’t make me break your other arm” he growls.

    The pit boss gasps, his eyes begging for mercy. But where was Sam’s mercy? I harden my heart.

    “Where is it?”

    “Up the corridor, down the stairs, second on the right”

    There’s a sharp snap, a piercing scream and the pit boss slumps at our feet. I shoot Daniel a questioning look. He stares straight back at me and opens the door.

    “Shall we?”

    “After you”

    I smile; Festry’s gonna lose a hell of a lot of money tonight.

  35. thejim says:

    Two well-built figures ominously watched over them. The cash they desperately needed is gone now. They would never be able to raise that kind of money in enough time. Kevin glanced over to Terence to see a slight grin on his face.

    “Don’t worry my friend I have this.”

    Three more well-dressed men walked in, two bodyguards and Tom Capaloni, the pit boss.

    “It would appear that you two boys have been counting cards.”

    Terence stood up and confidently approached the men. The two body guards moved in to intercept. Capaloni held out his hand motioning for them to stop. Briefly Terence’s eyes examined each man in the room then with the calmest voice began to speak.

    “My Dear Sir, it would appear that we have been discovered and our endeavor has been thwarted, but I have a proposition for you.”

    The Capaloni smirked. “I do not think you’re in any position…”

    “Oh, I know my position. I know more that you think.”

    “Is that so?”

    Terence’s head was buzzing like a nasty swarm of bees. Up close the bees are all moving in separate directions but stand back and you see the hive is of one single mind and movement.

    “I know you’re having an affair with a younger woman and have self-confidence issues with your weight.”

    Capaloni reached out and grabbed Terence by the shirt and drew him in quickly to his chest, “What are you talking about maggot?”

    Terence with a smooth relaxing voice explained. “Scratches of a feline on your hand if it was your cat, a man of your…ah… stature, would have gotten rid of it but since it is your girlfriend you tolerate it.

    A confused look came over Capaloni, he glanced over to his hand and slowly release the now crinkled shirt.

    “It would appear that you were at her place within, I would say, the last hour. If you would have went home you would have brushed off the cat hair so your wife would not notice There are two cats, one slept on the sleeve of your coat the other brushed up on your leg. Your girlfriend she is younger than you correct?”

    All he could do was nod in agreement. Terence shot a grin over his shoulder at Kevin.

    “You have a recent ear piercing, denoted by the redness around your lobe. You are trying new things just to keep up with her. You have recently lost weight, your wedding ring is almost ready to fall off your hand the collar of your shirt is too loose. You have not bought any new shirts suggesting you struggle with your weight, thinking you might gain it back.”

    The Capaloni’s finger reached up and lightly touched his collar.

    “One other thing you may not know is that 2 of your guards are in a spicy relationship together. Easy enough to spot, eyes contact, the cheesy smile they give each other when you came in, matching shirts and the same cologne, hard outer shell of over compensation, almost walking in swinging their meat.

    Terence stopped talking a moment just long enough for the silence in the room to become bothersome.

    “So I have a proposition for you.”

    “Go on I am listening.”

    “I have an uncommon aptitude, a proclivity for spontaneous understanding of the ambiguous. With this insight I can predict a winner with only 3% margin of error. My forte is, but not inclusive to, horse racing or greyhounds.”

    “If this is true why have you not done it yet?”

    “I have no need for money it is only a distraction and waste of time and energy. Knowledge and only knowledge is the true wealth. I will predict the race before hand and you will place the bets and then reap the benefits. To get this information you need to let us leave and leave right now. There can be no hesitation, we must be able to leave at this moment. Here is my phone number and address you can follow us but we need to leave as soon as possible.”

    “Ok I’ll let you go but I will be following you and I expect you to be back here tomorrow so we can test out what you are saying.”

    Terence and Kevin moved quickly out the door and made their way to the street.

    Terence looked over to Kevin and said, “That was close, I could feel the drug wearing off, for a while all I could think about was a taco. Where did we part the car again? I don’t remember. I want a taco. You want a taco? I want a taco.”

    “I better drive.” Kevin said as he grabbed the keys from Terry’s hand

    • don potter says:

      I enjoyed the two men one-upping each other by demonstrating how observant they were. Nice touch.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Okay, the drug has to be something that lowers other people’s resistance to BS. Wonderfully clever, theJim.

    • Great banter between the two alpha males. Was fun to read.

    • Reaper says:

      I love the voice, especially the switch to second person for a moment. Being a guy that has been struggling with his weight for a while I don’t think the drug lowers tolerance to BS. Most people when you point that out get really self conscious and ready to listen because it’s a thing that shouldn’t be scary to have pointed out and yet it is. Mostly I love the line Up close the bees are all moving in separate directions but stand back and you see the hive is of one single mind and movement. Very Stephen King which I mean as high praise.

  36. jhowe says:

    I scratched the maroon felt surface with a come hither motion and the somewhat attractive redheaded dealer laid a six on me. We were playing at Circus Circus because it was one of the few casinos on the Las Vegas Strip where you could find a decent hand held game without the funky rules. The atmosphere was lacking but that wasn’t why we were here. We were here to play Blackjack and we were here to win.

    The dealers name was Cherri and she collected all bets after skanking out a twenty-one with six cards. Not good for this hand but it left the deck rich in tens and aces. I put out a red chip, the table minimum and drummed my fingers on the felt. A few seats down, my buddy Larry caught my signal and pushed out four black chips, four hundred dollars. He toyed with his substantial stack of chips as the cards were dealt. I busted my hand but Larry won with a twenty. A few hands later the deck was in our favor again and I drummed my fingers.

    A voice behind me said, “Are you a musician Mr. Woodward?”

    I shrugged. He knew my name. Shit.

    “Sherri, please color up the chips for Mr. Woodward and Mr. Frank. They have an appointment that is a matter of some urgency.”

    The security office was cramped and bustling with activity. We were ushered into a small room and left alone.

    “What the hell do we do Steve?” Larry said. His forehead shone with sweat and his restless leg syndrome was in full gear.

    I shook my head slightly. We were surely being watched. Larry detected my meaning and kept quiet. A short time later two men came in. One sat in a chair behind the desk, the other stood behind us. My peripheral glance caught a drop of sweat falling from Larry’s brow.

    “Gentlemen, my name is John Monroe. I’m chief of security at Circus Circus.” Handshakes were not offered. “It has come to my attention that the two of you have been utilizing a card counting system in my casino. Is this true?”

    “I haven’t been counting cards,” Larry blurted out.

    “No, that much is obvious,” said Monroe. “Mr. Woodward apparently is the counting member in this unfortunate situation.”

    “I was under the impression that we lived in a free country,” I said.

    “You are correct Mr. Woodward. I’m not telling you can’t count cards. There is no law stating you can’t.” He paused a couple of beats. “I’m telling you that you won’t be counting cards at Circus Circus.”

    I looked into the black voids of his eyes. “Regardless of the law?”

    His stare was intense. “We reserve the right to determine who frequents our tables Mr. Woodward.”

    The man behind us laid a wood handled roofing hammer on the desk and Monroe picked it up. “Mr. Frank, would you kindly place your hand on the desk?”

    Tears streaked Larry’s cheeks. “I’m innocent. It was Steve. He’s the card counter I swear.”

    “It seems there is a misunderstanding,” said Monroe sliding the hammer into the desk drawer. “This is for the next time I see you.”

    As we walked to the car Larry and I were silent. The fact that Monroe knew our names meant we were on the blacklist. It looked like our little sideline activity was coming to a close. It also appeared a sizable friendship breach had occurred when Larry threw me under the bus.

    • thejim says:

      I like that! It flowed nicely. Very quick read. I liked it. Did I just say that, yes I did, was worth repeating I guess.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        It’s good jhowe, really exceptional. It’s the best line of dialogue I’ve read in a long time. I liked the hammer bit, it was done in a very effective manner, just enough visual to make your reader cringe a bit. A classy style to your writing also.

    • don potter says:

      This is really good. From the MC taking the reader through how he approaches the task of card counting to the confrontation with security guy to the ultimate end of a relationship. Loved it.

    • Observer Tim says:

      All I can do is echo the others’ praise, jhowe. Everything about the scene came through loud and clear.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was so authentic, jhowe — wonderful details. I did a little research about counting cards before tackling my story, and you obviously know the rules and laws and methods. Loved the opening phrase: “I scratched the maroon felt surface with a come hither motion.” A very believable story and well-written.

    • Excellent pacing. I guess friendship has its limits. :)

    • Silver Sister says:

      I really got into this story. Description and dialogue were especially strong in this piece. Well done!

    • Reaper says:

      Most of what I can say echoes the rest of what is here. The opening line feels like something from a female perspective and adds depth and class to the character. It juxtaposes nicely with the line, Handshakes were not offered, which made me stomach twist and think blood was going to flow. I love the whole thing, but I love the boss most. There is something inevitably creepy about a thug like character that speaks without contractions when they would be so easy to use. I found him amazingly scary.

  37. Mick0712 says:

    I was sitting at a blackjack table, losing money almost as fast as you could betting the table minimum wondering once again what in the hell I was doing here. I hated casinos. I don’t care how much you pretty them up the smoke suckers come in and soon the whole damn place stinks of cigarettes. It didn’t help that the old lady to my left was blowing her smoke in my direction. She didn’t seem to like me, which was the only reason I’d stayed this long. I wondered how she’d feel if I took that pack of cancer sticks and stuck them up her wrinkly old butt.

    My buddy Jack was sitting on my right and seemed to be enjoying himself, but his chip stack was consistently growing while I hung on to my remaining few chips. It was also his idea to come here anyway. His bright idea to cheer me up. Yeah right.

    I’d rather have been somewhere else, anywhere else, but didn’t want to be alone. Being left by myself with only the thoughts in my head wasn’t a good thing of late. They say that nightmares are the most horrible thing the mind can conjure up. Screw that. It’s dreams of things that will never be again, things you’ve lost, those are the worst.

    I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t notice it was my turn to bet. Probably wouldn’t have noticed either, but the old lady kicked me on the leg. I looked at her as if to say, “Keep it up granny, you’re on borrowed time as it is.”

    But her eyes were no longer focused on me, but on something behind me. I turned to look when I felt two pairs of hands grab each of my arms pinning them down while at the same time forcing me away from the table. I saw Jack was being escorted by a couple of low forehead types that looked like bookends to the ones on me. Yeah, this is what I needed. The memories would stop for a while. I could concentrate on the moment. These guys were obviously taking us somewhere more private. Good.

    Our journey finally ended in a small room, which had only a single light and a door at each end. My guess was the second door lead to some back alley. Also good.

    Some little poindexter type was sitting on the edge of the only table in the room. He didn’t look like he could fight his way out of a wet paper sack, which meant he was the brains, but not the boss. However, for the purposes of this chat, he was who I’d need to focus on .

    “Do you know why we brought you gentlemen here?” Poindexter asked.

    I glanced over at Jack who just kept his head down. He was scared and it showed. Useless.

    I finally answered, “No. Don’t you?”

    Poindexter seemed annoyed that I wasn’t trembling in my boots. A fact reflected in his voice when he replied, “Your friend was counting cards. This is forbidden.”

    I found his voice grating. He talked like a sissy, but also with a faint trace of some accent. Not that it mattered.

    “Well I was losing. So what in the hell am I doing here?” I asked. I didn’t really care. In fact, I was probably the only one in the room happy to be there. The memories had stopped.

    “You two were seen together. We had to be sure you were not working together.” Poindexter explained.

    “Piss off!” I rebutted.

    Poindexter nodded to the man on my right who let go with one of his hands to , I assume, deliver a punch. Probably to the kidney. Probably would have hurt. If I had stuck around for it.

    I’ll spare you the details of what happened next, but the outcome involved me holding one of the uglies as a human shield while pointing his gun at Poindexter.

    “Drop the guns on the floor boys, or Little Man gets vented.”

    The low-foreheads looked for confirmation of my orders and received only a nod. Jack wasn’t the only one scared in the room anymore. They listened.

    I nodded towards one of the guys who had been holding Jack.

    “You! Pick up my hat and bring it here. And if you look to Poindexter over there before following my instructions again, I’ll kill you right after I’ve killed him.”

    The hat was a diversion. On his way to get it, he lined up closely with the other goon. He never heard the shot. The second one saw it coming, but couldn’t react in time. I put my human shield out of his misery next and finished by popping the last guy, still unconscious, in his brainpan.

    I finally looked over at Jack again, “So this is why you brought me?” I asked. He wouldn’t look at me. Coward.

    “I’d kill you too, but this is the most fun I’ve had in months.” I added.

    Turning back to Poindexter I noted he wasn’t so much sitting on the table anymore as clinging to it for support.

    “My name is Latch. Say it”

    He did.

    “You be sure and pass this information on to your boss. You understand?”

    He nodded. The realization that he would get through this alive showed on his face. Relief causing his body to relax. I couldn’t have that, so I put one into his knee.

    I grabbed my hat off the floor and then I grabbed Jack by the collar of his shirt, opened the back door and tossed him out. Looking back on my handy work with a faint grin I knew I’d finally figured out a way to get those memories to stop.

  38. snuzcook says:

    MISPERCEPTION

    Nathan and I had been forcibly escorted into the casino’s back office by two big enforcer types. The bald one had the large envelope with our winnings cradled in his arm like a football. The other one stood blocking the only exit.

    I looked over at Nathan. He shot me a cornered eye and the twitch of his mouth.

    “Something funny, punk?” Baldy slammed the flat of his palm into Nathan’s back. It sent him sprawling but he stayed on his feet.

    It was a good act. Nathan had a talent for looking awkward and clumsy when it suited him. Right now, it was a safe way to play it.

    I decided to keep the illusion going. “My friend didn’t mean to break any rules. He just can’t help counting cards.” I tried again. “It’s like a condition he has, like Rain Man.” The Boss looked blank.

    The basolith by the door spoke. “Like that little retarded shit in the movie, Boss, that counted cards and busted the house.”

    “Some kind of freak, huh? Well, that crap doesn’t fly here. “ He was eyeing Nathan again.

    “Look, we didn’t mean any harm,” I pleaded. “You can keep the money. Just leave us enough to get home.”

    “Show me the money, Harry.”

    The bald goon dumped it on the desk, $75,470 we had cashed in before being hustled into this interview. The Boss quickly sorted the money, setting aside the $10s and $20s, piling the larger denominations to one side. He put the smaller bills back into the large envelope.

    “Hey, Rain Man.” He held the envelope out to Nathan, who accepted it with his eyes still aimed at the floor. “Now you won’t go home empty handed. There’s nearly $500 dollars there.” The boss laughed. “Go have a nice dinner. Take in a show. Make a night of it,” he said. “Just don’t show your weasely little face in here again, or your friend’ll be taking what’s left of you home in a chip bucket.”

    Nathan finally spoke. He lifted his grey eyes and gazed right into the Boss’ brown ones. “I appreciate your generosity,” he said slowly. His odd expression made the Boss hesitate and narrow his eyes.

    “Get these two yoyos out of here!” he yelled at the goons.

    Nathan and I were propelled out to the sidewalk. When we were alone in the lights and music of the Strip, Nathan reached into the envelope and showed me a handful of strapped, crisp $100 bills.

    “Counting cards! What a microcephalon!” Nathan snorted. It was his favorite insult. Nathan didn’t have to count cards. He manipulated them: the cards, the dealers, the other players. It was just a diversion for him.

    “Come on, let’s get out of here!” We evaporated into the evening, two figures not quite noticed among the knots of people taking in the night life. We were gone before the casino boss realized he’d been had by one of the most powerful and most dangerous men of the century.

  39. Kerry Charlton says:

    THE BLUE DALHIA

    Eleven miles out of town, the Flamingo’s sign lit the desert sky, while inside, Alan sat at a blackjack table. A crowd had surrounded him but the seat next to him, remained open as a courtesy. His intense blue eyes watched every card flipped but he was down eleven thousand and irritated. Under his five six frame rested a mass of muscle and he knew when to use it, real or not.

    When she arrived, all five feet of her, the crowd split for her and she slithered to the chair next to Alan.

    “Bad night?” she asked.

    “Not now baby, you’re here.”

    Her long blond hair covered one eye as she slipped a C note to the dealer and watched as Alan continued to bleed at the table.

    “Must not be my night, doll face.”

    “I’m coming in now, watch me smoke,” she said.

    She laid her chip out and drew a six of diamonds, top card. She glanced under as the dealer drew a five of spades.

    “i’m good,” she said.

    Dealer flipped a queen over and drew an eight and busted.

    Within an hour, she has amassed forty three grand.

    “What do you think Alan?”

    “God baby, you’re hot tonight.”

    “I’m hot every night, remember the last shoot?”

    “We damn near got thrown off the set with that kiss you planted and your thigh in my crotch.”

    “You didn’t seem to mind it.”

    “The stupid director killed the shot baby. Three takes you used that knee hold.”

    “It was worth the effort.”

    Two toughs appeared behind the two.

    “Bugsy wants to see you guys,” the ugly one said. The other, dressed in a two hundred dollar suit, put his hand on doll face’s shoulder. Alan rose slowly and turned. His lightning fist toppled the goon who outweighed him at least a hundred pounds.

    “If Bugs wants to see us, tell him to get his ass out here.”

    The crowd split for the other goon to drag his partner across the casino floor to a waiting chair.

    “Just like his movies,” a whisper emulated from the crowd.

    From the back office, a devilishly handsome man about forty, ambled up to Alan, his dark hair combed to perfection.

    “Sorry Alan,” he said. “This is my casino and doll face is counting.”

    She turned toward him and slapped him hard across his face.

    “Nobody calls me doll face but Alan. The name starts with a V.”

    The dance band broke the awkward silence and played her signature song, ‘A Sweater, A Song and A Peek-a-boo Bang.’

    She walked toward the bandleader, her hips doing a slow rumba in her sheer dress that clung to her magnificent frame. Climbing the bandstand, she gave Xavier a hug and in a husky voice, started to sing.

    Bugsy, who realized her one song was worth the forty G’s, slipped to the background. Alan watched her, spellbound as he had done in their last movie, where she had died in hir arms. It had broken his heart, even though it was scripted.

    “They’ll never be another doll face like her,’ he mused.

    • jhowe says:

      A wonderful rendition of old time Vegas action. Is doll face Virginia Hill? Bugsy Siegal always did have a thing for her.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Not even close, jhowe. Thanks for your comments though. There are clues spread all through this story, try to catch them and don’t forget about Alan. Virginia Hill was definitely his gun moll and he was killed out in front of her house. The mob caught him skiming.

    • Amyithist says:

      Nice story, Kerry! Makes me wonder…was this art imitating life or life imitating art? LOL Well done.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        There’re aren’t any more famous movie stars than Doll Face and Alan. Remember the times and look for the clues. I appreciate you comments Amyithist.

    • Reaper says:

      I loved this. I have a longstanding love of anything classic gangster related. It is not many stories that have me digging through the internet to discover who the characters are. Doing so was well worth it here. Tragic characters for a beautiful story Kerry. I’m not going to out who they are because I had too much fun figuring it out. You’re right, many clues and I didn’t start with the obvious one or I would have missed a lot of interesting reading. Thank you for this. You made my night.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Reaper. I thought the reader might like the word puzzle. I’m glad you enjoyed the ride. Well my cover’s been blown not only by you but also by Don. I knew when I wrote it all I had to do was mention the Peek-a-boo blonde and Don would zero in immediately.

        The two of us are soul mates and we’re both on a quest to write till we’re a hundred, I’m at a disadvantage because I’m six months older than Don, but I’m gonna go down fighting over it. Thamks for the read. Kerry

    • don potter says:

      Alan Ladd meets Veronica Lake with some great Raymond Chandler scripting. I enjoyed the read.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Don. I’m glad you liked my tale. When I was a kid of eight, I saw my first movie with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. I can tell you this, I was thunder-struck. Who wouldn’t be? While we’re on the subject, what’s the greatest film noir film? My answers in code following this sentence. “LFG LU GSV KZHG”

        • don potter says:

          I have not made any progress on figuring out the code. Give me a hit or just tell me before I make myself crazy.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Write the alphabet vertically. Then beside it, write it backwards and transpose.. A becomes Z, B becomes Y, etc.

        • snuzcook says:

          I had never heard of this film before, but now I will have to add it to my ‘must watch’ list! “…danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames…” Sounds like a good rainy day flick.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            This one’s a real winner snuzcook. Veronica was perfect for Alan Ladd. She was either 4 foot eleven or in a stretch, 5 feet.
            They were great and I’m not sure but they may have rolled over into real life. Not only was Veronica sexy, she was funny and played comedy as well as noir. To top it off, she had a good voice to go with the eye candy.

        • don potter says:

          Got it: “Out of the Past” with Robert Mitchum. Haven’t seen that flick in years, but it was a good one.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Once you get another look at Jane Greer, you might remember how stunning she was. There wasn’t but one or two who might have been able to best her in beauty. One for sure was Rita Hayworth.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This was a great take, Kerry. As usual you painted the scene with skill and dignity.

      You may prefer something out of the past, and I respect that, but I’m more friendly with Mr. Cairo. I guess it’s a case of what resonates.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank yiu Tim for the wonderful comment. The reason I slip into the past is that I have to deal with sub contractors, developers, the City Of San Antonio Development Center, and suppliers five days a week. The past can a wonderful tool to teach the young people coming, not my gereration but my Father’s generation. The generation of miracles.

    • agnesjack says:

      My brother used to make fun of me when we were teenagers for “watching those old black and white movies” late at night. They were great, and so was your story, Kerry. It’s nice to see Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake back in action.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Nancy, I had fun writing it. I grew up in black and white and the film noir movies, with esquisite lighting sets and the music could not be made today, no matter what talent was available. I’m lost in the fifties with my toes in the forties.

        • agnesjack says:

          Yes. And a black and white films have all these gorgeous grays that give the picture a wonderful sense of depth that I think gets lost in color. Film also has a longer shelf life than video. When you look at old baseball games shot with film, they haven’t deteriorated like the ones shot with video.

    • Perfectly old-school wise guy Vegas caper. As always, your penchant for historical detail and little touches make the tale pop. :)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Doug. I stayed at the original Flamingo in1968. Ghosts were everywhere and the hotel seemed to take my wife and I back to the forties. 35 cent shrimp cocktail that filled an eight inch tall container. The room was free, the drinks were free the food was free and so was the headliner show, Tom Jones.

    • snuzcook says:

      Great period piece, Kerry.
      (Thought that was ‘A Sweater, a Sarong and a Peek-a-boo Bang’)
      As I read it, everything faded to black and white…

    • Silver Sister says:

      You make me long for a time I’ve never seen. Great job!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you silver sister. When yo watch these films, you need to have no distraction going, for they are products of the best screen writers, directors, camera men and actors, the world has ever seen. The music from these films is so over the top, it’ll make you cry, shiver, laugh and terrorize just as easy.

    • jmcody says:

      This had so much flavor and was so unique. Also, I enjoyed the commentary almost as much as the story. Wish I had been in on the mystery, but I got here late.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you jm. I’ll try to work another mystery MC in the future. I had a lot of fun with this one. It helps to have stayed at the old Flamingo with the olive trees planted in the patio area beside the old restaurant. When we travel anywhere, we try to stay at the oldest place we can find that hasen’t been condemned yet.

    • abhijit jiwa says:

      Mmmm. That was so good, I could almost hear V sing, and the music flow. Great piece! Loved the style.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I so appreciate you comments abhijit jiwa. There were a lot of sex bombs in the forties, that sang well beside Veronica, One that comes to mind was Gloria Graham. She could seduce someone in the movies by merely a glance and a slight shift in her posture. A high style vamp princess.

  40. peetaweet says:

    I watched him watch us all night, so when he wedges his stomach through the crowd, his fleshy face glowing red with exertion and ego, I know he’s coming for us.

    “Can the two of you come with me.

    “What the hell, man?”

    Two suits take Jeff arm. Five security guards surround us. Glossy eyes and gaping smiles look on as Jeff loses it and I try to match his antics as we’re whisked through the doors, the binging and dinging fading through each set of double doors and soon it’s all concrete blocks and smooth floors. We enter a storage room. Berkshire carpet, hotel chairs against the wall. Jeff’s drunk. I’m scared to death.

    “Evening gentleman, he says, a touch out of breath from our walk.

    I turn to Jeff, flushed and giggling. He’s a glorified frat boy who drinks champagne instead of Natural Light reeks of Axe body spray and cigarette smoke.

    “I need ID from both of you.”

    Baldy takes a seat, backwards in the chair like a real clown, focusing the jowls of life on me. I sum him up in about three seconds. Chubby kid growing up, played offensive line in high school, maybe he blew his knee out in junior college. Started out as a bouncer and worked his way out west. Kept the goatee and shaved the head when the hair retreated. Every drunken girl’s dream, at least in his mind.

    “We have a strict policy about counting cards.

    I laugh in his face. “Seriously? Counting cards?” I stand up to get the goon’s attention, yelling. I nod to Jeff who perks up. I knew what he’d say.

    “I could buy this hole.”

    Not an idle threat. He’s one of the original three founders of Maingame.com, an illegal online gambling site bringing in close to 2 million dollars per day. Baldy continues.

    “We have it on tape.”

    The guy is a joke. There are no fewer than 9 FBI agents in the lobby at this very moment.

    “You got something to say?”

    I hide my irritation and dial up the drama.

    “Nobody’s counting cards, fat boy. Do you even know who this is?”

    “I don’t give a shit who he is. You’re in my house now and I’ll kick both of your asses on the street if you violate our policy.”

    Jeff’s face says it all. He’s all in, ready to go to war with me. I have his trust. Last night I partied in a hotel room with Lindsay Lohan and other C listers. I drank enough bourbon to fill the kiddy pool, hell, I did line of cocaine off of a hooker’s glittery stomach—all at taxpayer expense. In between these feats I learned snatches of information about the servers and off shore accounts. Names and places, cheating employees. I would soon have faces.

    Until it’s all undone by a middle aged security guard. I don’t even know how he knows, but he does, it’s in his goofy face when he takes that first step. He hustles over to Baldy, I want to shake my head no, call him an idiot and wave him away, but I can’t. He leans in to the buffoon’s ears. Baldy’s face cracks, melts into astonishment and eases into a smile. All buddy buddy now.

    “My apologies, Detective.”

    Jeff twists his head to me, his bloodshot registering the comment, the betrayal. I want to punch Baldy in the teeth, but I have to take Jeff in. We were so close too.

  41. Amyithist says:

    I felt my blood run cold as the men escorted Kirk and I down a grimy looking hallway. No doubt, this was the underbelly of the hotel; nothing you’d see in the brochures. My heels clicked over the glossy cement and I clutched my purse with everything I had.
    The men gestured toward a small room off to the left of the corridor and we ducked inside. Kirk turned to address them, but they suddenly attacked. One of the men punched Kirk in the stomach and I screamed as my childhood friend crumbled to the ground. Another man came up behind me and grabbed me by my arms. “Where is it,” another hissed. He walked into the room and approached Kirk who was writhing on the ground. “We know you have it and we want it now.” Kirk didn’t say anything. The man frowned and stood up, looking over at me.
    “What do we have here,” he said, grinning. He rose and walked up to me, advancing on me until my back was flush against the wall. His breath was hot on my neck and I found myself crawling with discomfort. “I wonder if she’s more important to you than the chip,” he said, grabbing me by my throat.
    I closed my eyes and turned my head. Thoughts buzzed through my mind. They had to have the wrong guy here! Kirk didn’t have a chip! What did they think he was? A spy?
    “I say you take your hands off of the girl and I’ll make your death quick,” I heard Kirk say.
    The man laughed and turned away. I sunk down the wall, pulling my legs into my chest as an eruption of violence broke out. I screamed and buried my face into my arms. After a few moments, the room was quiet. I looked up, my eyes widening as I realized that Kirk was still standing and the men were all heaped and crumpled on the ground. Kirk approached me and aided me to my feet. “What happened,” I asked, stunned.
    He laughed and led me toward the door. “Didn’t I ever tell you? I’m a blackbelt.”
    I sidestepped a man as he reached up toward me. Kirk kicked him the face and lifted me up and over another heap of thug. “What are you talking about,” I breathed. “Seriously, Kirk, how did you…”
    “There’s a lot about me you don’t know,” he replied. His tone was low and dangerous.
    We walked back into hallway and Kirk suddenly grabbed me by my waist. He pulled me into him and pressed his lips against mine. I blinked at first but the kiss overwhelmed me and I surrendered. When he pulled away, he was smiling. “Let’s go play some cards, huh?”

  42. Reaper says:

    One Eyed Jack

    I don’t play cards for money. That’s a rule I should have lived by.

    Vegas before wedding, he said. We’ll be high rollers, he said. You have to live before the life sentence, he said. Like an idiot I listened.

    Lucky was raking it in. I was losing my shirt. My fiance’s father owned a joint on the strip so maybe I was adding to her inheritance.

    The pit boss that snagged us from behind. He wasn’t gentle as he ushered us through the club. Lucky earned his moniker when it was my face they used to open the door to the back room.

    The lights were dim but I saw a metal table that glistened moistly with rust and fluids best left unimagined. I counted half a dozen convicts, down on their luck dock workers, or refugees from the gorilla pen. The shadows of them loomed menacingly in the deeper shadows making up the room. They each held an implement of slow pain and death in one meaty hand. In case they ran out or wanted to get creative there were finer instruments on the table.

    Then the lights went out. A black bag slithered over my head. It’s interesting how easily concern transforms to terror when you are robbed of sight at the same time your hearing is muffled.

    I meekly squeaked a demand to know what was going on. The voice that responded held the smooth, soft menace only heard in black and white gangster movies. It informed me that Lucky had been counting cards and the proprietors of the establishment did not cotton to that. Great, a genteel thug. That was the first time I lost control of my bladder but not the last.

    I was held in place by hands belonging on a monster in a midnight feature. Even through that bag I heard it all.

    Thump, crack, thumps and cracks of iron on flesh and bone was how it began.

    Screaming! That was Lucky. A part of me that is small rejoiced. This was his fault.

    Long liquid ripping like tight Velcro separating, a cut started with blade then spread with unhygienic fingers. I regretted earlier joy at Lucky’s fate.

    So many sounds, other sounds of pain and wrath, there were hours of them. Then came the last and worst two.

    Purring, soft and wet, signifying the savage amputation of his tongue.

    Deafening roaring of large caliber termination, until the last Lucky howled.

    I got off light. They scooped out my left eye with the world’s smallest, rustiest ice cream scoop and no anesthetic. Then they dumped me in an alley.

    I got patched up and assured the police I could not identify my assailants. They grabbed me from an alley I insisted. Finally I made my way home.

    My fiancé left me before the wedding. Not because I was disfigured, she assured me. Jack, she told me, I could never marry a man that would bring a cheater to my father’s casino.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a dark and dangerous piece, Reaper, the kind you do so well. I especially liked “Deafening roaring of large caliber termination.” Jack did indead get off lucky considering how vicious and brutal the casino goon squad was.

      Of course, a really good foley guy could make him think they’d offed Lucky, and Jack could easily have just found out his fiancé just wanted out of the wedding… That’s what I love about unseen action.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Oh why, did I choose to read your story brfore lunch, Reaper? Talk about gritty and messy and traumatic. You need to write this stuff for a living, or maybe you already do. Either way, I thought it was great, even thought I lost my appetite.

        • Reaper says:

          Sorry I ruined your appetite Kerry. Well, not entirely since I intended this to be dark and visceral. My original idea for this was about 250 words so I decided to spice it up with words that spoke to me on a subverbal level and were flowery if they weren’t describing something so dark. I appreciate that! I’m not living the dream, just another of the bungled and the botched. Rejection letters from jobs, rejection letters from agents. I will keep your kind words in my heart next time I think sending out all those queries just isn’t worth it anymore.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            It is worth it Reaper. I have enough reection letters to paper Carnegie Hall. But my fifth story’s beng published in March. I only hope I live long enough to get paid for one.

          • Reaper says:

            When it is please PM me where it is coming out. I like your writing and would love to support someone from here getting published by picking up a copy!

      • Reaper says:

        Thanks Tim. Honestly I just had some emotional poison that needed to get out of my head. I like ambiguous endings for the same reason that you like unseen action. I never thought about what you said as a possible ending/motivation. Part of what I love about the responses here is that other view.

        It reminds me of a story I heard about Hendrix when they used to ask him what his songs meant. I may have said this on an earlier threat by the way. He would tell them. When I wrote it it meant this to me. When we recorded it I thought it meant this. Then we performed it live and I thought it meant this other thing. Then this fan told me it meant another thing to him and I think it means that now. Seeing the evolution a story takes in my mind from feedback is amazing.

    • jhowe says:

      Very intense. Very entertaining. Nothing like getting your eye scooped out to get your attention.

    • don potter says:

      A frightening tale told in a vivid style. The last paragraph was the straw the broke the camel’s back. Maybe, with Lucky gone, Jack’s luck will change. Problem is I don’t know if it will be for better or worse.

    • agnesjack says:

      I almost didn’t make it to the end of this. I have a very vivid visual imagination, and your descriptions made me see it all much too clearly, which is a compliment, I think.

      One quibble. It wasn’t clear in the beginning that they were actually in the fiance’s father’s casino, and when that was stated in the end, I wondered why they didn’t know who he was, and if they did, why wouldn’t they just kick them out.

      • Reaper says:

        I will take it as a compliment then. I actually intended that to be unclear because the MC didn’t know it was his fiance’s father’s casino. Which is why it was a hope for the inheritance rather than a fact. Mostly I was going for the fiance being the brutal mob princess. However your feedback has me thinking of ways to change it to have a more believable flow. I’m not one for realistic but I hate when stories don’t have an internal consistency.

    • snuzcook says:

      Very dark but well done, Reaper. I was hoping that the sound affects the MC heard while hooded were some elaborate ruse to make sure he would stay clear of gambling after he was married.
      But, like life, it’s just never that easy or that forgiving.

      Some great phrasing. I especially liked: “A part of me that is small rejoiced. This was his fault.”

      Good job!

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you Snuzcook. I have to admit, even with extra passes that line took me longer than the rest of the story all together. Seeing it appreciated puts a smile on my face.

    • Silver Sister says:

      The action you don’t see is more terrifying than what you can. Excellent use of sound to describe Lucky’s demise. I love the line about a ‘genteel thug’

      • Reaper says:

        That line was one of my favorites. So this is another comment that has me giddy. I mentioned in a comment on another story that I love the classical gangster. While I was going for a more modern, brutal feel I couldn’t resist a touch of that classic imagery. I am glad you love that line because I loved writing it.

    • abhijit jiwa says:

      Pretty dark tale. The terrifying atmosphere is well told. Do they really do all that to people who count cards? Or would a beating suffice? But I see the potential here for a bigger horror type of novel. You really have the talent to pull the reader quick into a frightening atmosphere.

      • Reaper says:

        From the information I’ve seen this would have been a pretty intense even when Vegas was a mob paradise. These days I think it’s mostly a get out and don’t come back situation. I guess that means I finally wrote me an alternate history?

        Your second and last lines will keep me smiling all day. Glad I could suck you into the nightmare.

  43. john godfrey says:

    What Happened in Vegas

    Seconds had passed since the pit boss had spoken, as Sanchez appeared to digest what he had said. The pit boss, along with two huge thugs, had whisked Sanchez and I away from our blackjack game and into a small, windowless room. I had been accused of counting cards. I was in the other corner of the room, hair a mess, my stomach in knots, sweat running down my face, with one of the thug’s thick hands clamped tightly on the back of my neck.

    “How did I end up here?” I thought to myself. The kid, Sanchez, had approached me in a bar in Reno, with a proposal: have me, the great blackjack player Johnny Cross, show him the ropes. He told me I was the greatest; he had seen me on TV before, a couple years back, when I was in a tournament. So we went to Vegas. But I had never expected it to end like this. The pit boss glared at me, then the kid.

    “Are you just gonna stare at me, kid? We’ve got a real situation on our hands here, and Bowser and Louie are pretty damn furious already. Your friend here cost them their seats at the fight tonight.” the pit boss, who wore a shiny nametag with “Mackey” written on it, spat at Sanchez.

    “Y-you’ve got the wrong guy, pal.” Sanchez said defiantly. “Not Johnny. He’s the best damn card player I’ve ever seen.”

    “That’s not what our cameras picked up.” Mackey said.

    Mackey nodded towards a computer monitor on the table in front of us, and the other thug, who sort of looked like a shaved gorilla, walked to it. With a little movement from his fat fingers he managed to pull up the video feed. I watched in horror as, in clear-as-day high definition, my routine was recorded. Sanchez was sitting next to me in the video, focusing on his own play. He paid no attention to my cheat.

    Sanchez sat in the chair at the other corner of the room, and watched the feed in clear disbelief. He turned to me, his thin mustache quivering with each word he spoke.

    “Johnny, I thought you were the best.”

    “I am, Sanchez, I am.”

    “You said you had been in championships before, you could show me the ropes of the game. Turn me into a pro like you.”

    The beads of sweat fell like raindrops as the thug’s meaty hand clamped my neck tighter.

    “Look, Sanchez, what the hell do you want me to say? I’m a cheat, alright? I’m not the great Johnny Slash you thought, okay?”

    We sat still for a moment, and then Sanchez suddenly smiled.

    “I’m glad to hear you admit it, Slash. You’ve been stealing from my father’s casino for years. When he died last year, I bet you never would have thought we would find you for payment. But we did.” he said, rising from the chair and grabbing his jacket.

    The other thug grabbed my arm and began to lead me out the back into the parking lot, towards a parked black car. A bald man with a gun opened the door, and smiled at me. As I was lead out, I watched Sanchez (which I now knew was not his real name) and the pit boss, Mackey, walk out of the room. The kid had two tickets to the boxing match that was going on right now, a heavily anticipated one, at his late father’s casino. I was wishing the second ticket was for me as the car began the long drive out into the desert.

  44. bilbobaggins321 says:

    THE MORE LETHAL GAME

    I’d seen Fred Gamble live up to his name hundreds of times, but not like this. This blackjack run was something else. I looked on, spellbound, as his thick arms enclosed another mountain of chips and he dragged it inward towards his spot, accompanied by one of his boisterous laughs.

    “Having a good time?” the dealer asked, his statement laced with irritation.
    “I guess so,” he eagerly replied, shuffling his cards and hungrily eyeing the stacked cash pile. My eyes burrowed through the pitiful arrangement spread in my fingers, and I couldn’t help but feel envy. How did he get so good? He hadn’t been to the Strip since ’98, and he didn’t remember a single minute of that once the stars faded. I chalked it up to insane luck.

    Mr. Tux next to me sighed and slapped the unluckiest hand since Hickok’s day on the table. “I’m out.” He slid back his chair and traipsed off to an adjacent poker table, standing warily around, not convinced to wager the rest of his meager funds.

    The minutes flew by. The churn began to get to Fred eventually, and after his lucky deals were running thin he turned to me, announced his intention to go, and reached for his wallet.

    Suddenly, I felt tree trunks wrap around my limbs, and I was raised out and “escorted” back through the aisles through a metal door into a bare, white room. I was released into a cold folding chair, my eyes dizzily focusing on brutes towering over me with looks of pure murder. A clumsy search of my back pocket resulted in nothing but fabric. Pain reverberated through my form, but no clubs surfaced. Moments later the pit boss shoved himself between them, his hands like folded steel bars.

    “What’s going on?” I dared to ask, and I stiffened for the blow. The white artificial light cut into me. Whatever was happening, I expected fully to wake up in the hotel bed on a pillow drenched in sweat within minutes. Either that, or step onto a cloud with a golden gate opening before me.

    “Your friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here,” he answered with a grin, the kind of look you get before your life is mercilessly snuffed out with a knife point.
    “Did what?” Fred had an incredulous look smeared over his face.

    “You heard me,” he snapped. “Now, you no-good chalk eaters, ‘fess up fore I whip your bone marrow into cake batter. Come on! Zen, KO, Hi-Lo…”

    “I’m telling you, I’m—“
    “That’s what they all say, bub. Now we gotta do this the hard way.” He raised the slab of flesh that was his hand. His lips parted, but no sympathy was extended.

    I scrambled for delays.
    “Wait! He… he was framed!”
    The cronies drew close, each individual tendon bulging. Apparently no weapons were necessary.
    The pit boss narrowed his eyes. “By who?”
    “The… the guy in the tuxedo and his pals!”

    Mere snippets of revelation jumped out at me. The man with sunglasses sitting on the other side of Fred, whose eyes were fixed on the deck. Mr. Tux, who seemed to have a bad twitching eye while standing right behind the dealer. And the way that Fred happened to innocently look up at the blinking man at the start of every shoe.

    The goons halted with another ample hand raise. “What, a spotter?” He chuckled. “Not likely. Our video cameras showed no one else cheating, but this unlucky dude here. Continue.”
    Fred’s body practically convulsed as the men reached him. One had just grabbed his collar and was forcing him up when a lady’s voice rang over the PA.
    “All pit bosses, please report to the blackjack table.”

    The big boss narrowed his eyes until the slits were daggers. Fred collapsed back into his chair as the henchmen reluctantly backed away from their prey.
    “Looks like you were right- this time. Now follow me, before I change my mind.”

    We got out of the chairs and padded into the gaming hall, which was complete chaos. Only a few diehards remained in their seats, while police officers were searching around and crackling over radios. Suddenly I remembered that both of our wallets were lost, and I mentally doubled over. Maybe, just maybe, the police would find Fred’s beginner’s luck dough. But I doubted it. I looked at him, and Fred was surprisingly placid about the whole thing.

    “You win some, you lose some,” I muttered, and Fred nodded.
    “Thanks for helping me, out, pal.” His tone was hard. “Now, scram. Get back to your car and head home. I have to go to downtown. They’re going to divide the cash among the team there.”

    He ran off from the group and out the door, and my mouth opened and said nothing. That final look in his eye said that he was glad for using me. That he had joined another, more lethal game now.

  45. Ryguy says:

    “You were what?” I said to John, demanding an answer.
    “Calm down, Ryan, I’ve got this.” John said, brushing back his mid-length hair.
    The casino’s pit boss continued to glare at us, his eyes burning our skin. His not-so-friendly companion started to practice a few intimidating swings with his baseball bat, a giant nail sticking out of the end. I shook my head in disbelief covering my eyes, hoping I’ve passed out from too many margaritas; this should all be some ridiculous prank.
    “Look, man, I know what you think.” John began. I was only hoping he’d have a clever way to weasel himself out of this one. “I wasn’t counting cards.”
    He looked at me, hoping I could cue his next words. I was still looking down, trying to make myself small.
    “I have a gift,” said John.
    “Yeah, I got a gift for ya too bud, but you aint gonna like it so much unless you fess up!” yelled the pit boss.
    The boss nodded his head at the stocky man with the bat. Obediently, he gave one powerful swing at John’s leg, knocking him to the ground.
    John howled in pain, cringing and protecting his wounded leg.
    “Oh no,” I thought, finally breaking my gaze from the ground.
    “Now.” the pit bass began to continue. “If you and your little fairy friend over here want to walk out alive, you’ll tell me how you did it.”
    “I’m psychic,” John blurted out.
    I closed my eyes in disbelief, knowing they wouldn’t buy his explanation.
    The pit boss laughed out loud, spitting in John’s face, “And I’m Santa. Get him up!”
    He signaled for another stocky man. This guy had a gun, and I knew things were about to get really intense. The man pointed the gun directly at John’s face.
    “Your father was born in Venezuela, you’re afraid of heights, and there is a little stray kitten who comes by your home every day that you named Fifi!” John shouted desperately to the pit boss.
    As if he had seen a ghost, the pit boss signaled for the man to put the gun down. I realized I only had so much time.
    “We have to strike now,” I thought to myself, knowing John could hear my thoughts.
    With that, time began to slow for me, literally. I took the bat from the first guy effortlessly, used it to break the arm of the man with the gun, knocking it free and giving me enough time to grab it from the floor. I lost concentration, and time resumed its natural flow.
    “We have to go,” I said to John, helping him off of the ground and assisting him to walk. I still had the gun pointed at the three men.
    The pit boss looked at me with utter confusion. I couldn’t help myself as I found our exit to freedom, “And this little fairy happened to have some pixie dust. Count that bad stroke of luck, Santa.”

    • Observer Tim says:

      I like the take, Ryguy; I always wondered what might happen if people with actual psychic powers turned up in Vegas…

      … of course, John and Ryan are still hosed as regards their winnings. Sometimes life sucks.

    • jhowe says:

      Loved the practice swings with the baseball bat. If I was psychic, I’d win a little bit in each casino and try to avoid the big haul. Nicely told story.

    • don potter says:

      I try to stay out of places where the pit boss swings a Louisville Slugger with a nail through it. If I did go to such places my psychic powers would tell me when it’s time to leave.

    • agnesjack says:

      Interesting take and well told. I do wonder, however, why psychic John didn’t know the hit from the bat was coming.

    • Ryguy says:

      Ah, you all bring up very good points. I should have thought about that little plot hole when it comes to dealing with psychic characters. I’ll definitely have to keep that in consideration for any future characters I may have.

  46. lionetravail says:

    “Your friend has been counting cards, and we don’t approve of that here.”

    The speaker was a older, rotund guy with wispy hair and wire-rimmed glasses. In his tux, he looked about as threatening as someone’s nasty grandfather. Unfortunately, the 2 heavies behind him were both over 6 feet tall, broad, and muscular, and more than made up for it.

    I looked over at my buddy, and he was looking down at his shoes.

    “You’re kidding me,” I said. “Joey can’t count past 20, and that’s using his toes- he couldn’t be counting cards!”

    The rotund guy looked at right-heavy. “We got us a comedian,” he said. The heavy only grunted, in keeping with his rather frightening neolithic appearance.

    I swallowed. Joey just sat there and didn’t offer up anything helpful.

    “Well sure,” I said. “You have any openings Friday night?”

    An eyelid drooped slightly behind the glasses. “Kid,” he said to me, “why’nt you just STFU and keep it in your pants, okay?”

    I promptly did, and looked over at Joey. He looked up at me, and made a little head-shake at me. This was not good.

    Nightmare-Grandpa turned to Joey. “You wanna shed some light here, sport?”

    “Yeah,” Joey said. “Took you freaking long enough. Did you guys make me with the high-low, the Zen count, or ‘Wonging’ on the back count? Oh, and your dealer is clumsier than my one-eyed ferret, too.”

    I felt my jaw drop as Gramps gave him the hard look for about thirty seconds. Joey’d never seemed all that sharp or intense before, and he’d just suggested a quickie Vegas weekend on what seemed like a lark. I had no idea of what he meant, but he sounded like a different person that the guy I knew.

    Grandpa’s next words gave me a chill. “So, wiseguy, what did you think you’d get out of this stunt besides a trip to the hospital?”

    “Actually,” said Joey, “I was wondering if I could get a job…”

  47. Observer Tim says:

    We were escorted to a room with four concrete walls, two wooden chairs, and three linebackers, all here just to see us. I was sweating more bullets than Bonnie and Clyde’s car, but Jimmy was a cucumber. He had that half-smirk he gets just before somebody else’s day gets ruined.

    “What’s going on?” I asked the pit boss who’d dragged us here. He answered with a voice straight from the gravel pit.

    “Your friend here’s been counting cards. We don’t approve of that here.”

    Jimmy smiled. “I was counting all right, Dutch. You had three decks in play and only 147 cards. What’d you take out to stack the deck?”

    “I don’t like your tone, boy.”

    “I guess not. You won’t like this, either.” He flipped open a faded Nevada Gaming Commission ID.

    Dutch wasn’t impressed. “Find that in a Cracker Jack box? They ain’t used that design since the 60’s.” He nodded and the defensive line moved in.

    A three-goon orchestra started playing the Black and Blue Danube on our skulls and I got lost in the music pretty quickly. The next thing I remembered was Jimmy waking me up.

    “Come on, Doug. We gotta scram.”

    I opened the one eye that was willing to allow it. Jimmy looked like he’d just been to the butcher shop as a pig. I scanned the room to see how the other guy did and found the three bruisers – in half a dozen places.

    “What the hell, Jimmy?”

    “They had an accident. Now come on!”

    He dragged me to my feet and out the door. We were both limping, and I saw the end of a broken chair leg sticking out his back. He was holding the other end against his stomach.

    “God Jimmy, doesn’t that hurt?”

    “Nah, they missed my vital spots. We gotta get out of here before Dutch gets back.”

    “Why? Is he bringing a bazooka?”

    “Worse. Holy water.”

    “What are you, Jimmy, some kind of vampire?”

    “Yeah. I thought I told you.”

    “I thought you were just shitting me. You’re really a vampire?”

    “Have been since ’64. I ran into something worse than a crooked casino owner; now I’ve got the whole bloodsucking immortal thing going on.”

    I thought about it. Jimmy didn’t go out in the daytime, and he showed up in church less often than Satan. He was smoother than rum and coke and always ordered his stake veterinarian rare. All in all it didn’t sound that bad.

    “You know Jimmy, that actually sounds pretty cool.”

    “It isn’t. The vampire thing is awful.”

    “Why?”

    “Italian food just isn’t right without garlic.”

  48. vinsweg says:

    STRANGE WORLD
    When Greg lies, he drives his voice into a strange pitch, not high or low or monotonous, just different. And when he jumps up from the seat, shouting, “What the hell are you talking about?”, I immediately know that he’s lying. We’re so screwed!

    Towering above us, in a suit begging to breathe, is Bruteface. The coarse features of his face may have been sculpted from unyielding rock by a bored toddler. He’s heads taller than Greg and me, and his crossed arms look like bayonets with fists attached.

    And I’m not wrong. The moment Greg so clearly lies, a fist strikes his face, making a squelching sound as it connects with and pops his eye. I scream; Greg screams. And I immediately understand that this is a ship I’m nowhere near sailing.

    “I didn’t know!” I scream. “He did it but I didn’t KNOW!”

    “Jason!” Greg’s voice, beneath the creeping pain, is a low word of horror, and there’s more truth in that mention of my name than there’s been all night. Of course I’d known, but I wasn’t about to get beaten, not for Greg. This room Is small and dark, with rows of red bulbs distilling austere light everywhere. Beyond our voices, there’s no sound. It would be so easy to kill us.

    “Is that so?”

    It’s Lander talking, the thin, balding man who looks like he runs things. He’s standing behind Bruteface and on his face is an expression of utter boredom and barely veiled contempt.

    “No, Jason, no!” Greg’s voice is breaking, and I feel my mind trying to turn away from his voice, the way my mind always turns when it realizes I’m my best and only friend.

    And then Greg to Lander, his voice shattered, heartbroken: “He’s…he’s lying.”

    “Doesn’t matter,” says Lander dryly. “We found them on you. You know the rules.” He touches Bruteface’s shoulder and nods. Before I can process what that nod means, a gun is out, in Greg’s face.

    I scream at once. My scream mixes with the sound of a gunshot. Greg’s face flies apart like a ripped watermelon; a rain of blood sprays on my face, and I begin screaming, even louder.

    In another world, Lander says something and the butt of a gun strikes my gums. Blood pours out of my mouth, but it’s enough to shut me up. I close my eyes tightly, and try not to scream. I’m hugging myself and shaking like a wind-caught leaf.

    “No point,” says Lander. “Do it.”

    A loud sound rips my eardrum, and it’s suddenly dark.

    A second later, I’m spinning through red. The world is a red film; the world has somehow snapped out of its hinges and is falling through a primordial wormhole. Is this death? Is it—

    The red tears apart, and I’m suddenly in a small room. Greg is staring at me from the other end, except that half his face is gone. What’s left looks like slimy pieces of meat sewn into a messy patchwork, and a green eye stares from BELOW a nostril. Beneath his face, there’s no body. Just tentacles. Reaching for me, ripping into my eyes and down my throat. There’s darkness and pain. I scream.

    But the pain doesn’t fade.

    It never does.

    • bilbobaggins321 says:

      Looks like you beat me for first comment, oh well. But, more to the point, this was good. I was totally caught off guard by the alien thing. And the description near the end was excellent too.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Pretty intense, vinsweg. So Jason gets to meet his friend again in hell. A very well-written response, and gruesome in a good way.

    • don potter says:

      The story was beyond horrifying. The notion that the pain goes on for eternity was sobering. Well done.

    • agnesjack says:

      Ouch! That was so creepy. I loved the setup of your first paragraph. It told us a lot about both characters and their relationship.

    • snuzcook says:

      [previously posted this response, but in the wrong place]
      Okay, vinsweg, my face went through all sorts of contortions reading this story–which is a good thing.
      I absolutely loved the first two paragraphs–spare but rich with imagery and attitude (face grinning).
      The progression through the violence was well written and believable and incredibly graphic (eye squinting, grimacing).
      Then the alien thing — I was flailing (pun intended) to figure out how the tentacles fit in (eyebrows on top of my head). Was it hell like O.Tim said and Jason gets to torment Greg for eternity because he was disloyal? Or was the whole thing an alien induced illusion? Not quite clear on that.
      Overall, very entertaining!

    • sjmca1966 says:

      Nice work
      Well done

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