stroke of luck

A story in four parts, from four perspectives, as they run into some trouble at a casino in Wisconsin. Warning for adult content.

Red String Around a White Bone

I really ought to feel sorry. And I sort of guess I do because I could have been a lot nicer to him about it. But the kid swore to me that he would be alright by his ownself in a gambling hall, no contest. I even remember asking him and there he goes with his ‘ain’t nothin’s’ and ‘trust me’s.’ And I’m supposing that on some level I should have told Boss Lady that he had himself a gambling problem in the first place, but we didn’t know when we’d get another chance for him to come with us again and I really do have some kind of faith in him.
So that one is on me, and I apologize. And that it was on me is likely why I could have been nicer.

It wasn’t more than an hour’s worth of our time before I heard him making frustrated grunts at the craps table.
I strode up easy, not disturbing him, but I think he knew that I wasn’t exactly going to be on his side when he finally came to acknowledging that I was standing next to him.
“What is it you’re doin’, Felix,” I asked him as he rattled those dice.
“I’m… workin’,” he said. And mind you: he didn’t put much effort into hiding the fact that he wasn’t.
“Don’t look much like you’re workin’, son.”
“Shh,” he said, rolling the dice onto the field. “You know… undercover.”
I took a peek at the table, and he maybe had fifty dollars left in chips. “Felix, my buddy, you and I need to have a talk.”
“Naw, man! My luck’s gettin’ better. I can feel it.” It was like he wasn’t listening. His eyes just kind of glossed over and only half-registered that there was anything but the table ahead of him. I’d already had my hand on the pager, calling for Jack and Aaron to come help me. I didn’t think we would need to bother Boss Lady for this one. She had her own troubles, I was sure.
And Felix was, after all, my responsibility. He’s already caused us some trouble in the past year when we took him on, and on some level I do suspect that she was close to having had enough of putting up with his disregard for authority. And I swear on my life the boy was good at what he was good at, but when it came down to respecting us it sometimes felt like he was only there for the perks and none of the work. But you all know me and my bleeding heart and I’d taken a shine to this kid and I knew he could make himself useful if he just trusted us for some minutes. If only he’d put down the dice.
“It’s time to go,” I said, putting one hand on his wrist. He jerked it away. “Felix.”
“Just one more.”
“Felix, no.”
Someone else, Aaron, grabbed ahold of his other arm and together we pried him from the table. Felix, being his own stubborn self, held onto the lip of it, even digging his chewed nails into the wood, or trying to at least.
And he was angry. Oh, was he angry. He turned this bright red color and he could have blended in with the burgundy paint they’d used on the walls. We pulled him into an alcove far enough away from the noise that had drawn him in.
I should have known better. I blame my own damn self. I should have told her about his gambling problem. It would have prevented us from causing a scene, and now everyone at that table had some idea that we were with him. Which made anything else we were going to do a little tricky. We weren’t there for a vacation, I’ll let you know right now. We were supposed to keep our eyes open. We had things we were supposed to be doing there and we couldn’t do that so well with everyone watching. And we had to get back to them.
But we had to calm the kid down first.
“Hey, hey, Felix, you need to calm down,” Aaron said for me. Jack was snickering.
“Man, I was doin’ good,” Felix said.
“No you wasn’t,” I reassured him. “How much money did you start out with?”
He drifted off for a moment, counting on his fingers. “Five-hundred somethin’ – but look, Randall, I make that like in one day of work with you guys. And I don’t gotta pay rent so I got the money to spare.” His lips became a flat line: some semblance of a smile cut short and I could tell by the way his hand were twitching that he was still itching to roll those dice.
“Shouldn’t he be in therapy for this kind of thing,” Aaron said, and I could see that he was holding back some harsher judgements and I, for one, am glad as could be that he kept his mouth shut.
“Why don’t you just can it, Pretty Boy,” Felix hissed. “Fuck off.”
“Felix, you’re gonna need to calm down no-”
“You know you can shut up too.”
Both Jack and Aaron got real quiet at that. They might have taken a few steps back from the two of us, I don’t know. But no one tells me to shut up. Not when I’m trying to help them.
“Boy, you gonna wanna take a walk,” I said. And right away, he knew that he’d done fucked up. I could see an apology forming on his face, but I wasn’t going to hear none of it today. He stepped forward like he was going to say ‘I’m sorry,’ but I just pointed to the door. “Go take a walk. Have a smoke. Cool off. Don’t let me see your ass in here again ’til you done it.”
He looked hurt as I watched him leave, but I got no tolerance for someone who doesn’t want to listen. I would go look for him when we were done here… and we would have a talk.
I took a deep breath with my eyes closed, and let all the anger out through my nose. Aaron and Jack were still looking a little shocked. I don’t lose my temper often, and its not something that I enjoy doing. So I suppose that seeing me at the end of my rope for the first time would be a little scary.
Don’t get me wrong: I like Felix. But the boy got no sense sometimes.
“Back to work,” I said cheerfully.
After the scene he caused, the floor had emptied a bit. I swear there had been a lot more people crowded out around the poker table. I recall some noise, but not much else. And now there wasn’t much more than the shuffling of cards and the clack of the roulette wheel. I found it a little strange, to be honest, that it would empty out while we weren’t looking.
I shook the jeebie feeling that was in the air and started walking on, but here I was and I couldn’t help but feel like I need to be in this place. There was something keeping me from leaving it, and that was a something that I had to respect.
I was sitting back and having a little drink, might as well make myself look natural and comfortable, when I get a beeping from my pager. It was from Josephine’s number, which meant that she’d found something.
“Brunette, red dress,” said the red letters flashing on the screen. I waited for further orders to be relayed to me, but that’s all she’d sent. And I worried, but you know I all the time worry. Worry that maybe I was too hard on the new kid, worry that I should understand the message Boss sent to me. And then I worried that maybe something had kept her from sending the rest.
Stowing it back into my pocket, I glanced around the floor. I recalled someone in red earlier, at least out of the corner of my eye. I hadn’t taken the time to look before I’d gotten distracted. But she was still there at the poker table, leaning over a thin-faced man and smiling animatedly at his cards.
I couldn’t hardly see the two of them beyond the stacks of chips.
But that didn’t tell me much in terms of what I was looking for. There wasn’t nothing much important about them other than that they were lucky.
Extremely lucky.
I passed around behind him and the lady. The gambling man caught me in the reflection of his dark-tinted glasses and hid his cards from me, giving me a powerful glare. Lady in Red was giving me some coy shake of her head.
But I wasn’t looking at Lady. There was something else red that caught my eye.
The movement of his hands tugged at the poorly-fitted shoulders of his suit, and his wrist was exposed. Or it would have been exposed if it weren’t for that crimson string wrapped loosely around his wrist, and the white bone that dangled from it.
This is an age-old tradition amongst gamblers: the raccoon bone. Wrap it in string, smother it in oil, keep it on you and it turns the odds in your favor. How they got to thinking that attaching themselves to the dongle of an animal that digs through trash, I will never know. Old superstitions, but it seemed like it was working well enough on him.
I see.
Had not a thing to do with the lady in the red dress, but the man in the sunglasses. He was working some voodoo on this place, looked like.
Me, I have a history with that voodoo, and I don’t like it so much. And I know that Josephine said that we had to keep our noses clean and just keep an eye out, but I can’t help it that I was feeling a mean little smile creeping up on me.
It doesn’t matter how long a man’s streak of luck might be, too much gin and juice is going to get to him and he’s still got a bladder. As soon as the table was empty enough, he excused himself from his lady, saying he’d be back.
And so I followed him, adjusting the cuffs of my sleeves.
Well, not into the bathroom. Voodoo-man or not, a man respects another man’s space less he’s done something wrong.
And there is just something shameful about following someone into the men’s room. But I will admit I did feel much like a fool waiting for him just outside that door, and even I got to thinking that what if he wasn’t going to come out? Witches you know: they’re crafty folks and it doesn’t take more than a minute with your eyes off them before they do something that’s going to mess your life all up.
I breathed myself a sigh of relief when I saw him come out, the cocky son of a bastard. So I put on my best smile, which I’m told can calm a storm.
“Mister sir,” I called to him as he walked past me.
He looked over the rim of his sunglasses and I could see they were bloodshot something terrible. And that was when I became aware of the sweet, earthy smell coming from the men’s room.
“What dy’a want,” he asked. I could tell that he was itching to get back to those tables and those chips and that lady that draped herself all over him.
“I just wanted to congratulate you, Mister Sir, for all them winnings,” I said, and I know that I was playing dumb and it hurt me, but I put my hand out for him to shake.
He eyed my palm warily, as if shaking the strange black man’s hand would take all his luck away, but seemed to decide that I was safe enough and smiled. We shook hands.
“Thanks, man,” he said, and the light hit him just right so that through the tinted glass I could see him squinting. “And you are?”
“Russell, sir. Russell Paymee.”
“Paymee?” He laughed at my made-up surname. “Guess you’re gonna tell me to pay you, huh Mister Paymee?” He found it a lot funnier than he should have, and I laughed out of politeness. Just as long as he kept shaking my hand, it didn’t bother me none. “You can just call me Gary, Mister Paymee.”
“What is it that you do, Gary,” I asked. I could feel the red string begin to come loose.
“I’m an accountant, and you? What do they uh… pay you for?” Behind those glasses I could see his eyes darting back towards the table, but I needed him here for just a moment longer.
“I’m a publicist, sir.” I broke the shake for just a moment to reach into my suit jacket and hand him a business card. “If you’re this lucky on your own, I’m betting you’d be great with someone to do the talking for you.”
“Don’t think I’ll need one,” he said, not looking at the card at all but at the lady yawning in his seat. “Accounting’s not really a publicist kinda gig, ya know?”
He was heading to walk away, but I put my hand out again. “Well think about it.” I gave his hand a firm shake. “It was a pleasure meeting you Gary.”
“Likewise,” he told me, though he did seem a might skeptical about that.
He walked on, rejoined by his lovely lady-friend.
Aaron had evidently been watching me, and he appeared at my side curiously.
“Did I just see you hand that man a business card?”
I smiled. “You sure did, son.”
“Whose phone number did you steal for that one?”
“A lovely lady of the evenin’ I met one night who tells me she sometimes just wants to hear someone talk to her. Her name is Linda.”
Aaron gave me a confused smile. “So what’s the deal with the guy with the sunglasses?”
I kept a steady face, but mentally I was biting my lip nervously. The trick here was that while I knew about voodoo, and Josephine knew about voodoo, and Jack on some level knew about voodoo, our other two were very much a voodon’t. And I didn’t feel any kind of comfortable letting our new ones in on the stranger parts of our business when that was something that Josephine was better equipped for.
But I also couldn’t tell him that that man was a mark. Aaron was smart, but he was just as hot-headed as Felix and I knew, I knew, that I had to tell just the right lie.
“He’s talking a few things about another casino down the way. Thought Jo might be interested in looking into it.”
He seemed not to believe me. He always rubbed me the wrong way, that Aaron kid. Asks too many questions. Sometimes I got this feeling that he was poking his nose a little too far and it was more than just curiosity. But he finally accepted that I wasn’t going to come up with any more convincing lies than that. He nodded his head and went back into the crowd.
I glanced back at the poker table and with a smile that I admit was a little meaner than I like to be, I noticed that Gary’s mountain of chips had whittled down to a small hill already. That placid grin he had been wearing since his smoke break had whittled down as well: now his lips were tight and from this angle I could see him glaring at the dealer like it was his fault.
His lady groupie had left him in a heartbeat.
I thumbed the smooth curve of the bone as it dangled from my wrist. Man, it was easy to like the feel of the thing, even if you didn’t know what it was. But I do know, so I took it off and tucked it away next to my fake business cards.
After I sent the message to Josephine that it had all been taken care of, I checked my watch. It was getting close to midnight. Felix had been out a good, long time. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen the Boss anywhere since she set us loose.
She hadn’t replied back to me.
Something wasn’t right.

Terrible Tie

The first outing is invariably the worst when it comes to new boys. They have a tendency to wander off and do their own thing with no regard to what I’ve asked them to do. It doesn’t matter what kind of potential they might have as a grunt, they will still do something stupid. For this reason, whenever I’ve taken on a new recruit, I make sure that their first outing isn’t something that will be too damaging.
Felix is a special case. He will always be a special case because his afflictions aside, he is just a terrible listener.
And that is why the first mission should be a low-risk experiment. However, events have this preponderance for turning, which I should have been prepared for but was, regrettably, not.
This was meant to be a simple information-gathering mission. I only brought the boys along because going alone was simply not going to happen. Capable though I might be, I am quite aware that I stand only a meager four feet and nine inches. And though I do not doubt my rights in this century, I am still a woman. Though most have picked up on the fact that I am a force to be reckoned with, I am not so arrogant that I would go in alone.
The boys were there, simply, to make me look good. Unfortunately not a single one of them could manage to make me look taller without having me stand on their shoulders.
I had brought four of them. Four is a good number: you sometimes do have to treat them like children and insist on the Buddy System. If one of them went wandering off, there would be some kind of means to keep track of them. What that means was ended up being their jurisdiction; I’m not paying them for me to give a damn.
Those four were Randall, Jack, Aaron, and (I say with a heavy sigh) Felix. Between the four of them, the only one who did not make me feel as though I were walking amongst a forest of legs was Jack. I sometimes joked that this was the only reason I brought him along. To myself, of course. I’d rather they not be in on the idea that I have a sense of humor. That aside, Jack did offer the unique skill of fitting into small spaces.
Not so with Randall, who had the benefit of being noticed. You don’t forget a man like Randall when you walk by him. Something about him just glows. And I thought, when I first encountered him that though his story broke my heart I just could not take him on. But that too had its benefits. While everyone was watching him on the left, that gave us plenty of room on the right.
And this was why we had Aaron. I even struggle to remember his name at times because he is simply that forgettable. I could not describe his face if it came down to a contest and I often found myself writing notes to remember that he was even there. He blended into everything. He was a sneaky little bastard until he was standing at your elbow.
And, I say again with a heavy sigh, this left Felix. Dropped out of high school. Lived in an abandoned warehouse. When Randall found him he was addicted to coke. I offered to take him in under the condition that he kick the habit and he refused me twice. The third time was a matter of persuasion. And by ‘persuasion’ I mean of course that I had Randall take him in before he turned into a Felixcicle.
He is not very smart. He is stubborn. He has terrible habits. He sticks out like a sore thumb. But there’s a very useful side to him for me: he sees me as his savior. This means that he is more than willing to kill on my orders, and men like that are very hard to come by these days. The bloodlust in his eyes would frighten me, were he not firmly under my foot. It is my intention to keep him there.
But it certainly doesn’t do well to crush him while he’s under the sole of my shoe. And this is why we take trips. In many ways, I’m like a school teacher: sometimes you must be willing to take a trip to teach them or they will get antsy. As it stood, there was just about nothing on my roster of chaos this week and there was this casino that had been catching my attention for a few years.
The casino was fairly large by the standards of its removal from the rest of the town. It really was the stereotype of every Indian Casino you might encounter: made mostly of wood and I cringe to think how the Potowatomi must have hated playing up the stereotype. Replicas of ‘sacred items’ sat in glass cases, rather unappreciated.
What brought them to my attention was that they were brought to my attention at all. Rather suddenly, the house had significantly more winnings than their previous year. Now, I realize that the rule is that the house always wins. But this was quite a jump from the usual step of learning to rig the house effectively. They were raking in at least two million quarterly, which is unheard of for a place of that size. And you would think that, given a place’s loss of luck, by a customer standpoint, that they would be loosing patronage. But you would be surprisingly erroneous to think such a thing.
No, in fact they were bringing them in by the droves. This caught my attention. This, very much caught my attention.
There are certain types of information that certain types of my boys are not intended to be privy to. That information generally pertains the supernatural.
Yes, the supernatural. Ghosts and demons and yetis, oh my. Generally, people laugh when I mention it, and that is why my only confidants at this juncture were Randall and Jack, with whom I share the intricacies only because I am certain that they are already aware of them.
But Aaron and Felix, would have to stay in the dark, and I felt that so long as this went off without a hitch we could make that happen.
My theory in this was that the casino owners had tripped over a leyline. Now, considering that this was reservation land, I had no intention of exploiting it. I merely intended to sate my growing curiosity, and perhaps propose a few ideas. This is why I felt it was safe to bring our newest along. There would be no thievery, no throat-slitting, and no hostile negotiations tonight.
We stepped in, I in the center and the men surrounding me on either side. We were bombarded with all the smells and sounds of a thousand people throwing their money away: the burrs and whizzes and dings of coin slots, the smell of snow crab legs and sweat.
“Alright boys,” I said. I’m certain that they thought it slightly demeaning for them to be called that, but at any point in our relationship, they had most likely exposed some form of boyishness. They could not, and would not, refute my claims on their maturity. “Pagers on. I want you to keep an eye out for something strange.”
“Strange like what,” Aaron asked.
This was where the challenge was. Trying to explain what I was looking for without outing myself as someone who believed that there were supernatural powers at work was going to be hard. To avoid losing my credibility, it was best that those things be shown to them rather than explained.
“Both of you,” and I pointed to him and Felix, “I want you to keep an eye on anyone that you see people gravitating towards. Watch particularly for people exchanging money or notes in a suspicious manner. Page me if you find someone. Do not act otherwise unless I say so. Randall, Jack: you know what to look for. I’ll page you when I need you.”
“What, so you’re just gonna let us out on our own,” Felix said. Something about him didn’t seem quite right. He seemed nervous.
“This is not a free-for-all. You are on a mission. Keep an eye on people. Report back to me. Do you understand?”
He seemed to diminish in size, which would seem rather difficult for someone who could easily use me as a walking cane. “Yes ma’am.”
They pared off. Sometimes I wish I were omniscient and could hear what they were saying, but I later admit to myself that that would take all of the fun out of everything.
With the two groups dispersed, that left me to myself. What a pity that I would have to carry out my investigation alone.
Yes. A pity.
In many cases, the best act for discovery is to simply wander, and let your feet take you to wherever they gravitate. It isn’t one-hundred percent effective: on more than one occasion I have ended up nearly walking into the mens’ room. This is not to say that there isn’t something particularly strange about certain mens’ rooms, but I digress.
My feet took me to the table games: still close enough to the penny slots that they were a minor distraction compared to the clacking of the roulette wheel and cheers as one person out of fifty won a round of poker. And then the disappointed grunts as they put it all in for the next round only to lose.
It really was a beautiful sound, to be honest.
So I took my place on the floor, standing in the midst of it and waiting. What for, exactly? Well, I was not entirely certain, but it would come along, I was sure.
A middle-aged man, stinking of gin, and wearing a terrible tie that I’m sure was meant to replicate a work of Jackson Polluck but rather evoked the texture of a failed souffle instead, put his arm around me. “You,” he said, wafting the smell of gin even closer to my face. “You can be my Lady Luck-ah.” And he said it just like that: giving the extra syllable with rancid breath. His terrible tie fluttered in the breeze it made.
And who am I to question fate? If Terrible Tie thinks that I’m his token of luck, I won’t be upset if I am encouraged to be at his side. So rather than making him drag me to the Poker Table, I willingly lead him there under the premise that it was his feet that were doing the walking and not my own.
Let it be known that I could absolutely not stand this man. I find a small pleasure in the fact that his decision to use me as a prop mirrored my desire to have nothing to do with him by the time the night was through.
But men are imbeciles.
So I played it dumb, claiming not to know anything about poker. And I must say that I was doing him quite the service: the other men at the table were far too busy looking at me to notice his failures to bluff. Feeling a sort of sad fondness for Terrible Tie’s lack of luck, I shrugged the straps of my dress down, pursed my lips, and leaned against the table for a full view of my cleavage.
His luck increased.
This is a skill I have. Much like Randall, I can become a great distraction when I need to. But it should be known that I am not the only one who knows that trick.
She was a brunette like me. Buxom, like me. I insist that I am prettier, but she had the benefit of being much taller.This newcomer was, of course, my newest adversary. Being the competitive ham that I am, I began to play up the role. To make up for my lack of height, I threw my arms around Terrible Tie, sliding into his lap.
I pretended not to notice the poke I felt through the skirt of my dress. Terrible Tie smiled sideways and pulled me into a sloppy, unwanted kiss. I cursed my competitive nature.
“Come on, Big Daddy, you can win this hand, I can feel it,” I cooed, shoving my ennui away and smiling like a very bored supermodel. He grinned as the dealer dealt.
My opponent’s mobile money-maker was the kind of man who wore sunglasses indoors, and particularly to poker games. His thin, bony face was a perfect contrast to his Lady’s round and brown one. If opposites attract, then they would have been the perfect couple.
The perfect couple of chumps.
To be honest he looked like a complete and total skeazebag, and for this I grew a defiant fondness for Terrible Tie. Sunglass Skeaze and Ditzy Tits had found themselves on the wrong side of a shrewd businesswoman and her meat puppet.
The cards were out. A high straight. That Jack of Clubs looked at me like he could have been winking. I immediately looked at Skeaze and Tits. Not a single bit of emotion from behind those sunglasses, but his lady was pointing with her polished fingernail at something and smiling awful wide. He nodded.
I mirrored her actions, sidling up to Tie and whispering little encouragements in his ear. I’m certain there were other people playing besides the four of us, but hell if I remembered a single one of them. I think there were at least two very unimportant men at the table.
The pot began at $50 and soon raised to $150. I put up my most confident, yet demure smile and glared at the woman across the table. She was glaring back. Oh good, I wasn’t the only one playing this game. That would have been terribly boring.
“I raise you… another $25,” said Skeaze, pushing a few chips our way. The peon to my left groaned and set his cards face-down.
“Fold,” he said.
“Raise him fifty,” I told the man with my high straight, adding a wink for persuasion.
“Raise you fifty,” he slurred, dropping chips onto the green table.
Out of the corner of my eye, Peon Number Two shook his head and put his hand on the table. “Fold.”
Tits stared at me like I had just stolen her mascara. It was on now.
She batted her eyelashes and it was as though she and he had a psychic link. She didn’t even say a word as he threw down another hundred.
“He’s bluffing,” I told him. “Look at his eyes: he’s bluffing.” Terrible Tie might have been sobering up just a little because he looked over the edge of his cards to check. He then looked at me as though he was unsure. But I just shook my head and pursed my lips, mouthing the words ‘five-hundred.’
I don’t care that his nervousness showed on his face. It wasn’t my money I was playing with. I only cared that that pot got to a real high-stakes number. Just to see what Tits and Skeaze would do. Skeaze clacked his chips together nervously.
“All in.”
I almost thought Tie was going to have a heart attack. He looked at me for reassurance. Well, he looked at me and then down a bit. I adjusted my cleavage appropriately. “For me?” I batted my eyelashes and nearly puked inside my mouth, thank you for asking.
He took a deep breath and nodded. “For the Lady,” he said, and pushed the remainder of his chips forward. The audience (for by now we had attracted quite the crowd) held their breath. Convinced that his high straight had the making of a winner, and confident that the decision to throw all of his money into the pot was solely his idea, Tie flashed a cocky smile at our opponents.
Showing the first signs of emotion all night, Skeaze returned that cocky smile.
The dealer made a quick calculation, which was impressive once you considered how many chips there were in the pot and in the disorganized piles that both the men had left them in. His eyebrows raised and he simply mouthed the word ‘wow.’
“Gentlemen, show your hands.”
Tie splayed his hand out for all to see. “Straight,” he said.
Skeaze looked upset by it. His lips thinned and for a moment I thought that we might have actually had a chance. But then I remembered that I wasn’t the only actor in this play.
“Aw man,” he said, displaying some variety of Midwestern accent. “I dunno how I’m gonna beat a straight.” He flipped his cards over, resting them under his thumb.
My sight was accosted with the color red.
“Straight Flush wins this hand,” the dealer announced, pushing the chips towards our adversaries. Giving Terrible Tie a halfhearted yawn, I slid off his lap.
“Well, its been real,” I said while he was still in enough shock to be frozen in his seat. My eyes were still on Ditzy Tits, who was excitedly giggling and showering her prize-winning livestock with attention and whispering probably very naughty things in his ear by the way he adjusted his tie.
I had a feeling…
… but that was a sentence that I was unable to complete, for I was soon taken by the waist and abducted by a quickly sobering, but nonetheless fuming man in a Jackson Polluck Souffle tie.
I know I keep discussing the inconvenience of being a smallish person, but really… really it is not an endearing thing for me to be travel-sized. Shocked though I was, I didn’t struggle. There was no reason to cause a scene. Had I not been pondering the woman in the red dress, I would have heard his clodding footsteps as he removed himself from the table.
He deposited me outside on the pavement quite a distance from the door, which caught me off-guard. He didn’t strike me as the type to go out of his way to harm a woman. But people will surprise you every day of your life.
“You bitch,” he bellowed, and I will use the phrase ‘foaming at the mouth’ in a very literal sense here. “You owe me money.”
Fuck. I had a run in my stocking. Hard to look intimidating at all when there was a run in my stocking. And he did throw me hard onto my shoulder, but I propped myself up through the pain.
“That was MY MONEY you just lost me,” he yelled, spittle landing on my arms in the form of ice crystals. “MY. MONEY.”
“Excuse me? You practically kidnapped me and declared me your lucky charm. I can’t be blamed for your poor judgement. You’re a grown man! You should know better than to trust complete strangers on financial advice.”
“Two. Thousand. Dollars,” he said. “You owe me two thousand dollars.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh darling. Two K isn’t anything to get mad about.”
“Then give me what you lost me.”
“I didn’t lose you anything. Nothing that you weren’t going to lose yourself somehow.”
What might come to a surprise to absolutely no one, my usual wit and wiles did nothing to quell his anger. And from my dizzy position on the pavement, I came to realize just how vulnerable I was without my weapons of words. His face spoke threats for him as it turned a furious salmon color.
I didn’t have time to brace myself. His foot collided with my stomach and I skidded over the ice.
I would love to tell you a story of how I clawed his eyes out or snapped his neck, but while I fancy myself a femme fatale there is no possible way to make me look like the fierce fighter I wish I could be and hold a single grain of truth to it. I came to a stop and slowly got to my knees, unable to raise myself any further. The heel of my palm was numb already from trying to hold myself up on the ice, my other hand holding on to my stomach.
I’d hoped that he’d gotten it all out of his system, that having beaten me he’d gotten his money’s worth of revenge. But I heard the horrifyingly familiar sound of a belt loosening and I began to shake. I tried to move my legs, to run while he was still clumsily fumbling with the buckle, but spasms ran up my spine any time I tried to move more than but an inch. I felt small and weak, and I closed my eyes to accept defeat. The worst of it would be over soon, I hoped.
The next thing I heard was a muffled gurgling and a loud thud. This, too, was a familiar sound. I opened one eye, and turned my head to look. Silhouetted against the far away lights of the casino, was an thin shadow hunched over Terrible Tie’s prone body, hand still on his mouth as if to muffle any noise that might escape from his lips. When the last of the dead man’s shuddering faded, the shadow stood, staring at me through two cigarette burns for eyes. From this distance, even, I could feel the fever rising from his skin.
“I had this completely under my control, Felix,” I said. Saying his name brought him back from wherever it was he went. His normal soured milk pallor returned, as well as a dull and bewildered look on his face.
“Oh. Sorry,” he said, scratching absently at the back of his head in a slightly bewildered manner.
Regaining my composure, but still hunched over in pain, I took stock of the scene from my position on the ground. “You had to go for the throat, didn’t you Medhi? Now there’s blood everywhere. Christ. I don’t even know what to do with you sometimes.”
There he went again, diminishing. Good. I needed him to feel small, just in case that look in his eye came back.
“What do you want me to do with the body,” he mumbled.
I admit that it took awhile to register what he had said. I was still shaking from impact and resurfaced memories I thought I’d long killed off. And from the possibility that though my aggressor was dead, there was still an overwhelming chance that I was still not safe as I sat, only partially functioning on the cold ground and clutching at a tender wound with something that I had not yet sussed out. He must have gotten the gist that I didn’t hear him the first time, so he repeated it: word for word and inflection for inflection.
“Just… dump him in the snow. We’ll be gone long before it melts.” He was still staring at me, so I gave him another order. “At least a mile out of here so no one connects it with this casino. I like this place. Hate to see it shut down for one scumbag.” Silence from him, as usual. He was still staring at me, not with those glowing eyes that scared me, but… something like concern. Such that you would find in family. “What are you waiting for?”
“You gonna be okay, Boss?”
“Let me put this in words your dropout brain can comprehend: Git gone. Now.”
Felix threw his hands up in defeat and grabbed Terrible Tie by the collar, dragging him out through the snow and disappearing in the flurry. I exhaled a breath that I had been holding since before the man’s throat was slit.
I was likely to come home with a bruised rib, but thankfully that was all. I should have been kinder to Felix. He might have saved my life.
Slowly, I got to my feet, shaking the numbness from my knees. I would need to take it easy for the rest of the night; stay somewhere safe and trust that the other four would know what to do. I laughed at the notion that they could handle anything without me, and a pain crept up my side.
I made my way into the parking lot, crawled into the SUV, and turned on the engine for some heat. It was minutes before I had convinced myself that yes, it was for the best that I sit this one out. Terrible Tie’s face was all I could recall, and the drunken, slurred words he spoke warped themselves into threats. And I saw in my flawed memory every moment that could have prevented it. And I saw my actions and I blamed myself. I leaned my head on the steering wheel.
There was something that I was forgetting. That was what I was trying to search my memory for: a sentence left unfinished.
Without removing my head from the steering wheel, I fished around in my bra for the pager I had stowed under my left breast. I took a deep breath and typed a message to Randall.
“Brunette. Red dress.” Send.

Wisconsin is Cold
Man, she was an expert.
I mean, not that she was a hooker or anything because unless she lifted my wallet in the process I’m pretty sure she wasn’t looking to get paid or nothing. But man, if I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure that she’d take it like an insult, I’d have dropped a Benjamin for her, no lies.
Well… if I had one. Which I would have if they’d given me a few more chances.
I should wear ties more often, you know? I mean sure they’re a bitch to put on and someone can drag you across a room by one but… no wait. I like that last one. Let’s keep that one.
So she and I met at this wood-paneled bar when I wandered away from my other dudes because honestly I was getting a little tired of their shit. I mean I get that I ain’t exactly the brightest crayon in the box but seriously they were all taking these low-blows and I was getting real sick of it. So I trod through the snow because the lights were making me twitch.
It was a real dive, you know? One of the ones where you know they’re going to treat you like shit because they’re the only drink for miles and there ain’t no locals around here, so what do they care that you’re never gonna come back? My kind of people. The kind of bar you don’t mind getting thrown out of. Through a window if you’re feeling it.
So anyhow it was a pretty shitty night for me all around up until I got my first shot of Jack down the hatch. I’m just sitting there, at the bar, minding my own business and this chick makes a beeline for me. I’m not even lying when I say she beelined: this lady came in and walked straight up to the bar and sat next to me.
Okay, so granted I might have been the only dude there that wasn’t covered in plaid flannel and resembling a large, furry creature from up north; but I’m not gonna bother myself with stupid things like facts. I’ve just got this aura of attractiveness to me. Chicks look at me and they see a dude that can please any woman and they line up.
And when I say ‘chick,’ I mean ‘woman.’ And I don’t mean no housewife, neither. If I was gonna guess, I’d say she worked at the casino I’d just come from as a cocktail waitress and, like me, got a little sick of the rich fucks.
Well, no, I’mma back up here and explain. My dude friends weren’t so much the ones that drove me out. Truth be told, going to a casino was probably not the best of ideas for me. But I didn’t wanna sit this one out, I mean it would have been my first time that I’d actually get to tag along on one of their missions and I swore to God I could handle it.
But we unload ourselves out of the SUV and I’m standing outside the ring of penny and dime slots, and I hear the undulating roll of whizzes and burrs like I’m conducting a goddamn symphony. And I’m feeling the ghost of dice in my hands, and a rush of adrenaline, and I could feel Lady Luck coming my way and I just had to grab her.
The minute my attendance was no longer required, I was out of there and playing craps.
I’ve got a little bit of a gambling problem, okay? I mean, I like to think that I could win a game or two without loaded dice, but let’s face it: I’m an unlucky fuck. I was bleeding money before an hour was up and my buddies had to come and save me from losing it all.
That would be where they started taking jabs at my intelligence. Yeah, even Randall, who is kind of the guy that steps in when it starts getting mean, was poking fun at me and you know what? I’d just lost $500 and reminded myself that I had a problem okay? Fuck them.
Yeah, fuck them.
Me and Casino Lady here were having our own party. I mean, my plans were just to go cool off for a few hours and maybe go back to the casino before the dipshits got worried, but… hey, my plans could change. I’m a flexible guy.
And she was flirting with me hardcore. She was batting her eyelashes, pouting her lips. I wasn’t even trying. Usually I have to try.
I knew what she was going to say before she said it. There’s that moment in another person’s company where you just know that things are gonna be going right. Its like a pause, you know? She’ll look around at all the other scumbags at the bar and think that you’re slightly less scummy than the rest of them. And then she says the words you’ve been repeating in your head over and over and over again in hopes that you’ll be sending her a subliminal message somehow.
“Wanna go somewhere else?” And I can see myself jumping up and down in celebration just at the very notion that finally my luck was starting to turn in my favor. But I kept that inside my head. My cool exterior had won her over so far tonight: no sense in jinxing it.
“Yeah,” I said. And I’m not gonna lie to you folks: I probably sounded like some slack-jawed yokel or something. And realizing that I was spending too much time staring at her tits and not doing much in the way of moving, I eventually snapped out of it. “I’m from outta town, though. You know this town better’n I do, I bet.”
“Oh, you bet I do,” she laughed. I really like her laugh. She didn’t giggle, right? It was all confidence, like she didn’t care about appearing ‘too independent.’ If I want a lady to play like a ditz, I’ll pay them to do it. But naw, I could pay a hooker any time. When someone ain’t getting paid for me to get laid, I’m not gonna tell them how to laugh.
So she tugged on my sleeve and pried me from my barstool. My suspicions were right, of course. Most of the casino staff lived their own little housing complex. Which would have sounded real shitty to me about five years ago to have to live with your co-workers and pretty much live your work life, but… a year or so of homelessness and joblessness will change a dude’s outlook.
And considering that this was Wisconsin and snow was about six feet deep, being able to throw a rock at your place of employment was a pretty sweet deal. With the exception of the bar we’d just walked out of, there wasn’t much in the way of city life here outside the casino. In fact, I don’t think the place was even within any kind of city limits.
So basically, it was better for everyone that the place made enough money off of playing guys like me for chumps. At least Lucy had a place to live.
Oh yeah. Lady’s name was Lucy. Lucky Lucy. Tonight she was more like Loose Lucy, but I like to think she rubbed off on me.
I remember her opening the door and being welcomed with the strong smell of warm spices and honeysuckle: the scent I’d been drinking in with more intent to savor than my $8 shots. I could live in this smell. Maybe I could let the bus leave without me. I don’t take up a whole lot of space. I could just live in the bedroom. Maybe the casino would give a thief and recovering gambler a job.
Nah. On second thought that sounded like too much effort. We seemed to be doing the one-night stand thing pretty well. Let’s keep it that way. One night stands were safe.
These thoughts took place in a split second before I was kinda busy.
Most chicks have this game they play with dudes. You know the game I’m talking about. Where they make a point of leading them in and making them wait just to see how long it takes them before they beg. I am convinced that this game is a form of feminist protesting, because there’s nothing that brings a man to his knees and willing to do what a woman says like making him wait.
Thankfully, she didn’t do any of that. The minute I stepped over the threshold, she wrapped my tie around her fingers and gave it a playful, if probably a little rougher than I’m used to, yank. I’m not ashamed to admit that she surprised me with her strength. She didn’t strike me as the weak kinda lady, but I was guessing all her strength was gonna be in her thighs with the way that little red dress clung to those hips. Man, she was shaped like a cello. But she lead me by the string around my neck, inching closer and closer to my adam’s apple. I smiled at the danger that she could probably choke me to death and I’d be perfectly fine with that.
You know… I always figured that if the person to kill me were a pretty lady I think I would be alright with it. But that philosophy aside, that’s pretty far from what she was thinking and let me just say that as awesome a death as that would be what we were actually about to do seemed a lot more fun.
Lucy threw me onto the deep green sheets that covered her bed and I’m going to be pretty honest here: I was a little frightened for my life with how she handled me. For a second or two, as my head hit the headboard of her queen-sized bed, I didn’t know which way was up or down. She managed to decide for me: swinging her shapely legs over me like she was doing a dance move. That little red dress twirled in front of me in a flurry of color before she straddled me with those wide hips.
I should have sobered up now, after that walk in the snow, but that’s what ladies do to me, man. I was drunk all over again.
She pawed her way up my chest, ticking off the buttons between her nails simply by pinching them. Knowing that that was my only nice shirt, I should have protested, but she was already halfway up my chest and for that I was not going to complain. Her legs slid up against mine, and down again, setting a rhythm I was already dancing to. Every instinct I had told me to wrap my legs around her and flip her, but it was hard to think about what I ought to be doing when I could already feel her soaking through both our layers of clothing.
I gained control over my hands finally and pulled her in by that tiny little waist she had, running my fingers against the fabric of the dress that I really didn’t want to be there.
You’ve gotta understand, though: its not like this was my first time, okay? I know what I’m doing. But there are some women, you know: they just strike you dumb with their wiles and their power and that was Lucy all over. When her little fingers loosed my tie completely, she used the ends of it to pull my mouth to hers and I was more than happy to welcome her tongue as it ventured past my lips.
I pulled her tighter and her fingers curled around my hair. Our lips broke, but only so that I could replace them on her neck: along that one vein that so easily felt every little twitch. And I could feel her heart beating under my lips, going faster than it ought. Still holding firmly onto the necktie, she wrenched me up until I sat up with her still rocking back and forth on my lap. The moans she made were tiny compared to the ones I wanted to make. I needed to get out of these pants, but it was too soon.
A lot of guys will tell you they hate foreplay and the only way I can explain that is that they never learned how to do it right. I’d tell them to watch and learn, but inviting someone in would pass the borders of my comfort zone.
This seated position put me in one of God’s most treasured views: directly at the bustline. The shoulder straps of her dress were already falling, and the air coming off of her breasts was so warm. I kissed her collarbone once before following the line down to her nipple. The moan that escaped her was music. Man, I love women who moan. Women who moan, women who purr… God damn. God…. damn.
I heard a rip, which I think was only fair since she pulled all the buttons off of my shirt. She made a sound like she was offended that I would treat her clothes with that much disrespect, but that was short-lived. Through the blood pounding in my ears I heard the words ‘fuck it, I’ll buy a new one’ exhale past those red-smeared lips. I smiled and the way mouth moved from it made her body twitch in unexpected ways. Beautiful ways. And the dress ripped itself all the way down: cheap polyester fluttering to the floor while she straddled me, naked but for those black and soaked panties that were eagerly pressed against my pants.
Oh God in Heaven or whatever… did I not want to be wearing pants.
And I reached for my belt, but she grabbed me by the wrists and slammed them down on the headboard. It hurt. It felt good.
Letting go of one wrist, she put one hand behind my head, tangling her fingers in my hair and pulling me forward. Her other hand she used to place mine firmly in the small of her back and her message was clear as day to me. My nose slid down her wide belly, and further even to that sweet scent of sweat and I hesitated because I love that smell. I love that smell more than anything.
Lucy smelled like honey.
But she tasted like cider.
I’ve been told my tongue is the best thing about me. I mean, personally I’d have to disagree, but I’m not about to argue when I’m nose-deep in neatly-trimmed hairs, licking up something that smells like honey and tastes like cider, and gets her screams caught in her throat before she can let them out. And she was already so wet that my tongue just slid in there like it belonged there. She let out a half-scream and from there the way my tongue moved was automatic, following the sounds she made and the rough way she made her body move.
She came by the mouthfuls, and I was happy to swallow, the movements of my gulping throat rubbing up and down against her sensitive skin. The lady knew how to move, that was for damn sure.
Epic-worthy though my tongue probably is, there’s only so much it can do when it comes to filling up a hole, and Lucy was cavernous. Not that I mind a lady with some space: not to brag but I kind of need some wiggle room. Speaking of ‘wiggle room,’ those slacks had been feeling pretty tight since she started tugging on my tie.
So you gotta imagine the relieved sigh I made when the next words to come out of her mouth were: “Ugh, fuck me.”
The belt was off with a loud ‘snap.’ Unzipped in a matter of seconds, rolled to my knees in less. She drew a wet line down my chest, the head of my dickmeeting her there. I pulled myself upright against the headboard, cum still dripping off my chin, but she didn’t seem to mind tasting her sweet self on my lips. Kisses were fleeting, though. Once she engulfed me it was hard for either of us to focus on what our mouths were doing.
Hips got a mind of their own when it comes down to what the body wants. I mean, I wanted to hold onto her titties while she rocked back and forth, but like I said earlier: Lucy was an expert. My nails were digging into the cheap-ass pine of the headboard as she wrapped her arms around me, dropping her head into the crook of my neck.
I felt nails.
I didn’t care.
I felt teeth.
I didn’t care.
But it was that undulating she did, and it drove me insane. My toes curled each time our hip bones crashed together and I wanted to hold her still to keep that feeling a little longer than the fractions of seconds that she allowed me to feel.
I let go of the headboard and in a snap my hands held her by the hips, gripping onto the fat of her ass. She squirmed, trying to regain momentum, and my hands crawled up her back like a vine, pressing her to me as I pulled us both to our knees. She gave a pathetic little cry of want.
With one hand at the small of her back and the other tangled in her long, brown hair, I bent her backwards in an almost perfect semicircle. Her throat strained and she collapsed onto the sheets with me still inside her.
My head fell between that beautiful place between her breasts again and her nails dug into my back to keep me there while we fell back into the rhythm. I admit, I could have been a little more gentle, but she didn’t seem to mind with the way she moaned and writhed.
And I was so close, so fucking close when she curled her legs around mine and held me. The sound I made repeated the one she did when I forced her to hold still and I swear to god she was getting some kind of sick pleasure out of the irony.
But holding me there didn’t exactly slow me down. I was a flurry of curse words and grunts and through our mutual moans I could feel it. She arched her back and I arched mine. I could feel it. I could FEEL it. And dear god, as much as I wanted to let it go, I wanted to hold onto that feeling of need forever.
And as she raked her nails along my thigh, I released it all into her. She screamed, and not the half-yelps that she’d been giving me all night but a full-on wail. I let out a breath that I felt like I’d been holding for hours and dropped my head down at the nape of her rouged neck, running my lips along her skin just to see her twitch at the slightest touch.
I could probably rile her up all over again and I’d have been glad to do it, but I know what it looks like when a lady is… let me put it this way: overstimulated. I’ve been there, you know? You get to a point where you don’t know what you’re feeling anymore. Its good, and you know its good, but its like that sixth shot: you’re not feeling the same good feeling anymore.
So I pulled back and spread out next to her on the bed, running my hands across her to bring her back. Because as fun as it is having my dick in her, she was beyond the point of enjoyment, and that made it less fun for me.
I’m making this sound a lot less romantic than it was, probably. But I swear that me and Lucy shared a moment there while our bodies slowly cooled down. Her breathing slowed and her eyes fluttered open. She smiled at me. She had a great smile.
Okay, so I know I make it sound like I’m some big cock-swinging manly man with no emotions or feelings, but let’s just be honest: I’m not immune to falling in love and I am probably the goddamned worst at it because I do it at the worst possible time. This does not exclude post-coitus. But there was this way she just made the air around her glow… and maybe I hadn’t noticed it while we were at the flirting stage. But man, she was easy to fall in love with.
“Sweet Jesus,” I mumbled. She laughed and shook her head. Lucy rolled onto her side, her body finally catching up to her brain enough to move. Her lips curled and in some ways I could almost hear her purring at me. She might have wanted to go again, I don’t know. I’m not an expert on body language.
“So,” she said, laughing because it was so mundane after what we’d just done. “You’re from out of town, eh?” I nodded, still trying to figure out how my mouth worked. “Where from?”
“I dunno… move around a lot. Home now is Pittsburgh, I guess.”
“And you came all the way from PA… for our piece of shit casino.” I wasn’t looking at her, but I could tell she was rolling her eyes.
“Hey, my buddies were goin’ on a trip and I ain’t never been to one before, so I came with. Ain’t that hard to believe.” My pants had made it, somehow, to about three inches to the left of my head. Finding the strength to sit up, I fished through my pockets for my smokes and lighter. “Besides, it ain’t that bad of a place. I mean, just because I had a shit run of luck ain’t no reflection on you guys.” I handed her one of my cigarettes, which she happily took between her fingers.
“Well, maybe next time you should keep an eye out for me,” she said, exhaling smoke. “Didn’t I tell you I was lucky?” She was running her fingers against my inner thigh. It was very possible that we weren’t done tonight just yet.
“I dunno… I’m not so sure I’m liking games I don’t got any control over.”
Her tiny little fingers, which were teasingly following a vein, stopped their journey. She looked at me as though I was speaking in French.
“I’m not sure I get your meaning.”
“I’m just sayin’: I got better odds when my dice are loaded. I got a good set back home I haven’t used in years gathering dust. I’d bring ‘em next time.”
You know that moment that you realize that you said something wrong and ruined pretty much everything? Isn’t it funny how that doesn’t dawn on you until after the consequences are completely rendered?
“Cheating.” I could tell from her voice that she was upset. “You were gonna cheat at my casino.” And man, I could tell she was angry because she didn’t phrase it like a question. She wasn’t asking me. She was stating it loud and clear so that I could hear my sins out loud.
I should know better than to say shit like that while I’m naked. Lucy dug her nails straight into the tender flesh of my thigh, and the last thing I remember before blacking out was screaming in pain.

Cold. That’s what happened next. I was really, really cold. I opened my eyes to a clear night sky. So clear that I could see all the stars. That’s one thing about Wisconsin: not a whole lot of light pollution to get in the way.
And snow. Wisconsin has snow.
And I… was naked.
As soon as that became obvious, which was admittedly a lot longer than it should have been, I pulled myself out of the snow and hopped around, trying to figure out what happened. With every muscle tensing, I put my hands up to my face as if that would help me remember, but everything was black. I remembered… Lucy was mad at me… and some pain in my leg…
Fuck, why did my head hurt so bad?
I put a hand to my head, finding a rolled up note behind a nearly frozen ear. Furious, curious, and cold, I unrolled it.
You can come back when you’ve gotten rid of her.
“What?” What in the flying fuck did that mean, honestly?
It was when my legs started shaking that I realized I couldn’t just stand here staring at a cryptic piece of paper. I had to move.
Fucking broads.
Seriously, what the fuck, I told myself as I shuffled through the snow. Hell if I knew where I was going. For all I knew, I was heading in the opposite direction of the road. What all happened while I was blacked out is beyond me, but it really must have pissed her off bad to strand me out here with nothing. Fuck. I take it back, maybe she was a professional. Son of a bitch.
It was probably Josephine, is what I was telling myself. That was the only possible explanation for the note. She must have remembered seeing me with my boss and thinking that we were together or some shit like that. There ain’t no other woman in my life right now but her and… look, I got nothing against her personally but it would never work out.
Bullshit, that’s what I call it. She wanted to get jealous, whatever, but don’t leave me out here literally in the cold without a chance to explain.
Fuck, how come I didn’t remember anything? This wasn’t the first time that night that I’d blacked out, either. Shit. I thought I’d gotten over that.
Up ahead I saw headlights zooming past, maybe another hundred yards or so. I went from shuffling to retain warmth to bounding towards the road. But by the time I made it to the road, the car had already driven past. I waved my arms, chasing after them, but they didn’t see me. Or I looked like a crazy naked person in the middle of the road and they just noped the fuck out. I mean it really could have been either one.
“FUCK,” I screamed, and considered chasing after them for a minute. I mean, at least it would keep me warm. But I was so fucking tired, and so fucking furious that all I could really manage to do was yell at the sky.
I realized a little too late that there were headlights behind me. By the time I turned to look, the brakes were already screeching to a halt and I was on the ground.

I woke up, again. To a splitting headache, again.
But at least I wasn’t out in the snow. I was still cold as fuck, but that’s something that happens when you spend and indeterminable amount of time out in the snow. There was a blanket draped over me. I voiced my gratitude.
“What… the fuck?”
“This is not how I was planning on finding you,” said a shrewd woman’s voice from the front seat. I turned my head. Well, I turned it far enough as I could without it feeling like it was going to break off. Josephine was sitting sideways in the passenger seat. She looked like she was recovering, but I knew she was still holding onto her side. It had been a rough night for the both of us. “But it was certainly more entertaining than I had planned for my evening, so I suppose I should be thanking you for making my night more interesting.”
Being Josephine, she didn’t actually thank me. I was in too much pain to care. Nothing seemed broken, but damn was I bruised. I wasn’t going to be moving anytime soon. The guys were laughing in the background, I could hear them. But I kept my eyes closed.
“Are we leavin’ Wisconsin anytime soon? I’m pretty much done with this state.”
“Had that gooduva night, didjer,” Jack snickered.
“Shut up, Jack.”

Of All the Rotten Luck

As soon as I felt it snap, I was out of there. I didn’t want to waste any more time with that needle-faced accountant than I had to. I was gone. I was gone, gone, gone. I didn’t stop at the floor of the casino – no. I got out. I didn’t give a flying shit about the wind or the snow: that’s what coats are for.
The casino might be my home, but I needed a short vacation and some new faces.
I will admit though: the highlight of my evening before I left had to have been that one poker game. You should have seen the way that woman looked at me. The shrewd competitor will spot their adversary on-sight. She gave me goosebumps, and that is not something that people do to me often. It was an unspoken understanding between the two of us the minute we locked eyes: one of us was going to come out the winner.
She practically dragged that poor drunken slob to my table by his disgusting tie. And I was impressed at her persistence. Not many ladies would stick around an idiot like that just to one me up.
Of course, she lost. They always lose. The House always wins, of course and I work for the House. Or maybe the House works for me. I’m really not all that sure. The specifics were a little vague.
But as I said: as soon as I felt that red thread snap, there was nothing to keep me from leaving for the night. And I risked the cold ankles of walking through the snow in heels to the tiny-ass bar a half mile down.
This is where I go when I get tired of men treating me like a lucky charm. Yes, that is my job, but sometimes you don’t get to choose and you don’t always get the chance to refuse and to be quite honest that is a part of this deal that just does not fly with me: especially when I had to be tethered to that pothead. I swear, he just reeked.
Not appetizing.
I get into this bar and its full of working men in flannel like it always is and I should have expected no less. But I needed to let off a little steam and that meant that I was horny. So much that I might have settled for one of the lumberjacks if I needed to.
Fortunate thing for me (and I laugh) that there was at least one man there that looked like he didn’t belong. I noticed him right away, throwing back a shot of whiskey, because it was hard as hell not to notice him.
And I don’t mean that he was just taller than the bulky folks that he shared this bar with. I mean that I could pick him out in a crowd of a thousand if you asked me to. He could probably wrap his arms around me twice. If he was in a parade, he’d be right at home with the stilt-walkers. He was that tall.
In fact, it was really entertaining to watch him try to hold that tiny shot glass in his giant hands.
You know what that means. You know exactly what that means.
Target: locked.
Oh look at that: he was looking at me, too. That was my cue to introduce myself in as casual a manner as I could manage. I strode up to him and took a seat on the uncomfortable barstool.
“Hey,” I said. Of course, what I wanted to do was climb him like a tree. And what a long, glorious climb it would be.
He’d already had at least one shot by the time I’d gotten there, and he gave me a sideways smile. He was staring at my cleavage; there was absolutely no doubt. But he was at least trying to look at my face. That was when I knew I’d picked someone that wasn’t a complete loser.
He didn’t offer to buy me a drink, and that was my first clue that he’d just been at my casino and probably came here to use what little money he had left to forget he was ever here.
“M’ name’s Felix,” he said.
“Lucy,” I said, returning the introduction. “I’m charmed.”
“So you workin’ at the casino,” he asked me.
“I’m a cocktail waitress, yeah,” I said. He grinned.
“I dunno how all I’m feelin’ about that place,” he said. “I mean… its nice, but…” he trailed off, as if trying to decide if he should say anything negative about my casino. I don’t really care either way. To tell you the truth I could do way better. And something told me, call it a feeling, that he’d had an awful run of luck on the floor and that was the only reason he wasn’t much a fan. Of course… he thought I was nothing more than a waitress.
He couldn’t have been too smart.
I ordered what he was having. He seemed to like that I could knock them back, if the slow upward progression of his unkempt eyebrows were anything to go by.
You know, I handle a lot of drunken men in my business, so I have a good understanding of how bad a person can get after three shots of whiskey. Given that he was about three shots in, he was handling himself well. I mean… besides the incoherent speech and the way his eyes wandered towards my cleavage.
Somehow I got the feeling that that wasn’t simply drunk behavior for him.
Well, I had better make him the offer before he was too drunk to function. I had been trying to get him to catch the hint, but for all his interest I am just going to come out and say it: this Felix was dumb as a sack of rocks. I shimmied a little closer to him. “You wanna… go somewhere else,” I asked him. Every feature of his dumb-looking face was suddenly emphasized. Yes, even his giant nose.
I’d never had a man with a beak like that before.
Tonight was going to be an experience, that was for sure.
Everyone who works at the Casino, yes even me, has their housing paid for. It makes up for the shit most of the waitresses get for pay, which leaves us free to use our meager and sometimes copious tips on food and whatever else we like. Most girls work for about six months, earn enough cash to make their daddy mad, and then skeedaddle off to something else.
I, of course, am not one of those people. For this, and other reasons, they didn’t enforce the roommate rules for me. Which was fantastic for tonight because I was not in the mood to negotiate space.
I was literally dragging him across the floor by his tie, his awkward feet tripping over themselves. I could have been a little more gentle, I do admit, but he was heavier than I thought he’d be for such a beanpole.
He groaned when his head hit against the headboard. I know I shouldn’t, but I really enjoyed that. Not enough to do it twice, but I did enjoy doing it. Plus, it did give me a chance to take the upper hand because I will be honest: if he wasn’t somewhat disoriented there was a strong chance that he could overtake me. I might not be a light little stick, but he’d had his sleeves rolled up at the bar.
I’d seen those forearms.
I liked those forearms.
They were good forearms.
By the time his eyes came to focus was already flicking those cheaply-sewn buttons off of his shirt and he gave me this conflicted look. So I paused as if I was going to ask permission, but we both knew that shirts were stupid anyhow.
His hands slid up to my waist and I smiled. There you go, smart boy. That’s what I wanted. He pulled me close for a kiss, and you know I don’t feel so right kissing a one-night-stand, but how old was this guy? 20? Something like that. He was young and with the young ones you really have to let them do what they will with their mouths because otherwise they’ll use it for stupid things like talking.
He wasn’t bad at it, though. Actually, he was making me blush and that is not something that I like to admit.
Okay, he was good for a 20-something.
Okay… he was really good.
My hips started moving all on my own, grinding up against his. I could feel him rising through those cheap slacks. Inwardly, I sighed. Men are so easily excited. It wouldn’t be long before he got sick of foreplay and went straight to the point.
But he surprised me in that his hands didn’t move from my waist, and when they did they weren’t for his belt.
Its not every guy that can make me moan just by kissing my neck, he made my whole body shudder and I couldn’t help the sounds that came out of my throat when his hands started running up my back.
Or when his lips wandered.
Or when they stopped wandering and became teeth.
I don’t even know when his hand dove inside my dress; I was too caught up in the way his tongue played on my nipple, and his teeth pulled and the way he seemed to know, just know where to put his hands to make me choke on screams.
I mean… he was alright.
Talented for a 20-something.
That’s not to say he was careful. I can’t say that I was happy when he ripped my dress. It started as a little pull at the seam but it quickly became a hole. I pulled back, but that just pulled at the skin of my breasts and I was quickly reminded just how much I didn’t want him to stop doing that.
Whatever, it was a cheap polyester dress anyway. It peeled away from me like it was tissue paper.
So he’s got his shirt open but still on, his pants and shoes are still on and all I’ve got going for me is these two triangles of fabric and I just know that eventually he was going to get tired of my tits. His hands pulled away and went straight for his belt.
I wasn’t having none of that. Not in my house.
Prying my nails from the headboard, I held him firmly by the shoulders and pushed him down. About halfway down he figured out what I was getting at and grabbed onto my thighs. We’d see if his tongue was any good where it counted.
My hand didn’t stay on his head for long, that was for sure. Good god, it was like he had a live snake coming out of his mouth. His tongue was cold, comparatively, to my pussy and the change in temperature as he pried the little fabric that separated us with it made me shiver.
That tongue did one long wave before it found my clit and when it did there was no trouble finding it again. And it moved, oh it moved and it pulsed like a hot tub jet. My hips started doing things without me, trying to push against it and give myself the pressure, but my movements were sporadic. Every little grazing of that thing in his mouth sent me a little wild, and left me disappointed that the feeling was so fleeting.
I thought he was a one-trick pony until he started tonguefucking me. I could almost feel it wrapping around my pelvic bone. His fingers had started digging into my thighs and every time I rocked back and forth to the waves of his devilish tongue I felt like I was going to lose it.
I think I might have actually been crying when I told him to fuck me. I hope he didn’t hear the desperation in my voice. I wasn’t trying very hard to hide it.
I have never seen a man unbuckle his belt so fast in my life. My legs were shaking so badly that I needed to hold onto the edge of the bed to move at all. I tried not to act surprised when his dick slid into me. I mean, I was expecting the dumbass to be long. I wasn’t expecting him to be thick as well.
With his mouth finally free, a sound that was somewhere between a moan and a desperate gasp for air escaped from him. I smiled. At least my feelings could be empathized.
I couldn’t even focus to scrutinize him. And I am one cynical bitch when it comes to getting laid. But there was nothing between us but sweat and desperate moans. My shaking thighs moved me forward and back, back and forward, falling into a rhythm without my permission. The whores. My whorish thighs.
My whorish thighs, where his fingers dug into soft, but taut flesh; straining from the work but adamant against failing even if they wanted to. My thighs, I mean. My thighs wanted to just give in and melt into him, into the heat that came off his body, into the way his back curved every time he threw himself into me. My thighs. Betraying thighs.
He held me by them, and that was the worst of it all. I couldn’t decide anymore how my body was supposed to move, not with his massive hands holding me against him.
Oh, but I loved it. And I hate that I loved it. I loved every little, miniscule movement that his fat cock made against my inner walls, and that stupid noise he made every time he pushed against me and the way that his hands keeping me still made me squirm. Oh, I wanted to smack his ugly-looking face for being so good at this.
My legs finally gave, and his hands clambered up my back. I didn’t realize what he was doing until he towered over me, I felt like a ragdoll; I just fell backwards, my hips doing those tiny, strained movements because I was close. So… close. My head spun and it was minutes before I even realized that I was on my back with him molding it into an arc by my waist.
My hands fell against my breasts and I found myself massaging them as they bounced around against the tenderly violent way he crashed against me. He was close to cumming and I’d lost count how many times I’d already done it. Once while his tongue was a whole inch inside me, once at least as my legs started to falter.
But I felt like they were all minor compared to the deluge I let loose. I don’t even know what ridiculous noises came out of my mouth. I just know I was glad I didn’t care about the neighbors who shared an adjoining wall. It must have sounded horrible.
Felix… god… I’d forgotten the cock and tongue with legs even had a name, Felix let out a sound like he’d finally surfaced from being underwater and I felt him fill me. I stiffened, arching my back further than his hands guided me. They let go, ceased digging into the fat and began running lightly down my back as he coaxed me down and withdrew.
I lay there, admittedly in shock. He was… so much better than I had anticipated. So much better. Being so young I though he would have been all talk: that he had the body but didn’t do the dance. I was impressed.
I wondered if I could keep him.
He continued touching me in gentle, almost loving ways. His hands were still firm against my skin, but there was no more eagerness in them. Just… that need to feel, to remember what its like only to touch.
God, I missed being worshiped.
I turned my back to him so he could trace the outline of my figure, so he couldn’t see my face. This was not how my evening was supposed to go. I just wanted to wash the sleaze off of me and work out my frustration on someone I could forget, not find myself considering a new pet. I mean… it was a big bed and… the other girls had roomates: these apartments were built for two. I could find a way to keep him, somehow.
I tried to keep face when I rolled over, but I hate to say that I couldn’t look at him without blushing furiously. And with every little movement of his hands I felt my entire body twitch.
Look at his dumb face: he was enjoying it, the bastard. Enjoying the mental torment you put me through, huh asshole? Stop exceeding my expectations.
But I was pink, through and through. And I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to know what his cock tasted like.
Fair is fair, after all.
But I suppose I did feel bad for just sort of using him, and after I’d grown so fond of him, I wagered it was time to at least get to know him. To be honest, I was only partially listening when we met in the bar. All of my focus went to seeing just how far forward I could push my breasts towards him in the assumption that I wouldn’t actually like him afterwards.
I mirrored the light touch he gave me along his thigh. His eyebrows did this thing that I have never seen eyebrows do on another human before in my life. It was like each eyebrow had a mind of their own and couldn’t decide what direction they were trying to go.
“So,” I began, hoping he would stop me any minute. “You’re from out of town, eh? Where from?”
“I dunno… move around a lot. Home now is Pittsburgh, I guess.”
“And you came all the way from PA… for our piece of shit casino.”
“Hey, my buddies were goin’ on a trip and I ain’t never been to one before, so I came with. Ain’t that hard to believe. Besides, it ain’t that bad of a place. I mean, just because I had a shit run of luck ain’t no reflection on you guys.” I could see his ribs when he stretched his body for those cheap cigarettes.
“Well, maybe next time you should keep an eye out for me,” I said. “Didn’t I tell you I was lucky?” I was expecting him to come back with a bad pun. What he said was worse.
“I dunno… I’m not so sure I’m liking games I don’t got any control over.”
I stopped running my hand along his leg. Oh no he did not just-
“I’m not sure I get your meaning.”
“I’m just sayin’: I got better odds when my dice are loaded. I got a good set back home I haven’t used in years gathering dust. I’d bring ‘em next time.”
“Cheating.” I rolled that concept around in my mouth. Goddamnit there’s always something wrong with a good lay. “You were gonna cheat at my casino.”
Before he could even flap his lips to defend himself, I dug my nails into the flesh of his thigh. Fucker had it coming. No one cheats at MY casino. No one even THINKS about cheating at MY casino.
And that’s when things got weird.
His entire skin blackened like it was thrown into a fire. Those dull-looking eyes pierced me like the eyes of a predator, and something burned behind them. He took my wrist in his hand and even if it was still human skin it gripped me like the talons of a giant bird.
“Do not touch him,” said a rasping, somehow female, voice from his throat.
I tried to shake my hand loose, but it still held onto me. “Ew, gross,” I said, sticking out my tongue. “You mean I actually fucked a possessed dude and didn’t know it? I knew SOMETHING had to be wrong with the fucker if he was THAT good.” I snarled and pulled myself loose, rolling off the bed… though my knees were still weak and I ended up clinging to a wall to stay upright.
He sniffed the air, his nose seeming more beak-like now than ever. “How does a fragment of Lady Luck herself get stuck all the way up in Wisconsin?”
I raised an eyebrow. For a demon, whatever had Felix’s mouth right now had an upsetting amount of intuition. “What are you?”
She sighed. “Nothing important. Just answer the question. Did they carve you out of an iceberg? ‘Ancient Indian Magics’ or something? Shouldn’t you be in Vegas or Atlanta?”
“The… the guys that currently run the casino found some old tapes of Guys and Dolls and started playing it on repeat. They played the chorus of ‘Luck be a Lady’ enough times for it to count as a formal petition, so she sent me down to give them a boost.”
The demon laughed. “You’re kidding me,” she said. “Guys and Dolls? That ridiculous musical bound you here?” She laughed, and for a moment I thought maybe I saw a little bit of the real Felix in there. “Wow. Times have changed.”
“So what’s your angle anyhow? Were you out to try and corrupt an innocent Wisconsinite or something? Because it that was what you were going for you’re way off your game. And I bet Felix was just some naive bystander or something. You demons make me sick.” I was talking a lot faster than I should have to be coherent. I wouldn’t say it to the… thing in Felix’s body, but it made me nervous. Eventually my legs stopped acting like they were footless nubs, and I let go of the wall, covered myself with one of my satin robes. Felix’s leech seemed to not care about being naked.
“Its a little more complicated than that,” she rattled, rolling his eyes.
“So was that your tongue licking my pussy or his?” I was really only guessing that she was a demon, but something told me otherwise. It’s probably a terrible idea to taunt a sinister something or other, particularly when you don’t know exactly what it is. But I was threatened simply by its presence. To think that I was considering even keeping him.
“Look, I let the moron do whatever he wants, okay? After a few years of being subjected to his taste in women, you learn when to clock out.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “I can’t believe it,” I said. “You’re stuck, aren’t you?” The frustrated look on his face was hilarious. “Oh, this is rich. What, did some witch cast a curse on him or something and now you can’t get out?”
“Its not funny.”
“It is totally funny. You’re over there, trying to threaten me because I gave him a little scratch and you can’t do jack shit because you’re stuck in his powerless, stupid, human body. Its hilarious.”
“Stop it.”
“You should write your memoirs. They’d turn it into a sitcom.”
“I’m warning you.”
“Warning me what? You’ve got nothing.” I turned around in dismissal, which was a very bad idea.
I didn’t even hear him move from the bed, only felt a fevered hand against the back of my neck as the creature within him lifted me above the floor. Those hands, which had looked ridiculous trying to drink out of a shot glass, could wrap around my throat singly. I put my hands to his and tried to shake him off, but he only held tighter.
“You forget that humans aren’t complete weaklings, Lucy.” I could hear something in my neck crunch under the pressure of just his thumb. He lowered me to the ground and my knees buckled beneath me and I thought that it might release me. But his grip followed me all the way to the floor, and only let go when my body stilled.
I wasn’t dead, of course. I’m a concept, for Christ’s sake. But having a physical body does bring with it an awful lot of limitations. The parasite laid me out on my back and crouched over me like a buzzard waiting for me to die.
“You forget something, too,” I said through a dry throat. His lips twitched into a scowl.
I kissed them. I kissed those thin, fevering lips, and watched as the tar and ash faded away into the sick pale of his natural skin. Those little fires in his eyes extinguished and they rolled back as he fell forward on top of me.
I smiled coyly. “I’m still a demigod.”
Well, now I had to get rid of him before he woke up, and he was heavy for such a thin body. He looked so peaceful sleeping there in my cleavage like he belonged there, and I couldn’t help but run my fingers through his hair. Would it be worth it to try and keep him, knowing that he was the host to a violent demon? I even considered it, but in the end… no. I needed to get rid of him.
He could come back when he’d gotten rid of her.

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2 Responses to 10-30-13

  1. Lee Bradford says:

    I’m sorry, Lauren, but I have to decline that offer. I mean… let’s just face it: I’m a lesbian and you’re a bot. It’ll never work out between us.

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