I can’t say why I drove east instead of north. My intentions had been to head into North California and maybe even go up into Oregon or Washington. There are a lot of nice islands off the coast any number of which have luxury spas on them that would have made Ruby a happy gal. Instead, I opted for the bright lights and big city strip of Las Vegas. It seemed a better choice, given that I had told everyone about heading up the coast. The bugs in my car were still a concern, especially after that conversation with James. If the suspected a leak in the SCaCU then they tracking devices could still be on or used at any time without my knowing it.
Too bad Roddie hadn’t shown me exactly where the bugs were that SCaCU had put on me. It was near dawn, and I found a 24-hour place that looked halfway decent to eat. The inside was pinned with memorabilia from the 60’s and 70’s, and it was clean. I ordered a ham and Swiss on a croissant with fries. Ruby just ordered a side salad and picked at my fries when the meals came.
“We here, Billy?”
“Maybe for the day, what do you think? Want to try our luck at the tables?”
“Maybe during the day, let’s see who’s playing. Maybe we can take in a show?”
“Whatever you want, kid. We’ll get a room after this, and leave tomorrow morning. That’ll give us more than enough time to lose my shirt and take you out to someplace nice.”
“Maybe a new outfit?”
“Of course a new outfit! For both of us.”
“Oh, Billy! You do know what I like.”
“Shopping, good eating and fine entertainment. You’d have to be crazy not to like that stuff.”
“Someday you’ll come here, and I’ll be up on stage.”
“Well, when you see me, give me a wink.”
“It’s a nice dream, isn’t it?” She asked.
“One of the best.”
“Should I find us a room?”
“I’m feeling like living, find us a suite, not the presidential or honeymoon suite, but something nice.”
Ruby took out her phone and looked up hotel deals in Sin City, she found us a suite barely off the main strip. She booked it at half off. Ruby might like spending money, but she’s good at spending it wisely. Checking in at 3 in the morning always struck me as a grand rip off, after all, I was being charged a full day for first ‘night,' which was only until 11 am the same day. Flying Hawk’s money helped me overcome my grumpiness, this time I didn’t leave it in the car, though I did tuck a few hundred dollars in the visor, just in case. I also left my revolver and the Sun Rounds wrapped in a paper bag next to the spare in the wheel well. There didn’t appear to be any weapon detectors in the lobby, so I suppose I could have brought it in with me.
The suite was nice, with a separate bedroom and a small kitchenette with a large refrigerator. At least I knew I wouldn’t be keeping Ruby up when I turned on the cable late at night and vice versa for in the morning. Management sent up a bottle of cheap bubbly too, an odd thing to do, but I took it as an apology for the 8-hour day they were charging me for. After we were settling in Ruby started getting ready for bed.
“I don’t think I can sleep yet, doll.”
“So go watch the tv, that will put you to sleep, but don’t sleep on the couch!”
“Ruby, I need to go out.”
“Oh, I knew it! I knew you had another agenda! Who are you meeting? The Feds?”
“No, I want to pick up a couple of temporary phones. I want us to shut ours off, power them down, but still have a way for us to get in touch with each other or make calls if we want.”
“Oh, okay, sorry, Billy, I wasn’t thinking. They can track everything through these things now, can’t they?” She yawned again as she held up her phone, powering it off in front of me. “Don’t stay out too late, okay?”
“I might hit the tables a bit, get that out of my system.”
She snorted, “I figured! That’s my least favorite part of this money sucking pit. Just leave most of your money here okay? I don’t want to pawn my jewelry to finance the rest of the trip.”
“I would never!”
“I know, I know. Have fun, stay away from loose women and watch your drinking. And, Billy?”
“If I wake up and you are not here in the morning I am going to be so very, very, very angry.”
“Understood.” That gave me about 4 hours. I gave her a chaste kiss on the nose and went out into the living room, closing the door behind me. I went over to the phone and picked up the hotel notepad and pen. Logging into my phone, I jotted down a couple of numbers as well as our room number, just in case and then powered my own phone off. I left it on the writing desk and took the top four sheets paper off the pad with my note, tucking them into my front shirt pocket. I took the pen as well.
The last thing I did before I left was to take ten thousand in cash out of my duffle bag. I wandered down to the casino floor, and it was, for a Tuesday morning just after 3, dead. Bored looking dealers were chatting up waitresses with the floor bosses scanning the room. Everyone I looked at met my gaze with friendly smiles, and I moved to the roulette table and put a thousand dollars on it. “Chips please.”
I knew the mechanics of gambling but was unaware of comp cards or other electrical do-hickeys that the game master began to tell me about. Soon enough he had me sorted, with the help of a cute waitress and my first complimentary drink I was ready to go. Over the next twenty minutes, I gambled about half my winnings with small bets, learning the game. My shine was no help here, how could it be? I don’t predict the future, I don’t know what the winning lottery numbers will be, nor can I be paid to make my magic work to find out. When me and Slice went trolling for lottery winnings we had gone after tickets, not jackpots. A ticket was printed in the past, its fate was sealed at a factory across town, and therefore my talent could tell me which were winners and which were losers. My power could not predict which slot a ball would bounce into or what card would be dealt to me.
Overall losing money like this was actually kind of boring. I’ve been good with math all my life, and the odds of me winning were never more than ‘just less than half.’ I looked at my watch and saw the time ticking away. Ruby would sleep until 10, maybe 11, but I wanted to be back in the room by 7, just in case. With a weary sigh, I put all my remaining chips on the second twelve, just under five hundred dollars. The dealer, a nice guy, named, Don, shook his head, “Sorry, Billy, the table limit is two hundred a bet.”
“Oh? Can I make multiple bets?”
“Yes, but they can’t total more than two hundred.”
“Sheesh, it’s like you don’t want my money or something.” I laughed and brought my bet down to the limit.
Don laughed too and dropped the ball. It was just me, him, a cocktail waitress with a nametag that read ‘Missy’ and the floor boss. I lost. No surprise there, the odds were that I would. I looked at the chips I had left, took enough out of them to leave me with two hundred and split what I’d taken between Don and Missy as tips. I pushed my 200 to Don and said, “Put it on zero would ya, Don.”
“Are you sure, Billy?”
The floor boss looked like he was going to say something, probably like, “Let the sucker lose his money!” But he just frowned and kept quiet.
“Yeah, I’m sure, I gotta get out of here, so this is the last bet of the morning.”
It hit. Color me surprised. Do healers have some ability to manipulate a roulette wheel? If Saint Charlene knew, she wasn’t saying. Missy squealed in delight, and Don looked mortified, perhaps that he had tried to talk me out of it or maybe because he just lost the house seven grand.
“Congratulations, sir!” Don said. The floor boss looked agitated. “Will you let it ride?”
I laughed, “No, I think the house rules prohibit that anyway. I’ll gamble it back later, though, you can count on it. Just right now I gotta go see a man. Say…” I turned to the floor boss, a tall, ebony-skinned man and read his name tag, “Sam, can I get this cashed out?”
He smiled and nodded, “Of course, sir!”
I told Don to split the two hundred in chips on the table with Missy. Sam took me over to the cashier’s booth, and we took care of my winnings.
I debated stashing the cash up in the room, then decided I’d better not risk waking Ruby, so I sidled to the parking garage and split it up into three parts and stashed them in my car, keeping a wad of it for myself. My hiding places were more traditional than clever; more in the glove box, the some under the driver’s seat and the rest went in the wheel well with the spare. Hey, I never claimed to have much imagination, plus it wasn’t like I had any tools to hide it any better. A heap like mine wasn’t going to be broken into in any event. I have found the ‘beater disguise’ is the best car alarm that money can’t buy. I walked back into the lobby with a thick wad of cash, looking for the floor boss.
“Sam,” I said when I found him, “I need a cab. And the location of the nearest place I can buy a disposable phone.”
He had a cab waiting for me by the time we were done and gave the cabbie directions to the closest Alt-Mart, Sam refused my tip of c-bill, saying the house didn’t allow floor managers to accept them. I shook his hand before I left and slipped the bill into his front pocket anyway.
“Where to, buddy?” The cabbie asked in heavily accented English once the door was shut.
“Head for the Alt-Mart first, and wait for me there, okay?”
“I need credit card to wait for you outside store.” He insisted.
I looked at his license, his name was Anaj. I put a hundred-dollar bill up against the bulletproof glass between us. “Won’t this do, Anaj? Keep the meter running.”
He nodded and a few minutes later I was strolling through the automatic doors into the well-lit white interior of the store. The electronics section was buried in the back, but they had a great selection of flamer phones, and I chose two that the clerk said were the newest and best, along with two thirty day unlimited cards. Lucky for me Alt-Mart’s didn’t have a maximum bet, the phones set me back close to five hundred. The kid was nice enough to help me set up both phones, but it took me more than ten minutes, so I was wondering if Anaj, my gruff, foreign cabbie, would be waiting for me when I returned to the parking lot.
He was, and he had been joined by a friend, another cabbie, this one a woman and she was giving him what for until she saw me, whereupon she plastered a smile to her middle-aged face and tried not to frown at me too much.
“You costing us money!” she said as I stepped closer. Her accent was European, probably some Slavic country, not German and not a romance language.
“I’m paying him. The meter is running, isn’t Anaj?”
He nodded, “See? Like I told you.”
“It’s a slow night anyway.”
“How you know that?” she demanded.
“You’re here, not out running a fare somewhere. If you have time to come bitch at your lover, it means it’s a slow night.”
Anaj laughed, “I like this man!”
His woman didn’t think it was quite so funny and started lashing out at me verbally in a language I couldn’t understand. Anaj told her “Not in front of customer. Not in front of customer!” As he stepped between her and I and got me into the back seat.
Once he was in the woman started swearing at me in English, the things she told me to do with myself and about my heritage were undoubtedly not possible or true. “Anaj, do you ever notice how swearing doesn’t really count if it’s not in your native language?”
“Too true, my friend. Too true.” He flipped the lock off the partition between us and slid the glass sideways, through this window he passed back a bottle of something and said, “I’ll buy you a drink, my friend.”
I took a swig, it was wine based I know that, probably fortified with something else, it had a slightly sweet taste, an atomic burn, and a dry finish. “Anaj, I think this is my new favorite drink.”
“You like? You keep it.”
“No, no I couldn’t!”
“I insist, it is a gift!”
I nodded, fairly sure that if I refused, he would be insulted.
“Where are we going, my friend?”
“Call me Billy. Giza. The back entrance too, if you can.”
“Billy, for you I would drive to the moon tonight.”
Soon enough he had me at the back of the Giza hall, hotel, and casino. “Will you need me to wait again?”
“I might be a while.” I added another hundred to what I had already given him. “Do you have a card?”
“Of course!” He handed me a business card and scribbled his number on the back of it. “You call me with this number, okay? I’ll come get you.”
We both knew when I called that number he would be going on break and giving me a ride ‘off the meter’, personally, I was fine with that. “Okay, if you haven’t heard from me by 7 it means I probably won’t need a ride back.”
“You have trouble here? This place has a reputation…”
“No, just visiting an old friend.”
“Old friends can be interesting companions. She is expecting you?”
“Not that kind of friend, Anaj”
“Well there are only two kind of old friends we have in this world, the kind we want to see and the kind we have to. I wish you luck then.”
“Thanks for the ride and the bottle!”
“It’s nothing. Fortune for you.” He may have added a prayer under his breath, but it was in that harsh language of his.