By Joe Giordano
I attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, and Samsung hosted a dinner at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Caesar’s Palace. After coffee, men in togas and women in Roman-style, white, frilly things came to give us head and neck massages. A thirties blonde caught my attention. Her blue eyes were intense, and she had a bit of a frown above her too-bright smile that made me wonder. I beckoned her over with a tilt of my head, and her smile softened. Her hands were like velvet-steel cables, and when she kneaded my shoulders I focused my consciousness on her touch. She squeezed the back of my neck, and I almost groaned with pleasure.
When she finished, she placed her hands on my shoulders, put her lips to my ear and with a brush of breath said, “Thank you, sir.” Her perfume was French lavender.
I opened my eyes, reached into my pocket and peeled a hundred-dollar bill off a roll. She slipped a folded cocktail napkin into my palm before she left the restaurant. I looked around the table and made like I wiped my mouth. The paper said, “Gabrielle, Forum 802” written with eyeliner pencil. A yellow light flashed in my brain, but the echo of her touch lingered, and I slid the napkin into my pocket. A woman who specialized in pure pleasure was on my bucket list, and Gabrielle’s massage appetizer stimulated the desire for a four-course meal.
I thanked my host and walked quickly to Caesar’s elevator and got off at the eighth floor of the Forum Tower. I knocked at room 802 and Gabrielle opened the door. She’d changed into a sleeveless, thigh-length, blue dress that highlighted her eyes. I swung the door to the wall to make sure no one was behind and stepped into the room. I walked to the bathroom and turned on the light.
Gabrielle said, “We’re alone.”
I said, “I’m Dave.” I closed to take Gabrielle into my arms, but she held me off.
“C’mon,” I said, “You invited me here.”
She said, “I need your help.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I owe a guy money.”
“If you’re telling me you want to get paid, I’m really disappointed.”
“I need ten-thousand dollars.”
I laughed. “I’m sure you’re the best thing in Vegas, but get real.”
“I’m not a prostitute.”
“Okay. How do you intend to get the money?”
“Blackjack. I need a grand from you. If you stake me, I’ll have sex with you. But I don’t do this for a living. I just got into trouble.”
There was a loud knock on the door, and a voice said, “Gabby, I know you’re in there. Open up.”
Gabrielle’s face lost color. She looked through the peephole and brought her hand to her mouth. She whispered, “Oh my God.”
The door was kicked hard and the voice got louder, “Open up now or it’ll be worse for you.”
Gabrielle looked at me. I said, “Open it.”
As soon as the door was cracked, a large forearm slammed it open, and two guys barged into the room. The voice was a pork-pie hat, with a rat’s nose, and about 5’ 6”. He had on a blue, silk suit, and a pink tie. The second guy was dark-haired, a head taller than me, with the physique of a gone-to-seed wrestler. He wore a gray warm-up suit. His hands were meaty and stubby; they looked almost webbed. He looked at me like I was horse manure.
Rat nose ignored me. He said, “You got the money?”
Gabrielle said, “Luther, I’ll get it. I need a little…”
Luther slapped Gabrielle silent. I moved forward but the ex-wrestler stiff-armed my chest, and I almost fell backward.
Luther said to me, “Pretty boy, you’ll have the lady back in a minute. Don’t play Lancelot.” He turned to Gabrielle. A tear squeezed from the eye he’d slapped. “You’ll have the money by tomorrow, or Massimo will break your face.”
Luther stepped out of the room. Massimo gave me a weird smile and followed his boss.
Gabrielle closed the door and turned to me. “You see?”
“Why did you pick me?”
“You tipped me a hundred. You’ve got a lot more. I’m desperate.”
“Okay, say I give you a grand. What do I get?”
She moved a step closer, and her voice lowered. “I’ll have you chewing the pillow.”
I swallowed. “What if you lose?”
“I won’t lose.”
“If you had a foolproof system, you wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“I won’t lose.”
“You count cards?”
“The casino watches for that. They’ll throw you out.”
Gabrielle put her lips to my ear. The lavender was delectable. “Will you give me the money?”
“How about an advance on your end?”
She smiled in my ear. “No advance.”
I suppose her perfume made me stupid, but I counted out ten one hundred-dollar bills. She put her hand on them, but I held tight and said, “We have a deal?”
She bushed my cheek with a kiss and said. “I’ll make your head boil.”
I released the money.
The casino was a cacophony of coins tumbling into slot machine metal bins. Bright flashing lights and spinning dials hit the eyes like jabs. As we walked along the garish circle-pattern, brown-blue carpet, the background noise of conversations was punctuated by shouts of winners at craps and roulette. Gabrielle strode up to a $100 minimum table with me in tow. The player on the dealer’s far right, the card counter seat, the one who gets to see what’s played ahead of him, rose as we approached, and Gabrielle slid onto the stool.
The dealer looked like a teen-magazine cover girl. She wore red lipstick and had a Kewpie doll mouth. Her long dark hair framed a perfect complexion. Her nametag said, “Michelle.”
She smiled at me and I said, “I’m Dave. Where are you from?”
Her eyes darted for a moment. She said, “Kansas City.”
“Oh,” I said, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City. They’ve gone about as far as they can go.”
Michelle gave me a blank look, and I realized this twenty-something had never met “Oklahoma.”
Gabrielle purchased chips and put down a five hundred bet. I said, “Are you sure?” She gave my hand a squeeze.
Michelle dealt the cards from the shoe. Gabrielle got two aces. I said, “Oh ho.” She split them and got black jack on each ace. “Alright,” I said.
Next deal, Gabrielle bet a thousand and got two kings. She split them and got a Jack and a ten. Michelle hit with twelve and got a picture card. Bust.
The cards were en fuego, and Gabrielle had ten thousand and a bit to spare in no time. Michelle called a switch, and a new dealer stepped in. He had on horn rim glasses and the worst black toupee I’d ever seen. Gabrielle rose and started toward the Forum elevators. I called out to Michelle’s back but she didn’t hear me over the din, so I caught up with Gabrielle.
When we got back into the room I said, “Wow, unbelievable. I’ve never seen a run of luck like that in my life.”
Gabrielle had an “I told you so” look on her face. I moved in close and kissed her. Her lips were soft, and she responded to my embrace. There was a knock on the door.
“Go away,” I shouted. The knock again. “Damn, if that’s Luther and his gorilla, I’ll kick both their asses.”
Gabrielle had a smile on her face.
I looked through the peephole and saw Michelle’s doe eyes. I raised my eyebrows and opened the door. Michelle breezed past me. She smelled like honeysuckle.
Gabrielle said, “Dave, say hello to my kid sister. She’s gorgeous, don’t you think?”
Michelle gave me a shy smile.
I said, “You two pulled off some sort of scam. Cards don’t come like that on their own. How did you do it from a shoe?”
The two ladies smiled at each other.
Gabrielle said, “Dave, I need to find Luther. Why don’t you entertain Michelle?”
I said, “What about our evening together? I seem to remember something about pillow consumption?”
Michelle said, “What?”
Gabrielle said to Michelle, “Dave’s a comedian. But he’s a good guy. You two should get along.” She came close to me and said, “I told you, I’m not a working girl, and I need to go.”
When Gabrielle was out the door, I turned to Michelle. “You’re not from Kansas City, are you?”
“No, but I hear it’s nice.”
“Want to get a drink?”
Michelle said, “I’m starving. I’d kill for a Big Mac.”
“You’re a cheap date.”
Michelle smiled. “Maybe.”
Anyway, that’s how it started. Michelle and I fell for each other. We dated six months before we eloped in the Elvis Chapel, downtown Las Vegas.
Category: Fiction, Short Story