Roulette short story by SG Young(6 p. Rated R)
( croupier: an attendant in a gambling casino who rakes in money or chips and pays winners at a gaming table <French: literally, one who sits behind another on horseback, equivalent to croupe rump +ier )
Selene, she’d once wanted to work as a croupier, but that was a long time ago now. Watched a pro at work on a particular night, and she’d admired the assuredness that a professional croupier exudes. And she’d thought—and you have to admit this was a pretty good thought for a girl her age—she’d thought that once you had that, that exterior, that you could do almost anything.
This was probably back around high school, in fact definitely, because at sixteen she was still in school, and that’s when a friend—okay, friend of a friend—had acquired for her a fake ID, some quality plastic from out-of-state. Looked just like her—from where her Mom was from, so even though she’d never been there herself she could get by dropping place names and that—sound like, yeah, that’s where she’s from. Right down to the block where her Mom had lived, because she’d seen pics, and video even, and heard all the stories. The best story—well, probably not the best but just the one she liked best as a girl—was how her Mom and some BFF had once scammed a couple boys they liked, these boys they sort of liked, into driving them to an upscale salon and paying for fresh cuts. There were actually four boys, but just two they liked, but they were lucky the other two were there because they were the two had money.
So, actually come to think of it, they didn’t trick the boys they liked into it. Actually the boys, the two I mean, tricked the other two into paying. I never thought about it like that until just now. She always told it that the girls scammed the boys. That’s probably why Selene liked the story so much.
But that was a long time ago now, when she had fake plastic. When Selene had true ID, and had her act together and everything, she got this amazing job, I mean it’s a normal job, but the amazing part is she gets to meet celebrities, like real Hollywood people but alsoKardashians. Rock stars, rock star wives, people like that. Her job is she works for a jeweler, just at a counter and that, but she also runs errands and drives things around, like picking things up for the shop. Likely it’s supplies or something innocuous, or lunch even, but then every once in a while she has to do some special run.
She’ll drive out to somebody’s house and drop stuff for them, earrings, a necklace, wedding rings even—these are individuals who don’t do this for themselves. They have people. So Selene is like a people to them I guess. She’ll bring them whatever the jeweler—and this is a high-end establishment—whatever they’ve requested. There’s an upper limit to what she’s allowed to carry, insurance-wise, but she’s allowed more if she’s armored up. It’s not Kevlar or anything, just a secure bag, and they put that in a briefcase and that gets snapped onto her wrist. Then she’ll drive it to their place, and they thank her and give her a tip usually. And then she mostly goes home, because it’s usually at the end of the day, always something needed for the evening. The soiree, or whatever.
So, yeah, she’ll ring a bell at some house in the hills and like—who’s that tall Australian actress—beautiful hair—married to Tom Cruise for a while—Nicole Kidman! So, Nicole Kidman comes to the door, let’s her inside, and then they have to get this briefcase, open it, and then Nicole signs for it, and Selene is on her way. And sometimes they’re not even dressed. I don’t mean stark naked, just you know, a robe or something simple, a swimsuit even.
Yeah, I just made that up, she never told me a swimsuit, I’d just like to picture somebody like a Nicole Kidman in her one-piece asking you in, you know what I mean? That’d be great. But these LA types expect stuff driven out to them. Sometimes it’s their own stuff, they own it, but they keep it where it’s more secure. And then sometimes it’s something they’re wearing just for that evening, because goes with their outfit. Goes with the designer ensemble or whatever, so they borrow something and it gets returned.
So this starts, and it’s a pretty good story so stick with me, when Selene is driving to Vegas. She’s deliveringsomething, and she’s armored up, briefcase and that. She can drive okay, but still. This thing’s handcuffed around her wrist on a short chain, only a few links, rides next to the driver-side door—she’s got enough slack she can put thathand on the wheel, access her phone or tunes or whatever, but that’s about it. Arrival, she’s supposed to ask at the desk and whoever it is, is supposed to come down. Selene doesn’t wander the grounds with the briefcase, out of view of the front desk people and so forth. So she’s at the desk area with this thing on her arm, and it’s taking a while, so she’s stepped a bit further away trying to get a view of the gaming floor, because she’s anticipating a tip, and she gets a tip sometimes she’ll invest.
Investing is where she takes maybe half the stake and tries it on a roulette turn, and if she loses she’ll walk away—she’s really strong at this, I mean she just walks away, game over—but, if she wins then she’ll start playing with her winnings, just the winnings, just seeing how long she can ride it out. Usually she’ll lose it. Sometimes it takes two minutes, sometimes two hours. Still, two hours of fun at the client’s expense, right? Then she’ll drive home, late. But this one time she won, and she kept winning, and she came out with almost twenty thousand! From a Vegas run.Spent the night in a nice suite and ordered in a steak dinner and wine and then fell asleep with this money all over her naked body.
No, I just added that, that’d be nice though, right? The nude part I made up, but the rest, yeah, Selene won a few thousand dollars, and then I think she got a nicer car. She does have her this sweet little body, though, you know?
Anyway, here she is, scoping out the gaming room, seeing what she can from the lobby area—still in the lobby, just not right at the desk—when her phone rings and this voice tells her they came down to find her, and she wasn’t there, where is she?
“I’m right here. I’m in the lobby, now. I’m waiting. Still waiting.”
“No, you weren’t there. I was just there. You weren’t there.”
“I was here. What’s the problem?”
“They already left for the venue. You’re going to have to catch up to them. Bellagio, heading for Bellagio.”
“Okay, listen I can’t leave here. This is the drop, in the lobby, to the client. In the lobby.”
“No, no, no. That’s not going to work. I’ll come down again. I’ll explain.”
“You can explain all you want . . .” But he’d already hung up.
Two minutes, and this young guy’s scoping the lobby, in flip-flops with a formal. Looking all around. Of course, she spots him. “Are you looking for me? Jewelry run?”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re the run? I did not see you ten minutes ago, I was right here. I would have seen you. I was right here.”
“I was right there. I was right underneath that sign.” She’s pointing up, perturbed. “So, what’s the story?”
“I need you to come with me, to Bellagio, and we have to get moving.”
“Okay, I told you I cannot leave here. This is the drop. This is where the drop occurs.”
“Okay, I’m going to call them. Just stick with me here. I will call.” He’s on his phone. “Yeah, she’s here now. She’s right here. I don’t know where she was. She has the bag, like a briefcase. But she won’t leave. Okay, I’ll ask her.” He lowers his phone. “They want me to ask you if you’ll call your shop, get permission, and we can run it over. It’s just to Bellagio.”
Selene does her eye roll—I didn’t mention this, the girl has this giant eye roll, it’s classic—but she makes the call—she’s on hold—she gets through—she asks if she’s allowed to switch the drop to Bellagio—right away, it’s okay. She says, “Yeah I’m good. Bellagio’s good.”
He says, “You want me to drive you over or you want to drive? I’ve got a car.”
“No, I’d better use my car.” But then she peeks out the glass, and guess what? Valet moved it. It could be on the roof of the garage by now. “Where’s your car?”
“They already pulled it up.” He’s pointing, still in flip-flops.
“In those.” She’s staring.
“I’ll be fine. It’s just Bellagio.”
Stick with me now. They’re in the car, some kind of Lexus, the SUV. She’s in the passenger seat. They’re on the Strip, he’s at the wheel. She keeps looking at him pluslooking for Bellagio. She knows it’s pretty close. Now four, five minutes goes by. She hauls her phone out, hits the map, and she sees they’re driving the whole time in the exact opposite direction. I mean it’s the Strip, right? You’re either going in the right direction or you’re not.
“What the fuck, man? What is this? Where are you going?”
“I’ve got a drop of my own to make.” Looks her in the eye. “You. You’re my drop.”
“You piece of shit! Who are you working for?”
“Just a client. Like you.”
“No, no, no. Not like me. My client is legit. My client has payroll. I get statements. You get statements?” Silence. “You’re all cash. What is it, in rolls? Twenties?”
More silence—he’s not even looking at her. Finally, he goes, “Do you know who your client is? You actually know?”
“Yes, I know. Supposed to be . . . Chavez. Something Chavez. The paperwork is in the case.”
“How do you know I’m not Chavez?”
“Oh, I just have a feeling. This funny feeling I get when someone tells me we’re going to Bellagio and we’re nowhere near, and you won’t tell me where we’re going.”
“We have nothing against you. What’s your name? Are you Selene?” Selene’s just staring at him. “Okay, let’s assume you’re Selene. You’re the jewelry run girl. Inside that case is about one point one million worth of gems. A sweet necklace, three stacking bracelets, and two earrings. All matched. The necklace has a four-carat five-star stone with a shade of pink, right? Or coral. Some people call it coral.”
“Do you fucking think I know what’s in here? There could be a stick of dynamite in here for all I know. I walk into the back room. They give me directions to a Vegas place we use for drops, I hold my left hand out, and this goes on my wrist. Then I get in my car, my ordinary working-girl car, and I drive to Vegas. They haven’t put me on their board of directors.”
“Okay, well, I guess I know just a little bit more about what’s inside.”
“What do you mean—maybe.”
“I mean, maybe.”
“So, you don’t think I know what’s in the case.”
“I think you know what they told you is in here.” She’s still looking out the windows. “How would you know if they told the truth?”
“Well . . . I guess, I know they told me all about the gems. Pictures, even.”
“Well, Rock-a-feller, what you just told me doesn’t even make sense. Because we have this little thing called Insurance, and runs I do are insured up to a half-million dollars, so unless your people are paying for extra coverage—which I have a feeling they aren’t—I think you are full of somebody’s shit that you swallowed.” Now she’s looking right at him. “And now you’ve got me. That’s Kidnapping. You’ve got this case, which I’m going to call Attempted Theft, because so far it’s still on my wrist. And then you’ve got from the sound of it maybe Conspiracy to Commit said crimes. And Aiding and Abetting because you’re at the wheel and usually the getaway vehicle? Aiding and Abetting. I’m thinking that you’re looking at a minimum thirty years if you DON’T have a record. And what’s the chance of that?” He glances over. “So, what’s your name? Not Chavez, right?”
“Maltha-sus. With a U.”
“Mal-tha-sus. What is that? Armenian? Romanian?”
“No, not that. Just . . . my name.”
“Malthasus is your name. But you don’t know the ethnicity. You don’t look like a Malthasus.” He glanced to her again, then to the red light. They were leaving the last traffic light behind. “It’s not Malcolm, is it?” His eyes darted again. “Okay, Malthasus. Or Malcolm. Or whatever. What’s the rest of this genius plan?”
“You unlock that case, I drop you in the desert. I throw your phone as far as I can, and you go find it. If you cooperate.” Into her eyes again. “You don’t cooperate, other things happen.”
She holds her hand up. “I unlock the case.”
“Yeah. If you want to survive.”
“You fucking think I have a key to this.”
“Yeah. They said you have the key.”
“Same guy that said one point one?”
“Okay, Malcolm, the drop girl has no key! You think anyone would insure someone looks like me, if she has the key?”
“What do you mean, ‘looks like you?’ You like nice. You look very nice.”
“Um-hmm, thank you. Great to meet you. This is not some fucking blind date. This is kid-nap-ping! What I mean by ‘looks like me’ is that I’m currently dressed in three articles of clothing. My left shoe, my right shoe, and this skintight silk thing.”
Now he’s looking at the silk, it’s a sort of floral. Like I said, she has this body, and she says, “Just for searches, like to pat me down. Sometimes someone gets to pat me down! This makes me look . . . like nothing to hide. Anywhere.”
“Okay, Selene. I believe you.”
“You’re a fucking case. You believe me. Of course, you believe me, because I’m who I said I am. But what the fuck are you doing? Do you even know?”
“I know . . . most of it.”
“You gonna tell me, or am I supposed to guess?”
“I’m a driver. Kind of, the errand guy. Decent driver. I do the errands. And— fucked something up. Majorly—a particular thing, last year.”
“Got somewhere late.”
“Early.” He glanced to her eyes again. “Anyway, I bring you to the right guys, and we’re square. This doesn’t work, they could blow me away.”
“So, I’m your ticket to the everlasting good life.”
“Basically. Or at least some kind of life.”
“Okay, Malcolm. Let’s lay everything right out. You’re transporting me somewhere I don’t want to go, because you think that’ll save your life. And the reason you believe that is that somebody who we already know lies to you, told you. So, you think I’m gonna pull a key out of some body cavity and open this case for you? First of all, the jewelry is not ever just in the case. Second, I do not ever have the ability to unlock it. But—if I did unlock it, what’s inside is . . . wait for it . . . another locked case! Do you think these people are morons? The hotel lobby has thekey to the jeweler case. I didn’t know Bellagio has a key by the way, I’ve never personally dropped at Bellagio, so how would I know? Apparently, they do. The lobby unlocks my case, and I’m free to go. But the inner case also needs a key, the client’s key. Every client that wants drops buys a case that belongs to them but stays at the store. In our safe.Their jewelry arrives in their case inside of the store case. Are you following this?”
“Hey. I’m not stupid.”
Selene gives him her look. Not the eyeroll—it’s even worse. “Yeah, Malcolm, yeah. You are. You’re stupid. Some kind of a little bit stupid.” She looks into the distance, a limo, parked off-road. “Those your people?”
“Might be them. They just said keep driving until I see the car. Could be it.” His eyes locked with Selene’s for maybe one split second. “Might be the end of your ride. But, I kind of like you. I do not want to see what’s gonnahappen.”
Selene says, “Yeah. Starting to like you, too. I know I shouldn’t. But, the hell, we’re being honest now, right?”
He’s nodding. “Wanna try something?”
“Okay, get this off my driving foot.” So, she has to reach her right all the way across her body and down to the gas pedal and yank that flip-flop off, and he immediately hits the brakes, spins a U-ee, tears back up the highway,and says, “There was a turn-off a little while back, and if that goes where I think it goes we might have a chance.”
She’s breathing a little hard. “Okay, I believe you.”
So he pulls off the pavement, accelerates up this sand or gravel thing for about a mile or two is all, and then comes out above a different highway, and says, “Hang onto me now. I mean push your right onto the dash and use your weight on my shoulder and keep me upright or we won’t make this.” She lifts the case onto his lap, smashes her palm into his chest as hard as she can. And then he hurtles the Lexus down this vertical, maybe sixty feet is all, but that’s a six-story building, and I’m talking goddamn close to vertical, and he somehow hangs on, at the bottomwrestles the wheel left, and they’re on pavement. They’redoing probably one-thirty-five, away from Vegas, both of them hyper-ventilated.
He’s smiling. Eventually, he asks her, “You gallophorses when you were little?”
“I fucking loved horses. Rode whenever I could.”
“I had a feeling.” He puts his hand out, and she puts her hand in his, and they drive like that, on top of her briefcase.
Hour or two later there’s a cabin, set in some trees a little back from the road, so he smashes a window. I’m talking rustic, but inside there’s a water pump, a fucking hand pump, and he pumps by hand a cool bath for her, and grabs a low table, next to the claw foot to take the weight off her wrist, and she pulls off this silk floral as far as she could, so now that’s bunched around her hand too. He helps her over the edge. She’s so excited you think her tits are gonna pop off her chest, and he soaps her, and washes her body clean, and rinses her from head to toe with a goddamn bucket. He’s drying her body, and the case is still on her hand, but by this point, who cares? Then she’s all over him, she’s on top, this wrought iron bed, loving every inch of him.
She reaches behind herself, so he can get inside, and she just backs her way onto him slowly letting everything settle just perfect, riding him out of town like he’s somekind of stallion, grunting and rolling over almost delirious in his warmth. Then he’s asleep. She’s waiting for her breathing to slow down.
At the little table, the side table with the case and her shoes, they’re just flats. She twists one heel until she can see the card and pulls that out, a flat fiberglass thing the size of a credit card, but with a key pattern stamped into it.Selene swivels out the key, fits it, quietly snaps her case open and inside? Yeah, inside’s the handgun, no serial number, not a fucking .357, but enough to do the job, you know.
She’s all tender still. “Hey, open your eyes. Look at this sunset.” In the window there’s pouring this golden, rosy sun from the horizon. He’s got his back to her looking out the window, she’s cozied naked to him, he hasn’t heard one thing except her soft voice, and she puts the barrel just above his warm neck, turns her face, and blows his head open.
Yeah, she was just the hit. No jewelry. But that’s Selene’s story. That’s her whole story.
I’m the one found her. There’s a short trail behind the cabin, and that’s where she was, probably still looking at that sunset. Funny, I never really knew about her gambling debts—always so breezy.
No, I wasn’t there, just that the cabin’s in my name. Nevada gave me a call is all. Hey, what are you drinking?