Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Nevada Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I wish to express my thanks to all those who have con- tributed to this book. My special thanks go out to ...
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...1 The shift neared the morning hour we called the hump. A deck of cards lay idle at the far end of the table in the center of the break room, where the usual aggregation of dealers sat dour faced, some sprawled out in chairs watching television, volume turned low, oth-ers gathered around the table, cigarettes in hand. Smoke orbited the heads of those seated around the table as they puffed away and recycled a list of familiar gripes, one complaining of being screwed out of an early out, another grousing about being stuck on a table with a drunken chain-smoker, ...
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...moment with nothing to say that would fill the space that the dead line had created. Then as if involuntarily the words rose up in me. “I saw people leap I’d obviously said more than my rescuer wanted to hear. He cupped his chin in his hand and looked at the floor in a manner similar to the way my father had when he pretended to listen to my mother. I gently replaced the ...
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...much more. Then I rode to sleep on the image of them seated in the kitchen while I cooked, the three of us laughing as I explained why I missed the graduation ceremony. I hoped the recurring nightmares of being trapped in a fire would abate for one night, but they didn’t. Heart racing, I awoke around three o’clock to the smell of smoke in the air and walked the entire ...
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...man reached in and cut the seatbelt. They were careful and efficient. One An instant later they simultaneously pulled and pushed me out. One slipped, and the edge of the door banged me on the bridge of the nose. The “Hard to believe,” his partner said as they laid me on a stretcher.They strapped me down with my head and neck secured by an inflated ...
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...5 The evening made a person want to live forever. A light breeze blew in from the west where the Spring Mountains stood in jagged relief before a silver sunset. The air smelled of new-mown grass, blooming desert-willows, and hamburger sizzling on the grill. I stared off from my patio, spatula in one hand, spray bottle in the other. The kids sat inside watching television. I’d tried to coax them outside, but they’d said barbecu-ing was for old men. So, old man, I thought, what next? Lose the house?I stood transfixed a moment, my gaze on the horizon, as if something in ...
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...to start a business. I remembered after the fire I couldn’t find a job, was told flatly by some bosses to invest in silicon breasts, that to fill quotas only women were being hired as blackjack dealers. Anne had found a job right away serving cocktails at the Stardust, but for two months I’d been a stay-at-home dad and watched bills swallow the savings for the business....
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...7 The clerk in the mgm looked at my application, making notes as she read the information. Near as I could determine, she was no more than twenty. I wondered how someone so young could make a valid assessment of an applicant—specifically, me.She smiled perfunctorily and cleared her throat. “How do you deal with I thought, I’m the Dog Shit Vigilante. I get an Uzi and wipe out the “What kind of bad day?” I asked. “One when your wife tells you she wants “Oh, a typical bad day. I listen to music.” That seemed like something ...
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...8 The New Laredo was a barnlike building with a four-acre wooden floor and open beams. Above the main floor was a loft with a coffee shop and a two-foot sign that read “Gambler’s Special, Eight-Ounce New York Steak and Eggs and Toast for $4.98.” The gaming tables, six blackjack games and one crap table, sat in the center of four concentric I limped over to the pit and caught the attention of the pit boss, a craggy-faced man of indeterminate age, somewhere between sixty-five and eighty. He turned his head slowly, as if storing up energy for something more ...
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Danny winked. “She was honest enough, but couldn’t count past twenty-The informal atmosphere reminded me of the way it had once been at “Go on upstairs. I’ll meet you in the coffee shop at the executives’ table.”the hostess seated me in the bosses’ booth and asked if I wanted cof-fee. I thanked her and took a seat. Four or five minutes passed before Danny ...
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...“I been playin’ twenty-one years,” Carmina said. “I won that first year. That’s how they get you. You think you can undo twenty years of sliding?”“Probably easier to walk on water,” I said. I scanned the slot aisles, look-Carmina put up a two-dollar bet for me and said, “Is Jude your real name? “Real name’s Judas,” I said, though it was a lie. The cut card came up. I ...
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...11 Listelle, the graveyard cocktail waitress, leaned a hip against my table and set her empty tray on the layout. When work slowed and I was on a dead game, she’d taken to visiting with me.“If I never picked up this cocktail tray again, it would do me just On break, she found a corner upstairs in the coffee shop and studied. The casino was merely a stopover to the rest of her life. She was completing a degree in biology and, though nearing forty, applying to medical schools. Her past was unusual. In her early twenties Listelle sold used cars. The sum-...
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...cops handed over a copy of the complaint attached to the warrant. I read the Baffled, I said, “There must be a mistake. I never heard of a Stephen “No mistake. City attorney’s office approved the complaint.”I read the complaint and closed my eyes. Edowski lived on Aberdeen—no The corrections officer escorted me to a holding cell and locked me in ...
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...you to show up for work and find a termination slip waiting. I’ll give you a So much for loyalty, I thought. “Thanks, Danny. Take care of your mother.”13 I waited outside Anne’s, weighing opposing prospects, whether to pursue a job at Wendy’s or McDonald’s or return to laying block. The idea of doing either didn’t lift my spirits. Laying block walls in the Vegas heat after years of avoiding the sun held little appeal, and although there might be some work for a skilled mason, illegal immi-grants had flooded construction and pushed down wages in Las Vegas to ...
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I wasn’t a doctor, just a dealer, unemployed and facing a court case. I’d used equity in the house as collateral for bail and couldn’t even consider sell-ing now until the case was adjudicated. On top of all that, without money to I reached over and stroked her cheek with the back of my hand. I could tell from the way her eyes sparkled she had something more on her mind. ...
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...“You’re the father of my daughter’s best friend. That’s a pretty good Though I’d come to despise even the idea of casinos, I felt oddly relieved at the prospect of returning to dealing, something I was both comfortable and uncomfortable with, an ambiguity I reconciled on the spot with all that hung over me now, the prospect of impending attorney’s fees, child support, ...
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...16 The room was full of human smells—stale tobacco smoke on clothes, wet diapers, milk, candy—and the line of the unemployed coiled through three switchbacks, extending to the rear of the building some fifty feet. I took my place in it, now an unemployed statistic entitled to a few weeks of benefits for having spent years bending over a table hearing myself referred to in the third nonperson. The low grumble of adult talk filled the background, and the sounds of unruly chil-dren filled the foreground. Some parents scolded or swatted their miscreant ...
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...tip of her tongue. Her lips were cool, and her mouth tasted of tea. She pulled away and sat at arm’s length, just looking at me, a smile on her face.I reached over and untied her robe. She shrugged it off her shoulders, then unknotted the towel and let her hair fall. I fingered a damp strand and “Here’s fine,” she whispered as she settled into the cushion. “Right here.”...
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...“It’s a diversion. Keeps me sane. Dog shit. What’s next?” The line went I pointed at the picture of the trout. “Nice fish. What’d you use for bait?”“Like any self-respecting attorney, I used my ex-wife,” Braverman said when i got home, I found a message on my recorder from Friece. This is the day for attorneys, I thought. The secretary put me on hold to transfer ...
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...invisible hairs on her forearm, reached down to stroke the tuft of reddish The engine fired up, the dome light went off, and the Beemer tore off, leaving a patch of rubber on the hardtop. If she had looked, she would have 19 Early in the evening two days after she stormed out, Audie stood at the threshold, head tilted seductively. I was in my apron, paring knife in hand, when I answered the doorbell. Her hasty departure had added another mess to the disarray that was my life. Now her showing up piled on even more. My birthday was in two days, and before ...
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...zucchini, took a deep breath, picked up the paring knife, and drove the blade down. It broke off as it slammed into the wood. Nothing is bad luck or good; it’s bad life or good life. That’s what I’d learned from the fire. Resign your-I picked up a potato and began scraping at the peel. She said good-bye and walked to the door. It closed. After a few seconds it opened and shut ...
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...to say something. Ben grinned as a doctor might when preparing a patient for bad news. Audie took the car keys from her purse and rattled them. I 21 We waited at Ben’s in the den for the fourth member of the crew to arrive, Angel with his eyes on a sports betting form, Audie in a recliner with an open newspaper in hand, me on a stool, steady-ing my sweating hands. Past noon, the temperature hung at 110 degrees. For two days the ever-darkening clouds had promised rainfall, but so far had delivered only a blanket of humidity that spread over the valley ...
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...22 Thursday and the kids would be over. The final fifty minutes of eight hours were clicking down toward shift’s end, and I had two days off coming. I felt a headache coming on. The battering sounds of the casino and cigarette smoke added to a dull throb at my temples. I offered up the deck to first base to cut. He ran the cut card over the edge and sliced the deck. Out of the gate he laid down a two- hundred-dollar bet, then doubled down on a ten, according to basic strategy a percentage bet against my nine showing. I gave him a down card and ...
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...well. What would a boss want? My head throbbed. I wondered if the eye in the sky had noticed something. My stiff-thumb shuffle, perhaps. I dropped my tips in the toke box and went looking. Mack was watching a roulette game in pit 2 from the end of the apron. He riffled two stacks of chips into one. The ball slowed and dropped in the twenty-four. The dealer marked the ...
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Lucas said, “Probably watching Mel’s, just waiting for a peek at him going At the table as we ate, Lucas began talking about his former college alge-bra teacher. I was glad the conversation shifted away from the man in the Honda. But nothing else other than the man was on my mind. I wondered if I ate half of my meal and said, “I’m going to lie down for a minute.” I ...
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She caught her breath and said, “Dad, you shouldn’t have done that. I pulled her close and said everything was going to be all right, some-25 The gun was dark metallic blue, and its checkered stocks shined. Using a soft cloth to protect the finish, the clerk opened the cylin-der and offered the gun for me to examine. I held it with a sense of awe and apprehension, sort of the way I’d felt when the nurse handed Lucas to me for the first time. Before then, I’d never held a baby. “It’s a beauty, S&W Model Twenty-seven,” the clerk said. “Kinda power-...
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...me a card. “Best shootin’ range in town. They carry wad cutters and offer instructions on how to shoot.” I must have looked confused, because the clerk said, “Man, wad cutters is reloads for target shooting. Make clean holes in paper, but ugly holes in anything else, but not like hollow points. No, sir!”“Fill out that paperwork and I’ll get you a box. One’ll do ’less you use ...
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...“Good.” Feigning no sign of recognizing me, Gus peeled five bills from a roll of hundreds, placed them on the layout, and eased himself onto the “All green,” he said. “I’ll wait for the shuffle. I don’ wanna ruin this lady’s What happened next came as no surprise, as the pattern of Gus’s play was all too obvious. Following my next shuffle, he scraped the cut card down the ...
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She stood in the open doorway, staring at me bent over the sink. I looked at her through the mirror. She was upset. “I saw him again, Dad. You said it “I’ll take care of it,” I said, but I didn’t even know what it was, who he was, and in many ways who I was. I sat on the edge of the bed. Only once before had I felt this alone, and that was crawling out of the fire. At least ...
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The line went dead. My hands trembled as I laid the receiver in its cradle. I checked the caller id display. The number was private. Didn’t matter. I didn’t need a number. I’d recognized the voice. What did Gabe do but deal with criminals? How hard would it be to find someone to do the kind of 29 No change came of my meeting with Ben. A month passed with no threatening calls. I still had the job, Ben’s agents continued to land on my game and win, and at the end of each week I found an envelope with cash in my mailbox. One thing that did change was ...
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...30 I walked into the break room at the Le Grande and looked around for an empty table. This was my last shift before two days off, and I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. Somehow I had to take my life back and do so without endangering Beth. Six weeks had passed since the phone call, and though Gabe Blitzstein’s threat was begin-ning to seem all bluff, it still unsettled me, owing to my lack of circumspec-tion at the start of all this. Dad had mentioned his being propositioned from time to time when he was a dealer and later as a boss. He’d said that casino ...
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...“Lady, this is a hot machine. It’s got more than twenty credits. You want “Don’t play with me, mister. You just want my machine. Do I look I shrugged and played three credits. When the reels stopped, lights flashed overhead and the machine blacked out, then started blinking as a buzzer rang pandemonium overhead. A cocktail waitress passed by and said ...
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...“Come to the house Thursday. That’s your day off, right? You should see I shook my head. “I can’t go around wondering if someone’s following me. And this detective thinks I’m involved with Gabe. I met him once.”I snorted. “Look, Hefty’s probably going to fire me anyhow. He dumped He stared at me over his drink. “What kind of question is that?”...
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...instructive, as you can see. I find it fascinating. Nothing hurts our business, your business now, more than the electronic eye. In the old days we could go around the eye in the sky or buy an employee in surveillance. They make less than most dealers they watch. Isn’t that right, Angel?”“Angel started out as a dealer. Did business and got caught. No convic-...
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Even if it didn’t show all over you, just asking about Moser tells me you got troubles.” When he opened his wallet to fold the money inside, he pulled out a business card and jotted something on the back. “On the back are my cell and home numbers. I don’t know what you’re into, but these are bad people. Sometime soon, you’ll be needing help, and my fee doesn’t go down. ...
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Lucas looked at Beth, who shrugged and said, “Dad, you’re so weird.”I forked a steak on Beth’s plate, one on Lucas’s, and last on my own. I turned to take the broiler pan to the kitchen, then stopped and eyed them.“Okay, here it is. I fix a meal like this because I like cooking, but also “That’s okay. Don’t trouble yourselves. I’ll get the salad.” I called from the ...
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...“Mama, Part 2: The Trip to the Dentist.” The busboy called out my name, said I had a phone call, and placed the receiver down on top of the wall phone by the coffee machine. I picked up the receiver. “Jude here.”Because I’d anticipated it for weeks, I thought I was ready for the phone call, but my hands went cold, my lips dry. I glanced at Norma, who looked ...
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...duplicate of a portion of the high-roller pit at the Le Grande, including brass rail and carpet. The layouts were identical, down to the chips that matched in both denomination and total amount in a table bank in the high-roller pit. The detailing was impeccable. Gathering my wits, I said, “It’s not how I’d “What would you do?” Angel asked. “Orange shag carpet and strobe lights?”...
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...wiser. The take could be more than a million dollars if the deck was set up to give the player a nominal amount of double downs and blackjacks.I didn’t know when the scam would go down. I was sure of only one thing: whoever the player, he had to be a high roller. No, a whale, a blue whale, nothing less. That was the river card needed to make a hand. The ...
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...39 I sat at the end of a table in the help’s hall and laid my head on my arms. Gathered around the next table, several women watched spellbound as a soap opera blared sentimental theme music and two actors faced off in a scene intended to stir emotions in the audience. What would these women think if I shouted that drama exists but not how it’s depicted on soap operas, that real drama is even more disturb-ing? What if I told them it’s in every corner of the ordinary human sphere? What if I said its prelude may be a pair of gazing eyes and a soft touch of a ...
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...“I should say ‘ex-husband.’ We divorced a year after the last operation. “Boy and girl. They’re great. Smarter than me. Lucas got his degree last She studied the backs of her hands and then turned them over. “I would have. He wouldn’t. Life, huh?” She pointed to the television. “Bet their real I looked up at the television and saw an uncanny resemblance between ...
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I smiled to show my appreciation. “So you told him to fire me at the “Someone close the drapes and turn on the lights. Let’s get to work. Jude, Wade closed the drapes. Ben turned on the lights and said, “Offer the deck in the shuffler to Linus.” I put on the tie and apron and bumped into a chair as I slid behind the layout. I pulled the deck out and offered it and the ...
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...42 I stepped out into the parking lot of Big Dog’s at noon, two hun-dred dollars poorer, but with a telephone number and the name Masters on it. I’d asked Biggs a couple of times, who was this guy Masters? He’d refused to say. He said that his only advice was to call the number he’d given me. I turned the ignition and dialed the number Biggs had written down. The line rang twice before a man answered. “Mas-“Biggs. He wouldn’t tell me anything else. My name’s . . .”“Jude Helms. It came up on my screen. Great gadgets, these cell phones. ...
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...occurred to me that Masters had picked an ideal meeting place. If Beardsley or Joel Moser had followed, they would see me buying a book. I held the door for a woman talking on a Bluetooth while carrying a child in one arm I looked around. For what or who, I had no idea. It just seemed like I should be looking. I walked the aisles, checking out books. I pulled one off ...
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Beth sat on the arm of the recliner. “Dad? Can’t you tell us anything?”I patted her hand. “Let’s go out for ice cream. We’ll do the dishes when “I never told you before and neither has your mother, but I survived the “How I wish that were true. Well, let’s go get some ice cream, then buy a 44 I wondered, as I had for weeks, if this, the last day of the year, was going to be the day. I couldn’t be certain. Ben hadn’t yet said, but I sensed tonight or the next the scam would go down. Over Christ-mas, business had been so slow bosses and dealers outnumbered ...
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...both in cuffs. None of us spoke or looked at one another. A moment passed before Masters pushed Ben inside the door and told him to take a seat. Two steps behind Masters a male and a female cop entered, holding Audie by the arms. Another cop followed, Audie’s purse in hand. She looked at me as she took a seat beside Ben. I resisted the urge to smile when her eye caught ...
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Outside Norma waited in the reception area, reading a magazine. She set it aside, stood, and offered me a hand. I took it and squeezed gently.In the courthouse lobby she pointed to vendor’s stand. “Ice cream always 46 Vegas’s optimism, sparked by a surge of January visitors, had long since subsided, supplanted by a cynical sense that the worst was yet to come. In March the Dow spiked up and down like a bad ekg, and by May it again plummeted. Occupancy rates on the Strip dropped to below 70 percent, and early-summer vacationers began ...
Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: West Word Fiction