It’s been a hectic weekend, so I apologize for getting this out a little later than I like to normally. I also want to apologize up front when I say that this story is not quite finished. As it sits right now it is roughly one thousand to two thousand words shorter than it will be when done. But I like to think that I cut it off at just the right moment to completely frustrate anyone who reads it.
As is normal for a Monday post, this story is based on a prompt from Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog. This week the idea was to create a drink recipe and create a story based on the drink. Of course with me a drink recipe means create a beer. So the story starts out with the recipe for a beer I am calling The Common Pilz. This is a pilsner style beer that is fermented using California Common yeast. For those who don’t know what this means, California Common style beers are lagers, fermented with lager yeast but at ale temperatures. They end up as a cross between a lager and an ale in flavor profile.
There will be more to this story in the near future. But instead of serializing it here, I will be releasing a collection of the Casino stories in March. This story in its finished form will be part of that release. (Yes, I enjoy playing with your emotions).
12lb Pilsner Malt
.5oz saaz hops (american) 5.8 aa 60 min
.5 oz saaz hops (american) 5.8 aa 30 min
1 oz hallertau hersbrucker 3.8 aa 20 min
1 oz hallertau hersbrucker 3.8 aa 5 min
Single infusion at 154 degrees for 1.5 hours
WLP 810 san fransisco lager yeast
Primary ferment for 2 weeks at 64 degrees
Secondary for 4 weeks at 32 degrees
The Common Pilz
Jack grabbed the brown paper bag from the passenger seat. The bag did little to mask the clink of the bottles, even in their six pack carrier. He weighed his options: either wait for the tram from the employee lot or walk to the casino.
The tram would be less work overall, but he hated the wait. On the other hand the weather was great for a stroll to the main building. It helped that he showed up early for his shift.
Jarrod worked the day shift at the bar, soon to end his shift. Jack brought in some samples of the beers he wanted to put on tap soon. He had big plans, to single handedly rework the beer menu. The contacts he had made over the last six months paid off now while the bar was in transition.
Granted he enjoyed sharing a couple beers with Jarrod while waiting for the switchover and even for a little while after. Perks of the job, they could drink a beer or two and claim it as sampling.
Jack brought in a couple of his special Pilsners as well. With any luck he would be able to get the casino to upgrade the licensing and allow him to brew within the casino itself. If the could work it right his beer would be supplied throughout all the restaurants within the casino.
Aside from his special cargo the walk to work went well. He arrived at the entrance, still an half hour left before his shift. The police cruisers sitting outside the entrance with their lights flashing gave him a cause for alarm. The he saw the crowd.
A large group hard gathered just outside the police perimeter. All right in front of the main entrance into the building. Uniformed officers stood guard around the perimeter to hold the crowd back, as a forensic team searched the scene. Sirens blared from the main road, as an ambulance made its way down the long drive to the casino.
A uniformed officer stopped him as he approached the gathering. “What is your business here?” She asked. Her eyes dared him to try pushing through.
“I work inside,” he said. “Bartend at Double Down. What’s going on?”
“There was an accident,” she said. She looked back toward the scene then back at him. “You’re going to need to use the other entrance to get in.”
So much for being early to work, he thought. “Can you tell me who had the ‘accident’?”
“Sorry, I’m not at liberty to talk about this.”
He looked past her shoulder to see the emts move a sheet covered gurney back into the ambulance. “Well, thanks anyway.” He left her and walked to the side entrance.
“Did you see it?” Tracy asked. She pulled her hair back into a high pony tail as she stepped into Jack’s path. She was one of the better bar servers he had worked with in some time, though a bit too chatty.
He set his brown bag under the bar. “All I saw was a sheet covered gurney. Where’s Jarrod?”
“He was the one under the sheet.”
“What? What the hell happened?”
The grim smile on her face fought the battle of gossip and shock. “A customer came in earlier demanding to see the bartender. We weren’t even open yet.” She took a deep breath then continued. “I heard all this from Anne, so the details seem a little sketchy. But he left when he couldn’t see him.”
“I don’t see how this brings us to this…”
“The man came back an hour ago. He spoke to Jarrod at the bar and they went outside. Shortly after that a customer ran in and reported a body in the courtyard.” She played with her ponytail and readjusted it. “So far no one saw what happened.”
“Of course, no one ever sees what happens,” he said. “You weren’t around when the whole thing went down?”
“Nope, just got here a few minutes before you did,” she said. “They were talking about it on the shuttle.”
“But no one saw anything, as busy as this place can be and no one saw anything,” he said. “Seems typical, most people only care about themselves.”
A woman sat at a table in the bar, and Tracey left to go deal with her. Jack grabbed his brown bag and took it to the walk-in cooler behind the bar. The door to the walk-in hadn’t closed all the way.
Maintenance told him it had something to do with the hinges the last time he put in a work order. They had parts on order. Even with the door issue Jarrod and him were the only ones who used this cooler, and they both knew about the problem. Lifting up on the door when closing it would ensure that the door shut.
Jarrod wouldn’t have left the door open like that. By the sound of the incident, it wasn’t like he left the bar in a hurry. Someone must have been in the bar cooler, someone who didn’t belong.
Jack opened the door and looked inside before he stepped into the cold space. At first glance the cooler looked normal, nothing out of place. But he heard a hissing noise coming from the back near the CO2 tanks.
He kept pressure logs on the tanks. Part of their standard operating procedures they marked on the sheet, the pressure reading on the main tanks. At moments like this he was glad they did. The tank had a leak. He changed out the tank himself on his previous shift and now the tank was close to empty.
He checked the line for the leak and source of the noise. Someone shoved a push pin into the line. The hole was small but enough to drain the tank, the pin lay on the floor next to the line. There wasn’t enough pressure left in the tank to even start his shift.
Jack spent fifteen minutes repairing the line then swapping out for a new tank. He marked the pressure reading on the log sheet then checked on his brown bag. He pulled the six pack out of the bag and placed it behind a towering case of beer off to the side.
The door to the cooler popped open. He expected to see Tracey at the door, to call him back to the bar. Instead a blonde woman he didn’t recognize crossed into the cooler. High heels, tight black satin dress, she didn’t work at the hotel or casino. At least he did not know her if she did.
“I don’t think you belong back here,” he said.
The sway of her hips as she walked through the cooler toward him, suggested something he wasn’t sure he wanted to dabble in, at least not in the cooler. “I was looking for you,” she said. “Imagine my surprise to find you all alone here.”
“That’s great and all,” he said. “But who are you?”
She blocked the path out of the cooler with her hands on her hips. “You, you don’t remember me?” The incandescent light in the cooler created odd shadows across her face. For a brief moment Jack thought he saw her skull within the shadow.
“I’m sorry lady, but you don’t look familiar to me at all.” When he set his hands down to his sides he found the tower of beer cases. “You really aren’t supposed to be in here. So please leave.”
With another step or two she stood next to him. Her hot breath a mist in his face. “The things I could do to you,” she whispered. She turned and walked out of the cooler.
He realized he wasn’t breathing and let the air from his lungs and then took in a deep breath. “What the fuck was that?” he asked. He double checked the CO2 tank again then left the cooler.
Tracy stood behind the bar pulling a beer when he returned. “You see a crazy blonde come through here?” he asked.
She looked at him with her head tilted to the side. “No crazy blondes but I did kick a guy out for walking behind the bar. He jumped back here when you went into the beer cooler.”
“What the hell is this game they’re playing?”
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” Tracy said. “But that guy, he didn’t go for the booze like you would expect. I caught him looking on the floor at the other end of the bar.”
Jack explored the floor and shelves on that side of the bar. He found scraps of paper and bits of trash where Jarrod hadn’t been able to clean up before the incident and the trash bin needed to be dumped.
On a hunch he sifted through the trash bin, mostly cocktail napkins and the occasional used slice of lemon or lime. At the bottom of the trash bin he found something solid. When he pulled it out into the light of the bar, he found it to be a locker key.
The casino provided lockers for those unwilling to leave their valuables with the courtesy desk. They provided a bit of protection for a lower price point, which appealed to many of the hotel and casino patrons.
“I think this might be what they were looking for,” he said to Tracy. “I’m going to check it out. Watch out for that couple. They will most likely come back here first, looking for the key.”
Early in the evening the locker area was mostly deserted. Most of the gamblers were either at dinner or out on the floor already. Jack walked past the rows of lockers, his senses on fire. The slightest ting or scuff caused his heart to race.
The section the key belonged in was empty of people. He had the locker to himself. Jack pressed the key into the key hole and turned. The locker popped open with a click. A small brown paper wrapped item sat in the back of the locker.
Jack never heard them, never noticed their approach. He jumped a foot in the air when he turned and they were standing in front of him. The man held a bowie knife in his right hand. The woman stood to his left, the seductive smile she had in the cooler gone.
“This what you killed Jarrod for?” Jack asked.
“Hand it over and this won’t get ugly,” the man said. “You can walk away now and no one will be the wiser.”
Trapped, the two of them blocked the path to the main corridor. Jack still had his security badge. The door to the employee corridor stood a slight ways behind the woman. He smiled as he looked closer at her heels. The pointed stilettos were unstable at best on the tile floor within the locker area. Even with the small distance between the rows of lockers, jack felt he could use his smaller stature and speed to his advantage against the man with the knife.
He jumped and rolled into the woman’s legs. They swept out from under her and she fell into the man with the knife. Jack sprung up and sprinted to the employee corridor door. He heard them fast on his heels as the door slammed shut behind him.