Luck Be a Lady
Jack threw the dice without looking at the table. He realized as they left his hand he hadn’t moved his bet, let it ride and it was all the money he had left. As the dice rumbled and rolled, he felt time stop in that brief moment. The sounds all around him had gone to slow motion like waves crashing to shore in his ears.
“We have a winner.” The stickman pulled the dice across the green felt after a brief moment to allow the result to be recorded. Chips were piled onto Jack’s stack and the dice were passed back to him.
He held them, appeared to be lost in his thoughts, but really, he had caught the eye of the blonde in the red dress across the table. He didn’t break eye contact as he threw the dice. When he was nudged with the dice again he turned and shook his head and then collected his chips. He looked up again, looked for the woman but she had slipped into the crowd.
He scanned the room but didn’t see her anywhere. Only then did he look down at the chips in his hands. The meager pile had tripled, enough to pay for the room another night and still make rent this month. And enough for a quick drink at the bar before he went back upstairs.
On his way to the cashier he thought he saw her again. A fleeting glimpse but she was gone almost as fast as she had appeared. He had never seen her at the casino before, at least never that he could remember. Sure, a number of people came and went, but Jack was a regular. There were faces around the casino that were part of the furniture. A new one stood out.
And then there were the tourists. The couple in line for the cashier in front of him, had brochures in hand and the woman kept pulling at the man’s arm to show him a new picture in the one on top of her pile.
Though he tried to ignore them, he noticed something in the most recent picture that the woman pointed to, something that looked familiar. She flipped the page, and Jack jumped into their conversation.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Could I see that paper for a second, please.”
She eyed him up and down, and turned back to pestering her companion.
Jack tapped her shoulder. “Hey, I was talking to you. Could I have a look at your pamphlet. I’ll give it right back.”
“You can get your own at the concierge desk,” she said.
“I just need to see it for a quick second.”
Her companion bumped Jack with his elbow. “Didn’t you hear the lady? Get yer own.”
“I’ll give it right back,” Jack said. “Seriously, is it too much trouble to let me see it?”
The elbow came again, right into the center of Jack’s ribcage. It was followed by the man’s foot smashing down on Jack’s foot. “Step off.”
Jack fumbled with his chip holder to keep it in his hands as he stumbled back from the couple. He bumped into a man that had come up behind him, who then pushed him off to the side. As Jack fell to the ground he managed to keep his chips in his hands instead of letting them scatter on the floor around him. The people standing in line laughed and then turned back to waiting their turn.
A security guard approached the group and stood next to Jack as he pushed himself up from the floor. “Is there a problem over here?”
“This guy was being rude,” the woman said as she nodded her head in Jack’s direction. “When he tried to get physical with me, Eric shut him down.”
“I asked to see her pamphlet,” Jack said.
The guard looked from Jack to the others and then back at Jack again. “Come on buddy, I don’t want any trouble over here.”
Jack grumbled but followed the guard away from the line. The guard took him to a seated area and motioned for him to sit.
“Cool off for a few,” the guard said. “They won’t be in there much longer.”
“I still need to see one of the casino brochures.”
The guard picked up a handful and dropped them on the side table next to Jack’s seat. “Take your pick, guy,” he said. “Read up for a bit then I won’t stop you from going back. Give them all a chance to clear out before you do.” He returned to his post outside the cashier counter.
Jack skimmed the brochure’s covers and found the one he was seeking after the fourth one. The picture he had wanted to see was buried inside, on the fourth page. It was the blonde from the casino in the same red dress. The brochure was old, a throw back to the year the casino was first built. But she looked exactly the same in the picture as she did on the casino floor earlier.
The brochure covered some of the attractions and oddities of the hotel. The section with her picture mentioned the various ghost sightings that had happened in the hotel over the years. This picture had been captioned as “Miss Marla Dukain, heiress to the Dukain family fortune. Died on the main floor in 1968.”
A ghost, of all things. Jack had cashed in his chips and returned to his room. Nothing fancy, he hadn’t won that much. But it had been enough to reclaim a space for the night. He could have saved the cash and gone home but he wanted to drink a couple glasses of bourbon. It was something to wash the thoughts of his ghost from his mind.
But the booze hadn’t been helping.
He saw her again as she passed the entrance to the bar. Her long blond hair had trailed behind her like vapor as she rushed by the doorway. He drained the last of the amber liquid from his glass and dropped it back on the counter. He hadn’t heard the bartender ask if he wanted another when he rushed toward the doorway into the game room.
She was gone. He felt that using some lame story to cover that she wasn’t really there was worse than actually admitting he was seeing a ghost. But that was it, wasn’t it. She continued to rush past him as an ephemeral cloud but she never lingered where he could talk to her, he wasn’t even sure he should talk to her.
He scanned the game room closest to the bar but could find no one who appeared even slightly like the vision. And he began to doubt what it was he saw. Ghosts weren’t real. And this woman was moving at a fair clip every time he had seen her.
He saw it as little more than a figment of his imagination the longer he searched for her within the crowd. Nothing. Nada, Zilch. It was like she completely disappeared from the world around her. How often is that even possible.
A fresh glass of bourbon waited for him at the bar; two fingers high, and a single cube of ice. Jack swirled the amber liquor around the glass several times before he touched it to his lips again. A chill touched the back of his neck as the liquid fire burned his throat. It lingered as he set the glass on the bar top in front of him.
A soft whisper filled his ear with a touch more of the chill that had caressed his neck. Words he couldn’t understand, sounds just at the edge of hearing. The urge to look around, to find the source of the touch and whisper consumed him but he fought it off, afraid that it would disappear as vapor if he confronted it. Instead he followed the swirl of the bourbon in his glass as the ice melted into it.
“I like its fire.” The whispered words carried over the soft jazz piped into the bar. He felt her then, beside him, a chill that traveled from the base of his neck to small of his back. “It’s a promise of something more.”
He turned then, to face her. He knew it would be her, the soft voice fit so well with the image of her in his mind. “Can I buy you a drink?”
She leaned back against the bar as she tossed her long blonde hair to the side with a flip. A smile played at her lips as she held up own glass, the amber liquid swished with the motion. “I changed your order, something special they don’t give to just anyone.”
Jack eyed his glass. He hadn’t noticed anything different from what he had been drinking. Though his taste buds weren’t discerning when it came to his bourbons. He liked the burn in his throat and the buzz that snuck up on him after the second or third glass. He pulled another swallow from the glass. “Not sure it was worth it for me,” he said. “A bit of Southern had always been good enough.”
“Always good to branch out a little.” He felt the words like she whispered them into his ear but she hadn’t moved from where she reclined against the bar.
He set his glass down, and explored the swirl of amber as he gathered his thoughts. “Are you real?” It might have been the booze or his thoughts that brought a heat into his cheeks.
Her laugh, quick and sure, chilled him with warmth he hadn’t expected. It wasn’t the answer he had expected. Hell, he wasn’t sure what exactly he had expected. Would a ghost actually know it was a ghost and would it admit to it? Light sparkled in the corner of her eyes when he faced her again.
“I’m not the girl you think I am,” she said. “Well, not exactly. They didn’t have color photos back when she died.”
“Wait, what…” He pulled the brochure from his back pocket and flipped through it again. The girl in the picture matched the girl beside him, a perfect match. Even her green eyes, the same green eyes that danced with her giggle as it dawned on him what they had done.
“It’s a promotional thing,” she said. “I have family that work in the offices here. They created the story as part of the casino’s lore.”
Jack glanced between her face and the picture in the brochure several more times. “It’s trippy. So, this woman never existed?”
“I wouldn’t say that. The Dukain family were part of the mobsters that built this place years ago. There’s a picture of Alistair Dukain in the upper halls.” She slid off the bar stool and took his hand. “I’ll show you.”
Alone in the elevator, she pressed against him as the doors closed. Her hands slipped around his waist as she nuzzled into his neck. Instinct took over as he pressed his lips to hers. The kiss burned, burned with the heat of bourbon, from his lips and into his throat. She pressed further into him and he needed more.
They fell out of the elevator in a tangle when the doors opened on his floor. He barely had the presence of mind to find the key card to his room as she nibbled at his neck.
In the room their clothes flew off, a trail that lead to the bed as the door closed behind them. She pushed him to the bed, flat on his back.
She didn’t follow him onto the bed, not in a tangle like they had been on the way to the room. Instead she edged her way toward him. Lithe and slow she stalked his body on the bed. With nibbles and licks she caressed his body as she worked back to his lips. Her hands pinned his shoulders down as she leaned over him in the kiss.
Lost in the moment, Jack hadn’t noticed the slight discomfort of her caress. Goosebumps had risen on his arms and legs as a burning chill filled him. She impaled herself on him as ice slammed into his chest. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move as she consumed his energy, his life in her embrace. The last of him drifted away as she sated herself.
His frozen corpse had been all that remained of him when dawn’s light shone through the window.
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