The crowd of people standing around roulette table number fourteen was three deep. Only four people were placing bets, the rest were watching the high roller raking in piles of chips. Every time the ball dropped, a cheer went up, and more people left the other tables to have a look. I knew from experience that the lack of people betting cost the casino about 1-K a minute.
I watched as the pit boss at number fourteen glanced up at the hidden camera, wiped his forehead with a red handkerchief, and stuck it in his inside pocket. That was the “intervention needed” signal, and it would start an avalanche of actions.
I knew the procedures by heart, so I turned off my closed-circuit TV and went about some important business. Right then, I was focused on getting a pedicure, or rather the bosom of the knockout blond who was doing it.
The security chief would be notified, and Candy would rush over to the television screen showing table fourteen. The retired detective would zoom in the camera to count the high roller’s chips. Four hundred thousand stacked neatly and another ten thousand being pushed over to him by the croupier. The security chief watched as the high roller placed the 10-K on number 13 black. The seven other players at the table followed his lead, betting about $5,000 each.
Next, the security chief would apprise the casino owner of the situation in person. The owner, in turn, would go to a house phone and dial a four-digit number. To the casino owner’s chagrin, it would ring twelve times before someone answered. Out of nervous habit, the owner would rub his bald head while he waited.
The owner was waiting for “The Luck Sucker” to pick up the phone. That’s my nickname, by the way. To the best of my knowledge, my name is Don-L, but the casino staff all call me The Luck Sucker. Satisfied that I had annoyed the owner enough, I answered his call on the thirteenth ring.
My smooth accented voice irritated the casino owner, so I made it even softer and more accented. “You’re interrupting my pedicure, Curley, so I’m assuming there’s a major problem. What is it?” I knew what the problem was, I just wanted to make my boss say it out loud.
The voice at the other end said, “A big fish is up 400 K plus, and it doesn’t look like he’s gonna start losing any time soon. Seven other players are betting with him, and we’re bleeding money. You’d better get down here, and I mean pronto!”
I scratched the stubble on my chin, thinking of a way to prolong the conversation. “Have you changed the croupier?”
“Whaddya think I’m stupid or something? Of course, I’ve changed the croupier. I had five different guys in there. Another change, and the crowd around the table is gonna get nasty.”
“What about closing the table?”
“We can’t close the board, because the mark is playing at the no-limit table. It’s the one table the casino commission won’t let us close down. Screw your pedicure. Get your ass down here right away, luck sucker. I’ve just been told the fish has won another 35 to 1 payout on a 10 K bet. Now he’s up 750 K on the house.”
“Okay, Curley, clear the table of other players. I’ll be right down.”
* * *
While I dressed, I looked around at the lavish hotel suite that I called home and thought about how I’d come to be here. I had no idea how I had ended up at this job or even what my last name was. All I remember is waking up in the desert almost five years ago with no idea how I’d come to be there. The only clue to my identity was the word “Don” on my right cufflink and the letter “L” on the other.
Because of my ability to suck away people’s luck, my “owners” had nicknamed me The Luck Sucker. I was a hot commodity in the gambling business. The mob-owned casinos bargained with each other for me, and I had no choice but to comply or be buried alive in the desert. Since then, I’d been sold, like a piece of furniture, over a dozen times to casinos around the country.
The one thing I did know was that as the luck sucker, all I had to do was ask for something, and it was mine. Wherever I went, my only function was to stand or sit beside someone and suck away the player’s luck. If you thought I loved having such a cushy job, you’d be wrong. The truth is, I hate every minute of my life.
There was an element of danger to my job, and that’s what made it bearable. Some people were superstitious about their luck, and they became agitated if they thought I had something to do with it going away. There could be dire consequences for the person killing someone’s luck.
There were times when I had been approached by the loser after a win and had a gun stuck in my ribs. Casino security usually stepped in right away, and the mark would be banned from the casino. Sometimes security wouldn’t get there fast enough, and I’d have to take a beating. Once, I was stabbed in the ribs. That hurt—a lot.
I don’t know why this particular casino owner hated me, but he did. Right from day one, and the minute I walked in the door. The only reason Curley kept me on the payroll was to give him an edge over the other casinos. The more money his casino made, the more valuable he was to the big bosses. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if I lost my ability.
* * *
Ten minutes later, I stepped out of my private elevator, and Curley handed me 100-K in chips, and my table invitation. The hundred grand was minimum buy-in for the no-limit table, and the invitation was so I could play at the table.
The people that run Vegas aren’t stupid. They make a rule, so it looks good to the voters, then they make another rule to give the casinos a way around the law. Curley couldn’t close the table, but he could make it a “By invitation only” game.
The crowd at number fourteen was cheering another win as I stepped up to the table. We were the only two players, and after positioning myself next to the big fish, I eyeballed his stack of chips. There was over a million in front of him now, and he had another 20-K riding on number 27.
I savored the taste of his luck, as I sucked it from the high roller’s body. It tasted like honey. The wheel slowed down, and the ball dropped on number 17.
Less than a half-hour later, the high roller’s stack was down to his original 200-K buy-in. As for me, I was high on all the luck I had sucked from the fish. Just a few minutes more, I told myself, and the high roller’s cash would be gone. My job would be done, and I could get back to my room in time for a back massage. I had just started to fantasize about the happy ending when I noticed a dark-haired woman whispering in the high roller’s ear.
There was something familiar about the woman, and I felt a strong attraction towards her. The shapely woman’s dark eyes seemed to draw me in, and I had to make an effort to look away. I had a job to do, and business was business.
The high roller pushed the whole 200-K onto zero, which was 35 to 1 odds. I bet on number 36. The croupier spread his hands over the table, indicating no more bets and spun the wheel. The wheel slowed down, the ball dropped, and I started to walk away from the table.
“Zero, green,” the croupier shouted. We have a winner!
I spun around with a look of disbelief on my face and watched as the house paid out at 35 to 1 odds. Curley signed a seven-million-dollar marker and placed it in front of the high roller.
When Curley looked at me, his eyes were dead, which meant I was just as good as dead, if I didn’t win that money back. The fish left the original 200 K bet on zero. I bet on number two.
Tightening my fists, I moved even closer to the high roller and began to pull the luck from him in earnest. It tasted different this time, more refreshing, like a cold slice of watermelon on a hot summer day.
The croupier spun the wheel, and when it slowed down, the ball dropped on number two. I wasn’t dead yet.
For the next six hours, the play went pretty much the same, bouncing back and forth between me and the high roller. Then the woman winked at me, planted a kiss on the high roller’s cheek, and walked away. The big fish didn’t seem to notice, but afterward, he won every spin of the wheel.
* * *
The high roller left the table when he hit twelve million in winnings. Curley nodded at the security team standing behind me. “The other casino owners aren’t going to like it if you kill me, Curley,” I said.
Screw the other owners. “By the time they find out, you’ll already be half mummified. I’ll just tell them you left the casino and disappeared without a trace.”
The two dark-eyed men escorted me out of the casino and into the back of an SUV. An hour later, we were standing in the cold, late-night dessert.
* * *
After having me dig my own grave, the two hitmen pointed their guns at my head. That’s when the dark-haired woman from the casino, I had dubbed “Lady Luck,” showed up.
Standing behind the hitmen, Lady Luck smiled at me, and my memory returned. I smiled back, and the hitmen turned around to see who was behind them. I started running.
Seeing no one behind them, both hitmen turned back and fired at me. Of course, they missed, I knew who I was now. Their bullets ricocheted off a nearby bolder and found their way into the hitmen’s hearts. Their luck had run out.
A few minutes later, I rolled their bodies into the grave I had dug and covered it over. Then me and Lady Luck made love on a blanket, right there under the desert stars.
* * *
As Lord and Lady Luck drove away in the hitmen’s car, the world was in balance and harmony once again. Lady luck had her other half back. Yin and Yang, Good and Evil, Light and Dark, Male and Female, Life and Death, were equal and stable. The Positive and Negative forces in the Universe were in alignment once more. There was balance.
The Earth sighed, and it began to rain in the desert.