Suicide Kings

by N. Kaouthia
illustrated by iyori

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/94758.html)

illustrated by iyori

illustrated by iyori

 

Suspend your belief about Las Vegas house odds, ‘cuz baby, I’m up twenty grand at Caesar’s Palace and still winning. I am hitting the big bucks at the high stakes table and no one is busting me just yet. “Thanks, baby,” I tell the dealer, Chris, who is sexy in his own right. I am doing all the right moves and I know Chris has the hots for me.

I pop my collar in all my coolness and the “high rollers” around me laugh like I’m an idiot, but they’re just jealous they aren’t as hip as I am. Aside from that, I’m rolling in money. I know I’ve won at least ten times as much as these kids have in their whole pathetic little existences.

“Why don’t you just go back to the Ivy League college you came from, kiddo?” one of the guys grunts, because yeah, he sees Asian kid and he thinks a lot of money to spare, Ivy League, rich-as-hell parents, smartass, cheater. Whatever. That old man wouldn’t know a real blackjack player if he punched him in the goddamn face.

“Anyone can play,” Chris says.

“Thanks, man.” I grin at Chris, who is the goddamn best dealer in the whole fuckin’ world. I’ve been playing blackjack seriously around the country for a while, and Chris has been there right along with me, dealing out the cards like a pro. He always deals fast and deep into the deck, which helps players like me, but oh man, Chris made the big bucks while he was dealing. Sure, I robbed casinos of hundreds of thousands for the couple months I was in town, but Chris stole that money right out from under the noses of unsuspecting suckers.

And man, he stays in touch real well. He always knows where to find me next. I don’t know what I would have done without the guy: he’s always got my back. It’s just a bonus he’s got a pretty mouth and face too.

“I think I’m gonna turn in for the night. Can I color up?” I push my pile of chips over to him, and he takes them and exchanges them for fewer chips of the same value.

“Have a good night, Mr. Ma,” Chris says. “You should come back some time.”

I almost forget to nod, but he catches my eye, so I grin back at him. “Gotta haunt the other casinos too, man.”

I cash out half the chips and stop by the bank to make a traveler’s check, which I leave in a duffel bag. When I’m back in my room, I dump the other half of the chips into a cookie jar. I’ve been playing at Caesar’s for a while now–a couple of weeks at least–and I’ve made enough to buy a couple of decent cars. I’ve been cashing out half of my earnings, making a duffel bag of traveler’s checks.

I pull the sunglasses and my polo off, and then I take the contacts out of my eyes. Now I look like the real me.

I take a long shower and then I put on my best suit and tie. Tonight was a damn good night. I made loads of cash and I talked to Chris. And the pit boss didn’t even notice me steal all that money from him. Makes me wanna laugh.

I’m so hyped. I get a couple of hundreds and walk out the door.

Tonight, I’m gonna look for some fun.

*

I’m banging a hooker when someone knocks on the door. “Aw, shit.” I glance at the hooker, then I glance at the door. But the guy knocks again and I have to pull out and dispose of the condom. “Sorry, babe.” I straighten out my clothes and brush a hand through my hair, make sure I look okay. I look good, as usual, and I wash my hands because they smell like musk and perfume.

Just before I open the door I work up a good anger, you know, in case it’s some sort of non-English speaking room service lady who wants to clean the room.

But when I open the door, it’s Chris. Not in uniform, either, but he is wearing a suit and tie and a hat, which I guess is to make him look like a mobster, or at least a billionaire, which is close to the truth. “Hey, Jeremy,” Chris says, staring at me with his baby blue eyes. Fuck. I could get hard just looking at him. “Did I interrupt something . . . ?”

He leans to the side to try to see who’s there, but I lean with him. “Hey, baby face,” I say. “You didn’t interrupt anything. You, uh, you want me to go over to your apartment or something, because, you know, I don’t clean my room, and . . .” I trail off. Chris has got this look on his face like he might want to punch me, which is the opposite of what I want him to look like. “Uh, it’s nobody, I swear.”

“I haven’t had sex in three months,” Chris says.

I just stare at him.

“Forget it,” Chris says. His hands clench into fists, and I know he’s pissed at me, but I wouldn’t mind him bending me over and fucking me right now with the kind of anger that’s in his voice. “Don’t even bother speaking to me tomorrow, or you’re going to lose all your money.”

That snaps me out of my lust. I almost shout, “Fuck you, Chris Aponte,” but instead I just stare at his back as he walks away. “Stupid fucker,” I say out loud, walking back over to the hooker. “You know, I hate guys. They never call when you ask ’em to, and fuck ’em if I know what they want.”

“Oh,” the hooker says, bored. “Are you going to pay me?”

I glare at her. Damn hookers. They’re only good for the sex, which isn’t that great, anyway. I walk over to my duffel bag and pull out two Bens and give them to her. “We didn’t finish, so just take this and go.” I almost snap ‘bitch,’ but I think about Chris, who smacks me upside the head if I ever call anyone a bitch, even if it’s him I’m calling the bitch.

“Thanks a lot, pal,” she says, taking the hundreds. “What a waste of my time.”

“Hey. Fuck you. Get out.”

She leaves as quick as silver and I punch the mattress. Damn it. I didn’t get sex and Chris is mad at me. If I go back to his table, I’m going to be out hundreds of thousands. But damnit, I don’t want to wait years for him to get over his hissy fit. A thousand hookers could never compare to him. It wouldn’t matter if they were the most experienced hookers in the word–okay, maybe it would, but. Well, it’s Chris.

God. I wouldn’t have even made it this far if Chris hadn’t been there.

Damn it. Now I’m going to have to make it up to him.

I sit down on the bed. I wish I could get into a fight and beat the living ghost out of somebody just so I could feel better, but then I’d blow my cover and Chris would never forgive me if he ever saw me again. Hell, I don’t even know if he’s gonna forgive me for this.

It’s cool, though. I have a photo album of just him. Pictures have uses. They’re not as good as the real thing, but I can always pretend.

*

I spend most of the afternoon in Caesars Forums browsing the expensive crap and end up wondering how mad Chris would be if I bought him a Louis Vuitton wallet. He’d probably beat the shit out of me for that too. He hates it when I use our winnings for stupid, materialistic shit. I almost want to ask him why he’s in the business, but I’m sure he’d start spouting off something about mathematics and statistics and beating the odds through other, outside means, and more stuff about experiments and controlled variables and whatever.

It’s kind of charming, but not in bed.

I decide to buy him a Louis Vuitton wallet anyway, and write inside the gift card:

TO MY DEAR & PRECIOUS WIFE
LOVE THE HUSBAND

He’s gonna love it. Or he’s gonna love punching me in the gut, who knows. I decide to drop it off at my room, and then I get a trash bag from my duffel and collect $50,000 in chips. I know I’m gonna lose big tonight, so I prep myself by taking out a deck of cards. This is a cheap trick–I’ve been playing ‘serious’ blackjack ever since I graduated MIT in ’86–but it helps me create some Zen, so I shuffle the deck about three or four times, and then I start dealing it onto the bed. A +1 for every 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and a -1 for 10, Jack, Queen, King, or Ace. When I hit the end of the deck I get to 0, which means I’ve done it right. I repeat this about three more times and then I put on my “Mr. Ma” disguise and head down to the blackjack tables.

Chris is dealing at a different high-stakes table again, and just as I walk up some idiot’s leaving. I’ll admit it, I’m glad that I’m going to have all of Chris’ attention.

Still, I have to take a deep breath. I waltz over like I own the place, imaginary guns a-blazin’, and Chris gives me a teeth-baring sneer that even puts Jaws to shame. I just kind of stare at him for a sec, dumbfounded by Chris’ obvious antagonism, and then I clear my throat and dump a bunch of chips on the table, settling them into neat, tall towers. “Uh, so, I wanna to play.”

“The minimum bet is $500,” Chris snaps. “You think you can handle it, Mr. Ma?”

“H-hey,” I say, feeling a little burned already. Chris has never doubted my blackjack skills over the years, no matter what I’ve said. “Remember Atlantic City? I’m experienced. You know that.” I put $500 in the betting pool to start with–if Chris is going to screw me over, I might as well do it slowly, so that I can talk to him.

“Experienced in picking up hookers?”

I sigh. When a man with a tray walks by I order a cocktail and then turn back to Chris. “Look,” I say, fingering the chips in my tray as he deals out the cards. I don’t even keep count, and I keep hitting even when it’s a stupid move. Chris just deals every time I hit, and when I bust I don’t even care–I just replace my bet with another stack of chips. “Don’t be so pissed off. I know you’re all faithful and stuff, but I told you that you don’t need to be, and–”

Chris silences me with another glare. He deals me a five and a five. Normally I would double, but instead I just hit, and I get a six. I hit again and this time, I hear it–the shhhlaack! of a sloppy second. Now Chris is the real cheater. Chris must have memorized the deck–the next card would have probably been an Ace. Instead he deals me a seven and I bust out, which puts me down another $500.

“You’re losing your touch,” I say.

“It’s cold in here,” Chris says, and I want to sock him a good one. Bastard. He’s the cold one. If he wasn’t so damn hot I think I’d just leave. “So maybe you should leave and find a good casino to play at.”

“High-stakes table sure is empty tonight. You been screwin’ over the gamblers, Chris?”

Chris doesn’t say anything, which is a yes.

“I got a new Louis Vuitton purse today. For, you know, my lovely wife. Chris . . . tina.” I grin at the look he gives me, but he’s still dealing cards, and I actually get a good hand–a King and a Jack. I’m not sure if he’s doing it on purpose, but instead of standing I hit and he deals me a five.

“I don’t think you’re ready for this table yet, Mr. Ma,” Chris says, scowling at me, and I just widen my grin cheekily at him.

“The deck is hot.” I say this just as a pitboss walks by, all big and buff and wearing his little headset that connects him to the eyes in the sky. Fuck, I’m an idiot.

“Mr. Ma,” the pitboss says, smiling at me.

“Hey,” I say, all cheer and stuff. “What’s up.”

“Would you like a complementary meal at our buffet?”

I glance over at the buffet. The pasta they serve is decent and the pastries are fuckin’ delicioso but damn I want Chris to fucking forgive me before I pig out on crap like that. “Hey, thanks,” I say, because I don’t want the pitbosses to get on my case for card counting. I still believe in the immortal words of Jeffrey Ma and Ken Uston and all the other card counters of the world: card counting is not cheating. “I, uh, wanna play some more blackjack, though. I feel like I could win some more big bucks, you know?”

The pitboss just smiles at me, the little shit. “Sure, Mr. Ma. Whatever you want.” He walks away, but he takes one look over his shoulder that makes me want to beat the living tar out of the guy.

“Hey,” Chris says.

“What?” I turn back to Chris. “What.”

“You gonna bet all that?” Chris nods at the double pile of chips in my pool, and I blink. What the–? When did I get so many damn chips all at once? “Nice blackjack earlier, Mr. Ma.”

“Uh, thanks.” I scratch the back of my neck. “Man. You still mad at me?”

“Yes.” Chris glares at me. “But it doesn’t matter. All you’re here to do is win. That’s what matters. If I’m mad at you, we can discuss it later on the flight.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “Look, I’m gonna pick up that free meal tomorrow at the buffet, so why don’t you meet me there, huh?”

“If you’re losing, Mr. Ma,” Chris says, loudly, “maybe you should just leave. Wouldn’t your father be angry you’re losing so much?”

I laugh and play into the role, ‘cuz that means he’s going, and even if he doesn’t–well, I can always use a free meal at Caesar’s. “Nah,” I say. “My old man? He’s sittin’ around with other guys, drinkin’ his tea, playin’ Tien Len, you know–those kind’s of games.”

“Oh, yeah?” Chris smiles. “Good card game.”

“No dice, man. That game is too fuckin’ easy.”

I spend the rest of the night bleeding off my money, but Chris actually lets up on me a couple of times, probably ‘cuz other highrollers start hanging out at the table betting big bucks, and Chris has got to make money somehow. The way he plays it, he ends up getting big tips, and when the table loses, they lose fucking big.

And hell. I know Chris hates the casino management. But nobody knows how I’m fuckin’ glad he’s my personal dealer, and not the casino’s.

Without him, I wouldn’t have anything to my name–not even a bag of chips.

*

The hostess for Caesar’s buffet is kind of hot but I bet if I say anything to her they’d kick me out, big bucks or not, so I try and be slick about it and say, “Table for two, my name’s Adrien Ma.”

“You’re only one,” the hostess says, without even looking at me as she’s writing down my name in her little black moleskin notebook. “Is your other party arriving later?”

“Uh, yeah. He’s–his name’s, uh . . . ” I don’t want to use his real name ‘cuz it’ll probably show up, and I don’t want the pitbosses or the mangers to think that we’re in collusion. But I can’t think of any of Chris’ fake names. “Uhh.”

“Yes?” the hostess says, like I’m not acting half-drunk. I might have to give her a kiss for that.

“Uh,” I say, again. “John Scarne. Yeah. If he doesn’t get it right the first time, just ask him again.” She’s giving me this crazy look so maybe I won’t kiss her. “I mean, he will get it eventually. Tell ’em the hint’s card games.” I grin cheekily and she just leads me over to a table in the corner. I almost kind of want to sneak a grope in but instead I pull out a Ben and pat her on the hand. “Thanks, sweetheart.”

I order a Corona and a red wine for Chris while I’m waiting since I’m not that hungry. Maybe I should have saved the free buffet for later, but since I’m only gonna be in Vegas for another day, I guess it’s worth it. And I bet if I get him drunk enough he’ll apologize for being a dick to me and he might even blow me, I dunno. I hope he blows me.

I’ve already drunk about two more Coronas when the hostess leads Chris over to the table where he glares at me with a mixture of love and rage, but really, it’s the suit he’s wearing that does me in. I sort of want to pull him over so he can fuck me in front of everyone. But he’d probably kick me first so instead I say, “Hey, John.”

“I hate you,” Chris says, sitting down, but he looks a little happy when the waiter puts a glass of wine in front of him. I’m glad the waiter has taken all my Coronas but Chris still asks me, “How much did you drink already?”

“A lot.”

Chris sighs and massages his forehead with his thumb and forefingers, and for some reason this is fuckin’ hilarious and I laugh. “Shut up,” Chris says. “You’ve been playing shitty for the past two days, you know that?”

“Come on, Christina. I’ve made plenty of big bucks. And sometimes you win some, you lose some, yadda yadda yadda.”

Chris looks like he wants to punch me in the balls. “You have to do it tomorrow.”

“Do what?” I have no idea what he’s talkin’ about, but he just glares at me and then I get a stroke of a genius. “Oh man, that. Well, big guy, if you just wanted that, why the hell didn’t you just say so in the first place!”

“You’re dead drunk, aren’t you,” Chris says.

“I had five Coronas, I think,” I say.

“You think.

“I’m not hurtin’ myself,” I tell him. “I sorta wanna eat something. I’m gonna get a piece of cake.” I get up, and part of me thinks I’m walking, but then I land face first into the ground and I’m staring at Chris’ shoes under the table, which I think are actually mine, but I dunno. I giggle a bit and I wonder what he’d do if I blew him under the table.

“Get up,” Chris hisses. “You’re making a scene.”

“A wha?”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake.” Chris pushes his chair out and pulls me up by the arm, which hurts, so I try to sock him in the stomach, but then he lets me lean against him. And then he’s putting his hands in my pockets, that asshole, in front of everyone, and I sort of want to go around and yell, “Chris stop molesting me in public,” but he’s taking out my cash and paying the bill. “Let’s go to the bathroom and sober up.”

“Okay,” I mumble into his neck, and Chris is all poker face as he drags me to the bathroom. There’s nobody inside which fuckin’ excites me–maybe he didn’t want to ‘sober up,’ maybe he wanted to have sex, even if it is in a bathroom. Yeah, yeah, Chris is sometimes all about the goddamn beds and blankets and roses but man he can get down and dirty if he’s desperate.

But Chris waves his hand under the sink to start the water and gets a paper towel which sucks ‘cuz that means he actually wants to clean my goddamn face even though it’s already clean. Everything is a little blurry, but I manage to press up behind Chris anyway. I tongue his ear. “Wanna fuck?”

“No,” Chris says.

“C’mon. I miss you.” I slide my hands around his waist and undo his belt buckle. It’s kinda late so I don’t think people are going to bust in and see us fucking. I bet Chris has a key to lock the door, too. “I’ll fuck you, if you want.”

“You don’t have any lube on you.” Chris turns around in my arms and he’s redoing his belt, the fucker. “Anyway, it’d be awkward. It’ll fuck up your concentration tomorrow.”

“If we don’t do it today it’s going to fuck up my concentration tomorrow.” I try to kiss him but he turns away and I hit his cheek. “Man, stop trying to play hard to get. You know you want me.”

“Look, maybe when we’re done in Vegas. And anyway, someone could walk in.”

“We could do it in the stall.”

He looks back at me with his pretty blue eyes and I wonder if he’s going to let me fuck him. He doesn’t really do anything, though, so I lean in and kiss him, and he tastes like breath mints and coffee and chocolate. He even starts kissing me back and I grin and grind up against him.

“So,” I mumble against his lips, “how ’bout it.”

Chris glances away, and then he drags me over to one of the stalls and sits down. “I don’t really want to fuck,” he says, undoing his belt again. “But you can go down on me, if you want.”

Well, fuck. If there’s any guy I love giving head to, it’s Chris, so I just grin at him. “Sure,” I say, leaning in to kiss him again. “Now maybe tomorrow I can concentrate.” But he just glares at me and pulls me down onto my knees, opening his pants and pulling down his boxers and I’m staring at Chris’ naked, uncut cock.

Chris always tastes fuckin’ good, but I guess that’s ‘cuz Chris always ate his greens when we were kids and he’s always munchin’ on some sort of fruit. Whatever he eats I’m not complainin’–I hate giving head but I’ll blow Chris whatever chance I get.

But since we’re not going to do it I feel fuckin’ weird, ‘cuz Chris hardly comes from blowjobs, so I have to make this extra special for him. I lick him up and down and he’s smirking down at me, the bastard, and I sort of want to punch him in the face. (Anywhere else and he might not forgive me.)

While I’m blowing him he closes his eyes and bites his lips, and I suck him harder, and he grabs onto my hair, which pisses me off, but then I realize that the door of the bathroom has opened and a guy is actually walking in.

Chris’ eyes are open again, and I decide that this is a sweet, sweet time for revenge. I start sucking on him again, moving up and down, and Chris shudders. He has to drop his hands so he can cover his mouth, and I get hard just looking at him biting his hand to keep from making a noise. Hell, I could do this all day.

Chris hunches over slightly and he makes this quiet, whimpering noise, and I shift my knees and start stroking whatever I’m not licking. Chris is shaking, his face flushing, and I grin against his thigh. Yeah, okay, Chris.

I tongue the head of his cock, and this time he actually does moan, and the guy outside the stall says, “What the fuck?” and I almost burst out laughing, but instead I keep blowing Chris.

“H-hey,” Chris mumbles.

The door to the bathroom swings open and shut, but I don’t hear any steps. I don’t stop sucking him, though, and this time Chris really moans, looking away. “Jeremy,” he hisses, and thrusts up, almost choking me the bastard, and then he comes in my mouth without warning me.

Bastard.

I still swallow, though, and I get up off my knees, which feel like they’ve turned to mush. I wipe my jaw and Chris is still recovering, but he gets up and tucks himself in.

“That all?” I say, still horny as hell.

Chris pushes me up against the wall and I grind up against him. He reaches down between us and unzips me, stroking my cock, and hell, I’m not like Chris–I can control myself, even if I have to bite his shoulder to do it. He does it slow and steady, and I breathe against his shoulder, closing my eyes.

Damn, what I wouldn’t give to actually have sex with the guy. But it’ll have to wait.

“Chris,” I say, biting his earlobe.

“Jeremy,” he says, and I gasp and come just from that.

Chris cleans me up and throws the tissues down the toilet, flushing with his foot, and just when I think he’s gonna leave in a huff like he always does he kisses me hard on the mouth. Normally the guy hates kissing after I swallow, but damn, he’s kissing like a pro, so I tonguefuck him until he pulls away.

“Are you going to play blackjack tomorrow, then?” Chris asks, straightening out his clothes.

“Well, fuck, yeah. What,” I say. I get out of the stall ‘cuz it’s a little cramped and my knees ache. “What, you thought I wasn’t going to?”

“You’ve been playing some pretty shitty games,” Chris says. “I don’t think the profit’s going to be as big.”

“Nah,” I say. “It’s not. But the point’s to play an honest game, man. Beat the casino for that one night.”

Chris laughs. “You want to play an honest game?”

“Hey, hey,” I say. “That’s low, man. I can play an honest game if I want to.” I wash my face and rinse out my mouth, which tastes like a disgusting combination of beer and come, and then I dry my face off with a towel. Chris just runs a wet hand through his hair and makes himself look presentable. Damn it, I’m the one who wanted a blowjob.

“See you tomorrow,” Chris says. “Don’t forget to play a good game.”

“I won’t forget,” I say. “You gonna go out first?”

“Yeah,” Chris says. “I don’t want to be seen leaving with you. They might suspect the worst.” He smiles, and then he leaves.

Smug asshole.

But damn, he’s sexy.

*

I start cashing out the rest of my chips that night, a bunch at a time, and by the time I’m done I have all this cash that I have the nearby bank turn into traveler’s checks. I stick them all in a safe deposit box for safekeeping. Can’t be seen with a duffel bag of hundreds of thousands of dollars everywhere. I put a couple of changes of clothes in the safe deposit box, too, ‘cuz the way I’m gonna play tonight, I’m sure they’re not gonna let me back in my room for my shit.

I check out of my room when I return to the casino before looking at my watch. Perfect. Just about time for me to start my game. I get a small drink before I head over to Chris’s table. This time I’m dressed in the typical Asian hotshot manner: suit and tie, nice face, and hey.

I’m using my real name this time.

“Hey, Chris,” I say, walking up to him, and he grins at me and the other players at the table.

“Mr. Chang,” Chris says. He shakes my hand. “It’s good to see you again. You haven’t been here in months.”

“I had some, uh, business to take care of.” I show him the ring on my right hand and smirk. “If you know what I mean. Business marriage. Gotta make it look good.”

“Sounds like the life, Mr. Chang,” Chris says.

“It is the life.” I sit down. “Deal me in.”

The deck isn’t hot. The deck is far from hot. I’m putting chips down into the pool and I’m losing rapidly, and I don’t want to lower my bet. I’ll look like a ‘cheater,’ and hell, I’m not. I’m willing to lose a lot of money here, since I earned it all at the casino anyway. It doesn’t matter.

I just want to prove to those bastards I can take their money and get away with it.

I’m down and out about twenty grand when the deck turns and I start winning the big bucks. Chris is dealing hard and fast and shit, it’s hot. This deck is the best fucking deck in the world–I’m getting blackjack and naturals all over the goddamn place. I double and I hit the jackpot, and Chris is grinning at me like a secret. Yeah, he knows.

Tonight is gonna be a good night.

The night edges on and I’m getting loads and loads of cash even though I haven’t changed my bet. Yeah, sure, I win some and I lose some, but damn do I know what I’m doing. And even though decks change quick, the deck stays good. I’m watching other players bounce between rounds and I just grin. They have no idea what hit them.

I make Chris color up my chips every now and then for an easy getaway. I wanna be able to cash out my chips and leave before the pitbosses come. And man do those pitbosses come over and check me out. They smile at my pile of chips and I just smile right back at ’em, and my luck is so good, I always start losing by the time they head around. “Fuck!” I shout, slam my hands against the table.

I’m fooling them, and damn, are they fools, ‘cuz they fall for it–hook, line, and sinker. I just grin at Chris, who just says, “Hey, Mr. Chang, that’s just the luck of the draw.”

It is the luck of the draw. And my luck is damn good.

I’m up about twenty-three grand when the duck turns hot. I mean smokin’. I’m getting blackjack after blackjack, and I’m on a serious roll, making tons of money right there without any effort.

I’m practically jumping out of my seat. I’m ordering two or more cocktails, tipping the waiter more than I need to, and I just grin at Chris, who grins at my luck and shakes his head.

He puts down an Ace of Spades when his face darkens. Shit. I’m in the middle of a shoe, the deck is hot, I don’t want to leave. But the look on Chris’ face scares the shit out of me. If I don’t leave they could take my chips and threaten to take me to the backroom, and hell, every gambler knows that’s the end of the line for you.

Casinos don’t care if it’s stealing. It’s their private property I’m standing on.

I chuckle and check my watch. Play it cool. I can play it cool. Play it cool and casual, no matter how much it hurts to leave a good deck. “Man, it’s gettin’ late . . .”

“Can’t quit in the middle of a deal,” Chris says, even though his voice is shaking and he’s trying to deal as fast as he can, but there are three other players. Fuck, I can see the men in the black approaching form the back of my head, ready to beat me down.

This can’t be it.

Chris starts dealing quicker, but I can’t leave until everyone’s finished their turn. I know I’m gonna get a good card, it’s just–shit, I don’t think I’m gonna make it. “Come on,” I say, still grinning. “Come on, man. Gimme the big bucks.”

“Patience, Mr. Ma.” He slides the card out of the shoe.

From a way back behind me, I hear the immortal words of a pitboss ready to beat down a card counter: “Mr. Ma! We need to speak to you!”

Holy shit.

Chris slaps a King of Hearts down on top of the Ace and gives me my winnings.

After that, we don’t waste any time. I start dumping my big chips into the bag and he’s exchanging the rest of them for chips of higher denominations. I snatch them from his hands and he gives me a look. Fuckl

“Get out of here,” Chris hisses.

“You there! Stop!”

Shit. Shit. Shit. I run the fuck out of there. Hell if I’m going to be caught with all these chips on me. Those fuckers would confiscate them right away, and I’m not giving up this much money.

I hide near the slots and they pass me, so I start running in the opposite direction, back to the blackjack tables. I don’t see anyone nearby, so I keep running. There’s a back-exit near the buffet, and it’ll take longer to get to a taxi, but I’ve already checked out of the hotel, so there’s no reason I should go back up there. I’ve got my shit and I need to hurry up.

I drop the bag of chips near a plant and keep running. No time to pick it up. I glance back and I see Chris, but I can’t stop to talk to him, otherwise we’re definitely in collusion. At least I know what the fuck I’m doing.

I’m grinning like a bastard by the time I run out of the casino, but I keep going anyway. Security is going to be on my ass as soon as they catch me on the security cameras. Getting out of the parking infrastructure is a piece of cake, but I have to flag down a taxi and no one wants to stop in the middle of the night for me, so I’m making a call for a cab while holding hundreds of thousands of dollars in traveler’s checks on an empty sidewalk. I keep looking over my shoulder, but I don’t see anyone who’s there to hunt me down.

At least the taxi cab driver gets there fast. I slip inside and tell him I need to head to the bank. I pick up all my shit from the safe deposit box and tell the cab to take me to the airport.

When I get there I almost double over in laughter. Shit, I just beat the casinos. I make a call to Chris as I get settled in a seat, the duffel bag in my lap. I know I should go change, but I’m too excited.

I’m grinning when I talk to him. “I’m so fly,” I say.

Chris laughs. “Yes,” he says, “yes, you are.”

*

I grin at Chris from my seat and he grins back at me. “Okay, okay,” he says. “I’ll admit it. You’re a good blackjack player. Congratulations, jackass.”

Our wine glasses clink together. Man, I’m so glad to be rich, I get the fanciest seat in this whole joint, right next to Chris. I sip my wine and I almost lean over to kiss him, but he takes out a pack of cards from his pocket.

“I’m itching to play another card game already,” Chris says.

“Aw man,” I say. “You aren’t tired of card games yet?” I shake my head. “After all that money we got, you want to play another game?”

“A foreign game, even,” Chris says, smiling.

“Exotic.”

“Chinese poker?”

I almost bust a gut. “Man, now you are really playing into stereotypes. Shit. Come on.”

“What, you think you’re gonna lose? Can’t beat the dealer?” Chris smirks. “I’m not a cheater, you know.”

“Bring it on,” I say.

“I will.” Chris shuffles, and I just grin and lean back in my seat.

I know I’m gonna win, no matter fuckin’ what. Just because Chris has a pretty face doesn’t mean anything, because baby, I’m all that and a bag of chips.

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