Wes slid into his desk chair with only a minute to go. It took him thirty seconds to click on the bookmark labeled “.YES.” and log in, just in time for the live video feed to kick in. Like every show, “Papa Bear” was already sitting in his chair in nothing but his underwear and trademark hat, leaning back and relaxed. His grin was barely visible underneath his wide-brimmed, low-pulled cap and Wes felt his heart drop. The man was too good; Wes would easily pay to watch the man smile and hum. Luckily for him and the other viewers, Papa Bear did a lot more than just smile and hum.
It was all Frankie’s idea. If it were up to me and Ishmael, none of this would’ve happened.
Okay, maybe it would’ve happened, but it wouldn’t’ve happened in a way that we knew about.
It was a usual Tuesday night in the casino, money was flowing and the lights were bright. Ishmael — the crew calls him Mael but it doesn’t suit him – and I were walking the floor over by the blackjack tables keeping an eye on the girls. Tuesday nights were the nights the boss scheduled the real pretty girls to get money in since it’s so slow usually. Our boss doesn’t like scheduling a lot of girls on the weekend since the drunks tend to get handsy. After one of the girls pulled out a hair stick and stabbed a customer for copping a feel, that policy went into effect real fast. We like our girls feisty, but stabbing idiots hurts business.
Connie over at the blackjack tables reached up to her impeccably tight French twist and tucked a nonexistent stray lock back into her ‘do. The tacky, blocky costume jewelry bracelet on the moving hand winked in the lights. That was the signal. Someone at her table was raking in the money a little too well. Truth be told, we don’t really care how he was doing it — counting cards, got something up his sleeve, even Lady Luck blowing him under the tables — but the man was done. Casinos existed to make money for the people that ran them, not the people that played in them. I shifted closer to the tables to get a scope on things while Ishmael called in the cavalry. I could hear him through the earpiece.
“Justin Preston!” a voice calls over the din of the symphonic band warming up. I start from my fingering and look around. The voice calls my name again. I can’t see who’s calling my name until Carson Finn of the varsity orchestra mounts the podium and blows our conductor’s whistle. There’s immediate silence.
“Once again,” he says, sounding annoyed, “I need Justin Preston to meet me in the instrument lockers. Now.”
Everyone stares at me as he steps off the podium and heads out the door. I nearly bite my reed as I maneuver my bassoon’s butt strap into my left hand so I can carry my bassoon with one hand and pick my way through the seats. My second chair looks like she’s about to cry as my first chair slaps my ass and makes a comment about making messy cork wax with the Prince of Double Reeds.