During the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Samsung hosted a dinner at the Guy Savoy in Caesar’s Palace. After coffee, women in Roman-style, white, frilly things offered us head and neck massages. A thirties blonde caught my attention. Her blue eyes were intense. A bit of a frown above her too-bright smile made me wonder. I beckoned with a tilt of my head, and her features softened. I focused my consciousness on her touch. Her hands were like velvet-steel cables kneading my shoulders. She squeezed the back of my neck, and I almost groaned with pleasure.
She finished by placing her hands on my shoulders, then put her lips to my ear and with a brush of breath said, “Thank you, sir.” Her perfume was French lavender.
I opened my eyes, reached into my pocket, and peeled a hundred-dollar tip off a roll of bills. Before leaving, she slipped a folded cocktail napkin into my palm. I raised the napkin like wiping my mouth and read, “Gabrielle, Forum 802,” written with eyeliner pencil. A yellow light flashed inside my brain, but the echo of her touch lingered. A woman specializing in pure pleasure was on my bucket list, and Gabrielle’s massage appetizer stimulated the desire for a four-course meal.
I thanked my Samsung host, headed for Caesar’s Forum Tower elevator, and punched the eighth-floor button. I knocked at room 802, and Gabrielle opened the door. She’d changed into a sleeveless, thigh-length, blue dress that highlighted her eyes. I swung the door to the wall making sure no one stood behind. I checked the bathroom for an accomplice, turning on the light.
Gabrielle said, “We’re alone.”
“I’m Dave.” I tried to take Gabrielle into my arms, but she held me off.
“C’mon,” I said, “You invited me here.”
“I need your help,” she said.
“What are you talking about?”
“I owe a guy money.”
“If you’re telling me that you want to get paid, I’m really disappointed.”
“I need ten-thousand dollars.”
I chuckled. “I’m sure you’re the best thing in Vegas, but get real.”
“I’m not a prostitute.”
“Okay. How do you intend to get the money?”
“Blackjack. I need a grand from you. If you stake me, I’ll have sex with you. But I don’t do this for a living. I just got into trouble.”
There was a loud knock on the door, and a voice said, “Gabby, I know you’re in there. Open up.”
Gabrielle’s face lost color. She looked through the peephole, then brought her hand to her mouth. She whispered, “Oh my God.”
The door was kicked hard and the voice got louder, “Open up now, or it’ll be worse for you.”
Gabrielle looked at me.
“Open it,” I said.
She cracked the door and a muscled forearm slammed it open. Two guys barged into the room. The voice was a pork-pie hat, with a rat’s nose, about 5’ 6″. He wore a blue, silk suit, and a pink tie. The second guy was dark-haired, a head taller than me, with the physique of a gone-to-seed wrestler wearing a gray warm-up suit. His hands were meaty and stubby; they looked almost webbed. He sneered at me like I was horse manure.
Rat-nose ignored me. “You got the money?”
Gabrielle said, “Luther, I’ll get it. I need a little…”
Luther slapped Gabrielle silent. I moved forward but the ex-wrestler stiff-armed me so hard that I almost fell backward.
Luther said to me, “Pretty boy, you’ll have the lady back in a minute. Don’t play Lancelot.” He turned to Gabrielle. A tear squeezed from the eye he’d slapped. “You’ll have the money by tomorrow, or Massimo will break your face.”
Luther left the room. Massimo gave me a weird smile, then followed his boss.
Gabrielle closed the door and turned to me. “You see?”
“Why did you pick me?”
“You tipped me a hundred. You’ve got a lot more. I’m desperate.”
“Okay, say I give you a grand. What do I get?”
She moved a step closer, and her voice lowered. “I’ll have you chewing the pillow.”
I swallowed. “What if you lose?”
“I won’t lose.”
“If you had a foolproof system, you wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“I won’t lose.”
“You count cards?”
“The casino watches for that. They’ll throw you out.”
Gabrielle put her lips to my ear. The lavender was delectable. “Will you give me the money?”
“How about an advance on your end?”
She smiled into my ear. “No advance.”
Her perfume made me stupid. I counted out ten one hundred-dollar bills. When she put her hand on the money, I held tight. “We have a deal?”
She brushed my cheek with a kiss and said. “I’ll make your head boil.”
I released the cash.
The casino was a cacophony of coins tumbling into slot machine metal bins. Bright flashing lights and spinning dials hit my eyes like jabs. As we walked along the garish, circle-pattern, brown-blue carpet, background conversations were punctuated by shouts of winners at craps and roulette. Gabrielle strode up to a $100 minimum Blackjack table with me in tow. The player on the dealer’s far right, the card-counter seat, named because they see what’s played ahead of them, rose as we approached. Gabrielle slid onto the stool.
The dealer looked like a teen-magazine cover-girl. She wore red lipstick on a Kewpie-doll mouth. Her long dark hair framed a perfect complexion. Her nametag said, “Michelle.”
She smiled and I said, “I’m Dave. Where are you from?”
Her eyes darted for a moment. “Kansas City.”
“Oh,” I said, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City. They’ve gone about as far as they can go.”
Michelle gave me a blank look, and I realized that this twenty-something had never seen “Oklahoma.”
Gabrielle purchased chips, then placed a five-hundred-dollar bet.
I said, “Are you sure?”
She gave my hand a squeeze.
Michelle dealt cards from a shoe. Gabrielle got two aces.
“Oh ho,” I said.
She split them and Michelle dealt her Blackjack on each ace.
“All right,” I said.
Next deal, Gabrielle bet a thousand and got two kings. She split them and was dealt a Jack and a ten. Michelle hit with twelve and turned a picture card. Bust.
The cards continued en fuego, and in no time, Gabrielle had ten thousand and a bit to spare. The Pit Boss called a switch, and a new dealer stepped in. He wore horn-rim glasses and the worst black toupee I’d ever seen. Gabrielle rose and headed for the Forum elevators. I called out to Michelle’s back, but she didn’t hear me over the din, so I chased after Gabrielle.
When we reentered her room I said, “Wow, unbelievable. I’ve never seen a run of luck like that in my life.”
Gabrielle had an “I told you so” look on her face. I moved in close and kissed her. Her lips were soft, and she responded to my embrace. There was a knock on the door.
“Go away,” I shouted. The knock, again. “Damn, if that’s Luther and his gorilla, I’ll kick both their asses.”
Gabrielle had a smile on her face.
I looked through the peephole and saw Michelle’s doe eyes. I raised my eyebrows and opened the door. Michelle breezed past me. She smelled like honeysuckle.
Gabrielle said, “Dave, say hello to my kid sister. She’s gorgeous, don’t you think?”
Michelle gave me a shy smile.
I said, “You two pulled off some sort of scam. Cards don’t come like that on their own. How did you do it dealing from a shoe?”
The two ladies smiled at each other.
Gabrielle said, “Dave, I need to find Luther. Why don’t you entertain Michelle?”
I said, “What about our evening together? I seem to remember something about pillow consumption?”
Michelle said, “What?”
Gabrielle said to Michelle, “Dave’s a comedian, but he’s a good guy. You two should get along.” She neared and said, “I told you, I’m not a working girl, and I need to go.”
When Gabrielle left, I faced Michelle. “You’re not from Kansas City, are you?”
“No, but I hear it’s nice.”
“Want to get a drink?”
Michelle said, “I’m starving. I’d kill for a Big Mac.”
“You’re a cheap date.”
Michelle smiled. “Maybe.”
Anyway, that’s how it started. Michelle and I fell for each other. We dated six months before we eloped at the Elvis Chapel, downtown Las Vegas.
Published by The Penmen Review, July 2013