The movies make it seem that everything dealing with crime and the underworld is done in the back alleys. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. Events happen in restaurants, deals are made on golf courses, and casinos are hosted in restaurant’s back rooms. In fact, so many things are done in the open that people never notice is because they think it’s just normal life.
I park the bike and kill the motor before taking a couple seconds to reload my pistol and chamber the first round. Underground casinos are rougher places than even the movies make them out to be. See, someone’s always trying to fuck the other person over, which of course leads to arguments and fights. Many of the dead bodies found in city’s come from people who’ve either been in a fight or cheated someone in the casino, so they were killed for it.
And I have zero intention of being one of those. Lacey’s attempt on my life came too close to killing me and I don’t intend on letting another person put me in that spot again. So, you can guarantee I’ll be watching my P’s and Q’s while moving through the underground.
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m toning my mouth down-far from it. What I will do is keep from gambling and getting near someone else’s money. Hopefully, that will keep the amount of trouble that could happen down to a minimum, but, then, I’ve never had any confidence in the human race.
The restaurant is only half busy when I enter, so I’m able to go straight to the bar and sit down. It takes less than a minute for the bar tender to appear.
“You’re too young to be served here.”
I glance around to make sure no one can hear me before I drop my voice tone down enough to keep from being overhead by anyone. “I’m looking to play some craps.”
“Aren’t you a bit young for that?”
“Listen, bub, I know you have tables in the basement, so let’s cut the shit. How about just letting me in?”
“I could get in trouble for that…”
“Trust me; the people down there know who I am.”
“Sure they do.”
“If you think I’m going to give you my name, then you can keep dreaming. Just let me in.”
“Fine, your responsibility.”
“I can take care of myself.”
The man made a subtle motion to a waitress who then led me across the room and then we entered the employees lounge. From there she took me back towards the dressing room and then opened a door.
A cloud of cigarette smoke floated out and enveloped my head and I used a hand to clear the air. I know you’re surprised that I’m not coughing since I don’t smoke, but that was one of Tom’s bad habits. So, you see, I’ve been around enough cigarette smoke to not be bothered by it. But then, while you haven’t seen it, I do like to smoke an occasional cigarette myself.
Unlike the massive casinos on the Goddess of Space or in New Las Vegas, this one is small and cramped. Two poker tables, a roulette wheel, a blackjack station and a craps table were shoe horned into the one hundred foot long and thirty foot wide room. Throw in the twenty gamblers and the dealers and staff and you got one a mess.
And it was cold as ice down here. I guess when faced with the possibility of large numbers in a small space, the owners made sure they had enough air conditioning. While I found it ridiculous in a way, it made sense because the people who would frequent the place didn’t like to get dirty.
Several of the players eye me as I walk up to the craps table. Poker, blackjack and craps were the best spots to find people in the underworld who could give me information. The higher the risk, the more criminals like to take part in it, which makes me wonder if they’re adrenaline junkies.
The dice are in the center and I place some money on the ‘come’ section of the table. “Change,” I said.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said before giving me a stack of chips.
I take the chips, place them in the rack built into the table. Thank God I took time to look over the rules of Craps one day when I didn’t have to work for Alex and was bored to tears. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do and you know how that would go.
“Twenty on eight,” I said before placing the bet on the ‘come’ section.
The dealer picks up my chip and then places it on the eight in the cash register section. After that he starts to ask people for their bets and then makes sure the money is in the right places before picking up the dice.
One thing you always do at a craps table is to make sure your hands are not within the edge of the playing section. See, if the dice was to touch me, then it becomes a losing hand and I’m guaranteed to be out of that money, and as I’ve said before: I always leave with me than I started with.
The stickman pushes five dice over to me and I select two before he pulls the other three back and then puts them into the dice bag. Once I’m done rolling, he’ll use what’s inside the bag to have another five ready for the next player.
I pick the dice up with one hand, shake them slightly and then toss them across the table. If they don’t strike the far end then it’s not a legal roll, but I don’t have to worry. They hit the rubber and then lands on eight.
Good, I just won the money folks bet, which means I caught the attention of everyone at the table. Now, it’s time to go to work and find a good person for information. And God only knows how long that will take.
It takes a minute for the dealer to get the chips together and then slide them down to me. I take a couple seconds to collect them and then place them into the slot built into the table. Once this is done, I pick up some chips and put them on the table.
“Five,” I said.
Another roll and another win, which is making my stack of chips rather tall and is also catching the eye of several people. One is a goon that’s kept in the place to make sure no one is cheating; the rest are patrons. No doubt they’re sitting there wondering how the hell a teen girl go into the place and top to things off, was kicking their ass.
A waitress appears with a tray of drinks. “Drink, Ma’am?”
“A can of Coke.”
“Here you go.”
There are times you don’t realize how thirsty you are until you take that first swig. I hadn’t drunk anything since leaving the garage and that’d been a good two hours ago and there’d been a lot of exertion getting into Banderas’ house. Looking back at everything, it’s a shock that I didn’t drop to be honest.
“You’re on a bit of a streak.”
The man who stood beside me was impeccably dressed in a hand-made suit. He made me look like a poor pauper and from a moment I wanted to make a smart ass comment but I bite my tongue. This could quite possibly be my source to pump and it wouldn’t do much to help if I got nasty up front.
Yeah, I know it’s not one of my favorite things to do, but what the hell. Sometimes you have to suck it up, like I did with Archer in Richmond, and act decently if you want to get somewhere. The old adage ‘you get more flies with honey instead of vinegar’ holds true with criminals too.
“It’s a bit unusual for me,” I lied. “So I’m going to enjoy it.”
“A bit young to be gambling aren’t you?”
“Nope. I’m actually twenty-one, folks just think I’m younger due to my baby face.”
I roll snake eyes and then lose 300 dollars.
“Looks like my luck’s ended,” I said.
“I think you made a bunch of money.”
“Meh, money’s not everything.”
“I would agree.”
Now the trick is how to bring up the subject I want to discuss without sounding suspicious. Maybe I need to make it seem that I’m looking for a job? Or perhaps it’s better just to play dumb. Fuck if I know what to do.
“Besides,” I said, “I just want to kill some time.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what do you normally do?”
“Me?” I roll a seven and clean up again. “I’m an exterminator.”
“I hear ya.”
Those three words tell me he got the message loud and clear. Now I’m recognized as a fellow criminal-even if they don’t know me as Mareth. In all honesty, I’d love to keep my identity as Mareth hidden because the few of these fuckers know that, the better.
I subtly place a hundred dollar bill in front of him. “Can you help a girl out?”
“Where can I find Lacey Marano?”
He looks at me, then the money and then at the table. “I don’t know who that is.”
You know those times when your built in bullshit detector goes off, letting you know when you’re being lied to? This is one of those times. He knows who Lacey is and is ducking the issue. Most times people do this when they want more money, so I’ll try that tack out before going in another direction.
I hand him another bill. “Do you know who I’m talking about now?”
“How about now?”
“Yeah. She killed her father.”
“I know that. What I’m looking for is where I can find her.”
“No one has seen her since she got back to earth. Half of the family is after her and rest is either on her side or staying out of it.”
“Damn. Who’s running the show now?”
“The Underboss has taken over.”
“Is that still Marco Picatta?”
“You seem to be knowledgeable about them.”
“It pays to know about all the people in the city.”
“Do they still work out of the same part of the city?”
I hand him some more money. “Thank you for your help.” I then turn my attention to the dealer. “Cash out, please.”
It takes a couple minutes for the dealer to exchange my chips into money. As usual I leave with three times as much as I came in with, which means the owners will be glad to see me leave.
Ok Lacey, I think, game on.