Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 098 - Michael J. Solender


Jason Mackenzie Foster Frasier, JM-double-F to his pals, could not believe his luck. Curtis getting sick the day before meant that, as the next senior most lawyer in the firm, he'd be representing Langston, Curtis, Snyder and Frasier in New York for a week's worth of wining and dining clients in the city. Normally cause for a migraine, the timing would allow him to completely miss his mother-in-law's annual visit, using the only excuse his wife Julie would find acceptable: work.

His late booking did not allow him to fly direct, though the layover in Las Vegas was short and taking the redeye from LA would have him there first thing in the morning, with no work that day. He might even take in his beloved, if not hapless, Mets. In another stroke of luck, he was upgraded to First Class all the way through.

Vegas proved an unlucky stop, however, at least initially. Equipment trouble had his redeye cancelled and there were no additional New York flights that evening. As he watched the janitor from his place in line at the counter, he wondered if his own stare was as vacant as the brown-skinned man with the rag and polish gliding his weathered hands across Delta Airlines Counter Position 3. He listened to the agent give the well rehearsed apologetic soliloquy four times before he arrived at the head of the line.

"You're in luck, Mr. Frasier; we have one additional First Class seat on the 9:00 A.M. tomorrow and it's got your name on it. I can also give you a voucher and transportation to the Ramada, just adjacent to the strip for the evening, or what's left of it." The agent looked at her watch as did Frasier, both noting it was midnight.

"I think I'll pass on the voucher." Frasier was juiced about being on his own for a week and was going to take full advantage of this seeming misfortune in his otherwise lucky day. "I will take a ride to the Tropicana if you're offering." He accepted the transportation voucher and in 45 minutes, he was playing hold'em in the main card room at the Trop.

He must have flipped the lucky switch back on because he won his very first hand when he boated on the river, demolishing a nut flush for a sizeable pot.

Frasier had played some cards in his day. He knew what most outsiders don't know about playing poker in Vegas after midnight. Regular rounders knew that forty to sixty percent of table players playing hold'em on the "graveyard shift" were off-shift professional dealers supplementing their income.

Nevada gaming regulations were completely silent on allowing staff access to the tables on their own time, and the overwhelming majority of dealers played, whether in their own casinos or the competitors. These guys and gals knew how to play cards. They knew odds, frequencies and mostly how to read people.

Frasier knew this and between the 7% house rake and his knowledgeable competition, he'd need lady luck to shine on him for the next 7 hours. And shine she did. He went on a tear for the next two hours, racking up $8,500 on his initial one hundred dollar buy-in. When he lost, it was always after folding on the flop, he never got deep into a hand that he didn't win.

The succession of dealers, both at his table playing and those throwing out the cards got more and more pissed at his silence as he refused to say anything to anyone, his way of staying out of the head games. What really pissed them off was his refusal to tip the dealer when he won, an extreme faux pas in the ways of Vegas.

"Your luck's not gonna hold out, mister, if you don't take care of the chuckers," one saturnine player informed him.

"My luck seems to be just fine, thanks," Frasier broke his silence just for a moment and only because luck was mentioned. It wasn't all good fortune. He was showing these boys some skill here.

3:00 A.M. He'd need to leave for the airport at seven, which gave him another four hours to do some additional damage.

Frasier had gained the notice of the floor manager, who was none to pleased see his regulars losing, and then Frasier leaving with their cash. He knew the breakfast crew wouldn't take kindly to an overnight winner and would be less inclined to sit at the only no-limit table that was being dominated by JM-Double-F.

"Enjoying yourself, Mr...?"

"Frasier. And, yes, your people have been very hospitable." Frasier knew the floor manager was trying to distract him and didn't appreciate it. He had money to make while his luck was still holding out.

"Are you staying with us or at one of our properties? Perhaps I can offer you an upgrade, a personal massage and steam in our facility. You must be tired."

"I'd really like a burger. And another martini, dryer than the last one. I'll be out of here soon enough. I have a 9:00 A.M. flight that I can't miss. I'm just killing time."

"I'd say you are making quite a killing and an impression on our regulars. I'll have a burger and fries brought out and a nice dry martini for you. You may not be aware but we do have a higher stakes game downstairs that has an opening. I can get you a seat for $10,000 if you'd like to try your luck for your remaining hours with us." The floor manager could show this Joe some real poker players, get him off his floor and hopefully get him gutted all in time to make his flight outta here. "I can also have an airport limo for you. What time would you like?"

Frasier was buzzing. He was going on pure caffeine, alcohol and adrenaline. He had never in his forty-two years had a run like this. He was up well over the required buy-in. What the hell, his luck was holding out.

"Sure, why not?" He began to collect his chips. The floor manager got him some racks and, after a quick pee, he was downstairs facing 8 men and two women with large stacks of black, silver and gold chips.

At precisely 6:45 A.M., Jason Mackenzie Foster Frasier picked up his $170,000 worth of chips and went to the cashier's cage to request a certified check. In less than 8 hours, he had made almost an entire years salary, minus bonus, of course.

He was indeed one lucky guy, he thought as he stretched out in the back seat of the limo. One hundred and seventy grand in a small envelope in his briefcase. How was he going to explain this to Julie?

What an incredible series of lucky events. Curtis getting sick, his flight getting canceled, hitting that boat on the first hand. One serendipitous event after another, incredible.

Just as it always rains after a dry spell, even the most fortunate among us doesn't hold this spell forever. As JM-Double-F exited the limo and stepped on the curb to enter the airport, he thought better of stiffing the limo driver. Bad karma given my luck, he thought. I better give him a hundy.

When Frasier spun on his heel to reach the limo, he stepped back off the curb and right in front of the accelerating AVIS bus. Struck full on, he died the instant he hit the pavement. No one's luck holds forever.

BIO: Michael J. Solender hails originally from the sometimes frozen tundra of Minneapolis, MN. There he ignored (only once) his mother's advice to pursue a career in medicine and became a corporate Klingon. A recent refugee from Corporate America, Solender lives in Charlotte, NC. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for the Charlotte Observer and is a contributor to Charlotte ViewPoint. His micro-fiction has been featured online at Dogzsplot, A Twist of Noir, Thrillers Killers 'N' Chillers, 6S, Powder Burn Flash, and Flashshot. You can follow his blog at your own peril here: not from here, are you?


J.C. Towler said...

Enjoyed the insight into the after-midnight world of Vegas. I'll be sure to tip the dealer!


Anonymous said...

Michael this "way not right"! Good Job I like this one.

J. M. Strother said...

Good story, Michael, though I did not understand all the gambling lingo. But then, I don't get out much. ;)