tagSci-Fi & FantasyOld World Magic Ch. 09

Old World Magic Ch. 09


Chapter 9 -- La Scommessa

You might think that an attractive man, who appears to be in his early twenties with a body of an athlete, but the mind, wisdom, and experience of a man almost double that age, would be enjoying himself more than I was. But despite the thousand dollars seed cash and the ability to alter reality itself and read people's minds, I was having absolutely horrible luck when it came to gambling.

I carried around the stack of chips I had left, and felt pretty miserable. I thought that somehow, my magical abilities would give me an edge in gambling. But the fact is that the only games I really knew how to play were blackjack and poker, and in both of those cases the dealer never looked at his cards before I had to make decisions on my own betting. I'd been playing fairly decent, that is to say in the few hours I had been in the Casino, I was only down half my chips. Some people would call that a huge win.

The casino had no windows or clocks, but I knew it was early evening. There was a certain aura in the air. A feeling of people filing in on a friday night, flush with cash from their paychecks and hoping to win big. The casino wasn't a big roller outfit. There was a room with private tables, but I didn't even bother approaching. Since I didn't know what the stakes were, I'm sure I would have been laughed away for even asking. Besides, the one table that was full in that room was filled with asian looking men who were chain smoking and not speaking or looking at each other.

No, I'd rather lose my money out on the floor with the rest of the hoi polloi. I took a seat at blackjack table that looked rather empty. I changed over my more expensive $25 and $50 chips which had dwindled quite rapidly, for $5 and $10 chips. I was thinking about giving up on my career as a gambler, using my mind reading to my benefit. Maybe if I left here with a couple hundred bucks, I could pay Adam back for what I'd charged to the brothel's credit card.

I groaned and rubbed my hand over my face as I realized I was going to get it for that move. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time and now I remembered how angry and vindictive Adam could be.

"Bad night so far?" The dealer asked me. I looked up and smiled. She was a cute woman, maybe in her early thirties. She had a lovely smile and a no-nonsense short spikey hair cut. I normally hated short hair on a woman, but something about this one just said 'fun' and I couldn't help but smile back at her.

"Just learning that I'm not as good a gambler as I thought I was," I said as she dealt me two cards. Blackjack was a fun game. I wasn't especially good at it, but I enjoyed it. I looked down at the seventeen in front of me and shrugged, not great, but not horrible. I waved my hand over the cards to show that I would stand.

"Well," said the guy two chairs to my left, "maybe you're ready to hit a hot streak then." He looked about my age, well, my real age, thirty nine. But it was hard to tell, he was wearing a worn t-shirt and faded jeans, and it looked like he hadn't shaved in about four days. He was slouched over and looked tired even though he had a decent sized stack of chips in front of him. I noticed that many of his chips were $25 and $50 chips, mixed in with the lower value ones. It was interesting because since this was a lower stakes table, and it meant that he'd been winning pretty steadily all afternoon and had just been trading up chips to keep his pile from getting out of control..

"Yeah," the dealer said with a smile and a wink to me, "You never know what's going to happen. Handsome young man like you, I'm sure you'll get lucky." She grinned and dealt the cards to the others at the table as I wondered what the wink was all about..

I ignored the other two, a pair of old women who were more interested in gossiping then paying attention to the table. But I wondered what the woman could have meant by what she said. Could she be flirting with me? Was she suggesting that I'd get lucky with her? I put my brain into 'autopilot' mode for a minute or two, playing very conservatively, even standing on a soft seventeen, which I'm sure made me look like a neophyte.

But while I wasn't paying attention to the table, I decided I'd take a peek inside her mind and see what she had thought about me. I could tell that she was happy I had sat at her table. I cracked open the 'door' in my mind and let more of her thoughts flow into me. I lost another hand as I sifted through the various thoughts and emotions she had. I managed to avoid a smile as the mental image came to me and I realized that her underwear had been riding up her ass for over an hour, but she didn't want to adjust it in front of customers.

I won a hand and decided I'd explore that thought. It would be good training for me at least to practice trying to focus on a single thought and explore it. I lost another hand. What type of panties were they? A g-string eh? Black, with a little white flower stitched on the front piece. Lost another hand by busting. Why was she wearing them if they rode up? Because her boyfriend and she got really hot when she wore them for her whole shift and he won money. When she got 'home' she'd stuff the g-string in his mouth and then ride him. Lost another hand when she got a blackjack. Now, what did that mean, her boyfriend won money? This was interesting, and I pushed deeper, the sounds of the casino fading out in my ears to a dull background roar. Her boyfriend was the man sitting near me. He was an out of work brick layer and he had a massive cock. I smiled and examined that, well, it turns out it wasn't massive, just a decent size, but it was far and away the largest she'd ever seen. It was the only reason she let a scumbag like him live with her and talk her into this stuff.

"What stuff?" I asked out loud, so engrossed in the mental drama of sifting through this woman's thoughts and memories, I didn't restrain myself from talking out loud.

All four people at the table looked over at me, the dealer, her boyfriend and the two old ladies. The dealer spoke first, "I'm sorry sir, what was that?"

I waved her off and shook my head, "Sorry I was just remembering something, thinking out loud. Hit me." Busted with a 24, ouch.

I delved back into her mind and tried to figure out what 'stuff' her boyfriend was talking her into. It took me a minute to find the thread of thought I had been following, but I had the chips to lose to play poorly while I did so. Good thing too because I got beat with a sixteen and an eighteen back to back before busting again.

I managed to avoid gasping out loud when I figured out what the boyfriend was talking her into. They were cheating! I looked over at his chip stack and noticed that one 'stack' of his chips he was careful to never touch. It wasn't a real stack of chips. It was a 'sleeve' of sorts. She'd brought home a stack of $5 chips one night and he'd fashioned this 'sleeve' to look just like a stack of five chips. He would bet with it and she would accept it as if he'd just bet $25. Then when she had the sleeve, she'd slide it over a stack of four chips that were $25 or $50 in value a piece. She made sure she was leaning forwards when she did it so that her breasts blocked the camera that was over the table. Then with four chips hidden inside the sleeve, she just had to wait for him to win a $25 bet, then she'd slide him back the sleeve, but the value of the chips inside the sleeve were worth $100 or $200. Then when he got the sleeve back, he'd just wait till he was re-stacking his chips, and he'd slide the sleeve off and set it down, and wait a while before playing with the sleeve again.

It was, quite honestly, ingenious. Even now that I knew exactly what they were doing, I was fascinated and I watched for a good twenty minutes trying to catch them at it. Even scanning both of their minds and watching I almost missed it when he passed the sleeve to her. It was a few minutes later when I saw her slide the sleeve over $200 in chips.

Both of their emotions spiked, they knew that if there was ever a point when they were going to get caught, it was then, when she was 'loading' the sleeve. But they tried to keep the amount they stole to a smaller amount, under $1,000 in a shift, never any more. She knew that little amount wouldn't be obviously missing, as long as they were safe.

She also liked that I was losing a fair amount of chips, because the more she brought in, the less likely it was that she'd get noticed. She also liked the 'blue hairs' or the old ladies, because they were more interested in chatting then paying attention to her or the game. She knew that there was a big time reward to anyone who blew in cheaters to the pit bosses.

Now that drew my interest. I looked down at my stack of chips. I was down to only a few hundred left. Catching a cheater in the casino, and having it lead to a conviction could be worth a thousand bucks. But catching an employee... oooh, they paid out quite well to anyone who caught something the pit bosses and cameras didn't.

I waited a few more hands and lost all of them on purpose. Then disgusted I slid a $25 chip to the dealer and said, "That's it for me, I'm going to go get some dinner, at least that way I have something to show for the money I'm throwing away."

The two old ladies laughed and wished me a good night. I picked up my stack of chips and walked away from the table. I went to the cage and deposited the chips back onto the account that was linked to my room. Then I asked the woman in the cage to speak with one of the bosses, and mentioned that it was quite urgent.

I only had to wait a minute before a large man with a shaved head came out and introduced himself. I whispered to him that I thought I had caught someone cheating and I could prove it. He quickly and quietly asked me if I'd step into his office, which I did. As soon as the door to his office was closed he asked me for the details. I held up a hand and asked about the reward. He explained that if the tip I gave led to a conviction, the casino paid a stipend for honest customers like me. Then he pulled out a form and began filling it out. But he again asked me what I'd seen.

I looked into his mind quickly to see if he was planning on stiffing me out of my reward, but it seemed that he was more interested in catching the cheats than anything else. So I began to explain what I saw with the chip sleeve.

His face went pale white and he asked which dealer it was. As soon as I said it, he punched some numbers into his computer and I saw an overhead view of the table I'd been sitting at appear. The two old ladies were still there along with the dealer and her boyfriend, who's chip pile was quite substantial. He picked up a radio and spoke into it, "Table 48. Shut it down, escort the dealer and the man with the large pile of chips to holding. Comp the two women playing for a dinner and a ticket to the comedian tonight. Collect ALL the chips at the table after giving the ladies a voucher."

He looked over at me and shook my hand, "You're going to have to stay here and fill out some paper work." I nodded and he handed me a pen and several forms. I scanned him again and I realized that the forms were more to keep me busy while he checked this out. He shut off his computer and left the office. I knew that it was locked, trapping me in this windowless room. If my story hadn't checked out, I'd be the one going to jail. But thankfully I knew that I was being honest, and had nothing to hide.

The forms took a little while, and when I was done I stood up and walked around the small office. It was pretty basic, but there were photos of the boss with people I didn't know. I guessed by the fact that the pictures were signed, that they must be someone important, but I didn't recognize any.

About a half hour later he returned, his smile wide on his face, "Mr. Naughton, on behalf of Casino Royale Hotel & Casino as well as myself, I'd like to thank you very much for your help catching these two criminals. I have no doubt that they will both be convicted, and we will be sending you a check, as well we will be comping all your expenses for your visit this trip."

He looked at a small notebook he was holding, "As well as ... Miss Ruby?" He raised an eyebrow as he looked at me, "Just Ruby? She actually has identification that only has that as her name?"

I shrugged, "She's the madam at Ruby's Hideaway."

"Ah," he said, a light of recognition told me that he recognized the name of Adam's brothel if nothing else. "There's one last thing Mr. Naughton," he said as he took all the forms from me and made sure they had been filled out, "My boss would like to meet with you and thank you personally. She doesn't usually meet with the public, so it's kind of a big deal. If you don't want too, we wouldn't want to keep you from enjoying the casino floor of course. But it'd look good on me if you went up and met with her."

I hesitated and scanned his thoughts while pretending I was thinking. He was both scared of his boss, and confused by this. Apparently it was a big deal to be sent to her office. But I wasn't sensing any real danger, so I agreed.

A few minutes later I was in a private elevator. By myself riding up to the top floor of the hotel. I was let out into a rather pleasant looking lobby. There was an older secretary typing something and she looked up at me. "Hello Mr. Naugton, you can go right in, miss Whitefeld will see you." She gestured at a set of double doors on the other side of the lobby. I looked around at the lobby and saw a hallway with glass walled offices leading away. I figured this must be the business section of the Casino, but I really had no clue.

Ignoring the rest, I pushed through one of the double doors unsure what to expect. I couldn't help but notice the plaque on the door which read "Mz Whitefeld," odd, you didn't see that archaic version of 'miss' very often anymore. The door slid shut slowly behind me as I looked around the office. It was plush and comfortable without being overly ostentatious. The high backed leather chair behind the desk was turned away from me, facing the windows, but I could see a woman's hand resting on one of the arm rests. Once the door behind me shut fully, I heard a slight click as it latched. Then the leather chair turned, spinning to face me.

I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but it wasn't this. Miss Whitefeld was a very attractive woman whose age was hard to pin down. My first reaction was this was a joke, she was far too young looking to be in any real position of authority. Her smooth unlined face, free of any obvious blemishes and wrinkles had the appearance of youth. Her body too, tight and young, and I could see she had pert compact breasts, even inside the dark suit she wore. But then I saw her eyes. It's hard to explain how eyes can be 'old' but these were old eyes. Some might call them wise or experienced, but I saw age and anger in them, smoldering beneath perfectly tapered delicate eyelashes.

She was a brunette, but the kind that you knew would become blonde if she spent enough time in the sun. Her face was a mask of calm and showed no emotion. I was struck by her triangular jaw and thin noble nose. As I was sizing her up though, I knew she was doing the same for me.

Finally she broke the silence and gestured to a chair in front of the desk she sat at. "Please have a seat Mr. Naughton." I did so before I even realized I was moving. I hadn't felt that kind of a commanding voice tell me what to do since the last time Adam had used his powers on me. I sniffed the air with my sixth sense and knew, without a doubt, that she was a little more than human. I didn't know what that meant, not yet at least.

Between her fingers she rolled a casino chip. It balanced on the backs of her knuckles and she rolled it from thumb to pinkie before reversing it and rolling it back flawlessly. "So, you're hear with Ruby eh? That must mean you're connected to Mr. Saks. So, are you a student of his or just a flunky?"

I decided that I didn't want to tip my hand too quickly with her, so I played dumb, "I'm not sure what you're talking about."

She smiled, half of a second, then it was gone. She held out the chip and showed it to me. One side was a standard Casino token, but the other side had been mispronounced. Somehow a series of grid lines had been burned into the chip during the clay baking process. The result was that it almost looked like a W burned into that side of the chip. "Heads," she said showing me the W marked side, then turning it to the blank side she said, "Tails. Now, if I flip this chip, what are the odds that it lands heads up?"

I raised an eyebrow and said, "Um, 50 / 50?"

She laughed and shook her head, "No, close enough to 50% that it's what most people think. But it's not quite, do you know why?"

I shrugged, I really had no idea, nor did I know where this was going. She answered, "Because there's a very minute chance that it might land on it's edge instead of a side. Plus in addition to that the scorch marks on the chip create a slight imbalance in the clay, leading one side to be slightly heavier than the other. We're talking about fractions of a fractions of a fractions of a gram of course, but it's there. So no, it's not a perfect fifty fifty chance, but close enough, right?"

I nodded and she flipped the chip into the air. I watched as it rotated and came down to her desk. It landed and bounced and then rolled, standing up on it's edge. It rolled to a stop when it hit her blotter and then stood there, sanding on it's side and unmoving. I'd never seen that before. She gestured to the chip and said, "That's where we are Mr. Naughton, we are the fraction of the percent. We are the outlier, we are the miniscule number that fucks up the perfect harmony of the universe. Do you understand?"

I nodded, "You're a mage too?"

She shrugged, "I can't do much that's too flashy," she picked up the chip again and flipped it in the air. I watched as it came down and landed on it's edge again. My jaw dropped, the odds on that happening twice in a row were so high that they were practically impossible. "The one talent I have is that I can affect random chance. Dice land how I want, coins toss how I desire, and so on."

I laughed, "Seems like a pretty useful ability in this town."

She grinned and nodded, "Yes, it certainly was back in the day. But these days I just manage my casino and enjoy my life."

I sensed now that she was like me, refreshed in body while retaining her memories. Of course a gentleman never asked a lady her age, but I did say, "and back in the day was...."

She grinned, "Now now Mike, if you're trying to ask my age, you're too young for me to answer that. Suffice it to say that there might exist a picture of me with the rat pack hanging on my wall that most people assume is my grand mother." She chuckled and I couldn't help but wonder exactly how old that made her.

"So what can I do for you then Miss Whitefeld?" I asked, wondering why she'd brought me here.

"Tell you what, you can call me Emily if I can call you Mike, ok?" She asked. I nodded and she continued. "I assume that if you're a student of Mr. Saks, that you've likely got powers similar to him?" She tapped her forehead telling me that she knew of Adam's mental powers. "Which would explain why you caught two casino cheats when my camera systems and staff, which is quite well paid mind you, didn't."

I shrugged, "It seems as if you know pretty much everything Emily, and I know very little. But still, you haven't told me why you brought me here." I was starting to get annoyed. It seemed like everywhere I went lately, people knew more than me, were more powerful than me, were more in the loop then I was. It was getting frustrating.

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