This piece was spurred by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. I chose amateur detective/waitress at a casino and an encounter with a nemesis/unsolved murder.
When Red suggested we ditch our normal daily lives, her stripping, and me slinging drinks to the lusty patrons watching her stripping for an impromptu trip to a casino I thought she had a wonderful idea. Now, previously I’d only seen casinos on television and was imagining the glamour and excitement of Las Vegas, but Charlestown, W.V. was not full of glamour and excitement by a long shot. Had I known, I was playing hooky from work to traipse around a dimly lit, cigarette smelling, wasteland of retirees with a death grip on their slot machines, I probably would have passed. But since I was already here, I decided to make the best of it.
Red stood out in the casino like a sequin spangled sore thumb, part of that was her natural good looks, but the other half was that she insisted on wearing a portion of her dancing attire as her casino going outfit. Hey, if she wanted to wear a red sequin tube top, who was I to stop her. I was just afraid that she was going to give one of the seniors a coronary. With every step we took gentlemen who ranged in the age from geezer to old coot stared at Red like they were seeing the second coming. Needless to say the geezerettes weren’t as smitten by her attire.
As we walked past the gazillionth slot machine looking for open seats I heard someone cough, “slut” as we passed. Looking around for the offending senior citizen, I saw a woman that looked more like a helpless grandma than a woman blurting out profanities, but I saw the look of disgust cross her face when Red sat next to her. “This here’s my machine,” she said as Red slipped a twenty into the bill slot.
“Sorry, but you’ve already got a machine,” Red stated politely. To that Grandma spit onto the magenta and red swirling pattern of the casino carpet.
“I’m sure that’s not sanitary,” I whispered to Red as I slipped onto another stool next to her.
“Whatcha say half-breed?” Grandma replied. Man, her hearing aide must have been ratcheted up to one hundred. Not being accustomed to arguing with women older than my own grandmother I ignored her racist comment and slipped my own twenty into the machine I’d taken up. “Thought so,” Grandma said confidently. Although, I had just given up swearing for Lent, this woman was about to make me curse her up and down this windowless cavern of a casino.
“Look Grandma, I don’t have the time or energy to deal with your octogenarian antics.” I replied rather nicely in spite of the desire to rip her casino card with its spiral cord attached to her collar off her neck or better yet hang her with it. Grandma rolled her eyes and went back to her arduous task of pressing the button to “Spin Again”. I guess it was too much work to actually pull the level of the slot machine for someone so close to death’s door. For the next fifteen minutes I ignored the huffing and puffing of Grandma’s raucous losing streak and focused on scoring some extra coinage myself. My seven year old son Marcus was intent on raising half the money towards the newest game system du jour that he claimed he must have.
I was starting to resent the deal I brokered with him wherein if he raised half the money I’d kick in the other half, with rent being due next week and him mysteriously getting an infusion of cash. Although, it wasn’t really a mystery because I knew that his father who was loathe to pay child support was wont to sneak Marcus money during his court appointed visits. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t bitter about him giving money to our son, but I wasn’t the least bit happy that he thought child support meant video games, Air Jordan’s, and fast food, rather than childcare, groceries, and the other household expenses I had to shoulder alone.
Hearing the sound of Red’s machine start to emit a whooping sound, I surmised that she must have won something and snapped out of my reverie to look over at her machine which was lighting up like a Christmas tree. Red jumped up and down in excitement almost flashing the casino in the process. “I’m a winner bitches!” she screamed at the casino. Besides the men who were hoping to get a glimpse of nipple no one seemed to pay her any mind, except for Grandma herself.
“You owe me ten percent for stealing my machine,” Grandma said as she poked her skeletal finger at Red’s ample chest.
“Old lady if you don’t get your hands off of me,” Red started. I eased myself into the middle of the two in an attempt to calm Red down. I don’t think Grandma knew how close she was to getting a stiletto to her larynx.
“Ma’am you can’t have more than one machine and my friend doesn’t owe you anything,” I started to explain.
“Ain’t talking to ya, mutty. Talking to your slut fire crotch friend over there.” At this Red lunged for Grandma’s head and inadvertently knocked off the dusty wig, Grandma was using as a hair hat. At this Grandma pulled out a rape whistle and gave it a sharp blow, which lead to casino security quickly scampering our way.
“Ladies, if you can’t behave you need to take it outside,” the guard said while he attempted to not sneak a peek of Red’s cleavage.
“Sure thing stumpy,” Grandma retorted as she gathered up her insanely large handbag and her wig from the floor. Grandma then defiantly placed the wig atop her head and marched down the corridor of slot machines as Red and I looked on with amusement.
“So how much did you win, big Spender?” I asked.
“Five hundred dollars. Not too bad.” Red then pressed the button for her claim ticket and I watched with a twinge of jealousy for her good fortune. “You wanna play some more?” she asked playfully. I shook my head in the negative and we made our way to the “Winner’s Cage” so she could cash out. I watched the cashier count out the five hundred dollars to Red in crisp hundred dollar bills and thought about how much groceries that could buy for me and Marcus. Red turned to me with her winnings in hand and peeled off three of the pristine Franklin’s and pressed them in my palm. “For being my good luck charm,” she explained.
We walked out of the casino into the darkened covered parking garage with our winning burning a hole in our pocket. Finally, Marcus and I could go out to eat to his favorite restaurant Olive Garden and although I was also cutting out carbs for Lent, I argued with my conscience that this was a special occasion. I was so loss in my thoughts of the Tour of Italy special that I almost tripped and fell over a tennis shoe laying on the ground. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t just a shoe, it was a foot and a leg peeking out from under a twenty year old beige Cadillac. I bent down to inspect the presumably dead body and recognized the support hose and flowered capris belonging to none other than Grandma-Crotchety Pants. Red stopped walking to see what was holding me up and screamed when she saw the body underneath the car.
Red’s scream had the entire casino security force scrambling our way within seconds. “Step away from the body ma’am,” an officer shouted at me, leaving his words to echo off the concrete of the cold parking garage. I raised my hands to show I was harmless and backed away. At that instance Officer Stumpy from before ran up to me and placed zip tie cuffs on my wrists.
“Whoa buddy,” Red exclaimed at the officer as he ushered me towards the casino with my hands behind my back.
“Ma’am do not interfere with a police investigation,” the diminutive guard stated to Red’s double Ds.
“First of all you’re not the police and secondly my friend didn’t do anything,” Red exclaimed.
“Calm down, Red. I’ll go with him it’s no big deal.” I said in an attempt to soothe Red’s fears.
“Well, I’m going with her, too,” she said huffily to the guard. We all marched down a darkened hallway to the casino’s security office where I was sat at a stainless steel table by Officer Stumpy.
“Looks like we got a murder here,” he stated as he paced back in forth in front of me like a bad version of Columbo.
“When are we going to call the real cops?” I asked him with a bored look in my eyes. “I’ve got to pick my son up from after-care by six o’clock and it’s already three.”
“I don’t think you understand the seriousness of this crime Miss,” he said as he slammed his Lilliputian hands on the table. He winced at the impact of his palms against the hard table. Served him right for trying to play bad cop with me.
“I certainly do, I’m the one that tripped over a corpse.” I said as I narrowed my eyes at Officer Short Stuff. He seemed to be challenging me in a staring contest because he said nothing and gave me a look that I’m sure he thought was intimidating. Clearly, he’d never met my ex-husband who could make Hitler cry with a glance. Before we could declare a winner of the starting contest a rap sounded at the door. Rent-A-Cop Shorty walked over to the door and opened it, revealing the most handsome man I’d seen in at least a year. Surprisingly, all the male models aren’t beating down the door to the local strip club.
“Is this the witness?” Mr. Handsome asked. I guessed from his suit and manner he was a detective from the local precinct.
“The suspect,” the guard countered.
“Suspect, my ass,” I replied.
“Please take the zip ties off this woman.” Shorty grudgingly obliged and I rubbed my wrists which had now reddened from the overzealous cuffing/ “Can I see your surveillance tapes?”
“We’ve already checked them; the area where the woman was killed was in a blind spot.”
“Mighty convenient,” I responded.
“What do you mean?” the detective asked.
“Who’d know about the blind spot, other than someone who worked here?”
“What are you trying to say?” the guard asked.
“I’m saying a murder is on the loose and it’s not me. It’s someone who works at this casino.”
“You were the last one seen arguing with the victim.” Shorty responded.
“If you met this woman you’d be arguing with her, too. I’m sure she’s never met a person she hasn’t hated. But I am not the one who killed her. Did I want to kick her once or twice, of course, but I’m no killer.”
“Please lock down the casino. I don’t want anyone entering or exiting.” the policeman stated to the guard.
“I guess I’ll have to find a babysitter for my son, huh?”
WANT MORE? I’ll include the short story in the next Kyra Walker Mystery.