I’m standing with my head bent over the sink in this crap hotel rinsing dye from my hair because there’s no way I’m going to step inside that shower. The curtain probably could walk out of the room by itself.
I’ve already hacked off a lot of my hair and tossed it into a plastic bag along with my red sequined dress and matching slut pumps. I towel off the spiky remains, now black. Adding a little gel, I let it harden as I apply my makeup. Even my own ma wouldn’t know me in my baggy jeans and tee shirt. Without the push ‘em up and grab ‘em bra, I look like a boy.
I’m going for heavy-duty, punk gothic. I slip seven earrings around my left ear and six on my right then glue on some studs.
A week ago I was Sydney Barnes, card counter deluxe, looking like a Bond girl, gliding through the crowds at the Bellagio, Wynn and Riviera. I had my system. Never win too much at a time. Lose just enough not to raise suspicions. Play hard, look hot, and the big boys will comp you suites, buy you drinks, and treat you like a queen. You can live large, if you do it right.
Then Vince Marsdon walked into my life. With his movie star looks and that big white smile, and the way he flashed that black AmEx card around, I should have known he was too good to be true.
“You’re a hell of a player,” he said to me.
“I play smart.”
“Why don’t you play for one big score?”
He had a plan on how to go from one casino to another. Win big and move on. Pretend to be a couple. We could split the money. It seemed like it could work, but I had this weird feeling in my gut. Sometimes I get it. Usually, just before the shit hits the fan.
So I called Harry. Harry works at the MGM Grand, and I asked him to check Vince out.
“Honey, if you’re asking me to check him out, there’s a problem,” Harry said. “Are you in love?”
Only Harry could ask that. He’s my best friend. If he weren’t gay, I’d be madly in love with him. Come to think of it, I probably am madly in love with him. Love’s cruel that way.
“Stay at the MGM. I’ll take care of the room,” Harry said.
The first four days were like great sex. Vince and I played the loving couple to perfection. The casinos may have lost money on us, but we pulled in lots of suckers who were getting off just watching our show.
The last night at the MGM Grand was supposed to be our big finale. Harry smiled at me on the way into the casino.
“Are you enjoying your stay?” he said.
He handed me a red rose. “Compliments of the house. A beautiful flower for a beautiful lady. Good luck tonight.”
I took ten thousand worth of chips, but that night my luck ran hot and cold. I couldn’t seem to make more than a few thousand. By one, Vince was irritated and said he needed to stretch his legs.
By two, the cocktail waitress brought me a drink. “Looks like you need to get back on The Sunny Side of the Street,” she said and palmed me a card with my napkin. Ace of Spades. Shit. Harry’s code for run. I slipped her a $100 chip and cashed out. A lousy two grand.
I slipped out the door and onto the strip wishing I’d worn black instead of red. But I walked the strip until finally I caught a cab to this shithole three miles out of town. Harry had slipped me the room key with the rose.
Now I hear the crunch of tires against gravel and tense when the doorknob turns. It’s Harry. He winces at the sight of my hair and sets a duffle bag stuffed with cash on the bed.
I hand him the plastic bag filled with hair and dye and my dress and shoes. “You’ll take care of this?”
“I guess I won’t be back for a while.”
He shrugs. “Don’t worry. We’ll stay in touch. I was thinking Monaco would be lovely.”
“And Vince? He wasn’t a cop, was he?”
“No.” Harry looks very sober. “A thief.”
“Do I need to worry?”
He slips a black AmEx card into the plastic bag. “He won’t be a problem.”