The Queen arrived too late and the King was wasted. The Jack on the table couldn’t do it alone and the Ace didn’t matter. Draughton watched the last of his chips get pulled away by a pitiless dealer. Nausea ran in a chilly wave over the back of his skull and down his spine. The booze was in complete control.
This was it. The end of the line. And on Christmas Day no less, the booze said.
It was supposed to be a quick holiday pump and dump. Draughton took out a last chance loan from someone whom he already owed money. A jade idol said to guarantee the birth of a male heir was changing hands due to an untimely death of a high ranking drug lord in Luna City. The loan was supposed to help him move it to a desperate buyer and set Draughton up for the next six months. But the loan shark had shorted him at the last minute and the buyer wouldn’t take it unless Draughton paid the shipping. A hastily devised betting strategy would make up the difference. The cards however turned on him halfway through, and the drinks began to accelerate.
As the dealer pulled the last of his chips away, he felt the noose around his neck tighten. He might have enough for a ship out of there, but loan sharks had eyes in places like this. Especially in their backyards.
The waitress that had been sweet to him while he had a mound of chips in front of him now, like an undertaker, began coldly collecting his stained glasses and chewed straws. Draughton grasped her hand as she approached the half finished glass in front of him. “Sweetie,” he said with a haggard voice. “One more for the road, you know I’m good for it.”
“Hmf,” she said as she turned away with her plunder and disappeared back into the warrens of the busy casino. Draughton put his hot head against the cold plasti-wood table.
He needed to get out of there. Even in his dulled, uncoordinated state, Draughton knew he needed to grab some wallets and watches, find a pawn shop, and catch a shuttle as far away from Luna City as he could. He pondered losing himself on Earthen streets for a couple months, hoping that a twice spurned loanshark and his bloodthirsty thugs could forget if not forgive.
The thing about life on a moon is that it’s always night, so most businesses ran 24 hours, Earth standard. It wasn’t that moons never slept; it’s that they never woke. He was in the home town of most of the gang activity in the quadrant. The thought of getting through a shuttle port without getting noticed wasn’t likely.
“You dropped this,” someone said. He turned to see the huge black reflective lenses of white framed sunglasses shimmering in the multicolor casino lights. They rested on the face of a stunningly woman with smooth dark skin in a white dress. It was hard to read her behind the large circular glasses; she seemed out of place among the smell of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. She looked at him expectantly as she slid a small folded piece of paper across the empty table. Draughton marveled at the simple scrap. He leaned in preparing a question he hadn’t fully formulated, but she was already up. She kissed him lightly on the cheek and, without another word, turned and walked away to disappear in the crowd, leaving Draughton alone again.
Excitement buzzed through him as he touched the note. How bad would it be to be tortured to death for one night with her? the booze said. With his unsteady hands, he struggled to pick up the note with his alcohol swollen digits. It bore only three words: SEE YOU SOON.
He flipped it over twice. Folded it and refolded it. No phone or room number, no contact information of any kind. Just an ominous message. His Christmas gift had turned to panic. Was it a threat? Did they already know?
Confused, disappointed, and made stupid with booze, Draughton felt the strong impulse to get out of there. He dismounted his chair too fast and toppled over onto the liquor and ash stained commercial carpeting. Like a shot, he righted himself, but he’d already caught the attention of the patrons around him.
As Draughton scrambled for an exit, the arcade of neon light, once so inviting, now showed its true form. A dim smokey room overwhelming the senses and dulling them with drink and stimulus. Draughton hobbled ever forward, seeking to determine the difference between slot machines and elevator signs.
Between each several steps, his balance got away from him and he needed to lean against the backs of a random patron. A man yelled and a woman shrieked, but he was making his way. His drunken lizard brain must have subconsciously knew the layout of these dingy casinos, for the elevator finally presented itself.
Leaning against an elderly couple, Draughton found himself almost on the card table. The players gasped as he almost fell onto the table and almost on top of a frightened elderly man. “Apologies, chap,” Draughton said. “Can I bother ya for a push?” Without waiting for an answer Draughton pushed off with as much strength as he could muster. The players yelled and the table moved under him, but it was enough to push Draughton’s sloppy mass toward the elevator doors.
As he crossed the vinyl floor towardHe was in the clear. The doors were in his sights and he had all the momentum. Things were going to turn up for him.
Until they turned down.
The floor came too quick and his face planted onto the cold hard tile that made him suddenly miss the dank carpet. He tried to right himself again, but this time was too taxing for him. His ulcerated gut betrayed him and he vomited against the floor onto his own face.
He lay there in his own filth, unable to stand, contemplating everything that went wrong. Strong hands took hold of him and assisted him up. For a moment he was grateful, but that was before he realized that it was two members of the casino security. “Why is everyone wearing sunglashes in here?” he said.
“Mr. Draughton,” said one of the bald men who looked like they were asexually scraped off the same parent organism. “You seem to have overdrawn your account.”
“Why don’t you come have a sit with us for a while and we sort all this out?” said the clone.
Making the best decision he could at the time, Draughton wisely turned and spat in one of their faces. Expressionless, the other cocked back and punched up into Draughton’s gut. The air pushing out of my body made blood rush to his head and brought forth one last batch of vomit.
In disgust one of the bouncers loosened his grip. A spike of adrenaline tickled a sober instinct and Draughton ducked to slip his arms free and uncorked a punch right across the one on his left’s jaw. With some separation, he kicked the other one in the chest, pushing himself toward the elevator. He gracefully rolled over a luggage train, sending bags everywhere and stumbled into the elevator.
Draughton smashed the close door button as quickly and as many times as he could. As the thick, slow elevator doors closed, he could see the bouncers scrambling over the knocked suitcases and trying to get half digested booze off their jackets.
Silence for a moment. But before Draughton could appreciate it, the muszak began to play and the elevator shuddered to its upward movement. Calm. Draughton was left alone in the mirrors of the elevator and his thoughts.
Long time no talk. I want to start publishing my novel here on the blog and get a bit of a following before I really make the push to publish. In the meantime, hope you enjoy.
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