Mission Critical

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Chapter 14 - Bank Robbery is an Industry?

Afternoon in Vegas. We set out for the city early this morning. It wasn’t easy for me to get up, let me tell you. That robbery and murder left me pretty upset. About the only reason why I managed to get any sleep was because Robbie came over and banged the stress right out of me. Believe me, I needed it. It was the only way to take my mind off of everything. Making a death notification always hits you hard. Some nice people who think today is like any other day and bang! You hit them with the worst news of their lives. It’s horrible. It’s bad enough when you have to tell them their loved one got killed on the highway in a motor vehicle accident. Imagine how much worse it is when you have to tell them that their loved one was murdered for no reason at all. The wife totally fell apart and the kids were screaming their heads off. I don’t think either of those boys was more than eight years old. It was horrible. It was all I could do to keep from screaming myself. I wanted to. I really did. But we can’t do that. We’re the police. We have to remain professional. It’s a lot harder than it looks, let me tell you.

Robbie and I didn’t do anything special like I wanted to. I just needed to be fucked senseless and that’s what I told him to do. He obliged. I was looking forward to having a lot more fun. I’ll make it up to him when this crap is over. Right now, we just checked into the motel. It’s not bad, but it’s sure as hell not the Mirage. I’m really dragging right now. I slept most of the way up here, which was a good thing. Half of me wants to go back to sleep and go looking for this guy tomorrow, but the Sarge wants to at least establish contact with him. We’re not getting any help from the Las Vegas police. They told us they don’t have what you’d call a good working relationship with this guy. When he got paroled and moved out here, they made it clear to him that they didn’t want him in their city. I guess there was no legal way to stop him, though. As long as his parole officer approves, he’s allowed to go wherever he wants. It’s the same everywhere.

Bank Robbery: a Scientific Approach to Successful Tactics for Criminals. Written by one Curtis Jerome Prentiss. Too bad he’s off of parole. That would’ve been some decent leverage we could use, but the Las Vegas police say he’s not on it anymore so we’re screwed. Well, we already knew that, didn’t we? If Mister Prentiss doesn’t want to talk to us, we’re leaving here empty-handed unless I make good on my threat to toss him off of the roof of the Wynn. The truth is, this guy probably doesn’t intimidate very easily. With all the time he’s done and all the hours he’s probably spent in an interrogation room? He’s probably as hard as tempered steel. Guys like that don’t buckle under pressure. I wish I knew more about how to get someone to talk. While I was a detective, I participated in very few interrogations. Most of the assbags I had to deal with either gave it up right away or started screaming for a lawyer as soon as we sat him down. So much for interrogating them, huh?

If I weren’t so tired right now, I’d be antsy. You know how much I hate coming back here. Las Vegas may be Party City for everyone else, but I’ve got way too many bad memories of it from when I was a kid. I don’t like it here. I don’t want to be here. I want to get this over with and get the hell out. I’ll feel tons better as soon as we cross the border back into Arizona. Right now, it’s raining outside. Yes, it rains in Las Vegas. Not a lot, but in the winter? They get some. It’s always weird around here when it rains. It makes everything appear out of place. Not to worry, though. By about nine o’clock tonight, it’ll have stopped and there won’t be a cloud in the sky. That’s Vegas for you.

We’ve got an address for Prentiss. At least he’s not trying to hide. I know the neighborhood where he is. It’s not one of your better ones, but it’s a hell of a lot nicer than the one I grew up in. I wonder what this guy’s deal is? Is he trying to live the quiet life? Has he finally come to his senses? Is he making enough money from his crazy book that he doesn’t have to work anymore? Or is he still an assbag who wants to get back at society for locking him up and this is how he’s doing it? We’ve got a lot of questions for him. A lot of questions and maybe no answers. It’s entirely possible that this guy has no clue about his own website. He may have hired someone to run it for him and he actually has no involvement with it, other than to get a check every few months. We’ll find out soon enough, right?

This place? Not bad. Not great, but not bad. It’s within walking distance of the Strip, but then I always got the feeling that everyplace in Las Vegas is within walking distance of the Strip. This guy’s address is about a fifteen minute drive from here, which is good. I sure hope we find him right away. This is Vegas, after all. He might spend days hopping from one casino to the next. A lot of people do that. He might use his address for getting his mail and not much more. If that’s the case, then we’re going to have a hell of a time finding him. Las Vegas is probably the easiest town in America in which to disappear. Almost everybody out here comes from somewhere else and they don’t give a damn who you are, so you can just vanish into the crowd. I learned that when I was a kid. Even the people who work here don’t pay much attention to anybody even when they’re sitting right in front of them. I remember plenty of times when some bartender handed me a beer when I was sixteen. They didn’t even ask me for ID and I wasn’t one of those girls who looked older than she really is, unless you count my boobs and my ass. Other than those, I looked plenty sixteen.

One good thing about this motel: they’ve got free cable. They’ve got pay-per-view too, but I’m guessing most of those films are porn films. Now, if the Sarge is up for watching one? Count me in. Things could get really interesting. Other than that? Maybe they’ve got a grindhouse film package I can watch? I really need to catch up on my movies. I’ve been letting it slide. Robbie and I were going to watch one last night, but we were what you’d call otherwise occupied, if you know what I mean.

“Rane, are you sure you know where this house is?”

“I grew up here, remember? It’s fifteen minutes from here at most. When I lived with my Aunt Janice, she looked at renting a house in that neighborhood. We never got around to it, though.”

“I know how much you hate being here. We’ll find this guy, talk to him, and we’ll be out of here in the morning. Maybe we’ll hit some of the tables after dinner?”

Oh, God! Not you too, Sarge! What the hell is it with guys and gambling? Is it like a disease that affects the male chromosomes? Snap out of it already!

“I’m not calling the station to tell them you max’ed out the department’s credit card and we don’t have any gas money, old man. Stay away from the tables! You’re just asking for trouble!”

“What’s the matter, princess? Don’t you have any faith in me?”

“In a casino? I wouldn’t have faith in Jesus to beat the odds! Leave it alone! You’ll thank me later on!”

I’m going to have to straighten his ass out about this. This whole thing with Prentiss and his how-to-rob-a-bank book? I’ve got half a mind to write a book called “Only a total dickface tries to beat a casino!” I spent enough time wandering around in them to know a thing or two about what they’re really like. They hire the smartest people in the world to set the odds so they never go against the house. Ask anyone who works here. They’ll tell you.

“So what do you want to do? Have dinner and come back here and turn in for the night? It’s Vegas, Rane! Try to enjoy it!”

“We’re not here to enjoy ourselves, old man. We’re here on business. The sooner I get out of here, the better. Here, look at this: we could watch a movie. These prices aren’t bad, actually. ‘Naughty Sorority Girls?’ We could watch that one. I could tell you what they get wrong and what they get right. I was never in a sorority, but I did plenty of…”

Rane! Enough! You’re going to kill me with that shit!”

You have no idea, Sarge. No idea at all!

“I’ve got better ways to kill you, Sarge. And believe me, none of them involve a rifle. You know, I know this insane move where I slide up to your…”

“I am not listening to this!”

God, he’s got his hands over his ears! What is he? Five years old? Come on!

“But it’s Vegas, Sarge! You know what they say: what happens here, stays here. We could put that to the test. I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.”

“I’m going to take you over my knee if you keep this up!”

Oh, I can’t let him get away with putting that out there, can I? Hell no! Push him down on the bed! Right on his ass! Perfect! Now I lie across his legs and…

“Spank me! Pull down my pants and spank my ass! I want you to! I’ve been a bad girl!”

“Oh, for God’s sake!”

“Come on! Do it! It’s right there, staring you in the face! You know you want to!”

“You’re out of your goddamned mind!”

“Here, I’ll get the party started! Just let me get these off…”

I can’t drop my jeans with a flick of my thumbs like I can with my shorts, but I can get them off pretty fast! Hey! He dumped me on the floor! He’s turning me down? What the fuck is up with that?

“So you’re not going to spank me?”

And he rolls his eyes! It just never gets old, does it? Yeah, but I know I got to him this time! I got a rise out of him, if you know what I mean! I know. I felt it when I was stretched across his lap. That was no roll of quarters in his pocket! I’m an expert in that kind of observation, after all! It’s nice to know I can get him hard like that. It’ll just encourage me from now on! Not that I need a lot of encouragement, right?

“Get your ass up off of the floor, Rane! We’ve got an interview to conduct!”

Talk about a mood-killer! And here I thought he wanted to have fun? Well, no need to leave it there, is there? Just grab his ass, pull him toward me, and…

“One of these days, you’re going to fuck me over and over again! And I’m going to enjoy every minute of it! Every thrust, every time you make me pop! And we’re going to do every naughty thing you ever dreamed of doing with a woman! Because I’m up for anything you want to do, Sarge! That’s a promise!”

“When we get back, I’m having you committed!”

Sure you are, old man! I could see it in your eyes; all the naughty little things that shot through your mind just now! It’s OK. I can wait. I’m a very patient girl, you know. And I always get what I want in that department. It’s kind of my specialty.


The humble abode of one Mister Curtis Jerome Prentiss. It’s not so humble, actually. It looks like it’s been freshly painted. Nice desert-themed yard. New roof. Somebody takes good care of this place. I guess crime manuals pay better than I thought. His car’s in the front yard. Chevrolet Traverse. New one. He’s doing all right for himself. If it weren’t for the rain, we could feel the hood and see if the car was recently parked. I can see lights on inside the house. Maybe he’s home? You know, it suddenly occurs to me that we don’t know if this guy’s got a wife or a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Other than his criminal record, we don’t know much at all about him. His criminal record shows no history of violence. Yay for the little things, huh?

All right, knock on the door. I wish he knew we were coming. A couple of out-of-state cops land on your front doorstep unannounced? Things could go sour on us pretty fast. Be ready for anything. The door’s opening…that’s him. I recognize him from the videos.

“Curtis Prentiss?”

And he gives us the once-over. He’s not holding a gun. That’s a good sign.

“What brings a couple of cops to my front door?”

Not bad. He barely glanced at us.

“How do you know we’re the police?”

“I’ve been in the life since before you were born, honey. I can spot a cop a mile away, even if she looks like you. What do you want?”

“We’re not local. We’re from Arizona. We want to talk to you about your book. Specifically, about somebody who might have bought a copy and used it.”

He’s looking us over from top to bottom. His eyes aren’t stopping to rest on my cleavage, either. He’s sizing us up. Stay sharp!

“I’ve got a feeling I know who you’re talking about. Come on in.”

That’s a good sign. He knows who we’re talking about. Or at least, he thinks he knows who we’re talking about. We’ll see.

“We have to ask you, are you alone in here?”

“For officer safety? Yeah, I know the drill. I live alone, honey. I don’t mix well with others. Hazard of my old profession. Sit down. Want some coffee? It’s a cold one out there. That’s how it goes, doesn’t it? I moved here to get away from the cold. I did my last stretch in Oak Park Heights. Level five in Minnesota. I’ve had enough freezing weather to last me the rest of my life.”

In Minnesota? I can believe it. Level five? That’s some pretty serious security. You usually have to be a pretty violent guy to warrant level five confinement.

“Why’d they put you in level five? We didn’t see any history of violence in your record.”

“No, but I had a history of escaping. Trust me, that’ll do it.”

I didn’t see that in his record. Weird. You’d think they’d want law enforcement to know about that. But he’s right: if you’re an escape risk, then they tend to put you in a pretty secure environment. There’s only one level above level five and you’ve pretty much got to bend over backwards to get sent to level six. That’s for mob bosses and master spies and total psychos. See what being a detective taught me?

“I’m Sergeant Rane and this is Sergeant Varanasi. We want to talk to you about your how-to manual. We read it. Well, we kind of skimmed through it. It’s a pretty big book.”

“A lifetime of experience condensed into one volume, Sergeant. Everything I learned about robbing banks: what to do and what never to do. I started writing it in prison.”

Why not? He sure had plenty of time on his hands.

“Why’d you write a how-to manual on bank robbery? That’s not the sort of book most people would buy, you know.”

“You’ve never been in the slammer, Sergeant. You don’t understand what it’s like in there. I had to listen to so much bullshit in there every day from guys who didn’t know their ass from their elbow. Guys who couldn’t pull a straight-up job if you held a gun to their heads. I wanted to set the record straight. I was as good as it gets and I wanted to prove it, so I did.”

Did I hear him right? Jesus, even the Sarge can’t believe it!

“Hang on, buddy! Are you saying you wrote that goddamned book to feed you ego?”

“You could say that. I wrote it to prove a point. To establish my reputation. You’ve got some gray hair, Sergeant. Do you know what it’s like to be surrounded by punks half your age who think they know it all? The joint’s full of them! I have a talent. It’s not your typical talent, but it is what it is and I’m not ashamed of it. Somebody wants to say I don’t know what I’m doing? That book is my résumé. It speaks for itself.”

It sounds like he’s feeding his ego to me. Then again, what do I know? I never went to prison and I was never a master bank robber. This is a whole other world for me.

“Be that as it may, we think some assbag in our city took your book and used it as a how-to manual and now they’re robbing banks left and right. They upped the ante yesterday when they killed a guy. Shot him right in the face.”

“So I heard. I watch the news, Sergeant. I saw something about it. And in addition to the book, I’ve got a website…”

“We know. We’ve seen it. How-to videos to go with the how-to textbook. Nice.”

“We live in a digital age, Sergeant. That’s something I’m still getting used to. When I was coming up, they didn’t have any of this stuff. You take a camera the size of a pack of cigarettes and you make a film that looks like someone in Hollywood shot it. Right on your desk! Amazing, ain’t it?”

“Yeah, where would the porn industry be without it?”

He seems to agree with that one.

“Ain’t it the truth? The shit they’ve got out there these days? And it’s free, too! You don’t even have to go to a dirty book store! Hey, you got any, uh…videos on there yourself? You got the shape for it. Can’t say as I ever saw a sergeant who looked like you before! If I did, maybe I’d have got caught more often.”

The worst part? He actually sounds sincere about that. I guess it’s been a while since he had a regular girlfriend. Then again, this is Las Vegas. As long as you’ve got the money, you can rent one. Legally.

“Gee, thanks. Look, that book of yours is a real problem for us…”

“Honey, the law is clear: Nevada got its ‘Son of Sam’ law kicked out for being unconstitutional. Besides, I didn’t write a memoir. I didn’t write a book about my specific jobs. I wrote a book about the job. The industry. That’s all. It’s protected speech. My lawyer said so.”

Bank robbery is an industry? I certainly hope not!

“We’re interested in one of your customers; not you. We’re not here to hassle you. We’re here because we need your help. We’re not looking for you to snitch on anybody, either.”

“Good! Because I don’t do that! I got my pride, you know!”

“And we’re not asking you to put it aside. Look, I read in your book where you said at least a dozen times that if you do it right, nobody has to get hurt. Well, these guys beat the crap out of a teller because they thought she was trying to slip a dye pack in the money bag…”

“Tellers don’t do that, honey. They don’t touch that thing. They’re trained to leave it right where it is and let the crooks take it with the rest of the cash. As long as you bend each stack of bills, you can feel if it’s a dye pack. The dye pack don’t flex like a stack of paper. Even a rookie knows that.”

“I know. I read that part. But these guys didn’t care about that. One of them started pistol-whipping the teller…”

“I never did that in my life! Every job I ever pulled, the gun was empty! And I wrote in the book that anyone who does that shit is a piece of dog shit who deserves to get his ass blown away! And I happen to believe that! I never even suggested…”

“We know! But when some Good Samaritan tried to help her out, the guy turned around and shot him right in the face! He had a wife and two little boys and all he was doing was trying to stop a woman from getting beaten to death!”

“Sounds like a piece of garbage to me. Do you know what they do to punks like that in the slammer?”

“I can imagine.”

“No, you can’t! And take it from me, honey: you don’t want to know!”

I can believe it. I’ve seen a few prison movies in my day. I’d slit my wrists before I let them put me in one of those places.

“Fair enough. Look, I don’t know how many copies of that book got sold…”

“A little over twenty-six thousand. I get to keep nineteen ninety-five for each copy.””

What? Twenty-six thousand copies? There are twenty-six thousand people running around with that fucking book? At nineteen ninety-five a pop, that’s almost five hundred nineteen thousand dollars for him! Crime really does pay!

“So you’re not likely to remember someone who purchased it?”

“That depends. Are they on my website for the videos?”

“We think so. Look, we told you we’re from Arizona…”

“That doesn’t mean the guys you’re looking for are from Arizona. Sergeant, I cover that in the book: your best bet is to hit places outside of your stomping grounds. No one’s likely to ID you if you’re a stranger in a strange land. Nobody’s likely to know you or recognize you. It always worked for me.”

Great! Is there anything about how to avoid getting caught that this guy didn’t put in that book?

“Is there anybody on your website who’s been asking a lot of questions? I mean the kind of questions that would make you think…”

“That they were following the book play-by-play? Yeah, I can think of a few. And if you check the record, you’ll see I told each and every one of them that they’re playing with fire if they try that shit for real. The courts don’t fuck around with bank robbery. I know. I’m living proof.”

We may be on the right track. But how do we narrow it down?

“Did you ever meet any of them face to face?”

“Yeah, a few. I’ve done a few appearances for the book. Locally? There’s a guy who comes to mind, but I don’t think he’s your boy. He was a real Melvin, you know? He looked like a mamma’s boy. Not the kind who goes around shooting people in the face. I’ve met plenty of those guys in my day. You don’t forget them. You don’t turn your back on them, either. Not if you know what’s good for you.”

We’ve got two hardcases and one guy who looks like he’s a member of the local Woody Allen fan club. I guess you could say he’s a Melvin-type, right? We’ve called him that, haven’t we? No offense to anyone who’s really named Melvin, of course.

“Sarge, show him the picture.”

“Is this your guy?”

Here we go! For all the marbles!

“Yeah, that’s him. His hair’s longer in the picture, but that’s him. Where’d you get that? It doesn’t look like it was lifted from a bank camera.”

“It wasn’t. You’re sure this is him?”

“I’m positive. I don’t forget a face. What happened to his arm?”

His arm? We think he got shot in the arm, but you can’t tell from this picture.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because he looks like he messed it up. See how his elbow sticks out? He’s in pain. Trust me, I notice shit like that. See this?”

He’s rolling up his sleeve…wow! Nasty scar!

“You got shot?”

“August, ’02. Some old geezer saw my piece and clipped me when I was coming out the front door of a bank in Salt Lake. I was lucky he didn’t drill me right through the chest! Word to the wise: don’t mess with a Mormon. They don’t fuck around.”

And here I thought they were basically peaceful people. Who knew?

“I’ll remember that. So you actually met this guy?”

“Yeah, about a month ago. No…a little more than that. I was at a convention here at one of the hotels: anti-government shit, Area 51 nuts…”

Gee, it sounds just like someplace I know!

“And he was there?”

“After I gave my presentation, he came to my table and bought a copy of my book. Asked me a bunch of questions about the life, you know? It was weird, because the questions he was asking made me think he’d read the book already. About a week later, I start getting email questions from him. Real specific stuff: what do you do in this situation; what do you do if that happens? I got the feeling he was making a career change, you know? Definitely not the type I’d expect to go that route.”

“But you helped him out?”

“Did I answer his questions? You bet. That’s what the forum’s for. But I also told him if he was putting that shit to use, it was going to go bad for him. Every state around here comes down hard and heavy on your ass if you get popped for bank robbery. Arizona’s one of the worst, as I’m sure you guys already know.”

“That’s the least of their worries. These guys have graduated to murder.”

“And you think this Melvin is one of them? Hard to picture that, honey. I don’t think he’s got the heart.”

Neither do I, but unfortunately, he’s not in this alone.

“No, but his friends do. He’s running with a couple of real hardcases. I don’t suppose you know who they are?”

“Not a clue. I just remember that guy. He didn’t have nobody around him when I met him. Just him.”

I didn’t think we could be that lucky. Still, it’s a hell of a lot more than we had coming in here. I just wish we could tie this dickhead to the bank robberies. So far, all we’ve got is he bought one or two copies of a book and subscribed to a website.

“Do you have a name and address for this guy?”

“Probably. I’d have to bring up the records of the web chats, but I’m sure it’s on there somewhere. I got a girl who handles that stuff for me. I’ll ring her up and see if she can pull it.”

“We appreciate it. To be honest, we didn’t think you’d help us on this one.”

“Honey, guys like this give the rest of us a bad name. They pull shit like your guy did and the next thing you know, a real pro pulls a job and gets shot in the back for his trouble. That’s bad for everyone. I already know a few names; you know what I mean?”

I see his point, but the Sarge doesn’t seem convinced.

“Sarge?”

“And the idea that once we close this case and everyone finds out about your book and you end up getting sued didn’t factor into your decision to help us?”

“Well…let’s just say you wouldn’t be the first one to mention that to me.”

I’ll bet. Twenty-six thousand copies sold? People could be coming out of the woodwork to get a piece of him. I don’t know if they’d win, but it wouldn’t be any fun for him. At the very least, it’s the kind of publicity nobody wants.

He’s calling his friend. I hope we get a real name and not just a screen name from a chat room. Either way, it’s a start. It’s a solid lead. Shit, I’ll make the feds contact Anthony in Witness Protection and have him track this dork down if I have to! They killed a guy for nothing! This shit ends now! When we get back home, I want to be able to move on these assbags right away! Before anyone else gets killed!


The casino at the Bellagio Hotel. We had a nice dinner – well, I had a nice dinner. The Sarge ate his usual junk food, but he seems happy about it. Despite my protests, he insisted we come to the casino. I’m not going to let the old man lose his shirt, though. I’ve been here with cops and I know what they’re like when they start placing bets: they’re like junkies chasing a fix. It’s really pathetic. Pathetic bordering on disgusting, actually. And the worst part? I’ve never met one of them who knew squat about how to gamble. These games aren’t as easy as they look. The really stupid ones? They park their ass in front of a slot machine and watch their money disappear with every pull of the handle. It’s truly pathetic. Read a book on casino gambling before you come here, why don’t you? Learn about the mathematical basis for the odds and your probabilities of winning. Best-case scenario: you’ll discover it’s hopeless and stick to seeing the sights. Worst-case scenario: it gives you a fighting chance because you’ll read about the only two games in a casino where you have a prayer of coming out ahead – but only if you know what you’re doing.

That’s not to say I’m not having any fun. I am. Just not the sort of fun you’re probably thinking of. I’ve got a killer silk blouse and a miniskirt on and I’m hanging on to the Sarge’s arm like he’s my sugar daddy and I’m his arm candy. It’s driving him totally nuts! People keep looking over at us with this accusing stare on their faces; especially the old people. They’re horrified that I’m pawing all over a guy who’s old enough to be my father. I think they’re more incensed at him than at me. Half of them probably think I’m a hooker. The other half probably think I’m his daughter and we’ve got a very inappropriate father-daughter relationship! It’s all I can do to keep from busting out laughing! Oh, I’m not done messing with his head yet! When we get back to the room? I can drop this skirt with one yank on the tab! I’m seriously thinking about putting on a show for him and seeing if he’ll go for it. I almost had him before we left to go interview Prentiss, didn’t I? One more push and I might be in for one totally wild ride! I’m a terrible girl, aren’t I? Hey, it’s not like I don’t know it already! In fact, I happen to be quite proud of it!

“What do you think, Rane? How about the Roulette wheel?”

“Are you crazy? Do you know what the odds for that thing are? Thirty-seven to one against any particular number coming up! Bet on a color and the odds are just under two to one, but the bet pays one-to-one so you’re not going to get rich on it.”

“And you know this how?”

Is he kidding?

“I grew up here, remember? I know pretty much every game in the room. I’m also a math major. Pick a game and I’ll give you the odds.”

If he thinks I’m kidding, he’s in for the shock of his life. Well the shock of his life until I get him back to the hotel room, anyway.

“All right, princess. How about that one?”

Baccarat. It figures. People’s eyes often fall on the Baccarat table because it’s kind of a swanky game and the people playing it tend to be better-dressed than most of your casino dwellers. At night, you might even see a guy or two in a tuxedo with some hot babe in a killer evening gown on his arm.

“Baccarat? Are you having a seizure? You’ve been watching too many James Bond movies if you think you’re going to play that one! The dealer never has less than a fifty-one percent chance of winning no matter what you do, and the odds go downhill from there! Forget it! Pick another one!”

He seems a little disappointed. I don’t know why. It’s a sucky game: the cards are dealt, you turn them over, and whoever has a pair that adds up closest to nine wins. Boring! And he’s got to know I understand this crap. You can’t live in Vegas without learning a thing or two about gambling, right?

“What about that one?”

Keno? Now I know he’s having a brain seizure!

“Keno? A six-number draw and the odds of matching all six are just over seven thousand seven hundred and fifty to one! The odds get a little better if you shoot for a lower number draw, but if you manage to win any money at that game, I’ll go down on your right here in the casino! Forget it! It’s a total sucker’s game! Watch them for a while and you’ll see: most of those dorks don’t even know how to play! They’re just there for the runners!”

There’s a reason why a lot of Keno runners are hot girls in hot outfits. One of the casinos told me they’d hire me as a runner as soon as I turned twenty-one. It wasn’t for my math skills, if you know what I mean.

“What about a poker table? I know how to play poker.”

“And the house takes a cut of every pot, so even if you win, you lose! Besides, some of the other players are probably employees of the casino sitting in so there’ll be enough players! How do you bluff someone who isn’t playing with their own money? Next!”

“All right, what about Blackjack?”

Now he’s getting warm! You actually have a chance in Blackjack, but only at a single-deck table.

“If you have the ability to keep track of the cards that have been dealt, then you can turn the odds in your favor. But for every million people who say they know how to do that, less than one of them can really do it. I’m betting you’re not one of them, Sarge. And it looks like the single-deck tables are full. The one with the big shoe? There are six decks of cards in there! That’s three hundred twelve cards to keep track of as fast as they can deal them! Forget it! You’ll lose your shirt!”

“I’m playing one of these games, Rane! You’re not going to talk me out of it!”

And I see two old ladies looking at us with total disapproval! Time for some fun!

“Wouldn’t you rather take me back to the room and play with me, daddy? We could play that game where you tie me up and make me do all sorts of naughty things! Say you’ll play that game with me, daddy! Please?

And they look positively outraged! Outraged and disgusted! Bye, bye ladies! See? You can have all sorts of fun in here and you don’t have to spend a dime!

“Rane, I’m going to make you pay for this! One of these days, you’re going to pay for it!”

“Cool your jets, old man! You want to play a game where you’ve got at least a fighting chance? Come on, over to the craps table. I’ll show you where the best odds in the room are.”

It’s true. If you know where to place your bet on the table, you can lower the house’s percentage to practically zero. That’s not to say it’s a sure thing, but it’s as close as you’re going to get to it in this place. Well, unless he decides to man up and ask me to join him in a total bang-fest. If he did that, I’d say his odds of success are about one hundred percent! And it wouldn’t cost him anything, either!

Here we are. This is the game where everybody seems to think they’re an expert even if they’ve never even seen a real craps table. Don’t ask me why. They just do. Now, at first glance the table is pretty intimidating. Don’t worry about it. About ninety percent of the stuff on the cloth? Forget it even exists. They’re sucker bets. If you see someone betting on any of them, you know you’re looking at a total rube or a hopeless drunk.

“Now, listen up and take notes. First: never bet on a hard way number! The odds are something like ten to one against you depending on the number. The Big Six and Big Eight? Forget they exist. You don’t want to know the odds. Place bets? They suck, too. You want to play the free odds bet. It’s probably the best odds in the house.”

“OK, how do you do that?”

Did he actually just ask me how to place that bet?

“You’re asking me how to place a bet on a craps table? You’re not just going to pretend you already know everything about how the game is played?”

“If I already knew, I wouldn’t have to ask you, would I? You say you know this game; I want to learn, so teach me.”

That’s it! Grab his crotch right here in front of everyone!

“That is the sexiest thing any man has ever said to me! I am so fucking you when we get back to the room, buster! Anything you want! I’ll do whatever you say!”

I see I got the attention of pretty much every guy standing at the table! Hey, that was the point! It took a lot of guts for him to admit he doesn’t already know everything about the game! I happen to think that’s totally hot! I mean it, too!

“Just show me where to make the bet, Rane! Jesus Christ!

“All right. Now, the free odds is such a good bet that there’s no place marked on the table to put it. You have to know where and when to put your bet to get it. If the guy tossing the dice throws a point and you bet on the ’Come” line, you put another bet that’s the same amount just below your original bet. You’re betting the guy throwing the dice will make his point before he rolls a seven/eleven. You can do the same thing on the ‘Pass’ or ‘Don’t Pass’ or the ’Don’t Come” lines. Got it?”

“I think so. Just tell me where to put the first one.”

“Right there.”

I did tell him there were no guarantees, right? He could still lose on this thing. It just happens to be the best odds he’s going to get in here. All right, the guy threw a four. That’s a point.

“Make the same bet and put it right beneath your first one. Right there.”

Now we see if the guy makes his point before he craps out. Hey, he did it! Another four!

“You won! See?”

“How about that! What do I do now?”

“Just leave it all there along with your winnings. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s the best odds you’re going to find in here.”

I just hope he doesn’t get all addicted to this crap and I end up standing here for a couple of hours. I don’t like these places, remember? And I’m wearing five-inch stiletto heels. They’re not the most comfortable things to stand in.

“When do I get to shoot the dice?”

“After that guy craps out. Just wait. If he makes another point, take your chips and move your initial bet to the ‘Don’t Come’ line. Then you’re betting the guy won’t make his point before he craps out.”

Hey, never push you luck, right? I’ve heard the legends about the guy who made twenty points in a row, but I’ve never seen it happen. I think it only happens in the movies and in a little place called Bullshit Land.

He made it! The Sarge wins again!

“Pick up your chips and place a bet on the ‘Don’t Come’ line. If he rolls a point, do the same thing as you just did. You’re betting against the shooter now, so don’t be surprised if people start looking at you funny.”

“I don’t give a damn as long as I win!”

That’s the spirit, Sarge! Of course, it’s usually the first step on the slippery slope to ruin. Yet another reason why I don’t play these games. All right, he rolled another point. Time for the Sarge to place his free odds wager.

“Right there. Put it right there.”

That’s it! The guy crapped out! Can I call them or what?

“You won again! You’re up! You get to roll the dice. Just make sure they bounce against the end of the table or the roll doesn’t count and everyone will be mad at you.”

“This part, I know already! Just stand there, be quiet, and watch how it’s done, Rane!”

Oh, here we go! The “I know everything about this” monster is rearing its ugly head!

“Just keep quiet, Rane! This takes total concentration!”

Oh, really? Let’s see that famed military discipline handle this, old man! Just wait until he’s ready to throw and…

“Sarge, I’m not wearing any underwear.”

He blew it! He totally miffed the throw! Perfect! Absolutely perfect!

Rane!

And I give him the ’Who, me?” look! Hey, you’ve got to admit that was pretty funny! And it’s not like he doesn’t get a do-over. Wow! He’s really fuming, isn’t he? What can I tell you? How many times do I have to say it? I’m a naughty, dirty girl! It’s what I do! And I do it so well, don’t you think?

“Just throw it again and use that concentration you’re so proud of. Oh, and try not to think about how there’s nothing but a millimeter of satin between your thigh and my clit.”

“Rane, I’m going to kill you!”

I’ve got half a mind to grab his hand and stick it right between my legs! Hey, I wasn’t lying about not wearing any underwear! In this skirt? I didn’t want any panty lines showing through it. Besides, I don’t want anything getting in the way if he decides to man up and go for it. Consider it a little tactical thinking ahead. He taught me to do that, after all. He should be proud of me, right?

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