A Las Vegas Novel in 24 Parts
by Thomas Wollwo
This story is a product of National
Novel Writing Month, an opportunity for anyone who's ever
wanted to write a novel, but needed the encouragement or incentive.
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Breena stepped away from the gangway and entered the airport building
at McCarran. The first thing she noticed was the noise. The jingling
of slot machines overpowered every other sound at Arrivals. She
was feeling apprehensive, a stranger, and worried, not for the first
time, whether all that was a good idea.
She walked over to the slot machines and watched as a tired-looking
man well into his seventies fed quarters into it, on autopilot. He glared at the machine, not really looking, and sighed.
A lanky guy in his early thirties with a cowboy hat and a pink
dress shirt smiled at her. "Poor guy can't stop," he said. "He's
probably been here for 48 hours, not sleeping much. And if he doesn't
look out, he'll miss his plane. " He stuck out his hand. It was enormous. Breena shook it reluctantly. "I'm Malt," he said, winking rather
annoyingly. "I know, strange name. But a lot better than my real
one. First time in Vegas?"
Breena nodded. She didn't care much for the guy who looked at her
in her smart white Blouse and snug blue jeans (covering a killer
body which be discussed in some length in chapters 7, 13, 21 and
27) in a way that could only be described as "leeringly. " "First
time in Vegas, yeah," she said. "Are you a local?" Malt chuckled. "That's almost an insult," he said. "You could almost say that,
often asİ I'm here. "
Breena realized that she was talking to this guy a lot longer already
than she had originally planned and began to walk to the shuttle. Outside, a tremendous sunset was taking place and bathed what she
could see from the Strip in a reddish light. Malt followed her quickly.
"Are you in town for a vacation? Or for a conference?" he asked,
flashing her a toothy smile. "No and no" she said curtly. They arrived
at the shuttle to the main building and he followed her inside. The shuttle was packed. "Because there's a biiig conference in town,"
he said. "SEMA," he added, helpfully. "SEMA?" Breena asked despite
herself, blushing slightly. "Some automobile thingie," Malt said. "Lots of people in town who are a lot less interesting than me. "
They arrived at the main concourse and entered the main hall. Again,
there was a lot of noise, this time from huge screens blaring commercials. The blue men were doing their thing, there were posters for shows
from Cirque du Soleil everywhere. Breena realized with a sinking
feeling that her luggage wouldn't arrive anytime soon. Malt, obviously
knowing about McCarran's luggage handling speed, had seen her looking
at the ad. He sat down one of the luggage belts and began a lecture
in a very loud voice "Cirque du Soleil is French for Circus of the
Sun. It is a Canadian company which specializes in combining athletics
and artistry," - a small circle of bored tourists had formed now,
listening to the lanky guy with the pink shirt - "creating a dreamlike
ambiance that is like nothing else you'll ever see - and boring
as hell . " Some people from the now larger circle nodded and smiled. A guy in a grey suit with matching hair protested: "But what about
LOVE?" he asked.
"What about LOVE, indeed," Malt said dramatically, winking at Breena
again who had to admit to herself that even though he was annoying
as hell, his eyes were kinda nice. "LOVE actually doesn't suck. "
Before he could elaborate, the belt began to move and his audience
scattered. He lifted Breena's two huge suitcases off the belt,
carrying his own bag on his back. "Where to, fair lady?" he asked.
Breena wasn't very enthusiastic with this new development. "Give
me my bags," she squealed in a sightly higher voice than she had
planned. People looked. A girl giggled. Breena didn't like Malt
taking charge like that, but she also didn't care for being the
center of attention. "I'll take a cab," she hissed, following him
outside. He just grinned and pointed to an endless line of people
waiting for a taxi. "It's gonna take some time," he said, mischievously. "If you ask me nicely, I have another option for you. " Breena grabbed
her bags furiously from him, and tried to get to the guy in charge
of the line. Having little success because people simply wouldn't
let her, she called "how long's the wait?" "An hour or two," he
Disgusted, she turned back. She realized now it had become dark
pretty quickly. The air was still warm, though, and despite the
people and the cars, it was actually quite pleasant to be outside. It was definitely nicer than being outside at night in November
in Bismarck, she thought.
Malt just stood there, watching her quietly. "Just a ride into
town,,"" he said. "It's a casino limo. Nothing lewd can ever happen
in casino limo. " Breena looked at a her watch. She was getting hungry,
and it had been a long day.
"OK," she sighed,"but no funny stuff. " He took her bags again and
she followed him to a humongous stretch limo which was stationed
on the curb. The driver wore a black suit and dark glasses. "Good
evening, Mr Milk," he said. Breena had to stifle a giggle. "Really?"
she whispered to him. He just looked ahead stoically.
As the limo glided away, Malt asked her where she wanted to go. "I have to look it up," she said a bit sheepishly and got her list
out of her bag.
"Nov 1: the Plaza," she proclaimed. It sounded promising. Malt
made a face. "I can't tell him to drive there," he winced. "Didn't
you do any research? Do you have any idea what you're getting into?"
He was being very dramatic again, with the bold type and all. The
driver looked ahead stoically, but seemed to crack a tiny little
smile from what she saw in the rearview mirror.
"That's kind of the point," she explained. "I'm on assignment here,
you see. I started work at the Bismarck Bulletin. Three months ago,
I moved to Phoenix and I'm working for the Phoenix Picayune now. I do mostly local stuff. Then the owner of the paper - he's a bit
crazy read something I wrote about a pumpkin competition and decided
I was the right woman for the assignment, never having left Bismarck
"Which is. . . ," Malt offered. "I am to stay at a different hotel
in Vegas every night and to report back on it. It's supposed to
be a series, maybe a book. And I wasn't allowed any preparation
at all. So all I know about the town is from TV and some movies. And that Michael Jackson lives here. "
"And they'll call it the Vegas Virgin," she ended lamely. Malt
snorted the gin and Red Bull he had fixed himself through his nose
on this one. "Not like that!" Breena hissed angrily. "Of course
not," Malt said soothingly and wiped Red Bull cocktail from his
shirt and corduroy pants. The limo entered the highway.
"It's your lucky day you met me," Malt continued smoothly. "It's
my business to know about Las Vegas. I can tell you everything. "
Breena didn't bite. "That's fine," she said. "I'll manage. I'm a
trained journalist. " "How old are you?" Malt asked, "18? 19?" -
"21" she hissed back. "Mr Mouton, he's the owner of the paper,
made sure of that. " - "Of course he did," Malt mumbled.
"Mr Ronson," Malt said to the driver as the car hit the interstate,
"the lady stays at the Plaza. " The driver still didn't say a word. He just nodded. He seemed to be having fun, though. Breena looked
at the Strip on the right hand side of the road. It looked unbelievable. Even though she had seen it in countless shots in movies, it still
surprised he to see how bright the lights were and what outlandish
buildings were to be seen. A pyramid, a castle, a town, some humongous
greenish building - it seemed like a town in some sort of deranged
"21 is the legal age to gamble in Las Vegas," Malt said as they
passed signs for various strip clubs on the interstate. "You know
there's gambling in Las Vegas?" "You know you're an arrogant twerp?"
Breena bristled back. "I've seen gambling on TV. It looks like fun"
The limo took the downtown exit. It didn't look exactly glamorous. They passed a few vacant lots. "Oh it's fun all right, right, Mr
Ronson?" Malt said. The driver nodded again.
Downtown was a huddle of high-rise hotels, with some older low-rises
thrown in for good measure. As the limo came closer, the indistinct
blur of lights came into focus. There was neon everywhere, often
quite garish. Everything advertised something - cheap beer, cheap
buffets and cheap gambling. Breena noticed a few classier looking
signs. "Oh, these are old school. They put them up recently because
people start looking for Old Vegas again. Do you like them?" "Yes,"
Breena said, "I like those a lot better. " "Maybe there's hope for
you yet," Malt said. Breena saw a huge canopy between the hotels
as they approached the end of the street. "I saw this on TV," she
said. "Of course you have," Malt said with a flourish. "It's the
Fremont Street Experience. " You can watch it in a few minutes. "
The limo stopped in front of the Plaza. Breena got out as the Driver
got her luggage. As she watched the huge canopy on top of a whole
street came to life. All the neon signs in the street went dark. The show started, showing a cheesy country and western number. Breena
liked the sound, but the graphics were kind of lame. "What do you
think," Malt asked who had materialized at her side. "The commercial
at the end was cooler than the show," she said. Malt nodded as if
she had passed some kind of test. The bellman had loaded her bags
on cart and was coughing discreetly. She turned to him and realized
the limo had begun to drive away. "See you tomorrow," Malt shouted
as it disappeared down Main Street.
Breena shook her head and followed the bellman inside the Plaza. It was a lot less nice than what she'd read about the Plaza in New
York. The first thing she noticed was the smell. She couldn't put
her finger on it, but it seemed to be everywhere. The bellman saw
her sniffing and off-handedly said "You won't notice it after a
while. " The paper had pre-booked her and to her relief, her name
came up immediately. As she trudged to her room, she felt completely
bushed. She had planned to wander around for a bit, but she was
too tired for that. The room was shabby but there were two queen
beds and a couch, a table and a desk. The bathroom was tiny and
looked not particularly inviting. She didn't care much for the dÈcor. It was sort of flowery and a bit old. She brushed her teeth, slipped
something comfortable over her killer body and went straight to
bed. The last thing she thought before falling asleep was "What
did he mean, see you tomorrow?"
Breena wasn't sure where she was when she opened her eyes for a
few seconds. Then it all came back: she was in Vegas and supposedly
working on her assignment, writing a report on every hotel she stayed
at for the Phoenix Picayune's slightly crazy owner, Mr. KL Mouton. He had told her she'd get the name of her next hotel reservation
at the hotel's check-out counter, along with the day's assignment. She hadn't much to write about yet (she sure wouldn't want to write
about that Malt guy), she thought, so she'd better be starting her
reporting after freshening up really quickly.
Two and a half hours later, she left the tiny bathroom, feeling
refreshed. She had treated her killer body (which will, as might
remember, be covered in greater detail in Chapter 7 - but there's
a sneak peak in Chapter 3) to a long hot shower. It could have been
better with a more satisfying water pressure, she thought with a
wistfulness not yet encountered by this author in that character
before. She had shaved a legs thoroughly and did these millions
of things so important to women in bathrooms anywhere which remain
a complete mystery to men.
She felt famished all of a sudden. That was to be expected, as
she had had a fruit cup on the plane and a 100 Grand bar in the
evening, but not much else. So she left her room in search of breakfast.
As she wandered about the casino, she had to get used to her surroundings
again. They weren't especially inviting. The main casino featured
low ceilings and unpleasant amounts of smoke. The clientele consisted
mostly of tired-looking, slightly disheveled old men. One of these,
a guy with a particularly annoying fishy smell, came up to her and
tried to tell her about some urban myths even she, hailing from
Bismarck, had heard 10 years ago. He also shouted his mangled sentences,
riddled with mistakes even worse than in this text.
Breena was relieved when a burly security guard appeared to throw
him out. "That's enough, fish boy" he said with a Southern drawl. "Everything all right?" he asked after he had disposed of the vile
little man. "Why thank you, Mr Eagle," she said, glimpsing his name
tag. He was a big guy with a kind face who wore a uniform that looked
different from the ones the other guards wore. "Have you worked
here for long?" Breena asked. "All my life," Mr Eagle said. "I
like to teach people manners, I guess. " "Thanks again," she said.
Breena wandered around the Plaza some more, munching on a bagel
she had decided to have instead of a real breakfast. She didn't
see a lot she liked, though the mirrors around the escalator to
the dilapidated second floor we re somewhat cool. Other stuff had
obviously been changed. The gourmet restaurant had recently be turned
into a sports bar. The lounge had disappeared - only dancing was
still illegal, according to a sign that still remained. A woman
who was by all appearance from the Midwest moved lethargically across
the floor, moaning something like "Sunspots, oh my Sunspots. " Mr
Eagle who had seen Breena glancing worriedly at her said, "that's
just Amy. She can't get over Barrack closing the Omaha Lounge. "
Barack Obama closing a lounge named after a Dakota town didn't sit
well with Breena. She'd have to reconsider voting for him. "The
Sunspots used to perform here. These days, they're usually not
allowed outside the old people's home much. " Breena send a friendly
smile Amy's way who smiled back. "Such a terrible loss," she whispered.
Returning to the casino floor, she realized she had forgot her
watch in her room. There was no way to tell time - no clocks anywhere,
no windows in sight. She remembered she'd probably need to check-out
soon. "A different hotel every night," Mr. KL Mouton had cackled
merrily. "That'll keep your reports fresh. Remember to write something
about me, too. " KL Mouton was famously egocentric.
She returned to her room and carefully packed her bags, easily
filling the time until is was time to check-out (this author realizes
that she'll probably be doing that a lot and considers the use of
cut and paste to bolster word count at this time).
She headed to check-out and asked for messages. There was a note
saying just "Main Street Station. " She turned it over and sure enough,
there was her assignment for the day. It said, "Explore. " Breena
couldn't help to be a bit disgusted (as are probably most of this
author's readers). She had been expecting important tasks, hoping
she'd have to confront local super-villains by going undercover. Still, this sounded like a sensible task for her first day. The
crime lords could wait.
Breena asked the check-out person where Main Street Station was
located. The woman (who wore a nametag stating her name was Marcia
or Marsha, she couldn't see it clearly) looked at her suspiciously
and said: "it's just to your left. You'll have to walk a few hundred
yards. There's been a lot of discussion about whether it's OK to
walk all the way with luggage or if you have take a cab. Some people
think it's dangerous. I think that's ridiculous. It's bright day
outside, for heaven's sake! Personally, I think it's very walkable. But if you need a cab. . . " Breena managed toİ to say, "walking will
be fine" and smiled at her. She had a very nice smile, Breena did. Marcia or Marsha said, "Try the brewpub there, it's pretty good. "
Breena thanked her and stepped into sunlight.
Fremont Street looked completely different by day. The sun was
so bright, the neon seemed almost dull by comparison. The sky was
a perfect blue and she felt very comfortable without her jacket. As usual, she wasn't aware of the glances from some of the passing
men her tight t-shirt drew. She was very aware of the guy sitting
comfortably on a chair next to the exit, though. He was wearing
cowboy boots, a Hawaiian shirt which was buttoned at exactly one
button and violet velvet trousers. Shockingly, he also wore an Atlanta
Braves cap. "Oh that," Malt said, seeing Breena glance at the cap
in disgust, "I lost a bet and have to wear it all day. "
İ"You absolutely can't be serious," Breena shouted as Malt picked
up her suitcases easily and began to trudge over to Main Street
Station. "Give me back my suitcases right this minute!" She realized
that people were staring at her again. She did not like that one
bit and quickly followed Malt, who was whistling most annoyingly. "GiveÖmeÖbackÖmy. suitcase" she hissed. Malt ignored her and gave
a friendly wave to BR, who had been watching the scene. BR waved
back. Behind her, Mr Ronson was putting the chair back in the shiny
limo. The limo gleamed in the sunshine. Apparently, it had been
washed very recently. They passed a very old railway car. Breena
would have liked to watch it more closely, because it looked pretty
cool, but she had to keep track of Malt.
Malt said, very reasonably: "Listen, Breena, you need all the help
you can get. I'm willing to provide you with my vast experience
in this town. It'll help a lot. Your assignments are bound to be
very difficult, you being an important journalist and all. What's
your first one, by the way?"
Breena, a bit embarrassed,İ murmured something about corruption
in the Mayor's office. "See, I'm perfect for that. I know all about
corruption. " He slipped the security guard at Main Street Station
a 5 dollar bill.
"I don't NEED your help" Breena hissed again. The hiss didn't come
across as very threatening, though. It's hard to be threatening
when you're a petite blonde with shoulder-long hair, a basically
sweet disposition and a killer body. (this author personally remembers
some blondes of that kind who appeared very threatening at the time. They didn't have Breena's sweet disposition, though). She felt compelled
to be outraged some more. "I'll call police! I'll get a lawyer!"
she managed. "Police is busy chasing the Strevel," Malt said. "And
where do you expect to find a lawyer in this area at this time of
They entered the casino, and Breena looked around in surprise. Sure, there was the usual din of murmuring people and the inevitable
noiseİ of the slot machines. But the casino itself was so much nicer
than the Plaza it was surprising they should be next to each other. It was so much nicer that it shouldn't be in the same street as
the Plaza. It shouldn't be in the same county, or the same city,
either (this author realizes that, though this technique might be
somewhat effective in padding word count, it also is a sure way
to lose the remaining three people reading this. This author is
probably better off using shocking twists to keep them interested).
"Have you noticed that the high coved ceiling is inlaid with stained
glass and hung with chandeliers?" Malt said, sounding surprisingly
like a smarty-pants know-it-all website. "Personally, it reminds
me of a particularly fancy late Victorian rail station. " The room
was adorned with lots of wood and brass. An inviting bar featured
a paddle fan. There was just one customer sitting at the bar, a
guy in his late thirties playing video poker.
The casino was full of people, which struck Breena as strange at
lunchtime on a Friday. They passed actual windows with graceful
pillars. Entering the lobby, Breena saw long curvy benches, old
paintings and a naked lady clock. It didn't do much for her. She
told the guy at reception about her reservation. He looked at Malt
for a second and told her that her room wasn't ready yet until 3
and suggested lunch. "Just what I had in mind," Malt said and left
Breena's luggage with the bellhop. "I hear the brewpub is pretty
good," Breena offered. "You heard right," Malt said approvingly.
They went to the brewpub which was called Triple 7. Before Breena
could protest, Malt had ordered two filet mignon sandwiches and
two beer samplers. "You'll thank me later," he said with this annoying
little smile of his. "Isn't it a little early to be drinking?" Breena
said. But it was part of Vegas, she thought, being happy that she'd
practiced with her cousin Cameron back at home in one of the Dakotas
this author has absolutely no intention to keep apart because it
would involve some actual research. She really hoped there were
cocktails with lemon juice in Vegas.
Meanwhile, Malt was watching her dreamily. Here is a selection
of his thoughts:
- Man, I love that filet mignon sandwich
- She has a cute butt. Perky and still mysteriously round.
- I wonder when the beers will arrive.
- Shall I give her my gift now?
- She wears high heels that are just high enough. Any higher and
they would look slutty.
I really look forward to Chapter 7.
In the interest of fairness, here are Breena's thoughts:
- The sandwich sure sounds interesting.
- Some guys just can't stop staring for even a second.
- I wish I had worn sensible shoes today.
The beer sampler arrived, and Breena sampled all 5 of the homemade
brews. They were all excellent. She especially like the Pale Ale
and the Porter. Malt had already ordered a second round before the
sandwiched had arrived.
While they sipped there beers and waited for the food, there was
a commotion at one of the tables nearby. A guy with a British accent
kept telling a small circle of friends tawdry tales about some obscure
country called Germany. The stories were full of people of questionable
morals. Some of them seemed downright evil. Finally, in great agitation,
the man shouted "let's all go to the restroom and I'll show it to
you. " As Breena contemplated what kind of person would be considering
that kind of offer, Malt was already dragging her to the restroom. People were staring again. She'd better get used to that quickly,
So Breena entered a men's restroomİ for the first time in her life,
or, more correctly, was pulled into it (this author realizes that
his heroine isn't able to put up much of a fight, something some
of my more salubrious readers may find might come in handy in Chapter
14). The Brit launched into an explanation of the strange urinal
she saw in the restroom: it was a piece of the Berlin Wall, complete
with graffiti. Covered in plexiglass, it's purpose was painfully
clear, especially after the Brit offered to demonstrate. Breena
flew out the room, but had to admit to herself that while kind of
gross, it was also pretty cool (the Wall, not watching someone pee
against it). Too bad there wasn't anything like that in theirİ women's
restroom, as Malt was eager to tell her.
They returned to their table and were served their lunch. A filet
mignon sandwich had sounded questionable, but it tasted great. "You
may be obnoxious, but you know your way around food," she said to
Malt. Who grinned. Annoyingly.
"We've still got a lot of time until three," Malt said. "Why don't
we explore downtown for a bit. " Breena agreed.
As they left the casino, Malt asked "have you ever gambled at all?"
"Not on these games," Breena answered. "I don't know the rules,"
she added. "You'll have to try them sometimes," he said. "Maybe
that'll be one of your future assignments. "
Malt positioned himself on the corner of Main Street and Fremont
and pointed to the Golden Gate: "Downtown is where it all started. The Golden Gate is the oldest casino still in use today. They had
the first phone in town. Maybe you'll stay there too. The rooms
are tiny, though. "
Breena asked "How old is the town?" Malt explained that Las Vegas
was founded in 1905. "They celebrated the centennial 2 years ago. It was a pretty boring affair, with a giant cake and stuff like
that. But it's the biggest US town founded in the 20th century -
and it still grows like crazy. "
"Downtown has lost a lot of its thunder in the last decade or two. People like me still love it, for its bargains and good gambling. "
"There's good and bad gambling?" Breena asked. Malt just rolled
his eyes. " You have a lot to learn, young padawan. Anyway, in order
to keep Downtown going, they decided to build this canopy to draw
tourists. It works a little bit, but they destroyed a lot of the
charm of this place. And as you saw, the shows are pretty cheesy. "
They walked on down the Fremont Street Experience. As they passed
Vegas Club and approached Binion's, Breena noticed something curious:
a very portly man was standing on the side of the road. As he was
speaking in a loud voice to no one in particular, he seemed to be
spewing a lot of the food he was chewing all around him. He was
kind of blurry, though and Breena looked at Malt to see whether
he had noticed the tragicomical figure. As Malt completely ignored
him, Breena realized it would probably be best to do so, too.
Malt pointed out Binion's to her. "This is where the World Series
of Poker began. It used to be the most important poker event of
the year, until the Solar System Series of Poker came along and
effectively buried it. It also helped that Harrah's managed to pretty
much spoil it like everything they do, of course. " The name Harrah's
drew a blank from Breena. "This is getting tedious," Malt sighed. "Good thing I have a gift for you later. The casinos in Las Vegas
are mainly controlled by two large corporations, Harrah's and MGM
Mirage. People like to call it the Duopoly. There are plenty of
smaller companies in the business, but these two control most of
the big Strip resorts. They have a tendency to ruin good things. And prices have soared during the last 20 years. That's not only
because of the lack of competition, but also because many customers
coming to Las Vegas are morons. " Breena nodded. She had already
met a few of them and wasn't that sure about Malt. "There are those
kids who have plenty of cash and simply don't care whether their
cocktail costs $20; their hotel room comes to $350 or whether their
odds at gambling suck. I don't mind paying a lot of money for something
really good but I hate to waste money. Many tourists just don't
care about value anymore. And of course the big corporations milk
that for all it's worth. "
"Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of bargains to be found
in Las Vegas. If you keep your eyes open, you'll find there are
a lot of specials, too. Not all of them are good, and you have to
know your way around town to find them, but this is what Las Vegas
is about to me. It can be a fantastic experience here if you know
where to go, what to do and especially what to skip. If your writing
concentrates on that, it might be useful to some of your more intelligent
and likable readers. " Malt had to inhale at this point and Breena
was able to get a question:"But doesn't everyone know that Las Vegas
is controlled by the Mafia?"
Malt rolled his eyes again. "There used to be a time when the Mafia
was in control of the city. In the Fifties, Moe Dalitz, the head
of a Chicago crime syndicate, owned the Desert Inn, one of the greatest
hotels this town has ever seen. The mob ties of many others were
well known, and of course, crime and Vegas were a perfect fit. It
gave the mob a certain respectability and endless opportunities
to fix the games, launder money and generally police the city.It's
kind of funny that many people think back fondly to these days. They say the streets were safer and violence stayed where it belonged,
with the criminals amongst themselves. I'm not so sure about that. But it must have been great to enjoy Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin
at the Copa room at the Sands or even Liberace at the Riviera. "
"What drove the gangsters out of Vegas?" Breena asked. This was
interesting stuff. "There was a huge public outcry against the Mob
and the vices in the city in the Sixties. It was called the diatribe,
and while it brought a lot more people into town who LIKED vice,
the politicians finally were forced to do something against it. Basically, the corporations who came in and realized that there
was a lot of money to be made without breaking the law quite so
obviously. They're no saints, either there's a current scandal
about fire safety at Harrah's properties that certainly brings old
times to mind. The most prominent more or less legitimate figure
to enter the casino market was Howard Hughes. He bought the Desert
Inn, entered it secretly and didn't leave again for four years. "
"I've seen the Aviator," Breena said. "Then you know quite a bit
of the story. He bought so many casinos that he became Vegas' largest
casino operator. There are rumours he bought one because its sign
disturbed his view and he bought it to be able to take it down. "
- "What happened then?" Breena asked. "Well, after that, the megaresorts
arrived. You see the Golden Nugget here on the right? You shouldİ
explore it more thoroughly later on. It's the best place to stay
in downtown if you get a good rate. That's where Steve Wynn earned
his wings. He turned it into a million-dollar affair and went on
to invent the megaresort when he built the Mirage. But that's another
story I'm getting thirsty. " "You just had 10 beers," Breena
scolded. "There's room for more," Malt assured her happily. They
went inside the bar at the Nugget. Breena discovered happily that
they did carry Bourbon Sours there. Cousin Cameron would be pleased. She still virtuously ordered a Diet Coke. "So what did this Wynn
character do?" she asked.
"When he opened the Mirage in 1989, there hadn't been an opening
of a major resort for 16 years. Wynn cast all conventional wisdom
aside and built a sprawling resort with a tropical theme. There's
still the volcano out front just to make people visit and gawk. It worked extremely well, and even though the Mirage has certainly
aged, it's still one of the nicer places to stay. The building
boom of the Nineties was next which basically made the city the
place it is today. "
"So today the city is safe?" Breena asked. - "It usually is. There's
been some shootings near the Strip in the past months which didn't
get a lot of space in the papers, but when you know where to go
and especially where not to go, there's no need to worry about safety
excessively at any time of day or night. Just don't ever ask to
substitute tomatoes at Ellis Island. They got a back room there
just for questions like this. You wouldn'tİ want someone to break
your pretty legs, now would you?"
This seemed to be one of the strange inside jokes Breena had no
chance of getting, so she let it slide. "I'll show you one of the
most delicious things you'll ever eat now" Malt said and got up
from the bar, letting her go ahead in order to ogle her butt some
more. They crossed the street and entered a small casino called
Mermaids. It was awful: there was the clanging of slot machines
everywhere, almost no room to walk and some high-level bullying
to play the machines. Worst of all, the beads they handed her at
the door totally didn't go with her outfit. Malt ordered a strange
food called fried twinkie and wolfed his down in a second (no wonder
that he looked as if he added a few pounds quite recently). Breena
insisted on leaving first before trying hers. She had to spit it
out again immediately, though. She remembered her good upbringing
and tried to spit it out daintily. She failed. "What's that over
there," she said, pointing to the sign "The Girls of Glitter Gulch
at the beginning of the Fremont Street Experience. "Oh, you'll find
out, I'm sure," Malt muttered darkly.
"So what do we do next," she asked. "I don't know what you'll do
next, Breeniebaby. " Malt said. It was one of the most awful nicknames
Breena had ever heard. "I for one have to work. " he added. "But
from what I've heard you tell me you'll need lots of help. So I
brought you the much hinted-at gift. " He produced a little gadget
that looked a lot like a PDA. Only it was neon green and bright
pink. "The Malt-O-Matic 2007 (version 1.2), İMalt proclaimed proudly. "It knows everything one could ever want to know about Las Vegas. You just turn it on here" he flipped a switch and there was an
image of Malt doing his obnoxious little wink on the PDA and then
you can type in any question you might have. It's a prototype, and
I put lots of work into it, so don't lose it. The information is
generally reliable, but the Malt-O-Matic somehow seems to be having
a bit of an attitude. No idea where that comes from. " Breena took
the gadget somewhat reluctantly, fully expecting an electric shock. But it was pleasant to hold in her hand, cool to the touch and humming
softly. It only hurt to look at its design. Much like it hurts to
look at Malt, Breena thought. She put it into her purse hastily,
so nobody would notice the poor colour coordination with her outfit.
Malt walked her back to the corner of Fremont and Main, where the
black limo with Mr Ronson already waited. "It's a miracle he found
the way here twice in a row" Malt muttered under his breath. Ronson
gave Breena a casual wave and smiled very briefly (he didn't seem
to be the smiling kind), Malt told her "see ya soon," and got in
the limo which drove away with screaming tires. Breena felt a little
lonely, but decided that it was finally time to check in at Main
There had been a staff change since her last visit apparently,
since there was a lady in charge now. Her nametag said Marge, and
she was exceedingly friendly. She asked whether Breena was a light
sleeper, explaining that because to the closeness to the railway
tracks, a higher floor would be preferable. "So let's see a low
odd room number on a high floor would be best for you. There's free
wi-fi in the lobby, if you want to fire up that hideous thing in
your purse. " Breena hastily hid the Malt-O-Meter from view, thanked
her and carried her baggage up to the 12th floor. The view wasn't
that much to write home about, but she could see some of the Strip's
lights in the distance. The room was clean with modest furnishings
including decent resting chairs with ottomans. The casino theme
of Victorian antiques was obviously ignored in the rooms. The bed
was comfortable and İthe bathroom bland, but functional. There was
shampoo and lotion waiting for her.
Breena studied the hotel directory and found out that Main Street
station didn't feature a pool. That was very disappointing, because
she had looked forward to spend the last daylight hours catching
some rays and maybe even writing a word or two for the newspaper. She suddenly remembered the gadget Malt had given her. Breena turned
it on, ignored the picture of a winking Malt (who had, for some
reason, a train near his head) and typed in "Pool at Main Street
Station?" The screen flashed quickly and displayed the following
text: "There is none. Although we would never recommend it, it's
possible to sneak over to the Plaza and use its roof-top pool. Otherwise,
see if you can use the California's, which has the same owners and
is across the street. " That was impressive, Breena thought. She
said, "Thank you" somewhat tentatively, but of course, there was
no answer. Impulsively, she taped "how do I get into the pool at
the Plaza. " The machine displayed "Jump!" then, after an annoying
sound effect, changed the displayed message to "just walk in there
as if you belong. You're cute. You go girl. " She thought that to
be somewhat inappropriate, but still helpful.
So Breena packed her tiny purple bikini, a beach towel and her
laptop and strolled over to the Plaza. She took the elevator to
the rooftop and the pool boy couldn't help her get a lounge chair
fast enough. Breena peeled herself out of her snug blue jeans and
tight little t-shirt and displayed her assets to an appreciative
audience of two middle-aged men. The two even stopped their animated
conversation for a few minutes. They were talking very quietly,
so Breena couldn't understand a lot, but it sounded a lot like an
Abbott and Costello routine. She closed her eyes for a second and
realized she had only been in town for under 24 hours. It promised
to be an interesting trip.
She opened her eyes and realized it was getting chilly. The sun
was setting and she quickly put on her clothes to the obvious disappointment
of the two gentlemen who decided to depart as well. In the elevator,
she couldn't help but overhearing the gentlemen's conversation:
"I believe you proved your point, Norm," one said. "You didn't post
for six months and you're still alive. People worried, people grieved
don't you think it's time to return?" "Well, Bob," the other man
said, pronouncing "Bob" curiously, as if in italics or something,
"you know I like to keep people on their toes. " Breena decided that
people visiting Vegas definitely WERE strange.
She returned to her room and changed into something more appropriate
for the evening. It was a slinky black dress, which looked great
combined with her black stockings and blond hair. "Maybe I should
try gambling for a bit," she thought. "that might give me something
to write about. " She decided to consult the Malt-O-Meter again and
typed in "which game should I play?" The machine quickly displayed
"with fire," showing that Malt picture again, before launching into
the following rant.
"Oh, the wonders of gambling! The places you'll see! The choices
you'll make! The money you'll win!" There was an angry beep, the
machine reset and continued in a more quiet manner: İ"Las Vegas
is what it is because of gambling. Over any extended period of time,
the casino always has the mathematical advantage, known as the house
edge. This is why any system claiming to "beat the house" is usually
a hoax. The house edge varies wildly from game to game. If you're
only into it for short-term fun, you only need to avoid the sucker
games, like the Big Wheel, Keno or dating any men except Malt. The
main games available in most casinos are video poker, slots, craps,
regular poker, roulette, sports betting and betting on horses. "
"Maybe that's what cousin Cameron back at home in one of the Dakotas
always meant when he was talking about "taking care of the horses". "
She had always thought it was something about to caring for a pony. Didn't he used to mention "playing the ponies"? She continued to
read: "The intricacies of gambling are too complex to cover completely
in an introductory article even in a machine as awesome as this
Somewhat frustrated, she typed in "SO WHAT GAME SHOULD I PLAY???"
"Erm, right. " printed the machine. "For storytelling purposes,
this machine suggests to start with video poker. It should be easy
for you to find someone to explain the intricacies to you, as hot
as you're looking right now. If you'd like to have a drink with
that, there are video poker machines at almost every bar in Vegas. There's a pretty good one here at Main Street station. And there
are usually interesting people there, too (hint, hint). " "What a
strange machine," Breena thought. It's almost like it was invented
for driving the story along, she might have added, if she hadn't
been blissfully unaware that she was the heroine of a story at all
and that thousands of male readers were only reading on because
they waited for Chapter 7 (this author is painfully aware of his
storytelling limitations. So war, sex appeal seems to work, though).
Breena entered the bathroom to do her stuff (there will be no mention
of the kind of shaving DocTom seems to know an awful lot about. Unless it proves to be necessary for character development). Dolled
up, she got her purse, stuffed her taser gun and Malt-O-Meter into
it and proceeded to the bar. After that awful twinkie, she didn't
feel an immediate need to eat at this point.
She approached the bar and noticed that there were a lot of people
by now who seemed to have a terrific time. Miraculously, just as
she started thinking about moving somewhere else, a woman got up. Breena quickly grabbed her chair and proceeded to check out her
surroundings. On her right, there was an old lady with silver-blue
hair and a foul mouth. She kept cussing every time she didn't win
and threw back tequila shots as if there was no tomorrow. On her
left side, there was a man who was just a tiny weenie little bit
overweight, drinking a beer, playing video poker, holding his left
hand with the stunning woman on his left side AND chatting amiably
with the bartender who was a very good looking African American
who somehow looked as if he could play pinball very well. He turned
away from multitasking man and asked Breena "What'll you have?"
Breena ordered a Bourbon Sour and watched how her neighbours played
their machines. She knew the basics: You got 5 cards, could decide
which to hold and which to discard and got replacements for the
discarded ones. If you got a winning combination, you won. Multitasking
man had a friendly face she couldn't see for long as it dived into
the face of the lady sitting beside him for prolonged periods of
time, locking lips. To her disgust she saw he wore a fanny pack. He must have seen her horrified expression, as he said, "It's a
very fancy fanny pack, you know. It's made of leather. " That didn't
alleviate her pain one bit, but she tried to remain civil, because
the guy seemed her only immediate chance for video poker help (the
blue-haired lady had taken to pounding the machine with her fists,
shouting obscenities). "No, it's veryÖunique," she said. "I'm Breena,"
she said and held out her hand. "I'm Andrew," the man with the fanny
pack said, and this is (your choice, gentle reader) a) a hooker,
b) Francine, the wife of my pal Cyberhog or c) my charming wife
Darlene. " (This author bears Andrew absolutely no grudge that there
hasn't been one single favorable comment about this story yet. As
this author also is very fond of Andrew and his charming wife Darlene,
he'll try the last sentence again:) İ"I'm Andrew," the man with
the fanny pack said, "and this is my charming wife Darlene. " Breena
smiled at Darlene who smiled back (now don't you get any ideas,
Hog). "I'm interested in learning about this game," Breena said
to Andrew as her Bourbon Sour was served. "I've got half a lime
and I'm not afraid to use it," the bartender said. This didn't make
any immediate sense, but sounded cool somehow (and this author realizes
that this story is in desperate need of cool right now).
"I'll be glad to explain it to you," Andrew said. "Video poker
is a game that, when perfectly played on a machine with a very good
pay table, can reduce the house edge to next to nothing or even
turn into a positive expectation game. There are very different
video poker games in town, and their pay tables also vary widely. It's easiest to stick to one game like Jacks or Better in the beginning. "
He demonstrated how to select the game from the machine. "Now, the
pay table is very important if you play quite a lot, like I do,
because in the long run, your chances of breaking even are better. It's a bit complicated for beginners, and if you just want to have
fun for a few minutes, it's perfectly OK to choose another machine"
"Lies!" The blue-haired lady screamed. "We purists only play 10-7
JoB in any event? Next thing you'll tell her she doesn't have to
play 5 credits?" "It's true," Andrew continued," that playing
with 5 coins is the usual way to go, as you'll only get the highest
pay out for the best hand, the royal flush, when playing maximum
bets. You'll lose credits 5 times as fast that way too, though,
so for very casual gamers who realize they just don't want toÖ"
"Blasphemy?" the blue-haired lady shouted. "Blasphemy. " Breena
realized that it would probably be quieter if she played 5 credits. She inserted a 10 dollar bill into her machine. "Now, the denomination
of the game is also important. One credit can equal a penny, a quarter
or even five dollars. Most people play a quarter, five credits. "
Breena chose the appropriate buttons. "You try to get combinations
like on this pay table. A pair of jacks or better pays the amount
you have wagered, for example. Breena pushed the "Deal" button and
was dealt a jack of hearts, a king of hearts, an ace of hearts,
a queen of hearts and a seven of spades. She quickly held the Ace
and beamed at Andrew when she got dealt another Ace. "I've won,"
she shouted. The blue-haired lady made a gurgling sound and fell
out of her chair. As the hubbub of the paramedics died down, Andrew
tried to explain what she did wrong: "there's something called basic
strategy. It means that you should play according to the probability
of you getting a good hand. In this case, you had four to a Royal. That means you should have held the four cards for a chance to get
the 10 of Hearts. " "So this is why the lady had a heart attack,"
Breena marveled. "Well, I didn't like her much anyway," she concluded. Andrew handed her a card with the basic strategy rules and said,
"It's OK to use them. Nobody will look at you strangely for that. Well, the old lady might have. "
Breena downed two more Bourbon Sours during the rest of the evening
and continued to play. After thirty minutes, the ten dollars were
gone. She made the second ten last for an hour and decided to call
it a night. Even for a girl who could hold her liquor, she had had
a lot of alcohol for one day. As she said good night to Andrew and
Darlene, she said: "I noticed you don't use a player's club card. You should ask someone about comps soon! Andrew will be conveniently
here at the bar for any story development that might need him until
the end of the novel" Andrew nodded helpfully and waved her good-bye.
Breena stumbled back to her room and lay down. She considered briefly
playing with her new toy some more, but fell asleep too quickly,
oblivious to the faint sounds of the train from down below.
She woke up with a mild hangover. Dang Bourbon Sours, she thought. She dragged herself into the bathroom again and did her stuff. Some
of it several times. Then she realized how hungry she was. Naked,
she grabbed the Malt-O-Meter and sat on the bed, just inches from
where her body would have been reflected in the mirror, making a
detailed description possible. She switched on the machine and realized
the picture of Malt had changed. He had a golden glow around him
now. Even his face was yellow. If this was supposed to make him
look any better, it failed, Breena thought.
She typed in "Best breakfast downtown. " The machine made an approving
sound and showed the following text: "What is the best? Best is
the superlative form of good. Can there be any objective best in
something as subjective as taste? Won't a question like that lead
to disagreements, arguments, fights even? Who can say that he has
eaten all the breakfasts available downtown? And whose taste should
be so superior to all the other tastes to decideÖ" Annoyed, Breena
shook the gadget. There was a little yelp and the text changed:
"The best breakfast. Right. Downtown, I'd recommend Carson Street
CafÈ or the Bay City Diner at the Golden Gate which is closer. You
can always choose a buffetÖ" Breena looked irritated and started
to shake the gadget again, which printed hastily "Öbut for your
personal needs, I'd say Bay City Diner. " "That wasn't that hard,
right?" Breena said and caught the phrase "but there is some room
for discussion" on the screen before the device switched itself
off. Breena could have sworn the little machine looked reproachful,
but that was ridiculous.
She selected a brown skirt which showcased her perfect calves and
a white blouse and got dressed quickly. She went through the casino
and took the escalator to the first floor. She entered the California
via the walkway and crossed Fremont Street to enter the Golden Gate. The snack bar was still closed, unfortunately. The gadget in her
purse beeped. She took it out carefully, hiding it from the views
of passers-by. The clientele of the Golden Gate was not interested. On the display, Breena read: "One of the best bargains in Las Vegas
is the shrimp cocktail in the snack bar of the Golden Gate. It features
a $1 shrimp cocktail with a tangy horseradish sauce. While the quality
of the $1 cocktail isn't that great, the deluxe version for $2.99
is excellent value. Some evenings, live piano music is featured. The legendary shrimp eating contests scheduled here annually had
to be cancelled when its ringleader was banned from the casino for
life. Unfortunately for you, it's closed now during the morning. It used to be openÖ" Breena turned the gadget off. There could be
something like too much information, she thought.
The Golden Gate showed its age. If Breena had been a bit more patient,
this is what she could have read in the Malt-O-Meter 2007: "Some
call it quaint, others call it cramped and old. We like the old-fashioned
charm, the piano player and the fair games. You say tomato, we say,
"Another Heineken, please?" And about the Diner: "Bay City Diner:İNot
to be confused with the Bay City Rollers, the lame teen heartthrobs
from way back when, this place offers the usual diner fare. It's
one of the better coffee shops in town, and one of the best downtown,
at prices that are completely reasonable. The specials that run
all day are a downright bargain. Oh boy, their cups of joe are hot
and delicious. " Oblivious to all that information, Breena choose
a booth and ordered an American breakfast and a Bloody Mary. Yes,
she was that kind of girl. The food was perfectly OK for the little
money she was spending, and Breena was in a good mood: the weather
was nice, the hotel was well suited to her needs, the food was good,
the assignmentÖ She had forgotten about the assignment. There had
been nothing in it about actually writing it, she rationalized. Explore she should and explore she did. But because she was basically
a nice (if exceptionally hot-bodied) mid-western girl, she sighed
and pulled out her laptop.
Unfortunately for his readers, this author has decided not to share
what she wrote with her for now. With enough encouragement, this
could change in the future, but for now, it's no use reminding everyone
that pretty much everyone (especially Breena, not only an exceptionally
hot-bodied mid-western girl, but also a trained journalist) writes
wittier stuff than this author does.
One hour later and exactly 500 words later (Breena was nothing
if not efficient), she closed her laptop and returned to Main Street
Station. Check-out was looming, and she packed her stuff as rapidly
as she could. The nice Ms Rogow handed her her pre-paid bill and
two sheets with today's info. "Golden Nugget" was written on one
sheet, the other said, "Visit the following stores and buy the appropriate
items: Bonanza Gifts fuzzy dice; Love Jones fuzzy handcuffs,
Bare Essentials Fantasy Fashions - schoolgirl outfit;İİ Paradise
Electro Stimulations - your choice. " Breena had to say that this
was a very strange assignment. She certainly loved to shop, but
what in the world was she supposed to do with fuzzy dice? Ms Rogow
was able to help her, though: she knew exactly, positively and for
certain where Bonanza Gift was located.
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