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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She returned to her room at Wynn and found another message on her
phone. This time, it said "Don't you!" in the same garbled voice.
Also, there was a note with an assignment on her pillow. This was
going too far, Breena thought, but looked at it anyway. The note
said "Texas Station" on one side, and the following on the other:
"Sorry to inconvenience you. But you really need to get up early.
Be at the check-in desk at 6.30 sharp. This is your day's itinerary.
See Red Rock turn red. Obtain a urinal line pass at Red Rock Station.
Eat at the best restaurant off the Strip. Conquer Mount Charleston.
Also, it's about time you found out about the best-kept secret in
This really enraged Breena for several reasons. First, she hated
getting up early. Second, this wasn't a proper assignment any more,
just some gibberish notes. Third, she certainly did not want to
check out of this gorgeous room early. And what was that crap about
a secret? Muttering dark threats against kl mouton, the beancounters
at corporations everywhere and, most unfairly, this author, she
finally fell asleep.
The alarm clock went off at 6 sharp. Breena sighed very loudly,
a sound ordinarily pleasing to male listeners anywhere, but in this
case conveying a deep and unusual dissatisfaction very succinctly.
She dressed up in record time and managed to fix her hair, brush
her teeth and pack her stuff in 25 minutes (if there is a price
for the most unlikely incident in this story (and there are many),
this would probably win). She still looked stunning, but felt like
hell. When she checked out at reception, a check-out guy pointed
to the general direction of the exit and said "There's a car waiting
outside for you."
Breena sighed again and went outside with her luggage. Sure enough,
there was the black limo. Mr Ronson was nowhere to be seen, although
the joke about his not showing up went unfunny 5 chapters ago. Malt
was looking worse than the day before, his bruises having turned
an ugly green-yellow with some unlikely swellings thrown in for
good measure. "I'm not a morning person," he grunted "and I got
more important things to do than driving you around." What a grump,
Breena thought, though she wasn't sure whether a dour Malt might
have the chance of annoying her less. "Let's make that quick," he
said. Have you got the navigator?" Breena just stared at him "It's
way Ýtoo early for your obscure questions," she snapped. "The na
‚ vi ‚ ga ‚ tor," Malt said, very very slowly (I just found out
that Word counts this as four words! What an op - por - tu - ni
- ty!). "The machine I gave to you? The little gadget? The Malt
‚ O ‚ Matic?" ‚ Breena realized that this was not the time for further
testing her gentle reader's patience and quickly produced the Malt-O-Matic.
"It doubles as a navigational device," Malt said, somehow attaching
it to the dashboard. "Where do we have to go?" "We need to see Red
Rock turn red," Breena said. Malt grunted and turned the machine
on. An obscenely cheerful picture of Little Malt appeared on the
screen, sporting bull's horns for some reason. A little arm appeared
and pointed to the left. "Why they couldn't choose a better looking
guy for this thing is beyond me," Big Malt grumbled. Breena sensibly
failed to point out that at least the cartoon Malt wasn't covered
They turned left on Las Vegas Boulevard and made good progress.
The device let them on the beltway and they were at Red Rock in
25 minutes. The weather was perfect, cool and clear. A ranger at
the park's entrance took the $5 charge per car from Breena. The
mountains were glowing in the red light, and as they drove along
the scenic drive, the sun went up completely, changing the colors
of the rocks with every minute. They stopped frequently along the
way, enjoying the desert scenery so close to the bustling city.
There were almost no other cars, and they were alone wherever they
chose to leave the car. Breena enjoyed the quiet most after all
the hectic sounds of the city. Malt was quiet, too, which added
to her enjoyment, after he had asked her whether she wanted to join
the "Red Rock club." It was clear his heart wasn't in it, though
‚ he was preoccupied with something. Still, he looked at bit less
grumpy. Breena had to concede that, tired as she was, there was
no place in Las Vegas she would have preferred to be right now.
She was sure glad she brought her jacket, though, as it was quite
chilly. They finally finished the scenic road after having spent
several hours there. The sun was out in force by now, and Malt's
mood improved as Breena removed her jacket and offered him a nice
view of her ample cleavage. They headed to Red Rock Casino. It was
very close by, and Breena explained to Malt about the urinal line
pass assignment. He was puzzled by it as well, but said they'd just
have to ask around. They parked the car and admired the view of
the Strip from afar. A smoke cloud could still be seen where only
yesterday the New Frontier had been located. Ýand headed to the
entrance. Breena was very surprised how stylish everything was.
The building was made of sandstone and just looked like a desert
retreat. There were some water features in the entrance area, and
a Palm was growing though an ingeniously constructed spot in the
roof in front of the building. She thought it looked old in a cool
way, though it was obviously spanking new, as if the architects
had tried to evoke the feel of a bygone era, the late Fifties or
the Sixties, perhaps.
Inside, the design was much more modern. There were surprising
choices of color like bright reds and earthy browns, and the materials
used were eclectic. There were crystal chandeliers and lots of fine
woods, all blending seamlessly together. Some of the designs seemed
a bit too much for Breena, especially at the amount of what seemed
to be Swarovski crystal, but she wouldn't have expected this kind
of design at a casino so far from the Strip. "This is a local's
casino," Malt said, somehow guessing her thoughts. "Local's casinos
traditionally were built for the people who lived here or moved
here and in some cases spend some hefty amounts of their pay check
at the casinos.Ý The casinos tended to lure customers with better
odds and pay tables and promotions. You heard about comps before,
right?" Breena nodded, remembering how the Grand Poobah had explained
the intricacies of comps to her. "The biggest owner of local's casino
is the Station chain." Breena remembered having been at Boulder
Station when she met Walt. She sighed prettily. Malt pretended not
to notice. "They started to go upscale with Green Valley Ranch in
Henderson. Red Rock Station was their latest casino to open, and
your scheduled to stay tonight at Texas Station, which is one of
their older properties with more reasonable prices. A night here
or at Green Valley Ranch is almost as much as a night at one of
the fancy Strip places" (a main reason why this author has yet to
stay there. A comped night offered by the Grand Poobah seems highly
unlikely at this point).
The casino itself wasn't as vast as some of the other places she
had been to, but still big enough to get lost in. It didn't feel
as claustrophobic as the downtown places. It also seemed to be sporting
every kind of game known to Breena. Malt looked at the Craps tables
longingly and said "I could teach you how to play ‚ it's my favorite
game." Breena replied: "I'm sorry, but I'm supposed to wait for
an expert to explain it, this author is telling me, so he can do
some more name-dropping and keep some more people interested."
They looked around for some hint about where to find the line passes.
The slot club didn't know about them. Finally, they were approached
by a burly security guard who asked whether he might be able to
help them "BR!" Breena exclaimed, "What are you doing here?" ‚ "Told
you I was working freelance back in chapter one, right? This author
thought it would be convenient to let me appear at various spots.
What are you looking for?" Breena explained about the urinal line
passes and BR looked a bit flustered. "Err ‚ I certainly know about
them," he said, "but you shouldn't. They are one of the most exclusive
comps you can get ‚ usually you need..." ‚ "ÖGrand Poobah status
for that, I know," Breena finished his sentence. "But couldn't you
make one tiny little exception for me? I promise I won't sell them
on ebay or anything." BR turned away, and she couldn't very well
see what he was doing, but it looked a lot like he was scribbling
something on a cocktail napkin. "I present to you your urinal line
pass," he said and offered it to Breena with a flourish. "Do you
need one to," he asked Malt. "For you, it'll be $50." Malt cunningly
negotiated the price down to $35 and entered the restroom full of
vigour. There was some noise coming out of the restroom after that
and BR steered Breena away from it. "Don't you need to check that
out?" Breena said, worried. "Some things sort themselves out by
themselves," BR said and sure enough, Malt reappeared soon after,
sporting a brand new bruise over his left eye. "That guy sure didn't
appreciate Grand Poobah status," he muttered. Breakfast time had
long passed, and Breena suddenly felt famished. "Time for lunch,"
she announced. "That's easy," Malt said. "The best restaurant off
the Strip happens to be in this area ‚ it's Rosemary's Restaurant."
They said good-bye to BR who was left to ponder an uncertain future
in this story, and returned to their car.
The ride to Rosemary's was indeed short, and they parked in a strip
mall that didn't seem to promise much in terms of culinary adventures.
They saw a huge bar as they entered, and Breena was surprised how
busy it was on a weekday for lunch. They were offered seats at the
bar, but politely asked for a table (Breena did, Malt shouted "a
real table for a real man," which the maitre d' politely ignored).
The room was attractive, but certainly not overbearing. They were
offered lunch menus, and Breena discovered to her delight that a
$23 lunch deal was being offered (this author kicks himself at this
point for not taking advantage of that on his last two trips and
might be inclined to take Bill from Houston up on a certain lunch
offer for his next trip. If there is one. This author sighs melancholically.
If there is such a word). It was an extraordinary offer and a great
selection, and Breena had a hard time to choose three courses. She
finally went with Hugo's Texas BBQ Shrimp with Maytag Blue Cheese
Coleslaw. Malt went with Dry Aged Beef & Maytag Blue Cheese Carpaccio
with Arugula, and both agreed that this was some of the best food
they had ever had. The main courses were Pan Seared Hawaiian Mahi
Mahi on a Bed of Julienne Vegetables with Fresh Citrus Supremes,
Riesling Gastrique & a Creamy Passion Fruit Vinaigrette and Crispy
Leg of Duck Confit on a bed of French Green Lentils with a Brandy
Green Peppercorn Sauce for Malt (this author freely admits that
he has copied the descriptions from restaurant's website's menu,
but proudly states that his prose will never be as good as this
description is. Also, he has to take a break for dinner now. There,
Dessert was a Chocolate Flourless Cake with Scotch Caramel Sauce
& Vanilla Ice Cream and the utterly wonderful Goat Cheese Cheesecake
with Blackberry Coulis. They were able to pair their selections
with suggested beers. Breena was glad she wasn't driving, Malt didn't
seem to care all that much (note to movie screen play author: cue
ominous music here).
They felt a bit too lazy and full more outdoor activities, but
an assignment was an assignment. After all, she at least didn't
have to drive, Breena thought (ominous music gets louder). It was
quite a bit of a drive out there, but the Malt-O-Meter obviously
knew his way around town, and before long, they had left the US
95 and began their way up the lone two-way highway called Kyle Canyon
Rd leading to Mount Doom, err Charleston.Ý Breena always liked driving
through the desert, but this was especially beautiful, with the
Joshua trees in front and the snow capped mountains in the background.
In time, the scenery changed, the plants becoming more alpine. She
amused herself by looking for the names of the infrequent cross
streets. There was Nicholson, Witch Mountain and her personal favorite,
Elvis is Alive Lane. The street climbed up to over 8000 feet. They
got out at the Mount Charleston Hotel which featured a rustic look,
some partly frozen ponds and some imposing icicles, and continued
till the end of the road. The cross street to Luke¥s Canyon also
was beautiful and got out at he (still closed) ski area. There were
actual patches of snow there, which Breena gleefully used to treat
Malt to a snow ball massage. Worryingly, he wasn't in a state to
put up much of a fight (worrisome music reaching a crescendo. Cue
They descended the mountain, and Malt drove the car safely to Texas
Station (which proves to this author that movie music isn't as reliable
as it used to be). Texas Station looked true to its theme: the exterior
had a sign that resembled an oil derrick, and the architecture was
Alamo-esque. The casino also seemed to sprawl all over the place,
just like the wide open spaces of the Lone Star State. After entering,
they saw that the carpet features cowboy gewgaws aplenty: hats,
boots, horses, lariats, cards, wagons, and stars. The folks at Texas
Station really tried to put everything on their carpet. However,
they did nothing to incorporate the train theme. The walls near
the entrance were made to look like storefronts in a John Wayne
Western, or maybe "The Apple Dumpling Gang." Western knickknacks
included bull skulls, hanging lamps with cowboy and horse silhouettes,
and a large, rotating bucking bronco statue. On the wall over by
the restrooms, there hang photos of some famous Texan musicians
such as The Big Bopper, Bob Wills, and the Texas Tornados. The restrooms
had Texas-oriented posters, featuring intrepid cowgirls and native
wildflowers. The stall doors had the rustic flavor of weathered
wood. Breena wondered why she was in the restroom so sudden, but
figured she just had had to go.
Breena checked and explained Malt patiently for the x-th time that
no, he couldn't come to her room to do some unspecified "research."
The room itself was big, old and comfy. It had all the basic amenities
and a little Southwest flavor. The bathroom was nice: a single sink
and a tub/shower combo. The linens and furniture was a cut above
average. After the glitz of Wynn, it was certainly a step back,
but Breena didn't mind. She was glad to have a comfortable place
for the night.
She rejoined Malt who had waited patiently near the lobby and had
kept busy by throwing pumpkin seeds at the back of passing cowboy
hats. It seemed a ploy likely to earn him a few fresh bruises, but
thankfully, the cowboy hats weren't as plentiful as they could have
been, provided that there natural habitat had just been imploded
the night before.
The two had chosen Austin Steakhouse for dinner and while the cuisine
certainly wasn't up to par with Rosemary's Restaurant, it was a
great steakhouse experience. Food was plentiful, cooked to order
and came with terrific sides. "It's a good thing that the only thing
getting bigger when I eat so much is my cup size," Breena said,
and Malt choked on his bone-in rib eye.
She was totally beat, of course, so she went to her room quickly
after dinner. Malt went away grumbling about the unfairness of it
all. He was right, for once.
Breena woke up at 3 a.m, because her phone was ringing. An uncomfortably
quiet voice said "This is our last warning, Breena. We told you
several times not to associate with these people. Cut it out or
suffer the consequences." ÝShe had no idea what that meant. Briefly,
she considered calling the police, but it all seemed a bit random
to tell them. Also, she was a trained journalist, after all. She
had been talking to quite a few random people during the trip. Sure,
Malt was annoying as hell, but he sure wasn't worth a phone threat,
she thought. Could it be someone jealous about her tagging him along?
Could it be ‚ Walt? But then she remembered the gentleman with the
thistle-down hair, and thought that him working for Walt might be
a tad far-fetched, even for this author. Fortunately, she was so
tired that she didn't ponder this mystery much longer, conveniently
drifting off to sleep before asking any more questions this author
hasn't figured out himself yet.
She woke up around 10, as a result for almost not having slept
the night before. She still was perturbed by the late-night call.
Could it have been Malt himself, drawing more attention to his own
importance? It sounded like just the thing he might try to pull
off and she prepared herself for some spirited chiding. After some
bathroom time, she emerged from her room looking as hot as ever,
and proceeded to the check-out desk. The clerk, whose name tag said
"Smee," didn't talk too much, he just handed her the pre-paid bill
and her now familiar sheet. It said "Luxor" on one side and just
three simple words on the other: "Look for the best." It seemed
a most peculiar assignment, but Breena understood that as the word
count went up, the creativity of this author seemingly had only
the opposite way to go. So she decided to make the best of the situation
(ha!) and just look for stuff she might consider to be the best
She dragged her bags outside and hailed a cab, as Malt was nowhere
to be seen. He's probably still laughing his ass off about calling
me that late at night, Breena thought. The cabbie's license said
Don del Grande and Breena liked the name, especially as it provided
this author with an extra word. They talked pleasantly about the
still nice weather, how traffic was clogging up the Valley, and
that he had never regretted moving to Las Vegas, even though he
had been a highly-paid neurosurgeon before coming to town and now
had to ride a cab. This sounded a bit strange, but Don del Grande
(yes!) seemed happy enough. "I hail from a long line of del Grandes,"
he said, "and we del Grandes always try to make the best out of
every situation. It's the del Grande way." This sounded like a good
family motto to Breena, and she enjoyed once again that after turning
onto the Interstate at the Spaghetti Bowl, she could see the Strip
in all its splendor on the left. Don del Grande piloted his cab
off the highway at Tropicana and dropped her off the reception area
at Luxor. Once again, she tipped generously, the del Grande way.
Breena asked for a nice room in her nice voice displaying her exceptionally
awesomely nice cleavage again and got a mini-suite with a jacuzzi
on one of the highest floors. She rode the inclinator up there,
a cool elevator riding up at an angle. It was a long trudge from
the inclinator to her room, but Breena didn't mind. The Strip view
was fantastic, and the room was extra cool because of the slanted
windows. The room was pretty large in theory, but because of the
slant, you couldn't use much of the space, unless you wanted to
curl up on the floor right under the slant. The bathroom offered
only a shower without a tub, and Breena, who loved to stretch out
her long luxurious body in a hot tub, disapproved of that. The jacuzzi
made up for that, though.
She had to do some research for her assignment next. Even though
the charges were horrendous, she connected to the internet in her
room. She remembered what the Malt-O-Matic had had to say about
the subject of Best Of lists earlier. She certainly knew that any
evaluation of stuff was highly personal in most cases, and that
it was near impossible to really compare all the stuff in one category
the city had to offer. Searching on the net, she soon found the
Las Vegas Review ‚ Journal's annual Best of Las Vegas poll. The
readers of the magazine obviously were an extremely lame bunch,
she had to say. Olive Garden as Best Italian Restaurant? Red Lobster
for Best Seafood? Outback for Best Steakhouse? Breena hadn't seen
much of the town yet, but this was fairly ridiculous. Fortunately,
there was a staff pick, too, and it seemed that this was more on
the money. She rejoiced to see that Rosemary's Restaurant had been
voted best gourmet restaurant, but otherwise, she couldn't take
these picks seriously. She took a note of the choice for best dive
bar, though. She just was that kind of woman.
Stepping out of her room, she enjoyed the view of what must have
been the biggest atrium in the world. The space was vast, and yet
they weren't doing much with it. For all its unusualness, the casino
breathed blandness, much like TI did, and Breena instinctively realized
that it always hadn't been that way. What should have been a gloriously
campy place now was just a little hip. She wandered through the
casino for a Ýbit and then took the walkway over to Excalibur. It
was made up to be a giant castle out of a King Arthur story and
it was themed to a degree which was utterly and garishly depressing.
It also looked to be well worn and Breena hastily got out of there
The next casino she wandered into was so much better. NewYork New
York not only provided this author with four individual, highly
repeatable words in its name, it (i.e. NewYork New York) also was
the best example for a good themed casino Breena had seen so far.
The exterior of "The Greatest City in Las Vegas" was an abridged
New York skyline (including the Chrysler Building, Empire State
Building, and Statue of Liberty), complete with the wild rollercoaster
that circles Manhattan every five minutes. In the casino, there
was a fake Central Park with fake trees, Exchange and a reproduction
of a cavernous Grand Central Station, a New York Stock Exchange
Ýand a Greenwich Village that looked even more gentrified than the
original. Realistic steam came out of the manholes on the casino
floor. It was all very lovingly done, and the attention to detail
was stunning. It also was very cramped and people tended to step
on you just like in Manhattan (insert your own mugging joke here
‚ it's seemingly de rigeur to write something like that when describing
New York New York).
Breena enjoyed it all a lot. She also took note of the interesting
selection of restaurants and bars: the coffee shop which was named
America and featured a huge map of the States on the wall, the Irish
restaurant conveniently called Nine Fine Irishmen which looked imposing
and cosy at the same time and the steakhouse with its huge cuts
of meet in the windows. There also was a Coyote Ugly bar (Breena
certainly knew about dancing on bars) and the Bar at Times Square,
which promised Dueling Pianos. Breena should have been excited about
that, being from one of the Dakotas, but rightfully, because she
was not only incredibly hot-bodied, but also possessed a stunning
common sense, she wasn't.
Instead, she moved on to the next casino. As Monte Carlo looked
impressive, but slightly boring, she decided to cross the street
to the biggest hotel in all Vegas. She got a good look at the vast
building site of Project City Center, hoping it wouldn't be as bland
from the inside as some of the other casinos she had recently seen.
The MGM Grand was another disappointment in that regard. There wasn't
much of a theme at all, only a very slight movie vibe. ÝThe facade
evoked an Art Deco Hollywood with Oscar-esque statues of naked men
holding up the lights, palm trees, and gushing fountains.
Inside, the carpet continued the Art Deco design and incorporated
the lion head logo. The walls were decorated both with black and
white photos of old movie stars and full-color posters of the buffet.
Mostly, though, the gaming room was pretty bland, low ceilings,
some red and yellow neon. It also was cavernous and easy to get
lost in. Breena saw signs for the restaurants. She always loved
to read the menus and proceeded to that area, not knowing that she
was in for quite a hike. She came by a restaurant called L'atelier
de Joel Robuchon which looked like the fanciest diner that Breena
had ever seen, with most of the seats at a bar overlooking the kitchen.
The menu was wonderful and exciting, but the menu degustation also
was $135. At the nearby full restaurant, Robuchon at the Mansion,
prices were unbelievable, though. No one should have to pay upwards
of $300 for food, Breena thought. It was her dictum that she was
perfectly willing to pay a lot when it was worth it, but no meal
could be worth that much money in her mind.
She continued to Restaurant Row, and was delighted with what she
saw. Even though most of these restaurants were too expensive, it
was a menu reader's paradise. There were all kinds of wild, crazy,
beautiful and imaginative designs to these places, too, and while
some of them seemed ridiculous, none were boring. She checked out
the offering at 'Wichcraft, an unusual sandwich shop specialising
in very old-fashioned sodas and ordered a Sicilian Tuna with fennel,
black olives and lemon on baguette. It was a tad too expensive,
too, but very good. Passing the food court on her way back, she
wondered why people bothered to eat at McDonald's or Subway when
in Vegas ‚ places where everything tasted exactly like home. They're
probably not as adventurous as I am, she thought, pleased with herself.
She finally made it out of the MGM, and crossed the street to the
Trop. This obviously was an older casino, and cynical people might
have compared its aging to that of a hooker, meaning none-too-gracefully
and with a lot of makeup to cover the wrinkles. But Breena sort
of liked it. Its "Island of Las Vegas" slogan had a nice ring to
it, and when she wandered around the property, she stumbled upon
the pool, which was big and delightful and open even in November.
It was old, but still sprawling and tropical and it had a nice lagoon
style with meandering pools, being linked by narrow waterways. There
even was an indoor pool, connected to the outside.
Inside the casino, she found some nice stained glass and the usual
games. When she passed the table games, there someone was shouting
"Big Dick Daddy from East Cincinatti." Intrigued, she looked closer
and saw a table game she hadn't encountered yet. The man who had
uttered the slightly puzzling words hadn't seen her yet (otherwise
he wouldÝ have dropped the dice he was holding, as men were prone
to do with Breena around). The crowd at the table cheered loudly
‚ it was a lot more boisterous a scene than Breena had seen before
in a casino. The shooter threw his dice again. This time, he shouted
"hobo's delight on a rainy night." It all seemed pretty strange
to Breena. After the next throw, the shooter somehow had to give
up the dice and immediately noticed Breena. It was a good thing
the dice had been passed. Coincidentally, someone shoutedÝ "Call
the doctor" at this time and Breena looked around whether there
was some kind of emergency. "That would be me," the shooter said,
his eyes slightly crossed. "I'm Doc Dice and you are" ‚ "Breena,"
Breena said, just as the good doctor concluded "Öjust about perfect."
Breena smiled the tiny little smile she reserved for situations
like that and gave him a bit of time. As he had stopped hyperventilating,
she asked "What's this game about? This is one I know nothing about."
Doc Dice (Breena did a belated eyeroll at meeting yet another doctor)
said "This is the most wonderful game there is in the whole casino.
I'll gladly explain it too you." They took a seat at a nearby bar,
Breena ordered her first Bourbon Sour of the day, and the good
doctor started to explain: "Craps is a simplification of the Old
English game hazard. Its origins are complex and there are many
historic references on Wikipedia that would bore the skull out of
you if I were to copy and paste them. Suffice it to say that it
Ýdates to the Crusades. I still have to mention that it was brought
to New Orleans by Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville,
because the name is so great and I couldn't believe someone would
think that this should be on Wikipedia.
"In craps, players wager money against the casino on the outcome
of one roll, or of a series of rolls of two dice. take turns rolling
two dice. The player rolling the dice is called the "shooter." The
game is played in rounds, with the first roll of a new round called
the "come-out roll." "On the come-out roll, if the total of the
two dice is 7, 11, 2, 3 or 12, the round ends immediately and the
shooter must roll another come-out roll. A result of 2, 3 or 12
is called 'craps' while a result of 7 or 11 is called a 'win' or
a 'natural.' When any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) is rolled
on the come-out roll, this number becomes what is called the point.
If a point is established then the shooter will re-roll the dice
continuously until either a 7 is rolled, or the point is rolled
again. If the shooter rolls the point again, the round ends and
the game starts over with the same shooter rolling another come-out
roll. If the shooter rolls a 7 instead of the point, this is called
a 'seven-out,' the round ends, and the dice pass to the next player
to the left, who becomes the new shooter."
This seemed all very confusing to Breena (as it still does to this
author, for whom the highlight of an evening watching craps was
to see Matt piss off two ladies with his delightful banter). But
Breena took to the game like a natural and soon lead the whole table
in raucous cheers, fascinating everyone with dainty throw techniques
and cuss words fit for a sailor. "That was so much fun," she finally
said after a good hour had passed. She was just about $10 ahead,
but it had been an experience as good gambling should be: fun for
what it was, not just a way to make money. Breena had finally found
She thanked Doc Dice profusely and even gave him a little peck
on the cheek (which went unwashed for the better part of a month).
That greatly disappointed Baccarat Guy and Keno Is Bad Guy who were
still waiting in the wings, but whose chance of a full part were
It was time to return to her room now. It was getting dark, and
she was getting hungry again. As she waited for the inclinator,
a good-looking man in his late thirties greeted her friendly and
offered her a red rose. "I heard you're looking for the best in
Las Vegas," he said. "I'm Burt Cohen, man about town,Ý international
man of mystery. I also happen to be the best escort available for
you tonight. Malt sent me to keep you company ‚ and to watch over
you, just in case." This sounded a little doubtful to poor Breena.
Could she trust this suave guy in his tuxedo, who looked handsome
in a worldly way even Walt couldn't compare to and seemed to know
Malt so well? I need to test him, Breena thought and asked: "Campbell's
Soup?" "Chunky soup," he replied smoothly and something told Breena
she could trust this man with her life (cue ominous music again).
"I'll take you out to dinner. As an international jet-setter, I'll
even do what Malt never could: I'll treat you. How about a perfect
romantic evening ‚ no strings attached, of course," he added, while
staring into her ample cleavage a tad too long.
"It's a very generous offer," Breena said, who, as any gentle reader
might have noticed, did not really concern herself with the dangers
of meeting men too much, lest it hindered the flow of the story
(which is being downgraded from "flowing to "trickling" as we speak).
"I'll need to freshen up a bit first, though." - "Of course, fair
lady," Burt said, overdoing it a bit. A beauty such as yourself
should take all the time she should need. I'll wait for you here
in ‚ say ‚ ninety minutes? Cocktails at 7, dinner at 8, I would
suggest." Breena agreed and, clutching the red rose, returned to
her room. She was thoroughly confused. How many men wanted the author
to throw in her way before that unbeatable guy from Europe came
along? But she certainly was there for the ride, she thought. Why
waste a perfectly perfect body just waiting and waiting. She freshened
up extensively and chose an elegant little black number she had
brought for just such an occasion (which, as this author needs to
remind you, gentle reader, is going out with a man she virtually
knew nothing about ‚ cue screechy violins) that combined very well
with her stockings, the ones who were just fishnetty enough to be
noticed and just conservative enough to still look respectable.
She jotted down a note on her desk, just in case. "In case of emergency:
out with mystery man Burt Cohen (or that's how he called himself)
for dinner and drinks. I'll be back in time. Love Breena." If this
looked suspiciously like a note one would write for his mom, this
was what she had done on a regular basis before moving to Phoenix.
Burt was waiting at the inclinator, and offered her his arm. He
took her to the valet, where his Aston Martin was already waiting.
Burt drove her over to Bellagio, amusing her with light banter without
being to aggressive. This fascinated Breena: Walt had rarely managed
more than four words per sentence, while Malt ‚ well, Malt talked
pretty much all of the time, mostly about himself. They had cocktails
at Caramel lounge.
It was a glowing bar, nonthreatening and filled with twenty-somethings.
Burt didn't look out of place here, Breena thought. There was light
hip-hop being played, and Breena tried two novelty drinks served
in caramel-and-chocolate-coated glasses. Burt sure was interesting,
he appeared to be a playboy millionaire by day, and casually referred
to his secret identity which kept him busy most nights.
After an hour had flown by they were still a few minutes early
for their reservation. Burt gently steered her towards Via Bellagio,
and she gleefully shopped around Tiffany's, while Burt was waiting
discreetly. There was a bit of a scene as a man with a full white
beard who was wearing a sports cap of one of these obscure Massachusetts
sports teams was apparently shopping for an engagement ring. "These
are all too cheap," he shouted with apparent rage. "Show me something
which is worthy for her." Breena politely looked in another direction,
but it was a touching display of love, if a smidgen insane.
Then they headed to their real destination for the evening. They
were greeted by a smiling maitre d', who referred to Burt by name,
and lead to a fantastic table right at the window. They were surrounded
by paintings---not reprints, but $35 million worth ofÝ real Picassos.
The room was serene and elegant, but not stuffy, with vaulted ceilings,
glorious floral arrangements which rivaled the splendor of the Picassos
and elegantly dressed tables set comfortably apart. The table looked
out at the Fountains, which, as you, gentle reader, might remember,
Breena had a soft spot for (cunning planning by an author working
out connections several chapters in advance? This author is blushing).
Burt ordered the degustation menu without even glancing at the
menu and said to the sommelier "we''ll take the wine pairing. But
not the crap you serve the other guests, Jean Claude" ‚ and the
sommelier actually nodded and smiled. First, the Amuse gueule arrived.
It consisted of asparagus soup with a quail eggÝ and a salmon-osetra
caviar stick. The first appetizer was Maine Lobster Salad with Apple-Champagne
Vinaigrette and corn three ways with a corn flan that was so ethereal
it was even better than the lobster. The waiter kept their glasses
filled and Breena sure was glad she could hold her liquor.
Next, a Pan Seared U-10 Day Boat Scallop with Green Aparagus and
Hollandaise Potato Mousseline arrived as the next appetizer. The
giant scallop was something to behold. The highlight of Breena's
meal was the Sauteed Foie Gras with Cherries, Port Orange Zest and
Crust of Walnut. This might have very well been the best thing Breena
had eaten in her life, and the sounds she made kept several tables
The main course was Roasted Aged Lamb with awesome Sofrito truffled
mashed potatoes and Au Jus. It was almost as good as the foie gras.
Dessert was a Berry Sampler containing a blueberry soup, an unbelievable
cheesecake, a light pastry with raspberries and sorbet.
It was an unbelievable meal, and even Breena had to realize that
after a Bourbon Sour, two caramel chocolate concoctions and about
twelve glasses of wine she was getting more and more tipsy. Burt
who had been keeping her perfect company had been drinking about
half of that, reminding her he still had to drive (cue "Psycho"
Burt paid nonchalantly, adding what seemed to be an obscene tip,
and they headed back to the valet parking. Burt seemed a bit unsteady
on his feet, and Breena was even swaying a bit. She definitely wasn't
in control any more. They arrived back at the Luxor in one piece,
though Burt missed the valet's parking entrance and had to self-park
the car. As he turned of the motor, Breena leaned over to him and
whispered "This has been the most romantic evening in my whole life,"
smiling enchantingly. Burt opened his mouth for a sassy yet dignified
reply and puked all over her shoes.
Things went downhill from there.
It was already 9 a.m. when Breena woke up. She barely remembered
the events of the last night ‚ but then, through a wicked hangover,
she remembered her perfect evening with Burt, and how it had ended
when he had puked all over her Manolo Blahniks. She could forgive
a lot of things. This was not one of them. Sighing, she went to
the bathroom again for one more thorough cleansing of her dainty
feet. The shoes were pretty much beyond repair. It hadn't helped
that both heels were broken after she had hammered them against
Burt's head. Somewhere, Malt was smiling. She remembered now that
she was to compose a best-of list the other night. She was in no
mood to argue the pros and cons of these lists this morning, so
she just sat down and started typing "Breena's Vegas Best of
- Best Gourmet restaurant: Picasso
- Best off - Strip gourmet restaurant: Rosemary's
- Best buffet: Wynn Buffet
- Best cheap food: Shrimp cocktail at Golden Gate
- Best themed casino: New York New York
- Best room she had stayed in: Venetian
- Best spa: Canyon Ranch Spa at the Venetian
- Best casino game: Craps
- Best lounge band: Lon Bronson
- Best shopping mall: the one at the Venetian (this one was really
bad, she thought)
- Best excursion: Red Rock Canyon
- Most dreamy man I've encountered: she stopped herself. That
was definitely not the way a trained journalist was working.
This list definitely needed work. She also remembered guiltily
that she hadn't experienced more than one entry in many categories.
Still, she quickly added a few more, not really knowing what she
- Best podcast: Five Hundy by Midnight
- Best Vegas Movie: Ocean's Eleven (take your pick)
- Best Vegas song. Viva Las Vegas
She realized that putting up lists like that wasn't much use (and
they are killer when it comes to word count, this author finds,
as it takes way to much time to consider where Breena has actually
been). So she just prepared for the day ahead ‚ whistled a happy
little tune ‚ checked under the bed for lost items ‚ took everything
in the bathroom that was supposed to be taken and left the rest
‚ checked out her TV ‚ found out that there was nothing on TV but
the Las Vegas channel's documentaries she had already seen 4 times
‚ and filled a paragraph this way much faster than any stupid list
could. Breena was starting to tire of the need of packing and unpacking
every single day, though she had gotten pretty good at it.
Taking her luggage down the hall to the inclinator once again,
she half expected Burt at the bottom of the inclinator with a mariachi
band or a marriage proposal. Fortunately, no one was in attendance,
so she proceeded to check-out once again and got her assignment
sheet. The hotel for the day was the Sahara, she saw with mixed
feeling. Her assignment read as follows: "Today is the day to experience
classic Las Vegas at its finest. You will do it Animal Style, see
Mac King, search for the Checkmates, take a tour to the Boneyard,
investigate the shady dealings at the Pinball Hall of Fame, expose
MI 5 for what it is and find time for a drink at the Double Down
Saloon. Also, find Las Vegas coolest 70's style restaurant and lounge."
This sounded more than an itinerary for several days to poor Breena.
Also, she needed help again and lots of it. With guys falling over
their feet to annoy her, this wasn't the most exhilarating prospect.
She needed time to think (that's why this author is going to bed
Unfortunately, this author realizes now that nothing much in the
story has changed overnight and that, apart from an obscure idea
for tomorrow's assignment, nothing much has come out of this author's
nightly pondering pertaining to Breena's situation at this time.
So she just shlepped her stuff to a cab again and told the cabbie
to take her to the Sahara. His name was Paul, and he was very eloquent.
He had moved to Vegas a few months ago. "I lost all my money so
I have to drive a cab now," he told Breena cheerfully, "but I also
lost about 120 pounds while doing so. I've never felt better in
my life!" This seemed like a strange idea to lose weight to Breena,
but anything that worked was fine, she guessed.
They approached the Sahara, and Breena realized she hadn't stayed
at this part of the Strip yet. It was the very beginning of the
actual Strip, that much she knew by now, and she remembered her
visit at Bonanza Gift Shop just a few days ago. It seemed like a
very long time ago by now. Paul dropped her off at the entrance.
"What a nice guy," she thought. "Some time I'll have to muster the
courage to ask a guy like this out."Ý After a generous tip and an
even more generous smile, she got her bags and checked in at the
reception. Even though the clerk worked really hard, he wasn't able
to get her the three bedroom suite she had asked for, she had to
settle for two bedrooms. Can't win them all, she thought.
Obviously, the Sahara was an older resort. It was modeled upon
the concept of a desert oasis, which is quite popular in Las Vegas
for two reasons: the city is surrounded by its own formidable desert,
and each casino wants to appear as the most desirable place compared
to all the hell-holes in town. The Sahara seemingly tried to unite
two rich desert cultures, that of mighty Arabian nomads and of the
mighty gamblers of Las Vegas. Lots of the casinos in Las Vegas didn't
place a priority on coordinating the outside of the building with
the theme. Caesar's and Bellagio were notable exceptions, but surprisingly,
the Sahara started rolling out the magic carpet before one even
got in the door. The sand-colored building sported Moorish crenellation
along the top, and the traffic signs were shaped like little minarets.
As Breena was a fan of well-done theming by now, she appreciated
that. She especially liked the neon sign which spelled classic Las
Vegas to her. And it was supposed to be a classic Vegas day, after
The interior decor was much more ostentatious. Some of the display
was pure Vegas - the camel-sized crystal chandelier hanging in the
high-ceilinged foyer, the mirrored pillars with tortoise shell accents,
the faux gold and marble ashtrays. The touches were as simple as
the Arabesque font on all of the directional signs- this way to
the Tunis Tower, that way to the Tangiers. The jewel-toned hanging
lanterns and door handles evoked the treasures of Arabia. The carpets
had a delicate, filigree pattern, in keeping with the rich surroundings.
The seats at the slot machines recalled pointy minarets and were
upholstered in glittery vinyl in the Sahara's signature colors:
gold, royal blue and scarlet. The ceiling, supported by Corinthian
columns, was painted with the now-standard blue sky with fluffy
clouds. ÝIt was all becoming a bit rough around the edges, but this
author, appreciating the very fine writing he lifted straight from
the very fine CheapoVcegas site (shoplifted with permission), made
a vow to finally stay at the Sahara next time. She went up to her
room, and liked it. It was modest for a two-bedroom suite (good
catch at the last minute: I had almost forgotten Breena had scored
a suite again), but clean and ridiculously big, though the furniture
was probably about the quality of your average Holiday Inn. She
had gotten a room in the Tangiers tower, of course. The view down
the Strip was nice, but she had better. Obviously, it was tougher
to get a good view from the North end.
Checking out the property, she found the pool, which was large
and decent, but certainly not the nicest on the Strip. It was a
rectangle, with a nice Saharan theme and a gazebo-covered jacuzzi.
She was a bit grumpy about the lack of adequate pool time lately,
because she feared that the golden brown tone of her luscious creamy
skin could be downgraded to copper brown in the near future (this
author hastens to state that he has Ýno such plans). The properly
sun-baked pool area provided a view of a rotunda and palm trees,
an oasis from the barren desert of slot machines. Shops included
"Jewels of the Nile" and the "Sahara Marketplace," which offered
pool toys, satin jackets, plush camels and Southwestern gewgaws.
Speaking of slots, there were many. The casino itself was large,
as was the pit, and as Breena saw a craps table, her heart fluttered
a tiny little bit. But there was work to do, and she had a full
day ahead of her. She passed the statues of the intimidating chaps
with swords and voluminous mustaches outside the Casbah Lounge,
and realized that one of her assignment was fairly easy to finish,
as the fabulous Checkmates would be appearing this very evening
in the venerable lounge.
Still, there was a lot to do. She was hungry, too ‚ maybe there
was one place on the list serving breakfast. She asked a kind older
gentleman who was scooping ice cream if he knew a classic 70's style
restaurant. He nodded emphatically: "You can only talk about the
Peppermill. It's up the Strip behind the Riviera, quite a bit to
walk, butÝmanageable." She thanked the old dog, and decided to go
for a walk. The morning was nice and crisp, and she had traded her
designer shoes with the non-existent heels for some sensible walking
shoes (whose heels were only two inches). Stepping out on the Strip,
she quickly realized that this area wasn't as jam-packed with attractions
as the South Strip was. The Riviera seemed tantalizing close, but
she still had to walk a loooong time to get there. Across the street,
the freaky clown sign of Circus Circus loomed. She passed the Riviera,
which didn't seem all that appealing, and proceeded further up theÝ
Strip. On the other side of the Strip, there were building sites
and lots of rubble. This was where the fabulous Stardust and the
less fabulous Westward Ho must have stood until recently, she thought.
On her side of the street, there was some low-brow shopping, some
tourist traps and a building sporting a sign saying "Peppermill."
She had arrived.
Suddenly, she heard a voice, saying: "The Peppermill Lounge and
Restaurant is a Vegas establishment justly famous for its good food,
huge portions, and intimate, friendly lounge." It sounded a lot
like Malt, but she soon realized it came from her bag. Obviously,
the Malt-O-Matic had switched itself on again. She hadn't realized
it had a voice option, too. On the display, Malt's picture was wearing
an ugly red fez today. The display showed the following: "What am
I supposed to do? You never switch me on anymore, you never write.
We don't hardly ever talk! It's as if you didn't know me any more!"
‚ "Erm ‚ sorry?" Breena offered, not really believing she was talking
to a machine. The gadget emitted some grumpy beeps, but was mollified
soon when Breena stroked its shiny metal soothingly. It displayed
more information rapidly: "The Peppermill is a true Vegas classic.
Parts of the movie "Casino" were shot here, and it is said that
Robert de Niro returned with his crew again and again to keep the
right spirit for the movie.
She entered the restaurant, and it soon became clear that there
were two distinctive sections: the actual restaurant, which looked
like the coolest diner Breena had ever seen, with intense neon strips
of blue and pink on the walls to highlight the colorful seating
and carpeting, with enormous artificial cherry trees standing guard
over the booths, and a long counter overlooking the kitchen area.
The Fireside Lounge was even more over the top: there were cosy
seating areas around a fire pit, where flames were dancing on water.
There were comfortable pink sofas and plasma-screen monitors playing
video clips. The waitresses looked like elegant model in their long,
elegant and still playful black dresses slit to mid-thigh. Even
though it was morning, quite a few people were enjoying cocktails
in football-sized glasses. But Breena was really hungry and ordered
Joe's San Francisco Special in the diner, which included scrambled
eggs with spinach, onions, and sausage served on potato skins and
smothered in a golden cheese sauce. She loved the ambiance: "Stardust"
and other classic songs were playing over the speakers, cool people
seemed to be everywhere. Many of them seemed to have arrived directly
from work ‚ the guy over there might have been a bouncer, the pretty
red-hairs over here giggling could have been strippers. Breena couldn't
finish half of her breakfast and what would have been one of her
pet peeves anywhere else ‚ much too big portions, somehow was fitting
She had to make a plan for the rest of the day and so far, no one
had offered to be her knight in shining armor for the day. She looked
at her assignment again: "do it Animal Style, see Mac King, search
for the Checkmates, take a tour to the Boneyard, investigate the
shady dealings at the Pinball Hall of Fame, expose MI 5 for what
it is and find time for a drink at the Double Down Saloon." It still
seemed like a daunting task. She took out the Malt-O-Matic and punched
in "Animal Style." The machine displayed "Any time, baby," before
launching in a more fact-based diatribe: "Animal style is one of
the secret options on the menu of local burger chain In And Out
Burger. They have very little selection at first sight, but have
this secret menu where the employees carry out your request if you
word it the right way. "Animal Style" means the meat is cooked and
fried with mustard and then pickles are added, extra spread and
grilled onions are also added." ‚ "But that sounds disgusting,"
Breena said. "Well, it is," the machine admitted, "but that's the
price to be able to pretend you're "in the know."" ‚ "Like Campbell's
Soup?" Breena sighed. "No soup for you," the machine bellowed, in
an uncanny impression of Larry Thomas. "Actually," the machine printed
again, "this is one of the best burger chains existing anywhere
in the known multiverse, if not the best. If you want to generate
an endless discussion at one of the Vegas message boards, you just
need to post something like "best burger in Vegas" or "In and Out
beats Fatburger every time" and you are virtually guaranteed a hundred
plus responses." (This author personally thinks that In and Out's
fries are the best, but that the burger at Fatburger can't be beat,
by the way). "The nearest In and Out is at Tropicana ‚ much too
far to walk from here. You'll need a car." It was obvious she needed
one. Most of the things she was supposed to do seemed tough without
Needing a car was a complication. It wasn't as if Breena hadn't
driven a car before, and she had a shiny driver's license in her
possession, but the wide open spaces of the Dakotas were something
else entirely than driving through Las Vegas. You could spend an
entire day on the road in the Dakotas before you encountered another
car (the encounter was more likely if you actually started your
car and moved around in it, but then again, not too many people
did. (After all, what was the point of getting somewhere?)
Breena looked around, but for the life of her she couldn't make
out any motorized male willing to help her. She would have to brave
the horrors of a rental car agency. All by herself. The Malt-O-Meter
was useless, too; it only displayed a lot of gibberish about getting
the best rate, something about priceline and Travel Now and some
crap about insurance and she needed it or not. All she needed was
a ß%$ß"% car! She left the Peppermill and looked for a rental car
agency, finally asking a cop who was parked in the lot in front
of the Peppermill. He pointed her to Circus Circus and her descent
into hell began.
An enormous clown sign loomed menacingly over the Strip, standing
guard over the property. The casino was located in low, roundish
pink and white building that could, with some imagination, be a
big top. Out near the street, there were ghostly white statues of
naked acrobat girls, clowns and a gorilla. As everybody knows, Circus
Circus is overrun with children of reckless parents that do not
care about the gang wars leading to countless deaths every single
day in the hallways. Reality was a bit better, though. There were
plenty of kids, and that was certainly not a situation Breena associated
with a quiet contemplative vacation, but then again, the clanking
of slot machines wasn't either. She was much more chagrined that
the property was shabby in places and really showed its age. She
quickly found the rental car desk and asked the friendly Dollar
clerk for a budget car. After much explanation, signing of papers
and general unpleasantness this author has no intentions whatsoever
to explain, Breena was the proud driver of a Smart, a car just big
enough for her, her immediate belongings and not much else.
She remembered the Malt-O-Meter doubling as a navigational device
and attached it to the windscreen. "In and Out Burger," she typed.
The machine displayed "Eating? Again?" Breena conceded it was too
early to eat again after the Peppermill, so she took the next item
from her list and typed in "Boneyard Tour." ‚ "Another complication,"
the machine said. "You need a reservation, and they only have tours
at noon and 2. Call them quick." Breena called the number helpfully
provided by the Malt-O-Matic, and was relieved there was space available
for the tour. The machine safely guided her to the Boneyard, a place
many locals have been known not to find, and was greeted by a friendly
tour guide. There was only a small group, just nine people, and
Breena enjoyed being able to admire those old classic neon signs,
laid out across three acres. The one from the Stardust was especially
nice, she thought, but there were tons of others, all in different
states of disrepair. She didn't understand much of the finer details
the tour guide offered, of this old motel or that, but she didn't
mind. This was an important piece of old Las Vegas and she was glad
to have witnessed it (even if the price of admission, $15, seemed
She still wasn't hungry, so she typed in "Mac King" next when she
got back to the car. The Malt-O-Matic probably misunderstood her
on purpose, and delivered a flood of information, barely containing
its enthusiasm: "Mac King isn't the biggest show in Vegas, but it's
certainly the best bargain, and, arguably, the funniest. Mac King
does smaller illusions, which are more slight of hand than anything
else, but he does them with warmth and enthusiasm. The show is $24.95
including one drink, which would be a good deal already, but a widely
available coupon cuts the cost down to $8.95 (this author hopes),
still including the drink."
Breena managed to brave Strip traffic, which wasn't easy with all
the visual distractions from the signs, and some of the most suicidal
pedestrians she had ever seen. She left her car at the valet who
barely fit into it and got a coupon from the concierge, by asking
nicely. There was a big line, but everybody just barely got in,
and Breena didn't get any alcohol, but nursed a watered-down diet
coke.Ý Breena had laughed a lot in her life, and she added some
nice ones to her lifelong laugh collection this afternoon. I could
recommend this show to anyone, she thought, and no one would have
to thank me later. That was the kind of girl she was.
It was finally time for some sustenance, so she drove to the In
and Out at Maryland and Tropicana, and ordered her burger "animal
style." She also ordered her fries "well done," just like the Malt-O-Meter
had suggested, and her shake "mixed with the wild heat of a thousand
dying suns," which drew an angry stare from the employee. The burgerÝwas
OK, the fries were exceptional, and the merchandise seemed just
the right gift for that guy in Germany she once had met.
It was getting late already, and she still hadn't seen the Pinball
Hall of Fame. It wasn't far from her current position, down at Tropicana
and Pecos. As she drove, the Malt-O-Matic recited what it had found
on the subject on the internet:
"The Pinball Hall of Fame is an attempt by the members of the Las
Vegas Pinball Collectors Club to house and display the world's largest
pinball collection, open to the public. A not-for-profit corporation
was established to further this cause. The games belong to one club
member (Tim Arnold), and range from 1950s up to 1990s pinball machines.
Since it is a non-profit museum, older games from the 1960s, 1970s
and 1980s are the prevalent, as this was the 'heyday' of pinball.
And since it's a non-profit, excess revenues go to non-denominational
Breena was too young to remember much about pinball machines. They
were on their way out when she had been a teenager, and nowadays,
all the kids wanted to play were video games anyway. But there was
a sense of excitement in the air when she entered the museum. It
was bigger than she had expected, and it consisted of rows and rows
of old pinball machines, most of them real beauties. There was no
admission charge, but she felt obliged to try a game or two, and
she soon found out she was really good at it. She even played a
handsome black guy who was on a Eight Ball Deluxe machine for a
few games and beat him each time, easily, playing Haunted House
and Pin Bot and Taxi . He might have been a bit distracted by her
looks, though. Most guys were. As she was getting ready to leave,
a man screaming gibberish was being led away by a policeman to a
black and white parked next to Breena's car. "What did he do," she
asked the policeman. "Oh, that's just Pinball Hall of Shame guy,"
he said. "We pick him up pretty regularly. Nothing too serious."
It was only seven as she left, and there was still time for her
last assignments. The MI 5 stories the Malt-O-Matic told her were
a mystery for her, this sounded like the work of a paranoid schizophrenic
to her and she just resolved to ignore that guy forever and move
on. If there was only a switch in our personal life to get someone
like this out of it, she thought. Her assignment was to expose MI
5 for what it was, and to her mind, there was no better way than
to ignore it completely, having called bullshit once and for all.
It was time to drive to the Double Down Saloon, and again, it wasn't
that far to go there. It was a seedier neighborhood, and Breena
was feeling a bit apprehensive as she walked through the door announcing
the "Happiest Place On Earth." The bar was fairly empty and very
dark, especially coming from outside, where the last rays of sunshine
still fought it out with he upcoming evening, much like Dennis Kucinich
was hopelessly battling against his opponents in the latest presidential
primaries. She took a seat at the sparsely populated bar adorned
with bras (Breena, thanks to her gravity-defying breasts, very rarely
bothered with these, using them mainly for dramatic effect) and
noticed the video poker machines in front of her. There were quite
a few signs detailing house rules ("you puke, you clean"), insurance
offerings ("puke insurance: $20") and ads for enticing creations
as Ass Juice or the bacon martini. Dinner and alcohol at the same
time seemed reasonable in a warped way, so she ordered one of these.
Vivid chaotic and psychedelic murals covering every inch of walls
and ceiling provided the backdrop
She noticed the juke box and went over there. There were quite
a few choices from bands she had never heard about but which sounded
intriguing: bands with names like the Cramps, Dropkick Murphys,
Butt Trumpet, or, her favorite, the Evil Beavers.
She had to forgo trying the Ass Juice this time, because she still
had to drive (a dilemma that hasn't has vexed this author that much
on his own visits), unfortunately. She reached her car with no problems
and steered it back to the Sahara. It took some time because traffic
was still heavy on the Strip, but Breena enjoyed all the lights
and advertisements. It was more fun now she knew what she was looking
at, she thought.
After leaving the car at the valet again, she proceeded directly
to the Casbah Lounge. There was no entrance fee and the beer Breena
ordered was only very slightly overpriced. The seats were shaped
like clover leaves and upholstered in red vinyl. The music was fantastic.
The Checkmates were playing soul and rhythm and blues and they did
that in a way Breena only knew from oldies radio ‚ but so much better.
It sounded fresh and relevant, and the band seemed to have a lot
of fun, as did the audience. People were dancing and laughing and
quite willing to gamble afterwards, and Breena realized that actual
lounge acts had been rare on the trip. She remembered vaguely that
there had been a time when every casino offered lounge shows, even
big stars playing there for free, and she yearned for the days she
could have met Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis, Jr. in a lounge or
a the gambling tables, shooting craps with them. Breena was very
much a woman of the 21st century, and she wasn't some crazy nostalgic
who ran around telling everybody that things were so much better
four decades ago. She very much suspected that when the mob ran
things, not everyone was as happy as some people would have you
believe. Of course the blandness of corporate Las Vegas was not
too much to her taste, but as long as there were people enjoying
the possibilities Las Vegas still had to offer to people looking
for good deals and a grand old classic time, she suspected there
would be businesses catering to them.
She stayed for a whole set and then stumbled happily up to her
room. Had she only known what awaited her the next dayÖ
Breena got up in an excellent mood. The last day had been such
a great experience. She was so thankful to KL Mouton for dreaming
up this particular assignment. There were so many great things about
this city. You just had to know about them.
She knew that this trip couldn't last forever, of course. It cost
a lot of money, she hadn't written all that much and of course,
most importantly, this author was getting closer to the 50.000 word
mark every day. But she was determined to put on a good show for
the last couple of days. Who knew when she would be able to return
to Vegas, after all?
She resolved to be at her finest. She put on a particularly low-cut
blouse and a dangerously short skirt. The black stockings had to
remain, of course. It was November, after all. As usually, she didn't
need any make-up. Why mess up what Nature has created perfect, Brad
Pitt had used to say to her, before she had dumped him for being
Packing her bags in a record 25 minutes, she appeared at the reception
desk like a soldier reporting for duty. She took the sheet from
the desk clerk's hands and read "The Palms." She was pleased. Wasn't
that the nice hotel featured on MTV? On the other side of the sheet,
as usual, there was her assignment for day. It read:
"Commit the seven deadly sins today in the city that makes it so
easy. Here they are, in case you didn't watch Seven: Gluttony, Greed,
Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride and Lust. Feeling angry isn't enough,
by the way. There has to be an envious deed, a deed of wrath and
so on. We'll send an expert on deadly sins to check. Note that deadly
sins against the owner of this newspaper will be punished to the
full extent of the law. Bye - bye!"
Breena couldn't believe what she had read. She had been so motivated
to do a good job. This seemed so wrong! And feeling angry, or wrathful
wouldn't cut it, or she'd have two of the seven out of the way already.
Breena wasn't a particularly religious person, but she wasn't particularly
keen on being arrested or worse. She had to find a way to do a deed
that would go unpunished, and yet important enough to count as a
mortal sin. Deep inside her, she had to admit that she was little
turned on by the prospect. If she got caught, she could always argue
her way out of trouble with the assignment, right? Unfortunately,
the sheet with the assignment self-destructed at this point.
She wasn't that sure what it all meant, though. For example, what
the hell was Sloth? She only knew it as a small mammal belonging
to the family Bradypodidae, part of the order Pilosa, of the Folivora
suborder. She was also pretty sure she saw an animated movie once
where one of the main character was named Sloth. But a deadly sin
called Sloth? This obviously needed some highly journalistic investigation.
She asked the receptionist whether he knew about a church in the
neighborhood, and he directed her to Guardian Angel Cathedral atÝ
Cathedral Way and the Strip. Breena took her belongings to the valet
and crammed it all into her Smart, which necessitated the use of
force. ÝTraffic was in full swing and it took almost half an hour
for the short trip up the Strip to the church. "Cathedral" was pushing
it, Breena thought. The church was more looking like a rustic ski
chalet than a Cathedral, or like a tent, mainly consisting of triangular
forms. On the front facade, a Guardian Angel was depicted on a huge
mosaic, along with the three figures of Penance, Prayer and Peace.
The parking lot was empty, so Breena needed only 10 minutes to
park. Fortunately, the doors to the church were open. She looked
around, her heels making strange noises in the weird acoustics of
the triangular room. "Can I help you?" a friendly voice asked. The
friendly voice belonged to a middle-aged man with big glasses, a
receding hairline and some facial hair, (who looked much nicer in
person than he did on the avlv gallery page, dour expression and
all). "I'm Father Corey. I'm helping out here today, because the
Cathedral has had someÖ problems with its staff lately. Do you seek
repentance?" "I'm more looking for ‚ guidance," Breena answered.
"Repentance will be for later."
She saw no other way than to tell Father Corey about her predicament:
that she was a highly trained journalist ("I can certainly see that,"
Father Corex mumbled at this point, stroking his beard) and that
she had to do some research on the seven deadly search for an upcoming
article. That wasn't exactly a lie, she thought. Not that lies would
matter much today. "You came to the right place," Father Corey said.
"Located her in the heart of the Strip, our little parish knows
a lot about sins and sinners. There are many gamblers coming to
Mass here, often leaving gambling chips in the collection basket.
We even have someone bringing them back to the casinos. We call
him the Chip Monk." ‚ "That's very funny and all and I'm sure glad
you got this painful little joke in," Breena said, uncharacteristically
impatient. "But what about the seven deadly sins?" Father Corey
didn't seem to mind the interruption much.
"But of course," he said. The seven deadly sins are also known
as the capital vices or cardinal sins. You probably know that they
are Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Envy, Pride, Lust and Wrath. These have
been used since olden times to instruct christians on what behavior
to avoid, so you wouldn't go to hell. The only chance of absolution
was the sacrament of confession." Confession sounded good to Breena,
as she was planning to write about it anyway. "But the practicalities,"
she pressed onwards, "what must one do to commit a deadly sin?"
The phrasing seemed a bit strange to Father Corey, yet he continued.
"There's quite a bit of information I have on that subject," he
said. "Wouldn't it bore your readers to have to go though it all
in one sitting? Or do you happen to have a small device, a machine
maybe or a gadget, which could record what I say and replay it at
a time when you and the reader might need it?" This seemed to be
an unusual suggestion, but as it turned out, the Malt-o-Matic turned
out to be the perfect recording device as well. Father Corey faithfully
explained the seven deadly sins in great detail for the next 45
minutes, greatly emphasizing the one called Lust. Breena thanked
him profusely and went to her car to think. It seemed like a good
idea to get her stuff to The Palms first. If she needed to sin,
she might as well plan it in comfort. So she got into her Smart
again and drove there, following the Malt-O-Matic's sage advice.
She left the car with the valet and entered The Palms. She ambled
up to the check-in clerk. "I lust for a suite which is so over the
top it's worthy for a supreme being like me, so I can lazily hang
out, drink the entire minibar, covet an even better suite at an
even better hotel, envy the couple next door who is evidently having
great sex and crush you like a bug if the toilet paper hasn't been
folded in an amusing shape" is what she could have said, and gotten
it over with. But that would have been way too easy (and certainly
not good for word count). So she flashed the employee her nicest
smile and uttered the magic words "high floor," Strip view" and
"upgrade to a suite." She might also have unbuttoned her blouse
twice and might have leaned forward. The clerk began to hyperventilate
and to maniacally pound on his keyboard, glancing into Breena's
ample cleavage once in a while. This took quite a while, but it
seemed to work. "you wanted a suite," he breathed heavily, "I got
just the right one for you. It's in the new tower and has a Strip
view." He glanced at her cleavage again and giggled maniacally.
"You'll like it a lot. I'll come by personally to check out how
much you like it." He handed Breena a keycard and a room number
and collapsed in a puddle of sweat.
This had happened to Breena three times already during the last
week, so she wasn't all that shocked. She wisely buttoned her blouse
up again, called a supervisor and told him to let the poor man breath
into a bag. Then she went on to look for her new digs. On her way,
she noticed that Palms were everywhere. There was the Palms logo
on every conceivable surface, and depictions of the actual plants
covering the rest. But some actual plants tried to further consolidate
that tropical Mirage feeling. In comparison, it sucked, though.
The casino was rather big, and it was surprising how mixed the
clientele was. Some oldsters straight from the retirement center
(but alas, no Sunspots, Breena had checked) were playing alongside
of that hip young MTV crowd. It wasn't very busy on that Sunday
morning, though. Most of the hipsters probably just had gone to
bed, Breena thought. She passed the tattoo parlor which was still
closed and made her way to the new tower. On the 25th floor (or
possibly the 26th, this author hastens to add), she got out, opened
the door to her suite and looked it over in wonder. My gentle readers
of course have already guessed that she had gotten the Pink Suite.
It was breath-takingly big, more than 2.000 square feet, she guessed.
The view over the Strip was amazing, the best she had so far. It
was laid out before her like a photo tapestry. There were two bedrooms,
one with a King and one with two Doubles. It also featured a lot
of couches and chairs, a full bar, dining table,and a fireplace.
Plasma screen TVs were scattered throughout, and there was a nifty
stereo system. She also saw a strange shower with a sign stating
it was a ÝShow Shower , strangely, a stripper pole, and the biggest
Jacuzzi she had ever seen. cBut above all, it was pink. The sparkly
terrazzo bubble floor was pink, the comfy couches and chairs were
covered with pillows in shades of pink, the drapes were pink. Breena,
incidentally, loved pink. There also was a $1 per day phone fee.
This seemed like a place where a girl can sin in style, she thought.
Rechecking her list of sins, she decided she would tackle them in
order of appearance: Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride
and Lust. Saving the best for last, she thought. Gluttony seemed
easiest to achieve. She switched on the Malt-O-Matic to listen to
Father Corey's sermony voice: "Gluttony is derived from Latin and
originally meant to swallow. It signifies the over-consumption of
anything to the point of waste. A prime example for gluttony can
be found in the movie Blow-Out (La Grande Bouffe) which I believe
this author has actually watched partially and in which some people
eat themselves to death. A similar experience can be had in Las
Vegas in extraordinary variety. It's called a buffet."
A buffet would certainly seem gluttoneous, Breena thought. But
it would have to be not any old buffet, but something extra special.
The door bell of the suite rung seven times. Breena used the peephole,
wary of the lecherous check-in clerk. But it was only Malt, who
came in panting. "They wouldn't let me up at first. But I convinced
themby promising them you'd unbutton your bouse again later. This
is so great! I love pink!" There's nothing as manly as an abundant
love for pink, Breena thought. What she said was "What are you doing
here, Malt? Don't you have some important work to do?" ‚ "Oh yes,"
he answered. Predictably, I've been appointed your expert on sins.
I'm the one who has to check whether you committed a real Deed or
just a misdemeanor. And Deed is capitalized, because it actually
seems meaningful this way." Breena was disgusted. This bruised pink-loving
girlie-man couldn't be supposed to be judging anything! "I'm Judge
Mental!" Malt added, giggling happily.
Breena sighed. "I'm gonna start with Gluttony," she said. "Which
buffet would you recommend, Judge?" "An excellent choice, "Malt
said. "On a Sunday morning, there are many champagne brunches at
the buffets all over town. But I think we'll only have one choice:
we go with the Sterling brunch." ‚ Breena perked up: "Did you say
champagne? I looove champagne! You're driving! I'm sinning!" (the
more experienced among my gentle readers might have a hunch where
the narrative is heading. This doesn't make it any less enjoyable,
right?). Malt quickly made reservations for the brunch ‚ "you actually
need them there," he explained.
They boarded Malt's limo and drove over to Bally's. The Sterling
Brunch was something else. It took place at Bally's Steak House,
which was old-school to say the least. It was full of tanned-leather
furniture and there was real linen on the table. The champagne flowed
freely, and the buffet, while not as big as the Wynn buffet, consisted
mainly of luxury items. Breena had never tried caviar before. It
was served with all the trimmings, but it only stopped tasting salty
after the third glass of champagne. There was beef tenderloin, rack
of lamb, filet mignon and lobster ravioli. There was sushi, and
duck, and venison and even buffalo (and no wings, either). The food
tasted good, but was curiously bland, as if the cooks were somehow
afraid to flavor it too much for the somewhat staid crowd. Then,
Breena discovererd the lobster. Breena loved lobster almost as much
as she loved champagne, and lobster was hard to come by in the Dakotas.
The lobster was prepared conventionally, but very well, even if
it was a bit rubbery at times. Breena had one, and then another,
and yet another. After her fifth lobster, she thought she couldn't
eat any more, but she still managed a sixth, washing it down with
some more champagne. She looked at Malt expectantly, who said "I
would have given it to you after the fourth one. Yuck!" Breena
didn't care. She was having the time of her life and had some cherries
jubilee with vanilla ice cream and some spectacular home-made pistachio
ice cream. She looked at the raspberry mascarpone cream longingly,
but there were limits.
Malt ticked off the first vice from the list on the clipboard he
had brought along. "What's next," he asked. "Let's hear what Father
Corey has to say about Greed," Breena suggested. The Malt-O-Matic
switched itself on, and Father Corey began: "Greed is a sin of excess,
much like Gluttony. But Greed is more about posession of objects
and refers mainly to the acquisition of wealth. Even theft and robbery
are usually inspired by Greed. Gee, I wonder where you have a chance
to commit the sin of Greed in Las Vegas." Breena wasn't even listening
any more. She has waddled over to the craps table, and bought in
for a $100. She was extremely lucky, of course, and her stack of
chips grew to unbelievable heights. You all know what has to happen
next, gentle readers. Yes, Breena committed the sin of Greed: she
did not stop when she had doubled her money, she did continue to
play when she had tripled it. She played and played until, you guessed
it, she walked away from the table with $4.000. Cousin Cameron would
have been proud, she thought, the way she had gradually increased
her bets (pass line & odds). Malt sighed and checked off the second
item from the list. "You were certainly greedy," he said, "but this
wasn't supposed to happen." "You're a dour moraline-sour funkiller!"
Breena exclaimed, kissing him very lightly on the cheek. Malt crashed
into a nearby change machine, but didn't seem to mind much.
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