NYC Midnight second heat

Forget the MGM Grand with it’s clientèle of rich tourists. Leave behind the Luxor with it’s doormen clad like Pharaohs, cloying opulence, halls of yuppies gambling on the roulette wheel. In another corner of Las Vegas is an altogether less salubrious and much more desperate establishment. The Vente Casino sits opposite a floodlit parking lot and occupies the ground floor of an even less salubrious hotel, the rooms of which are haunted by the ghosts of forgotten cocaine deals, meaningless sex, bad karma and vice.
The punters here are the ones barred from everywhere else, Luckless Jim sitting across from me at the poker table, word is that he sold his own kidney to the Mafia to pay his gambling debts. A crooked surgeon in their pay removed it only to discover that Jimmy’s alcohol habit had pickled it. He still owes them over thirteen thousand dollars (plus the surgeons fee). No one will find him here in the Vente though. No comes here except the congenitally desperate. Marcy sits on Luckless Jim’s right. Hair spray, faded lipstick, plastic nails. Her complexion yellowed by the desert sun and iron deficiency. She cheats but we tolerate her. Rumours of an actual ‘ace in the hole’ got her strip searched in the foyer of the Luxor. The police got involved, you can imagine the rest. I keep an eye on her. I’m the croupier and am therefore only slightly less desperate than the clients. I don’t wish to be kneecapped by furious employers due to lost earnings though (and my employers can be furious). Jack Spaniels, the barman’s dog rests his head against Marcy’s leg before languidly trying to hump it. She is too intent on the game to notice.
Then there’s Eduardo sat on the left hand side of the table. Eduardo Crayon. Some say he’s a native American cursed by a shaman to live out his life as a white man for his unspeakable crimes. Other says he’s Black or Hispanic or Italian or Jewish. Imagine if you asked Pablo Piccasso to design an ethnicity, you would have something approaching Eduardo Crayon’s face. Harsh lines and skin of mottled shades. Everyone agrees on one thing however. Eduardo Crayon has some curious vices, not just limited to gambling.
I deal another hand on to the green baize, keeping a close eye on Marcy’s hand. Jack Spaniels trots off to his master at the bar. The minutes of my life tick by.
Eduardo lives four floors up in the hotel above. I’ve never been to his room, never had a reason to. I know the cleaner though, so I’ve heard stories. Most of the hotel residents live sparse, nomadic lives. Not so Eduardo. His room has a well stocked aquarium for one thing. He must have lived here now for months. This one time, the cleaner was hoovering the floor when something got caught in the mechanism, jamming the vacuum. Reaching down inside, the cleaner fished out a roll of badly exposed negatives and pocketed them, figuring quite rightly that they were shots of something shady or illicit. Later on that day, Eduardo would return to discover the negatives had been taken and obviously suspected that the hotel staff had something to do with it, this being an establishment where everyone is on the make. He spelled his own doom by coming down here to the casino to gripe about the thieving staff and make wild drunken threats. Those of us who work in the gambling industry take pride in our ability to obtain money from others willing to hand it over. We don’t like accusations of thievery down here. It was only a matter of time before the cleaner got the film developed
Tonight is a slow night but Marcy, Eduardo and Jim are all losing money to the House, which is how it should be. A homeless bum somehow wanders past the bouncers, his overcoat smells of wet cats, he asks if he can buy into a hand with a stolen American Express. I stare at him as the bouncer finally does his job and bounces the bum back to the street.
So back to our story. The prints came back, grainy but visible and clearly showed Eduardo in a series of unnatural poses, with various creatures from his aquarium. It seems that Eduardo Crayon sleeps with the fishes. And not in the Mafia sense either. Obviously we were shocked. We would have been disgusted too, but it’s casino policy to never pass judgement on our clientèle. Any other establishment in Vegas would have blackmailed poor Eduardo until he was flat broke, but this is the Vente. This is the last refuge in Vegas for the desperate, the lonesome and the heart broken, we try not to drive away our clientèle. Besides we have other ways of taking their money.
It’s time to deal out another hand, I smile into Eduardo’s ethnically ambiguous eyes as I pass out the cards. He’s a man of curious vices, but we like him.