The Vegas Virgin
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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Part 20

Part 20 They drove back to the Palms, and Breena checked her list: Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride and Lust. "Iím certainly ready for Sloth," she proclaimed, tittering. Malt suggested several times that Lust might be the better choice at this point, but she just laughed. "Letís leave that for laterrr, tigerrr," she growled. She was torn whether she should use the giant Jacuzzi in her suite or stay at the pool, but chose the latter, because 1) she hadnít had much pool time lately and 2) she didnít trust Malt to behave in her suite while she was Slothing (if this isnít a word, it should be). So she went to the pool, dressed in her bright pink mini-bikini and chose a particularly appealing chair. The pool wasnít that busy ‚ even if it was a particularly nice day and the pool still was mysteriously open, people werenít that fond of pools in November.

She didnít need any wisdom by Father Corey on this oneÝ (though he might have pointed out that this wasnít her first sin of Sloth while in Vegas, not having used her considerable journalistic skills for quite some time). Instead, she spread out until it was just right, closed her eyes and forgot about the world and Malt who was lurking nearby, much like Ace at a Soiree. She drifted away in a sunshine and champagne induced dream which was so pleasant it should never have ended. But end it did.

When she woke up, the sun was always gone, and what was left was blocked by an elder man who was pinching her perfect right upper thigh with his fingers. It was the gentleman with the thistle-down hair, she recognized with a start, and the pinching actually hurt quite a bit. Malt, who might have been useful for a change, of course was nowhere to be seen. The gentleman with the thistle-down hair said, very quietly: "I told you not to associate with the wrong crowd. Several times I told you." Anger welled up in Breena like a fiery fire. Her rage burned with the passion of a thousand suns. Her hate was uncontrolled. She felt impatient with security, with police, with the world. She jumped up and shouted at the top of her voice (which sounded very squeaky suddenly) "youÖyou bad man! I hate you!" She pushed him away and he crashed again a lounge chair, surprised. She scrambled to get her stuff, squeaked once again "you bad man!" and fled the premises. The few other guests at the pool stared in wonder, while the man with the thistle-down hair calmly got up and told them that this was a little argument between him and his daughter and werenít girls stubborn at that age? Nobody really wanted to get involved, especially not the young guy in charge of the pool, who, judging by the amount of flaming pimples he sported, must have been around 15.

Breena fled to her suite, thoroughly enraged now. On her perfect thigh, an ugly bruise was forming. She quickly got an ice-cold bottle of vodka out of the bar to cool it and poured herself a tall one while she was at it. The first sins had been fun, she thought, but this anger business was most definitely not. Where had Malt gone? Wasnít he supposed to watch her slothfulness? And what was she supposed to do? Call the police because someone pinched her, because she "associated with the wrong kind of people?"

This called for an extended Jacuzzi session, and she used the jets in all the right places, which was extremely pleasant, but certainly didnít qualified as Lust. Meanwhile, Malt was pounding on the door, but she sure as hell wouldnít let him in right now, and after a while, he gave up and went away. She checked her list on the table as she got out of the Jacuzzi, all dripping wet and gloriously naked and checked herself out in the mirror. She was proud of herself, but that was no sin, just a realistic appraisement of reality. She stood at the window, looking down to the pool, when she suddenly saw two tiny little people walking along the pool area. It was a lanky guide with a cowboy hat, and a woman with flaming red hair. Breena would have recognized that hair anywhere, from any distance. "Itís her! Itís Donna! And sheís stealing Walt," she howled, angry beyond belief (especially considering that she had flirted with and almost made out with more guys than Lindsay Lohan on a bad night since meeting Walt. Women. Canít live with them. Pass the beernuts). She was burning with an insatiable desire: to have the same enchanting power over Walt thisÖlady obviously had, to be able to accompany him (again, apparently) everywhere she wanted and to be able to possess that lanky frame whenever she felt like it (apparently again). The Malt-O-Matic switched itself on again and Father Corey commented helpfully: "In Danteís Purgatory, the sinners that had committed Envy had their eyes tied shut with wires, so that they could not covet again." This obviously did not improve Breenaís mood much, and the machine hastily switched itself off again.

She didnít know what to do. She knew better than to storm after them. She didnít wear any clothes, and they would have been long gone before she was able to reach the pool. She sighed mightily, had another vodka (but mixed it with tonic this time, because you shouldnít overdo things) and returned to her list.

"I guess this qualified as Envy," she mumbled, and Malt shouted from behind the still closed door "It certainly did!" ‚ She began to dress, clumsily but methodically (she had done it many times before, after all) and shouted to Malt: "Thereís Pride and Lust left. What do you think?." There was a pause. "Erm ‚ you could consult Father Corey," he said. Breena punched on the device, and Father Corey said "Ahh ‚ Pride. Often considered to be the original and most serious of all the sins, although I canít quite understand why. It is considered as a desire to be more attractive, intelligent or important than others and to love onself more than anything else. Pride was what caused Luciferís Fall from Heaven, and his transformation into Satan." That didnít help Breena much. She was aware of her attractiveness ‚ anyone was -, but she wasnít overly in love with herself. She typed in "What do you suggest?." The answer came a little to rapidly. "SIN," Father Corey declared. "SIN?" Breena asked. "Isnít that what Iíve been trying to do all day? ." "He means the SIN building, Malt shouted through the door. He was beginning to get a bit hoarse, and there wasnít a real reason to keep him out of the room, but Breena enjoyed it. She was beginning to like this mean streak she was developing. "The SIN building is West of the Strip like the Palms, but to the South. I can take you there." Breena wasnít in the mood to argue, and if Father Corey and Malt agreed, it might have been a good idea to just try it.

They drove over to Polaris and W. Russell Road (there, donít say this story isnít useful!) and parked in the vast parking space thoughtfully provided by management. It had gotten dark an hour ago and the palm in front of the building was backlit to great effect. "What does SIN mean?" she asked, maybe a bit too late. "Sexy Intimate Nightlife" Father Corey and Malt said in unison, and they entered the building. Malt explained to the lady in charge that they were locals and had arrived with their own transportation, so she let them in for free. They entered a vast building (Breena very accurately estimated it to be around 40.000 square feet) and she quickly realized she was in a strip club.

The club was well lit, the brighter light mixing with the red tones to give the club a very warm feel which didnít feel threatening at all to Breena. She liked the song that was being played, and swayed gently to the rhythm. Malt took her to a comfortable couch, and they ordered vodka martinis for an obscene amount of money. ÝBreena watched interestedly how the dancers moved on stage. There was a stripper pole, of course, and they did some pretty nifty moves up there. One of the ladies, she was African-American, did a routine that was more acrobatic than anything else, climbing up the pole and performing moves that would have felt right at a gym. Still, she was very sexy.

The other patrons were busy stuffing dollar bills into g-strings, and Malt was producing weird noises under some brunette bimbo as she was trying to point out the acrobatic lady to him. That annoyed her to no end. She ordered another vodka martini, and, as Malt was smiling in a distinctly non-intelligent way, very much doubted he would be much help in the Lust department tonight. She went to the restroom and checked out the merchandise on the way. These girls were pretty, but wasnít she something else entirely? A bronzed farmgirl with just the right mix of innocence and sexiness? Much better than any red-headed tramp? She opened three buttons on her blouse and stormed back into the main room. Malt was gasping as he noticed her cleavage, but she only had eyes for the beautiful black acrobatic lady who had suddenly appeared at her chair. "I couldnít help notice your looks earlier," she said. "Iím Candy. Are you in for something sweet?." ‚ You bet I am, Breena thought and simply nodded. Candy began to move around her expertly, showing off her acrobatic body. She presented her ample behind and uncovered her breasts, no, she flaunted them in front of Breena. She certainly had nothing to hide herself, a little voice inside her said. Even as the girl was incredibly attractive, she still was the better one, she was sure of that. Candy shook her breasts just in front of her eyes and moved in on her lap. Breena somehow felt encumbered by her blouse now and opened one more button. The blouse glided to the ground noiselessly. There might be gentle readers who have forgotten that Breena rarely wore a bra, but this author highly doubts it at this point. The music seemed louder now, but all other noises had stopped. The girls on the stages had stopped dancing, and the other customers were all watching by now. The light got a little brighter, but Breena didnít notice how Randy Shandis, the clubs owner, worked the lighting like magic, with a deft touch. She was getting into it, moving with the music, gyrating, with Candy. The beat got faster, and Breena was thrusting now, along with the athletic dancer. Candy pulled Breena out of her chair, as her skirt glided to the floor without a sound as well, and pulled her on the stage, and another song began, and yet another, but nobody was dancing in the club except for the two girls. Breena couldnít believe it, but as she performed with the girl she felt something she hadnít felt during all her trip so far. It was Lust.

Several minutes later, she returned to her seat, a bit sheepishly, after the thunderous applause had died down, and all the dollar bills in large denominations had been collected. She put on her clothes again, and actually was thankful that Malt sent Randy Shandis away, who wanted to book her at any price, at any condition, she would just have to name it. As she was leavingÝ the club with Malt, he said in a curiously high-pitched voice "ThatÖwasÖcool" and methodically checked the remaining sins off her clipboard. Malt drove her back to the Palms, and she felt wildly glorious. This hadnít been a bad day after all, she thought, even with all this sinning, and she would have gone to bed happily had she not seen a flash of red in the night on the parking structure. She headed in that direction, ignoring the protesting Malt, and saw that it was indeed Donna, with Walt at her side, moving towards the main building. They were closer now, and just as Breena wanted to confront the red-headed harlot, Donna began to scream. It was lot louder than in the suite at the Venetia, and she was pointing to the ground. There, in a puddle of blood, was the lifeless body of the gentleman with the thistle-down hair.


Part 21

Breena looked at the at the dead man in horror. Improbably, on his chest, there was a sliced tomato.Ý Donna was still screaming, just like she was in Part 20. This woman has got some lung power, Breena thought grudgingly. Walt took charge. "Donna, stop screaming. Malt, stop puking. Breena, go to your room right now and stay there until tomorrow. Don't tell anybody." "That's Dexter Wainwright," ÝWalt said. "He was a backstabbing son of a bitch. And you don't want to be around when his friends arrive."

Breena left, noticing that Donna finally had stopped screaming and Malt was only retching mildly by now. She hurried back to her room. Even all that pink looked menacing by now, and she felt a killer headache (get it? get it?) coming on. Her head was full of questions: who killed Dexter Wainwright? Why was Walt so darkly handsome and in control? Why was that red-headed woman with him at every time of day or night? She sighed and got undressed, very faintly noticing the nice smell of the athletic dancer on herself. She had to smile despite herself. She could always shower tomorrow.

The next morning, the events of the previous day seemed like a faint memory. She resolved to take advantage of her suite for the rest of the morning. So she filled the giant Jacuzzi to capacity and soaked for the better part of an hour. She even tried out the Show Me Shower, which seemed pointless without an audience. Too bad the mostly middle aged men who were reading this couldn't be here. She would have put on quite a show.

Quenching all thoughts of further exhibitionism, she took stock of her situation. There was a dead guy in the parking lot, who had been seen with her a few hours before as he pinched her and got quite a public earful in return. She had also no idea why he had been bothering her all week. She realized that this made her a prime suspect - Malt wasn't the best character witness one could hope for, being bombed on energy drinks most of the time.

It was time to get dressed now, and Breena chose the most sensible shoes she had brought. They still had two inch heels, but she was able to run pretty fast with them. She also chose her favorite blue jeans and a cashmere turtleneck sweater.

She sighed and looked at her watch. It was ten already and she should be checking out her new appointment. But somehow, she didn't want to leave this comfortable suite yet. The pink didn't look threatening at all, and the stripper's pole looked positively inviting. At this inconvenient moment , the phone rang. Breena answered it with some trepidation. There was some coughing and harrumphing and then a barbershop quartet started to sing, rather sweetly:

"Why don't you ask why Walt is called the King, Why don't you ask if he will wear your ring, Why don't you ask why Donna is the Queen, And why she insists on coming in between?"

"Why don't you ask why this Malt is always there, And why don't you ask him to quickly grow a pair. We're the old geezers, and never want to stop Wishing you the best, we are Ace, Norm, Dogg and BOB."

It was a lot nicer with the actual melody than just reading the lyrics. Breena was stunned for a second, than she said "Erm - that was very - nice. Who are you guys again?" - "We're the Greco-Vegan choir, also called the BAND," BOB said helpfully. "We've been told there was a demand for unfunny old geezer jokes." - "I'm not that old," some one could be heard protestingÝ in the background." - "But you have a short name that didn't mess up the iambic pentameter," someone else said who very possibly was wearing a funny paper hat.Ý BOB tried to get control of the conversation again: "Also, we offer valuable hints and plot development at no extra charge." - "Erm - thanks?" Breena offered. "No problem!," the four harmonized.

Weird as this had been, it actually made some sense to Breena. She should confront Walt and Donna and Malt with these hard-hitting questions, the way a trained journalist did. She packed her bags, twirled around the pole one last time and left the suite.

The clerk at the reception desk was visibly disappointed by her turtleneck sweater, but handled himself manfully. He handed Breena the sheet with her assignments and she read "THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay" on the first page, and the following on the second: "Enter the Universe Series of Poker and finish in the money. Find out about the most despised gangs in Las Vegas. Also, you still haven't found the best kept secret in Las Vegas."

That was a bit rich, Breena thought. Too much attitude after all she had been through. It didn't sit well with her. The prospect of another night of luxury mollified her, though. She packed her bags into her Smart and drove over the short distance to THEHotel, left her car at the valet as usual and entered.

The lobby was staggering. It didnít look like a Vegas lobby at all, but like something she might have expected in a boutique hotel in New York. Modern art was on display, no slot machines were in evidence amd the sleek black and marble minimalist designs were achingly cool. Well dressed people were everywhere, most of them only a little older than she was. She checked in at the reception and got a Strip view suite despite the turtleneck. She accessed the elevator which brought her up to her room in a flash. Her room was a real suite again, consisting of a living room, a bedroom and two bathrooms, for a total of 750 square feet. It wasnít an upgrade, though, all the suites at THEHotel were like this. The design featured dark woods and rich earth tones. The living room had a couch, a 42-inch plasma TV, a dvd player, a work desk with a swivel chair plus a fax machine and a mini bar (with jelly beans!). The bedroom featured two queen beds, another TV and a quite beautiful cupboard. The rooms had killer views across the Strip, being high enough to look over the pyramid and just a few floors below Mix, though the windows were a bit dirty. The bathroom had a huge tub (where two people would fit in side by side easily), another flat screen TV and a walk-in shower. The toilettries were very nice and extensive. Pretention won out at the toilet, with toilet paper being labeled as "THE tp."

She wondered what to do next. Her assignments were woefully vague. How was she supposed to find the best kept secret of Las Vegas or information about the most despised gangs? The poker tournament seemed easier. It was time for some research again - exactly the right work for a trained journalist.

She switched on the Malt-O-Matic and typed in "Universe Series of Poker." The machine made a joyful noise and displayed the following: "The Universe Series of Poker obviouslyÝ is the most important poker tournament in the Universe. The history of important poker tournaments started with the World Series of Poker, which started out at Binion's Horseshoe and was later moved to the Rio. The price money is in the millions. It was the most important poker tournament in the world, until the Solar System Series of Poker came along. It was created by a man who cunningly realized that his chance of winning improved dramatically if he let total beginners play against him and his cronies. It took place wherever casinos were willing to chance the risk of hosting it. The backlash was inevitable, and soon the Universe Series of Poker was created. It had one ultimate goal: to be the most luxurious poker experience anywhere -Ý the entry fee is $1.000.000. It takes place at the Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay, where each participant is given a lavish gift bag, has constant access to a luxurious buffet provided by Alain Ducasse and all the Red Bull they can drink. Oh, and it happens to take place today."

So she was to enter in a luxurious poker tournament? That sounded a lot better than her previous assignments, she thought. She left her room to look for the Foundation Room and wandered around the casino for a bit. It was humongous and featured a tropical theme, which was very nicely done. The air smelled like coconut, and though she was aware it was probably scented, she still enjoyed it immensely. She passed the House of Blues with its strange Southern art and a store that didnít suck as hard as restaurant stores usually do. Finally, she found a sign pointing to the admission desk for the tournament. An oily man with jet black hair welcomed her and introduced himself: "Hi, I'm Roger Buttsnort. I'm the tournament director. Would you happen to have a reservation for today's tournament, young lady?." Breena told him her name and got a badge. She didnít have to pay anything, though. "Itís all been pre-arranged," Buttsnort said. "You've got quite a bit of time left, young lady. The tournament won't start until 7 p.m." - "Is there a bookshop in here somewhere," she asked. "Only the finest in all of Las Vegas," he said smoothly. "The Reading Room is the first shop in the Mandalay Bay mall coming from here. Check out the rest of the mall, too, it's pretty cool."

She passed the Reading Room and went into the Mall, because she was quite hungry by now. There were quite a few cool stores in the mall. She liked the huge Urban Outfitters for its eclectic collection. It wasn't all her style, but she still found two t-shirts she bought. One of these was a size too small even for her. It said ÑWanna bet?" in huge red letters and seemed like a good outfit to show off her tummy and some other stuff at the tournament tonight.

She found a restaurant called Burger Bar. It looked like a spiffed-up sports bar, with plasma TVs in every booth. She loved the menu: burgers in every size and style, individually customizable with tons of toppings. There were all kinds of toppings, cheeses, vegetables and stuff like foie gras. Figuring she would get more fancy stuff at the USP, she chose a Black Angus burger with avocado and grilled onions. It was very tasty, and she washed it down with one of the many excellent beers available (this author really wishes it to be a Fat Tire).

She was almost finished when a familiar lanky guy sat down in her booth. "Let's talk," he said.


Part 22

"Let's talk," Walt had said. Which was rather ironic, because he didn't for a long while, just staring at Breena with his incredibly blue eyes. Finally, Breena broke the silence. Being a trained journalist, she lead with the most important question: "Who is that red-headed hussy, and why are you always running around with her?"

Walt took his sweet time. Finally, he said: "Donna is my adopted sister. It's complicated." Breena flipped: "Who do think believes this crap? What does this make of Malt?." - "He's her adopted half-brother, of course," Walt said a bit lamely. "So why do people call you the King and Queen?." Walt looked a bit pained. "I'm a Las Vegas Metro detective," he said. "I'm in charge of a special division. It's called Anti Vice Las Vegas. Donna's a special agent from South California. You know how people are around here. They call us the King and Queen of avlv. It's supposed to be funny."

That was quite a surprise. Walt became even sexier: he was a hard-boiled cop! With a charming half-sister! Who was so testosterony he ordered a Caesar's salad and a glass of milk!" I really like the taste of anchovies," he said a bit defensively and took a picture of the salad for some important detecting reasons, she was sure. "You see, when you were in Donnaís suite, you tried to pick up our recording device which was cleverly disguised as a box of chocolate (right, Breena thought, who would ever pick some chocolate up?).Ý As it was very expensive, we tried to let you know acoustically." "By screaming like girls?" Breena finished for him.

"Vice, hmmm?" she said, not sure whether her activities at SIN would have been considered a case for him. She kinda wished it was. "So what do you fight against?" she asked. "Oh, I fight the three most despised groups in Vegas: the Time Share Gang, the Porn Slappers Brigade and the Secret Porn Society." This was a stroke of luck! Just what she needed for her assignment!"Tell me about them," she pleaded.

Like any man, Walt did enjoy talking about his work. He even got a little animated and used more than five words per minutes (six, to be exact). "Let's start with the Time Share Gang. You probably met them already. they're pretty much everywhere in Vegas, trying to hard-sell time share properties to unsuspecting tourists. Their prime victims are couples, so they probably didn't target you." - "But I was with Malt most of the time," she said and regretted it immediately. Walt actually seemed to look pained for a second. "Their prime victims are couples who look affluent," he corrected himself. "As you probably know, Malt is just a journalist. He was supposed to help you."

Breena couldn't believe what she had just heard. "JUST" a journalist? Didn't Walt know about the extensive journalistic training necessary to become a journalist? Walt continued, oblivious to his faux-pas. "Their leader is called Intolerant John. He doesn't seem like a bad guy at first, but he's got questionable ethics for sure. He also has an unhealthy obsession with other people's gonads."

"The second gang is the Porn Slappers brigade. You've certainly seen them as well. They're mostly people from South of the Border, and Intolerant John hates them with all his heart. They stand on the Strip, handing out pamphlets that are thinly veiled ads for hookers. It's a highly lucrative business." - "I know, I'm a trained journalist," Breena wanted to say, but somehow didn't. ÑTheir boss is called Randy Shandis. Heís the head of a big empire by now, owning several night clubs and strip clubs. Heíll do anything for a profit."

"And the third gang?" Breena asked. "Well, thatís the most mysterious one. The Secret Porn Society is based on the belief that the key to making lots of money is to get into gay porn. But the gay porn website is hidden so incredibly well no one can find it. Thatís what makes it so dangerous. Many people are also annoyed because they keep promising porn no one can find. The Don is the crime ring's master mind. He's old as time and has a fondness for talking gibberish. Also, the symbol of his gang is the tomato. So it was no coincidence that a sliced tomato was placed on the body of Dexter Wainwright. It was the symbol of the Don."

"So how does Dexter Wainwright fit in the puzzle," Breena asked. This was sounding suspiciously like a plot. "Dexter Wainwright was working both sides. He was sent by the Don to watch over you, and to keep you from working with us, but also worked for Randy Shandis on the side. They killed him as a warning." "To whom?" Breena asked, confused. "To himself, of course. He probably got the lesson and wonít ever do it again." This seemed like solid reasoning to Breena. But there was still one thing she didnít get. "Why were all these people so interested in me," she asked. "Because youíre the key," Walt said. "You are what Lyra is to the His Dark Materials, what Frodo is to the Lord of the Rings." That sounded more nerdy than manly, but then again, Walt surfed the internet a lot. "All three companies have overextended themselves financially. They have all placed most of their remaining stakes in the poker tournament tonight. And the only way to get rid of them without a bloodbath is by wininng the tournament. You had the invitation all along, Breena, because KL Mouton for once didnít think about himself first, but cooperated with us. No one will be suspicious when a buxom blond who has never played poker before shows up at a high-stakes tournament, right?." Breena had to admit it seemed to be a well thought-out plan. "But what happens if I lose," Breena asked. "Easy," Walt said. "Las Vegas will be inundated with time shre salesman, porn slappers or gay porn. You must stop them, Breena!" And with that, he gave her one more manly wink, threw a few $10 bills on the table (he did this extremely casually, of course) and gave her a final wave. "ButÖ how?" she wanted to ask, but he was already gone.

Breena had decided she needed some basic rules of the poker game before getting involved in an actual tournament. The Reading Room was just the place to find the right book. It wasn't one of those awful chains so common in the States, but cosy and chock-full of interesting books, many of them about gambling and Vegas. The store only had two rather small rooms, but felt incredibly comfortable. Breena checked out the gambling sections and found several books about poker. An extremely handsome gentleman (who has promised this author lunch, so there) wearing a velvety burgundy suit asked her "Are you looking for poker advice?." "Yes, grandpa," Breena could have said, thereby thwarting all my chances of getting anything out of typing 50.000 plus words. So instead she exclaimed "Are you by any chance an experienced poker player? Oh teach me, teach me please!" "Of course I will explain the basics of the game to you," the man said, smiling benevolently. "Iím Bill, by the way. Iím from Houston."Ý "Hi, Bill from Houston," Breena said, smiling coyly. Ý

"Why donít we have a drink at the bar, and Iíll explain the basics to you," Bill suggested. "Weíre talking Texas hold ëem, right?." They settled down at the bar, and Breena remembered her cousin Cameronís sure fire recipe against hangover: Bourbon Sours. So she ordered one and was listening intently to Bill, who wasnít only handsome, but extremely intelligent as well.

"Texas hold 'em Ýis the most popular poker game played in the United States.," he began. "It works like this: Every player gets two cards, which are calle "hole cards." Then, five community cards are dealt, which each player can see and each player can use. So any combination of the five community cards and their own two hole cards to make a poker hand are possible. After each player has his own cards, and after the dealing of three, one and another community cards, bets can be made. If more than one player matches all the bets of the others, there is a showdown, and the best hand wins. Otherwise, the player betting the highest wins without even having to show his cards. In the no-limit form of betting, you can bet as many chips as you have. Itís the most popular, because rules are relatively simple, but itís still very exciting. Also, it leaves a lot of room for strategy. There are tons of books out there, but Iím confident that I can teach you better than any book could."

Bill patiently explained about big and small blinds, about the order in which betting took place, about the dealer button and the periodic rise of the blinds in tournament poker. He also explained the basic strategy, when to bet, and when to pass (and he did this without a single reference to "The Gambler," which is more than this author is capable off). He had to explain several times which hands where best, and which hands were hopeful, and which werenít. Breena was a good pupil, and she had a surprising knack for remembering that stuff, so that at the end of his tutorial, she was able to fake her way through the game pretty well. But of course she didnít have the experience an old pro could muster. Bill was proud of his pupil. "I couldnít afford the entry fee for the tournament," he finally said, "but I will be there and will try to help you. One final advice: bet conservatively, play as few hands as possible and try not to go all-in if you donít have anything good. As a rule of thumb, only play hands that are pairs or would be worth 20 or 21 in a blackjack game." Breena thanked him whole heartedly and returned to her suite to freshen up for the dayís big event.

She still had some time left, so she went downstairs again to check out the pool. It was quite a hike to get there, but it was certainly worth it. It was quite simply the best pool she had seen in all of Vegas. It featured a tropical theme, of course, and there were waterfalls and a lazy river and a huge wave pool with a real sand beach. She wanted to work on her tan badly (there even was a topless sunbathing area), but alas, she had to get ready for the poker tournament.


Part 23

Breena chose her oufit carefully. The t-shirt that was a size too small, dark sunglasses small enough to still offer a good view at her face and her most beguiling perfume ("Happy" from Clinique, if you must know). She chose a more comfortable skirt, as her opponents wouldnít be able to see it much anyway.

She was there right on time. The Foundation Room was very comfortable and stylish at the same time. It was decorated in a theme combining Asian and Southern influences, with lavish fabrics and oriental rugs. The rooms were all located off a long hallway, and each sported a different musical theme.

There was a buffet in the Hip Hop room, and it was spectacular. There were Asian delicacies, lots of seafood and more basic fare like ribs and steaks. Breenaís favorite was the lavish spread of fruit and other goodies waiting to be dunked into the huge chocolate fountain. Of course, the view was unbelievable, even better than from her own room, because she was able to look straight down the Strip. There was a large balcony with plenty of room for revelers, and the huge Mandalay Bay sign was close by, which ruined the effect a bit.

She told herself to pay attention to her opponents, as Bill had told her, and to ignore the view as well as the could. Quite a few people were hanging around by the edge of the party, but werenít allowed in the buffet area. Breena recognized Bill and gave him a short wave, and he smiled and waved back. Malt was also there in the background, dressed resplendently in a canary yellow suit several sized too big for him. She could spot Walt in the distance, and she could hear a short scream over the noise, meaning that Donna was probably there too, possibly having detected another dead guy. She took a look at her opponents now. There were about 15 people who seemed to be players, and Breena recognized Randy Shandis immediately. He looked at her with a leering grin. "Well, howdy little lady. Iím sure youíll be needing money after I have crushed you in this little tournament. Thereís always a job for you at my company, you know. If you donít like to work at SIN, we have several options that are more ‚ letís say hands‚on." Breena turned away in disgust. Bill had told her about the importance of staying calm, so she just ignored him, even though she would have loved to throw him of the balcony (Not that she could have; Randy Shandis was a big guy from a big empire).

There were several other players Breena vaguely remembered from TV or the papers. She didnít follow tournament poker (incidentally, this author doesnít either), so she couldnít name any of the famous professional poker players. One of them was Asian, and another was sporting a mustache he kept twirling constantly, like a villain in a bad movie or a really badly written novel. One man sported a cane and a walker, though he seemed to be able to walk just fine. He smiled benevolently at everyone and cursed them under his breath at the same time.

The strangest sight was a very old man who looked almost transparent. He was ancient, and he was wearing crusty chinos and a shirt with tomato stains. He looked at Breena and said, slowly and deliberately "Maybe I am a judge, a Mafia Boss that protects his personality and family, a land baron that owns a lot of the city, maybe I am a homeless lady that posts from a hot spot. HAHAHA!" That seemed a bit menacing to Breena and she quickly averted her pretty eyes. The old man continued nonetheless: "There is a saying in Latin that I cannot remember in Latin, but in English it says "You can put feathers on a pig, it does not make it a chicken. ÝI am sure Jack the Ripper could smile, be polite, etc... ÝThat was part of his game to "get" people that could not learn from others." ÝShe tried to ignore him, but it was really hard. She went a few steps away to the window, and still heard him say "Deutscher, diese Sprache ist schwierig. Verstanden Sie? Homo factum est."Ý She left the room, but he could still be heard: "I personally wish a Priest would give Mass in the Park. ÝIt is done every day all around the world. ÝWait till we all get in line and he gives them the Host (Bread). ÝNow, it is a Constitutional (Supreme Court) issue." Thankfully, the rest was drowned out by the noise Malt was making trying to climb over a barrier.

Roger Buttsnort was ringing a bell now and waited until everyone had quieted down. "Welcome the the Universal Series of Poker," he said grandly. "This will be a no-limit Texas hold ëem tournament. The first prize isÝ Fourteen Million Dollars. There will be no other prices, exceopt for the two mil I keep for myself. Please proceed to your tables as your name is announced."

There were two tables with eight players each. She was the only woman. On Breenaís table, there was the Asian guy, the mustache twirler, Randy Shandis who sat next to her and a few players with no distinctive features who would be out of the tournament shortly, obviously (they DID look a bit like the guys on Star Trek who didnít have any dialogue). Their dealer was named Bill B and seemed very friendly. He winked at Breena and offered her a quick smile.

The game began in earnest and Breena really had to concentrate to make no mistakes in betting and picking up the cards. Some of the nondescript players were very aggressive, and after only nine hands, the first one went all in and was eliminated. Bill had told her about the nice custom to clap when a player was eliminated, but at this tournament, the other players just hissed malevolently. Randy Shandis kept leering at her, and made randy jokes, frequentlly commenting on her habit to check her hole cards again and again. This made her furious ‚ she had to check what she had, after all, but she tried hard to keep her calm. She played very conservatively, as Bill had taught her, and saw her first blind at the twelth hand, with pocket queens. She raised tentatively, and won her first pot. It wasnít big, but she had more chips than she had started out with, and felt more confident. At the other table, two other players were eliminated in quick succession, and one other nondescript player at her table went all-in and was out of the game in a flash. The game continued without major events, and Breena won two more small pots. As a trained journalist and expert in men, she had the advantage to use her instincts to sniff out a bluff.

It took only an hour to eliminate enough players to form one final table. Bill B congratulated everyone and explained the rules once again. Apart from two nondescript players on their way out, there were Randy Shandis, the Asian player whose name was Ding, Mustache Twirling Man who seemingly didnít have a name, the Don and the guy who had cursed the other participants earlier. His name was John, and Breena was pretty sure that it had to be the leader of the Time Share Gang. At least he kept cursing under his breath.

The game continued, and Randy Shandis continued to make fun of Breena. Then Breena entered a pot by raising with an AQ.Ý There were five players, including Shandis.Ý The flop came as A hearts, Q clubs, 5 clubs.ÝÝBreena had two pair and bet, quite aggressively this time.Ý The only guy who called was Shandis.Ý The turn was a 9 of diamonds.Ý Breena bet again, even more aggressively this time, Ýand Shandis called again, hastily.Ý The river card was a 3 of clubs.Ý Breena pushed all of her chips in the pot, but was devastated when the villain instantly called for all of his chips. She had calculated that the only reason he might do that was a flush. She sighed and asked him directly:

"Do you have a flush?" laying down her two pairs.Ý "Indeed I do, little lady," he said, immensely proud of himself, as he flipped over his hand: the jack of clubs and the 10 of spades. He reached for the chips, beaming, but Bill B cut him short and started pushing them towards Breena as the rest of the table started laughing.Ý He didn't have a flush.ÝThe crowd cheered loudly. Obviously, he had misread his hole cards and thought he had two clubs in his hand!Ý In the audience, a handsome guy in a tux with just the slightest hint of puke on his shoes shouted: "A terrible, and humiliating play puts him out of the tournament." Breena scooped up the huge pot. I could get used to that, she thought.

It was back to playing conservatively after that. The game had been quiet until than, but got livelier by the minute. The Don was shouting frequently now, as his chip stack dwindled. Once, he tried to grab a pot he didnít win, and Bill B chastened him. "Three times Mea Culpa, the right knee, Et cum spirituo, and all," the Don said, miserably. Three hands later, he suddenly stood up, arms flailing wildly, and shouted "Studo, por que caballo, ure, uh, caballerro?? :) ÝRex Reino.......VA! :)." Still, he made it to the final four, after Ding had overextended himself, and only Intolerant John, Mustacho Twirling Man and Breena were left in the Tournament. Intolerant John told a racist joke, and the Don got very agitated: "The part of my brain that operates my sphincter is larger than everything you have inside your skull," he shouted. Mustache Twirling Man twirled one time to many and was eliminated, too. "I never thought Iíd make it that far he offered to the reporter of the Review Journal standing by. "A one-note character like me making it to the final four." Everyone agreed that this author could have worked out that bit a lot better.

Now there were only three players left. Breena had been playing tight again and she was slightly ahead of Intolerant John in chip count, but the Don still had a comfortable lead. John looked at his cards and went all-in.Ý Breena peeked at her hole cards and saw two beautiful ladies - Queen Queen.Ý She hadnít seen a hand this good for a long time, so she called the all-in.ÝBut to her surprise, the Don at the other end of the table also moved all-in.Ý It was a huge 3-way (though fortunately only a pot)!

Intolerant John flipped over his cards and showed a King and Queen of hearts.Ý Breena was pleased as she had this hand dominated and only a King could help her opponent.Ý She flipped over her Queens which caused John to use some choice expletives rarely heard even in Las Vegas. But Breena was nervous.Ý What made the Don go all-in too?Ý If he had pocket Aces or Kings, she was in very bad shape.

The Don flipped over Ace King.Ý Breena was happy to have the best hand, but she had to escape an Ace or King coming at any point on the board.ÝÝJohn was in really bad shape now, as either a King or Queen on the board would help his opponents more than him.Ý He could Ýonly hope for a miracle straight or a flush.

All three players were out of their seats to watch the flop. Bill B pounded the table twice, burned the top card off the deck, and dealt out the three flop cards face down.ÝWith a flourish, he turned the cards over and Breena was thankful to not see an Ace or a King.Ý But John let out a yell:Ý He was back in the game as two hearts had come out on the flop giving him a good shot at a flush:Ý Jack of hearts, 7 of hearts, 3 of clubs.

Breena was really sweating now, but in an attractive way of course.Ý Now she had to avoid not only an Ace or King, but also one of 9 hearts left in the deck.Ý The dealer pounded the table again, burnt the top card, and flipped over the turn......the dreaded King of Clubs!Ý Breena collapsed into her chair as the Don let out a huge, though raspy, cheer "Olwolamaraditto!," he bellowed.Ý She was doomed. The only way Breena could win the pot now was to catch the last Queen in the deck on the river - barely a 2% chance.Ý This poker stuff sure was rough!Ý Neither of her opponents looked very comfortable as any heart could flip the chances into their favor, but it hardly mattered to Breena, as she was all but dead.ÝThe players watching around her were already congratulating her on playing a great tournament and asking her if she'd like any additional private, personal instruction, possibly by playing strip poker.

Bill B pounded his closed fist on the table one last time, burnt a card, and flipped over the river.ÝFifth street, the river of dreams, the cash card.ÝÝBreena didn't even see the card get flipped over due to the huge uproar that emanated from the players around her.Ý When she looked back the table, she saw the beautiful sight of a Queen of Diamonds laying as the fifth card on the felt.Ý Breena won the massive pot and smiled beatifically at John. He stood up quickly, then remembered his cane and drooped. "Curses! Foiled again," he hissed. "Itís back to scamming social security, I guess."

She had managed to put the Porn Slappers and the Time Share Gang out of business. But the most nefarious enemy still remained in the game. The Don wasnít beaten yet. He was sipping a Bloody Mary now.

As the game went on, the tide seemed to be turning in the Don's favor, asÝ he was on a winning streak. "Vae victis! ," he cried. Breena got dealt a pair of Kings,ÝÝand bet. The Don matched her bet, and the flop came as Q Q 8. She had two pairs, and the Don seemed uncomfotable, shifting his is seat with despicable contortions. Finally, he settled and whispered menacingly "Let's see what your made of, child" -Ý and went all in. Breena thought her hand to be strong, and put her chips in the middle of the table, saying "I'm all in, too."

The crowd gasped. Breena still was the chip leader, but only by a small margin. If she won that pot, the Don was finished. She flipped over her kings, and the Don flipped over two queens. He obviously had her beaten at this point. The turn offered Breena a chance - another king. But the Don was still ahead, of course. Bill B. pounded the table, burnt one more card and flipped over - the fifth queen. Pandemonium broke loose, and Bill B. shouted over the noise "They're fake," pointing to the Don's queens on the felt. And yes, on closer inspection, those queens looked different indeed. Those were very small but particularly lewd changes, but on close inspection it became clear that these were porn playing cards. Roger Buttsnort climbed on the table and shouted "Quiet!"

The din died down and everyone hung on Buttsnort's lips (these are two words that don't work particularly well together in this author's opinion). Roger Buttsnort continued: "Obviously, there has been an attempt to cheat. This is unheard of at this venerable tournament, and of course there have to be consequences. I will keep the entire price money." There were loud boos and hisses and Buttsnort hastily continued: "Erm, that was just a joke. Of course the Don is disqualified. Additionally, he'll be banned from Nevada for life. Maybe he can move to the South or something." A tournament director being able to ban someone from Nevada? That seemed highly implausible to a trained journalist like Breena. Then again, the story had become so implausible that it didn't really matter much. The Don, though, seemed to accept his fate and left, cackling "the website will be up any minute now!"

The crowd roared with pleasure upon that decision, and a huge party soon was well under the way. It was a lot of fun for a while, but the thinly veiled stupid jokes from Intolerant John anf the sexual avances by Buttsnort soon made her want to leave. She found Malt and Donna and Walt and Burt, and Malt said "It was time to leave anyway. You wouldn't want to miss the afterparty, right?" - "Where is this party?" Breena asked, and everyone just smiled. "It's at Las Vegas' newest hotel," Walt finally said. "You haven't been there yet."

They all piled into the black limo. Mr. Ronson was driving again, piloting them downtown, but a few streets away from the Fremont Street Experience. From outside, the first thing Breena noticed was the wonderful neon sign. There were horses racing down the facade, resplendently done in neon. The sign said "Cameron's Club, formerly known as the Ogden Inn," which seemed a bit too long to Breena. There were big signs advertising the best odds in town, the most fabulous specials in the coffeeshop and the 24 hour gift shop. Also advertised was a 24 hour liquor store.

They entered the casino which was big but not too big, and featured all the table games Breena had ever heard of and quite a few more. There was $3 blackjack with favorable good old-fashioned rules, and roulette without the double zero. There was excellent video poker and a $3 Craps games with 100X odds, and a maximum bet of $10,000.00. She even spotted a Sigma Derby machine, restored to all its glory. There was a huge sports book with comfortable chairs and a separate poker room. Cocktail service seemed fantastic, the waitresses all looked like they had stepped out of a Russ Meyer film.. It seemed to work, too - there were gamblers everywhere, gambling to their heartsí content. The theme - well, there wasn't a real theme.Ý Maybe the theme was good, comfortable gambling.

Walt turned to a door guarded by a burly security guard. "Private function in the Grand Ballroom, sorry," he said. Before they could say anything, a friendly voice cut in: "It's alright, Gabba. They belong here." Breena turned around and recognized BR Eagle. "I'm head of security here now. Exciting job, much like on that show Las Vegas, but much less dangerous than my last job before I came to Vegas, down in the South."

The Grand Ballroom was spacious, but somehow still looked cosy. A huge mass of people was present - many were listening, a few were talking. She saw a lot of people she had met the previous week: BOB and Ace and Norm and Dogg waved to her in unison before breaking in their next song (which featured unfunny old goober humour) on the stage (where a huge banner hung, stating simply "The BAND").

And there was Cousin Cameron, who obviously had won the Powerball lately (and probably could use an investment of $14 million), smiling hugely and hugging her a bit too fondly, but that was the way things were done in the Dakotas.

The Band finished their song, and a karaoke competition started. Denny took the stage now with a heartfelt karaoke version of "Marry Me" by B.B.King and Donna was clapping along, and, of course, screaming.

A woman whose body and face made Breena feel inadequate for the first time approached her and said: "Hi, I'm Amy from Colorado. I'm Malt's wife you know." Breena was very surprised: "He's married? I had no ideaÝ - erm, he was talking about you all the time. Hey, I'm really sorry that this author has lifted all the casino descriptions from you (up to Chapter 19, where the quality of the descriptions really went downhill)." - "That's ...emmm.... Ok. At least he wrote enough that he didn't need my input to reach the 50.000 words," stunningly gorgeous Amy said (she was also incredibly intelligent and had a terrific sense of humor. Also, she hated lawyers and copyright infringement lawsuits. A lot). "I'm glad to have Malt back, anyway."Ý And though how anyone could be glad about that remained a mystery to Breena, it was probably better that way.

There were loads of people. SpencerDogg and Elvis and David and Chuck were hugging and shooting the breeze, the way old friends do. Billhere was talking to Patty and Ted Newkirk, and, mysteriously, Stinky and Scott were there too. Ron Chapman was repeating everything Chuck said. There was a corner where Ron Emerson was sharing sports advice and explained lifeís meaning and everything, admired by a huge appreciative crowd and a small dog. Lynn shared stories of classic Las Vegas and even the young guns were listening. Walt was actually smiling at Breena and Donna screamed with delight just for the heck of it. Medgirl, Doc Tom and Hog were talking medicine with a curious-looking guy who seemed to be from Germany, and Tom in CT had bought free drinks for everyone. Salmoneous was the most eloquent of them all, Westie regaled everyone with tales of epic trips, Skip and Doctor Bob were playing Spot the Hooker but didnít have any success in this room and still had a laugh about it. Coorslite and Singlemalt and Mitch and Flip and Gary Tesch and Jerry were drinking with Corey who cited scripture and was laughing raucously. Ace was talking about his latest scams, and Andrew let everyone try on the fannypack, but only for a little while. Smee was talking with Beach Stu, and Gregg with DuhOz, and Bobb with BOB and Norm who was apparently all right, thank God. Cmdr Mark told great stories about the great outdoors. Marcia was talking to Marsha and Annie and Judith and Margaret and Amy and the SunspotsÝ and T-Bone was listening to Steve playing banjo and the 128th couplet of "One Tool Man" accompanied by accordion. BR and Tom Ronson were talking sports, and there were quite a few Hogs ogling the women.

Nonnymus was selling "Nonnymus lucky amulets." Bill in Houston and Burt Cohen were reminiscing about the poker game and Glassman was standing in a corner with Cheryl and Paul, and Matty-O shared stories from way-back when with Ar Q and Brian K. Visaman tried to get everyone to pay for his story and next vacation and possibly a new Ferrari. Barkeeper WJT amazed everyone with near perfect predictictions of upcoming games. Ray in Tennessee and Chef Kurt were talking food, of course. Doc Dice was getting to know Dr Z and Dr Baf and Doc Tom and Wayne Hagler, and droyus and QX, and Dale and Eric Simandl and Pond Scum and Gabba. Rob L was asking Scooter about that Springsteen song, and Even I Donít Know What My Name is talked, fittingly, to Donít Want Email. Octopus Ride was smoking weird substances no one else was inclined to try. Vegas Rex was sharing stories with Donkeydode and his hot girlfriend whom C the Shocker was eyeing from up close. George had organized a huge cruise for everyone for next to nothing and still nobody wanted to go, because where could it be better to be than right here, in this city, at this time. Donna had the food and drinks comped for everyone and only screamed periodically. KL Mouton was standing outside of the door, pounding on it with his fists and shouting "What about me" from time to time. Cameron was smiling benevolently, telling everyone (EVERYONE) about the great odds his games had and that there was a great strawberrry shortcake at the coffee shop for fifty cents. He also said "Criminy!" a lot. Hal Linden was performing in the background now. There were some people trying to spoil the party, one of them particularly big. They were just ignored by everyone.

They were discussing buffets, sharing hints, talking about restaurants, dissing hotels. They were recounting trips, sharing laughs and making fun of dimwits. They had a political discussion or two and talked sports and betting and racing. There were personal revelations and pure nonsense, poignant thoughts and utter crap. There were fine people and immediate friends and some nincompoops of the highest order. But everyone seemed to have one thing in common: a deep love for the city, for all kind of different reasons. Breena listened and mingled and smiled and talked and laughed. When she finally saw Malt again, she just said "This has to be the best-kept secret of Las Vegas."

And that was what it was.


Breena Bling will return in "The Vegas Professional." Fall 2008.


A heartfelt "thank you" to:

  • Matt, for publicly shaming me into writing this
  • the good people of Big Empire, for providing the best damn Vegas website there is
  • Burt Cohen, for basically providing all the ideas for the big poker tournament. All that's right was suggested by him, all that's wrong was added by me
  • Bill in Houston, who offered to buy me lunch if he could meet Breena (in the story, I hope)
  • the denizens of avlv, who provided me with endless ideas for characters
  • all the people who actually read this - all the people who actually liked this and posted something to that effect
  • all the people who thought that this was utter crap, a complete waste of perfectly good bandwidth and OT, of course, and didn't post anything about it
  • Donna, for providing me with EVERY SINGLE WORD her character speaks
  • TBWOTP and TBCOTP for being the best wife and the best children on the planet

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