It’s been over a week since I posted. (Amid great rejoicing.) I’m stuck for a post, mainly because the new book is starting to flow and any stray synapses have been occupied with what comes next. So, with the new book on my mind—working title Resurrection Mall—here’s…
A lot colder at midnight than when Greg Twardzik pulled into the lot at Allegheny Casino at quarter to eight. Greg shoved his hands into his coat pockets and hoped his gloves were in the car. The breeze drilled a small hole dead center of his forehead and the hair in his nose was freezing together. It smelled cold, like when he worked summers at A&P and had to re-stock the ice cream freezer. All the bullshit going around about global warming, and he had to put up with this? It was cold enough to freeze a fart.
Tonight was Greg’s monthly run to the Allegheny. A true grind joint—slots and a bar, shitty restaurant, they didn’t want you sticking around if you weren’t gambling—no real competition for The Rivers down by The Point in Pittsburgh or the Meadows in Washington County. Greg saved his spare change each month like a geezer saving stale bread, except Greg fed the slots instead of the birds. “Spare change” was charitably defined in Greg’s mind. Stop at Sooki’s for a beer, beer cost two and a quarter, pay with a five. Tip Frankie a quarter, the other two-fifty becomes spare change. Next beer, another five. Take the kids to McDonald’s on his weekend with them, use a twenty to pay for twelve bucks worth of food, eight bucks spare change. Saved up ninety-two seventy-five that way in January, rounded it up to a hundred.
He came out the wrong door. Again. All the entrances looked the same once he was inside. He’d get turned around looking for a likely slot, lose track of where he came in by about the second scotch, walk out the wrong door. He at least remembered his Pontiac was in the Horseshoe lot, looking directly across Leechburg Road at Wendy’s. He came out on the Rabbit’s Foot side, by the big fences with ivy or kudzu or whatever growing on them, a barrier between the casino and the residential neighborhood that butted up against it.
The night started well. Hit for about fifty bucks half an hour in. He should have put the fifty in his pocket—that was the plan—play until the hundred was gone and leave with the winnings. That was a loser’s mentality so early in the night. Hit that fast, he knew there’d another one. There were two. Eight bucks within half an hour—big night brewing—then sixteen at eleven o’clock, about the time he started to wonder how much he had left. He’d hit the cash machine on his way to get the third drink and took out fifty—no, it was a hundred. He had twenty left. So he came with one hundred dollars, won seventy-four that was supposed to go in his pocket soon as he won it, and walked out down one-eighty, not counting the seventy-four of house money he’d blown. At least he had a good time.
He walked up the aisle facing Wendy’s, his car should be on the right, about three-quarters of the way back. He didn’t see it yet. Probably blocked by the Ford Expedition he remembered squeezing into the space next to him, left wheels dead on the line. But it wasn’t.
Must be the wrong row, but how many of those big goddamn Expeditions could there be in this part of the lot? Greg turned his back on the Ford to face ninety degrees from the casino and Wendy’s, capture his bearings. Pointed at Wendy’s and blinked his eyes. Coffee might not be a bad idea. He only nibbled the fourth drink, but he’d heard rumors there had been some drunk driving damage and the local cops might be cracking down. He’d get the car, then get some coffee. He turned slowly and pointed at the Horseshoe entrance. This was the right row. Had to be. So where the hell was his car?
It occurred to him this might not be the same Expedition he’d parked next to. That one could have left, another pulled in one row off in either direction. True, he’d lined himself up on Wendy’s and the casino entrance, but four hours and five drinks later he believed he could be off a row, either way.
First he tried a row to his left, then a row to his right. All the while thinking about what else he’d heard standing at the bar waiting for that sixth drink—the one for the road—the barmaid telling him to be careful, the locals might be cracking down on DUIs, a guy to his right bitching about something. Security. About cars being stolen right out of the casino lot and how the local cops didn’t do a goddamn thing. Greg almost asked about it, didn’t. Why would the guy still come here, he was so sure cars were being stolen?
It was on his mind now, walking a little farther up the aisle each time. Trying the aisle he thought it was, then an aisle on either side, then two aisles on either side until he realized the guy at the bar wasn’t just some jagov blowing smoke. Care were being stolen out of the Allegheny casino’s lot, and his was one of them.
Son of a bitch.