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by • February 28, 2019 • Flash Fiction, Serial, The AmericanComments (0)

The American: Chapter 26

To start at the beginning go here.

The security office also had a board with everyone’s schedules. I checked it to see what sector I was stationed in, then took a glance to see Jasper’s break schedule. That information in my pocket I went to the oubliette of the slot machines to wait. Other than answering the questions of a little old Greek lady, my shift passed with its usual boredom.

It was easy enough to get from the dark of the slot machine sector to the equally dim backroom without passing through the manufactured glamour of the main halls, although walking through the marble and velvet would have made a nice change. Outside of the bathroom and at least one of the changing rooms, the security break room was one of the few places in the casino with no cameras. I’m sure that wasn’t a coincidence.

The room did have a round, cameo window, hanging at head height like a porthole. The first time I passed by I peeped through it to see Jasper wasn’t alone, so I kept walking. The second time he was so I pushed all the through the door and in. Like all of the internal rooms of the casino, the grey walls of the break room were windowless and undecorated. Jasper sat alone with his bow tie and crisp white shirt at one of two long, wood laminate tables. With a small cooler and a few pieces of sliced apple in front of him, he could have been a schoolkid eating his lunch alone. Except, like most of his co-workers, I’m sure schoolkids around here went home for their lunch breaks.

For a moment, I felt something like pity lurch in my chest, some misbegotten beast that wanted to stagger towards Jasper. But I beat it with each of my few steps to him, my familiar contempt of the small man taking over by the time I sat myself at the table.

I don’t think any of that showed on my face, but there was a wariness around Jasper’s eyes as he gave me his unctuous grin. He said it was good to see me and I nodded. I annoyed him for a few minutes by butchering his language in a series of mundane questions meant to sound like I was trying to make small talk.

“Thanks for pointing out the high roller the other day,” I lied, hoping to make it seem that I didn’t understand Jasper’s actual motive.

His smile told me I was at least partially successful. He replied, “It made for a pretty exciting evening. Lots of talk in the back room for many hours.”

“Yeah,” I nodded, sneaking a glance to the break room’s entrance, appearing as a man who doesn’t want to be caught. “I was hoping to keep that from happening again.”

Jasper grinned as men do when they’re certain they know more. “I don’t think he’ll be coming back after what happened with Sarti.”

“Yeah, but they’re trouble,” I said, taking out a few of the hundred Euro marks I had brought with me, keeping them in my fist. “I was wondering if you could keep an eye out for me.” I peeled off two of the Euro c-notes.

Jasper tried hard to appear offended, sharing his fellow continentals’ affected disdain for money, but I noticed he kept glancing down at the currency, noting there was still more in my hand. “That is already my job – but I do it for the house.”

“Absolutely.” I peeled off a third Euro, slipping into English. “And I don’t want to get in the way of that. But I was wondering if you could let me know about anything unusual. New faces, familiar faces doing new things. That sort of thing.” I pushed the money across the tiger stripes of the fake wood towards Jasper.

He chewed on his apple, still staring at the money without taking it. “Why would I do this?”

I hesitated to point out that he had done this very same thing the other night without me asking for it, but I didn’t want to overplay my hand. Instead I replied, “The Beard might be involved in human trafficking. Casino management doesn’t want to get involved, and they don’t want it around either.”

Jasper stopped chewing his apple, tucking it into his cheek so he could speak. “You’re working for Sarti?”

I let my face fall into a dead blank, as someone who’s remembered his poker face. Instead of answering I just pushed the cash towards him. “I can’t say.”

Jasper smiled more broadly, tonguing the rest of an apple slice into his mouth. He slid the money off the table then replaced it with one of his feet. He leaned back, unfurling himself like some kind of supercilious caterpillar. “Sure. I can do that for you.”

“Great.” I tried to smile in a way that I hoped hid my impulse to slap his feet off the table. Echoing Mitnick in a way that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with I added, “If you spot anything useful there’ll be more where that came from.”

His face screwed into a rictus of confusion while he sorted through my last sentence’s structure and contractions. I was fairly certain he wasn’t just pretending to understand when he nodded. I got up and left the blank walls of the break room, feeling like a man escaping a submarine before the waters rush in.

Walking along the steam pipes and moving through the shadow and light of each dim light fixture, I wondered what I was doing. I couldn’t tell if I was betting on Jasper seeing something and telling me, or if I was betting on his inability to keep his mouth shut to bring something out of the woodwork.

Either way, that bet was placed.

Read the next chapter here.
Read the previous chapter here.
See the author’s published work here.

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