From Part One: In The Mountains, There You Feel Free...
Rather, it was almost as though Wermut never existed. When Sergeant Stone spoke with the people at the Shiner Casino, they all swore up and down that they never saw an amber-eyed woman sharing Wermut’s description.
Since tracking down the dealer turned out to be a lost cause, Stone sought out her fellow players at the poker table. She saw the boy leave an hour ago, and the married couple left during a heated argument shortly after.
Eventually, she bumped into the old man in the bowler hat, using his winnings from their card game at the slots.
“I’m telling you, our dealer was a Brazilian dwarf, not some amber-eyed woman. And it was definitely a man... Are you sure you’re not on some fuses? You smell a little funny to me.” Not once did he avert his attention from the slots, pulling the lever repeatedly.
“Fairly certain that is alcohol you smell, and it’s not from me,” Stone said, referring to the liquor that the old man reeked of.
Another cocktail waitress came by, offering Stone a glass. Once again, she declined, but the old man in the bowler hat was swift to accept a drink.
Much like all addictions, Stone hated gambling. Besides the fact that she was rarely any good at it, she had seen people just like this old man lose himself in these machines. From dusk until dawn, they would sit. Their bodies and minds too engrossed in their own worlds of green and gold to pay mind to the passing of time around them. It was why she abhorred casinos... and drinking, other than the foul taste of the latter, as all things tasted to her.
She sighed, taking out a carton of cigarettes from her coat. Smokes were her only vice she ever indulged in.
“You at least have a light?” Stone popped a cigarette in her mouth.
With one hand on the lever still, the old man reached into his breast pocket and extracted a flip-top butane lighter. Holding the flame out, he ignited the end of Stone’s cigarette before flicking it back into his fancy vest.
Stone muttered a “Thank you,” stuffing her hands in her back pockets as she watched the old man play. “How long have you been in this casino, anyway?”
“Few days. Weeks, maybe.”
“Where do you sleep?”
“Shiner’s got an inn upstairs. Sometimes they lend out rooms to regulars.”
Of course they would. For people who fed their slot machines on a regular basis, people like this guy must have already paid a year’s worth of rent.
“Know of any motels in the city that don’t have surveillance?” Stone asked.
According to her nexus, the hotel she was supposed to be staying at was compromised. She had to find somewhere else to regroup and contact Tremond.
Just then, some cherries lined up on the slot machine. The old man’s eyes lit up as gold coins poured out onto the tray, flooding onto the floor. He wailed gleefully, clapping his hands. He took both of Stone’s hands into his own, forcing her into drunken movements that he probably took for a dance.
Once he was done, he wiped the tears of mirth from his cheeks and grinned. “Hell, lady... if it’s a room you need, you can have mine.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t think that’s—”
“Christ, no, that’s hardly what I meant.” He snapped his wrist, quick to dismiss Stone’s impression. He bent over to collect his gold coins from the floor. “I mean, I’m getting myself the executive suite tonight! Ain’t going to need this cheap shit room. And no worries ‘bout surveillance, none. The casino owners like to keep their customers bug free.”
Then he tossed a card to her. Stone caught it, and saw that it was for room 256 of the Shiner Casino’s inn.