by WarriorNutcase

Any and all feedback (good or bad) is welcomed, I answer it all...



Based on Jinxed!

by David Newman

©United Artists film, 1981




OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: You may think that the mains in this story bear a striking resemblance to two characters (we all know and love) that belong to MCA, Universal and RenPic. No copyright infringement is intended by the author and no dinars…whoops, this is an uber…dollars are changing hands. Story is an adaptation from a movie script.

The movie bombed…big time. <.g.>

So if this sucks, I have a perfectly legitimate reason…NYAH!

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. <.smirk.>

Of course, if you like the way I updated the story and the humor…it was all my brilliance.

<.choke.> <.sputter.> <.cough, cough.>

OH yeah, couple more things...Any lyrics quoted will have proper credit attached and this story is copyrighted to the author and may not be posted/archived without permission (ya want it, ya got it...just ask first, okay? AND explain to me why you would want it...trust me folks, there is much better stuff out there. I'll be happy to tell you where to find it. <.g.>) If you print a copy, please make sure the disclaimers remain intact and attached (so I don’t get sued by anyone).

I have never lived farther west than the Gulf Coast of Texas, so I know nothing about Nevada casinos or any of the locations mentioned…I just borrowed some names here, guys…that’s all. And if you know me and you recognize your own likeness or name anywhere in here…it’s a coincidence…I swear…honest…<.eg.>

VIOLENCE WARNING: Yeah, there is a little violence but don't worry…it’s a comedy and I'm a sucker for a happy ending and yes, D, I know the rule too.

LANGUAGE WARNING: Primarily English <.g.>…oh, yeah, a couple of swear words here and there (please don’t tell my Dad, okay?)

SUBTEXT: I'm not going to debate subtext, its existence or non-existence with you...love is love. But if the idea of two female characters being in love and showing it bothers you…go away.

THANKS... to all the bards out there in the vast Xenaverse for sharing all your wonderfully creative fanfiction and for giving me a silly notion to try giving it a shot myself.

AND A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU...to my proofer/beta-readers…Ann and Carol...Couldn’t have done it without ya, thanks for the expert critique and support. Why you let me torture you with this stuff I have no idea <.bg.>. If you find any mistakes, it’s my fault…I’m sure they did tell me to fix’em. OH And Ms. Invisible…you rock!



LAKE TAHOE: Harrah’s Casino

The electric doors slid open with a soft whoosh as a tall man stepped up to them.

He is handsome, late twenties, dressed in a tan hound’s-tooth sport coat over crisply pressed dark blue jeans. The black cowboy boots were perfectly shined down to the ornate silver toecaps.

He paused for an instant in the threshold as his body registered the temperature change. His eyes found his likeness in the nearby glass and he quickly checked out his appearance.

Oh yeah…looking good Brad, he thought and he winked at his reflection. He began to fidget with his cuffs, tugging his sleeves into place. Next, his hands pulled on the wolf head clip of his bolo tie as he straightened it. Reverently, he removed his Stetson. Looking critically at the hat in his hand, he smiled when he saw the cigar still tacked in the hatband. After running his free hand through his sandy blond hair, he carefully put his hat back on and gently pushed down on the crown to settle it.

He took a few more steps in and stopped again. His brown eyes raked slowly over the sights. A loud noise off to his right caused his heart to jump. Ringing bells quickly follow the shriek. He realized, as his eyes narrowed in on the cause, that someone has just hit a slot machine jackpot.

Lucky bastard, he mumbled to himself and returned his gaze to the casino floor. His eyes continued to sweep, in search, as his ears adjusted to the dull roar of the massive number of people playing slots. Finally, his eyes widened as he spotted his destination.

Silently he walked through the throngs of people and machines. As he approached the archway, he heard…

Well, I strolled down to the corner, gave my numbers to the clerk…

The pots 11 million so I called in sick to work…

I bought a pack of camels, a burrito and a Barqs…


He stepped into the lounge and looked at the stage. A tight smile crossed his thin lips. With his gaze never leaving the beautiful blond, he began to quietly walk toward the stage. For an instant he considered a table, but quickly changed his mind. He stopped, instead, in the shadows and leaned up against the wall, just out of the direct sight of the woman singing.

Crossed against the light and made a beeline for the park…

The sky began to thunder and the wind began to moan…

I heard a voice above me saying girl you better get back home…

On stage singing up a storm was a gorgeous woman. She is in her late twenties with medium length, red-gold hair. Her body is compact but curvaceous. Her blue-green body hugging lame dress appeared to shimmer in the colored gels illuminating the stage. The spotlight gave her an unearthly angelic appearance. It reflected off the lame and cast a rainbow aura around her shadow behind her. Her green eyes sparkled with expression as she gave the song her all.

But I feel lucky, oh, oh, oh…

I feel lucky…yeah…

No tropical depression’s gonna steal my sun away…

Mmmm…I feel lucky today…

Her energy and stage presence belied the fact that this is a two-bit lounge room on the fringe of a noisy casino. She finished her song set with a flurry and went into her normal ritual.

"Thank you, thank you very much. You’ve been wonderful," she said with a beaming smile. "Come back and see me, Crystal Diamond, here at Harrah’s all week long.

She turned quickly to thank the piano player but he too had walked off already. Disappointedly, Crystal blew out a breath. Hesitantly, she turned back to look into the audience. Most of the chairs were empty and those still sitting there were either too drunk or too preoccupied to notice that the song had even ended. She became aware of the various noises from the casino as they drifted in…patrons chatting away, the laughter and cheering, the clinking of coins, the craps dealers spouting their litanies. Dejectedly, she began to walk offstage. Another day at the office, she thought derisively.

Polite clapping drew her attention to the edge of the performance area. She noticed a movement in the shadows. The entertainer raised her hand above her eyes to block some of the harsh stage lighting. She watched as the tall cowboy stepped out of the darkness and into the over spray of the stage lights.

Silently, he raised his eyebrows as if to inquire "well?"

She snorted a weak laugh. Nah, couldn’t have been real applause, huh?

Nodding almost imperceptibly, she gestured, with a slight jerk of her head, to the back area of the casino where the blackjack tables were located.


At a blackjack table were three gamblers, two middle aged men and one woman. The woman stared at her cards, repeatedly lightly riffling the corner of one. The men were stewing silently, waiting for the woman to make up her mind.

"Can I make a suggestion," the dealer asked helpfully. "Why not split the pictures?"

The woman raised her gaze from the cards.

"Split? Maybe in my next life," she replied sarcastically. Her eyes traveled slowly up the strong body of the dealer, stopping occasionally, appreciating her form.

The dealer is a woman, in her early thirties. She is tall, almost six foot, with straight raven black hair loose to her shoulders. Her eyes are an incredible deep blue. She is dressed in standard dealer uniform. Snug black pants, a soft white long sleeve shirt with pearl buttons, a black cummerbund and bowtie. All combined to show off her assets quite well. The nametag pinned on her blouse read…‘Cassy.’

"Okay, have it your way," Cassy replied.

The dealer continued to deal the cards. She busts one player, beats another with her eighteen but loses to the woman.

"See? See, why I didn’t split the pictures." Then she said flirtatiously, "besides, I would never break up a matching set of ladies."

Cassy smiled at the woman graciously. She presented the woman with her chips and then began to sweep the house winnings to her rack. As she was looking down, a hundred dollar bill slid across the table. Cassy looked up and her easy-going grin immediately faded into an expression of tension.

"Hiya, sweetie," Brad said, smiling, as he settled himself on a barstool.

"I thought you were in Vegas," Cassy whispered, through clenched teeth.

"Vegas got boring," Brad offered.

"Las Vegas? Boring?" the woman gambler interjected.

"Oh well, it used to be exciting." Brad swiveled toward the woman. "But then, well…how can I say it…it lost its flavor. Y’know? Now Tahoe here…" He turned back to Cassy and smiled. "This is more like it! Like Vegas used to be, right?"

Cassy gritted her teeth at his last remark and moved to inspect the hundred-dollar bill.

"Oh, it’s good, dealer…trust me, I promise," Brad said sincerely and he held his hand over his heart.

Cassy summoned the pit boss over. He gave the bill a cursory inspection, holding it up to the light and checking both sides. He nodded his approval and handed it back to Cassy. Cassy dropped the bill down into the slot and passed Brad a stack of 20 five dollar chips.

As Cassy began to deal the cards, Brad reached into his hatband and removed the cigar. He casually lit up and blew the first puff at Cassy. She fought down the urge to cough or show any reaction.

Cassy’s eighteen beat the others but she lost to Brad who had a nineteen. Brad let his bet ride. In the next hand, he caught a twenty-one. Brad’s smile grew wider and he continued to arrogantly puff his cigar.


In the security room, where management maintains surveillance of all the games, the monitor watching Cassy’s table blinked incredulously at the screen. Thinking he had spotted something of interest, he called another monitor over.

"Ed, c’mere, look at this."

"What’s up?" Ed asked.

John pointed to the screen and they both watched a few hands.

"Is he counting cards?" Ed asked.

"No way. It’s practically a fresh deck and he is beating her…badly."

John used the zoom on the controls to take a closer look at Brad’s hands.

"Maybe, our girl is tipping him off." Ed offered.

"I don’t think so…I really don’t," John replied.

"So what then?" Ed inquired.

"Remember what we heard about Cassy? Why she left Vegas? Some guy got the whammy on her and kept beating her? Remember that story?" John asked.

"Oh yeah, the guy who always wears a cowboy hat…yeah, I remember…" Ed recalled.

"So, what’s that, hmmmmm?" John asked, as he pointed to the image on the screen.

Ed and John both looked at each other and shook their heads.


"So, what do you want from me?" Cassy asked softly, her voice cracking.

"A seven would be nice," Brad replied sardonically.

"Bite me," Cassy hissed back.

"Anytime, babe," he responded, sweetly.

Cassy groaned as she flipped the card over. It’s the seven of diamonds. Brad clenched the cigar in his teeth and gave her a big toothy grin.


Cassy leaned against the wall outside the security office, her hands in her pockets. Outwardly, her expression is one of boredom. Inwardly, her stomach was rolling with nervousness. Why do I feel like I’m being called into the Principal’s office again?

She shook her head. Cassy pushed herself off the wall and walked over to the end table by the couch. Absently, she picked up a magazine. Thumbing mindlessly through the pages, her attention is diverted to the sound of the door opening behind her. Ed stuck his head out and called her into the office. She stood up slowly, and walked to the doorway. Her face remained neutral. Never let’em see ya sweat.

He pointed to a comfortable looking leather chair in front of a large desk and indicated to Cassy to sit down. She sat back in the plush chair, crossing her legs. Ed stood on her right and John on her left. Looking up, she tilted her head to one side and arched her eyebrow. With an icy gaze, she stared for a moment at one of the men and then slowly turned to stare at the other. She licked her lips, nervously but to the men it appeared as predatory. A deep breath followed, in an effort to settle her rapidly beating heart down. She heard a throat clear and her attention was drawn to the man behind the desk.

The man forcefully tossed an envelope across the desk at Cassy. It slid across the slick surface. She caught it before it dropped off the edge.

"What’s this?" Cassy asked.

"Two weeks severance pay, Cass. Take it."

"But…why?" She asked with a shrug and looked back and forth between all three men for some indication and explanation. John patted her shoulder gently.

"Cause, I think you’re jinxed," the manager answered calmly.

"Aw c’mon," Cassy protested angrily. "It’s just this one guy…"

"One is all you need. Cassy, is this the same guy who kept beating you in Vegas?"

Cassy took a deep breath and stared at the manager; she hesitated to answer.

"Isn’t he?" he asked again, in a more forceful tone.

Cassy was instantly on her feet and leaned heavily on the desk. She menacingly towered over the manager who was still seated.

"Look! I swear on my Mother’s head, I don’t even know who he is!" she said, vehemently.

"Sit Cassy." The tone was calm but authoritative. The manager pointed to the chair and indicated that she should sit again. "Leave your Mother’s head out of this. He is your Jonah, pure and simple."

"My what? What’s a Jonah?" Cassy questioned, uncomprehending. She looked up to the men flanking her and watched as they rolled their eyes and then looked away.

"It’s in the Bible. Jonah was a guy who brought everyone bad luck. Once he was on this boat and this big storm hit…so they cast lots to see who the jinx was…Jonah wins." The manager made a diving gesture with his hands and whistled. "Man overboard."

Cassy stood quickly and snatched the envelope off the desk. Her blue eyes glared icily at each of the men before she turned and walked out. Outside of their sight, she sighed and allowed her tall form to slump as if the weight of the world was present upon her broad shoulders.




I Feel Lucky written by Mary Chapin- Carpenter and Don Schlitz

From the CD "Come On, Come On" recorded by Mary Chapin-Carpenter












A road weary truck pulling a small travel trailer continued to make its way down the highway. Brad shifted in the passenger seat, quietly tapping a pencil on his chin. He stared down at a book of puzzles. Beside him, Crystal silently fumed as she drove. Every so often she turned and disdainfully looked at Brad. Her green eyes glared. A soft purring to her right caught her attention and she reached down to pet the cat nestled between them.

"How’s my little Argo today?" She sweetly asked, as she scratched the cat’s ears. If only for an instant, her mood improved.

"Slipot? Topsil?" Brad said aloud.

"Tell me the letters slowly, I’m driving." Annoyance plain in her tone.

"So far it’s P, T, O, I, L and S. Stiplo?" Brad answered flatly, without looking up from the book he was holding. "The clue is ‘Filly baby’."

She looked back at the road, frowning.

"Geez, why Reno?" Crystal muttered to herself.

"What are you bitching about now?" Brad inquired and he snapped the book closed with irritation. His attention was now completely focused on Crystal.

"Every time I find a gig I like…we end up hauling ass back on the road."

"When our pigeon flies, we gotta follow," Brad answered simply.

"But Brad," Crystal whined, "I was learning to work that room."

"Yeah, sure ya were, honey," he snickered sarcastically, "you were just knocking them dead."

"It was the first time I had a piano player that worked with me."

"There are plenty of piano players, baby." He reached over to pat her knee. "But there is only one pigeon." His sleeve brushed Argo, startling the cat. She reacted by sinking her claws in his hand.

"Yow!" Brad yelled, yanking back on his hand. He angrily grabbed the cat and tossed her in the backseat. "How many times do I have to tell you to keep this damn animal in the trailer?"

"She gets lonely in there."

"Who cares?" Brad growled, holding his hand up. "Damn thing. I’m bleeding." Brad turned in the seat to give the cat a whack.

"Don’t you dare touch her!" Crystal shrieked and glared at him.

Brad turned back to Crystal.

"Dare? Don’t you dare?" Brad asked, incredulously. "Did I hear you correctly?" With a menacing tone he added, "Get that attitude out of your voice and that expression off your face or I’ll knock it off. Ya got me? Don’t think I won’t." He feigned a backhand slap to Crystal’s face. "Nobody is gonna wanna hire a singer with no teeth."

"Okay, okay," she relented, flinching involuntarily.

The car was silent for a few minutes. The only sound heard was the tires on the asphalt and the breathing of the people in the truck.

"Remember Owen? You would be in Prison. I saved your life." Brad reminded her. "And don’t forget, I took you out of that two-bit backwater town you grew up in too."

"Okay, okay Brad, what’s the plan?" Crystal sighed and frowned, resigning herself to her fate.

"First we find somewhere to drop this." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing at the trailer. "And then," Brad chuckled maniacally, "I’ll go snooping around to see where my little pigeon has landed."

Crystal watched Brad’s face light up with anticipation. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat and rubbing his hands together.

"You really love this…game? Don’t you?" she asked.

"Who wouldn’t? Someone upstairs must love me…he gave me my own personal golden goose. All I gotta do is take her and take her…" Brad let his voice trail off, as he opened the puzzle book again and found his spot. He stared down at the page, concentrating.

"PISTOL!" he screamed suddenly.

Startled, Crystal jerked the steering wheel, almost pitching the truck off the road. She momentarily fought to regain control of the truck and trailer.

"What??? Where???" she managed to spit out through uneven breathes. Her eyes darted from side to side, looking for the threat.

"The puzzle. ‘Filly baby’" Brad answered oblivious to the almost car wreck. "A filly is a horse and a horse’s baby is a colt. A colt is a gun. S, O, T, L, P, I." Brad smirks, "Ha, a gun is a pistol. The answer is ‘pistol’."

Crystal began fanning herself furiously, trying desperately to calm her racing heart down. He was cheerful again, wrapped up in another puzzle and oblivious to her stares at him. Shaking her head, she sighed lightly, then returned her attention to the road.

RENO: Happy Trails Trailer Park

The truck pulled up to the trailer. Brad, from the truck window, watched as leaves blew idly around. Cold empty slabs of broken cement and old piping littered the ground. The whole area was overrun with weeds and debris. His eyes followed a squirrel as it climbed over the burnt out remains of a trailer. The caretaker’s shack sat a few lots over. It’s yellow stucco blended in with dreary appearance of the rest of the park. He sighed heavily and then got out of the truck and entered the trailer.

Crystal was sitting at the table, reading a magazine. Cream colored Argo was contentedly purring in her lap. She stopped petting her, long enough to turn the page. Argo meowed impatiently.

"Geez, Argo…gimme a break, huh?" she said laughingly and returned to stroking the cat.

Crystal tensed and looked up as the door to the trailer opened and Brad walked in. She put down her magazine and waited patiently for the information.

"Okay, Crystal, the dealer got herself a job at Harrah’s. Now I want you to go hustle yourself one there too."

"Yes dear, whatever you say,dear," Crystal remarked disdainfully. She stood, gently lifting Argo off her lap and set her on the floor. Then she walked to the kitchen area and leaned on the counter. "Why don’t you just bust her and get it over with?"

"Why don’t I just bust you?" He replied, sarcastically. "Look, I’m enjoying myself," he added, quickly changing the tone of his voice. "That’s what life is all about…enjoying little pleasures. C’mon, they are gonna go crazy when they hear you sing." He walked over and gave her a one-arm hug. She flinched. "They are gonna love you, my little songbird."

"Your little songbird who spies on your little pigeon, right?" Crystal asked rhetorically.

"Well, I gotta know what she is up to, or if she gets fired or moves on. Don’t I? Am I right?" Brad questioned.

Crystal looked at him and reluctantly nodded.

"Look, baby," Brad reminded her quickly, "I may be taking bread out of the pigeon’s mouth but you’re eating it too, aren’t you?"

RENO: Harrah’s Casino (Stage show area)

Crystal was troubled, lines crossing her face. She was pacing nervously around; her sheet music clutched in her hand. Desperately she again tried to get the talent booker to pay attention to her.

"Look, sweetie, I’m sure you are wonderful. But at the moment, I am up to my armpits with singers."

"Won’t you just listen to one song? Please?" Crystal implored.

"What would be the point?" A little more forcefully he added, "Sweetie, I don’t need you."

Crystal watched as the talent booker walked away. She stood for a while and observed the rehearsal. Chorus girls were going through their paces. Wistfully, she wished it were she up there on stage. She sighed worriedly, then turned and walked out. Great, what do I tell Brad?

Entering the hallway that would take her to the exit, she looked down the corridor in the opposite direction. About twenty-five feet ahead of her was a door marked ‘Personnel Office: Hiring’. Straightening her shoulders, she conjured up a plastic smile and headed for the office.

















RENO: Harrah’s Casino

The ‘Employees Only’ door opened and she hesitantly stepped out. Looking around uncomfortably, she muttered softly, "How do I get myself into these things?" She sighed exasperatedly. Extremely self-conscious, she looked down at her new uniform.

What uniform?

The blond was wearing a forest green, abbreviated bunny-type costume with fishnet stocking and high heels. Her hands reached up and attempted to discreetly adjust the low cut bodice of her new outfit. Not having any luck, she then began tugging in earnest, pulling so hard, she knocked herself off her spiky, high heel shoes.


Flailing her arms and stutter stepping, she quickly regained her balance. She nonchalantly attempted to smooth the outfit once more, as she looked around the casino.

Well, that was fun…not.

She felt herself blush in embarrassment. She lightly tugged and adjusted the coin-filled apron around her waist and then, nervously, ran her hand through her short red-gold hair.

Looking out over the casino, she saw rows and rows of slot machines. In the distance, was the main room with its gaming tables, dealers and the high-stakes gamblers. Crystal began to walk down an aisle of slot machines and then paused. As inconspicuously as possible she watched another of the other girls make change in a professional, polished manner.

"I can do that," she said to herself, confidently.

Interrupting her observances, Crystal felt a rapid tapping on her shoulder. She turned to find a middle-aged woman waving a twenty-dollar bill in her face.

"Hey Miss!" the woman barked, obviously agitated.

"What?" Crystal replied, blinking rapidly, startled by the paper flapping in her face.

"I need change." She held the bill out. "C’mon, c’mon, hurry up, " she demanded. "I got this machine primed to go."

Crystal rushed to count out the silver dollars. Feeling the impatient stare of the woman, she hurriedly attempted to comply and awkwardly dropped a few coins on the floor.

"Will you hurry up?" she looked at Crystal then turned back to the one-armed bandit. "She’s temperamental, aren’t you baby?" she cooed to the machine. Looking back at Crystal, she added, "If I don’t feed her right, she won’t spit up for mama."


Crystal made a face, thoroughly grossed out by the visual.

Digging into her apron pocket, she handed the woman her change, then turned to look for the coins she dropped. She started to bend over to pick them up.

"Whoops, not a good idea," she muttered to herself and quickly shelved that idea.

Carefully, she got down on her knees and began to pick them up. She leaned back for a moment and counted the coins in her hand.

Damn, I am one short, she thought. Ah, there it is… Glancing around, she spied where the coin had rolled and she began to crawl over to it. Suddenly in her path, two pairs of black shoes appeared. She stopped. Leaning back slightly, she slowly raised her gaze upward.

Her eyes traveled up the snug black pants to the white shirt and the deep green bowtie. She blinked and her heart began to beat wildly. Crystal looked at the chiseled cheekbones, strong aquiline nose and into the bluest eyes she has ever seen.

"Here ya go," Cass said, as she kneeled down and picked up the coin. She dropped the coin in Crystal’s outstretched palm. Crystal immediately dropped it into her apron. Cassy stood back up, then leaned over and offered the blonde a hand up. As their hands got closer together, a short blue arc of energy passed between their fingers. They both felt the jolt and subsequent tingle.

Wow! Crystal thought dreamily. It’s fate…it’s kismet…

Whoa! Cassy thought. Damn carpet static electricity.

"Are you okay?" Cassy asked.

Crystal lets her small hand be wrapped gently in the larger one. She continued to stare, dreamily, at the dealer’s face. Cassy arched an eyebrow, quizzically.


"Ummm, yeah, yeah, fine," Crystal answered, finally shocked out of her reverie.

"Uh, okay, good." Cassy turned to walk away. Two steps later, when she was surprisingly pulled off balance, she realized their hands were still joined. Cass tried to pull her hand away. Crystal pulled back. Cass pulled harder. Their joined hands swayed back and forth for a few moments. Finally, Cassy reached over and pried Crystal’s fingers loose.

"I gotta go deal…I need both hands," Cassy quipped.

Crystal laughed nervously, shrugged and smiled impishly.

Cass stared at the blonde. Her brows knit in puzzlement and she tilted her head to one side. I know her from somewhere, don’t I? She thought. "Oh well, see ya around," she said.

Cass and her companion, Stephany Mazona, began to walk away.

"Geez, Cass-a-no-va," Steph drawled jokingly and bumped the tall dealer’s shoulder, "you’ve only been in Reno one day and you’ve already got them falling all over themselves for you."

"Sh’yeah, right," Cassy chuckled back. "Do you know her?"

Cassy looked over her shoulder once more at the girl, just for a second, as if to confirm a thought.

"No, no, she must be new," Stephany replied. "She’s cute." She paused, her eyes twinkling. Then added, mischievously, "And did you see those big brown eyes?"

"They’re green," Cassy said absently. Whoops! She smiled sheepishly at her companion, who grinned knowingly back at her.

Cass stopped walking, putting a hand on Steph’s arm.

"Seriously, I want to thank you for giving me a job here. It means a lot to me."

"Hey, c’mon you, we have been friends forever." Stephany put her hand over Cassy’s hand and squeezed, affectionately. Her gray eyes smiled up at her friend. "I’m glad I was in a position to help."

Stephany Mazona was a Pit Boss. She was of medium height and buff body. Her hair was curly blonde with ringlets that framed her face. Her skin was tanned, her eyes a deep grey.

"Yeah, I can’t believe you have to dress in a monkey suit." Cassy adjusted Steph’s scarf tie and removed an imaginary piece of lint from her jacket lapels. "And who knew you had legs…" She cocked her head to one side and looked down Stephany’s skirted body. "Whoo hoo!" she said and then wolf whistled.

"Knock it off knucklehead," Steph threatened, mockingly. "I can still kick your ass, even in these shoes." She pointed to the high heels.

Cassy held both hands out in front of herself. "Okay, okay…I give up," she laughingly replied, looking down at her friend, "those are lethal."

Stephany lightly punched her arm. Then hooked her elbow through Cassy’s.

"C’mon you amazon, I’ll show you to your table."


Brad entered into the casino. He looked around the myriad of blackjack tables. Finally his eyes stopped when he saw the tall form of the female dealer. Although all he could see was the dealer’s back, Brad instantly recognized his pigeon. A slightly muffled cough off to his right drew his attention. Crystal smiled at him and he winked back. He strode purposely to the table.

At the table Cassy was dealing to four players. She drew a seven to her fourteen and swept the table.

"Damn," one player muttered, obviously upset.

Cassy smiled apologetically and continued to rake the chips to her rack. Another player dropped out and got up to leave. She caught the movement in her peripheral vision, her attention still on removing the chips, and absently commented to the remaining players.

"Sometimes, it’s good to change tables." She looked up. "It can change your luck, or at least it does for some pe…"

Cassy’s voice trailed off in mid sentence as she watched Brad approaching. Brad was smiling obnoxiously.

"Hiya, dealer," He cheerfully stated.

"Why me?" Cassy scowled.

"There’s an empty seat," Brad offered, pretending not to understand the question. "And the light’s good here."

Brad placed five twenties on the table. "Stack of fives, please."

Cassy pushed the money in the slot and shoved Brad’s chips across the table. She watched as he pulled a fresh cigar from his hatband and lit up. The gambler smiled coldly at the dealer.

"Are we waiting for somebody?" he questioned, impatiently.

Cassy trying not to appear flustered began to deal the cards. The other three players go over. Brad stands on his hand. Cassy deals herself a seven to go with her sixteen and busts. She reluctantly paid off to Brad.

"Wonderful game, blackjack, isn’t it?" Brad, asked gleefully, turning to the player next to him.


Stephany entered the security room. The security manager anxiously waved her over to a bank of monitors. Silently she stared into the screen.

There were only two players now and a small crowd had gathered to watch. Brad had a sizable stack of chips in front of him.

"How long has this been going on?" Steph inquired looking up into the monitor’s face.

"About a half-hour," the manager replied.

Stephany blew out a disgusted breath, ruffling her hair off of her forehead. Her gray eyes clouded with dismay, as she observed a few more hands.


Crystal looked over into the casino. She was standing by the slot machines but observing the events unfolding at the blackjack table. She was saddened. I felt something. Did you feel it too?

Cassy dealt the new hand. Brad split his two jacks against Cassy’s four. He doubled down on his other hand. He won all hands when Cassy went over.

Cassy ground her teeth, almost audibly and handed over the winnings. She smiled when she saw Steph and another dealer approaching.

"Time for my break," she said relieved.

As the new dealer moved into take over, Brad got up. Just as Cassy was beginning to walk off with Stephany, he called after her. "Hey dealer."

Cassy turned. Brad pressed a chip into her hand.

"Thanks for your trouble. Keep the faith."

Cassy looked down at her hand as Brad smugly walked away. She unconsciously tightened her grip on the chip and was startled when she heard it snap in two. She turned back and followed Steph out of the pit.


Stephany entered her office, motioned Cassy to sit on the couch, and then sat next to her.

"Is this the famous guy I heard about?" she asked gently, patting Cassy on the thigh.

"Has anybody checked him out? I mean…"

"Since you were in Vegas, he’s been checked out," Stephany interrupted.


"His name is Brad Dixon. He’s is what writers call a subsistence gambler."

"And what do you call him?"

"A bum. He used to play the ponies and got in a lot of trouble. It took him almost 5 years to get clear. Now all he plays is blackjack. He wins some, loses some." Stephany smiled. "Guys like him are the backbone of our industry." She paused. "Then, last year something amazing happened to him."

"What?" Cassy asked, vitally interested in the answer.

"He met you," was the soft reply.

Cassy smiled sickly at her.

"Look, Cass, I saw this happen once before…"

"When? Who?" Cassy inquired, desperate for the information.

"It happened to a guy named, Steve Walker. He was a blackjack dealer like yourself. You remember him? He’s short, rotund, glasses, dark hair, cheesy overgrown mustache? He wore the ugliest Hawaiian print shirts when he wasn’t working." Cassy shook her head. "Anyway," the pit boss continued, "one day, out of the blue, he picks up a jinx."

"What happened to him?" Cassy asked, reluctantly, not sure she wanted to know the answer.

"You know the Sahara in Vegas?"

Cassy nodded.

"He’s the guy who hands out towels in the men’s room."

Cassy got up abruptly and walked a few paces away. Looking back over her shoulder she desperately inquired, "What can I do?"

Steph pushed herself off the couch and walked over to join her friend.

"I dunno." She shrugged. "Something started it and something can end it."

"Like what?"

"Some guys say that you have to get a piece of something that belongs to him…kinda like he has a piece of you."

"What is this, some kinda voodoo?" Cassy said sarcastically.

"Hey, c’mon, it’s all magic. What else is this business? Hot streaks, cold streaks and lady luck." She paused. "Except we gotta keep the odds with the house." She squeezed Cass’s shoulder. "Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out."



























RENO: Harrah’s Casino (Exit)

Cassy leaned her tall frame against the exterior of the building, pretending to read the newspaper in her hands. Her raven hair was pulled back and tucked under a baseball cap. Her blue eyes were hidden behind dark glasses. Dressed in ripped jeans and a loose cotton shirt, no one would recognize her as the dapperly dressed dealer of a few hours ago.

She peered over the top of the paper, through the glass doors. Crystal departed the employee locker room and walked toward the exit. For a few moments, Cassy lost her train of thought as she admired the short blonde. Crystal was dressed in a manner similar to Cassy, jeans and a tight black t-shirt with a rock group’s logo on it.

WOW! She thought. Down, Cassy, down. Remember why you are here.

As she reached the doors, Cassy ducked back behind the paper. Crystal stopped just outside the electric doors and looked over the parking lot. She heard the doors opening again. Glancing back quickly, she saw Brad exit but didn’t openly acknowledge him. As he came up beside her, they began silently walking away together.

Ohmigod. She’s with him. Now what? Cassy’s mind was running a mile a minute with this new development. That’s where I’ve seen her before. Think, Cass, think…

As they reached the truck, Crystal finally spoke.

"I don’t feel like driving today," she said moodily. She got in on the passenger side without another word.

Brad just gave her a look and moved to the driver’s side. He climbed behind the wheel. Slowly they made their way out of the parking lot, oblivious to the car following discretely behind them. Cassy slowed down and put more space between them as they continued their trek through the more isolated fringes of the town. She watched as the truck pulled up alongside a trailer in a dilapidated trailer park.

Cutting the engine, she quietly coasted up behind the caretaker’s shack. She waited a few moments and eased out of her car. Taking care not to slam the car door or make any unnecessary noise. Dropping low to the ground to avoid being spotted, she made her way cautiously to the trailer. She ducked just under the open window frame. Cassy heard music playing and then tense voices.

"I win all that nice money and you walk around like you just sucked a lemon," Brad said with annoyance.

"I hate that lousy job," Crystal replied.

"Oooh, you’re breaking my heart," he said sarcastically. "Sheesh!’

Cassy stood up and peeked in the corner of the window. She watched as Brad angrily turned off the radio. Crystal was standing with her back to him, working at the counter preparing some food.

"I’m getting bored, Brad."

"A threat?"

"A fact."

Without warning, his hand lashed out and slapped her hard across the cheek. It immediately left a red mark.

"You want mashed potatoes or fried?" she inquired flatly, refusing to allow him the satisfaction of a reaction.

Brad gestured to the door. "Don’t let it hit ya in the ass…"

"Walk out with my back to you? I’m not that stupid."

"Yeah, well, you go, you keep on going."

"And you call the Police, or worse…" She paused. "Just like last time."

"It’s a free country. I didn’t force you to come back."

"What do you call twelve stitches, friendly persuasion?"

"I was drunk. I told you that I was sorry about that," he replied defensively.

Crystal raised her hand to her cheek.

"You drunk now?"

"No, but it’s starting to sound like a damned good idea!" he shouted, angrily.

Unable to deal with the guilt and not wanting to, he reacted in pure anger. He slammed the door as he left, causing the whole trailer to shake. Cassy ducked back out of sight and watched as Brad got back in the truck. He slammed that door as well. The truck kicked up gravel as it rocketed off toward town.

Cassy hurriedly scampered back to her car.

"Oh Argo, what are we gonna do?" Crystal cried dejectedly. She picked up the cat and began stroking her soft fur. She hugged her to her chest and sniffled.

Suddenly she heard a loud approaching vehicle. Thinking Brad had returned, she fearfully walked to the window and looked outside.

About fifty feet away on the road, a car stopped. The driver emerged and, with an exaggerated display of aggravation, slammed the door.

Crystal continued to watch with interest.

Cassy continued her charade. The hood was opened and she peered into the motor. She shook her head and muttered in absolute annoyance. A few curse words slip. She pounded her hands down on the car body in a total fit of disgust. She pretended to see the nearby trailer for the first time. She purposefully strode to the door. Crystal seeing the driver approach, moved away from the window.

Cassy knocked but got no response.

Crystal checked herself in the mirror and fingered her hair. She touched her still reddened cheek and regretfully realized that there wasn’t anything she could do about it right now.

Cassy continued to knock.

"Yes?" Crystal said innocently as she opened the door.

"Excuse me miss, my radiator sprung a leak. Could you spare some water?" Cassy raised her sunglasses to the top of her head.

Crystal felt herself drowning in the deep blue of the dealer’s eyes.

OHMIGOD…It’s her…it’s her. Crystal’s brain screamed silently and she reflexively slammed the door. She threw herself back, palms flat on the inside of the closed door and tried to catch her ragged breath.

"Miss? Miss?" Cassy knocked again, insistently.

Crystal slowly opened the door and peered out.

"Water?" Cassy inquired again.

"Oh yeah…," Crystal shook her head. "What are you going to lug it in?"

"Ummm, I was hoping you might lend me a pot or something…" Cassy shrugged.

Uh, sure…sure…" Crystal opened the door wide and gestured her inside. "Help yourself. It’s over there." She pointed to the sink.

Cassy climbed up the steps and into the trailer. "Thanks," she said, as she walked to the sink. She grabbed a pot from the counter. As she filled the pot with water she asked, "How come you live way out here?"

"I don’t. I’m a mirage." Crystal laughed nervously.

"That’s what I thought when you first came to the door. I said to myself, this is too good to be true."

"You’re overflowing."


"The pot."

"Whoops." And Cassy smiled slyly.

Crystal watched as Cassy made her way back to the car. She lightly touched the radiator cap and found it too hot. Pulling back her fingers as if burned. She put them in her mouth and turned to look quickly at the trailer. Assured of her audience, she began ‘her show’. She set the pot of water on the fender. Cassy slowly removed her outer shirt, leaving her dressed in a tight white tank top. She used the shirt to unscrew the radiator cap. Pausing for a moment, she took her cap off and shook her hair loose. Then she leaned over the car and poured the water in.

Cassy turned and walked back to the trailer, she handed Crystal the pot. For a moment they regard each other.

"What’s that for?" Crystal asked, conversationally, pointing toward the horseshoe tattoo on the muscular shoulder.


"Had any lately?" Crystal asked seductively.

Cassy’s eyebrow arched into her hairline.


"How about a beer?"

"Nah, that’s bad for the radiator," Cassy joked.

"I thought it might start your motor." Crystal mumbled softly.

Cassy climbed back up the steps and into the trailer. The room is filled with erotic tension.

"What are you doing way out here at ten in the morning?" Crystal asked, innocently.

"I’m a…ummm…bird watcher." She replied. "When I see something that appeals to me, I like to get a closer look." She smiled at Crystal. "This is a good place to find rare ones."

"For instance?"

"Vultures." Cass answered seriously.

"You don’t look like a bird watcher."

"Sure I do. You probably never even knew one."

"Can you do birdcalls?"

"Yup, you bet…I was state champion in 87. Wanna hear me do…" she paused as she thought of one. "A Baltimore Oriole?" She smirked.

"That’s a baseball player…so is a St. Louis Cardinal, so don’t even suggest that either."

Crystal laughed.

Cassy grinned at her.

"Scarlet Pimpernel?"

"That’s a movie." Crystal chuckled and placed her hand on Cassy’s arm.

They both swallowed hard. Cassy looked down at the hand on her arm. The feeling was electric. She scooted closer to Crystal.

"Wanna hear a robin?" she continued to play.

Crystal lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding and nodded.

"Gee, Holy Moly Batman, is that the bat signal?" She laughed heartily.

"Oh you." Crystal turned her head and blushes.

"Okay, okay…tweet, tweet, tweet."

In a very careful and deliberate move, Crystal turned back to Cassy. All joking aside, she said seriously, "Can you do a pigeon?" She gulped hard.

Cassy’s face lost its humor. Her eyes confirmed that she knew exactly what Crystal was implying. Her answer was quite deliberate.

"Can you do a red-cheeked thrush?"

Crystal gasped and began to bring her hand up to her cheek. Cassy intercepted it and placed it back on her lap. Cassy used her own hand to gentle caress the reddened cheek.

The singer lightly leaned into the hand and closed her eyes. All pretenses were gone.

"I bet you do a great rooster?" Crystal inquired.

"Cock of the walk, ummm…so to speak," Cassy joked back. "But my best one is a hummingbird. Ya wanna hear it?"

She hummed softly, bring her lips close to Crystal’s ear. They lightly brushed her earlobe.

"Can you teach me?" Crystal softly inquired. Knowing full well the double meaning of her words.

"Sure…c’mere…you have to be real close." She pulled her gently into her arms. Just purse your lips together…uh huh like that. And then…" She leaned over and lightly

kissed her. Their touches grew more urgent, hands and lips roaming.



Crystal sat on the edge of the bed. She watched as Cass tucked her tank top into her jeans. She sat smiling and holding Argo.

"Can I ask you something?" Cass inquired.

"I’ve never done that before." She replied innocently.

"Really?" Cassy said "Incredible." This brought a smile to Crystal's face.

"Okay, I’ll bite." Crystal offered.

"You already did that, " Cassy countered with a big smile.

"Sorry, " Crystal blushed. "So what is your question?"

"What’s your name?"

"Crystal Diamond"

"Cassy Le Brock"

They shake hands, laughing in the oddity of two people who have just been intimate, now introducing themselves formally. They grinned stupidly at each other.

"My pleasure."

"And mine too."

Crystal stood in the doorway and waved goodbye to Cassy as she drove off. She absently rubbed her cheek.

Cassy drove back to town, quite pleased with herself. "Magic. All Right!"








RENO: Happy Trails Trailer Park

Brad was lying in bed, on his side, his head propped up on one hand. His gaze continued to switch between staring at the bathroom door and watching his free hand worrying with the edge of the blanket. A small scowl crossed his face as he looked at the delicate daisies adorning the sheets.

"Chrissy baby, c’mon", he pleaded. "Put on that blue babydoll thing I bought you in Vegas. You know how I like the way you look in that."

Crystal, feeling more pissed off than amorous, came out of the bathroom. Leveling a glare at Brad, she made her way to the small storage area and pulled the nightie from a drawer. She stomped back into the bathroom, leaving the door open but still out of Brad’s sight.

"Brad, tell me something…if you win big…" she questioned.

"When I win big," he interrupted.

Crystal rolled her eyes. "When," she emphasized mockingly, "you win big. Then what?"

Brad propped himself up to lean on the headboard. "I dunno," he said improvising. "Acapulco?"

Crystal stepped back out of the bathroom and leaned against the doorframe, her toothbrush in her mouth. Brad looked at her taking careful notice of the glazed faraway look in her eyes.

"Hey Chrissy, let me put myself in your screwed up little mind a second, okay?" he asked.

"Oh, feel free," she replied sarcastically, waving the toothbrush around.

"The thought running through your little blond head is when Brad pops his pigeon, he’ll be so happy, he’ll never miss me if I leave…"

Crystal stiffened.

"But see, that’s where you are wrong. If you left me, it wouldn’t be the same. You would take the flavor away." Brad stared intimidatingly at her. "See, a guy waits all his life to pull off his greatest shot. He comes home to his woman like a…like a …general who just won a damned war. And what? His woman says see ya around? You know how I’d feel? Do you know what I would do?"

"You’d kill yourself?" she asked hopefully and then batted her eyes at him innocently.

Brad smiled, icily. "I’d kill you!" he answered and then laughed maniacally. "Now finish up in the can and get your ass back out here."

Crystal sighed and stepped back into the small bathroom. She looked in the mirror as she brushed her hair. How did I get this far gone? Leaning on the small sink, she studied her face in the mirror. She sighed again as she noticed the tension lines.

Argo stalked into the bedroom area, looking around for her owner. The golden cat paused for a brief moment to stretch. She sized up the bed and leaped up, landing on Brad’s chest.

Brad jumped in surprise and reacted with unreasonable anger. "Dammit you miserable animal," he yelled, as he grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck and flung her, "get the hell out of here!"

A cat’s screeching howl, a thud and then a mournful meow was heard.

In the bathroom, Crystal’s eyes widened in horror. Terrified, she screamed "Argo!"


RENO: Animal Clinic

The Reno Animal Clinic was a rundown, slightly seedy looking brick building. The paint on the door and window frames was a peeling, faded yellowish color. A person would be hard pressed to determine what color it had originally been painted, the building had definitely seen better days. Although the inside was antiseptic, the outside showed (and smelled of) the wear and tear of the hundreds of animal visitors that it has had in its long history.


The vet, Dr. Dancer was expertly putting the finishing touches on Argo. Crystal stood by, slightly fidgeting and watching nervously.

"She’ll be alright," the Doctor said, "just keep her quiet for a couple of days."

"What do you want me to do, read to her?" Crystal mumbled under her breath, sardonically. Then in a normal voice started to ask, " Ummm…"

"That’ll be $85.50. Cash preferred but I’ll take a check with local identification." Then added ruefully, "I’ve even been known to accept barter as you can see." The good Doctor pointed out the window, into the backyard.

Crystal strained to look where the Doctor had pointed. Chained to the fence was a Yamaha motorcycle.

A sign on it said: For Sale $500.

"Well, actually, I was going to ask about credit cards," Crystal said, as she dug into her purse.

"MasterCard or Visa?" the Doctor responded and handed the cat back to Crystal.




RENO: Harrah’s Casino

Brad was sitting at the blackjack table, feeling no pain and grinning like a Cheshire cat. His lucky cigar was clamped firmly in his teeth. In front of him sat a big pile of chips. He stood up tentatively and momentarily grabbed hold of the table to keep his balance. Brad took his Stetson off with a flourish and offered up a mocking half bow to the dealer. Holding it to the edge of the table, he swept the chips into the hat. Looking up, he arrogantly grinned at her. Brashly, he pulled a $100 chip out of the hat and pressed it into Cassy’s hand. He winked at her and then stumbled, drunkenly, away from the table.

Cassy bowed her head and stared at the green felt of the table. Her jaw clenched and her fist closed around the chip until her knuckles turned white. It took two tries for her relief to get her attention. She walked off as the new dealer took her place.


Stephany leaned against the sink in the employee’s ladies room. The sound of retching and flushing brought a look of concern to her face. Cassy finally emerged from a stall, still slightly green around the gills, and walked over to the sink next to her boss.

She leaned over the sink, turned the faucet on and splashed water on her face.

"Feeling better?" Stephany asked. She gently patted Cassy on the back as she handed her a towel.

Cassy dried her face and stood up to her full height. She turned to her boss.

"Steph, I did what you said. I got a piece of…"

"What???" Stephany interrupted.

"A piece of…ummm…something that belonged to him. But it didn’t work." Cassy rubbed her eyes irritatingly.

"Well, then I guess it’s on to plan B," Stephany replied and she put her arm around Cassy as she ushered them both out of the bathroom.

"What’s plan B?" Cassy asked hopefully.

"I dunno yet…" she replied. Cassy’s face dropped. "But we’ll figure something out, I promise," she added and gave Cassy a squeeze. "C’mon…let’s go find some dinner, okay?"


Crystal, dressed in her change girl outfit, was hovering near the bar. It was a slow night. Her eyes scanned the slot machine area for potential customers but laughter from the patrons drew her attention to a TV set over the bar.

On the TV was an old black and white movie. Crystal recognized the actor as WC Fields. She watched, interested, a scene of Fields escorting another character into a bar and meaningfully tipping the bartender to slip him a Mickey.

Fields says: Oh Barkeep, can you tell me if my good friend Michael Finn is in today? Fields exaggeratedly winks at the bartender and the bartender winks back.

"Hey John," Crystal asks the Harrah bartender, "Is that a real thing, a Mickey Finn?"

"Sure," John replies, "It’s just chloral hydrate drops. It’ll knock you out cold. You can get them in any drugstore." John turned back to the TV, just missing Crystal’s arched eyebrow as she filed that information away for the future.


Crystal, her shift over, changed out of her green velvet outfit and back into her street clothes of jeans and a t-shirt. She carefully went to hang her uniform on the rack when her attention was drawn to a new fresh batch of uniforms, just back from the cleaners. Each was in a plastic garment bag. The writing on the bags caught her eye.

WARNING: To avoid danger of suffocation, keep away from babies and children. Do not use in cribs, beds, carriages or playpens. THIS IS NOT A TOY.

Crystal smiled; an impish grin emerging as a plot began to form in her head but her musings were interrupted by the Booker. Maxie came striding into the room, heading purposefully in her direction. The rest of the girls, in various stages of undress, paid no attention to his arrival.

"Hey Diamond. Wanna make a couple of extra bucks?" he asked.

"Depends, Maxie," she replied. "Doing what, exactly?"

"I need a replacement in the big room. Just a couple of days. Know anything about magic?"

"Are you kidding?" She bit her lower lip and, hoping she sounded convincing, lied, "Magic is my life."

"Well..??" the Booker inquired insistently.

"I’d love to…but I don’t know. My old man…"

"Just let me know by tonight, okay?" he said, over his shoulder as he turned and left.


Crystal, lost in her thoughts, inattentively walked to the exit door. She pushed open the door and stepped into the morning sunshine. Closing her eyes to give them a chance to adjust to the bright light, she never saw the hand that reached out, grabbed her arm and pulled. Stumbling for an instant, she caught her balance and yanked her arm back.

"Brad," she whined. "Geez, what are you trying to do?"

"About damned time you got out here," he growled. "Let’s go. What the hell took you so long?"






RENO: Happy Trails Trailer Park

The ride back was unusually silent. Both parties lost in their own thoughts. Brad pulled the truck to an abrupt stop in front of their trailer. Crystal waited for the dust storm to settle before she reached for the door handle.

"What do you want for breakfast Brad?" she asked, indifferently.

"I don’t," he replied distractedly. He leaned over, reached past her and opened the door on her side. She regarded him with surprise.

"What are you doing?"

"I feel it inside me," he answered. "It’s almost time."

"To move in for the big kill?" Crystal asked worriedly.

"Yeah," he growled, "I’m going away for a few days."

"Oh yeah? Where?"

He smiled. "Somewhere over the rainbow, okay?"

"Ooh, I get it," she retorted flippantly, "you’re gonna make an offering to the gods so they’ll smile upon you?"

"Something like that." Brad looked around anxiously. "Look, I gotta go. Go get some sleep Chrissy." He paused. "You look like hell."

Crystal glared at Brad. She hopped out of the truck and slammed the door. Instantly, he zoomed off down the road. Puzzled, she watched until the truck disappeared in the distance, then turned to make her way to the trailer. As a thought crossed her mind, she stopped. She quickly strode to the phone booth. Crystal dug in her pockets for some change. Her eyes closed and she tapped the receiver on her forehead as she tried to recollect the phone number. She put in the change and dialed.

"Maxie? Crystal. About that job? I’ll take it…" She paused. "Nah, I don’t have to rehearse something like that. I told ya, magic is my life." She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, see ya later."

She dug back in her pocket for more change, dropped it in and dialed again.

"Reno Taxi?"

RENO: Nichols Boarding House

A cleaning lady was pushing a squeaky linen cart down the hallway. Singing, off key, in Spanish as she walked between each of the units and knocked on the doors. In unit 13, Cassy laid fully dressed on her bed. She had both hands behind her head and was absently staring at the stained ceiling above. Her eyes were bloodshot and puffy, her face looked haggard and distressed. Cassy was still in her Harrah’s uniform, her tie hanging loose, her clothes wrinkled and her hair unkempt. She reached for a half empty beer on her nightstand.

"Come back later," Cassy yelled, hearing a knock at her door and thinking it was the maid. "Go away."

More knocking.

"Mas tarde, por favor," she yelled again.

"Tweet, tweet, tweet."

Instantly alert, Cassy jumped off the bed and nervously finger combed her unruly raven hair. She anxiously looked around at the room. Empty beer bottles littered the floor and clothing was thrown everywhere. Shrugging from the hopelessness of the mess, she kicked a few bottles and an empty pizza box under the bed and made her way to the door. She took a deep breath, to try to calm her thundering heartbeat, and opened the door.

Leaning up against the side of the doorframe was a smiling Crystal.

"Didn’t I see this room in House and Garden?" she teased gently, as she looked into the room.

"Yeah well, this is only my summer place…you should see the big house," Cassy replied sarcastically. "Wait a minute…how did you find out where I live?"

Crystal walked past Cassy and into the room. Looking around for a place to sit, she picked up some clothes off of a chair. Unable to find somewhere to relocate them, she unceremoniously dumped them on the floor and then sat down. "We work at the same place. It wasn’t too difficult to ask the lady in Personnel," Crystal answered, her tone flat but friendly.

"I must have made a big hit for you to go to all that trouble." Cassy picked up Crystal’s hand and attempted to pull her to her feet and guide her to the bed. "C’mon…"

"Not now," Crystal said insistently and pulled her hand back. "Let’s get out of here."

Cassy noticed her restlessness and edginess.

"Ummm, okay," Cass drawled. "I don’t know what in the hell is going on but…okay.

I have to change." Cassy picked up a pair of jeans off the floor. As she walked to the bathroom, she spoke over her shoulder. "So, where do you want to go?"

"Somewhere we can breathe."



LAKE TAHOE: Open country

The air was crisp and clean. The view was magnificent. The clouds surrounded the mountain peaks and a light dusting of snow covered the pines high up the slopes.

Cassy and Crystal walked hand in hand along a well worn leaf-strewn path. Every few yards, Cassy would kick a stone forward.

"Why me?" Cassy asked, her tone frustrated. "Why did he zero in on me?"

"He has you figured for his personal patsy, or as he likes to say…his perfect pigeon. He says he has some kind of power over you."

Cassy’s chin dropped to her chest and she stared down at the ground. She was finding it hard to look at Crystal and couldn’t bear to think that it was all true.

"That’s bull." Cassy stated vehemently. She kicked the stone off the path. "How can anyone have power over someone like that, it isn’t possible."

"That’s what I thought," Crystal replied "until he chased you out of Vegas." She paused. "And Tahoe."

Crystal stopped walking and turned Cassy to face her. She gently cupped the taller woman’s cheek with her free hand.

"Cassy, face it. Pretty soon there won’t be any Nevada left. Then what? Huh? The word will get out to Atlantic City long before you get there." Crystal said forcefully, knowing the truth would hurt but had to be told. "What’s next? Puerto Rico? The Bahamas? It doesn’t matter." Her voice gentled. "Wherever you decide to go…I

guarantee Brad will be waiting by the time your plane lands. And I’ll have to tag along."

She paused. Crystal released her jaw and poked Cassy in the chest. "And let me tell you this..." Poke. "I…" Poke. "hate…" Poke. "the fuckin’ tropics!"

Cassy’s frustration emerged in full force. She jerked out of Crystal’s grasp and started to walk away. Crystal stood perfectly still, silently willing Cassy to stop. The dealer stopped a few yards away, took a deep breath and let it out. Her shoulders slumped. She began to speak without turning around.

"You think you’re so hot? You think you have a handle on all this?" Cassy said in a petulant, childlike voice.

"No, no Cassy, " Crystal replied softly. She walked toward the taller woman. Hesitantly, she placed a hand on Cassy’s back. "I’m a bigger jerk than you. I’ve spent years with a man who treats me like…"

"Like what?" Cassy asked quietly.

Crystal turned away, her hand brushing tears from her cheek. "It’s beautiful here, isn’t it? Let’s not pollute the air with more bad language."

Cassy wrapped Crystal in her arms, tucking her head under her chin. She placed a kiss on red-gold hair.

"Why don’t you leave him?" she asked gently.

"I’ve tried…but …he comes and finds me…or I…I…," Crystal stuttered between breaths.

"Or what?"

"Or I go back to him, " she admitted, reluctantly.

"Why? Why?"

"Because I’m afraid of the dark and he is always where the lights are…he saved my life once."

"Does that give him a right to ruin it?" Cassy asked seriously.

"I don’t know," Crystal answered evasively. "I know I just don’t like to wake up alone."

"What’s so bad about being alone?"

"Nothing, if you are built for it. I’m not. I’ll never be. At least with him, I know what to expect."

Cassy stepped back. She brought her hand up, stroked Crystal’s cheek gently and turned her head to look at the fading bruise.

"Yeah, getting the crap beat out of you," Cassy spat out.

"I was hoping that things would get better. I know he loves me…or he used to. Sometimes…sometimes he treats me like the old days and suckers me into believing things will be different. Then he has a few drinks and back comes my lousy, stinking life."

"What you said about being alone?" Cassy paused. "I was never like that." She halted again, grasping for the right words. "I…I like being alone. I’m pretty good company for myself, you know what I mean?" "If I wanted…ummm… companionship," she confessed, "I used people. I took what I wanted and then moved on. Free and single…that’s me. But….well…lately…something’s changing ...maybe it's 'cause I'm older ...or wiser ...but..." Her voice had dropped to a whisper and trailed off.

"What?" Crystal asked.

"I kinda found I like being with you better."

Cassy took Crystal in her arms. She tilted her head and tenderly brushed her lips lightly on Crystal’s. Then she pulled back to look once again into the misty green eyes, as if silently begging for permission. Crystal slid one of her hands up Cassy’s strong back to her neck and drew her head back down for another kiss. They continued for a few moments, until breathing became a necessity. Breaking apart, they continued to stand in each other’s embrace, foreheads touching. Both were out of breath but smiling.

"We can be alone…together," Crystal laughed as they resumed their walk down the path.



Cassy and Crystal walked hand in hand silently enjoying each other and their newly found love. They boarded an empty cable car for a tourist ride over Heavenly Valley. The big red cable car was empty but for them. Cassy stepped back and let Crystal board ahead of her. Both made their way into the car and sat down, their hands still linked. The cable car started its ascent up the mountain. They continued to stare at the magnificent scenery, each lost in their own thoughts. When the cable car made it’s turn at the top and started back down, Cassy finally turned to Crystal. She picked up her hand and brought it to her lips, kissing the knuckles. She took a deep breath.

"I want to say something to you. Something I’ve never said to anyone before."

Crystal placed two fingers on her lips to interrupt her next words.

"Wait. I want to say something first. Something I’ve never said to anyone before."

Cassy’s eyes lit up with anticipation, like a kid on Christmas morning. "What?" she breathed.

"Help me murder Brad."

Cassy leaped to her feet in utter horrified astonishment. The cable car shook and swayed in sudden movement.

"WHAT??" She screamed. "Murder? Are you nuts?"

"Will you please keep your voice down?" Crystal requested calmly.

"Why? Who can hear us?" the dealer asked, gesturing all around the empty cable car.

"I have an idea," Crystal continued reasonably.

"Geez, you make it sound like it’s easy…have you ever done it before?" Cassy asked pointedly. She nervously leaned back on the wall of the tram.

Crystal paused, contemplating, and looked out the window into the mountains. She shyly bit her lip and then returned her gaze to Cassy’s face.

"Well, kinda…" Crystal replied sheepishly.


Crystal knew the question would be forthcoming but couldn’t stop the involuntary flinch it caused.

"Well, it’s not like I did it on purpose," Crystal explained. "It was an accident."

"Just how many of these…errrr…accidents have you been involved in?" Cassy’s voice cracked momentarily and she then cleared her throat with a nervous cough.

"Just the one. It was…ummm…Brad’s brother Owen."

"Great, just great. You specialize…you only murder family members."

"Well, it wasn’t like I planned that one," Crystal replied defensively.

"Well, that makes me feel much better. Crystal, we can’t murder him."

"Cassy, do you know what would happen if I just go off and leave him?"

"Hey, I’m not afraid of him. If he comes after you…"

"It’s me Cass. Me. I always leave. If you and I fight about something, I’ll walk and a voice in my head will say go back where you belong. I’ll find myself knocking on his door. That is unless he calls the cops first."

"So we should kill him, cause you’re an idiot?" "You’re nuts! I quit!"

"Okay, Cassy, quit. Let Brad beat you. He doesn’t just beat you at blackjack, he beats you at life. As long as he lives, you are a loser."

"Yeah, well, I may be a loser but I’m not in prison for murder."

"You’re still hoping to beat him, aren’t you?"

"Yeah, that’s part of it."

"You see where hoping got me," Crystal sighed dejectedly.

"I just don’t know where I’m at."

The cable car hit the bottom of the ride with a thump.

"The end of the line, Cass. We’re at the end of the line."

























RENO: Big Al’s Car Wash

The attendant heard the screech of the tires and looked up just as the classic cherry red Mustang pulled into the lot. He shook his head in amazement. "Kids," he muttered and he reached for a rag to wipe his hands.

He approached the car and his eyes widened with surprise as a tall gorgeous woman stepped out of the vehicle. She leaned over to roll up the window. Then she closed the door.

Oh my, he thought and he hitched up his pants. Stopping a few feet away, his eyes continued to rake over her form. "What will it be, darlin’," he drawled sweetly.

"Wash and a hot wax," she said flatly and rolled her eyes.

"Whew, hot…ummm…car," he said and then whistled and continued to stare at her ass. "Let’s see if I can get this baby looking as fine as you."

"Now. Look…" Cassy angrily began to tell him off.

The attendant interrupted. "Now, don’t you worry sweetheart, I’ll take good care of her," he said as he patted the hood. "Then we can talk about what I might be able to do for you."

Cassy stepped forward into his personal space. She smiled sweetly and leaned down toward his ear. "Ooh, maybe we could start with a nice cool shower, " she said seductively. She licked her lips and stared into his eyes. "Y’know…to get the dust off?"

"Shower?" his voice cracked. Not trusting his voice any longer he just nodded his head affirmatively.

"Oh yeah and then follow up that cool shower with a nice…hot…hot…hot…" Cassy leaned in and whispered, her voice low and sexy, hot breath blowing in his ear.

The attendant gulped loudly. "Yyy…esss???"

"Wax!" she said commandingly. Her voice took on a hard edge. "That’s all, nothing else, got it?"

"Alright, alright," the attendant blushed foolishly. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. He handed it to Cassy and gestured for her to go to the waiting area.

Cassy entered and momentarily shivered as the cold blast of air conditioning hit her. She stepped over to the counter, handed the cashier the slip and some money. Payment taken care of, she wandered over to the waiting area. Frowning at the furniture, she folded her tall body into one of the small plastic chairs. Fidgety, impatient and uncomfortable, she looked through the pile of magazines and saw the familiar logo of ‘Time’. She momentarily brightened, thinking that at least this would help pass the wait. Cassy disgustedly flung the magazine back on the table after scanning the cover, which pictured coverage of the election…of President Reagan.

The dealer looked anxiously around the room, her eyes taking in the massive racks of air fresheners and interior car dress-up items. Her eyes settled on a rack of books on the far wall. She carefully extricated herself from her plastic prison and walked over to the rack. Spinning it gently she perused the covers. ‘A Beginners Guide To Bird watching’ caught her attention and she smiled as she leafed through it.

"Hey little lady, whatcha doing, studying pigeons?"

Cassy jumped in surprise at the loud masculine voice and turned quickly to find Brad standing a few feet away. He smiled at her, a cigar clenched in his teeth.

Getting only a stare from her, he pressed on. "Well, at least you know how to do something right. Al, here, has the best car wash in town." He dropped his cigar on the floor and snubbed it out.

"Bite me!" Cassy spat angrily.

"Bare it sweetie," he replied amiably, "but ya gotta ask nicely." Then he laughed.

"Listen you bastard, you better be looking behind you from now on, ‘cause I’m gonna get even with you," she answered, infuriated.

"Watch it, honey…" he replied menacingly. "I got a temper."

"Yeah, well, I got one too and I have had it up to here." She gestured to her forehead.

"Well, ain’t that too bad," he said sarcastically. "I own you. You are my own private gold mine."

Cassy raised a fist to punch Brad only to have Brad catch it in his own hand. He began to squeeze it, painfully.

"Ummm, look…," Cassy offered nervously. "Can’t we work something out?"

Brad brought their clenched hands to his lips and lightly kissed her knuckles.

"Hmmm, like what did you have in mind, pretty lady?" he asked agreeably.

"Well," Cassy started to say as she leaned into whisper in his ear. Then she kneed him hard in the groin. Brad let go of their joined hands and fell to the floor clutching his privates and groaning in obvious pain.

"You bitch!" he spat out through gritted teeth.

Cassy waited, with both fists clenched, for Brad to get back up so she could hit him. Oblivious to her surroundings, due to her rage, the tall dealer suddenly was surprised when she felt herself being grabbed from behind and held. She struggled briefly but both arms were being held securely. She watched dumbfounded as both men, car wash attendants, nodded at Brad as he got to his feet.

Emotionless, he calmly reached into his pocket, pulled out another cigar and lit it. He blew the smoke directly in Cassy’s face, and then smiled as he watched her blink and cough.

"Tough luck, sweetie, " he said threateningly, "I got pals all over this town."

Brad started to turn around to walk away, then turned back quickly and punched the tall woman’s jaw. He watched as her body sagged unconscious.



RENO: Harrah’s (Backstage area)

Crystal, breathless, ran to the prop box and threw the scarves she was carrying off to one side. She grabbed a stack of dishes and two large poles. Turning back to the stage, she jumped startled as a tall raven-haired form appeared in her path. The singer smiled, then frowned as she noticed the no nonsense demeanor and rigid stance of her friend.

"What’s the plan? " Cassy asked flatly.

"In a minute, " Crystal replied, as she rushed back onstage.

On the stage the magician bowed to the applause as he finished up his hoop routine. Awkwardly, Crystal traded the hoops for the plates and poles. Then she turned and rushed back offstage.

"Oh sweetie," Crystal said sympathetically, as she took a good look at Cassy’s face. She stood uncomfortably, wanting to touch her but had her hands full of props. She looked down at their hands and then again at Cassy’s face. Crystal cleverly handed Cassy the hoops.

"Oh baby, what happened?" Crystal asked quietly. She gently ran her fingers over the dealer’s split lip and bruised jaw.

"I ran into a fist," the tall woman answered, as she hung the hoops on the wall pegs.

"Who did this to you? I’ll kill’em, the bastard, " she yelled irately, as she rummaged through the prop box and gathered up a variety of plastic, colorful balls.

"I thought that’s what we were planning on doing anyway," Cass replied with a lopsided grin.

"What??" Crystal asked, realization dawning on her. She handed her friend the plastic balls and put the hoops in the trunk. "Brad did this to you?"

Cassy nodded her head.

"Oh baby." Crystal gently kissed the split lip.

"The plan?" Cassy asked again.

Crystal continued to stare at the emotionless face, and then shook her head out of her own daze. "Oh…when he gets home, I’ll make him a drink…like usual…but not quite."

"A Mickey?" Cassy asked.

"Just enough to knock him out. Then I’ll put a plastic bag over his head and nature does the rest."

"You don’t think the cops are gonna notice," Cassy asked incredulously. "What will they think…he gave himself a Mickey and then tied a bag around his head before he croaked?"

"Suppose," Crystal started, a little miffed over Cassy’s tone, "that he was found a few days later behind the wheel of a trailer that went off a steep mountain cliff one night."

She paused. "And, suppose, the propane tanks exploded when it did…leaving nothing but ashes and smoke. How could they check?"

"Pretty clever," the dealer admitted.

"I got the drops, the bag and the perfect spot for the little accident. All I need is you to send Brad and the trailer over the cliff." Crystal ran her hand along Cassy’s bruised jaw.

"Think of it…we will not only be rid of Brad but will have all the money he wins from you..."

" If he wins," Cassy interrupted.

"But a lot more, " Crystal continued, "the last time he put me in the hospital, he came down with a case of the guilts and made me the beneficiary of a half million dollar insurance policy. It will be all ours."

Crystal turned and looked out onstage, absently watching the magician struggle with the plate routine.

Cassy walked up behind her.

"Pretty sure of yourself. You sure you haven’t done this before?" Cassy asked, not sure if she really wanted to know the answer or not.

"Balls, Cass, gotta have the balls," Crystal replied flatly, not turning around.

"I have the nerve, I’m not gonna back out," she replied indignantly.

"No, I need the balls…in your hands…for the act." Crystal turned to face the dealer.

Cassy looked down, then back up and shrugged. She handed the balls to Crystal and watched as she ran back onstage.

The magician finished up the plate routine to mediocre applause. He obliviously bowed anyway and began to exchange the plates and poles for the plastic balls. Crystal was desperately trying to do the exchange with as much élan as possible however one of the balls slipped anyway. She deftly caught it before it hit the floor. With a mock flourish, she made it look like it was part of the act and smiled widely at the audience. They responded with laughter and applause.

The magician, emphatically, gestured with his head for her to get offstage. Crystal smiled sweetly back at him and sauntered off with the used props. She dumped the plates and poles into the trunk and began to pick up a lot of various size dumbbells.

"After I send him and the trailer off the cliff, how do I get back…hitch?" Cassy single-mindedly continued to probe out the plan.

"You can ride a motorcycle," Crystal inquired, pausing to take a breath, "can’t you?" She clumsily juggled the alarming amount of props in her arms.

"Umm, yeah…sure, " Cassy replied tentatively, then added with false bravado "like a champ." She paused for another thought. "What motorcycle?"

"Kiss me," Crystal demanded and she winked at Cassy. "I got everything under control."

Cassy leaned over the armload of props and kissed her lightly.

Crystal took a deep breath and sighed. She squared her shoulders and walked onstage. As she strode to center stage, she was caught by surprise as her heel wedged itself into a floor rut. Unable to maintain her balance and control over the props, the dumbbells went flying all over the stage. The clatter startled the magician, causing him to lose control of the balls. The audience roared with laughter. The magician glared with anger. Crystal smiled sheepishly. She wrenched her shoe out of the rut only to find her heel stayed in it.

Limping unevenly on her broken shoe, she began to gather up all the spilled props.

Cassy turned away from the sight onstage. She groaned worriedly, "Yeah, under control."



RENO: Miles outside of town

Brad drove the truck slowly down the middle of what would have been Main Street in this town’s heyday. Tumbleweeds blew across the wide path of the hard packed dirt roadway. His eyes darted from building to building taking in the decayed storefronts and general disarray. He thought it looked like one of those classic western movie sets, except for the disrepair. On the right, the building had two swinging doors barely still hanging on broken hinges. The sign above said Solomon’s Saloon, except that all the letters were broken or faded off except for the S..O..L..A..and N.

Hmmm, he thought. S..O..L..A..N ? NOLAS? OLANS? Nah…LOANS? I love puzzles, you are good, Brad.

He continued on to the end of the street and turned right. There he found the entrance to an old silver mine. Hanging off the crosspiece by a broken chain on one side was sign… ‘Overland Silver Company’.

"This is the place," He said aloud to himself.

He stopped the truck and got out. He reached back into the truck and took out his Stetson, which he placed carefully on his head. Then he reached in the truck a second time and grabbed a package. Screwing up his courage, he walked to the mineshaft and disappeared into the dark.


Cassy stood, sweating profusely, looking over the bike. Jeez, this stuff is hot. She listened inattentively as Dr. Dancer told her about the bike’s features. Cassy was dressed in full bike disguise. She wore black jeans, black leather boots, gloves, a black leather jacket, mirrored shades and held a black helmet in her hands.

‘Easy rider’, my ass, she thought derisively. More like ‘easy heatstroke’.

"Well," she said in a phony southern accent, "everything looks okay."

"I had one of the boys check it out," Dr. Dancer replied. "It should be fine."

"Mind if I take it for a spin?" Cassy inquired. "To be sure, I mean?"

"Sure, " the good Doctor replied easily. "Mind if I hold the $500 while you are doing it?"

Cassy counted out the five one hundred dollar bills.

"Would you like to see the papers…ummm…Miss…Ms.?"

"Johnson," Cassy replied. "Jane Johnson." Then added in an exaggerated drawl, "Down south, a person’s word is good enough."

Dr. Dancer took the money and handed over the key. She shook Cassy’s hand, wished her luck and then headed back to the clinic.

Cassy awkwardly maneuvered the bike to the street. She looked around; making sure no one was watching and mounted the machine. With delusions of Brando, she paused for a moment when her eyes glanced at her own reflection in the Clinics window. She smiled.

Okay, okay…how do I start this thing? Well, let’s see, she gave me a key.

Cassy looked for the ignition and inserted the key. Nothing happened.

What do they do in the movies?

She looked down and found the jump-start. She kicked the pedal a few times and was amazed at the power she felt when the bike finally roared to life. She revved the engine a few times.

Whoo Hoo!

He excitement was short-lived by the thought…Now what do I do?

I can do this; I can do this…I think.

The bike teetered and shimmied from the start as she adjusted to riding it. At the end of the road a stray dog came bounding out from behind a bush. Cassy wavered and swerved as she attempted to lose the dog nipping at her leg.

Under control, sh’yeah, right.




RENO: Happy Trails Trailer Park

Crystal closed the trailer door quietly and made her way over to the phone booth. She put in the quarter and dialed the phone.

"Cassy? He’s here. He’s taking a nap. He’s gonna do it tomorrow. Did you get the bike?"

Cassy sat up against the headboard of her bed as she listened to Crystal go over the plans again.

"I put the bike near the river, Cassy answered. "If someone steals it, it’s a sign and we don’t go through with this." "If I beat him," she said forcefully, "it’s off." "I wanna…" she gulped, "murder my jinx." "No jinx, no murder, got it?"

She listened for a few seconds.

"Me nervous?" Cassy echoed sarcastically. "Nah, I murder people everyday. Hell, I got the bike, what else do you want?"

"A phone call, from the casino, saying everything is a go," Crystal answered. She looked down at the payphone and read off the number. "The number is 555-2244."

"I got it, " Cassy replied. "Now how far is this steep mountain cliff where I have to dump the trailer. I don’t want to be taking a stiff for a joy ride in the middle of the night, y’know?" She paused and listened. "Okay, let me get a piece of paper."


Cassy found herself driving north out of Reno the next morning. Glancing quickly at the paper laying on the seat next to her, she went over the directions.

Head north on Route 395. Go five miles and take a left at the sign that says ‘road closed’.

Cassy slowed down her car at the sight of the flashing yellow caution lights of the barrier. She pulled up close and stopped the Mustang. Looking around for witnesses, she quickly moved the barrier aside and then got back into her vehicle.

Cassy continued on the road and felt the car begin going up a steep grade. Sparing a glance down at the directions again. She couldn’t believe what she had written. She picked the paper up for a closer look.

Just when you think you are lost, you’ll see a big stone outcropping. You are almost there.

"Well," Cassy said aloud, looking around, "I think I’m lost." She snorted.

Topping a rise, she spotted the outcropping of rocks. She parked the car and walked over to the edge of the cliff. Staring down, she swallowed hard as she contemplated the drop.

Absently, she picked up a rock and dropped it over the cliff, watching as it careened off the side of the mountain on it’s way to the bottom.

Oh boy.

She suddenly felt very lightheaded and went back to her vehicle.


Back in the city limits, Cassy headed down the strip toward the river area. Her heartbeat sped up with anticipation.

Please, oh please, oh please…

There parked along the railing was the motorcycle.





RENO: Happy Trails Trailer Park

In the trailer, Brad finished dressing. He slapped on some cologne and exited the bathroom. He slipped on his jacket and adjusted the sleeves. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a cigar. He looked at it almost lovingly as he placed it into the band of his Stetson.

"Oh yeah, tonight’s the night," he said arrogantly aloud, as he looked one final time in the mirror.

Crystal stood off to one side and watched him casually, trying to keep up the appearance of normalcy.

"I’m gonna break that bitch into tiny little pieces," he growled. "They will be able to use her bones for chips." He laughed maniacally.

Crystal shuddered.

"Why do you want to destroy someone who has never harmed you?" she asked.

"I’m Jonah, baby. When I board her boat, I’m bringing her bad, bad luck. It’s my power."

"But, Brad, in the Bible, Jonah didn’t like bringing bad luck. You love it."

"You better believe it. I love it!"

Crystal, not being able to stand it any longer tried desperately to quell the revulsion she was feeling. Not thinking she blurted out her thought aloud.

"Jeez, Brad, do you have to be such a grade A pig bast…"

Before she could complete her question, his hand lashed out and she found herself reeling toward the wall from a blow to the head. She slumped down to the floor and cried.


The tires squealed as Brad accelerated quickly out of the parking lot and back onto the road into town. Crystal waited a few seconds more to make sure he had left before getting to her feet. She made her way out of the trailer toward the pay phone, just as the tail lights disappeared into the distance. Crystal put in her quarter and dialed.

"Cassy? Brad’s gonna play tonight. He couldn’t wait." She paused to listen. "Did you find the …ummm…place, okay?" She waited. "No, I won’t be there. I phoned in sick. To tell you the truth, I don’t feel so hot." She touched her cheek. "No, nothing serious," she added. "Cassy?" she said quietly, " I like you, I really like you, okay?"








RENO: Harrah’s Casino

The room was relatively quiet; the din at a pleasant level and the crowd was thin. Cassy’s blackjack table only had two players. One was a balding man, in his fifties, sporting a very outdated lime green leisure suit. The other was a woman wearing a colorful patterned dress that was easily the noisiest thing in the room. Cassy, busy with cleaning the previous hand of cards off the table, didn’t hear the new player approach until his shadow fell across the table. She looked up and instantly cringed.

"Hiya dealer," Brad cheerfully said, as he pulled out the stool and sat down.

He immediately reached into his hatband and removed the ever-present cigar. Then gestured for a server to bring him a drink. Stephany, alerted by security, made her way into the blackjack pit but remained in the background, with another dealer, quietly observing.

As the server left to go fill the drink order, Brad reached into his jacket pocket and removed a roll of bills. He carefully straightened and counted out the ten one hundred dollar bills and laid them on the table.


The other two bettors were a bit taken aback.

"Geez, maybe I should have worn a tie," the man said sarcastically.

The woman player just continued to stare at the bills lying on the table.

Stephany, accompanied by the off-duty dealer, casually strolled over for a closer look. Cassy looked over and realized the importance of their arrival. She nervously showed Stephany the bills. The pit boss nodded her approval and tightly smiled at Brad. Brad mouthed a silent ‘thank you" and gestured with an overly gracious bow. Cassy gathered up the money and dropped it into the slot. She shoved two stacks of twenty-five dollar chips across the table, only to be stopped by Brad.

"No, hundreds," he corrected. Then added, "please."

Cassy took the two stacks back and gave Brad ten one hundred dollar black chips.

Stephany pulled Cassy slightly off to one side.

"Looks like your boy is going in for the kill tonight," Stephany whispered in Cass’s ear.

"Just give me the ball, coach," Cassy replied in a low voice. She looked deeply into Steph’s eyes. "Trust me. It’s under control."

"I hope so, kiddo." Steph paused. "For your sake, I hope so."

She patted her friend on the back and stepped back off to one side, as the dealer took her place at the table.

For the next hour, Stephany watched as Brad’s original stack of chips doubled, tripled, quadrupled and more.

She watched silently, but with growing apprehension, as Cassy dealt the current hand. Brad’s two cards were Kings. He promptly split the pictures for two five hundred dollar bets. After Cassy added an eight to one and a ten to the other, he stood on both bets. The dealer looked down at the nine of spades and then turned up her hole card. The addition of the six of clubs, gave her a fifteen. She drew her next card, an ace. Stephany stepped forward, watching avidly and nervously. Her hands were behind her back and her were fingers crossed tightly. Cassy took a deep breath and turned the next card up. A seven. Dealer busted. Cassy closed her eyes in frustration, for a moment, before paying off the bet. Sliding the chips across the table, Cassy refused to look up at Brad’s face.

"Pack it in, Cass," Stephany ordered quietly. She placed her hand on the dealer’s shoulder and squeezed gently. Then she turned to the players. "It’s time for her break."

Cassy dejectedly walked away.

"How come she didn’t know it?" one of the players’s asked.

"Caught up in the flow of the game," Stephany replied. "You know how it is."

Brad immediately began to gather up his winnings.

"I’m cashing in my chips."

"What for?" Steph asked. "When you’re hot, you’re hot."

"I think I just felt a draft," he replied sardonically as he turned to leave.


Argo watched, disinterested, from the couch as her owner opened and closed the small kitchen cabinet for the hundredth time. Crystal paused for a moment and stared in the wall mirror at her slightly blackened eye and her bruised cheek. She sighed. Then she stepped over to the dresser, again, and made sure the garment bag was where it should be. Suddenly, as a thought occurred to her, she began to frantically search through papers in another drawer. She paused when she found the packet.

"Bingo," she said triumphantly and kissed the folded insurance policy. Then she carefully tucked it into her handbag. Crystal flopped gracelessly on the couch, just missing an annoyed Argo.


"Oh, sorry baby," Crystal cooed at the cat and then picked her up into her lap. She let her mind wander as she absently stroked the cat. Oblivious to everything by the quiet purring, Crystal almost missed the sound of the payphone ringing.

"Ohmigod," she said as she hurriedly put down the cat and sprinted for the door.

Crystal raced outside, letting the trailer door slam and sprinted across to the payphone.

Grabbing the receiver quickly, she juggled it nervously before raising it to her ear.

"Yes," she said breathlessly.

"It’s over," Cassy explained dejectedly.

"Cassy? He beat you?" Crystal asked.

"Try massacred. It was awful."

"Oh baby, I’m so sorry," Crystal whispered sweetly. "So everything is a go, I guess?"

"I’ll see you at the trailer," Cassy said flatly and hung up.



"Hey, LeBrock, c’mere," another dealer called out with some urgency. "They want to see you at the table."

Cassy squared her shoulders and slowly made her way back to the pit. There was a small crowd forming near the table. Cassy, now curious picked up the pace. As she got closer, the dealer could see, the exaggerated gestures and what appeared to be a heated discussion between Brad and Stephany.

"Is there a problem?" Cassy asked sternly.

"Apparently, my money is no good here," Brad replied snobbishly.

"Not at all, Sir…" Stephany interjected.

"Look, I got fifty-two thousand, five hundred dollars sitting there." Brad pointed to the pile of chips. "I am willing to risk on one hand."

Cassy looked uncomfortably back and forth between Brad and Stephany.

"So, what’s this got to do with me?" she asked, somewhat nervously.

"Management is inclined to see his bet," Stephany explained.

"So?" Cassy drawled. Then with a sinking feeling dread asked again, "What does this have to do with me?" She stared at Brad.

"Only if you deal," Brad challenged.

Cassy took a deep breath and willed her nerves to settle. Her face remained as stoic as she could manage considering her heart was in her throat.

"One hand? For everything?"

"That’s the idea, sweetie." Brad smiled.

Cassy paused; her hand came up to rub her jaw. She stared directly into his eyes.

"Okay," she said. Then she turned to Stephany. "Well?"

Stephany nodded.

People began converging on the table as word of the blackjack duel spread throughout the casino. Onlookers pressed in on all sides, jockeying for the best position to watch.

Cassy was handed a new box of cards, which she opened and began to shuffle. When they were sufficiently mixed, she offered the deck to Brad for a cut. Regarding Cassy with arrogant disdain, Brad sniffed and declined the cut with a curt wave of his hand.

A ripple of murmurs went through the crowd.

Stephany leaned into Cass’s ear and whispered, "You got a chance to be a hero, here."

"What’s the downside?" Cassy asked.

"Don’t ask," the pit boss replied flatly. Then she turned to Brad and gestured at the cards. "Okay?"

"Anytime, you’re ready," he replied.

"Deal, Cassy," Stephany ordered.

Cassy dealt the cards. One down to Brad, one down to herself and then the second down to Brad and a three of hearts up to herself.

Brad lifted up the edge of his cards and peeked underneath. He set them back down. He showed no reaction as he pondered his bet.

"Well?" Stephany asked impatiently.

"Suppose," Brad said slowly, "just suppose, I had a six and a five in the hole." He paused dramatically. "And suppose, I wanted to double down."

Another ripple of murmurs went through the growing crowd as they anticipated the big bet.

Stephany thought for a moment, did the internal calculations and weighed the odds.

"You want to double, we’ll accommodate you," she offered. "Providing, of course, you show the cash." The she added peevishly, "Well?"

Brad’s eyes raked over Cassy, as if studying her.

"Well?" Stephany asked again.

"I’m just taking my dealer’s temperature."

Cassy’s stoic demeanor slipped. She was now feeling humiliated and angry.

"98.6!" she spat out.

"Funny, you’re sweating like it’s 104."

The crowd snickered.

"Look, you sorry sonofa…" Cassy stopped abruptly and tried to regain some of her cool. She took a deep breath. "Put up or shut up!" she added through gritted teeth.

"That’s the sign I was looking for." Brad laughed triumphantly.

Brad reached into his pants pocket and took out a roll of hundreds, laying it carefully on the table.

"Twenty-five hundred."

"That still leaves fifty thousand open," Stephany interjected.

"Hold your horses, darlin’" Brad added with a touch of annoyance in his voice.


Brad reached into his inner jacket pocket and removed an envelope. He handed it to Stephany. The pit boss opened the envelope and removed a Cashier’s check for forty thousand dollars. She whistled.

"Okay, " she looked over at Cassy and winked, "that still leaves you ten grand short."

He reached into his back pocket this time and extracted his wallet. Opening a hidden compartment he pulled out a piece of paper, which, had obviously been folded in quarters for many years. It crackled as he carefully, gently, almost lovingly opened them.

Stephany and Cassy’s eyes widened as they looked at the money lying on the table.

"A ten thousand dollar bill," Stephany whispered, almost reverently.

The crowd buzzed with excitement.

"It’s kosher, " Brad said with arrogance and extreme confidence.

"Get Miller," Steph ordered her eyes never leaving the bill on the table.

"Who?" the substitute dealer asked.

"Miller," Stephany growled. "The chief bookkeeper."

The crowd of spectators had now grown and all eyes were on the elderly bird-like man who had to push his way though to get to the table. He was easily in his sixties, pushing retirement. He was wearing black pinstripe pants and a whiter than white long sleeve dress shirt with a thin black bowtie. His round glasses added to the impression that this is a man who should be wearing sleeve garters and a visor. Miller gently picked up the bill and held it up to the light. He examined it like a connoisseur.

"Oh my, my, my, " he said appreciatively, "it is remarkable."

He held it up again, so that security cameras could continue to scrutinize both sides of the bill.

"Can I ask where you got this, sir?" Miller asked politely.

"The tooth fairy," Brad answered sarcastically.

Miller turned to Stephany and handed her the bill. "The government stopped making these years ago. But it is absolutely genuine, no question about it."

"Why would anyone keep ten grand in his wallet when it could be drawing interest in a bank?" she asked Brad.

"Sentimental value." He replied flatly.

Brad turned up his cards to show a six and a five. "The money plays."

Stephany placed the bill and the check on top of the stack of chips. She nodded to Cassy. "Continue."

The crowd got very quiet as Cassy picked up the deck again. Brad took a moment and removed the ever-present cigar from his hatband and lit up. The other woman player sitting at the table, scowled with displeasure as cigar smoke wafted her way. She began to fan the smoke away from her face.

Cassy dealt the next card. She added a nine to Brad’s six and five for a total of twenty.

Brad smiled widely and took another big puff. The woman player, now very annoyed, grabbed the cigar out of his mouth.

"Will you please stop smoking that smelly awful thing!" she screeched. And with nerve common to cigar haters, dropped the stogie into a highball glass sitting on the table.

"Hey!" Brad jumped startled. "What the hell do you think you are doing?" Brad face began to darken in rage. "You got some damn nerve, who the hell do you think you are?"

The woman stood to her feet, so that she slightly towered over the still seated Brad. She poked him with her index finger as she made her point. "You." Poke. "And your." Poke. "Smelly cigar." Poke. "Were making me." Poke. This time harder. "Nauseous."

"Look…" he raked his eyes up and down her body, disdainfully, "lady…"

"Hey, you gonna to play cards or what?" Cassy interrupted Brad’s tirade.

"The player has twenty," Stephany added in a monotone.

Brad, now clearly fighting to regain his cool, ignored the beads of sweat forming on his brow.

"The player stands," he said with as much confidence as he could muster. Then demanded, "Show us the hole card, dealer."

Stephany nodded to Cassy, who promptly turned the down card up. It was a queen. The crowd began to mumble and fidget with anticipation.

"Dealer has thirteen," the pit boss announced. Then to Cassy said, "Go."

Cassy turned up the next card. It was the two of clubs. ‘Fifteen’ echoed through the crowd. Cassy took a deep breath and prepared to turn up the next card. The next card was an ace. The crowd let out a collective breath.

"Dealer has sixteen and must draw again," Steph clearly stated for the crowd.

Cassy, Brad and Stephany exchanged momentary looks. Then Cassy found Brad’s eyes and just continued to stare into them, emotionlessly. She made no move to turn the card.

The silence was deafening and the moment lengthened unbearably. Finally, Brad spoke first.

"She paralyzed or what?" he asked annoyed.

"That’s the sign I was looking for," Cassy proclaimed delightedly.

She quickly turned the card over. It was the five of spades. A massive groan filtered through the crowd and they began to disperse.

Brad just sat there stunned. Shocked and unable to process what just happened to him.

Stephany with utter relief announced aloud, "dealer has twenty-one, house wins."

Cassy was trying, unsuccessfully, to maintain a stoic demeanor, even though every fiber of her being was jumping up and down with joy. Her whole body was smiling.

Brad suddenly looked older than his years. He was literally, instantly pale.

"Oh god," he muttered to himself.

"Sir, is there anything we can do for you?" Stephany offered.

Brad just stared into the distance.

"Sir, you feel okay?" She tried again.

Without a word, Brad got up, turned abruptly and began to make his way out of the casino. He walked completely oblivious to his surroundings. As he bumped into another patron, he didn’t apologize, just kept on walking. He was a beaten man.

Cassy allowed herself an ear-to-ear grin as Stephany threw an arm around her shoulders.

"Never lost heart! WOW! Showed a thirteen to a twenty for over hundred grand and never blinked." Pride was evident in her voice. "C’mon, babe," she said as she led Cassy away from the table.

"Where to?"

"The house wants to buy you a drink," she said joyfully. "Aw hell, the house wants to buy you the whole bottle!"

As they pass a bank of telephones, Cassy stepped away from the pit boss and turned to go to them. Stephany grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

"Where ya going?"

"I was gonna call somebody."

"C’mon, c’mon, you knucklehead," she ruffled Cassy’s hair. "You can do that later." She threw her arm around her friend again and they headed off to the bar.

"That’s right, y’know, it really doesn’t matter now," Cassy mumbled to herself as she took one more look over her shoulders at the telephones. Then she squeezed Steph’s shoulder. "Let’s go celebrate."


Brad, still walking in shock, went to a mailbox outside the casino. He reached into his inner jacket pocket and removed a small envelope. He stared down at if for a moment and then dropped it in the slot. Dejectedly, he walked across the parking lot to his truck.







RENO: Happy Trails Trailer Park


In the trailer, Crystal was still nervously pacing. She was holding Argo in her arms and absently stroking her fur. At the sound of a car’s motor, she stopped pacing, put Argo on the couch and looked out the window near the door. She watched as Brad got out of the truck and made his way over to the phone booth. He deposited a coin and dialed a number. She could tell he was talking but was too far away to hear anything. With a quizzical expression on her face, she turned to Argo.

"Whatcha think is going on here, Argo?" she asked the cat. Then turned back to the window.

She watched as Brad repeated the process a few more time, never staying on the phone long. Crystal involuntarily shrugged her shoulders, unable to figure out what was going on.


Stephany and the other off-duty casino workers were sitting around laughing it up. Cassy, the center of attention was feeling like the conquering hero. As her glass was being refilled again, she stood abruptly.

"I really gotta make a phone call," she announced to the group. "I’ll be right back."


Brad stopped outside the trailer door and took a deep breath. With a monumental effort, he forced a big smile on his lips and adopted an ‘up’ attitude. He opened the door.

He looked over at Crystal, who had sat back down on the couch as she heard him approach, and held his arms widely out to the sides.

"Didn’t I say trust me? Was I right, or was I right?"

"You won?" Crystal asked skeptically.

"Do I look like a loser?" he answered her question with a question. He lowered his arms when she made no move to get up off the couch and walk into them.

Crystal’s attention to Brad wavered momentarily as she heard the phone ring in the distance. She gave a quick glance over her shoulder at the door. And then looked back at Brad.

"Beat her bad, did ya?" she asked

Brad nodded.

"Hey, what’s nice this time of year? Paris?"

"I’ve never been there." She answered flatly.

He roared with laughter.

"Me neither!" He said jokingly, knowing that they had been traveling only together.

He turned away from her gaze for a minute and stared out into space.

"Y’know, it’s too bad they don’t have any of those old-time ocean liners, no more. For years, I thought it would be cool to go somewhere on a long ocean voyage. Y’know, where it would take weeks or months even to get where you wanted to go. Now that I can, there ain’t no more of them." He laughed disparagingly. "I missed the boat."

Crystal heard the phone stop ringing.

Brad turned back to her and held his arms out again. "C’mere, baby, kiss the winner."

No way to avoid it, Crystal did what he asked. He pulled her into a tight hug and his jaw rested on her shoulder. Knowing Crystal is unable to see him, he allowed the faraway look to return to his eyes.

"I’ve done a lot of lousy things to you baby. I don’t know why. Something just comes over me." He said as he squeezed her tight.

"What’s the punchline?" she asked, still not believing his sincerity.

"Too late for apologies, huh?" He asked wistfully.

Crystal pulled out of his arms. "I’ll fix you a drink," she said flatly.

"We did have some good times in the beginning." He paused. "After Owen."

Crystal turned and glared at him. Her nerves were raw and she knew that his mentioning of Owen was just another shot at manipulation.

"Stop it!" she screamed. "I’m sick of hearing about Owen." She turned and clutched the kitchen counter wearily.

"You feel all right?"

"Never better," she said, never turning around to look at him.

He took a half step and started to approach her back, then changed his mind. "Well, I’m gonna shower. I was sweating some when the deal came down." Brad turned and entered the small bathroom.

Crystal turned and looked at the closed bathroom door. She shook her head, still puzzled by his behavior. She began to assemble her equipment. She paused for a moment before opening the small cabinet door and removing the drops. Placing them on the counter, she next pulled out a tall highball glass and a bottle of bourbon. She poured a hefty amount of bourbon into the glass and then added two drops. She paused, and then added two more. She closed the vial and put it in her pocket. She reached over to the sink and got a spoon to stir the drink.

As Crystal stirred the contents, first energetically and then little by little the activity slowed until the spoon stopped. Her mind raced with thoughts that her face quickly mirrored. She was filled with doubts and misgivings. She looked over to the closed bathroom door and then back down to the drink. She picked it up and poured it down the drain.


Brad tilted his head back and let the hot water run over his hair and face. As he reopened his eyes, he saw the naked white light bulb in the low ceiling fixture. He stared, mesmerized, at it, as if seeing it for the first time. He stepped out from under the running water and reached for the light bulb. His fingers barely touched it, when he jerked them back from the heat. He glanced down at the floor of the stall, which was full of water. The level was deep enough to have completely covered his feet.

Brad picked up a small hand towel and used it to protect his fingers as he unscrewed the bulb. He dropped the bulb into the water and watched it bob around. Looking up once more, he stared at the empty socket, and made up his mind.


Crystal, still angered by her weakness, was rinsing the glass out when the lights dimmed and flickered. She paid little attention to it as she finally made up her mind and stormed to the bathroom door.

"Brad, listen to me," she said loudly to be heard over the sound of the running water, "don’t say a word until I’m finished." Screwing up her courage, she began. "You’ve got to understand, we are through. It’s finished, over. That’s all. You want to blow your top and beat me up…fine. Well, not fine but… Anyway, I’m still leaving. Our good times ended a long time ago. And I’ve paid for my mistakes, in spades. You’re a big winner now…I don’t want a thing from you. I just want out. You want to part friends? I’m willing. Well, what do you say?"

She waited for a response, any response.


There was no reply.


Suddenly feeling her feet getting wet, her attention was drawn to the water flowing under the bathroom door.

"Brad?" she yelled, somewhat panicked. Crystal tried the doorknob and found it locked. "Brad, let me in!"

Crystal hurled herself against the flimsy door. It gave way easily and folded under the assault. She found herself sprawled over the wet, naked body of Brad. She screamed but was drowned out by the sound of the shower.
























RENO: Happy Trails Trailer Park

Cassy cut the engine and coasted slowly toward the stucco caretaker’s house. She dismounted and rolled the motorcycle around to the back of the shack. Quietly she set the kickstand and then, mirroring the same approach she previously used, cautiously made her way to the trailer. As she neared the window she crouched down under the sill. Rising up slowly, she peered inside.


Crystal jumped in surprise at the sound of a voice. She turned toward the window, saw the helmeted figure and screamed. Cassy quickly ran for the door and entered the trailer, removing and tossing aside her helmet with one motion. Crystal sat clutching her hand to her heart, trying desperately to recover from shock after shock.

"Don’t." Crystal said, breathing hard and almost unable to speak. "Ever." She paused to take another breath. "Do that." She poked Cassy in the chest with her finger hard. "Again."

"OW," Cassy exclaimed, batting the finger aside with annoyance. Her eyes darted back and forth trying to take in everything that had happened. "Why didn’t you answer the phone?" she said distraughtly. "I called you back to tell you that I beat him."

The dealer stood and stepped over to the couch. She removed her gear, tossing the leather jacket and gloves aside. She gracelessly dropped her tall frame onto the couch and put her head in her hands.

Crystal stood up abruptly, dumping Brad’s cradled head to the floor with a thud. She turned momentarily and looked down at the body, disbelievingly shook her head once and made her way over to Cassy. She sat on the arm of the couch.

"Beat him?" She cried, incredulously. "You beat him?"

"I cleaned him out," Cassy replied, never looking up.

"Bu...bu...bu...but," Crystal stammered. She got up and stepped over to the sink, leaning heavily on the counter, her back to her companion. "But he said he won!"

Cassy looked up to follow Crystal’s movements. Seconds later, she followed and stood directly behind her.

"He told you that? Ohmigod, so that’s why you…" she gestured at the body on the floor.

"Waitaminute! I didn’t do anything." Crystal replied and turned around to face Cassy.

"You’re imagining things."

"Really?" She pointed again to Brad’s body. "My imagination seems to be getting rigor mortis."

"I didn’t kill him." Crystal replied indignantly. "He apparently decided to take a shower with one hand on the soap and the other in the light socket."

Cassy sat back down, heavily, on the couch.

"Jeez," she pondered thoughtfully, "I’m almost sorry I beat him."

"Oh no," Crystal cried, mentally slapping her forehead when realization set in. "Oh no, in about 10 seconds…you…me… we...I mean we're gonna be a lot sorrier."


"Cause if he didn’t win, then all the money we figured on is…" Crystal threw herself on the couch next to Cassy.

"Is in the vault at Harrah’s," Cassy said miserably, as she finished the sentence. "Dammit!" The dealer turned to Crystal and clasped her hand. "Wait," she said, brightening, a new idea formed. "Well, we still have the insurance money."

"Ummm…" Crystal looked everywhere but directly at Cassy. She squeezed their joined hands. "We don’t get that either. There’s a suicide clause."

"Well," Cassy blew out a breath and said philosophically, " I’ve been broke before. At least I got rid of my jinx." She stood up and pulled Crystal to her feet. "Let’s just get this over, let’s call the cops and…"

"Wait…wait…I have an idea," Crystal said cheerfully. "We can still get the money. All we have to do is go through with the plan. It’ll be an accident."

"What?" Cassy asked, confused.

"Brad is dead, correct?" Crystal asked.

Cassy turned to look at the body, then back to Crystal. "Very," she replied, deadpanned.

"Who else knows it’s a suicide but us. Once the trailer goes ‘kaboom’, it will still look like a bad accident. Right?"

"You forgot one important thing. If we get caught, they will say we killed him."

"That’s the chance we’ll have to take. It’s called gambling, Cass."

Cassy stood for a few moments contemplating the plan. She then turned to the door.

"Where you going?" Crystal asked, a bit of doubt in her voice.

Cassy shrugged. "To get the bike, where else?"

"Good," Crystal sighed relieved. "I better put some clothes on Brad."

"What for?"

"It just seems, I dunno, indecent."

"Let’s just get this over with," Cassy said nervously, "Okay?"


Cassy retrieved the bike from behind the caretaker’s shack, being careful not to make any unnecessary noise and disturb the inhabitants. In the meantime, Crystal grabbed some towels to clean up all the water on the floor. She threw the wet towels into the shower stall.

"Okay, Brad," she said to the corpse, "let’s get you dressed."

Crystal rummaged through the drawers looking for something to dress him in. The thought of actually having to dress a dead body began to nauseate her. Spying his robe hanging on a hook, she decided that was her best option. She walked back over to his body, took a deep calming breath, closed her eyes and reached down for his hand. She shuttered as she grabbed it. Swallowing hard, she determinedly set her mind to finish what she started. She pulled him up and as she attempted to slip his arm in the sleeve, dropped him back to the floor again.


"Sorry, Brad," she apologized. "What am I saying?" she muttered to herself.

She pulled him forward again, and the results were the same.

There has to be a better way. She tapped her chin, in thought. I got it!

Crystal left Brad flat on the floor and put one of his arms in a sleeve. She then rolled him over onto his stomach and brought the robe around his back and put his other arm in the other sleeve. She pushed him over on his back, then straightened the sides of the robe, pulled it closed and tied the belt off. She sat back a moment to catch her breath.

"Okay now we need to move you."

Grabbing his arm again, she attempted to drag his body the over toward the couch. Not having any luck moving the dead weight, her feet began to slide on the still damp floor and she found herself slowly sinking downward until she was sitting beside Brad’s body.

"Brad, you’re not helping here," she said aloud as she stood back up.

She then bent over and grabbed him under the arms and tried again. Taking tiny steps backward she managed to get his body over to the couch. Flopping tiredly on the couch and breathing hard from the exertion, she didn’t even notice that she almost landed on the sleeping cat. Argo disturbed from her sleep, scampered under the couch to safety just as Cassy opened the door.

"Help, me get this bike up in there, okay?" Cassy asked.

"Yeah, yeah," Crystal answered wearily and slowly joined Cassy at the door.

The struggled and wrestled with the motorcycle to get it up the steps into the trailer. It took several minutes and both were exhausted by the time they were done. When it finally was in, Cass pushed the bike along the wall and put the kickstand down. She flung herself down on the nearest chair, leaned her head back and closed her eyes, to rest for a few moments.

"Okay, now we have to hook up the truck," Crystal offered.

Cassy took a deep breath and sighed. "Could I have a minute here? It’s not like he is going anywhere, y’know."


Cassy finished hitching up the truck, just as Crystal emerged from the trailer carrying Brad’s Stetson and his jacket.

"Here ya go," she said as she handed her the hat and coat.

Cassy, tucked her hair up under the hat and put it on. The jacket was next.

"How do I look?" she asked.

"Close…" Crystal replied.

Cassy ran her finger along the brim. "Heh, but no cigar," she finished with a smile.

"I keep thinking we forgot something. Can you think of anything else?"


Crystal planted both feet and took an expectant stance. "That’s it then." She sighed. Crystal pointed to her jaw. "Now, sock me good, so when I go running to the stucco house, I have something to show them." She looked at the reluctance in Cassy’s eyes. "What’s a matter?"

"I don’t want to hit you," she said softly.

"Oh, baby, it will be…" Crystal started to say but was interrupted by a surprise left hook which dropped her."

She touched the corner of her mouth and felt a trickle of blood.

"Oh honey, I’m so sorry…are you all right?" Cassy asked, as she pulled Crystal to her feet. She ran her fingers gently over the singer’s cheek.

"Umm, sure," she replied, pleased with her concern. She mock pouted a little. "Kiss it and make it better?"

Cassy leaned in and kissed her lips gently. "How’s that?"

"It’ll do for now." Crystal took a deep breath and turned toward the house. "Give me a little head start, okay?" she said over her shoulder to Cassy as she began running toward the house.

"Wait, wait," Cassy yelled in hush tones. "What if they don't buy it?"

Crystal stopped and turned. She began walking back toward Cassy.

"Are you kidding," she questioned. "I am a professional."

Cassy arched her eyebrow. "You...are...a...singer," she spoke each word deliberately.

"I'll have you know, I've done plays. I've been the lead in a few."


Crystal mumbled something unintelligible.

"Come again?"

"Grade School, okay?" she admitted sheepishly. "Hey, I played Chicken Little once, just watch." She pecked Cassy on the lips. "Ready?"

Crystal turned and began running toward the house. "Help! Help! He's crazy," she screamed like a banshee. "He's drunk, he's trying to kill me. HELP!!!"

She reached the front door and began beating on it as she continued to scream for help. Immediately, lights went on in the house.

"Please, please...Ohmigod...Let me in..." She paused for a moment, turned and gestured for Cassy to go to the truck. "He's trying to kill me...HELP!"

Cassy nodded, grinned and gave Crystal a wink. She hurriedly headed for the truck.

The door to the caretaker's house opened and an older couple appeared dressed in their nightclothes. The man was adjusting his glasses and the woman was pulling her robe closed.

"He's trying to kill me," Crystal said breathlessly. "Look, look...," she pointed to her lip. "Look what he did..."

The couple began to lead her into the house when the sound of a gunning engine caught their attention. They watched as the blinding bright headlights came on and then watched as the truck skid and slid on the loose gravel, accelerating quickly toward the road.

The gentleman squinted to get a better look as the truck flew by and absently began to walk forward, watching the truck as it sped toward the road.

Crystal pulled him back. "Did you see? Did you see that crazy drunk in his Stetson?"

"That fella is gonna kill someone..." he muttered, shaking his head in disbelief as he walked back into the house.

"Or himself," Crystal added helpfully and then began her act of sniffling and tearing up.

"There, there, dear," the caretaker's wife soothed and patted Crystal's hand. "Let's get some ice for your lip. "C'mon into the kitchen."

Crystal kept up her charade as she followed the woman. She paused at the threshold and looked over her shoulder toward the road. She smiled for an instant.

"Come along dear, " the woman commanded her gently. "Let's get you that ice."

"Yes ma'am," Crystal dutifully replied.


RENO: On The Highway Out Of Town

Cassy slowed the truck down as she got out of sight of the trailer park. Carefully she maneuvered up the curving roads. As the trailer rounded a steep bend, Brad's body rolled closer to the couch, throwing his arm slightly under it. Argo, who was sleeping under the couch, awakened by the movement and warily inched out. She sniffed the body.

Cassy continued up the mountain, oblivious to the State Trooper about a quarter mile back. She almost missed a turn and swerved quickly. The sudden motion caused Brad's body to roll across the floor, knocking over a lamp. The lamp fell on his chest, which kept it from breaking. It landed switch side down, turning itself on in the process.

The trooper noticed the light go on. Cassy didn't.

Suddenly, the truck began to sputter and backfire. Cassy nervously checked all the gages. Then it stalled.

"Oh hell," she said disgustedly. "I could use a little help here, you know." She gestured and looked to the heavens.

Cassy guided the truck off the road and onto the shoulder. She managed to find a flashlight in the glove box and got out of the truck. Quickly she made her way to the front and popped the hood. Peering into the engine, she heard the sound of an approaching car. She stepped to the side and looked around the open hood.

"Oh shit!" she exclaimed as she identified a State Trooper vehicle. Looking back up to the sky again, she added, "You hate me don't you?"


Inside the trailer, Brad's body was lying on the floor, robe now undone. Argo is playfully batting the lamp on his chest back and forth, watching it roll. The unevenness of the soft shoulder the trailer was parked on, made the motorcycle teeter slightly.


The Trooper approached the truck, and shined his flashlight briefly, taking in the tall muscular form.

"Can I help you...ummm...sir?" He asked, hesitantly.

Cassy took advantage of the presented opportunity, pulled the Stetson lower on her head and pulled the jacket collar up around her face. "Oh Officer..." she started to say. Then she coughed, cleared her throat and purposely deepened her voice. "You have no idea."

"Let me see, maybe I can help."

Cass stepped back into the shadows to help conceal her identity for as long as possible.

"Don't look too good," the Officer muttered without looking up.

"Sure doesn't," Cassy whispered.

"What?" the Trooper asked and looked up momentarily.

"I said…it doesn't?" Cassy replied in her best bass voice.

The Trooper turned his attention back to the engine, tinkering. "You got anyone back in there?" he asked, conversationally.

"No...oh, " Cassy's voice broke. She recovered quickly and deepened her voice again. "I'm afraid not, nope, nope, no one's there."

The Trooper gave Cassy a slightly skeptical glance at her nervous rambling but went back to fiddling with the engine.

"Ah ha!" he exclaimed.

Cassy startled.

"Jammed butterfly valve."


In the trailer, Argo tired of playing with the lamp and jumped up on a small table knocking a book onto the floor with a thump.


"What was that?" the Trooper asked, as he looked toward the trailer.

"I didn't hear anything," Cassy claimed innocently. "Jammed butterfly valve you say?"

The Trooper continued to look past the dealer toward the trailer. Cassy had to think fast.

"Y'know, I used to have another trailer." She lowered her head solemnly. "I used to have a hus...ummm...a wife and a kid. We...we...were riding along just like this one night." She sighed deeply and sniffled some. The Trooper, not wanting to embarrass the 'man' turned his attention back to the engine.

"My Georgette and Timmy...that's what was my little boy's name. They were asleep in the back." Cassy took a deep breath. "When some...son of a bitch, excuse my French, Officer..." She mock wiped her eyes on her jacket sleeve and then continued. "They never caught, drunk they figured, came onto the road from a side street and sideswiped the trailer." She began to act like she was sobbing, turning her back to the Officer.

The Trooper, caught up in the story, wiped his eyes and then patted her once on the back. "Damn, the worst always get away," he commiserated. He made one further adjustment to the engine. "There you go, all fixed."


Argo leapt off the table and onto the motorcycle. The kickstand slipped and the bike fell to the floor with a resounding crash.


"What the hell was that?" the Trooper whirled about and looked at the trailer.

"What was what?"

"I thought you said that there was no one in there," his tone was accusing. "I'm going to go look inside, unless you got another story to tell me." He carefully approached the trailer, holding his flashlight in one hand and unsnapping his holster with the other.

Just as he reached for the door handle, Cassy started the truck and jammed the accelerator to the floor. The Trooper was knocked to the ground by the sudden movement. The trailer sideswiped the patrol car, knocking it into a culvert. The Trooper, still on the ground, pulled his gun and fired wildly at the trailer.

Cassy sped up the road to the final cutoff and drove the trailer through the barriers. The wood shattered and flew in several directions. She stopped the truck several yards from the edge of the cliff and got out. She started quickly toward the trailer and then stopped abruptly. She thought about the light and the thumping noises. He can't be alive, can he? Marshalling her courage, she walked toward the back of the trailer and peeked in through the screened window. The trailer was dimly lit and quiet. She heaved a sigh of relief.

"AH!!!!" Cassy screamed and jumped in surprise when something wide eyed and screeching hurled itself against the screen. Frightened, she stumbling back a few steps.

"Argo! Damn it!" she spat out, infuriated. Cassy’s felt like her heart was about to burst out of her chest. She bent over putting her hands on her knees and took several deep breaths. "You’re right Crystal, you did forget something…damn cat," she muttered to herself.

After calming herself, somewhat, she approached the trailer. Inside was trashed. The motorcycle was lying on top of Brad’s body, and the table and lamp were overturned on the floor. Drawers and cabinets doors were open and their contents spilled all over the floor.

Cassy lifted the bike upright and began to roll it out of the trailer. It got away from her as she reached the step.


Letting go, so it wouldn’t drag her along as well, she let gravity take it to the ground. She set the bike on its kickstand and checked for any damage.

"Okay, Brad, now you."

Cassy went back inside the trailer and got a good hold of Brad. She dragged him toward the door. Stepping onto the ground, she leaned back into the doorway and set Brad as upright as possible. She leaned his body over her shoulder and with a Herculean effort picked him up. She staggered to the truck.

With great difficulty, Cassy managed to position Brad behind the wheel of the truck. By this time she was huffing from all the exertion. Finally, she plunked his Stetson on his head and slammed the truck door. Her body leaned against the side of the truck as she fought to catch her breath. After a few moments, she made her way back to the trailer to get her gear.

Cassy put on her leather jacket, helmet and pulled on her gloves. She started for the door then stopped abruptly. Argo, she remembered.

"Here kitty, kitty…where are you?"

Argo hissed at the helmeted figure..

"Nice kitty," Cassy soothed as she reached for the cat. As soon as she got close enough she made a grab.

Argo, hissing and spitting bit down on the gloved hand. Cassy promptly let go. The cat then bolted through the open door into the darkness.

"OW, damn cat…you’re on your own." Cassy yelled into the night at the disappearing cat.

Cassy stepped up onto the running board and leaned in the truck’s open window. The engine roared to life at the turn of the key. She put the truck in gear and helped steer as it inched its way to the cliff. As it reached the lip she jumped off the side rail. The truck and the trailer disappeared over the ridge.

The vehicles slashed through the brush and trees as gravity pulled them downward. Finally stopping when they impacted a large bolder. The sudden stop forced the truck back hard against the trailer and crushed the butane tanks. They exploded in a fiery blast. Cassy ducked to the ground as she felt the heat of the combustion come roaring up the cliff. She picked herself off the ground and brushed off her clothes. Taking one last look at the truck and trailer engulfed in flames, she then turned and headed for the bike.

The bike kicked over with a minimum of effort and Cassy drove slowly and carefully away from the scene, making sure to keep her headlights off. When she finally reached the main road, she stopped and breathed a sigh of relief. She switched her headlight on and began to return to town.


Cassy inched the bike up to the iron railing by the river. Looking around to make sure the coast was clear, she got off the bike and proceeded to remove the license plate. Leaving the key in the ignition, she quickly walked away abandoning the bike. She cocked her head at the sound of a nearby truck motor. Turning the corner, her eyes brightened at the sight.

"Finally, something going right," she muttered to herself and quickly made her way toward the garbage truck. Cassy tossed the helmet, jacket, gloves and license plate into the back of the garbage truck, gave a mock salute and walked quietly and quickly away.











RENO: Happy Trails Trailer Park

Crystal stood in the caretaker’s front yard, hiding her amusement, behind a well placed Kleenex clenched in her hand. She watched the myriad of reporters and news people, with their cameras and microphones all jockeying for position. A few uniformed policemen hovered about trying to keep order. The caretaker and his wife reemerged from the house, dressed in their Sunday best. Their eyes widened at the circus scene before them.

"…and he went speeding out of here…like a maniac," Crystal continued her story to the television reporter. "Mr. Riley, my neighbor here…" She reached over and grabbed him by the arm, much to his delight and pulled him into the spotlight. "He said ‘that fellow is bound to have an accident.’ God forbid, I said."

Crystal lowered her head, until her chin rested on her chest. She began to sniffle and sob.

"I did love him so," she muttered softly. "Give me a moment here, please?"

Crystal turned her back to the reporter and motioned as if she was dabbing her eyes. Mr. Riley grabbed his opportunity and began to wave furiously.

"Hello everyone out there in TV land." He called to his wife, "C’mere Mother." Mr. Riley beckoned her with a wave.

She patted her hair and stepped next to him. Staring right at the camera, she began to wave too.

"Miss Diamond?" the reporter shouted, "Miss Diamond?"

Crystal turned back around, her composure restored. "Yes?" she asked as she bumped the Rileys out of camera range.

"Is there anything else you would like to add?" he asked.

"Well, even though he nearly killed me…I still can’t believe he’s gone. He was so young, so strong…so…so…so much…fun."

RENO: Nichols Boarding House

An exhausted Cassy turned the key and pushed her way into her dark room. She turned and momentarily leaned her head against the now closed door. She took a deep breath, then reached over and flicked on the light. Turning back into the room, she tossed her keys on the nearby dresser.

Cassy slowly dragged herself to her small refrigerator and pulled out a beer. She twisted the cap off and looked around for a trash can. Not finding one, she shrugged and threw the cap over her shoulder. She tiredly searched out some clothes, finding them on a chair by the bed. Setting the beer on her nightstand, she grabbed the clothes and made her way to the bathroom to change. A few minutes later she emerged wearing smileyface boxers and a threadbare t-shirt that had seen better days.

Gracelessly, she flopped onto the bed and grabbed the remote from the nightstand. She clicked on the local news. Cassy took a swig of the beer and nearly spit it across the room as Crystal’s presence appeared on screen. The dealer straightened up and watched interested as Crystal was being interviewed.

Reporter: Miss Diamond? Will you be staying in Nevada?

Crystal: Oh, I suppose so. People here have been so nice to me. And,

well, I am appearing at Harrah’s two shows nightly.


A yellow taxi pulled up to the curb outside the boarding house. Crystal paid the driver, got out and made her way to Cassy’ door. She stood silently for a moment and adjusted her clothes and hair. She raised her hand and knocked.

Cassy, who was still lying on top of the still made-up bed, awoke groggily at the knock.

"Yeah, yeah…in a minute…," she mumbled. "Un momento, por favor."

The dealer, still half asleep, shakily walked to the door, scratching her smileyface covered butt along the way. Opening it, she found Crystal leaning on the outer doorframe, arms crossed with a beaming smile on her face. They stared at each other for a few moments, then Crystal launched herself into Cassy’s arms. Cassy caught her and swung her around as their mouths met in a hungry kiss. They spent a few long moments in mutual exploration, only stopping when they had to break apart to breathe. They loosened their hold on each other but remained linked in each other’s arms.

"We did it! We did it! We did it!" Crystal joyfully screamed, jumping up and down in Cassy’s embrace.

"I saw you on the news," Cassy said and then put forth her best Fernando intonation, "choo looooooked marvelous."

"How was my acting?"

"Award winning."

Crystal’s mouth covered Cassy’s again as she slowly began to maneuver them over to the bed.

"MMMMMM," Crystal said as she broke the liplock. "How are you feeling?"

"Peachy," Cassy purred.


Crystal’s lips first brushed Cassy’s softly and then she moved her kisses to the dealer’s neck.

"I’m starting to wake up here." Cassy grinned and ducked her head for another kiss.

Crystal closed her eyes as their lips met. For a few long moments, they continued their assault on each other. Hands and lips roaming at will. Suddenly, Crystal’s eyes popped open and she pulled away.

"Ohmigod!" Crystal exclaimed breathlessly.

"Whew, yeah…that was nice," Cassy agreed with a rakish grin.

"No….well, yeah…but no…" Crystal rambled.

"What?" Cassy questioned.


"Oh yeah…" Cassy broke off their embrace and turned guiltily away from Crystal. "She was in the trailer."

"Ohmigod! Ohmigod! You killed her," Crystal hysterically yelled. "You murdered my cat."

"Will you keep your voice down," Cassy ordered and placed her hand over Crystal’s mouth, shushing her. "Listen to me. I didn’t kill her. I tried to catch her but she bolted when I opened the door."

Crystal removed the hand over her mouth and moved a step away.

"My baby…my baby is out there all alone."

"AND…" Cassy continued angry now. "What was she doing in there in the first place? That...that…cat almost blew the whole plan, banging into everything."

Crystal turned and made her way to the door. She was half out the door when she spied the keys on the dresser. She grabbed them and continued to walk.

"I’m going to get her," Crystal exclaimed matter-of-factly.

"Crystal? Crystal? Crystal, stop! Wait!"

Cassy started after her and got a few feet outside the door. A wolf whistle from a passing tenant stopped her in her tracks. Noticing her state of dress, or rather undress, she cursed. "Dammit!" She returned to her room and slammed the door disgustedly.


RENO: On The Highway Out Of Town

Crystal drove Cassy’s Mustang up the winding mountain roads to the site of the accident.

The yellow Police tape, which cordoned off the cliff area, fluttered in the breeze. Two firetrucks and a few rescue personnel were still working on the smoldering brush fires and removal of the wreckage of the trailer. State Troopers were standing by.

Crystal pretended non-interest in the accident area and quietly walked around the brush lining the opposite side of the roadway.

"Argo? Argo, sweetie? Here Argo?" Crystal called as loud as she could but still tried not to draw attention to herself. She kept glancing over her shoulder at the police.

Crystal turned at the distinct sound of a meow. Argo came bounding up from behind some bushes and jumped into Crystal’s arms.

"That’s my baby," Crystal cooed and rubbed noses with the cat. "That’s my baby."

Crystal turned and carried her back to the car, uttering sweetly all the way.

Crystal carefully placed Argo on the seat, moving her purse aside. The movement of the purse, made a paper fall from the outer pocket. The singer leaned down to pick it up off the floorboard. An idea formed as she looked at the insurance policy in her hand. She looked through the policy for the office address and smiled when she saw it was local.

"Hey Argo?" she asked as she scratched the cat’s ears. "Wanna go for a little trip?"

Argo just purred.



RENO: Downtown

Crystal pulled up to the parking meter and pulled out the document once more to check the address. She rummaged in her purse for some coins for the meter.

"Okay, sweetie, you wait right here for Mommy, okay? That’s my good little girl." Crystal patted the cat on the head. "Why don’t you take a little catnap," Crystal threw her head back and laughed at her own joke.

Crystal put the coins in the meter. She leaned over and looked in the side mirror. Finger combing her hair once more, she then took a deep breath and plastered on her best smile.

Content with her look, she headed for the Insurance Office’s door.

BYRD INSURANCE—We guard your nest eggs

Byrd Insurance was a typical office. Mini cubicles littered the room, agents roamed around with cordless phones and giant coffee cups, oblivious to everything but what they were personally doing.

"What!" Crystal shouted, "But, but, but…"

"Mr. Dixon let the policy lapse…it’s all in the computer here," the insurance agent calmly replied.

"No, no, no…it has to be some mistake," Crystal argued.

"There is no error here, it happens all the time."

"But, but, but…I’m the beneficiary."

"No, Miss Diamond…you were the benefic…"

"That son of a bitch!" she interrupted him. She stood quickly pushing her chair backwards, leaned forward and angrily slammed a hand on his desk. "He still beat me."

"Please, calm down, " the insurance agent pleaded, "there are ladies present." He caught a passing agent. "Judith, could you please bring Miss Diamond a cup of coffee?"

"Excuse me," Judith inquired, "are you Crystal Diamond?"

"Uhhhhhh, yes," Crystal replied hesitantly.

"I have something for you." She turned and reached over to a nearby desk. "It came in the mail for you this morning."

Crystal stared at the envelope as if it was a snake, then gingerly reached over and took it from the agent’s hand. She recognized the handwriting and dropped it on the desk.

"It’s from Brad," she said, looking back and forth between the two agents.

"The late Mr. Dixon must have known you would be here today," Judith offered.

"The late Mr. Dixon apparently knew a lot of stuff I didn’t know," Crystal replied sarcastically.

Crystal picked up the packet again and started for the door.

"You will remember Byrd for all your future insurance needs, won’t you?" the agent called out.

"Oh believe me, I’ll never forget about getting the bird…ummm…getting Byrd insurance for all my needs."

Crystal got in the Mustang and leaned her head back on the seat. Argo jumped in her lap.

"Y’know, Argo, it’s turning out to be a helluva day."

She absently stroked the cat’s head for a few moments as she contemplated her next move.

"Okay, let’s see what the jerk wanted."

Crystal opened the envelope tearing it across the top. It took a few minutes to decipher the familiar scrawl. It read:

Sorry about the insurance policy, babe. But I wouldn’t leave you broke and I don’t want you to be mad at me. So go to 405 Smith Street in Carson City. Look for Miss Nina. Trust me, Brad

Crystal looked down at Argo.

"Sh’yeah, right. Like I would trust the rat bastard, after everything."

She started the engine and moved Argo back to the passenger set.

"And who the hell is Nina?"




RENO: Nichols Boarding House

Crystal parked the Ford back in its regular parking spot. She turned to Argo.

"Stay here sweetie, okay?"

Crystal got out and walked over to the door. She raised her hand to knock, suddenly stopped and changed her mind. She reached instead for the doorknob and turned it, finding it unlocked. Silently she entered. She put the keys back on the dresser and continued into the room. She could hear muffled singing.

Know all about

About your reputation

And how its bound to be a heartbreak situation

But I can't help it if I'm helpless

Everytime that I'm where you are

Oh I know I should go

But I need your touch just too damn much

She also heard the sound of running water and made her way over to the bathroom. She quietly opened it. Cassy was in the shower, eyes closed, singing her heart out.


Loving you isn't really something I should do

Shouldn't wanna spend my time with you

That I should try to be strong

But baby you're the right kind of wrong

Yeah baby you're the right kind of wrong

From the doorway, through the clear shower curtain, Crystal could see Cassy as she rinsed off, then watched as she blindly reached for a towel.

"Ahem." Crystal cleared her throat.

Cassy’s eyes shot open and she glared at Crystal,

The singer came into the bathroom and jumped up on the counter top. She offered the tall woman a nearby towel.

"Well, did you find the cat?" Cassy asked angrily, as she grabbed the towel to dry off.

"Oh yeah," Crystal replied, softly, "found out lots of things."

Cassy sensing Crystal’s sad mood, found her own anger quickly sympathetically dissipating.

"She’s okay, right?" she asked hesitantly, as she wrapped a towel around herself.

"Oh yeah, Argo is fine." Crystal paused. "I’m not."

"What’s a matter?" Cassy moved to where she was standing between Crystal’s legs. She rested her hands lightly on Crystal’s thighs.

"I went to the insurance company to file the claim."

"And? What? Ya gotta wait or something?" Cassy, comfortingly, rubbed her hands along the blonde’s thighs.

"Long wait." Crystal blew out a breath and lowered her head, not looking at Cassy. "There is no insurance, Brad let the policy go, he stopped paying it. The insurance company cancelled it."

"What?" Cassy said surprised. She paused for a long moment. Then continued, sarcastically, as a thought dawned on her. "Oh, waitaminute, I’ll just bet this was a complete surprise to you."

"Well, yeah, what do you think?" Crystal replied, hurt by the tone of Cassy’s words.

"I’m not sure what to think, to tell you the truth," Cassy turned away from Crystal.

"Well, how was I supposed to know? Brad handled all that stuff."

Cassy turned back and shook her head in disbelief.

"I am such a chump." She ran her fingers through her wet hair, pushing it back. "Y’know, you are some piece of work."

"What?" Crystal replied in astonishment. "You don’t believe me?"

"Oh, why would you ask that?" Cassy replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "First, you are in on a partnership with the guy who cost me my job several times and pretty much killed my reputation. Then you sucker me into plotting his murder with you. Then…then, after ridding myself of my jinx…myself…with no help from you…you give me some story about how he killed himself."

"He did!" Crystal interrupted.

"How do I know that…I wasn’t there. I just showed up, just in time…how convenient… to do the dirty work and dump his body."

"You…you…aarrrgghhh…I thought you loved me."

"I do…I did…oh I don’t know anymore."

"I thought you wanted…"

"Y’know what I want?" Cassy cut Crystal off. "I want to go back to being a boring dealer with no problems. Ever since I met you, my life has been one adventure after another."

Cassy stomped off to the bedroom to get dressed.

"But Cassy..." Crystal jumped off the counter and followed. She picked up her purse off the bed and pulled out the envelope and waved it at Cassy. "Wait, wait, look at this."

"What Crystal? What is it?" Cassy asked, annoyance in her voice.

She snatched the envelope out of the blonde’s hands and removed the note. Cassy proceeded to read it.

"What is this crap?" Cassy tossed the paper aside. "Another wild goose chase? I’m going to work. I am not giving up my job over this craziness."

The dealer finished dressing while Crystal stood there dumbfounded.

"But Cassy…"

"Go Crystal…just go."

Cassy headed back into the bathroom. Crystal followed and stepped just inside the doorway.

"Dammit, Cass, I didn’t have to come back here y’know…I wanted you with me."

"I ain’t buying into this." Cassy stepped menacingly forward, backing Crystal up.

"Guess you’ll have to find yourself a new pigeon, huh?" She closed the door.

Crystal was in near tears. She looked down at the floor.

"I’ll show you, you’ll see," she said to herself. "I’ll be back."

Crystal angrily grabbed the envelope from where Cassy threw it and turned to leave. She grabbed the keys off the dresser and slammed the door, hard, on her way out. She stormed to the car and got in. Argo meowed and got her attention. She picked up the cat and rubbed noses.

"It’s just you and me baby." She said quietly, as she put Argo back down. She put the car in gear and started to pull away.

"Hey!" Cassy shouted as she ran after the car. "That’s my car! How am I supposed to get to work?"

"Worms usually crawl," Crystal screamed back.




Right Kind of Wrong written by Diane Warren

From the soundtrack of "Coyote Ugly" recorded by Lee Ann Rimes









The car moved very slowly down the street. Crystal leaned forward, over the steering wheel. Her eyes scrunched as she searched for the address.

"Okay, Argo, here’s Smith Street…now all we have to do is find number 405." Crystal pointed to the nearest building. "There’s 385, so it must be a little further up the road here."

Suddenly, her eyes popped open in astonishment. 405 Smith Street was an adult bookstore. The sign on the front promised adult books, movies and a live girl show.

"Well, who’d want to see a dead girl show, eh Argo?" Crystal chuckled nervously.

Parking the Mustang in the first available space, Crystal got out and carefully locked it.

Self consciously, she made her way into the store. A little bell on the door announced her presence to inhabitants. The store is crammed from ceiling to floor with racks of magazines and book. Toward the rear of the store, Crystal spied a hanging sign:


At the sound of the bell, the clerk behind the register looked up over the top of his newspaper, momentarily. All the other patrons were too absorbed in what they were reading to either notice or care.

"Ummm…is Miss…" Crystal’s voice cracked with nervousness. "Miss Nina here?"

The clerk was young man with stringy brown hair sticking out of his cap which read "STUD MUFFIN." He wore a T-shirt advertising InCaHoots Videos.

"Friend of hers?" the clerk asked, without looking up.

"I dunno…maybe."

The clerk pointed to a dark curtain that covered a doorway to a corridor. "Booth three." He held out his hand. "Booth three…it’ll cost you five bucks. No refunds."

Crystal handed him the bill. "I just wanna talk to her…"

"Yeah, that’s what they all say." He shrugged and put her money in the register and handed her a token coin.

Crystal made her way through the extremely dark hallway. On one side were a series of small movie viewing booths and on the other side, what looked like larger booths for the "live shows." She entered booth three.

The booth was a large closet with one wall completely of glass. A dark curtain covered three-quarters of it. Below the edge of the curtain was a slot for tips and one for the token coins.

Crystal dropped the token in the slot. A motor began to buzz and whine and the curtain began to rise. Behind the glass was a medium height woman with short blonde hair wearing a skimpy god-awful orange leather bustier. Her back was to the glass and she looked to be fussing with the bodice.

"Hold ya horses a second, darlin’…I got sumthin’ snagged here," she drawled." She gave the material an extra hard yank. Satisfied now with the fit, she turned slowly around. "Whoa! Sugar, you’re in the wrong place, ain’t ya?"

"Umm, hi…do you know a Brad Dixon?" Crystal asked hesitantly.

"Ahhhh, maybe," Nina drew the word out, her voice guarded. "What’s he to you?"

"Actually, nothing anymore. I’m Crystal Diamond."

"Oh, right, Crystal." Nina’s whole attitude brightened. "Wait, wait…I’m supposed to give you sumthin’…it’s here somewhere."

Nina reached over to the side of the booth and dug through a huge handbag. She pulled out a large envelope. Crystal’s eyebrow arched at the sight of an identical envelope to the one the insurance agent gave her.

Both Nina and Crystal tilted their heads at the same time but in opposite directions. They were both looking at the glass wall and for a way to get the envelope from one side to the other. Nina finally decided to fold it and just push it through the tip slot. Crystal grabbed it warily.

"Expecting bad news?" Nina asked.

"With Brad was there any other?" she replied. Crystal opened the envelope and peered inside. Another set of instructions. Great. "Well, thanks." She turned to leave.

"Good luck, honey," Nina cheerfully drawled, waved once and then went back to adjusting her clothes, as the curtain came down. 



RENO: Downtown

Crystal sat quietly staring at the piece of paper in her hands. She reread for the fourth time Brad’s note.

Hey Babe,

Go to 47 Fablisa Avenue in Reno. Second row, third from the end. A big black cat will roar. Put your hand where the money puts their mittens. Trust me, Brad.

She looked out the window, puzzled, across the huge parking lot, over at the building. The sign on the building read: HARRAH’S ANTIQUE AUTOMOBILE MUSEUM.

"Well. Here we go again." She sighed. "So help me Brad, if you weren’t dead, I’d kill you myself." She shook her hand at the heavens, then changed her mind and shook it at the ground. "Stay here, Argo, Mommy will be right back."

The singer pulled on the heavy glass door and entered. She immediately shivered, not sure if it was the cold A/C or her nerves. The short hallway led to another doorway and she stepped through. She stood amazed at the spectacular sight. The room was huge. Beneath the extremely bright lights, were rows upon rows of classic and antique cars. There were hundreds of tourists milling about looking at all those shiny autos.

Crystal stepped into the showroom and walked quickly to the second row. She continued down the row and counted off the cars. She stopped and peered at the black car with the silver hood ornament of a sleek jaguar on the front.

Looking around nervously, she walked to the passenger side of the car and was surprised to find the window was open. Crystal wiped her hand on her pants and looked around once again to see if anyone was paying her any attention. Convinced that she was unnoticed, she darted her hand inside the car and opened the glove box. She fished around inside. Her hand touched on paper and she grabbed it and pulled it quickly to her chest. Crystal looked down at the envelope.

"Great, another one," she muttered to herself, as she rolled her eyes. She stuffed the envelope in her purse and quickly made her way out of the building.


Crystal pulled just into the parking lot of Al’s Car Wash and stopped. She looked at the note and read it aloud.

"1040 Sims. Look for Al. Trust me, Brad." She petted the snoozing cat. "Yeah, this is it, Argo."

Al watched with interest from the office window as the Mustang was pulled into the line. When a beautiful blond got out of the car, he hastily made his way out of the office to greet her.

He walked around the car and looked it over appreciatively. When he got to Crystal, he looked her over too. Then he whistled. Crystal wasn’t sure if he whistled at the car or her, but she smiled at him anyway.

"What can I do for you little lady?" Al asked.

"Are you Al?"

"Maybe," he answered hesitantly. "Are you from my ex-wife’s lawyer?"

"Uh, no."

"Then I’m Al," he answered and held out his hand.

"I’m Crystal Diamond, Brad’s…ummm…," her voice trailed off.

"Oh hell, I heard about Brad…poor guy." Al shook his head in disbelief.

Crystal nodded at him in commiseration.

"Oh, I have something for you…don’t go away." Al disappeared back into the office.

Crystal turned just in time to see the Mustang being pulled into the carwash tunnel.

"Hey! My car!"

A loud meow was heard and Argo jumped into the back window.

"I’m coming sweetie!" Crystal yelled at the moving car and raced to get in it.

She closed the door at the same time the water started to bombard the auto. Argo quickly moved into Crystal’s lap but her attention was drawn from window to window as first water, then suds, and then brushes and rollers assaulted the car. He meows were drowned out by the noise of the machinery.

"It’s okay, sweetie," Crystal soothingly stroked the cat. "It’s just like when you clean yourself…well, without the hairballs."

The car wash finished up. Al trotted over from the office and met the car as it emerged from the tunnel. Crystal rolled down the window and took the envelope from his hand.

"Thanks Al," she said as she shifted into drive.

"Hey! You owe me $20 for the wash." Al screamed at the car as it was driving away.

Crystal hung her head out the window. "But…but…I’m Brad’s friend," she replied indignantly.

"I gotta make a living, doll," he said smugly.

Crystal tossed a twenty out of the window and drove off.





RENO: Miles outside of town


Keep driving on Route 23 until the road forks. Take the dirt road on the left. Keep going through town until you run out of road. Get the shaft. See ya, Brad.


Crystal nervously drove into the ghost town. Brad’s cryptic message kept running through her mind. She stopped the car in the middle of the dirt road main street as she reached the end of the block. Gathering up as much courage as she could, she exited the vehicle and continued on walking. She turned at each creak and movement the wind caused. Extremely jumpy, a tumbleweed tapped her on the back of the legs and nearly sent her into shock. She grabbed her chest feeling her thundering heartbeat.

"I don’t like this," she whispered to herself.

A loud banging noise caused her to spin around rapidly. The saloon door was swinging in the wind, slamming up against the doorframe. She continued nervously down the street, her eyes darted from side to side trying to take everything in.

She turned to the right at the sound of what appeared to be singing. She looked up and saw the sign: Overland Silver Company. Echoing from out of the mineshaft was an off tune drinking song in a low bass voice.

She turned to go back to the car, then turned back to the mine and then repeated that movement several times unable to make up her mind. Finally, she took a deep breath and made a decision.


The singing immediately stopped. She could hear the footsteps of boots on gravel as they drew closer. From out of the shadows of the dark mine, stepped a gaunt but rough looking man, about six feet tall. He smiled at her with yellowed teeth.

"Ohmigod! Owen!" Crystal screamed and turned to run but was grabbed from behind. "But you’re dead!"

Owen picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, her legs continued to run, even though her feet didn’t touch the ground.

"So I hear," he said as he started down the dark shaft. "Come along, I’ve been waiting for you for a long time."

"Brad, you bastard," Crystal shook her hand at the ground, "I can’t believe you did this to me."

Owen suddenly stopped and Crystal found herself unceremoniously dropped on the dirt floor.


Just as she got to her feet the room was illuminated in the soft glow of a single candle. Behind the candle was the leering face of Owen. She instantly screamed and turned to run. Owen grabbed her arm and pulled her further into the cavern.

A room was set up with a cot, two chairs and a table. Owen set the candle down on the table and reached for another on a nearby shelf. Crystal took a few moments to look around. On the table was a tin plate and another envelope like the others. She squinted in the low light to read the writing. It was her name on it.

As she reached for the envelope, Owen grabbed it away. He then slammed the new candle down on the table. The flame flickered for an instant.

"Uh, uh, uh…what’s your hurry? Don’t ya wanna just visit with me and catch up on old times? Huh?" He sneered at her.

"I…buh…what…how…umm…" Crystal stammered confused.

"You thought I was dead, didn’t ya?" Owen rapped his head with his knuckles. "You just knocked me cold."

"But, I saw the blood…"

"That wasn’t blood, think a minute Crystal." He paused for a second. "We were in he house, the three of us, always the three of us…watching the tube…drinking and snacking. Brad went out to the store to get more beer. You and I were getting better acquainted."

"You started kissing me and I was trying to fend you off."

"You played hard to get…"

"You started chasing me around the couch, I was running for my life."

"You finally let me catch you."

"I got cornered."

"I closed my eyes and leaned in to kiss you…all romantic like."

"I grabbed a lamp, closed my eyes and swung at you. You fell over the couch and onto the coffee table. There was blood everywhere. I ran out of the house. Brad met me in the driveway. I told him what happened. He went inside. After a few minutes he came out and told me you were dead. I killed you."

"That wasn’t blood, it was tomato salsa. I fell into the dip on the way down."

"Brad, told me you were dead. All these years he forced me to stay with him."

"You picked him over me. I loved you Crystal. I would have been good to you, but no…"

"He lied to me…he told me you were dead."

"I was inside…I wanted to die, then I wanted you to die. I wanted to hurt you too. I almost came after you…lots of times."

"But Brad stopped you?"

"Yeah, but not how you think. I could have gotten to you hundreds of times but I got to thinking…he turned out to be a worse punishment for you, didn’t he?" Owen laughed. "Did you kill him too?"

Crystal made another grab for the envelope on the table but Owen was faster. The draft from the movement caused the candles to gutter out. Crystal gasped. Her heart was beating like thunder and her mind was racing to try to figure out what to do. A few seconds later a match was struck and one of the candles came to life again. She looked over to find that Owen now had a gun pointed at her. He motioned with the gun for Crystal to sit down.

"How about a little drinky or twelve before we get down to business?" Owen said as reached under the table. His hand brought up three metal cups, which he banged down hard on the table. Crystal jumped. Owen reached back under the table and returned with a bottle. He set the liquor gently down on the table.

"Thanks, no…I don’t drink," Crystal warbled nervously.

"You do now," Owen replied tersely and waved the gun at her again.

"Well maybe, just one."

"Since you don’t drink, you got any other vices…hmmmmm?" Owen leered at her.

"Ummm…" Crystal stammered, scared.

"Do you gamble, Chrissy?" Owen unloaded the gun and replaced just one bullet. "Did you catch the gambling fever from Brad? Well, there’s only one bullet left in here." He spun the chambers. "Do you feel lucky?"

Crystal was now absolutely terrified and her eyes darted around the cave.

"Pour us all drink."

"Three cups?" Crystal asked.

"One is for my new girlfriend Lisa," he answered smugly. "She’s much nicer than you, she’d never hit me with a lamp and she loves me."

"Ummm, where is..uhhhh…Lisa?" Crystal asked, as her eyes darted around the shadowy room.

"Damn, Crystal…you blind? She’s standing right next to you." He waved the gun, gesturing to her left.

Crystal looked to her left and swallowed hard. Great, just great…whacko-boy here has an invisible girlfriend.

"Yeah, you are right Owen…I sure can’t compete with her…she is definitely something else."

Crystal opened the bottle and began pouring a shot into each of the cups on the table. She was filling the second cup when Owen turned to speak with the empty space beside her.

"What, honey? Oh, okay. Mt Dew? Sure, I’ll get you one right after me and Chrissy here finish our game, okay dear?" Owen turned back toward Crystal. "Don’t pour one for Lisa, she decided she doesn’t want any."

"Uhhhhh, sure, no problem," Crystal answered.

Owen picked up his cup.

"To Brad," he said.

"To Brad," she matched his toast.

Crystal watched as he gulped down his drink. He closed his eyes for a moment while he swallowed and then smacked his lips. He motioned for her to drink. The small blonde drank it down quickly, grimacing at the taste. She jumped as Owen pulled the trigger…CLICK. Owen laughed maniacally.

"Let’s have another."

Crystal again poured the shots. She picked up the cup and raised it in a toast. "To…ummm..old times?" she offered.

"Old times," he agreed and raised his cup to his lips.

This time just as he closed his eyes, she flung her drink over her shoulder.

"Ah," she exclaimed, smacking her lips loudly and she banged her now empty cup on the table. She jumped and screamed again at the sound of the CLICK of the trigger.

"Little jumpy there, babe." He motioned to the flask again. "Have another drink.

"Umm, okay. How about a double this time?"

He nodded his assent and she poured.

"To new loves."

"Yeah, new loves," he echoed and he blew a kiss at invisible Lisa, then took his drink.

Again she waited for him to momentarily close his eyes and she flung the liquid over her shoulder. A loud lip smack followed and the sound of her cup hitting the table.

"Okay, let’s see how lucky you are this time." Owen said as he pointed the gun at her.

"Wait! Wait!" Crystal exclaimed. "We already did that. It’s time for another drink."

"We did?" Owen asked puzzled. "Oh okay, another drinky then."

Crystal poured another double for each of them. She waited for the right moment and tossed her drink over her shoulder into the dark.

"Owen? You okay?" she asked in mock concern.

"I’m fine," he answered in a slurred voice. He looked intently at Crystal. "Hey, I didn’t know you were a twin."

Just then he crumpled to the ground. His finger pulled the trigger for the fourth time and the bang echoed off the walls of the mineshaft. Crystal shrieked and picked up the gun and flung it further into the darkness. She grabbed the envelope and the candle and hastily retreated out of the mine.




RENO: Miles outside of town

Once back, safe and sound on the highway, Crystal pulled over to the side of the road.

Her knuckles gripped the steering wheel hard as she closed her eyes. Silently willing her shaking body and thundering heart to slow down. Argo, sensing distress, meowed quietly and waited for an invitation before jumping into her owner’s lap.

"Oh, c’mere sweetie." Crystal picked up the cat and held her tightly. "Mommy’s okay. She just needs to catch her breath."

After a few moments, she placed Argo back on the seat and reached for the envelope. Inside was a small paperback book. Crystal stared at the cover, perplexed. It was a book of anagrams. Looking for the note that she knew had to be there, she flipped through it. A couple of green papers fluttered out and fell to the seat. She picked one up and saw it was a five hundred dollar bill. She quickly checked the other one and realized it was the same.

"What the…?"

She set them aside and went back to flipping through the book. On a bookmarker, she found a note. It said:

How’d ya like my little surprise? Guess you passed the test. Now you get your reward. You have all the clues. Play your cards right and go back to the pigeon coop. See Babe, I’m not a complete bastard. Brad.


Crystal stared down book in one hand and at the note in the other.

"Play your cards right…?" she muttered to herself. "Wait a second…" Crystal’s mind began to focus an idea. She put the book aside and dug through her purse looking for a pencil. She put the point in her mouth and thought hard.

"Okay, okay…anagrams…let’s see," she looked over at Argo. "What was the first one?" She paused tapping her lip with the pencil. "I know, I know…Miss Nina." She flipped the paper over and wrote down:


"Then where did we go?" she looked down at the cat. "You are no help, Argo," she mock chastised the cat and gave her a scratch on the ears. Argo answered with a purr.

"Ah, the car place, right?" What was that thing…a big cat…a cougar…no…a jaguar, yeah, that’s it." She wrote down:


"Then we went to that nasty place that scared you. The car wash." She added it to the list:


"Okay, what do we have…N, J, C. Now what did that rat bastard say? ‘Go back to the pigeon coop.’ Pigeon coop? Wait, wait…pigeon? That’s what he called Cass. So the pigeon coop must be Harrah’s." She scribbled Harrah’s on the list.



"Okay, that makes N, J, C, H." She stared at the paper, uncomprehendingly.

"N…J…H…C…Ummmm…C…N…J…H?" She voiced her complaint, "AARRGGHHH! Something is not right here…no vowels. Okay, let’s try this again."

She bit her bottom lip in concentration, then crossed off her previous list and started again.

"NINA, definitely a name…so that’s an N. Harrah’s has gotta be an H. The car was a Jaguar, Brad made sure of saying that car, so that’s a J. Okay, then we have Owen, so that’s an O. Or it could be a B for brother or an R for revenge. No, let’s stick with O."

She wrote them all down on the list.


"That’s leaves what? What am I forgetting? The car wash. So what else could it be? What was the name of the owner? Phil? Ed? Bill? AL! That’s what it was...Al’s Car Wash! The other letter is an A."





"Ohmigod!" Crystal stared at the paper in disbelieve. "You mean? He meant…" She picked up the two five hundred dollar bills. "I got it Argo, I got it!"



RENO: Harrah’s


The electric doors slid open with a soft whoosh as the figure stepped up to them.

Late twenties, dressed in a tight green blazer over crisply pressed dark black jeans. The black cowboy boots were perfectly shined down to the ornate silver toecaps.

The figure paused for an instant in the threshold to stare into the nearby glass and quickly checked out their appearance.

Oh yeah…looking good. A quick wink at the reflection. A fast adjustment to the cuffs and a straightening of the prominent Stetson and they were on their way into the casino again. Barely stopping to look the floor over, the figure headed straight for the blackjack pit.


At the blackjack table, Cassy was just finishing a hand to two older women patrons. Both looked up as the new figure arrived. Dispirited by their run of bad luck, both got up to leave.

"She’s all yours, honey," the one player said.

Cassy looked up to see the new player.

"Where the hell, have you been?" Cassy asked quietly but intensely.

Wordlessly, Crystal tossed the keys on the table and sat down. Her manner was cocky and self-assured. Her eyes showed her mischievousness as she took out the two five hundred dollar bills and laid them on the table.

"What is this?" Cassy asked.

"Chips, please." Crystal said coldly, her gaze never breaking from Cassy’s face.

"What are you trying to pull?" Cassy inquired angrily.

Crystal just pointed to the bills and said again, "Chips, please."

Stephany was making her usual walk through the pit area when she noticed who was at Cassy’s table. She came up behind Cassy and put a hand on her back.

"Everything okay here, Cass?" she asked, looking directly at Crystal.

"I asked for chips," Crystal replied.

Cassy handed the two five hundred dollar bills to Stephany. She inspected them, turning them over a couple of times. After okaying the bills, she handed them back to Cassy. Steph took one more look at Crystal, patted Cassy on the back and stepped away from the table. Cassy slotted the bills and passed Crystal the chips.

"A thousand bucks, huh?" Cassy whispered hotly, then continued with heavy sarcasm, "Sure there was no insurance."

Crystal tapped her fingernail, impatiently, on the chips. With extreme reluctance, Cass got ready to deal the cards.

"Wait a second." Crystal interrupted. She waved her hand at a passing employee. "Oh, Miss? Miss?"

The cigarette girl, with a tray full of her wares in front of her, made her way through the crowd, over to the waving blonde.

"Regular or menthol?" she asked.

"Neither. I’ll have one of these." Crystal answered and reached into the tray.

She pulled a cigar out. The same kind Brad smoked and with professional expertise, bit off the end and clamped the cigar between her teeth waiting for a light. The cigarette girl was startled and just stood their dumbfounded. Crystal waggled the cigar between her teeth and suddenly the girl caught a clue. She quickly extended a lighter and lit up the stogie.

Cassy watched with extreme horror at the sight of Crystal puffing away at the cigar. She realized exactly where this was going.

Crystal blew smoke at Cassy and then turned back to the cigarette girl and paid her.

"Thanks," she said to the girl. "Deal, dealer, deal," she gestured to Cassy.

Cassy coughed and proceeded to deal. Her top card was a seven and her down card a king. Crystal turned both her cards over…eighteen. Cassy slid over a stack of chips.

A stare and a raised eyebrow asked the silent question. Crystal stared back and left the chips to stand.

Cassy, unsettled, dealt the next hand. The dealer’s top card was a six. Crystal peeked at her cards and stood pat. Cassy turned up her down card. It was a ten. Cass had to take another card. Another six, she busted. Once again, Cassy slid a pile of chips over to Crystal and once again the blonde let them stand.

"Why are you doing this to me?" she asked while dealing the next hand.

Crystal just smiled sweetly and turned her cards over. Cassy went ashen at the sight. It was the ace of diamonds and the jack of spades…blackjack. The dealer slid another pile of chips over and swallowed hard as Crystal indicated to let them ride. Crystal just puffed away and smiled enigmatically at the tall woman.

Steph watching from a few feet away, made her way to the table just in time to see Cassy lose another hand. She stood and watched a few more hands, each ending the same way.

Crystal’s smile grew as she realized she now had the exact same power as Brad. She continued to bet. Other patrons were now gathering around the table as word of her success spread throughout the casino.

"This isn’t happening," Cassy muttered to herself as she slid over another pile of chips.

Their hands brushed, for an instant, as Crystal straightened the ever-increasing mound. Crystal looked down at the chips and then back into Cassy’s eyes, enjoying it immensely.

"Jonah…?" Cassy whispered, in horror.

Crystal just smiled even bigger, her nose crinkled and her green eyes sparkled. She gestured at Cassy to deal again.

Cassy began to deal out the cards when Steph’s hand stopped her. She sighed in relief.

"Time for my break?" she asked with immense gratitude.

"Yes, yes, in fact…it’s overdue," she said to Cass. Then turned to Crystal and added, "Our dealer forgot, she going on vacation. A long vacation."

Cassy looked despairingly at Steph. The pit boss shrugged and offered a smile that said ‘sorry kid.’

"We’ll get you another dealer, right away," and she motioned for a new dealer to step up to the table.

"That’s okay. I’m cashing in." She motioned to the big pile of chips. "Can I get some help with these?"

"I’ll be happy to give the lady a hand," Cassy offered through clenched teeth.

"No thank you," Crystal answered sweetly. "Oh dealer?" She leaned over and dropped a chip in Cassy’s pocket. Then said, with a wink, "Have a nice vacation."

"Dammit!" Cassy growled.

Steph pulled her back and then apologized to the other customers. "She needs to find a quieter line of work."

Cassy looked on, furious, as Crystal swept the winnings into the Stetson and headed toward the cashier.


Cassy emerged from the employee lounge and walked slowly and miserably through the lobby toward the exit. Stephany approached and held out an envelope.

"It’s two weeks severance pay. I’m sorry Cass." The pit boss shook her head. She turned to walk away and stopped. Giving Cass a slight smile. "Get out Cass. Go do something else, okay?"

Cassy exited the building into the parking lot. She turned and took one last look at the building. A heavy sigh expressed her extreme unhappiness and utter disappointment. She silently walked to her car and drove away, beaten.




RENO: On the highway out of town

The lights of Reno disappeared in her rearview mirror and Cassy continued to stare straight ahead. She was completely drained of all feeling. Suddenly in her peripheral vision she caught a glimpse of a floating piece of paper. Then another, and another until it is obvious that it is raining one hundred dollar bills.

"What the…?" Cassy uttered.

Crystal’s head popped up from the backseat.

"I did it! I did it! I beat the house! Whoo hoo!" Crystal laughed joyously.

Cass was startled, she swerved and almost drove off the road. She decided to pull over and stop.

"You! You!" she said as she turned in her seat.

"…sweet wonderful and adorable girl," Crystal interrupted and she put her arms around Cassy’s neck in a hug. She began to kiss Cassy wildly all over her cheeks and neck.

"But it isn’t fair! It just isn’t fair! Dammit, I still have a jinx."

Crystal grabbed both sides of Cassy’s face and slowly moved in close. "Ya know what your trouble is, Cassy?" A kiss. "You can’t…" Kiss. "see the…" Kiss. "forest for…" Kiss. "the trees." Kiss.

"How did you do it?" Cassy asked, her voice cracking under the assault.

"What does it matter…just shut up and kiss me some more." Crystal awkwardly climbed over into the front seat, leaning heavily on Cass’s shoulder. She leaned over kissed her soundly.

"I love you, y’know? " Cassy sighed.

"So do I . Oh Cassy, I’m so excited. You can deal, I’ll play. We can do Atlantic City! Oooh, and Monte Carlo! The whole world. And ya know what? You are gonna love the fuckin’ tropics!"


JUST MY LUCK By WarriorNutcase

Based on Jinxed! by David Newman

©United Artists film, 1981

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