Kelsey slipped into the chair beside me, the noise of the break room diminishing slightly as her body buffered the sounds. I looked up from my phone, the book I was currently reading. I smiled.
“What did you say to that man?” No hello, just right to the punch. Kelsey was a practical woman with two small children. I doubted she had time for preamble.
“I can’t tell you.” Her face seemed carved from soft stone as she digested my words. The incident on the main floor was only an hour old so both of us were still carrying the residual emotions of it in our stomachs.
“NO! The dealer shouldn’t have spun the fucking ball! She should have waited for me to finish making my bets!” The man was about forty years old, slim and well on his way to a hang-over in the morning. Behind his very round glasses his small eyes were bouncing light like an old, seventies disco ball. The dealer in question was Kelsey, her body frozen to the table, her eyes rounded out with alarm.
“Sir, there is no reason to swear. Please calm down.”
“Fuck this! Fuck her! Fuck all of you!” Leaning against the end of roulette table he dropped the rest of his orange chips onto the layout where they splattered outward, all eighteen of them rolling through the numbered area and landing, like thoughtlessly discarded candy wrappers, along the edges. He reached under the table top and wrapped his fingers around the metal hook that fastened the thick, red velvet rope to the heavy ring screwed in there and rattled the connection, clearly intending to open it.
Standing a mere two feet away from him I narrowed my eyes and let my anger flash into them. I may be just a Floor Supervisor but the dealer he was trying to scare was my responsibility. He ducked his head down, trying to see how the rope was connected, then looked back up at me, his mouth set in a tight line. His eyes met mine and he faltered, letting go of the hook like it was hot. I stepped forward and stood directly between him and Kelsey, so close to her that my back was pressed against her side. I may have imagined it but, I felt like my body heat washed backwards over her. Behind me I heard the Pit Boss, drawn in by the yelling, speak into his radio, calling for security to the roulette table. Funny, he didn’t seem inclined to stand beside me. I spared a snarky thought for him. Coward.
Inside the alcohol fumed brain the man must have decided that he shouldn’t have let me scare him like that and tore his eyes away from me. He rattled at the hook again. I wasn’t stupid, I knew, at this point, he was just doing it for show. Had the hook actually come free of its connection he would not have entered the pit. However, everyone was watching now. He couldn’t appear as if he had just let some middle-aged woman frighten him with look. I stepped forward to within a mere inch or two of his face and spoke quietly, just to him, willing him to listen to me. With his hand still holding the hook he froze and met my eyes.
“You have overplayed your hand sir. Security and probably the police are now on their way. If you walk away now you can make it to the door before they get here.” I flicked my eyes to the right, implying the exit that was actually behind me. “This is not going to end successfully for you. Walk away.” His round glasses were filthy. Standing this close I could see every speck and smudge on them. His eyes were shot deeply with red, the skin beneath them sagging and loose. I revised my estimate of his age. He was closer to mid fifties than a mere forty. I held my voice low, keeping my words for his ears only. “I will not watch you go. I won’t know where you went.” My gaze intensified as I pushed my thoughts and meaning at him. “Decide quickly because they will be here quickly.”
It took him only two more seconds to reach his decision. Without even a nod of acknowledgement he released the hook, slid his eyes away from mine and disappeared beyond my right shoulder.
Turning immediately toward the roulette table and its enthralled players I smacked both my palms onto the layout, drawing their attention to me.
“Would you like to play a game?” I let my voice copy the timbre and tempo of a popular horror movie character and smiled like a goon. A few players chuckled at my impromptu celebrity impression. I threw in a second for added effect. “Let’s get ready to RUUMMMBLE!” I raised both arms high over my head as if I was declaring a field goal and stepped back, taking my body heat away from Kelsey and whispered into her ear.
“He just walked away? After all that yelling and trying to get into the Pit he just stopped and walked away?” Kelsey fixed her eyes on my face, searching me for an answer. I saw that her brown eyes were flecked with gold and the pupils were still a bit dilated. She wanted to know, in a really big way, what I had said. The need for this information was pouring off her like an overflowing tub. I guessed that she also wanted to know what I was going to write on my version of the Incident Report that was required since Security had been called, so she would know what to write on her own. I couldn’t answer that either because I really didn’t know. I knew I would have to stretch the truth somehow but my mind hadn’t figured that part out yet.
“Kelsey, I really can’t tell you. I gave my word.” This seemed to only intensify the question in her eyes. I sighed gently and set my phone down. My book would have to wait. “Let’s just say, I made a deal with the Devil. When you do that, your word is your bond and should never be broken.” I bored my eyes into Kelsey’s, willing her to understand what I was saying. I felt a bit like I might actually be delivering a life lesson. Kelsey was a mother but she was still rather young. The age gap between us was easily twenty years or more. She was looking at me now like I wasn’t really there, her eyes kind of vague, as if they were suddenly rolling around on the inside of her head instead of actually looking outward, at me. Then she nodded and her eyes were again focused right on mine.
“Okay,” she said. “But I just want to say, I’ve never seen that before. Whatever you said to him, it worked and I appreciate it.” I nodded back, my heart rising into my throat at her sincerity. I struggled to not let it get to my eyes for fear I would tear up. That would probably ruin the illusion of me being brave and strong and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.