It’s another “roll-the-dice-for-who-where-and-uh-oh” set of instructions from Chuck Wendig for this week’s Flash Fiction Challenge. I rolled a four, a ten, and a one. The title of my “1,000 words or so” about a dirty cop in a casino who is betrayed by best friend will be “Pit Boss.”
As an assignment, this random grouping of who/where/what seems pretty clichéd, and I hate clichés unless I’m making fun of them or spinning them on their heads, so I will, of course, see if I can come up with a suitable curve ball. Or at least come up with an unexpected cliché. (And I think I nailed the length, 1001 words. Woo hoo!)
As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.
The casinos weren’t the same since they had banned smoking. “Freaking health nuts,” muttered Hendricks. “Every breath used to tell you this was a lousy place to be. It tasted like somewhere bad for you, someplace that had something really addicting and toxic to make you be here despite that shit.”
“Which rant are you beating to death again?” asked Moore, her partner. “Why do you always have to talk to yourself like you think your bra is bugged?”
“That’s why I don’t wear a bra,” Hendricks said.
“At least it’s as noisy as ever. Wait until some asshole sues over losing his hearing in here.”
“We won’t be here when it happens. There’s Stan.” Hendricks led Moore through the clamor and flashing lights toward the casino’s pit manager.
“Ladies, what a pleasure!” Stan’s slimy grin was big and flashy, finely crafted to put the sheep at ease, but you didn’t need to look too deeply beyond it to see maggots writhing. “You’re looking particularly attractive today Detective Hendricks.” His eyes were locked on her cleavage and he looked ready to drool on her. “Is there a problem? I wasn’t expecting to see you until next month.”
“Your office. Now.” To the casual onlooker, Hendricks also seemed to be cordial and pleasant, but there was steel behind her clenched jaw. “Let’s make sure all the cameras are turned off in there, including all the ones you think we don’t know about.”
For the briefest moment there was a flicker of concern on Stan’s face, but he wiped it away in an instant. “Of course, please follow me.” He gestured for an assistant to take his place before leading the two women down a non-descript, unmarked hallway.
After passing through two security doors, Stan opened the door to his office. The lights came on automatically while he crossed to the desk. He reached underneath and flipped several switches. Hendricks sat casually in a chair in front of the desk, never taking her eyes off of Stan. Her expression got more threatening before she lowered her head slightly and raise her eyebrows in expectation.
The staring match lasted several seconds, before Stan caved. Reaching onto the bookcase behind the desk, another switch was flipped. Hendricks never blinked or looked away, waiting for more. Moore paused inside the door watching the two of them before shaking her head in bemusement and walking over to the small wet bar. There she picked up what looked to be a very expensive statuette and smashed it down. It shattered, exposing the wires and electronics hidden inside.
“I’m impressed,” said Stan. “You obviously have a very deep informant. It will be exciting to track them down.”
“You won’t be tracking anything, Stan,” Hendricks said. “We’re not here to show off.”
“Your décolletage says otherwise, but I’m sure this visit is for business, not pleasure. Do we need to make another adjustment to your stipends?”
“That deal is over, Stan. There’s a problem you’re going to help us solve. Once it’s done, we’ll let you save your own skin.”
“I see. I hope you haven’t given me too much credit. What is this problem?”
“First you help us. We need to disappear before certain people start asking questions we would very much prefer not to answer. You once indicated you could get people out of the country. Is that true?”
Stan seemed taken aback by the information. “You two? Both of you need to disappear? Who or what is chasing you?”
“It’s bad to worry about things that don’t concern you, Stan. Don’t forget what curiosity did for the cat. Can you do it or not?”
“Perhaps. When do you need this to happen?”
“Now. Yesterday. Immediately.”
“Interesting,” said Stan. “What if I’m unable to do this thing for you?”
“Then when we get fried, we’ll go down knowing you fried first. We’ll probably even build your pyre. Maybe we’ll earn a bit of mercy for ourselves.”
Stan gave a thin, humorless smile. “I wouldn’t have expected anything less of you. Yes, I can get you out of the country immediately.”
“Both of us,” said Hendricks flatly.
“Yes, of course, both of you.”
“Fine. Do it.”
“What about me?” Stan asked. “When do I get what I need out of this deal?”
Hendricks considered her words for a moment. “There’s a federal task force, some hot shot out of the Las Vegas FBI office working with that crooked slimeball new district attorney. They know about us, along with a dozen other places and cops working deals. They’re going to be coming down your throat. Once we’re on our way, we’ll tell you when and how so you can be somewhere else when the trap springs.”
“Since you have left me no other decent options, it will have to do. Lieutenant Moore, if you would join the detective, please?”
Moore walked over and stood immediately behind Hendricks’ chair. Stan looked directly into Hendricks’ eyes. His voice deepened as he spoke.
“Do you swear this is what you want to do, Detective Jenny Hendricks?”
“I do,” replied Hendricks, struck by the odd phrasing of Stan’s question as well as her response.
The lights in the room began to dim and redden. Moore grabbed Hendricks from behind, pinning her arms. Hendricks tried to get up and break away but found her partners’ grip to be unbreakable.
The room filled with smoke. The stench of sulfur became suffocating. Moore straightened up and yanked Hendricks to her feet, smashing the chair to kindling. Now facing the mirror behind the bar, Hendricks was shocked to see her partner transforming before her eyes.
Moore was growing taller and stronger in seconds, her skin turning dark. Long, sharp horns were sprouting from both sides of head. Hendricks’ kicking feet were grabbed and held tight by Moore’s sinuous, forked tail.
The floor became translucent and insubstantial, filled with enormous, leaping flames that burned Hendricks to her soul. Locked tight in Moore’s delivering embrace, Hendricks began her long fall.