[You Bet your Life, 1,720 words, Genre: Horror]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
Beyond the regular rooms of the casino lay back rooms. Hidden rooms that weren’t available to the general public in which depravities of the human race would occur. There were the usual bets going on all of the time. Horse racing, black jack, sports games. These were the obvious bets that would occur that provided most of the income for the casino. The constant stream of people slowly putting in two dollar coins into the slot machines. The fifty dollar bets and a one off show of black jack. Those low stake games were a constant stream of income. What was the saying? There’s a sucker born every minute. And what was worse than that is that they were multiplying and breeding. A constant procession of people handing over their money, having faith that the universe would take care of them and their luck would kick in delivering them all the safety and comfort of the heavens. Everybody felt that something was owed to them, everybody thought that they were special. That’s how these sort of things worked. They worked on self-obsessed egos and took advantage of the slacker within the minds and hearts of mankind who thought the world owed them. The gambler persona, in a type, feels he or she alone is cheated by the world and feels that he or she deserves its riches.
Beyond those regular rooms. Providing the steady stream of income, lay the back rooms. They provided offbeat services. Like hooker midgets, delicacies prepared from the carcasses of the endangered species list and, of course, the high stakes games. Not many people knew what the high stakes games were about. How they functioned, what they involved. The very least of what could be said about them was that to place a bet, it took a lot of financial backing. The minimum bet on these sorts of games were a million dollars or more.
Not many people knew about the back rooms of the casino, fewer people knew what was going on in the high stakes games. There was one man who knew these things, but shouldn’t have. He was a cleaner. He would go in after the orgies, after the bottles of Dom Perignon had been drunk by the dozen, after people had been killed by reasoning of bad debts. He was the guy who went in after those sort of events occurred and he would clean up. He had some brief idea of what was going on around him. But he never spoke about it to anyone. He spent most of his life alone. He had had a troubled upbringing. Was a former drug addict who had managed to get himself clean and now he was living in a single bedroom unit. Keeping to himself and not causing any trouble. Because of his criminal record, there were very few jobs that he could acquire legally. On his income declaration he simply listed his job as a cleaner. He would never have to clean up and dispose of a body first-hand. But he knew what was going on. Every blood stain that he cleaned up had a story to tell. He would pick up used syringes and dispose of them properly. But that’s really as far as it went. He knew what was going on and never asked too many questions. That’s why his employers hired him, because he kept to himself. He didn’t have a social life and didn’t speak out of line.
The cleaner had seen some obscene things in his life. Through this job and many others. But there was one game that happened in the back rooms that disgusted him more than any of the other games did. When he first witnessed it, he didn’t understand it. The game simply listed a person and their details and there would be stakes listed up against their name. The stories of the individuals involved were always horrible, traumatic experiences. The cleaner didn’t understand what the high rollers were betting on at first. He didn’t pay that much attention to the games usually, but the peculiarity and the mystery of it made him wonder. On the betting board there would be a name and a brief description of what suffering the person had recently undergone and what they were going through.
For example: SMITH, JOHN. Divorcee, allowed one day a month to see children, pays heavy child support payments to ex-wife who remains unemployed. Works as a dentist.
Then the odds of whatever it was that the high rollers were betting on would be listed against their name. The cleaner didn’t understand it. But whatever bizarre and perverse game that it was that they were playing, he was not too sure he wanted to find out what was really going on.
It clicked with him one day. He was present when one of those bets came through and was announced. The operator who ran the game took a phone call and announced to the high rollers who were currently present at the game and sending off communications to others who weren’t currently present. The operator announced that so-and-so had done it. He had ‘called in the cards’, so to speak and announced to everyone, “That he had died by hooking up his car’s exhaust to the ventilation of the car and choked on the fumes.”
It had made the cleaner pause temporarily as all the pieces began to fit together. They were betting on when people would commit suicide. There was a pool and odds, everything was being calculated by a psychologist on when someone would attempt to take their own life. He chuckled to himself a little bit at the thought. That’s all one could really do when confronted with such hostility and despicable human behaviour.
But when the cleaner went home that night he drank a bottle of whiskey to himself. He grew angry and infuriated at the whole state of human nature. This was the lowest of the low. The worst possible thing that he had ever witnessed being done by the casino. The worst thing that he had ever heard about. And, for sure, he had seen and heard of some pretty disgusting things.
But he didn’t have much of an option. He kept on going to work. Day after day, watching the names on the board, seeing the bets roll in, and continued doing his job of cleaning up after other people. There was one day that he drew a line. The line that he drew was when he saw a child’s name came up in the betting pool.
It described the child as: Ten years old. Being molested and raped by his biological father who has a drug addiction.
The odds against the child is what sickened him the most. For the very fact that he was the favourite. That being; they placed his odds of survival at about three per cent. He looked around to the gamblers all placing bets. That’s when he noticed one of the high rollers looking at the child’s appearance on the list of contestants. The cleaner recognized that look. And as all the other high rollers were taking their bets on the child taking his own life. This high roller went to the bathroom to relieve himself. The cleaner followed him covertly.
While the high rolling gentleman took a piss the cleaner began talking to him, “We can make a lot of money off of this. Everyone’s betting against the kid.”
“What do you propose we do?”
“You pay me a minimum wage, salary and I look after the kid in a guardian angel type of role, and take the bet up for his survival.”
“Sounds like a plan. I like it.”
“Will you do it. Yes or no? I need an answer now.”
And the high roller agreed. The cleaner quit his job and sought out the kid. The first thing that the cleaner did was beat the living shit out of the paedophile father. All of the time acting as a silent guardian, working behind the scenes and looking out for the boy. Over the years the high roller made a lot of money.
Over the years, the child grew and survived the process of progressing from a boy to a man. The cleaner felt good about himself because he had made a morally conscientious decision in life. Everyone was happy.
But then came the day when the high roller found that the odds against keeping the young man alive were playing against him. He informed the cleaner to kill the boy and make it look like suicide. The cleaner, who had established some form of silent bond with the boy was distraught. He didn’t know what to do. His wage was going to be cut off if he didn’t do what the other man said. He had come to an ultimadum. Him or the boy who he had spent his life protecting. He didn’t know what to do.
He confronted the young boy who was now a young man and confessed everything that had happened to him. How he had been watching over him silently all of these years, everything that had happened since then, everything, all of it.
Together they came up with a plan. They would confess everything to the casino and hope that the casino would let them go. So that’s what they did. They confessed how they had tampered with the bet. The casino operators didn’t know what to do. And the high roller who had been primarily guilty of the action, then appeared on the list of people considering suicide. The other high rollers knew of him. Everyone knew what was going on. The casino made the phone call to the high roller and told him that they knew he was tampering with the game and what had happened.
All of the other high rollers took up the bet. Upon the confrontation with the high roller, the high roller shot himself in the head, thus ending his own life.
Simultaneously, this resolved the issue. The other high rollers were appeased, as were the representatives of the casino. The cleaner and the young man who had once been an article of issue in the game were allowed to walk away, free of any issue.