Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wordzzle 45; I think

Wordzzle 45 - the beginning and the end

If you're new to Wordzzle; then let me ask you this question. "Where the hell have you been?" OK, whatever the reason, I'm glad you're here. Take a minute and run on over to the Raven's Nest. You'll find the lovely Katherine's stories, info about Wordzzle and links to all the other participants' blogs and stories.

Then if you have it in ya, come on back and get involved in another Wordzzle story series.

Below are this week's words:

The ten word challenge: When pigs have wings, Moonlight, Mystery, Tower of Babel, Butterflies, Bread and butter, Beef barley soup, Charley horse, Novelty, Cold shoulder

The Mini Challenge: Software, Lottery, Newspaper, Mailman, Ringo Starr’s drum

The New Series Title: Laughlin

This week's episode: Life is a gamble

The Laughlin Strip was no modern day Tower of Babel. The Casinos and adjoining hotels that lined the street on the Nevada side had names like "The Colorado Belle", "The Golden Nugget", and "The Pioneer". This particular cold December day found them with the lowest levels of occupancy in 25 years.

The town was struggling; trying mightily to reach its once faded glory, but the bread and butter clients, the cowboys, contractors and wealthy retirees that typically inhabited the city, were staying away. The few that did come were looking for deals and playing the penny machines. Since Laughlin didn't have the theatres and audiences to rate big name talent, the Casinos were stuck with things like a rock and roll exhibit featuring Ringo Starr's drum. The scant off season winter crowd was not going for it.

One enterprising Casino (the small and quirky Regency Casino) tried Moonlight Mystery gambling. This didn't work too well either. The novelty soon wore off after one customer won the mystery jackpot of $1000 on a dollar machine, but after putting in over $1700. Word got around the strip and the minuscule and strange Regency went back to hosting football parties and getting the occasional sucker to play its machines.

All of this meant little to Dan Griggs. He had come to this cultural backwater on the banks of the Colorado to kick back and take it easy. His small pension from the Tacoma police department, plus his salary as a part time armed security guard at the Pioneer gave him enough income to get by. Dan finished his beef barley soup and went back to the buffet bar for dessert. He had to be careful at his age, once you edged up on 60 you blew up like a balloon if you tried to eat like a kid. He passed by the cakes, pies, and chocolates and picked up a small bowl of Jell-O. "Exercise and nutrition" he grimaced to himself.

Since the shooting that had ended his career in law enforcement over 20 years ago, Dan had clung to a routine and regimen to stay as healthy as possible. It was a little harder for him than most. The 9mm slug that forced his early retirement had taken one kidney, a floating rib and his lifelong assurance of being the lucky one. Though in truth he was lucky to be alive. The vest had stopped two other torso shots (it's a myth that all crooks can't shoot their pistols) and he had managed to stop the guy with the last round in his service revolver. It was one of those instantaneous things that just happens to cops sometimes.

Still, it made his daily run along the "Riverwalk" more difficult with each passing month. Unless the mailman brought him a check from some long lost uncle or he won the lottery, his chances at regaining full motion on his left side without significant and costly reconstructive surgery, were slight. While he managed to run in a mostly upright fashion it was a struggle. The constant pressure to hold himself upright inevitably caused a Charlie horse in his right calve.

Dan gave the cold shoulder to these thoughts and the other goodies at the dessert table and returned to his seat. "Hey stranger" called out Carla Hodgenbottom. Carla was a "forty something" floor waitress at the Pioneer. "Hey Girl, what's shaking" Dan replied as he patted the seat next to him in the booth. Carla sat down and gave Dan a peck on the cheek before she dove into her late night breakfast. "You see the newspaper yet?" she quizzed Dan. "There's an article about the drowning down at Harrahs last weekend." "They're saying now it might not have been accidental" she finished.

Dan had indeed read the paper and he knew from a contact in the Laughlin PD that the drowning had appeared suspicious from the start. But instead of addressing that issue he asked Carla about going hiking next week if the weather turned warmer. She assented and didn't press him about the drowning.

Dan and Carla had been dating for about 7 months and things were easy between them. Neither seemed to want more than friendship and companionship with benefits. The nice thing for Dan was that Carla appeared to not care about the horrible scarring on his left side. He had started to almost feel comfortable with her without his shirt. Of course most of that time he was hard as a rock and they were engaged in activities that took priority over his qualms about his injury. Dan smiled at Carla and thought of how nice it would be to make love to her in their tent out in the desert. They would drive his 87 Ford Bronco out as far as it would go and then hike for miles. Finally they'd camp, make dinner and enjoy the beauty of the desert sky and then the pleasure they gave each other. She never even complained about the cigar and whiskey he always had when they watched the night sky and talked. All in all, at least from his side, it was a nice comfortable relationship; one without high expectations or too much drama. With that said, he still got butterflies in his stomach when she undressed for him by the light of the campfire.

For Carla's part, she enjoyed Dan's sense of humor and his knowledge of the world. She had been startled by the gunshot wound, but never put off by it. Dan was a wounded soul both physically and spiritually. This allowed her to take great joy in healing him with her body. She had always been a loving woman and not having children or a husband had injured her more deeply than the wounds that Dan had received. Their lovemaking satisfied something in her far beyond the physical and it showed in the way she treated him. For make no mistake, Dan was her man, whether he knew it or not. She felt in her heart there was little chance of him leaving her. As her Daddy back in Missouri would have said, "It just ain't gonna happen: unless the time comes when pigs have wings and learn to fly. Now that statement coming from a Missouri pig farmer from St. Joes was a statement of fact.

Carla felt blessed to have grown up on a farm and more blessed now to not be living on one. It was such a different time then and she was so much younger. The world had been full of possibilities till her Daddy lost the farm and they had to move into town. It had killed her father working in a factory, and for what?

The implement factory was long gone, the stark brick buildings still standing down on River Street, but empty for the last two decades. No, she was done with Missouri, bitter cold winters, and farming. She liked working in the Casino. It was warm in the winter and cool, even when it hit 120 degrees outside in the Summer. And hiking with Dan in the spring and the fall, sometimes even in winter when it was mild, was outdoorsy enough for her these days. The exercise helped her keep her figure, which was a prerequisite for being a floor waitress. Well, that and the damned push-up bras. Every server on the gambling floor wore a uniform showing extensive cleavage and required the dreaded booby proper upper to fill it out.

Dan thought again about what Corporal Stoddard had told him concerning the drowning. The woman had been internally mutilated. It wasn’t found out till much later and by then the police had decided to keep it quiet. The only reason Dan had been put in the loop was his police background and experience on a similar crime in Tacoma. Dan had never figured out what made men do that kind of thing to women. It was if they were wired different than the rest of us, or more likely he thought to himself, their software had some serious defects.



unmth said...

thanks for sharing this very interesting post
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Akelamalu said...

I got confused when I saw you were using different words to myself and the others then I realised you were using the words from #44. Anyway you did a great job and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. :)

Raven said...

Sorry I missed this when you first posted it. Seems like we are on the road to another great mystery series. Yippee!