Hi my Lovelies! And welcome to the fifth and final instalment of The Bet, which is one of several in a series of Scribe stories that I’ll be sharing within the next few months. The Bet is set in an exclusive Vegas casino that deals in very unusual bets. Our boy Michael is about to learn the hard way that the lines between winning and losing are not always as clear-cut as they seem.
As you’re reading The Bet, I invite you to guess the identities of Magda and Mr. Graves, who owns buried pleasures. Enjoy the story.
If you missed last week’s instalment of The Bet, you can catch up here: https://kdgrace.co.uk/blog/the-bet-part-4-a-kdg-scribe-story/
If you’ve just arrived at my blog and have missed the earlier episodes of The Bet, you can find the beginning here: https://kdgrace.co.uk/blog/the-bet-a-kdg-scribe-story/
The Bet Part 5: When the Time Comes I’ll Remind You
“Yes. He comes for everyone.” She smiled up at Graves. “But more than likely when it’s your time he’ll just invite you back to Buried Pleasures for one last bet before you take the boat across the river.”
“The boat across the river.”
“A bit more elegant than being shoved in a hole in the ground to rot, don’t you think?”
“And my innocence? How can I possibly give you that?”
“You already have, Michael. If you’re lucky the symptoms will come upon you gradually, but occasionally, they can all come at once and thoroughly kick you in the ass, like a really bad case of the flu, only worse.”
“I’ve never had the flu,” he said.
“Something else to look forward to then, I suppose.”
There had never been much color in Michael’s face, but what little there was leached away with each passing second. The face that had somehow seemed carved from warm alabaster now was no less beautiful, but showed signs of exhaustion, regret, understanding even, all overlaid by bone-crushing fear. No help was coming from above, of that he was certain. What he would never again be certain of was whether there would be retribution. But then that was part of the human condition as well, wasn’t it? He stared down at his hands. “I don’t feel so well. Do you think I’m getting the flu already?”
“It’s just human frailty, Michael. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.”
“Is it always like this?”
“I suspect so, but then I’ve never been human, so I can only guess.”
That didn’t seem to surprise him too much. “Are you like, his angel?” he asked nodding up to Graves.
She smiled. “Interesting thought, but no. I suppose you could say I’m here to collect debts.”
“ And Mr. Graves owes you?”
“Not Graves so much. His brother does, though, big time.”
“But I don’t owe anything,” he said, looking back down at his hands.
“Oh you will. Eventually you will.” She leaned forward, very close to him, the tresses of her hair slithering and writhing. For the first time, she allowed him to see her true form, but she kept the glasses pressed tightly against the bridge of her nose. With his immortality laid aside, he was now so very fragile. She didn’t want to hurt him. She was not his enemy. In fact, she was just what he would need one day. She spoke softly, a near whisper against his ear, only a breath away from the desperate hammering of his pulse setting a cadence, which she felt up through her spine. The life force there was so sweet, so finite, exposed as it had never been before. “When that time comes, when you’re wondering how you’ll ever pay those debts, you’ll be needing an ally.”
It spoke of how frightened he already was that her little reveal elicited only a raised eyebrow and a catch of breath, recognition of what shouldn’t exist. But then what shouldn’t exist could hardly be much of a challenge for an ex angel.
“So now you’ll kill me, was that the plan all along?” He asked watching her hair warily.
“Of course that’s not the plan.” She didn’t bother to tell him what the plan was, and when he didn’t ask, she figured he had enough to take onboard at the moment. Shock made everything else fuzzy and distant, that much she remembered very well. It offered comfort in the cataclysm of change, always the place where one longed to linger when faced with the true consequences of loss and anguish. It would depart far sooner than he’d be ready. She was happy to let him linger awhile. It wouldn’t hurt.
He sat looking like a man who was lost, which was exactly what he was. “What do I do now?” he asked at last.
She shrugged. Now wasn’t really her concern. “Go home to your lover, I suppose. It’s up to you. Do whatever you want.”
When he still didn’t move, she asked, “do you have a place to stay? Is your lover in Vegas with you?”
He looked up at her as though he’d only just realized she was there, and didn’t know what to make of her. Oh he was an impetuous lad, she thought.
“Your lover doesn’t know that you’ve done this?”
He blinked as though the light in the casino had become too much for his eyes. “No, I’m here alone. All alone.”
“But you did this with your lover in mind?”
He only nodded, still blinking.
“What a nice surprise it’ll be then.”
When the thundering of his pulse grew to a rapid staccato, she said softly. “At least you hope it will be.”
He swallowed hard, as though he were trying not to vomit.
“Can I drop you at your hotel, maybe?” She asked.
“Hotel? I didn’t think about that. I flew here.”
“With your angel wings, yes I know, and now you can’t get back without a plane ticket or a car. I suppose you don’t drive though, do you?”
His lack of response was response enough. Shell shock didn’t begin to cover it, she was certain. Knocking over a teetering stack of chips, she reached out and stroked his arm. “Who you are now depends entirely on you and your decisions, Michael. Well, that and everything that happens to you from now on. Loss of innocence is as much about having no one who can protect you or make decisions for you as it is about being naked. It’s all up to you.” She lifted her head toward the ceiling. “No more control from upstairs.”
When his breathing became so rapid that she feared he’d hyperventilate, she shoved several stacks of chips in his direction. “Here, This’ll pay for a hotel room for a couple of nights, some clothes that halfway fit and a plane ticket back to wherever your lover is. Then you can make a plan, get a job, get used to your new life.”
When the only movement was still the jerking of his pulse, she stood and offered him her hand. “Come on, I’ll help you get settled in, help you learn the ropes.”
“Thank you. I didn’t think. I didn’t have a plan. I guess … I thought it would be different somehow.” His voice trailed off and his hand, clenched tightly around hers, was icy cold.
“It’s all right. One can hardly know what to expect at times like these.” She motioned him toward the exit. “Transitions are never easy.” As they turned to leave, she caught Jack Graves’ eye and gave him a nod, which he returned with a slight inclination of his head. “You’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of you, Michael, but you’ll be all right. Don’t worry.”
“Thank you.” His reply was slightly breathless. “I won’t forget how you helped me.”
She offered him an easy half smile and allowed the glasses to slip ever so slightly. “Of course you’ll forget. But don’t you worry, when the time comes, I’ll remind you.”