It's a tough town, that Vegas. Chase down a dream, push all your hard-earned chips into the middle of the pile. Bet it all on black. Only to watch it come up red...
Daddy's Girl by Nicola Kennington
The man in the denim jacket and the faded cords, sitting at the blackjack table and looking like he's gotten used to handing over his chips, turns round. It's him. Christ. After nearly twenty-five years and so many false leads, I've finally found my daddy.
I feel a vibration in my pocket and I nip round the corner of a line of slot machines. I peer back as I retrieve my cell—the man has a puzzled look on his face, but he soon returns to his game. One of the doll-faced hostesses offers him a beer on the house. He takes two. He won't be going anywhere soon.
“Hey, Chicken, how's it hanging' baby?” Shit, it's Paolo. Why didn't I check caller ID?
“Hey, Paolo, just takin' a break,” I say.
“Well, here's the thing, Chicken, I hear you ain't been workin’ for a coupla hours.” I hear him take a deep drag and exhale slowly. “Could even be more than that.”
That may be true—I've been combing Cleopatra's Casino since dinner, and Vegas since forever. Everyone ends up in Vegas. Some never leave. Like me.
“I'll get back to it baby,” I say. “It's just that—”
“It's just nothin', Chicken,” Paolo says pleasantly. “Now, get back to work an' stop moping. Time is money. My money.” He takes another drag. “If you don't wanna, remember what happened to Lola.”
Everyone remembers what happened to Lola. She slacked off, tried to get herself a real job 'cause of her little girl. She got visited by two friends of Paolo, and now wears a permanent smile, ear to ear.
“OK, baby, I wanna,” I say.
“Good girl,” Paolo says. “Go suck me some dick, lie back and pretend it's me humpin' ya, and remember who keeps you safe round here.”
I return the phone to my pocket. Shit, stop shaking, calm down.
I look round again, just in time to see him getting up and heading towards one of the exits.
Seems like Lady Luck isn’t on his side tonight. I tail him—it's not difficult; he's walking the careful walk of the slightly pissed.
Once outside, he finally pauses by a dumpster and slumps against it. He burps, loudly.
I go up to him and gently touch his arm.
“Hey, Daddy, it's me,” I say. “It's Rosie. Your little girl.”
He stares at me with out-of-focus eyes.
“Wha’ the fuh?” His breath stinks of beer and nachos. His belly strains at his tee shirt, faded AC/DC transfer and stained with something bad.
“You must remember me?” I say. “You used to read me stories at bedtime? Bathe me and Cassie when Mom was out working?”
“Sorry, lady, I think you want someone who gives a shit.” He’s sobering up quickly, confronted by a mad woman. He shakes his head, snorts, and tries to shuffle away.
The redness descends on me—my scalp starts to burn and crackle, and my heart is pounding like a drummer on acid. I grab the photo out of my back pocket and thrust it in his face.
“That's me and Cassie!” I cry. “The last time we were happy! When you used to love us, and tell us that we were your only girls, and that no one made you feel like we did! We didn't tell, Daddy! We didn't tell!”
Now he's scared, eyes wide, and he's trying to run, but I kick him—hard—in the leg and he goes down.
“I didn't know Mom would come home early, I didn't know she'd throw you out! You shouldn't have left us, you motherfucking bastard!”
I stand over him, raise my foot, then bring it down, over and over and over, just to stop the screaming.
Whumpf! That's for Mom, who cried herself to sleep for weeks, steadily drank herself into a stupor and out of a job then calmly stepped out in front of a train at Mayhew Crossing one bleak Thanksgiving.
Whumpf! That's for Cassie, who felt so mixed up and confused that she got herself pregnant by the first hick who snuck his hand down her pants, and who now has five snotty brats, a trailer home in the asshole of Crapsville and a husband who beats her up on a regular basis to remind her how lucky she is.
The final heel in the face is for me, one of the hardest-working whores in Vegas, who has to keep turning tricks before her face and body give up on her, because she knows no other fucking trade, because somewhere and somehow a guy has to love her the way her daddy loved her.
I turn over the snivelling wreck with my toe. Better make this look like a robbery. I feel inside his jacket pocket, and pull out a wallet.
I take the bills and shove them down my shirt. I pull out his driving licence. Hmm, so he calls himself Mike LaSalle now. Then I check his date of birth.
He's only twelve years older than me. He can't be my daddy.
But he looks like him.
I turn to Daddy—Mike—and I can't be sure but I think he's stopped breathing.
Shit, not again.