In a pickle - By Mizeta Moon

Coffee hit the spot after a long night at the tables. The dealer was crooked but she’d been onto him from the beginning and used her own sleight of hand skills to fleece him instead of losing her bankroll. She knew the pit boss wouldn’t come down on her because they’d have to admit they were cheating and that would bring in the gaming commission. She kept her bets small so that the casino wouldn’t be out much. She didn’t need the money but wanted to play since it was the last night of her vacation and she might not visit the area again. Her job as a magician’s assistant awaited her return to hundreds of birthday parties and she was looking forward to getting back in the groove. 

After taking a quick shower and packing her bag, she called the front desk to check out and arrange transportation to the airport. The lobby was quiet as she signed her bill statement, then settled on a bench to wait for her ride. The few tourists that were active that early in the morning looked frazzled from lack of sleep while having too much fun. When a burly man in a checkered suit walked into the foyer and called her name, she raised her hand, grabbed her bag, then followed him to a small SUV idling at the curb. She didn’t like the look of the man but didn’t have time to request a substitute driver. Her flight home would leave in less than an hour and she didn’t want to miss it. 

She was so used to the auto-lock feature of modern cars that she didn’t know she was being kidnapped until the driver turned away from the route to the airport. “Hey!” She shouted. “You’re going the wrong way.” 

“I know,” the man replied. “The only place you’re flying to is the pearly gates.” 

“Who are you?” She asked. Irritation dominant over fear in her voice. “If you work for the casino and want your money back all you had to do was ask. Wasn’t that much anyway. I make more than that in a day.” 

“Doesn’t matter. Nobody cheats the boss.” 

“Hah! What about him cheating the public instead of running an honest game? Gonna kill everyone who figures it out? Your dealer was so lame a blind man could see through him.” 

Instead of answering, the thug reached over the seat and sprayed her with something that knocked her out. When she came to, the man was laboriously dragging her to the middle of a bridge spanning a raging river. Handcuffs chafed her skin and her knees felt bruised. She must have been too big a load to carry. 

“What now?” She asked. “Hoping I can’t swim with handcuffs on?” 

“Shut up. I need to get this over with. My wife made lasagna tonight and she gets pissed when I’m late.” 

“Boo-hoo. Hope she cuts your testicles off.” 

That remark made the thug grab her throat and slap her so hard that tears ran down her cheeks and she nearly blacked out again. Vertigo set in as she looked at her precarious perch on the bridge and realized how close she was to plummeting. When he let go and stepped back, she smiled because he made a mistake and gave her the advantage. He probably had no idea that she was a magician’s assistant and had clever fingers. 

“What you smiling about?” The thug asked as he pushed her closer to the edge. 

“This.” She replied as she flaunted the key she’d plucked from his pocket as he manhandled her. “Now that my hands are free, I can swim to safety if I fall. But! I think it’s you that needs to get wet.” So saying, she spun on her heels and started running. The oaf tried to follow but his lumbering frame wasn’t agile enough to catch her, When he stumbled and fell to his knees, she kicked him in the butt, then watched him tumble to the maelstrom below. 

Now that she’d missed her flight it made sense that she use the thug’s car to drive home. She had enough of the casino’s money to pay for gas and food, so all in all, things weren’t that bad. She’d probably be too late for Billy Baker’s birthday party, but she reminded herself that life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.

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