The short, blue haired man walked in through the heavy glass door of the hotel lobby, and made a beeline to the reception desk. The heels of his gaudy white cowboy boots echoed around the empty lobby at every step. The only other soul on the first floor, a female clerk, looked up from her computer to watch him swagger toward her. The man reached the marble check-in counter and nodded at the clerk. The waist-high desk almost reached the man’s chest, on account of his height. He put his hands on the counter and showed off several tattoos on both his arms. A pair of red dice with single white dots decorated the back of his left hand. A golden beer bottle with the number 25 on the label showed on the back of his right hand. Each arm also sported intricate tattooed sleeves with a distinct gambling theme.
“My name is Vegas,” the man said. Anxiousness creaked in his voice. The clerk gave him a curious look, with a half smirk.
“Is that your given name?” she asked. Vegas nodded. He hesitated, then nodded again as he processed the question.
“Gave it to myself.” He felt sure that counted.
“Oh, I see. So what’s Las Vegas like this time of year?” The clerk made polite small talk while her candy apple red nails clacked on the keyboard. Her eyes moved back and forth between Vegas’ stylish blue hair and her computer screen. His hair was long and straight enough to tie into a blue ponytail.
“Never been.” Vegas twiddled his fingers on the counter. He waited for an opening.
“You’ve never been? That’s an odd nickname to give yourself then. In my experience nicknames aren’t generally something you give to yourself. Kind of ruins the whole thing, don’t you think?” the clerk asked with a smile. Vegas nodded in agreement.
“It’s no nickname. Went and had it legally changed. I even used the money I was saving to go to Vegas for all the legal fees and junk that come with a name change. My full new name is Sammy Vegas Jr.” Vegas’ top half leaned forward, he gave a faint bow. She giggled.
“Well, I suppose that’s one way to go about it. So, what can I do for you, Mr. Vegas? I don’t have a reservation for you,” she said. That counted as an opening.
“The thing is this. I REALLY need to be in Las Vegas tomorrow.” Vegas reached behind himself while he talked. He brought his hand back to the front holding a silver gun. An ivory handle peeked through his fingers. He placed the gun on the counter with a heavy clunk. The barrel pointed off to one side, away from either of them. He looked at the clerk’s name tag for the first time.
“Lauren, give me all the money in the cash register and safe.” Vegas hoped she would comply without any fuss. Now that he made his move, he needed to get out of there fast.
“Hold on. Your plan is to rob a hotel at two a.m.? I’m sorry, I can’t help you there. We keep all our money in a time-locked safe. It can’t be opened it until nine a.m. The manager and security team are here by then,” Lauren said.
“Awwwww SHIT!” he yelled. Vegas bolted for the front doors, panic stricken. He made it out into cool night and his mind raced to decide on his next move. Turning around to get the lay of the land, he caught sight of the clerk on the telephone. “Hell, she called the cops!” Vegas ran back in through the glass doors. He brandished the gun, but waved the barrel away from either of them. “Hang up,” Vegas said.
“I’ll call you back, Holly.” Lauren put the phone down on the receiver and stared at Vegas.
“Holly? You on a first name basis with the cops?” Vegas put the gun into his pocket after he interrupted the call.
“Well, I mean I just flashed a gun and robbed you. Weren’t you calling the cops?” Vegas asked. He wondered to himself how soon after a robbery he could ask the victim out for a date. Vegas saw her eyes sparkle a bit before she responded.
“Robbed? Please. I’m not sure what you did would even qualify as attempted robbery. At best you attempted to attempt a robbery. Plus the safety was on the whole time.” Lauren smiled at him.
“I had it in my pants.” Vegas shrugged. “Can’t afford any accidents. So, you’re not going to call the cops on me?”
“Nah, you didn’t do anything. Though be careful waving that gun around,” Lauren said.
“Yeah, thanks, I will. By the way, I’m really sorry.”
“About the gun? Don’t worry about it, I grew up around them,” Lauren said. She reached into a drawer and pulled out a candy dish. She offered it to Vegas and he took a red striped mint.
“No, not about the gun. Well, that too obviously. I’m sorry for the cussing. I shouldn’t have used the, uh, ‘s-word’ in front of you,” Vegas said. He bowed his head and looked sheepish while he apologized. He pocketed the mint for later.
“You mean, ‘shit’? Oh come on now, we’re both adults here,” she said. “It was a valid response.” She smiled showing her perfect white teeth.
“Well be that as it may, using foul language in front of a lady leaves me uncomfortable. My daddy always did his best to discourage it, and I guess it stuck with me,” Vegas said.
“That’s very sweet of you. Apology accepted then, since it means so much to you. So what’s your plan now? You’re not going to go find some other place to rob, I hope?”
“No. It’s probably the same situation any place that’s open this time of night anyway. It took me most of the night to work up the courage just to hit this place. I don’t have it in me to try my luck again tonight,” Vegas said.
“You know, I saw you pacing outside for at least an hour. I wondered what you were doing. If you’re going to try and work yourself into a life of crime, you might want to tone down your appearance a bit. Oh, and stop using your real name,” Lauren said.
“What’s wrong with the way I look?” Vegas took a step back from the desk and gave a twirl for Lauren. She needed to stand to see the rest of him over the desk.
“Nothing at all. I’m saying that with all those tattoos on your arms, and that awesome blue hair, you’re pretty easy to remember. That’s not a good thing if you’ve committed a crime. Your name also stands out quite a bit,” Lauren said. She smiled the whole time and enjoyed their conversation.
“Well, I appreciate the advice, but you don’t have to worry about me. I’m done with crime, I don’t have the restitution for it,” Vegas said. He approached the counter again and leaned on it. Lauren sat down in her chair, and looked up at him.
“The constitution?” She asked.
“Well yeah, that too. Of course it’s against the Constitution, that’s what makes it a crime. I’m just saying I don’t have the stomach for it, is all,” Vegas clarified for her. Lauren was cute as a button, but not very bright.
“No, but I mean,” she paused and looked at him. Vegas smiled at her. “Oh, okay, I see what you mean. Hey what’s so important in Vegas tomorrow anyway?”
“No idea.” Vegas shrugged.
“Details aren’t something you worry about, are they?” Lauren asked.
“Got some trusted advice telling me I needed to be in Las Vegas tomorrow. Absolutely, whatever it takes. Said it would change my life. Since I didn’t have the money after changing my name, robbing seemed to be the only way. Now I guess I’ve got no chance.”
“Hey, Sammy?” Lauren’s voice changed to a more formal tone.
“Call me, Vegas.” he interrupted.
“Vegas. I don’t mean to change the subject, and I don’t want you to panic, but there’s a cop due here any minute. Don’t worry though, he stops by here every night. He kind of checks on things for the boss. I’m not going to rat you out, but don’t give him any reason to think you’re suspicious. I can’t help you if he decides he wants to search you. If you like, you could go get a drink at the machine down the hall. Or go to the restroom or something,” she suggested.
“Okay, yeah, I’ll take a walk. Thanks, Lauren, I appreciate it.” Vegas walked down the hallway and turned the corner. He killed twenty minutes in the restroom. He pondered his life and stared at the shining stainless steel on the inside of a stall door. After he felt he wasted enough time, he washed his hands and made his way back out into the hall. He stopped at the vending machine.
Loud bangs crushed the silence of the empty halls when Vegas bought two sodas. Each one tumbled down the chute of the red machine and stopped abruptly in the catch. When he made it back to the lobby, he saw red and blue lights bouncing off the walls. Four police cars provided the flashing lights. Several police officers stood outside the glass doors of the hotel entrance. Their guns drawn and pointed inside the lobby.
Vegas felt panic run through him into his hands, and he made an effort to squeeze the sodas to avoid dropping them. He relaxed his grip when realized the cops were not looking at him at all. They all stared towards the front desk where he left Lauren. He turned his focus and saw Lauren struggling with a tall, lean man. The man held her in front of him, one arm wrapped around her neck, keeping her off balance. His other hand pointed a dark black gun at the gathered police officers. His grip on the gun left no doubt that he was ready and willing to fire at someone. Neither the man, nor the officers noticed Vegas yet. The blue haired man stood there with a soda in each hand, and a confused look on his face. Lauren noticed him. She made eye contact with him while struggling, and he noticed her relax a bit. She looked relieved to see him, but Vegas felt she was overestimating him.
Vegas began shaking the soda in his right hand before he realized he was doing it. He moved toward the door to the tiny office space, the taller criminal left it open when he grabbed Lauren. The man’s attention stayed focused on the cops in front of him, he pointed the gun at them with a steady hand. Vegas kept low to avoid notice from either the cops or the tall man. He cursed the fact that he had no choice but to try his luck again tonight. Vegas moved behind the tall man.
“Alright Vegas, you picked out your name for the luck. Time to bet your life and test that luck.” He thought to himself. His bet was that embarrassment trumped everything.
Vegas placed the can he did not shake on the floor out of the way. He gave the other can one more good shake before placing it on the ground behind the man holding Lauren. His heart pounded in his ears. Vegas counted to three, and acted.
In one swift movement Vegas stood up straight, behind the man. Immediately upon locking his knees into place, he squatted again. On his way down he grabbed the sides of man’s jeans and pulled them down hard as he went. The man’s pants and boxers went down to his ankles. Once Vegas squatted completely he grabbed the can of soda on the floor. He shook the can of soda again on his way up. Vegas opened the soda in the man’s face as he turned around to see who pulled his pants down. The commotion caused the armed man to drop his gun to the floor and Lauren broke free. The tall man sputtered and brought his hands up to wipe his face. Lauren grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled him backwards. Vegas helped by sweeping the man’s legs out from under him. The tall criminal fell hard and hit his back against the edge of the check-in desk. Lauren grabbed his hand and led him out of the small office so the cops could come in and arrest the gunman.
“I thought you snitched on me. When I saw the cops, I mean. I’m sorry I doubted you.” Vegas apologized to Lauren. They sat on one of the lobby couches while the cops talked to the hotel manager.
“It’s fine, that’s a lot of cops. I would’ve thought the same thing,” Lauren said. She reassured him with a friendly pat on the shoulder.
“So, what happened?” He turned to face her.
“I don’t know. As soon as you disappeared around the corner this guy came in and tried to rob me. I thought maybe he was a friend of yours, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He came around into the office to grab me just as the cop walked in. He called back up right away. You were gone for a bit, I was starting to worry about you.”
“Well I just wanted to be sure to give the cop enough time to come and go. I bought you a soda, but I left it on the floor in the office. I didn’t shake it though, so don’t worry when you open it,” Vegas said.
“I’m curious. Why didn’t you use your gun?”
“I thought about it, but it’s not loaded. I was afraid that if I tried, and the plan failed, I’d end up dead. My life actually flashed before my eyes, and that’s just from running the possibility through my head. Man, tonight has been something else. It’s funny how things happen.” Vegas let his head fall back against the couch and stared at the ceiling.
“So how’s that different than what you did? You still risked your life either way,” Lauren asked.
“I figured if he turned around and saw me with a gun, he might shoot on sight. If he turned around and saw me with a soda, he might realize he was thirsty. It could go either way, really.” Lauren chuckled.
“Did you unload the gun in the restroom? I hope you didn’t leave the bullets in there. The cops are probably going to check the whole place.”
“No. I don’t own any bullets, just the gun. I wanted to scare you, not hurt you. Well not you, specifically, but you know, whoever. You seem nice though, I’m glad it was you.”
“So, you mean there were no bullets, and you still had the safety on? That safety is part of what gave you away, why leave it on?” Lauren continued laughing. Vegas shrugged.
“It’s a gun, man. Gotta be careful.” The hotel manager walked to Vegas and Lauren when the police officers dismissed him.
“I needed to come over and say thank you sir, for saving Lauren here. She’s one of my best employees, and like a daughter to me,” the manager said. He looked at Lauren. “Did he get any money?”
“No, I told him we kept it in a time-locked safe.” Both Lauren and the manager burst into laughter.
“You know, one day I should actually get one of those. In the meantime, go ahead and take the rest of the morning off. As for you, here you go. I’m only the manager here, not the owner. I’m afraid it’s not much, but the least I could do is buy you some breakfast.” The manager handed Vegas a fifty dollar bill. “And if you ever find yourself in need of a job, I can put in a good word with the manager for you.” The man winked at Vegas, and offered him a broad smile.
“Thank you sir. I’ll be happy to take the breakfast reward if I can get my new friend, Lauren, to join me. The job isn’t for me, even though I appreciate the offer. I’m not looking to stay in town much longer.” Vegas reached out and accepted the cash gift.
“Well that’s no problem, we’re a chain. A small chain, but we’ve got hotels in most major touristy areas. New York, L.A., Austin. Where you headed to? We can set you up there, I’m sure.”
“Well, Las Vegas, was on my mind.” Vegas said.
“Oh! As a matter of fact we have a branch opening in Vegas next month. If you’re in Vegas tomorrow, we can start training you right away. I’m sure I can add to that fifty to get you a ticket there.” It seemed the manager could not stop smiling.
“Actually, Las Vegas was on my mind. After tonight though, I’m not in so much of a hurry anymore. You know, I’ve heard Austin is a pretty laid back place. I think slowing down might be a good thing for me. Besides, I guess I’ll always be carrying it with me, when you think about it. After all, my name is Vegas.”