As I straightened my navy suit jacket, I knew I had the attention of the entire boardroom. It was the perfect opportunity to talk about the previous quarter’s profits from the casino and our areas of opportunity, but, as all of my employees knew, I preferred to talk about more enjoyable things.
Like the new espresso machine I had installed in their breakroom. We had been on the subject for nearly fifteen minutes now, and my bodyguard Matthew was giving me the evil eye at the door with his burly arms crossed over his even burlier chest. He sighed dramatically and widened his eyes at me. There was something that needed my attention apparently, and it was decidedly more important than the proper techniques of frothing milk.
“Well, ladies and gents,” I said, clapping my hands together. “Duty calls. You all keep up the good work. I’ll send out a report on, you know, everything we were supposed to discuss today.”
The friendly faces in the room all smiled enthusiastically. I was friends with almost all of these people. I knew the names of their children, their spouses, and even some of their parents. My people were important to me and always had been.
I had been told that was why I had one of the best-run casinos on the Vegas strip.
As I made for the door, Matthew shouldered it open for me. He held his tongue until we were out of earshot of my employees before unloading the important information he needed to share with me.
“Greyson,” he began, all business. “We have detained a guest in the basement. He was caught cheating at table seventeen. One million from his account has been suspended for your consideration.”
“It’s on video?” I asked as we stepped onto the elevator.
Matthew jabbed the ‘B’ for basement. “Yes. He evaded us for a good hour before Cameron caught on to what he was up to. Good hire, that Cameron. He’s saving you a lot of money.”
“Indeed,” I said, clasping my hands in front of myself. “I should give him a raise.”
“You should give me a raise.” Matthew chuckled.
“Oh, your two million a year isn’t enough for your services all of a sudden, Meek?” I asked playfully, raising an eyebrow at my friend.
Matthew, who I referred to as Meek, had been my personal bodyguard for over half a decade. He was consistent, reliable, and the last person on the planet I would ever wish to be pitted against in a fist fight. His arms were thick and corded with muscle like a professional UFC fighter, and I had seen him in action on more than one occasion. It was never a pretty sight, and I always found myself thankful to be under his protection.
Not only was he my bodyguard, but my best friend. Working alongside him every day was the highlight of my career as the owner of one of the highest-grossing gambling venues in Las Vegas.
The Citrine was a crown jewel on the strip. It was shaped like a massive obelisk rising from the dry desert earth and reaching for the sky. The triangle tip was an enormous translucent crystal that refracted radiant light in all directions. Initially, I had envisioned it being a homing beacon of sorts that would draw tourists right to my doorstep.
The modern design and luxurious interior of the hotel offered more wonderment than the crystal at its exterior peak. Everything inside was lush fabrics, velvets and suedes. The color theme was dark and edgy with obsidian floors streaked with gold patterns breaking through it. High ceilings held chandeliers that were, of course, all made of citrine.
My hotel had been voted the best to stay in Las Vegas for the last four years.
The elevator chimed as we hit the basement. Meek led the way, and I followed him down a hallway free of the usual embellishment the rest of the casino and hotel boasted. This hall had plain cement floors with white walls. It was almost like sensory deprivation, which helped my staff plant seeds of doubt in the minds of any cheaters or liars caught on my property.
“So,” I called to Meek as he bowed his head to check his wristwatch. “What do you think about him?”
“Who?” Meek asked, looking over his shoulder at me.
“The thief,” I said. “Who else are we talking about here?”
Meek shrugged one massive shoulder. “He seems pretty slimy, if you ask me. Can’t figure out if he’s all talk or not. He’s been uttering threats since we detained him. He keeps insisting that you owe him money, and that his winnings are legitimate.”
“We have the best security system on the strip. If it was legitimate, Cameron wouldn’t have flagged him.”
“Exactly.” Meek nodded. “But he’s stubborn. There was some tension getting him off the casino floor. Some guests may be a little ruffled.”
“Ruffled?” I asked, eyes narrowing. My guests were my number one priority, and there would be housekeeping to do if any of them had been disturbed by my team’s extraction of the cheater.
“Nothing too serious, I don’t think. He was shouting a bunch of profanities and what not. Tossed your name around a few times, loud enough for half the floor to hear. The nosy ones in the crowd were enjoying it. Quite a few had their phones out.”
“That’s not the kind of publicity I want for my property,” I said.
“I know. That’s why I warned you.”
“Do you have any suggestions to go along with that warning about how to apologize to my guests?” I asked as we approached the set of double aluminum doors at the end of the hallway. Meek punched in his identification code on the number panel to the right, and the security clerk on the other side buzzed us in.
As we stepped through, Meek shot me a confident look. “A hundred-dollar gambling credit and a bottle of champagne to every room always seems to do the trick.”
“Thankfully,” I said.
My staff weren’t the only reason my business was booming. I put my guests on a pedestal. I knew that Las Vegas was an experience, and I wanted my hotel to be one of the most memorable things each person saw on their vacation. We were competing with things like the Bellagio’s Fountains, the Venetian’s architecture, and Caesar’s Palace’s overall grandeur, so I had to set myself apart with the only thing I could really control: my superior service.
“Champagne and gambling vouchers, it is,” I muttered as Meek took me into one of our interrogation rooms.
Calling it an interrogation room was misleading. I didn’t force those who were cheating in my casino to sit at a metal table in a small room waiting to be questioned by one of my stone-faced security officers.
Instead, the room was furnished with a small leather couch and a Keurig machine. There was a television mounted on the wall in case they had to wait for me, like the gentleman standing with his back against the wall beside the TV was doing now.
He was tall, nearly the same daunting six-foot five height of Meek. His blond hair was slicked back to the collar of his black on black suit. He looked, in my opinion, like an elite criminal from some sort of action flick. The gold-capped tooth peeking out from beneath his snarl-curled lip only completed the image more.
Meek performed the introductions. “Greyson, this is John. At least, that’s what he’s asked us to call him. He has no identification.”
So, he was lying about his name.
“Good afternoon, John,” I said evenly, maintaining eye contact with the man. “Thank you for waiting for me. My staff has reviewed the footage of the tables, and it is quite clear that the money you were ‘winning’ was won illegitimately. I don’t think I need to go over my policy on cheating in my casino, do I?”
John rolled his eyes and pushed himself off the wall. Meek tensed beside me. I remained still, staring impassively at the man who was trying to intimidate me. A lot of people tried this tactic on me when we were in such a small, enclosed space. I wasn’t easy to unnerve. In fact, a little confrontation every now and then kept my job interesting. Nothing wrong with the occasional adrenaline rush.
Meek stepped between John and me. “Step back,” he said rather unkindly.
John’s eyes flicked away from me to settle on Meek. He retreated back a step, but the glare he fixed me with suggested he might try to get close to me again. I trusted Meek saw the same thing.
“In that case, maybe I should clarify,” I said casually, spreading my hands. “I have a zero-tolerance policy for cheating in my casino. Especially at table games because you’re stealing from my guests more than you are from me, and that is something I take incredibly personally. Consider this your lucky day. My security officers will escort you back to the casino floor, which you will walk through without causing any sort of ruckus. You will go straight to the front door, and you will leave. You are not welcome back on this property. Do you understand me? If you set foot here again, Meek and I will be having another conversation with you, and I don’t want to waste my time or yours with getting the police involved. Are we on the same page?”
Meek shot me a look. I knew he disagreed with letting John leave the casino without an escort. I preferred to think of it as having more impact. If I could make a man leave without physical force, I had a serious upper hand.
John lifted his chin. “You owe me my winnings, Greyson, and you’d better believe I’m going to get my money.”
“Is that a threat?” Meek asked. There was an edge in his voice.
“Relax,” I said before looking back at John. “I don’t owe you a dime, and you’re not going to see any money from me. I suggest you take the chance I’ve given you to leave. If you would prefer to decline, we have other avenues we can pursue to sort this mess out.”
My threat wasn’t as direct as his, but it was there, and he heard it. John’s lip curled in a snarl again, and he flashed me that gold tooth.
“Meek, you and I have more important things to do today. Call some of your boys and have them take John here to the main floor. They will keep their eyes on him until he is off the property. If he puts up a fight, they will take him down and call the police. I don’t care how much of a scene it creates.”
“Very well,” Meek agreed.
We turned to leave the room.
“If you don’t pay me my money, Greyson Kline, you will be seeing me again very soon.”
I paused with my hand on the door handle and shot a grin over my shoulder. “You know where to find me.”
With that, Meek and I left. Meek called two of his boys to come escort John out of the casino, and the two of us got back into the elevator.
“I don’t like it,” Meek mumbled as we rode upward.
“What he said to you. He’s bold, Greyson. He’s not afraid of you or how big this place is. He thinks he’s in the right.”
I shrugged. “A lot of them think that.”
“Yes,” Meek acknowledged. “But there’s something different about him. I’m going to make sure all the staff know his face, just in case he tries to pull something.”
“All the staff?” I chuckled. “I don’t think we need to bother our housekeepers or cooks with this.”
“Really,” Meek said. “I insist. This is my job, Greyson. He makes me nervous, and he threatened you. We have to be careful.”
I searched my friend’s face. The concern there was genuine. If spreading John’s picture throughout the casino would ease his worries, it was a small sacrifice for me to make. Not to mention, he definitely did seem rough around the edges, and having the staff on the lookout for a dangerous man would also protect them from potential harm. “Very well. I trust you to handle it. Thank you, Meek.”