Bhang! Snake Eyes

Submitted into Contest #180 in response to: Set your story in a casino.... view prompt


Crime Speculative Urban Fantasy

This story contains sensitive content

CW {Drug use, Sexual themes, Prostitution, Violence, Offensive Language}

Karnack tapped the crystals out of the little zip-lock bag, onto the shiny, reflective stainless steel plate. Pulling his dagger from the top of a worn and crumpled leather boot, he used the flat side of the razor-sharp blade to crush the rocks back into powder form. Tucking a long shock of dark hair behind his ear allowed him to get close and inspect the product.

“I've got a pipe. Are you sure you don't just want to light up?”

“Oh lord no, I don't smoke.” Brilliant blue irises lit up her youthful face like sunlight through ice. “What do they call this stuff?”

"Bhang." Karnack dared a smirk with his well-rehearsed line, "Cause it hits you like a bullet." He pulled a hollow blood spike from an inside pocket in his shirt and handed it to her.

Sticking the blunt end in her nose, she aimed the sharp point at the line of powder he had piled up with the edge of his knife. With a practiced giant snort, an eighth gram of Bhang swirled up the tube and into her body. He grabbed the blood spike before she dropped it. Her slender fingers shot out straight, like a dancer striking a pose, her mouth hanging open. Karnack smiled as he watched her pupils dilate.

“You won't need another line.”

She nodded her head slowly, tight blonde curls bouncing around her alabaster skin. Finally sucking in a breath, her body relaxed and she shook her head, the chemicals weaving their way into the pleasure centers of her brain. Pulling a stool from under the bar, he gently grabbed her hand and pulled her over to sit down. She dug the chunk of her platform heels into the footrest and flipped the bottom of her red dress up over her garters, revealing a naked bottom. Glancing down, Karnack couldn't stop his eyebrow from slowly arching.

“When you come down a little can you get me a double whiskey on ice?”

“No, I'll have to wave down Brooke, she is the slutress tonight.” Her breathing returned and she turned and brought Karnack's face into focus.

“Did you say slutress?”

“Ya, she's a waitress and a bit of a slut, so the Boss wants us to call her that.”

“Brooke, the slutress.”

“Well, her real name is Alessandra, but she got the nickname after we had to clean up, well, you know, use your imagination. She's a hundred bucks a night and she doesn't take trades for drugs, so don't bother asking.”

Karnack wasn't sure what to say, his imagination shifted into thrust mode. He really needed a drink now. Turning toward her he quipped, “I didn't catch your name.”


“And you are.....what?”

“I'm the prize for the winner tonight. This is a gambling establishment.”

“Can you have Brooke get me that drink? In fact, make it two.”

Candy stood and bent over tightening the straps on her heels. He felt a hand clasp his shoulder. Turning with a side-eye he saw the silhouette of the Boss, a short stocky bloke with a neck bulging out of the stiff top of a collared shirt.

“Keep your hands off the ponies, Capeesh?” He handed Karnack a tumbler full of iced bourbon. “It's on the house if you stay for the final game of the night.”

Karnack sipped the drink and nodded, watching Candy switch her walk, the vision drowning out the loud music that was now erupting from a jukebox next to the slot machines. The creatures of Aldor hunched over the machines, feeding paper money in a greedy frenzy. Slot lizards licked the alcohol from their lips and flicked ashes on the floor, pulling the money out and putting it back in, hoping for more.

The Boss turned from behind the bar flipping bills in his fingers, chewing on the dead stub of a half-smoked cigar. Karnack looked over at the dancing girls, grinding on metal poles, and felt a slight pang of guilt. He decided to confront the proprietor.

“Do you traffic in underage girls or is it just Candy?”

The Boss stopped, expressionless, and pulled the tobacco out his lips, wrapped in money. "My girls are all legit. I ain't breaking no laws."

“I talked to her for a while earlier, she seems too young to be working in a place like this.”

“Then why were you turning her on to drugs? Huh? Trying to make a new customer?”

“I'm just helping her have a good time, I'm not pimping her out.”

"Look, man. You ask any of the ponies. I take good care of the herd. You don't see'em running out the door to get away do you?"

“They aren't stupid, they know if they were on the street they'd have needles hanging out their necks in a week. You ain't no cranker, you've got solid resources.”

The madame, a six-foot-tall olive-skinned tuff with cropped hair and a body covered in tribal tattoos, laced her arm around the Boss' neck and asked, "This heathen giving you problems?" She stared hard at Karnack and pulled a pierced tongue over plump lips stained with black ink. The look was that of a vulture eyeing a carcass.

"No Sis, he's just here to have a good time." The Boss refilled Karnack's tumbler with high-proof liquor and winked at him with a chuckle.

Industrial sounds pounded the room, now thick with a haze of smoke. Money flowed like honey from a hive. The girls worked the lonely old men, whose wood was soft like celery. They played along all night; the men reminisced like they were thirty years younger and virile, not admitting to themselves some of these ladies hated men and used them like a cash register. Wives hid in books at home, hoping their husbands were slapping tables over card games. Glitter was the giveaway, they couldn't get that shit out of their clothes and each establishment had its color to mark their territory. It was no wonder the old women gave their men an allowance, most would throw away a week's wages in a night.

Sis, the madame, couldn't let it go. She poured a draft beer into a glass and sat next to Karnack, putting on a white mustache with the head of the beverage. “You know, I really don't like most men, but men like you I absolutely hate. You cisgendered sacks of shit need to be put on an island.”

"Well, while you decide our fate, we will keep doing your dirty work as we have for the last thousand centuries. You have it so easy that you think all work is easy. Let me hip you, Sis. You ain't got enough testosterone to make it two hours on a labor site."

“Machines are replacing you if you haven't noticed. Soon you will be like a penis, a vestigial organ of a bygone era.”

“Even Amazons kept men on the hook for procreation. Do you trust test tubes that much? Genetic drift will eliminate your weak chromosomes in a few generations. There is a reason for an X and a Y chromosome, they need each other to exist. You may hate me, but you need me. The soy boys your sisters are pumping out can't compete with raging male aggression.”

“Not all the sisters are pumping out so-called 'soy boys' you misogynistic piece of human garbage.”

“We are making progress, I've graduated from feces to refuse.”

“You better watch your back.”

The alcohol wormed its way into Karnack's brain, suffocating his emotions. He was used to open threats and hostility. Dealing Bhang in a prison city like Aldor was fraught with constant danger. One had to keep their head on a swivel just to stay alive. He knew not to challenge the Boss or Sis, yet what was left of his moral compass motivated him. Not doing anything was unconscionable.

The last game of the night, the one that determined who got to taste the Candy, cost five hundred to enter. It was the dice game called 'Roll the Bones'. A sneer crawled across his buzzed face. The thought of what he was going to do made his face flush. He held up his glass wiggling it at Brooke for a refill.

“You keep guzzling this hard shit and we'll be rolling you out in the street at closing time. Are you sure you don't want a beer?”

“I'll take my chances.”

Brooke slammed ice cubes into the glass and tipped the bottle, the aged spirits gurgling into the tumbler. Karnack sipped slowly. He noticed the mirror behind the bar, suddenly aware his reflection had stared at him all night. He locked eyes with himself. Shame tried to cleave its way into his consciousness. He watched himself take a drink, noticing the cluster of gray streaks in his long dark hair. Had he been imprisoned in Aldor that long? Killing a man landed him here. Since then he killed to stay alive. It's kill or be killed. He realized why the herd stayed under the wing of the Boss. Aldor wasn't a ghetto, it was a festering sore of humanity. Most died here without ever getting paroled. It was a dumping ground for the most damaged people in society.

“Last call before we 'Roll the Bones'.” The boss fired up his cigar, signaling the end of the party was near.

A thin old man with bags like suitcases under his yellow glassy eyes dug a wad of money out of his front pocket and tossed it on the bar in front of the Boss. "I'm in," he said with a gravel baritone.

“Any other takers? If no, we'll not roll tonight.”

Karnack stood and pulled his money out and counted five hundred, “I'm in.”

The old withered man fired up a cigarette and squinted hard at Karnack. Candy was behind the bar touching up her makeup. They both glanced at Candy before turning to face each other.

"Who wants to throw the dice first? Remember the rules, the highest roll gets to roll again, first to roll snake eyes wins."

The old man held a hand out to the Boss. He dropped a pair of ivory cubes, dotted with ink, in his hand. Shaking them in one hand, he blew on them and tossed them onto the hardwood bar top. They spun to a stop, a four and a two, six. Karnack picked up the dice and flung them, bouncing them off his glass, double railroad tracks, twelve. Having the high number he picked the ivories up and tossed them again. A three and a two, five. His weather-faced competition pulled a grin over yellow teeth and took a drag off his cig. Scooping up the dice he tossed one, it stopped spinning with a single dot facing up. Smiling he tossed the other. It stopped rolling with two rows of three showing. He picked them up again, this time with both hands, shaking them in his palms and blowing again. Throwing them with both hands, they stopped simultaneously, a three and a four, seven. Karnack was done playing games; he felt the inside of his shirt cuff for the subtle bulge. Grabbing the dice from the bar, in a practiced move he banged the bar with his hand dislodging the weighted dice hidden in his shirt sleeve and with the move of a magician, switched them with the barkeep's dice. Staring at the Boss he threw the weighted dice, they stopped tumbling, each with a single dot facing up, snake eyes.

Karnack tossed the rest of his drink down his throat and slammed the glass on the bar. The old man glowered at him and banged a fist on the bar.

“You've got thirty minutes with Candy, hot shot.” The Boss poured himself a final drink as the loser wandered off.

Candy strutted over to Karnack, laced her fingers in his, and beamed. Leading him to a small room in the back of the bar, a giant goon followed them. The room had no door and the guard spun around next to the opening, folding his muscled arms. The room was bare save for a stained mattress that took up most of the floor. Candy walked over to a small chair and placed a high heel on it asking, "Shoes on or off?"

Karnack wasn't listening, he had popped the top button on his shirt and gritted his teeth. Candy turned to him and he put a finger to his lips to shush her. Reaching into his shirt he pulled out a long thin wire with metal handles at both ends. Flipping it around the guard's neck, he jerked hard, smashing his windpipe and cutting off his air. The large man kicked and dug fingers into Karnack's arms as he pulled harder and harder. In less than a minute, his body was slumped lifeless on the floor.

Candy held a hand over her mouth, in shock. Reaching into his boot he pulled out his knife and grabbed Candy by the hand, heading to the back storeroom of the gambling hall. The rear door was bolted shut from the inside with a hasp and padlock. Karnack jabbed the blade behind the latch and jerked with all his might, ripping the screws from the door. Pulling his knee up past his chest, he kicked the door and it swung open, the two ran down the alley into the night.

As the Boss finished his last drink of the night, he reached down and grabbed the dice, and rolled them. Snake eyes, he rolled them again snake eyes, again and again. As it dawned on him, his unlit cigar fell out of his mouth and into his empty glass. "That son of a bitch."

* * *

The buggy jostled down the streets of Aldor. Candy wouldn't talk. Karnack offered her a cigarette. She shook her head and stared into the inky dark of the night flowing by.

Firing up his smoke he broke the ice, "I know where there's a safe house. The women there help girls like you start a new life."

“I thought you were kidnapping me.”

“No, I'm rescuing you. In less than five years, the Boss would find a replacement for you. Once you are too old he would throw you out in the street. What are you gonna do then?”

“I hadn't really thought about it. The Boss was the only person willing to take me in.”

“Well, there is a better life for you in Aldor; there are more respectable ways to make a living.”

“What, like dealing drugs?” Her snark cut into him.

“I never claimed to be an angel. Let's just call it penance.”

January 09, 2023 19:50

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Kemani Grey
09:56 Jan 20, 2023

The way you just describe every action is just giving me the feels of a professional! Reading this gave me chills and I literally didn't want to do anything till I was done. Karnack's character depicted a flawed persona I really admired and I'd look forward to another page where this a beginning of a story.


Kevin Marlow
16:02 Jan 20, 2023

Thanks for the kind words. You encourage me to keep writing.


Kemani Grey
16:32 Jan 20, 2023

You should keep writing. I hope to see a book one day!


Kevin Marlow
17:16 Jan 20, 2023

I am currently editing one that is basically finished. I plan on self-publishing it this year on Amazon. I have started a second one based on the characters in this story. I will post it on my bio when something is available.


Kemani Grey
17:57 Jan 20, 2023

Yes! I absolutely cannot wait! You've got yourself a customer right here!


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00:25 Jan 10, 2023

An interesting story, especially being in an urban fantasy setting am waiting to find out a lot of details of how this world works. An imperfect hero and a happy ending, this could be a new gritty SciFi series. I wondered where the loaded dice plot was going. You can't leave a gun in a scene without it going off, and you can't have loaded dice on the table without someone giving them another toss.


Kevin Marlow
01:03 Jan 10, 2023

Thanks. It is a world-building piece for a book idea I've started.


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