8 comments

Science Fiction Drama Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The Golden Loop


My great grandfather, William, was a professor of Middle East history at Oxford and traveled extensively throughout that region of the world for decades, learning about the history and culture while also acquiring rare artifacts for various museums and individual collectors. In the process, he also acquired an impressive collection of his own during his travels.


His son Peter moved to America upon graduating from Cambridge and took a position as a junior professor of chemistry at Georgetown. When his father died, two large wooden trunks filled with his collection of Middle Eastern antiquities and various other personal items were shipped to Washington DC where Peter briefly reviewed the contents before storing them in the attic of his home and essentially forgetting about them thereafter. He was a natural born scientist and had little interest in ancient history.


When my grandfather died I had just graduated from Michigan with a degree in liberal arts and no specific plans for a career. (Graduate school seemed likely as it would provide me with a few more years to plan for my future.) I accompanied my father to Washington DC to attend the funeral and clear out Grandpa’s home in Georgetown to make it ready for sale.


When we found the two trunks full of ancient artifacts in the attic my father and I spent hours going through the items contained therein. I think my dad was mostly trying to calculate value but I was enthralled by all of it. There were scrolls, books, jewelry, artwork and more but one small item truly captured my curiosity and I still cannot explain why. I guess it just sort of spoke to me somehow.


Inside an innately crafted small wooden box I found a simple gold ring with strange lettering followed by an arrow symbol on each side. It was just a simple gold band with no gems or anything like that. I asked my father if I could keep it and he had no objections.


When we were just about done clearing out my grandfather’s house, one morning I took out the ring again and sat down at the kitchen table. After logging into my laptop and doing some research on the internet I determined that the writing was Aramaic - a dead language - and the lettering that preceded each of the arrow symbols simply read something roughly equivalent to “Forward” and “Backward”.


I grabbed a can of soda from the refrigerator and then returned to my laptop on the kitchen table. I slipped the ring onto my finger as I read the Aramaic interpretation of the translation once more and as I did I thoughtlessly rotated the ring around my finger slightly. 


Suddenly the can of soda was gone and I was staring at the login screen to my computer. It was the oddest event of my life. I was right back where I had been just a few minutes earlier but I still retained full recollection of what had happened during that time.


I looked down at the ring on my finger. When I had rotated it slightly I did so in a clockwise fashion. I considered this for a moment and then, with some level of trepidation, I rotated it slightly in the opposite direction. Suddenly, the soda can was back on the table next to me and my laptop screen was once again displaying the webpage showing the Aramaic translation of the lettering inscribed on the ring.


I removed the ring from my finger, placed it on the table and just sat there for some time considering what had just happened. Later, after performing a few more experiments and finishing up my work at the house in Georgetown I booked a flight to Las Vegas.


Upon arrival I checked into The Bellagio, dropped off my suitcase in my room and then headed downstairs for a steak dinner, the ring sitting inside its wooden box tucked into my pocket.


After dinner I slipped the ring onto my finger and walked out onto the casino floor. I took a seat at a $100 minimum blackjack table and purchased $2000 in chips. I started my bets at $200 a hand during my first three hands I lost twice and pushed once. I rotated the ring on my finger in a clockwise fashion and suddenly I was walking up to the blackjack table again, with all of the cash still in my pocket.


This time I watched the three hands play out again in the exact same fashion - the dealer drawing a 20 twice followed by a 19. Then I took the same open seat and purchased $2000 in chips again and resumed my betting at $200 a hand. This time the deck ran cold for the house and the dealer busted twice and drew a 17 that lost to all players at the table.


I won all three hands but again I rotated the ring in a clockwise fashion. This time I began my betting at $500 a hand and won all three times, as I knew I would. I had become prescient and the feeling of elation that swept through me was euphoric. I kept my bets at $500 a hand and this time I won twice and lost once over the course of the next three hands: a net gain of $500. I decided there was no need for a reversal and kept on playing.


The dealer heated up again and I lost two of the next three hands and pushed on the last. Unacceptable. I rotated the ring again, found myself back where I was before this cold run of hands started and I just picked up my chips, which I had now doubled, and left for a nearby craps table where I heard a lot of boisterous action.


I won’t go through all of the details but it was essentially the same scenario that played out at the blackjack table and after about a dozen rolls of the dice I turned my $4,000 into $9,200. I decided to give roulette a try next. There was potential for very big gains there.


I didn’t want to draw too much attention so I played for a while and even took some avoidable losses before placing a sizable bet on the winning number, along with a few other losing numbers to make it look good. When I left the table I had just over $30,000 in chips in my pocket and I had only been playing for about an hour of real time. (Of course, for me it was almost twice that.)


One of the important rules I had set for myself going in was to not draw undue suspicion. Casinos don’t like to lose and they know when a winning player is getting too far ahead of the statistical probabilities, so I was careful about my betting patterns and winning percentages. I also made a point of leaving any table I played at before I caught the eye of the pit boss. This seemed to be working well so far, but I came here for a reason.


I decided to return to blackjack, as it is essentially the one game in the casino where the house has the smallest edge, therefore a winning player is less likely to draw attention there as opposed to winning big at other games with longer odds.


I took the number three seat at a $100 minimum table, laid down $4000 in chips before me and began my bets at $500 per hand. Predictably, I was on a pretty good winning streak once again before very long.


What I didn’t know was that at the table directly to my right at the six seat was an off-duty Las Vegas Metro police officer who was not only going through a messy divorce but also battling a vicious addiction to OxyContin arising from a back injury sustained while subduing a suspect fleeing the scene of a robbery. He had just pushed the last of his chips forward and drew a king after taking a hit on a twelve. As he watched the dealer casually collect his final green chip ($100) he just sat there for a moment or two and then pulled the service revolver from his ankle holster, placed the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger.


If he had been pointing the barrel upward this wouldn’t have mattered so much but he placed it straight into his mouth and as a result the bullet exited the rear of his skull directly at my location. To make matters worse, the gun was a .357 Magnum, a very powerful weapon and the bullet tore through his head without losing much velocity at all. When it did, it entered the right side of my upper torso just below my armpit and exited on the other side, and actually hit a third person in the arm before its brief journey through the casino came to an end.


I remember lying there on the floor trying to reach for my magic ring, but the bullet must have punctured my spine somewhere along my thoracic vertebrae and I couldn’t feel my lower body. My mouth was starting to fill up with blood. I was absolutely certain that I was going to die in the next minute or so.


Two casino security guards came rushing to my aid, asking numerous questions that I was unable to answer, while a third frantically called in for immediate EMT support. Then one of the guards bearing an ID badge showing his name was Brian grabbed my left hand and asked if I could feel his squeeze. I couldn’t and I was starting to black out, when suddenly I was back at the blackjack table playing a hand that was dealt to me a few minutes before the gunshot was fired. In grabbing my hand the security guard had inadvertently twisted my ring clockwise!


I couldn’t move or talk for a moment and the dealer asked me if I wanted to hit my soft 14. When he asked again I just picked up my chips and stood up while the dealer called after me, politely warning me that my bet would be forfeited if I walked away.


I thought about things for a minute or so as I watched the off-duty cop pissing away his small pile of chips in a pathetic fashion. When he was just about to place his final bet of $100 I tapped him on the shoulder.


“I’ll give you these right now if you just stand up from the table and talk to me for a few minutes.” I held out 5 purple chips - $1,000 each - in my palm. He looked at me with deep suspicion in his eyes.


“I ain’t no queer, pal. What the fuck is this about?”


“I’m not gay either and that’s not what this is about. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes. Is this not worth your time?”


He still looked very suspicious.


“Give me the chips first.”


I handed them over and he got up from the table, taking his sole remaining green chip from the table as he did. We walked over to a nearby bar and I bought us drinks. His name was Mike and I told him that I had seen his dwindling pile of chips and the growing look of angst and anger on his face. He asked me why the hell I cared and I explained that I had just come into a large inheritance and I was on a winning streak that night as well. I wanted to do a big favor for someone who needed it. It would be a way for me to atone for my sins and it would genuinely make me feel good about myself for the first time in a while.


He was skeptical and asked some questions - mostly inquiring about what I wanted from him in return - and I provided answers and slowly we developed some rapport. By the time we were into our second drink he began to open up a bit and told me about his divorce and his bad back and by the third drink he even told me a little bit about the problems he was having with his pain medications. 


I told him I was willing to make him a deal. If he promised to quit the tables starting then and there and work on dealing with his problems in a constructive fashion I would give him $100,000 within an hour. He just looked at me like I was crazy but when I handed him another 10 purple chips up-front he suddenly liked my brand of crazy very much and we shook hands on it.


I walked him over to the steakhouse where I had eaten dinner earlier and told him to treat himself to the meal of his life and I would be back with his money by the time he was done. He smiled at me, shook his head and then followed the hostess to his table.


I went back out on the casino floor, threw caution to the wind for the most part and absolutely blinded the house for the next 45 minutes. I mean, I could have shut the lights out if I really wanted to. Do you know what a big bet on double zero pays off at the roulette wheel? It’s not chump change, that’s for sure. But I didn’t want to be quite that bold. Unwanted attention.


Still, it was easy enough to continue growing my chips rapidly moving from table to table and making it look good by placing some losing bets along the way as well. I took down the craps table for $42,000, the blackjack table for $28,000 and the roulette wheel for $54,000.


After that I was approached by the casino Floor Manager, a man in a suit named Raymond, who came bearing a false smile and a firm handshake. He started by congratulating me on my winning streak and asked if I needed anything, such as a luxury suite comped on the house. But before long he started asking more intrusive questions and I could see where this was going so with a slight twist of my magic ring I was back on the casino floor about 30 seconds before Raymond approached me.


I moved quickly into a large crowd of people exiting the Lady Gaga concert that had just let out and made a few evasive maneuvers from there. A minute later I took a seat across from my new friend Mike at the restaurant and slid 90 more purple chips across the table to him in a plastic rack. A man at a nearby table nearly choked on his steak when he saw all that purple but Mike quickly covered the rack with a napkin.


“As promised. Just remember, we have a deal. That money is all going home with you tonight. It’s not going back to the casino. Not tonight and not ever, right?”


The expression on his face was caught somewhere between shock, elation and disbelief.


“Buddy, I don’t know if you just came straight down from heaven but you basically just saved my life. I was on the verge of some very desperate action less than an hour ago but that’s no longer necessary because of you. I don’t know how to thank you properly but I promise you my gambling days are done.”


“Well, just let that be true and that’s all the thanks you have to give me. Enjoy the rest of your meal. Good luck, Mike.” 


I got up and walked out and he watched me go like I was some strange and benevolent spirit from another world. I made my way to the cage and cashed out almost all of my remaining chips, about $43,000. More than enough to hold me over for a while and maybe get me through my first year of grad school, even after the tax hit.


I went upstairs and grabbed my bag and then took the elevator down to the lobby. I walked around for a few minutes until I saw the security guard who had unknowingly saved my life. I casually dropped 5 purple chips that I hadn’t cashed at the cage into his shirt pocket and said, “Keep up the good work, Brian!” and patted him on the shoulder. I walked off before he had a chance to respond or even look at what I had just given him.


Raymond, the Floor Manager, tried to call out to me as I walked out the front entrance but I just ignored him and kept walking out to the sidewalk. There was nothing he could do to stop me.


I stood out front and watched the famed sprinklers of The Bellagio do their graceful dance and thought about everything that had just happened. When the fountain show ended I removed the ring from my finger and threw it as deep into the waters as I could. It had already done more than enough for me and to ask for more would simply reek of greed. Bad karma.


I hailed a cab to the airport and hopped on the next flight to Ann Arbor, Michigan. On the way home I thought long and hard about my future and the strange hand of fate that sometimes reaches in to alter our lives.


THE END


June 08, 2024 01:20

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

8 comments

Devon Cano
00:32 Jun 13, 2024

Such an interesting take on the prompt and a good ending! Great work

Reply

TE Wetzel
02:22 Jun 13, 2024

Thanks for taking the time to read this story, Devon. Glad you liked it. I appreciate the kudos.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
14:37 Jun 11, 2024

Compelling read!. I learned a lot about an unfamiliar world! You had me with the trigger warnings and delivered an unexpected end!

Reply

TE Wetzel
14:51 Jun 11, 2024

Thank you, Derrick. I appreciate your time and glad you enjoyed this story. Go visit The Bellagio some time!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
22:42 Jun 09, 2024

Had me believing it was all true Good job with happy ending 😁

Reply

TE Wetzel
00:02 Jun 10, 2024

Thanks so much, Mary. I appreciate your time. I was hoping I wouldn't bore/confuse readers with all the casino jargon and such.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kristi Gott
08:20 Jun 09, 2024

Clever, fast paced and enjoyable story with a very interesting concept. I enjoyed the tale and the happy ending. Well done!

Reply

TE Wetzel
16:48 Jun 09, 2024

Thanks, Kristi! Glad you enjoyed it. I'm working on writing happy endings more proficiently. (I think I have a natural capacity for apocalyptic endings but I have to get better at the "Happily Ever After" genre. Doesn't come naturally to me.)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.