Pauley was surprised how easily the doorman was charmed. A little touch on the arm, a bit of flattery, a peek of cleavage, and she was escorted in. She’d never admit it to Millicent, but her lessons in seduction worked exceptionally well.
Pauley threaded through the crowd to the front bar – a long, polished wood and brass monster where she could scan the casino floor. Facing her fears, she ordered a glass of Merlot, swirling the maroon liquid in the goblet. Watching the legs ease down the sides, she brought the glass up to test the bouquet while inspecting the wine for any undissolved powder. Taking a tentative sip, she figured the odds against being poisoned twice made a safe bet.
Turning around on the bar stool, Pauley used her sniper’s eye to scan the room. As she tipped back her glass for another sip, she located the ceiling cameras, noting where the potential blind spots might be. House security was tight, but the floormen, like undercover cops, were easy for her to identify.
Her attention back on the main floor, Pauley caught sight of their mark. Remembering the photo Butch had included in his case file, she would have been able to pick him out anywhere, Niles Morganstern, Esquire.
He was trying too hard to not look like a lawyer. Dark hair just brushing his collar, a tinge of grey was beginning to show at his part. He needed a color touch-up. Tall and athletic, he probably played ball in high school, over compensating at the gym now for not making a college team. She laid a side bet with herself that if she got him talking, he’d tell her about his role in winning the Big Game.
Butch didn’t say much about the hit, only that this guy was a threat that needed to be eliminated. Pauley knew from other contracts, the lack of details meant the job was personal. She’d have time to ask him about it later.
Draining the last of her wine, Pauley ordered another. Paying her tab, she stood, adjusting her dress. Smoothing it down over her hips as she strolled to the far side of the poker table, she was careful to remember Millicent’s tips on how to walk.
Pauley tried to melt into the crowd watching the game. She wanted to study the table without drawing attention to herself. Eyes in the sky would be focused on the players, not the spectators, but she still kept her back turned to the closest camera and her head down.
Taking her time with her drink, she watched Niles through four rounds, until he was one of the last two players at the table. As Pauley stepped to the front of the spectators, Niles noticed her and sat up straighter. A peacock preening for a potential mate.
Through raises, checks, and calls, it came down to the river. Niles was about to fold when he glanced up at Pauley. Making eye contact, she smiled and gave a barely discernible nod.
“All in,” Niles said, pushing his chip pile toward the center of the table.
A groan went out among the crowd when the dealer flipped the last card. With an enthusiastic fist pump, Niles reached forward and swept the mound of chips toward his corner of the table. Tossing a $100 token to the dealer, he began stacking his winnings.
After the pit boss cashed him out, Niles moved toward Pauley who was waiting near the table.
“I owe you a ‘thank you’,” Niles said, flashing his Crest-white smile. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“I’m having Merlot,” Pauley said as she slipped her arm around his offered elbow.
“Dead Money” is a continuing summer series written with Lance, Fight Club pit boss at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog, featuring female assassins Millicent and Pauley. Check out “She’s So Mean” for this week’s second installment.
Previous chapters can be found at “Pauley: Dead Money” in my top nav bar.