The Glass Locust

Maybe it *was* about the money this time.

But not for the reason you think. I have been diagnosed with a vascular degenerative disease. My blood vessels are slowly collapsing and cutting off blood flow to my body, starting with my tiniest capillaries until my arteries cave in and then finally, my heart will implode, but by then I will already be dead. The doctors say I have about a year before the disease is moving faster than anything the doctors can do. It's treatable right now, but it requires a risky operation that is so experimental that it would cost someone like me millions.

You would think that there would be some safety net, but it doesn't apply to me. You see, they think I *have* millions. I don't. That's what working in a place like this will cost you. You spend enough time pretending to be up there with the big shots at the top and pretty soon people will start to believe you. And it's not that I don't have cash, because I have a sizeable amount in my possession. It just doesn't belong to me for very long.

Dealing with devils will sometimes result in some people owing you lots of money. Other times, it will result in the opposite. I have 7 different mobsters that are regulars here at the Glass Locust Casino. I owe all of them more than I'd like to admit. But if I'm going to pay something off to prevent it from killing me, well let's just say that the mobsters out here in the zone operate much quicker than vascular degenerative disease.

Larry 'Knuckles' Bagnasio was a fat motherfucker, but I've heard he prefers the term 'big bodied.' He bought us out a table in the dining section on the grand casino floor of the Glass Locust tonight. Nicest thing he's done for me since his planted dealer cheated me out of winning a big game of rummy.

I glance over at the Korean barbeque and elaborate shrimp dishes set out before us. The chatter of the busy casino floor is comforting to me, because it means that no one has shown a gun yet. I'd rather not have to shoot someone tonight. Bagnasio stares into me as he mows into a fork full of an expensive salad, his bodyguards sitting on either side, also eating.

Ironic, I think to myself.

I was unable to eat while my focus was dialed in and sweat was running down my neck into the collar of my shirt.

"I wonder, are you stupid enough to show your face, or have you finally decided to pay me," Bagnasio projects across the table.

"Sorry, I was distracted watching your bald head wrinkle while you said that."

I was trying to get in his head. Make him feel like he wasn't in control of the situation.

"I paid a lot of money to offer this food so we could talk, you know," he shot back.

"Don't act like it's easy to show gratitude to a man who wants you dead."

"I just want my money, and killing you would ensure that I never get it."

"And killing you would make sure I never have to pay it, right?" I smiled.

He let out a hearty laugh and slammed his fist on the table, glasses clinking together.

"That's a good one tiny man, but you're never going to get away with that.

I was surprised at his arrogance, but would not be surprised if he had several hidden bodyguards in this massive room.

I glanced to the side to check the balcony, and saw Business cross with his hand on the rail towards the stairs. When I told him about the offer from Bagnasio, he was instantly down to try and take out another mobster in the zone. Especially one that shares a home casino with us.

I juggled the conversation until I saw Business land about 30 feet away to my right, just in front of the bar.

"You know, Bagnasio, I've got a lot of reasons I haven't paid you yet, but one of them is that I don't think I need to." After not having eaten anything, I finally raised a shrimp to my mouth.

"Why is th-"

He was cut off by the sound of a gunshot. Both of Bagnasio's bodyguards fall dead in the same direction with a clean collateral through both of their heads. When I chose to work with Business, I did it for a reason.

Crowd screaming ensues, as usual. I dive under the table a draw my pistol from under my leather padding as I hear a few more gunshots go off. Darting out from under our table and behind the next as cover, I take a few shots at some of the men Bagnasio had predictably planted around. A marksman positioned on the balcony had to be the first to go. Once he was down, a few of the men in the gambling area who had also drawn pistols became my targets. I heard one or two of them yelling behind me as Business continued to take them down one at a time. Bagnasio quickly made his way up to the balcony and barricaded himself in one of the theaters on the second floor, with two guards standing outside, rifles drawn.

Once we had mostly cleared out the grand casino floor, Business and I pushed through the crowd that was still flooding through the hall and rushed up the stairs. Business and I took cover behind a plant display and took shots at the guards by the door. They were outfitted with bulletproof vests, which made them tougher targets, but they were no match for Business's accuracy with his signature plated revolver.

"Nice shot with the bodyguards at the table," I complimented him.

"Happy accident," Business said under his breath as he smiled.

We burst into the theater and were greeted by another hail of bullets. Bagnasio had found himself a machine gun. Business dodged each volley masterfully and laid down a diversion of covering shots from the front while I snuck past Bagnasio through the aisle to his left. As I approached Bagnasio, I drew my jagged blade from its leather sheath. Under the golden light of the extravagant fixtures in this theatre, it looked like a lightning bolt.

I jumped onto the back of Bagnasio and held it to his throat.

"This will cost you," he heaved.

"No, actually. This will save me about 1.4 million dollars."

A spurt of red shot onto the seat cushion in front of me as my blade came across his neck.

Business and I quickly dashed out like ghosts of the night across the desert as wind whipped sand into our faces. We settled back into our apartment and wrapped up for the night.

As I laid in bed, I thought about how this was just the beginning. 1 down, 6 to go.

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