Larry licked his lips in anticipation.
The little silver ball bounced its way across the face of the spinning wheel, looking for a spot to settle in. Thirty-three black. That’s the spot it needed to occupy. Larry watched with unblinking eyes as it continued on its wild trajectory. As the wheel slowed down and came to a stop, the ball found its resting place. Twenty-five red. It was over. The last of Larry’s earnings were gone. He couldn’t even drown his sorrows in a drink.
“The gentleman would like to place another bet. Thirteen red.”
A woman stood by the roulette table. If Larry hadn’t known any better, he’d have thought she was a statue put in to class up the place. She was wearing a light champagne dress that seemed to shimmer around her, its color barely distinguishable from her pale skin. Her golden hair was pulled up into a tight topknot, adding a sense of sternness to her angular features. She was beautiful, the kind of person who could turn every head in the room. For some reason, though, nobody seemed to take notice of her.
“Uhh, look, thanks lady,” he said, scratching his balding pate. “But I think I’m done for the night.”
The woman cocked her head at him, then broke into a disarming smile.
“Just one more bet,” she said, a slight pleading tone in her voice. “I promise, it’ll be worth your while.”
Larry wanted to decline, but it wasn’t every day that a pretty woman sauntered into his regular gambling den and offered to help him win. How could he argue with that?
The clattering of the roulette wheel took up Larry’s attention again, as he saw the little silver ball do its little dance, just waiting for the opportunity to land on any number except the one Larry had bet on. He continued watching it, hypnotized, trying in some way to steer its path with his gaze, until it finally came to a stop. Larry couldn’t believe it.
“Thirteen red,” the croupier announced.
He’d won. Larry had actually won. He looked over at the woman, confused and ecstatic. She smiled and handed him his winning chips.
“Care to try your luck again? I have a good feeling about twenty-six black.”
Larry grinned and made his bet. When the wheel came to a stop, the ball was sitting comfortably on twenty-six black. Larry bet again. And again. And again. His number came up. Every single time.
“You’re my lucky charm tonight, lady!” Larry chimed as he counted his winnings. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bills at the same time before!”
“Just call me Lady Luck,” the woman said with a smile.
“You bet I will.”
“Now, Larry, the night’s still young. How about we celebrate?”
Larry flashed a crooked grin. “I like the sound of that.”
They walked out of the casino and ducked into a little side street. Larry clutched the bag containing his winnings to his chest tightly.
“What’s in the bag?”
A young man stepped out of the shadows, hair a mess, a scruffy beard covering his face in patches. One bony hand was wrapped around a small knife. He eyes Larry’s bag hungrily, ignoring the woman standing next to him.
“Hey, take it easy, buddy. I don’t want any trouble. Look, how about I give you a couple grand and we forget about this, ok?”
Larry kept his eyes locked with the mugger’s and started reaching into the bag. Without warning, the man lunged, thrusting the knife between Larry’s ribs. Larry cried out in pain and let go of his prize, which the man snatched eagerly. He ran off as Larry fell to the ground, gasping for breath.
The woman in the champagne dress knelt down beside Larry. Her face was impassive, showing the barest trace of sadness. She stroked his face gently, speaking in a soothing voice.
“Forgive me, Larry. In the end, luck favors no one.”
There was a scream, followed by the sound of footsteps and frantic yelling. A crowd would gather soon. The woman got up and slipped into the shadows, in pursuit of the mugger.
She contemplated how his luck would play out over the course of the night. Maybe he’d perish in a confrontation with the police. Or maybe he’d be arrested and spend the rest of his life in prison. Then again, he just might get away with it, and spend the next few years with bulging pockets.
She couldn’t wait to find out.