The two slot reps working the dollars slot machine area had gotten to know each other over the past few weeks. The older rep was a quiet, passive man, while the younger was brash and talkative. The older rep was sensible about his money, and the younger rep was frivolous. Of course, the younger rep made more money in tips because he hustled around the machines talking to everyone he could so he could make that money, so he could spend it. The younger rep was bound to his lifestyle. The older rep was too, though not in the same way.
“What do you suppose is going on here?” the younger rep asked the older above the ding-pinging of the slot machines.
“What do you mean?”
“These machines,” he nodded at the velvet roped-off Wheel of Fortune cumulative jackpot island, “they’re reserved?”
“Is it a bigwig Tribal thing or something?” The younger rep shifted his weight from foot to foot, looking around almost to the point of being frantic.
“No, it’s probably just the jackpot chasers.” The older rep just looked at the jackpot sign above the island, steady at $184,821 without anyone pumping money into it.
“Jackpot chasers?” The younger rep centered his gaze on the older rep.
“What are they?” the younger rep asked, tapping his foot. The older rep sighed.
“Well, they’re this team, a group of guys who go around to all the Indian casinos and play the cumulative jackpot slots until they win.”
“What are they, just a bunch of rich guys with too much time on their hands?” The younger rep began scanning the room again, letting his shoulders slump for a moment.
“No, just one rich guy. He gives the people their bankrolls and they go out and play till they win. If it takes twelve hours, they’re here twelve hours, then they get a cut of the profits.”
The younger rep stopped his foot and looked back at the older rep. “They get to keep a percentage?”
“But, aren’t slots usually too tight for that? Wouldn’t they usually just lose a bunch of money?”
“That’s why the casinos let them reserve the machines. They’ll put ten thousand dollars in right away, a thousand in each machine, and put them on auto play. When that runs out they start feeding in hundreds. The casino thinks they’re making out like bandits, and so do the chasers. But, they’re both rich, so I guess it works out.”
“He just gives them all that money? Why wouldn’t they just split with it?”
“He’s not just giving them the money without…”
A jackpot interrupted the older rep, and sent the younger rep off like a schoolboy chasing the bell. It was the I Dream of Jeannie machines, so the older rep knew the jackpot was $15,000, and that the younger rep would probably get a couple hundred dollars, and probably spend it all on booze that night.
The older rep thought about the stories he’d heard about the chaser who did run. He’d seen the kid about a month before he disappeared, doing what he was paid to do, though apparently not paid enough to be content. The kid’s eyes were everywhere, he was sweating and checking every machine every couple minutes. Usually the chasers are very calm, collected, not wanting to draw any undue attention. The casino liked them that way. Professional. When he hit after two hours, something like a hundred thousand, he didn’t tip the rep or the cage, also strange. The cage cashier said that the chaser had been skimming, and the bigwig got word. Supposedly two brawny guys looking out of place in golf shirts and khaki shorts followed the chaser out of the casino. He said they put him in a big duffel bag, then wrapped it completely in duct tape and buried him alive somewhere in the Cleveland National Forest, close to the reservoir so that the moisture would make him decay faster, identification harder.
The older rep didn’t necessarily believe the story, but he could believe it. He could see it, feel it. Being wrapped tight, then put in a cold, dark place, no clue if a bullet was coming, or a knife, or if maybe it was just a warning.
A service light went on in one of the All American 7’s islands, so the older rep walked quickly over to it. He hadn’t quite reached his self-set quota of $50 for the night’s tips yet.
The older rep passed by the Wheel of Fortune island half an hour later and saw the younger rep talking exuberantly with the chaser, a middle aged man in a nice, but not too-nice, navy suit. The chaser kept nodding his head, keeping strict eye contact. After a minute he reached into his jacket pocket and gave the younger rep a business card. As the younger rep turned he saw the older rep. He quickly put the card in his pocket and hustled toward the next jackpot.
The sun always shocked the older rep’s eyes when he left a graveyard shift. Too bright. Too warm. He drove home at his usual pace, and made his usual 9AM frozen dinner. No matter how many times he tried to fix the vertical blinds, the sun found a way through, laying bright glowing slats on the wall that his head faces as he tries to fall asleep. The air conditioner only blew hot air, circulating the dust around the room in a slow, oblong current.