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About the Author: RE Carroll has written short stories for The Alarmist literary magazine and had non-fiction articles on comedy and film published in Kamera, Senses of Cinema, Wallflower Press, Chortle, LondonIsFunny, British Comedy Guide as well as others. He also maintains a popular movie blog

I thank you for coming up on the first tap. Some people, they put up a fuss, ruin the action for everyone else. You, you took the tap, it was done nice, felt the polite intrusion of two strong fingers on your shoulder, turned and saw my big guy in the blazer, you shrugged, collected your chips, followed the floorman. Not a peep, not a disgruntlement. Were you expecting it, I wonder? Don’t answer that. You don’t want to be saying anything out loud to me just yet. Let me talk. Let me speak my piece. Yet that calm, silent way in which you responded. Smooth as the inside of your arm. Hot dog skin smooth. Maybe you’ve done this all before? Took the casino for a ride around the suburbs. But I don’t reckon so. You just calculated at some point we would figure out what you are about. Done the math. Formulated the odds on that white yet infinite dry wipe board you must have for a puzzler. It was inevitable the tap was coming. We both knew it. We were both ready.

Having a little trouble maintaining eye contact there, aren’t we? Lotta screens behind me. 64 monitors, with access to over five thousand security cameras. 5,123 if you wanna be precise. And let us call a spade a spade, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t care about the numbers, didn’t care about precision. That is just about the finest closed-circuit set-up I have ever worked with. 2560 resolution, the pan-tilt-zoom on these bad boys will make you feel like you are watching a Michael Bay movie. My first job back in the nineteen-nineties was security at Virgin Records in Times Square. We could do a price check on a Hanson CD still sitting on the racks. 11 dollars and sales tax. With those. And we are talking about technology before the iPhone … before Wi-Fi and before Netflix. That was the equivalent of rubbing two flints together over dehydrated woolly mammoth bush. This stuff, behind me, is the laser diamond driller. Times 5,123.

We can see it all. We do see it all. The flop sweat of the addict betting his wife’s last piece of jewellery. The beads of condensation on the bride-to-be’s Woo Woo highball as her maid-of-honour goes for the seven. Cards up sleeves … people try that … still! Dealers palming chips. Spectators getting double handed. What goes into every TITO. What goes on on every escalator. The only place we don’t look is the toilets. And if you are doing anything risky in there, personally, I don’t like your odds. This is Vegas. Entertainment capital of the universe. Families. Yet what goes on in the washroom is more dangerous than the desert heat.

My point is we know what to look for. My crew is trained. Trained by me. They can tell you what you had for breakfast just by looking at your finger movements. They can tell what time it is on the main floor without ever logging a digital timestamp. And let us say they are having a bad day, have an eye infection, deign to be mere mortal humans for a shift, then there’s the algorithm. The databanks. Some smarty pants like you programmed it. Some geniuses like you might one day maintain it for us. There ain’t a cent or a deliberate motion it don’t monitor, recognise and adjudicate on. Its little diodes and circuitry are no doubt going haywire right now. Wanting to alert me about you. I saw you when you walked in. Didn’t need the algorithm today.

I’m going to show you some files. Paper documents. Print outs I have collated over the last decade. Each one a person just like you. And who are you? I am going to guess you are a Science or Advanced Maths major, maybe on an engineering scholarship … definitely receiving some kinda funding and award. You are full-time at school. Part-time to full-time at a fast-food place too. You know what a hairnet and fat fryer feel like. Gotta pay those fees, those textbooks, those living costs. Not a lot of partying and ski-trips for you. Spring Break means extra shifts and a quieter library floor … am I right? Money’s always squeaky tight. Mom and Pop always try to help out a little but they are far away. And even if both are still on the scene, you don’t want to be a burden. Doesn’t take a numbers genius, like you might be, to figure out the strain and sacrifice having a numbers genius for a daughter is causing their checking account balance.

This story appears in our MAR 2023 Issue
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