After I took my sweet time looking around the suite, I bid my pals farewell as we split up as I made my way to the stairs. The elevator would be faster, but there’s no better way to get to know a place than to put shoes to asphalt and get a feel for her. Once I was down out of the residential sections, I made a point to make a slow and easy lap around each floor, casing the security of the joint. Everything seemed to match up with the face we were shown by the mouthpiece upstairs, right down to the location of each of the cameras. They reminded me to pull my trusty lens out and play amateur paparazzi and tourist, snapping various locations on each floor for reference later. I never forgot a place once I visited, but like they used to say: a picture’s worth a thousand words, especially when you can show it to someone faster than describing it.
When I hit the main casino floors, I took a walk through the tables, admiring how packed it was even at this hour. I scanned through the place, trying to get an idea of what sort of vig the house had set up to fleece these poor fools. The odds on some of the tables seemed better than others, but they paid out much less. I ran the percentages in my head as I cased the casino, thinking that Pacoy could make a killing against these snowbirds and hop-heads looking for a quick buck. Shame we were barred from gambling – I’d’ve liked to see the kid at work.
Slipping past a rather intense crowd debating the merits of a mangled piece of metal that looked like it belonged at an AV wreck; I made my way towards the painting exhibits. I had heard of some ink-men who were more talented than a canary when it came to playing the heart strings, but I didn’t believe it. There’s something about a broad’s voice that just can make a man do dumb things. Things nobody’s ever done for art.
Sauntering down the grand staircase I found myself putting camera away, stepping off towards the corner art gallery – I had never been, but I had keened to the art on the walls, and I wanted to take in as much of the high life as I could while I was able. It was rare a job took me to the glitz, but I made a point to savor it. I stepped into the exhibits and began to lose myself to people who practiced Art for a living, and ducked through a doorway where I spotted a man in the process of sculpting the largest broad I had ever seen. There was a small crowd a ways back from him, admiring him as he worked, and my jaw bounced off the floor as he manipulated fine mechanical arms in real time, slicing off bits of material in front of him, watching the particles fall away from the dish like clothes after she’s crawled into the bottle after a good date.
Finding a temporary home for myself on a bench wrought in the shape of a dame arching backwards on her hands and feet, my gaze tracked towards the plugs around me, taking from them all the information I could about this place. The way they cast their eyes at the works on the wall was a look I’ve seen in the eyes of lovers, fanatics and tweakers. One couple was hooked arm and arm, the moll in a dress that didn’t do her any favors but would have screamed on Anita, staring in complete silence at a smaller inkwork I couldn’t half see. As they moved away, I slid off the dame’s stomach and made my way towards a more conventional bench to get a slant at the image they had been goggling. It was small, and uncredited, even on my HUD, unlike any of the other works in here. The only evidence of a name was a small mark in the corner, unobtrusive and white, almost like a hastily left fingerprint at a crime scene. The image was of a young girl, set sometime in the last century, holding a single balloon. She looked lost and sad, in the park, surrounded by people but all alone. Her eyes were carefully detailed with each delicate brush stroke, a strikingly chosen pale pink – an unnatural iris color, but everything about the girl was unnatural. Every detail about her screamed a bizarre contradiction – she was full of youth, maturity, innocence and world-weariness. The paint was applied sparingly to the canvas, each line warily applied, giving the sense that the artist could not afford to make a single mistake. But still, I couldn’t help but be drawn to her eyes. I could feel the fear pouring out of this girl, and I felt something shift in my chest, as though my shoulder rigs were drawing tighter. My vision blurred slightly, blinking away what must be moisture caused by the excessive heat in the small gallery combined with the tightness of the crowd around me. I tucked my hat low on my head as I slipped through the few people that remained in that part of the gallery and made my way up to our suite, feeling an uncontrollable emptiness inside.
When I slunk into the room, my hat and coat were tossed over the back of a couch and I dialed up the kitchens. I began rattling off things that looked good on the menu, and after a minute, the waiter hung up on me. A few minutes slipped by before I tried again, speaking clearly and slowly after identifying myself. The order went through clearly and a short while later the food arrived, borne by three rather attractive waitresses. When they left the food behind, I began to eat like I had been starved for days. I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten, and I had never eaten food this rich or well prepared. It was easy to keep myself busy until my buddies returned to the suite.