Gary inserted a quarter into the slot machine, pulling down the lever. He could sit here all night in the back rows of El Cortez if he wanted to. Triple wheels spun colorful images, locking from left to right in smooth succession. Damn. Almost had triple-bars. Sighing, Gary scooped the coins from his last payout into a small plastic bucket.
El Cortez was one of the oldest casinos on Freemont Street, if not Vegas itself. Gary liked it here. More locals than tourists, older retirees minding the slots and playing Keno. Gary liked to make the rounds, stopping at random machines that felt right to play. Sometimes he’d just sit in on some blackjack and make the dealer laugh.
You found all kinds of people here. Some just passing through, others rooted and nearly part of the surroundings. Gary liked to play a game where he’d find someone down on their luck, then offer to make up their losses. He always made them sign over their soul, so they felt they had earned it somehow.
Gary would write a quick “contract” on a cocktail napkin, and get them to put an “X” or whatever they felt like on the bottom. Then he’d solemnly place the chips in their hands and wish them well. “Play wisely”, he’d say, “You never know when your number is up.”
Most took it well. The soul part, that is. Gary had started out doing it as a joke, but it snowballed into something else. When one of the retirees called him the “dealmaker”, the name stuck fast. Gary would laugh and smile, shaking hands and taking photos with tourists, each holding up their napkin-contract smiling at their fortune.
Gary had a box at home full of the things. He began putting them into an empty box he had sitting around after he moved, and now it was nearly at the top. He really should do something about that. Maybe just throw them out. He’d take care of it after he cashed out his winnings and went home.
Exiting the casino, Gary wadded the napkin-contracts into his pocket. The last one was from a retiree from Florida. She smiled like it was her birthday when Gary offered to make up her loss on the slots. She was nice, reminded him of his mom. Gary stepped off the curb, loud honk startling him as the Tourbus locked its brakes.
Albert stared over the horizon, puffy clouds drifting in the distance. It had been a long shift. He was at year 499 of 500, and he was looking forward to a break. Winds swirled and parted, bringing another soul. Albert straightened up adjusting his wings to a stern angle.
Gary handed over his stamped and filled ID, courtesy of the Angel Assessment Bureau. Wait a minute, this was odd. Below the seal of the Archangel, there was a single number circled in red. “1,500”. This was unusual. It meant that this soul had others credited to its account in the master ledger.
Albert pressed a button on his console, invoking his immediate superior. This was way beyond his pay grade.
“One moment, there’s a complication.”, Albert raised a hand before Gary could speak, “Don’t bother. I’m not the one to make your appeal to. You’ll be in the arbitration chamber momentarily.”
Cherubs swooped down, playing a triple tone as Gary popped out of processing to the chamber beyond, leaving a swirl of mist in his wake.
Albert sighed. He always got the oddest souls when he was working.
“Right, right. Anyone seen my crown? We have proceedings, you know.”, God fumed as he cleared his desk. Cherubs swirled and Seraphim adjusted his vestments. One handed him a golden crown, with his ceremonial sceptre. The chamber was full of lower angels in the galleries while dour Seraphim attended to the ledgers and transcripts.
The smell of burning sulphur filled the room, as a leggy red-skinned brunette emerged from the pitch-black mists. The Devil was nothing if not dramatic. Suspenders covered her nipples, clamped to a black miniskirt with red piping. The lewd display drew gasps from the Seraphim at the bench.
“Old Scratch, I don’t care if you’re trying to seduce me. At least wear something fitting to the occasion.”, God’s voice boomed out into the chamber, silencing the gallery.
The Devil laughed, turning while bending slightly. “Awww, just for you – how about this number?”, She waggled her ass, now clad in a tight neck-to-thigh black dress, red stripes running down the side.
God sighed. “Fine, lets just get on with it. My schedule is slipping as it is. Call forward the soul.”
Gary appeared on the stand, eyes darting around the room. “What is going on? I’m not -“
“You’ll speak when spoken to. First, we need to review your ledger.”, Seraphim handed God a small bound volume, containing all the debits and credits of Gary’s life.
“Hmm… I see. Present evidence to the Devil please for the record.”, the ledger was handed to the Devil, now seated at a table in front of the bench.
“It looks legit to me. Just send him down and I’ll take care of it.”, a forked tongue tasted the air as she snapped the volume shut.
“We’ll remand custody when the balance has been tallied. Where’s that blasted abacus?”, God whipped through the ledger, operating an abacus with lightning speed on the other hand. In mere seconds, it was done.
“1,500 souls total. Debits 1,400 and Credits 100. We deem this soul net positive, which assigns him to -“
“Like hell he is, look – there are plenty of these ‘contracts’ that don’t have proper signatures!”, the Devil seethed, not about to be lose out on a fresh soul.
God paused, glaring at Seraphim who hastily handed him a sheet with additional calculations.
“Objection sustained. The souls in question are voided from the total. That leaves a negative balance of one. The Devil may remand the soul to the lower depths of Hell.”
The Devil cackled, sweet laughter tinged with promises of pain. Gary slowly raised his hand in the air.
“This isn’t grade school, if you have something to say, you may say it now.”, God shooed a cherub as he leaned back in his seat.
Gary coughed, voice quavering, “Sir, that isn’t all of them.”
God glared at the Seraphim, who rushed over to Gary emptying his pockets. Two wrinkled napkins were placed in front of God on the bench.
“Oh, right then. Aren’t you full of surprises. Given that these contracts are binding and valid, the soul is assigned lower angel duty effective immediately.”, a small cheer rang out from the gallery as cherubs played happy notes of agreement.
The Devil bit her black-painted lips, howling with rage as she plunged back to Hell.
Gary raised his hand again, “So, do you guys have casinos up here?”
The gallery erupted in laughter as God rolled his eyes, fading from sight.