Sometimes the notes are all I have after ten days without sleep . . . or ten hours without respite from the heavy-duty pain. I look at the chronograph, and find a three-day hole where my memory had been, and at those times, I'm glad I take the notes.
Back when I was working for Nakamura, I ran across a fellow who had come out to the Serpent casinos, and won something like twenty thousand stars playing baccarat. Hell, maybe it was at The Mint. He was on his way back out when I met him, and the first rush hadn't passed yet. He spent the trip in our finest stateroom, and on the arms of some very fine-looking prostitutes. We bought each other some drinks, and I noted his name, having, you know, the feeling that I'd be seeing him again.
And I did. Three weeks later, I ran into him again, once more, on the way out. This time, he'd won fifteen thousand. But he spent most of that second trip alone in his stateroom, more comfortable, I suppose, jerking off than padding some hooker's bank account.
The third time I saw him, he was traveling coach with the businessmen. He'd won a few hundred, but his eyes were shallow in their sockets, and I bought him a shot of scotch in a plastic cup, best I could do when I spied him on line at the beer stand on the fifth deck. I caught a word with him edgewise, and he told me never again. He'd been sixty thousand down, and the casino toughs were circling, white suits and black eyes, when he made two longshot bets he didn't even know the house would take, and they somehow came through.
"They knew me from the time before, Bey," is what he said to me. "They figured I musta had what I won. Not hardly. That shit was gone. I had a good time on your ship, then I paid off my mortgages. Bought a 60-inch vidscreen. I dunno, maybe they thought I was Wunderland aristocracy or something. I live in an apartment on Canyon. If they'd looked at my bank statements they'd have never let me lay that bet . . . . Never again, man, never again."
It was the last time I saw him. Later on I heard that one of the casinos had contacted him on Canyon and offered to fly him in, put him up in one of their hotels. He took the bait and lost 85 grand. Three weeks later, a janitor sweeping the tunnels found him in his waiter's uniform with his head kicked in, and the eyes scooped out from his shallow sockets, only the jagged splinters of skull sitting where they'd once been.
The Swarm is a lot like Wunderland that way: if you're aristocracy and you're bleeding money out your bunghole, they'll make the world your oyster, and put some cocktail sauce on besides. More than glad to pretend it's all about you. But if you're hanging on til next payday, you get stomped.
Some coke-addled Wunderland genius had dreamed up the Treatymaker once upon a time, and now Canyon has a scar running across its face 30 miles long and 12 deep. Thousands of Kzinti sleep for a thousand years.
You don't fuck with these people. They have the sideways beards and the funny accents to make you think otherwise, but you just don't.
Well, shit. At least their drug laws are lax.
My notes remind me that Nessus and I wandered through the myriad levels of Tweedle-Dee on Saturday night. The casinos loved us: we were amped on more of that mescaline, and every 75 minutes or so we'd sneak into a gold-filligreed bathroom and huff up another towelette of ether. Then we'd spastically stumble into the hallways, laughing our asses off at some diamond-encrusted mescaline-vision or the other. Lord knows what they thought of Nessus; I must have seemed like a king-hell drunk just let loose from Big D to them. The only thing I was missing was the cowboy hat and the sunburn. Every time we stumbled into some half-ass revue, the ushers were more than happy to shovel my ass into a seat when it seemed like it'd lost its way.