“Please Donna,” Stacy whined, “he’s a high roller and the boss wants someone to babysit him but my boyfriend and I have tickets to the rodeo. It’s only for half an hour, until Ashley comes on shift. He’s not handsy or anything, he’s just kind of sad. And Russian. Don’t you speak Russian?”
“Hebrew. I speak Hebrew because I’m Jewish. And I got off ten minutes ago.” Donna answered, trying to ignore her aching feet and uneducated co-worker.
“Just keep him supplied with vodka until Ashley gets here. Please? I’ll take your shift on Friday, I know you hate working Fridays.” Stacy pleaded.
“Fine,” Donna said. “Point him out and I’ll babysit him until Ashley takes over.”
“In the chair by the fireplace,” Stacy said, “Kind of cute, for an old guy, nice beard, and I don’t know, respectful? Usually Russian VIPs are, well, you know.”
And Donna did know, generally they got two kinds of Russian VIPs, politicians or mobsters. Donna preferred the mobsters, both did the same kinds of things, but the mobsters were more honest about it. And they tipped a lot better.
This guy, English suit, Italian shoes, well-groomed and without any flunkies? Probably a mobster. Maybe even Bravta. Those guys were a lot of things, but scared wasn’t one of them. Usually, the more powerful the man, the fewer bodyguards he surrounded himself with. Donna didn’t see a single bodyguard. Stacy was right, he seemed pensive, even sad. Donna had learned to always trust her gut and her gut was telling her that this man was important, he might even be important to her.
“Tony,” she said, catching the bartender’s eye, “two Irish coffees.”
“But he’s drinking vodka,” Tony protested.
“Tony, Donna repeated, “trust me. Two Irish coffees.”
She took the mugs and moved into the man’s sightline as she walked towards him. It was never good try to sneak up on anyone in Las Vegas, accidents happened that way. He looked her over, the tight pink dress was one of her favorites, but he focused on her face, watching with interest as she set the drinks down, then sat down in the chair beside him.
“Beautiful lady,” the man began, “I did not order this. Tonight I am drinking vodka.”
Donna smiled, she liked a man who spoke to her face and made compliments like they were proven facts. This might be more fun than she realized.
“Too much vodka makes a man sad. Makes him forget that there are things in the world worth noticing and savoring. As my Bubbe used to say, lay your troubles on my shoulders, I am strong like ox.”
The man stared at her for a moment, shrugged and began to speak.
“Your Bubbe would be very unhappy with me, I have betrayed a trust and hurt my oldest friend. A man who was like a brother to me. From this kind of betrayal, there is no going back.”
“Is he dead? Donna asked. “This man, your friend, is he dead?”
“No,” the man answered, “he lives.”
“Where there’s life, there’s hope. If he is still alive, then you can reconcile if you truly wish to. It won’t be easy, but nothing of value ever is.”
“You are as wise as you are beautiful. My name is Anatoly, may I ask for yours?”
“Donna” she said and pulled a card out of her clutch. “I have recently discovered how important it is for men to talk to someone, even if it’s a stranger. Here’s my number, if you’d like to call and just talk.”
“I am not the kind of man it is safe to be around,” Anatoly began.
“You’re Russian and a VIP in Heaven. I bet I have a better understanding than you might think. This is Vegas. And I might not understand computers like my daughter, but I do understand people. My ex-husband did not walk the straight and narrow but, unlike you, he didn’t care who it affected. You are sitting by the fire, drinking by yourself and full of regret. Men who have no regret, have no heart.”
“Your heart is as bright and sunny as your hair, beautiful Donna. Thank you. May I ask if you would like to go to dinner?”
Donna reached out her hand and Anatoly took it immediately. His hand was warm, rough with calluses and scars and somehow felt like it fit next to hers.
“Yes,” she said. “I’d like that very much.”