Dan stood in the middle of Harrah’s, distracted from his purpose by all the flashing lights and ringing bells.
This was his fifth stop on the strip in his search for Pastor Sebastian. He started at the Bellagio, drawn by the water fountain show taking place in front of the casino. He had wandered around the floor for over an hour, dodging waitresses plying him with mixed drinks and overly muscular men in suits who stared through him in a vaguely threatening way, before deciding that Sebastian wasn’t there.
He had moved on to Paris Las Vegas, Bill’s Gambling Hall and Saloon and Caesar’s Palace. Sebastian had yet to turn up and Daniel was beginning to worry that he was going to have to visit every casino in Las Vegas twice before locating him.
He dialed Sebastian again on his cell phone, which went directly to voice mail, again.
With a sigh, Daniel headed toward the piano bar to get a diet Pepsi before scouring the tables for his wayward minister.
He sat on a red stool and ordered his soda. Nibbling on a pretzel stick, he turned to survey the room. Sebastian was sitting at a small round table covered in empty glasses with a man who looked startling like Elvis.
Sebastian stood as Daniel approached the table. “Daniel. You’re here!” He raised his glass toward Daniel and finished his drink in one swallow. “Sit down, sit down.” He staggered off to the bar.
Daniel perched on the edge of one of the chairs and offered Elvis a tentative smile. “Hi.”
Elvis nodded sagely without saying a word.
Sebastian returned with three drinks with sprigs of mint and sliced of lime. “Mojitos!” he announced with pride. He set them on the table, spilling on Daniel in the process.
Daniel dabbed at the wet spot on his pants with a napkin.
“Daniel, this is Reverend Fake Elvis.”
Elvis nodded again at Daniel without saying a word.
“Daniel is one of my congregants. He’s come out here to gamble with me.” Sebastian leaned toward Reverend Fake Elvis and continued in a stage whisper. “And to lose his virginity.”
Reverend Fake Elvis raised an eyebrow at Daniel.
Daniel took a sip of his drink through the red straws. When the alcohol hit his throat, he choked and started coughing.
Sebastian reached over and banged Daniel on the back. “Elvis is the minister across the street at the Graceland wedding chapel. We met right after God spoke to me the first time.”
Daniel wiped his eyes and looked at Reverend Fake Elvis more closely. Except for his coal black pompadour, he didn’t really look like Elvis at all. His nose looked like it had been broken once or twice and his lips were large and fleshy.
Daniel turned his attention back to Pastor Sebastian.
“What have you been doing since you called me?”
Sebastian waved his hand around. “Oh this and that. Then I went over to say hello to Reverend Fake Elvis and I persuaded him to have a drink with me.”
Elvis nodded and Daniel wondered if the man ever spoke. Could you perform wedding ceremonies without saying anything?
Sebastian drained his mojito and reached for Daniel’s. “I’ll just finish this and we’ll find a good table.” He dropped a handful of chips onto the table. “I’ve already got our chips.”
Daniel quickly counted the dark red chips. “There are only ten of them. Have you used some of them already?”
Sebastian stacked the chips with the absent minded air of someone intimately familiar with poker. “We only had $10,000. Isn’t that pitiful? Only $10,000 in a year?”
Sebastian turned to Elvis. “We’re meeting in a movie theater, did I tell you that? I want to build a church like the one you have. A nice little chapel with a bell to ring and real stained glass windows.” Sebastian sighed and shuffled the chips with his fingers.
“So you haven’t gambled yet? This is all of the church’s savings?” He gestured to the meager stack of chips.
“Yep, this is it.” Sebastian sucked down the rest of Daniel’s drink and stood. “I have to hit the head,” he announced and lurched off through the lounge.
Daniel stuffed the chips into his pocket. “Listen Reverend Elvis, I don’t know how well you know Sebastian, but he has a lot of people back in California that care about him. Well, several people anyway. And we don’t want to see him do something he’ll regret. He loves his church and when he sobers up and realizes that he gambled away all our savings, he’ll be devastated. I’m not going to let that happen. If you can’t help me with that, you should just go back to your wedding chapel right now.”
Elvis studied Daniel without speaking for several minutes. Growing uncomfortable under the man’s gaze, Daniel asked, “Well, are you in?”
Daniel let out his breath and leaned back in his chair. He had never been so forceful with anyone before, especially a mute Elvis impersonator slash minister.
Sebastian returned from the men’s room in high spirits. “Let’s gamble, gentleman! Where are the chips?” He started searching among the glasses and napkins. “I left them right here.”
“I’m pretty tired, Pastor Sebastian. Maybe we should wait until tomorrow.” Daniel faked a big yawn and stretched his arms over his head.
Sebastian was undeterred. “You can sleep when you’re dead, Daniel” he called from under the table where he had crawled looking for the missing chips.
“Well, how about getting something to eat. I haven’t eaten since lunch. I’m starving.”
“After we win I’ll buy you the biggest steak you’ve ever seen.”
Elvis stood up and pulled on his rhinestone studded jean jacket. “Let’s take Daniel to see the strippers at Spearmint Rhino.”
Sebastian jumped up, hitting his head on the table as he rose. “Spearmint Rhino! Yeah! Let’s go!”
Daniel trailed reluctantly after Sebastian and Elvis, wondering what indignity he’d have to endure next.