Paranet Papers Sneak Peek: Vegas

Hi folks! Work on The Paranet Papers, a “catch up” on a few of the more recent books plus tour of the world for the Dresden Files RPG, continues. Like we said before, we don’t have a publication date yet! It’s going to take as long as it takes.

But you’ve been patient, and today we’re sharing the opener for the book’s Las Vegas entry, thanks to hitting the magical 1200 “likes” mark over on facebook, and sponsored by our currently ongoing boardgame kickstarter, Race to Adventure! Please visit the project’s page before or after digesting this deliciousness.

BILLY: Finally finished transcribing this. Someone mailed it anonymously to a Paranet member in Los Angeles. The writer, this Herbert guy, wrote on a bunch of random sheets of paper—some notebook paper, some napkins, some post-its. All crazy scrawls and chicken scratch, lots of weird stuff in the margins. I cleaned it up as best I could. Crazy stuff in here—I think we need to seriously consider sending a team out to investigate this guy and his claims.

MURPHY: Who are we supposed to spare for that? We’re having enough problems with Chicago.

BUTTERS: If it’s any consolation, I can take your notes to the annual medical examiners’ conference and see what sticks. The last one I went to was at the Bellagio, and it was a blast.

BILLY: If you follow up on any of this stuff, you probably won’t have a lot of fun. Rather the opposite.

I cannot tell you about my city without telling you about myself. My story is the city’s story. My blood flows through me like silver and gold flow through Las Vegas—pooling in chips at a table, meandering in the veins and arteries of commerce, fueling the machinery of dreams.

My name is Herbert C. Plainfield. I was once an accounts receivable clerk at ShuffleMaestro, Inc., a company that manufactures those automatic shuffling machines that prevent your card counting from working at any major casino. Now…I don’t know what I am.

BILLY: How’d the skiptrace on this guy go?

MURPHY: Not well. I verified that he really was an employee at the company he claims to work for, but the rest of the paper trail is gone. No credit history, no driver’s license, etc. Don’t know what to tell you.

BUTTERS: Damn. Someone “erased” him, you think, for finding out too much?

BILLY: Or he chose to disappear. Or it’s a big prank. Vegas does not lack tricksters.

My wife of seven “lucky” years left me a few weeks ago, proof that there is more magic in what we believe about a number than in the number itself. Except for phi.

Fortunately, anticipating this occurrence won me a rather large sum of money in the office pool. Yes, we had been betting on whether or not I’d get divorced. I could call it a matter of odds, but the truth is that I cheated—our mailman, George, had left his hat carelessly on the coat rack.

The money gave me little consolation from the solitude. In Vegas, however, you don’t take an empty victory lying down when you can leverage it into a larger, emptier victory. Thus, I found myself living an ancient Vegas cliché—bleeding chips at a hold ’em game in the Golden Nugget, and after those were gone, bleeding credit and anything else I could put up of value, pushing against the inevitable weight of that empty house awaiting me.

When there was no more blood left, the Dragon came.

He approached with speed but was not rushed, his immaculate pinstripe suit seeming to raise the class of the place just by being there.

I thought he was a hallucination until he sat, pushed a pile of chips my way, and matched with a stack of his own. I asked him what I owed him.

“I am also pushing against inevitabilities,” he said. “Give me time, and I shall consider us more than equal.”

“I might lose,” I told him.

“You might not,” he replied.

He was right. Sloppy, jack-high straight flush on the river kind of right, but right nonetheless. He stared at me for a long while, then reached over to reclaim the mountain of chips.

I caught his arm. Our eyes met. I reflected on how fitting it would be to die gambling, the way I had lived.

Then he gave me a wan smile and held up a briefcase in his other hand. An exchange. I let him go, snatching the briefcase and scrambling to my feet.

“Open it in four hours,” he said. “You might find something to fill your house with. And I’m sorry.” Then he left.

I don’t know why, but I did as he asked. Timed it and everything.

Inside the briefcase, I saw nothing but a pinpoint of light. It grew, engulfed me. And then I saw. And then I knew.

The Dragon was already dead, and I have been cursed.

MURPHY: That’s pretty cryptic. Any idea what actually happened?

BILLY: Not really, no. Taken at face value, it looks like he got some kind of real-time, supernaturally prescient info-dump straight into his mind.

BUTTERS: The Vegas version of intellectus maybe? Seems unlikely he’d be able to possess it on that scale, though.

BILLY: Your guess is as good as mine. Some of this stuff is oddly specific. Some of it seems like bullshit. I can’t tell one from the other.

Unlike him, though, I will not keep the secret. I’m going to show you what he has left behind, before the rest of us die, too.