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We sped past levels of Hell at its st and the agony It was if we had been forged into a glass end and ti hooves beneath us finally slowed

Ric slid off the centaur’s smooth side and waited to catch me on my own dismount

The centaur held out a hand and Ric delivered the pro the creature fro horse tail to shoulder and then the human head and torso "The claounds are healed"

The hu each of us in turn "A good deed in Hell is unheard of Sympathy heals, but there is none of it below, even for the sympathizer Best not return, riders"

With that he cantered away to his eternal round of harrying corpses

I looked around to see an e to close We leaped to get on the single car, where I confronted a floor selection panel with a lot of Roman numerals, not Arabic numbers

"We’re at the V, Vestibule level," Ric assured me "That’s above both Limbo and Lust Hit M as in Main, Delilah, and we’ll be back in the real hell-raising Las Vegas, instead of the surreal Hell of Dante"

A V is inside an M V for Victory I hit the button on the floor panel Ric and I ascended for several suspenseful seconds When the car stopped, the doors opened on a as street-life level again, where sin was still busy being born instead of being punished


Chapter Twelve

"DOES MY BLOODY armpit show?" Ric asked as we speed-walked from the elevator area into the slipstreaain a couple steps on ht up

"Not at all with your arm down The real question is, does it hurt?"

"Not at all with my arm down" His smile broadened to showcase the usual Montoya confidence, that sainst his bronzed south-of-the-border cohini frouy? Irma murmured

"Honest It doesn’t hurt at all any "Don’t be such a mother hen, Del You must have seen some illusion, a fluke, maybe some spray from the blood river"

I slowed my pace as his down-shifted to blend in with the tourists By then ere a on the dance floor that surrounds the Inferno Bar and gives it that eternal one-o’clock-in-the-htclub ambiance

"Say, Daisy Mae," a familiar voice hailedchiffon evening gown heading for us in a ind of gray and white "Good to see you two kids together again, as they said of Nicky and me for movie after movie"

"Daisy Mae?" Ric questioned Nora’s nickname for me

Nora eyed my bare feet "Daisy Mae, from that nespaper comic strip, Li’l Abner My dear mother, Delta Mae--honestly and truly that was her naood to be barefoot in a briar-patch world, dear, and especially on a dance floor Here, takea pair of silver satin thirties pu ehast, at the shoes, Nora murmured to Ric, "I see your visit to the L level was productive, dear boy" I looked up to see her fingernails playfully running down his chest, just a centi? Certainly his bronze skin showed a touch of burgundy Nora was such a sophisticated flirt Maybe that hy she was considered the perfect wife by men of her era Hopefully that now didn’t include Ric!

"I can’t take your shoes," I told Nora

"Of course you can! I have dozens fro a hand on Ric’s shoulder--the poor guy was trapped between us now--I poked the shoe vah heels! The thing was physical I pushedon the glass slipper Not a bad fit First I cop a pair of ruby red slippers from the E loaned CinSim shoes actually worn in the wildly popular Thin Man movie series

Once my other foot was shod I didn’t feel shrimpy, and backwoodsy, next to Ric and Nora Hey! That coether I slipped ht one

"Thanks, Nora I’ll drop the shoes back to the Inferno Bar to forward to an update in outfits and having no shoes will force the boss to order one"

She sray toes so the frothy heown did the cha-cha The skirt was a floor-brusher anyway, so Nora wouldn’t look shoeless unless she chose to reveal it With a swift turn and swirl of voluminous chiffon, she returned to the bar

"Wow," Ric said "Having Nora Charles for a fairy godmother must be a kick for a fillitzy shoes peeping out frohtclub dance scene always on around the Inferno Bar ay ht and day than my casual outfit

CinSim fans, known as "CinSymbiants" or "CinSymbs," dressed up as their favorite ie That meant they painted their faces and any visible skin white and wore only clothing in white, black, silver, and shades of gray

I tried to smooth my hair "You’re always Mr Cool," I told Ric, "but I ged in"

As I spoke, the silver familiar shivered up

"It’s a tough job, being a rinned as he tweaked the ends of esture had pulled my face up I was about to shake my hair loose when I saw his expression, and then I didn’t want to

He stepped close, closer as the crowds parted expertly to flow around us

"Actually, I’ with an escapee from Hell Before the floor dropped out from under us on the elevator and put us on that murderous lower level, I was forced to interview a bunch of hot screen irls in the Inferno’s lower depths Those black-haired film fatales--Jane Russell, Ava Gardner, or Yvonne de Carlo--couldn’t hold a candle to you You’d know all their names better than I would"

"Yeah? They were all probably Howard Hughes rejects"

"Not you," Ric said "Even Hughes’s old, broken-down va of soft spots" Ric’s hands on aze never broke

I’d coin and we’d first done the salsa ao Our brush with danger--and Ric’s puzzling sojourn a the Lust level’s available females--had revved both our libidos