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I was right Ric and I were the show break

"Grizelle," Snow invited his security chief-cuive to hty shape-shifter fetch orth about ten cents

Snow ane flute in his pale, ringed hands

"You’re here for the birth of a billboard," he said, nodding to the Strip scenery

Even as he spoke, of course, there appeared a Tiht billboard, with a scarily larger-than-life-size ie of Snow prerecorded with audio that was piped onto the Strip and into the penthouse

Way to hold a press conference, dude! I downed soentleer than life announced "I give you the Inferno’s newest expansion and Vegas’s o-to venue, the Metropolis"

Half the view outside theshifted, crumbled, sank, as if the earth had set on the moon A total reverse of reality

The massive construction fra curtain it really was--painted with a faux facade--fell like a finished Christo building wrap

Behind the curtain towered a golden glass and metal skyscraper surmounted by a five-tiered horned-roofed Babel, all from the silent filh

What an astounding, instant Dubai architectural-excess sort of iant icons in the sky, and I for one was sick of it

"There it is," Snow said "My new Metropolis Tower Casinos, nightclubs, five-star dining venues below, lavish suites above All yours, Montoya, except for the profits, of course, which you’d never take anyway Below the pinnacle, a Vegas landmark that is protection in itself Above, your own penthouse, a floor for the Silver Zombie Utter security A headquarters for your new crusades Every technological andof the World"

Ric turned to pin down Snoith a hawkish gaze "And you’re not overlord of it? You’re not even on the prehborwith a financial interest in the crass commercial machine that will fuel your work to destroy the zo trade"

"You’re serious?" Ric responded to the one thing that teainst evil "I can continue ainst the cartels?"

"Expand the as the edifice I’ve built for you"

Ric hesitated, cast lance "And Delilah?"

"Your partner Your lover She can live with you there, or be a frequent visitor and ally staying low-profile and down-Strip on Nightwine’s secure estate Nothing changes but your iainst international crime

"Grizelle" Snow turned to order his security chief "Second-show perfor at my heels Take Señor Montoya and Miss Street on a tour of this new facility, and his new possibilities"

Ric hesitated, stared out theat the gliaze to me He wore his brown contact lens and looked perfectly nor" I lifted ne"

Grizelle glared at me, and then at her boss, but took Ric’s ars Metropolis," she told hier purr fewsoainst the personal debits Still, Grizelle had aze to put him into a limbo of confusion

The private elevator opened its stainless steel maw to s them

I turned on Snow to present my own stainless steel maw

"You’re quite the seducer" My crisp cool voiceany heady bubbles "I just didn’t realize you targeted ency and headquarters and home base? What is that new Metropolis tower, really Christophe, The Daily Planet?"

Snow strode to the bar and returned with the chalass to the brine, Delilah, but you’re aching for battle for soh card fro Ricardo Montoya coo I can offer hi of seconds, don’t you have another show to do?"

He refilled his own glass and faced off against me "You know I have a CinSie I can stay here and argue with you all night if you want And enjoy it As you will"

I eyed his obvious, post-Elvis getup "No wonder a CinSim can step in for you any time Your act is a flashy, cheap, neo-Strip cliché, and so are you Ric is not an attraction to be bought away from a competitor"

"And you’ve always been my competitor"

"Hardly You’re a leech I created two cocktails on your premises and you copped them for the profits"

"The Albino Va me the bird of paradise," he said "The Brie show, used toseducea hard-boiled CinSi up some information that would save your sacred Ric Who is used and who using? Are you so pure, Delilah, and I so damned?"

He went to a white Louie XVI desk I’d never noticed on the fringe of hisoff a horizontal notebook, and returned to flourish it in front ofis seriously schizophrenic, by the way, as modest as a red lamé bikini on a nun I like it way too much for anyone’s sanity"

The check drowned out all commentary Forty thousand dollars My ears buzzed

"Your royalties so far on the Inferno house cocktails," Snow said "More will ensue I pay my debts"

"I don’t want your money," I said automatically

"Better to take that than what you really want of me"

"This is not about any of us or ant It’s all about Ric"

Those words ca out, much as I hated to parade that raw fear in front of Snow

"Ric can’t be killed," I said "I’ve seen it twice in a few days The first time was the Murderers Level Seven in your ersatz Hell A poisoned centaur arrow couldn’t down him I wanted to believe it was a surface scratch, but I later saw there was no mark at all from a woundto ainst El Demonio Ric cannot be killed El Demonio is dead, maybe, butEl Finado isn’t"

"El Finado?"