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Chapter Twenty-TwoMy own mother wouldn't have known me when I arrived at the Inferno at 9:00 pm.Not that I'd ever had a mother to know me, or to not know me.The hotel-casino was a bat-winged swoop of opaque black glass towering fifty stories or so. It was ringed with moats of fire and ice, with holographic figures writhing in them like the naked babes in the opening credits to an old James Bond movie. I always tried not to look at the naked and the dead if I didn't have to. Something about both states was unnerving.I was fairly self-conscious when I turned Dolly over to the valet parking chap: he was a symphony of milk chocolate skin wearing a pleated white ancient Egyptian kilt, shoulder-spanning beaded collar, gilt sandals, and a jackal-head mask tricked up with really heavy eyeliner. At least he could remove his makeup with the flick of a wrist.Who was I to snicker at the underdressed help?The last I'd seen of myself in the Deja-Vous mirror, my baby blues were hidden behind gray contact lenses. My hair and skin had been deemed black and white enough already for the silver screen. The dress du jour was a floor-length black velvet thirties gown with a giant pair of rhinestone clips on the shoulder. The severe neckline cut across my collarbones but draped well below my waist in backless splendor. I wore white satin pumps and carried a silver fox stole that I was assured had died for our sins eighty years ago, way before the animal rights enlightenment, so why waste it? My hair had been drawn back and coiled into a thick figure eight at the nape of my neck, giving me a Spanish air that I sure wished Ric was here to see. Ol??!Lots of lone women like me were ankling into the Inferno in various cinematic get-ups swiped from the birth of film cheap jerseys china around 1900 to fifties' science fiction thrillers. I'd never been a groupie before. It was unnerving, since I wasn't sure who or what we were being groupies of. Or for.My palms were a tad damp on the soft velvet bag that matched the dress. The duds were due back at Deja-Vous in the morning, so I desperately didn't want to get sweaty fingerprints on the vintage silk-velvet that went for hundreds of dollars a yard now. That was the trouble: I knew how rare and costly vintage clothing was, and we all shouldn't be traipsing around in this stuff like giggly prom queens... because my partners in crime pouring into the Inferno were definitely gigglers from ages eight to eighty-four. We fanned out through the icy, air-conditioned casino that blasted screams and moans and flares of fire as the slot machines swallowed bills and spit out mostly sound and fury, not coins. Miniaturized versions of the mirrored balls from Jazz Age ballrooms floated above and around us like flocks of intrusive heavy-metal bubbles.The Inferno Bar seemed like a familiar refuge when I first spotted its mirrored wall of endlessly reflected liquor bottles. Then I noticed that the bar top was polished exotic wood carved with exotic demonic faces. It rested on a giant Plexiglas aquarium filled with leaping flames and tiny capering devils. What were these things? Fire lizards? Projections? Or slaves of the decor? Some god-awful rock music was drilling through the sound system, all wailing guitars, manic drums, and tortured saxophones.The sight of a dignified figure in a well-cut tuxedo (with white skin, black hair and pencil-thin mustache) was like glimpsing an angel on the threshold of hell. He was holding forth between two barstools of red enameled steel, a martini glass in one hand and a sterling silver cigarette lighter in the other. (Gold, of course, would not match the strict B/W dress code.)Hello, sir, I greeted him over the racket, your cousin Godfrey suggested I introduce myself to you.Ah. His eyes were slightly bleary. How is old Godfrey anyway? Still seeing that dippy socialite?No, he's... employed now.Sorry to hear it. Work will be the death of the leisure class. Martini, m'dear?Not... yet. Godfrey said you could orient me to this place.My bar is your bar, sweet lady. Have a seat.There aren't any free.Oh, so there aren't. A shame you shall have to balance on those tricky little evening slippers. I suppose I'm forgetting myself. I'm rather prone to that. He put down the cigarette lighter after servicing ladies on bracketing barstools.
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