Dante’s, Vegas’ only magical casino, was no more magical than some of the shops it housed. Like the studio of the self-proclaimed world’s greatest designer, for instance, the flamboyant Augustine, who regularly puled out al the stops in an effort to part the supernatural community from its hard earned cash. Or not hard earned—Augustine wasn’t particular where the filthy lucre originated, as long as it ended up in one of his tils. And it usualy did. And not without reason. “Damn,” Bily said, as he and Cassie stared at the western shirt on a male mannequin in Augustine’s window. It had a desert scene that changed along with the day outside, or the night in this case, since the fabric slid from a sun-drenched landscape with elongated shadows to a star-strewn evening as they watched. Complete with a coyote that climbed a bluff and bayed loudly at the moon rising over the shirt’s right shoulder. “It’s something,” Cassie agreed. It wasn’t exactly subtle, but then, this was Vegas. Subtle wasn’t even in most people’s vocabulary. “If that something is awful,” Pritkin commented, causing her to jump. With al the music and conversation and distant sounds of ringing slots, she hadn’t heard him come up behind her. “Right. Like our resident hobo would know,” Bily said.
“He isn’t,” Cassie replied, under her breath. “I saw a tourist trying to give him a dolar a couple days ago.” “You did not!” “Who are you talking to?” Pritkin asked, glancing about suspiciously. Because even war mages can’t see ghosts. Or their own reflections, apparently. Pritkin must have just come back from a run, because he was wearing grubby sweats and a pair of track shoes that had seen one too many tracks. And a hoody that he’d thrown over his ensemble, probably to hide the weapons he was never without. It had a hole in the elbow. Cassie bit her lip. “You’re right,” Bily agreed.
“He’s not a bum. Homeless people dress better than that.” “Stop it!” “Stop what? What’s wrong?” Pritkin demanded, slipping a hand inside his threadbare jacket. “It’s just Bily,” Cassie said quickly, before some poor tourist got a surprise. “He . he likes Augustine’s outfit.” Pritkin snorted and drew his empty hand back out. “What does a ghost know about fashion?” “More than you, obviously,” Bily retorted. “Bily—” “What?” The sudden question made Cassie jump, although it hadn’t come from Bily. Or Pritkin.
And al of their fingers were in plain sight, instead of biting into the tender space between her shoulder blades. But someone’s was, until it moved to the smal of her back. She spun to avoid said finger, only to have it thrust in her face. A look past the quivering appendage showed her the great man himself, with some sort of robe on his elongated body and a chapeau of the gods perched on his perfectly styled blond head. The robe had a mass of gold embroidery, and the hat . had gauze. Layer upon layer of it, swaddled delicately around what appeared to be a pith helmet. “Wel?” the vision demanded, and poked her again. “Wel, what?” she asked, stil staring at the hat. The air shimmered around it, like the sun off the desert, and in the heat waves flickered scenes of another time.
Planes dropped bombs in great battles in the sky, pyramids rose pale against deep gold sand, and a gorgeous woman in a bit of tasseled nothingness draped an arm across the hero’s chest. “Who are you supposed to be?” Pritkin demanded. “Bloody Valentino?” Augustine shot him a scathing glance. “Lawrence of Arabia!” Green eyes took in the girl. “Thought he played for the other team.” Augustine’s scowl grew. “Go away,” he demanded, glaring at Cassie. “Any particular reason why?” Pritkin asked. “Yes,” it was hissed. “I have a show today!” “And?” “And the pair of you are destroying the ambiance!” “Man has a point,” Bily said.
Cassie looked down at herself. She had on a pair of khaki shorts and a blue tank top with Suck it up, Buttercup, written across the front. It had been tossed at her by Pritkin during a recent training session, when she complained once too often about the completely ridiculous number of sit ups she was being asked to do. She’d chosen to wear it ironicaly thereafter, but couldn’t use it where she was going next, which was what she needed to talk to Augustine about if he’d stop trying to manhandle her off the sidewalk. “What do you want?” he finaly hissed, when she refused to go. “That’s just it,” she said, struggling to explain and to hold her ground at the same time. “I don’t know. I never know. But—” “Then go away!” “I wil be! That’s what I’m trying to tel you. I keep having to flip through time, often at a moment’s notice, and most historical people don’t take wel to shorts and a tank top— ” “Modern ones don’t either, if they have any taste.
” She ignored that, but not the forceful hand on her back. “Wait! I need a favor!” “Not caling security on you IS a favor,” he told her, turning to go back inside his shop. Cassie grabbed his arm, and had a camel almost take a bite out of her hand for her trouble. She jerked it back and the camel looked at her smugly, its thick lips puled back in a sneer, its large head draped over Augustine’s right shoulder. The harem girl was stil clinging to the left, and since neither of them had much in the way of bodies, the hat’s powers being limited, the effect was that of a linebacker with a couple of very strange shoulder pads. Cassie blinked at them. And then blinked again when a new item suddenly appeared in the air, a sleek black revolver with no visible means of support, which didn’t seem to bother it at al. It did seem to bother Augustine, however, maybe because it was leveled directly between his eyes. His baby blues went a little cross-eyed, staring down the muzzle, until they refocused to stare down at Pritkin instead. “Touch her again and someone else is going to have to handle that absurd show of yours,” Pritkin informed him.
“Overreact much?” Augustine sneered. “Considering how many people try to kil her on a weekly basis? No.” “I’m not trying to kil her! I just want her to leave!” “Give me what I want and I wil,” Cassie said quickly. “And that would be what?” Augustine demanded. Cassie opened her mouth. “In one sentence!” “A suit. Like the one you sold Sal once.” “Sal?” Augustine looked confused. “You know. Tony’s vamp? You sold her a suit that, wel, it became whatever someone needed it to be at the time.
Like a swim suit one minute, and a business suit the next. It just sort of morphed—” “Yes, yes,” Augustine said impatiently. “That was last season’s model. I don’t have any of them left. Although you could check on clearance—” He turned away, but Cassie caught his arm again. He started to pry her hand off, but the gun moved menacingly closer. He scowled at it. “I don’t want that suit,” Cassie said hurriedly. ”It only did modern stuff. I want one like it.
One that can change into something for whatever historical period I’m in. Like if I have to go to the Sixties one day, and to Victorian England the next—“ She stopped, because Augustine’s glare had now reached solar-flare levels of forcefulness. “What?” “Do you have any idea what you’re asking?” he demanded. “No, of course you don’t,” he said, before she could answer. “They never do. Al day, every day, it’s the same thing. Fat women who demand to be skinny. Ugly women who want to be pretty. Short women who want to be taler and tal women who want me to make them petite! And al through the transformative power of fashion. Because, apparently, using glamouries would be cheating!”