The office suite overlooked the casino.
The whole of one wall was occupied by a screen of one-way glass, and through it one could observe the vast room nearly undetected. No one but a few clueless sorts, though, would have been surprised that someone overhead was watching them while they gambled. The "eyes in the skies" in Las Vegas were infamous, and cheaters simply did not prosper, at least for very long. But those "eyes" nowadays were video cameras, not actual overhead observers, and they caught everything automatically, the images they stole routed instantly to a small room in the casino’s security area. Actual observers working overhead among the rafters were part of the old Las Vegas. As such, the window in the manager’s office was not meant for catching the few unwary cheaters still left in the trade. Rather, it simply was meant to provide for a spectacular view.
Standing at the window, one could see directly below the blackjack and roulette areas. The baccarat pit and the poker tables were further to either side. Slots were everywhere, chiming nosily as they gobbled up people’s money and so rarely gave any of it back. The noise level overall in the casino was, in fact, incredibly loud. Even without the slot machines, people were constantly crying out in joy, moaning, and otherwise carrying on thousands of conversations all at once. Expensive sound proofing ensured that very little of that din ever made it back to the manager’s office, but it could be felt nevertheless. One could not stand at the window without feeling something, some power being generated by all those people down there. It was a spectacular view.
Framing the glass inlay was expensive wood paneling stained to make it appear like dark ebony. The paneling covered the remaining other three walls, too, broken up here and there by pictures and photographs of famous people . . . Hollywood stars mostly, some sports figures and musical entertainers, and a few, very few, political names as well. The lighting in the room was good, but the nearly black wood made it seem dark anyway. A desk of real ebony dominated the center space. It was neat and tidy and without pictures, very businesslike. An executive was working at the desk when the intercom buzzed.
He tapped the control. "Yes?"
"We have Rebecca waiting, sir."
The manager checked the small clock at the edge of the desk and made a note on the papers in front of him. "Good, that’s good. Send her in, please."
A moment later the door opposite the casino window opened and two people walked in. The manager’s assistant was a young man dressed in a crisp business suit with the casino’s logo on the lapel. He looked decidedly upwardly mobile. The woman beside him was approximately the same age. She had dark hair and pleasant smiling features. She wore only a bathrobe. It too had the casino’s logo on the side.
There was a faraway look on Rebecca’s face . . . happy but distant. She had to be guided into the room by the assistant, and they stopped in front of the desk.
The executive got up, went around the side of his desk, and sat at a corner. He examined the girl for a minute, then looked to his assistant for guidance.
"What do you think, Mark? Cocktail waitress?"
The assistant slowly shook his head. "I wouldn’t think so, sir. We’re almost up to staff as it is, and we have other positions to fill." He spoke without inflection, almost without emotion. There was distant look in his eyes, too.
"Entertainer, perhaps," the executive mused, "or dancer. Or still-life." There were so many choices, it was sometimes hard to make up his mind. And Mark wasn’t helping.
He spoke directly to Rebecca. "Would you do us the kindness of undressing, dear? We have an important decision to make."
"Yes, sir," the girl replied calmly and undid the belt on her robe. It fell away. She was very beautiful, with pale skin and small upthrust breasts, slender legs and firm thighs. She stood unembarrassed before the two men while they examined her in detail. All she wore were a pair of silken panties, tight and black against her precious flesh.
It was a dream, Rebecca thought. A wonderful dream . . . and it would never end.
Mark could see that the manager was decided. "Still-life, sir?"
"Yes," he said after a moment, "absolutely."
"In what capacity, sir?"
The executive motioned for the girl to pick up her robe, and while she did so silently he turned and went back to his chair. "The lobby. I was going by there this morning and it was looking a bit empty. Talk to Craig and make the arrangements."
Mark nodded and took Rebecca by the arm. They started to leave, and then the girl stopped before the door, her unfocused eyes centering on the manager for a brief second. "Th . . thank you, sir," she said almost fearfully. In rapture still, but almost fearful.
He waved her on, and she and the assistant left. The man in the office went back to his papers. There was a meeting later that afternoon with a representative from the culinary union, and he wanted to be as prepared for it as possible. His left hand strayed absentmindedly to the front of his shirt as he made his notes. He took out the gold medallion resting there and cradled it in his palm, his thumb rubbing back and forth across the gem in its middle with a familiar ease. It was an unconscious gesture built on years of habit.
This is better, he thought. Different, yes, but better than being on the move all the time. Even if I do have to deal with the culinary union.
He shook his head, put the medal away, and went back to work.
The Strip boasts many things.
It has a pyramid, for a start. Right next to it is King Arthur’s castle, and just a little further down the road a volcano erupts nightly. Pirate ships sink daily in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, and a Roman palace and a circus bigtop alike attract crowds from all over the world. As such, when the news hit that a developer was building a Hollywood-themed hotel and casino of the Thirties and Forties in Las Vegas, few people in town were overly surprised. Some even asked what took them so long to come up with the idea. After all, in a city where spectacle was commonplace, the glitter and glamour of vintage Hollywood fit right in. It was a natural pairing.
The construction took nearly two-and-a-half years, but when it was finished the Grand Facade had proven itself to be one of the city’s new mega-resorts. Over 600 rooms, a 12,000-seat special events center, thirty movie theaters showing classic films twenty-four hours a day free, twenty restaurants ranging from fast food to the most formal of dining, a spa, a museum of Hollywood memorabilia, and, of course, a casino floor room larger than three football fields put together, and immediately the Grand Facade was on a first- tier basis along with the Mirage, Caesar’s Palace, MGM, and other monster hotels along the Las Vegas Strip.
It was, in a word, huge.
Just walking into the casino one could instantly see the amount of detail that had gone into everything. The main lobby, for instance, was decorated with statuary stars and starlets, beautifully crafted figures made to represent the young and rising hopefuls who came into the Hollywood movie-machine every year. Some were recognizable celebrities as they were seen in their youth - Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, Marilyn Monroe - while others were more anonymous, silent tributes to an industry built on dreams. Master artisans from the four corners of the Earth had been commissioned to create these pieces, and the work they had put into their celebrity re-creations would have done a Michelangelo proud. Their art almost literally seemed alive in their perfection.
Not all of the figures had been so well paid for, however. Only the celebrity statues. Exactly where the more anonymous statues came from, those nameless young men and women caught in their seductive and cinematic poses, was something of a mystery to the commissioned artisans. They assumed one of their number had been approached secretly to make them, but not a one of them would admit to it.
It was odd. Why the secrecy? The statues themselves were masterpieces, equally as well-done as the others . . . perhaps even more so. If the celebrity pieces seemed almost alive, the others looked as if they might actually once have drawn breath. But it was no matter, really. The payments were good, and the commissions were always arriving. The artisans even got to handle the anonymous pieces from wherever they came from and see to their installation.
Like the one that came in that afternoon. A section of the front lobby was roped off, and a perfectly lovely statue of a young woman was put into place, a smiling expression on her face. She was gorgeous, but, like the others, perfectly unknown. The only name given to her was the one the movers used as they brought her in. What was it again . . . ?
Ah, yes . . that was it.
Wasn’t there a movie once with that name as the title?