Jessie assumed she’d miss the job out at Ralph Smith Honda. Someone needed to stay at the office to answer the phones, but on the day of the sale Kyle announced that he had forwarded everything to his cell phone and that she should come with him. He said he might need her help, she thought he just wanted to show off.
He’d spent most of the week working on illusions, and he’d put in a lot of hours. She wasn’t really sure what it had entailed, but the few things he’d shown her looked great. She felt bad about that given that probably she’d made it possible for Dwennon’s mysterious contact to sabotage the operation. She even considered making something up to put Kyle on guard. She could have told him she thought someone was watching the office, but she didn’t. She was too scared.
Nonetheless, she found the offered entertainment exciting. Illusions were cool and this promised to be Kyle’s biggest yet.
Ralph, who Jessie recognized from 10 years of poorly produced local advertising, and his advertising assistant, a skinny young man he introduced as Tom, met them bright and early at the auto lot. To work his illusions, Kyle had requested a place with a good 360 degree view. Ralph had obliged by setting them up on a small work area at the top of the four story tall billboard that advertised the dealership’s presence to the world.
The billboard was three sided. A big digital display faced I25. Two static signs were aimed at the surface streets and dealership. The work platform stretched in between them. It clearly wasn’t built for comfort, but it also wasn’t quite as terrifying as it could have been: most of the space between the signs was filled in by the platform, and the signs came up about 3 feet past it. Jessie estimated falling to her death would have required more than simple inattention. It was, however, uncomfortable. There was nothing to break the wind that high up, and by the time they’d moved the autocaster and its magical batteries to the top of the platform Jessie was half frozen.
She considered going down to ground level, or even inside, but decided against it. Kyle didn’t expect trouble, but she did. She could keep a lookout. She might be able to warn him if someone tried to hurt him. That wouldn’t be working against Dwennon in the same way that warning him ahead of time would be, not if she just shouted when she saw something. She could claim she’d done it in the heat of the moment.
That in mind, Jessie looked around for a warm spot where she could see what was going on. The wind wasn’t so bad if she sat with her back to the corner shared by the digital billboard’s power transformer and one of the static ones. The big digital board must have been pulling a lot of juice because it was pretty warm. The shelter of the billboards kept the air almost still. The billboards also blocked a lot of her vision, but she could see through the narrow gap between the work platform and the billboard to the ground directly below their perch. She’d know if someone started to climb toward them, and she figured that was all she needed
Once they were physically set up, Kyle started poking at the machine he used to cast his illusions, presumably he was loading the things he’d developed over the past week. It didn’t take him long at all until a miniature set of clouds swirled above their heads. They were perfect little thunderheads in every aspect, except they were only wide enough to shadow the platform and instead of being dark, they glowed with the color of sunset. Jessie was impressed.
Ralph was impressed as well. Or at least he said as much, “They’re a beaut. I love the detail on the little fellows, but they do get bigger, right?”
Instead of answering Kyle touched a dial on the illusion equipment. The clouds responded as though he’d thrown them. They soared off into the sky, growing as they went. They stretched and sprawled across the sky, drinking in energy and increasing in size until they were on the scale of real clouds. Their brilliant hues made them stand out dramatically from all else around them.
And then they began to snow. Little soft flakes drifted out of the clouds. Only they weren’t white. They glittered and shone with every color of the rainbow. The snowfall was thick enough that it looked like an aurora right above the dealership. Jessie tried to catch one in her hand but it passed directly through her glove making her finger glow for an instant. Still, it was an impressive effect. She’d had no idea how much light was being generated.
“And finally!” Kyle announced dramatically then punched a button with a flourish. Without any sort of transition a sleigh and 9 full sized reindeer appeared floating in the air beside them, four stories off the ground, with Santa at the helm.
“Wow,” Ralph mumbled under his breath and Tim let out a low long whistle. Jessie had to work to hold back an exclamation of her own. It didn’t seem reasonable for her, acting as staff, to coo in surprise. Still, it was impressive. Every detail of the sleigh was in place. She could see the grain of its wooden parts, wear on its runners where they would contact the ground, the breath of the reindeer, and bits of their dark skin showing through their shiny brown coats.
Behind the sleigh hung a long banner advertising “Ralph Smith Honda, Ho Ho Ho, Taxman sale.” Kyle sent it swooping out across the city.
“Well that’s impressive. I guess, I’d better get down there to deal with all the customers. If you need anything just talk to Tim, he’ll handle it.” Without any further goodbye, Ralph clumped down the ladder. Before he was even half way down they could hear him calling to someone on the ground.
Tim handed Jessie a walkie talkie. “We use these to call around the dealership; I’ll be on channel 12. Good luck!” Then he left as well. Jessie settled in to watch the ladder.