I wouldn’t have pegged her for a demon, and that’s a good quarter of my job.
The girl three tables down is neither beautiful nor hideous enough to be guessed for a fallen angel, for sinkind veiled in the seeming of a human female. Her face is round and medium-pretty, her hair and eyes dark brown, the former pulled back with a scrunchie and the latter blinking behind square-rimmed glasses.
The tempters and temptresses I usually encounter go in for the dropdead gorgeous look, and if you fall under the spell of their allure, you might well drop dead in truth—probably after they’ve dragged you as far into hell as can be found on this side of the afterlife.
This one leans her chin on her hand, eyes sleepy, pink lips quirked in a tired smile. She looks friendly, approachable. With a slightly chubby physique, an overlarge Eat-Sleep-Game-Repeat t-shirt, and grey skinny jeans, she looks about as nonthreatening a girl as can be found. I suppose that’s the idea.
Even so, I find myself leaning across to my partner. “That’s our mark.” It’s half a statement, half a question.
Tevin nods. “That’s Tabitha Jones.”
Tapping lacquered green nails on the tabletop, I consider the report as I pretend to consider my cards. I hope nobody sits down to play with us, or observes our game too closely. This is only the third time I’ve played Magic the Gathering, and Tevin’s first. Our play is bound to be appalling, but we had to rent a table for our cover.
A game shop. Not our usual stalking grounds. Nor the usual stalking grounds of sinkind—or at least, this is our first report of one preying in it.
One of the shop’s owners, Sandra Baldrick, called it in. Tabitha first came to Wayport Games a year ago, on a D&D tournament night. New to the city, but apparently not to tabletop gaming, she’d soon found a circle of friends. Then she stopped showing up, and fewer and fewer of her friend circle had shown up either. In the space of five months, none of them were coming to the store, either to buy games or to play them. Sandra had missed her regulars, but otherwise hadn’t been concerned. Then Tabitha had shown up again, alone. She quickly found a place in a new circle of gamers, and in some months time, they too had vanished.
A couple of the gamers in this group had been friends of Sandra’s. When they stopped returning her calls, she looked into it further, and found to her shock that both were dead. Further investigation had found the others in the group of friends were dead as well—all at different times, of different natural causes, or by one accident or another.
Now Tabitha has returned to Wayport, with Sandra convinced that she’s either a serial murderer or a demon—much the same thing in the end, except for the methods of dealing with them, and we’ve handled both. Seeing the girl now, though, I frown my doubt.
“Looks can be deceiving,” Tevin said, reading my look. “And demons are deceivers above all. Play a card.”
“Right,” I say, putting down a land card. “Of course.”
Of course. I’m just used to a certain type. They wouldn’t send us out here without good reason. The homicide department has done all the background work before sending us in for the field investigation. If she’s human, we’re to look for enough evidence to warrant a warrant for her arrest—the fact that that the force’s investigation hasn’t uncovered enough evidence for that suggests she’s either innocent or rather clever. If she’s sinkind, we slay her whether we find the evidence or not. Demons have no rights under the law, except in California.
Murderous human scum, murderous demon scum, or unfortunate innocent, our job starts out the same way: get the girl talking.
Tevin sets down a card. I sigh. “You can’t even use that until you’ve got the mana for it. You haven’t played any land yet.”
“Who cares?” he mutters. He glances around towards the unassuming girl, alone at her table. “We should ask her how to play.”
“Better to see if she makes the first move. We don’t want to arouse suspicion.”
“Best not to wait until she picks another group,” he says, jerking his head towards the table of four across from us, laughing uproariously at something their rouge just said. “We’re pathetic newbies. Let’s go over and admit it. Maybe she’ll have pity on us–or, you know, see souls to prey upon.”
I glance at Tabitha. She’s eyeing the D&Ders. “You could be right.” I scoop up the cards. “Let’s move.”