As we get back in the car, my head spins and buzzes as though I’d been drinking. Usually we had, in these situations. I touched my temple, waving Tevin to the driver’s seat.
“Are you feeling tipsy?” I asked Tevin as he started the car.
He shakes his head. “A little tired. You?”
“Just a little out of focus.” I blink hard. “Fighting her fascination.”
“I didn’t notice any fascination,” he yawns.
I narrow my eyes at him. “The rhinestones on her glasses. It’s not as flashy as usual, but it was fairly obvious to me.”
“I don’t think she’s a demon.”
I fight the urge to grind my teeth. I also fight the urge to snap at him. He nearly always says that, when they’re women. I don’t have to say anything to him; I know he’s a good investigator, and he looks for evidence even when he doesn’t want to find it. Even so, he’ll deny it all right up until the moment we’ve got proof.
“It sure seemed like a fascination to me,” I say diffidently. “What else would have me feeling like this? It’s not like we’ve been drinking.”
“Yeah, just those Cheetos and a soda,” he says dryly, “five hours ago.”
I blink. “It’s been five hours?” I look around, for the first time realizing that the sun is leaning towards setting.
“Yeah. I’m tired, you’re lightheaded, and little wonder. Wanna get something to eat?”
“Let’s,” I say, for the first time noticing how hungry I am. “How could I have lost track of that much time?” I rub my temples again. “It’s gotta be demon tricks.”
He laughs. “The only fascination I saw you under was the natural kind. We really did get into the game. She’s a good Dungeon Master.”
“How did it take that long, though? We only just met each other! I mean, Jesha and Thymeus only just met each other.”
“Yes, but there were monsters on the road from your farmhouse, and I had to escape my family’s intrigues,” Tevin pointed out. “These things take time.”
I shake my head. “You might be right,” I say quietly. “But… just… be careful, okay?”
He glances at me, smiles. “You know I’m careful.” More quietly still, he says, “I like people, I don’t trust them.”
“I throw a pebble into the well,” I decide after considering the situation for a moment.
“Hmmn.” Tabby pushes her glasses further up her nose. The rhinestones twinkle, but I don’t think I feel any fascination try to catch me. Maybe Tevin was right about that one. “Roll a perception check.”
I reach for the dice.
“Excuse me, guys…” One of the clerks hovers near our table, and we all glance up. “We’re closing, so if you could pack up now…”
“Got it,” Tevin sighs.
I feel a pang of discontent. I was just about to find out if there was something weird about that well! I blink, shaking my head slightly. It doesn’t matter about the well. I need to roll a good perception check on our DM.
“You want to come back to my place?” Tabby asks mildly.
In the middle of dropping my dice back in the karaff, I look up at her. “What? To continue?”
“Yeah. The place is a mess, but if that’s alright with you…”
“Sure! That sounds great,” Tevin says, grinning. “Hate ending on a cliffhanger.” And it’s a perfect chance for further investigation. Of course. That’s what we’re going to focus on.
“We’re slipping,” I tell Tevin seriously on the ride over.
“Her tactics are different than we’re used to. We really need to pay attention when we’re at her place.”
I expect a protest that she’s bound to be innocent, but all he says is, “Yeah. We’ll keep sharp.”
I hope we will. I really can’t tell if the rhinestones aren’t part of a fascination, or if I’ve been successfully fascinated into thinking they aren’t.
“Still,” Tevin adds, “This is more fun than the usual, don’t you think?”
Is it? “I guess. It’s certainly more…” It’s more captivating, is what it is. It draws you in more.
There’s got to be something hiding down that well. I know it.
Tabby’s apartment is a bit shabby and cluttered. Not enough to make me feel uncomfortable, just enough to make me feel better about myself and my matching furniture and my almost-weekly housecleaning. A brown leather loveseat sits at an angle to a velvety orange couch, and Tabby moves a pile of books and papers to make room for the game on the coffee table before taking the loveseat.
I look around the place surreptitiously as Tevin and I take a seat on the couch.
“I just realized I’ve never asked, Tabby,” Tevin says as I find nothing suspicious in a standing lamp, a TV on the floor with tangle of wires and a PS3 and a DVD player beside it, or a plywood shelf stacked with DVDs and video games. “What do you do for work?”
“I’m a receptionist for a custom sign company,” she sighs, which matches what we’ve got on her. “You guys?”
We give our lines about being coworkers at the IRS. It’s boring enough that no one wants to ask us anything about it, and it’s understandable when we don’t really want to talk about it.
“Hey, could I use your bathroom?” I ask.
“Sure. The one on the right,” she says, gesturing to the hallway as she sets up the dungeon map.
There are three doors, all ajar. I peek around each. One’s a bedroom, the other’s a closet. The one on the right is a bathroom. There’s nothing that screams “demon” or even “serial killer” in any of them at a glance, and I don’t have time for more.
Returning to the living room, I sit down and lean forward over the board. “Alright. Where were we?”
“You were rolling for perception,” Tabby says, and a slight smile plays at her lips as she adjusts her glasses.
I blink and scoop up the dice, rolling them with a frown. “Damn it, damn it, damn it,” I mutter, failing the check.
Tabby’s smile widens. “The stone splashes into water, about fifteen to twenty-five feet down. You hear nothing else.”
I scowl. I know we’re missing something, I can feel it—and I can feel that knowledge slipping away, bit by bit.