Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 8

[ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

Webb thumbed idly at the notebook for another moment before closing it, slipping it back inside their jacket. There would be time for that later, if it became relevant. Perhaps when they were alone—the fact that the Inquisitors were after them did lend some credence to Ariadne and Faraday’s story, but Webb still wanted to be cautious.

They doubted that using the pen would create any more of a trail for magic-users to follow than, say, the fact that the Inquisitors almost certainly had access to Webb’s hairbrush and toothbrush, but who knew, with witches? The thought of asking Faraday’s opinion crossed Webb’s mind and was quickly discarded.

They could check back on it later and see if the Inquisitor had left a message for them, first. The pen itself was clearly a non-subtle overture that they’d be willing to communicate, wasn’t it? Webb had other things to worry about in the meantime and could let that sort itself out for now.

Ariadne had just set down her phone and let out a loud sigh, resting her chin in both hands. She, at least, had taken her helmet off in order to drink. “He’s alright,” she murmured. “He’ll be here soon.”

A careless comment bubbled to Webb’s lips—that’s a shame, maybe, or and here I’d been hoping!—but Ariadne looked so genuinely relieved that Webb couldn’t bring themself to say it. They busied themself with their phone, instead.

“Yes, well, he seemed like a guy who could take care of himself,” Webb muttered begrudgingly.

Ariadne let out a soft laugh. “Yeah? In the ways that count, for sure. But in other ways, he’s totally hopeless. He can get very wrapped up in his work.”

“Like, literally?”

“There have been greater than zero instances of that happening, yes.”

Webb grinned despite themself, and was grateful for the helmet hiding that from view. It wasn’t like they particularly wanted to give Ariadne the impression that they liked her or anything, not when they still weren’t 100% sure this wasn’t all part of some elaborate organ-harvesting ruse.

A thought crossed Webb’s mind, and they casually surveyed the layout of the Waffle House. It was quiet; there was a lone couple near the front window, and a tired looking construction worker nursing a coffee at the bar. The sole server was chatting with one of the cooks. Webb and Ariadne were tucked out of view, and Webb’s back was to the door if they shifted in their seat a little.

They were alone together for the first time.

Before they could talk themself out of the idea, Webb took off the helmet, set it aside, and said softly: “Ariadne.”

Ariadne looked up. Her mildly surprised expression turned to shock, her lips parting—before going blank, relaxed and placid, her pale lashes dropping somewhat over her bright eyes.

“Yes?” she murmured.

Good. Webb felt a rush of relief. Different magical creatures had different types of immunities and abilities. Webb had worked their magic on nonhumans before, but the stronger they were, the more difficult it could be. Still, they should probably make this quick.

“Ariadne,” they repeated. “Have you been lying to me about anything?”

Broad, but straightforward and to the point. Ariadne’s breath hitched softly, but her expression didn’t change.

“No.”

Webb forced themself not to blink at that, eyes widening instead. “You really just want me to help you deal with your sire, and stop him from hurting people?”

Ariadne nodded again, her fingers curling into fists. An unhappy little frown line creased her brow. “Yes.”

Webb worried at one of their piercings with their tongue, drawing in a slow breath. “Are you—” they began, but before they could ask another question, Ariadne’s phone buzzed, rattling on the table. They saw her gaze flicker, a faint shadow of confusion starting to churn in her expression.

Webb tugged their hood back up over their hat and slid their sunglasses back on as they finally broke eye contact.

“Your phone,” they prompted, gesturing to her and picking up their own coffee cup.

Ariadne blinked a few times, shaking her head, and picked it up. “I, ah… oh. I don’t know what—I mean, thanks.”

Webb watched her silently as she answered another text from Faraday, but other than a lingering fog of slight confusion, nothing seemed amiss. She didn’t seem to have realized that anything out of the ordinary had happened.

Letting out a very soft sigh of relief, Webb picked up their own phone again. They felt… strange and a little unsettled, rather than relieved. Up until that moment, some part of them was still convinced that there was some trap in all of this. That Ariadne and Faraday’s clumsy attempts at kindness and heroism and doing the right thing had some kind of trick hidden behind it, and Webb should behave accordingly.

Now that they knew that wasn’t the case… they weren’t sure what to do with themself.

“I’m going to try looking for some information on some of my former clients,” they told her, tone coming out a bit terse. “I’ll give you a couple names to look for, too.”

Ariadne seemed surprised again, then gave Webb a pretty smile, nodding. “Of course,” she said. “I’d be happy to help. I’m very good at creeping people online. Make sure to give me someone cute. Joke!” She added that last part hastily when Webb made a face. They weren’t entirely sure they believed that.

“Look up the name Jenny Lim.” Webb gave a brief description of the brunette they’d spoken with earlier in the day: appearance, the names of her companions, their descriptions. She’d been carrying a bag with a logo from a nearby university; Elijah, one of her companions, had a water bottle from a nearby gym.

Ariadne had paused and was staring at them over the top of her phone. “These were… people you saw today, right?”

“Yeah. If they’re only just heading out, they’d be the best ones to try to catch if they’re in potential trouble but still safe for now.” Webb frowned at her after she continued to look at them, her head tilted to the side. “Why do you ask?”

“You just remembered a lot about them,” Ariadne said. “I was surprised, that’s all. Do you have a list of the other names you want to look for…?”

“I need to have an eye for detail in my line of work,” Webb said dismissively. “It’s not a big deal.”

Ariadne just shook her head quietly, turning her attention back to her phone and starting to search, nails clicking softly. They were clipped short—not bare, as Webb had thought at first, but painted a very light pink.

Turning their gaze away again, Webb got to searching.

It was a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack, in a lot of ways, especially with people that had more common names. Webb didn’t maintain any sort of social media presence outside of their professional contacts, and they didn’t exactly go around connecting to people.

Still, a couple of them were easily found because they’d liked or followed Webb’s professional account. They started mentally making notes as they went through—this one was still posting selfies as of yesterday, that one had done a job a few months ago but checked into a local restaurant last week…

Some of them were dead accounts, or impossible to find, which could be innocuous, or could be sinister. They found one, a were-raven named Lekha, who had been posting regular photographs of her art up until a few months ago, when the posts abruptly stopped. Maybe she’d just lost interest, or taken a sabbatical—but the timing corresponded very closely to when she’d come to see Webb.

She’d taken on a job for the Hallow Society—a trip that took her up north to investigate some disturbances outside a local orchard. It could be a coincidence, but…

They opened their mouth to mention it but were interrupted by Ariadne suddenly piping up: “Oh! I found one! Oh, oh wow I found one. Oh, never mind, she was just posting yesterday, so… damn, though. I mean, good for her.”

“Dare I ask?”

Ariadne looked amused, scrolling with her chin in one hand. At Webb’s raised eyebrows, she spun the phone around and slid it forward with a bit of a grin. The name Sia Sileny Belmont was displayed under a photo of a dark haired, pointy-eared woman blowing a kiss.

“She’s got an OnlyFangs account. Think we should subscribe?”

Webb sat back, dragging their hands down their face and letting out a sharp laugh. “… yeah,” they said. “Actually. I think we should.”

Ariadne didn’t seem to have been expecting that answer, doing a bit of a double take. “What? Really? I mean, I’m down for it, but—”

“Ariadne,” Webb said slowly, “Sia wasn’t a vampire the last time I saw her.”

“Wh—ohhhhh.”

They both sat in silence for a moment, just staring at each other—which was, of course, the moment that they heard footsteps approach and Faraday slid heavily into the booth next to Ariadne, immediately wrapping an arm around her waist.

“You made it!” Ariadne gasped, leaning in to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’m so glad!”

“You didn’t need to worry about me,” Faraday said with an easy smile. He glanced at Webb briefly, then down at the phone lying between them. “I see you, uh… right. I see I have a little bit of catching up to do.”

Webb caught Ariadne’s gaze, unsure if they wanted to spend a lot of time filling Faraday in, or now that he was here, if they’d rather just get out of here and beeline for the Curator’s before it got too late. But at the same time, they were digging up some decent leads here— should they keep going and see what else they could find?

[Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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Sorry for the late posts the last couple of nights! Some Stuff Happened. Tomorrow’s comment cutoff time will go back to around 4-5PM and I’ll be aiming to post by 6PM. Hoping to get back to that cadence again after that ♥

7 Comments

  • Prince Charming

    I love what you did there. You must have really pretty eyes.

    You should go to the Curator now before it gets too late. You can tell Faraday everything on the way.

    But don’t forget to check your notebook before you go. Maybe you have a message from the Inquisitor.

  • Seth

    Ask Farady what happened on his end as well.

    How often does Webb use their power, and what are the limitations? They”re human, or at least look it — were they originally from the mundane world, or from somewhere beyond it? Did they develop their abilities when the rifts formed, or did them have them before that?

  • meredithakatz

    Ask if Faraday had any encounters with the inquisitors or if it was uneventful. You can be resentful about this obviously. You don’t need my permission. Basically, at least let the man at least get a coffee before you go separate ways to meet up somewhere a second time. Then to the Curator.

    By the way, maybe I’ve forgotten, but what time of year is it? I don’t know it affects much, but with vampires working out of mountain towns and ski villages, maybe figure out if it’s off season or high season, right?

  • t a

    Are you really going to literally flirt with becoming a party to this (apparent) rampant altruism? What are you doing here? Real question.

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