March 27, 2189
I felt like the cliched kid in a
candy shop as I wandered among the tables scattered in a hodge-podge order
on the floor of the civic arena. The Harkness Firearm and Blade show was
the largest in the Nexus; over 900 retailers of guns, ammo, armor, swords,
knives, explosives, and surplus military artillery.
And I had an armory to replenish.
I left Murray to close the deal with our usual ammunition supplier. My little goblin shadow may be a pain, but he is one of the best hagglers in the known universe. Plus, he's a complete skinflint; can usually shave about 10% off the best price I can argue.
With Murray occupied, I was free to wander without my cost-conscious conscience. It's not like we're broke or anything, far from it in fact. The work Harry and I do commands a high price, and not to sound to smug, I'm probably the best demon slayer in the Nexus. I have a very high success rate (not counting the Hakthla business, but that's another story altogether) and get paid accordingly. So I am more than willing to spend for the best. And today I was in a mood to splurge. Most women who have a bad day go out and buy shoes. Me, I buy guns.
Unfortunately, nothing had really caught my eye. I have two good shotguns at home still, I had already found two more Essen80 9mm pistols. I'm not a big fan of large automatic weapons, and that seemed to be the theme this year.
I was becoming somewhat depressed at the lack of interesting firearms when I came across a blade-dealer. I use swords and knives, but only as a last resort. I much prefer to kill something before it gets that close. But this guy's stuff caught my eye. It was obvious that all his blades were silver alloy - expensive stuff. And some were engraved with glyphs; not the lame kind you see on demon-knives in the mall shops, but the real thing.
I was examining a pair of dirks when I caught the booth's proprietor staring at my hands. "Gethen warding glyphs," he nodded at the intricate tattoos that covered the back of both my hands.
I was impressed. And wary. Most people took my marks for personal body art, but they were really just another part of my arsenal; protective glyphs that some demon classes can't abide by (like the Mercurian ambassador's imposter...). They are ancient and damned obscure. I'd guess only a handful of demonologists know their true properties. "You have a keen eye, good sir." He was older, I'd guess in his fifties. New here, too. I didn't recognize him or his wares. Fit and trim, with a build that suggested a hard life of hard work.
He gave a slight bow. "Given the clientele I cater to, I have to." His eyes sparkled with good humor, and I noted that he was giving me as careful an examination as I gave him.
"I don't believe I've seen you here before," I said casually, laying the dirks back on the table, and shifting my attention to an intricate ritual dagger. That in itself was odd. Harry and I are the only demonologists in Blythe, and we know the few others in the Nexus pretty well. This guy's stock was definitely the sort of stuff tailored for people in my line of work.
"No, you haven't," he replied, still watching me. "I tend to be occupied elsewhere this time of year, but my previous plans fell through, and they happened to have a space left. I thought it couldn't hurt to try and expand my client base." He paused, his eyes shifting back to my tattoos for a moment. "You seem rather knowledgeable yourself, to have those. My guess is they aren't just for show?"
I pulled a slim case from my pocket. "My card," I handed over the embossed rectangle of elegant marbled cardstock. I personally had thought business cards were a waste, but Harry had been adamant. And I had to admit they looked good. Plus it was a bit more professional than my old method of scribbling down my name and address on a ripped off corner of my case book.
The man quirked a brow slightly. "Ms. Greyfalcon, your reputation preceeds you." He sounded impressed.
Given the last couple of weeks, my suspicious nature was in overdrive. I'm pretty well-known in these parts, but the fact that this odd stranger not only recognized my name, but also knew details of my trade that most other slayers don't, made me a bit edgy.
I think he picked up on it, because he physically backed off a half-step. I forced myself to calm down. "How far has it preceeded me?" I tried to keep my tone conversational, but there was just something about this whole situation that didn't sit right. And if there is one thing I trust more than anything, it's my instincts.
"Far enough," he commented evasively. "I don't get to these parts often."
Even though I really wanted to, I refrained from asking him which parts he did frequent, since I knew he'd just evade that, too. I glanced at the dealer tag hanging from his booth. A. Dexter. The name didn't ring a bell, but I'd have Harry check it out. "Well, it was nice talking with you," I said, moving away from his display. I'd only gotten a few feet when he called, "Ms. Greyfalcon, please..."
Something in his voice stopped me cold. A sharp edge of desperation and despair like I had never heard in anyone. I turned back slowly, to see him staring at me beseechingly, his previously cheery gaze now looking haunted. "Please. I handled this badly, Ms. Greyfalcon, but I need your help."
I've seen that look before, in the demon-plagued. But this man's sense of desperation rivaled almost anything I had ever witnessed. Suspicious or not, I had to know what could cause a man with his knowledge to need my help. "Three o'clock tomorrow, at the address on the card. Bring everything related to your situation."