In the wee hours, the usually bustling city streets were eerily quiet, except for a small, lit storefront.
BWEEP! DUB! DUB! BWEEEEP!
Joss fished the vibrating phone from his pocket, tucking it between his chin and shoulder so he could work the game controls with both hands—clicking the button with one, while slamming the joystick with the other. “I’m busy. What’s up, bro?”
“I got my demon,” Leslie said. “Cut off its head in one clean slice.”
“Enchanted blades do that,” Joss said absently.
Leslie grunted. “You get its partner?”
“Lost him in a retro arcade. He had a key, if you can believe it.”
“Are you playing video games?”
“No,” Joss said, defensively. “Have you ever played Joust?”
“Joss, arcades are for children. Where—”
“I’d like to see a child beat the Shadowlord,” Joss scoffed.
“We have a job to do. Just because you’re the boss’s son—”
“I’m not playing. I’m… One sec.”
DWEEB! DUB! DUB! BWOOP!
“What was that?” Leslie asked.
Leslie sighed on the other end. “I sent Brice a picture of my demon. He says it’s a Lontak.”
“Worth two-K in government bounty.”
Still working the controls, Joss turned towards the humanoid demon playing the secondary controls beside him. The demon’s elegant, dual horns atop his head turned outward, causing his already floppy ears to droop further. His purple eyes blinked, flicking from Joss to the short, enchanted blue blade laid across the seam between the screen and the control console.
“What about my demon?” Joss asked, preparing himself for action.
“Probably a Tensul.”
“Five bucks, if you’re lucky.”
Taking advantage of Joss’ distraction, the Tensul demon cranked down on his joystick while slapping frantically at his button. Joss heard the descending FWUP-FWUP-FWOOOOP sound before he realized his character had been killed. The demon laughed.
“Meet me at the corner where we split,” Joss said to Leslie. Glaring at the demon, he slid the phone into his pocket.
“Gu-clack ti go, crista crenko,” the demon said, chuckling nervously.
“Yep, that’s two out of three,” Joss agreed. “You’re a free…” he looked the demon up and down, “whatever.”
The demon gave a quick nod, then turned to leave.
“One thing, before you go,” Joss said.
A few minutes later, he found Leslie waiting at a nearby street corner with a large black trash bag. “You found it after all,” she said as Joss tossed her the Tensul demon’s head. Leslie caught it by a squishy horn, bagged it, then followed Joss to the ERIS van parked around the corner. “Surprised you’d even break a sweat for five bucks,” she said.
“He cheated,” Joss said.
“I mean, I’m a professional demon hunter, Leslie.”
“Wait.” She pulled Joss’ arm, stopping him. “You get his key?”
“The retro arcade.”
“Arcades are for children,” Joss said, meeting her blank gaze. She blinked. After a moment, he blinked back.
“Do they have Dig Dug?” she asked. He showed her the key, twirling the chain ring around his finger. Without a word, they quietly stowed the black bag in the van and walked back to the arcade.