No room for elaborate disguises tonight, one must do with just the standard simple tux. Still, no matter how often I don the suit, it still feels like a disguise. Well, worn, sure. But a disguise nonetheless.
The evening will begin as it often does in small talk, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, tall tales, and a constant testing of social position. For everyone else, that is. I will float among the crowd, pretending to not fit, avoiding deep entanglement or expressing an opinion. After all, I know why I am here, and am not playing the same game by anything resembling the same rules.
Once the patterns are established, I can break my mold, and the real show will begin.
Or that is what I planned. As is true all too often, reality often interferes with plans of its own.
Tonight was different. There was a second presence in the room, staying in the shadows, testing and evaluating the crowd. For the first hour, I could only tell that they existed, and not get more that fleeting glimpses as they adroitly shifted as I happened too close.
So I activated a backup plan. An accomplice in the crowd picked up on my silent cues, and began to act openly as I had been covertly. That is, they began to actively steer the guests and their conversations in ways that would benefit my performance later, assuming this evening’s plans were to get back on track. Importantly, they caught the attention of the other ghost, and allowed me a chance to observe.
Like most of the guests, they wore formal dress, with the addition of only a simple black domino mask as the nod to the “masquerade” expected at this sort of gathering. Like my own, this was clearly a bespoke piece that fit precisely to their face, and concealed more than it should have by placing the eyes in deep shadows and subtly altering the apparent lines of the brow and nose beneath it.
Then I caught another clue. As I watched, they finished interacting with a group at one corner, stepped into a shadow, and vanished. Moments later, I caught them working from another corner. It was almost as if they had stepped into one shadow and out of another. An impossible feat for a mere mortal, and one disturbingly familiar.
I had competition.
It was not welcome.
It clearly had missed the subtle cues that these people were under my protection. So it was going to be necessary to resort to more direct methods. But first and foremost, these people are under my protection, and that includes protection from even needing to know that monsters of our ilk exist, let alone tend them for harvest as a shepherd does his flock.
It was time to cut the intruder from his prey, and feed on him and his mistakes.