Chapter 6:

The DM and the Sherlock


September 25, 2022 AD. Sunview University, California, USA, Earth

The day after the second session with the Sunviewers, Cam was eating dinner in the cafeteria. Technically, he was eating breakfast since he had spent the entire night after the session gaming. He hadn’t gone to sleep until the sun was peeking over the horizon. He had awakened around 3:30 but hadn’t bothered to get out of bed until evening. At one point, Jordan had brought his girlfriend into the room, but after the girl had taken one look at Cam shirtless in bed, she had turned and walked out. I’m not that ugly, he stewed as he ate dinner.

He was so busy being disgruntled at Jordan’s girlfriend that he didn’t pay attention to the person siting down next to him until she tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around to see Annette, sitting so close that her face was less than six inches away from his. He sprung away, his heart racing. She laughed. “Hey there big guy,” she said.

“Annette! What are you doing here?” he asked, his heart still beating faster than usual. Man, she was gorgeous up close. He took a deep breath.

“Eating dinner with a nice boy, obviously.”

“Oh yeah? Is he invisible?” Cam shot back.

She smiled again. “You do have a sense of humor when you try. I like that in a man.”

“We-well. Great. Um.” Oh yeah, real smooth Cam, he thought bitterly. She was clearly messing with him. She didn’t mean anything by it. Right?

“So, did you do anything fun this lovely Sunday?” Annette asked him. “The weather was so nice.”

“I slept in,” he said, instantly regretting it. What was wrong with him? He knew that he already seemed pathetic at all times anyway; why was he reinforcing the image? Annette sitting so close to him was putting him off his game. Not that he had much game to begin with. As she ate her fish sandwich, his eyes were drawn to her again. How could she be so hot by just eating? She didn’t seem inclined to continue the conversation. “Really, why did you come here to eat with me?” he asked. “You could sit with friends. I bet that would be more fun.”

She turned to him. When she spoke, there was no trace of flirtation or attractiveness in her tone or her expression. “When will you get the picture? Nobody is forcing me to sit here. I want to share a meal with you, stupid. Is that so hard to grasp?”

“O-oh. I guess I should apologize.”

“It’s fine.” From the tone of her voice Cam was certain it was not fine. “Let’s forget it.”

“Right.” The two continued to eat. Annette made casual conversation about her classes, and Cam attempted to make casual conversation about the weather. It took effort, but the mood between them lightened considerably. By the time they were finished eating, Cam even felt confident enough to crack a joke. “Hey, did you ever hear about the time the goblin broke his leg?”

“No, tell me.”

“He could barely walk. He was a hoblin’ goblin”

Annette stared at him with a nonplussed expression for a moment. She then cracked a smile. “Pft!” she said. She burst out laughing: a long, loud, belly laugh that carried across the entire cafeteria. “That was maybe the worst joke I have ever heard” she said through a peal of laughter. “Oh, I can’t,” she laughed uncontrollably, tears streaming from her eyes. It took her over three minutes to calm down. Cam timed it from the clock on the opposite wall. She finally got control of herself, wiping her eyes. “That was fun,” she said. “See, I knew it wouldn’t be a mistake to hang out with you.”

The two carried their plates over to the disposal. As they dumped them in, Cam asked “I was wondering something.”

“What’s up?”

“Yesterday, when we were looking for Dinah before the game. You said you suspected where she was. You knew she was in the library, right?” Annette nodded. “And then after. When the two of us returned, you knew that I had offered to tutor her.” Annette nodded again. “So how did you know all this?”

“I thought it was obvious,” she said.

Cam felt confused. “How could it be obvious? She could have been anywhere.”

Annette sighed, stepping out into the cool evening at a brisk pace. Cam hurried to keep up with her. “All the clues were there,” she said while walking. “When we first met her, on the 14th, she had a massive bag. Based on the sound it made and the book she showed us—a history textbook, remember?—she clearly had mostly textbooks. This early in the semester, you would have to be pretty dedicated to studying to carry all those heavy books around everywhere. Plus, the textbook was heavily used, but it clearly wasn’t an old book since some pages still looked sharp. Put that together, and you get a girl who studies a toooon. Now, where would she be studying? She’s not in her room. When a person, especially an insecure girl like Dinah, is in her room for an extended period of time, she develops a pattern. So there’s no way her phone would be out of earshot. Now, putting it all together, where is a place for studying where a phone would be out of reach or silent? The library.”

“And the tutoring?”

“That was a bit more speculative, but I was still pretty sure you had offered to teach her somehow. Like I said earlier, it’s obvious that she’s super serious about studying. If she wanted to study bad enough that she’d forget about D&M, I’d say it’s a 60-40 shot that she won’t take a break from studying when you when you went to remind her. But she did agree to give up several hours of potential study time playing a game. Now, she had a hopeful expression when she walked in with you. Why would she be full of hope if she’s losing out on her precious study time? Somebody probably offered to help her with studying. Who would help her in this situation other than you?” Annette laughed, skipping a few steps. She pantomimed putting a pipe to her mouth as she turned to face Cam. “Elementary, my dear Watson,” she said in a fake British accent.

“So, if what you’re saying is true, then she’s probably in the library right now, right?”

“Precisely!” Annette said in the same accent. “We’ll make a detective out of you yet.”

Cam shook his head. “You must be the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes. No normal human could figure all that out.”

Annette, who had been in high spirits before, immediately looked dejected. “Oh. Right.”

Crap. “Uh, but your accent is great,” Cam said hurriedly. “Do you do voices often?”

She laughed. “I was in a third-grade production of Oliver Twist. I guess it’s just a skill I never forgot.”

At that point, they were walking past the library building itself. Cam had an idea. “Why don’t we stop inside,” he pointed at the library, “and see if she’s really there? We can add that to your deduction points.”

“What the heck are ‘deduction points?’ But sure, we might as well.” The two turned into the library building.

As the semester was still young, the building was mostly deserted. That made it easy to spot Dinah, in her trademark worn hoodie, sitting in a distant corner bent over a pile of books and notebooks. Cam and Annette walked toward her. When she noticed them, she jumped. “Wh-what are you two together? Doing here? Oh, I mean, um,” she trailed off into a flustered silence.

“We came to say hi to you,” said Cam. As Dinah nodded, face red, Cam noticed out of the corner of his eye that Annette suddenly had a mischievous grin on her face.

Before Cam could react, she closed the distance between them. She leaned in close to Cam, squeezing his arm and pressing her breasts against him. “Oh, Cam and I were just enjoying a lovely dinner alone together,” she said in a suddenly sultry voice. “It was wonderful. We talked about how your relationship with him made a biiig upgrade the other day. Hm, I wonder if the same could happen to me?” She put her finger to her lips and looked up at the ceiling.

Cam sputtered. “No, we- it wasn’t- I’m not- it’s not what it looks like!” tried to yank his arm free, but Annette had a strong grip. All he succeeded in doing was making it look like he was pulling Annette closer to him.

Witnessing Annette’s actions, Dinah turned bright red. Her face was so flushed that Cam could believe steam was about to burst from her ears. “I- I- I- I- I” she stammered. “I don’t want to get in your way. I’ll just leave,” she started hurriedly throwing stuff into her bag.

Annette, who Cam could tell was thoroughly enjoying the whole thing, spoke again to Dinah. “Oh, but Cam promised to help teach you, didn’t he? My, what a dear he is. Ok then, I’ll leave you two be.” She unlinked herself from Cam’s arm and shoved him into the seat beside Dinah. Cam didn’t miss that she let her hand linger atop his, and judging from her gaze, Dinah didn’t miss the gesture either. Before Cam could speak, Annette stepped back. “Good night, Cam,” she said in that same breathy voice. “I’ll be in my room alllll alone tonight. You know where it is, right? Ok, good.” She winked before turning and walking hurriedly away. It sounded like she was trying to stifle it, but she was clearly laughing to herself.

“Stupid woman,” Cam muttered to himself. “I don’t even know where her room is.” He turned to Dinah, who looked even more paralyzed than the goblin boss Sin-Dee from the previous day. She slowly turned her reddened face toward his. Cam said in a small voice “want to study calculus?”

“Yes,” she replied in an equally small voice. The two spent the rest of the evening working through several math problems, speaking only when the situation made it absolutely necessary.