"Another ringer," Mayor Wilkins said after her last horseshoe clanged around the stake. "You do know it's traditional to let your boss win?"
"Slowed down as much as I could." Faith untied the blindfold she had worn while playing the game by throwing over her shoulder. "You wanted me to throw the game, you should've told me."
"No, you won fair and square." Wilkins brightened. "Why don't we mix a little business and pleasure? There have been a few people on the night staff who've been thinking their dear old mayor isn't keeping an eye on their shenanigans. I can call over a few, bury them up to their necks--"
"Nah, that's not really fun," Faith replied. "For that kinda thing, I like it up close and personal. Go to work with the sharps."
"Altar's downstairs, blood gutters cleaned up," the Mayor chirped. "We can go through the butcher's block in the kitchen to see if anything strikes your fancy."
"This is all good." Faith weighed a horseshoe. "I'm not bored. Yeah, this is way lower gear than my usual speed, but spending time just us is-- Never played too many games that didn't have kilts and bullwhips in them. My ma never gave me toys or anything."
"Not even a doll at Christmas?" Wilkins frowned. "We didn't have the luxuries you young'uns have with your Playstations and such. Always something in the stocking from Santa, though."
"She gave me a box once." Faith bent the horseshoe into a pretzel.
"A child can have lots of fun with a cardboard box," Wilkins said. "Playing house was a favorite of my sisters."
"The wino was still in it," Faith said flatly.
"Some women shouldn't be mothers," Mr Wilkins said. "I am forever grateful mine, may she rest in peace, was a kind woman. I think someone needs to teach your ma a lesson!"
"She's been dead for five years, Rich." Faith crushed the remains of the horseshoe in her fist.
"You'd be surprised how you can get around that," Mayor Wilkins said with a wink, "with a good man, a shovel, and the right magic."
"Oh he-- heck no." Something about the Mayor was infectious. She couldn't even swear right. "I used to go 'round the cemetery on patrols to make sure she stayed planted."
"Gosh, didn't mean to put a frown back on there." The Mayor considered for a moment, then raised a finger in triumph. "Know what? Whenever I'm feeling blue, an hour spent playing with my trains cheers me up. Hardly ever have a chance to show them off these days."
The Mayor guided her back into the house, up a stairway carpeted with a faded runner printed with flowers. A long hallway paneled in dark wood ran the length of the second floor. Wilkins went down the very end to open a trap-door leading to the attic. Most of the doors were closed. One, though, was opened a crack. Curious, Faith peered in. Pretty bare. A straight-backed wooden chair, a bed blanketed with one of those old patchwork quilts, a nightstand with a jug and a book on it. There were fresh flowers in the jug. Their scent drifted across the room, clean and sweet. Faith glanced down the hall. The Mayor was in the attic, thumping around. Slipping inside, she picked up the book. A photo album. Flip. Earliest pics were the Mayor standing around with a bunch of other guys in suits with shovels in their hands. Flip. Edna Mae, page after page. At the ice cream parlor, posing on the porch of what had to be this house, riding a bicycle in full skirts. Flip. Damn. In her wedding dress next to Mayor Wilkins. He actually looked shy. Flip. More pictures: in the passenger seat of one of those old cars, the Fords you saw in old movies, hand on a big hat with her hair blowing back. Flip flip flip, the pictures becoming sharper, Edna getting older. Her smile smaller. The Mayor never changing. On and one until-- Faith swallowed heavily. Old. Wrinkled. Asleep in this bed. No, she had seen too much to think that was asleep. The last photo was wrinkled as if water had dripped on it.
A hand spun her about. The Mayor snatched the album away.
The expression on his face was worse than looking right down the throat of the Hellmouth. Suddenly Faith was seven again, and she'd woken up her ma, and ma had that sour sweet smell on her breath and why did you wake me up you fuckin' brat my head's pounding and this was going to hurt--
Mayor Wilkins breathed deep. He locked up the album with one of those locking straps you saw bitches like Buffy use on their diaries. The rage disappeared. Just like that. Shuddering, Faith followed him out to the attic. Dammit, why did she always have to screw up? He'd invited her into his house. Spent time with her. And she was acting like a stupid spy-- The moment Faith's head cleared the lip of the trapdoor, every thought left her head but "holy shit!". The entire attic was one giant train set. A huge table covered in Astroturf ran from the gable at the front to a tiny round window in back. On it was an entire town and countryside, complete with everything from hills to forests to rivers plotted out in blue foil. The buildings were right out of movies about pioneer days. Hundred of model people and animals were scattered about going around their lives. Wicked! There was even a small crowd around a gallows with a man in the noose and a priest reading from a tiny Bible. Tracks ran everywhere, even small ones for trolley cars on the town streets. Several complete trains were parked by a big railyard off to one side. With a flick of a switch by a table covered with controls, the Mayor sent a locomotive--it even puffed out fake steam!--pulling cattle cars over a bridge and onto the main table.
"Fuck me dead!" Faith blushed. "Uh, I mean--"
"I'll ignore it for once." The Mayor planted a pillow-tick engineer's hat on his head. "You like it?"
"Love it." Faith looked closer at the train, and the little people in striped prison uniforms. "Hey, why are those cars filled with guys from jail?"
"Not jail. Camp." The Mayor sent a passenger train and freight train moving out. "Gift from some Germans in the thirties, after I did a little horse-trading on some scrolls. I guess it didn't help them in the end."
"This is the sh-- stuff." Faith laughed as several people scenes animated. A crowd in a park "danced" to a band "playing" in the bandstand. "It must have taken years to do all this. Dude, you're a geek."
"Guilty!" The Mayor pressed a button. A tiny loudspeaker sounded the artificial "snap" of the condemned man's neck when he fell down through the gallows. "Some days when life becomes a botheration, I'd come up here and work on things. Trains are good that way. People stumble around, and cars can go about anywhere, especially if you cut the brakes. Trains on rails go where they're supposed to."
"I could watch these forever." Faith paused. She plucked a small blonde model in a gingham dress out from a picnic scene. "Hey, Rich, I gotta idea for a new game."
"What?" The Mayor asked.
"'Tie The Bitch To The Tracks,'" Faith said, teeth glinting through bared lips.
"My favorite!" The Mayor leapt up. "Wait one second while I fetch my top hat and cloak!"