I waited in the alley between the Caster’s bar and an alterations boutique. One of the WatchCasters in that bar owed my boss money. Daniel sent me when he didn’t want the person roughed. The rest of the guys tended to resort to violence first. It wouldn’t do for them to break one of the WatchCaster’s hands in the struggle to take him. I’d followed the man from his factory job and waited in the alley for three hours before the man came stumbling out of the bar. That’d make my job easier.
“Greg, wait up!” a second man said as he and a woman joined my target.
“Leaf me ‘lone,” the drunkard slurred.
“We just want to walk with ya,” the second man said, putting his hand on my target’s shoulder.
“I don need your pity.” The drunk man knocked the other man’s hand away.
“Be reasonable,” the woman said.
“Screw you, bish,” the drunk man responded.
“We just want to help,” the sober man said, taking another step toward the drunk man.
“Forget this, Lyle.” The woman stepped back towards the bar. Lyle hesitated. “I don’t want to end my night with him insulting me.”
“He didn’t mean it, Virginia,” Lyle said.
“Ya, I did, you prick. Ya fink you’re so much better than me,” the drunkard said, pushing Lyle back.
“Come on. Let’s go back inside,” Virginia said, helping Lyle regain his balance.
“All right,” Lyle said, letting his friend pull him back toward the bar.
I waited another minute before stepping out of the alley. The WatchCaster stumbled and caught himself on a building on his way. In this state, he might not notice if I followed closer. He righted himself and started walking again. We didn’t get much further, though. He slapped his hand over his mouth and rushed into the closest alley. I took my time approaching the gap. The sound of him retching made me hesitate. It may be gross, but I wasn’t likely to get a better distraction than this. I stepped into the alley and called on my magic. The energy glided from my hands and wrapped around the drunk man’s head. He slumped.
I caught him and dragged him away from the puddle he’d regurgitated. He weighed more than I expected. I could probably carry him, but I didn’t want to chance him getting sick on me in his sleep. Instead of lifting him over my shoulder as I’d initially planned, I pulled him behind the waste bins and propped him against the wall. My spell would last for hours. I considered leaving him and coming back with the carriage. But I couldn’t risk someone else finding him in the meantime. I plucked the pocket watch out of the sleeping man’s vest and imagined Patrick. My magic tapped into the network of communication spells and alerted his watch.
“What do you need, Jim?” Patrick asked. The watched projected him from the shoulders up above its face. My magic could have connected to his pocket watch on its own, but then he wouldn’t have been able to see me on his end. Patrick didn’t know I used wild magic, and I didn’t want him to figure it out.
“Can you send a carriage to the butcher’s shop down the street from the Caster’s bar?” I asked.
“Something go wrong?” he asked, sounding more than a little smug. He didn’t like how quickly I’d become his equal and didn’t hide the fact. He’d rejoice to hear me say I’d screwed something up.
“I’ve incapacitated the WatchCaster, but he’s sick, and I don’t want him to throw up on me,” I said.
“I don’t know if we can spare a carriage. That’ll draw a lot of attention,” Patrick said. I should have known he’d be like this. Carriages were a status symbol, but not so rare that a few wouldn’t pass through the area daily.
“I thought you’d like some credit for bringing this guy in, but never mind, I’ll handle it,” I said.
“Calm down, Jimmy. Learn to take a joke,” he said. He’d never turn down an opportunity to look good in front of Daniel. “Cam will be there in ten.”
Twenty minutes later, Cam arrived. I used my magic to conceal our activities as I dragged the man’s limp form. Cam opened the door, and the carriage floated down to make it easier for us to get in. They used to be on wheels pulled by horses. Replacing the wheels with four plates of magicked metal enchanted with levitation spells cut down on road maintenance. A lever at the coachmen’s seat allowed Cam to tilt the plates enough to propel the carriage in the intended direction. The train system got most people from place to place fine, but anyone looking to show off their wealth could do so with a private carriage. Daniel owned three, more for the ability to transport things covertly than the status, but he appreciated that bonus.
The trip back to Daniel’s warehouse only took ten minutes. Either Patrick told Cam to take his time to frustrate me, or Cam took the opportunity to do some personal business. I wouldn’t say anything, one way or the other. Patrick didn’t deserve the satisfaction, and Cam’s business was none of mine. I opened the carriage door to find Patrick waiting to help me unload our prize. It wouldn’t actually take both of us to carry the man now that we were already at the warehouse, but I let him put on the show of helping me. The WatchCaster’s feet dragged behind us as we walked, one of us under each of his arms.
“Good work, Jim, Patrick,” Daniel said, nodding at each of us. “Tie him to the chair.”
I let Patrick do the honors.
“How long till he wakes up?” Patrick asked.
“I’ve got it,” I said. I focused my magic into my hand and covered its use with a slap to the sleeping man’s face.
“What the hell? Where am I? What’s going on?” the WatchCaster asked in a panic.
“You owe me money, Gregory. And instead of paying me back, you’re getting drunk. We can’t have that,” Daniel said.
“Mr. Clarkson! I uh um I I,” Gregory stammered and struggled against the ropes.
“No need to make excuses, Gregory. I know you can’t afford to pay me back when you still haven’t worked off half of your employment contract.”
“What are you going to do to me?” the WatchCaster asked.
“I’ve given that question a lot of thought. I came up with some very creative ideas. But you can avoid all of them, so long as you cooperate. Luckily for you, I have use for your skills. You can work off your debt,” Daniel said.
“You want me to enchant watches for you?” Gregory asked.
“Disenchant them, actually,” Daniel clarified. He’d originally asked me to clear the watches’ enchantments, but my magic tore the whole thing apart. Wild magic doesn’t do subtle very well.
“Why would you want me to do that?”
“That’s not really your business,” Daniel told him. “My men will pick you up from work and bring you here starting tomorrow until you’ve paid off your debt. Do we understand each other?”
“Yes. Yes, sir,” Gregory answered.
“Wonderful. Patrick, will you see that Gregory gets home safely, please?” Daniel requested. Patrick and I knew an order dressed in courtesy when we heard one. He nodded. “Jim, you can take the rest of the night off.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said. Patrick glared at me but didn’t say anything as he untied the WatchCaster. Patrick helping me carry Gregory in didn’t fool Daniel. After giving Daniel a nod, I left his office. I walked out of the warehouse and into the city, smiling as I went. I could handle Patrick’s attitude if it meant gaining ground with Daniel. Being his right-hand man meant more security than I’d ever had in my life. Having that security and getting to use my magic was all I wanted.