Pocket Watch Witches Ep. 4


Greg disappointed me with his predictability. He’d followed Daniel’s instructions the whole week. I thought he’d accepted his new lot in life. But he wasn’t there when I showed up at Shaw’s Factory this time. I waited until the last of his coworkers clocked out, growing more frustrated the longer he took. He’d finished his work later and later each night. Maybe he thought I’d tire of waiting if he took too long. When dragging his feet failed to get him out of his obligation, he’d decided to take off before I got there. It only took one guess to find him. He’d gone to the Caster’s bar. 

I didn’t even need to use my magic to go unnoticed in the bar. Not having the patience to wait him out again this time, I found a spot to watch him from and leaned. It didn’t take long for me to lose patience waiting for him to see me. I blew a chilling spell his way. That did the trick. He shivered and looked right at me. I crossed my arms and made sure my disappointment showed on my face. I’d have respected him more if he’d been trying to make a run for it or something. Blowing off Daniel to get drunk dropped my esteem of him more than I thought possible. 

Greg got up from his table and headed for the exit. Whether he wanted to run now or just meant to go to the warehouse as if nothing happened didn’t matter much. I’d prefer if he came along willingly, but I’d get him there either way. I moved through the crowd effortlessly. Most people avoided me rather than making me weave through them. The door hadn’t even shut before I caught up to him and walked out. He took a few steps before he turned to face me. I let the door go. He looked ready for a fight. I wouldn’t give him the benefit of a fair one if he tried to start one. 

“I just need one night off,” he said. 

“That’s not how this works. You work when Mr. Clarkson says,” I said. I cracked my knuckles to lean all the way into the muscle-for-hire aesthetic. Sometimes the implied threat of violence worked better than saying anything. 

“What are you gonna do? Your boss needs my skills. You won’t risk hurting me and losing my abilities,” Greg bragged. He hadn’t gotten as drunk as the last time I found him here, but he’d had enough to make him bold. 

“I can hurt you in a hundred different ways that won’t endanger your value. Trust me; you don’t want to find out firsthand.” 

“Oh, really?” he challenged. I didn’t bother answering, just flung a shock spell at him. An uncontrolled spasm ran through his body before he clutched his gut where the first magic hit him. “Damn it!” 

“Can we go, or do you need to keep posturing a little longer?” I asked. 

“How did you do that?” he asked. 

“It’s not story time, Greg,” I said. I wouldn’t admit to using wild magic aloud. If he wanted to act stupid, I wouldn’t indulge him. “Are you ready to come with me?” 

“Fine,” he agreed through gritted teeth. 

We walked to the warehouse. I could have called for a carriage to pick us up, but I hoped the walk would sober Greg up. Showing up late would already irritate Daniel. If his liquid courage hadn’t worn off completely by the time we got there, Greg might make one too many stupid choices. Daniel only put up with so much from someone before deciding they weren’t worth the trouble. I had no attachment to Greg, but I didn’t want him dead, especially when I’d probably be the one who had to deal with him. Daniel had only trusted Patrick and me to handle Greg so far. I’d dealt with him more than Patrick throughout the week, so it would likely fall on my shoulders. 

Patrick waited outside Daniel’s office, looking annoyed. I grimaced. Patrick’s mood often reflected Daniel’s. Greg’s little outing might cost him more than he’d thought. Patrick pushed himself off the wall and opened the door for us. I took a deep breath before walking in. I hoped Daniel would just want to scare Greg some sense, but I’d be ready for whatever he asked. 

“You’re late, Gregory,” Daniel said, not bothering to get up from his desk or even look up from his work. 

“I needed a break. You’ve had me working every night this week,” Greg responded. I closed my eyes and sighed. Our walk hadn’t helped. He should have apologized, and things would have been fine. 

“I didn’t force you to gamble more money than you had. This is the way you can pay me back. I thought you understood that,” Daniel said. 

“If you want me to keep this up, you need to respect my time more. Or I could always turn you in,” Greg threatened. 

“Have you been drinking again, Gregory?” Daniel asked. “It seems you think you’re holding a better hand than you actually are. No wonder you lost so much money.” 

“You act like you’re so dangerous, but I think you’re all talk. You pay the right people and get a reputation you haven’t earned,” Greg said. He didn’t appreciate being mocked and let it get the best of him. 

Daniel didn’t deign to answer the accusation. He threw a knife so fast I didn’t see where he’d pulled it from. The blade plunged into Greg’s chest. He gasped, looked down, and then back up at Daniel. He stumbled backward before hitting the door frame. Patrick and I held completely still. If Daniel wanted something, he’d say, but we knew better than to interfere without instruction in moments like this. Greg’s breathing faltered, growing more ragged as his body tried to compensate for the punctured lung. Daniel stood, walked around his desk, and approached Greg. He grabbed the handle of the knife and twisted it very slightly. 

“Let me be perfectly clear. I won’t tolerate insolence. Do not overestimate your value,” Daniel said. He pulled the knife out of Greg’s chest and turned to me. “Fix him up. I still have use for him.” 

I knelt to get on the level Greg slumped to and held my hand over his wound. Healing spells didn’t always work. They sucked up more magic than anything else, and there still weren’t any guarantees. I poured energy into the spell and concentrated on setting things right. I didn’t know if Daniel cared if I could actually do it. If I failed, he’d still be able to use Greg as an example of what happened to people who doubted him. Daniel always made sure things worked out for him one way or another. I didn’t have that luxury. He’d hold the failure against me to some degree. I couldn’t afford that when I still had my eye set on Patrick’s position. 

Greg’s breathing normalized as I felt the magic working. The wound closed up, leaving the blood and hole in the shirt as the only evidence. I stepped back, taking slow, controlled breaths of my own. I didn’t want Patrick to see how much that spell took out of me. His yellow irises shone with an understanding of how I’d risen in the ranks so quickly. He knew about my magic now, but the less he understood my limits, the better.  

“Thank you, Jim,” Daniel said casually as if I’d just handed him some paperwork. “Go get Gregory set up, and then come back.” 

“Yes, sir,” I said. 

I leaned over and grabbed the front of Greg’s shirt to pull him to his feet. He staggered as I pushed him through the door. I doubt he knew how lucky he’d gotten. Daniel could easily have let him die and told one of us to deal with the body. The magic could have failed to save him. It wouldn’t have been near as draining to get rid of a body. Still, I was thankful things worked out as they had. Hopefully, Greg appreciated the second chance he had in front of him. 

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