Following Greg got me in over my head. I used my custom watch’s invisibility spell so they wouldn’t see me. The magic didn’t make me incorporeal, though, which is what I needed if I wanted to avoid unsuspecting warehouse workers plowing into me. I’d weaved around them as they went about their business. But when I saw the blood soaked into Greg’s shirt, I stopped paying attention to anything else. The worker hit me so hard that I fell to the ground and lost hold of my pocket watch. Without direct contact with the watch, I reappeared for the rest of the world to see.
“What in the third realm?” the man escorting Greg exclaimed.
“Dimitri?” Greg asked.
I scrambled to grab my pocket watch but didn’t get to it fast enough. Greg’s enforcer snatched it up before I got close. The spell didn’t reactivate for him, and the sharp fear that it broke when I dropped broke through my larger concern of what to do now.
“You know him?” the enforcer asked.
“He works at Shaw’s with me,” Greg said. “I don’t know what he’s doing here. I swear I didn’t tell him about you guys.”
“Hey,” the enforcer called someone over. “Get Greg set up. Daniel’s going to want to talk to this one.”
I froze in my panic. Even if I had run, I wouldn’t have been able to get away for long. They knew where I worked, after all. But I hated myself for the inaction. The muscular man pulled me to my feet and pushed me towards the office he and Greg had just come out of. Two men looked up, surprised, as I stumbled into the room. The one behind the desk looked past me with a question in his eyes.
“He appeared in the factory with this,” the enforcer said, holding up my watch.
“Interesting. Security didn’t stop him?” the man behind the desk asked. I took him for the boss, given the quality of his suit and the way the other two men let him take charge. The enforcer said Daniel would want to talk to me. It felt safe betting he was Daniel.
“No, I mean, he appeared out of thin air. One moment nothing, the next moment he’s there.”
“How?” Daniel asked, looking at me this time.
I weighed my options, remembered Greg’s bloody shirt, and decided to tell the truth. “My pocket watch, sir. I enchanted it with custom spells.”
“Let me see it, Jim,” Daniel said.
Jim passed the watch to his boss, never letting go of my arm. I did my best not to move, but his bulk forced me to shift when he leaned forward and back. Daniel carefully looked the watch over from every angle. His inquisitive eyes took the measure of the silver timepiece before he set it on the desk in front of him. A stupider person might have tested out one of the spells. This man didn’t do anything without considering his options fully. He leaned back in his seat, completely comfortable with the silence the rest of us didn’t dare to break.
“What is the enchantment you used?” he asked.
“Invisibility,” I answered immediately.
“And which number is that one assigned to?”
“One,” I said.
“Patrick, if you would,” Daniel said, gesturing to the watch.
The third man stepped forward and picked up the watch. He adjusted the spell hand back to the 1 o’clock position. When he activated the spell, it worked perfectly. He vanished from sight. After a few seconds, he reappeared and set the watch back on his boss’s desk. All three of them stared at the watch with curiosity. I didn’t dare move. I had no doubt that one wrong move would be my last in here. Another moment of deliberation later, Daniel leaned forward and tested the invisibility spell on himself. He disappeared and reappeared.
“Why did you come here? Are you trying to help Gregory?” Daniel asked.
“Greg says he didn’t tell him anything about us,” Jim said. It didn’t answer the first question, and his boss didn’t look away from me.
“I’m looking for….” I paused, unsure if the truth would help or hurt me.
“Looking for?” Daniel prompted me to continue.
“I’m looking for someone with connections to the black market. This guy forcing Greg to come here seemed worth checking out,” I said.
“And what would a respectable Watch Caster like yourself want to find from such unsavory associations?” Daniel asked. He kept his expression and intonations neutral, leaving me no way to guess what he wanted to hear.
“I want to sell my watches,” I answered.
“You have more like this one?” he inquired.
“Not exactly the same, but all custom watches with spells you won’t find on the market,” I said. I leaned into the pitch. They already had me at their mercy, so why not?
“I’d like to see them.”
“I don’t have them with me,” I told him.
“That’s fine. You can get them and bring them back. Jim will make sure you travel safely. And I’ll hang on to this one while you’re gone; just a little insurance. You don’t mind, do you?” Daniel smiled as he finished his rhetorical question. His perfect teeth and warm brown eyes projected sincerity, even though his tone didn’t. Under different circumstances, I’d have found him just as attractive as Lyle.
“No, of course not,” I answered as cordially as my fear would allow.
“Very good. Jim, feel free to take one of the carriages. I’d like you back as quickly as possible,” Daniel said.
With that, Jim pulled me to the door. My mind raced with the possibilities to come. What if they wanted to take the watches and get rid of me? They hadn’t killed Greg, but they’d hurt him, so they weren’t above using violence. I needed to think of something to get me out of this unscathed. The watch Daniel held onto could have saved me without anyone getting hurt. I’d enchanted it as the ultimate stealth tool. If I ran, though, I’d need to leave the city. I couldn’t imagine trying to establish myself somewhere else. Even if I could get someone to buy my contract from Shaw’s, I doubted they’d do it without adding a fee of some sort to keep me from finishing my debt when I originally planned. With my current payments left, they wouldn’t get enough out of me to make it worth their investment.
On the other hand, what if I’d found the break I’d been looking for? Maybe Daniel would offer to buy a watch. His making introductions to the right people would satisfy my plans, too. I’m sure he’d want a cut of the profit if that were the case. I’d try upping my asking price if that happened. It might have been wishful thinking to hope for something good to come out of this. But panicking about everything that could go wrong wouldn’t do me any good. If I made Daniel see the value in helping me, this could still work out.
Jim didn’t let me go until he’d gotten me to a carriage and opened the door for me. I stepped up and took a seat inside. I didn’t like the idea of them knowing where I lived on top of where I worked, but I didn’t see any way to turn the situation around in my favor without doing what Daniel asked. Jim relayed the cross streets I gave him to the carriage driver and then stepped up to join me inside the carriage. The space felt small, with his bulky frame looming so close. I held my tongue and watched out the window as we left the warehouse.