I hadn’t expected Daniel to be so generous with Dimitri. He didn’t always choose the ruthless option, but catching someone spying seemed like a reasonable time to be cutthroat. Not that I wanted him to hurt Dimitri or ask me to do it. Things turned out better than I think any of us anticipated. And I looked forward to seeing the WatchCaster again, especially after our magic connected at his apartment. My surprise must have shown on my face instead of my relief, though.
“Why do you look so confused, Jim?” Daniel asked.
“That’s just not what I expected, sir,” I said.
“I’m a criminal, but I’m not a villain,” he said with an affronted expression.
“Oh, no. I didn’t mean to imply—”
“Relax, Jim, I’m joking,” he interrupted. Daniel expressed a myriad of emotions with his smiles. The one he gave me now looked warm and kind. “That young man has a lot of potential, not unlike yourself.”
“Yes, sir,” I agreed.
“I’d like you to get close to him,” he said.
“For what purpose, sir?” I asked. His request seemed too good to be true.
“Most of these spells won’t get approval for public consumption. When he opens his store, he’ll focus on the sanctioned enchantments. I’d like the option of purchasing more watches like these in the future. I see the possibility of a partnership in the future. That will be easier to form if we maintain a connection with him now,” he explained. “He didn’t look at Patrick or me with the same curiosity he had for you. I don’t think you’ll have much trouble convincing him to let you in.”
“I’ll find a reason to meet with him again soon,” I said. I’d hoped I’d be the one to walk Dimitri out so we could continue our discussion on magic, but this assignment gave me a better excuse than that short walk provided.
“Very good. I have an appointment to get to. Make sure things run smooth in my absence,” He ordered. “I won’t be back tonight. We’ll start testing these watches tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir,” I agreed.
Daniel put Dimitri’s watches in his personal safe and took Patrick with him when he left. Except for needing to use my magic to get Greg out of his workroom, the rest of the night passed uneventfully. Patrick, of course, neglected to leave me the second set of keys, so I had to get creative after closing up. Once I’d confirmed that everyone had left, I locked all the doors and went up to the roof. The exit hatch up there only opened from the inside, so I didn’t need to worry about locking it behind me. Each rung of the ladder squeaked under my weight. I swore I’d make Daniel regret taking the keys with him if I fell. Luckily for both of us, I made it to the ground safely.
It took the next two days to thoroughly test all of Dimitri’s new spells, even with the repetition of some enchantments on the watches. We didn’t open the warehouse on the weekends, so the three of us didn’t have to worry about concealing the tests. Daniel grew particularly fond of the Thief’s Gambit and kept that one with him. He let Patrick hold on to the Dragon’s Horde. The rest he’d loan out when he had assignments that suited their abilities. The success of all the spells left Daniel in such a good mood by the end of the second day that he dismissed Patrick and me early.
I didn’t want to go home so early, so I decided to check in on Dimitri. I went to his apartment first but got no answer at his door. The only other places I knew to look were Shaw’s Watch Factory and the Caster’s bar. Shaw’s ran on a similar schedule to Daniel’s warehouse, so I didn’t bother going there. Instead, I headed for the Caster’s bar. On the way out of Dimitri’s neighborhood, I heard a scuffle down the alleys I passed. I expected to see some strays fighting over food, but I saw two men cornering a third. One of the men brandished a knife at the man they’d ganged up on. It wouldn’t take long to deal with the thugs, so I turned down the alley.
“You’re gonna give us that money, one way or the other,” the knife-wielding man said. I recognized his voice.
When I got close enough, I saw Greg and one of his co-workers closing in on Dimitri. I didn’t hesitate. My shock spell surged through the two thugs. They went ramrod straight, and all their hair stood on end. When I finally cut the power off, they collapsed. I kicked the knife out of Greg’s hand before hauling him to his feet. I slammed him into the alley’s brick wall, and he groaned.
“You don’t know what a big mistake you almost made. Mr. Clarkson has a special interest in this man. Imagine what he’ll do if I told him you threatened his new friend,” I said.
“Get off me,” Greg rasped.
“I think I’d like to hear you apologize first,” I said.
“Jim! Behind you,” Dimitri warned me.
I stepped aside, and Greg’s friend punched the wall, only missing Greg by a few inches. He screamed and looked at his bleeding fist. I punched him and heard the satisfying crack of his nose breaking. He stumbled backward. Greg scrambled for the knife, but I grabbed the back of his jacket, and he came up short. I threw him to the ground and kicked him for good measure. His friend abandoned him, taking off without a glance back. I nudged Greg with my boot so he rolled onto his back, and I stepped on his chest.
“If I hear anything happened to Dimitri, I will hold you personally responsible. You got that?” I asked. He nodded weakly, and I lifted my foot. He scrambled backward until he could get up and run. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Dimitri sighed. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Can I walk you home?” I asked.
“You don’t have to,” he said.
“It’s no problem,” I insisted.
“All right,” he agreed.
He knelt to pick up the grocery bag from the ground. They must have jumped him on his way home from the market. I helped him pack the spilled fruit into the tote. Some of it would bruise, but they hadn’t ruined anything for the most part. I took the tote once we finished packing it, and we walked out of the alley together. When the sun shone on his face, I noticed a patch of blood matting his hair to his forehead. It ran down the side of his face and dripped onto his clothes. I wanted to find Greg and knock him around a bit more for that. Dimitri wobbled a little but didn’t fall as we made our way to his place. I locked his door behind us and got him to sit at his kitchen table. He let me clean the blood with the kitchen towel, looking exhausted. I wondered if Daniel would give me approval to really hurt Greg for this. For now, I’d worry about getting Dimitri cleaned up.