“I’m certain I warned you off of Dimitri, Greg,” I said. I didn’t believe for a second that he coincidentally exited right behind Dimitri.
“I haven’t bothered him,” Greg said.
“And it’s going to stay that way,” I said. “You’re expected at the warehouse. Hurry along.”
Greg walked away, muttering something about comeuppance. He didn’t scare me after his pathetic showing during our last two confrontations. I used my concealment spell and followed behind him at a distance. Daniel and I hoped we wouldn’t have to escort him after work anymore. Daniel said it was a waste of my talents. Tonight, I’d follow him while he thought he was alone. If he veered off course, we’d send one of the less subtle enforcers to pick him up going forward. Greg had already gotten away with more disobedience than some. I had no doubt Daniel would cut his losses if it came to that.
Thankfully, Greg walked straight to the warehouse without detours or stalling. My night of covertly following people didn’t end there, though. Daniel noticed a discrepancy with the timing of Cam’s carriage trips and wanted me to ride with him. I climbed onto the back of the carriage, hoping for an uneventful trip. I didn’t mind Cam. We weren’t close or even friends, but he didn’t look at me like a grimclackle. Even some of the other enforcers shy away from me when they can. They’d never admit to being scared, of course. But I knew I unnerved people.
Things went as scheduled for the first three deliveries. Between his third and fourth destination, though, Cam went off course. At first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He could have been taking an alternate route. He wasn’t. Cam stepped down from the coachmen’s seat and approached the back of a restaurant. I sneaked behind him. A man in a tattered suit came out of the restaurant. He looked anxious. I didn’t find Cam intimidating, but this man clearly did. He had good reason being shorter, skinnier, and older than Cam.
“I don’t see my money,” Cam said.
“Business has been bad. We barely covered all our bills this month,” the older man said.
“That’s a shame. I’ll give you two days. I can’t be responsible for what happens if you still don’t have it. It’s a dangerous world,” Cam said.
I went back to the carriage while the man tried to appease Cam. Daniel wouldn’t like this. We stopped at two other businesses before getting back on track with the deliveries. The neighborhood fell outside Daniel’s territory, but he couldn’t tolerate any of his people striking out on their own using his resources. Cam’s victims wouldn’t have to worry about whatever retribution he might have bestowed. Forcing him to shut things down would be the best-case scenario once we got back to the warehouse. I thought about warning Cam to shut things down quietly. I couldn’t lie to Daniel, though.
Cam made two more off-schedule stops before the end of his route. No wonder Daniel noticed the discrepancy. With all the extra stops, the trip took an hour and a half longer than it should have. It wouldn’t have been as noticeable if he’d spread his collections throughout the week. I wondered if those five businesses accounted for his whole protection racket or if he already had spread things out for himself. If he made different stops each night of the week, I’d be sparing a lot of people’s pain by telling Daniel about Cam’s side business. Even if it only meant liberating these five, I wouldn’t feel too bad for Cam.
“How did it go?” Daniel asked when I entered his office.
“He’s adding his own stops to his routes,” I said.
“Business or personal?” Daniel asked. Would it make a difference to what he did with Cam?
“Business. He’s charging businesses for his protection. He’s steering clear of your territory,” I answered.
“Bring him in,” Daniel ordered.
I nodded and left the office. I found Cam cleaning the carriage windows with a satisfied smile. He did this regularly. Cam always kept this carriage spotless. Unfortunately, his habit of maintaining the carriage wouldn’t count for much. He saw my reflection in the glass and turned to face me. He must have seen something in my expression. For the first time, he looked at me like the monster of bedtime stories. He schooled his face.
“Everything good, Jim?” he asked.
“Daniel wants to see you,” I said, trying to sound casual.
“Sure thing, I’ll just be a minute,” he said. He clearly hoped I’d leave him. We both knew he wouldn’t come to Daniel’s office if I did.
“He’s a busy man,” I said.
“Right, of course. He’s the boss.”
Cam walked into the warehouse, and I followed closely. He’d picked me up enough times to know that people don’t get away when Daniel sent me after them. He didn’t know what I did to incapacitate them, and he wouldn’t have to. Cam went to Daniel’s office without hesitation. I closed the door behind us. He didn’t have time to explain himself. Daniel used the immobilization spell from the Thief’s Gambit. Both Cam and I froze in place. Thanks to my participation in testing the watches, I shook off the effects.
“I’m very disappointed,” Daniel said. Cam couldn’t respond. The paralysis held his mouth shut. He couldn’t even blink until the spell ended. “While I appreciate an entrepreneurial spirit, I can’t be proud of you for lying to me. Using my carriage for your business without even asking is unacceptable. It’s a shame, really. If you’d brought the idea to me, maybe your side project could have benefited us both. Unfortunately, it’s going to cost both of us. Jim?”
“Yes, sir?” I asked.
“Did he collect any money tonight?”
“Yes, sir,” I repeated. I tapped my chest over my left lung to indicate where Cam put his earnings.
“We’ll consider this payment for the use of my carriage,” Daniel said as he plucked a pouch from Cam’s interior jacket pocket. “Now the question is what to do with you? Jim, do you think he’d sink straight to the bottom if we dropped him off the pier?”
“I think so, sir, but he would resurface when he bloated,” I said. Sweat trickled down Cam’s forehead.
“Ah, right, that would be messy. Perhaps not off the pier, then. Tell me, Cam, what would happen to your clients without your protection? Maybe a similar fate would be more appropriate.” Daniel released Cam from the paralysis.
“I’m so sorry. Please, don’t kill me. Please,” Cam said.
“Leave,” Daniel said. “You’ve made it clear that I can’t trust you.”
Cam darted around me and yanked the door open. He ran from the warehouse, and I doubt he stopped until he got home. He didn’t report for work the next day. I thought Daniel had been merciful. That thought shattered when I overheard some workmen talking about Cam being found dead the following day. He’d stopped breathing in his sleep. I knew Daniel had arranged it. This way, Cam wasn’t near the warehouse when he died, and no one could link it back to Daniel. Somehow, that seemed worse. Letting him get all the way home, letting him feel like he escaped, gave him false hope right before he died.