I saw Jim leaving as I approached Daniel’s warehouse. It didn’t worry me exactly, but I’d hoped to have him there. He put me at ease. I could do this without him, though. If I planned to continue doing business with Daniel, I couldn’t count on Jim being around every time. So, I walked on toward the warehouse. Unfortunately, Patrick saw me as I went. I forced myself to smile at him, reminding myself he took orders from Daniel and Daniel wanted my skills. Despite the unsettling feeling he gave me, Patrick wouldn’t hurt me.
“Is that the boss’s order?” he asked when I reached the front door.
“You’re early,” he said, some suspicion in his tone.
“I’ve had more time on my hands since resigning at the factory,” I told him. He didn’t need to know I’d padded my initial estimate more than I needed to begin with.
“Well, I can make sure he gets them. Follow me, and we’ll get your payment,” he offered, reaching out for the hard case I carried.
“Actually, I have other business to discuss with Daniel if he’s available,” I replied, gripping the case’s handle tighter. Maybe I just had a suspicious mind when it came to this man, but I’d feel safer handing presenting the watches myself.
“Of course,” he said, seeming unbothered. “I’ll announce you.”
Patrick escorted me to Daniel’s office. I kept my eyes on the back of his head. My curiosity about what Daniel actually did grew as I spent more time with Jim. But I didn’t want anyone to see me gawking at the warehouse workers. On top of embarrassing myself, I might see something I couldn’t ignore. Maybe not, though. For all I knew, Daniel’s crimes could be illegal without being amoral. I hadn’t hurt anyone while making my custom watches, but I’d definitely broken several laws to create them. Since I started breaking laws, I’d found that ethics and legality weren’t nearly as synonymous as I once believed.
“Dimitri, good to see you,” Daniel said with genuine good cheer. I’d seen his false polite face. His eyes didn’t light up the way they did when he truly enjoyed someone’s company. “How have you been?”
“I’m well, and you?”
“Business as usual. I can’t complain,” he replied. “Thank you, Patrick.”
Patrick nodded and closed me in the office with his boss.
“I’ve brought your order,” I said, holding up the hard case.
“So soon?” he asked.
“I resigned from my factory job sooner than I originally planned. It’s freed me up for other priorities,” I told him.
“Ah, I’m sure your talents are put to better use away from Shaw’s.”
“Agreed. I’m eager to find a space for my shop. You mentioned the other night you could help me find a location that suits my needs. Is that offer still available?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Do you have some specifics in mind?”
“The storefront is the obvious necessity. But I’d like there to be an office, a workshop, and a lavatory as well,” I listed.
“Those are all very reasonable expectations,” he replied.
“My difficulty has been finding somewhere upscale enough for the product while still having the rent in my budget,” I explained. “I’m hoping to find somewhere in the two to three thousand gold monthly.”
“And your lack of independent business history puts some property owners,” he added.
“Yes, several don’t take my inquiries seriously for that reason,” I agreed.
“Not to worry. Give me the night to make some arrangements and meet me back here tomorrow morning. Does 9 work for you?”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “Um…”
“You have a concern?” he asked.
“I don’t want to sound unappreciative, but what made you decide to help me?”
“I admire your talent and drive. On top of that, several of your spells are valuable to my business,” he answered.
“You’ve also mentioned maintaining a working relationship before,” I prompted.
“Yes, I’m sure you knew before even developing these spells that they’re unlikely to be legalized in our lifetime. I don’t know if you already intend to continue using those enchantments once you’ve established a publicly acceptable business. I’d encourage you to do so. Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to sell them openly. But if you’re open to an arrangement, we can work together to make them available to the right people,” he explained.
“I’m at least open to a discussion. I can’t promise anything more,” I said.
“That’s fair. We can take things a step at a time. For now, let’s focus on finding you the right space.”
“All right,” I assented.
Daniel and Jim greeted me in front of the warehouse. I’d made sure to arrive five minutes early, and Daniel smiled at my punctuality. I couldn’t read Jim’s expression, though. It gave me pause. Between the two, I’d expect Jim to be happier to see me. Did I do something to upset him? Nothing came to mind. We hadn’t seen each other since discovering how to detect the invisibility spell. I hoped if today went well, we’d celebrate afterward. He didn’t look up for it, though.
The three of us got into Daniel’s carriage. Daniel tapped the wall behind him to signal the driver we’d settled into our seats, and we lurched forward. I didn’t have much experience riding in carriages. The last time felt much grimmer, seeing as I didn’t know if I’d survive the night. Without that foreboding energy, I found I enjoyed the experience. I watched out the window at the people we passed. Some stared at the vehicle as we drove along, but most of them went about their day.
We rode through the area where I’d toured storefronts initially. I worried we’d had a misunderstanding as we kept going uptown. Did Daniel mishear the budget I’d given him the previous night? How could I afford a space this far from my side of town? I considered saying so but got too nervous. I knew we’d reached too wealthy of an area when I started seeing more carriages on the road with us. This part of the city divided the street into separate types of traffic. Carriages had a lane designated for each direction, and there were paths for foot traffic on either side. Downtown people made room for passing carriages as needed.
When we finally stopped, I didn’t want to get out. I’d never be able to afford something in this neighborhood. Oblivious to my anxiety, our driver opened the door for us. Jim stepped out first, then nodded for Daniel and me to follow. Daniel went ahead of me. What was the worst that could happen? I’d see a beautiful space outside my price range? I didn’t want to insult Daniel and seem ungrateful. So, I stepped out of the carriage to see a lovely three-story building on the corner of the block.
“If this space doesn’t work, I’ve got two others we can tour today,” Daniel said.
I stayed silent, and he led us in the store’s front door.