Good news and bad news, Kyle thought, and she looked guilty. Crap! Someone had gotten to her, forced her to tell them where he was. Why hadn’t he thought of that? Crap crap crap! He had to get out of there. He’d picked up a couple of pairs of clothes after checking in since he hadn’t been willing to risk going back to his apartment. He wondered if he had time to grab them. No, first he needed to gather up some magic. At least outside he’d be able to cast the stun spell. He lowered his head and tried to focus enough to pull together some power.
“Relax,” Jessie said loudly enough to snap him out of it. “You were getting ready to work some sort of magic, right?”
“The stun spell. If someone is coming you need to run. I don’t blame you and thanks for the warning, but run.”
“Settle down, I don’t know what you think is going on, but we’ve got time to talk. There’s no one coming.” She stood up and walked over to the bedside table to lean on it. “That wasn’t the bad news.”
“So what’s the bad news?”
She put her teeth together and blew a breath through them making a sort of hissing sound then winced. “Um, there’s not really a good way to say this. I think maybe I should just lay it on you. No one had to get to me, for information I mean, I was a spy.”
“What?” Kyle legitimately meant the question. He’d heard her, but what she’d said wasn’t processing.
She moved back to the bed, sat down, twisted her fingers together, and then looked at them like they were really interesting. “Right from the start, I was spying on you. That’s why I came to your office in the first place. I wanted the job to get information about your business. Um, sorry.”
“So I do need to run?”
“No! I was a spy. I haven’t told them where you are. I’m not spying now. Just, uh, earlier.”
Kyle pinched the bridge of his nose. “I guess, I don’t understand.”
So Jessie explained. She started at the very beginning with her mom’s illness, the treatments, the debt she owed to Dwennon and his various rules for its repayment. Kyle thought she laid it out decently. She didn’t string together justifications, and excuses so thickly it was nearly impossible to see any honest regret underneath. That didn’t mean he forgave her.
He was still angry. He was angry at Jessie, and he was angry at the situation. He hadn’t wanted to hire anyone! Then she’d come along, and he’d thought it was good luck. But, no, she’d been reporting everything to Thomas. She thought she was probably behind both the attack at the car lot and the one at the old mine. She’d stabbed him in the back, she’d betrayed him. Although a small piece of his mind complained that it wasn’t actually fair to say “betrayed” given that she was playing for the other team from the start. OK “fooled” or “lied to”. She’d certainly done those things.
“So, do you want to do it,” Jessie asked breaking into his thoughts and making him realize he’d quit paying attention, but she hadn’t quit talking.
“Do what?” A little bit of anger crept into Kyle’s voice.
If Jessie heard she didn’t react, which was probably best in terms of keeping what peace still existed. Instead she repeated herself calmly, “Thomas and Dwennon had a falling out. They aren’t working together any longer. That’s why I’m not a spy anymore. Instead, Dwennon wanted me to help him get revenge on Thomas. He emailed me the address of Thomas’s illegal magical operations and gave me a bunch of other information about how he thought they could be hit. It seemed like he’d been gathering information on them for years. When I met with him yesterday, he said I was uniquely positioned to do the job. I think, by that, he meant I should get you involved. Well, he probably also might have meant I was expendable. Still, you’d know how to document illegal magic, wouldn’t you?”
Kyle answered the question automatically, “Yeah. There’s a few things that would be fairly obvious signs. I could probably figure out what other things were being used for after the fact.”
“Alright, are you in? Exposing Thomas would solve all our problems.”
“I don’t see how I can be. How do I know this isn’t some sort of trap?”
Jessie looked back down at her hands, “I wouldn’t do that!”
“You would. You did!”
She looked back up, angry now. “I did not. I provided information, that’s all. It was just about your business, and I hated doing it. I never thought any of it would go as far as it did, and I’m sorry! I was wrong! I’m admitting all of that, but it’s also over now. You know this isn’t some sort of trap, because it would be the stupidest trap ever. I tell you I’m a spy and then propose we walk into a facility owned by the guy I’m working for, what could I say that would put you more on guard than that?”
That was probably true, but it really wasn’t the point. “Were you the one that called from the courthouse? I nearly died there.”
“No. I didn’t tell them about that because I didn’t have to. I passed on as little information as I could.”
“Oh, well, I’m glad you kept the number of times you stabbed me in the back to a bare minimum. It would sting if I thought you enjoyed it.”
“It wasn’t like that. I didn’t even know you when I agreed to the job. It was just a job. It wasn’t backstabbing or anything. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry I did it, but we weren’t old friends or something. I didn’t even know you.”
That made Kyle hesitate just a bit, because it was the point that he’d hung up on before. She hadn’t known him, it had just been a job when she’d been in a really tight spot and really needed one. It was a little bit like blaming a Russian for spying for Russia. Of course they’d do that, and why not? Unless he could condemn all spying, categorically, then he wasn’t standing on principle, he was just being angry. Worse, he might also be letting his anger take away a fairly important opportunity. He stood up and paced the room, trying to get a handle on his emotions, and think about things logically. Jessie let him, and for a few minutes there was nothing but the sound of Kyle pacing in the room.
Then the window exploded.