Thomas smiled broadly. “You’re looking better than when I last saw you.”
“Yes, feeling it as well, thanks.” She hesitated then decided she might as well try to get a bit of a read on the situation, “Although I woke up in a locked room this morning. That was slightly unsettling.”
“Terribly sorry about that. All the recovery rooms lock from the outside. I mentioned the closed minded attitude the FDA takes toward magical medicine yesterday. To deal with that we keep this location a secret, and patients aren’t allowed to move around unescorted.”
Thomas gestured at the spread on the table. “Would you care for some food?” The table was set with a plate of pancakes, a bowl of boiled eggs, toast both white and wheat, bacon, sausages, a bunch of fruit, coffee, milk, and juice.
Jessie had noticed the food already, of course, the table practically groaned under its weight. She wanted to ignore the food as a statement that she didn’t need anything from Thomas, but there was no way she was going to pull that off. She was practically drooling on the table. Instead, she decided she’d just sit down and eat as though it was perfectly normal and she wouldn’t have taken a bite out of the confused tree if the food hadn’t been there.
Unfortunately, Thomas wasn’t fooled, “You might be experiencing an unusual degree of hunger. It’s directly related to the healing and your body needs the energy.”
Jessie sat and they both ate in silence for a few minutes. Eventually, as Jessie was showing signs of slowing if not stopping, Thomas asked, “So as I understand it you were working with K&J Paranormal Communications?”
“Working for, spying on, there wasn’t much difference most days. I did a lot of cold calling.” She wasn’t really giving Thomas any new information when she said that. She was fairly sure Dwennon had said he’d told Thomas he had a spy close to Kyle and unless Thomas was particularly dense he’d be able to figure out Kyle’s only employee was the spy.
Again, Thomas took her aggressive conversational twist calmly. “As I understand it, Dwennon put you up to that.”
“Before you shot him,” that time Jessie was just annoyed, it wasn’t really part of any strategy.
“A guard of mine shot him when he attacked me. I trust he’s OK. Elves can heal from almost anything that doesn’t kill them instantly. The magic bound into their makeup is quite impressive.”
“He was alive when I last saw him,” Jessie agreed.
“Tell, me, how exactly did he tell the story?”
“You weren’t willing to pay him for the information he’d gathered so he threatened to attack your illusion business by hiring Kyle. You cracked and shot him.”
Thomas gave her a startled look and burst out laughing. “How very direct of me! Quite gangster, I’d say. Perhaps I should look into singing a rap album. Does one sing those, or do you ‘rap’ them? Rapping a rap album seems redundant.”
Jessie gave him a dirty look. She wasn’t really buying the friendly grandfather act. “Alright, and your story is different?”
“A bit. I wasn’t even mainly there to talk to Dwennon about Kyle. When Kyle went into business I had Dwennon place some people to keep an eye on him. I mainly wanted to ensure he was using the ‘spell’ responsibly. It has, well, considerable destructive power due to its nature. Dwennon misunderstood. He tried to sabotage Kyle, and when that failed he used his own contacts to get Kyle tangled up in the IP investigation at Magic Materials incorporated. I suppose that’s how things are done in the mafia, but it considerably exceeded his warrant.”
“So you just came down to tell him to play nice?”
Thomas took a sip of his coffee. “No, not at all. I am old my dear, you must understand that. It’s made me cautious. When I learned he’d gone against my wishes so grandly in one place I investigated everything else he’d been doing. I found that he’d been dramatically misusing my operations here. He was overcharging the patients and pocketing the difference. When someone couldn’t pay for my services he’d extend them a loan at an exorbitant rate and then keep them in veritable slavery as they attempted to pay it off. Perhaps you know about that?” Thomas paused and raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“Indeed. I was a fool to have trusted him. I should have used medical professionals to find cases where I could help, but I had decided to use a less savory figure because of the legalities. I regret that now, and I’m building a network of professionals I can trust. It will slow things down here, but it’s necessary if I want to continue my work.”
“So you broke things off with Dwennon, he threatened this business, then you shot him to keep people safe?”
“Somewhat closer. I laughed at him. Dwennon had gathered a little evidence on my operations, but nothing he could really use against me. I’m an old and well connected man; this facility has a cover story.” Thomas picked up a piece of bacon and crunched it looking rather proud of himself.
Jessie picked up some bacon and crunched it as well. She’d wanted that to be parody, but it was really good bacon and she was still hungry. The gesture turned into just eating bacon. When her mouth was empty she asked, “So then he shot himself in shame?”
“No, then he tried to grab me. He was injured when my guards prevented that.”
“But the bounty hunters brought me here. They were definitely yours. That manticore tried to kill Kyle!”
Thomas shrugged. “That was good luck. I own a five percent share in MMI, and I’m on the board of directors. When Dwennon’s IP deception reached us, I kicked off the investigation using my own people. After speaking with Dwennon, I appraised them of the situation, and they brought you right to me. I wanted to explain things.” He smiled warmly.
“And the manticore?” That seemed damning to Jessie.
Again, Thomas had a ready explanation. A sad look crossed his face, “Ehtisham is an unfortunate case. You must understand, he looks like a monster but he’s essentially the victim of an extremely debilitating genetic condition. Temper is a part of that, his brain chemistry is not unaffected by his state. His upbringing was flawed as well. He was raised by… Well it’s not really my story to share. I regret that I thought he’d come farther than he actually had and could be trusted with field work. He’s sorry for his actions, and has returned to an anger management program. His condition obviously lends itself to law enforcement work, but given our recent experience we’re investigating other places where his physical capacity can be useful.”
Jessie wanted to ask him why she was still locked up in the facility now that she was awake and feeling better, but she could already imagine his smooth response. ‘I needed to heal you my dear. Now you may go. Fly free!’ If that was true, she wouldn’t need to leave, and if it was false calling his bluff wouldn’t help her. Thomas was good at this. Or, just possibly, honest. It made her head spin.
In the silence, a wave of very real looking sadness crossed over Thomas’s face, “You know I remember your mother. We can help a great many people at this facility but we don’t help everyone. I deeply regret we couldn’t do anything for her. On top of that, you were drawn into a terrible situation and then injured due to my mistakes. When I got the whole story I had to do everything for you that I could. Patching up your wounds was the least of that.”
“And that’s all?” There was still some doubt in Jessie’s voice, but less than she would have expected.
Thomas didn’t seem offended. “I do also hope you’ll be willing to contact Kyle and help me clear up some of this situation. He seems to trust you. Maybe he’d be willing to sit down at a table with me if you tell him I mean well.”