Jessie was getting her car serviced. On the way home from work it had announced that at the current destination it wasn’t going to move anymore without repairs. She could finally do something about that. Because her payments to Dwennon were suspended, she could dip into her savings a little, but beyond that Dwennon had actually refunded her last month’s payment. He hadn’t explained why, or in fact even told her in advance, the money had just showed up in her account. Perhaps it was his version of an employee bonus, or noblesse oblige, or GAAP, or something. If Dwennon started making sense Jessie would worry. She’d changed her destination to an auto repair place and crossed her fingers that the work wouldn’t be so bad. She still wasn’t rich.
It hadn’t been great. But after the tech had chatted things over with the computer, given her his estimate, and then divided his estimate into what she could pay for and what she could put off until later, it had been possible. He even assured her that her car would be willing to venture onto the highways again.
Waiting while the work was done turned out to be oddly relaxing. Jessie felt like she’d been scrambling for a long time. While she waited there wasn’t anything productive she could do. She watched the sports channel the shop TV was turned to and periodically used her phone to poke the shop’s status system for updates on when her car would be done, but she didn’t really care. It was nice to just sit.
Then it became not-so-nice when someone spoke from so close beside her that she actually felt the brush of their breath on her cheek, “Hello.”
Jessie stiffened, jerked to look at the intruder, and then forced herself to relax. It was Dwennon’s Enchanted. She wasn’t certain how he’d gotten into the room without her noticing. The door to the small shop had a bell above it, but anachronistically, it was a real bell. Perhaps he’d just opened the door slowly and smoothly enough that it didn’t ring. Now that she knew he was there his strange sweet racing fuel smell was almost cloying. Once she had her breathing under enough control to speak calmly she said, “Hello… What should I call you anyway?”
“You may call me Servant. I am a servant of Lord Dwennon.”
“Very nice, Servant.” Jessie eyed him. The Enchanted seemed somewhat less threatening than he had previously. It was probably because this was the first time she’d seen him in the daylight. In the light his painfully thin frame looked less ‘skeletal’ in the threatening sense and more ‘skeletal’ in the cancer patient sense. She decided to take a risk. “So you’re Ese as well?”
Servant turned his head faster than a human would have, perhaps faster than a human even could have. Jessie almost didn’t see the turn, just a jerk as his head relocated. “I am not Ylef. I am a humble changeling servant of the race of Lords.”
“Right, well, I’m sure you’re a good one.” The answer had been what Jessie had been hoping for. Not that Servant would identify himself as a changeling, but rather that he would identify himself as anything. She’d Google ‘changeling’ later to see if she could get anything other than myths of kidnapping fae.
Servant seemed happy to sit motionless while she thought. Jessie didn’t know if that was a side effect of his status as a ‘changeling’, part of his enchantment, or just good training as a servant. She was trying to work out her next move when Servant unexpectedly spoke, “I am hungry.”
Jessie jumped up and backed several steps away from him even though he hadn’t moved. “I can’t help with that!”
“Of course not, but you will not take offence if I eat in your presence?” He made a quick darting gesture to his coat pocket and drew out a candy bar. No, looking closer, Jessie realized he had a small stack of chocolate bars.
She blew out a sigh of relief. “No problem.”
Servant ate one of the candy bars in a series of quick nips. His bites didn’t seem large but they contrived to finish the candy in less than 30 seconds. “Have you anything to report,” Servant asked when he finished.
Oh, Jessie thought, that’s right. This isn’t a social call; I’m a double agent. Then she felt guilty. She found herself darting looks around the waiting room to see if anyone was watching. They were alone, and no one but Kyle would care. “Well,” she began thinking about what to say, “Illusion Consulting LLC is shut out of the illusion industry. The entire industry is sewn up in contracts with Thomas Illusions, and no one is willing to touch anything new.” She detailed some of his failures. Servant didn’t take any notes, or even move much. He ate another 4 chocolate bars. She decided that if he’d been trained to act like this then someone had some very odd ideas about how a proper servant behaved. The sweet smell coming off of him intensified.
“What is he doing about this?”
She considered the truth, He hired me to use my old advertising degree to come up with a plan to bail him out. I think I’ve got a good one, and it felt great to get to do some real work, but it wasn’t hard because he’s got an incredible product. She decided that might not be the best response. “He tried to put on a promotional event at the mall, but it went fairly poorly.” She detailed their morning, embellishing how wrong it went as far as she could. If everything she said about the business was negative then whoever she was reporting to would probably just watch and wait.
Servant nodded. His face, Jessie noted, was particularly expressionless. “He received a call yesterday. You scheduled an appointment.”
Jessie nodded silently, mainly because she was too stunned to say anything coherent. Had they bugged the office? Tapped the phone lines? Now that she thought about it, she realized none of that would be surprising. They had a spy after all. Why not a listening device? She also wondered how Servant had found her at the repair place. He’d been following her before. Just how much of the time was he watching her?
“You will tell me how that develops. I will send contact information. Goodbye.” Without any further word Servant rose and crossed to the door. His steps were so fast he moved at something close to a run.
Jessie considered the information Servant had let drop about the appointment she’d scheduled. She decided both that and his contacting her had been deliberate. He’d wanted her to understand exactly how firmly under control she was.