If Dwennon could pressure Thomas for more money then Thomas couldn’t control him. That meant Kyle could do magic for Dwennon and Dwennon would be able to shield him from Thomas.
Jessie wasn’t sure what magic an underworld figure might need, but the fundamental business logic was the same. Kyle’s illusions were cheap enough to use for things that had never been profitable enough for illusion before. If Dwennon owned strip clubs three quarters of the strippers could be prerecorded. If he wanted live music it could be done with illusory bands. Heck the back rank of toughs during some shady meetings could be conjured out of thin air.
It was a devil’s bargain. Jessie knew that better than anyone, but she thought Kyle deserved the choice. If she could have traveled back in time and prevented herself from learning about the illegal treatments she’d purchased for her mother she didn’t think she’d do it. Yes, they’d failed. Yes, it had left her in a bad spot. Even so, she wouldn’t have wanted that one last punch, that final saving throw, stolen away.
Jessie also realized offering Kyle the deal would solve her problem. She wouldn’t be spying on him any more. So, she’d go to Dwennon, tell him she wanted out, and then she’d convince him to let her out by convincing him to give Kyle an out as well.
* * *
The employee entrance to the kitchen at the Prime Meridian was open as Jessie pulled up and parked, but nothing struck her as odd about that. They left that door open all the time. Between the dancers, the stoves, and the electronics of the big sound system the club could get hot. They’d prop it open, and sometimes put a fan in it, even in the middle of the winter.
It wasn’t until she actually got to the door that she remembered having to call to be let in the last time she’d come for a non-business hours meeting. If the club wasn’t open, all of those heat sources would be off or living productive lives somewhere else. Furthermore, the door wasn’t propped open with the cinder block they always used. It was badly dented near the hinges so it was rubbing and didn’t fall closed like it should have.
It spoke to how bad the last few days had been that Jessie immediately thought there might be some sort of danger waiting for her inside. She considered turning around, but she had important business and it wasn’t exactly safe to stand Dwennon up for an appointment. She carefully stepped into the kitchens.
The empty building was creepy. Then again, Jessie always found empty public spaces sort of creepy. Most of the lights were down so there were long shadows everywhere. She’d worn heels for the meeting. She regretted it; they made enough noise to echo slightly on the tile floor. She slipped them off and set them on a counter near the door to improve her stealth and sprint speed in case it came to running. If Dwennon or Servant were waiting up ahead they’d all have a good laugh over what a coward she was and she’d come back for them.
But she didn’t think anyone was going to be waiting.
There were other signs of a struggle as she got deeper into the club. Something huge had hit the wall by the entrance- Jessie assumed that was what had damaged the door. Various pieces of cooking equipment, normally stored on the counters, were laying on the floor. Most disturbingly, there was a trail of rusty red splashes along the floor. Blood, probably, but well on it’s way to drying which gave her some comfort. There wasn’t really a lot of it, but if you assumed whoever had left the trail had been moving rapidly then it must have been a pretty good flow at the time.
She left the kitchens and crossed through the main floor of the club. It was normally used for dancing, so there wasn’t much to hit, but a speaker had been knocked partially off of it’s wall mount, and there were several holes in the wall near it. They looked innocuous, like maybe someone had hit the wall with a broom handle, but at this point bullets seemed the more likely culprit.
Jessie reached the hall the manager’s offices were in and pushed the door open, just a crack, with her foot. She was careful not to stand directly in front of it. She stood like that for a long moment listening carefully. She couldn’t hear anything except for the sound of her own breathing, but that sounded quite loud.
Carefully, she opened the door, slipped inside and shut it so it wouldn’t make a sound. This hall was just as she’d last seen it, no blood, no bullet holes, nothing knocked over. The offices were all dark, as she would have expected, except for the managers office. That was where she’d been expecting to meet Dwennon. Could he be in there? She stopped again and this time she thought she heard breathing. If it was breathing it wasn’t healthy- it was most like a series of pained gasps.
She stood there for a couple of long minutes listening for anything that might tell her it wasn’t safe. Eventually a liquid cough came from the room and someone spoke, “Jessie, I assume that’s you. If it were someone come to finish me off they wouldn’t linger so, and you’re right on time for our appointment. Do come in. I have urgent business elsewhere and I would like to speak to you before I go.”