False Trail

They didn’t end up going to the closest hotel. That was an expensive place downtown, and it was close enough to the courthouse that anyone looking for them might have checked it. Instead Kyle had Jessie get on the interstate and start driving for Canada. They got gas with his credit card, and then stopped at several ATMs and withdrew enough cash to drain his account. He maxed out a couple of credit cards at the same time.

Kyle didn’t talk much during the trip away from the city, and after the first hour of driving and the ATM stops Jessie started to worry that he actually was making a run for the border. She wasn’t exactly sure that was a bad plan – for him. However she had no reason to flee and she eventually hesitantly broached the subject of maybe dropping him off at a bus or train station.

He’d had her drive him to one, but she hadn’t actually dropped him off. Instead they turned around returning the way they’d come. Kyle explained the entire expedition had been intended to leave a fake trail. Anyone hunting for him would pull his credit card records and draw a fairly straightforward line away from the city. The traffic network kept records as well. Though it would take a subpoena, or perhaps some bribery, to shake those loose. But even if their hypothetical pursuers did that they’d only find more evidence that Kyle was long gone.

It was a good plan. The only thing it didn’t take into account was that Jessie had sent a text message to Servant letting him know she still knew Kyle’s location when he was in the bathroom after one of their ATM stops. She felt terrible doing it, but she didn’t have any real choice. If he’d actually run then she would have had more flexibility. She could have driven back into town and kept quiet until Servant contacted her. Then she’d shrug and say, “I think he headed for Canada,” confident that his lead would be enough to keep him fairly safe. When she’d sent the message that was what she’d thought was happening.

Kyle ended up in a lousy hotel. It was off the old state highway in a block of hotels that had been profitable before the interstate had been built on the other side of town. They were all strip style places where each unit had an external door and a parking space in front of it. The one Kyle choose proudly advertised “free wifi” on a flickering digital sign by the front office. Jessie wasn’t certain it was the last place anyone would look, it seemed like the sort of place the local police might want to bust about once a week just for practice. However, it was cheap and there was nothing to tie them to it.

Well, nothing to tie Kyle to it. Jessie didn’t stay at the hotel. She stopped at a gas station a few blocks down from it and topped off her tank. Kyle got out when she did and walked back to the hotel. It was more misdirection aimed at the traffic network.
He barely even said goodbye when he left and he certainly didn’t tell her his plans or when he’d contact her again. Jessie supposed he didn’t know what he was going to do next and she further supposed it was just as well that he hadn’t said anything because then she might have to tell Servant about it. But, absurdly, she felt just a little hurt anyway. He could at least talk about what he thought he might do, bounce some ideas of her. Hadn’t she helped him in the past?

Instead she went home, gave Suma a censored version of events, and waited for someone to call. No one did. At first it was a relief. She’d assumed Servant would be getting back to her fairly quickly, but she hadn’t wanted to tell him anything. Kyle didn’t call either. That made more sense. He’d turned his phone off while they were still laying their false trail so he couldn’t be tracked through it. He could have picked up a pay-as-you-go phone; probably had given how big a pain it would have been to get around without a working phone, but what would he call her about?

Jessie really wasn’t a part of the equation anymore. She’d been thinking what Kyle should do next since they’d learned that Thomas had probably known the revolutionary technique Kyle had “invented” for illusion for half a millennium.

She’d framed it like one of the business cases they’d had to do in school. “Kyle the owner of the start-up business K&J Paranormal Communication thought he’d be able to build his brand based on a totally new way of generating light for illusions. His primary competitor is Thomas the Illusionist. Kyle has learned Thomas has the entire illusion market in a monopolistic hold, and has been keeping knowledge of the spell Kyle believed he invented from the public for over 500 years. Thomas has reacted strongly to Kyle’s entry into the illusion market by framing him for numerous crimes and workplace infractions as well as making at least one attempt on his life. How should Kyle respond?”

Put that way she was torn between answering the question, “Change his name and flee,” or, “Knuckle under, join Thomas’s organization, and try to work his way up from the inside.” Neither of those options involved her, though it did make her wonder how the set of answers would change if she included the line, “Kyle has a spy in his organization,” in the imaginary case. Probably it didn’t change anything. If Kyle doesn’t know about the spy then obviously he can’t respond. If he does know then maybe he could use the spy as a channel of communication with Thomas. Then again, maybe not, Thomas would have to actually talk to his spy to make that happen.

While all that is going on, what was the spy suppose to do?

* * *

Jessie spent a week worrying over that question, and she came up with something of a plan. Though that plan scared her. On Tuesday she finally heard from someone. It was a terse text from an unknown number that came in mid afternoon. “Will meet with client for your services at 6. Come to club at 7. -D”

Jessie didn’t know what to make of that. Obviously Dwennon was meeting with his client, who she had to presume was Thomas at this point. Maybe Dwennon was trying to squeeze his client for more money. “Oh, you can’t find the young mage? Well, my agent just happens to have his current mailing address. Perhaps we could discuss what this information is worth to you?” That made sense.

The part she didn’t get was why Dwennon would want to meet with her? He could have asked for the location in the text he sent, or failing that he could have called. A meeting suggested a longer conversation, like perhaps he wanted to change their deal. That might be the case if Dwennon thought Jessie was still in active contact with Kyle. But he’d only think that if Thomas hadn’t tried to track Kyle at all. What did that say about Thomas’s current mindset?

Jessie spent the remainder of the afternoon worrying about that, and to prevent herself from worrying she overdressed for the meeting. She did her hair and makeup, went through several different professional, business casual, and informal outfits before deciding on a business casual. She included some of her mother’s jewelry, in it. The jewelry was slightly too good for the outfit, and perhaps a little too old fashioned for a meeting with a mobster, but it made her feel closer to her mother.

She gave herself one last look in the mirror, and fixed a determined smile on her face. Her plan would work. In a way this meeting just proved it. Maybe.

Don't Try This At Home
Empty Public Spaces are Creepy

For some reason I cannot adequately explain, even to myself, I'm trying to write and to write better. So if you like my story let me know. All feedback is appreciated.

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5 comments on “False Trail
  1. Thaumaturgical_Support says:

    I hope at least one reader out there has had to do business cases because this section is comedy gold if you have. If you haven’t I dunno.

    Also- Jessie has a plan to quit being a spying spy who spys all the time. Let’s see if it gets her killed!

  2. DeNarr says:

    I’ve never done any business cases, but it was easy enough to follow. I did like how she was trying to apply her particular skillset to the problem.

  3. Thaumaturgical_Support says:

    That’s good. This is a tiny sample of how they’re written: https://hbr.org/product/recommended/an/504016-PDF-ENG?referral=02522&cm_vc=rr_category_page.case_top_carousel#more I felt like I managed to capture the tone.

  4. irrevenant says:

    “flickering digital sign”. Not a typo but do digital (presumably meaning LCD?) signs actually flicker or is that more a neon thing?

    BTW, I believe the summary Jessie did is a case study rather than a business case. A business case is a writeup justifying the reasoning behind a particular course of action taken by a business (think of the expression “he made his case”). In this instance, the business case would be a write up justifying what she thinks Kyle should do next.

    BTW (II), it’s a little weird that Kyle is in the car with Jessie for hours and doesn’t tell her that they’re not actually going to Canada. He’s completely oblivious to the fact she can’t be trusted and he has no reason to keep that close to his chest over the long drive.

    I really should start a Web Serial so you can pick holes in my stuff. >_> I can guarantee it wouldn’t be half as cool as this one, though.

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      I suppose it was both a case study and the business case because Jessie proposes the question and then answers it.

      I’ll have to re-read that and see if there’s any reason he shouldn’t tell her. It is odd, of course, but if I keep it I’m justifying it by saying he’s very very distracted and in no mood to talk. 😉

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