Thomas had been willing to let Jessie think about his request before she answered.
Todd was gone by the time she reached a decision. The new duty nurse proved there wasn’t any particular policy about how the nursing staff should look or act. The woman was short, iron haired, near middle age, wore a serious expression, and didn’t seem at all shy. She met Jessie’s eyes so consistently that Jessie vaguely felt like she was being stared down as she was escorted to Thomas’s office.
The office really was huge. Jessie’s first impression on stepping out into it was “how would you use all of this?” Whoever had decorated the office seemed to be struggling with the same question. It contained, a huge wooden desk that seemed small in the giant room. A conference table large enough to seat a good twenty or thirty people sat next to a giant video wall. A few bookshelves hunched near each other trying, and failing, to make one corner seem cozy. A practice putting green had been laid out along one wall.
Jessie wondered if Thomas really played golf. She could picture him smiling and joking about how he’d like to apply magic to the game. Still, somehow it didn’t fit with what she actually knew of the man and his activities. Where would he find the time in-between underworld deals and illegal magical medicine? Maybe that sort of thing came in fits and starts and he golfed during the off-season.
Thomas rose from behind his desk and walked over to greet her. Then he led her to the area by the bookshelves. It had some couches and chairs. Jessie looked around at the windows that circled the giant office. They’d all been set to opaque. Perhaps the room looked better when you could see the skyline.
“So, the good folks at the clinic tell me you came to a decision. I hope you can trust me? Actually,” he gave her that big sparkly eyed smile, “let’s rewind just a bit. How are you feeling?”
“Great,” she answered honestly. Somewhat less honestly she didn’t mention she’d noticed a side effect of a spell she sort of assumed was transforming her into a monster. “Actually, I’m starting to get a little twitchy. I hope you won’t need to observe me much longer. I kind of want to get out into town and burn off some energy. I think it’s having Dwennon out of my hair, it’s making me feel more energetic than I have in a long time.”
“Oh, sure, I wouldn’t see why not. You’re positively rosy-cheeked. It’s not like there’s much that can go wrong with the spell. If there was a problem your ribs would still be hurting. I can probably get someone to book you a room in a normal hotel after we’re finished. Back to our first topic of conversation. Have you reached any decisions about contacting Kyle on my behalf?”
Jessie nodded and smiled, “I thought about what you said and it makes a lot of sense. I’ll try to arrange a meeting.”
“That’s great! You can use my phone if you think now would be a good time to call.”
“The sooner the better.”
Thomas reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a phone. It was oddly old and beat up. He might well have had the thing for better than a decade. Thomas must have caught Jessie’s raised eyebrows because he shrugged and protested, “It works!”
“Sure,” she said in a teasing tone that she didn’t feel. She dialed Kyle’s number and let it ring, and ring, and go to voice mail. She tried a few more times. It didn’t work. This wasn’t good, Jessie thought, she needed to contact Kyle before whatever was happening to her ran it’s course. “Uh, he isn’t around. I guess I could send him a text. I’ll tell him to text back, that way he won’t end up talking to you and be startled.”
Thomas frowned a bit, “I suppose that’s best.”
Kyle, it’s Jessie. Text back, we need to talk.
She assumed a reply would come in later and Thomas would have to get her again. She was just telling herself things might still work when the phone dinged in her hand. She looked down:
Sorry, see you called. Was kind of busy. Can text now.
She sent back:
Do you trust me?
She was actually trying to trigger a question with that.
I don’t know. Can I trust you?”
Angling the phone to hide her motions she deleted the, “Do you trust me message.” It made Kyle’s question seem unsolicited and her response more natural:
Remember good times. Laughing over York’s sheep finder. How I made up codes as a kid. Was all real. Hated lying about other stuff.
The reply was a very long time in coming. Kyle eventually sent back.
K, go on I guess.
She hoped that meant he understood:
I’m with Thomas. Things aren’t like we thought. Huge misunderstanding. He wants to talk. Arrange meeting?
If anything, the pause was longer this time. It felt like hours, and Jessie had honestly decided Kyle had dropped the conversation and was probably running by the time a message did come in:
When, where? Talk about what?
She sighed before she could cover it. Hopefully, Thomas would assume Jessie was relieved she could broker a deal:
About you using ur spell. Helping people, getting rich. Says that’s what he really wants. He’d probably meet on your turf. Suggest something.
This time there was a quick response:
OK, but somewhere public. Where we did the dragon show. Tomorrow, eight o’clock. Thomas comes alone!”
Jessie passed that on to Thomas explaining the dragon show reference.
“Tell him that’s just fine.” He grinned again, his eyes crinkled up in a friendly way, “Actually, I rather like Panda Express.”
She texted Kyle back:
Meeting is on. Things will work out, I think.
Another quick reply:
K, sure, that would be nice.”
Jessie handed the phone back to Thomas and smiled. “It looks like we’ll be able to wrap this up, so, about that hotel? I’d like to do some site seeing?”
Thomas smiled. His cheeks were rosy and friendly. It was a very genuine looking smile. “I’m afraid not. You don’t know it, but you’ve begun quite a journey. It will end when you are faster, stronger, and even smarter. Oh, and loyal; very very loyal. You know a bit more than I like, and you could make some real trouble for me. You see, I didn’t exactly lie to you. The Archmagi do use the Tekhnikos for good. Many of them wouldn’t approve of my keeping illusion for myself. I should teach you both how to use the Tekhnikos safely. Honestly, I have no desire to put in that kind of effort. Instead I’m going to kill your boyfriend and bring you up to snuff.”
Jessie didn’t hesitate. She jumped at Thomas. Unfortunately, she just bounced off a shield Thomas had apparently cast in front of himself. Thomas smiled, then made a few gestures, tossed a ball of light, and Jessie was knocked cold yet again.