When Kari had first approached Way and I to look into what was going wrong with the world she was tending, we’d put together a plan. It had taken over a week to come up with the right identities and craft them, slowly and gently, into their place in the world. Then we’d done fate weavings to get positions as the representatives of Windy Springs. That had given us an excuse to be looking into Guy McIntyre’s whereabouts. From there we’d laid out a nice intricate strategy of moves and alternatives to cover the possibilities we could see arising. Since we were waiting for our apprenticeship assignments to begin we’d made the whole scheme fit within a three week time frame and that was more rushed than either of us preferred.
“Can we do this in two days?” Way asked after Professor Haffrun left.
“It’ll be almost impossible.” I said, offering her a smile of reassurance. So many people had called us “impossible” over the years that we wore it as a badge of honor. It was also literally true but we didn’t dwell on that aspect as much.
“As impossible as getting any service here?” Way smiled and nodded over to where the waiter had found yet another customer to deal with rather than us.
“The longer he takes, the longer we can freeload here and see if our assassin friends work up the nerve to take another shot at us.” I pointed out.
“True. I don’t know if I feel like sleeping in this booth though if they take all night though.”
“We need to come up with some new plans. Both for the assassins and for tracking down McIntyre.” I said.
“You think there’s any chance the one isn’t related to the other?” Way asked.
“Any chance? Maybe. If we’re right about there being a nascent dreamweaver, they could be drawing in all sort of craziness as a side-effect of the changes they’re forcing on the world.” I said.
“All sorts of craziness like us?”
“We’re the best kind of craziness, and, yeah, that didn’t escape me either. If Kari got snared in someone else’s fate weaving, it could be drawing us in just by pulling on her.”
“Should we go back to the Parliament to check? I didn’t think to look for that last time we talked to her.” Way said.
“I didn’t either but let’s hold off for now. You’re anchored here and on my world right?”
“Yes. It would take me a little while to transit back to the Parliament.” Way said.
“Same for me, and I’m betting we’ll have some more questions for her once we talk to a few people.” I said.
“So we’ll tackle things here first. I think we’ll have to throw away our original plan though.” Way said.
“I suppose you’re right. There’s no point getting a job at the Chimera Club at this point. We don’t have time for subtle investigations anymore.” I said. We’d hoped to parlay the exposure working at the Club would bring us into invitations to a number of upcoming “high society” parties. That would have let us meet some of the people at the center of the fate weaving under circumstances that wouldn’t raise their awareness (and potentially induce more reality warping on their part).
“Agreed. Though it’s a shame. I liked the routine we’d put together.” Way stopped herself with a small frown, disappointment and something else playing behind her eyes.
“I did too. If we’re going to save Kari’s project though we’re going to need to talk to Eddie Stone, Madelaine Deckard and Cranston Smythe as soon as possible.” I said.
“The gangster, Mcintyre’s assistant, and the developer. If we assume the assassins who tried to kill us are the same ones who killed Detective Shurman, then we can rule out that they were working for Stone.” Way said.
“Yeah, Stone’s flunkies wouldn’t have ruined his show for him. He doesn’t seem like the ‘multi-headed monster tattoo’ type either. If those guys aren’t part of a secret society I’ll eat the rabbit in my hat.”
“The question is who’s leading the secret society and why did they want McIntyre out of the picture?” Way said.
“Madelaine Deckard maybe?” I suggested.
“She’s McIntyre’s assistant, so she would have known the most about where he was going. Easier to set up plans to take out a shy recluse when you know his whole itinerary. She’s also in the best position to take advantage of his disappearance.”
“And our dreamweaver?” Way asked.
“Smythe would fit. Kari arranged for the grant to be awarded to the city on the contingency that a project plan for urban renewal be submitted within three months. Smythe had one drawn up in less than a week.”
“That suggests that we should pay a visit to Mr. Smythe first then since he’s our primary target.” Way said.
“Only we’re not going to do that.” I replied.
“Because if we do we’ll lead the assassins that are tracking us right to him.” Way said, following my train of thought.
“And if we try to fight a group of prepared assassins with a nascent dreamweaver around…” I began.
“…there’s almost no chance he won’t awaken.” Way finished for me.
“That works out for us. We’ve already got a pretext for seeing Ms. Deckard.” Way said.
“Yeah, however reclusive and hard to reach Guy McIntyre is supposed to be, it won’t look too weird if we barge into his penthouse suite since we’re trying to save Windy Springs.” I said.
“And if Ms. Deckard isn’t there?” Way asked.
“Then she won’t mind us searching the place for any clues on what happened to him.” I grinned. If I was right and she was the one behind the assassins then we might find evidence of that too. It’s amazing how quickly secret societies become a lot less secret when you throw the right fate weaving at them. Once they didn’t have the veil of secrecy that would be the end of them. The police in Los Diablos might be a largely corrupt organization but that wouldn’t stop them from arresting the hell out of a bunch of bozos with snake tattoos who thought shooting a cop and burning down a building were great ideas.
“Looks like someone’s finally paying attention to us.” Way observed, gesturing towards the door with a nod of her head.
I glanced behind me and noticed that the waiter was engaged in conversation with a pair of new customers who had walked in the door. We stood out by being women. The new guys stood out by being well dressed. I was surprised by that for a moment but their posture and size told me all I needed to know about why two guys in suits would be in a place like this.
“Leg breakers?” I guessed.
“Yep and here for us.” Way said, watching them from behind her menu.
“The next set of assassins?” I asked.
“No. These work for Stone.” she said.
“How can you tell?”
“They’re comfortable here. The assassins are out of towners based on their attacks. From how they’re talking with the waiter, these guys are locals who moved up.” she said.
I risked another glance over my shoulder and saw the two thugs heading towards us.
“Are you da ‘Amazing Jin’?” the broader of the two asked when they reach our booth.
“Only when I’m on stage.” I told him wearily.
“Yer coming wit us then.” the other thug said.
I looked at Way and cocked an eyebrow. She replied with a small shrug. These guys were big, strong, and tough. We were sitting in a booth. If it came to a fight they’d have us at a disadvantage. That didn’t bother Way at all, so she was willing to play it however I preferred.
“Sorry there crusher, you’re not my type.” I told him.
“Boss Stone wants a word wit you.” the first thug explained.
“Oh, why didn’t you say so. Did he like the show?” I asked, still not rising from the booth.
“Yeah, he liked it just fine. Wants to ask you some questions about it.” the second thug said.
“A magician never divulges her secrets. But maybe he wanted to make us a job offer?” I asked.
“Sure. Sure. He’s got an offer for ya.” the first thug said.
“It’s pretty late. Maybe I’ll talk to him about it in the morning .” I said. I didn’t have any reason to antagonize the brutes. I was just being ornery because I don’t like being pushed around. Way noticed and gave me a look that asked if it was “fighty time” yet. I shook my head. For as rude as the ‘invitation’ was, getting a chance to talk to Boss Eddie Stone on what he thought were his own terms was potentially convenient.
“He wants to talk to you now!” the first thug insisted.
“I guess a nightclub owner keeps late hours. Ok, can’t turn down a chance at a good paying gig I guess. You two bring a ride?” I asked.
I’d seen tanks that wished they were as big and sturdy as the gangster mobile these guys drove. They “let” us sit in the back, which wasn’t surprising given that the door locks were controlled from the front seats. I had to chuckle at that. They wanted to be sure we couldn’t escape, but they hadn’t given any thought to how they’d be able to get away from us. The scarves I carried worked just as well as garrotes after all and we had easy access to their necks. They probably figured we wouldn’t try anything and that if we did the pistols they carried would dissuade us from getting out of line.
I passed Way the gun I’d pick pocketed from the first thug, while slipping the one I got from the second thug into a hidden compartment in my satchel. I was more than happy to talk to “Boss” Stone, but there were limits to how understanding I was going to be.
“So have you fellas worked for Stone for long?” I asked. I would have preferred to talk to Way but the kind of things we needed to talk about weren’t for the ears of guys like these thugs.
“Yeah, been a couple years now.” the thug who was driving said.
“He pay good?”
“Why you know wanna know?” the other thug asked. I couldn’t blame him for being afraid to answer questions. He wasn’t all that bright from the look of things and the number of things he could say that would get him trouble far outnumbered the things that were safe for a guy in his line of work to talk about.
“We’re going to talk to him about a job right?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, the job. Uh, he pays real good.” the driver said.
“He pays us real good. Dames like you? You just need enough to get by till you find a man right?” the other thug said.
“Yeah, we’re just looking to find a man.” I agreed with a smirk. It was surely some joke of Fate that he could be so technically right while being so very wrong in every other respect.
“That’s what I figured. Just like all the broads out there.”
“Not all the broads.” Way said and flashed me a quick smile.
I thought about bending these guys with a little bit of dream magic, like I had with the crowds outside the Blue Star but decided not to. Dream magic was great, but it was hard under the best of circumstances to see all of the ramifications of changes that you made. Even something simple like a fate weaving could have unintended consequences, as Kari, Way and I had all learned the hard way. Our meta-awareness could mitigate some of that but with my magical awareness clamped down tight, it wasn’t wise push the boundaries where I didn’t need to. If my guess was correct, I’d have plenty of need to be pushing boundaries over the next few days.
We pulled up to the Chimera Club which was strangely deserted. Granted it was late, but that was traditionally when the club was at its busiest. It seemed weird that a little thing like a homicide on the premises would deter “Boss” Stone from trying to turn a profit.
Unless that is he was on the warpath.
As we walked into the club I noticed that while its outside lights were off, there were plenty on inside. Not to mention plenty more gangster mobiles in the parking lot.
This was going to be a fun little meeting.