The Imperfect Mirrors – Chapter 17

    There are bad ideas that only become noticeably bad after they’re put into motion. Then there are bad ideas that are obviously bad right from conception. Of the two, the ones that are clearly bad from the outset are the least dangerous since they’re so easy to avoid. Unless of course you’re me.

    “We could just go to the hospital together.” I said, holding back the plan that was forming in my mind.

    “But I know you have a better idea than that. I can see it wrinkling up your forehead.” Way said.

    “Oh, it’s not a better idea. It’s one of my ‘clever ideas’.” I said. Some people have clever ideas that are truly brilliant. My clever ideas on the other hand usually involve taking far more risks than any sane person would. The problem with my clever ideas is that while they’re obviously terrible in many ways the potential payoff can still make them seem appealing enough to attempt.

    “How clever?” Way asked, her eyes narrowing. It’s one of the advantages of knowing someone well; She was able to learn from my mistakes even when I wasn’t.

    “Well we’re kind of in a race now right?” I asked.

    “True, we’ve got less than two days until the auditor gets here and there’s also Kari to consider.” Way said.

    “Right, so we need to find Guy McIntyre or at least what happened to him as soon as possible.” I said.

    “You want to break into his apartment tonight and see what clues you can turn up don’t you?” Way asked. That’s another benefit to knowing someone well; you can arrive at the same bad ideas with only the bare minimum of prompting.

    “I do. I think it’s the best way to find out what his angle on this deal was.” I said. With how the fateweaving had swept him up, we both knew there had to be some secret he was hiding.

    “And the assassin that will be sent for the driver?” Way asked.

    “I think we need to catch him too.”  I said with a frown. There was only one option that let us be in two places at once.

    Way paused and leaned back against the wall of the alley to considered that for a moment.

    “Dibs on the assassin at the hospital then.” she said.

    “Do you want to question him too? If I doesn’t take me long at McIntyre’s apartment I should be able to meet up with you before dawn.” I said. Dawn would bring a shift change at the hospital and the rooms would be put to more use. That meant it would be harder to commandeer an empty operating room for a theatrical interrogation of a captured assassin during the day.

    “If you can, that would be great, but I’ll see what I can get out of him before then.” she said.

    “So how ‘clever’ do you think this idea is?” I asked her. I didn’t like it but it did seem to be our best chance to resolve things quickly.

    “Clever enough to work maybe.” she said.

    “And the chance we wind up getting shot?” I asked.

    “Pretty high with how our night’s been going.” she said. She was joking, except we both knew that she wasn’t wrong.

    “We really should have kept the rifles from the truck shouldn’t we?” I asked.

    “No, then we’d have the police shooting at us too.” Way pointed out.

    “Where should we meet?” I asked her.

    “I think Kari had the right idea, Shurman’s office will be the best place in the short term. We’ll need to be careful tomorrow though. The police may send a team to check out the room again.” she said.

    “I wish we could stay in touch.” I said and then caught myself. I’d meant it in terms of having our dream speech or at least cell phones. Being honest with myself, I meant in the broader sense too, but it wasn’t the time to discuss that yet.

* * *

    The trip to Guy McIntyre’s apartment building wasn’t that long once I’d hailed a taxi.

    It occurred to me as I got out of the cab that I was going to need to start my breaking and entering earlier than I’d planned. As befitted his wealth and status, Guy McIntyre’s apartment was in the very prestigious “Hotel Marlow”. The “Amazing Jin” had reason to be in a lot of different places, but a high society hotel was not one of them. At least not as a guest.

    I was almost disappointed to see that for such an elite hotel, the Marlow used trashy and cheap locks on the doors to the staff area. It took virtually no skill to pick them and once inside I was able to grab a maid’s uniform without anyone noticing.

    To be fair to the building security, there wasn’t much going on in the staff areas in the dead of the night. Those few people I ran across were distracted and tired enough that I barely even needed to hide from them.

    I discovered the other reason for the laxness of the security when I reached the common areas. The only ways up in the hotel were by the elevator or roped off stairs. Both were guarded by bright young bellhops who were worked in short enough shifts that they were still alert.

    Since I needed to keep things quiet, I didn’t like the idea of interacting with either of the bellhops. They would remember a random Chinese looking girl in a maid’s uniform too easily if anyone asked. In theory no one should ask of course, but if I left any clue to the break-in I had planned there was a good chance the police would find it very interesting.

    There was another option however. Rather than put on the maid uniform, I headed back to the staff area and made my way to the service door for the elevator. Before I reached there I dropped off the maid’s uniform where I’d found it and ‘liberated’ a tool box instead.

    Reality strained a little at what I was planning. The Amazing Jin had no reason to know how elevators worked, certainly not well enough to override the operation of one. I argued back that understanding mechanical devices was one part of what a good magician would study to perfect their illusions. The Amazing Jin was young so her depth of knowledge shouldn’t be that great, but on the other hand elevators are kept as purposefully simple to make sure they can be repaired easily.

    I had to pass through some pretty greasy areas and climb up into an access hatch in the roof of an adjoining room to get to the top of the elevator car. It was worth getting my clothes dirty though. The top of the elevator gave me access to all of the control lines.

    Working very carefully and quietly, I puzzled out which wires ran to the control lever that usually controlled the up and down motion of the car. One quick snip and I was able to take control of the elevator, much to the consternation of the poor boy inside it.

    I could have ridden the elevator all the way up to the top floor where McIntyre’s suite was but that struck me as too suspicious. I stopped it instead four floors below the top and carefully rewired the lines back into the normal configuration. A little bit of black tape finished the job and left it so that it would be difficult at best to tell that the elevator had been tampered with. Since it had never reached the top floor no one would be suspicious of anything happening in Guy McIntyre’s apartment either.

    That all worked wonderfully. Except for the part where I needed to climb the last forty feet of elevator shaft on my own.

    By the time I got to the top of the shaft my hands were raw and I’d picked up a number of scrapes and bruises. I was also aching with fatigue. The Amazing Jin was a lot more physically fit that my regular self was but it had been a very rough evening.

    I suppressed a cough from my overworked and still smoke damaged lungs and headed down the corridor McIntyre’s room. The security for the rooms on this level was much better than the cheesy locks for the staff entrance. Triple locked doors with some of the best locks that money could buy guarded every suite.

    The truth about locks though is that even the best locks can be defeated. It just takes time and knowledge, or in my case a little bit of each of those and a tiny push of dream magic to help nudge the process along faster.

    I opened the door soundlessly and stepped in to prevent anyone from noticing me in the corridor.

    “You were quite a pain to get up here, let me tell you.” I heard a female voice say from the living room. I froze at that. There was not supposed to be anyone here.

    “The only question will be if you’ll have enough sense to make all this effort worth it.” the female voice continued. For a moment I had thought I’d been detected but, from what she was saying, it seemed like there was someone else in the living room as well.

    “Are you a sensible guy Eddie? I’m going to guess you can be. Not too many guys get to the position you’re in without being able to tell when someone’s got it in for them.”

    Eddie? My mind raced to find anyone else the woman could be referring to but all I could come up with was Eddie Stone. I replayed her voice in my head. It sounded familiar.

    “And what about you big guy? You go everywhere your boss goes right? You the one who talks sense into him when he needs it? I’m guessing you’re going to be waking up soon. Unless you’re already awake that is.” the woman said.

    I heard a grunt of irritation and pain from a distinctly masculine voice.

    “Ok. I’m awake.” Eddie Stone’s bodyguard said.

    “You’re Tiny Royals right?” the woman asked.

    “Yeah. What did you do to the boss?” Tiny asked.

    “Nothing. You two were captured and drugged with knockout gas. I rescued you from your captors and brought you here so we could discuss some business…opportunities.”  the Night Warder said.

    I searched every scrap of memory my brain could get ahold of looking for what or why or how the Night Warder could possibly be in Guy McIntyre’s apartment. I came up empty but my imagination was happy to fill in some possibilities.

    The first and ugliest one was that if someone had killed McIntyre then they would also be aware that his apartment wasn’t being used. It would make a perfect spot for clandestine meetings. That theory felt weak though. If the Night Warder was a killer then why would she have left Way and I alive? Maybe if McIntyre wasn’t the good natured philanthropist that people said he was? If he was guilty of some terrible crime that might be enough to bring an otherwise decent person to murder him. But if so they wouldn’t be likely to then turn around and use his apartment for a chat with a known gang boss.

    The next  possibility was that Way, Kari and I weren’t the only ones looking for McIntyre. If the Night Warder was searching for him too, she might know more than we did about what had happened to him. The question then was what she wanted with Eddie Stone.

    The last possibility was the worst of the bunch. It was possible that the Night Warder was simply being swept up in the flow of the fate weaving. If so she might not have any reason for the things she did beyond “it was destined that I be here.” I hated that kind of thing. Especially in cases like this where it threatened to lead to her rapid demise as the world tried vainly to protect itself from her.

    The worst thing to do with a nascent dreamweaver is try to kill them. If there’s anything that’s likely (though not guaranteed) to wake a dreamweaver up its placing them in any sort of lethal danger.

    “Before we begin our discussion though, I’d like to have our guest in the foyer come in and join us.” the Night Warder said. “Don’t try to hide, I saw the light change when you opened the door. Don’t try to leave either. The elevator won’t reach you before my bullets will.

    I grimaced. Way had been right, there was a pretty high chance I was going to get shot for my clever plan.

 

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