“Is this everyone?” I questioned, looking around at the people in the large ballroom. After James helped me move my things here, he introduced me to some of his employees… er… friends, eventually ending up here. The room was relatively dark, mostly lit by the enormous “mirrors” that acted as monitors for those playing Ancient Tribes of Earth.
“You really should at least read through the website before you start making assumptions.” replied James reproachfully. “But no, there are several more.” He opened his mouth as if to say something else when a young girl came bounding into the room.
“James! James!” she exclaimed. “Jemal lifted me with his powers!”
“Really? Did you feel like you were flying?” he asked, smiling at her.
“No. The zoomies are way better for flying.” she insisted as if relating something that should be perfectly obvious to everyone. “It was really cool though! His arms were full, and I was trying to sneak out, and he just lifted me!”
“Just don’t let me catch you flying a zoomie through the house again.” he warned her, sounding almost fatherly.
“What if Mila catches me?” she questioned hopefully.
“Don’t let her catch you either.” he replied sternly.
“But what if it’s not one of her bodies?” she pursued.
Frowning at her, he said, “Kayla, don’t fly zoomies through the house.”
“Yes, sir.” she conceded, lowering her head dejectedly.
James patted her head and said, “There are too many things which could easily be broken in this section, and you might run into someone in your wing.”
Her grin instantly returned as she looked up at him. “I’d love to have feathery wings! Can you give me wings?” she asked excitedly.
“Sorry, but no.” he stated.
Obviously disappointed, she said, “Aww… okay.” Then she skipped over to Emma, relating the experience with her brother again.
“You allow kids here?” I asked somewhat quietly. There was so much valuable artwork in the open that a slip would surely cost thousands of dollars, if not far more.
“My secretary’s twelve years old, so yes.” he stated, frowning at me.
Unswayed, I asked “But isn’t this a business?”
“Businesses can’t involve kids?” he retorted.
“Well, they can… but shouldn’t this be a kid-free zone? Like you said, there are so many things that could break.” I told him, hoping he’d see the risk.
I could tell he did by his expression, but he said, “Kayla lives here, and Aaliyah’s more capable than any of us, so no.”
“So employees don’t have to live here?” I questioned, shocked by the idea. He had made magic sound common here. Wasn’t he forcing them to keep magic a secret from the outside world?
Laughing, he said, “No, I don’t really care where someone lives, as long as they have a place that suits them. If you have somewhere you’d rather go, we don’t have to wait until tomorrow. I’m sure I can get you there this night.” The last was said while staring into my eyes with that soul-piercing gaze of his.
“What? No. I mean to say that’s not what I meant.” I quickly told him. Knowing that this enormous man could literally crush me barehanded was intimidating, but I was fairly certain he wouldn’t. He seemed… kind, despite his irritations with me. “I was just curious. I’ll look at your website if you don’t need me for anything.” I assured him, quickly taking one of the empty seats. There were eight seats in total, forming a circle at the center of the room, but facing outward toward one of the eight mirrors. Not seeing any sort of controls, I asked “How does this work?”
A keyboard of light appeared on the chair’s tray, and a child-like voice started explaining the features of the chair as its corresponding mirror lit up with a video. The tutorial was long and very detailed, but I appreciated the thoroughness. I also appreciated that the speakers couldn’t be heard “by most” outside of the chair. James probably could hear everything, given that he obviously possessed inhuman abilities.
The company’s site was somewhat informative. Yes, all of the employees were listed there with profiles that also gave an example of jobs they could be hired to perform as well as certifications each possessed. I knew this wasn’t everything though, since none of the profiles mentioned magic of any sort. The list of vehicles available was no surprise after seeing the garage under the back half of the mansion.
Before I finished perusing the site, the young woman who had called me a “pest” arrived next to me. She hadn’t been listed as an employee here, but I believed she was James’ girlfriend, which could make her more dangerous. What sort of abilities did she possess to interest him?
She glanced at James before saying, “Would you mind following me? I have a proposition for you.”
I nodded, feeling more and more uneasy as she guided me outside. A limousine was already waiting for us, with someone holding the door.
Once we were seated inside, she bluntly said, “James doesn’t trust you, and I’m certain you can understand why given what you tried.”
She stared at me expectantly, so I nodded. I never should have tried using my power on him. Having backed myself into a corner, I was desperate. If not for that girl with the pamphlets, I probably would have walked into the nearest corner store for a job.
“I have a few errands I’d like you to perform for me. Yes, they’re tests, but none of them are particularly difficult, though there is the possibility of danger.” she explained, sounding too pleasant for her words. Meeting those violet eyes was difficult. Where James at least looked human, this woman seemed too perfect to be real. She didn’t seem to be wearing makeup, but her pale skin looked flawless. Even how she sat made her look less real. Who doesn’t slouch in the comfort of a limo? “Are you interested?”
“Will you tell James how well I perform?” I asked, feeling very aware that the vehicle was already in motion.
She gave me a small smile as she said, “You best believe that James knows everything at all times, but I will give him my opinion of you after tonight.”
“I accept.” I told her, still uncertain whether refusal was even an option.
She lightly tapped the glass behind her, and the vehicle quickly came to a stop. “There’s a package in the trunk. Deliver it to the address listed. No matter what you hear around you, don’t look. Keep moving and get that package safely to its destination. As long as you keep your eyes forward, you’ll be kept safe.”
Stepping out of the vehicle, I was already sweating, despite the… Wait. Why wasn’t I cold!? Did she use some sort of magic on me? I didn’t ask, quickly lifting the small, surprisingly heavy box from the trunk. An address was written on the brown, paper wrapping. The limousine was gone before I even had a plan for finding the address. Where was I even?
I found some public wi-fi after twenty or so minutes roaming near every restaurant I spotted. After downloading a map, I started making my way, feeling more and more creeped out. What was in this package, and why was I asked to deliver it? Paranoia was wearing on me, but I trusted that James would have stopped me from leaving if he knew this was some sort of death sentence… She had told me to assume he knew everything, but what if she was just getting me to let my guard down? No, she had me the moment I followed her, and James really did know too much about me.
My worries increased when I heard screams down an alley that I passed. As the night closed in around me, I felt more and more like I was being hunted. Who had she told about this? Why? More screams several streets later… Was that a growl? Were there wild dogs nearby? Resisting the urge to look was physically painful, but I eventually did find myself outside of an ordinary-looking, brick building. The door opened before I could knock.
“Yeah?” asked a rough-looking man.
“I have a package for you from…” I started, realizing I still didn’t know her name.
“Well, where is it?” he questioned.
I handed the small box over, and he unceremoniously tossed it before saying, “Come inside and help us unload a truck.”
Despite being uncertain about whether this was part of what I was supposed to be doing, I soon found myself hauling heavy boxes from a truck while the people who worked here lounged and made crude jokes at my expense. No, I wasn’t particularly strong. They didn’t need to point it out in fifty different ways. The urge to silence them was strong, but I kept reminding myself that I was being tested.
I was surprised when they all suddenly jumped to assist me, at least until I saw the man in a very nice suit step into the room. “Dejon?” he asked, looking at me.
“Y-Yes?” I replied, wishing my voice didn’t sound so unsteady. The heavy lifting had gotten to me… maybe my frayed nerves.
“I have a job for you. Please, follow me.” he stated, looking totally out of place as he led into a disorganized office. Once I was seated, he introduced himself as Mr. Mason and started going over the details of a man’s life. Eddie Clarke, the man being described, was retired military who had started a small business once he was out of the military. He had no children, but treated his nephew like one. The nephew had been using his position at a bank to help Eddie keep the business afloat, but the money he sent once he was forced to switch branches wasn’t enough.
“Sorry, but why are you telling me all of this?” I asked, interrupting the man’s explanation.
“Simply put, you are to convince Mr. Clarke to sell his business. He just needs to sign this, and we’ll take care of him.” replied Mr. Mason as he pulled a thin package of papers out of his briefcase.
“By ‘take care of him’, you mean…” I started, uncertain how to ask if they were going to kill this man.
“We’ll make certain he has plenty of money to live out his life. He has been helpful to numerous of our associates throughout the years, and we take care of our own.” stated the Mr. Mason.
Deciding to trust that James’ girlfriend wouldn’t ask me to rob a man, I said, “He’ll sign.” Taking the papers, I followed Mr. Mason outside and into another limousine. I didn’t hesitate to use my ability on Eddie, easily getting him to sign. What I knew of his past was enough to tell me that Eddie was a very stubborn man who didn’t want to retire just yet, despite facing bankruptcy. Using my power to help someone was never something I balked at, and Mr. Mason’s surprise when Eddie calmly signed over his business was amusing.
After the deal was done, I was asked to be a bouncer at a club. Once I agreed, I was quickly taken there and left. Things went relatively smoothly, though I hated all of the noise. Clubbing had never been my idea of a great time, but I tolerated the obnoxious music. If this would get me hired at Best Friend For Hire, then the irritation was well worth it.