This scene lasted until fairly late in the process, but wound up getting the axe in the end. Partly because with all of the perspective and memory changes going on, the last thing the narrative needed was a flashback. The third act was awkward enough in introducing Jazz only to put her back in the ring, but including this scene didn't tell the reader anything more they needed to know.
That said, it did go a bit deeper into Travis and Jazz's relationship. But there will be plenty of time for that in future books.
* * *
To say the word 'Master' without a hint of disrespect yet all the intonation of the word 'dumbass' is a skill known only to talented butlers and worried Djinn. One of the latter pouted stubbornly at me as I cleared the spell components from the dinner table.
“This looks drastic, Master.”
I took a lighter to the paper where I'd inscribed the spell. Once it was merrily burning, I tossed it into the fireplace. “No, Blue River was drastic, Jazz. This is just uncomfortable.”
“Cognimancy isn't your strong subject.”
“Maybe not, but I don't have anyone else to call on.” Satisfied, I left the illegible ashes in the fireplace and went back to reassemble the last pistol on the table. “I report to Chittenden tonight, and he expects a working wizard ready to go. What I can't include is you or any mention of you. Hence hiding you from him and compartmentalizing my memories.”
“And you're trusting this to a spell well outside your wheelhouse? Master...”
I put the last pistol down and went to the sink to wash my hands. “We've gone over this, Jazz. The spell was in one of Uncle Mac's books, it's as trustworthy as I'll ever find, and I included the flame-kissed instructions. There's nobody that I trust with you, can get ahold of, and am willing to risk all at once.”
“No one at all? Not Byron?”
I dried my hands off on the towel before hanging it back on the oven handle. “Leave you with Byron? I love the elf, but he's still as much my parole officer as he is my friend. I know he can't be your Master himself, which makes you vulnerable. And even if he was willing to keep you in regards to my wishes, his father and the Hunt would find out eventually. Which would out you and then we'd all be at the whims of Otherworld politics.”
“Cyrus then. You told me yourself he's a brilliant cognimancer.”
“He is. I also don't trust him to lead me to a Wa'cross. You know that.” I sighed. “If all goes well, I'll retrieve you in a year and a day with one less crippling debt weighing me down. If it all goes to shit...”
“...Master, don't say that!”
“If it all goes to shit, the Warwells are the one faction I would trust to have you. I wish I had a better option, but I don't. And I'm sorry.”
She didn't roll her eyes, but I could almost hear her desire to hit me gently upside the head with a mallet. A piece of my heart melted. I never let myself forget how deadly Jazz truly was. But all too often, I let myself forget that I was the bulk of Jazz's world. She had been raised into service. She had served me faithfully for years; and now, when I was probably going to need help the most, I was keeping her from helping at all. Natural helpers did not react well to being forcibly prevented from helping. I've been that kind of helpless, and it's crushing.
She looked up. I opened my arms. She hesitated for almost two complete seconds before jumping into them. Not for the first time, I mentally chided myself. All too often I'd used my ethics as an excuse to keep her at arm's length. And now I was putting her in hiding for a year at least.
After several long moments, I gently put her down and she picked up the scroll case. The case was bigger than most, the size of an old D-cell flashlight. Geometric patterns had been hammered into the brass, letting it catch the light here and there. Then she looked up at me, and I realized it was on me to get us going.
“It's as good as I can get it. The key to restoring my memory is safe with you. And I won't be able find you if I'm compromised. With any luck, I'll be done in a year and a day. Maybe take a vacation afterwards.”
She nodded. “Good luck, Master.”
Jazz didn't let me get a word in edgewise before catching me in another hug. I kept my mouth shut, wrapped my arms around her and let her stay there as long as she liked. After several moments, she gently stepped back and disappeared into a tendril of blue smoke. The smoke curled around the general vicinity of my waist once, then vanished into her ring.
I took her ring off of my left hand, kissed it gently, then tucked it away in her hiding place before putting the rest of the pieces together, closing and locking the small case. With a nod and a scritch behind the ears to Shrapnel, I picked up the case and left the house, heading out into the hot summer afternoon.
* * *