Life in Liam’s apartment complex was quiet, contemplative and squalid. These were words Liam preferred to use, as opposed to phrases like “hung over” or “piercing headache”. Those words vanished when he left the safety of his own dingy cocoon. As soon as he opened the front door, he was assaulted by the sounds of life. New York, as far as Liam could tell, was the best city in the world. It was alive and moving all the time. Even late at night, when Liam looked out the window to the street there were always a few stragglers from the nearby bar and trashcans practically alive with rats the size of small dogs.
The place Liam needed to get to was clear on the other side of town. Most New Yorkers would have looked for a taxi, but Liam knew better. Sure enough, sitting outside his apartment complex idled a taxi just for him. When his employer went around the city, he used his own private driver who drove a taxi, claiming it got less attention from the wrong sort of person. Opening the door, Liam got into the back seat and let out a deep sigh, “So, how is he?”
The driver turned to look over his shoulder at Liam, “Simon isn’t happy with you. Let’s leave it at that.” Shadows hung impossibly over the drivers face, so Liam couldn’t make out his features. He wore a green button down sweater over a white collared shirt. Turning back to face the road, the driver pulled out and started toward their destination.
“Well, did you put a good word in for me like I asked you to?” His employer trusted his driver with his life. Liam did as well, because when you’re a mess of an employee, you need someone to speak for you to the boss.
“Even if I wanted to help you get out of this, which I don’t, you would still be the one doing the job today. Don’t ask me why he does, but Simon likes you, Liam.”
Liam expelled a deep sigh from the depths of his soul and stared absently out the window, “Well, shit. It’s that bad.”
“Certainly isn’t your manners, I can say that much.”
“Oh, come on! We’re doing this again? People swear in this country You get pretty worked up about that for a guy who drives a yellow toilet on four wheels.”
“Liam, you know damned well I only drive one person around. You’re the exception to that rule and you know that too. Are you trying to tell me Simon Nair urinates in public because I’m sure he would like to hear that.”
Liam perked up at this, “Would that get me fired?”
The taxi merged into heavier traffic and headed toward their destination at a speed that Liam would have considered inadvisable on a speedway. Somehow, they arrived at their destination in one piece. The gates opened to greet them, swinging open without a sound. The guard tipped his hat to the driver and they pulled within view of the house.
If mythical creatures in the United States had a de facto king, that man would be the head of the Nair house. The current head of the Nair family was Varnes, but Liam worked for his golden boy son named Simon. That made the house Liam was about to walk into the central hub location for mythical creatures all over the tri-state area.
It was an enormous house, standing at five stories. It’s white paint shone like a beacon in the afternoon sun, reflecting its glory and light to the rest of the world. With its titanic stones, the front wall could have been part of a castle. The complicated layout of the upper floors certainly qualified it as a fortress. The cab pulled up to the front steps and Liam stepped out, bracing himself. The steps led to a set of massive front doors with an enormous stone face looking down over the lintel. It’s massive stone beard hung down slightly into the doorway. Liam thought the face looked angry, but he had been told it was supposed to be happy. Taking in the severe features, Liam decided he didn’t want to know what the stone relief was supposed to be happy about.
Steeling himself one more time, Liam pushed open the heavy double doors and walked into complete pandemonium. When Liam had started working here, he hadn’t even known such creatures existed and yet here they were, getting marriage licenses and taking out health insurance policies. It’s not like an elf could just walk into city hall to get an assessment on his tree house. That elf would need to come here. The first time he had come into this room, it had taken him a good five or ten minutes to pull his jaw off the floor. This house, the home of the Nair family, was ground zero for everything important going on in the city for this cross section of society. The room had an incredibly high ceiling, with paintings of the founders of the so-called Five Families across the top. The well-polished white marble floor produced a beautiful reflection of the fresco on the ceiling. In the middle of the room sat row upon row of dark wooden benches, filled from end to end with all sorts of creatures. There were trolls, pixies, brownies, elves, and beings Liam didn’t even recognize. On the far-left side of the room, a line of clerks peering out from behind glass partitions. To the right of that, requiring Liam to cross the entire room, was a small white door that would lead him to his employer.
One thing Liam had quickly learned since he started working here was that the path to that door led him past almost every row of benches and to a thief, that meant it was time to do a little free-lance work. Even though these were creatures of fantasy and myth, apparently their existence was a lot more mundane than he would have thought. Mundane enough that a little goblin, who was dressed in a smart business suit, never even noticed when Liam filched a small gold coin from his pocket. A lace handkerchief here, an expensive looking pocket watch there, Liam picked his way across the crowd towards his goal.
Just as he reached the end of the rows, he brushed heavily against an enormous man. At least, Liam thought he was a man. He towered over Liam, even sitting down. His ears were slightly pointy and his features were slab-like, with a wide nose and clear vacant eyes. An enormous cigar dropped from the left side of his mouth, curling smoke up towards the ceiling. Reaching up with a massive hand, he scratched his scalp, which was covered with a matte of thinning black hair. He wore a dark woolen suit, despite the heat, but under that he wore a plain white undershirt.
“Watch where you step, you punk.” The creature rolled his shoulders and Liam had to move fast in order to keep from being bowled over.
“Sorry, just headed up to see Simon.” The creature shrugged and went back to staring at the wall, and Liam headed for the door and up the stairs. Simon Nair. This was the man Liam had been stupid enough to try and pickpocket once upon a time. The heir to one of the most powerful families that nobody knew about. It didn’t matter that he was a second son. Liam often took that as a sign that even he could move up in the world, if a second son could inherit the family fortune in such a rigid world as his.
The stairs didn’t take nearly as long to climb as Liam would have liked. The deep red carpet muffled his steps as he slowly trudged up, trying to find a balance between getting to his destination and going as slowly as he could get away with. The walls were lined with candles that flickered from slight breezes when any of the doors into the stairs were opened. This stairwell belonged only to family members and to people who were unfortunate enough to be invited, such as Liam.
His stop was on the third floor, down a long corridor and straight into the office. The door opened far more easily than Liam expected and the room he found himself in was exactly as he remembered it. Walls were covered with bookshelves from floor to ceiling and a large desk sat directly opposite the door. Sitting behind the desk waited the man who had summoned him this morning. He was busy writing on a piece of paper, so Liam closed the door behind himself and stood in front of the desk. It never boded well to interrupt a dragon at work.
Simon was tall and quite muscular, towering over Liam’s slight frame. He had shaggy brown hair that obeyed its own laws and defied control. Despite his refined features, Simon’s most striking aspect was easily his eyes. One eye, the brightest blue Liam had ever seen, was focused on his work. His left eye, yellow and possessing a slitted pupil, was pointed directly at Liam.
There was a long silence before Simon finally spoke, “Liam! I’m glad you could come on short notice…
“Not that I had a choice,” Liam muttered under his breath.”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t be grateful,” Simon gently chided him, “Sorry to keep you waiting, I just wanted to send out another note before I tell you where I’m sending you today.” Finishing his note, Simon quickly fashioned it into a paper butterfly and got up, walked over to a window and opened it. Letting the butterfly go, it floated down for an instant before its wings started fluttering on its own.
“No matter how many times I get those notes from you, that still amazes me.”
Simon turned around, a slightly incredulous look on his face, “This is what impresses you? Not all the creatures downstairs or your own special talents? It’s the paper butterflies that do it for you??”
Liam shrugged, “Not everyone is amazed by the same things, Simon.”
Simon laughed and walked back over to his desk, seating himself behind it, “Speaking of amazing, I have someplace really fun to send you today.”
Liam hung his head. He had walked right into this one, “Alright, lay it on me.” And so, another day’s work began.