One of the most frustrating pitfalls in the workplace is communication. There’s nothing more infuriating than having a conversation with someone and realizing that they’re hearing something very different than what you’re saying. Working for a powerful man meant that Liam had to learn an entire new lexicon of words. Powerful men spoke the same language he did, but he was starting to learn all the shades of meaning. Surprising, interesting, and fascinating are words that don’t mean good or bad. When Simon told Liam he had located something surprising, interesting, or fascinating, Liam read this as a sign that he was going to die. To his credit, Simon usually tried to tell Liam what exactly he was going to steal and why it was important. He tried, but Liam didn’t care and had no plans to change that attitude. He only cared about three things. Where, what and who.
“…and it’s been lost since the thirteenth century. My sources tell me it ended up in New York, courtesy of some Russian mobster and I don’t need to tell you that a statue of a dragon that can be turned into a real-life, honest to goodness fire breathing dragon won’t mix well in down town New York. It’s a miracle nobody’s figured it out yet. We’re catching a break here. That won’t last in this city, so I need you to steal it for me.”
“So where exactly can I find this thing?”
“It’s being sold at an auction house in Queens. It’s not exactly a fancy place. I actually think it’s right next to a Japanese steakhouse.”
“Does this auction house have a name?”
Simon shuffled through his papers and a laugh snuck out as he held up a piece of paper and handed it to Liam, “Someone needs to talk to the owners about the name.”
Liam took the paper and looked it over, “Crazy Eddie’s Discount Magical Ephemera. Find us in Old Bart’s Guide to the Black Market.” On the bottom of the note, it listed an address. Liam tucked the paper into his pocket and swore under his breath.
Simon cocked his head, “And what was that reaction for?”
Shifting awkwardly from foot to foot, Liam tried to conjure up the words to explain the dilemma, “Security comes in three flavors. Conspicuous, highly trained and crazy. The name of this damned auction house literally contains the word crazy. Their so called “security” will just be nut job killers that don’t look good in suits looking for an excuse to cut someone up.”
Simon shuffled the papers he had on his desk and returned them to their folder, “What do you care? It’s not like you’re going to stay dead or anything.”
Liam winced, “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, jackass. Last job I pulled for you, the security guys thought it would be fun to do things to my body. I don’t even want to tell you where they put the…”
“Alright, alright. You’ve made your point. After this job, I’ll let you rest up a bit. I’ll even give you time and a half if you get it done right. Remember, small dragon statue, made of stone. Looks entirely ordinary.”
Liam mentally tucked the information away and nodded, “Dragon statue, stone, small, not very ornate. Got it. Given the type of place we’re talking about, this job will take me around a week.”
Simon raised a brow in genuine shock at this, “A week? That seems a suspiciously long time to me.”
Liam scowled and headed for the door, “It’s not like I can just walk in and take the damned thing. I’m not you, Simon. You wouldn’t break a sweat dealing with the staff. But me? I would be lucky if I got a punch in and even luckier if the first punch didn’t do me in. I’ll need a week to stake the place out and make sure I know the routine better than they do. I’ll get it for you, just you wait.”
Heading out the door, Liam found his way back down to the lobby and out the front doors. The taxi still sat out front, waiting for him to arrive. Hopping into the back seat, Liam handed the piece of paper with the address to the mysterious driver, who took off. A stake out meant an excuse to spend time away from home and that meant less time dealing with the Dirt Gremlins.
Once they reached the destination, it didn’t look like anything special. If it weren’t for all the cars parked in front of the place, Liam would have assumed it was ready to be condemned. There were a few giveaways, things that Liam had become quite good at picking up. The building had a lot of structural damage, but there were signs that the building had undergone renovations. The front wall looked like shit, but it looked like new shit. The decorative pieces on the building, including a faded red dragon, looked like they were about to fall off the building. Whoever owned it cared less about how it looked and more about the building not falling on the patrons.
The steady stream of customers going in and out meant that Liam was unlikely to get bored. The Japanese steakhouse right across the street meant Liam wouldn’t be getting hungry either. Thankfully, there was a cheap motel situated on the end of the block. It had a serviceable outdoor swimming pool with a wonderful vantage point of the auction house. The taxi pulled up on the other side of the street from the auction house.
Liam hopped out of the cab and turned to frown at his driver, “Why don’t you just blast out who I am on a megaphone you twit. What kind of moron parks a thief right across from the place he’s going to be robbing?”
“But I thought you didn’t want to do the job. Hope you don’t die, Liam.”
“Get bent.” The taxi pulled away from the curb and rocketed off, leaving Liam alone with his job.
The next four days were a blur of Japanese steak and people watching. Despite the auction house being on the smaller side, there was an almost endless stream of people coming and going. From the conversations Liam overhead, it would have been more accurate to call it a flea market than an auction house. Most people heard about the place from a local publication that let people know what was up for sale. It was infamous in most circles of the mythic underworld. It was called, “Old Bart’s Guide to the Black Market” but to hear Simon talk about it, it was mostly a collection of trash and shit that didn’t work anymore because it had been rightly broken long ago. That didn’t stop people from paying exorbitant amounts of money for what amounted to useless curios.
The patrons wandering away from Crazy Eddie’s discussed everything about the inside, loudly and frequently. The inside sounded like it was the Fort Knox flea market. There were cameras in every room covering every conceivable angle, security guards practically outnumbering the patrons and an automated security system that would lock down the building at the slightest suspicion of foul play. By the time three days went by, Liam knew every guard by name and what their favorite foods were, as well as relationships and who they voted for in the last two elections, which is to say nobody. Convicted felons can’t vote.
Security dressed nicely enough, but none of them were wearing fancy suits. During the late afternoon shift, just when the sun was going down, was when Liam was going to head in That was his best chance to walk straight in without getting noticed. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s entirely possible to become invisible, you just had to know how to walk where people weren’t looking. Liam didn’t doubt there were people who really could vanish into thin air. A few weeks ago he had suspected he was sharing his rooms with an invisible pervert who watched him while he slept. It turned out to be a spider the size of a large football wearing a Yankees baseball cap. He couldn’t even get too mad, because the spider had been very apologetic about the whole thing. Mostly because it had gotten caught.
As the sun went down on the sixth day, Liam put his plan into action. The crowd got the thickest around dusk, and that was when she arrived. Liam had watched her for the last four days, and who could blame him? She was a blonde number that wore a red dress so short it came across more like a classy nighty than something to be worn out on the town. Liam knew damned well he didn’t have a shot with a woman like that and she was taken anyways, by one of the young guards who worked the late afternoon shift. When she wasn’t there, he looked intensely bored, but when she arrived his face lit up and one whole half of the entrance might as well have been unguarded.
Like clock-work, she showed up and it was time to go to work. Liam crossed the street calmly and mixed himself in with the crowd. He matched the pace of the people in front of him and vanished into the middle of a large group of patrons. Everyone was supposed to be checked out, but with Liam being so small it was easy for him to get lost into the mix. With careful quick steps, he danced into the building and shifted immediately to the left and out of sight of the doorway. The auction house was larger on the inside than Liam would have thought possible. The entirety of the building was one large room with a hardwood floor. It smelled like a museum and the auction pieces were in full view standing on podiums. After scanning the room, Liam realized why they could afford to be so liberal displaying their items for sale.
Guards stood along the walls, in the corners, in the crowd and even behind the concession booth and in the coat check room. Cameras had been placed in every possible corner, it wasn’t possible for Liam to scratch his ass without being seen in hi definition through one of the cameras. That meant Liam would only be in the room for a short time before security realized he wasn’t supposed to be there. He had known before he walked in that this was going to be no cake walk, but the amount of security on display was nothing short of insane. He meant that both in term of both numbers and mental disposition. Liam shuddered as one of the guards licked his gun menacingly. Time to get to work.