Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 4

     No plan in the history of the world has ever gone off like clock-work, except in the movies. That turn of phrase sounds nice until you realize that all it takes to throw your ridiculously complex plan off is for one security guard to stay on the can too long because he’s got stomach cramps that day. The best plans end up being the ones that can be adapted on the fly to new situations and difficulties. Liam walked through the room and wherever he went, items vanished. Some of them vanished into Liam’s pockets and some of them vanished into other people’s pockets. At the very back of the room was the statue of the dragon. It was a small statue, barely larger than a chess piece, but the eyes were made of emerald and the workmanship was master level, at the very least. The statue would never be taken without some serious effort. Liam knew he would have to get inventive.

     Finding a patron whom Liam had stealthily recruited into becoming a thief, he pointed at her and yelled at the top of his lungs, “That lady stuck something in her purse, someone stop her!”

     Total chaos broke out. Apparently, Liam’s efforts had not gone completely unnoticed by the security or the patrons he had volunteered for his plan. It seemed like most of the patrons ascribed to the belief that, sometimes, fate just plops things in your lap, or your purse, or your pocket. Since it was out of your control in the first place, that gave you total license to just take whatever you found and run. People dashed for every exit. Security did their best, but people can get squirmy when they know that getting out fast is the only way they’re leaving on their own two feet at all. Liam casually walked over to the dragon statue and crammed into his pocket. It made a small jangle noise as it hit the other items that Liam had in his pocket.

     It never paid to follow the crowd. Liam thought individual people were quite clever. Crowds possessed the hive mind of a rotten fruit and given his slight stature, he had learned early on not to follow the crowds. The other downside to following crowds is that if you’re being chased by angry men with guns, they tend to aim for the crowds first. Whatever else could be said for the security at Crazy Eddie’s, you certainly had to admire their enthusiasm for their job. If Liam hadn’t started the panicked rush towards the door, he might have stuck around, but in the back of the room, a large set of black double doors called to him. Ducking inside, Liam melted into the shadows behind some heavy looking cardboard boxes.

     A cold drip of sweat crawled down his back as Liam snuck a peek at the rest of the room. It was poorly lit and filled with boxes stacked three or four high. A quick scan of the ceiling revealed no cameras of any kind. Most thieves would be tempted to bolt for the door right away, but that was a fool’s errand. The guards were all on high octane alert and it would only take one guard coming back for a clip-board or some ammo and Liam was toast.

     He waited in the shadows, but he didn’t have to wait long before two security guards came bursting in through the doors, “He came out this way, make sure to watch this door and I’ll do a sweep of the storage area. Shoot to kill.”

     Liam couldn’t help it. He snorted a little That turn of phrase always struck him as funny. Whack jobs with guns like these bozos didn’t shoot to kill, they shot to obliterate. The last time Liam had run into this type of goon, they shot him so many times he wouldn’t have been surprised if his progeny were born with lead poisoning.

    Of course, even a quiet laugh echoes in a storage area. Both goons trained their guns on Liam and opened fire. He died. He had died many times before, but for whatever reason it never stuck. He just woke up around thirty seconds later, in blinding pain and in need of a good stiff drink. When he was younger, he had tried to find out more about this particular ability. Nobody had ever been able to give him an answer and in the years since he had been young, Liam had stopped caring.

    When he did wake up, his pockets were being rifled through with no particular care by one of the security guards. This was the worst part of playing dead when everyone thought you really were dead. They handled you like a piece of meat, making Liam feel like he needed to start yelling, “bad touch!” However it would have given him away slightly, and since Liam didn’t feel up to getting shot again, he waited. He waited until all the items in his pockets had been cleaned out. He waited until the security guards made all their stupid jokes. He waited until they started dragging him out to the dumpster and then, when they had reached the back door, he picked the pocket of the guard who had taken the dragon statue from him.  Nobody would ever suspect a dead man.

     They tossed his body into the dumpster, leaving it for the trash pickup later that day. The dumpster smelled as though it had seen its fair share of bodies in the past, and not all of them had been very clean when they had been thrown in there in the first place. Liam kept on waiting while the guards came out a few more times and added a dozen more bodies to the dumpster party. Hours went by. When Liam was finally sure he was in the clear, he simply hopped out of the dumpster and walked to the end of the alley. Only an idiot would walk right out past the security guards, unless that idiot happened to know exactly when neither one of them would be paying attention to much of anything. Liam was that kind of idiot. He didn’t even have to rush, he just went back to his motel room to sleep off being dead. Liam was never sure whether to call jobs like this easy or hard. It wasn’t exactly back breaking labor, if you don’t count the dying part of it.

     Humans can adapt to all sorts of crazy things. As Liam had recently learned, so too could creatures of myth and legend. Nothing brought the miracle of adaptability home for Liam like waking up in a motel after being shot and killed the night before. It felt like waking up in a cleaner version of home, which is how Liam knew he wasn’t home. There were all kinds of tell-tale signs. No scurrying noises, beyond what one would expect in a cheap motel. The room smelled like cigarettes and cleaning fluid, not the best smell in the world. In comparison to his own apartment, it might as well have been a rose garden.

     The first thing Liam did upon waking up was check his pocket for the dragon. His fingers closed around the stone, Liam could feel the weight of it in his pocket. If the auction house was going to find him, they would have done so already. That didn’t mean they never would, most auction houses that sent notices in to Old Bart’s had at least one employee on the ball enough to know when they had been ripped off. The first thing to do was to get clean and grab some new clothes and that meant going home, or at least taking a shower. Given that Liam’s own shower had official become a hazmat zone within weeks of his moving in, even the motel shower held its charms. At least Liam could count on no Dirt Gremlins popping out from the drain, getting stuck and squealing “Dirty!” over and over for the hour it took Liam to unstick the creature.

     Once he had showered, Liam checked out of the motel and started the trek back to the Nair mansion. He knew he could have sent word to Simon and got a ride from his personal yellow taxi, but that would have tipped off a lot more people than he would have liked.

     By the end of the day, he had found his way back to the Nair estate. The sun had long sunk below the skyline. The lights from the mansion shone out brightly in the darkness, drawing Liam to it. Entering the front door, Liam could hear his footsteps echo as he crossed the now empty main room to the door that led upstairs. Despite the hour, he knew he could count on Simon to be in his office. So Liam strode up the stairs and down the hall, to the door that led to his temporary freedom.

    Before he even reached the door, Simon opened it and waved him in, “Liam, thank God! My people on the street told me there was a riot at Crazy Eddie’s. I wasn’t sure you’d been able to make it out.”

     “Yeah, about that,” Liam trailed off and looked around the office, “I caused the riot. I had to do it in order to get out.”

     “Did you get the statue?”

     Liam rifled through his pockets until he found the statue, “It’s such a little thing and it’s just like you said, it’s not bad but it’s no work of art.”

     Simon took it from him gently and held it up to his left eye. In the dimly lit office, his eye glowed and the statue’s eyes glowed in return. Putting the statue down on his desk, Simon began to rummage around in one of the drawers, “Sadly, people don’t want it for purely artistic reasons. It’s a good thing you managed to get that for me, because it’s clear that we have a real problem child on our hands here.”

     Scratching his head, Liam looked incredulously at the small figurine, “A problem child? How can you tell?”

    Pulling a bottle out of the desk, Simon shook it at Liam. The liquid sloshed gently and gained his attention, “It’s a dragon thing. I can tell this one has a really poor attitude. Care for a drink to celebrate?”

    “Wait a minute,” Liam had done some drinking with Simon before. His head protested at the thought of the future hangovers, “Is that wake-up juice?” Wake up juice, in spite of its name, was a concoction made primarily of troll whiskey and goblin spirits with some other ingredients mixed in for good measure that Simon wouldn’t tell him about. It hit you like a run-away freight train but it did make you feel great until you crashed. It was made for sipping. Between Simon and Liam, they had sipped a whole bottle and a half last time, a decision they both thoroughly regretted the next day.

     “I just thought maybe we could have a little nip before I send you home.”

     Liam eyed the bottle, “Let’s get wasted.”

      Simon slammed the bottle down on his desk and pulled out two shot glasses, “Now you’re talking my language. Prepare yourself, Liam. I’ve been training for our next drinking contest since the last one. I am going to drink you under the table.”

    Liam sauntered over to the table, “Good luck. I’ve been drinking like this my whole life and I can’t die.” Simon poured the first shots while Liam watched intently like a man dying of thirst. This job might have some perks after all. Liam took the first shot. His head felt like it had been kicked by a professional soccer player.

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