The only thing worse than waking up with a hangover in an unknown place with no idea how you get there would perhaps be waking up with a hangover knowing exactly where you were with no idea why you hadn’t left yet. Liam pressed his hand into the surface beneath him. It was soft leather and smelled of fresh cinnamon cleaner, so this clearly wasn’t his apartment. A brief attempt to sit up and open his eyes confirmed Liam’s worst fear. God, he’d never even made it out of the office. The whole room was bathed in soft shadows, but beyond the heavy curtains Liam could catch clear glimpses of Mr. Sun, waiting to ambush him when he left to go home.
Memories of the previous night flitted in and out of his head, memories that left Liam with more questions than answers. It had started off simple enough. Liam and Simon had drunk until neither one of them could see straight. Around an hour after they started, a leprechaun showed up looking for Simon’s signature on a delivery of one pot of gold. Liam admitted to himself that he might be remembering that wrong, but if you learned anything working with the Nair family, it was this. Never drink with leprechauns. They could, and would, drink you under the table every time.
Through his hangover, he could hear rustling and stepping around him. Sitting up, Liam shook his head and felt the pain rocket through his brain, rebelling at the sudden movement, “How long have I been out?”
The scent of coffee filled his nose. Opening his eyes blearily, Liam found himself face to face with his employer’s left eye, “It’s only two in the afternoon, here’s a small bathtub of coffee for you.” Simon handed him what could generously be called a mug. It was brilliant white with a giant handle meant for larger hands than his and it resembled a giant soup bowl.
When he had started working for Simon, his left eye often made him recoil. To his credit, Liam simply took the coffee and sipped loudly, “Did I die? I don’t normally sleep that long.”
Simon straightened up and twisted his neck to get a lingering crick out of it, “I think you died twice. Once when we were just about finished drinking and once more before the leprechaun left for his flight.”
“Oh God, I was hoping I remembered that wrong. Why the hell did you let me drink with a leprechaun?”
Chuckling softly, Simon crossed the room to the window behind his desk, making sure the curtains were closed tightly, “You were quite insistent on it, as a matter of fact. The subject of who could drink more came up and after that point, there was just no stopping you. You couldn’t be dissuaded.”
Liam downed the entire mug of coffee in three burning swigs, bracing himself for the pain, “That sounds like me. Drunk Liam is pretty belligerent from what I’m told.”
“Drunk Liam tried to take a swing at me when I stopped him from punching his new drinking frenemy.”
“Wait, does that mean I’m fired?”
Simon sat back on his desk and held out a sheaf of papers, “No, that means you get another job.”
Sagging back to the ground, Liam covered his eyes and tried to ignore the searing pain in his mouth, which was the only thing distracting him from the blinding pain in his brain, “Well, shit.”
Sitting down at his desk, Simon shuffled some papers and looked up with his right eye, his brow creasing slightly as he watched Liam deal with his self-inflicted pain, “I’m so sorry, Liam. I really wanted to give you some time off, but you’re the only part timer I can count on for this kind of work and I got a big tip today from the Goodbody family. As much as you need a break, I can’t just let this tip go. It seems New York is host to a serial killer named Charles Beaufort. I feel ashamed to admit we had no idea he was here and he’s been in plain sight the whole time.”
Liam sat up at this statement, “I’m a thief, not a killer.”
Simon waved a hand apologetically, “I’m sorry, Liam, but you couldn’t kill Charles Beaufort if he were tied down and the knife were already in him. I want you to steal from him.”
Time stopped for an instant and Liam’s hangover cleared up instantly, “You want me to steal from Charles fucking Beaufort?”
“Why? Do you know of him?”
Taking a deep breath, Liam started in, “Charles Beaufort? Yeah, I know about him. The man was a born predator, the first of his kind. Most whack-job killers on the streets view murder as a hobby, for him it’s a job. It’s a paycheck. The guy might as well be a shark in a nice suit. All the man does is kill people.”
Simon pulled out a pen from his desk, writing down a few notes as Liam spoke, waiting for him to finish before looking up at him with both eyes, “And I need you to steal something from him. And you can take anything else you want, I’m giving you free reign on this one.”
Liam felt his ears twitch, “Anything? No holding back? No stealing just what I need?”
Liam weighed the options in his head. Simon always let him know up front that it was alright to walk away. A younger, less wise Liam would have taken that as a challenge, but the older, more bruised Liam knew better. Still, no self-respecting thief would turn down the chance to do a little free-lance work while getting paid. In the end, it wasn’t an easy choice, but it turned out to be a quick one.
“Fine, I’ll get your piece and then acquire a few of my own. What do you need me to steal?”
“A paint brush.”
“A what now?”
Simon laughed loudly, leaning over so far he almost hit his head on his desk, “One of my best friends is an Aliway, the family that does all the building and painting for the Five Families. He had a brush his father gave him that was brilliant for hunting magic. I don’t want Charles Beaufort to have an instrument that powerful in his bloody hands and I want my friend to have it back. You can’t miss it when you find it, it’s a bright red color with the Aliway motto, “Amant opera manuum tuarum” on the side. If you get that for me, I promise I will make it worth your while.
Liam rose to his feet, swaying back and forth gently as he tried to steady his mind, “I can do it in about two weeks.”
Simon’s face fell at this news, “Can you do it in maybe one week?”
Liam stroked his chin, closing his eyes for a moment, “Why the rush order?”
“I wanted to get it in time for his birthday…”
“Go to hell. Two weeks is going too fast already.” Liam headed out the door and towards the stairs leading down. He could hardly believe he was going off to rob Charles Beaufort, one of the few things that never made an appearance on his bucket list. The main hall was as full as ever, the bustle penetrated straight through to Liam’s brain as he struggled to move past a gaggle of fairies on their way to one of the clerks to get their passports stamped.
Two weeks meant at least a week of stake outs, and this one would be much less fun than the last one. Charles Beaufort might have a lot of faults, including killing people for a living, but his poor taste wasn’t one of said faults. He lived in a mansion that cost more than Liam had made in his entire life. His neighbors also lived in mansions, and that meant no cheap hotels and probably no expensive ones either. That meant classy security with cameras and big dogs and a direct line to the local police, who would show up in a heartbeat if there was so much as a tramp wandering outside their houses. Once he had the pattern of the neighborhood down, it was time for a trial run. If that went well, he would move on to the real deal.
Reaching the front door, Liam stepped outside and immediately had to screw his eyes shut tightly. The revenge of Mr. Sun had started. Once he was finally able to open his eyes, Liam found a familiar yellow cab idling at the foot of the steps. The door was open and the shadowy driver waited for him with one hand on the wheel. Well, Liam had signed up for this one, might as well get started.