Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 6

     Contrary to popular opinion, the weather outside when one sets out on an adventure rarely holds any bearing on how the story will end. Liam covered his eyes and stumbled down the steps to the private yellow cab waiting for him at the curb. Only when he reached the door of the vehicle did it dawn on Liam that the presence of the private cab and its mysterious driver meant Simon had known all along Liam couldn’t turn down a chance to do a little free-lance work.

     Being read so easily spoiled the trip a little. Liam got into the cab grumbling to himself and slammed the door behind him, laying down across the backseat, “That bastard’s pretty quick, isn’t he?”

     The shadowy driver turned to look over his shoulder at Liam’s prone form, “You could say he needs to be given his family…,” the driver trailed off, his nose wrinkling at the scent, “You smell like the floor of a seedy bar that someone died in.”

     Liam wrapped an arm over his eyes in a vain attempt to block out the offending sun, “That sounds accurate. Drop me off at home and I’ll clean up before I head off to work.”

     The taxi started off, headed for the front gate with gradually increasing speed, “I could drop you off in the neighborhood Mr. Beaufort lives in if you would like.”

    His headache started to gradually fade into the distance as sleep began to slowly overtake him, “I know you could, but if I showed up in that neighborhood looking like a mostly dead wino, I’ll get kicked out and if Charles Beaufort gets one look at your cab he would bail. I’ve heard he’s a regular subscriber to Old Bart’s and there’s a good chance he’ll know your cab on sight.”

    Simon’s driver retorted, but Liam missed it, having already drifted off to sleep. As the cab sped along the road, he slid from one side of the car to the other without ever waking up. They arrived at his apartment in wonderful time, and somehow, in one piece.

     The cab slowed to a crawl, finally stopping outside Liam’s brownstone apartment complex. They sat there for a few long moments, Liam’s snores punctuating the time, before the driver finally turned around and yelled at Liam, “Wake up, you lazy drunk! Earn your keep for once!”

      Liam shot awake at being yelled at, “I didn’t take anything, I swear!”

      The driver jingled some change, counting it, “That checks out. This is your stop, sir. Get out.”

      Grasping for the door handle and locating it after a few futile attempts, Liam slumped out of the cab and onto the pavement before pulling himself upright, “Thanks for the ride, jerk.”

      A small bottle flew out of the window and smacked Liam in the face before tumbling to the ground, “It’s a bottle of wake-up juice, seems like you’re going to need it.

     Liam plucked the bottle off the ground and held it up to his eyes. The vial looked like something that belonged in a mad scientist’s nightmare lab. It certainly kicked like something distilled in a mad science lab. Liam trudged up the stairs and into his apartment building. This job took him to so many varied locations. The clothes he was wearing now, though normal streetwear, would stick out too clearly in Mr. Beaufort’s classy neighborhood. Liam smelled villainous enough that most cops would have run away from the stench alone, so a wash and a change in clothes was in order.

     As he ascended the steps inside, Liam gradually became aware that his floor was creating a racket that echoed down the stairs. His storage apartment lay on the floor below his own, so with more than few misgivings, rather than just stopping for his things and cleaning up, Liam peeked up the stairs over the railing. From that vantage point, he could catch a glimpse of his door.      He shouldn’t have been able to see it and that it was open meant some brave, foolhardy soul had gone in to attempt to root around in the mud for whatever pearls Liam might have possessed. Liam didn’t have any friends and if he did, they certainly wouldn’t have been the type of friends who would stop by unannounced and invite themselves in while he was out.

     While Liam debated what to do, a chorus of “Dirty’s” rang down the hallway, dissuading him from investigating. He had a job to do anyways. Ducking into his apartment, Liam took a quick shower before picking out a white button-down shirt and a pair of black slacks with dress shoes so shiny, he could see himself in them. A sweater with a Harvard crest embroidered onto it completed the outfit and Liam checked himself out in the mirror. With his wet hair, he looked like a drowned rat that had somehow found itself a nice set of clothes, along with an Ivy League education, but the real disguise lay in a shoebox hidden away with the rest of his emergency tools.

     Every thief who was worth their salt knew that money meant security and the prospect of getting more work might vanish at any moment. That being the case, it was better to squirrel away as much as possible for the dark days when thieving was no longer an option, or you needed a lawyer to get you out of a pinch. Liam’s box was hidden under the sink in his spare apartment, buried under a pile of heavily soiled underwear, courtesy of the resident Dirt Gremlins upstairs. That insured most people wouldn’t look in that spot too hard. Liam went to the bathroom and dug it out, retrieving a wad of cash and taking around ten thousand dollars from it.

     In most circumstances, Liam would have found this a risky venture, but he was going to rob the one and only Charles Beaufort. He would make the money back and to blend into such an upscale neighborhood, he needed the last part of his disguise, a little paper to spread around. Liam knew that he looked like a drowned rat that had come into some money, but when you have a lot of money, people mostly stop asking questions about who you were and where you came from. At that point it was all, “Yes, sir” and “No sir” and “I’m sure we can arrange for that, sir.” The other benefit was the people who didn’t immediately stop asking questions were the ones Liam had be wary of for the most. This way, Liam could stakeout the neighborhood and also learn who he needed to be aware of all in one go.

     Walking down the steps to the front door, it occurred to Liam that he couldn’t just show up on his own two feet. He needed a way to arrive that would get the locals talking, or at least not in a bad way. A call to an old friend brought Liam the appropriate mode of transportation.

     Charlotte Gills went way back in the New York underground. She owned a limo service that catered to some of the best and brightest and, as good fortune would have it, some of the worst as well. Cops don’t pull over a limo following the rules of the road often, and Charlotte had made a killing transporting some of the most high-profile criminal lords across the city. Simon Nair knew her by name, and what surprised Liam even more was that she knew Simon by name as well, though she hadn’t seen him since he was six.

     He didn’t have to wait long before the limo showed up. It was long and black with tinted windows, but the detailing on the car had been painted a brilliant royal purple. Liam watched the limo idle in front of him for several minutes before he remembered. Payment up front, always. Pulling the money out of his pocket, he waved it around at the window and the driver’s door opened. Charlotte had been in the business for a long time, but she was still beautiful. Her long auburn hair had grey streaks through it, but since she was at work she had it tucked under her uniform cap.

     In the years since she and Liam had met, she had lost some of the bounce in her step and she had more wrinkles than Liam remembered but she was still a breathtaking sight, even in her fairly standard driver’s outfit. She had a slim figure and was only slightly taller than he was. Liam maintained, often and loudly when drunk, that attractiveness came down to how you used your assets more than what assets you had. For reasons Liam could never put his finger on, Charlotte mesmerized him.

     Opening the Limo door for him, Charlotte put her finger on his chin and gently pushed it closed, “Liam, you’re going to make a girl blush. Just get in the car and tell me where you need to go.” Without another word, she snatched the money out of his hand and Liam got into the backseat of the car. Without intending to, he sagged into the car seat. The air conditioner was on at just the right temperature, a glass of champagne sat next to him, bubbling lightly, classical music filled the back seat. The door closed behind him and Charlotte made her way around to the driver’s seat, sliding in and lowering the window to look back at him expectantly.

     “I’ve been hired to rob from Charles Beaufort. That’s where I’m going.”

     Charlotte’s expression never changed, “And how long do you need for that, hun?”

     Liam shrugged noncommittally, “Around two weeks or so. Any less than that is taking too much of a risk.”

     “So you’ll need me every day until the day of.”

      Liam smiled from ear to ear, “I wasn’t expecting you every day, but if you can spare the time.”

     Charlotte smiled, her eyes sparkling in the afternoon light, “For you, Liam? Anything. I just like you that much.”

     “You like the color of my money is what you like.”

      The glass that separated him from Charlotte started going up, “I would prefer to call that your sunny disposition. Sit tight, my lovely, we’ll be there safe and sound soon.”

     Liam picked up the champagne glass and took a sip. The dividing window retreated down again, “And Liam? No throwing up in my limo. I’ll make you clean it up.” Liam put the glass down as the window slid up once more. Better safe then sorry.

 

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