Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 7

     When Liam stole from someone in high society, it became his window to seeing how the other half lived. You would never guess, based on his shabby appearance and poor luck, but Liam had sampled some of the finest foods the world had to offer. Liam generally hated spending the money going to fine dining establishments. That was the price of admittance, though, in order to steal from the other patrons. The neighborhood that Charles Beaufort lived in was a different story from other jobs. If realty could be compared to human rights violations, this neighborhood was a blood diamond. Not a single house in the neighborhood didn’t have blood money somewhere in its foundations or extensive renovations.

     Stepping out of the limo, Liam checked his outfit for specks of dirt in a grand show and took a quick peek around. Charlotte bowed and Liam flicked his hand vaguely, “Thank you, Charlotte. I’ll require a ride out of here in say, six hours. Same location, if you please.”

     Charlotte closed the door behind him and whistled softly, “You’re putting in some real long hours for Simon. Did he make a legitimate member of society out of you?”

     Liam suppressed the excitement in his voice and strolled away from the limo a few steps, “He also said I could do some freelance work for myself.” The street stretched out in front of him, the relative safety of a public park lay directly behind him.

     Charlotte nodded and her eyes widened at the realization that Liam was about to come into some serious money, “Well, that explains your being so serious about this job.”

     Liam had already tuned her out, his eyes scanning up and down the road. He never even noticed when she got back into her limo and drove off down the road, taking a right turn and vanishing into the distance. The houses up and down the lane all looked so different, each one a unique monument to greed and the overly grandiose spirit of mankind.

     What really mattered to Liam were the ways they looked the same. The street he started on was called Courvin Avenue, but the street Charles Beaufort lived on was several over and one or two up towards the main shopping center. Better to start off from a distance and work yourself closer, it’s easier to rob someone when they see you walk by their house every day, studiously ignoring it. Liam corrected himself, it would be easier to steal from Charles Beaufort this way.

     Walking down the street, Liam found himself shockingly unconfronted. The houses up and down the street were surrounded by high stone fences, but Liam didn’t let that fool him. The most houses had cameras on the corners, many of which panned up and down the street to follow pedestrians. One of them kept its lens on Liam the entire time he walked down their street. It took fifteen minutes of slow walking to reach Charles Beaufort’s house, and this was where Liam’s training kicked into high gear. When you made a living as a thief, you learned to take in details while apparently not looking at things. Liam assumed Charles Beaufort learned a similar skill, where you learn to appraise a person as a wallet and slab of meat while not openly staring at them.

      What he found on Charles’s side was very encouraging. The grass was finely manicured, but there wasn’t a soul to be seen. The entire front yard showed no signs of any equipment. There was a good chance Charles had someone come on property and take care of it. Less encouraging was the sight of his vibrant rose garden, which clearly got a lot of attention and fertilizer. More troubling still was the house directly opposite Mr. Beaufort’s house, which Liam could only assume belonged to a former Bolivian dictator. The house had a stone fence surrounding it, much like the other houses. Unlike the other houses, however, it had a barbed wire coil wrapped around the top. The entrance on this property was more than an opening that led to the five-car garage, it was manned on both sides by a guard with a gate that filled the whole opening and went up almost to the top of the fifteen-foot wall. There were more cameras along this wall than other houses in the neighborhood and most of them were moving to follow Liam the entire time he walked past. Liam vowed then and there that if he had enough time, he was going to check out that house as well. Simon had told him he could steal whatever he wanted to. He never specified from where those things had to be stolen.

    The property looked like it could withstand a small siege, not that Liam was interested in whoever lived there. He was interested in what whoever lived there might own. Given the security all around the place. That did mean that there were eyes all over that property and some of them would be pointed outwards at the street, and by extension the other house. In the five minutes Liam took to slowly walk past the houses on either side, he felt as though he was walking through a small valley of killing intent. It could have been his imagination, but he could feel guns being pointed at him from both sides of the street, which didn’t bode well for his thieving efforts.

     The next five minutes of the trip were mostly uninterrupted and quiet, the path led to the shopping center adjacent to the neighborhood that Charles Beaufort lived in and this also required some grace and time. As the day wore on, people from the neighborhood would come and go, the laborers who had been in the area for the day would likely drive past here and pick up a few things on their way home. It was a good place to sit back and take the pulse of the place. A neighborhood this opulent had two pulses going at the same time, that of the owners and the owned. The worst thing that could happen to a thief in a neighborhood like this was the unexpected. Since Liam hated being surprised when he was working, he wanted to know what the flow of traffic looked like going in and out of the neighborhood.

     As the sun began to set, Liam started his trek back through the neighborhood. A job like this was easier performed at night, but that didn’t mean it would be a cakewalk. A slow stroll through the streets worked best at night when Liam could find out how long he could loiter in one place, where the lights shone the brightest and most importantly, who asked questions. Unluckily, that first night on the streets went by with ease and at the appointed time, he found himself waving another handful of cash at Charlotte’s limo and going back home.

     Once he arrived home, he set a time for Charlotte to pick him up and he made his way up to his current storage apartment and changed back into his street clothes. Locking up his storage apartment, he looked up the stairs apprehensively. Some poor burglar overlooked his storage apartment and went right for the one apartment in the whole complex it would have been smarter to avoid. As he walked slowly up the stairs, Liam finally realized this was why he dreaded going home. He never knew what he was going to find. When he did reach the top of the stairs, he couldn’t help but click his tongue in disgust. Thieves used to have standards. Sure, you’re robbing someone, but that doesn’t mean you break their stuff, just their spirit when they realized all their prized possessions are gone.

     Reaching his door, Liam peeked his head into his apartment. The hallway leading into the apartment looked like a warzone had broken out. Chunks of oily black muck covered the walls and dripped from the ceiling. Liam had to keep looking up the whole time to avoid being hit by falling bits of trash that had been stuck to the ceiling. The living room looked as though it had taken the brunt of the fighting, if one could call it that. The would be thief lay slumped against the wall next a half open window.

     Liam was thoroughly certain he could see visible stink fumes leaving the apartment. The thief himself was covered in hairy looking dirt and pieces of debris that dirt gremlins had collected in their travels through the sewers. He wore a woven necklace of teeth, some of them sharp and some of them clearly human in origin. Liam leaned down closer when the necklace showed a glint of silver, but it just turned out to be a small collection of can openers. Heaped in a small pile around the thief lay a pile of Dirt Gremlins, clearly exhausted from their efforts at making over the thief.

     Liam poked the man gently, quickly pressing him back down and holding a hand over his mouth when he jerked awake with his mouth open wide, “Calling the cops would be a little hypocritical of me, considering I’m in the same profession as you. That and you’ve clearly been punished already, and nobody should get it twice for the same crime. Just get out and go while they’re still asleep. Nod if you understand.”

     The man nodded frantically and Liam slowly removed his hand. Any features of this would-be thief were completely obscured in grotesque face paint. Liam wouldn’t have been able to pick him out in a line up, unless all the people in the lineup had been previously used as a canvas by dirt gremlins. The thief left a trail of goo behind him leaking slowly from his pants legs, and Liam could hear him slump down the stairs for a couple of floors. Turning his attention to the pile of dirt gremlins, Liam had a sinking feeling that he would wake up in much the same state is his new friend. Once the Dirt Gremlins got riled up, sometimes it took days for them to calm down again. That just meant he needed to wake up earlier the next day, which was the worst punishment Liam could imagine. Turning to his bed, Liam was gratified to find that it had been mostly ignored in the dirtying frenzy of the afternoon. Curling up under the blankets, Liam closed his eyes and drifted off to the land of dreams.

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