Over an extended career of thieving, Liam had learned one very important thing. It always paid to have three pieces of information on you. Identification, a newspaper and a reason to be in the neighborhood. The more upscale the neighborhood, the more Stalinesque you could reasonably expect the help to be. One day casing a rich, upscale neighborhood is the most Liam would be able to get before people started asking questions he wouldn’t know the answer to. Before he made the trip back to Charles Beaufort’s side of town, he did a little research on houses that were for sale. Even if he slavishly saved up every cent he possibly could, Liam could never have afforded to rent a closet in those houses, much less purchase one. Knowing this, Liam chose clothes that said he could buy multiple properties in the neighborhood. The ensemble screamed the message in all bold letters lit on fire and made out of hundred dollar bills. He wore a sports blazer with khaki pants and a white button-down shirt with a matching blue ascot.
The ride to the neighborhood was an uneventful affair and Liam arrived unscathed and with a complimentary breakfast in his stomach as Charlotte drove off into the distance, leaving Liam in the same park he had been dropped off at the day before. Under his left arm, Liam clutched a copy of the New York Times and a listing of real estate up for sale in the area. In his right hand, he held a cup of coffee from Starbucks he had picked up on the way. The identification he needed was a little thin on the ground, namely he didn’t have any, but he was hoping that the goods and his manners would dissuade anyone from asking him to produce identification in the first place.
The street was far busier today than yesterday, which meant a trip down the streets would hopefully provide more information than the day before had done. Liam strolled down the street and stopped at every house with a for sale sign peeking out over the stone fence in front of the property. He stopped and pulled out his real estate pamphlet, examining the price and humming loudly to himself as though he didn’t care if he bothered anyone, a common trait he had observed in rich folks who lived in this kind of neighborhood.
As Liam walked down the second street towards his goal, he found his thoughts increasingly interrupted by high pitched yipping noises. Looking up from his work, he found himself confronted by one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. She had long auburn colored hair and wore a plain black dress that ended just below her knees with low black heels. Her sun glasses that obscured her eyes entirely. Over her hair, she had a brightly colored scarf wrapped tightly to keep her hair from waving around too much in an errant breeze. What caught Liam’s eye, however, was her enormous purse which dangled from over her shoulder down to her waist by long straps. It wasn’t the purse that interested him, it was the occupant of the purse.
The opening of the woman’s purse was occupied by a small teacup Yorkie that bounced around excitedly, yipping and attempting to leap from the purse to accost Liam. It wasn’t even the dog that interested Liam, it was the diamond choker around the dog’s neck that bounced up and down, repeatedly smacking the dogs chin, every time it yipped at him. The woman had stopped her walk to observe him, she didn’t seem too suspicious yet, but that could easily change.
Tucking his papers back under his arm, Liam walked straight up to her and smiled, “Good morning, miss. I hope you don’t mind my saying, but that’s a lovely dog you have perched in your purse.”
That look of vague suspicion vanished from her face as soon as he mentioned her dog. Tiny dogs are supposed to be adorable, kind hearted little angels. Her dog was now hopping frantically up and down in her purse, making small jingling noises that caused Liam’s ears to twitch slightly, though the intense look the dog eyed him with made him give up on getting into the purse.
Holding out her hand, the woman smiled graciously, “Oh, thank you so much. We’ve had our Adolph for around four years, but he’s still a little puppy at heart.”
Deftly taking her hand and avoiding the small jaws that lunged frantically for his arm, Liam kissed her hand and gently let it go, “I think it looks like he needs a little living space.”
The woman laughed and waved a hand vaguely at Liam, “Oh, you’re as bad as my mother. What brings you to the neighborhood Mr….” she trailed off and smiled. It always paid to get to know future neighbors.
Liam scooted in next to her and gently guided her to walk with him, “You should never give your name on a first stroll, it ruins the mystery. Let’s just say I’m looking for a house in the neighborhood.”
The woman allowed herself to be guided along by Liam. This was the most intriguing thing that was going to happen all day. Shifting her purse to settle between herself and Liam, her dog lunged at him with the movement requiring Liam to give her a little space.
“Do you have any properties that you’re interested in right now, mystery man?”
Liam shrugged, “It’s too early to say. Right now, I’m just looking at the properties, or rather the wall around the properties. This certainly seems like a safe neighborhood.”
The woman he walked with slowed her pace a little, her smile fading away for a second, “I suppose it would seem that way to someone moving into the neighborhood,” she caught the concerned look that Liam shot her, “and it IS a nice neighborhood, but everyone around here is so very odd sometimes.”
Liam cocked his head slightly, “Odd how?”
The woman pulled Liam to a stop in front of a stone wall, “The people who live here are nice enough. They play their music too loudly on the weekends, but once someone puts out a noise complaint they stop immediately. I think they’re in the flour business, because there are always trucks coming in and out of here. It must be really expensive flour, because one day the back of the truck opened and a bag of flour hit the street and burst open. They cleaned it up so fast, most people weren’t even aware it happened.”
Liam looked up at the top of the stone wall as though he could peer over the top, “Flour, you say…”. He wasn’t sure if she was being naïve, or if she genuinely believed it was flour. The slight smirk on her face told him she knew what the “flour” had been.
They walked down the streets towards his destination and every couple of houses, she would stop and point out a house owned by what she termed, “Interesting People”. It turned out that Liam’s initial thoughts on the neighborhood were correct. Most of them were thieves of varying sorts, drug lords perched on high or white-collar criminals slumming it in a neighborhood where asking questions could get you into a world of trouble. Liam sighed with relief upon remembering he would only be in the neighborhood long enough to get the job done. His disguise would work that long, any longer would be pushing it. It was already like skating on thin ice over a lake of sharks.
She walked with him all the way to Charles Beaufort’s home. They stopped across the street and she turned to face Liam, “Well, this is me. I’ll be going for a walk tomorrow if you want some more dirt on my neighbors.” With that, she started towards her house, entering through a small door that Liam hadn’t even noticed in the corner of the gate. Mysteries never come one at a time, they usually travel in packs. Liam had never been so intrigued by a house in his life. If he had been the romantic sort, he would have said he had one more thing he wanted to steal from that house, a lady’s heart.
Liam was not the romantic sort. Romance is the great thief killer. Romance wouldn’t have stolen her dog’s diamond choker. Romance can suck it. Liam jingled the diamond choker in his pocket and turned towards the Beaufort house. This was going to be easier than he thought. The next week passed in much the same fashion. Liam would get dropped off at the park. At some point in his walk, he would run into this mysterious woman and she would tell him tales of the neighborhood that nobody but an insider could know. If she noticed her dog was missing yet another expensive choker at the end of the day, she never mentioned it. Liam, of course, never brought it up either.
The first eight days had gone by, the time for walks in the sunshine was nearing a close and Liam found himself regretting more and more that their time had to end. It wasn’t love, Liam wasn’t entirely sure what love was, except that it seemed to involve lots of yelling and chocolate. It was a rare thing in his line of work to run into a woman who tolerated him, even though she barely knew a thing about him. That night, when Charlotte had dropped him off at his apartment, he stopped outside her limousine and rapped on the driver’s side window.
The window rolled down and Charlotte looked up at him, “Tomorrow, I’m starting the next part of this job. I have to see how the place looks at night, so I’ll be taking the day off and I’ll need you to pick me up at dusk. I’ll be waiting.”
Charlotte smiled and waved before rolling her window up and driving off down the road. That just left getting his equipment ready for tomorrow night, and Liam would be one step closer to robbing Charles Beaufort. On the way up to his apartment, he stopped and grabbed his mail. Stuffed into his box was a copy of Old Bart’s Guide to the Black market. On the front cover, where the picture of Old Bart should have been, a round circle of black permanent marker had been inked over it. This was the typical notification the black market gave that a hit had been put out on you. So shitting melodramatic. Liam walked the steps towards his apartment, feeling safe in the knowledge that whoever came to get him would have to go through all the dirt gremlins first. Not like they could put up a fight, but they made a lot of noise which could give him time to escape. Still, better to notify Simon in the morning rather than risking it going alone. When you have a dragon as a patron, you should never hesitate to ask for help.