Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 9

     Waiting is the longest thing you will ever have to do. Waiting to do something illegal feels even longer because part of you keeps wondering when the cops are going to break the door down and start asking awkward questions about that funny smell your neighbors noticed. Liam had the longest day of all because he wasn’t even waiting to do something illegal. He was waiting for a ride to go prepare to do something illegal.

    Liam finally roused himself long after noon, he spent the rest of the day watching the Dirt Gremlins with rapt fascination. Somehow, he found an open spot on his couch and observed their daily activities. A crowd of seven or eight Dirt Gremlins were watching, wide eyed, as one of their peers frantically painted on the wall, using large and energetic brush strokes. Bits of dirt and unidentifiable garbage splattered onto the surface and held there as though they had been stuck by magnets. Each new brush stroke was followed by a hushed chorus of appreciative, “Dirty’s”.

     The process went on for some time, until Liam felt the need to ask a question. He cleared his throat gently, which ground the art show to a sudden and uncomfortable halt, “How do you know the difference between your new work and the old stuff?”

     The Dirt Gremlins surrounding their genius looked horrified at the question. The artist who had worked up quite a sweat threw his palette down in disgust and scurried off for the kitchen. The other Dirt Gremlins followed at a slower pace, leaving Liam alone in his living room with his thoughts and a new piece of art he couldn’t sell, both because it was part of the building and nobody in their right mind would want it. As the time to leave approached, Liam walked down to his storage apartment and changed into some black clothes. The first night was always the worst, staking out a new neighborhood. He didn’t bother cleaning up, but he wasn’t trying to impress anyone, so it hardly mattered.

     Charlotte showed up right on time, thankfully in a subtler limo than the one she had been driving. This must have been her stealth limo, since it was painted a matte black. Shortly after, Liam got dropped off in the park he had been dropped off and picked up at every day thus far. Charlotte left him there and for a long thirty minutes, Liam stayed right where he was. A neighborhood this paranoid was bound to have some weird security measures that nobody could predict. After half an hour, Liam got up to start his journey towards Charles Beaufort’s house when an alarm sounded near one of the houses. Liam squinted to see if he could figure out who or what set the alarm off only to find himself blinded when a whole myriad of varied colored lights shone down into the street while Disco music played at astoundingly loud volumes.

    It took around fifteen minutes for the alarm to stop, a sound that was punctuated by a single ominous gunshot.

    Liam waited another half an hour after that before crossing the street and climbing the nearest wall. Cameras are eyes that don’t require a physical presence, but they do have a drawback. They were all intended to watch for people in the street, and most houses in this neighborhood had placed relatively stationary cameras atop the walls for keeping an eye on their front doors. Once atop the wall, Liam could simply walk right over the cameras and take a look at the interiors of one side of the street. The lawns were empty at this hour, bright light from many of the houses illuminating most of the yard and some of the wall. In some cases, the lights from the house covered right up to the top of the wall. In those cases, Liam watched the house carefully and timed his crossing when he felt sure that nobody was looking.

    It took most of the night to reach the Beaufort house. The whole purpose of this exercise was to observe the neighborhood and night and nothing could be gained by rushing this. Rushing might be required on the night he went live, so it was better to be careful on the preparation nights.

    When Liam reached the end of each street, he would spend a long time watching the streets from the top of the wall before he moved again. Never surrender the high ground when there’s no need to yet. The best part of this neighborhood unfolded itself like a beautiful flower before Liam as he worked. Each house was so concerned with keeping their neighbors out that hardly anybody seemed to pay more than the barest amount of attention to the road.

     It was only when Liam was one street away from Charles Beaufort’s house that he ran into a beautiful snag in his plan. “What are you doing out so late at night and dressed like a burglar, mysterious stranger?”

    The voice sounded so close to Liam, he could feel the breath on his back and smell the scent of cinnamon and lilacs. It startled him so much, he slipped off the wall only to find his downward motion brought to a halt by a hand around his ankle. With some effort between the two of them, they managed to get Liam back on the stone wall. Liam was shocked to find the beautiful yappy dog lady on the wall with him. She wore a white sundress with two thin straps over her shoulders that came down to just above her knees. Even in this light, Liam could tell she was lean, wiry, and fit and much stronger than he was. The strangest part of her attire was the bandanna she wore over her eyes. It also was a brilliant white and Liam couldn’t quite make out how she was seeing around it.

     After a very long pause, she coughed slightly and gestured with her hand, holding it towards him. In her palm was a sparkling diamond choker clearly made with a small dog in mind, “I missed you this morning. I was afraid I wouldn’t see you again.”

     Liam struggled to put together everything he had just heard. The first question he had to ask was the most obvious one, even though Liam suspected he knew the answer, “You know I was stealing those chokers?”

    The woman laughed softly, sounding like music being played in the distance, “Of course I knew! How could I not notice when my sweet baby was missing her birthday present? But you managed to do it without my even noticing, which is hard to do. I thought it was cute, so I wanted to see it again. Then I got used to having you around and suddenly you were gone. Fancy meeting you at this hour. Are you still looking for property, Mr. Thief?”

     “Liam. And yes.” He had turned a deep red in the dark, which he hoped she wouldn’t notice. Her growing smirk suggested otherwise, “I have an employer who asked me to steal something from Charles Beaufort.”

    The strange woman put her finger on her chin and whistled, “Wow, your employer must be crazy to send someone alone to steal from Charles Beaufort.”

     Liam pulled his hand out of his pocket. He had already stolen the newest choker, “I suppose he thinks I’m the only one that can do it. Besides, I owe him pretty big.”

    Looking down at her hand, the woman giggled softly, “You naughty boy, you didn’t waste any time with that one.”

     “You were offering and I missed robbing from you as much as you apparently missed being robbed. Why wait?”

     The woman twirled a lock of her auburn hair around her finger, looking away slowly, “So when are you planning on doing it?”

     Liam chuckled softly, “Why, so you can warn your neighbor?”

     “What!? No way, Charles is gross! I wish he wasn’t my cousin, otherwise I would help you. I just…” she trailed off and covered her face, “I just wanted to watch you and cheer you on, not loudly of course.”

    Liam blinked a few times, letting what she had said sink in, “I was thinking about doing a dry run in four days, the real thing two days after that. That’s not set in stone, obviously.”

     Holding out his hand, Liam hesitated for an instant, “My name is Liam Boggan. I’m a professional thief.”

     The woman took his hand and squeezed it gently, “I’m Jenny Rever, an assassin.”

     The wind suddenly blasted through the trees and over the wall, almost knocking Liam off again, “I’m sorry, did you say you’re a Rever?”

     Jenny hung her head and let out a deep sigh of regret, “Since you say it like that, you must know something about my family. I guess I’ll go home now.”

     Looking back, Liam could never explain how he managed to grab her hand before she vanished. He often chalked it up to fate, though he would never be able to say whether that fate was good or bad, “My employer is Simon Nair. I’m not scared of your family.”

    Out of the Five Families, the Rever family could be called the trash family. Most people would prefer the term assassin. When you wanted a hunter, you called a Goodbody. When you wanted a negotiator, you asked for a Nair. When you needed something built or improved on, you got yourself an Aliway and when you wanted someone dead, you called a Rever because they took out the trash. Even for the Five families they were extreme. They wore cloth masks that covered their eyes, making Liam wonder how he had ever forgotten that fact in the first place. He had heard their hearing and other senses were purposefully sharpened from youth by denying their eyesight. During the day, she hadn’t been wearing the mask which led Liam to believe that she only wore it when on duty, or that she was still in training and had to learn to fit into normal society without her mask. Of course, Liam wasn’t scared of the Rever family because Liam couldn’t be killed.

    “I would love it if you were there the night I rob Charles Beaufort.”

    Jenny lit up with the brightest smile Liam had ever seen, “Oh, thank you so much! I’ll be ever so quiet, you won’t even notice I’m there!”

     “I’m going to have to ask you to stay across the street.” Her smile faded a little at this, Liam continued, “You’re not like the other Revers I’ve met in the past. They all seemed so quiet and reserved. Weren’t you all supposed to be emotionless? I thought that’s what Simon told me about you all.”

     “Yeah, I don’t really fit in with my family most of the time.”

     “Clearly not, but that’s why I need you to stay across the street.”

     Jenny cocked her head, her confused expression coming through her mask, “Why’s that?”

     “Because you clearly don’t know how to be quiet. That’s not a very good trait in an assassin.”

     “You sound like my father. Isn’t there anything I can do? I want to help you.”

     Liam hummed thoughtfully, “Well, why don’t you keep showing me around for the next few nights? I’ll need more chokers as well.”

    Jenny smiled a genuinely happy smile, “If you can steal them without my noticing, you get to keep them.” With that, she led Liam off down the wall towards Charles Beaufort’s house. This was going to be way easier than he had thought. The night got deeper and Liam’s goal got ever closer to him.

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