Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 11

     Liam held the firm opinion that nerves on opening night were the result of not having prepared enough. When he had started out as a much younger man, he had the jitters that first night because he hadn’t prepared enough. More than not having planned and practiced enough, Liam hadn’t been mentally ready. That lack of preparation had almost gotten him caught. As he sat in his living room, pointedly ignoring a Dirt Gremlin art symposium. He found his hand shaking. No amount of mental preparation could prepare you to rob someone like Charles Beaufort. If it weren’t for the prospect of freedom from servitude to Simon, Liam would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. His mind kept racing through all the ways this could go wrong.

     Normally, in the land of the serial killers the man who can’t be killed is king, but Charles Beaufort didn’t kill for some illicit thrill. Beaufort killed for money and the prospect of being killed over and over until Liam paid him enough to let him go was not a pleasant one. Looking down at his hand, Liam realized it was still shaking. As he watched his hand, the shaking came to a stop. On the back of his hand, he could feel a brush running frantically over his nails and his fingers.

     Pulling his hand back quickly, he turned it around and found the back of his hand had been beautified with grime. His nails were black, and specks of white fur had been attached to his knuckles. Sitting in front of him was the smallest Dirt Gremlin he had ever seen, “Dirty?” It said as it shuffled its tiny feet nervously.

    Liam examined his hand again, “No, I do not like it. It smells and its ugly.”

    The Dirt Gremlin lit up as though it was its birthday, “Dirty!” It scampered off to the art circle to share the news to a smattering of applause from the other Dirt Gremlins. Liam had the sinking feeling something had been lost in translation.

    Eventually, the hour of truth arrived at exactly the time it was supposed to and Liam knew there was no putting it off. Waiting wouldn’t make him less nervous and the longer he waited the more likely it was that Charles would return from his trip sooner than planned. Charlotte waited for him outside the apartment complex and the ride in her stealth limo felt shorter than it had in the past. Before he knew it, Liam was watching Charlotte drive off into the night and the neighborhood sprawled out in front of him.

     As usual, Liam waited for half an hour before moving anywhere. It was always important to watch the rhythm of things, especially on the night you went live. Across the street, Liam could make out the form of Jenny, here white sun dress flickering gently in the breeze as she pranced along the wall across the street waiting for him. Patience was apparently not an important attribute for assassins who don’t fit in with their family.

    Eventually, Liam crossed the road to join her, scaling the wall with practiced ease. He had barely reached the top of the wall when Jenny wrapped him up into a tight hug, crushing all the wind out of his lungs, “Liam, I missed you so much! I’ve been so bored so I spent all my time waiting for you! Are you happy to see me too? Liam?” She trailed off and looked at his face. Her grip on Liam was preventing his breathing and he was starting to turn a light blue color. She let go quickly and covered her face.

    Liam took a deep breath. Now, more than any occasion to this point, Liam was grateful that he couldn’t die. “No worries. Let’s just get this over with.”

    Jenny nodded happily, sending her auburn hair flying around her, “Ok!”

    The trip from there on was taken in complete silence. Every sound was treated with suspicion, as though they had already been found out. The night was eerily quiet, not that the neighborhood had ever been particularly busy. They only ran into two people on the street, arguing over how many bodies could fit into a trash can. Liam knew the answer. It was more than they thought. This was hardly the time to flaunt his knowledge though, Liam had bigger things on the agenda tonight.

     When they reached Charles Beaufort’s house, something felt wrong. Liam’s ears twitched slightly as he sat on the wall overlooking the property. Nothing had changed, but Liam somehow knew this was going to get messy. Charles was clearly still gone. The lights were out, he could still barely make out his tracks in the grass from where he had landed the night before. Slipping down the wall, Liam worked his way slowly to the door. It opened easily on his touch. That was not how he left the house. The third rule of successful house entry is to leave everything except the things you take in exactly the state you found them in. This way, even when the occupant of the house noticed something was gone, they wouldn’t assume they were robbed. People steal from family all the time.

     Not that Charles even believed anyone would rob him in the first place. The thought never apparently occurred to him, which left Liam in the strange position of feeling like a kid in a candy store. This was an assumption on his part, since Liam couldn’t really remember being a kid and he had a suspicion that his childhood had been a little low on candy stores. Walking through the first room, Liam had three criteria for what he took. Would it fit in his pocket? Did it look valuable? Did it look like it belonged in a flea market? The last might have seemed out of place, until you remembered Charles only collected priceless curious and masterpieces. If it didn’t look expensive, the item in question would be worth a princely sum despite it’s looks. Somehow, Liam knew that every instant he spent in the house put him at great risk. What bothered him was that he couldn’t figure out why the hairs on the back of his neck were all sounding the red alarm.

    The second room in was worthless to Liam. It was full of clocks, covering every wall. Some of them looked to be worth a king’s ransom, but no thief in his right mind would steal something that constantly gave away his presence. It took around half an hour to dart around the first floor, picking up every small knick-knack and curio that caught his eye. On to the second floor. This was easily the least troublesome job Liam had ever pulled. Directly to the left of the grand stair case was a door the very sight of which caused Liam’s ears to twitch like a dousing rod. The room was Charles Beaufort’s office. It was surprisingly understated for a house that literally only existed to hold his collection of random junk. On the desk was the prize he had been sent for, the brush of a genius. The best birthday present any artist could ask for.

     Liam secreted it into a hidden pocket and turned to leave. Sticking around any longer was pushing his luck. Then everything went black and Liam died. When he came to, he felt an immense pain in his side. Reaching down, his hand grasped a spear that had been rammed straight through him and into the wall, pinning him to one place, “Ah, shit.”

     Liam’s vision hadn’t cleared yet, but he could hear a voice, “Oh! You’re still alive? I could’ve sworn I stabbed you right through the spine, along with some major vital organs.”

    As his vision swam back into focus, Liam found himself face to face with the one person he hadn’t wanted to meet tonight. Charles Beaufort. He had neatly combed brown hair and his eyes were a sort of rheumy white, though underneath Liam could still see traces of a soft brown. He looked like the host of a television show. He wore a red robe, but when he grabbed Liam’s arm, he felt the strength born from a lifetime of hunting

    Charles pulled Liam’s face up to meet his eyes, regarding him with genuine curiosity, “How exactly are you still alive? I’m not out of practice, am I?”

    Liam scowled, “Hey, you ass. I’m not asking you all sorts of personal questions, am I?”

    Charles took a step back from Liam and looked around his office, “You broke into my house, you jangle with every step because your pockets are clearly full of my belongings and yet you’re somehow mad at me for asking you “personal questions”?”

    Liam patted the spear he had been gutted with, “Also a little mad about this. It hurts like a sonvabitch.” While he spoke, Liam edged himself towards the edge of the spear.

    “Well, I’m sure we’ll have time to ask you some more personal questions while I take back all the things you stole from me. I’ll also need to ask you who sent you to steal from me in the first place. Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle…ish.”

     Liam cursed under his breath. This was supposed to be his ticket out. Sometimes, being unable to die really is incredibly inconvenient after all. Charles pressed closer to him, a little smile playing around the corners of his mouth. Liam had never heard of Charles being a sadist, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t play the part in order to get some information he needed. This was going to be a very long night.

    The feeling of dread was interrupted by the tinkling sound of glass hitting the ground. Liam couldn’t see who, but had the feeling he wasn’t the only who had broken into Charles Beaufort’s house that night. He didn’t have to wonder long as the new intruder instantly started speaking in an endless stream, “Liam! I talked to daddy and cousin Charles came back last night. You’re in so much danger…” there was a long pause as she took in the situation and then tried to introduce the two as though they were mutual friends who met at a party, “Uh. Liam, this is my cousin Charles.”

    Liam groaned, “Kill me now.”

    Charles tapped the spear stuck through Liam, sending ripples of pain through him, “I just tried to.”

    Grabbing the spear with both hands, Liam started pulling himself off the spear, “Try harder, this is way too awkward.” A blank expression came over Charles, who clearly had less experience dealing with Jenny than he did. This night would never end at this rate.

 

 

 

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