Second-Hand Goods~ chapter 12

     Chance meetings rarely happen for no reason. The trick was finding out why they came into your life before they got in the subway and rode away from your life forever. That was how Liam met his true love and lost her in less than a minute. This meeting was hardly the work of fate though, for the life of him, Liam couldn’t figure out what sinister force worked it out. Jenny stood defiantly in front of the window, framed by the hole she had smashed through it. Charles stood close to him, his slack-jawed expression and blank stare betraying an inability to deal with the situation as it developed. Liam realized that, for the time being, he was the one being paid the least attention to in the room.

     Liam couldn’t recall the last time he had cocked up a job this badly. The nearest Liam could recall was an attempt to pick-pocket a Russian mobster, which had ended with mixed results. Once the mobster had killed him and he came back to life, they spent the rest of the night curled up against the wall of a public restroom drinking vodka and crying while the mobster sang Russian folk-songs. This was worse than that, because Liam knew Charles Beaufort was far less likely to invite him out drinking as the Russian mobster had once their altercation was over.

     The air around Liam grew steadily colder. The muscles in Liam’s chest tightened in unexplainable terror. For the first time that he could recall, Liam felt genuinely afraid of dying. Even a man for whom death is a casual acquaintance knows the icy touch of the reaper when he sees it. Charles Beaufort raised a hand and moved it to press into Liam’s chest. Every instinct Liam possessed screamed out to get away from him. Wriggling back into the spear, Liam pressed himself against the wall, bracing himself for the end, struggling to breath. The animal part of Liam’s brain frantically denied the notion that this time was for real, there was no coming back from this one.

     There were a lot of things that Liam never could explain. Some things will always be shrouded in mystery. He had no idea who his mother was, he had no idea why sunsets made him so sad, and he could never explain why Jenny saved him at that moment. She moved so fast, Liam lost sight of her entirely. Even in that moment, with his senses honed to their utmost, he could only guess where she was by following Charles’s eyes. She kicked his wrist and sent his hand flying into the wall over Liam’s head. Inky darkness radiated out from where his palm had struck, spreading out into razor thin lines over the surface.

     Charles reached out with his free hand to grab Jenny. The same dark energy covered the palm of that hand as well. Jenny grabbed frantically for any weapon she could get her hands on, settling on the spear Liam had been stuck with. She gave him a brief apologetic glance before tugging the spear out in one motion and shoving the shaft of the spear into Charles’s solar plexus. He doubled over making a soft wheezing noise. Liam, no longer held up by the spear, slumped over to the ground, coming eye to eye with the now prostrate Charles.

     “Thought…this was…a private party.” Charles wheezed out, sparing an accusatory glance at Liam before focusing on getting his breathing under control.

    “I am so embarrassed. I swear this never happens,” Liam gestured weakly to Jenny, who was breathing heavily from the sudden exertion.

     “It’s…no problem,” Charles responded, still gasping for every breath, “She can be…your plus one.”

     The alarms went off in Liam’s brain again and he looked down to see Charles inching a hand towards him again. Liam’s body refused to move, still recovering from its injuries. Jenny smashed the butt of the spear down in Charles’s hand, pinning it in place. Reaching down, she grabbed Liam’s shirt by the collar, and threw him out the window. The last thing Liam saw before he flew out into open space was Jenny kicking Charles in the head, barely dodging a frantic attempt to hit her with that strange move he used, and dancing in to attack again. Everything went black.

     Three seconds later, Liam woke up curled against the wall to the property. He had been killed many times in the line of work, but Liam felt sure this was the first time he’d been killed by someone trying to save him. It took a long time for his body to start moving again. From where he lay, he could see the precious items he had stolen from Charles Beaufort strewn across the lawn. They must have been blown out of his pockets when Jenny through him from the window. Given how spread out over the lawn they were, it would take ages to gather up again, time he no longer possessed. All those weeks of planning gone down the drain because of one man. In that instant, he felt a pang of regret, but he was genuinely surprised at the cause. He had led Jenny into this mess, and unlike him, he was certain she would never leave that house. She had been such a good girl, so kind, so giving. Liam’s thoughts trailed off as he felt a harsh tug on his collar.

     “We’re going to have to run. I think I should carry you.”

     Jenny was such a pain, always getting in the way. Now she planned on dragging him away from a life of ease. She was about to just drag him away from all those beautiful goods he had worked so hard to steal. There were some he could have grabbed on the way out. He couldn’t stop her either, that became clear when she hefted him over her shoulder, with ease, as though he were a bag of potatoes. Placing one foot carefully on the wall, she ran straight up to the top, almost flinging Liam into the street in her haste, before barely catching him by the collar. Trailing Liam along behind her like a streamer in the wind, she ran towards the park where Liam had been dropped off every day. Houses whizzed by and what few people were out this late hardly even had time to notice something from the corner of their eyes, a blur of white and black, before they were gone. When they finally reached the park, Jenny climbed a tree and laid Liam out across her legs, holding him close and keeping her eyes on the road.

    “We left all that stuff behind,” Liam sighed in regret.

    Jenny hung her head, “I’m sorry I screwed things up for you, Liam. I know how important this was to you.”

     Liam coughed and tried to sit up, only to find Jenny’s arms holding him down impossible to move, “I screwed tonight up for myself. You saved me. A thief never lets go of something he’s trying to steal once he has it.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled back a flap of cloth and pulled out the paint brush, “At least I managed this much. It wasn’t a total loss.

    Jenny smiled, but kept her eyes on the road between the park and Charles the whole time. At the appointed hour, Charlotte showed up and Jenny hopped out of the tree with Liam in tow, gently depositing him on the ground before stepping back a few feet. From his position on the ground, Liam raised a fistful of cash.     Charlotte opened the door and hurried around the car to check on Liam, “Hun, are you alright? I don’t recall the last time I saw you looking that bad. And who is this little minx? I thought you didn’t make friends of the female persuasion.”

    “Her name is Jenny Rever, so maybe don’t call her a minx.”

    Charlotte looked up at Jenny with a newfound respect in her eyes, “Don’t belittle the assassin. Duly noted. My name is Charlotte, thank you for taking care of Liam.”

    Jenny sighed and put her hands on her hips, looking down at Liam as though he were an errant bunny, “Someone has to keep him out of trouble.”

    Liam slowly rose to his feet on shaky legs, “I almost got killed there. I never thought that would happen.”

    Charlotte opened the door for him, “You get killed all the time, Liam. It’s like winning a scratch ticket for you, sometimes it just happens.”

    Liam stopped at the car door, “It does. This time it almost stuck.”

    As Liam sat down in his seat, he felt a gentle tug on his shirt, “Liam, will I see you again?”

    “I couldn’t honestly say. Maybe someday you can come work with me again?”

    Jenny bounced around a few steps, her sundress dancing wildly with her, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Liam likes me!” Without giving him a chance to explain in how many ways she was mistaken, she darted across the street and up to the top of the wall. Skipping down the wall at manic speed, Liam soon lost sight of her. Getting into the car, he sat back and tried to push the feelings out of his mind. He held up his hand to check. It shook in front of him, tremoring slightly.

    “Wow, he really must have gotten to you. Any idea what he did?”

    Liam shook his head, “No clue. I know someone who will, and I have to see him tomorrow anyways.”

    Charlotte closed the door, leaving Liam in the back with his thoughts. The limo headed back to his apartment and Liam let himself out, slowly trudging up to his quarters. Reaching the door, he let himself in and barely made it to bed before he collapsed. Dying really took it out of a guy. Within minutes of laying down, Liam drifted off into a deep sleep from which no amount of Dirt Gremlins could wake him.

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