Second-Hand Goods chapter 13

    When most people talk about miracles, they talk about the life-saving, Earth shattering miracles. Liam’s experience with miracles was quite different. Miracles are unexpected graces in everyday situations. The late bus you catch just on time, that day you brought your umbrella with you by accident and then it pours on the way home, these are the miracles Liam appreciated the most. Liam wouldn’t consider himself to be a religious man, but there were times in his life when he could easily recognize the hand of some higher power in his life. When he woke up the morning after his narrow escape from Death, the fact that the paint brush requested by his employer was still in his pocket counted as a miracle. It was such a miracle that Liam didn’t even care when, during his morning stumble, he looked into the mirror and found that the Dirt Gremlins had used his face as a canvas for a tribute to Salvador Dali’s melting clocks. Staggering down to his storage apartment, he cleaned himself off and got dressed for the day, keeping the brush on him the whole time. Liam had earned himself a little rest and time to himself. Life with Dirt Gremlins was often interesting, but never restful.

     Even though Liam had robbed one of the most prolific serial killers in human history, no sign could be found of Charles Beaufort awaiting him outside his apartment building when Liam emerged into the daylight. He wasn’t waiting for him on a bus, or around any busy street corners with a smile and a hidden blade. Liam didn’t even run into him through pure luck on the way to meeting his employer. He pressed a hand to his chest while he waited for another bus. Maybe saying Liam had gotten away scot free would be a stretch, but he had fulfilled his contract and gotten the item in question. Sometimes, that was enough.

     The Nair mansion felt different that day than it had on previous visits. Liam couldn’t tell if he was just being overly wary after his scare the previous night, or if there really was something wrong. He stood at the entrance to the drive, examining both the house as it stood and the one in his memory. It took him a few moments to start noticing what had him on edge, but once he started noticing inconsistencies, he couldn’t stop. The front gates were closed, something he had never seen. Normally, when he came to get a job or to return from when, the outside buzzed with a quiet hum. The Nair mansion was the hub of the Mythic World, so Liam only noticed the sound by its absence. Something strange was going on. Liam didn’t care, he just wanted to drop off the brush and leave.

     What finally brought Liam to a halt was the presence of an actual guard at the entrance to the Mansion. He stood next to a guard house Liam hadn’t even noticed in his previous visits, even though he had walked by it innumerable times. As he approached the gates, the guard held up a hand and gestured for Liam to stop. Liam slowed and held his hands up to show he was no threat, as though his slight physical build weren’t enough of an indicator of that. The guard wasn’t wearing what Liam would have thought of as a uniform. He wore a white hoodie with the Nair family crest on the left side. His chest bulged oddly where the bullet proof vest was, but he wore a normal pair of jeans and sneakers.

     “What’s your business, sir?”

    Liam raised his hands a little higher, “Simon sent me out to grab something for him. I was just going to drop it off and head out.”

    “Hold on, I’ll have to check with the main house.”

     Liam snorted and waited. He had been in and out of that house dozens of times. If they said no, it would only be because someone at the house was in a pissy mood.
“I’ve been given the all clear to let you up. I’ll warn you now, though. The Nair family’s got some meetings with the other five families going on. Just giving you a heads up in case you wanted to come back another day.”

    The gates opened for him and Liam headed in, stopping for a second to ask the guard a question, “What exactly can I expect to see that’s so different from all the other weird things I’ve seen in there?”

     “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

     Liam had always hated that response. Nothing he had ever seen was a cop out response that told him literally nothing about what to expect. The front doors opened easily at his touch, echoing through the empty hall. That was new for Liam. Getting married, buried or any other type of license, they all came from here in some capacity. From what Simon told him, it was impossible to own any magical items legally without them having been approved in some capacity by the Nair family prior to its first usage. He had never seen the halls empty. The benches stretched out across the cavernous room, totally unoccupied.

     Even though Liam couldn’t see anyone, he had the feeling he was being watched. Familiarity with the unknown makes it even more unnerving when the familiar becomes the unknown again. Pacing quickly across the floor, made his way to the door that led to Simon’s office. Up the stairs with the padded carpets to the third floor, down the hallway to the door that led to his well-earned vacation when he was brought to a halt by the sound of voices coming from the office.

     Simon, like most dragons in fairy tales, was a solitary creature most days that Liam had seen him. That wasn’t to say that he wasn’t friendly, Simon was a good man in his own way, his blackmail of Liam notwithstanding. Amongst those who ran in his circles, Simon had a reputation for horrific violence which Liam had never witnessed, but had heard too many stories to doubt their truth.

     “You can’t just sweep the truth under the rug like that, Adrian! Too many people will ask questions. The wrong sort of people. We already have the government breathing down our necks as it is.” This was the first time Liam had heard Simon genuinely angry, and the tone of his voice left Liam with a sense of dread. He started backing down the hallway slowly, careful not to make a sound.

     “It’s not my problem which people are asking questions. Your investigations into the actions of the Society for the Protection of Humankind is no longer acceptable. You’ve been digging through the dumpsters of some very powerful people already for the information you’ve gotten.”

     “While we’re talking about that Society you’re so proud of, why exactly did they ask one of my clerks for a map of the Goodbody family home? What are you hiding from me? It’s not like I could support them anyways, they’re all monsters. The wholesale slaughter of people that aren’t human, just to make the powerful feel safe, is completely abhorrent. This conversation isn’t over. I’m going to tell my father about this and…”

     “Isn’t that just the way? Go to your daddy and tell him what you know. You’re such a big fish in this little pond.”

     Simon’s response made Liam’s skin crawl, “That would make you the scum. Go float with your own kind.” It wasn’t so much the words, but the tone which implied immediate violence against whoever happened to be close. Maybe today wasn’t the best day to be here after all.

    Just as Liam turned to leave, the door opened and a man Liam had never seen before waked out and down the hallway past Liam. He wore a black suit, with a black dress shirt and a dark blood red tie. His dark brown hair was cut short and slicked back, but what caught Liam’s attention were his eyes, which were a solid red color and shone in the dim light of the hallway as though they were covered in liquid. As he passed, a small drop of blood slid out of his eye, leaving a faint trail below his nose, which the man ignored.

    “Liam?” Simon stood in the doorway watching the man leave. Liam didn’t attempt to move, nor did Simon wave to him until they could hear no longer hear the man’s steps going down the stairs. Once the coast was clear, Simon waved him into the office and sat down behind his desk.

     Liam fished around in his pocket and held out the brush for Simon, who took it gingerly and put it down on his desk, “So I guess asking questions about that little fight is off limits?”

     Simon grabbed a glass ball that had been placed on his desk and gripped it in his hand, “Not unless you want a really bad day.” As Liam watched, the glass ball shattered in his grip, splintering into pieces that fell to the ground.

     “Well, I think that’s my cue to leave. I hope I’ve earned some rest and relaxation. Call in a week or two. At least.” Simon lowered both his eyes to his desk but didn’t respond. Liam took that as a sign to go and left while he was still capable of leaving under his own power. Never anger a dragon already in a foul mood. Liam left the Nair mansion feeling as though he had gotten away from something awful.
The trip from the mansion back home nearly always left Liam disoriented. This was worse than usual because when he came home, he usually felt a wave of despair but today he felt relief. Something about the canvas walls of dirt made him feel at home. In his bedroom, just above the nightstand, was what could only be described as a portrait of Liam undergoing some serious neurological disorder. He really needed to do something about those Dirt Gremlins, but first came more important things. He was flush with cash in the form of over a dozen diamond chokers. Most of the money from fencing them would go to his emergency fund, the rest would supply a drinking binge to end all drinking binges. No matter how many times Liam said that, he meant it every time. The bar down the street knew him by name, and Liam was pretty sure there was a stool there reserved just for him. It was the moldy seat at the end of the bar where the bad example sat. He had belonged in worse places.

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