Everyone has someone come into their life that changes it forever, for better or worse. There are people who lift you up and people who tear you down. One of the most important life skills you will ever learn is figuring out which is which, something Liam desperately wished he could do with Samantha Goodbody. Around a year ago, they had been inseparable for weeks. Liam tagged along with her wherever she went, at her request. He liked to think he had been helpful. One morning, she vanished and left only a note on the pillow next to Liam. He still had that note stashed away in his storage apartment. The experience hadn’t really changed either one of them. Sam simply moved on, as she had before, and Liam’s only had his feelings on relationships and love painfully confirmed once more.
The last person he wanted to spend any time around was Samantha Goodbody, so Liam had no idea how he found himself once more sitting across a table from her with a pitcher of red swill between them.
Sam twirled a finger along the edge of her mug, touching it to her tongue to get a taste for the beer. She grimaced at the flavor, “This beer is so awful it must be homemade. Nobody would willingly sell this in stores if they knew what it tasted like.”
“So why did you come back? It’s not like the flavor of the beer was going to miraculously get better.”
Samantha grabbed the mug with both hands and chugged the contents, slamming the mug back on the table and wiping the foam from her lips, “The flavor kind of grows on you. When you’re gone, you start to miss it and then one day you’ve just got to come back. So…how have you been, Liam?”
Liam poured Sam another mug of beer, placing the pitcher back down gently, “About the same since you walked out of my apartment to get a pack of cigarettes and never came back.
“I didn’t want to go. You just can’t say no to Father sometimes.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“I guess you’re still the negative Nancy you used to be. I’m happy some things never change.
“I’ve been working for Simon Nair. He’s got me running errands for him, picking up things he wants to add to his collection.”
Sam downed another mugful of beer, “I’ve heard he takes himself very seriously.”
Liam nodded slowly and sipped at his own mug of beer, “He does, until you’ve been drinking with him once or twice. I wouldn’t recommend it, the man can hold his liquor. The Five Families are having some meetings this week, so I’m on forced vacation. Not that I’m complaining or anything, I needed the break.”
“Funny you should mention the meetings, that’s why I’m in town.” Sam raised a hand and waved at the bartender. The pitcher was empty. The bartender and owner of the Red Lagher had been there since before Liam had moved into the area. He had inherited it from his father, whose father had founded the bar. He was a short, stooped man whose bald head shone even in the low light of the Red Lagher. He had empty, vacant eyes whose color Liam could never figure out. In contrast to the clutter and rot around him, he wore a black vest and black pants with a white shirt and a red bowtie. When Sam waved, he bowed and went to put another pitcher together.
“So if you’re in town for the meetings, why are you playing hooky to sit here talking to me?”
Sam shrugged and looked at the table, “I only came because father is too sick and Jack refused to go. The real reason I came is there’s a hunt I wanted to take care of in town. I’ll go to the last meeting and listen to what the overblown windbags have to say, but the rest of my time here is my own, and that means I’m going to spend it doing what I want or with people I care about.”
Liam snorted, “Cut the crap, Samantha Goodbody. You’re here because you want help you with your hunt.”
Sam gasped in mocking surprise and covered her mouth with one hand, “Liam, I am shocked! Just shocked! Do you really think I would show up just to use an old flame like that?” Liam stared at her blankly until she broke, which didn’t take long, “Can’t it be both?”
Liam chuckled, “It never is with you, but go on.”
Reaching across the table with both hands, she latched onto his hands, pulling him close, her breathless enthusiasm shining through each word she spoke, “So there’s rumor going around the Goodbody house that there’s a real life honest to God Lich living in New York City! Not a single hunter in the Goodbody family has killed a Lich since…well since that one time a long time ago, and that didn’t go well for us.”
Liam tried, and failed to pull away, “From what I heard, it didn’t go well for any of the Five Families that went.”
“Yeah! so I thought I would be the first to get it right. The problem is, I’ve spent the last three days talking to everyone I knew in town, and punching some others in the face, and either nobody knows where this thing is, or I’m really up shit creek on this one. So I thought maybe you could help me.”
There was no real point in thinking about it. He had already been caught up in her story, so there was no reason to fight it. Even though that little gnarled organ that masqueraded as Liam’s heart ached something fierce, there was no point in saying no. When he looked into her eyes and remembered that she had come to see him, out of all the people she could have gone to see, he allowed himself to believe a lie he hadn’t even been told out loud.
“I know someone who can help, but you’re not going to like the answer.”
“I don’t care, this is a payday that’s too big for me to turn down.”
Liam’s thoughts returned to his last payday that was too big to turn down, “And what do I get out of it?”
“My undying gratitude?”
“That’s not going to cut it.”
“All the beer you could ever drink?”
He weighed the price against the work. Likely, his involvement would be minimal. Help her get the info, help her find the Lich and cheer her on as she rammed her blade into inconvenient places, “Fair enough.”
The second pitcher arrived and Liam picked it up, chugging until the whole pitcher was empty, handing it back and waving for another one.
“Liam, I’m not paying you until we find the Lich.”
Liam hiccupped and covered his mouth, “This isn’t for that. To find out where the Lich is, we’re going to need go visit the Neelan family house.”
Sam shivered and pulled a flask out of her jacket pocket, taking a swig before handing it to Liam, “You’re going to need more than beer. I’m paying up front.”