Words are some of the heaviest things in this world. Smart-asses had discovered a mathematical formula for it sometime in the late seventies while working at a reputable college. It went something like this. “The importance of the person speaking multiplied by the length of time before they start speaking by the power of awkward coughs equals a whale.” They had been justifiably let go. Liam knew from experience that when a long pause occurs before words, it’s because their weight makes them difficult to get out the front door. From where he stood, Jenny still clutching him close, he couldn’t make out Samantha’s face, but he figured she looked bored more than anything.
“I’m sorry we started without you, Samantha.” The Nair patriarch spoke quietly, forcing everyone to remain silent in order to listen to him, “We decided to start with matters pertaining individually to each family before you arrived so that issues having to do with all five families could be brought before everyone all at once.”
Yawning, Samantha shrugged her shoulders, “That’s fine, it was my fault for being late in the first place. I didn’t want to be here because I don’t like any of you.”
Isaac snorted into his sweat rag, “What kind of children did Varnes Goodbody raise? They certainly don’t seem like they’re worth much.”
Sam rolled her eyes, “You could ask him, but he would just agree with you. I’m not sure what you would get out of it, other than setting up a bitching circle.”
Varnes Nair raised a hand and silenced them both, “Before we get into the main portion of this meeting, is there anything you want to bring to the attention of this council on behalf of the Goodbody family?”
Sam leaned her chair back further, putting her feet on the table, “We don’t have an official heir. The head of our family is too sick to do his job. None of the families attached to us are doing their jobs either and the house smells funny. Other than that, we’re peachy.”
For the first time since they had entered, Renata Aliway lifted her head and regarded Sam coldly, “At least try and take these problems seriously, girl. This is the very reason why our family strives so hard to have many children in case some of them turn out like you.”
Isaac wiped at his chin with his dripping handkerchief, “And having so many children always turns out well for your family. Why just the other day I heard that…”
“Save your gossip mongering for your clients, Neelan It’s clear we’ll get no useful information out of her. Why don’t we just move onto this meeting’s real agenda?” Renata faced her sketch again and resumed her silence.
Sam turned to Liam and winked, waving a thumbs up before turning back to the table, “So what’s first?”
Liam smirked. So that was why Sam was so reluctant to tell them anything they didn’t already know. The first part of this meeting must have been the heads of the Five Families verbally sparring and attempting to goad each other into giving away sensitive information. She was so abrasive she caused them to give up within five minutes of making the attempt to pump her for information.
Settling back in his chair, Varnes Nair began the meeting in earnest, “First order of business. Summer means migration for a multitude of species. I would like you all to remember that to cross the border, most of them need a signed passport. They also need to be a member of an approved herd, flock, tribe or pack that have an updated and distinct tracker. We don’t want a repeat of last year’s pixie parade sucked directly into a Boeing 707.”
Isaac nodded thoughtfully, “Such a tragedy, if only they had thought to at least tell someone in my family, we could have directed them safely.”
“If only they had told one of my people, we would have killed them before they even took off that morning. No pixies, no mess and no need for a detailed clean up.” Everyone froze at Adrian’s words. He wiped delicately at another red tear that slid away from his left eye.
“Your opinions on the matter are well noted, Adrian. I would like everyone to present your notes on flight plans in your territories before you leave my house. Second on the agenda, the market district over at the gnome village in Grenwich Village remains in a state of deplorable disrepair. I would like to request repairs from the Aliway family before conditions become unsafe for the local population.”
Without looking up, Renanta responded, her hand never stopping it’s sketching for an instant, “I can spare some workers to look over the damages and do repairs. I trust we will be compensated.”
“Of course, Renata. By the gratitude of the gnomes and the pockets of my family, if the former aren’t enough to satisfy you.”
“They are not. The repairs will be completed by the end of summer.”
“Third on our agenda, please keep an ear to the ground for any reports of Old Bart’s Guide to the Black Market. I know we’ve been through this song and dance before, but the less people publishing that infernal magazine, the less likely it will fall into the wrong hands.”
“And what qualifies as the wrong hands?” Jacob Rever leaned back and gestured to Jenny, who parted from Liam’s side and skipped over to her father, leaning her head close as he whispered to her.
“Anyone who possesses hands are the wrong hands for that publication, Jacob. I would like you to talk with Isaac after the meeting and compare notes on likely spots for illegal printing presses. We allow the black market auction houses to function on the condition that they give us anything really dangerous, but this publication is crossing a line and they know it.”
Jacob waved Jenny back and turned to Varnes Nair, “I have some leads already. We’ll manage it between the two of us.”
Isaac Neelan’s expression soured, “I’m sure we will.”
Varnes Nair cleared his throat, “Next on the agenda, the state of the West coast. All five families being clustered together on the eastern seaboard has given us a solid powerbase to work from, but I think it’s time to start expanding. I’m hearing some disturbing rumors of a cult worshipping some Elder Field gods out in California. I’m not willing to send anyone out yet, but if that sort of thing starts creeping into your territory, let me know. I’m not averse to knocking heads for answers if they’re in our backyard.”
“I had heard the Goodbody family ran into them a few years back, “Isaac raised a brow at Samantha, who for the first time was listening intently,
“I don’t know anything about that,” Sam spoke casually, as though it was no cause for concern, “And the two people who do won’t tell me anything about it.”
Varnes Nair tapped the table heavily, “Lastly on the agenda, another old issue. We would like to hear what the Society for the Protection of Humankind plans on doing about the recent killing of our various mythic species. Adrian, we allow you to sit in on these meetings so you can report on your organization and what they’re doing. Your Society was formed at the request of the Federal Government to liaise between them and the council but it’s been months since we’ve heard anything.”
Adrian straightened in his chair, “There’s nothing to report at this time.”
“The borderline genocide of fairies around the Ohio area? Nothing to say about that?’
“There is nothing to report at this time.”
“The village of elves in Northern New Hampshire and the family of trolls in Maine?”
“There is nothing to report…”
Adrian only got that far before Varnes Nair leapt from his seat and raced to Adrian, lifting him from his own chair in one clean motion, “I know you’re associated with the government, but that doesn’t give you free reign to indiscriminately kill Mythic kind. If you’re organization can’t be controlled, or you won’t control them, then we’ll take you to war again.”
Adrian regarded the much larger man as coolly as though he were still seated, and not being threatened by one of the deadliest fighters in the world, “Killing you is exactly what our organization was created for, and if you want to go to war, then bring it. Just remember who won last time.”
Varnes tossed Adrian against the wall, “It was a mistake to let you into this meeting.” Without saying another word, he stormed out of the room.
As soon as he was gone, the lights came on and Liam blinked at the sudden brightness, “I guess the meeting is over now. Do they usually end like this?”
“Usually when meanies are here,” Jenny stood protectively between Liam and Adrian, as though she expected him to attack everyone in the room all at once.
As his eyes adjusted, Liam noticed the posture of all the other attendants was much the same. Adrian, who must have come alone, sat against the wall he had been thrown into, making no moves towards getting up. The dark look on his face was enough to dissuade anyone from offering to help him up.
Jenny idly pulled at her mask, Liam noticed it was drastically different than the one she had worn the night they robbed her cousin Charles. It was a bright pink color, unlike the plain undecorated cloth she had worn over her eyes then. Across the front was a butterfly in brilliantly cheap rhinestones that looked as though they had been yanked directly from a Lisa Frank catalogue.
“You got a new bandanna.”
Jenny bounced up and down a few times, holding Liam’s hands with an iron tight grip, “I did! I’m so glad you noticed. Do…you like it?”
Liam coughed uncomfortably, “It’s very…you.”
“I know, right!?”
Sam got up slowly from her chair and walked towards Liam, only to have her path blocked by Jenny, “You stay away from Liam!”
Sam slowed to a stop, unsure of what to do, “Liam, do you know this Rever girl?”
Liam nodded, more than a little confused himself, “This is Jenny. Jenny, this is an old friend, Samantha Goodbody.”
“I know who she is, she’s a bad woman and you shouldn’t be spending any time with her.”
Sam raised her hands in mock surrender, “I was headed back home today anyways, Jenny. Our paths won’t cross again for some time.”
“Good,” Jenny growled the next lines in a voice Liam hadn’t thought it was possible for her to make, “because if you hurt my Liam, I’ll come visit you in the night and put you to sleep forever.”
Straightening from her defensive posture she rose up and pecked Liam’s cheek with a quick kiss, “Bye, Liam. I have work to do!” With that, she bounced out of the room following her father’s steady, measured pace, her mask’s cloth tail bobbing behind her.
Samantha waited until she felt sure that Jenny had gone far enough down the hall to not hear her before turning to Liam, “You have your hands full with that one.”
Liam shrugged, “She’s not so bad. Not any worse than you, at any rate. You’ve both almost gotten me killed this last week. Maybe take her up on that threat and lay low for a while around here.”
Sam laughed loudly and walked towards the door, “You couldn’t get me to come back on a dare. Later, Liam. Don’t die too often.”
Liam waved to her and then headed out himself, everyone else having already left. He only made it out into the hallway when he heard a voice call his name, “Liam, I need to ask you a favor.”
Liam stopped in his tracks, corridor that led to freedom longingly, “Can’t it wait, Simon? I’ve had a very strange few days off.”
“We’re going to have to talk about some of your more self-destructive behaviors later. For now, I need you to follow me. This job won’t even require you to leave this house.”
Liam groaned loudly and followed Simon to his study. Closing the door behind Liam, he locked it tightly and leaned against the wall, “So you got wrapped up in this mess anyways. I’m sorry, Liam.”
“You must be in a really tight spot, if you’re forced to rely on little old me.”
“I am. That, and Samantha suggested you, so here we are in my study so I can ask you to spy on people in this house.”
Liam ground to a halt in the middle of the room, “You want me to spy on people in this house? Since you haven’t asked me to do that before, I figure you want me to spy on the other family leaders in the house.”
Simon rummaged through his top desk drawer and pulled out a map of the Nair mansion, laying it out on his desk, “It gets crazier than that. Say yes before you regret it. I’ll make it worth your while.”
Liam groaned and trudged over to the desk, “Alright, let’s do this.” Leaning against Simon’s desk, he knew he would regret agreeing, even before he did. He had no idea how much he would regret this by the end of the week.