Second-Hand Rumors~ chapter 5

     Liam considered himself to be a professional, in spite of the consistent evidence to the contrary. When Simon Nair gave him the task of spying on banker and financier, Matthew Bergson, he knew the task required a more personable touch than he could give. Charm only works on people when they’re not fish lipped, money minded bankers willing to finance an extremist group advocating genocide. No, this required a more feminine touch, and so Liam got into touch with one of the only females who had ever touched him without cringing. Jenny was perfect for the role, able to present herself as a classy member of high society and also able to kill ten men with her nail file. That meant she would be convincing. Liam also didn’t have to worry about her and if the situation went south and Liam had to book it for some unforeseen reason. Realistically, between the two of them, Liam was more likely to get killed than Jenny.

     That didn’t mean that Liam exactly trusted Jenny to get the job done. Liam had a hard time trusting people whose attention spans were shorter than a Dirt Gremlin’s, and so they had spent the previous night preparing endlessly until the point where Liam felt sure Jenny was about to kill him, and then they stopped. He made sure she knew everything, what questions to ask, where to sit, when to leave him hanging, and for the love of God don’t be too obvious with your questions.

    The morning arrived too soon, but they were both ready by the time lunch rolled around. Liam hated being unprepared. Whenever possible, he liked to do practice runs first, or at least work with the knowledge that he could come back to the job at a later date. With a payday like this, he was willing to bend the rules. In order to keep Jenny on track, Liam chose a seat towards the back of the restaurant. It was near the kitchen door in case he needed to bolt quickly. It also sat near a row of more intimate seats that overlooked a view of a busy street which Matthew avoided when he sat for lunch. That was where Jenny would lead him. That meant Liam could keep an eye on the two without being noticed.

     They arrived early, and Matthew arrived late, which was a better sign than Liam would have hoped for. Punctual Matthew turning up late meant that he was flustered, and flustered meant that he would be more willing to spill the beans about Operation Nightingale. When he did arrive, he arrived being tugged along by a smirking Jenny, clearly in control of the situation. They sat, and Matthew struggled to get comfortable. Liam sympathized for the man. Jenny was beautiful, funny and highly capable. Watching Matthew attempt to flirt, however, was akin to watching the Incredible Mr. Limpett sink Nazi Submarines. He was watching it, and event though he knew their lunch date wasn’t real, he still couldn’t believe it.

     “You’ve been following me for days, but I still don’t know your name. Who are you?” Even smitten Matthew had his limits to where mystery would take him.

    ‘I’ll tell you someday. Don’t ruin the mystery,” Jenny responded with a wink. Between the two of them, they had agreed that names were all around dangerous. Even if they made a name up, it might ruin someone else’s day.

     “So, my husband told me that I wasn’t capable of handling my own finances, after I spent so much money on diamond chokers for my dogs,” Jenny’s voice sparkled when she talked to Matthew, like most people who didn’t have a real care in the world.

     “That’s a shame, because as I’m sure you know, diamonds never really depreciate in value. It’s not as though you need to keep them in the chokers, either, you can set them into other jewelry as well.” Somehow, Matthew even managed to flirt like a banker.

    Leaning across the table, Jenny rested her hand over his. Liam was sure he would blush, if Matthew had any blood in his body to rush to his face, “That’s what I told my husband, but he wouldn’t hear anything of it. Naturally, he locked all of our joint accounts and that can really limit a girl’s fun.”

     Liam robbed people for a living. He reflected on this while he listened to Jenny flirt shamelessly and Matthew shamefully attempt to respond in kind. The perks of thieving over spying were becoming abundantly clear. No matter how often Liam complained about his Dirt Gremlins, they kept the place quiet. Other people in the apartment complex tended to hurry past his door, which suited Liam just fine. Unless it was someone unique, Liam wanted to spend most of his time alone. Spies had their perks as well. They got to listen to everyone’s juicy secrets. It was like stealing a part of someone’s life and walking away with it in their pocket. They also had to listen to every little bit of inane gossip that could come out of a person’s mouth, made worse when you knew that half the inane gossip was fake.

     They took an interminably long time to start talking about anything interesting. By that point even Matthew was starting to get twitchy and look at his wrist to check the time. That was the sign they were both waiting on. It was time to reel the sucker in.

    “You see, unbeknownst to my husband, I managed to squirrel away some money. I wanted to spend that money on some cause he would never approve of, just to spite him.”

    That statement ground poor Matthew to a halt. Here he sat, having lunch with a beautiful woman who was practically throwing money at him in order to devote it to some cause. He even had a cause he was scrounging up money for. There wasn’t so much a conflict of interest so much as a sympathy of one.

    “I know of a cause that could yield high dividends down the road, if you’re interested.”

     Shifting closer, Jenny lowered her voice, “And what would that be?”

    “There’s a group I work with, the Society for the Protection of Humankind. I know this is going to sound shocking, and I could hardly blame you for not believing me when I say this, but there are real life monsters of myth and legend that walk among us. Not only that, but they’re rich beyond the dreams of avarice. This organization wants to wipe them out, to protect humans like you and me. Once they’re gone, I’ve been assured that myself, and those who work with me, will gain control of those substantial assets.”

    “So in other words,” Jenny paused, considering his plan carefully, “this group you work with is going to kill a lot of people and then let you take all their stuff. Is that right?”

    “And the best part is that this is a government agency, so there won’t be any legal consequences. I’m told there’s a lot of property and liquid currency involved. We’ve got a lot of investors chomping at the bit to be a part of this. Are you…interested?”

    Jenny smiled gently, “That sounds like a solid plan.”

    Liam sagged in his seat. This had been going so well. They had a definitive plan, they knew the name of the plan and how these bankers fit into the plan. All she needed to do was not be Jenny until the end of the meal and they would have everything they needed. If she could simply manage that, Liam could leave with his head held high.

    Her willingness to engage in murder for profit was what began the descent to madness. Through his cloud of infatuation and business minded desire, something about her gleeful assent to killing off entire species worth of creatures and taking their stuff struck Matthew as a bit odd.

    “I must insist, madam. I must know your name, before we go any further. For the purposes of making this business of ours legal.”

    “Of course, Matthew. My name is Jenny Rever.”

    And that did it. Any businessman worth his salt would check into the people who were going to be killed for his gain. Matthew had certainly checked in on the Rever family, given the shocked and vacant expression on his face, “Are you here to…k…kill me?”

    “No, silly. I’m here to have lunch with you,” Oh, Jenny. It was like it hadn’t even occurred to her that she wasn’t supposed to tell Matthew her real name. A long silence passed before Liam could almost see the lightbulb pop up above her head, “Oh, poop! Liam is going to be so mad at me for telling you my name!”

    That tore it. Not only had she used her own name and revealed that she knew who Matthew was, she had also named Liam, out loud and in front of their target no less. Getting up and walking out now was no longer an option. If he rose and made a break for it, then Matthew and his bodyguards would all draw the obvious conclusion.

    “So you want to invest in the death of your own kind? I never thought a member of the Rever family would give up their ideology for money.” couldn’t tell if Matthew was trying to sound hopeful, or just not terrified. He was failing at both, either way.

    “They’re all jerks.”

    “I’m told that they’re all rich jerks, which must be what attracted you to me,” Matthew continued on from there, without considering that he could have been referring to himself.

     At this point, the conversation was going as poorly as most conversations with Jenny seemed to go. She was so direct that for people who thought they were subtle, talking to her could be a bit daunting. Matthew found an excuse to pay the bill and leave, not that the restaurant would have chased him down had he not paid it.

     Once they were done eating, Jenny had enough common sense to leave the restaurant on her own, heading back the way she had come. Liam waited for a good fifteen minutes before he left as well, headed for the park by a different route than the one she usually took.

    When he arrived, he found Jenny moping on the bench, with her head hung low. She roused herself when Liam arrived and opened her mouth to apologize, but Liam cut her off with a wave of his hand, there were few things worse than a depressed assassin, and “The only bad thing about what happened is that now the Society knows we’re onto them. They couldn’t have not known that before, but maybe they didn’t know how close Simon was before this. As soon as Matthew reports in, they’re going to remove all the money from his accounts and shuffle them off to another company.”

     “So do we go spy on them?”

    Liam shook his head, “There’s no point. The money was my goal, the information was Simon’s main interest. Whoever was giving them money before won’t back out just because you showed up for lunch with a glorified bean counter. That means the next step for me is to hit them where it really hurts.”

     “The pancreas?”

     “God, no. Their wallets. All their funds are located in this one sucker’s portfolio. If we can empty their accounts out, we’ll stall Operation Nightingale for the foreseeable future.”

    “Oh!” Jenny hopped up to her feet, ready to go with Liam.”

    “Jenny. I would rather do this one alone. I have to go meet with a Neelan friend of mine.”

    Scowling, a rare expression for Jenny, she turned back towards her house, “I don’t like the Neelan family. They’re rude to my dad.” With that, she vanished, headed towards home at speeds which Liam’s eyes couldn’t follow.

     Bracing himself, Liam touched his phone to make sure it was still in his pocket and headed towards the one Neelan house he knew. It’s not that he wanted to ask for John Neelan’s help, it’s just that Liam wasn’t computer savvy enough to rip off a business of that size with electronics. In the good old days, there would have been valuables involved, which Liam was more familiar with. Digital theft was more the realm if spies and hackers, neither one of which Liam qualified as. John was the one genuine spy he knew that actually tolerated his presence. Taking the first step, towards his new worst friend, Liam didn’t even realize that he had already made two mistakes. The first was even trusting John Neelan a little. The second was in underestimating how angry some of those investigators would get about losing sizable portions of money.

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