Second-Hand Rumors~ chapter 13

     Living with Dirt Gremlins forced Liam to give up on many common appliances most households take for granted. Most of them, he could conceivably live without. Early on in their cohabitation, he had learned the hard way that Dirt Gremlins viewed microwaves as high powered kilns for their artistic silt. It took a few funny tasting burritos for him to realize why everything tasted like old shoes and cigarettes, culminating in an explosive attempt to make popcorn which had led to black goo shooting from the vents and all over the walls. The one Liam missed on occasion was a television, which worked until Liam found a Dirt Gremlin lodged in the screen. It’s easier to indulge your taste for mindless drama when you don’t have to worry about getting punched by the participants for gawking. That all changed with the discovery of the secret passages laced throughout the Nair mansion.

     The Nair’s employed a veritable army of butlers, maids, guards and a load of other people whose jobs were mainly to stand around looking important. That led to a lot of drama and since Liam was looking for something horrible happening to common people in the Mythic community, this was a good place to camp out and listen. At night, he would return home to assure the Dirt Gremlins he was still alive. During the day, he indulged in what he now thought of as live daytime television. He understood what he had spent the last week doing. What he failed to understand was why Simon now accompanied him, crashing on the couch Liam had requisitioned from an unused guest room.

     Munching noisily on Liam’s popcorn, Simon pointed out through a hole in the wall, “You’re missing your favorite show, Liam.”

     Liam jerked his head up in alarm. Two maids were gossiping about neighborhood boys. “My favorite show is “Angry Chef”. He usually comes on in the evening on your kitchen network hole. Don’t you have better things to do?”

     Simon shook his head, “Nope. This is priority number one with an exclamation point on it.”

     Giving up on getting rid of his employer for now, Liam focused on the matter at hand, “Why do you need these killers specifically? They sound like a huge pain in the ass.”

     “I may be the heir to this family, but I’m not allowed to use any resources that belong to it or my father. I need to find my own people, just like my father before me.”

     “That sounds like a waste of time.”

     “It’s about building relationships with your comrades, Liam,” Simon placed a hand on his shoulder. It felt strangely heavy. Without another word, he left Liam sitting alone with his daily drama. Liam thought long and hard about what Simon told him, before giving up on understanding such a strange man. He was getting ready to go home, when he finally hit pay dirt. Unsurprisingly, the information came from one of his favorite shows, “Two Gossipy Maids”. The plot, from what Liam could tell, was just two angry maids complaining about everything under the sun. For the most part, their complaints were trivial, or domestic in nature. Today’s plot was certainly a twist on that tired gimmick.

     “He told us we needed to be out of our apartment by the month’s end. Not just us, everyone in the entire building,” the first maid cleaned as she spoke. It was a talent the two maids possessed. They talked all the time, no matter what they were doing.

     “Why is he kicking you all out? Is he renovating?”

     “My neighbors said he sold a ton of buildings to the Society. They’re paying him big time for the buildings. Who knows what they want them for, but we’re all out. I guess we have to say goodbye to Styx Street.”

     Liam wandered off before they noticed him. The street name sounded familiar, and Liam had a feeling it showed up in his papers. Leafing through his papers, Liam found the name quickly. Mark Noble, age 45, made a living extorting the people who lived in his building. He was something of a high class slum lord, taking great pleasure in illicit monetary gain from those poor folks unfortunate enough to live in his buildings. As the maid stated, Mark had accepted an offer on many of his apartment complexes. Those buildings would be razed, and the property sold to the Society who would use it for their own gain. That alone was business as usual, but it bore several features which made it unique to Liam. The buildings being demolished were overwhelmingly populated by various Mythic people, mostly half-elves and other mixed bloods which can blend in easily to normal human society. Mark Noble had offered to halt the purchase if the current residents forked over twice as much money as the current offer on the table, with no guarantee he would never enact that evil scheme again.

     Living a long life means getting to experience the same thing repeatedly. Liam believed that all luck was bad luck on a long enough scale. The only question was how long that scale would be, and sometimes it was immediate. If Liam were a hunter, he would have called himself lucky. Once he reached Styx Street, he stopped before he got onto the road proper. Looking at the flow of the crowds, it only took an instant for him to tell that violence was about to erupt. You would be forgiven for failing to notice it, because most people in the street were oblivious to it as well. Under the circumstances, he would have to keep his head down for a bit until the dust settled.

     The building in question was a cute, smaller brownstone which had seen better days. Somehow, it looked even seedier than the one Liam occupied. The apartments were probably too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, but for the residents it was home. What set the building apart, was all the people gazing down at the streets from the windows. Every window had someone looking down, open contempt written all over their faces. Like most neighborhoods in the Bronx, Liam could tell at a glance it was beyond tightly knit. This wasn’t just a community, it was a big family and that meant trouble for Mark. Liam could easily pick out the cause of the commotion from the end of the street. Mark Noble, surrounded by a crowd of bodyguards and sycophants, stood gesturing to the one man Liam kept running into, Adrian Denavi.

     It made sense for him to be there. After all, the Society needed capital after the stunt Liam pulled recently, and real estate was as good a scheme as any. With a start, Liam realized that the Society no longer had the money to pay Mark Noble. That meant they were blackmailing him, so he was getting screwed just as much as his residents. Liam didn’t feel sorry for him. What gave Liam pause wasn’t just the sight of a man who had nearly killed him, there were too many who had succeeded for that to scare Liam. It was the three people he was looking for, who were also in the street.

     Across the street, with a plastic bag tucked under his arm, Christopher Goodbody leaned against a wall and watched the proceedings while eating a donut. He wore a white button down shirt, untucked with a pair of ratty jeans and sandals. His hair was tied up high, to keep it out of the way. When he noticed Liam watching him, he waved. In the middle of the crowd, he could make out Robert. His dull black hair wasn’t what Liam expected from a Rever, but there were small things that gave him away. He swayed with the crowd, seeming hyper aware of his surroundings. Liam also found his ultra-dark sunglasses extremely suspicious. While Liam couldn’t see the Neelan girl, he realized that her handiwork was all over the street. People were giving each other secret, subtle glances before turning to watch the action taking place. If Liam had to guess, there were people from the Society all over the street. Mark Noble also had his own bodyguards, for what little it would do him. With an assassination attempt about to go down, and Liam’s only working goal being to get into contact with the killers, there was only one thing to he could do under the circumstances. Find some popcorn and watch the chaos play out, because he was not going out into that mess. As Mark Noble handed a piece of paper for Adrian Denavi to sign, Christopher popped the last bit of donut into his mouth and crumpled up his plastic bag. Time to duck and cover.

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