Second-Hand Rumors~ chapter 14

     Liam was about to witness a murder, and that’s why he wanted to stay out of the way. It’s not that he was frightened. Death was an old passing acquaintance and Liam had been confronted with deaths other than his own before, a fact his mother could’ve attested to were she still alive. Liam hadn’t been hired to stop this murder, and he couldn’t have stopped it either way. When Mark Noble woke up this morning, though he didn’t know it, the sunrise was the last he would ever see. Liam kept his head down because the messiest part of public murder is the aftermath. The atmosphere is like the logical opposite of Black Friday, where everyone stampedes away from the violence, regardless of obstacles or personal injury.

     As the immovable objects lined up against the unstoppable forces, Liam resorted to his one tried and true tactic. Snacks. A handy corner store allowed him to avoid the brewing warzone across the street. He bought a pack of gum with money and a bag of chips with his master five-finger discount card and watched from just outside the store as the waves of opposing sides began to crash against each other.

     It never paid to make a deal with someone like Adrian Denavi. Good business sense says that both parties come to a deal with something to offer. Goods or services are exchanged and both parties leave happy. Adrian hardly seemed to understand basic polite social interactions that didn’t involve murder, much less the art of the deal. He was like a shark, always moving and always the aggressor. Even though Liam hated to admit it, this real estate steal was the right move to make after being forcibly defunded by himself and John Neelan. That aggressive nature was why the deal was taking so long, because a consummate shakedown artist like Mark Noble would be really horrible at admitting when he was being taken for a ride.

     While the two men talked over their differences, with Adrian becoming increasingly agitated and aggressive, Liam realized he had lost sight of the Rever. Robert had vanished into the crowd of shifting cronies and bodyguards. It was only when the killing started that Liam could pick him out. Violence always starts suddenly. Even Liam, who was watching for it, got caught off guard. With everyone in the small crowd of bodyguards so focused on their respective employers, not one of them noticed when an extra body guard slowly pushed his way to the front. Nobody noticed, until he’d already killed three of them. Liam popped a chip into his mouth. It was a clever move, gunning for the bodyguards first. Good on his targets for their meticulous planning and lack of discernable morals. If there were no bodyguards, then there would be nobody left to protect their target, his RoyalAssness.

     The red sea parted, guns blazing, leaving Robert Rever tangling with a handful of bodyguards from both sides. It quickly became apparent that guns were useless against their assailant. His rapid movements made it hard for Liam to follow his path. Up close, it would be nearly impossible to hit him. The smarter guards holstered their guns to be effective and the crazy ones holstered them for fun. Adrian was whisked away towards the opposite end of the street, while Mark’s bodyguards rocketed him along towards Liam. With a Rever making short work of his opponents, Liam wondered how far he would get. He got so distracted by Robert Rever that he failed to notice Christoper Goodbody until he plowed into the remaining bodyguards around Mark Noble like a freight train. Goodbody’s were built tough, and Christopher was clearly no exception to the rule. Most of the remaining bodyguards pushed back against him, while one lone bodyguard whisked Mark away to safety. Christopher toyed with them, tossing them around and giving gentle knockout love taps. Watching him made Liam realize what they were gunning for the whole time.

     In two quick moves, they had separated their target from the one person who could have saved him, gotten rid of all his bodyguards, and slowed his movements. The one remaining bodyguard moved Mark along slowly, as though he expected an attack from any direction. A single gun-shot rang out over the chaos and Mark slumped over, dead. It occurred to Liam that they might try and kill Adrian while he was right in their sights for good measure, and that sounded like a good idea to them too, because another gunshot rang out. Impossibly, Adrian reacted by pivoting and grabbing one of his guards, pulling him into his place and ducking away at the same time. The bullet intended for him killed his bodyguard instead. The remaining Society thugs closed ranks and whisked their leader into a car, which drove off with a screech of tires. Ah well, live and learn.

     Sirens sounded in the distance, and the crowd truly began to disperse. Even if you clearly didn’t kill the victim, the cops ask all sorts of questions that nobody on that street wanted to answer. The trick was leaving in an inconspicuous way, because cops are like cats with badges. They chase after things that run away from them. It’s a trained hunting instinct that’s hard to get rid of. All Liam needed to do was pick out one of the three and follow them, wherever they went and no matter how long it took. Christoper’s long hair swayed, and Liam had already lost sight of the Rever, so Liam followed him. He turned down the street Liam was on, before taking an abrupt left into an alley.

     Cutting through side paths, he left the crime scene in remarkable time, and did it calmly. After that, Christopher Goodbody spent the rest of the day panhandling. It was unreal, watching a member of the Goodbody family beg for change on a subway platform. He even got warned off by a cop once, and even that was genius. He was taking the long way home, and why would a hobo kill a man? Even if someone could place him at the scene of the crime, nobody would believe he was involved.

     Liam followed him no matter where he went. He was Christopher Goodbody’s shadow, always present and never noticed. As the sun went down, Christopher finally started heading somewhere with purpose. They reached a small bridge, and rather than crossing it, he went down below it. At first glance, it all seemed so ordinary. It was just an underpass, with giant concrete pillars. It was the sort of place graffiti artists went when the cops were chasing them. As Liam watched, Christopher Goodbody vanished. It wasn’t as though there was any warning, he just vanished into thin air. Clearly, Liam was missing something. Carefully stepping forward, he slowly caught up to where Christopher had vanished. Poking his head forward, a hand reached out from the aether and dragged him forward.

     The scene that lay before him was completely different than the one had just seen. The concrete walls beneath the bridge had been hollowed to create a small living space. Tiny red doors led into their homes on either side of the bridge. From where Christopher held Liam, he could make out a cozy living room with a roaring fire. A tea kettle hung above it, keeping the water piping hot for tea. Some of the cement under the bridge had been pulled up and replaced with earth for a small garden. It seemed to be flourishing in the summer heat.

     A slap to the face snapped Liam out of his reverie, “What were you following me around all day for, you little creep? Who are you working for?”

     “My name is Liam. I don’t work for anyone, and I wanted to pick your pocket.”

     Christopher tossed him towards their home, “What you think, JJ? He’s lying, but he volunteered that information awfully quickly. There’s something strange about him.”

     JJ emerged from the left house, pausing in the door and leaning against it. Her hair was tied up in a tight bun, and there were grease stains on her face. She wore goggles that covered her eyes and coveralls, which contained multiple burn marks, “Oh, that’s Liam Boggan. He works for Simon Nair. That’s why he followed you.”

     Christopher walked over to Liam and helped him up, “Simon has you working for him? That sounds like a dangerous job. Are you just crazy or bored with life?”

     “I think the operative word is blackmail.”

     “That sounds like the Nair family. We should just kill him and be done with it. We don’t want anything to do with the Five Families,” Robert entered their little home space, none the worse for wear than when Liam had last seen him. He hadn’t even broken into a sweat.

     “Whoa, there Rob. Just because he’s working for a Nair doesn’t mean we have to kill him. We could just maim him,” Christopher suggested helpfully.

     “I prefer an option where I don’t get killed or maimed.”

     “Also,” JJ interrupted her two friends, “He’s good friends with Jenny Rever. If she finds out we killed him, and she would, there wouldn’t be anything that could stop her from finding us and killing us.”

     Robert shuddered, “Anything but Jenny Rever!”

     “So how about we invite him to dinner then?” Christopher peered at Liam curiously.

     Liam knew he wasn’t going to get a better deal than this, “I could eat.” When three killers with an agenda ask you over for dinner, you just sit where they tell you to and compliment their cooking. It hadn’t exactly gone the way he wanted to, but it had worked out in the end. Mission accomplished felt a little too optimistic, but Liam hadn’t been killed yet. That was a good start.

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