Second-Hand Rumors~ chapter 6

     A long time ago, Liam had considered giving up thieving and becoming an honest man. He had been younger, and stupid, and in love. He failed to consider that several lifetimes of thievery doesn’t translate very well to other jobs. Before long he was back on the streets engaging in his profession until his wife found out where he went off to every day because she eventually had to bail him out of the pokey. The long and short of that trip down memory lane was that you could take the thief out of thievery, but thievery remains a part of the thief. He found these thoughts running through his mind unbidden as he stood in front of the door that led into John Neelan’s dreaded Cheeto infested “inner sanctum”. Much like thieves, you could take the spy out of his industry and he would still be a spy.

     Liam distrusted the Neelan family as a whole, because they worked in cloak and dagger secrecy. Spies stole lives wholesale with mere words, whereas Liam just lifted wallets to keep his stomach full and his booze flowing. John Neelan especially gave him the willies, because he looked at him as though Liam were just a prized turkey full of money. Still, if he was going to rob Matthew Bergson, he needed someone who could do it quickly and quietly. This technological theft was outside of Liam’s experience by a wide margin. No doubt this would turn into an ordeal, but the scent of money made his ears twitch and before he knew it, his feet had walked him all the way to this door until his common sense had kicked in to give one last protest.

     Standing at the door, with his hand on the knob, the debate was already over. He knew what he wanted more than the money, and that was freedom. Working for Simon hadn’t been a bad experience overall. Sure, he had died a few times more than normal, but that was the price of admission to a fantastic world Liam hardly belonged in. Turning the knob, Liam opened the door and stepped willingly into the worst decision he had made in ages.

     Meeting John Neelan taught Liam many things about spies. They worked impossibly full schedules that didn’t allow for things like sleep, basic hygiene, or fresh air. Even amongst a family of spies, John was considered a work-a-holic. Liam was under the impression that John might have been a prisoner of his own success. It’s hard to turn down work when you’re someone’s ace in the hole, not that Liam would have known anything about that from personal experience.

     Light from computer monitors spilled out into the hallway as soon as Liam cracked the door open to step inside. John had hardly moved from where he had been sitting the last time Liam had visited him with Samantha Goodbody in tow. John’s room barely had enough space left for him to stand in, and Liam nearly pushed a stack of files over as soon as he entered. Instead of the usual pizza boxes and endless cans of soda, littered liberally around the room, there were stacks of paper and files. They stood as tall as he did, and many of them showed clear signs of having been hastily rifled through. Liam realized with a start that John was working on the assignment the head of his family had given him. Recently, his black-mailing employer, Simon Nair, had asked Liam to spy on the heads of the Five Families while they met at his own house. While working this job, he overheard John and Isaac, the head of the Neelan family, reveal they knew they had a mole, but still had to locate who it was. That job had been left to John; to sift through a torrential storm of information in order to find out who was giving their bad name an even worse streak.

    “John, I’m sorry to bother you again so soon…”

     Charm is a tool that never works on thieves or spies, because they use it when they want something you’ve got that they want. John cut him off quickly, “You’re too polite, Liam. You literally never come to see me because we’re such good friends. It’s about money, isn’t it?”

     “I can be polite when money is involved. I was given a job spying on the guy in charge of funding for the Society for the Protection of Humankind.”

    John’s chair wheeled around slowly, and Liam noticed a series of small things that tipped him off to the seriousness of the situation. Normally, when working, John wore a dark bathrobe with a deep hood which he seemed to think made him look intimidating. Today, he wore a suit that fitted loosely around his thin frame. Even back-lit by the multiple computer moniters, Liam could see the bags under his eyes. He had a massive coffee cup in his hands and the vile smell wafting from it could only come from a concoction made from espresso, Red Bull and Five Hour energy drinks, “What’s in it for me? I’m up to my eyeballs in work already. Slow me up and you’re liable to get killed.”

     “Oh yes, that would be horrible if I got killed. I’m sure it would be horrible if I got killed, because that’s never happened before, has it?”

    “Ok, you made your point, but I still need to know what’s in it for me.”

     “Simon asked me to gather information to make a pitch to his dad. He thinks defunding them is a good step towards slowing them down.”

     John spun his chair around in slow circles, “He’s not wrong. Their operations are money intensive, and require huge amounts of upkeep. It’s not like we can just take the money unless we have bank account numbers, routing numbers, code confirmations, dummy account names and a host of other information I’ll never get my hands on.”

     “What if I told you I stole all that information and came right here with it?”

     John slowly spun to a stop, “Are you for real?”

     Reaching into his pocket, Liam pulled out his phone which John instantly snatched away, “It’s in the pictures. I took screen shots of it all.”

    There was a long pause as John flipped through the images, “Liam, this is brilliant. I had thought about trying to get this information, but I sorely lacked the time I needed to track down who had the accounts. I mean, look at this place,” John gestured to his room full of stack upon stacks of files, “this is going to save me a lot of time.”

     “So you can get me the money?”

     John sent the photos to his own phone before handing the phone back to Liam, “This is blood money, Liam. You don’t want it as much as you think you do.”

     Cramming the phone back into his pocket, Liam growled, “Oh, and I suppose you do?”

     “Of course I do, but I’m willing to cut you in on your own take, if you do me a little favor first. I have some information I need to collect from the De Luca family on the outskirts of the city. They have restaurants all over the city, and some big stakes in the Mythic people. They promised me something I needed to do my work and now they’re ignoring me. It’s not like I’m the most intimidating person in the world, and for personal reasons I can’t ask for help from the rest of the family at this time.”

     Sagging a little, Liam did the mental calculation, “So you’re asking me to go talk to the mafia about that thing they were supposed to send you, get killed a few times, get the thing and bring it back to you.”

     “Pretty much.”

    “I hate you so much.”

     “Yeah, but you’ll have enough money to buy yourself sympathy cards with. I hope you do, because I’ll be using my share to buy the world’s smallest violin. Now get to work, lackey.” Suddenly, for no reason that Liam was willing to put his finger on, Liam felt like working for Simon might not be that bad after all.

     The De Luca family was one which Liam knew more by reputation than having actually dealt with them. Even when you couldn’t die, there are excessively violent ways to die that Liam didn’t want to think about. Just because he wouldn’t stay dead, didn’t mean he was clamoring to try new ways to go about doing it. The De Luca family, in particular, could write a book on that particular chilling subject, with a companion guide that would make the Encyclopedia Britannica feel insecure in the locker room. Having to go and ask them for a favor they could totally refuse is something Liam would only do for money. As it turned out, Liam was doing it for a lot of money. While Liam knew the De Luca family mostly from their more nefarious endeavors, he had a sinking feeling that he had run into them more recently in a more pedestrian environment.

     Sure enough, when Liam checked the address John unceremoniously shoved into his hand,  he recognized one of the restaurants run by the family. It was even called, “The Olde “Family” Restaraunte” as though the owners were trying to quash all doubt as to who really owned the business. Liam had met the current owner when he was first getting into his respective business, and Liam had offered to help his grandmother get home, for a small fee of course. Then he robbed her, because it’s not like her mafia boss grandson couldn’t afford to get her nicer things. In Liam’s mind, he had done her a favor by taking all crappy older stuff, because that clearly meant a shopping spree was in order. He doubted her grandson would see it that way. Along with all the other people in that neighborhood who wanted to kill him, this guy was the biggest reason Liam had moved away to his current apartment building.

     That’s why, when he was greeted at the kitchen door by two burly men who introduced themselves as bus boys, he wasn’t surprised that his personal introduction led to being put in a choke hold and marched through the door to the head of the De Luca family. Ronaldo, the head of the De Luca family, was everything Liam was not. He had swarthy Sicilian charm and fine black hair swept back from a face which could have come from the portrait of a Renaissance nobleman. He stood out, surrounded by his heavier thugs, by his calm demeanor and his lean build. It was clear he was in charge and in command, but what was worse, it was clear that he recognized Liam.

    “Liam, my friend,” he spoke with a thick accent, in sure tones. The hustle and bustle surrounding him instantly vanished as though it were sleeping with the fishes, “I never thought you would have the balls to come back here.”

    “Trust me, if I had any other choice, I would have never come back. I had no idea you went legit in any way.”

    Ronaldo scowled, “With this current climate, the Feds have been cracking down on legitimate businessmen in a big way. To survive, I needed to go mostly legit, or I would have drowned with the rest of them. To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

     “John Neelan said you owed him information. He sent me to pick it up, because he hates you.” Liam lied about that last part, hoping the enemy of his enemy wouldn’t kill him, at least.

     “I also hate you.”

     “And I hate both of you, and that’s why he sent me, because he hates me as well. So do you have it or not?”

     “I do have what he desires. He’s interested in information on the other families, wondering if they’re part of this great purge he’s so worried about.”

    Liam plugged his fingers in his ears, “La la la, I don’t want to know anything that someone could torture me for later on.”

    Ronaldo smiled a cruel smile, “That’s why I told you enough to be ignorant. Before I give you what you want, you must do something for me.”

    “Oh God, you want me to go grab something for you from someone else who hates me, don’t you? This is punishment for that time when I did the thing.”

    Ronaldo gestured over his shoulder to a large industrial sink overflowing with pots and pans and dishes of all shapes and sizes, “Finish those dishes, and then we’ll talk.”

    Liam paled. He would never say he was against hard work, but this wasn’t hard work, it was slave labor, “This is because I stole from your grandmother isn’t it?”

     “Yes, it is. Now hurry up, the late lunch rush will arrive soon and you’re going to be even busier when that happens.”

     Liam’s arms were unaccustomed to hard work. He spent the rest of the day wishing they would just fall off so he would have an excuse to go home. Long after the restaurant was closed, the dishes were finally done and Liam was let off the hook with a warning and a jump drive containing all the information John wanted. If he had been less tired, he would have been more wary.

Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 35

     Mysteries are one way streets which never allow you to return the way you came. You can’t unlearn a secret, as Jack found out when he explored the basement of his house in his youth. A mysterious cabin deep in the mountains that once belonged to the Goodbody family, however, had become a mystery Jack could hardly turn down. That the Goodbody family, renowned in some circles for their stinginess, would actually let go of property was mystery enough to intrigue Jack.

     The route to the cabin led through some pretty rough roads. Their journey led them out of town on the main road. They passed left onto the road that took them to Jack’s house which made his skin crawl until they drove past it. The Catskills weren’t the largest mountain chain but they were good for solitude, if that’s what you were looking for. The road led on past enormous, gnarled trees that had seen times before man had ever put a single cabin on the mountains and into the darker places that had scarcely been seen in years.

     It took them a few hours to get to the cabin and from the instant Jack saw the clearing surrounding the cabin, he knew his work was cut out for him. The trees around the cabin were all turned in towards the cabin, their spare branches turned down as though they were reaching for the building. The cabin itself would be proud if someone called it dilapidated. The roof had caved in on the left side of the cabin and the front of the building was a complete shambles. The windows would be very pretty if they were more than holes in the wall that someone had wedged thick pieces of glass into. The door held shut, surprising Jack, but the screen door slammed wildly against the wall, moving in even the slightest wind.

      Jack hopped out of the van and took a look around what passed for the front yard. The grass in front of the cabin was either dead or dying. In the front of the cabin, there was something resembling a front porch, which was barely larger than the front door. It had three steps that led up to a short landing. The cabin itself only had one story, though on closer inspection Jack could tell that it had a basement. While examining the cabin’s walls, he found a small ground window that looked down into the basement and tried to wipe it clean. The dirt had merged with the window, creating a piece of stained glass. Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose and kicked a pane in. he shuddered when it didn’t make a breaking nose. The smell of death and decay poured out from the opening immediately.

     Before entering the dilapidated building, Jack scanned the yard, searching for anything of note which could tell him more about why they had ever let go of this property. In the far corner of the yard, stood a stone shrine. It consisted of a pillar topped by a large stone orb with two wings sprouting from it. In front of the pillar lay a pile of small stones. Crossing the yard, Jack picked one up. One word had been written on the front, “Family” and on the back was his father’s name, “Varnes Goodbody. Sifting through the stones, it quickly dawned on Jack that each member of his family had a stone with their name and one word. Sam’s stone read, “Purpose” and Julian’s read, “beauty”.

     “Where do you want them supplies, boss?” Stan had started taking the wood from the back of the van and putting it on his shoulder.

     “In stacks and piles in front of the cabin and cover them with a tarp. I just have a bad feeling about this place.” Turning back to the work at hand, Jack rose to his feet with a grunt. He hated secrets and secrets having to do with his family most of all.

     Jack walked up the stairs, barely surprised when the front porch opened up a hole when he stepped on it in a weakened place. They would need to get more supplies from the woods before this trip was over. The door was engraved with the family motto above two crossed spears, still visible despite the overall decay of the building.

     The door into the cabin proper was surprisingly sturdy, given the state of the rest of the cabin, and to Jack’s trained eye it presented an obvious warning sign. Nothing said “stay out of this obviously cursed building” like a door that refused to open into an otherwise dilapidated structure. Doors in these circumstances hold up well because of good building materials or the forces of darkness. This case was clearly the latter.

  The inside of the cabin was a marvel and curiosity. The rug in the main room was an oriental rug that was entirely out of place on the floor of a glorified shack that looked ready to fall down at any moment. On the wall, an enormous elk bust surveyed the room, surrounded by a small fleet of smaller animals that all stared blankly out at the room. The furniture, which mainly consisted of a faded plaid couch and chair set with a coffee table in the middle, was covered with a fine coat of dust. Jack walked over to the coffee table and leaned down to blow on it, watching the dust flow away from the table like a river of dirt floating through the air. There was a fireplace on the left side of the room with a brick mantle which appeared so brittle Jack knew it would crack into tiny pieces if he lit a match anywhere near it.

     As Jack examined the cabin’s interior, a voice called out from what should have been an empty room, “I’ve been here for so long, waiting for you Jack. Now that you’ve finally come, you ignore me? Is this how my son raised his children?”

     Jack knew the cabin was empty. It had been empty for years.  Certainly, there was nobody here who knew who he was. When he turned back to the couch, it was occupied by the largest man he had ever set eyes on, barring perhaps Stan. His long sandy blonde hair was tucked back into a ponytail, and his beard covered his massive chest in unruly tangles. Even in the low light, his blue eyes twinkled with merriment and laugh lines crawled away from the corners of his eyes. He wore a dark three piece suit which reminded Jack instantly of his father.

    “Who are you and how did you get in here?”

    The figure almost choked with anger, “It’s me, Gideon! I’m your grandfather, you ingrate! I gave you your favorite present on your third birthday!”

    Jack paused, “Didn’t you also die on my third birthday? How could I possibly remember you?”

     “That…that’s no excuse! Why has it taken so long for your father to send you here? Sit down and have a chat with your grandfather.”

     “Why?”

     Jack’s grandfather sat in shock for a long time before he responded, “Because every member of the family has come here for hundreds of years, surely your father told you about this place!”

     Jack inspected the floor space in front of his supposed grandfather, realizing there was no chair to be found. Shrugging, he sat down on the floor. When your long dead grandfather appears in a strange cabin in the woods and asks you sit down, you don’t argue.

     “Given the expression on your face, it sounds like Varnes never even told you about this place.”

    “I have no idea if he would have or not. I ran away from the house when I was seventeen years old, and I’ve never looked back.”

    Leaning back in his chair, his grandfather let out the deep sigh of a troubled parent, “Why did you do something so stupid, Jack?”

    “I ran away after a hunting trip with father and my younger brother, Joseph. Only father and myself came back. I don’t know what happened, but I know it was father’s fault.

     Jack grew up in a family which never focused heavily on physical affection, so Gideon’s actions took him entirely off guard. Rising to his feet, Gideon wrapped Jack up in his arms, “It’s never easy to lose a family member. We grow up surrounded by death. We cause death in our work, but somehow we’re never ready for death when it follows us home.” Gideon felt warm, bring Jack memories that he couldn’t place because he was too young to really remember them.

     Now it’s my turn to ask a question. What is this place and how are you here? You died before I could even have any memories of you.  Father never talks about you, never even mentions your name. He would get so angry when Samantha and I would ask about you that we stopped pretty quickly.”

     “Generations of Goodbody’s have come here to meet with and learn from past generations. They come here to learn, to become a better version of themselves from past generations. I don’t know if the family had something like this before we came over from England. I wish I could explain more about this place.”

     Jack mulled the idea over in his head, “So why were you the one who showed up? Could it have been someone else’s ghost?”

     Gideon nodded, “When I came here as a child, I got my favorite aunt. Varnes wouldn’t tell me who he got, but every Goodbody family member is supposed to come here to get some advice and guidance on who they’re supposed to be.”

     Rising to his feet, Jack slapped the dust from his pants and looked around, “Well, won’t that be a shock to Julian when he shows up. He certainly didn’t mention this place or its purpose, that’s for sure.”

     Now it was Gideon’s turn to be curious, “And who is that?”

     Jack realized that Julian had been born after Gideon had passed away, “That’s Uncle Reginald’s son. He lives in California now.”

     Gideon’s face fell again, “Good lord, did nobody stay at the house? What happened to the family?”

     Walking over to one of the windows, Jack watched as Stan stacked wood outside, “We’re still around, just not all at the same place. There aren’t as many hunts to go on as there used to be, so we’re not really needed anymore.”

     “Jack,” Gideon’s voice was sharp when he spoke this time, “is that all our family is to you?”

     Looking over his shoulder, Jack shrugged as though the question didn’t even interest him, “It’s all I was taught. No hunts means no hunters and no hunters means why does our family even exist?”

     “When I was head of this family, hunts were a very small part of what we did. It’s the part we were known for, but that’s really a shame. It’s not the part I liked.”

    Tapping his foot on the floor, Jack tested it to see how it supported his weight, “What did you like?”

     “We just often happened to be the first family on the scene. When there was a problem, we came and we talked it out. Violence should be the last resort. When you go in looking for a fight, you always put your life and the lives of your opponents at risk and for what? Reputation? Honor? Someone always goes home in a box, when you start spouting words like that. Glory is a bitter dish.”

     “Huh,” Jack peered curiously at his grandfather, “I always wondered where that phrase came from.”

     Gideon laughed loudly, sounding more at ease, “It was something my father said and his father before him. I wonder if anyone even remembers where it came from now? It means something different for each person who uses it.”

     “Anyway, my cousin Julian asked me to fix the place up. He bought it as a summer home so he could stay near the house without actually staying in it.”

     “But why would you not want to stay in the Goodbody house? It’s all laughter and children running and telling stories about old times.”

    Jack laughed a particularly bitter laugh, “When I think really hard about the Goodbody house, I can still remember those days. These days, it smells like a cheap antiques store and it’s about as empty as one.”

    “But…this cabin doesn’t have enough room for Julian and his family to stay, even with extensive additions!”

    “Oh, I think there’s enough room for Julian and his partner. Ding a ling a ling.”

    Gideon paused at that news, “Well, I guess that explains it. I’m glad you’re helping out your cousin, Jack.”

    Turning to the unreal sight that was his enormous bear of a grandfather standing in front of him, Jack waved his hands as his patience gave out, “I don’t have enough time to stand and talk. If you want to give me the rundown on our family history or something, you’re going to need to work.”

    Gideon’s eyes went wide in shock at the entirely unexpected comment, then he confused Jack in turn. He laughed. He laughed so hard he doubled over and struggled to breath. He laughed far longer than Jack would have thought possible before he finally managed to speak, “That’s my grandson! Just tell me what you need me to do, and I’ll get to work.”

     Taking a quick mental inventory of the work the cabin needed, Jack gave a quick order, “Go outside and tell Stanley we need more building materials. This whole place is rotted from the inside out, it’s going to need a lot of wood replaced.”

    Gideon saluted and Jack couldn’t entirely tell if he was being mocked or not. He walked out the door at a brisk pace before he stopped and looked back in through the door, “How will I know which one is Stanley?”

    “He’s the only one here, other than you and me.”

    Gideon laughed again, “Is he now? I’m sure I can find him though. He’ll be the only one I don’t recognize.”

    “Yeah, myself, Stanley, you and the animals on the mountain

    Jack crossed the room and sat down on the couch his grandfather had so recently vacated, “Why do these jobs always get so damned complicated?” As he sat on the couch, he could hear the trees sway outside and despite the complications, he felt at peace. This was still work he understood. Rebuild the cabin and spend some time with Julian. He might even spend the rest of the summer out east, which would nice. Rising to his feet once more, Jack cracked his knuckles. Time to get to work. This cabin wouldn’t renovate itself, which was good, because that would have put Jack out of a job.

 

Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 34

     Whatever the weather was back home, Maryland had been struck with an intense heatwave that left the two of them stranded in their room. The few days that Jack promised the Millers he would stick around, in case more goblins arrived, passed slowly and Jack felt like he could feel every second scraping across his skin. Eventually, the time came to leave Maryland behind and they started on their path up. By this point in time, the information had reached and blown past Jack’s father. Jack grudgingly had to admit that the things that upset his father never upset him for very long. It took a day or so to work through his system but then he moved on and adjusted his plans. Jack’s mind had never been so elastic. As he watched the trees fly by their van on the way back up north, Jack realized with a sigh of relief that he missed his office. He missed the smell of Stan’s cigars that had long ago seeped into the room. He missed his closet filled with cleaning supplies and he even missed their demon phone that seemed to know exactly when to ring, though more often it knew exactly when not to.

     As Jack had suspected, when he got home there was no sign of his being required to visit his father. He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes, letting the relief of having had an interesting job that went well wash over him. Rest was exactly what they both needed after the last couple of weeks. Rest was not destined to last long. The phone, which Jack had expected to remain dormant for quite some time, rang shrilly.

     Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose before reluctantly getting up and crossing the room to the phone, “Jack and Stan’s cleaning services, the skeletons in your closet are…”

     “Save the canned speech for real customers, buddy.” Jack smiled in spite of himself. It was a rare thing to get a call from another Goodbody, unless they lived out of state. Julian was an even rarer case since he was constantly consumed with his art and his night life, “How are you, cousin?”

    “Things have been better, but things have been a lot worse too, so I can’t really complain.” Jack leaned against the desk and held the phone to his ear with his shoulder, “How’s your art?”

     “Oh God, it’s been a nightmare. Francesco thinks we need to get away from the city because it’s just draining us both so much.”

     “I thought it was Raul or Gourmand or something.” Jack resisted the urge to chuckle.

     “You know very well that isn’t a name! Anyways, I called because I heard you messed up on some job for uncle Varnes.”

     Jack winced and suddenly started to wonder exactly how far that failure of his had spread in so short an amount of time, “Yeah, I think we got poached.”

     Julian laughed, “That’s what I heard from your sister. Nobody likes a sore loser Jack.”

     Jack opened the front drawer of his desk, hunting for a pad of paper, “So did you just call to taunt me or was there another reason?”

     “Cheer up, Mr. Grumpypants, it sounds like we’re all pooling jobs to cheer you up. Nobody likes an angry Jack. So here’s the deal, I just got a cabin out in the Catskill Mountains. It’s about five hours from the house, it’s supposed to be gorgeous, right near a lake and Francesco thinks it’s just what my art needs.”

     “I wouldn’t know, but I take it you need it cleaned? That cabin used to belong to the family back when we first moved out here. Father expressly forbade me from going out there with Sam.”

     “Yes, it’s been untouched for years, it must be a right mess now. That, and I’ve been out of your line of work for years but even I know that when it’s a price this good, there has to be something awful involved. It’s rule number fifteen or something. So I pictured it as being a dump, but then I thought of you and since you still live so close to home you could fix it up for me.”

     Jack scribbled frantically on the pad of paper, writing down a list of supplies they would need, “This will be very expensive, Julian. You know that right?”

     Julian sighed heavily on the other end of the line, “I figured, Jack, but it could be fun and the whole thing sounds very hush hush anyways. The man who sold it to me practically bent heaven and earth to make sure I couldn’t sell it back. There’s got to be something about that place he isn’t telling me and the family records I have access too don’t mention it either. Since Francesco doesn’t know what I used to do, I don’t want there to be any surprises waiting for us when we arrive, comprende?”

     “We’ll get it done before you arrive. When do you plan on coming out?”

     “I did that years ago.” It suddenly dawned on Julian what Jack was actually getting at, “Oh! Next month some time, feel free to enjoy the place before we arrive. Just clean up before we get there, oh who am I even speaking to? Don’t worry about the expenses, just tell me what I owe you when we get there.”

     Cordial farewells were always rare in the Goodbody family and Jack took them whenever he could get them, even if this one came from his annoying Frisco cousin. Jack handed off the supplies list to Stan who took it without question, marching the list downstairs to the van. Most of the things they would need for this job were at the lumber yard and the hardware store. Jack knew of a few family vacation cabins in the outlying mountains from where they lived. Most of the families who owned them tended to vanish very suddenly and if someone out west was selling one of them, it was likely not the owner, but a relative of the former owners.

     Jack sat back down in his chair and enjoyed a moment of quiet before the storm. This one was going to be big, Jack could feel it in his bones. It took a few hours for Stan to get back with the supplies they needed to fix up the place, All the rest they needed could be found in the woods with a little hard work. Their cleaning bags were both still in the van, so Jack simply locked up and walked down the stairs to hop into the passenger seat.

     “Where to, boss?”

     “I’ll direct you, it’s a little off the beaten path so we’re going to have to be careful about how we get there. We’ll be gone for some time, so if you need anything before we go we should pick it up now. That includes food since we’ll be out in the mountains.”

     With that, they stopped at a grocery store on the way out of town and picked up groceries enough for several weeks. They also stopped at a cigar store where Stan spent what Jack estimated to be several weeks of his pay on expensive cigars. Stan had often told him that the saddest thing in the world was a cleaner with money burning a hole in his pockets when he died. Jack had wanted to point out that most cleaners didn’t die on the job, but then most cleaners didn’t work their kind of jobs.

On the struggles of writers block~

     Hello, dear friends. Welcome back. It’s been a little while since we last chatted, so I thought I would give you a quick update as to how the writing has been going. Not well, and some of the reasons are my fault and some of them are not. I decided to download Dishonored and play it again, and that ended up taking several days of my life that I will never get back. Specifically, I was interested in getting the “Mostly Flesh and Steel” achievement, which entails not using any supernatural powers, other than the one the game starts you off with. For whatever reason, Liam’s chapters have been very hard to write lately. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I have re-written chapter 5 a grand total of three times now, and this current version is ok, but it still needs work.

    The original plan was to have Liam and Jenny meet Matthew for lunch, gathering information together while doing so. For whatever reason, that just doesn’t work. I’ve decided to go a different route, something entirely different then what I had originally planned, but I hope you enjoy it all the same. Meanwhile, Jack and Stan are starting another series of chapters this next Monday, and this is one story I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Julian, who has been mentioned but not seen yet, calls Jack and asks him to fix up a cabin. I had mentioned in the past that the original plan for this was to be the cabin from the Evil Dead movie, but I felt that we’ve had enough side chapters and we need to get back to the main story. I enjoy a good diversion and taking something lighter, but now is the time for action.

     This also affords me the opportunity to introduce Jack’s grandfather, Gideon, who remains one of my favorite characters. It’s so strange to me that, because his stuff is stuck on my old laptop hard drive, you’ll see him here first. Oh well, I guess that’ll be less of a surprise when you do get to meet him. I will attempt to get the chapter for Second-Hand Rumors out today, but I make no promises. I’m sorry to make you wait on a chapter for two weeks in a row. I guess it’s just been a long, stressful winter. As always, my friends, thank you for visiting and spending some time with me. Please come back again to keep me company. I’ll save a chair right by my hearth just for you.

Jack and Stan~ Paranormal Cleaners chapter 33

     In spite of their desire to remain low tech, the Millers had set up a line of lamps along the perimeter of the woods which lit up the beach in a dim glow. It lit the tips of the waves that slowly rolled towards the shore. Jack walked towards the water and found the edge of the waterline, moving back fifteen feet he dug a hole. Into that hole, he placed the tub. Enthusiastic goblins would knock it over in an instant. Under most circumstances, pouring out bottles of liquor all together would be a horrible idea but goblins lacked the discerning palate that Mr. Miller possessed.

     Jack took a sip from each bottle before upending it into the metal pot. He hated to admit it, but he better understood the dilemma that Mr. Miller underwent when he handed over the bottles. Since Jack could hardly erase his presence, his scent would have given him away for miles on a beach with no cover, the booze would help. That heady aroma of aged liquor would wipe his scent away. It really didn’t take too long for the goblins to sniff it out. They appeared from the grass like shy mice popping their heads out from a nest before darting back into the woods.

     Jack tugged on Stan’s coveralls, pulling him back along the beach slowly until they were a respectable distance away. The goblins crept out from the woods and as they did Jack felt the urge to rub the bridge of his nose. The number of goblins gradually increased until around fifty of them were on the beach, crowded around the hole and jostling to get at the booze. Jack had dug a hole with maybe twenty at most in mind and the hole wasn’t large enough for them. It didn’t take long for one or two to get greedy and start taking pot shots at the other goblins. Goblins with little malice and no brains were hardly a threat, even to each other, and Jack didn’t feel like getting in the middle of a bunch of goblins ineffectually attempting to punch each other and vomiting into each other’s faces.

     Jack sat down on the beach and leaned back onto the sand, “Go ahead and light up a cigar, Stanley. We’ll be here for the rest of the night.”

     Stan sat on the ground and lay back next to Jack, tugging a cigar out of his pocket and lighting it up, “Them goblins are gonna be at this all night, huh?”

     Jack took his glasses off and tucked them into his vest pocket, “Feral goblins couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag. No tools, no smarts and no upper body strength. To top that off, some of them are completely hammered right now. This is going to take time.” Unfortunately, the trail hadn’t stopped and now there was around seventy of them on the beach. The booze in liquid form had long ago been drunken but the main attraction was now the fight that had actually managed to drag in the newcomers who hadn’t even had any booze.

     It soon became clear that the goblins weren’t going anywhere and Jack could allow himself to lay back and watch the stars. They spread out into the distance in their glorious majesty. In the distance, Jack could see the glittering veil that was the Milky Way, stars beyond count that he could barely detect or even see with his bare eyes creating a veil that crossed the sky. The waves lapped up against the shore, coming closer and passing back into the ocean. Each wave brushing against the shore took countless grains of sand with it, pulling them into the ocean to follow the current as far as they could.

     By the end of the night, the final number of goblins was around ninety. Jack rose to his feet and kicked his legs back and forth to get the sleep out of his legs, “I think we should consider this our vacation for time being. I’m going to hold the bag and you go ahead and toss.” Getting up, Jack snatched the bag, holding it wide in both his arms.

     Stan rose to his feet and cracked his fingers, “Should be done soon, boss.”

     The sky had just started to grey as the brawl came to an end. Some of the more active goblins were still stumbling around looking for sand that had some booze left in it. Most of them were bruised. In many cases, they were lost to a deep sleep. Stan grabbed one by the leg and tossed it over his shoulder. Jack caught it in the Bag, and thus the game began. Stan reached out in front of him with both arms, tossing them over his shoulder with reckless abandon while Jack dodged back and forth catching them in the Bag. The each vanished with no trace, except for the few that managed to get stuck on the edge of the Bag. One of them was aware enough to cling to the top of the bag and start to drag itself back up until the next few goblins landed on its head and pushed it down.

     Getting all of them into the bag took about an hour, which included Stan chasing after the few goblins that could actually stumble around and the last couple of goblins that Jack had to cram down into the bag until they vanished. When Jack pulled his hand out it was cold.

     With the job down, and with luck much sooner than they had expected it to, they headed back to the main building. The path to the ocean was lined with stones, “This resort would actually be pretty nice if it weren’t for all the goblins.”

     Stan pulled another cigar out and bit the end off, “Them goblins did liven the place up no end, though.”

     Jack swung the bag back and forth as he strolled along with Stan, “You’re missing the point, Stanley. This is a place to get away from your troubles. You don’t normally bring your work with you on vacation unless you make more money than God or if you’re emotionally dead inside.”

     Stan considered this for a moment, “So it’s like that safehouse we got?”

     “Well, I guess it’s possible that some people here are on the run from someone like the law, but that’s not how it works for most people.”

     The main building had finally quieted down by the time Jack and Stan got back. Mr. and Mrs. Miller had passed out leaning into each other on the front steps, apparently attempting to merge into each other for real. Jack tapped Mr. Miller’s shoe, jarring him awake. He sat up, causing his wife to tumble away from him, waking her up as well.

    To Jack’s annoyance, they went from unconscious to incredibly happy too soon for any normal person, “You did it? They’re really gone this time!?”

    Jack shook the bag and nodded, “I know the bag looks empty, but they’re all in here. There were a lot more of them than we were told, so it is possible that there will be a need for us to return. We’ll stick around in town for a few days to be sure, but we got all the ones we could get our hands on.”

     Mrs. Miller snagged one of Stan’s enormous hands, “Oh, I bet you did.” Stan shifted awkwardly.

    Jack whipped a small notebook out of his pocket and wrote down a fee for the removal. It wasn’t exactly generous, but given the nature of the job and how long it had taken, he could have charged far more. Moving fast, he grabbed her hand and crammed the piece of paper into her sweaty palm. The sputtering the couple did when they saw the number would have been entertaining had it not been directly connected to a paycheck.

     “This number is outrageous, we’re not going to pay it.” Mr. Miller looked as resolute as a man who jiggled like a sponge when he walked could.

     Jack shrugged noncommittally and reached into the bag, “I can put them back into the woods if you’d like, I’ll have to charge you for that as well. I would also have to charge you again for removing them, and they will need to be removed quickly since most of them will wake up with nasty hangovers. They could set the whole property on fire and then the lawsuits will begin…”      Jack trailed off, fishing his hand around in the bag. The goblins would do none of those things. If Jack actually managed to find a drunken goblin from his bag, it would spend the rest of the day trying not let any natural light touch its eyes. Even odds it ran into a tree within five minutes and knocked itself out.

    Mr. Miller waved his hands in front of Jack frantically, “That won’t be necessary, I promise!” With a speed that Jack would have found admirable in other circumstances, he whipped out his checkbook and replicated the number which Jack had given him on a check. Jack checked it over and folded it in half, tucking it into his vest pocket.

     “Thank you for the business, please let me know if they come back. We’ll do the stragglers for free, it’s the least we can do.”

     “It’s the most that you’ll do.”

     “What was that?” Jack fished his hand back into the bag again.

     “Nothing, nothing! Thank you for your hard work.”

     With that, they left the resort in their rearview mirrors and headed into the nearest town. Even though Jack had said they would be nearby in case they needed him the nearest town was about an hour away. Once they arrived, Jack reserved a room for both him and Stan. They needed to lay low a few more days anyhow, before Jack would even bother heading back up to the office. By the end of the day, Jack was wiping down the same table in their hotel room over and over.

Second-Hand Rumors~ chapter 3

     Out of the many valuable life lessons Liam had learned over his long and oft’ tarnished career, several stuck out in his mind. Never bet on horses, grey hounds or loose women, because you will always lose your money. Never mix cheap whiskey with expensive vodka. Most importantly, never attempt to rig sporting events that are nationally televised. They were such valuable life lessons that Liam indulged in all these pursuits as often and vigorously as possible to make sure he thoroughly learned the lessons and could pass them on to others. While waiting for Jenny, he learned that even if the woman happens to be an assassin, you can’t rush perfection. Fortunately, Liam had company while he waited for his partner in espionage. Unfortunately, that company happened to be gigantic teacup Yorkies, who surrounded him and shivered threateningly.

     As soon as she returned, all the dogs scurried to her side. Jenny’s transformation stunned Liam and left him speechless for a long moment. In place of her errant curls, her auburn hair now surrounded her face in elegant flowing locks. Her shocking pink mask had been swapped out for a pair of dark, reflective sunglasses and she wore a dark red shade of lipstick to accentuate the paleness of her skin. Her outfit, while subdued, was classy and would fit in perfectly while wandering crowds accustomed to good taste. She wore a white blouse with a navy blue blazer and a matching short navy blue skirt. What struck Liam most was her change in demeanor. Her normal, frantic energy had vanished and in its place he saw cool, confidence and calm.

    Standing up, Liam offered his arm to Jenny, who took it with a slight giggle that sounded more like that Jenny he had come to know so well over the week he had been casing her cousin’s house to rob him. For the first few steps, Liam felt like he was leading, until he tried to pull her away from the front gate. Resolutely, she walked right up to the gate controls and keyed in her code to open it. From there, it would be a long trip to the beating heart of the financial world; Wall Street.

     When Liam first thought about the current job, he wanted to hire Charlotte and her limo company to ferry them around. Careful consideration left Liam with an increasing desire to work out transportation on his own, at least at first. The man Liam was tracking, himself, was not dangerous. The same couldn’t be said for the people he worked for. Using a limo service as a short-hand visual for wealth and power would work for a neighborhood where nobody asked questions, ever. If he used Charlotte to ferry him to and from this job, people would start to ask questions. Dangerous people who would look up license plate numbers, locate addresses and send other burly, unpleasant people with metal bats to ask inconvenient questions. Liam knew from experience that when that happened, Charlotte would fold like a bad poker hand in a high stakes game, and it wouldn’t even be anything personal. It’s hard to drive a car if you’re missing a hand.

     Liam wanted to start, therefore, by dipping their toes in the water and getting a feel for what sort of crowd they had stumbled into. Matthew Bergson, their mark, worked with a financial group that did things with money. Liam’s view on money was remarkably narrow, as one would expect of a thief. Either you had your money or Liam did. The miracle of Wall Street, and other such financial institutions, was that your money vanished, but you still felt like it was safe. That left people like Matthew ample time to invest your invisible money in whatever way they wanted, and yet somehow you still had all your money. It was like a magic trick Liam wished he could learn.

     Having looked at the packet of papers Simon handed over to him when he took the job, Matthew Bergson liked to invest in quasi-governmental bodies solely dedicated to murdering anything not human. The real question was whether or not the rest of the group he worked with knew that’s what he was supporting, or if they would even believe Liam if he told them. His picture gave the impression of someone more at home dealing with money than people. He had stringy brown hair and thin lips. His face drooped slightly, as though the weight of the world were slowly pushing him to the ground. His dull eyes hardly had any color at all in the picture, a strange grey which revealed nothing of the man in the image. Matthew Bergson was also a creature of habit. He went to his office in the morning. In the afternoon, he went out for lunch at a different place every day, in the same cycle every week.

    Having Jenny with him gave Liam an amazing opportunity to vanish in plain sight. Nobody paid attention to a dopey looking guy like Liam when a stunner like Jenny walked by. She looked so calm and collected, though she did spoil the look a bit by bouncing around when Liam announced his plan. She would find Matthew Bergson and get to know him. Liam would stay in the background for now, watching and waiting for his opportunity to insert himself. That wouldn’t come today, nor the next day and likely not for the first four or five days, unless they were very lucky. She was going to play the part of his rich wife, looking for some cause to invest in, preferably against his wishes. Men never give information faster than when they give it to rich, naughty women.

    Following someone in a crowd takes a sharp pair of eyes, because it’s like dropping a pebble into a river and trying to watch the ripples while the stream carries them away. Thankfully, for an old hand like Liam, this had already become routine. When you’re robbing someone, it’s best to play a longer game. You could be quite successful at the smash and grab technique, but eventually that haste and impatience will always catch up to you.

     When it came time for lunch, their dance began. Jenny silently pursued Matthew. Liam followed Jenny. What he saw, he did not like. Matthew was being shadowed by at least two pairs of eyes. They belonged to men with hard faces wearing dark suits who failed to blend into the crowd entirely, at least to Liam’s trained eyes. That first day Liam and Jenny followed Matthew, he met nobody and only returned to his office before leaving work to go home at the end of the day. Liam split up from Jenny at that point, when she decided to leave as well. Waiting in the plaza where Jenny had walked, Liam watched as the crowds slowly dispersed, only to be replaced by a new one.

     He waited until he was sure they had lost any lingering mutual friends before meeting up with Jenny in the park near where she lived. He found her sitting on a park bench tapping her foot impatiently. He sat down next to her and leaned back into the bench, “This is going to take longer than a week.”

     “Yup,” Jenny confirmed with her characteristic bubbly nature returning to the surface, “I’m not sure we can get all the information we need just by following him around either.”

    Liam stared off into space, “I saw two pairs of sharp dressed men following our fella around. Before I attempt any kind of breaking and entering, I want to make sure I won’t be interrupted.”

    Jenny giggled, “And you missed a couple more that were staking out the path ahead of him. Whoever Simon sent you to follow around has a lot of friends. This might be easier if I just killed them.”

     There was something about the casual way she said that which chilled Liam to his core, “That won’t help. If you kill a few flunkies, they’ll just send more and then they’ll know we’re targeting the fella. On top of that, if he really is working for the Society, technically his bodyguards are government agents and that sounds like an excuse to start a war to me.”

     Jenny blew a raspberry at him, which he ignored. No, even though Jenny was willing to ply her trade to help, the best course of action would be to take the slow and steady approach. When they knew his schedule outside the office as best they could, it would be time to put the second and third phases of their plan into action.

Second-Hand Rumors~ chapter 1

    The greatest single attribute you can possibly possess is to know yourself. That’s why Liam felt that most people were just hopeless dreamers with their heads stuck in the clouds. That might seem incredibly harsh, but if you know you’re a rabbit, pretending to be a hawk will only get you hurt. Liam Boggan believed himself to be something akin to a mouthy toadstool, one of those ones with purple spots that give you gas. Firmly rooting himself into the dirty underside of society, Liam had long ago resolved to stay there, robbing small time investment clerks to save up for his eventual retirement to either a non-extraditable country or a state penitentiary. The problem with being effectively immortal is that retirement could potentially last for a very long time.

     Recently, another flaw in Liam’s master plan had taken form around a man named Simon Nair, who Liam had failed spectacularly to pickpocket. Since that day, Liam carried a choice with him all the time. Work off the debt for Simon or go to jail. Since Liam preferred to be working, even if he wasn’t working on his own account, Liam chose to work for Simon. Until recently, that work consisted almost entirely of thieving for him. The only difference in Liam’s life to this point, lay in an increased difficulty of work and the items no longer went towards lining Liam’s pockets with “insurance” money. That had changed when Liam took a job from Simon Nair to spy on guests in his own home. Liam had certainly followed people around for nefarious purposes before, but that usually began and ended with the contents of their pants pockets and not their mouth pockets. Stealing information was the scummiest thing a thief could do. Liam would never have done so on his own account.

     Somehow, despite his distaste, he performed so well that Liam was given a very long break, and he had used it to its fullest. Some of it was spent moving his storage apartment to a higher floor, since his current one had been let out and Liam didn’t want people going through his belongings any more than the owners of the apartment building wanted people knowing that Liam existed in the first place. Once that was done, he engaged in his normal past time, attempting to drill past rock bottom. He went on the bender to end all benders. Once that was done, he stagnated in his apartment surrounded by the Dirt Gremlins which infested the place, who appeared to have entered an artistic slump of their own.

    While in this daze, watching a Dirt Gremlin half-heartedly splatter a strange mixture of mud and dried insects onto the wall, he realized his life was due to change. That change began the way it always did these days, with a note from Simon Nair. They never arrived by post, always fluttering into his room in the form of paper butterflies which would endlessly hunt him down until he read the message. This one must have found its way in via the kitchen window, looking around with it’s little paper antennae until it found him slumped in his chair. Landing on his nose, it fluttered it’s dainty wings in his face until Liam slapped it.

    With the net result of a slap to his own face, he opened the note and found a message he needed more than he wanted to admit, “Time to stop drinking. Get over here at once, I have work.”

     Crumpling the paper butterfly into a ball and tossing it at the Dirt Gremlin struggling with his art, Liam rose, slowly shaking the stupor out of his brain.

     The piece of paper hit the Dirt Gremlin square in the back of his head. Turning to glare at him, it picked up the note and unfolded it, looking critically at the writing Liam knew it couldn’t possibly comprehend. It closed one eye and then the other, looking at the writing and gazing upward with suspicion at Liam before returning to the piece of paper. Evidently, this was the inspiration the Dirt Gremlin had sought.

     “Dirty!” It cried, before returning it’s attention to the wall with renewed gusto and vigor. Soon, it had attracted a small crowd of Dirt Gremlins, which clapped politely with each new brush stroke.

     Liam watched in rapt fascination for a long time before finally leaving. Any thief worth his stolen road salt never wanted to have his stash on a higher floor than the one he lived on. If Liam had to bolt suddenly, he wanted to grab his things on the way out. Now he would have to run up three flights before trying to get out.

    In spite of himself, Liam did feel a sense of excitement. Smart thieves steal smart, which means less excitement and more time spent out of jail. In his secret moments when he lay in bed, however, even Liam dreamt of robbing rich oil barons of all their wealth. The closest he would ever get to doing that in this lifetime would be doing it for Simon, but that was closer than most people got.

    What exactly this next job would be kept running through his mind as he showered and changed. His apartment had a peculiar odor, thanks to the resident Dirt Gremlins. It was an acquired taste, in the same way that one acquired the smell of dumpsters when one lives next to one for too long. Having changed, he made his way downstairs to the front of the apartment complex he lived in. Surprisingly, for once, the mysterious yellow taxi that doubled as Simon’s personal car was nowhere to be found. Mysterious indeed, because normally Liam could expect a ride to work, at least for the first go.

    When he arrived at the Nair mansion, something felt off. Even though he had been invited by Simon, Liam spent a long time on the first floor, watching the various creatures come and go. The Nair family stood amongst the Five Families that led all the Mythic people in North America. If you could imagine a creature of fantasy or myth, they were real and they all had to come to the Nair mansion in order to function. The first floor served as a city hall of sorts. If you had something official to file, this is where you went. A small pack of fairies chittered by him, fluttering around gently, and they gave Liam some much needed perspective. It was the time of the great migration, but more than cold was chasing these creatures south. The middle of the summer had come, but the tone of their conversation was chillier than the weather gradually incoming.

     Deciding he needed more information before taking on the next job, Liam crossed the main floor, careful to keep his ears open on the way, and ask about the current climate from the man himself. When he reached Simon’s office, he found him buried in paperwork, almost invisible behind stacks of reports. Coughing slightly, Liam shuffled and waited for Simon to notice he had arrived. It was the privilege of great men to ignore their lesser friends until they were ready. It was Liam’s misfortune to have to put up with that sort of attitude.

    This time, however, it didn’t take long for Simon to acknowledge his presence. He rose to his feet and peered over the stack of paperwork with both eyes to get a good look at Liam. His face lit up with a genuine smile when he saw him, “Liam! I’m so glad you made it unharmed. It’s a madhouse out there today. Do you need anything to drink.”

    “I could use a stiff one, if you join me. I spent some time downstairs listening to the scuttlebutt. Word going around seems to be that getting out of town is in fashion right now.”

    Simon crossed the room and pulled out an expensive bottle of liquor from a cabinet that looked older than Liam. When he pulled the cork, the smell filled the room instantly. It smelled more expensive than Liam as well, “Well, we’re encouraging our people to get their paperwork for the migration done early this year. Dad is a bit paranoid about a repeat of last year, I doubt we need to worry about it since we’ve hired more staff.”

    “I get the impression they were worried about more than the cold weather.”

    Simon paused before pouring a glass for himself and for Liam, “When a quasi-governmental body called the Society for the Protection of Humankind declares a holy purge on all non-humans, that’s the sort of effect it has on folks.”

    Handing Liam his glass, Simon waited for Liam to join him. Raising his glass in a toast, Liam downed his first sip in quick gulp. The heat was intense and Liam vowed not to make that mistake again. Simon chuckled as Liam coughed a few times, “Elvish sipping whiskey. I wouldn’t drink it too fast, it’s smooth in small doses, but too much can overwhelm the system.”

    Once Liam had gotten his coughing under control, he managed to ask the question that had been on his mind since he left his apartment, “What did you need me for?”

     “Well, with all this talk of a holy war going on, I thought it would be a good idea to send someone out into the world and find out what the hell is going on.”

     “If you need a spy, why don’t you ask one of the Neelan family to do it? They’re one of the Five Families and that’s literally why they exist.”

    Simon put his glass down and stared at his feet for a long time before responding, “When you came to me and told me that someone in the Neelan family was working for the Society for the Preservation of Humankind, I was terrified. It’s even scarier that the Neelan family has no idea who it is. With that in mind, I can’t trust any of them until this mess is sorted out. That means I need you.”

    Now it was Liam’s turn to pause for a long time, “Ok, I’ll bite. Why me? I’m not important, I’m not special and I have no idea what the hell is going on.”

    Simon threw up his hands in frustration, “That’s why, Liam. Your only tie to this mess is me and Samantha Goodbody. You’re also blessed with a body that can’t die. I have someone that I want you to follow. Become his shadow, go where he goes and come back in two weeks and tell me everything about what he does.”

     “What kind of man am I going to be spending time with?”

    Putting his glass down, Simon rose and paced back to his desk, rummaging around until he found a file. Returning with it, he gave it to Liam to inspect, “His name is Matthew Bergson, he’s a banker with heavy ties to the Society. He’s got a hand in almost all their finances. I want to hit the Society hard, but dad won’t give me permission to do anything. If I come to him with some good info then maybe we can at least cut their cash flow.”

     “And you think they’re just going to let you do this?”

    Chuckling, Simon leaned back into his seat and shook his head, “I doubt they would, if they knew we were going to do this. That’s why I’m sending you. That packet has his address, some notes on his daily habits, restaurants he frequents, the works. Don’t worry about a deadline, take as long as you need. I’ll have my hands full getting everyone prepped to leave if they need to get out of the area quickly.”

    Without another word, Liam got up. His ears twitched slightly. Simon told him to get information, and that was all well and good. He would get the information and then he would steal every single thing that wasn’t bolted to the floor and would fit into a big sack. Robbing from bad people made him a sort of hero, right? He wasn’t exactly a Robin Hood, because he was keeping all the stuff for himself, but then, who was? This was going to be a very long and expensive task. It would work off some serious time on his debt, earn some brownie points and end with a net profit for him, if everything went according to plan. He even knew who to ask for help, to make sure that everything went the way Liam wanted it to. All he had to do was ask her.