A thin man of middling height in a well-tailored business suit clutches his briefcase and adjusts his spectacles, trying to hide how nervous he is. He's very out of place in a line of hardened criminals.
This is crazy. He could very easily die here.
A woman with a sidecut that starts pink at the roots and fades into cyan at the tips storms past, looking furious.
There's a roar of derisive laughter from Atropine's entourage.
Before the businessman has time to prepare, the crimson-skinned guy in the cowboy hat behind him shoves him forward. "Hey, c'mon, pencilneck. Hurry up and flunk this so I can get my shot."
"Huh," one of the gun-toting watchmen grunts, loud enough for everyone to hear. "This should be good." There are some chuckles from the assembled crowd of minions, associates and hangers-on.
Do not stammer, he thinks to himself. He takes a deep breath. "Finlay King. My friends call me Finn."
There's a roar of laughter, from the partners, from the minions, from the people in the line. Finn keeps his expression neutral, despite everything. It feels way too much like high school.
There's two ways Finn can play this. Both are cocky, but one way more cocky than the other. He errs on the side of caution. "I don't have any."
"I can't crush cars with my mind or pick locks from across the room. That's not what I'm here to offer," he says,
Here it was. The hardest sell in the world. "I'm a certified forensic accountant."
"Jesus Christ," Atropine groans. "Hey, Hayley, take that down, put three lines under it with a note, 'world's most boring job-'"
Finn cuts them off again. "Do you know what it means?"
Finn cuts them off, third time in a row. "Do you know how to launder money? I bet not."
There's suddenly dead silence throughout the warehouse. NOBODY talks to Atropine like that.
"Nice job," Finn replies. "How are you going to spend it?"
Finn shakes his head. "No, I didn't ask 'what are you going to buy?' I asked 'how are you going to spend it?'"
Finn actively ignores the supervillain, and turns to one of their minions. "You, with the shades. How'd they pay you? Let me guess. Big briefcase, looking like this?" He holds up his own, as if they don't know what one looks like.
Finn shakes his head patronisingly. "What are you going to do with it? Walk up to a bank, say 'hey, put all this in my account?' You think they won't ask how you got it?"
Finn tries to capitalise, turning back to Atropine. "You know what that fifty million you stole is right now? A fire code violation. A big, fat stack of paper that you can only spend one or two bills at a time."
Finn blinks, as if he doesn't understand the question. "They literally paid me to pull apart money laundering schemes for eight years. Yes, Atropine, I literally do know better than you."
He motions to the guards. "Shoot him in thirty seconds."
"It's called trade-based laundering. The easiest way to do it on short notice is with art auctions."
"Art purchases don't have anywhere near as much paper trail as real estate or corporate transfers. Pretty often you don't even know the name of the person you're buying from or selling to."
"You then take out very large loans from banks in tax havens, using the paintings as collateral."
Finn's visibly sweating. "If you do it right, the government can only see the loans you've taken out. They can't see what you're using for collateral, or how you got it."
It's not working. Atropine's expression isn't changing. "Five seconds."
They nod. "I'm impressed, Finn. You didn't beg for your life, not even once."
"Relax, man," Atropine drawls. "You think I'm just gonna have a guy murdered on the spot, when I know nothing about you? What if you told someone you were coming here? How would I hide the body?"
"It's a natural fit," Finn remarks. "You seem liked a cultured person."
Finn narrows his eyes. "Honestly? It's because my life is boring."
Finn continues. "I'm thirty five. I'm an accountant, I've been an accountant for twelve years and the most exciting thing that ever happened to me was when my wife left me for a guy who sells medical pot. And I can't really blame her? I was boring."
"Spinning you some bullshit isn't going to work. You're too smart for that. I can't make words lie," Finn retorts. "Making numbers lie, though? Different story."
"Hope you don't mind being paid in hundred-dollar bills. But hey, it'll be a good test of your money laundering chops, right?" Atropine replies, with a malign grin.
"I can make it work," he says, not missing a beat.
Finn reaches into his inner pocket and pulls out a business card. He walks up to the supervillian, and holds it out. They take it from his hand.
"Oh, he comes with his own card," they remark. "Classy."
Atropine smirks. "Verschrikkelijk."
The accountant rolls his eyes. "Well, brush up, and get ready for a trip to Holland. We're gonna go touring auction houses."
Finn turns and begins to walk away.
"You, cowboy. Give him your hat."
"You heard me, dipshit. Give him your hat."
Atropine motions impatiently, and a bunch of gun barrels raise again. The cowboy grudgingly whips his hat off his head and hands it to Finn.
Atropine nods approvingly, chuckling to themself. "Yeah. Just like I thought. Looks way better on him anyway. Finn, consider that your welcome-aboard present. Now go find me some paintings."
He got what he wanted: he now has the most exciting accountancy job anywhere in the world. But Atropine will most certainly take him at his word, which means he has only "a couple of months" to move fifty million.
But there are a hell of a lot of paintings that go for millions by Dutch guys nobody outside the art world has ever heard of.
Despite everything, he laughs. He's unique. Nobody else in the world has ever been in this situation: Frans Hals, Hendrick Avercamp and Jan de Bray are either going to make him very, very rich, or very, very dead.