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The Legacy of Thieves
Author's note: This piece was written for my Writing to Explore class that I have grown to love over the last few months. The plot was inspired from the Nancy Drew PC game, "The Phantom of Venice"
The Legacy of Thieves
Cold air wisped past me as I ran along the dank, underground hallways silently. Damp air invaded my nostrils and I stopped suddenly before turning a corner. Less than ten feet away was a guard whose breathing was loud and deep. Heavy footfalls drew closer to my hiding spot and my arms automatically reached above my head to find something I could pull myself up on. Gloved fingertips rubbed against the edge of a sewer outlet.
With one strong pull I hoisted myself up and into the empty waterway. I held my breath and waited for the guard to pass and turn the corner, all while silently thanking years of gymnastics. An amused chuckle passed through my lips as the man walked away. Nobody ever caught me, for I was Diamond, the only professional thief in the world. Or so I think. My eyes glanced toward my small black watch and I hopped out immediately when I saw I was running out of time.
I was sprinting now intent on getting to and escaping with my prize before the security cameras turned on again. Andromeda, or security breaching specialist in the system, had sent out a virus earlier that day to turn off the security cameras for a little over half an hour, giving me just enough time to run in and grab the gem before alarms started ringing.
With one last turn of a corner I saw it. Comfortably perched on a velvet pillow on top of a pedestal, was the object of my success. It seemed almost too easy to just simply go up and grab it. That was how I knew it was another trap. My hand reached for my wrist watch and pressed a small button on its side. The clock face popped open and revealed a small compartment filled with a pile of face powder.
I emptied the make-up into my hand and spewed it around the room by blowing powerfully across the palm of my hand. The longer I waited the more visible small red laser lines became. They were in no particular pattern, crisscrossed over a span of twenty feet or more. I could get over easily with a few well placed jumps.
Taking ten steps back I lunged into the maze at full speed, successfully jumping the first and quickly dodging the second. My next move was a well done flip backwards. The hard part had been done and the rest was easily crossed with a careful watch of where I was placing my limbs.
Less than five feet away sat the largest sapphire in existence. I was so close to being able to just take it and run, but I had one last trap to test. I reached into my skintight leather suit and pulled out a small magnet.
In my rush to leave my house I had not had time to search around for my missing magnet from the robbery kit I had put together months ago. This one I had actually bought, believe it or not. I usually pay for the things I am not sent to steal. And the things I am sent for I don’t ever keep, but I still reap some benefits.
Careful not to actually touch the pedestal I ran the magnet along the outside. The pull of the magnet could be felt with my fingers. My bag, which was pulled tight to my side, was loosened and felt to the floor and I pulled out a heavy bookend. This one was in the shape of a Chinese dragon, which was a shame since it had been one of my favorite animals. I got into position to switch the objects as quick as possible to avoid an alarm sounding when the weight of the gem was lifted.
My hands moved at nearly the speed of light and only silence filled the air. With a triumphant grin I pocketed the sapphire and started off at a run to where I had begun. I could almost hear the seconds ticking away in my head and unknowingly I ran faster.
I relocated the sewer outlet that I had first crawled in through and lifted myself into it. The opening to this one was larger, making standing up much easier. A quick peek at my watch told me I had left with just two minutes to spare. The tense way I had walked during the robbery slowly melted into the cocky, self-satisfied stride I used everyday.
Moonlight shone through the barred exit which in reality was just the sewer grate I had entered through. I pushed upwards as hard as I could and effectively felt it pop upwards. wasn't’t worried about cars seeing me, for this was Venice, waterways and metro trains were more commonly used. Even if you tried to drive a car woulddn’t move very easily for the roads were thin and meant more for bikes.
My phone rang against my leg and I swiftly pulled it out and looked at the caller ID. John it read. I knew this was neither his code name nor his real name but I must be careful to what information I leave around. Especially if I by chance dropped my device, our systems secrets would be displayed everywhere. Only then would we be caught and I for one definitely was not looking for a life in prison.
“Orion” my voice was muffled from trying to stay quiet.
“Diamond, take it to the ally between Hermione’s Books and the empty clothing store” his deep baritone voice instructed through the phone “leave it behind brick 20A. It should be loose.” I always had to bring it to some desolatewayy because I couldn’t be followed and found going into headquarters. I only ever went there when being assigned a new mission.
“It’ll be there in when you check in the morning” I assured him.
“I’m putting my trust in you” he stated so seriously I could sense it through the phone. Only I could know the true weight of those words. A thief trusting another criminal was a rare occasion indeed. But this bond was special.
I flew through the streets at breakneck speed, with the destination fresh in mind. I hopped acrobatically over narrower waterways to avoid dogs picking up my sent. I hadn’t been worried about the sewer system because the damp air would easily cover my scent in a little over an hour. wasn't’t even worried about somebody knowing the sapphire was gone until morning. Of course the police would be less worried about this one. Gildrow Standhurf, the man we had stolen it from had originally stole it from a museum in Moscow. Second hand goods for the same price I thought with a smile. Only our end would get the benefit.
The ally came into view and I quickly jumped into its darkness to hide myself from spying eyes. One, two, three, four, five, I counted all the way to twenty starting at the bottom right.
“20A” I concluded aloud with my pointer finger on the twentieth brick in the second row up. As promised, it was loose and I gently of wiggled it out of its place. The space behind was limited, only enough to stash the gem and not much else. I took my time placing it and put the brick back carefully.
With an exhausted sigh I headed home taking my cat-like mask off and ran my manicured hand through my hair. I kept going for two miles in silence, my only company being my quiet breaths, each creating a miniature cloud in the frosty air. My hands ran up my arms in an effort to get warm but it did me little good in my skin-tight clothes.
My front door came into view and I slid the key into the lock. The curtain in the widow above moved to the side to reveal the face of my Persian cat, Snowball. Every step seemed difficult on my tired muscles. I collapsed onto the bed and almost immediately fell into dream world, but not before my fuzzy, albino familiar nestled herself into my stomach.
The Next Morning
The sound of my alarm sounded to my left and I knew it was time to collect my earnings. That was how it usually went, I would drop off the stolen goods and they would leave half of my payment for the robbery. The other half didn’t come until they auctioned it off to another criminal buyer who would either keep it to show off, or hold it for ransom. It was simply the way it worked in the world of thieves.
I found my way to the bathroom in the dark, as of so far no light would come around the horizon for a few hours. My feet automatically took me to the shower and I turned the handle the slightest bit to make the water freezing cold. Sometimes it seemed like a trip to Antarctica was the only way to get myself awake. I shivered and my teeth chattered in response to the frosty droplets.
My shower was over quickly and I put on my normal Simi-formal clothes I usually strutted around in. Most people enjoyed a T-shirt and jeans, but never me. I worked hard and loved to show it off, but don’t think I would recommend this life to someone else. I was always hiding my face or on edge for fear of being caught. Out of habit I covered my face with large sunglasses and my midnight black hair was pulled into a net with precise care and I covered it with a strawberry blond wig, before heading off.
It was unusually cold for autumn in Venice. To my left was a glistening waterway clear of boats until tourism started at eight. Silence filled the early morning air and I found myself utterly alone. I was used to this, silence, but it never managed to make me happy. But that didn’t keep me from plastering on a cocky smirk on my face each morning to cover up the lonely expression I would surely have otherwise worn.
Theways still empty and silent when I got there. Everything was so carefully placed it looked untouched to anybody who didn’t know better. I found 20A once again and removed the brick. Instead of the large sapphire, it had been replaced with an equally large summed check. Pulling it out I read over it carefully.
A check to Lilith Heart for thirty-thousand dollars, it was made out to my fake Venetian name. In the spot where it told you who was paying you the money, a little heart was written. Romulus would know exactly what to do with this. He was the only member of our crime ring that everybody knew the name of. Most of us just associated with the people who paid us, gave us missions, or told us where to drop off and collect.
Sunlight was beginning to brighten the newly awakened city as I made my way to the bank. The doors slid open as I neared and I could hear the click of my own heals on the granite floor. Looking at the counter, I didn’t see Romulus, so I opted to hold back and pierce the woman at the counter with a cool stare. I lifted my sunglasses to lay on top of my head.
I had played this game of chicken thousands of times with her, Emily, I think her name is. I would come in and we would stare each other down until she left to get the other counter manager, Romulus. This little ritual was born from a screaming match we had held a few months back when I had come in demanding to see Romulus instead of her. Of course she took it the wrong way and answered back with a sassy remark. If there is one thing I hate in the world it is when somebody uses sass with me. So in response I, within reason of course, politely insulted her, which then led to a fluent exchange of nasty words from both sides. In the end I still got my way as usual.
The glares from both sides were so cold it almost seemed as if the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees. I stood unflinching waiting for her to back down as she always did. She stepped backwards from the counter and heading in the direction of the offices all while maintaining eye contact. Our little game ended when she disappeared behind a corner. We hate each other so much, I thought with a strange fondness.
Now that she was gone I stepped up to the desk and played with the metal chains keeping the pens down. I always did wonder if they had problems with people taking pens.
“Lily my diamond!” Romulus stated loudly coming into the room. I dropped the pen as if had burned me. A gentle smile replaced my smirk at the use of both my names. It had been our own privet joke.
“Romulus” I spoke clearly while sliding the check to him over the counter, “Cash if you will”. A silly grin spread across his face as he took the check and headed off to the vaults which I knew held our ring’s money. Privet vaults usually were only given to the rich, so I guess we passed the test.
He came back out with a two neat stacks of one hundred dollar bills, held together with rubber bands.
“Started counting it out last night for you sweetheart” he told me. Romulus was so sweet sometimes.
“And for that I thank you” I whispered. In return I got a grin before I turned around and headed out the door for a large shopping spree.
At The Market
The market was a beautiful place at this time of year. In all directions there were people and small stands selling everything imaginable. I cruised through the crowd and viewed yet another jewelry stand. I didn’t usually where such things but it never hurt to look when you have money to spare.
The day passed quickly and before I knew I was heading home. The steady rhythm of my clicking heals on the cobblestone street reached my ears and I felt alone all over again. It continued this way for several minutes before I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. I turned in alarm as I had not heard anyone come up to me. I was the one who snuck up on people, not the other way around.
Behind me stood a girl of about thirteen with a determined glint in her eyes.
“Your Diamond, the one who was in the paper this morning who stole the sapphire” she stated with a confident eye contact. I had to refrain from stumbling back and falling into the waterway lining the street. She couldn’t possibly know could she? She couldn’t find out what police had been searching for all these years. Right? I decided to play it cool.
“I have a feeling your confused” I said with a hint of pity.
“I’m not I promise” she smirked in a way that reminded me of myself. The smirk I gave when I knew I was right. In one fluent move I had her pinned to the wall with her hands behind her back.
“And just what do you think you are going to do with this information?” I snickered quietly in her ear.
“Teach me?” her voice posed the question. With those words I was no longer standing there pinning her to the wall but cornered fifteen years in the past.
I had been watching the carnival for hours from the other side of the waterway. Music came from all directions as I hummed along. The hum died in my throat as I saw I man separate from the crowd and walk off to a dark ally. If it had been any man I would have dismissed it as unimportant, but this was the guy I had been searching for. Orion was the most well know thief in Venice. Although nobody knew his name like I did, instead they called him the phantom or the black cat.
My search had begun when my parents had kicked me out at the tender age of eleven. I had been born into an abusive family where only my mother and two older brothers were there, as our father had left the family when I came about. My mother had physiological issues that could never have been taken care of for lack of money. She took it out first on my brothers when they were young. They grew up mean spirited and cruel. One day I had been returning from school when they decided to pull a horrible prank where they would lock the door and taunt me though the widow. At first I was convinced it would take about an hour before they unlocked the door, so I waited. I don’t know how long I was out there but the cold realization that they weren’t going to let me in was like a slap in the face. That night I had run from my family. I had taken the metro for free with a pathetic tearful glace at the lady selling tickets.
When I got to Venice every newspaper in existence had “The Phantom” on their front page. The more I read the more curious I became. I looked into it even deeper one might say I became obsessed. With every sentence I read the more convinced I became that he could help me. So I decided to track him down. First I started with his hit list. Every time something was stolen I would mark it on a small map I carried with me. It was a photo that let me identify him. He had been carless one night and ran over the rooftops instead of on the ground. An architecture student had been taking pictures of the houses that night and managed to catch Orion is action. Though he was masked and suited, his glove had unknowing lowered to reveal I black tattoo plastered on his arm.
That was how I knew it was him when he stepped out of the crown. He was decisively different. Instead of a colorful costume he had been wearing all black with a cat mask. In his gothic outfit, slits ran up the sides of the sleeve. When he lifted his arm to tell the time the garment fell down to reveal a tiny black star.
I followed quietly and I was almost sure he didn’t know I was following. That was until he spun quickly and pinned me to thewayll. My back was to the wall and he had his arms on both sides of my head.
“What’s a girl of your age doing out so late at night?” he asked not unkindly but in a tone a parent might use to tell you you’re going to get in trouble.
“Following you Orion” I stated confidently. If he was nervous he didn’t show it.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about little lady” he denied. No he was not! I had searched too hard and long only for him to play stupid. This wasn’t going down.
“I think you do, I promise” I told him. My eyes looked into black ones and something changed in his stance.
“And what are you going to do with this information?” he whispered threateningly.
“I want you to teach me, like an apprentice of sorts” I proposed. Now I had him backed into a corner. If he didn’t agree I could easily turn in all I knew to the police. Only I personally knew that I would never do that. But Orion didn’t. He leveled me with a challenging stare.
“Only if you can keep up” he finally answered. I smirked in response.
“I wouldn’t worry about that”
From that day forward he was the single most important person in my life. It was him who paid for my many gymnastics classes and education. He taught me everything he knew. Orion became my father figure and I to him, the daughter he could never have. Criminals like us rarely settle down for fear of bring the ones we love down with us if we fail.
End of Flashback
I looked down at her with a look that asked if she were serious.
“Teach me” she repeated. I stopped like a dear in a headlight. Did I really want pass my life onto this girl? Did she know what she was getting into? I didn’t like hiding my identity all the time, I’m sure she would feel the same. I couldn’t let her do this.
“No” I answered shortly.
“Please?” That one word made me stop. The desperation and hopelessness mixed with the word was sure to be my downfall. I finished with the same words my mentor gave to me.
“Only if you can keep up” I said with a defeated sigh. A blinding smile erupted over her face and her arms flung around me in a hug. My hand awkwardly patted her on the back, as wasn't’t used to such displays of affection.
“What’s your name?” I asked while walking in the direction of my home.
“Sunshine” she answered staying close to my side.
“Your real name” I clarified.
“I don’t know your real name so I won’t tell you mine” she said stubbornly. I smiled at the whole situation. It was, cute.
“Ok then, why Sunshine?” I really was interested.
“You wear sunshine scented perfume, it was the first thing that came to mind” she explained. My mouth almost dropped in surprise. She could smell that? On the inside I was a little touched that she would choose her code name based on something related to me.
From that day forward she was my daughter and I her mother and nothing in the universe could break this continuous legacy.