Thief in the Night
A Lupin the 3rd fanfiction by Lywinis
Chapter One: Heist of the Century
The thin, wispy clouds scudded over the night sky, reaching out with skeletal fingers to stroke the moon's pale white brow. The fall air was crisp with the crackling of leaves lending their slightly sweet scent of decay to the myriad of others in the London night. The wee hours of the morning made the skyline, so busy even at three a.m., seem brighter than it usually was. It was against this backdrop that a lone figure perched on a rooftop, silhouetted against the stark sky. She clutched a velvet bag against her chest, her eyes watching her city as the moon went about its business overhead.
A scuttling near the edge of the rooftop made her turn her head slightly, her nostrils flaring, like a deer in the headlights. It was just a rat. She hoped it was just a rat. She could have sworn it was just a rat. God, she hoped it was a rat.
The cold muzzle of a Walther P-38 pressed against the back of her neck convinced her otherwise. "It's nice to see you again, too, Lupin. Come for me, or just my gems this time?"
She could feel the cocky bastard smirking behind her. "You know, when I want to pull off a job, I usually hire henchmen. But since you insist on doing my work for me, why not let you?"
Bastard. "Well, I hope you realize that to get these gems from me, you're going to have to come get them." She slipped the velvet bag into her formfitting leather top, the bag snug in her cleavage. Zipping it to the throat, she heard him chuckle.
"You always did know how to tease a man."
"Maybe little boys, never men."
"You wound me, dear heart, you really do. Taunting me and then insulting my manhood. If I didn't love you so much, I might get angry." He smirked, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly.
"Smooth words from a smooth customer. You charming might have worked a long time ago. That was then, this is now." Slipping easily away from the gun, she stood, her balance catlike on the sharply angled slate shingles. Folding her arms across her chest, she glared at him, still the gentleman thief in his sport coat and tie. A chill breeze blew her two-toned hair across her face, the blonde streaks seemingly caressing her aristocratic face.
"I don't trust you as far as I could throw you, and from up here, I can throw you a long way down. Spit it out, Lupin. Why are you here, and why do you feel the need to antagonize me on my own turf? I thought we agreed that when you left, London was my area to do with as I pleased?"
He looked sheepish. "I know. But there's something else brewing. Pops can feel it too. I saw him at the station earlier today ordering backup. He never does that unless it's something BIG. Something involving the museum."
"The British Museum?" She hadn't heard anything big from her latest contacts. "What's going on at the museum?"
"You've heard of the Sutton Hoo burial recovery, correct?"
"Of course, my father is a military historian. If anything new had cropped up with that, I probably would be the first to know. He's crazy for that ancient stuff." Her arms didn't unfold, but her posture relaxed slightly.
He pressed his luck, trying to draw her in with the promise of gain. He holstered his pistol, drawing a picture in the air with his hands. "When the ship was uncovered, there was no burial, no body, I mean. Recently, however, a team of scientists was poking around, looking for remnants of pottery, I suppose, when one of them fell through a hole. It seemed that there was a second ship under the first. The rotted wood finally gave way, and he just fell through. He landed on a pile of gold as big as Buckingham Palace, by all accounts. There's also a few rare gems in there, too," he added, knowing her love for precious stones.
It was as if he had uttered the magic words. "Gemstones?" Her eyes, more beautiful than any cut aquamarine, lit up with a feral cunning. "And what would I have to do to get a cut of this?" she asked warily, her hackles up again.
He had to laugh. "My dear, you wouldn't have to do a thing. Just be your lithe, beautiful self, and follow my lead. Meet me back at the Commodore Hotel in Kensington. We have plans to discuss." His smirk hanging in the air, he was gone.
It wasn't until a few moments later that she realized he had left her gemstones intact. Damn it, she needed to be more careful with her haul! If Lupin was in on this, there was no telling how much she might actually lose if she didn't keep her wits. He was slick, and extremely charming when one had something he wanted. She was going to have to be on her toes every minute she spent with him, and twice that every minute they were apart.
She leapt from rooftop to rooftop, her mind awhirl with the possibilities he had presented her. Gems, ancient artifacts worth millions, perhaps even a shot at the gold…she liked the odds, too. Not very tight security, at least, not to her. She'd seen tighter, like when the Crown Jewels were on loan to the British Museum. Back then she wouldn't have dared to even try it, but for one factor. Lupin. Always Lupin. They still didn't know that the precious baubles they guarded were nothing more than pasteboard and painted aluminum. She smiled at the memories. She had been young, in love, and flushed with the success of the biggest heist known to man.
She reached up and touched the diamond set in the pendant she wore. The only thing left from her old life. The only thing left that connected her to Lupin. She smiled slightly, then shook her head. Just because you were young and foolish then does not mean you can allow yourself to be foolish now, her brain chided her. Still, her hand stroked the diamond, a gift.
"A beautiful gem for a beautiful lady," Lupin said, prying the gemstone out of the crown and presenting it to her.
"I can't take that…it's worth millions of dollars!" she protested, eyes wide, hands folded in her lap.
"Less than your share of the entire thing, for your help, my dear," he replied, eyes crinkling in that way he had, taking one of her hands and folding the perfectly cut diamond into it, allowing his hands to rest on hers, large and calloused and warm. Her breath caught in her throat, and color flamed in her cheeks.
"We'll get it set in a pendant for you later. I know a person suitably discreet, who'll make sure it's the loveliest thing on you, besides your skin."
Her father was home, in front of the fireplace. She let herself in the window, her preferred method, and slipped to the floor, padding softly to the back of his chair.
"Did you have a nice night out?" he asked.
"Must you be so damned observant?"
"Indeed, and you'll not swear in this house, young lady."
She sighed and fixed herself a glass of brandy, pouring in two fingers full of the amber liquid and sipping it, letting the burning warmth travel all along her body. Setting the glass down, she opened her bag and placed the gems on the table. Her father hadn't looked up from his book, but she knew he approved of the gems and the cut as well, because the pages weren't rustling as often as before.
For a historian, Alphonse de Brouligiere had made himself a fine empire to leave to his daughter. The owner of one of the finest gem distributors in England and the second largest internationally, he was known as the "Ruby Prince" by the world at large. He owned and operated more than three thousand shops worldwide. Most people could not even get into his shop without an appointment. His daughter, the "Ruby Princess", would be able to afford any type of luxury in the entire world.
She would, that is, had she been in his will.
It didn't bother her, she had other things to worry about, and he tended to be cantankerous when prodded about his arrangements. His reasons were his own. He was her father; she had never questioned him, like he had never questioned her.
She held up an emerald to the candle, the light sparking off the stone and making it dance with a fire of its own. These were indeed well cut. She would have to leave a note at the jeweler's next time she stopped by, thanking them. A smirk curled the edges of her mouth this time. She sounded like the Gentleman Thief.
Alphonse nodded his approval of the stone, then turned back to his book on philosophy. He knew where she had gotten the stones; he didn't care. As long as she didn't pilfer from his shops, her business was her own. It hadn't always been like that. Once, she had been in his will, complete heiress to the finest jewel shops in all of Great Britain. Now, she was nothing more than a cat burglar. All due to some man she had met. He'd had his best private investigators working on it night and day, until she had found out. She had blown up at him, stating her business was her own. In anger, he struck her from his will, and now stubborn pride kept him from reneging. Now an uneasy silence was the norm in the house whenever parent and child were home at the same time.
Stashing her gems in the wall safe in her room, she then slipped out of her "working leathers", as she referred to them. She tugged on a pair of jeans and a sweater, one that showed off the pendant. And my cleavage, she thought, her cheeks reddening. She started to change, but then decided if she were to make Lupin uncomfortable, it might just be worth it. She dabbed on a light vanilla scent, her favorite, behind her ears, in the hollow of her throat, and the insides of her wrists, just like her mother had taught her. She threw on a pair of old tennis shoes and struck out for the train station.
She caught the tube underground to Kensington, and emerged not fifteen minutes later near the Commodore. Strolling up to the door, she crossed the threshold with a strange look from the doorman. She looked like she knew what she was doing, however, so he let her pass. Crazy rich Americans, he thought. But they do tip well. He hoped she was an American.
Once inside, she took a deep breath and marched over to the counter, only to stop halfway in the lobby. He hadn't given her the alias he was going by. Shit. She swore under her breath. How was she going to find him? Loiter in the lobby for the rest of the night? The hell she was. She moved to the door, only to see a familiar fedora sitting with a cup of coffee and a newspaper at the bar. She sat down next to him and ordered a cup for herself.
"Been a long time, Jigen."
"Sure has. Good to know you decided to work with us again. I hate moving in London and not cutting you in on a deal." He smiled at her from under his hat.
Her almost-brother. When Lupin had moved on to bigger things, to better women, leaving her by the wayside, he was the only person she knew who had comforted her. He had even developed sort of a crush on her, offering, in his blunt American way, to marry her and make Lupin's wrongs right.
She returned the smile, giving him an affectionate one-armed hug. Her brother, her friend, and her protector when she was still living under Lupin's wing. She'd stayed in contact with him, after her tenure, and in so doing, kept up with Lupin. She truly liked this drunken, smoking, crack-shot sod of a man. He was one of her dearest friends.
She followed him up to Lupin's room after she had filled him in on all the little details of what had been happening lately. She smacked him lightly on the arm when he joked with her, and he pretended to wince. It was almost like old times. Ah, now it was like old times: there was Goemon. He sat, his back to Lupin's door, drinking sake. He rose and bowed to her.
"Good to see you again, Sachiko-chan," he murmured, using his pet name for her. Bliss-child.
She smiled at him and hugged him, scorning formality like she always had. He stiffened, like he usually did, but returned the hug, knowing how much it meant to her. She squeezed him briefly, then smacked him on his shoulder. "How come you never write?"
"I was not aware I had to write to a brat," he replied, his zen-like indifference making her grin and hit him again.
"Be that way. I guess I'll have to put the miso soup and the sake I brought inside and send it back home later, since you don't want any."
His eyes widened, but he made no move.
"It's a shame, it's Jizake, too. From your hometown, I believe." She shook her head and kept the bottle just out of his reach.
"All right, you win. I promise to write more often." He reached for the bottle, but she held it out of his grasp again.
"…I'm sorry, Sachiko-chan." He hung his head in mock shame, then leapt for the bottle in a most undignified manner. She laughed and let him have it. Jigen stood, his hat pushed back, shaking his head. She could always draw the taciturn Goemon out of any funk he was in. It was odd. He wished sometimes she were around more often, so that talking to Goemon wasn't so hard, but…she told Lupin that she'd not come back, not for him.
But she was here now, wasn't she? Maybe…things would be different? She turned to him, her face flushed, eyes sparkling, and he felt a small stirring of disloyal rage. How could he have done that to her? He shook his head again. Lupin was Lupin; there was no other way to put it. Surely she understood that. He knew she did.
She tossed him a bottle of something, and his eyebrows rose beneath his hat. A bottle of Oban scotch! That was high-end stuff; a single bottle ran about $370.00. She must be feeling good to present us with stuff like this, he thought. Maybe she's in a better mood since Lupin showed up. That thought made him scowl.
He'd better not hurt her again. I'll kill him this time.
He knocked on the door, swiping his card and stepping in. "Ah, good, Jigen, she's here?" Lupin stepped out of the back, a towel thrown over his shoulder. He had just finished shaving. She could smell him, a sort of insinuating fragrance that seemed to seep into her pores and make her feel like she was hot and cold at the same time.
"Who's she, Lupin?" came a voice form the back that really did make her blood run cold. A female voice, cold, calculating, utterly cruel. A busty, very good-looking woman with long, wavy brown hair and cold blue eyes stepped into view, making her feel dowdy and overdressed. The woman glared at her and she suddenly felt very, very alone as Jigen and Goemon drew protectively closer to her.
"Fujiko Mine, may I present to you Cara de Brouligiere."