One Weird, One Warped
This popped into my head watching the beginning of the Second David Job…what if the team had crossed paths before?
Just a one-shot, too much other stuff in progress right now to make it more. Takes place pre-Leverage.
* * * * *
Alec shifted backwards, away from the images of various baby animals that Anna and Marie were busy cooing over, and checked his watch. The traveling exhibit that Nana had decided that they needed to see—something about 'culture'—opened in half an hour, which gave him just enough time—
"What do you think you're doing, boy?!"
He jumped back guiltily at Nana's sharp words, but her focus was on Ricky and the images he'd been drawing on one of the glass cases a few feet to her left. In spit, no less. The kid was going to die at the ripe old age of eleven if he didn't quit doing stupid shit like that.
"Do you think the people that work here have nothing better to do than clean up your messes?!"
Nana gave Ricky's ear a twist, pulling him away from the display case, and Alec winced in sympathy for his foster brother. Ricky might be a pain in the ass who wouldn't keep his hands out of Alec's stuff no matter what he was threatened with, but Alec knew firsthand just how much that particular grip hurt.
"Well?" Nana demanded, fingers still latched on Ricky's ear. "Did you hear me? Look at me when I'm speaking to you, boy!"
"Yes, ma'am. I mean, no, ma'am, I don't think—"
"You didn't think, that's for certain." She released his ear and produced a tissue from her purse, shoving it at him. "Now clean that up." She shook her head and continued glaring as he hurriedly did as she'd ordered. "You just wait until we get home."
Alec considered. It wasn't a good idea to antagonize her when she already annoyed, but who knew when the next time he'd be at the museum was. Sure, he could do it from anywhere, but it wouldn't be as much fun if he wasn't here to see it, that had been the whole point of waiting rather than doing it as soon as the system was active. And once they'd gone into the special exhibit, there was no way that she'd let him wander off. "Nana?"
"I need to use the bathroom."
"Me too!" a little voice immediately chimed in, and Alec sent up a silent thanks for four-year olds as Marie's words drew Nana's gaze away from him.
Almost as soon as the words were out of her mouth, Marie had begun shifting from leg to leg, lending credence to her words, and Nana gave Ricky another sharp look. She was obviously unwilling to leave him alone to finish his task, which was probably wise, but….
"I'll take her," Anna offered after a moment.
"All right," Nana agreed reluctantly. She split her glare between Anna and Alec. "But you had better be back here in fifteen minutes, or I'll skin the both of you when we get home, you understand me?" A quick and much less threatening glare was directed at Marie. "And you stay with Anna."
"Yes, Nana," all three chorused together.
"What are you planning?" Anna muttered under her breath as they made their way out of the African Mammal exhibit hall and towards the bathrooms. Marie—despite her insistence that she needed to go—kept getting distracted by shiny things in the cases they were passing so it was safe enough to talk.
Alec considered. At sixteen, Anna was two years older than he was and had been living with Nana nearly as long, meaning that she knew him about as well as anyone did, but….well, she was way too goody two-shoes for his tastes. Real hall monitor material. He shrugged. "What makes you think I'm planning something?"
"Because normally you'd pitch a bigger fit than Ricky if Nana announced we were going to spend an entire day wandering around a natural history museum. This time, nothing."
Damn. It was a good thing Nana had been busy getting Marie settled in and hadn't caught that. "Maybe I thought the exhibit sounded interesting."
Anna snorted. "The World of the Incas? Please."
"Oh, look, there's the women's room."
Marie apparently remembered her need to use the restroom again, tugging Anna insistently towards the door.
"Alec, you start causing trouble in a museum and Nana is going to whip the tar out of you," Anna hissed, turning back to glare at him. "Again."
He continued down the hall, ostensibly towards the men's room. "See you in fifteen minutes."
* * * * *
There were four guards on this wing, spaced out relatively evenly and taking an average of ten minutes each to circle the hall. That gave him just under a two minute window in which to work. Given that he'd gone through similar setups in less than twenty seconds, Eliot wasn't worried. Kind of annoyed that he was doing such a simple job, but after the hit his reputation had taken less than a month ago….
He did one more slow scan of the hall, ostensibly checking a map of the museum as he did so. Five closed circuit cameras, one of them pointing in the general direction of his case he'd be stealing from, but he already knew about that. He'd have his back to it for the most part, and even so, the odds of whatever poor sap was stuck watching an entire bank of cameras for hours on end noticing him in that twenty second window were pretty low. And if he did notice…well, security would be alerted anyway when the new security system went off. It had something to do with computers; all he'd really understood from the article was that the thing would go off when the weight changed, and without knowing the exact weight of what he was stealing, there was no way he could keep that from happening.
He folded the map back up, or tried to, anyway, since the damn things never would go back to the way they'd been originally, stuck it in his pocket, and ambled towards his target. The fact that the alarms were going to go off was exactly why he was here and not some straight-up thief. Well, that and the fact that he was relatively new to the game, and that he'd had to drop the merchandise from his last job thanks to that damn IYS insurance investigator, so his 'employer' was able to get a retrieval specialist cheap. Freud, Fred, Ford, whatever that bastard's name was, had just about run him to ground…he'd escaped, barely, but even without the merchandise it had taken extreme measures. He ran a hand through close-cropped hair. Someday he would be able to command the respect—and the fees—the bigger names could, and that would be the end of these penny-ante jobs.
With a shake of his head, he ran through his assessment of museum security one last time. Worst case scenario and he was noticed as soon as he went to work, they might be able to get six guards in his way before he made it to the door. Eight at the absolute most, if any of them were in the break room, and with a new exhibit opening this afternoon that was pretty damn unlikely. But of those potential eight guards, none of them were armed, and at most they would only be able to reach him in ones and twos. Not exactly challenging, especially since it didn't look like any of them spent much time in the gym.
He examined a pair of ancient wooden earrings for a few minutes before stepping over to the next case, a piece of greenish stone carved into a hair comb. Why Mr. Ellington wanted the thing he had no idea, but…well, it was what he was being paid for. Why didn't really matter.
A casual sweep of his hand across his jacket pocket let him retrieve his pocketknife and open it in one smooth motion. All he had to do now was slip it into the space between the glass and the platform, and—
Alarms screamed around him, lights began to flash, and he clamped down on his immediate reflex to leap backwards. He hadn't done anything yet—his hand was still six inches away from the damn case!
No point in trying for subtlety now that the alarms were going off. He jammed the blade in and forced the casing upwards. It gave almost immediately, and he reached under it to grab the comb before letting the casing fall back down. It landed with a quiet thump that was covered by the sound of the alarm, and he turned for the nearest stairway only to halt as he realized that all of the alarms were going off. Well, not quite all…every fifth? Sixth? Something like that, anyway.
He held his position, trying to figure out what was going on as the crowd milled around him in various degrees of confusion and growing panic. Had he managed to rob the museum during some sort of security sweep? That he didn't need, the police turning up in response to some kind of drill, only to have them discover him committing a real crime. But, no, they wouldn't do that during the day, not with paying patrons around…. Was someone else robbing the place? He didn't need that either.
The alarm behind him—the one on the case he'd robbed—abruptly shut off, at the same time the one beside it came on. He looked around. All of the alarms had shifted.
"What the hell?" He didn't realize he'd spoken aloud until an older woman gave him a disapproving look, but it wasn't as though he was the only one in the hall echoing that particular sentiment.
The alarms shifted again, and he shook himself as a man in a security uniform hurried past, not even glancing in his direction. Whatever was going on, the best thing for him was to get gone. Eventually someone would figure out what was happening, or at least notice that one of the cases was empty, and when that occurred, he needed to be elsewhere.
Eliot made his way to the balcony overlooking the main floor for a quick look around. It didn't seem like the security guards were stopping anyone from leaving—one of the ones who'd been by the door was heading for the stairs, but they other remained at his post and it seemed as though they were treating the thing as a system glitch. Good, he could use that. Hell, maybe it even was a system glitch; it was being tested, after all.
Scanning the rest of the room below the balcony was more habit than anything else—a quick survey for anything out of the ordinary—and he was a little surprised when his focus landed on a man in a hooded sweatshirt standing beside a bank of phones. The man's back was turned so he couldn't see anything but a dark hand protruding from the sleeve of his sweatshirt, but there was odd something about the way that hand was moving.
His eyes narrowed as he considered the alarms and the quick gestures the man was making. "I'll be damned." Unless he was going insane, the man was conducting the still-shifting alarms.
* * * * *
Alec grinned, tugging his hood down a little more to hide his expression as the alarms continued in a modified version of Ode to Joy. He hadn't been sure this would work, especially since he was using a jury-rigged calculator—albeit one with a few special additions, but still—to run things through the phone system. It wasn't the best setup he could have imagined, but hauling a computer along would have been just a little obvious.
He couldn't keep his fingers from twitching in time as the alarms shifted into the fast part. It wasn't as clear as he might have liked—he hadn't been able to shift the frequencies enough to hit all of the right notes, for one—but it was noticeable enough. When he'd heard that the museum was computerizing its security, and that the upper west wing was going to be the test location…well, he knew he'd have to try it out. It was going pretty damn well, all things considered.
A quick glance upward indicated that guards were starting to herd people away from the affected wing, and he sighed. He'd better get back upstairs, meet Nana and the others. The commotion would give him a little cover, but the bathrooms were upstairs and Nana was probably getting suspicious. According to his watch he still had another…six minutes…but there was no sense pushing his luck.
He disconnected the calculator quickly and tucked it into his back pocket, shoving the spare wires up into the phone and closing the access panel. None of the cameras were focused on the phones—why would they be?—and after giving all the flat surfaces that he'd touched a quick wipe with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, he turned away . Somebody would override his override eventually, but until then he'd enjoy his chaos.
* * * * *
Not a man, Eliot realized as the figure began to move towards the near staircase and his hood slipped back off his head. A teenager, and a young one at that. Not even old enough to shave, by the look of things, although judging by the arms and legs that seemed almost too long for his body he was probably already as tall as Eliot.
The still-twitching hand made him shake his head. How in the hell the kid was managing to make the alarms play whatever it was they were playing, Eliot didn't have the vaguest idea. Something to do with the computer system, probably. Computers had been around for awhile, but he hadn't paid them too much attention—they weren't exactly integral in his line of work, although they did crop up now and again, mostly in unpleasant ways—and what little he did know, he didn't much like. Like that article he'd seen on the museum's new alarm system…it hadn't even been readable unless you were a certified geek. He just hoped the things wouldn't become too mainstream.
Eliot began to follow the railing around towards the stairway, keeping an eye on the kid as he did so. He was the only one here not confused, which by definition made him the most dangerous person in the museum.
Absently he checked the ancient comb tucked into the inner pocket of his jacket. It wasn't the cleverest hiding place—if the guards decided to search anyone he'd have to get creative—but the comb was flat enough that it didn't stand out. With bone or wood he would have needed to be more careful, but ancient or not the damn thing was made of stone.
Security was still concentrating on herding people out of the affected wing, and none of them spared Eliot so much as a glance as he reached the top of the stairs.
* * * * *
Something made the hair on the back of Alec's neck stand on end, and he looked up and around quickly. Mostly people were looking at the alarms going off or headed for the stairs—either to go down, away from the alarms, or to go up and see what was happening—but one guy caught his eye. He was standing at the top of the staircase, looking over the railing with more intensity than he should have been given that most of the action was happening behind him. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a faded jacket hanging loose across his shoulders, nothing that stood out as unusual, but the way his hair was cut Alec guessed he was some kind of military. Army, maybe, or Marine.
Their eyes locked, suddenly, and Alec flinched back instinctively at the glare the man gave him. He might live with Nana now, but he hadn't always, and some of Mama's 'friends'…well, he'd seen looks like that before. The man wasn't a giant—compared to the rest of the museum patrons around him he wasn't exactly small, but he didn't look like a bodybuilder either—but that look meant that Alec needed to be somewhere else. Like right now.
* * * * *
Eliot tensed as the kid looked up, locking eyes with him. He began to shift backwards automatically—as much as he couldn't afford to be noticed, he wasn't the kind of guy who went around beating up kids, either—but the boy abruptly lowered his eyes, shoved his hands into his pockets, and began to hurry down one of the side halls with his shoulders hunched.
For a moment Eliot considered cutting him off, but there was no real reason to. The kid had no cause to think he'd done anything—and considering his own actions, even if he had suspected Eliot of anything, he'd probably keep his mouth shut just to keep from implicating himself—and this way he was out of the way.
With another casual glance around Eliot resumed his journey down the stairs. Down and out and he'd be at the airport and on a plane in an hour. The money would be in his hands in three.
* * * * *
Alec was relieved to see that the man was gone as he came up the back stairway and cut through the still-hacked gallery to get back to Nana and the others. Security was trying to keep people out, but there were enough bystanders rubbernecking that it wasn't too hard to get past them. There had been something off about that man, something just wrong….
"Hey, that case is empty!" a woman called suddenly, and Alec was shoved sideways none too gently as the security man who'd been at the top of the front staircase rushed towards the shout.
"No way." He turned to look over the railing and saw the man with the cropped hair and faded jacket moving towards the door. It couldn't be. Right?
* * * * *
The radio clipped to the belt of the one security man who'd remained by the front door throughout the commotion came to life suddenly, and Eliot heard news of his theft reported through the static. They didn't seem to know what was missing yet, but they knew something was up, and he glanced casually back over his shoulder. Again, no one seemed to be paying him any particular attention. Well, with the exception of a dark skinned teenager in a hooded sweatshirt who now stood at the railing of the upper balcony, fingers tapped lightly on the railing in time with the music. That was one weird kid.
The remaining security man was still barking into his radio as Eliot stepped out into the sunlight and hailed a cab for the airport.
* * * * *
The man with the cropped hair was almost to the doorway now, but he turned back for some reason, and once again they locked eyes. He'd done it, Alec was almost sure—he'd robbed a freaking museum—but…well, what was he supposed to say? 'I messed up your alarms, but that guy stole your stuff'? Yeah, that would go over well. The man's eyes narrowed into another glare that made Alec flinch back, and he took his hands off the railing and turned quickly to go in search of Nana and the others. That was one warped dude.
Nana gave him a bit of hell for being gone so long—Anna and Marie had come straight back from the bathroom, of course—but getting to play hell with the security system was more than worth it.