A/N: First Heist Society fanfiction on this website, if I'm not mistaken? Woot for me! :P Anyway, we're all wondering how Hale and Kat actually met. And when Ally Carter provided us with a nice little prompt, I of course had to write my own depiction of their first meeting. So, enjoy! :D
Obviously I don't own Heist Society. And I'm having a hard time deciding who I like more: Hale or Zach.
The Art and Science of Lock Picking
"I'm the guy who happened to be home the night Kat came to steal a Monet."
Kat crept towards the manor, silently treading the path she knew would get her into the exact room she needed to be, the exact room in which a priceless and lovely Monet was currently hanging above a pianoforte, the exact room where that same Monet wouldn't be hanging in an hour's time. She'd cased the mansion for days—there was no one but a butler who kept the place clean, and he always retired to his room at precisely eleven every evening. The rest of the manor was completely deserted.
The security system was poorly outdated: a Genie 5000. Expensive and flashy, but rather impractical at actually alerting the homeowners of intruders. Really, they'd have been better off with a personalized Garbson; it was cheaper, and its pressure sensitive alarm system would easily ensure that no thief could break in through a window. Of course, she wasn't looking a gift horse in the mouth. For tonight, she was grateful they'd installed the Genie 5000. It made her job so much easier.
Maybe she'd leave a note where the Monet now hung, advising them to downgrade to a Garbson.
She reached the house, looking three stories up to see the window that she knew led into the room with her painting. It was dark, as planned, and she was smiling as she gripped the white fence that the thick ivy grew on and pulled herself up. Really, these rich people made it too easy. They practically paved the path to that priceless painting.
It took exactly two and a half minutes to reach the window, and she made herself comfortable on the little ledge as she picked the lock. She couldn't see into the room—heavy drapes assured that—but she wasn't worried. Her Monet would be hanging above the pianoforte, she had no doubt. It was just a simple matter of grabbing it.
The minute Kat eased the window open—though it looked about as old as the Monet she was there to steal, its silent hinges betrayed its actual age—she was hit by a wall of warm air. In contrast to the chill of winter not yet spring, the heat was inviting and for a moment she almost forgot what, exactly, a heated room meant. But her father's constant advice, her mother's age-old training, made her tense and wonder if the mission were completely compromised.
Because heat meant people. And people meant witnesses. Kat was a thief, not a robber; she had no intention of knocking someone down to get her prize. Especially not on her first solo heist.
But she peeked through the heavy drapes covering the window anyway, because she hadn't come this far to stop due to a minor setback. Her eyes scanned the room and quickly sighted the offending someone, the reason a fire was crackling merrily in a room that should have been cold and empty, and she let out a silent breath in relief. It was a boy, roughly her age. Hours ago he had probably been reading by the dim light of an ornate table-top lamp, but now the book had fallen to his chest as he breathed deeply with steady sleep.
Kat crept into the room, acutely aware of the soft rumpling as she eased the drapes back over the open window, knowing that one wrong move could seal her demise. On the other hand, stealing a priceless painting from an occupied room on her first solo heist would certainly provide stories for the family gatherings at Uncle Eddie's. She was momentarily dazzled by the thought of infamy, imagining her father's words of praise.
No. She certainly couldn't back out now.
Still, Kat couldn't stop herself from taking just one step closer to see the boy's face, mesmerized by the flickering shadows of firelight and the steady glow of the lamp that lit up features carved by God. Or, so her hormone-ridden twelve-year-old mind depicted, anyway. She halfway wished she could see his eyes; she bet the stolen Picasso that was hanging above Uncle Eddie's kitchen table they would be utterly magnificent.
Then she remembered a rather important rule of thievery: get in, grab what you came for, and get out. Nothing could be gained from hanging around admiring a boy she'd never know. So she turned and started for the pianoforte, and above it, her Monet.
It was easy getting to the piece, carefully climbing onto the large instrument to reach her ultimate objective. Her gloved hands ensured no trace of her would remain for the police to find; her shoes had been abandoned at the windowsill, so no dirt was tracked over the hardwood floors. She was doing everything correctly, and she still buzzed with the knowledge that she was actually stealing a Monet.
The painting slid easily off its hook, without any alarms being triggered, once again the product of a very poor security system. Granted, she doubted many even knew that the Monet was here, so there probably wasn't much reason for the owners of this house to bug it with touch sensors. Triumphant, the priceless painting tucked carefully under one arm, Kat bent down to climb off the pianoforte.
But her socks didn't have the traction that she'd grown used to with the luxury of shoes, and before she could react her foot had slid on the polished wood of the large instrument. If her startled cry hadn't woken up the boy on the couch, then the loud banging of about seven different piano keys certainly did. She froze, completely stunned, as the boy jumped up and looked around wildly. And when his eyes fell on her, she couldn't help but think that she'd been right—they really were magnificent.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded, storming around the couch and stopping just a few feet from her, gaze a mix between incredulous and furious. Fury won as he saw the painting in her hand, the way she was dressed in black from head to toe, and she knew he'd drawn the logical conclusion. And for once, she couldn't think of any lie to fix things.
So she distracted him instead, "I should ask you the same thing." This was a completely legitimate concern for Kat; she'd watched the house for days, hours spent keeping tabs on whoever went in and out, and it was only the butler. So how had this kid escaped her notice?
He looked taken aback that she'd countered his understandably angry statement, and for a moment the vehemence in his eyes dimmed just a little. She half wondered why he wasn't afraid of her. She knew that if an unknown someone broke into her home (if she had a steady one, that was) dressed entirely in black, and took a valuable painting off the wall, she'd be terrified. Which was one of the reasons she appreciated being the thief, not the terrified recipient.
Of course, this boy was completely ignoring that natural instinct, instead looking at her like she was a lunatic, "Aren't you a little young to be robbing… well, anything?" His voice was steady, cool and calm even in these circumstances. His eyes held intelligence and cunning and bravery and every other admirable trait Kat could think of in a man, and she found herself unable to speak for several beats. When she finally did, it was a half-hearted correction.
"I'm stealing, not robbing. Robbery is based on violence, and I don't plan on hurting you."
"Oh, well, that's good," he folded his arms, voice still unreadable as he regarded her. She didn't know if he was being sarcastic, or if he was actually serious, but she strongly suspected it was the former. He probably doubted she could hurt him, which was true. She was trained in the art of stealing, not the art of combat.
"Besides," she plowed right along, unable to stop talking (she blamed those eyes), "I'm twelve. That's plenty old enough; I've already stolen a tiara from the princess of Monaco." She didn't mention that her parents had done most of the work on that job—she'd just been the sobbing child that Princess Grace had consoled for exactly three minutes and twenty-four seconds. But he kept staring, so she continued talking, "And I'll be flying to Switzerland next month to steal…" she cut herself off, realizing almost too late that she'd nearly divulged a family secret to an outsider. Another important rule of thievery: keep your heists a secret, before and after they occur.
But instead of latching onto the idea of a possible theft halfway across the world, the boy simply smirked and said, "Where's Monaco?"
Kat blinked at him, completely taken off guard. She struggled to remember where the obscure country was located, and eventually mumbled, "Europe?"
He laughed, and it was a rather pleasant sound that almost made Kat forgot she was sitting in enemy territory, talking with the boy who might turn her over to the police in minutes. "So, let me get this straight. You've been a thief for a while."
"Since I was three," she retorted proudly. Then she wondered just how much she should be revealing to this guy. Anything she told him now could be another charge in a court of law.
He didn't notice her sudden and obvious change in demeanor. He simply watched her, obviously impressed, "So you can show me how to pick a lock, right?"
"… Maybe," she said, treading carefully in case he was trying to set her up. Imagine, the stories her family would tell if she, a professional con artist, was conned by a little rich boy. She held back a shudder.
He seemed to understand her hesitation, however, because he turned and walked to the couch, bending down to pick up the book that had been resting on his chest. Kat took the opportunity to slide off the pianoforte, the Monet still tucked protectively under her arms. The boy didn't appear to notice her change in position as he strolled back to her, holding the book out for her to see.
"The Art and Science of Lock Picking," she read the title aloud, and a grin touched her lips. "Funny, I have that same book at home." she said, fondly remembering the Christmas she'd found a first-edition signed copy underneath Uncle Eddie's tree.
"Good to know it's a reliable book," he remarked lightly, flipping through the well-worn pages. "I've read it cover to cover, but I still can't seem to get the top set of pins to stay up long enough."
Kat almost scoffed, taking on the pretentious role of a professional divulging tactics to an amateur, "There's only so much a book can teach you. After that, it's all practice."
"Can you show me how?"
His question took her by surprise, and she tensed slightly. If he was trying to get her to lower her guard, it wasn't going to work. The painting was in her hands… all she had to do was get out as inconspicuously as possible. And then an idea formed in her mind, and she smiled slowly, "Sure. Do you have a set of tools?"
His face brightened, and he nodded, "In my room upstairs. Come with me?"
"My parents say it's not appropriate for me to be in a boy's room without adult supervision," she lied smoothly, not missing a beat. After all, this was what she was born to do.
His cheeks colored the faintest shade of pink, and he nodded quickly, "Right, sorry. I apologize if that was too forward." She waved it off, and he squinted at her for a moment. "If I go get it, do you promise not to leave before I get back?"
"Of course," she smiled sweetly at him. "We're friends, aren't we?"
He looked mildly surprised at the word, but then a grin broke out over his face too, and she saw him for what he truly was: a lonely little boy. She felt a pang of sympathy for him, locked up in this huge house with no one but the butler to talk with. It was no wonder he was spending his time reading books on how to pick locks; he probably wanted out of the manor just as much as she did. As she pondered that thought, he held out his hand.
"Well, then, as your new friend, my name's W.W. Hale."
She frowned, ignoring his outstretched hand, "What do the W's stand for?"
He simply smirked at her, his expression amused as he lowered his hand, as if he'd known her his entire life and took great pleasure in keeping her guessing. She had a lingering feeling she'd never actually know what the W's stood for, but she sort of wanted to hang around for a few years and see if she could find out.
"What's your name?" he asked, ignoring her earlier question.
She could have given him one of her many fake names, complete with individual identities and pasts that she'd memorized years earlier. It would have been so easy to pretend she was Melanie O'Hara, or Erica Sampson. But as he waited patiently for her to respond, she answered confidently, "Katarina Bishop. Call me Kat." And when his smile reached those eyes, she felt no regret in divulging a thief's biggest secret.
"A pleasure," he said, and she knew he was telling the truth. Her heart warmed a little at making a friend outside her tight circle of family members.
Then W.W. Hale backed towards the door, still smiling at her, "I'll be right back. Please, make yourself comfortable." He gestured towards the plush couch by the fire, and for a second Kat was tempted. But then he disappeared out the door of the room, and the painting in her arms seemed to grow heavier every second. She knew she couldn't stay.
So, with a regretful look towards the open door, she stepped back to the window, disappearing behind the heavy drapes and slipping off into the night without looking back.
Two days later, the butler found a package on the front porch of the mansion, and a single note attached to the top. He gave the package to his melancholy master, who brightened immediately as he skimmed the note.
Wesley Warren Hale,
Sorry I couldn't stick around. Here's your painting back. Keep your eyes open, because someday I'll visit again and properly teach you how to pick a lock. Promise.
A/N: Hope you guys liked it! :) Drop me a review, because reviews inspire me, and I might end up writing another Heist Society fanfic if enough people like this one!