A/N: Yay! Uncommon Criminals has prompted me to return to this fic. Spoilers might be ahead.
Note-this is not a sequel to chapter 1. This is just another take on how Kat and Hale met, since Ally Carter confirmed that Kat was 13 when it happened, not 12 (as in my last chapter, even though she acted like a 9-year-old. Sorry about that. :P ). So, new take, fresh new perspective. Let me know what you guys think! 3
Kats Don't Like Water
Ultimately, she settled for stealing it from right under his nose. There were other alternatives, other heists, but the best ones were complicated and required a crew that she didn't have the time to put together, not when the W.W. Hale could set sail at any time.
Plus, she was the daughter of the best, and she'd be damned if she couldn't snatch this Monet before the next family dinner at Uncle Eddie's.
It was an easy mark, all things considered. Perfect for a quick job before the holidays. Plus it'd make a great gift to her father, who'd expressed his interest when he'd subtly suggested she track it down in the first place. After all, what better heist to solo? There was no security on the yacht, no hired guns to make sure thieves like her stayed away. She didn't know what kind of alarms rigged the Monet, since only about ten people in the world knew it was even on the W.W. Hale, but she'd been well-trained. She would crack whatever the Hales could throw at her.
The only problem, the only bump in an otherwise smooth road, was the fact that the Monet was on a ship. Ships could move. They had a tendency to sail out without warning, and twice now she'd watched her mark disappear into the sunset on a line of lovely blue water and never return. The trickiest part was successfully casing the place with enough time to actually pull the heist before Mr. Hale sped off towards a new tropical paradise.
Well, that, and the fact that it was a boat. On water. Katarina Bishop shuddered. She hated water. … No, that wasn't right. She hated the possibility of drowning, which held much more rationale in her mind. It was just self-preservation.
But the Monet was begging to be stolen. And if she didn't do it now, someone else would. Kat couldn't stand the thought of a cousin waving the Monet around and bragging about the job over Christmas. Not when it was her heist. Not when her father was waiting to see her make him proud. She suspected even Uncle Eddie was intrigued to see how she'd fare.
If there was one thing she learned from watching the yacht, it was that Mr. Hale liked his parties. Every time he docked at port, it seemed like he was preparing to host another one, having caviar and champagne brought onto the ship in boxes. And she'd seen enough of the actual events to know exactly what kind of company the esteemed Mr. Hale kept.
He liked teenagers, apparently, because the girls walking onto his ship in bikinis and Ray-Bans were only a few years older than she was. What bothered her was that none of them seemed to mind the fact that Mr. Hale was easily three times older than they were—every time a new gaggle strolled onto the W.W. Hale, they always had big smiles and eager expressions.
It only firmed her resolve that the Monet didn't belong in the hands of such a pig.
Unfortunately, these parties left her with few options when it came to actually stealing the painting. They lasted most of the day, and at night the ship sailed out to sea. Most of the time it returned the next morning, ready for another bash, but twice it had left the Caribbean countries entirely and Kat had been forced to spend precious days tracking it back down again.
Mr. Hale rarely left the yacht, and never predictably. The best idea would be to scale the yacht from the back and sneak downstairs while Mr. Hale's teenagers kept him occupied. But that option required snorkeling at the very least, and Kat couldn't bring herself to consider it. She could pose as a worker bringing exquisite food onto the yacht, but she'd need a new identity, a uniform, and a box big enough to fit the Monet. Too much trouble, too little time.
The third option, however, kept her attention the longest. Every day it was a new slew of girls. Every day the party was crowded enough to slip onto the yacht unnoticed. Every day it was loud enough to steal a Monet with no one the wiser.
So when Kat saw the girls strolling up the dock towards the W.W. Hale one hot afternoon, she was already prepared with her own suit to join them. She'd lifted a pair of expensive sunglasses, stuffed her bra and did her makeup just so to make her look a few years older, and when she ran up to the girls saying, "Sorry I'm late! My idiot driver got us lost," they barely hesitated before welcoming her into the group.
She had no problem getting onto the yacht. It was like her father had suspected: no security. This was very much a pleasure cruise for Mr. Hale, and he wouldn't let a little thing like thievery stand in his way of a good time. Regardless of the worth of the Monet just two decks down.
The girls spread out on the upper decks, dipping into the Jacuzzi and slathering themselves with sunscreen and pouring drinks from the mini-bar. There were a few male partygoers as well, far less than the girls, and Kat couldn't help it when her eyes drew to easily the most gorgeous one around. He was laughing as a pretty blonde tried on his sunglasses, looking as if he didn't have a care in the world. For a minute, she envied the blonde, wished she could be just another girl enjoying a rich party with that handsome boy.
But she had a job to do. Her eyes kept scanning, finally noting Mr. Hale on the top deck drifting through his guests. She made a disgusted face at his choice of company (such a creeper), but ultimately decided he was busy enough for now. The faster she got in and grabbed the Monet, the faster she could get back to America and the glory of another heist completed.
The way to blend in wasn't with stealth, she realized quickly, but pointed openness. Surveying the scene would raise suspicion if she didn't act like the other teenagers on the ship. With a laugh, she made her way to the bar for a drink (appearances only—she would never down alcohol on a heist). Once she completed that image, she felt safely invisible standing there in plain sight, and only then did she meander towards the door that led below deck.
It was easy enough to slip through the door and stumble down the stairs, pretending to be more than a little tipsy just in case someone was watching. But she was counting, calculating, the entire time. Eight steps to the lower deck. Fifteen down the hallway to the bedrooms. Escape routes could have included the balcony in the first room she peeked at, but again, the water. Not an option unless absolutely necessary. The better choice would be to simply walk out with the Monet safely sealed in her polka-dot beach bag.
The floor was essentially empty, so she went down another flight of stairs to find the master bedroom. She passed by two waiters on the way down, but neither spared her a glance, too busy working their way to the top deck with trays of hors d'œuvres. Finally, she stepped into the master suite, a beautiful room with a wide private balcony (floor-to-ceiling windows perfect for that horrid water escape), a king-sized bed, and ornate furniture.
And there, right above the ten-drawer dresser, hung her Monet. It was breathtaking, and as Kat clicked the door to the master suite closed, she found she couldn't pull her eyes away. Beautiful. Then the ship swayed a bit and she remembered exactly where she was, the spell broken. She got to work.
The Monet was poorly protected, just like she'd been lead to believe. No pressure-sensitive triggers. No cameras trained on it. Not even an alarm. The only thing that made it even a tad more difficult (stress on "tad") was the fact that it had been literally bolted to the wall, undoubtedly in case of rough weather. They might as well have put a big sign on it saying, "Please, take me!"
"Don't mind if I do," Kat whispered, smirking.
She studied the metal plate that held it against the wall, found the screws without trouble. She was halfway through taking them out when the yacht lurched, making her nearly fall off the dresser. Her stomach lurched with the ship, and she bit back a groan. Why did it have to be a ship? From now on, only dry heists. Ever.
She paused, realizing what a moving ship meant. Her idea of leaving by regular means flew out the perfectly translucent windows as she saw the docks slip away. They were moving. She had to get out of here fast, or else she'd be stuck on the W.W. Hale at a party where she didn't belong with a painting that wasn't hers.
The screws came off easily, and despite the urgent situation, Kat was careful as she lifted the Monet off the metal plate. She slid off the dresser just as the ship swayed again, and she stumbled a little, unused to the motion. The Monet fit perfectly in her waterproof bag, and she wasted no time in running for the balcony. The docks weren't that far away yet. She could swim back to shore with the Monet safely in tow before anyone realized it was gone. But as she perched on the balcony's railing, staring at the clear Caribbean water ten feet below, she froze.
And that was where the boy found her.
She hadn't even heard him come in, but she certainly knew when he grabbed her and pulled her off the railing in one swift move. She yelped as he towed her back inside the room, shying away from his touch as she instinctively moved the beach bag, and her Monet, behind her back.
"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded. His sunglasses were on the top of his head now, but he was still as breathtaking as he'd been up on deck. The pretty blonde girl apparently hadn't followed him downstairs. "Are you crazy?"
She was somewhat offended that he had to ask. "No," she said stiffly, simply.
He looked taken aback for a moment, staring at her like she was an absolute lunatic anyway, "Then why did I come into my room to see you about to jump off the ship?"
"Your room?" Kat asked before she could help herself. She still had a long way to go before she'd be up to her father's skills as a con artist if she couldn't even control her words in front of this guy. She was supposed to deceive him, but she just stood there like an idiot.
"Yes," he said in irritation. "My room. Who did you come with? If Ricky set you up to this, I swear I'm going to—"
"He thought it'd be funny," Kat said, finally getting her head on straight enough to assume a character. And he gave her such a nice opening for it, too. She added a giggle and a ditzy smile for good measure. "The balcony thing was my touch. It worked—you totally freaked."
He narrowed his eyes at her, "It wasn't funny." But he stood aside to let her pass. "Get back up on deck. No one's supposed to be down here. And tell Ricky I'm going to have a word with him."
Kat couldn't believe it worked. She still had the problem of getting off the ship, but at least now one crisis was averted. Smiling still, she waved and skipped out of the room, feeling somewhat giddy at her con. But she hadn't made it three steps down the hall before a strong arm grabbed her shoulder to stop her progress.
"By the way," the guy drawled, staring down at her. She cursed the fact that she was so short. "Where's my Monet?"
Her face grew warm, but she blinked in confusion and said, "Your what?"
"Don't play dumb," he said casually, jerking a thumb towards her bag. "It's unbecoming on a young lady such as yourself."
"I guess the girls upstairs missed the memo," Kat replied, knowing she was blown. Her mind began racing escape routes. This was not how this heist was supposed to go. It had seemed like an easy in-and-out, despite the ship bit. Who was this guy?
He laughed and said, "They're just for my entertainment. But this is the most interesting thing to happen to me all year. Who'd have thought my Monet would be a thief's prey." It wasn't a question, but an amused statement.
Kat answered anyway, "There's no security. If I didn't take it, then you can bet this yacht it'd be someone else sometime in the near future."
"That Monet's worth quite a bit more than my yacht," he said easily.
His yacht. His bedroom. Suddenly, Kat realized her gravest mistake. This entire time, she'd thought the old man was Mr. Hale, because surely the esteemed billionaire couldn't be as good-looking as the teenager before her. But she was wrong, so wrong. Because Mr. Hale was just a few years older than her, and he was still watching her with intelligent eyes, still smirking at the thought that a thief would be so bold as to steal his painting from right under his nose.
"You're Hale," she whispered.
"Dashing good looks and all," he said, but there was no humor in the words. "Now, give me back my Monet, please."
She was compromised. She could never try for this painting again, not now that its owner knew her face, her game plan. But she couldn't go back empty-handed. She'd been following the W.W. Hale for weeks trying to get her chance. This was the most humiliating moment of her life.
Her eyes drifted to the balcony, to freedom, to water, and she knew she'd be an idiot to try and get away with the Monet now. Even if she did manage to get to shore without drowning, Hale would be waiting with a yacht full of people and probably some type of private police force to apprehend her. No, she was finished.
And yet she couldn't seem to let go of the painting.
After a moment passed, Hale finally dropped his waiting hand and sighed, "All right, how about this. You're a pretty determined girl, that much is obvious. So, let's make a deal. You're pretty much stranded on my yacht at the moment, so your job is done for now. But in a few weeks, I'm going back to one of my countryside manors, and the Monet is coming with me.
"If you can figure out which manor I'll be in, and where the Monet is, you can have another stab at stealing it," Hale finished, eyes alight with the possibility. He seemed to love the idea of another clandestine heist taking place right under his roof. "Fair?"
Kat was starting to think he was the lunatic. But the opportunity to steal the Monet again, without the water this time, was too tempting to pass up. She reluctantly handed her beach bag over to him, but there was no regret in her voice as she said, "Deal."
She did love a challenge, after all.
He smiled at her, a brilliant smile that left her heart throbbing, and put the bag just inside his bedroom. When he closed the door, he didn't bother locking it. He just strode past her, calling over his shoulder, "Try and enjoy the party, since you're here. And please don't attempt to jump off the balcony again. It's just extra stress for everyone."
And then he was gone, leaving her alone just one door away from her painting.
Kat smirked and started up the stairs as well, leaving the Monet for another day.
A/N: Yes, the older "Mr. Hale" was Marcus, in case you missed that. :P I tried to go in a new direction with this oneshot while still keeping the same format of my last one. If I get more clues about this meeting in the third book (here's hoping there IS a third book), then I think chapter 3 will be from Hale's POV.
Anyway, I love reviews. :) Thanks for reading!