Chapter One: Team Bishop
The job would be hard. Really hard.
That was the first thing Katarina Bishop told her father as they walked together along the streets of Paris. Bobby Bishop liked Paris, but Kat was becoming rather less fond of it. These clandestine meetings she was sharing were becoming too commonplace for her taste, and she thought that maybe a change of scenery could twist it up a notch.
She hadn't had a job for a while. There had been nothing to go after, no reason to put herself in the firing line for something she didn't have to do. Her 'arch nemesis' - as her boyfriend so nicely put it - was still in jail, but for how long that would last, Kat did not know. She had no reason to be afraid, but for some reason, she had still agreed to take this job.
Because that was what she did.
Because Kat - and her father and great uncle, and every other member of her family that ever lived - was a thief.
'So,' her father said as they crossed the busy square. 'You want to hit the Walter Highrose private collection?'
She nodded. 'Yeah. Someone told me there's some great artwork to be had, and some great security to test ourselves on too.'
'That's what Simon said about the Henley.'
She sighed, brushing her shoulder against her fathers affectionately. 'Come on, Daddy. Don't start kidding yourself about the Henley. It was a job, and it was in the past. What's the rule?'
'Always look to the next job.' He turned to her with a smile. 'Who was the one who taught you that?'
'You were, Daddy.'
'That's right.' He wrapped an arm protectively around her shoulder, giving her a sort of one armed hug. 'So what's your plan? Who've you got?'
She shrugged. 'You?'
He laughed. 'Who are you going to get?'
'Well, that depends on what we decide the stakes are.'
The heavy double doors were already opening as Kat pulled up at Wyndham Manor.
'Good to see you, Kat. Long time, no see.' Hale's lie was fast, quick, and she let him pull her into a tight hug.
'Like what? A week?'
'Something like that.' He kissed the top of her head gently and led her into the house. 'Marcus has your room ready,' he started to say, but she cut him off quickly.
'I'm not staying, Hale.' She pulled away from his arms, looking at him. 'I've got a job. Are you in or out?'
He raised his eyebrows. 'What kind of a job?'
She grinned in return. 'The good kind.'
Hale's manor was quickly declared base, and it was less than a day before people started arriving. Few calls were made, but quickly, people started piling in, until there was nine in total.
'I'm not so sure about this,' Gabrielle said, pulling a small jar of nail polish from her handbag and promptly starting to paint her nails. 'Sure, it's a private job, but that means there's less of their side to stuff up, right? Only a few guards, and the rest is electronic?'
'Electronic is good,' Simon spoke up from behind his laptop. He was seated on one of the small pouffes at Gabrielle's feet. It was not uncommon knowledge that he had somewhat of a liking for Gabrielle. It was also not uncommon knowledge that she hardly knew he existed. 'Electronic means we can hack in. Maybe a loop feed?'
'Hors d'oeuvres?' Hale's butler, Marcus, interrupted, stepping between them and presenting a silver platter. Kat shooed him away with a shake of her hand.
'Just sit and listen, Marcus,' she said. 'You're in on this, too.'
The butler let out a defeated sigh and settled himself down on the coffee table beside Kat's father.
'What's the time frame?' Uncle Eddie asked. The man may have been aging, but he was also one of the best thieves of his time. 'A month? Two?'
'I'm thinking about making this quick. We're testing ourselves, right? That's the point of this. So why don't we just make it say... a week.'
Eight pairs of eyebrows raised in Kat's direction.
'A week?' the Bagshaw brothers asked in unison.
'A week. Get in, get out. There's not much planning needed-'
'There's heaps of planning needed!' This time it was Hale's turn to speak up. 'You don't even have floor plans yet! We haven't even cased the place! A week?'
'God, Hale,' Gabrielle purred. 'Somebody might of thought you'd gone soft while Kitty Kat took her weeks break in Paris.'
Hale's eyes darkened, but he didn't answer. Instead, he turned to Angus and Hamish. 'Can you guys get ready in a week?'
Hamish shrugged. 'Eh, depends.'
Angus was the one to reply. 'On what kind of job we're doing.'
'Yes, Kat,' Bobby Bishop asked, leaning forward and resting his knees on his elbows. 'What kind of job are we doing?'
Kat let a smile grace her lips as she crossed her arms and turned to her father. 'I'm thinking we're going to do a mixed job.'
'It looks like a plan,' Hamish commented as the last slide on Kat's powerpoint closed.
'Yeah, like a plan,' his brother piped in. 'but with a whole lot more grayness.'
'Where are we going to get a professional art dealer?' Marcus asked.
'Where are we going to get a black hawk helicopter?' This time, it was Uncle Eddie.
'Where are we going to get a two ton crane and bag of sherbet lemons?'
But the question that was haunting Kat most, the one question that she wasn't quite sure she could answer was: 'Where are we going to get a pickpocket?'
The last pickpocket Kat had picked up had turned out to be the son of an interpol officer. It's not my fault, she had insisted one too many times. I didn't know.
But it didn't matter. Her pickpocket had been a defect, and she didn't want to make the same mistake again.
'Where are you going to find him?' Hale asked, as the others of their team made their way to the bedrooms that lined the upper halls of the mansion. He was leaning against the wall casually, arms crossed over his chest.
'I'm not sure yet,' she said. She tried to walk past him and out the door, but he reached out a hand to stop her.
'Talk to me.' He laid his hands on her shoulders, spinning her around so she was facing him. 'Why are you doing this job?'
'So we can get practice. When he did the Henley, things went wrong. If we want to get as good as Romani, we need to make sure there's no mistakes.'
Hale shook his head in reply. 'No, Kat. That's why we're doing the job. I asked why are you doing the job.'
She pursed her lips but didn't reply. Instead, she tried again to push past him. This time, he let her go.
She was halfway up the steps when he finally called out, 'I do miss you, Kat. When you leave.'
She didn't turn. She only paused in her place and called back, quiet enough that only he would hear. 'I know.'
And she continued on to the room that was always set aside for her.
Jacob knew her name from the moment he walked into the bank's atrium. She was just walking out, and he took a quick peek at her passport as she passed. He was sure she didn't even feel the document leaving her pocket and falling back in again.
But he was wrong. As he walked back outside the bank five minutes later, after withdrawing three hundred dollars cash to pay for the motorized scooter he'd been eyeing, he spotted her leaning against the cold stone wall, a small smile on her face.
'Katarina, right?' he asked, approaching her.
'And you're Jacob.'
He hadn't felt her hand slip into his own back pocket, or withdraw his wallet. But as he ran his hand along the material, feeling for the familiar bulge, he realized it was missing. He looked back up to her and she grinned again, tossing him the wallet. As he pulled it open, he realized a hundred dollars was missing. He didn't comment.
'Why did you choose me?' he asked.
'Because my uncle told me he knows your uncle,' she replied with a grin. 'And that's the kind of thing I like in a slight of hand man.'
The questioning looks as Kat led Jacob into the room were most definitely not few and far between. The Bagshaw brothers gave each other a single raised ginger eyebrow, and Gabrielle gave Simon a quick nudge on the shoulder and whispered into his ear. Kat could almost hear the words across the room. I hope he's not like Nick.
There were only three faces in the room besides Kat's herself that were not concerned about the new pickpocket she'd brought back with her. One was Uncle Eddie. The other was her father. And the third was Hale.
'Jacob Robertson, right?' The billionaire took a step closer to Kat and the new pickpocket. There was barely a year between the two, but Hale had the advantage of being taller.
'Yeah,' the younger replied. 'Call me Jake.'
'I'm not gonna call you anything until I trust you.'
'And when will that be?'
Hale didn't answer. Instead, he turned around and walked across to his liquor cabinet, pulling from it a bottle of scotch. 'Now who here's old enough to drink?' He pulled three glasses from the shelf and poured out some of the alcohol. He handed a glass to Kat's father, Uncle Eddie, and the final one to his butler. He was reaching up to get another glass for himself when he called over his shoulder, 'Did you hear what happened to our last pickpocket?'
He knew it was a harsh blow to Kat's pride, but he wanted to see what this new guy was like. He wasn't scared of him, wasn't very worried. He was more just... curious.
'Um...' the young man replied. 'No?'
'That's right. You don't. Now, Gabrielle, do you want to share?'
'Eh,' she said, nonchalantly. 'He turned out to be the son of an interpol officer trying to catch us when we were on a job.'
Jacob's face blanched slightly. 'Well, my uncle is Lionel Robertson... um... my dad is... um... Henry Robertson, and um... I was kind of born into this business.'
Uncle Eddie smiled, the wrinkles in his cheeks deepening. 'That's why we chose you.'
'What was your show with the scotch?' Kat asked as she sat in the garden with Hale. They were alone. Everyone else had left for their beds long ago, and Marcus had made up one of the spare rooms for Jacob.
'I didn't know what I was up against.'
'So, you wanted to see whether you were the one with the bigger ego, right?' A smile fell across her lips and he watched her for a moment before answering.
'Yeah, something like that.'
'Is that why you didn't like Nick?'
It was his turn to laugh. 'No, I didn't like Nick because I knew something was off about him. He was too cocky.'
'He had too big an ego.'
Hale shrugged. 'What do I say? I prefer my pickpockets when they're under my thumb.'
'Wow, Hale. Didn't pick you for the dictatorial type.'
He didn't answer. He only smiled.
'Do you think we have enough?' she asked.
'How many do we have?'
'You, me, dad, Uncle Eddie, the boys, Simon, Gaby, Marcus and Jake.'
'Well, you're making everything else as hard as possible, why leave this part out?'
'That's the spirit,' she said with a laugh, and laid her head back on his chest. His arms wrapped protectively around her waist and he buried his face in her hair.
'Take me with you next time, okay?'
'Next time, what?'
'Next time you run off places.'
'What will you do if I don't? Hide in my suitcase?'
'That's the spirit,' he mimicked, and kissed her neck gently.