The man lay on his stomache in the narrow air vent that was his home for the last three hours. He was perfectly still, arms crossed in front of him, head settled on them comfortably in the imitation of a man sleeping.
A timer set into the wrist guard of his smooth latex gloves buzzed soundlessly three times and the digital numbers on the gadget glowed dimly.
Slowly, the man began stirring. First flexing his fingers, rotating his wrists, and moving his legs, encouraging his blood to continue circulating.
He pulled out an iphone from a thigh pocket and double checked the security control room. All employees logged out and accounted for. Excellent.
He braced his hands on the surface of the air vent under him and pushed himself forward inch by inch until he reached the grating on the bottom of the duct that he had previously marked out.
He had unscrewed the bolts earlier on and the grate was held in place only by a sticky playdough-ish substance that seemed to do the trick very well indeed.
All it took was a small, sharp jerk to remove the grating. Practically soundless.
The man carefully placed the grate on the far side of the opening and folded himself out of his narrow hiding place.
His black full-body suit was plastered skin-tight against him. He winced with every time he compared himself to Catwoman, he meant no offence to the fictional master thief, but he was the real deal... and he was very male. He resented being instinctively called 'Catwoman' on the rare cases that he was spotted.
He slipped through the shadows, still sulking over his Catwoman problem, over to the exhibit he had come tonight to visit.
"Hello, beautiful." He smirked under his breath in smooth cultured tones when his sweeping flashlight illuminated the painting with a soft, milky glow.
He had to be careful for the motion sensor above the painting. The thief procured a crisply folded white bedsheet, freshly bought from the local store, DNA evidence of countless potential buyers sticking to the surface like germs.
He shook the bedsheet out over himself and slowly, carefully, stretched it out over himself and the painting, nailing it to the wall above the picture frame. Although, the science behind why the bedsheet absorbs ultrasonic waves and thus renders the motion sensor useless evaded the thief, he had seen it done on Mythbusters and through trial-and-error, proved that this information was true and priceless to his occupation.
Now. He let out a satisfied sigh. Now, he could work in peace.
There was a soft 'thoop' sound of a suction cup being operated against the glass separating him from the painting and the thief began the tedious task of cutting the glass pane away from the frame.
When the deed was done, the thief took hold of the suction cup handle, gingerly removed the glass whole from the frame, and stood it up against the wall before disengaging the suction and putting it away.
Then, he meticulously cut the painting itself and peeled it away from the frame, curling it up in his gloved hands and sliding it into a cylinder case.
All that was left to do was to exit the way he had come in.
Safely outside the museum, the thief opened a guitar case that he had hidden earlier and donned casual jeans and a hoodie over his black thieving garb and stashed his newly aqcuired art piece inside the guitar case just when he thought he heard a bang.
His hands froze for a stunned moment before he resumed working and slung the strap over his shoulder, walking away.
Just another musician, don't mind me.
"Oh, for the love of God!" Lestrade groaned when his phone rang. "I just got to bed!" he complained, checking the clock on his nightstand.
It was two thirty in the morning. Two hours after he had abandoned his office at midnight and had come home.
The tinny, nagging voice on the other end continued jabbering in his ear.
"What? Art theft?" Lestrade spluttered. "If you haven't noticed, it's not my division! I don't handle art thefts!"
More staccato chatters.
"Alright. Fine. I'll be there in half an hour."
And Lestrade hung up.
"So, what have we here?" Lestrade asked groggily as he took another gulp of coffee.
"Gunshots were heard at roughly two fifteen this morning, the security guards on duty came running, and they found..." Donovan waved her arm toward the corpse lying on cold marble flooring. Red blood in sharp contrast to the marble white. "...this."
Lestrade nodded and caught sight of what looked, for no better comparison, like a bedsheet fort covering a picture frame a few feet away.
He regarded it for a thoughtful moment before asking, "What the Hell's that?"
Donovan nodded soberly. "It's a bedsheet, Sir."
Lestrade rolled his eyes at her. "Yeah, I can see that."
"That would be precautions against the motion detectors, Inspector." A voice said from behind them.
Lestrade and Donovan whirled around to find a large man with wide shoulders and salt-and-pepper hair looming over them, staring down his nose through his spectacles at them.
Lestrade coughed. "And you are...?"
"Stephen Barnhart." The man introduced himself. "International Art Theft Investigation Specialist." He rattled off wearily with the air of a man who had repeated this particular line many times. "...Interpol." he added as an afterthought.
"Interpol, huh?" Lestrade grunted, shaking the man's hand. "M.O?"
"Daring." Barnhart said as if that explained everything. "Most career career criminals would have special tools and gadgets to work with, most don't very much like the idea of being caught, you understand."
"And this thief?" Donovan asked.
"Uses common household items." Barnhart motioned to the bedsheet. "Like this. Practically anything that anybody could get their hands on. The more people who leave DNA on his tools, the better. You probably won't find much of anything on the bedsheet... or, well, maybe you'll find too much. Cheap tools make for easy acquires and easy losses, but alot more falible than advanced technology. Hacking into the security control room to mess up the incoming data is alot more secure than avoiding the cameras by coming in through the vents and hiding under bedsheets to fool motion sensors-... speaking of which," he said to one of the security guards loitering uselessly nearby, "I thought there were supposed to be vibration sensors on the paintings?"
"Uh, yes..." the man squeaked nervously under Barnhart's stern glare. "But it was malfunctioning and-..."
"'Malfunctioning'?" Barnhart cut him off.
"Y-yes." The man nodded jerkily. "Gone off at random times for no reason... five times in the last two months alone. We had it taken out for repairs since yesterday."
"According to plan." Lestrade drawled around his sip of coffee. He turned and frowned at the dead body on the floor a few feet away from them. "What do you know about his thief?"
Barnhart followed his gaze and sniffed. "Male, tall, six feet-ish, copper-red hair, not averse to dying it, though." He fell silent for a moment in contemplation. "I doubt he's your killer, though, Inspector." he said slowly. "Sure, our thief's had a record of assault in the cases when he's had to make a quick escape... Hell, I've had my fair share of being tased by him, but to our knowledge he's never utilized any sort of firearm before. It's not his style. He sticks strictly to tasers, pepper spray, and hand-to-hand combat. Like I said; he uses tools and skills that could be obtained by anybody."
Lestrade sighed. "So, we're looking for two criminals? My day's just getting better an better."
"I'll have a casefile on our thief sent to your office, Inspector-...?" Barnhart trailed off.
"Lestrade." Lestrade told him. "Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade of the New Scotland Yard."
"Of course." Barnhart nodded affably and excused himself.
Donovan rubbed an eye. "I need a freakin' nap, Sir."
Lestrade sighed back. "I know. Me too." He took a sip of his coffee, now cool and bitter. "Why can't people commit crimes in decent times of the day?"
"I know. Unforgivable." Donovan nodded back grimly.