Disclaimer: Ally Carter owns the rights to "The Heist Society". I'm just playing around with her characters (coughHalecough).
1. Even though this is a Hale POV fanfic, it is written in third person instead of first person because it seems to flow more elegantly and naturally through third person narration and I struggled with writing Hale's thoughts using "I".
2. I do not limit Hale's perspective to the events occurring in the book. I have added some scenes and transitions throughout this fanfic to make the story flow more smoothly.
3. Lastly, to make it easier for readers to reference, I decided to follow the format of Ally Carter's book and start each chapter with the location of the gang and the number of days until the deadline.
A smirk that had charmed even the snottiest royally descended, high-society girls slipped onto the handsome face of W. W. Hale V as he enjoyed the view outside the limousine window.
The expansive, meticulously trimmed lawn proudly featured on Colgan brochures was tracked with gooey mud the color of cow droppings. The large alabaster fountain in the center, a remnant of Greco-Roman architecture, had been drained of water and was stained with dirt. Hale lamented that they had removed the 1958 Porsche Speedster that had been perched on the fountain only 48 hours ago.
A disgraceful incident, Hale thought with relish. Absolutely scandalous for such a prestigious institution like the Colgan School.
His sharp eyes caught a blur of movement. The young billionaire sat up as he watched a petite, dark-haired girl hurry down the mud-tracked lawn. Her strides were short, but swift, giving the overall impression of a cat.
The smirk on Hale's face widened, revealing two perfectly straight rows of sharp teeth, like a predator catching sight of its prey.
Suddenly, merely a few feet away, the girl paused. Hale pressed his nose on the window, ignoring the fact that it would leave a slight smudge on the spotless glass.
The subject in question was being approached by a group of Colgan boys, who wore expressions of admiration and awe that Hale knew all too well. How many times had he caught himself looking at her like that after a they finished a job? How many times had he wondered how she was so clever and talented and witty and why she would throw it all away for a boring school like Colgan?
How many times had he wondered how she had managed to get him to break what she herself called the most important rule in thievery: never get too attached to anyone or anything?
Hale wished he could hear what they were saying; too bad the windows of the limousine were made to keep inside conversations in and outside conversations out. One of the boys was favored with a small smile—cue flash of jealousy—before the interrogatee walked the last few feet to the limo.
She was practically standing next to Hale now, only separated by a car door. He watched her sharp features soften as she cast one last glance at Colgan.
Hale had to remind himself she didn't fit in that life any more than he did. He had seen it when she had walked across the lawn alone and no one had stopped to say goodbye to her (other than those boys, who didn't count.) Kat was far too skilled for normal life, too addicted to the thrill of night-escapades and tracking men in long trenchcoats, too caught up in a world where there was no need for social skills because the only people you can trust are the ones that have been around you for your whole life.
And then there was that slight issue in Italy with Signor Taccone and Bobby Bishop…
There was no turning back now.
So Hale was amused when he heard Kat slide into the seat on the other end and say, "Well, I guess that's over."
"Actually, it's just the beginning."
The conversation in the beginning entertained Hale very much as he acted out the confident, bored, sexy billionaire he was born to play and Kat the bewildered damsel-in-distress (she rarely played that part—usually she was more of the slapping, kicking-in-the-shins kind of girl—so it was only natural that he take advantage whenever he could).
He smirked as the depth of his role in her expulsion hit her and enjoyed her momentary speechlessness. He snorted as she, yet again, failed in her attempt to guess his first name (Wesley? Really?)
But although he knew he looked cool and collected on the outside, he felt his heart thumping every time he looked at the girl sitting across from him. He wanted to pull her to him and never let go because he was afraid of what would happen if he did.
That she would take off again.
The banter died away all too soon and she asked the question he knew she would.
"Why'd you do it, Hale?"
"You don't belong in that place." It was the truth although there were other reasons too.
She wasn't satisfied. "Why'd you do it?" she asked again. "I'm not joking, Hale."
"Neither am I, Kat."
"A job for you," he interrupted. "And only you," he added, seeing her expression turn stubborn.
"I don't want a job."
If you only knew what was at stake. "You'll want this one."
"I'm out of the family business. Or haven't you heard?"
"Fine." There was no use hounding her. He knew he'd never win like that. If Kat didn't want to do something, she didn't do it. It was one of the things he had always admired about her.
He leaned his head back and closed his eyes partly. Through a slit, he looked at Kat's face, hoping he'd find even a hint of indecision, but all he saw was stubbornness. Stubbornness and refusal.
Maybe he had been wrong. Maybe she didn't miss the thrill after all. "I'm out of the family business," she had said.
Aloud he said, "But are you out of the family?"
Family. It was a strange word. By the scientific definition, his family was the Hales, a line of billionaires that started with W.W. Hale the First. The Hales were secluded people who lived in solitary and conducted their business quietly. Each generation had one heir who would be trained to handle the family's money.
Unluckily for them, W.W. Hale the Fifth had a rebellious streak.
He moved from private school to private school, all across Europe, leaving destruction in his wake. For formal dinners, he purposely put his tie on crooked and refused to tuck in his shirt. Still, his parents knew (or hoped) this disobedience and defiance would be sucked out eventually, perhaps at military school?
But then he met Kat.
Or, more accurately, he caught Kat stealing the Monet.
The Monet that was hanging in the hall right now.
Hale bit back a smile and hurried her past the painting. Despite that she had told him her stealing days were over, he noticed a gleam in her eye that hadn't been there before.
Some things never change...
"Marcus put you in the blue room. You can go upstairs if you want. Or we can go out to the veranda and have Marcus bring you something to eat." Moonlight cascaded through the windows that lined one wall. Hale guessed it was past midnight. "Are you hungry? I didn't even ask. Do you want-"
"I want you to tell me what's going on."
Well, her focus was definitely as sharp as ever.
Hale's throat felt dry and he wished he could protect her from the news he had been entrusted to deliver. Instead, he changed direction and guided her down the main hall, to the library.
He let her push past him-and stop. He lingered in the doorway, wanting to give her a private moment. More than all of them, Kat seemed to have an appreciation-a connection-with the paintings. Her bright blue eyes would fog up, as if far away, and her lips would part slightly...
He pushed away the image of her lips. "It's Vermeer."
At this she turned. "It's stolen."
"What can I say?" He moved toward the painting and studied it. He had given it to his father as a conciliatory gesture. W.W. Hale the Fourth had hung the painting on the wall behind his desk, not knowing that he was showcasing his son's dirty deeds. Not that he would care either way, Hale thought darkly.
"I met a very nice man who bet me that he had the best security system in Istanbul." He paused, caught up in the memory. It had been his first solo heist and he had carried it out as smoothly as, well, a smooth criminal could.
"He was mistaken."
After asking Marcus for some corned beef sandwiches, Hale got down to business. "So," he said, flashing her a smile that had charmed Queen Elizabeth herself, "did you miss me?"
So she was still a good liar. Hale smirked, remembering that she had broken into the student records office for scoop on him."It really is good to see you, Kat."
"You might want to remember who I am before you try to con me."
"No," Hale said, studying his best friend, his partner in crime, the love of his life. "You might want to remember who you are. You want to go back to Colgan, is that it? After I saved you from that place?"
"Colgan wasn't so bad. I could have been normal at Colgan."
Hale laughed. "Trust me: you would never have been normal at Colgan."
"I could have been happy at Colgan."
"They kicked you out, Kat."
"Because you framed me!"
And one day you'll thank me. "Fair enough." He casually stretched his arms, knowing Kat was waiting. "I sprung you because I've got a message for you."
"Doesn't your family own a cell phone company?"
Her wit was still a competent opponent for his. "Only a little one." It was true though; 5 mil wasn't much in the Hale family. "Besides, it's more of a face-to-face kind of message."
"I thought my dad wasn't speaking to..." She stopped abruptly and dropped onto the couch opposite him. "So how is Uncle Eddie?"
"He's good." Hale eagerly grabbed onto this conversation tangent. "He sends his love. He says the Colgan School will rob you of your soul...but that's not the message."
"Kat," he mimicked and knew he couldn't procrastinate any longer. "Do you want to hear Uncle Eddie's message or not?"
Hale took a deep breath and blurted, "He says he's got to give them back."
"What? Uncle Eddie's got to give what-"
"No. That is the message. And I quote. 'He's got to give them back.'" And I'm just the message-carrying billionaire kid who has way too much time on his hands.
She was shaking her head. "I don't understand."
"There was a job, Kat. A week ago. In Italy."
"I haven't heard about any jobs," she started and then winced, reminding them both that she had abandoned the family for three long months.
"Private collection," he continued as if he hadn't heard her. "Very high-end paintings. Very high security. Very high risk. Two-maybe three-crews in the world could have done it and-"
"My dad's at the top of the list?"
He shook his head. "There is no list. There's just-"
"Dad." Hale watched as she took all this in...and sighed, not looking as concerned as Hale would've thought. Not looking concerned at all. "So?"
So? Hale stared.
"So what? This is what he does, Hale. This is what we all do. What makes this time any different?" She stood up, challenging him to say different.
She still doesn't understand.
Before he knew it, his hand had closed around her wrist. He ignored the spark that raced through him when their skin touched. "It's different because it's different, Kat. This guy-this guy with the paintings-he's a bad guy."
"I'm Bobby Bishop's daughter, Hale. I know a lot of bad guys." She tried to pull away but Hale found his hands grasping her shoulders, his chest pressed against hers.
"Listen to me, Kat. He's not a bad guy like your dad and Uncle Eddie are bad guys. Like I'm a bad guy. This guy? His name's Arturo Taccone, and he's a whole different kind of bad."
They were thieves, sure. But they had rules for what they did. They had respect for the things they stole. They did not kidnap. They did not hurt people intentionally. They did not kill.
Arturo Taccone didn't play by these rules.
Kat shivered. She was looking at him with scared eyes now and he tried to put on his poker face. But anxiety and terror were running through his veins now. "He wants his paintings back. If he doesn't have them in two weeks, then..." The sentence was left unfinished. Kat dropped back onto the sofa, speechless.
This time Hale didn't make fun of her for it. Speechless seemed okay under the circumstances.