“Don’t bother,” Macey said.
She looked at an oil painting that hung over the fireplace, a woman in a canary diamond necklace that was even more famous than she was. “Because she’s in the ballroom right now.”
Macey spoke slowly. “So if you were right and the necklace Mrs. Calloway wore to the ball was a fake…”
Hale nodded. “One guess where she’s keeping the real one.”
Macey peered through the vent at the place where the men were working. They were methodical as they unloaded their equipment, laying it all out on the coffee table like a surgical team preparing their tools.
There were a half dozen devices Macey hadn’t seen before but one small packet that was far too familiar.
“C4,” she whispered, and froze, staring down at the tiny but powerful explosive. “What will they do if they can’t crack the safe?”
“You don’t get it, Macey. They can’t crack that safe.”
“And what will they do?”
“Try to pry it open,” he said.
“And will that work?” she asked.
He shook his head and said, “No.”
“Can you blast into that safe, Hale?”
“What? Why are you asking?”
“Because I think we have bigger problems.”
“What kind of problems?” Hale asked, but Macey just pointed to the fireplace under the painting.
The gas-powered fireplace.
“The kind that go boom.”
Katarina Bishop had been many things in her young life. The daughter of a con man, the niece of a thief. (And once, during a particularly delicate operation in Hungary, the heir to an American ketchup dynasty.) But on that evening, she was something she had never, ever been before: helpless.
Needless to say, she didn’t like it.
“Kat,” Abby called, strolling in her direction. “Tell me about your boyfriend.”
“Well…I don’t know that he’s my boyfriend. I mean…he’s a boy. And he’s my friend. And there’s recently been the addition of kissing. But does that make us friends with benefits or—”
“Kat,” Abby snapped.
“Sorry,” Kat said. “What were you asking?”
“What is his training?”
“Oh…” And then, for an excellent liar, Kat had absolutely no idea what to say.
Abby seemed to read her face, because she inched closer and lowered her voice. “Look, I’m not a cop. And I’m not Interpol. I’m just someone who took an oath a long time ago to keep Macey McHenry safe, so whatever you can tell me…”
“He’s a con man. An inside man. He’s pretty good at short cons and street work. Picking pockets, sleight of hand—stuff like that—but what he does best is…lie.”
“Can he handle a safe?” Abby asked.
“What kind of safe?” Kat asked.
“A Scribner 9000,” Abby told her, and Kat couldn’t help herself—she laughed.
“I’m sorry,” she said, righting herself. “But that safe is drill-proof, hack-proof, and has an internal gyroscope with titanium shafts that bolt into place if anyone even breathes on it funny. Seriously. They don’t even install them in California because of earthquakes.” Kat watched the way Abby gaped at her. “Maybe I don’t know much about boys.…” Kat shook her head. “Doesn’t mean I don’t know about safes.”
“Can you pry your way into it?”
“You mean like with the Jaws of Life?” Kat thought about what Hale had seen hidden in the ballroom. “You can try, but it won’t work. Or…well…it didn’t work at the Israeli Diamond Exchange in 2009.” Kat thought about what she’d said, then quickly added, “Allegedly. There are only two ways into a Scribner nine series. Either you hire one of the half dozen or so safecrackers in the world who can work the tumblers or…” Kat cut her eyes up at Abby, who was totally not liking the answer. “You get someone to give you the combination.” Kat drew a deep breath. “Why?”
“I think we might have a problem.” Abby looked up at the high-rise. “What do you know about the new whole-house system from Sterling Security?”
“The new one?” Kat raised her eyebrows, impressed. “It’s good. I mean…really good. A friend of mine’s dad designed it, and there’s really no way around it unless…” Kat let her voice trail off, and Abby must have read her mind.
“Somebody cuts the power,” Abby said, and Kat looked up at the too-dark building. “The authorities turned off all electricity to the building five minutes ago.”
“What about—” Kat started, but Abby was already shaking her head.
“Backup generators too.”
“That’s why they needed the hostages,” Kat said, and in spite of herself she had to smile. “That’s why they weren’t in a hurry. This had to be big and public and scary enough to get the cops to black out the whole building. It’s genius.” She suddenly remembered who she was speaking to. “I mean it’s awful. But it’s also kind of genius.”
Suddenly, the hostages made sense. It wasn’t a holdup, Kat realized. It was a diversion. It had a purpose. And purposes made Kat happy.
Abby smiled and never asked how a fifteen-year-old girl could be so good at doing very bad things. “They’re past the security system, Kat. And now they’re working on the safe.”
“Whose safe is it?”
“Have you ever heard of the Calloway Canary?”
“Is Mrs. Calloway in there?”
“She’s in the ballroom now,” Abby said. “With a fake necklace that our gunmen evidently knew was a fake, because they went straight for the safe.”
“So someone is slipping them inside information,” Kat said, and Abby nodded. “What do you know about the gunmen?”
“Not much. According to our source—”
“You mean Macey?” Kat asked, but Abby didn’t answer.
“They’re Eastern European, probably muscle for hire,” Abby said. “There’s some big boss we haven’t identified yet. Someone’s calling the shots, but these guys are just here to do a job.”
But Kat was shaking her head. “There isn’t any honor among thieves, Abby. Not among that kind, at least. And right now they’re trying to get into a safe they can’t crack while holding on to over a hundred people they no longer need.” Kat watched the woman’s eyes, her worried posture and hasty glances toward an empty balcony.
“What is it?” Kat asked. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“Kat, can you blast your way into that safe?”
“Technically, yes,” Kat started slowly. “But in a private residence with close quarters and utilities you’d have to be crazy to try.”
“So we can’t let them try.”
“No.” Kat shook her head. “We can’t.”
Then Abby seemed to remember that she was the adult and Kat was the teen, the civilian, because she patted the younger girl on the back and said, “You don’t need to worry about it, Kat. You’ve done enough.” She turned away.
But there was something inside of Kat that was alive, thinking, planning, knowing that it wasn’t over and it wasn’t okay—that there were codes to her world and her life and anyone who would pick up an automatic weapon and take a hundred hostages wasn’t going to live by them.
Whoever these men were, they were not members of the family, and that more than anything made Kat yell through the darkness, “Abby!” The woman turned, studying her, as Kat said, “There’s something else that I can do.”
“STOP PACING,” Hale said in the manner of someone who was used to giving orders. Sadly, Macey wasn’t used to taking them.
“No thank you,” she said, and kept on walking. Too bad there was no real place to walk to. The storage closet they’d found was small and crowded with dirty laundry and old housekeeping carts. But it was also private and far away from the eyes and ears of the men in the masks.
“Macey, calm down. We don’t know why they brought the C4,” Hale said.
“Well, we do know that there is a gas line running behind the Calloway safe. The bad guys with the big explosives don’t seem to care that there’s a gas line. Let me do the math for you. Gas plus explosions equals boom!”
“Don’t look at me. I would be more than happy to offer a short course on How to Conduct a Proper Apartment Heist, but I doubt these guys are going to take my advice.”
“Abby,” Macey said, trying her earbud again. “Abby, do you hear me? How’s it going trying to cut the gas to the building? Did you do it? Is it done?”
“And what about the gas that’s already in the lines?” Hale asked. “Never mind.” He shook his head. There was no doubt he already knew the answer.
“Guys.” Abby’s voice came through their earbuds. “Just sit tight. We’re working on a Plan B.”
“What kind of Plan B?” Hale asked.
He was almost holding his breath when a voice answered, “My kind.”
Macey tried to read the look on his face then, but it was gone in a flash. It had been a simple moment of peace and joy and pure happiness. That voice made Hale happy. It kept him calm. It was his backup and his conscience. Macey couldn’t help herself; she envied him.
Then Macey asked, “Okay, Abby. What do you have in mind?”
When the plan was set and the mission in motion, Macey had to admit she felt slightly better about the situation.
There are few problems a Gallagher Girl can face that cannot be improved by a job. A task. A target. So there was a new spring in Macey McHenry’s steps as she led the way back down the corridor that lined the ballroom. The carts were still abandoned. Trays of shrimp still lay carelessly tossed aside and they were starting to smell.
Macey walked through it all, feeling in her bones that it was over. She turned and looked at Hale. “Smile, thief boy. It’s a—”
But before Macey could finish she felt something—someone—run around the corner and into her side, knocking her against an ice machine and sending her spinning around.
The man in the Clinton mask seemed completely shocked to find he wasn’t alone. But shock quickly faded as Hale rushed forward, and the man shifted his weight and sent the slightly lighter boy flying too hard into the wall. Then the man turned his sights on Macey.
“Abby,” Macey whispered to her teacher, “I think we might need a Plan C now.”
And then she picked up one of the heavy platters of shrimp.
THE LIGHTS WERE OFF INSIDE THE BALLROOM. So Macey stumbled inside through the glow of the candles that still burned on the tables. At first there was a hiss and then a whisper. It was like the people on the floor didn’t know if she was shadow or ghost as she hobbled on a bruised leg and broken heel, slowly making her way through the flickering light.