Uncommon Criminals (Page 13)
“What time does it close?” Hale asked for what must have been the tenth time in the past two hours.
“It doesn’t,” Simon and Gabrielle said at the exact same time, then all three of them turned to glare at Kat.
“This”—Kat held out one hand—“or Uncle Eddie.” She held out the other, balancing an imaginary scale Simon shivered, then went on. “Well, like I was saying, since Interpol works—literally—all around the world, they are open twenty-four hours a day, always on in every time zone. So the place is never empty. And they’ve got cameras. Good ones.”
“I should hope so.” Gabrielle looked indignant. “I mean, they’re Interpol, for crying out loud.”
“They don’t work with the public, so entry and exit is strictly controlled through these doors.” Simon pointed to the main entrances on the screen.
“There is some good news, isn’t there, Simon?” Gabrielle asked.
“From a security standpoint, their biggest concerns are terrorist attacks. Bombs. Hostage situations. They’ve got more biohazard detectors per square foot than any other building in Europe. Oh, and last year they spent about three million dollars on this facial recognition software that—”
“Good news,” Hale reminded Simon with a pat on his back.
“They don’t have anything anyone wants,” Simon said, then he looked at Kat. “Well…normal people. No offense.”
She shook her head. “None taken.”
“It’s really just an office building—cubicles and files and conference rooms. No cash. No art. Nothing to steal, so if you can get in, you can pretty much have the run of the place. I mean, aside from the guards.”
“And the cameras,” Gabrielle reminded him.
“And those. And they’ve got this biometric retinal scanner that keeps people out of places where they don’t have clearance. But the rest is…easy. Even their computer system is impossible to hack from the outside, but once you’re inside…”
“Then let’s get inside,” Kat said.
If there was one thing any member of Kat’s family learned at an early age it was that fear is a weakness. It makes a person lose her nerve and her cool. It makes people jumpy and organizations nervous, and when that happens, there is always a chance to take advantage. So when Simon and Gabrielle looked at each other, Kat could see a single thought settling onto both of their faces.
“Florence Nightingale,” they both said with a sigh.
“What?” Hale looked between them. Kat couldn’t decide if he was more frustrated with himself or with her. But in any case, he looked very much like someone who would never get used to being on the outside of the joke. “What? So you expect us to just stroll into the headquarters of the International Criminal Police Organization? For them to throw open the doors and let us in?”
Kat smiled as she turned to him. “That’s exactly what I expect to happen.”
“Um…” Simon started slowly, “at the risk of stating the obvious, I feel I have to point out that Interpol has the world’s best database of international criminals.”
“That’s the idea,” Gabrielle said with a nod.
“And I feel compelled to remind you that we’re international criminals?” he finished, but Kat was already smiling.
“Don’t worry, Simon. It’s not like anyone in there knows it was a bunch of teenagers who robbed the Henley.”
Amelia Bennett had not become the highest-ranking woman in Interpol’s lowest-ranking department by not being able to read between lines or connect dots. Most people would see working at the world headquarters as a promotion—a step up. To the outside observer, Interpol’s main office was the epitome of crime-solving for the twenty-first century, and yet to Amelia Bennett it was a like a prison.
But with a far more interesting basement.
Strolling through headquarters that Friday morning, she had a stack of dusty files under her arm and a look of steely resolve on her face, and when she reached her boss’s door, she walked right in without knocking.
“Bennett!” Artie Dupree snapped. “What are you—” But the sound of fifteen pounds of dusty files and logbooks hitting the desk cut him off. “What is all this?’
“Evidence,” Amelia said.
The man fingered one of the files in front of him. “The Turkish Dagger job? That happened in 1916, didn’t it?”
Amelia crossed her arms and smiled. “Yes, it did.”
Then it was her boss’s turn to smirk. “Well, thank goodness you’ve solved it.”
As a trained investigator and highly intuitive woman, Amelia heard the dismissal in her superior’s voice, but she chose not to acknowledge it.
“He did it, Artie.”
Amelia placed her palms on the desk and leaned toward him. “Visily Romani.”
Artie huffed. “The Henley investigation is in the hands of the proper authorities, Amelia. Unless the basement archives have a secret passage to London that I know nothing of, I’d recommend—”
Amelia moved a hand to one trim hip and looked down at the man behind the desk. “I really have to thank you, Artie. I mean, do you know what you get when you spend eight weeks going through boxes of dead files?”
Artie craned his neck upward in order to look at her. “Paper cuts?”
“History.” Amelia smiled as if the joke, ultimately, were on him. She picked up the file closest and tossed it onto the end of the desk. “Vienna in 1962. Paris in 1926.” Another file landed on top of the stack, and the man looked physically pained—as if that much dust and disorder were too much for his delicate senses.
“What do they have in common?” she asked like a professor challenging a student.
“Now see here, Amelia, I am a very busy—”
“All high-profile targets. All impeccably planned—almost elegant—jobs.”
“And in every file you can find one name: Visily Romani.” She rummaged through the files, pulling out flagged pieces of paper and showing them to her boss. “Shipping manifest from Berlin in 1935”—she pointed to a signature—“Romani. Witness statement out of Turkey. The witness’s name—”
“Romani,” Artie Dupree finished for her, then gave an exasperated sigh. “What’s this got to do with the Henley?”
“A dozen high-profile heists in a dozen cities over the course of the past ninety years. And who knows how long before that?”
And then it was her boss’s turn to grin. “Ninety years?” he said, sounding as if he might be considering taking the bait. “Mr. Romani has been a very busy man.”
“But that’s the thing, Artie. What if Romani isn’t a man?” Amelia said, leaning forward.
“Great. We’ll alert Scotland Yard and tell them they’re looking for a vampire. Or a werewolf. I’m assuming you’ve cross-referenced this with the lunar cycles.”
“What if it’s a name?” Amelia said, undaunted. She spread the files across the desk. “A name that has been used by a lot of people for a very long time.”
“Excellent.” Her boss pushed the files aside and returned to his order and his lists and his life. “You cracked it. Great work. I’ll call the Henley right away and tell them Leonardo’s Angel Returning to Heaven was stolen by a name.”
“These are some of the most famous unsolved crimes in history. Don’t you see that?”
“I see that they’re decades old, and the key word is unsolved.”
“It’s a common link. A thread. These crimes are interconnected, and if we—”
“Do you know where the Angel is?” he snapped, and Amelia gave an involuntary backward step.
“Do you have information that will lead to the arrest of this Romani…” He stumbled, flustered. “Or Romanis?”
“If we launch an investigation…”
“Bennett! The last time we let you lead an investigation, you swore you would catch one Robert Bishop.”
Amelia crossed her arms and stared down. “Yes, I can see how that investigation would be such a disappointment. It only resulted in the arrest of an international criminal and the recovery of a million-dollar statue and four priceless paintings that had been missing for sixty years.”
“If you really want to solve what happened at the Henley, I’d suggest you talk to your son.” Artie Dupree slipped on his glasses. “After all, he was there.…Wait, what was he doing there, again?” The man asked the question that he and a few dozen others had already asked before.
“He told me he was there out of a deep love of art.”
“But you don’t believe him?”
“He’s a teenage boy. I’m sure what he really meant to say was that he was there to impress some girl.”
The man studied her as if this were all new information (it wasn’t). He sighed as if he could completely understand her predicament (he couldn’t). And he looked at her as if his smile could take the sting out of her current situation (it didn’t even come close).
“Then I’m going to assume there’s nothing else I can do for you, Agent Bennett?”
“No,” Amelia said, gathering the dusty files and clutching them to her black suit. “I have quite everything I need.”
Despite being a highly trained and deftly skilled observer, there were many things Amelia Bennett did not see on her trip back to the basement archives. After all, it looked like a typical morning with the sleepy-eyed masses swiping cards and coming inside. Workers pushed carts and people scanned papers, and it was a day just like any other, there on the banks of the Rhône.
Well, at least that was the way it seemed right up until the point when the bouquet of fresh flowers that was meant for the deputy director was carried from the main reception desk to the upper-level offices, setting off a half dozen biohazard detectors along the way.
A few moments later, on the second floor, a bottle of carpet cleaner began to bubble with seemingly toxic fumes. The head of Interpol’s internal security division was halfway to the mailroom when he heard that a brand-new espresso machine had spontaneously caught on fire. A recently serviced oven in the cafeteria began spewing smoke so thick no one could even see.
“What’s going on?” one of the guards in the security room wanted to know.
“All of the toilets in the men’s room on the fourth floor just…blew!” someone else exclaimed.
All throughout the building, sirens were blaring and sensors were tripping. And when the electronic voice began echoing through the building, saying, “THERE HAS BEEN A BREACH IN SECURITY PROTOCOL. PLEASE PROCEED TO THE NEAREST DOOR,” first in French, then again in Arabic, English, and Spanish, there was only one thing to be done.
To their credit, every single person at Interpol’s world headquarters reacted in the calm, orderly way that one would have expected. To anyone observing from across the river, it looked like nothing more than a minor inconvenience—a drill. Exploding toilets, after all, did not an international incident make. Many of the Interpol officials said later that if they hadn’t known better, they would have sworn they were witnessing the harmless pranks of kids.