Uncommon Criminals (Page 21)

“You.”

“Yeah,” Kat admitted while Hale inched closer.

“And you taught me.”

Kat laughed and turned back to the water. “Sorry about that.”

But Hale wasn’t laughing when he said, “I’m not.”

Standing there in the moonlight, Kat saw him set his jaw and turn toward her.

“Someone did them first, Kat. Don’t forget that. Someone, somewhere did them first.” He shrugged. “So we’ll do something first. Who knows? Maybe a hundred years from now, two crazy kids will be debating the merits of the Kat in the Hat.”

“Really? That’s the name you’re going with?”

He laughed and gripped the rail. “It’s a work in progress.”

Out on the water, without the heat of the sun, Kat’s breath fogged in the chilly air.

“Do you think it’s real?” he asked.

“I know it’s real. I’m the one who carried it out of the heating duct, remember?”

She shivered, and Hale placed his arms around her, gripping the rail on either side, pressing her tight between the cool rail and the warmth of his chest. “Not the Cleopatra—the Antony. Do you think it’s out there somewhere?”

“Do you think that two thousand years ago there was an emerald so big you could cut it in half and get two stones that size?”

“Do you think there was a love so big it could curse anyone who went against it?”

“It’s just a story, Hale.”

“Yeah, but it’s a good story. Isn’t it?”

He squeezed her as if forcing out an answer.

“I don’t know. I mean, it’s kind of silly.”

“Silly? Not the word I usually associate with the power couple of the Roman Empire, but whatever.”

“I mean, she was Cleopatra.…Shouldn’t she and Antony have known better? They were so different.…”

“Variety is the spice of life.”

“And from a thousand miles apart.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

“And doomed.”

She strongly suspected his mind was on anything but Cleopatra when he let her go and asked, “Don’t you mean scared?”

Kat felt her heart beat faster, adrenaline pumping through her veins, and she knew he was right. She studied him for a long time. “Do you believe in curses, Hale?”

He looked at her. “I believe in you.”

CHAPTER 25

Perhaps it was the crisp wind and the clear sun that greeted them on the deck early the next morning (though Kat chose to credit Marcus’s excellent coffee), but the fact remained that by seven a.m., Kat and her crew were especially…awake.

Nick sat beside Simon, who was at his computer. Marcus stood at attention beside the food. Hale had his feet on the table, reading the morning paper.

And someone had given the Bagshaws a gun.

“Pull!” Hamish yelled, and Angus pulled a cord and sent a skeet flying across the deep blue water.

A split second later, a loud crack was reverberating across the deck. Kat jumped. Hale sighed. The shot went far wide, and Marcus never moved a muscle.

Kat took the seat on the other side of Simon. “Good morning,” she told him and risked a glance at the screen, but Simon said nothing. “Simon…” she tried again, but Hale cut her off with a slight shake of his head.

“Thinking,” he whispered.

Kat waited.

She didn’t sip the coffee. She didn’t take a bite of the fluffy roll. She just sat watching Simon’s eyes.

“Yes!” he yelled and pumped his fist in the air while, behind him, Angus took the gun and yelled, “Pull!”

“So, Simon…” Kat leaned over the table, and Simon finally seemed to realize he wasn’t alone.

“Hey, Kat.”

Kat chuckled. “Hey. So what’s new?” She eyed the computer and the smile that spread across Simon’s face.

“Well…see…you know the bug we put in LaFont’s phone yesterday?”

“The one that made Kat blow our cover?” Gabrielle asked, strolling onto the deck and over to one of the chaise longues.

“Yes, that one,” Kat conceded.

“PULL!”

Crack.

Again, the shot went wide, and again, the brothers hardly noticed.

“What about it, Simon?” Hale asked, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, and yet Kat was certain that his gaze never trailed from where Nick sat on the other side of the table.

“Yeah, well, the new phones are really more like little computers and…”

“Simon. Buddy,” Hale prompted.

“We didn’t just bug his phone. This morning, LaFont synced his phone to his computer.”

“So we…” Kat prompted.

“We have everything.” Simon turned the screen around. “‘Today, three o’clock, photo op at the Prince’s Palace,’” he read. “‘Four forty-five, interview with Maggie and the Associated Press. Seven p.m., polishing with the royal jeweler.…Tomorrow, nine a.m., VIP brunch with’ what…three CEOs, the Russian ambassador, a delegation from Egypt. Ooh, Princess Ann of Astovia—I hear her plastic surgery was very effective.”

Nick gave a low whistle, then settled back in his chair. “This is a very busy emerald.”

“Looks like it all culminates Thursday night with a big ball or gala or whatever,” Simon said, and Gabrielle looked offended that galas and balls could ever be whatever ed away. “The emerald is going to be there so all the potential bidders can see it up close. Then Friday morning, they auction it off.”

“You’ve got locations?” Kat asked Simon.

“Oh, yeah. We’ve got everything.”

“Security?”

“If LaFont knows it, we know it.”

It felt as if maybe the curse had lifted, the tide had shifted, but then the breeze picked up and a skeet took a very unfortunate turn. Seconds later, Angus was pulling his shot far to the right, shooting a large hole in the second-story galley not ten feet above Marcus’s head.

“Give me that!” Gabrielle bolted to her feet and jerked the shotgun from Angus’s hands.

“Excellent plan,” Nick said with a smile at Gabrielle.

“By the way, Nick,” Hale said, “I’m sure someone can take you to shore now. Thanks for stopping by and—”

“Hale,” Kat said, cutting him off. “We need him.”

“To do what, exactly?” Gabrielle wanted to know.

“Maggie,” Kat said softly. “Someone’s got to keep an eye on Maggie.” She stood and walked tenderly to the rail. The coastline didn’t seem so distant, but the details were still clouded in a fog. So she stared out at the water and tried to focus on the few things she truly knew. “We need to know where she goes, whom she talks to. If she buys anything, I want to hear about it. If she makes any calls, I want to know to whom and for how long.”

“Okay, okay. I got it.” Nick plopped a grape into his mouth and turned for the door, but Hale was already up and blocking his way.

“I don’t think you do.”

“She’s not just some old woman,” Kat said, taking her place at Hale’s side. “She’s not a mark or a chump. She’s been on the grift longer than any of us have been alive.”

Nick laughed a little. “I seem to remember another lifelong con I managed to successfully tail one day in Paris.”

“I mean it, Nick. She’s good.”

“So were you.”

“I’m serious,” Kat warned.

Nick wasn’t smiling when he finished, “So am I.” Then he stepped around Hale and went inside, leaving the crew to watch him go.

The Bagshaws had stopped shooting. Simon wasn’t fiddling with any wires or keys. Even Gabrielle sat perfectly still, back straight, when she asked, “What are we going to do?”

“Simon, I want you to stay with the Interpol files. If there’s something in there about Maggie, I want to know what it is. Angus, you and Hamish stay with LaFont. I want to know if he’s in on it or if…”

Kat trailed off, leaving Hale to guess, “If she’s using him like she used us?”

“Yes,” Kat admitted.

“So what about us?” Gabrielle asked from under the brim of her hat.

“It sounds like the Cleopatra is taking over the town, right, Simon?” Kat asked.

“Right,” Simon said.

Kat allowed herself one last look out across the blue water and the distant coast. “Then I think it’s time we see the sights.”

Fortress was a word that, in Katarina Bishop’s opinion, was severely overused and overrated. It does not, for example, adequately describe a jewelry store or most banks. It is a serious misnomer for the vast majority of domestic military bases (with the obvious exception of Fort Knox). Even half of the royal residences in the world would not be best described in such a way. But not, Kat knew, in Monaco.

“You know, Marcus would have driven,” Hale said as the two of them followed Gabrielle up the long winding road that led to the palace walls of the Grimaldi family home.

“Teens today don’t get enough exercise, or haven’t you heard?” Kat said, reaching to pat Hale’s nonexistent gut. What she found were flat, hard abs, and her face blushed a little.

“You know, about a half dozen armies have tried to take this place over the years,” Hale said, huffing slightly as Gabrielle picked up the pace and the cobblestone street grew even steeper.

“Well then, it’s a good thing we aren’t an army, isn’t it?” Gabrielle said.

The wind was clear and almost cool as it blew from the Mediterranean up through the cypress trees that lined the winding road.

“So if the ball is Thursday night, and they’re auctioning it off at the palace on Friday…” Hale started.

Kat pointed to the tall walls in the distance. “Then the Prince’s Palace is our last shot—which is a bad thing. Though it gives us the most prep time. Which is a good thing. But it’s the palace…”

“Which is a bad thing?” Hale guessed, and smiled in her direction. For a split second, Kat almost forgot about the curse and the stone and what she was starting to think of as the most awkward kiss in the history of awkward kisses.

She pulled her camera from her pocket and scanned the bay below with its acres of yachts and motorboats. The palace sat atop a massive plateau that surged out into the water, raised that much closer to heaven by the rocky cliffs.

Gabrielle crossed her arms and stared out at the jagged limestone wall that rose up from the breaking waves. “I could totally scale that.”

“Those cliffs are a hundred and fifty feet tall and eighty degrees steep,” Kat said, with barely a glance in her cousin’s direction.

Gabrielle was insulted and didn’t even bother to hide it. “Oh, and I suppose you think your dad was alone when he free-climbed the Kyoto Banking Tower on a windy day last September.”

“Cliffs mean many, many chances to fall, Gabrielle.”