Family. Definition: A group of people involved in criminal activity.
Azula could count on one hand the three things she knew for certain:
1. That her brother was running for office again and this was the last thing he needed;
2. That she was already a wanted criminal and shouldn’t be drawing more attention to herself;
3. That she was going to rob El Museo del Prado.
Was this a practical plan? No. Did she really need to steal the most valuable painting in Spain? Absolutely not. But what better present for her beloved niece’s 18th than a painting stolen on her birthday 15 years prior? They'd be able to hide it long enough for things to blow over and by the time she gifted it, Zuzu was unlikely to cause a scene given he too had a penchant for theft or at least for valuable things. He always referred to Izumi as his “princess”, and so “Las Meninas” seemed a fitting gift. Of course, this wasn’t the only theft they’d be committing according to the plan, but it was the part she’d be leading and therefore the part that would actually succeed. Speaking of the plan…
“Joder!” Rosario slammed her fist on the table.
“What’s wrong?” Azula meandered across the dimly lit room they’d been renting for the stakeout and rested her hands on the other woman’s shoulders.
“They keep changing guard duties. It’s like they know we’re going to rob them.”
“Maybe they do,” Azula smirked, “or maybe they know ‘El Tesoro del Delfín’ is going to be taken out for cleaning tomorrow and are currently shitting themselves.”
“I know, I know,” she sighed. “But why are we doing this tomorrow? Isn’t security going to be insanely difficult to get around?”
“Not for us. We’re going to be in a completely different section of the museum and all their attention’s going to be on ‘El Tesoro.’ A nice distraction for us to get in.” Azula pulled a small bottle from the cabinet above the computer monitor.
“But, if you are still nervous, need a bit of Dutch courage?”
Rosario smiled before taking a swig.
“It’s a shame, you know…”
“There’s a temporary exhibition on,” she opened a different tab on the computer. “Cai Guo-Qiang. I’m sorry we’re not going to be able to browse a bit; he’s quite good.”
“My heart bleeds for you, truly. How’s the rest of the museum looking? I take it our zone’s pretty clear so far?”
“Seems to be at the moment. I doubt they’re too worried about anyone stealing our target. It’s stupidly big.”
“I don’t like small prizes.”
“Oh, I know you don’t. How’re you doing with those glass panels anyway? This is gonna have to move fast once they realize there’re two teams.”
“I’ve got it covered. There’re only so many types they could use. I’ll be up and down in an hour, all we need is the uniforms from Raúl and our side’s good to go.”
“And we can trust him?”
“Enough to get us out of there.”
El Prado closed at 8 pm, but there’d be security patrols during the night. Azula had memorized exactly where she’d be dropping in and where they’d be procuring their little treasure; all she needed to do was get onto the roof and free the glass panels in the ceiling. Decked in black with her hair firmly braided, she calmly walked as if though out for a late-night stroll until the Goya entrance came into view. From there, she slowly made her way closer, leaning and ducking, avoiding falling under any lights. She’d picked this spot because of the large tree nearby that she’d be able to climb and get onto the building. Those childhood gymnastics lessons had been invaluable in her current occupation.
Sprinting and keeping her center of gravity low, she then leapt as high as she could, scrambling until she grabbed a lower branch. From there, she jumped onto a smaller building adjacent to El Prado proper, landing with a slight thud, wincing as her leg muscles tensed to absorb the impact of her land as silently as possible. She lunged towards the main building, grasping the top of a window sill before climbing. When she stood on top at last, she checked her watch: fifteen minutes to scale a building. Child’s play.
The rest was simple from there. She found her mark, knelt by the glass, and using the small tools she’d been able to bring with her, pressed the glass until she felt it begin to give. With a satisfied clink, the panel shifted, and she gently released it from its seal. Content that it would move when she needed it to, she replaced it and descended down the side of the building before continuing her evening walk.
Her hands always tingled the day of a heist, but she knew it would wear off once she focused. Raul had got the uniforms: Rosario as a curator and her as a janitor. All they had to do now was wait for the signal, so Azula had positioned herself by the roof entrance, her gear hidden in her cleaning cart. At 2:43 pm, the alarm went off. They’ve gone for El Tesoro, Azula smirked; they weren’t going to get away with it.
She quietly ran onto the roof to her spot, taking the sleeve for the canvas, and hooked her harness onto the side of the building. From there, she quickly removed the glass panels and descended into the gallery where Rosario was waiting, the area having been cleared due to the security breach in the basement.
“You ready?” She smiled when her feet touched the ground.
Leaning the it into the wall, they hefted the enormous painting onto the ground before prying it from its frame. Azula hated having to fold it in half and roll it up, but there was no other way to get it out of the museum, and she then slid it into the canvas sleeve she’d brought with her. Suddenly, the lights came back on.
“Looks like we’re about out of time,” Rosario breathed.
“Time to leave,” Azula grinned.
Slinging the canvas over her shoulder, she hoisted herself up along the rope, replacing the glass when Rosario joined her. Police sirens were blaring, but eventually they found a spot secluded enough to make their escape, ducking behind buildings until they reached a back ally, where their ride was waiting.
“Your niece is going to love it,” Rosario said, nestled into Azula’s side as they finally crossed the French border.
“Of course, she will,” Azula smiled. “I always give the best gifts.”