Police Inspector Calvin Mallory is someone that many of his co-workers would consider an unlucky man. There were the usual things, say, for instance, how often he knocks over a coffee mug at the station or how he always ends up on patrol during rainy days. These instances were, of course, always followed up by a quick apology or an off-handed comment about a broken mirror. But then there were the less than usual examples of the man’s foul luck. Like the time he and his officers were searching for a prison escapee in the woods, only for Inspector Mallory to step right on top of the man in question who hid under a suit made of grass. Or the time the Inspector stopped by a gas station on his day off right as a robber decided to run out of the building, leading to a two-mile pursuit while wearing flip flops. Truly, Inspector Mallory was what many in the business call a shit-magnet.
But make no mistake-- despite his luck, Inspector Mallory has earned his position in the Los Prados Metropolitan Police. In every strange case and unfortunate circumstance, the Inspector has used his skills and good judgement to preserve justice and uphold the law. It only makes sense that he would be called to the scene of this evening’s unusual crime.
“What have we got, Johnson?” The scowling Inspector asked as he walked up to the patrolling officer that had called the station. As he walked up, his ever-present trench coat fluttered a bit with his brisk steps.
“We think it’s a botched robbery, sir.” Johnson answered with a salute. A bit unnecessary.
“Who’s the victim?”
Johnson gestured to the two men--a short one who was grinding his teeth in a quiet rage and a large one who’s suit and hair were still dripping wet--who had been apprehended and were currently sitting in the back of the patrol car.
“And why, exactly, are the victims sitting in the back of the patrol car?”
“When my partner and I tried to get their statements, they started throwing punches. Wouldn’t calm down, so now we’re bringing ‘em in for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. Also…” Johnson looked around the stopped round-a-bout nervously, “I think we need to ask them about how they got so much cash in the first place. But they won’t talk.”
Right. The Inspector had been told the story over the radio on the way here. All of a sudden, cash had been flying around the whole plaza, causing a frenzy. Even now, a crowd was still gathered outside the crime scene, hoping to get a few bills. But they had all been picked up pretty quickly.
“How much cash are we talking?” The Inspector asked.
“Over two hundred forty dollars, sir. But that’s only what my partner and I could get from the men when we arrived. There’s no telling how much was there before people in the crowd walked off with it.”
Inspector Mallory raised an eyebrow at the officer. “And that’s all of the money the guys had when you caught them?”
“Of course sir! Counted it myself!” Johnson saluted again. Good; Inspector Mallory would not tolerate any of his own men trying to sneak off with stolen cash like some of the passersby did.
And that was only a small portion of what had been there. Which begs the question: what were two people doing carrying around so much cash? Inspector Mallory was not usually one to profile, but those two men didn’t exactly look like high rollers. And there were any number of scrupulous businesses going on in this city that two men could make a lot of money off of. But that’s a part of the investigation that would have to wait until questioning. Now, the Inspector needed to answer a very different question: who took the money from these men and decided to throw it out into the wind?
Of course Inspector Mallory would be the one who had to deal with such a ludicrous thief.
“I’m going to check out the scene,” the Inspector told Johnson. He walked past the man, ignoring the unnecessary salute and chime of “ Yes, sir! ”
At the fountain, things seemed pretty normal. After all, there had been no weapons used, the Inspector could tell that much just by looking at the “victims.” But the water… He knelt down to examine the puddle splashed outside one side of the fountain. Luckily, it was after dark on a cool night and the water had not yet evaporated.
There were the obvious splashes from where the large man seemingly fell into the fountain then ran around the courtyard, apparently chasing the thief. But those thin trails of water circling the fountain… were from wheels? Had someone pushed a toy car around? That made no sense.
The sheer strangeness of his next realization caused the Inspector to voice his suspicions out loud: “Roller skates?”
“I cannot believe you actually did that,” Ryder said as she face-planted into their apartment’s couch. The girls had made a quick getaway as soon as they heard police sirens and thanks to Ryder’s expertise in breaking speed limits without being arrested, they were now home safe and sound.
“Hey, I wanted to get the police’s attention. And I did,” Jack said with a shrug and the usual smug smile as she sat down on the rug in front of the couch.
“That you did. I’m just glad it’s over ,” Ryder huffed as she turned her head to face Jack, silky black hair floating up then back down again. After a moment, her expression morphed into a smile and she let out the most adorable giggle Jack had heard all day. “I can’t believe your roller skates actually came in handy!”
Jack let out her own laugh as the absurdity of the situation hit the both of them.
“I told you they were cool!” Jack said between laughs.
“Here I was worried that you couldn’t handle a night as a carrier, but you ended up skating circles around those guys! And did you see their faces when you actually threw that money up in the air? They knew they were screwed!”
Another fit of laughter.
“Yeah! I can’t wait to see the look on the banker guy’s face when I expose his operations to the police!”
Suddenly only one person was laughing now. In the lack of that signature giggle, Jack stopped laughing and looked up at Ryder who was now looking at her with an almost horrified expression.
“You’re not actually thinking of trying to mess with Mr. Wechsler, are you?” Ryder asked.
“Well, sure. He’s probably running illegal speakeasies - and who knows what else - all around town. Shouldn’t someone, I don’t know, do something about that?”
Jack knew she was right, but still felt some sense of regret when Ryder looked at her like she had just suggested running off a cliff.
“Jack, you can’t just-- Wechsler owns the biggest bank in town!” Ryder was mad now. “You’ll get yourself killed if you try to go up against him!”
“‘Go up against him?’ Ryder, he’s obviously doing illegal stuff that the police don’t know about. If I can just find some evidence, I can-”
“Jack! This is serious! You just don’t get it!” Ryder’s outburst was followed by silence, Jack looked at her in confusion before Ryder huffed. “Look, I know you can handle yourself, you’ve shown that much tonight. But you can’t get in over your head!”
Ryder walked over to the bedroom door and said, “I’m going to bed. I don’t want anything to do with this.” She shut the door, leaving Jack on the floor of the apartment, confused as to why this was all such a big deal. In over her head? Jack didn’t think something like a banker with a lot of money should stop her from what is clearly right.
They would just have to agree to disagree.
And Jack would just have to sleep on the couch tonight.
It was Friday night on the rooftops of Los Prados’s ritziest commercial district and Jack was… stewing, for lack of a better word. The girls didn’t have classes that day, but Ryder had a job in the morning, so she was gone by the time Jack woke up. Though Jack could have sworn Ryder had planned to spend that day working on homework…. She was immediately seized with panic at the idea of Ryder avoiding her all day. Surely that wasn’t the case. She couldn’t be that mad, could she?
Focus, Jack! She thought, Ryder later, Wechsler now.
Jack looked down from her perch on the top of the department store just next to the National Bank of Los Prados. Honestly, it was easy to get roof access if you knew which doors to go through (usually the ones labeled “Roof Access - Employees Only” but that were unlocked because no one bothers to actually lock them). It was a bit theatrical, positioning herself three stories up and glaring down at the dark alleyway below, but Jack was nothing if not theatrical.
Then, movement. An employee, probably one of the cleaning staff, was leaving through the back door. As suspected, he walked right out the door and down the alley, not looking back at all and leaving the door to close slowly behind him. Jack took her chance. In just a few quick leaps, she made her way down the building, finding various footholds on the Art Deco building. She slipped inside of the bank’s back door just before it closed shut.
“I’m in,” Jack whispered under her breath with a slight smirk. She found herself in what seemed to be an industrial hallway-- no decorations, no windows, but bright lights and some tools and cleaning supplies placed here and there. Seems like every fancy building in town has a place like this, where the normal working people can move around unseen by the high roller clientele.
It was a situation that suited Jack just fine. She pulled the cap from her pocket and over her head-- a plain grey hat to go with her plain work jacket and jeans. Anyone walking by would assume she was a maintenance worker or a custodian. Especially since she was walking around a bank after it had already closed.
She grabbed the nearest piece of cleaning equipment-- an empty mop bucket and mop-- before maneuvering her way deeper into the building. She just had to find an elevator and make her way to the top floor because that was certainly where Wechsler’s office was and it was certainly going to have some evidence of poor business practices.
Thankfully, that was just as easily done as it was said.
Jack had only encountered a couple late working bankers on her way to the office on the top floor. She acted like she belonged there and so no one questioned her.
At the door to Wechsler’s office, Jack was able to walk right in. Honestly, that man put too much faith in his security staff if he didn’t even lock the office door. Inside, the place was extravagant, as expected. It was dark, what with Wechsler having already left for the day, but he exterior wall was all windows letting in the glowing lights of the shops below. Interior walls were lined with Corinthian-style pilasters and paintings of probably important people that Jack didn’t really care about. What she did care about was the large, hardwood desk over by the windows.
She abandoned the mop and cart and raced over to the desk.
“Let’s see…” She muttered to herself as she pushed aside the leather office chair and started opening the many drawers in the heavy desk.
“Pens, checkbooks, some business paper stuff, pens, an actual gold bar somehow, why does this guy have so many pens, more papers but not what I’m looking for….” Jack let out a huff. Of course there wouldn’t be anything important in any unlocked drawers. At least not the kind of important she was looking for. Did bankers really leave gold bars just lying around? Weird.
She looked around the room. It was surprisingly lacking in storage. There was just the desk, a couple cushy chairs across from it, and bookshelves on either side of the door.
“Maybe…” She walked over to the shelves, eyeing a particularly hefty red book.
“Aha!” She ripped the book from it’s spot. Nothing happened.
“Oh, right. There’s a hallway on the other side of this.” She said to herself as she put the book back and was definitely not blushing. She looked back at the room. There were a number of paintings with heavy frames along the interior walls. She decided to inspect them all.
Sure enough, one of the paintings, of a particularly villainous looking business man, swung right open to reveal the safe installed in the wall behind it. Jack went to work right away (keyed locks were not the only thing she thought would be cool to learn how to open). After listening closely, she was able to find the combination and opened the safe with ease. She also couldn’t help letting a triumphant smile show on her face.
Although Jack had been expecting a record of illegal activity, she honestly was not expecting it to be so thorough . The safe was completely filled with documents that precisely listed names, locations, and bookkeeping for a number of illegal businesses across the city. Jack would have thank Wechsler if she ever saw him; his apparent habit of keeping track of everything was going to be super helpful in getting him arrested. There were even contracts signed by him! He was using actual business practices to record all his illegal activity.
Jack took some of the papers, as much as she could hold, and placed it safely into her jacket. The rest-- which was most of it-- she grabbed and threw up into the air with a smile. It fluttered down all over the office, catching the blue and red lights coming in from the window. Wait…
Jack raced to the windows and looked down. Yep, the police were here. At least eight patrol cars were pulling up to the building, officers racing out of the doors and setting up a perimeter around the building. She could have sworn she hadn’t alerted anyone to her being here…
With not many options left, Jack left the office and ran for the stairwell. The police would surely block the back door, but the jump from the fourth floor to the building next door shouldn’t be too bad.
Jack was stopped in her endeavor as soon as she walked out of the office. In the wide hallway between her and the elevator was a whole team of security guards and police officers. She skidded to a halt.
A very unhappy man standing at the back of the group gave a sinister smirk as he laid eyes on the intruder for the first time.
“There, Inspector!” He proclaimed, “That’s the one who broke into my office and stole the gold!”
“Huh? I stole gold?” Jack said aloud.
A man in a trenchcoat walked forward and pulled a police badge from his pocket.
“I am Inspector Mallory with the LPMP, and you are under arrest for breaking and entering and robbery!”
Jack dropped her surprised expression and scratched the back of her head. Breaking and entering, sure, but robbery?
“I don’t remember doing that.” She said.
The Inspector sputtered. “You- Mr. Wechsler called us in because he said someone broke into his office and forced him to open the safe so they could steal the gold inside!” Oh, so that was how the police got here without Jack even tripping an alarm.
“I didn’t break in. The door was open. Also there wasn’t gold in the safe, just these papers.” Jack explained as she unzipped her jacket a bit to show the corners of the stolen documents. It was the truth of matter, after all.
Mrs. Wechsler’s mouth opened in shock before his face quickly morphed into the worst frown it had ever donned (which was really saying something). His plan had backfired because he simply did not account for Jack’s actual ability to open a safe. He realized he’s dealing with a thief, right? Wechsler turned to the Inspector and demanded, “Well, don’t just stand there! Arrest that thief!”
Even without the Inspector’s involvement, the sheer authority in the banker’s voice was enough to send the guards and officers into action. As the group lunged forward, Jack leapt into the air. Four years of track and field in high school will do that to you. She placed a foot on one officer’s head before leaping again, right over the heads of the banker and the Inspector. She activated her roller blade shoes mid-air and was rolling right towards the elevator as soon as she landed.
“Roller skates!?” Inspector Mallory said.
Jack spun around to face him from inside the elevator.
“Roller blades , actually.” She said as the doors shut with a ping .
The Inspector raced forward to the door and jammed the button, but, unfortunately for him, the device was already beyond reach, as shown by the moving indicator above the door.
“Get to the stairs, you idiots!” Wechsler yelled at the guards and officers. They obliged, and the men all went running for the stairwell. All except one. Inspector Mallory continued to stare at the indicator above the elevator, waiting until he saw it stop at the second floor.
The Inspector ran after the men, to the stairwell, but instead of following them to the first floor he stopped and went to the second floor. There, he burst into a dark office floor, cubicles and desks spread out across the otherwise wide open floor. He turned on the light.
Jack stopped in her tracks before she could reach a window. Had they actually followed her here? It didn’t make sense to go anywhere but the first floor, and she should know! She’s the one who thought it would be a good idea to not do that!
“That call Wechsler made: he did that before you even got here didn’t he?” Inspector Mallory’s voice rang out across the otherwise empty room. He walked around briskly, searching between faux walls and potted plants. Jack crept around just as briskly, trying to stay out of sight and as quiet as possible.
“He was waiting for you to sneak in so he could call the department to help catch you.” The Inspector continued his explanation. “He waited for you to come then let you think you would get away with it while he called us. He probably set up some gold as bait, but you didn’t take it.”
Jack, having made her way back to the elevator, turned off the lights.
Inspector Mallory stopped in his tracks before rolling his eyes. There was still plenty of light shining in from the city and lamp posts outside.
“Enough playing around!” The Inspector yelled as he continued to look around, “Why did you throw out that money yesterday? Why did Wechsler expect you to come here? J ust who are you, exactly? ”
“Why, detective,” The voice came from his left and the Inspector turned to see Jack there, at the end of a hallway of fake walls, perched on the sill of an open window, “you already know who I am: a thief.” In the glow of the city lights, the Inspector could see that smug smile that he knew would haunt him from this moment on.
The thief looked below, at the source of the noise.
“Well, detective, looks like my ride's here. Until next time,” Jack said. She gave a mock salute and leapt out the window.
The Inspector rushed toward the window, nearly knocking the air out of his lungs as he looked out at the street below. He just barely got there in time to see the thief, Jack, hopping onto the back of a motorcycle and riding away. The Inspector took note of the driver: a woman with dark hair. Unfortunately, that was all he could see of her besides the motorcycle helmet that blocked her face.
The two drove off and the Inspector was left to wonder why he always ended up with the craziest cases.
“Inspector!” Johnson ran up to the man, pulling him out of his stupor. “We’ve successfully secured all of the entrances and exits!”
“It’s too late.”
“Y-yes sir!” (Cue unnecessary salute).
“When we get back to the station I want you to start going through the records. We’re looking for a thief named Jack.”
“You’re going to be the death of me.” Ryder said as she lay, once again, face down on the couch.
“But you still love me~” Jack sang from her position on the floor. She was currently surrounded by the papers she had stolen from the bank. Even just this stack was chock-full of a number of different illegal operations. Speakeasies, drug dealers, “gentlemen’s” clubs. But there was one in particular that stood out to Jack. Mostly because this one wasn’t just a small operation run by a few gangsters. No, this one was bigger.
“‘Cyrus Shapolsky,’” Jack read from the papers in front of her. “He’s some guy who owns, like, half of the apartment buildings on the east side of town. And according to this, he has been manipulating prices so that people pay a lot for apartments that don’t even follow basic safety codes. And he can do it because when he owns so much he decides what the lowest prices are- why are you looking at me like that?” Jack looked up at a Ryder who looked... confused? Amused? Both?
“You just referred to a man who owns half the city as ‘some guy.’”
“Well, yeah. Some guy that owns half the city.”
Ryder let out an exasperated sigh, but smiled nonetheless.
“Hey,” Jack said, “A guy is a guy. I don’t care how much land he owns.”
The two went into a comfortable silence as Jack continued to look over the papers and Ryder watched. Honestly, what was she going to do with that girl?
After a few minutes, Ryder spoke up, “I’m sorry.”
“Huh? What for?”
“Yelling at you. Ditching you when you were about to do something dangerous.”
Jack beamed. “No need to apologize now! I think you already did that when you came back to pick me up.”
“Yeah, well, someone has to keep you out of trouble. If you’re going to keep getting yourself into dangerous situations, you’re going to need someone there to help you get out of them.”
The extraordinary, confident, gorgeous Ryder Destry as her literal partner in crime? In that moment, Jack couldn’t think of anything better.
Within the city of Los Prados was a neighborhood known as Meadow Heights. Ironically, it had not meadows but mansions. Those few blocks of the city were gated off from the rest of it, as if those living there thought themselves above interacting with their own neighbors. The houses there were luxurious. Some had a more modern, minimalist style while others took on a more traditional Art Deco style. None were the same. God forbid that anyone in this neighborhood have to share a floor plan with someone else.
On one of the larger properties of land sat the house of the mayor of Los Prados, Mr. Silvers. It was a bit different from most of the other mansion, using much more classical-inspired architecture, with a basilica-like shape and a plenty of columns and arches. Mr. Silvers was elected five years ago and still held the favor of the people thanks to his efforts to build up the economy and his polite way of speaking.
His daughter, on the other hand, was not so noble. Zareem Silvers was an heiress, a brat, and the leader of the city’s seedy underbelly.
And right now, she was almost as unhappy as Mr. Wechsler. Zareem sat on her bed, dressed in her silk nightgown and absolutely furious. She had just gotten off the phone after being given some very bad news. One of her Kingpins had been arrested. Mr. Wechsler was currently in police custody on suspicion of money laundering, as well as a slew of other unsavory business practices.
And it was some kid named Jack who exposed the whole operation.
Fine then. The Queen could do with one less Kingpin. He was a bumbling idiot anyways, if he was caught so easily. Zareem wouldn’t worry about this Jack character too much. At least, not yet.
Jack was doing one of the things she does best: daydreaming in the middle of a Statistics lecture. That morning, her name had been plastered all over the papers. Well, okay not her name, but “Jack,” a nickname that only Ryder called her. And, okay, not on the front page but a few pages in where it mentions a manhunt for the mysterious thief that the police failed to catch over the weekend.
But all that didn’t stop Jack from daydreaming about how cool it would be to have her wanted poster printed out on the front page of every newspaper in town. And the name “Jack” had some good implications for a thief. Although the fact that they were looking for a man was weird. Did that detective think that Jack was a man because of her outfit at the time? Well, it suited her just fine. It makes it less likely for her to be recognized during the day. Not to mention the added flair of having a secret identity. Like some sort of vigilante superhero!
“ Ms. Demant. ”
A few snickers rang out across the lecture hall as the professor eyed Jack from the blackboard.
“ I said , what would be the next step in this equation?”
Jack looked at the board. Right, she was a student. In a lecture. Paying attention was a thing she was supposed to be doing.
“Is it… finding the standard deviation?”
The professor gave a nod before moving on to explain the process to the whole class.
Jack let out a sigh of relief. Then she promptly went back to daydreaming about all the moonlit adventures she was going to have in her new career as a vigilante thief.