Detective Grayson, now working for Interpol with one James Sterling, could barely contain her excitement when he dropped the memo on her desk. It was still just rumors on the wind, but all the sources who were talking about it were saying the same thing: after a long period of hibernation, the Jackal was once more on the move!
Because didn’t Stella Voleur deserve one last big adventure? Could an old woman really be blamed for that? Josephine was certainly onboard, as was their daughter Jill, although she wasn’t interested in going herself. Their grandson Eric was NOT supposed to know, but he and his boyfriend Maurice walked in on them when they were planning.
It was during that point that Eric learned that the criminals who’d helped reunite his grandmothers were the same criminals who’d helped his boyfriend’s mentor. Apparently, New Orleans was just a small world like that.
That was how Breanna got roped into the whole affair, the rest of the team telling her just to be careful not to get caught. Then Breanna’s girlfriend Emily ended up complicit because she had her pilot’s license and also owned a private plane. Yeah, her job had paid far better than her shithead Nazi boss had treated her, and her new job paid even more.
The last two members to join were Leon and James. It was winter, when the crops needed neither planting nor tending nor harvesting. Stella, Jo, Eric, Maurice, Breanna, and Emily had swung by to purchase supplies for their trip. The two farmers weren’t interested in pursuing a criminal lifestyle, but they offered to give them all the supplies for free in exchange for passage to London. Life was too short not to seize the opportunity for a vacation when it presents itself, after all.
Then, right before the trip, Eric came down with a case of the flu. There was much handwringing about that, but it was eventually decided that Eric would stay with his mother while Maurice traveled to London with his boyfriend’s grandmothers. While Maurice was reluctant to leave his love behind, Eric insisted.
Eric and Maurice had been talking about tying the knot, and unbeknownst to Eric, Maurice was planning to pick up matching wedding rings in London. He knew what Eric liked in terms of style, and a ring from a heist would be extra special. And with wedding bells on the horizon, it would be good to get to know Eric’s family better.
With the team in place, they set off. Emily’s plane was a small affair, although large enough to seat ten people, giving them plenty of room. Because it was a small plane, they couldn’t fly straight across the Atlantic. Instead, they had to take a more winding route, first up to New York, then to Greenland, and then coming down along the coast of the European continent before hoping back over to the U.K.
Breanna had arranged the passports, putting her Maker skills to good use. Itineraries had been made for the non-criminal affairs, and everyone had proof of vaccination and the location of the U.S. consulate.
It was a rocky flight, owing to the small plane, although Emily did her best to keep it stable. It was also a long cumulative flight, with the passengers only having short breaks at layovers while Emily refueled. They’d all brought sleeping bags, but sleeping on a plane over open ocean is difficult for some people, and not much can be done about the jet lag that comes from the time change.
After they landed in Heathrow and took taxis to their hotel, they checked into their rooms and then crashed for a bit, rising only to stumble down the street to the closest restaurant, which proved to be a little Mom & Pop Indian restaurant that was delicious.
They reconvened the next morning in the breakfast hall of the hotel, where they made final arrangements on plans for the day. James and Leon would be going off on their own to play sight-seeing tourists, while Stella, Jo, Maurice, Breanna, and Emily would be beginning the heist. But the actual execution of the heist wouldn’t be until the next morning; the first day would just be preparations, scouting the location, and also some sight-seeing. One can’t go to London for a heist and not see some of the famous landmarks.
Leon and James got to see the most sights, of course. They walked across the Tower Bridge, toured the Tower of London, had a picnic lunch in Hyde Park, visited Kensington Palace, and snuck into a performance of a Shakespearean play at the Globe Theatre before having a romantic dinner on the banks of the Thames.
The others also hit up the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels inside. As Maurice – who had no criminal experience whatsoever – eyed the splendor on the other side of the glass as they were carried along the moving walkway, he glanced inquisitively at Stella. She smiled and shook her head.
“Only the British are allowed to steal the crown jewels,” Breanna whispered to him.
But the tradition of all great attractions, the Tower of London tour exited into the gift shop, and after intense searching, Maurice found the perfect set of wedding bands to propose to Eric with, so it all worked out.
When Detective Grayson arrived at the Tower of London, she held up the printout containing the copy of the artist’s sketch of the Jackal in front of the first beefeater she saw.
“Have you seen this woman?” Detective Grayson asked.
“I’m trying to conduct a bloody tour, ma’am,” the beefeater replied.
“The safety of the Crown Jewels may be at stake,” Detective Grayson insisted. She flashed her Interpol badge. “I’m hunting the Jackal.”
“The very one.”
“They’re a bleeding myth!”
“They’re very real, and they’re in London.”
“Give me that,” the beefeater said. She handed over the sketch, and he studied it. “My God, she was in this morning’s tour!”
“Thank you,” Detective Grayson said. She could feel her pulse quicken. Her quarry was near.
The car with the gold inside was deep in the Thames, downstream of London. Breanna and Emily got details from Stella and Jo about where they’d ditched the car and calculated from there where it would be. Then Maurice (who free dove as a hobby) searched around the area with an underwater light until he spotted the glint of metal.
Making note of the location, they returned to the city to make arrangements for scuba gear, which they would rent the next morning. The entire group reconvened after dinner, and then made plans for the next morning. While Stella’s group would be retrieving the gold from the sunken car, James and Leon would be touring Buckingham Palace. They’d already gotten a number of souvenirs, including a raven dressed as a beefeater, which Leon had bought for James at the Tower of London gift shop.
As the sun sank in the horizon, Detective Grayson got word of someone matching the Jackal’s description in Marylebone, but by the time she arrived, most of the shops were closed, and no one still out and about had any more information. She cursed her ill luck and vowed to return first thing in the morning.
The next morning, Detective Grayson started at one end of a street and began working her way along in, stopping in every shop and business she came to, showing them the artist’s sketch of the Jackal and asking if they’d seen that woman. She entered bakeries and churches and a surgery center, asking if they’d seen the greatest grifter of the ages.
Her diligence paid off after two hours. The Jackal had rented scuba gear. Detective Grayson had a good idea what that meant. It was time for her search the length of the Thames.
Emily had been tasked with lookout duty and was monitoring police broadcasts on her laptop. It was therefore she who first heard the bulletin going out that the Jackal was somewhere along the length of the Thames. She rushed to alert the rest. When Maurice surfaced with another brick of gold to be loaded into the car Jo had rented, Emily signaled him to have the other ascend.
“Time for the blow,” Stella said.
“There’s still more gold,” Jo said.
Stella squeezed her hand. “The gold is worthless if we can’t be together.” Still clad in scuba gear, the two women leaned forward to kiss. Then Stella made up her mind. “I’ll provide a distraction. You get the gold to the plane.”
“You just said-,” Jo pointed out.
“Don’t worry, my dear,” Stella assured her. “I don’t intend to get caught. We’ll meet back at the plane.” She stripped off her buoyancy vest, tanks, and weight belt, but she kept the snorkel and wetsuit on. Then she took a diver propulsion vehicle out of the trunk and slipped back into the river and began powering her way upstream.
“I’m going with her,” Jo said stubbornly. “The authorities aren’t hunting me, and I’m not letting her out of my sight.” Changing swiftly out of her scuba gear and wetsuit and into street clothes, she began jogging along the length of the Thames, keeping Stella in her sight the entire way.
Detective Grayson and the local London force got nothing at first. Then, as Detective Grayson was passing the Tower Bridge, she looked across it to see her quarry. There was the Jackal, wearing a wetsuit and flippers, standing on the far side of the bridge.
“All units converge on the Tower Bridge,” Detective Grayson called.
The Jackal’s eyes alighted on Detective Grayson, and she recognized Detective Grayson for an agent of the law. Fearing that the Jackal would disappear into the Thames, Detective Grayson pelted toward her.
As she ran the length of the bridge, she felt the structure beneath her feet begin to rise. A glance to the side confirmed her fears. A boat was approaching the Tower Bridge. The bridge had to rise. On the other side of the widening gap, the Jackal began heading downhill, toward the other side of the Thames. With a curse, Detective Grayson beat her own retreat.
She called in the events over her walkie talkie as she backed toward solid ground. Once there, she ascended to the upper level of the Tower Bridge to cross on the high path, pushing aside tourists who were milling in her way. When she got to the other side, her hopes were dashed. There was nothing left of the Jackal but a pair of discarded flippers.
Stella weaved her way through the streets of London, engaging in some swift shoplifting and a quick change. A coat was the first thing she swiped, followed by a floppy hat and a pair of sandals. Then she weaved and swerved through the streets to hide her trail. Some deft pickpocketing provided her with cash, which she used to purchase a different outfit. She used the in store changing room to ditch her wetsuit entirely. By time she was heading in the direction of the airfield, there was no one who would be able to report her whereabouts to the authorities.
No one except Jo, of course. She’d followed Stella from the Tower Bridge and kept track of her through all of the outfit changes. Once she was sure Stella wasn’t being followed by anyone, Jo fell into step beside her. She held out her hand, and Stella took it, giving her a reassuring squeeze.
When they finally made it to the airfield, James and Leon were just arriving. They’d swung by the hotel room on their way back from their outing and collected everyone’s luggage and checked out of the rooms. Maurice, Breanna, and Emily had already gotten the gold bars loaded into the back. Everyone did a final check to make sure they had all souvenirs, phone chargers, etc, and then Emily taxied the plane for takeoff.
Breanna took the co-pilot seat and kept her girlfriend company as she flew them all home. Maurice kept double checking his pocket to make sure he still had the rings, while James and Leon assured him that his proposal to Eric would be fine. And Stella leaned again Jo, grateful they’d been able to have this adventure together.