”Oh, sorry”, Felix mumbled hastily after accidentally bumping against a man on the busy walkway. He sped his steps, quickly changed the other side of the road and then jumped to an alley, before hearing a faint “Hey!” from behind him. The wallet in his hand found its way to his pocket, as he pulled down the hood that had been covering his head. He popped from the alley to another busy street, blended himself in the masses of people. Easy. Men should stop keeping their wallets in their back pockets, they were too easy to take, too obvious, why did they never learn?
Felix skipped over the street once again, the sky was covered, the low-hanging clouds promised rain for the evening. Felix’s hoodie felt a little too hot for the humidity of the summer, but it was a necessity, he didn’t need any cameras recognizing his face. Not that it would have mattered if they had, though, he had disappeared from the face of the earth years ago. Felix turned to another alley, before stopping and taking the wallet from his pocket. He could sell the ID to a guy he knew. Some money, not all that much, but the dumbass had a paper that had all the codes for his credit card in one of the pockets of the wallet. What a fucking moron. Felix took the money, the ID, the credit card and the little piece of paper, and threw the rest of the wallet in a trashcan next to him. He pocketed the things he had taken into the many pockets of his hoodie, before exiting the alley. He should go to a grocery store before heading home.
But he couldn’t resist another great opportunity, and soon he had not only a thick, expensive-looking wallet in his hands, but an expensive-looking watch, too. Men in suits were usually even more stupid, and they didn’t guard their belongings at all. They had everything, they had the money, if a wallet went missing it didn’t matter, they could just buy another one. Leeches of the society. Felix would leech off of them as much as he could, they deserved that. He never stole from those that looked like their pockets had everything they had in the world. After all, occasionally he was one of those people.
Quick visit to that one ATM which cameras were known to be broken, Felix took all the money the first guy had in his card. After that he went to the grocery store and bought with the second guy’s card food for a week before throwing it away along with the other card. They’d close the cards soon, anyway. Tomorrow Felix would go sell the IDs and the watch, and after that he’d be able to pay his rent and get food for the remaining of the month. And after that the cycle would start all over again.
With a hard kick to the door and simultaneously twisting the lock, Felix got the door to his apartment open (surprisingly easy this time). The place he lived in wasn’t in all that good shape. Or well, the hallway was in worse shape, the apartment itself was… alright. The whole building was going to be torn down at some point and then a new, shiny and fancy building would be built on the former one’s ashes, and Felix would once again have to find another place to live, that kind of place that didn’t ask too many questions, for Felix could not give any answers.
Immediately after Felix hauled himself and the heavy bags full of groceries into the corridor, he realized that something was off. The lock had sounded different. The air in the apartment was different. He dropped the bags down and took the pocketknife he always had with him, listened to the sounds around him. He could hear his upstairs neighbor playing her bass, the baby from two floors down yelling. Cars, talking, the sounds of a construction site from outside. Nothing out of the ordinary. No other person’s breaths, there was no one but Felix in the house.
Felix stepped from the corridor to his tiny kitchen-living room-bedroom. The curtains were drawn, the bed was in the condition Felix had left it, not a speck of dust had moved while he had been away. But something had changed. Something was different, someone had opened his door while he had been away, because it shouldn’t have opened that easily, which meant someone had had to use power to open it and had perhaps broken something. Someone had been in his house.
But nothing seemed to be amiss. Nothing had changed, everything was in the same place, Felix’s laptop was untouched on the bed, he checked the bathroom, no one was in there either. It was Saturday, it couldn’t have been the janitor, either, and they would have left a note that they had visited the apartment and called beforehand. Felix listened a little while longer but heard nothing but ordinary life around him.
And then he spotted it.
On the armchair, at the end of his bed, in the corner. Felix felt his heart stilling, the air was knocked from his lungs. He left the pocketknife on the table at the middle of the room, circled it and approached the armchair. His eyes didn’t betray him – there it was. Laying in the middle of the worn-out seat. A king of hearts.
This couldn’t be right. It- it couldn’t.
With shaky fingers Felix took the card from the seat. It really was a king of hearts. This was some sort of a joke, right? Someone had broken into his apartment and was just trying to lure him into something by pretending to be… him. Just to spite him, sure there wasn’t- but there was. At the back of the card, in red ink, numbers. Coordinates, Felix realized. And a time. This was a hoax. It had to be a hoax.
Christopher Bang would never invite him anywhere. It had to be a hoax, just to annoy Felix, someone was after him, and now he’d have to move, because someone from the scene knew where he lived. The king of thieves would not invite him anywhere, he didn’t even know of Felix’s existence.
But there were coordinates, and Felix had heard rumors in the few meetings he had gone to. He had heard rumors in those meetings where he had blended himself against the wall so well that not even the thieves themselves had realized Felix was there. He was a master at making himself invisible. He had heard rumors, rumors that said that every time Christopher Bang invited someone, for a heist, for a meeting, anything, he left a card, and if the one that got the card was clever enough to decipher the code behind the card, he’d be clever enough to join his team. He never worked twice with the same team, though, and those who did work with him, didn’t say a word about anything to anyone. That was the rumor. Felix wasn’t entirely sure if he believed it.
However, cards weren’t anything new and unusual in Christopher Bang’s way of working. Every time he stole something, whether it was a bank’s vault full of gold or getting his team member out of the jail, he left behind a card. Four of spades had been found from a jail cell when Han Jisung had been broken out of jail. Ace of diamonds from the bank vault. Five of clubs from the former city mayor’s desk after his secret room had been emptied of all of the important papers. And as the rumor told, king of hearts was personal, it was an invitation and only for other thieves, that Christopher Bang deemed as worthy. And now one of those rumored cards was in Felix’s hands.
If it was real. It could have been a hoax. If it was real, that meant Christopher Bang had been to his house when Felix had been away, he had broken in and set that card down on his armchair, before disappearing without leaving a trace. That meant that he had been watching Felix, and he had been watching over him for quite a while, because Christopher Bang was always very thorough with his plans and chose his teammates with extreme care. Or that was the rumor, and since not one of his heists or plans had ever failed, they were most likely true.
Well, what else was expected from a family of thieves? Of course he knew his tricks and plans.
But where on earth would he need a scrawny pickpocket like Felix? Felix had never ever done anything more except stolen some wallets and watches and other small trinkets. Oh, and stolen from other thieves, because the underworld of the city was full of them, and Felix was part of it, he knew the bars and pubs and where the right people gathered, and he was good at his craft, and perhaps sometimes he couldn’t resist the temptation. After all, thieves should know better to hold on to their wallets in places such as those.
It had to be a hoax. Felix wasn’t that good, and there were hundreds of other pickpockets in the city. Some of those better than Felix. Maybe Felix had finally stolen from the wrong person and now that person was after him, masking himself behind the card.
But who would dare to do that? Who would dare to pretend to be Christopher Bang, and while he had personally never got blood on his hands, his trusted Han Jisung’s hands were drenched with it. He was from a family of mercenaries. His entire family had blood in their hands, it was only natural, and according to the rumor, he didn’t really mind it.
And if the word got out that someone had pretended to be Christopher Bang to kill Felix, that would only mean hell to that person. So would anyone dare to pretend to be Christopher Bang just to neck a nearly-harmless pickpocket? Felix wasn’t sure.
But would Felix dare? Would he dare to go find out? If it was real and he didn’t go, he’d miss the opportunity to meet the king of thieves personally. No one apart from the people who had worked with him knew what he looked like, everyone just knew his name, Christopher Bang, and that was probably fake, too. If the invitation was a hoax, he’d probably lose something, his life, most likely. Curiosity had killed the cat, after all.
But satisfaction had brought it back. Maybe he’d decipher the coordinates first, and then think about going.
The code, the coordinates had led Felix to a bar he’d been once to. It was on the other side of the city, the area around was not good, and Felix had taken his pocketknife with him, hidden himself in his large hoodie. He had also texted his dear friend Hyunjin that if he wouldn’t send him a new message by morning, he’d have to put out the rumor that someone pretending to be Christopher Bang had killed him. Hyunjin had been all questions, but Felix had given him no answers. He didn’t have time, and if the invitation was real, then he had already said too much to Hyunjin.
The bar was full of people, a bit too full for Felix’s liking, but full enough to blend himself into the crowd. He didn’t stand out, there were people sitting alone at the tables, there were groups of people, Felix’s loneliness was nothing out of the ordinary. He tried searching for something, anything, that would lead him forwards. A clue, another card, perhaps. The one in his pocket felt like burning against his fingertips. As he had first guessed, the card had only held coordinates and a time, and now it was 19 o’clock, and he was sitting in the bar that the coordinates had led to. Perhaps he had read them wrong, perhaps he had got them all wrong, because he couldn’t find any clue from his surroundings. Would someone come get him? Perhaps he was being targeted already, and someone would pull the trigger soon. For some reason that thought didn’t scare Felix all that much.
Fifteen minutes passed, Felix kept glancing around, the neon lights on the walls in the otherwise dim space started hurting his eyes. The talking, yelling rang in his ears, everything around him felt blurry. Felix didn’t like these kinds of bars, he liked the quiet ones, the ones with hushed voices and bartenders that didn’t remember faces. Another fifteen minutes, it was half past seven now, Felix had read the coordinates wrong, he was now sure of it, or he wasn’t smart enough to find clues from his surroundings, and if he wasn’t smart enough for that, then he wasn’t smart enough for Christopher Bang. His phone buzzed in his pocket and he decided that he’d head home. After nine this area would not be all that safe for him anymore, and he didn’t feel like fighting tonight, or taking the long way home.
With a sigh Felix rose up, adjusted the hood over his head better. No one paid attention to him, that’s how he preferred it, he was a shadow in the corners. He passed by a table full of people, had to circle around another table and pass by those sitting on the stools along the bar counter. One, two, three, Felix snatched a wallet hanging from one guy’s pocket, took a step, two,
and with a steel grip someone took him by his wrist and spun him around. Felix nearly squeaked, nearly yelled as he came face to face with a man, whose face was mostly covered with a black hood.
“Knew you would do that.” The stranger snatched his wallet from Felix’s hand, but didn’t let go. Oh no. Oh fuck.
“Follow me.” Oh. Fuck. Felix was done for, definitely, this was the end, thank goodness he had sent a message to Hyunjin of his whereabouts, he could search for Felix’s body tomorrow from around the streets. Felix had no other option but to follow this stranger, the death grip on his wrist didn’t loosen, and if he were to start yelling now, the consequences could end up being much worse. Felix swallowed, and let the stranger pull him into the crowd, towards the back wall of the bar where Felix had just been sitting, a turn left, in through a door behind a curtain next to the counter, and into a dark hallway. Oh, Felix would definitely end up dead. Down some stairs, the grip never let go, the only source of light was an old, flickering lightbulb way too high in the ceiling. The stairs turned right, Felix could hear someone speaking, the guy opened a door and yanked Felix into the room, before slamming the door shut. He finally let go of Felix and stuffed his wallet into the front pocket of his hoodie. To safety. From Felix.
Felix’s wrist hurt, he rubbed it, before glancing around the room. He was in the bar’s cellar. Wine cellar, to be exact, or well, there were all kinds of bottles there, really. The light was dim, it drew long shadows on the shelved walls. And in the middle of the room, was a round table.
And around the table, were five pairs of eyes, just staring at Felix.
“Good evening, Felix”, the man opposite to Felix spoke up. He had black hair, and a long, nasty looking scar slitting through his face, right across his right eye. He was dressed in a suit, all fancy compared to the surroundings he currently was in.
“I suppose you have the card I left for you?” The card? The card. Felix reached for the pocket of his hoodie and pulled the card out. The king of hearts.
And the man in front of him was Christopher Bang. The King of Hearts.
“Quite brave to try to steal from one of my friends”, the man cracked Felix a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Felix was done for, wasn’t he? The said friend circled the table, pulled a stool from himself before sitting down and pulling his hood down. Felix nearly gasped.
He knew that face.
There had only ever been one instant he had got caught stealing. Sure, there had been times he had had to run and escape, but only one time he had been caught red handed.
Now for the second time.
Because the face that was staring right at him, the man who had caught him stealing and brought him here, was the same man that had caught him for the first time, gripped him with that same steel hand and snatched his wallet back. Felix remembered it, oh, he did, it had happened at one of the annual meetings for all of the thieves of the city, Felix had ended up in the same table with a handsome stranger and he had been very interested of him, intrigued, even, but that hadn’t stopped him from slipping into his pockets. Felix swallowed again. He was done for. He had attempted to steal from Christopher Bang’s friend not once, but twice, and failed both times.
“Familiar? I thought he would be.”
Seo Changbin was staring at him, with a grin tugging the corner of his mouth. Felix had had no idea that Seo Changbin was one of Christopher Bang’s men. And Christopher Bang, the king of thieves, knew about it. Felix was done for. He was so done for.
“Sit down.” Christopher Bang nodded towards the stool right opposite to him. It was the only stool left. All the others were taken. Felix sat down, rigid as a string of violin. He didn’t dare to move his eyes away from the king of thieves.
At least now Felix would be one of the very few people who knew what he looked like. At least until these people would kill him off from stealing from one of the king’s men.
“Well, I suppose we’re all finally here now. Took you two long enough.” Christopher Bang leaned against the backrest of his chair and glanced first at Changbin, then at Felix.
“Don’t look at me. Took the pickpocket long enough.”
What? So he was supposed to try to steal his wallet all along?
Christopher Bang snorted, before he let his gaze wander around the room, carefully examining every single person sitting around the table. Felix still didn’t budge; he kept his eyes on the king. He waited.
“Two of you have received my card. One of you is here to pay his debts. I give you one chance to leave this room, and it is right now. You all know what receiving the card means. I won’t blame any of you, if you want to back away, so if you want to leave and not take part in this, then leave now. The door is unlocked.”
‘You all know what receiving the card means’. Felix’s skin crawled. He could feel the shivers running down his spine. Oh, he knew what it meant.
He was invited. He was invited to a heist by Christopher Bang, the king of thieves.
His heists meant fame, but not the face kind, the kind where everyone spoke about you, but didn’t know your name. His heists meant havoc, trouble for the government, trouble for the officials, trouble for the society. His heists caused a wave, one huge heist was always followed by a wave of other crime, he was an inspiration.
And his heists meant money. Even if the things they would heist wouldn’t end up being sacks full of cash, he always paid his crewmates well.
Was Felix in? Would he let the opportunity of the century slip through his fingers?
No. He wouldn’t.
“Good. Then you’re all in.”
Felix let out a breath he had been holding. He was in. He was chosen for a heist by Christopher Bang. Something was very wrong in the world.
“No offence, but what am I doing here? And who are you exactly?” A voice spoke from next to Felix. Felix finally let his gaze slip away from the king to the person sitting next to him. A boy, barely a man with silver hair slicked back and a heavy-looking fur coat over his shoulders. Felix hoped it wasn’t real fur.
“Yang Jeongin. Are you not one of the best drivers this city has ever seen? Are you not the king of the streets now that you finally got your only opponent out of the game by making him crash his car? Are you not the one they call the Viper”
Yang Jeongin. The Viper. Felix had heard that name. He had even seen him driving with his own eyes. Meaning that he had only seen a flicker of neon violet racing along the streets of the city. He was fast. And he was good.
“My name is Christopher Bang. The media refers to me as the Card thief, the thieves refer to me as the King of Hearts. You may call me Chan from now on, and only when no one is around.” Felix watched as Yang Jeongin’s face turned from confusion to understanding. He, too, had heard the name.
“And you have invited me here because you want me to be part of your… heist.” Ballsy this Yang Jeongin guy, was he? Felix wasn’t surprised. He had to be, since he was a street racer.
“Exactly. And not just you, but Lee Felix as well.”
“What’s he good for?” The man next to Christopher- Chan mumbled. He didn’t seem all that interested in the situation, he was cleaning his gun with a rag, focused on it. When he finally lifted his gaze, Felix realized who it was.
Han Jisung. Of course he’d be here.
One of the most wanted people in the country. A mercenary, merciless and cunning. It had taken the police ages to catch him, and Felix was fairly sure they’d never do it again. Chan turned his gaze back to Felix again.
“Lee Felix right here is a master at pickpocketing.”
“The most beautiful form of thievery. It’s fast and unnoticeable, and only those with nimble fingers are capable of it. Pickpockets blend themselves into the crowds, against walls, they go unrecognized, they make sure they’re forgettable. It’s something we are going to need for our next project.”
“And I have been watching mister Lee here. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such talents.” Felix couldn’t lie, he was flattered. Changbin snorted next to Chan;
“Not talented enough the way I see it.”
“If he would have managed to steal from you, you wouldn’t be in this group now would you, Changbin?” There was bite to Chan’s tone of speech. Changbin rolled his eyes, before glancing at Felix again. And perhaps something akin to a flame of challenge lit up inside Felix.
“And he?” Han Jisung nodded towards the guy on Felix’s right.
“Lee Minho. Here to pay his debts. He knows our next target better than anyone in this room.” Lee Minho didn’t look like he was all that comfortable. He was fidgeting, his leg was bouncing, he kept glancing around. He had sharp eyes and sharp features. He wasn’t here because he wanted to. How unfortunate. Felix wondered if he had any… other special talents.
“He’s also a rather sharp shooter. My uncle would know about it.” Felix watched as a red hue flamed over Minho’s cheeks, reddened his ears.
“Isn’t your uncle dead?” Han Jisung mumbled, his eyes back on his gun.
“Exactly. Lee Minho also knows how to get us some blueprints. He will be very much needed for this heist.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
“Exactly, whatever I say.”
Chan glanced around the room once more, before a sly grin tugged the corner of his mouth.
“You may go now. I’ll be in touch for our next meeting. If someone even tries to utter a word, I’ll hear about it, so be smart.”
“How are you going to contact me? You don’t even have my numb-“
“Oh, Yang Jeongin. You have a lot to learn from the world of thieves.”
And contact Felix Chan did. At 2:30 AM a week after the meeting Felix got a message from an unknown number, which was yet another string of numbers. Felix deciphered the code, and that code led him to the abandoned harbor at the other side of the city. Felix walked through the numerous rows of rusted shipping containers, some of them had some magnificent graffiti painted on them. His combat boots crunched against the gravel on the ground, the asphalt was cracked, weeds were poking through the cracks. The only sounds Felix heard were the waves against the breakwater of the bay, the city fell behind him, the containers and abandoned remnants of ships and countless of half-demolished warehouses dulled the endless white noise of the pulsing city. Felix glanced at his phone, the map in it told him he wasn’t far away from his destination.
Felix took a turn left, the containers changed to warehouses. One of those warehouses was going to be theirs, wasn’t it? No fancy manors or bar basements, just a big ass warehouse. Perhaps it made sense, perhaps they were in for a big heist and needed a lot of space to prepare.
Felix still had no idea what Chan needed him for. He had no idea of the target of their heist, he had done some research, and it seemed like there wasn’t much to steal in the city. Apart from banks and some art museums and casinos, but that was it, really, and the museums usually belonged to the government or some foundations. Had mister Bang run out of money? Felix really doubted it. Perhaps an outsider had bought this gig from him, and he needed more people to pull off the heist.
A right, to a narrow alley in between some warehouses, Felix had taken a detour to avoid any and all cameras the harbor area still may have had guarding the place. Though, Felix was quite sure that since Chan had picked this place for them, he was already in control of the cameras. Or perhaps he already owned the whole area under some other name. Maybe Felix should have done a little more research.
The first thing Felix had done after arriving home from the first meeting was searching for cameras or other equipment Chan would have used to spy on him. He hadn’t found any, which meant that he either didn’t search well enough, or there simply weren’t any cameras set up in his house. He hoped for the latter. But how else would Chan have been watching him? Sure he had other things to do than follow him around the city for god knew how long. And Felix never went out at the same times, he changed his routine all the time. And how had he even found him in the first place? The word in the world of thieves rarely travelled, unless you had one something incredibly stupid or incredibly amazing. Felix had done neither. He was just a pickpocket, who, according to Chan, was good enough to get an invitation.
He clearly wasn’t a good enough pickpocket, though, if Chan had found him. If he would have actually been good, he wouldn’t have found him.
Unless… Felix toyed with the thought, just a bit. Unless Seo Changbin had mentioned him to Chan. Felix remembered that he had told Changbin his first name when they had met, when he had first landed his eyes on the man with a dark and brooding aura and he had lured Felix in with his snarky remarks of how the bomb tech with a loud voice was nothing but a hoax and he didn’t know jack’s shit about bombs. Changbin allegedly did. Felix had been interested. Yes, because of the money that reeked from Changbin, but also because he didn’t really talk to people, he had an earpiece in and honestly, he seemed like a government official trying to blend in at the first glance. That was when Felix had attempted to steal his wallet, which… well-
“Hey. Aren’t you the Felix guy?”
Felix stopped just as he was about to turn from the narrow alley and looked over his shoulder. The silver haired boy ran up to him, breathing heavily.
“Jesus fucking Christ, this place is a maze. Why the fuck does he want to meet us in this god-forsaken place? I bet there isn’t even booze here. Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself the last time, I’m Jeongin.”
Yang Jeongin had changed his fur coat to something horrendous made by Gucci, and he had sunglasses on. His silver hair had not been slicked back this time. Felix shook his hand.
“Do you know where to go? I honestly don’t have brain cells for this. Took me way too long to get what the numbers behind the card meant. And then the numbers in the text message. Where the hell did he even get my number? I don’t get it. And why the fuck are we meeting here, I couldn’t even get here with my car, I had to leave it out there. Thank god I didn’t take my baby, just a spare car, it would get stolen here.” Ironic. The two of them turned from an alley to yet another way full of warehouses that seemed empty. Felix fished his phone out of his pocket, glanced at the row of numbers in the text message. There had been three spare numbers, 724,
and when he glanced up again, the same numbers read the rusted placate next to the door of the warehouse in front of him.
“It’s that one”, Felix interrupted Jeongin’s flood of speech. He sure had a lot to say about the harbor area.
“Aha.” Jeongin went ahead and tried to open the door, but it didn’t budge. It was locked. He banged the door, but got only silence in return. Felix decided to circle around the warehouse, but it was just walls upon walls with windows high up in the eaves. The only doors were at the front, the other one was a big one that was used to get all of the cargo in and out, and the other one was the smaller door. Both of them were locked.
“What the hell? Maybe we’re early. Maybe the others haven’t found themselves here yet. Or maybe they’re late.”
Felix really doubted it. He chose to do another tour around the warehouse, maybe he had missed something, but nothing. Walls. Just walls, there weren’t even any signs of any other person walking around the warehouse, just wild grass and Felix’s footsteps. Jeongin trailed behind him, bugged Felix with questions and Felix just shook his shoulders. He didn’t have any more answers than Jeongin did.
They arrived back at their starting point, in front of the warehouse. Suddenly another figure appeared from the alley, looked a little surprised to see them.
“Ah, it’s you. Minho, right?” Jeongin nearly yelled, his voice echoed in the steel walls. “Do you have any idea how to get in?”
“No. Aren’t you the thieves in here?” Minho’s voice was silky and smooth.
“I’m not. I just drive. He is.” Jeongin pointed at Felix, then at himself.
Of course. How fucking stupid was Felix?
“Jeongin, do you have a hairpin?” Felix asked. The street racer turned to look at him slightly surprised, before fumbling for his pockets. Of course, of all the days that Felix forgot to bring his lockpick with him.
Not that he was good with picking locks. He really wasn’t, but he figured that he was better than the two other people.
Jeongin handed Felix a hairpin, Felix turned to face the door and twisted the knob. Underneath was the lock, Felix pressed his ear against the steel door, pushed and pulled it. He didn’t hear anything out of ordinary, so the door most likely wasn’t double locked. Nor were there any surprises behind it, such as a bomb that would detonate the second Felix would get the door open.
Why would there be? Chan needed them. Allegedly.
Felix took the pin and twisted it, before plunging it inside the lock. Minho and Jeongin stood behind him, Jeongin tried to say something but Felix shushed him. He pressed his ear against the door again, and carefully started twisting the pin in the lock. This would take a while. A tiny, tiny clink, he moved the pin a little forward, a twist again, something fell into place again, and again, the fourth one took a little fumbling and twisting and turning and finally, with the fifth one, the door unlocked. Felix twisted the knob and with a satisfying sound, the door opened.
“Oh man, that was so cool!”
It really wasn’t, Felix was slow with doors. At least slower than Hyunjin.
“You could have just knocked, you know.” A voice spoke, with laughter laced in it. Chan was leaning against one of the concrete pillars that kept the roof from falling down. He had changed from his fancy suit to simple slacks and a white dress shirt.
“My skills were getting rusty”, Felix mumbled as he handed the now useless pin back to Jeongin. He looked at it, then at Felix, before throwing it away. The warehouse they were at was empty, there were only footsteps on the thick layer of dust.
“Fair enough. Everyone else is already here. Follow me.” Everyone else? He didn’t mean just Changbin and Jisung, did he?
The three of them followed Chan through the warehouse towards the back. There were stairs that lead up to what Felix assumed was a break room, and next to that was a hatch made of steel, covered with a tarp. Chan pulled the tarp aside before opening the hatch.
“Down you go”, he nodded towards the stairs that led into darkness. Jeongin pushed Felix by his shoulder and decided for him that he’d be the first to go. So, down he went, hands on walls to support him from falling and to sense any turns. The stairs were steep, took a sharp right, and then Felix opened another door and stumbled into the light.
The space before him was nothing like the warehouse above them. It was clean, and seemed to be full of life. There were computers. Screens. Cameras. All sorts of gadgets, of which Felix did not understand anything. Tables full of other gadgets, the lights on the ceiling were nearly blinding. There was another round table, what seemed to be a kitchen in the corner to Felix’s right. And people.
Three people, to be specific. Han Jisung and Seo Changbin, and a stranger, whose face wasn’t all that strange.
“Aren’t you the son of the mayor?” Jeongin blurted out. Ah. That was why his face was so familiar.
“That would be me”, the non-stranger answered with a Cheshire grin. He seemed very out of place with his royal blue suit and tie, at least with Changbin sitting next to him in his black shirt and leather jacket. Chan closed the door behind them and locked it. Felix finally pulled his hood down, he guessed the cameras were there to monitor them, and it would only raise suspicions if Felix were to hold his hood up.
“Sit down”, Chan ordered, and once again Felix found himself in between Minho and Jeongin. Only now Changbin was opposite to him, eyeing him up and down and Felix felt pressured under the gaze.
“Welcome. Given that you are all here, my message reached you just fine and you’re smart enough to decipher the code.” Some agreeing murmurs, Felix stayed quiet. He turned his gaze from Changbin to Chan, who was speaking again.
“Kim Seungmin will be joining our gig. May we end up in trouble, he’s going to get us out before the actual heist.”
“That’s right”, the son of the mayor smiled. Great. A con man. Felix made a mental note to steer clear from the guy, he didn’t trust him at all.
“So why are we here, boss?” Jeongin opened his mouth once again. This boy had zero fears, Felix had learned that by now. He wondered how many times he had got in trouble for his big mouth and lack of respect for people.
“That’s a great question. Jisung?” Jisung rose up from the table, fetched something from a counter beside the wall before returning. It was a scroll of paper. He rolled it open, and it turned out to be a map. The map was big enough to cover most of the table. There was a red circle drawn on the map, nearly at the center of it. Felix could see that the map extended all the way to the harbor. It was a huge, very detailed map of the entirety of the city. Inside the red circle was-
“Grand Museum?” Jeongin sounded very disappointed.
“Correct. We are going to heist three artefacts from the Grand Museum.”
“Oh man. I thought we were in for some casino robbery.”
“Unfortunately we are not. After this heist you can rob as many casinos as you want, you’ll get the skillset for it from here.” Mister Bang sure did not mind Jeongin’s stupid remarks.
“Why?” Felix finally opened his mouth. Chan glanced at him, remained quiet for a brief moment.
“I’ve been paid to do this.”
“How do you know it’s not a plan to get you into jail?”
Chan snickered: “I have my ways to prove the offer to be real. Don’t think the police haven’t already tried that one.” Alright.
“What’s in it for us?” Jeongin asked.
“One hundred million won each.” One hundred million? Whew. That was a lot of money. And if each of them got it, that meant Chan had been offered at least a billion, since he most likely as the mastermind took a bigger portion for himself. “Plus all the costs for the equipment.”
“Sounds desperate”, Changbin muttered.
“Isn’t the Grand Museum government-owned?” Jisung asked. He leaned against the backrest of his chair, pushed blond strands of hair away from his face. There was a half-assembled handgun in front of him.
“It’s not”, Minho finally opened his mouth.
“It’s owned by Park Jungshin.” As expected from the son of the mayor, Seungmin knew the answer.
“I see”, Jisung mumbled, “No idea who that is but good for him. Or bad for him, in this case.”
“He’s among the richest one percent in the country.” Kim Seungmin seemed to know the guy, and the way the grin tugging his mouth got wider every single second, he didn’t seem to be sorry for the guy at all.
“What are we stealing?” Jeongin asked again. He leaned back on his chair so that the front legs rose up in the air.
“A painting, a vase from a few hundred years ago, and a diamond necklace, also from a few hundred years ago.”
“What else are you going to steal from a museum? The cash machine?” Changbin commented, Jeongin stuck his tongue out at him, which only resulted in Changbin rolling his eyes. Hah. Felix bit on his tongue to hide his smile.
“Do we… do we have a plan?” Minho asked in turn.
“We do.” Chan stood up, and pulled the cloth from over the whiteboard next to him. There were words and numbers written in red, blue and black ink.
“First of all, we need to get the blueprints of the museum. Minho, as the janitor of the museum will help us with those. And those who can’t shoot will learn how to shoot.”
“After that we’ll get to know the museum. Investigate, preferably in pairs, except for Jisung who is a wanted criminal. We need to know everything. We need keycards, we need to get into the system, we need to learn the routine of the museum, we need to learn how to get around. Then we’re going to make replicas of the artefacts that look exactly the same, because they will help us out of there and give us a head start once we’re out. Once we’re done with the preparations, we’ll heist. The day isn’t set yet. Shut the cameras, take the guards down, get the artefacts and replace them with the other ones, and finally escape. Then we’ll get the artefacts to the buyer, and everyone may leave to their own ways after that.”
“Sounds fancy. What’s the point of me being here?” Oh, Jeongin.
“You’re going to drive us there, and out.”
“One hundred million for just driving? Alright, count me in.”
“You wouldn’t have had any other choices.”
“What are the rest doing?” Seungmin asked, before eyeing Felix: “We have a janitor, a few professionals, a street racer and what exactly do you do?”
Felix was just about to open his mouth, but Changbin was faster.
“He’s a pickpocket.”
“A pickpocket. For a museum heist? A heist that will definitely end up in the papers?” He didn’t sound impressed, and Felix liked him even less.
Felix rolled his eyes and sighed.
“Watch your mouth, Seungmin, or it might be your watch in his pockets next”, Chan smiled at the conman. That same spark of mischief ignited in Felix as it had the last time he had seen Changbin. He was going to cause problems on purpose if he were to work with this jackass.
“All of us except Jeongin are going to take part in the actual heist, we’ll most likely have to be divided in order to get to all of the artefacts. The more detailed plan will be done once we get to know the museum, especially the security system. Minho, what do you know about it?”
“Not much. It was changed a week ago to a new one. Very high-tech.”
Chan glanced at Changbin, a worried look washed over his face, knitted his brows together. That didn’t sound too good to him, did it?
“Well shit”, Changbin cursed, “If it’s that new, I might not know how to break into it.”
“We need a hacker in that case.”
Felix’s heart stilled for a moment. A second passed, then another, would he? Would he dare?
“I know a guy.” He would. “He works in Prophecy Tech Industries. Occasionally for the government. He hacks into systems for a living so that they can make them better. I’ve never heard of a system where he wouldn’t have been able to get in.”
Chan eyed two of his closest friends, before turning to Felix:
“Are you sure he’d want to work with us?”
“I’ve known him for most of my life, he knows what I do, he’s hacked into a few databases to get material for blackmailing. He isn’t afraid of crime, if that’s what you’re asking.” Oh, he wasn’t afraid of it, not at all.
“Is he loyal?”
“Hasn’t reported me to the police yet, so I’d say so. I bet he’d see this as just another challenge. And he’s not going to turn down a hundred million won when he’s offered such money.”
“What’s his name?”
Instead of Chan texting Felix’s own number, they had received spare phones meant for the heist specifically, and they were to be destroyed completely after the heist would be over. In the phone was stored all of the crew’s numbers, but nothing else, at least not yet. On the third day after the second meeting Felix had received yet another string of codes to decipher, only this time it had been for the time of the next meeting. That time had given Felix two days to contact Hyunjin, and Hyunjin had said yes. Of course he had. He saw this just another fun challenge.
So when the next meeting arrived, Felix wasn’t surprised at the fact that the seven of them were sitting around the table in the secret basement of the warehouse and Hyunjin was nowhere to be seen. Changbin was getting agitated, he was clearly keen on getting a hacker into their team. Felix knew Chan had also made contact with Hyunjin, and presumably put him through some kind of test, where he had given the instructions on how to arrive at the warehouse and when. Felix knew Hyunjin was smart enough to get through the test, but he enjoyed seeing Changbin squirm and shooting daggers at Felix, because if the guy he had said to be one of the bests in the entire country ended up not being smart enough for them, they’d have to find a new one and that wouldn’t be so easy.
And as if on cue, the door opened with a loud clank and Hyunjin dashed in, and Felix watched as Jeongin nearly choked on his cup of coffee and Chan had a very hard time covering his surprise. Felix knew it, Hyunjin looked nothing like a computer nerd.
“Evening, gentlemen. I suppose you are the fancy museum heist crew.” He pulled a chair next to Felix, “Hey, bestie”, Felix nodded at him as he glanced at his best friend. The made a funny-looking duo, Felix was in a black hoodie that was at least three sizes too big and hid all and everything he’d ever need for a successful day as a pickpocket, and Hyunjin had his long, black hair slicked back, a fitted suit worth a million won on and a lollipop in his mouth. He always had a lollipop in his mouth. Felix knew it was a trick to annoy people and hide his anxiety.
“Welcome. I suppose you’re Hyunjin”, Chan crossed his arms on his chest, leaned back on his chair.
“You suppose correct. Was the virus you sent me supposed to be hard to get rid of? Or the codes which I had to decipher from that picture? You know, I’ve solved the first two rounds of Cicada 3301, those things you sent were child’s play.” Arrogant, cocky, Felix nearly kicked Hyunjin in the shin to keep his mouth shut. He didn’t want Chan to get mad at him. Then again, this was most likely just Hyunjin trying to pull some strings, just to see how far he could push it before backing down.
“I suppose they weren’t. Isn’t Cicada 3301 a secret organization? Why do you work for Prophecy Tech?”
Hyunjin took the lollipop from his mouth with a loud pop.
“It sure is. The first two puzzles were solved ages ago, you need to solve the latest one to get in, but I haven’t bothered to go that far. From what I’ve heard, the organization is not worth of my time.”
“I see. What’s your stance on hacktivism?”
Hyunjin shrugged: “I enjoy any form of chaos. And I do anything for money, so, that’s not off the table. I thought this was a museum heist and not a coup.”
“It’s not a coup, I was just asking out of curiosity. You’re familiar with the technology in the museum?”
“Sort of. I know the system they use, but I’ve never tried hacking into it. Might be a challenge but shouldn’t be too difficult.”
“Good. We don’t need just the cameras to be turned off, but the entire system, the ones that guard the artefacts, all the doors, any movement sensors. Everything. In one go. Can you do that?”
“And I also need to shut off the alarms that alarm when the system is shut down. And the alarms that go off when the alarms that alarm when the system is shut down. Yeah. I know. I’ve hacked into the national bank’s systems, I think one museum should be just fine.”
Felix couldn’t keep the slight smirk away from his face. Typical Hyunjin.
“Good. Sounds good. Just tell me whatever you need to hack the system, and I’ll get it for you. We do have some computers here but uhh… yeah.” The king of thieves clearly wasn’t that familiar with hacking, so it seemed.
“How generous”, Hyunjin grinned and winked at the mastermind. Felix rolled his eyes, Chan seemed completely unfazed by the hacker.
“Well. It seems we have everyone that we need for this.” Chan finally mumbled and rose up. He quickly introduced everyone to Hyunjin, Hyunjin glanced at Felix with a very knowing look in his eyes as Chan pointed who Changbin was. Felix pretended not to see him. Instead of Chan bringing out the whiteboard again, he simply leaned against the table, the delighted look from his face now long gone. Oh. So this was serious now.
“I’m going to say this only once now that we’re here. We are professionals here. There will be no strings attached after this heist. From now on every single person in this group trusts each other completely in every issue that has something to do with the heist. Without mutual trust this heist will not succeed. I’ve made background checks on all of you, and I can and will cause you a whole lot of trouble if you as much as think about going to the authorities. I require loyalty from all of you, and if and when this heist succeeds, you will have my loyalty in turn. The one who either betrays that trust or loyalty that this heist requires, will face dire consequences. You will not utter even a word about all of this outside of these walls. No one but us will know. No one. Are we clear?”
Nods, mumbles, agreeing hums.
“Yup”, all, in a cacophony.
“Good. The first stage of the heist is to prepare. Minho?”
“Yes.” There was something about Minho’s posture that kept Felix on the edge of his seat. He didn’t seem threatening, just… alert in a way that made Felix alert, too.
“Can you get us the blueprints within the next week?”
“Most likely. I have a few night shifts, so it shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Good. Are you familiar with… stealing things?”
“Familiar enough. Your uncle’s vault was surprisingly easy to get into. And the basement isn’t guarded all that well, and I can just say they need the blueprints for something. I’m a worker, so they will believe me.”
“Great. Don’t get caught. The rest of you, who still aren’t familiar with guns, will learn to shoot.”
“In here?” Jeongin asked.
“No, we’re going to walk into the police station and ask them if they could teach us”, Chan cracked a grin. “Of course we’re learning it here. I own most of the harbor, there’s enough space for us, and the warehouse next to this one has a similar built-in bunker as this one that’s been turned into a shooting range.”
“Dope. I’m a driver though, do I need to shoot?”
“Yes. We’ll never know what kind of situations we’re going to end up in. And you might have to defend your crown one day.”
“Hyunjin, I think it’s best for you to start familiarizing yourself with the security system. What do you need? Besides a computer?”
“A computer will do just fine for now, I might bring my own, though. I think I’ll also take a good look at the museum and stop by at some point, just to familiarize myself with the area.”
“Sounds good. Changbin and Jisung will teach Felix, Jeongin and Seungmin to shoot during the next week, then.”
“Yes, Seungmin, you too. If I recall correctly, you insisted that you wanted to get to the field with us. Field means you need to be prepared for anything.”
“With that being said, you may come and go as you please, you can spend more time here than is needed, familiarize yourselves with the surroundings, get to know each other properly. Go grab a drink, I don’t know. Blend in. Don’t draw attention to yourselves when you’re in public, don’t do anything stupid before the heist. Jeongin, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t take part in any races for now, but I have a feeling I can’t control you. Felix, I’d also appreciate it if you took some time off from stealing.”
“I have rent to pay.”
“I’ll take care of it. This heist can’t fail, and none of you can get caught before it. If I’m correct, only Jisung and Jeongin are wanted criminals right now, though the police doesn’t dare to go for Jeongin because he’ll just escape with his car.” Jeongin cracked a proud smile at that. Felix had no idea how Chan would be taking care of his rent, but he was going to take it. Hell, if this heist was to succeed, he wouldn’t have to stress about it for ages.
Felix shook his head, none of the others seemed to have any questions either. Hyunjin was still sucking on his lollipop very loudly and messily.
“Good. See you tomorrow.”
The gun in Felix’s hand felt unfamiliar. He had earmuffs around his neck, he had been forced to leave his hoodie, the air in the basement felt cold against the bare skin of his arms, the t-shirt wasn’t enough to keep the cold away. Changbin had seemed surprised as he had seen the entire sleeve made of ink on Felix’s left arm, but hadn’t said anything. Seungmin was pacing next to Felix, his gun was on the table, he didn’t want to touch it. Nor talk to Felix. Jeongin was late, which wasn’t that odd. Minho had, surprisingly, decided to join them as well, even if he already knew how to shoot.
“Shouldn’t you be in the museum stealing the blueprints?” Jisung had muttered when he had walked in through the warehouse door.
“I have an evening shift.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be smart?”
And after that Felix had found out that the mercenary was capable of blushing. He hoped it wasn’t anger, the rumor had it that Han Jisung did not have a very good temper.
The warehouse basement they were at was similar to the first one, just empty. There were a few empty boxes, tables along the walls, and targets at the other end of the warehouse. The lights were sickly yellow, one of them flickered every now and then. Finally Jeongin arrived, and their… training could begin. Jeongin complained about absolutely everything, he didn’t want to shoot, why was this gun so damn heavy, he was never going to be able to hit a target with that, why did he have to wear those stupid earmuffs-
“Because of this”, Jisung muttered, and shot the target at the other end of the warehouse three times without even glancing at it, without a silencer. In the closed, even if large, space of the warehouse, the sound was deafening. Nearly made Felix topple over as he clutched his ears as they rung.
“Are you fucking serious?!” Changbin yelled at Jisung, who just had a hearty grin spreading over his features.
“I thought they might learn best from experience!”
“How are we going to pull off a heist with half of the people deaf?”
“Not my problem”, Jisung shrugged, before he handed silencers to everyone. The ringing in Felix’s ears stopped after a while, Seungmin seemed all but happy about the little joke Jisung had pulled. Felix, with unaccustomed fingers tightened the silencer around the muzzle of the gun. Then he put the earmuffs on, they didn’t completely cover all of the noises, Felix could still hear through them, make out the words.
“Everyone be careful of your pockets since the pickpocket is with us”, Changbin snickered, before pulling his earmuffs on as well.
“I heard that”, Felix mouthed at him, and by the grin on Changbin’s face, he knew he had understood him.
Well, the pickpocket was here, and out of all these people at least Seungmin and Changbin didn’t seem to like him (Changbin had a good enough reason), so he could as well take the route his dear friend Hyunjin always did, and annoy them as much as he could. That little spark of mischief ignited in him once again, Jeongin glanced at him and Changbin with a cocked eyebrow, he hadn’t heard them. Felix just smiled at him, a sweet as he possibly could.
Jisung began explaining how the gun worked, his voice a bit louder than usually to get through their earmuffs. Changbin was standing by, arms crossed on his chest, and Felix was reminded of why he had been so drawn towards the thief in that one meeting. Dear god, was he fine. All muscle and mass and sharp edges and mean eyes. The gun holster that ran across his chest just enhanced it all. Then Felix realized he wasn’t listening and focused back to Jisung and tried to understand how the gun worked. Take the safety off before shooting, yes yes, Felix’s fingers fiddled, opened, slid, he was a multitasker. Then Jisung nodded towards the shooting range, and Felix realized it was actually time to shoot.
Three targets, three places, Felix’s shoulder bumped against Seungmin’s as he moved to the one on the left and slid Seungmin’s expensive watch to his jeans’ back pocket in the process. He wasn’t going to keep it, just have a little fun, people were so bad at focusing on two things at the same time. No one noticed a thing. Felix lifted the gun in front of him as instructed, tried to focus, switched the safety off, and pressed the trigger down. The gun kicked back.
Missed. By a landslide.
He aimed again, shot again, still missed. And again. Seungmin wasn’t doing any better, neither was Jeongin, whose safety had got stuck. Felix noticed Minho was not shooting, but helping Seungmin, explaining how to aim better. Jisung was trying to get Jeongin’s safety unstuck.
“I hope you’re going to return that watch later”, a familiar voice suddenly spoke by Felix’s ear, loud enough to get through the earmuffs, but quiet enough for Seungmin not to hear.
“If he knows how to behave”, Felix mumbled, tried to aim with the gun again. Changbin was close. Very close.
Changbin placed his hand under the gun’s muzzle and raised it with a few centimeters.
“Close your other eye while aiming. You’re pressing the trigger down with your left hand, so that’s the shooting hand. Turn your head a bit to the left, relax your shoulders, close your right eye and aim.” Felix did as instructed, Changbin let go of the muzzle. Felix pulled the trigger. It hit the target, just barely.
“Good. Keep going. I want your hands on the gun at all times so I won’t have to fear for my phone.”
“Why? Do you keep secrets in there?”
“I might. And you don’t want to find them out.”
“If you talk like that, you’re going to get me curious.”
“Just shoot, Felix.”
So Felix shot. Once, twice, thrice, changed the case after a few gunshots, that with Changbin’s instructions, too. Seungmin had started to hit the target as well, Jeongin had not, and Jisung was getting visibly frustrated, but kept on teaching him, nevertheless. And Felix was stuck with Changbin, because it seemed like they all had their own teachers now. He shot again, every time better, occasionally still missing. Changbin kept commenting on what he could do better, how his stance was, how he wasn’t relaxed enough. Slowly Felix was getting used to the weight of the gun in his hands.
“Where the hell is my watch?” The shriek reverberated through the warehouse after perhaps an hour. Wow. It had taken the son of the mayor this long. Changbin glanced at Seungmin, then at Felix, and it took a moment for Seungmin to understand where his watch was. Felix took it from his back pocket, dangled it in his fingers as Seungmin stormed over to him and snatched it from his hands.
“Never underestimate a pickpocket”, Felix, laughter in his voice cut off Seungmin before he had time to say anything. “Next time I’m going to take your phone.” Felix watched as anger wrote over Seungmin’s delicate features.
Behind Seungmin, Jeongin grinned and gave Felix a thumbs up.
“Changbin and Felix, go check out the museum. Familiarize yourselves with it. Blend in, Felix, you need better clothes. Try to look fancy, no one pays attention to brown jackets and slacks and leather shoes. Minho hasn’t got the blueprints yet, but he said he has a night shift tomorrow, so we may have them on Thursday.”
“Why the fuck do I need to go with the pickpocket?”
“All offense taken.” Felix mumbled, before eyeing Chan, who was hunched over Hyunjin’s shoulder, who in turn was focused on his computer. Felix had just returned from the shooting range, his aim had got a bit better during the past few days.
“Stop being such kids and go. Felix, keep an eye especially on the guards. Try to find out where they keep their keycards.”
“You got it, boss.”
The gray beret on Felix’s blonde locks felt odd. He felt weird overall, he wasn’t wearing his usual hoodies and jackets with a million pockets, oh no, he had a very formal-looking long jacket and some slacks on, the new leather shoes felt uncomfortable, and his bag was a bit too light and fell off his shoulder constantly. He looked like an art student with his puffy dress shirt tucked into his pants, and dear lord, did it feel odd.
Changbin was no better in his suit covered by a similar jacket, a hat on his black curls. They circled the street, Felix did what he did best: blended in. He looked around, seemingly interested in his surroundings as if he hadn’t walked through these streets countless of times. They arrived in a park, walked through it in silence, Changbin and Felix didn’t have all that much in common. Changbin kept a distance constantly, careful to not step in Felix’s reach. It was kind of funny. Felix had power he had never had before.
Another street corner, Felix had left before Changbin to get everything he needed – aka the better clothes – and they had decided to meet a few blocks away to not seem suspicious. Yeah, perhaps they were being a bit too careful, but it was better to play it safe. The street was busy, there were people, cars, more people, cafes, boutiques, that street led to the library, and oh, there it was – on the other side of the town square, high and mighty, the museum.
It was grand. Made to look like it was made of white marble, but Felix knew it wasn’t, marble wasn’t a very strong material to make buildings from. The red rugs on the stairs led to pair doors that were open wide, on either side of the entrance were huge banderols which were used to advertise the current exhibits at the museum. High above the entrance read in gold letters ‘Grand Museum’. Delightful. And oh, the museum had no idea what was to come.
Felix glanced at Changbin who nodded before they calmly strode over to the town square full of people and stalls and food and all that. Felix kind of wanted to stop by the food stalls but he knew Changbin wouldn’t be delighted by that idea. He was serious, Felix had learned it by now. Unless you were on good terms with him, which meant he was only friendly to his friends which meant Chan and Jisung. Felix was not on his friend list. Changbin took a sidestep, moved a little closer to Felix and turned his normal stern look to something of a delightfully curious, looking now anything but intimidating. Felix copied the look, his lips curled to a slight smile, as they walked up the stairs, in through the heavy-looking pair doors into a quiet lobby.
As a contrast to the busy town square, there were only a handful of people in the museum. The hollow halls echoed with steps and quiet chatter. Changbin strode over to the museum clerk standing behind the cash register, and before Felix had time to say something, Changbin stuck an entrance ticket into his hand.
“Thanks”, Felix mumbled, and then turned his attention back to his surroundings. The museum sure was grand, that’s all he could think. Red curtains hanging from the walls next to the windows, marble, more red carpets, guards everywhere, high windows made of multiple layers of glass. All of them bulletproof, most likely.
There were guards standing on every doorway, Changbin nodded towards the first exhibit, so they rose the stairs to the second floor and chose the door on the left. The guards were dressed in suits, but Felix knew that underneath those they had guns tied on their waists and bullet vests protecting them. The earpieces were most likely transmitting messages of the visitors’ movements at all times, and the small mics were tugged in the collars of the white dress shirts, ironed, of course. Everything was carefully calculated, every single step watched.
“Act like we’re friends”, Changbin whispered, before turning to one of the paintings. It was a pretty painting, of a landscape, Felix didn’t understand much of art, except it was nice to look at. He tagged along beside Changbin, every so often murmuring things like “this is a nice one, I like the colors on this one, the guards are always positioned at the doors, there aren’t any walking around, there are cameras at each corner and entrance, I like the yellow in this painting”, and Changbin answered him with some hums and agreements and “Yeah, I think so too’s”. Felix had to constantly adjust the strap of his bag on his shoulder. It was a dumb to take it, but it played into the bigger picture. Felix looked like he was carrying a computer or some school books or something. Did they even use books at universities anymore?
“What a nice date spot”, Felix heard some older lady talking to her friend as they passed by her on their way to the second exhibit. Felix glanced at her, and the lady simply winked at him.
“Looks like we’re a couple now”, he mumbled to Changbin, who simply scoffed and rolled his eyes. Felix couldn’t help the little grin tugging the corners of his mouth as he stepped a tiny bit closer, their shoulders just barely grazing each other.
“Don’t even try”, Changbin warned Felix, so Felix kept his hands to himself. Or tried to.
More white marble, more stairs, more red carpets and curtains. More gold details, bright lights and cameras following their every step. The second exhibit was made of art, too, mostly statues. Some of them were painted silver. Nothing stood out, the security was similar to the first exhibit. Felix and Changbin walked through countless of rooms, Felix knew the stairway was around the middle and all the rooms circled it, spread to a large area. The museum was not by any means small. It was huge. And there were at least four floors of exhibitions, and Felix had a hunch the building continued another four floors below the ground.
Paintings, more statues, which soon turned to historic artefacts. Felix noticed how Changbin tensed. They were close, weren’t they? Chan hadn’t still shown them what exactly the artefacts looked like that they were going to steal, but Felix was pretty sure Changbin knew them.
They circled around a corner, walking side by side slowly. Changbin stopped to admire one painting,
“The one on the right”, he whispered, barely loud enough for Felix to hear. Felix let his eyes travel to the painting on the right. It wasn’t a big one, perhaps a bit bigger than an A4 paper. It looked old. It probably was old. The paint was chipped off from one corner, Felix checked the nametag, painter unknown but believed to have the surname Kim. It was from a few centuries ago.
Why this one? It wasn’t anything remarkable, it wasn’t big, it wasn’t grand, just a landscape, Felix could see the brush strokes in the picture, he would have seen more of them if he would have stepped closer but knew that the alarms would have gone off if he had done that. Just as Changbin was about to say something, Felix moved to the next painting. Don’t seem suspicious, blend in, Felix knew how to do that. He eyed Changbin with an arched eyebrow, he wasn’t stupid, he didn’t need to be constantly reminded of what to do.
Another flight of stairs, Changbin and Felix rose to the third floor The next exhibit gave them more statues, each older than the other. The sunlight painted the red carpets lighter, warmed the air inside, Felix wanted to take off his jacket but didn’t bother. Soon enough, they found a row of vases, Changbin stopped in front of one, and Felix figured that to be their second target. The vase wasn’t large, but it was old, too, there were cracks on it. They would have a magnificent time trying to get it to their destination in one piece. The vase was trapped into a glass cabinet, and Felix knew that touching it would end up with at least three different alarms going off.
They trailed through the rooms, until they had to rise up to the final floor. Felix glanced out of the windows, they were so high up the entire town square spread underneath their feet, the endless buildings surrounding it, banks and shopping centers and malls and so many people. The skyscrapers scratched the sky behind the river that glimmered only a few hundred meters away from the town square. His side of the city. The not friendly side. The side that hid all of the secrets of the pulsing nightlife. Changbin cleared his throat, Felix had stopped in his thoughts, “Sorry”, he mumbled and followed after Changbin again. The elevator rang, an elder couple stepped on the fourth floor from it. Guards, the lady guard glanced at Felix emotionless.
And there it was, at the back wall, at the very center of the last room. The necklace, glimmering in diamonds and golden. It was breathtaking, to say the least, and Felix wasn’t normally the one to strive for the glittering riches. It looked like something an empress could have worn hundreds of years ago. Felix let out a breath, Changbin glanced at him and snorted. There were other diamonds around them, too, but Felix only had his eyes on the necklace, until he had to tear his gaze away to not seem suspicious. More, smaller necklaces, rings, bracelets, even a few historic outfits from different places around the world. The room they were in was guarded the heaviest, there was one guard standing at each wall, keeping watch over the precious items. The necklace would be heavy, Felix could guess that much. Which one would he be going for, and with who?
“I think we’re done here”, Changbin mumbled and Felix nodded. Calmly they descended the endless flights of stairs back to the first floor, Changbin nodded at the clerk behind the cash register as he yelled a “Thank you for visiting!” after them. When Felix finally got his feet on the asphalt in front of the museum, he took in a deep breath. Perhaps that had been a little stressful. And to think he’d have to return to that place in the dead of the night, most likely in a few weeks. To think they’d make headlines with the stolen artefacts. Wow.
“What now?” Changbin voiced.
“Do we go back to the warehouse? Have you trained your shooting skills today?”
“I have”, and Felix’s arm was sore because of it. Changbin hummed as an answer, let his gaze linger around the town square.
Felix realized he was hungry.
“I want food.”
“What the hell are you saying? We don’t have time to get food now!”
Felix rolled his eyes as he snatched Changbin by the hem of his jacket and started dragging him towards the endless food stalls in the marketplace.
“You just asked what now, sure we have time to eat.”
“I just ate!”
“No you didn’t, you have been staying at the warehouse for most of the day.”
“Fine”, Changbin finally gave in with a deep sigh. With a winner smile Felix let go of him and skipped through the rows of stalls. The atmosphere seemed to change immediately, the quiet of the museum was left behind and in front of Felix was the bustle of the city, the smell of the food stalls reached his nose and made his mouth water. Changbin followed him with a grumpy look on his face. Clearly not annoyed enough to just leave Felix, which he could have done just as well.
“Of course you’d go for the pancakes”, Changbin said after Felix stopped in front of a certain stall. Felix cocked his eyebrow at him before ordering two pancakes, he could just as well buy one for Changbin since he had paid for the museum entrance ticket. Or well, Chan could. It was Chan’s money Felix was using. A few days ago Chan had handed him a black credit card and told Felix to use it wisely. This was wise, right? Soon enough the very nice older man handed Felix two pancakes in their holders and a few napkins. Felix in turn handed the other pancake to Changbin, who was kind enough to thank Felix.
“How do you know pancakes are my favorite?” Pancakes were what Felix usually bought when he was out. Cheap. Easy. Delicious. Changbin didn’t say a word, it took a moment for Felix to connect the two dots.
“Ah. It’s you who’s been watching me, isn’t it?”
“Do you think Chan would have time for that?”
“But you do?”
“Someone had to do it”, Changbin grunted and bit into his pancake. Felix tried to remember seeing Changbin’s face somewhere else than in the meeting, but he didn’t recall any instances. Someone pushed his shoulder, Changbin and Felix walked from in between the stalls to a slightly less crowded area, before leaving the marketplace behind and turning to a street that led away from the market square.
“Was it easy?”
“Following you? No.”
A smug grin stretched over Felix’s features.
“You don’t follow a routine, and you rarely walk along the same streets. It wasn’t easy to find you, it took Chan a little digging and asking around. And you blend in. That’s why Chan wanted you.”
“And you didn’t?”
“I’m not saying anything. But dear god, was it annoying to tag along you. Especially when you stole and ran off.”
“Did you lose me?”
“Are you saying I’m good?”
Felix snorted at that. Huh. So Changbin had been the one to watch over him. Surprising, but then again… Not really.
“Chan wanted a pickpocket.”
“And how did he, out of all the pickpockets, of whom some are better than me, happen to hear about me?” Felix was going to coax the answer out of Changbin, all while slowly inching closer to him.
“I’m pretty certain you know the answer to that.” Changbin kept his gaze forwards, tried to not fall into Felix’s trap.
“Oh, Changbin, have you talked about me? Did my show impress you back then?”
Changbin looked away, and Felix could swear he saw a rosy hue coloring his cheeks. Just as Felix was about to make his move, a now-familiar grip tightened around his wrist, and Changbin turned back to him, clearly agitated:
“You’re pretty damn quick to forget that I’ve been watching you for the past months. I know your ways, Felix.”
“I have them!” Minho barged into the warehouse at ass o’clock in the morning. Felix nearly got a heart attack as he jumped from the sofa he had dozed off on, Hyunjin just glanced up from behind his computer, before returning to his things. It was just two of them, and now Minho, too.
“Where’s everyone else?”
“Do you know what time it is?” Hyunjin asked, he had an energy drink next to him. Felix noticed someone had put a blanket on him, and he was pretty certain it was not Hyunjin. Felix had promised Hyunjin he’d stay with him in the warehouse as he worked on something “very important” and Felix would have to “keep him awake”, but knowing Hyunjin’s tendencies to never sleep, he just wanted Felix’s company.
“Seven? It’s morning! A new day!”
“Changbin and Jisung dropped by at five-ish. Changbin was drunk. We may have to wait for them quite some time, so I’d say just go to sleep.”
Changbin and Jisung had dropped by? And Felix had slept through that! And judging by the time, he had been asleep for a few hours now.
“Oh. Well, I guess, then.” Minho dropped a memory card that was attached to a paper with some tape on the table in the middle of the warehouse.
“Are the blueprints in that?” Felix croaked and nodded towards the little, black card.
“Yeah. Gotta love the world of technology.”
“That’s a lot of ventilation”, Jisung mumbled as they all were staring at the blueprints from the screen on the wall.
“That’s a lot of turns to remember”, Chan said. Changbin said nothing, he looked like two breaths from puking. Poor thing, it wasn’t even midday, Chan had called everyone in as soon as he had got to the warehouse and Felix and Hyunjin had told him Minho had got the blueprints. Perhaps Felix and Hyunjin had already taken a look, just out of curiosity, and because they were unstoppable together and feeding into each other’s stupidity.
“That’s way too fucking many stairs”, Changbin finally hissed.
“Didn’t you and Felix visit the museum?” Jisung asked his friend, Changbin nodded. That had been a few days ago. After that Felix and Changbin hadn’t really spoken, apart from Changbin helping Felix with his shooting.
Chan asked Hyunjin to print out the blueprints, so he did that. He was tired, Felix could see it from his hunched shoulders and lingering eyes. Shouldn’t have stayed up the whole night. Jeongin asked if Hyunjin could print out detailed maps of the museum’s surroundings, so Hyunjin did that, too.
“Great work, Minho, thank you”, Chan finally turned to the little janitor. What even was Minho? He worked for the museum, but had apparently killed Chan’s uncle and stolen something from him. Was he a thief? What was he doing here? Right, he owed something to Chan.
“Rest of you, great work as well. Hyunjin and I will go check out the museum together tomorrow as well, Minho and Seungmin have already been there, obviously, and Jeongin doesn’t need to visit and Jisung won’t visit because he’s going to get caught on cameras.” Felix glanced at his friend, Hyunjin hadn’t mentioned visiting the museum with the mastermind himself. Chan turned to look at the group around him, with a slight grin tugging the corners of his mouth.
“After that, we’ll start properly planning.”
Felix’s shooting was getting better. He wasn’t as good as Jisung or Changbin (or Chan) by any means, but he was better than Seungmin or Jeongin. Though, Seungmin was learning fast, and Felix had a hunch he wasn’t learning alone. He had seen Minho sneaking into the warehouse when only Seungmin had been present there and Felix had hidden himself into the shadows outside. It was odd, perhaps, after all, Minho still had his work shifts to attend, yet he was almost every single day helping Seungmin with his shooting. Interesting. Especially since Felix had only ever heard the two of them bickering with each other. Then again, Seungmin was always quarreling with everyone except the mastermind himself. He had nearly driven Jisung up the wall. Jeongin couldn’t stand him (or that’s what he said, and then he was all smiles and chats when Seungmin asked something about cars).
To Felix Seungmin didn’t speak. At all. He just shot daggers at him with his eyes every time he entered the room, and it nearly made Felix giggle every time. What would he steal next? It was fun driving the mayor’s son up the wall, it was fun to get under his skin. It was so easy to make him annoyed, and to think he had first ought to be the annoying one. Ha, nuh-uh, darling, not in a room full of thieves when you’re such a goody-two-shoes yourself.
“Felix. Can we talk?” Oh?
Felix had just been leaning against Hyunjin’s computer table, he had nothing to do for the time being, there was no one but him, Chan and Hyunjin at the warehouse. Or so he had thought, but Seungmin had just opened the door, and Minho was right behind him.
“I suppose we can”, Felix mumbled, perhaps a bit curious. Was the mayor’s son finally going to deck him in the face for being annoying?
To his surprise, Seungmin stuck his hand out. He looked sour, as if he was swallowing his pride.
“Truce?” Oh. Because he was. Felix eyed at his hand, then at him, eyebrow cocked. He had such an innocent face. Felix knew that type of face, that type of face got away with anything. No wonder he was the mayor’s son and moved in such… circles as theirs.
“I. Um. Want to be friends with you. But I need to trust that you won’t steal my shit.”
Felix nearly let out a giggle, he could nearly feel Hyunjin snickering next to him. Okay, perhaps this was Seungmin’s first time with… people like them.
“Well, acquaintances, whatever. Just so I won’t have to hold on to my things every single second you’re in the room.”
Felix couldn’t keep the grin from his face. He glanced at Hyunjin, then at the mastermind next to them, and remembered his words. They’d have to get along. Felix didn’t want to stir trouble, and he had a feeling Seungmin would put up a fight if Felix didn’t agree to his… truce.
“You want a truce. With a thief.”
Even Chan had a little smile splaying his lips that he tried to hide with the sleeve of his shirt. He wanted to see how this would turn out, didn’t he.
“Oh, Seungmin, don’t you know anything about us?”
Felix watches as the red spread over Seungmin’s face, as if the pride he had swallowed made his mouth taste like ash.
“Alright, fine”, Felix muttered, just at the last second, just as Seungmin was about to turn around and march from the warehouse. Felix didn’t want any trouble, especially not with the mastermind sitting beside him.
“I won’t steal your shit. You shall have your truce.”
And truce did Seungmin get. Because Felix took all his energy to steal things from other people and place them elsewhere, just to mess with their heads. He didn’t keep them. More than thrice he took Jeongin’s phone and placed it on one of the tables, once on top of the fridge. No one noticed, Chan occasionally did, and he just looked at Felix and shook his head. He was the only one Felix didn’t dare to steal anything from. And Jisung. Not that Jisung had anything to steal, though, he kept his phone very close to himself at all times, but overall he was rather forgetful, constantly misplacing his things, so he wouldn’t have even noticed if Felix would have taken something and put it elsewhere. And Felix didn’t really want to know what would happen if he would notice. Jeongin had already annoyed the mercenary and Jisung had nearly snapped at him.
And of course, Changbin was hard to get to. He was always watching Felix’s every move, constantly watching over his things, looking at him very annoyed whenever he spotted Felix stealing Minho’s phone and putting it beside the microwave. Felix hadn’t even properly spoken to Minho, just a few words here and there. Seungmin’s stuff Felix didn’t touch, he kept his word. Partially he was just stealing other people’s stuff to show him that Seungmin wasn’t somehow the only one that was his target. That Felix wasn’t trying to bully him or anything. He was doing it to everyone.
Because, in a way, he was familiarizing himself with these not-so-strangers around him. He was getting to know them, getting to know their reaction, he always got a few annoyed glances to which he only answered with a hearty smile, and then he watched the annoyed glances falter, turning into eyerolls. He got people talking to him that way, he got Jeongin (well, Jeongin was talking to him, anyway) giving him rides back home (not entirely all the way, a few blocks away, he was still cautious enough to not give him the correct address) and got a first-hand experience how it felt to ride in a car with the most notorious street racer in the whole country. Apparently what he had got was nothing compared to the actual races, and he was pretty certain he’d never want to experience that. Felix liked his feet steady on the ground.
The days passed on, Felix’s shooting was alright now, Changbin said he wouldn’t need much more practice anymore, they had moved on to shooting moving targets. Otherwise he didn’t have all that much to do, they were apparently waiting a shipment for something from somewhere (Chan had been rather vague about that) and Hyunjin was familiarizing himself with the systems, coding something, spending more nights at the warehouse than Felix did, never running out of lollipops. He and Chan had visited the museum, and perhaps Felix had noticed the glances Hyunjin gave the mastermind more often than not. He knew those didn’t mean any good, but he was certain Hyunjin wouldn’t be stupid enough to act, not right now, and not because mister Christopher Bang was who he was and Hyunjin didn’t crave death.
Just as Felix was trying to get his fingers into the pocket of Jeongin’s large fur coat to take his wallet, Chan announced loudly from the other side of the warehouse, having just got off the phone with someone:
“Changbin and Felix, come with me. Our shipment is here.”
Had you asked Felix this morning, he wouldn’t have expected to find himself sitting on the back seat of Chan’s car with the mastermind and Changbin sitting on the front, talking quietly. Chan’s car was expensive, every little accent seemed to glimmer with sleek black. Felix felt out of place with his plain black hoodie, Chan was wearing a suit, Changbin looked decent as he always did. There was mud on Felix’s sneakers, it had rained in the morning and Felix had accidentally stepped in a puddle when he had made his way towards the warehouse. Maybe he’d have to try to blend in better, after all, Chan had… given him money. Perhaps he’d have to make himself look a bit more presentable.
Or not. Felix actually did not care that much. Besides, Jeongin had shown up in a hot pink velour outfit today, Felix was doing just fine.
“You two are just going to watch over the surroundings. I don’t want any surprises, even though I know who we’re going to meet. I just don’t trust them, never have, never will. There shouldn’t be anyone else but us at the harbor.” The real harbor.
“I’m just going to go check that whatever I have ordered is the correct one. It will be transported to the warehouse tomorrow.”
“What is it that you have ordered?” Changbin asked.
“A high-tech 3D printer. We’re going to print the painting, the vase and the necklace with it. I’ve also ordered the cases that we will use in the heist. Handmade, multiple locks, memory foam. And Jeongin’s car should also be here by tomorrow, but the supplier is a different one. Gas bombs and other stuff are also arriving in a few days.”
Damn. The one paying for all of this sure was rich.
The harbor they were driving towards was on the other edge of the city. It was at the seashore, the harbor previously used was at the riverside. The harbor that was Chan’s now. Or at least most of it was his. The sun had set, the evening was painting the sky pink and violet and deep blue. The lights of the city kept the stars hidden. Soon the outskirts of the city turned to warehouses, and then to shipping containers, more shipping containers, more warehouses, some reaching higher and higher and higher. Felix couldn’t see the sky anymore, not with all of the mountains of steel.
Why did Chan want him to come along? Wouldn’t Jisung have been a better option? Felix didn’t have any leverage, he wasn’t scary, just… blended in. Observant. People didn’t pay enough attention to him, but he sure did pay attention to people.
Another turn, then another, they drove straight for a while in silence. There weren’t many people around, just a few workers, otherwise it was quiet. Another turn, Felix’s phone buzzed, it was Hyunjin saying he was hungry and he wanted them to get him some food on their way back.
‘text your loverboy’, Felix tapped the screen and pressed send. It took a few seconds, and he got a reply: ‘fuck you’. It didn’t take long for him to hear Chan’s phone signaling of an arrived message.
Wow. Hyunjin sure did move fast.
“We’re here”, Chan stopped the car in front of a warehouse. There was no one in sight, but a few warehouses had lights on and as Felix stepped out of the car, he could hear a lot of sounds around him, most of them very steely, made of iron. They clearly weren’t alone.
“Christopher! I see you brought some company!” A man, around middle-aged, opened the warehouse door and waved at them to come inside.
“You know I always do”, Chan answered him and nodded towards the door. To Felix’s surprise Changbin made him go before him, keeping the tail himself.
Felix was so used to their own warehouse being empty and full of footprints on the dust that the amount of things inside the warehouse came as a shock to him. Containers full of everything, stacked on top of each other, they nearly reached the ceiling. Chains holding on to other sort of containers hanging from the supportive beams. Counters, tables, lights flickering, Felix could hear the electricity running around him. A few people were hunched over computers, one was welding something in the corner, sparks flying all over.
The man, a bit burly, with arms full of tattoos slapped one of the big boxes that had been brought to the middle of the warehouse. Changbin tugged Felix’s hoodie from the back, stopping him as Chan walked up to the boxes. Right, he had a mission. He glanced around, as nonchalantly as possible, hands in his pockets. Nothing. He didn’t see any… threats. Changbin stood next to him, arms crossed on his chest and Felix knew he was capable of pulling the gun out of his pocket in milliseconds if something were to happen. Felix didn’t have a gun with him. He wasn’t apparently ready to have one.
Chan removed the cardboard box from around the thing, and Felix realized this was probably the 3D printer. He nodded, moved to another box, there were some smaller boxes, and then there were even more boxes. Felix noticed that one of the workers kept on glancing at them, then tapping his computer furiously, then glancing at them again every few seconds. Felix moved his hand, just a few centimeters, nodded towards the lady just barely noticeable. Changbin grunted, he had noticed it, too.
Funny, how they were apparently hating each other yet capable of such minimal communication.
“There’s a gun next to her on the table”, Changbin whispered, covering it with a cough. Felix nodded. The burly man didn’t seem tense, he didn’t seem like he had planned something. Felix glanced at the lady behind again, she kept on switching between Chan, the burly man, and Felix and Changbin standing at the back. She was one of the burly man’s bodyguards, wasn’t she? Or something like that. One of his dogs. Just like Felix and Changbin were now Chan’s dogs.
Felix waited for the woman’s eyes to flicker to himself, and when they finally did, he locked eyes with her. Then he glanced at the gun, then at her, and then moved his eyes back to Chan. He let the guard know that he had noticed her, making himself a threat. He watched from the corner of his eye as the lady looked at her buddy, who shook his head, just barely noticeable. Nothing had happened, neither of the sides would act.
“So, how about that payment.”
“60 million won, I already sent you 30 and if I recall correct, I promised to send the rest when I’d have them all in my warehouse.”
“We were talking about my warehouse.”
“No, we weren’t.”
Felix swallowed, Changbin moved, just slightly. Both of the guards had stopped pretending they were working on their computers, the air got tense.
“We were talking about a warehouse, and as far as I can figure out, we are in a warehouse.”
“No, we were talking about my warehouse. You know I don’t lie, mister Shin. And I’ve always paid as we have agreed, and we agreed that I will pay half before your order and half after the order is in my hands, in my warehouse.” All while speaking, Chan had a gentle smile on his face, he didn’t seem threatening at all. Felix knew better, he knew Chan had knives hidden in his pockets and a gun. He was dangerous. Out of all of the people in the warehouse, Felix was the least dangerous.
A silence followed. Felix could hear the blood surging through his veins, he was ready to step behind Changbin at any given millisecond. The burly man didn’t look happy at all. One second, two seconds, five seconds, Chan’s eyes didn’t leave the man’s, of course they didn’t, he would have seemed like a coward and a threat otherwise.
“Fine”, the man finally mumbled, and Felix let out a breath he hadn’t known he had been holding. He had no idea what would have ensued, if the man hadn’t given in. Blood on the concrete floor, that was for sure, but whose? It was three against four, and Felix didn’t even have a gun.
He did have his knife, though. And he was good at throwing it.
“Pleasure doing business with you, as always, mister Shin. I’m certain I can trust you to personally deliver the goods to my warehouse tomorrow.” Chan offered his hand to a handshake; mister Shin took it and shook it.
“Of course. Send me the address by tomorrow morning, and I’ll deliver them around noon.”
And within the next seconds, Chan, Changbin and Felix were out.
“Is it always that tense?” Felix asked as he closed the car door after him.
“Yes. It’s his way of seeing who’s made of iron and who’s not. If you can’t keep track of what you have agreed on or try to lie or let yourself slip, he’s not going to let you go without paying half the amount extra. I’ve heard that sometimes he won’t even give you your shit if you can’t remember the exact details of what you have agreed on. That’s why I always record every single conversation I have with him, after all, I am only a human and can’t remember every single detail of every single order”, Chan explained as he fastened his seat belt. Felix nodded. Interesting, very. What else to expect from a person like mister Shin?
Chan reversed the car before turning it around, Felix could see from the rear-view mirror that mister Shin stepped out just as they left the warehouse. He waved his hand once, before turning back and closing the door. Felix let himself finally relax against the back seat, he couldn’t lie, that had been extremely stressful. He had never been in such a situation. He was a pickpocket, for god’s sake, these were… from the big league.
“You did well, Felix”, Chan mumbled as he turned to another road, leading away from the harbor. Maybe Chan did know that Felix had his doubts, and that scared Felix, because he was trying his best not to show them. Unless Hyunjin had told Chan.
“He didn’t even do anything”, Changbin muttered under his breath next to the mastermind.
“You did well too, Changbin”, Chan laughed, Changbin just rolled his eyes. The air seemed a lot lighter now, Felix could breathe, the leather of the seats against his palms felt comforting. The night had fallen over the skyline.
Soon the mastermind opened his mouth again, glanced at Felix through the rear-view mirror: “Right, Felix, any idea what Hyunjin would want for dinner?”
Bang! Bang! Bang! Felix shot the moving targets, nearly at a perfect accuracy. Seungmin next to him wasn’t all that far behind, Jeongin had once again failed to show up on time. Though, by the text Felix had got during the night that said something along the lines of “wikk b laatr tmrowowo” he had a feeling Jeongin would not show up until well into noon. He had probably got absolutely hammered last night. Felix kind of hoped he could do the same, just let out some steam like he and Hyunjin had used to back in the day.
‘Back in the day’. As if he was old.
“Felix, focus”, Changbin nudged his shoulder from behind just as Felix was about to shoot the next round.
“Don’t you have Seungmin to look after?” Felix glared at the man next to him.
“Why? He’s doing just fine?”
“And I’m not? Or am I really that intriguing?” Felix shot another round, Changbin just rolled his eyes at him, before loitering back to Seungmin, who seemed to have some kind of trouble with his gun. Felix sighed, his shoulders felt heavy. To be fair, he hadn’t slept all that well in the past days. It was all of it – all of this, that was getting to him. Sure, he was excited to be chosen for the heist, but he just couldn’t… why? Why him? He wasn’t… he wasn’t really all that capable. And perhaps the upcoming heist scared him. Thrilled him, yes, but scared him, nevertheless. He wasn’t experienced in anything but stealing little things from people’s pockets.
Seungmin cursed under his breath, apparently he had not signed up for this. Felix wondered how Hyunjin was, he hadn’t been in the warehouse this morning. Though, he had a habit of sleeping late, and he still had his actual work to attend to along with the heist planning. What a double life he lived. Felix admired him for it.
“Hey”, Changbin drew Felix’s attention to himself. Felix lowered his gun, Changbin had something in his hand. He lit a lighter, Felix watched the flame flickering as it caught on something. And then Changbin handed that something over him, Felix was confused, until he realized what he was holding.
A smoke bomb.
A normal one? Felix had no idea. He watched the flame burning in the fuse, the string shortening at a rapid speed.
“What will you do?” Changbin had a mocking tone to his speech. Felix didn’t have time to think, did he? No. He had no idea what kind of smoke the bomb would emit, it could be one of those anesthetic ones for all he knew. So he did the best thing he could think of,
and hurled the bomb across the warehouse as hard as he could, to the other end with the targets. Soon enough the other end of the warehouse was covered with smoke, and since Changbin was not in a hurry, it probably wasn’t poisonous.
“What the hell!” Seungmin had been just trying to aim with his gun.
“Shoot”, Changbin commanded, Felix loaded his gun and shot. Missed one out of the three. Better than nothing.
Shot again, by the sounds Felix could tell that now all three of them had hit the targets.
“Good. You’re nearly good enough.”
“Has Jeongin arrived yet?” Chan barged into the warehouse, Felix was currently sitting beside Hyunjin, watching him tapping away with his computer, he was creating some sort of code.
“Yeah”, the Viper croaked from the sofa, he had a pack of ice on his forehead and a bottle of water clutched close to his chest.
“You’re looking amazing.”
“Thank you, I get that a lot.”
Felix nearly giggled at the street racer. Yesterday Chan’s order had arrived, as it had been supposed to, and he had spent the entire day working on getting the printers up. They were really fancy, Felix could tell that much, but otherwise he had no idea what they did. Other than printed. There were some other boxes, too, guns, smoke bombs, a few grenades just in case they’d have to blow up a wall from their way (hopefully not), other stuff they’d need to break into the museum. Bulletproof vests. Gas masks, other kinds of masks, gloves, all that.
“I have something for you that might make you feel a bit better.” Chan nodded towards the stairs that led to the first floor of the warehouse.
“Is it orange juice?”
“Then I don’t want it.”
“Sure you do. Come on now.”
It was endearing how the mastermind had a nearly fatherly tone to his speech when he was trying to get Jeongin up from the sofa. And there weren’t even that many years between them. Felix wasn’t sure how old Chan was, but he wasn’t that old. Not many years older than him, not more than five at least. Jeongin groaned as he finally hauled himself up, Felix wasn’t the only one curious of what Chan had got for Jeongin, so everyone except for Hyunjin, Jisung (who had just got downstairs) and Minho (who was at work) followed the two up to the first floor.
“No way!” Jeongin had clearly forgot his hangover the second he had stepped on the first floor. “Oh man!”
Felix reached the ground level as well and- oh?
In the middle of the warehouse was a black van. Just a van, black in color, it looked very… non-threatening. Non-heisty. Just a black van.
“Is this our escape car?” Jeongin asked, he circled around the van, banged the sides, kicked the tires. Chan threw the keys at him, Jeongin grabbed them from mid-air.
“Yup. All yours. Do what you want with it, just make sure it works during the actual heist. It will need to fit some things in it and all of us.”
“Hyunjin and his computer and whatever he will need. Some other equipment.”
“Alrighty, alrighty, I can do that. I might have to drive around a bit beforehand, though, it’s been a while since I’ve driven a van.”
Jeongin was on fire. Felix could see how his eyes had ignited, he opened the car hood and nodded, mumbled something to himself.
“So do I order things from you or get them through my own suppliers?” he then turned to Chan.
“Preferably through me so that things will be kept in utmost secrecy.”
“Got it. I’ll send you a list once I get to know this baby better.” Jeongin rubbed his hands together, tongue poking against his cheek as he turned back to his new ‘baby’. All his. He could do whatever he wanted with it.
“Can I paint this?”
“No, you can’t.”
“I’m going to make the interiors pink, then.”
“No, you won’t.”
Felix snickered under his breath, Seungmin looked rather entertained.
“And this means our plan is proceeding.” Chan turned to the rest of them, Felix was still standing in front of the hatch, next to Seungmin and Changbin.
“Which means that Felix,”
“It’s your showtime.”
Felix could feel his heartbeat in his throat.
His hands felt clammy, they were shaking in his pockets, just a little. To an outsider he looked like he was completely fine, just admiring one of the paintings, calm and quiet. He looked like nothing was wrong, but everything was wrong. Or well, perhaps not, nothing had happened yet. Felix’s snapback covered his earpiece, on the other end was Chan. He was waiting for Felix in one of the alleys two blocks away from the museum. He was going to be his escape car, just in case.
From the corner of his eye Felix could see Minho dusting one of the glass boxes containing some sort of small artefacts. Felix watched as he with his keycard tapped a few of the alarms off, dusted the box, then turned them on again. Minho’s keycard opened some doors, worked on some alarms, but not all of them. That was why they needed a guard’s keycard, a keycard that would open all the doors, shut off all the alarms.
That was why Felix was here. His mission was to steal one of those keycards without getting caught. But that wasn’t his whole mission, no, he had to also familiarize himself better with the museum. Learn how the guards worked, when they changed shifts, where they walked, where were the blind spots in the cameras. Felix had a replica of Minho’s keycard in his pocket, it just didn’t have a working chip in it. It looked exactly the same, there were code numbers and all that, Felix hoped the guard that he would end up stealing from would be one of those stupid ones that would just think their keycard was broken and not investigate more. If they did end up being one of those smart ones… well, then they’d have a deadline for their heist since the museum would be changing their entire security system. Again.
But this wasn’t just about the keycard, oh no. It was also a test, Felix knew it. It was to see what he was actually capable of. Stealing from people in a crowd was easy. Stealing in a quiet museum with only a few people? Not easy. That’s why Felix had picked a Saturday, the clock was closing in to two in the afternoon. The rush hour would begin soon, Felix would blend himself into the crowd, then most likely walk right into some guard’s arms, and then pull off his little trick. Or not. And that scared him, because he wasn’t sure, he wasn’t certain, he didn’t trust his capabilities of tricking the guards. If only… if only there was a way to cause some sort of disorderly situation…
Felix rose the stairs up to the third floor, hands in his leather jacket’s pockets. His patent leather combat boots felt icky in his feet, they were new. He looked like one of those people that arrived at meetings late with a Starbucks coffee in his hand and a smartphone in the other. The striped turtleneck tickled his neck. He had sown extra pockets into the leather jacket. They made him feel a bit more… safe.
Felix had a phone in his pocket, along with the keycard and his lockpicks. Not that he’d be in need of those, there weren’t any doors here that they could be used on. After the incident in which Felix had broken into Chan’s warehouse with Jeongin’s pin Felix had started to keep them with him. Before leaving for his mission, Hyunjin had engulfed him in a hug and told him not to die or end up in jail, he wouldn’t bail him out. Felix knew that was a lie, out of all the people taking part in the heist he would definitely be the one bailing him out.
Because if he’d get caught, he would be kicked out of the group. Of the heist. That’s why he couldn’t fail, he had to get the keycard and do it without causing a ruckus. He couldn’t get caught, not even on cameras. Pressuring. Felix rounded a corner to another exhibition he had already seen once. The paintings were pretty. Felix felt a little lonely without Changbin next to him.
Chan wasn’t talking to him in his earpiece, neither was Felix to Chan. It would have looked odd, out of place, and there was no need for communication, at least not yet, Felix hadn’t been in the museum for all that long. He had talked a bit with Minho beforehand, first he had wondered if it would be possible for him to disguise himself as another janitor and that way try to get the keycard, but apparently he would have not fit and the guards made checks, facial recognition included, for every single worker every time they got to work and off from work. They really were going for the highest stakes with the heist, Felix had understood then. Banks and casinos would have been easy sail compared to the museum.
Felix didn’t have a proper plan. He never did. He knew Chan would have most likely assisted him with one if he had asked, so would have the others, but he knew this was a test. If he could make it out just on his own, he’d earn himself respect he wouldn’t earn if he would use someone else’s brain. He’d have to succeed. To do this on his own. Rain was thrumming against the windows that were close to the ceiling to not disturb the lights that pointed at the paintings. The air felt tense to Felix, even if he knew it didn’t feel like that for the other visitors. Minho and his cart arrived at the third floor from the elevator.
It would have to happen here. Only an amateur thief would steal something from the first floor, closest to the doors. And afterwards Felix would have to act just as nonchalant, go through the rest of the exhibitions as well, calmly, and leave without any haste in his steps. Just like he did in his daily life, he never calculated or planned his pickpocketing that clearly, just knew where he would be able to run. But again, this wasn’t a busy street, this was a not-very busy museum. Eyes were on every corner.
The clock was closing to two. Felix swallowed, exactly at two o’clock the guards would change shifts. That could be a chance. Felix fished his phone from his pocket, turned his back towards the closest security camera, opened the message app and searched for Minho’s name.
‘i need help’. It took a minute for Minho to reach for his pocket and answer to his message. Felix got a ‘?’ as a response. Minute passed, then another. There were guards standing at every corner; “Everything okay?” sounded suddenly from Felix’s earpiece with the voice of Chan’s. Felix reached for his ear, pressed the little button in the piece and softly cleared his throat. That was a yes. If it wasn’t, Felix would have just yelled what was going on.
13:58 read the clock on Felix’s phone.
‘draw attention to yourself at exactly ten seconds before the clock strikes 2’ Felix wrote and pressed send. The blind spots of the security cameras were right behind the doors, if Felix was correct. 13:59. His heart was pounding. Minho didn’t answer to his text, just glanced at him. Felix strolled around, stopped in front of one of the paintings, he had walked around the entire exhibition, he didn’t stand out. He glanced at the watch around his wrist, thirty seconds, he made a surprised face, as if he hadn’t noticed the time passing. The new guards would be in places at exactly two o’clock, they’d arrive at least five seconds prior, that’s how Minho had said it, if something would happen only a few seconds before, they’d hurry and everyone’s attention would be elsewhere, and then Felix could…
Fifteen. Felix calmly reached the last painting, there was a guard next to him, he could already see the next ones arriving from the stairs. A second, two, Felix stepped towards the doorway, three, four, his steps matched to the seconds, five-
A blaring alarm struck through the room, Felix nearly got a heart attack, the guard next to him became alert immediately, Felix could see the three guards approaching speeding their steps, their gazes focused on something behind Felix. Two ladies, a man, Felix decided to go for the lady that was roughly his size, the alarm continued screeching, Felix could hear Minho cursing, he was putting on an act, Felix took a side step, turned, as if to see what the disturbance was about,
and collided against the guard. Hard. The two of them stumbled, the guard fell on to his knees, Felix nearly did, too.
“Oh, oh, I am so sorry, my bad, I didn’t see where I was going, my apologies,” he offered the guard his hand, she looked a little winded, a bit confused and took the hand, even if she most likely was supposed to not to (“Sorry, sorry, I forgot to press the alarms off, my bad, ah, shit, where’s my card, have you seen my card, oh it’s there, sorry, sorry, ah, fuck, I dopped it” Minho was mumbling in the background as two of the guards approached him). Felix helped her up, simultaneously, with nimble fingers reaching for her suit jacket’s pocket, where his fingers met a familiar feeling of the keycard.
“I am so very sorry, I’ll be more careful, you weren’t hurt, were you?” Felix smiled at the guard as he let go of her arm, slipping the keycard into his sleeve, the watch kept it from moving. It would have been too suspicious to put it into his pocket.
“It’s alright, it’s fine, thank you”, the guard smiled at him, and then the alarm sound finally stopped. Felix nodded, bowed just a bit before turning on his heels and calmly walking towards the stairs. He wouldn’t need to go to the last exhibition on the fourth floor, he had already acted like he was in a bit of a hurry, he had gazed at his watch and pretended to be surprised.
Ten seconds. It had all happened in ten seconds. Felix pretended to be interested in the high windows and red curtains and golden details, he smiled at the clerk behind the cash registers, there was some line waiting to be let in.
“Thank you for visiting us!” The clerk yelled at him, before cashing in the next visitor. Felix mumbled a thank you to the guards at the door. His entire body was pumping with adrenaline, his phone buzzed, but he didn’t reach for it. Felix calmly descended the stairs, he was once again at the town square. He turned left, he had to keep his steps steady, he felt like he could start flying any minute now. With shaky fingers he reached for his earpiece, pressed the button down, and breathed, very quietly, to not draw any bypasser’s attention to himself.
“I have it.”
It was relieving. Felix had never felt such relief washing over him as he did when he sat down on the front seat of Chan’s car. Chan had a wicked grin on his face as Felix handed him the guard’s keycard to the museum, and for a moment Felix felt very proud of himself. He had passed the test. He had got the card; he had shown everyone that he was more than just a plain old pickpocket. He had finally earned his respect. Properly.
And perhaps he couldn’t wash off the proud smile from his face when they arrived back at the warehouse. Minho still had his work, but everyone else was present, Jeongin nearly toppled him over as he grabbed him into a bear hug and did not pay any mind to the weird looks he got from Changbin and Jisung who clearly knew they were supposed to be professionals. But Felix did earn something akin to a smile and a nod from Changbin, though, so, a win.
What sort of win?
Hyunjin rejoiced, Chan gave him the keycard, Felix supposed he and Hyunjin would know what to do with it, since they were clearly a bit more familiar with the security systems and all that. Seungmin looked rather surprised at first, but soon enough Felix got a pat from the back and a “Good job” from him, after Felix told everyone how he had done it.
And perhaps it felt… nice. Not the pat, but the whole… atmosphere. He was accepted. Sure, he had felt accepted before, but now it was just much more… evident, in a way. These people saw him as more than just a pickpocket, at least for a brief moment when they were sitting around the round table and Minho arrived, almost running:
“Did you get it? I had to make a fool out of myself and nearly lost the job!”
“Thank fucking god otherwise you would have ended up in the same grave with Chan’s uncle.”
Instead of an awkward and pressuring silence, the room was filled with laughter. It was surprising, to say the least, but it felt like an ice had been broken from the room, and for good. It felt… warm, if Felix could say that. Felix felt like he belonged somewhere for the first time in a very long time.
Which was why a tiny sting of pain hit his chest. This wouldn’t last. They were a heist crew made of professionals of their own fields; this wouldn’t last. After this they would all go their own ways, leaving the heist behind, leaving the crew behind, leaving this warehouse behind. Out of all of these people, Hyunjin would be the only one staying in Felix’s life.
Since when had he become this sentimental about a bunch of criminals around him? Perhaps ever since the moment he had started feeling like he was a part of something bigger.
It was a way too good of an opportunity for Felix to waste it. It was, really, his fingers were just itching to do something. Changbin was hunched over a table, he was discussing something with Hyunjin, Felix wasn’t really listening, something about wires and bombs and that all flied high over his head. But Changbin had his phone in the back pocket of his jeans and dear lord, this was an opportunity if Felix had ever seen one.
“Felix, can we go get milkshakes? I want milkshakes. And Chan still hasn’t got me my stuff and I’m bored, can we go get milkshakes?” Jeongin suddenly interrupted Felix’s train of thought.
“Milkshakes for professional criminals?” A grin tugged the corner of Felix’s mouth, he was sitting on a sofa, Jeongin was beside him, playing on some game with his phone.
“You’re the man!”
Jeongin rose up and pulled Felix along with him, Changbin and Hyunjin didn’t pay any attention to them, this was an opportunity, and Felix was definitely going to take it, especially since Changbin’s attitude towards him had turned a bit more friendly after he had managed to steal the keycard from the museum. And now Felix was going to absolutely demolish that attitude, and he was going to do it with great pleasure. Jeongin let go of Felix and strode towards the door on the other side, Felix followed along, pretended to get something from his backpack that was on the stool next to the table, inched a bit closer, just a bit, his arm brushed against Changbin’s just as if it was something very casual, there, nearly there, his fingers reached for the phone, he felt the cool surface of the glass against his fingertips,
and then a firm hand curled around his wrist and yanked it away from the pocket. Changbin’s eyes were nearly flaming, as he glared at Felix, but Felix was way too proud to feel any sort of shame anymore.
“Damn it”, he muttered under his breath.
“Have you forgot something?” Changbin hissed.
“How would I forget that you have spent months of your life watching me?” Felix grinned at the man holding his wrist. His grip was steely, but it didn’t hurt.
“As if I had a choice.”
“Sure you did. One day I will succeed.”
“Not if it’s up to me.”
“Okay, but I want my milkshakes, c’mon, Felix!” Jeongin moaned from the door, and Felix yanked his hand away from Changbin.
There had been something in those eyes. Something Felix had once seen in them, many months ago.
The days passed by, the plan was slowly being constructed. Chan visited the museum again, this time with Jeongin, they got the measures for the painting and the vase, the necklace was going to be a bit of a tricky one, but according to Chan they would manage. Felix spent his days at the shooting range and tried to find more opportunities to steal at least something from Changbin just for the challenge of it, but all he got was glares and told to shoot at the targets. Changbin clearly tried to avoid him, but more than once he had found himself having to sit with Felix while trying to discuss something with Hyunjin because Hyunjin and Felix were pretty much inseparable, and Felix very often spent time at the warehouse just because Hyunjin did.
Hyunjin had advanced, a lot. He had managed to break into the cameras without setting any alarms off, the people at the museum had no idea that the cameras were broadcasting not only to the security system room in the museum, but also to the warehouse at the edge of the city. That was good, apparently, now Hyunjin was working on a program that would let him get into the other systems, they needed to get past the motion detectors and other stuff that was quite complicated for Felix to understand since he wasn’t a pro in the field in question. Hyunjin had found out that all of the alarms couldn’t be turned off simultaneously without alarming other alarms, and they would have needed at least three more hackers to do that since it was impossible to do alone. Chan had thought about it, but decided then that they wouldn’t be taking any more people in the heist, there was already enough of them, they would just work themselves around the alarms, and one of the ways for that would be the keycards. The keycards opened doors and turned off alarms in the glass boxes, so those wouldn’t need to be turned off. It wouldn’t get too complicated. Hopefully.
Something else had advanced, too. Or perhaps not advanced, but shifted in the air. Felix wasn’t sure if anyone else had noticed it, but he had. More than once he had noticed that Seungmin and Minho arrived at the warehouse at the same time, together. More than once he had found them from the shooting range, just… not shooting. Seungmin sitting on the table, Minho leaning against it, looking like deer in headlights when Felix had opened the door. Felix had also noticed Chan eyeing them a bit suspiciously every now and then, and he had a hunch what it all was about.
They were professionals. No strings attached, apart from the utmost trust during the process leading to the heist, during that, and after that.
Minho and Seungmin, they were… quite a pair. Completely different. Minho was a janitor in a museum, and from what Felix had understood from Chan’s words, he was knee-deep in the businesses of the underworld and blood staining in his hands more than he would have liked to admit. He was a bit on the quiet side, observant, he had danger lingering around him, sometimes more than Jisung. Felix had tried to inquire about Minho from Chan, but had got nothing. Perhaps he’d try to ask Hyunjin to do some research, he was always good at finding dirt on people from the internet.
Seungmin, very much opposing to Minho, was on the news nearly every week, not for criminal-related reasons, but one week he was attending the opening of the new grand library close to the town hall with his mother, once he attended some sort of meeting instead of his father, the next week he posed in the front page because he had donated a few hundred million won to the children’s hospital. All while planning a heist and doing his part at his dad’s company. He was some sort of a chairman in his father’s company, and it showed. When his father was traveling abroad for business, he filled in his father’s place as the CEO. His mother was the mayor of the city. And he was a lot more talkative, he was good at filling the silence and making people trust him. Funny, witty, still careful around Felix. Felix could see why he was so successful. Hand in hand with trust came the art of manipulation.
And those two definitely had… something. Or perhaps it was just friendship, but Minho wasn’t the type to just… make friends, neither was Seungmin. They knew their positions and the dangers that lurked around them, yet still… Felix was curious, to say the least.
“Felix, do you have anything to do tonight?” Hyunjin woke Felix from his thoughts, he was sitting on the sofa, staring into nothingness.
“Do I look like I have something?”
“Fuck you. Stay with me tonight? I’ll run this one program and I have to see if it works and it’s going to take some time.”
“Alright.” After all, Felix would do nearly anything for his best friend. Chan poked his head in through the warehouse door, said that he was leaving, he needed some sleep as Jeongin’s equipment was going to arrive early in the morning. Felix did not miss the way Hyunjin’s eyes softened at the sight of the mastermind, or how a dreamy smile gently tugged the corner of his mouth as he waved his hand.
“Wow”, Felix laughed as Chan closed the door, leaving the two of them alone in the warehouse, that didn’t resemble a warehouse anymore, more of some sort of high-tech lab with all the printers and boxes and surfaces of steel.
“Hm?” Hyunjin turned to him, oblivious. Felix rose up, took one of the chairs around the table and dragged it to Hyunjin’s little workstation. It wasn’t little, though. There were at least five computer screens, on which one of them were all of the cameras in the museum. It was dark in there, just the red of the cameras flickering and sometimes a flash from a nightguard’s flashlight.
“Nothing”, Felix muttered as he sat down.
“Don’t sit down, go get us something to eat. And drink. I’m hungry.”
“Oh, you didn’t ask your little mastermind to bring you lunch today?” Felix grinned at his best friend. He could see the hue of red deepening on his nose.
“He was busy.”
“Aw, poor you. What do you want?”
“Something that reminds me of high school, please.”
And Felix knew exactly what he’d get. Hyunjin let him borrow his car, so Felix drove to get them both some McDonald’s, milkshakes and all that. Oh, all the times they had spent nights at Hyunjin’s house and ran out to get some food in the dead of the night, just to get yelled at the next morning by Hyunjin’s mother. Also the only mother figured that had really cared for Felix in his life, his own had left the country when Felix had been five, and after that he had lived with his father. Which hadn’t been all that good, but not that bad, either. Just… well, they weren’t close, had never been. Felix’s father had never really been a father, just a person who had lived with him and made sure Felix had food on the table and he woke up early enough for school. Then he, too, had left the country after work when Felix had just started high school, they hadn’t kept in contact, but the man had paid the bills and the rent until Felix had turned of age. After that he had been on his own. And done just fine.
Or well. He had done what he had to survive. He wasn’t a properly functioning part of the society, but that didn’t bother him. Quite on the contrary, actually.
But he had had Hyunjin in his life, survived from everything, and that had been enough. Hyunjin’s parents were fine, they had liked Felix (still did, Felix just rarely saw them, but they asked Hyunjin about him quite often and every single time Hyunjin told them the same lie – yeah, he works as a costumer at this small theatre, he’s doing just fine), if Felix hadn’t fed himself properly, then they did. They had even attended his graduation, and that had been one of those little moments when Felix had wished his family would have been as tight-knitted as Hyunjin’s. That moment hadn’t lasted for long, though. Throughout the years Felix had learned that if someone didn’t want him in their life, then Felix didn’t want them in his life either.
“Onion rings, milkshake and a cheeseburger for your highness”, Felix announced as he dropped the bag in front of Hyunjin before sitting down next to him again. He also handed him his car keys (no, Felix did not have a license because it was expensive as shit and he had to keep himself under the radar and anonymous, yes, he knew how to drive).
“Thank you, court jester.”
“Is the program… doing what it’s supposed to?” Felix asked as he got his own soda from the paper bag.
“Yeah, for now. It crashed yesterday and I tried to fix it, but it will probably crash again. Trial and error and trial and error and maybe in a week we’ll have a functioning program that will get us through the security systems in the museum.”
Hyunjin’s presence made Felix always comfortable. Safe, even, Felix felt like he could let his guard down and not pretend to be a professional pickpocket even for a second. This time was no different, the conversation glided from stupid daily things to Hyunjin getting a new apartment, to memories, Hyunjin kept glancing at his program, got his fingers greasy from the onion rings. A few strands of hair fell from his ponytail to frame his face, and Felix found himself once again admiring how beautiful his best friend was. Especially in moments like these, at the dead of the night in an abandoned warehouse, underneath some fluorescent lights. He was so glad Hyunjin had walked into his life in that playground many many years ago and told Felix his green little bucket was nice and he wanted to play with him.
And now they were planning a museum heist with some of the most feared criminals in the country, if not in the world. Funny.
Hyunjin’s phone buzzed, his own phone, not the one they used for the heist, and Felix could see a name flashing on the screen.
“Don’t tell me it’s the mastermind himself wishing you a good night?”
“And what if it is?”
Felix could see how Hyunjin was trying to suppress a smile.
“No strings attached, huh? Do you actually have a crush for Christopher Bang out of all the people in the world?”
“No! I’m just having a little fun, you know me!” Hyunjin got defensive, glared at Felix as he puffed his cheeks, sucking the milkshake from the cup through a straw. How intimidating. Felix cocked his eyebrow at his friend.
“Okay, he’s hot. That’s it!”
“That blush on your face does not think he’s just hot.”
“And he’s charming, alright, you can admit that, too! And he’s very friendly and gentle. You know what he said to me when we’re here alone for the first time? He said that there’s stress balls in the drawer in my workstation if I ever happen to run out of lollipops.” Hyunjin pulled one of the drawers in between him and Felix open, and sure there were, at least five of them, of different sizes and colors. “And not only that,” he pulled open another drawer and Felix had to contain himself from looking too surprised; “I’m pretty sure I’ll never run out of them, because he bought me an entire drawer of lollipops, too!”
“God damn he’s whipped for you”, Felix laughed, which got Hyunjin blushing as he pushed the drawer close.
“No he’s not, he’s just being friendly.”
“Okay, sure, let me tell you that he has not sent me a single ‘good night’ message throughout the past months.”
“Yeah, but we’re friends, we hang out a lot since he wants to know how the process is going, you know he needs to know absolutely everything for this heist to work out.”
“Okay, keep explaining how close you are. I know he’s also dropped you off at your home and has also driven you here occasionally, and he literally asked me what you liked when you told him to go get you some food. If I were to ask him to get me some lunch he’d just throw some car keys at me and tell me to go get some myself.”
“No he wouldn’t.”
“Okay, perhaps not, but he sure wouldn’t go get me my favorite let alone ask you what I like.”
Hyunjin just rolled his eyes, defeated.
“Yeah alright. He’s nice. But this is a ‘no strings attached’ gig. You know me, I get flash crushes and then they’re gone within the next week, this is just probably one of those.”
“It better be. That’s Christopher Bang, the King of Hearts.”
“King of hearts indeed”, Hyunjin mumbled, Felix just shook his head. “Anyway, about that no strings attached, have you noticed Minho and Seungmin?”
“Good. Those two have something going on. Every time Seungmin arrives alone he comes to me asking about Minho, yet every time I see them here, they just bicker.”
“They sure don’t bicker at the shooting range. They’re very… chill, actually. And I’ve seen them arriving together and all that.”
“Curious… very curious.”
Hyunjin’s computer made a sound, he clicked on something and typed a few words, brows knitted together. Another screen has continuously some sort of code rolling, one of the screens was turned off.
“Yeah, by the way, since this is a no strings attached gig, what the hell is going on between you and Changbin?”
The question took Felix by surprise.
“What do you mean?” He spluttered, nearly choking on his soda.
“C’mon. You’re always on the edge with him, and he always has his eyes on you when you’re in the room, and I know for a fact you’re not as persistent about stealing Chan’s phone away from him as you are of stealing Changbin’s. There’s more to it than just challenge.”
“It is purely for the challenge.” What did he mean by eyes on Felix? Felix hadn’t noticed anything.
“No it isn’t.”
“Yes it is.”
“And Jeongin has told me Changbin only teaches you at the shooting range.”
“No he doesn’t, he teaches the others to-“
“Jeongin said Jisung has taught literally everything to him, and Seungmin is always with Minho, and if Changbin hated you as much as you say he did, he wouldn’t be teaching you. Let alone going to museums with you.”
“Chan literally told him to-“
“Do you think he’d make his best friend do something like that if he knew Changbin actually hated you?”
Felix fell silent. No, he wouldn’t. Chan could have made anyone go with Felix just as fine.
“So, what is up? I don’t think you have told me everything of this Changbin boy of yours.”
Felix sighed. Fucking hell, he had wanted to completely… forget and disregard everything.
“No, I haven’t”, he finally admitted. He sighed, felt Hyunjin’s curious eyes on himself.
“Do you remember when I told you I’d follow one of the rumors and go to the annual meeting that gathered some of the underworld of the city at one place? And that I met someone there and tried to steal their wallet?”
Hyunjin nodded at Felix.
“That someone was Changbin.”
“You’re still not telling me everything.”
Felix bit on his hamburger before continuing: “Yeah, well, we didn’t just… meet. We spent the entire night together. Literally from the start to finish. I, um… I let him take me home.”
“Not, not home, a few blocks away, he walked me there since the meeting place wasn’t all that far. And I don’t know, just… we were… vibing the entire night. You know, we were just… chatting.”
“Chatting.” Hyunjin leaned against the backrest of his chair and crossed his arms on his chest.
“Yeah. Neither of us really… moved around, as you’re supposed to, we just happened to meet at the line to the cash register to pay for our drinks and he asked what I was doing there and I said the same as you. And then we just chatted. At a corner table. Some people said hi to him, but he just never left. He told me he was some sort of bomb tech, graduated as an engineer and that’s why he knew so much about those things and, yeah. Maybe we did have some fun.” Maybe it had been a lot of fun. Maybe Felix had felt comfortable.
“You literally spent the entire night with him?”
“I… yeah. I didn’t know anyone, I had just wanted to go observe as I always do.”
“How was he back then?”
“I don’t know? I mean, he was… friendly. Funny. Talkative, curious of what I did, I lied and I said I was good at forging ID’s and all that.”
“Well, you are good at that, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, well, I guess I didn’t just lie, I just gave him one half of the truth.”
“Why didn’t you tell him that you’re a pickpocket?”
“Do you know how people at those places look at pickpockets? He would have left and never returned. Those people don’t consider pickpockets as… one of them.”
“And you wanted him to stay?”
Yeah. He had wanted Changbin to stay back then. Perhaps he had bought Changbin a drink, and Changbin had bought him a drink, and perhaps they had kept on sitting at that corner table until everyone else but a few people had already left and the sun had started to rise above the horizon. Maybe Felix had had fun, and maybe, just maybe he had been a tiny bit enthralled by the sight of Changbin’s smile.
“He said we should probably leave, I agreed and he asked me where I lived and I told him I lived a few blocks away from my actual apartment. We walked the way there and…”
“And then I tried to steal his wallet.”
“You are a fucking dumbass.”
“Yeah. He got mad and left.”
“Serves you well.”
Felix could still remember it, how they had walked beside each other, Changbin had been telling about some sort of small heist he had been a part of years ago. Felix’s fingers had itched, he had known this thing, whatever it was, wouldn’t last and he’d never see this Changbin guy again. He had done what he did best, slipped his fingers into his pocket, and suddenly there had been that now-familiar grip around his wrist. He had seen as Changbin’s smile had turned to a scowl, as he had muttered the icy “I should have guessed. A fucking pick-pocket”, yanked his wallet from Felix back to himself, and just turned his back and walked away.
But had there been something else to it? Now that Felix really thought about it, had there been an ounce of hurt, too? Had there been something beneath that ice? Had there been something else than just anger? Had he… hurt Changbin?
“Yeah. No wonder he hates me.”
“I don’t think he hates you.”
“Have you seen him? Sure he does.” Felix finished his soda, wiped his mouth with a napkin.
“I’ve seen many things and Felix, I know for a fact that he does not hate you. No strings attached and professionality my ass, this group is a fucking mess”, Hyunjin mumbled. “From how I read this situation, if you hadn’t been a fucking dumbass, you would have a bomb tech for a boyfriend now.”
Felix simply snorted at that thought: “Absolutely not.”
“Why not? He’s handsome. And your type.”
“And hates me. I messed up my chances a long time ago.”
Hyunjin laughed, there was a sparkle of mischief glimmering in the corner of his eye: “Felix, I can assure you, that man does not hate you.”
Maybe Felix had tried not to think about Hyunjin’s words. Maybe he knew he shouldn’t even be trusting his words in the first place – that hacker had a silvery tongue in his mouth, and he knew exactly which strings to pull with Felix. But then again, Hyunjin wasn’t like that, he wasn’t like that to Felix, he didn’t lie to Felix.
But maybe he had pondered his words more than he should have. “Felix, I can assure you, that man does not hate you.” Well, yes, perhaps Changbin had acted decently with Felix around, especially ever since Chan had raised his voice at him, but it was more just… tolerating than anything else. They had to tolerate each other. Trust each other, that was required from them, they had to work as a team and do it perfectly. Felix hadn’t even… thought about him lately. Except now. Laying in his bed, staring at the ceiling, the sun was already rising, painting the sky orange. Felix hadn’t slept, he hadn’t arrived back home until the wee hours of the night, he had once again stayed awake with Hyunjin at the warehouse, and Chan had stopped by to bring some important papers for Hyunjin. ‘No strings attached’. Bullshit! Felix knew what a very infatuated man looked like and never had he seen such burn in Hyunjin’s eyes.
No strings attached. Felix wished that little rule wouldn’t end up being their crew’s demise.
“Thank you all for coming tonight, even if the notice was such a short one. First of all, I’d like to remind us all that we’re professionals here”, Chan said, leaning against the warehouse’s table, eyeing Seungmin and Minho very obviously. The blush dusting over Seungmin’s ears was rather visible. Felix had heard a rumor that the two of them had been spotted together from one of the restaurants that Seungmin’s father owned. Not by many eyes, but enough to stir up rumors. Chan didn’t sound pissed, just… perhaps slightly amused, but worried.
“Second of all, we have a date.” Felix was very surprised that every single one around the table remained stoic at that news except for Jeongin, who audibly gasped, followed by; “Oh man, let’s get some action!”. He had his welding mask on his forehead and some grease on his hands. Seungmin had scrunched his nose in displeasure when Jeongin had walked into the warehouse.
“In exactly two weeks, at two in the night, we will heist the Grand Museum and steal a painting, a vase, and a necklace. Hyunjin has coded a program that will let us pass some of the alarms, and we have created duplicates of the guard’s keycards that should get us through the rest of the alarms. Minho has got us the timetables of the guards and will find out in a week who, and how many guards will be at the museum during that night. Felix’s little theft went unnoticed, or at least the keycards have not been renewed after that, according to Minho.” Oh thank god.
“The cases for the artefacts are done, so are the fake artefacts. The fake ones will get us a bit of a headstart in the escape following the heist, but a trained one will realize soon that they’re fakes and after that, it will be a nation-wide man-hunt.” That both excited Felix, and absolutely horrified him.
“Jeongin, how’s the car coming along?”
“Brilliantly! Just a few things and it will be ready to carry us and the guns and Hyunjin’s computers with it through the city.” Jeongin gave Chan a thumbs up.
“Fantastic. Otherwise everything should be in check, we have everything that I can think of, the guns, the smoke bombs, sedatives just in case…” Chan’s voice trailed off as he wondered if they’d need anything more.
“Next up is making the perfect plan. We’re going to choose who will go fetch which artefacts, which routes we’ll take and all that.” Amazing. Felix wasn’t sure if he’d have the brains for that, he wasn’t a mastermind unlike mister Bang.
“When are we doing that? Right now?” Changbin had his arms crossed, he was eyeing the whiteboard on which the blueprints were attached.
“Not today, half of us have barely slept, we all need some rest and we still don’t know the exact timetable. The heist falls on the night between Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll get the timetable on Monday and then we’ll get the exact plan, but obviously we’ll do some pre-planning next week.”
“Great. Can everyone shoot a moving target?”
Jisung nodded, Changbin mumbled a “yeah”. Hyunjin shook his head.
“I doubt you’ll need to since you’ll be in the car the whole time”, Chan glanced at Hyunjin, who was sitting next to Felix, once again with a lollipop in his mouth, wearing a suit. Felix knew he had rushed from work to the meeting.
“Then why did I need to learn how to shoot? I’ll be in the car the whole time as well!” Jeongin complained.
“Because as the driver you might end up in a position where you might have to shoot another car’s wheels.”
“Any other questions?” Chan let his gaze wander around the table. Felix shook his head, along with everyone else.
“Good, dismissed. Eat, sleep, don’t do anything stupid within the next two weeks.”
“Got it, boss.”
Felix stretched, Seungmin next to him stood up, he had changed his silvery cufflinks to golden ones. He patted his pockets, before turned to Felix with a deadly look in his eyes.
“Felix!” He hissed from in between his teeth, and Felix bursted out laughing, before fishing Seungmin’s phone from his own pocket and handing it to him.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t pass the chance, nothing personal”, Felix laughed, and got an eyeroll in return. He watched as Seungmin slipped the phone in his pocket, and saw the screen light up as it was one of those ones that turned up with just a touch on the screen.
There was Minho’s face on that screen.
Oh, so they really were in that deep.
Perhaps Felix got a bit surprised, when Jeongin dashed in the next evening through the warehouse door, looking nothing like the greasy mess he had looked for the past week. Felix was once again accompanying Hyunjin, who couldn’t bother himself to finish the code for some other program Felix couldn’t understand shit about. He knew Chan, Changbin and Jisung were in the other warehouse doing… something, perhaps pre-planning, since they were the ones that had the most experience, or shooting, or something. Minho and Seungmin had left earlier. Together.
“Let’s go for some drinks!” Jeongin half-yelled across the warehouse.
“Drinks?” Hyunjin shifted his gaze from the computer screen to Jeongin. The street racer had dyed a neon green streak in his hair.
“Yeah, I want to get hammered.”
“Don’t you have real friends for that?”
“Ouch! You are my real friends!” He pouted, before leaning over the computer desk to Felix and Hyunjin. “I heard Seungmin and Minho decided to head for the pub close to the harbor, you know, the speak easy one. It’s usually quiet there at this time around. Let’s go bother them.”
Hyunjin and Felix shared a glance, and Felix could see that little sparkle of mischief igniting in his friend’s eyes.
“Alright. Let’s go.”
Jeongin had been correct, the speakeasy wasn’t all that crowded, there were only a few very criminal-looking people sitting at the corner closest to the door, and if Felix saw correct, they were some sort of motorcycle gang members. They took one good look at them, before deciding that their little trio was not worth of their time. Thank god, Hyunjin looked like a million bucks and Jeongin always looked like a burst of fireworks, it would have been very easy to suddenly become worth of the gang members’ time.
“There”, Jeongin pointed at the darkest corner in the grimy pub. It was hidden in the cellar of an abandoned theatre, you had to first find your way through the labyrinthine theatre and then find the correct curtain that had the door to the bar. The buildings around the theatre were mostly in use, some smaller shops, lots of flickering neon lights and too many drunk people. These parts of the city weren’t the kind that were gentle to the police. Felix figured that the surroundings had once been full of life, now everything was mostly abandoned, or in shabby condition. No wonder, since it was close to the harbor.
Jeongin grabbed Felix by his hand and dragged him across the bar, right where Minho and Seungmin were sitting, at a rather large corner table. Felix had to duck to not hit his head on one of the lamps that for some reason hung really low. Despite the flickering lights, it was quite dim in the bar, everything was brown and red and most likely once been very fine and high-class looking. Not anymore. Dust and something Felix didn’t want to look closely into. At least the glasses on the bar counter looked clean.
“My, my, my, what have we here?” Felix could hear the mockery from Hyunjin’s voice. Seungmin looked horrified, Minho had zero emotions visible on his face. Felix did notice him quickly letting go of Seungmin’s hand he had just been holding, and he did see the tinge of pain in Seungmin’s eyes.
“How the hell did you three find us?” Seungmin nearly shrieked, but just nearly, he was smart enough to keep his voice down in a place like this. Now Felix realized Seungmin wasn’t wearing his usual suit and tie but was dressed in a black hoodie and he had pulled to hood on, most likely to hide his face. After all, it wouldn’t be wise for the mayor’s son to show up in places like these in the dead of the night.
“You don’t talk exactly quietly.” Jeongin slumped on the closest stool, Felix pulled himself a chair, perhaps a bit bugged by the fact that he couldn’t sit his back against the wall and blend into the shadows.
“Well, you wouldn’t have needed to follow us.” Seungmin moaned, he was clearly in distress that they had dared to crash his and Minho’s little date.
“We wanted to see what you little lovebirds were up to.”
Finally, a flash of emotion on Minho’s face, he looked mortified to his very core.
“Oh, come on now, Minho, everyone’s noticed. Absolutely everyone.” Hyunjin sat down next to Felix.
“Don’t tell Chan”, Seungmin quickly mumbled.
“Do you think he doesn’t know? Anyway, I want something to drink, my treat.” And with that Jeongin rose from his stool and dashed to the bar counter.
An awkward silence. Felix realized they had never really… hung out like this with most of them, especially Minho and Seungmin present. Usually it was just Felix, Hyunjin and Jeongin, sometimes Chan, and occasionally Changbin and Jisung as well, but very rarely.
“So, Minho, what do you do besides kill off Chan’s relatives and do your little janitor things in the museum?” Hyunjin propped his elbows on the table and leaned against his palm. Minho looked a bit taken aback by the sudden question, and Felix nearly kicked Hyunjin in the shin.
“Shouldn’t you as the hacker be capable of finding that out yourself?” Minho eyed Hyunjin, before taking a swig from his glass.
“I prefer hearing it from the people themselves.”
“Let’s just say that my family is rather similar to Jisung’s, and unfortunately Chan’s uncle happened to have some bad blood with my father. No hard feelings, I didn’t know whose family I was messing with back then.”
“So your family has ties to organized crime? Interesting.”
Very. Also a bit terrifying, that was not a side Felix was so keen on exploring.
“Are you a mercenary, then?”
“No, just a thief.”
Minho was not just a thief, and absolutely everyone seated around the table knew that, but thankfully Jeongin saved them from further questions, because he arrived with a tray full of glasses, mostly shots and other drink:
“Bottoms up, everyone!” He set the tray down, and Felix figured this night was going to be a long one.
Jeongin offered Felix a shot and some sort of a mixed drink, Felix smelled the shot and realized it was just pure vodka. Delightful. Neither Minho nor Seungmin declined their drinks, but Hyunjin did:
“I don’t drink.”
“More for me then”, Jeongin shrugged his shoulders and downed the first shot in on go, followed by a loud smack of his lips. Felix, not caring about his own limits did the same, the liquid burned in his throat, but in a pleasant way. Perhaps it had been quite a while since the last time he could… clear his head. Might as well do that today.
Jeongin clearly knew his drinks, the one he offered to Felix tasted good, not too sweet, not too sour, just perfect. The alcohol warmed Felix’s insides, buzzed in his head pleasantly. Minho and Seungmin seemed to relax now that Hyunjin had stopped poking them with his questions, instead the chat turned to a lighter one (or more of just Jeongin’s monologue as he babbled on and on as it was hard to find any good speakeasies in the city and the rest of them just listened to him, apparently speakeasies were so much funnier to go to than regular bars). At one point they all wondered if Jeongin was an actual alcoholic, but the street racer simply shook his head – he only drank on occasions, and this was one. And he knew his limits. At least most of the time. Soon Jeongin got Felix another drink and Felix did not decline, even if he damn well knew he’d have the money to buy his own.
Or well. Chan had the money and Felix just had his card.
“How do you do it?” Jeongin’s speech was already slurring, just a tiny bit, not too badly.
“Do what?” As if Felix was any better.
“Steal things. You’re so quick. I wanna learn.”
“Why would you want to learn that?”
“Because reasons! Tell meeeee!”
“I don’t know how to do it? I’m just… quick. You gotta have nimble fingers.”
“Yeah. And then you make sure the target’s focus is on somewhere else and then you slip into their pockets and slip out of them as fast and take the stuff and don’t run! That’s important! Just walk away as if nothing happened.”
“Aha…” Jeongin’s eyes unfocused from Felix, then focused again. “Teach me.”
“You gotta learn to keep your focus on your surroundings first.”
“I’m good at that.”
“No, you’re not.” Felix lifted his hand in front of Jeongin’s face, dangled his car keys in between his fingers.
“Hey! Gimme those!” Jeongin tried to snatch them back.
“I don’t think I will, darling, I’m not letting you drink and drive.” Felix gave the younger one a hearty smile before pocketing the keys.
“I never drink and drive!” Jeongin tried to protest, but gave up, and during the next few seconds Felix understood, why.
“And here you are, once again taking things that aren’t yours”, someone breathed in Felix’s ear, and he nearly jumped from the stool and smacked the intruder in the face. But just nearly, because the next thing he knew was that Changbin took a seat right next to him, Chan sat next to Hyunjin and Jisung pulled himself a stool in between the two newcomers.
“How the hell did you find us?” Jeongin shrieked, as per usual. The bartender came to serve Chan to the table and Felix figured Chan probably wasn’t a new face here, and the bartender knew who he was.
“Do you think he hasn’t installed locators on our phones?” Minho leaned against the backrest of his chair, and Felix couldn’t make out from his face if he was glad the other trio had decided to join them or not.
“Right…” An epiphany spread over Jeongin’s features, then he turned to Chan. “You know, bossman, you could have just called us… No need to be so secretive… We get it, we’re cool and you want to spend time with us, but this is making y’all seem a little desperate…”
Felix couldn’t help the giggle escaping through his lips, Chan looked rather amused, Changbin almost sour (then again, he usually looked like that). Jisung snorted, took one of Jeongin’s shots and downed it in one go.
“Hey! That was mine!”
“And? Aren’t you the Viper? Pretty sure you have the money to buy the whole bar at least three rounds and your bank account would still have at least nine figures in it.”
Jeongin stuck his tongue out at Jisung. Felix was glad the mercenary had become more accustomed to their presence lately, he was always so quiet, usually observing from the side. The bartender arrived with a tray of drinks, Changbin had chosen himself some whiskey on the rocks.
“Very noir”, Felix commented quietly, and maybe he should have kept quiet, but the alcohol in him didn’t think that way.
“You have a baby pink drink in front of you”, the bomb tech bit back.
“So? Wasn’t my order.”
“Is it even good?”
“Better than whiskey.”
Felix noticed the glance he earned from Hyunjin and turned away from Changbin (or at least tried to, it wasn’t all that easy given that he was sitting right next to him and their legs kept constantly brushing against each other and why was Felix suddenly so aware of this?). Jeongin decided to offer them another round and Felix accepted, way too aware of the looks he got from Changbin once he downed the second shot for the night. Third after a while, fourth within the next half an hour. The buzz in his head got stronger, he was pleasantly warm, he felt like the king of the world for a moment.
The atmosphere wasn’t pressuring, it wasn’t serious, soon Felix found himself laughing at something Seungmin said, then at Jeongin, he knew his nose was probably red as it always was when he got drunk. Felix liked it. The feeling. Every now and then a rare smile appeared on Changbin’s always so stoic features, Minho was clearly more talkative when he was under the influence of alcohol (or maybe he was just shy). They talked about everything – their distant pasts, Felix found out Chan had lived in another country, Changbin was from the countryside, Jisung didn’t say a damn thing about himself and Minho had a few siblings. Felix told the crew he himself had always been somewhat of a lone wolf, and perhaps there had been a spark of pity on Chan’s features. Felix knew he probably should have kept quiet, these weren’t things you told your heist crew, they could make you vulnerable.
But then again, all of them were telling such… sensitive things of themselves. Things you didn’t tell just to your heist crew that you were supposed to do one heist with and separate after that. Hyunjin was leaning against Chan’s arm, the clock was closing to two in the morning, they had sat several hours around the table for now, fifth shot and yet another drink, occasionally Felix lost himself in his thoughts, he didn’t really listen what Seungmin said, something about his father actually not being all that good of a father even if he tried to make it seem like that to the public, and he sounded angry because his sister was suffering of it more than Seungmin was and now Minho looked angry too, and this wasn’t something you just told to your coworkers you had known only for a few months. And it made Felix a bit sad in his drunken haze. He wanted to keep these people around him. He wanted to… he wanted to keep their heist crew. He felt like he belonged with these people, he could be just himself, occasionally a bit shy and very observant, he could let his guards down, even if there were people that did morally rather ambiguous things around him. He just… he felt like he belonged with these people. He had fun with them. He laughed with them, shared perhaps the same views of the world. Felix had never before felt such sense of belonging, never as strongly as with these seven people around him.
And it made him sad. Because this wouldn’t last. They weren’t meant to last, Chan would order them to go their own ways after the heist, or maybe it would fail and they would all end up in different jails, Felix would probably get away with a few-year sentence, Jisung would continue his lifetime. Felix didn’t want that. He didn’t want to let go of these people, he wanted to… continue heisting with them or something. Just living! And perhaps it was a bit naïve, they were criminals, some of them wanted by the feds, it wasn’t secure for them to stick around each other. And Felix hated that. For once he felt like he belonged somewhere, and then it wouldn’t last.
“Are you alright?” Changbin whispered right next to his ear.
“Mmyeah, I’m alright. How so?” Felix knew his speech was slurring, he just hoped it wasn’t all that bad.
“You’ve been spacing out for the last five minutes and haven’t once tried to get into my pockets.”
“Are you complaining? I can change that.” Oh, so Changbin had noticed. Felix hoped the others hadn’t (by the looks of it, Felix could tell they hadn’t, they were listening to Seungmin ranting about something political).
“I didn’t say that, just thought it was odd.”
“Oh, so you do care about me after all?”
Felix glanced at Changbin, who just rolled his eyes and leaned against the backrest of his chair. Felix hadn’t really ever paid all that much attention, but good lord did the color black suit him. Especially with the golden accents, the bracelet, the watch. the rings around his fingers and dangling from his ears.
“I hope you aren’t planning to drink any more, you’re slurring.”
“And what if I am?” Felix, just for the sake of it, lifted the next drink Jeongin had offered him to his lips, only for Changbin to learn forward and set it back on the table.
“Controlling, are you? That’s very toxic, Changbin.”
“Wouldn’t want the prince to get a headache in the morning.”
“This prince will not probably be able to lift his head from the pillows until six in the evening, anyway. A little late for that.”
“Sucks.” Changbin did not sound compassionate at all. Instead he stole Felix’s drink and drank what was left of it. Felix stuck his tongue out at him but didn’t complain. Perhaps it was indeed for the best, he didn’t have as good of a tolerance as Jeongin did. And the shots had perhaps been a bit too much. Perhaps. And Changbin was looking oddly at Felix and Felix realized he was still staring at him and quickly turned away and felt the blush on his cheeks. He hoped the blush had been there this whole time.
By the looks of Hyunjin’s face, it hadn’t. Fuck.
An hour passed, maybe two, their little gang was loud and laughing and Felix lost himself into the atmosphere. Jeongin started to soon nod off, and Chan announced it was time for them to leave, and led them out of the bar after paying the tab. The whole tab, Jeongin’s and Seungmin’s orders included. Felix’s legs felt wobbly, but somehow he managed to get himself through the theatre and back outside (maybe it was partly Changbin’s work as he kept leading Felix by holding his shoulders). The air outside felt fresh, cleared Felix’s head just a bit. It had rained, the neon lights flickered against the puddles on the pavement, the wet asphalt sucking in the light and making the surroundings seem a lot darker than usually.
“Are you sure you’ll find your way home?” Changbin mumbled as Felix took a few wobbly steps to the way he believed the underground was. Felix turned around, flashed the man a smile, before taking a few way too brave steps close to him, nearly bumping against him.
“What, are you worried?” Maybe he was. Or maybe Felix was just way too drunk. “Don’t worry, I’ll find my way home just fine.”
“This part nor the area where you live aren’t the safest at this time of the night.” Oh, so he was worried.
“I can take care of myself.” Felix lifted his chin up a bit, tried to seem sober (and a big boy who could take care of himself).
“Really?” Changbin sounded amused.
It was Felix’s turn to roll his eyes. “I have Hyunjin with me. I’ll be fine.”
“Felix, are you coming?” Felix heard his friend calling for him from behind his shoulder, breaking the eye contact he and Changbin had shared for a few moments.
“Yes”, Felix mumbled and turned away from the bomb tech, Hyunjin looped his arm around Felix’s and pulled him along, Jeongin on his other arm. Felix figured the street racer would most likely crash at Hyunjin’s place (and so would Felix).
“Hyunjin, try to keep him in one piece.” Changbin yelled after them as they walked over the road to the other side. They had a few blocks to the underground station.
“I will!” Hyunjin shouted back over his shoulder, before leaning close to Felix’s ear: “Your loverboy is making some moves.”
Whatever the hell had yesterday happened at the bar in between Changbin and Felix clearly did not last to the next day, because once Felix, Hyunjin and Jeongin finally got themselves dragged to the warehouse, Changbin didn’t even bother to greet Felix. Well, that was that then, he had probably been drunk, too, why would he care for Felix’s and his wellbeing and safety, anyway? They weren’t friends. This wasn’t going to last. Why would Changbin give a damn about him?
“Was there a reason you dragged us here today or did you just want to laugh at my and Felix’s demise?” Jeongin croaked from the sofa, he had an ice pack on his head. Felix was no better, leaning against Hyunjin’s table, head in hands, nearly dozing off. Chan chuckled.
“I needed Hyunjin to check out some stuff, didn’t know he would take you two along.”
“I’m not leaving those two in my apartment alone, they are very smart separate but incredibly stupid together. Or rather, Jeongin gets stupid ideas, and Felix follows along”, Hyunjin mumbled, Felix made a sound of disagreement. Minho was at work and Seungmin hadn’t bothered to show up. Felix wondered if they had spent the night together.
Something was set next to Felix, Felix didn’t budge, his head was pounding, he felt awful. He should have stopped after the third shot. Hyunjin nudged his leg under the table and Felix finally lifted his head from his hands. There was a glass of water and a painkiller on the table next to him. Felix cocked his eyebrow at his friend, who shook his head and nodded towards the door. Felix turned his head that way just as Changbin disappeared through the door, closed it after him.
Oh. So he did care.
Days passed, the week turned to another. The crew learned how to use the cases they’d use to carry the artefacts with properly as they were safebolted. Chan told them to familiarize themselves properly with the blueprints, so Felix did that, familiarized himself so well he could have probably made it out of the museum with his eyes closed through the endless hallways. The air was getting more pressuring, the heist was closing in, Felix could feel it. He wasn’t sure if the emotions swirling inside of him were excitement or anxiety.
Or something else.
Changbin was just… himself. Snarky. Kept up with his biting comments, avoided Felix at all costs, called him a lowly little pickpocket, just for Felix to catch him staring at him across the warehouse with an unreadable expression over his face. What was his problem? And Hyunjin’s, since he, too kept up with the constant “how’s your loverboy?” -thing and Felix wasn’t brave enough to ask Hyunjin how Chan was doing since the mastermind was very often around.
And Felix didn’t know why Chan didn’t do… anything. He had said that they were professionals. They were to act professionally. This was a no-strings-attached-thing, and if too many emotions were in the game, it would get messy, and they couldn’t do messy, not in a heist like this. Or was it because Chan himself couldn’t keep his words? Was that why he didn’t say anything to Minho or Seungmin, when he himself was constantly fawning over Hyunjin? Had he realized that he wouldn’t be able to keep the pair separate and just let go of that rule?
No. He had realized there were already too many emotions in the game, hadn’t he? This thing had stopped being a no-strings-attached gig ever since Felix had brought Hyunjin along, because the two of them were bonded for life, they had been friends for ages and wouldn’t be separated. He had let go of that rule, because it was already useless and Felix had made it useless right from the start, and Chan had accepted that, because they had needed a hacker.
That terrified Felix to his very core. He realized they would not be able to fail. They could not fail. They had to succeed, get everyone out safely, because there were so many strings attached now that if someone would fall behind, plenty of them would be hurt, deeply. The stakes were much higher than getting those artefacts. They’d have to get out safely. They’d have to get out and escape, not leave a trace behind, make sure they’d never be recognized. It wasn’t enough just to get the artefacts. They’d all have to stay alive and uncaught, because otherwise it would hurt.
And no one, no one wanted to get hurt.
Felix felt restless. He couldn’t sleep properly, and he knew it was a bad thing, and because he knew it was a bad thing, he couldn’t sleep properly. He was scared, he had to admit that to himself, after all, he was a pickpocket, nothing but a pickpocket, he had never been anything else but a pickpocket. How was he supposed to pull off a museum heist? Why couldn’t they just go for something easier, casinos, a bank, perhaps, money was harder to track than three artefacts. Or well, that was the buyer’s problem, not theirs. But Felix was scared, and restless, and his hands holding to the gun felt clammy.
His earmuffs covered most of the gunshots, they were rather loud, even with a silencer, since he was in a closed space. The clock was closing to midnight, Hyunjin had left an hour ago and Felix had stayed behind. The rest of the crew had only stopped by at the warehouse today, as they had business elsewhere, and Jeongin was taking a ‘day off’. He had finished tweaking their escape van, now it was apparently in such condition than Jeongin could have taken it to any races and still kept his crown easily. Felix wasn’t sure if that terrified or reassured him. Jeongin knew his cars, he knew how to drive in any sort of places from narrow, asphalted alleys to near-deserted areas without mistakes. But he was a bit of a speed-addict, he had even said so himself, and that… that could turn out to be not such a great thing in their situation.
Felix sighed, maybe he should just head home, they only had a few days until the zero hour. Yet he didn’t, he pulled the trigger again, shot at the target, didn’t miss. Of course he didn’t miss, he had been taught by Changbin. And Jisung, but more by Changbin, since Jisung had had hands full of Jeongin. And there it was, Changbin occupying his thoughts again. Felix didn’t like that. He didn’t like that at all.
Because Hyunjin’s offhand loverboy-comments and all-too-knowing stares were doing something to Felix, and he didn’t like it. Yes, Changbin was… interesting. Felix could admit that much. But he was only that when he wasn’t being mean, what he usually was. And maybe Felix did deserve those snarky comments, after all, he had been an ass to Changbin and betrayed his trust since day one, but still… Maybe they were starting to hurt. Or not hurt, more like… itch. Felix didn’t mind them, he was a lowly pickpocket, but… was he only that? Was he just a lowly pickpocket?
And was he only that to Changbin? The realization made him annoyed, almost mad. He didn’t really care what the others thought now, did he? No. And that annoyed him. Why did he care so much what Changbin thought of him? Felix was a lowly pickpocket, that was a fact! And the heist was only a few nights away, there was no time to think about these things, this whole thing would just… make everything messier!
Felix pressed the trigger down thrice, he was angry at the world, angry at Changbin, angry at himself. He hadn’t felt anything in ages, not towards anyone, every presence in Felix’s life was only there for a fleeting moment, and he didn’t grow attached to anyone but Hyunjin. But now, now… now he just couldn’t stop thinking about the bomb tech, could he? No. And that annoyed him. So much. Now he’d be the reason the things would get messy, because he wasn’t sure how he would… react if something were to happen.
But this was stupid, everything was so fucking stupid, Changbin didn’t. Feel. That word tasted sour. Changbin was a high-class criminal, he had things to do and business elsewhere and Felix was a lowly pickpocket, who he was just picking on, and now Felix was growing feelings for the bully. Alright, maybe the bully-word was a bit too heavy for this instance, but still! And Felix had done nothing but feed into that, trying to constantly get on Changbin’s nerves, and now he maybe was regretting it. He wouldn’t be in this situation, if he had just kept his fingers to himself. He wouldn’t be feeling this type of way if he had just kept his mouth shut and stayed away from the bomb tech.
“Did that target board do something to you?”
Felix nearly shrieked as he heard the voice by his ear, he hadn’t paid attention to his surroundings at all. He pulled his earmuffs off, the annoyance probably very visible on his face.
“What the hell, Changbin!”
Changbin only grinned back, his leather jacket was zipped up, indicating he had just come from outside.
“I thought you were trying to get the target fall from the way you were glaring at it.”
“How long have you been watching me?” Felix completely dismissed the comment, sounding angry. He wasn’t even angry. Or maybe he was. Angry at the pounding in his chest.
“Wow, easy, I just came, I noticed the lights were still on and thought Hyunjin had left them accidentally on.”
Felix sighed, pulled his earmuffs back on and turned towards the target. He had nothing to say to Changbin, he didn’t want to talk to him, he should keep away from him from now on to not accelerate the whatever ounce of feeling he had for him. But Changbin didn’t seem to take Felix’s hint, not at all, he fetched himself a pair of earmuffs, too, and Felix knew he’d once again be in for a teaching session. At midnight. Three days before the heist. Felix lifted the gun in front of him and shot a few bullets, before changing the bullet case he had in his back pocket.
“Relax your shoulders, Felix, Jesus, you’re being tense”, Changbin mumbled next to him. Felix wanted to smack him. Yeah. He hadn’t been tense before he had arrived!
Or maybe he had. He had too much in his mind.
Felix tried to relax his shoulders, stretched his neck a bit before firing another round.
“Why are you even here? You can shoot just fine”, Felix heard Changbin saying through his earmuffs.
“Practice makes perfect. I don’t want to freeze in case I actually need to use my gun.” Another round. “And I can’t sleep.”
“Oh no, is our little pickpocket feeling nervous about his first heist?” Changbin tutted his lips and Felix glanced at him with so much anger in his eyes that the bomb tech shut his mouth immediately. Felix fired another round, then fetched himself a new case of bullets. Then he pressed the buttons next to the shooting range, and the targets started moving.
Felix aimed at the targets, shot a few times, missed the first one. Changbin lifted his arm, held Felix’s hand and straightened his stance, just a bit. He could have just touched the gun, no need to hold Felix’s hand. Felix wanted to scream. He shot another round, this time not missing any of the targets.
“Relax, you’ll be fine.”
“I am relaxing”, Felix spat out, he should just keep his mouth shut, dear lord! He wasn’t even mad at Changbin, could he stop acting this way?!
“I meant the heist, Felix. You’ll be fine.”
Felix didn’t say anything, just fired twice more, before lowering the gun. His back was starting to ache.
“Everyone is scared of the first time, but you have the best team in the world around you. And you’re not going in there alone, and you’re not even doing the worst parts alone.”
“Is that what you have planned?”
“So far, yes. We’ll be moving in pairs, since there’s three targets. One for each pair, it’s easier and faster that way. And you’re going with me, Chan or Jisung, since we three have the most experience.”
“What, would you rather go with Seungmin?”
Felix snorted, that would just end up with them getting caught, most likely.
“How are you going to separate him and Minho?”
“Easily. Minho won’t go with Seungmin, because he has to make sure Chan won’t betray his trust, he’ll go with Chan. And the two of them can’t betray us together, if they’re separate.”
“Betray his trust? You seem to have a lot of confidence in them. Didn’t Chan say we should trust each other in everything?”
“Long story. Those two aren’t the most trustful given the positions they are in. And we don’t know for sure if they have planned something behind our backs, so making them go separate will at least make it a little harder for them to betray us.”
“So that leaves me with either you or Jisung?”
“I hope it’s Jisung.” Felix bit his tongue after saying that.
“Don’t hurt me like this, pickpocket.” Felix could hear the laughter in Changbin’s voice. He wasn’t hurt by Felix’s comment. Probably. “No, but you’re right, Jisung is a safe one, and you for sure don’t need to shoot anything with him, since he’s been taught how to hold a gun ever since he learned to walk.”
“Rough way to live.” Maybe Felix felt a little sorry for Jisung.
“Mmhm. Though, now that he’s with me and Chan, he hasn’t been really doing his… mercenary things. And he has very strict rules, he won’t kill just anyone, even if he’s paid well. The buyers need to have proof that the targets have actually done something horrible.”
“Fathers that beat their sons. Other killers. People that have done horrible things to other people. Rarely he goes for someone who’s, say, stolen some money from somewhere. No, they have to have actually hurt someone.”
“Interesting… And now he’s a wanted criminal.”
“And you aren’t. Haven’t you ever got caught?”
“No”, Changbin cracked a proud smile; “And neither will you, at least not in this heist.”
“But I have been caught.” Shut up Felix, shut up shut up shut up.
“By the best in the game, there’s no shame in that.”
Changbin was close, too close. Felix wanted to step away, but he didn’t. Instead he lifted the gun again, aimed at the moving targets. Changbin, once again, straightened his stance, just a bit, by holding his hand.
“You’re in good hands, Felix. We’ll all be fine, don’t underestimate the King of Hearts and his capabilities to choose a crew and make a plan. We have everything we need, there’s no need to worry.”
Felix sighed, fired two shots.
“Fine”, he mumbled.
“What are you so worried about?” And maybe it was the genuine concern in Changbin’s words that wrenched Felix’s insides in a very unpleasant way. Felix shrugged.
“I don’t know. Everything. I tend to worry about a lot of things.”
“I’d say stop that, but I know it doesn’t work like that.” Changbin put his hand on Felix’s shoulder, squeezed it. Felix nearly yielded, just nearly. “I don’t make many promises usually, but I promise you this one: we’ll be fine. You can beat my ass if we won’t be.” Changbin stared right into Felix’s eyes that Felix thought he could see absolutely everything going on in his mind right then and there. The moment lasted for too many seconds.
“I’ll remember that promise”, Felix mumbled, too late for it to be normal.
“Good. Now go home, try to get some sleep, you’ll need it.” And with that, Changbin left Felix in the warehouse, alone. With his heart thrumming through his chest.
“Alright, everybody’s here”, Chan stood up from the end of the table as Felix and Hyunjin sat down as the last people to arrive at the meeting, not even a second too late. There was a whiteboard on the opposite side of the table with the blueprints, there were a few boxes on the table, one of the fluorescent lights above them had broken and was flickering. Chan glanced at the people sitting around the table, Seungmin was fiddling the cufflinks of his shirt, Minho was sitting next to him, very calm and collected. Jeongin was sitting next to Felix, as he always was, this time dressed from head to toe in Louis Vuitton. Jisung and Changbin were on either side of the mastermind, Felix didn’t miss Changbin’s gaze on him, before he turned to Chan.
“I’m sure you’re all aware that tonight we will be creating our detailed plan for the upcoming heist.”
“Mmhm.” Agreeing mumbles, Felix could feel the tension tightening in the air.
“First of all, I’d like to thank you all and to say that I am very proud of how far some of you have come.” Chan glanced rather indiscreetly at Felix and Jeongin.
“Getting sappy right from the beginning, are we?” Changbin laughed, and earned a deathly glare from the leader.
“Don’t worry, Changbin, I’m proud of you as well.”
The bomb tech shut his mouth.
“I’m certain everyone has memorized the blueprints by now, along with the timetables of this week’s night guard shifts that Minho got for us.”
More nods and murmurs.
“Great. So, here’s the plan:”
“First, Jeongin, you will be driving us here.” Chan opened a map on the table, pointed at an alley a block away from the museum. “Hyunjin will shut down every camera within that block. After that we’ll move close to the museum, and Hyunjin will be shutting down the museum’s security system. That will give us half an hour to work.”
Half an hour?!
“Hyunjin and Jeongin will be waiting for us there, Hyunjin’s programs work better when he’s closer to the target. Or something like that. And we won’t have time to fetch him as we escape, that’s why he’ll be working from that van.” Hyunjin nodded at his mastermind.
“After that, it is time for the show. We’ll need to take out the guards outside. The check up call is every half an hour, which works for our time frame. Jisung and Minho will be in charge of the guards, they just need to be stunned, not killed, we have sedatives for that. Approach from the back, knock them out, be quick, make sure they don’t alert the others. Tie them up, tape their mouths, destroy their contact devices.” Jisung and Minho nodded.
“We’ll go in through the back door. There will be more guards waiting for us, we’ll do the same thing to them. There’s only one way to the museum from the backdoor, we have to use the stairs. After we reach this place,” Chan pointed at a crossroads, one hallway led to the main hallway, one to the security room, ”we’ll split up. That’s because if one or two of us are seen, they will think it’s just two people in, not six. Me and Minho will go fetch the diamond necklace. We will be using vents and side hallways that the janitors use to get to the upper floor.” Chan motioned their trail through the blueprint. Minho nodded, he had expected this, hadn’t he?
“The necklace is on the fourth floor.”
“On the third floor is the vase. Felix and Changbin, you will be going for that one.” Felix nearly groaned in frustration, but only nodded. He should have seen this coming. “You will be using these vents and hallways. Avoid the main hallways.” Felix memorized the trail Chan gave them, it was partly the same with Chan and Minho. “Knock out the guards in that exhibit all, take the vase, make sure you turn off the alarms with the keycard, replace the vase with the fake one. The keycard gives you a minute to work. I’ve entrusted you two with this, because the vase is very delicate, and I believe Felix would be the best option to handle it.” Lowly little pickpocket. Felix nodded.
“After that you’ll retreat using the same way you came from, wait for us, hide somewhere close to the backdoor if we need help. I’m rather sure me and Minho will take the longest as we have to go the highest.”
“That leaves us the painting, Jisung and Seungmin.” Chan eyed the two. Seungmin didn’t look too pleased, but nodded nevertheless. Felix was rather sure he would have looked displeased with everyone except for Minho. “You will be going there using these maintenance hallways. No vents for you, you will only need to reach the second floor. Knock out the guards, use the keycard, take the painting, replace it with the fake one and get out. Hide close to the backdoor.” More nods.
“Sounds easy”, Seungmin mumbled.
“It does. The tricky part is that we’ll have to work in darkness. We’ll have to hide, blend ourselves into the shadows, get past the guards since we can’t knock out everyone on our way. We have to move silently, you can’t talk, only whisper. The darkness will help us, but it may also betray us. That’s why you all have to memorize the blueprints so well. You need to be able to navigate in the darkness.”
“Don’t we have the night vision goggles?”
“You can’t rely entirely on them. The world looks different with them, and you may forget that you’re still in a silent museum with several guards that have flashlights, and they won’t hesitate to kill you, even if they’d rather give you up to the police.”
The seven of them nodded.
“What about the thermal cameras? Some guards have those”, Minho asked.
“Hyunjin will take care of them.” Chan nodded towards the hacker, and the said hacker nodded.
“Not only that, but there will also be guards patrolling in the hallways. Look out for them. There are two guards walking around on every floor, they check all the exhibitions, and their tour lasts for twenty minutes. If possible, get into the exhibition just as they have left, that will give you twenty minutes to get out. Understood?”
Nods, more mumbles.
“You will all have to be very careful. Don’t touch other artefacts by any means, stay as far away from them as possible. Some exhibitions on the first floor and second floor will have movement cameras on, we can’t get to every single one of them, so stay away from there. Avoid the front door, don’t use it, don’t break anything, don’t escape from the windows unless you absolutely need to if everything goes to shit. Stick to the plan, don’t go solo, don’t steal anything else except the ones we’ll be going for. Remember, the time frame we’re working on is only half an hour. We will need to be fast and quiet.”
Fast and quiet. Felix could do fast and quiet. He just hoped everyone else could do that, too.
“And remember that no place is unbreakable. We can do this, I have faith in us.”
“What then? Do we have a plan B?” Minho asked, again.
“We do. That plan is to kill anyone that comes on our way and run out of there as fast as possible, and after that it’s going to be a car chase.”
“Delightful”, Jeongin grinned.
“The museum is old, there aren’t other ways out except for the back door and the front door, and the roof, but we don’t have a helicopter, and it’s impossible to jump from the museum’s rooftop to the surrounding rooftops. At least Minho hasn’t told us of other passageways, and the blueprints don’t show other ways. That’s why our plan A needs to work out.” Pressuring. Rather horrifying. Minho shook his head, he didn’t know of other ways.
“And what if one of us is seen?” Seungmin opened his mouth.
“Others will continue, with haste. If you are seen, the guards will alert the others, but won’t get a response from the security room, because Hyunjin is messing up with the systems. They will most likely try to shoot you, or at least threaten to, try to knock them out instead of shooting, because if you fire a gun in the museum, everyone in the building will definitely hear it despite the silencers, and after that you’re going to get absolutely every single guard in the building after yourselves. Try to get out as fast as possible, if you have to, run around the museum, get into the vents, confuse them. But we are going to work fast and quietly, and that won’t happen.”
Right. So they weren’t going to have a proper back-up plan, they had to succeed in one go. Great. Amazing. No high stakes at all. Felix started to really wish this would have been a casino robbery instead.
“Questions?” Everyone shook their heads. Felix had so many swarming in his mind, that he couldn’t pick one. They all came down to one question, though: what would happen if they failed?
“Good. After we have all gathered close to the backroom, we’ll alert Hyunjin and Jeongin, and they will arrive at the alley behind the museum.” Chan once again pointed at the map on the table. “Then we’ll escape. This thing is going to be in the news by the next morning, or at least the next week, which means that we will be getting out of the country.”
“We will be driving to a private airstrip that a friend of mine owns, there will be waiting the buyer’s plane to get us to their manor a few-hour flight away. We will be meeting the buyer at the mansion, and they have promised that they will let us stay there until it’s safe for us to go back, or come up with another plan if some of us happen to be identified, which I hope won’t happen.” Another country? Wow. Hyunjin and Felix eyed each other, was this their chance of getting that beach vacation they had always dreamed about?
“So my job is to drive you to the museum, wait, and then drive to the airport?” Jeongin asked.
“Yes. If things go badly, you will get to a car chase with the police, and in that case you’ll have to lose them from our track before we can go to the airport.”
“And that is only if we are being chased! If we are not, we’ll have to blend in and drive with the rest of the traffic, Jeongin, even if that may not be how you usually drive.”
Jeongin stuck his tongue out to the mastermind, but agreed, nevertheless. He understood how high the stakes were being held.
“So, we get to just… stay at their mansion?”
“Yes. On the day of the heist, you get to have one gym bag each for the stuff you want to take with you. Forget anything that might help identifying yourselves, don’t take any real ID’s, no credit cards, nothing.”
“Are you going to provide passports or…?” Hyunjin asked in turn.
“We won’t be needing them.”
“It’s a private island. The owner of the mansion also owns the island.”
“And you don’t know who this person is?” Seungmin did not sound pleased, at all.
“No. I know their nickname. I know that they can be trusted. And you will have to trust me.”
“And if this is a hoax or a plan by the feds…?”
“Then Minho has the permission to end what he started.” Chan glanced at the man on his left. The table fell silent. They all knew what he meant by that.
“Any more questions?”
“Good. Our garments for the heist will be in these boxes.” Chan patted at the boxes on the table. “you have already familiarized yourselves with these, too. Gloves, polo shirts, night goggles, shoes that won’t squeak on the marble. Bulletproof vests. Locators, Hyunjin will be following us through the museum, and for communication we’ll have earpieces. They work by pressing a button down and speaking.” Felix had had that on his first little museum theft. “Guns, sedatives, tape, rope, zipties.” Chan pointed at the corner. “The artefacts are in there, make sure you have the right ones before you leave.”
Felix could feel the tension building up. He was nervous. So were the people around him.
“And I believe that’s all. We’ll only be communicating when necessary.”
“So fast and quiet and then out? Sounds still fairly easy.” Jisung mumbled.
“Let’s hope it stays as easy and we won’t have to come up with sudden new plans.”
Chan leaned against the table, glanced at the seven people around him once more.
“We’ll have a meeting tomorrow evening, as it can be our last evening as free men if absolutely everything goes to shit. I will text you all our location for the meeting. Wear something nice.”
‘Wear something nice’. The coordinates for their next meeting arrived exactly at three in the afternoon, and it took Felix a minute to believe his eyes. They were for one of the finest restaurants in the city, one of those highly expensive ones with skyline as the view. ‘Wear something nice’. Felix didn’t know what was considered nice in this situation, so he called Hyunjin, who told Felix to get his ass to his apartment, so that’s what Felix did.
And at 18 o’clock they left his apartment, Felix now in a full suit, dark red in color, because the rest of Hyunjin’s cavalcade of suits were too big for Felix (and apparently also way too expensive, though Felix was quite certain the suit he was wearing costed at least five of his rents as well). Hyunjin had insisted on slicking Felix’s hair back, leaving a few kiss curls hanging on his forehead. Felix felt out of place – usually he was covering himself with baggy clothes with a hundred pockets sewn in them to cover and hide himself, but now he didn’t have those pockets, nor anything to hide with, since the red suit was anything but easy to escape attention with. Felix felt naked, in a sense. And Hyunjin could see that.
“Relax, I’m sure your loverboy is going to love seeing you in something else than hoodies.”
“This isn’t about Changbin.”
“I know, I know. It’s just a fine dining restaurant. We’ll most likely have our own room in there or some shit.”
“Have you been in there?”
“Yeah. We had a company meeting there last winter. When I say fine dining, I truly mean it.”
And Hyunjin had been correct. The place truly was a fine dining one, a five-star restaurant, awarded with a Michelin star on top of that. Golden chandeliers hung from the ceiling, the walls were made of glass, the skyline creating a breathtaking view as the sun set behind the horizon. Far away Felix could see the lights of the harbor, the one that was still in use, and when he turned his head to the right, he could see a hint of darkness on the other side – their harbor.
“Misters Lee and Hwang?” A waiter behind the counter, dressed in a black suit, asked them. Felix and Hyunjin nodded.
“This way, please”, and the waiter led their way through the restaurant. The restaurant wasn’t packed, which wasn’t surprising, since it was Tuesday evening. A few couples, one bigger group, all dressed in suits or other formal clothing. Was this life when you were rich?
The waiter led them through a narrow hallway to the other side of the restaurant, then opened a door on the right to a smaller room. Unlike the front of the restaurant with glass walls surrounding it, only one of the walls was made of glass in this room. There was a table in the middle of the room, and around it was seated six people – their heist crew.
“Thank you, mister Kim. I’m surprised to see you two arriving on time”, Chan grinned at them at the end of the table. Felix and Hyunjin took the last seats left opposite of each other, Felix next to Seungmin and Hyunjin next to Changbin.
“Are you saying I have the tendency to be late?” Hyunjin smirked at the mastermind.
“Yes, I am”, Chan admitted, before nodding at the waiter. The waiter nodded and left the room, closing the door after him.
The room was just as expensive as the rest of the restaurant – chandeliers, mahogany, gold-framed paintings on the walls. Felix and his red suit fit well with the deep red walls. He didn’t know how to act, even if they had got their own little room in the restaurant, Felix still felt out of place. So did Jeongin, by the looks of it, and Felix was perhaps a bit surprised to see him in a basic black suit, no fur coats, no neon pink sunglasses. He looked like any other businessman, and Felix had a feeling Jeongin wasn’t really all that into it.
The rest of them were suited up, too, in different ways. Seungmin looked like he did on any other day, as he always wore suits, Felix had never seen him in… normal clothes. Jisung, too, was wearing a casual black suit. Now he looked like those mercenaries in the romanticized movies about organized crime. Felix was pretty certain Chan’s suit, dark green in color, was made by Tom Ford (or at least that’s what Hyunjin had mumbled to him as they had entered the room). Changbin looked fine with his black suit, similar to Jisung’s.
Fine was an understatement. Felix had never seen him out of casual clothing and his brain seemed to bluescreen for a moment as he laid his eyes on the bomb tech. The golden jewelry on his hands only made it worse.
“So why are we roleplaying rich people tonight?” Jeongin opened his mouth, as he laid against the backrest of his chair and crossed his arms on his chest.
“I just wanted to take you all out for dinner, as this may be our last one”, Chan answered him. ‘Our last one’. Felix glanced around the room, he didn’t see any cameras.
“You can all relax, my father owns this place. The room is soundproof, and there aren’t any cameras here, either.” Chan noticed Felix fidgeting on his seat.
A bit of chit-chatting, more waiters arrived with knocks on the door, brought them bottles of champagne (non-alcoholic for Hyunjin), before handing them the menus. Felix couldn’t tear his eyes away from Changbin, and he was way too aware of it. Thank god the bomb tech kept his eyes on the mastermind, and didn’t see him. Hyunjin did, and Felix kicked him in the shin underneath the table to wipe out the smirk on his face.
Soon they did their orders, Felix honestly had no idea what he ordered as most of the names were way too fancy for him to understand. Something sautéed and something. After the waiters left, Chan cleared his throat and took his flute of champagne.
“I’d like to say something to you all.”
“Oh, here we go”, Changbin mumbled, rolled his eyes, but only in a teasing way.
“Shut up, bomb tech. Anyway, I’d like to say something.”
Chan eyed the seven of them, just like he had yesterday at the warehouse. Only this time he had sort of… feeling in his eyes.
“If this is our last evening alive, and as free men, then I’d like to start by saying thank you. All of you. I had no idea when I first started planning this heist that the crew I gathered would work so well together. I have worked with dozens of thieves that consider themselves professionals, but none of them have been this easy to work with. Of course, the hardest part is yet to happen, so I can’t say too much. I will still say thank you, you have all been a joy to work with.”
This was a goodbye speech, Felix understood, and it wrenched his heart in a way that it was supposed not to. They could get caught tomorrow night and never see each other again, one of them could get shot, they all could get shot. Or they could pull off the heist perfectly, fly to that unnamed, private island and separate as the coast would be clear.
“I’d also like to say that I am proud of you all, especially those who are working in this sort of thing for the first time in their life.” So, Felix, Hyunjin, Jeongin and Seungmin. Chan eyed them all in that order. “You have all come so far. I hope the skills you have acquired form this mission will come handy in your future endeavors.”
“Oh, they definitely will”, Jeongin mumbled under his breath, earning a spark of laughter.
“In short, thank you. For joining me, for making this mission come through. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without each and every one of you.”
“I can’t promise you we will succeed tomorrow, but I hope the stars will be in our favor. Along with the guards’ stupidity.” More laughter. “To us, come what may.” He lifted his glass of champagne in the air, so the rest of them did the same, before taking a drink from it. The champagne tasted sweet, it bubbled in Felix’s throat.
“Thank you for being a great leader”, Seungmin said, lifting his glass of champagne as well, the rest of them agreeing. Chan got a gentle, small smile on his face, and Felix wasn’t entirely sure if he was all that happy that this was their last night… together.
“Enough of formalities, I’m glad that you’re all here and even got Felix dressed in something else than a hoodie for once”, Chan cracked him a wider smile, leaned against the backrest of his chair and relaxed his posture. Felix rolled his eyes.
“You should thank your little hacker for that.” As the words left Felix’s mouth, he realized what he had accidentally slipped out, fear nearly paralyzing him. Hyunjin kicked him underneath the table, but Chan just laughed it off, as if Felix had said nothing out of ordinary.
Well, he really hadn’t, had he? Hyunjin was Chan’s little hacker. At least was going to be very soon, if he wasn’t already, if Felix knew anything of his best friend. The conversation turned from Felix to other sorts of things, Chan asked Seungmin something about the air rights around the restaurant as his father was planning an extension and Seungmin, always so bright and up-to-date with everything, had an answer for him. The atmosphere loosened, soon they got their food, or more like pieces of art on a plate. The food tasted good, though, so Felix couldn’t really complain. Maybe being rich had some upsides, including but not limited to food that looked inedible but tasted immaculate.
The hours passed, the wine tasted good, none of them drank too much of it, they couldn’t afford being hangover tomorrow. That’s why Chan also asked for bottles of water along with the wine. If the main course had looked like pieces of art, then the desserts were straight up masterpieces. They tasted good, too. What a surprise. Changbin got some pudding on his nose and Felix had never been the one for the romantics, but he would have wanted to kiss it away. And as soon as that thought flashed through his mind, he shook it away, dear lord, Felix, this was not the time for that. He’d have time to daydream after the heist.
The night fell around them, the sky never deepening to black with the light pollution from the city. The only thing that would have made the view better was if they would have been able to see the stars. The air was light, laughter filled their little space, Chan opened up to them about a past heist where absolutely everything had gone wrong, but he had survived with five of his heist buddies, out of them three were in jail currently for other crimes. After the clock struck eleven, Chan figured it was perhaps the best for them to go, they’d need to get a proper sleep and be in a good shape for the heist tomorrow, well rested and awake.
Jeongin promised to drive Jisung home, Hyunjin looked reluctant to leave, so Felix figured he wanted to stay behind because of their dear mastermind, and Chan saved him with “Hyunjin, can you stay behind, I need to talk to you about something”. Seungmin and Minho left together, as expected, so when Felix closed the door behind him, he had Changbin accompanying him. Together they got into the elevator, Felix could feel the air tensing. He didn’t like this.
As they stepped outside of the building, the cold air hit Felix’s face, made it easier to breathe for a moment.
“Does the prince want someone to accompany his travel home?” Changbin immediately fired.
“I’m pretty certain you’d come even if I said no.”
“You are correct, since we’re going in the same direction.”
It was now that Felix realized he didn’t even know where Changbin lived, but Changbin knew where he lived. He didn’t like that. Changbin stuffed his hands in his pockets, relaxed. Felix felt anything but.
“Where do you even live?” Felix asked him. They turned from the street corner, Felix didn’t live that far away, he could have taken the tub, but decided differently since Changbin decided to walk with him. He shouldn’t have. This was wrong.
“A few blocks away.”
“Are you going to walk me all the way?”
“Isn’t that what royal escorts are for?”
“So when are you going to make up your mind whether I’m a lowly pickpocket or a prince?”
“Can’t you be both?” There was amusement in Changbin’s voice and Felix wanted to scream. God, why did it have to turn out like this. And they would have to be a pair tomorrow!
“Do you flirt like this with every other crew member?” Felix was trying to sound annoyed.
“No, just you. You’re fun to tease.”
God, this fucking gremlin. Felix’s steps turned hasty ones, he tried to look like Changbin’s words had absolutely no effect on him.
“Are you still scared of tomorrow?” They passed underneath streetlights, crossed the road to the other side and took a turn to the left. The streets were quiet, there weren’t many people around, a few cars passed by every now and then.
“A bit”, Felix answered, honestly.
“I’ll bomb off the window if we need to make a quick escape.”
“And what if you get shot before that?”
“They won’t shoot us unless they really have to. Which means that we have to threaten them first.” Changbin sounded so sure, Felix let the calmness in his voice seep into his soul.
“And what if we get caught?”
“I doubt that all of us will, a pair at most.”
“But what then?”
“Well, honestly, since Chan did his little speech today, I’m fairly sure he’d bail all of us out if that were the case. Or just break into the jail like we did with Jisung.”
“He doesn’t usually do that?”
“No. He doesn’t really do speeches. He’s never invited the heist crew to a dinner or got close to them, me and Jisung have only worked with him a couple of times since he doesn’t want any close friends into his heists, since, you know, no strings attached. Something about this time is different, I don’t know if it’s Hyunjin or what.”
“He seemed a bit… emotional.” Felix commented.
“He did, which is odd, usually he’s very stoic. And the bar thing was odd, too, at some point he just decided he wanted to go with you all and we followed.
“So you didn’t want to come?”
“I didn’t say that”, Changbin grinned again.
“How did you get Jisung out of jail?” Felix was curious, he wanted to know. They turned to a slightly darker alley, walking side by side.
“We infiltrated ourselves with the guards.”
“Wasn’t the prison one of those highly guarded ones?”
“Yup. Too many guards, easy to get into. We just posed as a pair of guards and had a hacker outside to close the cameras, that’s how we got him out. It was one of the easiest break-ins we have ever done.”
Felix had thought it would have been hard to get him out. It had been in the press for weeks as they had tried to figure out how they had managed to break in and out and steal Jisung from his cell.
A small silence fell, a car passed by as they turned to another, slightly bigger road.
“What do you do besides this?” Felix then asked, he didn’t want any silence.
“I’ve told you, I’m a bomb tech.”
Felix eyed Changbin, a bit suspiciously.
“I’m serious!” Changbin sounded slightly offended. “I have a degree in chemistry. Graduated two years early, now I ‘work’ for a lab that works with explosives. Sometimes I even consult the police when they investigate arson cases or some shit like that.”
Felix was surprised. Very surprised.
“That’s… cool”, he mumbled. He wasn’t only surprised that Changbin actually had a job outside the world of thievery, but that he was willing to talk about it to Felix.
“What do you do?”
“Yeah. I barely finished high school, wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Hyunjin pulling me through the classes. I’m not really interested in anything, I’ve just… done some small jobs and…”
Felix wasn’t sure if he liked the way this was going. The air… it felt the same as it had back then. Back then, around that table in that meeting, when Felix had met Changbin for the first time and been so curious of him. And then he had ruined everything.
Should he try that again? Just to see how far Changbin was willing to go? Push him to the limit? Maybe he’d mess things up again. But maybe it would be for the best, this entire thing was supposed to have no strings attached to it, and… maybe it would have all been better if Changbin hated him. At least then Felix wouldn’t yarn after him in jail in the worst case.
The conversation continued, they talked about the upcoming day, about their pasts, neither of them revealed anything too sensitive, just as they weren’t supposed to. And with every step Felix moved closer, inch by inch, slowly, very slowly. He looked for an opportunity, Changbin was telling him about some case he had helped the police with, not giving a shit about his confidentiality obligations. That opportunity approached with a loud and drunk group of elder men, that were seemingly fighting about something. As Changbin had his focus on them, Felix, with nimble fingers reached for his back pocket, where he knew Changbin always had his wallet.
And then those familiar fingers reached for Felix’s wrist as they passed by the group of loud men. Felix cursed the entire world in his mind.
“I was wondering when you would try that”, Changbin smugly mumbled, keeping his gaze forward, and then continuing his story. But he didn’t let go of Felix’s hand, oh no. He intertwined his fingers with Felix’s, held his hand. And Felix didn’t pull back. No, he let Changbin hold his hand. And he let him continue holding his hand, as they crossed the street, walked around the block, and arrived at the doorstep of the building where Felix’s apartment was. Changbin then turned to Felix and finally let go of his hand, and Felix found himself immediately missing his touch. His heart was pounding, his head was spinning.
“See you tomorrow, then.” Felix did not miss the way Changbin glanced at his lips while trying to keep his eyes in Felix’s eyes.
“See you.” Felix took a few steps towards the door, he couldn’t let it happen, he could not.
“Good night, Felix. Don’t stress too much.”
“Good night, Changbin.”
Felix could feel his skin crawling. He had a lump of anxiety tugging his throat, he was restless. He breathed in deep, got a curious glance from Jeongin.
“Nervous?” He mumbled, the black face mask muffling some of his words. Felix nodded, just slightly. The clock had struck past midnight a while ago, Felix had arrived at the warehouse at 10PM to go through some last-minute adjustments.
They had gone through the plan once again, everyone knew what to do. The air was tense, Felix could visibly see how anxious Hyunjin was, Jisung was fiddling with the cases of his guns all the time. Out of all of them, Jeongin and Chan seemed to be the calmest. Changbin was talking to the mastermind, he hadn’t paid Felix attention at all through the evening. As if last night had never happened. Felix didn’t know how to feel about that. Maybe the bomb tech had just needed some mental support or something.
Seungmin was unusually quiet, Minho paced around, he, too, seemingly anxious. Seungmin made a few phone calls after he arrived, he had just mentioned them being for his dad who was at work overseas. Felix couldn’t stay put, he paced around the warehouse, opened the case assigned for him and Changbin over and over again, he had to do something with his hands.
Which was why Jeongin’s phone was soon once again at his mercy, and the street racer just laughed at him. He was so used to Felix’s antics by now, and maybe it made Felix feel a little less nervous for a brief moment as he got his thoughts to something else.
“Time to get dressed”, Chan then announced, and that nervousness was back.
All of Hyunjin’s equipment along with everything else was in the van already. Felix changed to a black polo shirt and some black cargo pants, in one of the pockets he slipped the keycard, to another a few cases for the handgun. A bulletproof vest, made of something flexible so that they could crawl through the vents easily. Combat boots, made of material that wouldn’t squeak on the marble floors. The earpiece into his right ear, night goggles around his neck to wait until he’d need them, a locator into one of the pockets again. A watch to track time. A mask to cover most of his face, to hide him in the shadows. A belt to hold his gun, the shots of sedatives to a small case close to his right hand, also hanging from the belt, along with zipties and rope. Felix glanced himself at the mirror of the bathroom, he looked… like an actual thief. Like the one from all the movies. The cartoons. He pulled the leathery, black gloves on. They fit on him like a second skin.
As the clock struck half past one, Chan gathered them all in front of the warehouse. The case that held the fake vase felt heavy in Felix’s hand. Changbin was standing next to him, dressed the same as Felix. Like all of them. Even Hyunjin had discarded his suits and dressed in all black everything.
“It’s time.” Chan eyed each of them one by one. His gaze was intense, Felix could feel himself getting some of that certainty he so desperately needed.
“We can do this. We are professionals. That museum won’t have a chance against us. Let’s go.”
Jeongin took the driver’s seat, Chan sat down next to him. The rest of them squished themselves and the cases in the passenger side of the car, Hyunjin and his computers took half of the space. Changbin and Felix sat knee to knee, Jisung was on Felix’s other side, Seungmin and Minho behind them. Their bags were stuffed underneath the seats. Felix squeezed the case in his hand, Changbin had said it would be better if Felix were to hold the case, Changbin would take care of the guns. Felix had agreed, he didn’t entirely trust his shot.
Jeongin started driving. Every single turn and curve on the road made Felix more anxious, he could feel his heartbeat in his throat. No one spoke a damn thing. The city was quiet, Felix stared out of the window. Neon lights flickered against the wet asphalt, sucking the color in, it had stopped raining just a moment ago. The air was so tense Felix could have cut it with a knife. His palms were sweating in the leather gloves. He was anxious. Yet somehow, in a very odd way, excited. Wasn’t this the peak of thievery?
Changbin nudged Felix’s shoulder with his own.
“We’ll be fine”, he whispered, just loud enough for Felix to hear. Felix glanced at him, he saw sincerity in Changbin’s eyes. He saw hope. Changbin truly believed they would make it out perfectly fine, he had done this before, he trusted Chan’s ability to make perfect plans. Felix nodded. He hoped Changbin’s hope would be enough to get them through the heist.
Hyunjin had his brows burrowed as he tapped away with his two computers, Jeongin tried to avoid any potholes on the pavement. Felix could see code running on one of the screens. Hyunjin could have got into the system just fine from the warehouse, too, but they had to run away fast and wouldn’t have time to go fetch Hyunjin, so now he’d have to break into the system from a van two blocks away.
A turn, they passed by a patrolling police car, some drunk people on the streets. Not as many as it would be on a weekend night. Felix wasn’t sure if that would be their advantage or disadvantage. On one hand, the police would get to them faster as there were less people to look after the city and more patrolling cars free, on the other hand the roads would be empty for Jeongin to lose the police from them in case of a car chase. Felix tried to swallow the lump of nervousness from his throat. He felt frozen.
“We are here.” Chan voices as the car halted to a stop in a dark alley. Jisung stretched, Felix could see a glint of excitement in his eyes. He was here to cause trouble, and he wasn’t nervous about it at all anymore. They waited for a moment, before Hyunjin nodded at them. Quietly they made it out of the van, hiding in the shadows. Chan went first, leading them through the alleys, hastily.
After one corner, Felix saw the high walls of the museum reach for the sky in front of them. He swallowed, his hands felt shaky. Changbin followed right behind his shoulder. They had agreed that he’d go first as Felix was holding the case. His shot wasn’t all that good with one hand. Chan stopped, they waited for one, two moments.
“You’re on the clock”, Hyunjin’s voice sounded from the earpiece.
It was showtime.
Chan motioned Minho and Jisung next to him.
“Two guards standing by, they don’t look very focused on their surroundings. Go.” Felix couldn’t see what was going on behind the corner, but he did hear a few hasty steps, a grunt, a “What the-?!“ and something clattering against the asphalt. Then dragging sounds, and soon Jisung and Minho arrived, dragging two unconscious guards in their fine suits into the alley. Both of them had puncture wounds in their necks. Jisung and Minho quickly taped their mouths shut and zipped them up with zipties, before breaking their earpieces. The sedatives were strong, they’d most likely stay unconscious at least for a few hours, the tape and zipties were just to be safe.
Chan held to his gun as he nodded. All six of them circled the corner, quietly approached the backdoor with a green sign above it, signaling of an emergency exit. They all pressed against the wall, listened to any voices from their surroundings. Just cars passing by on the streets close by, some very distant laughing. Felix was sure the others could hear his heartbeat through the bulletproof vest. Chan pointed at Minho and Jisung again, they gathered behind his back, as he pressed the code to the reader next to the door. Felix wondered where he had got that, but figured that Minho most likely knew the code as well as he worked in the place.
The door opened with a click, and Chan swung it open.
“Hey, it’s not the time yet to chang-“ And the guard watching the back door was down, along with someone else. Changbin pushed Felix by his shoulder, and they entered the museum through the door.
They were in.
Felix held his breath as Seungmin pulled the door close behind them, quietly. Minho and Jisung were tying the two guards down, they had broken their earpieces as well. Chan was tiptoeing towards stairs that led upwards. Felix noticed there were other stairs leading down, and if and when his memory was correct, those led to the basement where the museum stored the artworks that weren’t in the exhibitions. It was dark, but not too dark, Felix could see a table, on it a lit computer, stacks of paper and a few shelves in the space next to the backdoor. Jisung and Minho pulled the guards behind the table, no one would see them unless they’d walk down. Chan started rising up the stairs, his gun still in his hand, the case in the other. They heard distant talking, most likely from the security room.
Quiet, so quiet Felix would have heard a pin drop meters away from them, they made their way up the stairs. Felix could feel the tension, he could feel the anxiety lingering in the air. The museum had no idea what was about to strike on them. Chan pressed himself against the wall, before he glanced over the corner. Then he shook his head; no one was in sight.
At the top of the staircase were two doors and one doorway, Chan pointed at Seungmin and Jisung and to the door on their left. Seungmin, the case in his hand, pressed his keycard on a reader to open the door to the maintenance hallway. It opened with a noise way too loud for a quiet museum, and all of them tensed up, listened to any and all sounds around them. Nothing. No one had noticed anything. Felix glanced anxiously at the cameras following them, even if he knew Hyunjin was playing records from prior days to the guards in the security room, and they couldn’t see the little thieves walking around the museum.
Seungmin and Jisung disappeared through the door, closed it behind them. There were only four people now. The light from the emergency exits casted a shade of green on them. Chan glanced around the corner again, nodded, and together, in a tight line they stepped out of the corridor. Out in the open. Felix could feel his heart beating through his chest. If the timetables were correct, a guard would walk past this very hallway in five minutes, unless something were to happen, or something happened in the security room or anything. Felix prayed to whichever entity out there that no one would catch them.
They rounded another corner, there was another door. Felix knew that if they would continue the hallway, they would end up in the main lobby. Chan used his keycard on the door, and they slipped through that door to complete darkness. Felix pulled his night goggles on and his vision turned green. They continued their way left, which led them to some stairs, still quiet, careful to not make a sound. Felix glanced at the watch in his hand, it had been six minutes since Hyunjin had told them to move. They had 24 minutes left.
The hallway ended to another doorway, Felix knew they were on the second floor now. If they were to open that door, they would all end up right at the second floor security guard’s arms. Chan knelt down next to the door as quietly as possibly, there was a vent next to it. That vent would lead them to the other side of the building, there would be another hallway, they would split up there. It took Chan two minutes to get the vent open, it made a little, creaky sound as it opened, and Felix could feel cold sweat running down his back. Then, one by one, they crawled on all fours into the vent. Felix, as he went last, pulled the vent door close behind him, with rather much difficulty in the cramped space.
The vent was just big enough for them to crawl through it on all fours instead of having to pull themselves forward. The case made Felix’s moving a little difficult, he had to be quiet, keep it with him and manage to move fast enough. Changbin glanced at him over his shoulders every now and then, just to see if Felix could keep up with him. At some point they passed a vent door, and Felix could see from the spaces in between it that they were above the first-floor exhibitions. And right below him was a guard.
Felix held his breath, he felt paralyzed for a brief moment, before he heard Changbin ahead him stopping. Felix pulled himself over the vent door, and they continued their travel through the second floor. After five minutes Felix heard the telltale of a vent being opened, and following Changbin, Felix stepped to yet another pitch-black hallway. 19 minutes. They had 19 minutes.
Changbin pulled Felix from his arm, they continued to the right, Chan and Minho continued to the left. Up the stairs, Felix heard guards walking past them in the hallway next to the maintenance hallway. They were on the third floor now. Their floor.
Up the stairs was a door to the right, and a door to the left. To the right was some sort of janitor’s closet. To the left was the door to the hallway. Changbin and Felix listened, quiet, so quiet Felix could hear his blood rushing through his veins. He felt Changbin’s hand graze lightly against his own. Felix hoped the bomb tech couldn’t hear Felix’s heartbeat. They heard some distant talking, laughter, must have been the guards. Then silence, again.
Changbin nodded. The guards patrolling the hallways had moved to the next exhibition along the hall, with yet another pair of guards. Always in doubles, fucking hell. Changbin twisted the lock, there weren’t any code readers on this side of the door, only on the other side. Sloppy. Felix wondered why there weren’t finger scanners used in the doors.
Right, the museum had never been broken in before. They didn’t think they would need them. They probably thought they were safe with what they had.
The door opened with a creak, Changbin glanced around, before lifting his gun ahead of him. He had a syringe in his grip as well. Felix switched the case from his left hand to his right hand and reached for his sedative syringes. He stepped out of the maintenance hallway to the third-floor hallway, closed the door behind him as quietly as possible. He was glad the museum took care of the hinges in the doors. Both of them lowered their night goggles, there was enough light for them streaming through the huge windows.
Then Felix saw a beam of light flickering towards them from the exhibition door ahead in the hallway. He quickly pushed Changbin forward, pressed him against the wall on the other side, they hid behind a statue. The beam of light continued to travel their way, why, why was it coming this way, the guards were supposed to walk the other way, what was going on? Felix felt himself tense, he could feel his heart in his throat as the beam of light approached them. The guards were talking, mumbling something to each other.
The statue would be enough. It had to be enough. Felix forced himself to relax, he forced himself to blend into the shadows, he kept his head low, he breathed in as quietly as possible, he didn’t make a sound. He blended himself into the shadows. He became part of the shadows.
And with a flickering beam of light, the guards passed by, maybe a meter and a half away from them. They didn’t even spare a glance their way, kept their flashlights forward, didn’t even bother to take a better look at the nooks and crannies behind the statues. Felix and Changbin waited as the guards passed behind a corner, then Felix finally let go of Changbin’s arm. Changbin glanced at him with a look that said ‘that’s not good’, and Felix hoped he meant the guards and not Felix holding his arm for his dear life.
Quietly they left their little corner, sneaked close to the door that led to the exhibit hall where the vase was. Felix could hear breaths from either side of the door. He squeezed the case in his hand as Changbin glanced at him. One, two, three, and he surged forwards, Felix right after him.
“Huh?” The guard mumbled as Felix threw his hand forward and pressed the syringe down on their neck. At the same process he ripped their earpiece out, before the guard started slumping forward. Then Felix grabbed them (nearly fell in the process, too), dragged them behind one glass cabinet and laid them down. No time for zipties, they would stay down long enough for Changbin and Felix to get out. Changbin’s guard was down as well, and together they hastily, quietly walked across the hall.
“We’re out”, Felix heard Jisung mumbling in the earpiece. Something in Felix relaxed, just a bit.
Felix let out a shaky breath as they arrived at the glass cabinet that contained the vase. He knelt down, opened the case with a small click, before taking the fake vase out. The fake vase wasn’t as delicate as the real one. The light streaming through the windows was enough for them to work, they didn’t need flashlights unlike Jisung and Seungmin most likely had. Felix fished the keycard out of his pocket and carefully pressed it on the reader.
Another small click. He could feel himself shaking, he wasn’t entirely sure if he was able to hold the vase without shattering it into a million pieces. Changbin nudged him, very gently and carefully, as Felix unlocked the glass cabinet and pulled it open. Changbin held it open for him and Felix handed him the fake vase.
He breathed in, he could do this, he was a pickpocket, he was made for this. Chan had specifically assigned this task for him. Felix glanced at his watch, fifteen minutes. Half of their time was gone. He had to hurry, he could do this, he was made for this. The keycard would only keep the alarm away for a minute.
He reached for the vase, with nimble fingers he took it from its holder. He had been correct, it was very delicate, very old, and it would only take one wrong move for Felix to shatter it. Felix kept his breath as he held the old vase in his hand, as he knelt down again next to the case, as he placed the vase into the velvety bed the case had for the vase. Felix could hear Changbin placing the fake vase into the cabinet, and then close it with a small thud. Felix closed the case with another soft click, before taking the case into his hand again. He breathed out, his heart was pounding through his chest, Changbin pulled him away from the cabinet as the light next to the reader lit up again.
They had done it.
They had the vase. Now they would need to get out in fourteen minutes.
“Yea I forgot to ask something from Kim, hey Kim- What the fuck?!”
Absolutely terrified to his very core Felix turned around just as two guards walked from the hallway into the exhibition hall. Felix stared at them, frozen, like deer in headlights, and the guards did the same.
“You, you are not Kim, where- what-“, the guard mumbled as she reached for her gun. Changbin was faster to act, he surged forwards as the guard was still fumbling for her gun, he grabbed another syringe and tackled the guard down. The other guard finally realized what was going on and reached for his earpiece.
“Two thieves, two thieves in the historic artefact hall 2B!” He sounded scared and oh, Felix knew there would be no one answering him. Hyunjin was blocking the systems.
Except the guards in the next hall, who would hear their voices.
Changbin rose up, reached for his gun just as the other guard did the same. Felix realized this would only end up in two ways, and nearly screamed.
“Felix, the vent!” Changbin was faster to yell, and just as Felix turned to his left, he heard a gunshot. He kicked the vent next to the wall open, they weren’t supposed to use that, they were supposed to use the door in the hallway, oh no, oh no, Felix heard Changbin groaning and turned around.
He was laying on the ground. Fear engulfed Felix. The guard was down, too, with a syringe in his neck.
“C-Changbin?” Felix whispered, he let the case drop on the ground.
“Felix, go!” Changbin moaned out, he was holding his leg. “Get out!”
Felix could hear running in the hallway, coming closer. He ran to Changbin. He should have gone. He should have run with the case; they had talked about this.
“What the hell is going on?” Felix could hear Seungmin in his ear. Felix knelt down next to Changbin. He was bleeding. He had been shot in the leg just before he had been able to knock the guard out.
“We need to go.” Felix could hear his voice shaking. He heard yells from the hallway.
“Just go!” Changbin sputtered, his face contorted in pain.
“I’m not going anywhere without you.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not!” Felix knew he sounded desperate. And he felt desperate. Why couldn’t it be him, why did it have to be Changbin?! He took Changbin’s arm and slung it around his shoulder. “Can you stand?” he whispered. He gave Changbin no other chance than to stand up. Then he started dragging him towards the vent as quietly as possibly. Changbin left a trail of blood behind him, he knew that. The voices were getting closer.
They reached the vent, Felix grabbed the case from the floor and took his gun out. Changbin turned to him.
“You go first.”
“No. You have too much of a savior complex, you’d only leave yourself behind. You go first.”
Changbin rolled his eyes, before he reached for something in his belt. He took something that resembled a grenade. “What’s going on?”, this time it was Jisung speaking in a hushed voice, followed by a scared-sounded Hyunjin: “Most of the guards are going to the third floor.”
Changbin breathed in, before he reached for the earpiece and pressed the button down.
“I’m sorry, Chan, but I’m going to cause a lot of trouble now.” Felix could hear the pain seeping through his voice. Changbin pulled something from the homemade bomb, before turning and throwing it towards the hallway, far, so far Felix could hear it crashing on the wall.
“Go, go, go”, Changbin pushed Felix into the vent.
An explosion sounded from the hallway, Felix could see the orange flame from it, he could hear the yells. Not as strong as grenades, just to cause trouble. Smoke started to fill in the hallway just outside of the exhibition hall.
“That will keep them busy for a while.” Then Changbin hauled himself into the vent and pulled it close behind him. The blood soaked his pants red, he had been shot below his knee. Felix knew they would have to try to stop the bleeding as soon as possible, but not here, not right now, they didn’t have any time.
More yells, cursing, Felix’s watch told them they had 13 minutes and after that the cameras would start working again.
“Go!” Changbin hissed behind him, so Felix started dragging himself through the vent, much smaller than the other one, until they popped into a bigger vent. He kept on glancing behind him, he heard Changbin’s labored breathing behind him.
“We have the necklace, what the fuck is going on?” Chan panted in Felix’s ear.
“We have the vase, Changbin’s been shot”, Felix pressed the button down and mumbled.
“You got caught?!” Jeongin sounded something in between horrified and excited. Bastard.
“We’re in the vents.”
“I’m fine.” Changbin grunted both behind Felix and in his ear.
“He’s bleeding from his leg.” Felix told them the truth, as he crawled around a corner. Their moving was a lot slower than it had been before, Felix knew it.
The yells got more distant, Felix tried to remember the blueprints, make out where they approximately were. The vent turned behind another corner. Felix’s knees were starting to hurt.
“We need to get out, Felix. We need to get into the maintenance hallways, we can’t get to the next floor through the vents.”
Changbin was right. And he sounded like he was in an incredible pain. Felix could feel the adrenaline thrumming through him. They passed by a vent door, they could see the second floor below them. Then Felix heard it creaking open behind him.
“What the hell are you doing now?” He asked from Changbin, horrified.
“Confusing them more.”
And after a few moments Changbin pulled the vent door close and something exploded a bit down the hall from them.
“Go, that won’t buy us much time!”
Felix could hear sirens from somewhere, oh no, they were in so much trouble now. Felix led them to another corner opposite to the way the explosion was, the vents ended there. Felix kicked the door open, the museum was already loud as hell, they wouldn’t hear him. He pulled the night vision goggles on, the maintenance hall was still dark as hell, the guards weren’t using them. Felix helped Changbin up, before tearing the sleeve from his shirt off.
“What the hell are you doing?” Changbin hissed in the darkness.
“Shut the fuck up, this is going to hurt.”
And hurt it did, as Felix hastily tied a makeshift pressure bandage over the wound. Felix could see how Changbin bit down his fist as Felix tied the bleeding wound. He knew he had Changbin’s blood all over his gloves now.
Felix took the case and slung Changbin’s arm over his shoulder again, as he hastily dragged him down the stairs. It hurt him to hear Changbin’s whimpers every time he had to step on a new stair. Felix knew they weren’t being quiet, he just hoped every guard would be too distracted by the security system not working and the explosions. Felix glanced at his watch again.
They had five minutes to get out.
They rounded another corner, they were on the second floor now, Felix knew that if they would get to the other side and through the maintenance hallways, they wouldn’t need to use the vents anymore. They were still on the wrong side of the building, though, and they couldn’t just run past the entirety of the exhibition halls on the second floor to get there. Felix was getting desperate, he wasn’t sure if Changbin would be able to take yet another crawl through the vents.
“We need to use the vents, Felix, we can’t risk it all and run through the second floor.” As if Changbin had read Felix’s mind.
“As if you haven’t already risked it all.”
“We’re here, Changbin and Felix, where the hell are you?” Chan sounded from the earpiece.
“Still on the second”, Felix mumbled back. “Are you sure you can handle it?” He asked from Changbin, suddenly very aware how close he was holding the bomb tech.
“You dragged me here, do I have a choice? If it wasn’t for you, you’d be escaping already, but no, you have to be so fucking stubborn.”
Yeah. That Felix was. He pushed the vent door they had already once used open, before forcing Changbin to go in first.
And they were once again in the vents, in the cramped, pitch-black tub of steel, only now Felix had Changbin’s blood staining his clothes as he forced the bomb tech to go first. Once again they dragged themselves through the first floor, Felix could see guards running around through the ventilation fans below him. He just prayed none of them would see them. The lights suddenly lit up, someone had finally realized they wouldn’t need to chase after the thieves in the darkness. “The police and firefighters are on their way!” Felix could hear someone yelling. Then he heard someone talking about two people, two thieves, thank god they hadn’t spotted the others.
Five minutes dragged past, Felix cursed under his breath.
“Y-you’re out of time. Get out of there, now! The police are on their way!” Hyunjin whimpered in the earpiece.
“No, we’re waiting for Felix and Changbin.”
What?! Just go! Felix wanted to scream.
“Just fucking go!” Changbin mumbled into the earpiece as he dragged himself through another corner and pushed a vent open. The maintenance hall was lit up, too. Felix once again held Changbin by his arm, as they slowly started walking towards the exit. Felix could already tell how the police would start tracking him by trying to recognize the tattoos on his arms, now visible to the cameras.
“I hacked into the system again, I shut the cameras down, they know now that someone’s in the system, I can’t promise you much time if they’re good.” Hyunjin sounded very close to crying, Felix could hear how anxious he was.
They once again descended down the stairs, now they were on the first floor, so close, yet so far. Had the others already been caught? What if they had escaped? They probably had. Changbin was starting to slump against Felix’s shoulder harder. He was getting dizzy, Felix knew that, he had lost a lot of blood and he was in pain. How come there weren’t any guards in the maintenance hallways? How many were even present, Felix had already forgot the number.
They reached the door. The door they had entered the maintenance halls from. On the other side of that door was the hallway, and only a few meters into that hallway, behind the corner was the doorway to the backdoor. Felix breathed in, he could hear distant talking, most likely from the security room, someone ran through the hallway. Not too many people. They were all on the second and third floor, searching, right? The bombs had got them there. Some were most likely waiting for the police and the firefighters, some were trying to search the vents, but Felix knew they wouldn’t get into them, because they knew Felix and Changbin were armed.
This was their chance. The others may have been long gone already, but Felix and Changbin had a chance. They had it, Felix hoped, he prayed for it, as he twisted the lock and pushed the door open.
The hallway was empty. Changbin slumped again, he was losing his consciousness, Felix realized, and panic surged through him. He dragged Changbin into the hallway, heard a
“Hey!” from behind him, and then Chan was suddenly there, right next to him, he shot the guard behind them, before taking Changbin’s other arm and dragging them both in through the doorway and down the stairs.
The others were waiting for them, they all looked scared, Seungmin had his hand on the door, he twisted the knob. He twisted it again. He punched the code into the reader again, twisted it,
it didn’t open.
Felix could feel the blood freezing in his veins.
So this was how it was going to end. A steel door was going to block their way from getting out of the museum. How ironic. Only a steel door was right between their way to freedom. A steel door was going to get them caught. Of course the door had a fucking safelock.
“It won’t open”, Seungmin whimpered. Chan only stared at the door. Felix could see him crumbling, he could see the mastermind’s kingdom crumbling below his feet. Chan opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, they heard yells from the hallway.
“Hyunjin, can you get into the lights and all the alarm systems?” Minho suddenly spoke into the earpiece.
“Yes?” Felix heard Hyunjin.
“Put them all off, but keep the cameras down. Every single alarm, even the fire alarm, ring them all, but try to keep the lights off.”
“Do it. I know a way out.”
It took three seconds for every single alarm to go off along with the lights. The blaring sound rang through the air, startled them all with the loudness. Minho turned his back to all of them, and started descending the stairs to the basement. Chan glanced at him, then at the people around. Did they have a choice? Not really. Would this be Minho betraying them? It could be. It could also be him saving them.
“Are you coming or not?” Minho yelled from the stairs below them. Chan hastily took one of Changbin’s bombs from his belt, pulled the ring from it and with all his might, he threw it up the stairs to the hallway to the security room.
“Go!” He yelled to all of them, before grabbing Changbin’s arm once again, and together he and Felix started hauling him down the stairs. An explosion sounded again, Felix could feel it shaking the ground below his feet, even if the explosion wasn’t all that big. Just something to startle, something to keep them away.
The red lights flashed, Changbin whimpered as Chan wasn’t nearly as gentle with him as Felix as they disappeared into the darkness of the basement. Felix pulled the night vision goggles on once again, as they descended down what felt like endless flights of stairs. He could feel the air getting colder, the walls turned to stone, Changbin felt heavy, but not too heavy. Finally, they reached the bottom, and then Minho lit up his flashlight as he led them through an entire maze of wooden containers. Felix could only guess what they held in them, secrets from the centuries past.
Jisung and Seungmin followed close behind, they came to a stop in front of a stone wall. Felix could only guess how far they were. The alarms were still blaring through the air, even here, many floors underground. Minho glanced at Chan, handed him the flashlight, as he pushed one of the containers aside,
and from under it he revealed a trapdoor.
What the hell? Why wasn’t that in the blueprints?
Minho couldn’t get the trapdoor open himself, Chan helped him to get it open, it clearly hadn’t been used in ages. Felix nudged Changbin.
“Are you awake?”
“Yes”, he croaked. Moist, earthy smell filled Felix’s nostrils as he breathed in the air from the trapdoor. Minho ushered Chan to go first.
“Hurry. The stairs can get slippery. Go, they’re coming.”
Once again Felix hauled Changbin into yet another flight of stairs, Seungmin followed after him. Felix realized Minho would not betray them, because Seungmin looked absolutely horrified to his very core in the light coming from the flashlight, Minho was trying to get them all out safe and sound, he couldn’t risk his dear little Seungmin’s life. Chan was at the bottom of the stairs, he helped Changbin down. Felix took his flashlight, he heard Minho closing the trapdoor above them, and soon all of them were standing at the bottom of the stairs.
In a tunnel.
In an underground tunnel system.
What the fucking hell?
“Was this how you got to my uncle’s?” Chan’s voice echoed in the stoned walls. The roof wasn’t all that high, it was dripping water on them. There were little streams on the ground which was just pure earth. The silence in the tunnels sounded deafening after all the alarms.
“Correct”, Minho mumbled, as he waved at them to follow him. The mossy walls didn’t cover the echo coming from their steps, as they hurried through the tunnels, passing a crossroad after another crossroad. Felix was awestruck. He had had no idea that this kind of system existed below the city!
“The city tries to keep the existence of the tunnel system as a secret from the public”, Minho mumbled, as if an answer to Felix’s question.
“Good decision”, Chan muttered next to Felix, still holding on to Changbin. Changbin whimpered again, his head nodded forwards. Felix’s heart wrenched in his chest.
A few turns, Felix could hear rats scuttling away from them, something sounded from somewhere far away,
“They’re in”, Minho said, and Felix realized the guards were still after them.
“We need to go up.”
And after another turn, they were faced with a ladder up to another trapdoor. Minho went first, he seemed to know where the trapdoor led. It took him a moment to push it open, Felix could see streetlights from the opening.
“Changbin, can you hear me?”
Changbin grunted as an answer.
“You need to stay awake, Changbin, you need to get yourself up the ladder, okay? Can you do that? It’s the last thing, after that we’ll be safe” Felix knew he sounded desperate, he just knew it. He wasn’t even sure if this was the last thing Changbin would have to endure with his injured leg. He just wished for it, hoped for it. Changbin lifted his head, groaned as he saw the ladder. Chan mumbled Jisung to keep an eye for them, then he ushered Felix to go after Minho.
“No! I’m not going to let him-“
“Just go, I’ll take care of him”, Chan pushed Felix forward, and Felix had no other choice but to let go of Changbin. His arms were aching from carrying half of Changbin’s weight on himself, but with the adrenaline still running through him he managed to haul himself up the ladder, his feet only slipping once on it. Climbing the ladder was hard with the case. After him came Seungmin, then Chan forced Changbin on the ladder, following right after him. Jisung was holding his gun and peering into the darkness as the sounds from the tunnels got closer.
As Felix got closer to the ground level, he started hearing disjointed sounds from the earpiece, which he soon recognized to be Hyunjin’s voice. They had lost the connection below the ground, hadn’t they, and the locators had stopped working, too. The further Felix hauled himself, the better he could hear Hyunjin.
“Please, someone, please tell me you’re okay, please please please answer me, please, Felix, please, say something, tell me that explosion wasn’t you, please tell me you’re all okay and safe, just please please please-“
Felix hauled himself finally up from the trapdoor to the ground level, he noticed Minho’s earpiece had torn, so he wasn’t hearing Hyunjin’s pleading. Felix rose up, they were in an alley a few blocks from the museum, in the wrong direction. He reached for his earpiece and pressed the button down.
“Hyunjin, I’m okay.” Felix could hear his voice shaking. Hyunjin let out something close to a garbled cry, Minho helped Seungmin up from the trapdoor.
“Where are you? Are you all alright?” Jeongin asked, he sounded worried.
“Yeah, we’re, uhh… we went to the tunnels, we’re-”
Minho pulled Felix from his arm closer to him and spoke into Felix’s earpiece.
“Three blocks to the left from the museum, in the little alley behind the library. Take a detour if you need to, stay clear from the police’s way.” And then he let go of Felix.
“Okie dokie”, Felix could hear Jeongin mumbling and then a car starting, before the line went deaf.
Changbin, with his brows knitted together in pain, finally reached for the last step of the ladder. Felix reached forwards, grabbed his arms and pulled him up the rest of the way, with Chan pushing him from below. Changbin couldn’t stand up, he slumped forward right into Felix’s arms.
“Hey, hey, you’re alright, they’re coming to get us.”
Changbin grunted as an answer. Felix glanced at his leg, it was soaked in blood even worse than before, Felix could see the blood glistening in the orange of the streetlights. Soon Jisung, too, emerged from the trapdoor, and Minho pushed it close.
“Where are they?” Chan asked from Minho, “Coming”, Minho answered as Seungmin held to his arm. Felix had never seen the mayor’s son so scared, he kept on glancing around. So did everyone else, they were just waiting for the police to round the corner and arrive to catch them.
Instead of a police car with flickering lights, a black van rounded the corner and with brakes screeching halted to a stop right in front of them. Changbin pressed his head against Felix’s shoulder and curled his hands around his waist, Felix kept him standing, he couldn’t let him fall now, he would not be able to get up.
“I’m so tired”, he heard Changbin muttering, just barely audible.
“They’re here, Changbin, let’s get you in the car, alright, can you do that? Can you walk the last steps?” Felix forced Changbin to lift his head from his shoulder. Changbin’s eyes looked hazy, his gaze was wandering around instead of focusing on Felix. He was going to pass out any minute now. Still, he nodded.
“Jesus fucking Christ, what the fuck happened there?” Jeongin opened the door, Chan started to usher everyone in. He told Hyunjin he could stop bugging the museum, instead he’d have to start shutting the cameras from their way.
“Get in, gogogo, the police might be onto us!” He once again grabbed Changbin by his shoulders and ushered him into the backspace of the van, where there was enough space for him to lie down instead of sit.
“Felix, keep him awake until we get to the airport, and then he ushered Felix in there with him, so Felix sat there, next to Changbin, who was finally laying down as Chan pushed the door close, and the car started again. Felix decided to lift Changbin’s head on his lap, it would cover him from any bumps in the road.
“Lift his leg here”, Jisung instructed Felix to lift Changbin’s injured leg on one of the seats, so Felix did that, Changbin only groaned in pain. The car started moving, Hyunjin tapped away with his computer. Felix closed his eyes for a moment, he could feel the adrenaline in him slowly starting to seep out.
“What the hell were you doing there, there was a big-ass explosion like a few minutes ago!” Jeongin yelled out as he turned from the alley to a busier street.
“We weren’t there a few minutes ago anymore.” Chan said from next to Jeongin.
“The last explosion may have struck the heating system or something”, Jisung said.
“Could have. Good for us. They won’t have time to search for us”, Chan mumbled and continued with a: “Jeongin, calm down, the police aren’t after us yet, drive normally.”
“Why do y’all get all the excitement!” He wailed, but kept the car at a steady pace, nevertheless.
Changbin sighed, Felix swiped a few sweat-soaked strands of hair away from his face before pulling his face mask down, as well as his own.
“Hey”, Changbin whispered, trying to smile.
“Hey”, Felix wanted to yell it out.
“We made it out”, Changbin muttered, tried to adjust his position on the hard car floor a bit which only got him shivering in pain.
“We’re not safe yet”, Felix mumbled back, glanced worried at Changbin’s leg.
“Calm down, darling, I’m not going to die yet.”
“Yeah, you better fucking not.” Felix hissed through his teeth. He could feel all the emotions washing over him at once, nearly bursted into tears right then and there. “I still haven’t got the chance to steal anything from you, so you better stay here.”
“You would have, if you weren’t such a bad pickpocket.”
“Are you saying you could have got the vase just fine on your own?” The case was still next to Felix. Felix wondered if it was in one piece at all anymore. All this for such a stupid little, broken vase.
Felix heard a car passing them with sirens blaring. He realized his own ears were still ringing from the earlier alarms.
“Easy, Jeongin. Don’t do anything stupid”, Chan kept reminding Jeongin, Felix could see from his mind’s eye how Jeongin was probably gripping the steering wheel knuckles white, looking for a chase. Minho and Seungmin were sitting together, Minho had his arm around Seungmin, as if he was trying to protect him from the world. Hyunjin was still working away with his computer, Felix could see that he had been crying.
Changbin hissed in pain as they drove over a bump on the road. Felix could see his gaze getting hazier by the minute, and it ignited a panic inside Felix.
“Hey, hey, hey, stay awake, do you hear me?”
“Answer me. With words.”
“So demanding!” Changbin spat out. He reached for something with his hand, and then Felix realized it was his own he was reaching for. He could feel a tear rolling down his cheek. Changbin reached for his face to swipe it away, gently.
“And now I got blood on your cheek, just great. Have I ever told you how pretty you are in red?”, he mumbled. Felix’s entire body was shaking, they turned from another corner to a busier road. Changbin’s hold of his hand tightened a bit. It was the addictive mixture of adrenaline and pain in him speaking, Felix figured.
“This is better. I think I’m going to fall asleep.”
“Don’t you dare”, Felix panicked.
“Easy. We have Jisung, I’m not going to die here. I’m just… sleepy.”
“No, no, no, no, Changbin, you can’t fall asleep yet, okay? Stay with me, please.”
“Well, I can’t say no now that you’re pleading.”
Felix wanted to smack the pain-clouded grin from Changbin’s face.
“Actually please fall asleep, I don’t want to listen to you anymore.”
“Oh, come on, Felix, I’m surprised you even care about me this much.”
Oh, Changbin had no idea. Absolutely no idea.
“I don’t. I care about the others.”
Changbin pouted, then grimaced in pain again, as they had to slow down for yet another bump in the road.
“Okay, okay, I’ll stay awake if you tell me absolutely everything about pickpocketing.”
“And why can’t you tell me about your bomb tech things?”
“I’ve already told you, remember? A year ago at that table, don’t think I’ve forgot, Felix.”
“There’s not much to tell.”
“I bet there is. C’mon, I’m in pain, your voice brings me joy.”
Fine. So Felix told him, with his voice shaky, how he had first started his little career as a pickpocket in middle school, as it had been so easy to just take things instead of buying them with money.
“Fifteen minutes”, Chan announced at some point, they turned to a motorway leading them away from the city, there weren’t any police after them. Felix told Changbin how he chose his targets, why, and what he did afterwards, and Changbin kept holding his hand through it, just staring at Felix’s face and nodding every now and then to signal that he was awake. Chan spoke to someone on the phone, they turned from the motorway to another road, then to a smaller road, and all through that Felix told Changbin how he did it, how he slipped himself into other people’s pockets and purses so easily.
Then the car halted to a stop, just as Changbin’s consciousness started weakening again.
“Changbin, stay with me, there’s not much to go anymore, okay?”
Chan opened the car door.
“I’ll carry him, take his bag and your bag and the case”, he instructed Felix, and Felix had to finally let go of Changbin’s hand. It hurt him to his very core. He watched as Chan slipped his arms under Changbin and lifted him up, the bomb tech howled in pain as his leg slipped from the seat it had been resting on. Felix took his and Changbin’s belongings as well as the case as he hurried after him to the plane that was waiting for them. The pilot looked very surprised to see them in such a state, but opened the door, anyway. The runway was lit with little lights and surrounded by the woods, Felix could see lights of some sort of mansion behind the forest, but didn’t pay much attention to his surroundings as he hurried up the stairs to the plane after Chan.
Chan laid Changbin once again on some seats and Felix was back beside him again. Jisung found a first aid kit from under one of the seats and took one of the sedative syringes from Changbin, which he then injected into Changbin’s arm.
“W-what are you doing?!” Felix squeaked, Changbin had drifted out of consciousness on the way to the plane.
“Keeping him asleep as I operate. Sit down, Felix, he’ll be fine, he’s lost a lot of blood, but by the looks of it the bullet came through and didn’t break anything important.”
Felix could feel how Jeongin pulled him back from his shoulders to sit on the seats opposite to Changbin. Then he heard an explosion from the outside, and soon Chan appeared back into the plane, looking a little winded.
“We’re ready to go”, he announced to the pilot as the rest of them took their seats on the plane. Chan had decided to get rid of any and all evidence in one go, and lit their escape car on fire.
“My baby”, Jeongin pouted, as he watched the fire consuming the car outside.
But Felix couldn’t look at the fire. He could only look at Changbin, opposite to him, fast asleep, as Jisung tried to sew his leg back together the best he could. He couldn’t tear his eyes away, no, he had to look as Jisung focused on Changbin’s leg as he with hasty fingers patched Changbin’s leg up, stopped the blood from seeping out, even if the plane was rising high above the clouds and he should have been sitting.
“Good job, Felix, he would have died without the pressure bandage”, he mumbled after a while as he tied a clean bandage around the wound.
After ten minutes they were in the air and the seatbelt light turned off. Felix was shaking from head to toe as the adrenaline started to wear off, he could suddenly feel every single muscle in his body aching from crawling through the vents and carrying Changbin with him. Chan rose from his seat to talk to the pilot, the air felt pressuring. The plane they were in was not a big one, but it sure as hell looked expensive, and now Changbin had bled all over the beige leathery seats. The plane looked exactly like Felix had pictured private planes to look like. It was sleek, furnished with different shades of brown, there was a miniature kitchen in the back. The seats were soft, if not too soft, Felix couldn’t relax on them.
Changbin looked pale, Felix didn’t know what it was, but he couldn’t relax, he couldn’t trust Jisung’s word, he’d have to see it himself, Changbin opening his eyes and talking again and doing something. Or maybe he knew what it was, that same thing had dragged him through the museum with Changbin on his side, even if he had told him to leave him. Felix knew Changbin wouldn’t have died there, the police would have caught him and he would have been taken to jail, he would have got maybe a few-year sentence, and either Chan would have bailed him out, broken him out, or let him sit and rot in the jail until his sentence would have been finished. He most likely would have got out early as it would have been his first sentence and he didn’t have a prior criminal record.
But no. Felix had had to drag him out. He had had to play the savior and drag him through the vents and hallways. And for what? Just to save him. He had endangered the entire mission, because he couldn’t handle just leaving the bomb tech behind. And in the process they had exploded most likely half of the place, killed someone, and destroyed property worth of billions. Great. Wonderful.
But Changbin was alive, and for some reason that was the most important thing to Felix, not the case next to him, holding the vase that was likely worth more than the plane they were riding towards the unknown. Felix’s ears were still ringing, slowly he peeled the leather gloves off of his hands. He felt numb.
“Are you okay?” Jeongin whispered next to him. Felix didn’t know what to say. Was he okay? He was alive. And Changbin was alive. And everyone else was alive. And they had been… successful.
“I don’t know”, Felix mumbled, just as Chan returned from the cockpit. He pointed at the case Felix had next to him, which he handed to the mastermind. Seungmin handed him the other case, and one by one Chan opened the cases, laid on the table in between four seats on the other side of Felix.
The vase had stayed unbroken, Chan didn’t dare to take it out of the case. The painting he took, turned it in his hands, made sure it was the correct one. Everyone stayed quiet, only the low rumble of the engines filled the air with white noise. Chan had his brows furrowed as he examined the painting, which he then placed back into the case that was slightly bigger than the one Felix had been carrying with him. Then Chan opened the last case, took out the necklace filled with diamonds, it glimmered in the yellow lights of the plane. He figured it was the correct one and had stayed unbroken as well, so he placed it back into the case, smallest of them all.
He looked around, one by one at the people sitting in the plane, looking rather winded and gruesome. Felix figured he probably had dried blood all over him, Jeongin was the only one that didn’t look like he had been hit by a car. Hyunjin had tear stains all over his face, he had chewed his lips broken, Seungmin’s hair was a mess, and he had suddenly lost half of the class and charm that he always had lingering around him. Minho didn’t look any better, he kept glancing around, his boots were all muddy, he had dirt under his fingernails as he had had to rip the trapdoors open. Jisung, too, had blood in his hands, but otherwise he seemed to be alright. Changbin was asleep, all bloody and dirty and sweaty and pale and it wrenched Felix’s heart to see him in such a state. Chan’s curls had matted over his forehead, he had dirt on his cheek and a wild look in his eyes.
And then a grin stretched over his features, only enhancing the glimmer of madness.
“We did it”, he breathed out.
At that moment, all the tension in the air seemed to explode. Felix closed his eyes for a brief moment, Jeongin bursted into laughter next to him, Seungmin pressed his head against Minho’s shoulder, relieved. It only took a few seconds, and then Felix had his arms full of Hyunjin, engulfing him into a hug.
“Oh my god, Felix, I thought I had lost you”, he mumbled, Felix could hear the sobs straining his voice; “Don’t you ever dare to scare me like that ever again.”
Felix returned the hug, muttered a “sorry” against his best friend’s neck. After a minute Hyunjin finally rose up from Felix’s lap, Felix could hear someone opening a bottle of champagne and figured it was either Seungmin or Jeongin, and was not surprised when Jeongin thrusted a glass of champagne into his hand. What he was surprised about was that the next thing he knew, Hyunjin walked up to the mastermind, grabbed his face in between his hands and kissed the breath out of him. Felix watched as Chan wrapped his hands around Hyunjin’s waist and gave himself into the kiss. Jeongin whistled, mumbled “about goddamn time” to Felix, before downing an entire glass of champagne in one go.
Seungmin was curled up next to Minho, Minho’s arm was protectively around him on the other side of the plane from where Felix was sitting. They had their own little corner. Felix could see that Seungmin had finally relaxed, he looked happy, and so did Minho (except Minho still kept glancing around, but Felix figured he had a habit to do that in all kinds of situations and it had everything to do with his past, so it was nothing out of ordinary). Jisung made himself comfortable in the chair behind Changbin, let his eyes wander around the crew, and Felix realized this was most likely the first time he had seen the mercenary so relaxed.
They had made it. They had done it, they had managed to steal the artefacts from the Grand Museum, the one that had ought to be unbreakable. Felix let himself finally relax against the backrest of his chair, he let the feeling of victory take over him. They had done it, even if things hadn’t gone according to plan, but they had made it, they were all alive, they had the artefacts, they would get the money they were promised and a vacation in a lone island somewhere far away on top of that.
They had made it. They had truly succeeded, even if all had gone to shit in a matter of seconds. Felix still had had no idea why the guards had gone the wrong way and returned, they were supposed to go the other way, but no. But regardless of that, they had made it.
Tonight, they were written in the stars. Tomorrow they would make headlines.
Turbulence startled Felix awake from his slight slumber. The adrenaline had worn off completely, made Felix fall asleep on the soft seats and dim lights of the plane. The sky was slowly drawing orange outside, Felix had no idea where they were, how long they had been flying, how long they still had to go. He glanced at his watch, it was closing to five in the morning. They had boarded a little past three, so Felix hadn’t been asleep for long, maybe an hour. Just three hours ago they had still been outside of the museum, ready to go in. How far had the news already spread? Had they noticed three artifacts had been changed to fake ones?
Changbin was still sleeping in a rather uncomfortable-looking position, so Felix rose up, stretched his aching limbs and adjusted Changbin’s head to a slightly better position along with his arms. Then he moved the half-full champagne bottle from Jeongin’s lap to the kitchen corner table, Jeongin had fallen asleep midways drinking it. The adrenaline had seemingly been too much for him, too. Seungmin and Minho were asleep as well, leaning against each other, they hadn’t moved anywhere. Jisung was snoring on his seat, Felix sat back on his, opposite to Changbin. Hyunjin was asleep, Chan’s arm around him.
Chan wasn’t asleep. He was staring at the sunrise out of the window, gently stroking Hyunjin’s arm, clearly in his thoughts. He was keeping guard, Felix realized. Of course he was, they weren’t sure if the pilot was a safe one and all that.
“How long until we arrive?” Felix mumbled, quietly to not wake the others up. Chan turned his head from the view to Felix, there was the aisle in between them.
“The pilot said we’ll be there around eight in the morning, we have a minivan to take us from the landing strip to wherever we’re going.”
“You should try to get some sleep”, Chan said, and Felix nodded. He knew he should. They had really no idea what was waiting for them, or maybe Chan did, but didn’t just tell them. Felix glanced at Changbin again, the bleeding had stopped, it didn’t seep out through the white gauze Jisung had wrapped around his leg. Thank god they had Jisung with them. Otherwise Changbin would most likely not have…
“Felix”, Chan mumbled, waking Felix from his thoughts. “I just wanted to-“
“I’m sorry I endangered the mission”, Felix blurted out. There it was, he had done it, it was partially his fault. “He told me to just run, but I didn’t want to leave him, I… I let my feelings take over. And as a result of that, we nearly got caught and half of the museum is in pieces.”
Felix swallowed, fiddled with the sleeve of his shirt, the one still intact, suddenly way too aware of how the black polo shirt was pressing against his throat. Chan had a kind look on his face, he didn’t look mad.
“Felix, you did endanger the mission, you’re right about that. But I’m glad you did.” The mastermind glanced at the sleeping Changbin on the other side of him. “I knew he’d try to make you leave without him if something were to happen, he never wants to cause any more trouble than necessary. I’ve known him for several years now, and he’s one of my closest friends along with Jisung. I’m glad you saved him. Even if it endangered the mission.”
Felix swallowed the lump in his throat down and nodded. Chan wasn’t mad. Felix had nearly fucked everything up, but the mastermind wasn’t mad about it. Felix hoped none of the others were mad. He hoped Changbin wasn’t mad.
“What happened in there?” Chan asked, Felix turned his head from Changbin back to Chan. He shrugged.
“The guards suddenly went back to where they came from, we nearly got caught at that moment, but they didn’t see us in the shadows. We decided to continue nevertheless, all went well until the patrolling guards came back, I think one of them had something to say to the guards in the exhibition hall. That’s when they caught us, one pulled a gun but Changbin got to them first and sedated them, then the other shot him, maybe from really close proximity, because after that he was unconscious, too. Then I saw Changbin on the ground and heard the other guards running towards us and… yeah.” Felix recalled the events so vividly, he could remember Changbin grunting on the ground and shivered.
Chan only nodded. “That happens sometimes, don’t beat yourself up about it. The guards are human, too, sometimes they step out of line, out of plans and forget things. You couldn’t have known that they’d get back so soon.”
Felix sighed and nodded. Chan was right, there was nothing he could have done about it.
“Jisung has some stronger meds with him, Changbin is probably going to be out of it for the first couple of days. We’ll have to get him crutches. He’ll be fine, Felix, this isn’t the first time he’s surviving from a gunshot wound.”
Felix nodded again. He’d have to trust Chan.
But he couldn’t sleep, and neither could Chan. Felix let his gaze wander to the sleeping figures around the plane as the sun continued to rise. It stopped on Minho, who looked so peaceful while sleeping, head leaning against Seungmin’s.
“Why didn’t Minho tell us about the trapdoor?” Felix asked, curious.
“He most likely didn’t want to show all of his cards. He’s careful and calculative, he was most likely waiting for me to betray him at some point of the heist, which I didn’t do, so he didn’t do it either.”
“And I’m pretty certain he wanted my loyalty. He saved us, now he has it”, Chan continued after a beat of silence. Felix arched his eyebrow, he didn’t want to pry, but he was very curious, since Minho didn’t really talk about himself at all.
“He used to be part of the organized crime in the city. He was assigned to get rid of my family, he and his two friends managed to kill my uncle, but I caught them right in the act the next time. At that time, two of his friends got caught in the crossfire and died, but I let Minho get away. He failed, so he couldn’t go back to his peers, he was on his own. Because I spared him, he owed me his life, so I called him in for this heist, and in turn he has now saved me. He’s saved us. We’re equal now, and I think this is his way of showing his loyalty. He’s had multiple chances to kill me in the past months, but he hasn’t done it, and I think he doesn’t want to go back to his peers, which is why he hasn’t done it. He knows that with loyalty comes protection, and even if he knows how to protect himself, it’s always better to have powerful friends around you, and he knows that if I have his back along with Seungmin now, he doesn’t have to glance over his shoulder every time he crosses a street. That’s why he didn’t tell everything.”
Wow. Felix nodded, he knew he most likely looked rather surprised. Chan chuckled at him lightly.
“This is the world of thievery, Felix. You better start getting used to it, you aren’t just a pickpocket anymore.”
Changbin woke up with a groan and a grunt, waking Felix from his slumber in the process as well. He grimaced as he hauled himself up from the seats, tried to stretch his aching limbs. Within seconds Jisung was up, rummaging through his bag and searching for something, which turned out to be a bottle of pills.
“You’re going to need those, we don’t have any morphine”, Jisung mumbled.
“Oh fuck”, Changbin groaned glanced at his leg. “Is it bad?”
“Going to take maybe a month or two to properly heal, try not to walk on it for at least a week. Nothing’s broken and the bullet came through, so that’s good.”
Felix rose up and fetched Changbin a glass of water to down the pills. Minho and Seungmin had woken up, too, Seungmin had changed out of the heist outfit to his regular one, a suit and a tie. Felix didn’t have the energy to do that. Hyunjin and Jeongin were still asleep, Chan was awake, as expected. Felix handed Changbin the glass of water. He didn’t know what to say.
“Did we make it?” Changbin turned his head to the mastermind. Chan nodded at him, a sleepy smile stretched Changbin’s features as he leaned against the backrest of his seat. “Good.”
“We will start landing in fifteen minutes. It is six in the morning of local time, and the weather is pleasantly warm”, the pilot’s voice resonated from the speakers, startling the two asleep ones awake, too. Changbin glanced at Felix, and Felix was suddenly all too aware that he was sitting in front of him, and they had just a few hours ago gone through… all that. And then he had held his hand and told him basically his entire history during that drive and even cried and… Oh no. Felix was in trouble.
He was in so so much trouble.
The seatbelt light flickered on, Felix started to slowly realize how tired and hungry he was, the night was finally starting to wear on him. The short naps he had taken during the flight hadn’t been all that good. He looked out of the window as the plane started landing, he saw nothing but boundless amounts of sparkly, blue sea. Where on earth were they?
Palm trees, sand, buildings, something akin to a village or a little town, maybe specifically built for tourists. So much green nature Felix had forgot that much could even exist in one place, he had lived in the heart of the city for too long. The plane landed smoothly on the airstrip, the sun hadn’t been up for long yet, it casted soft morning light above the horizon. The plane slowed down, until it stopped close to a small airport. Felix could see a black van that was most likely the one waiting for them. The air seemed to tense up again. What was waiting for them? An ambush? Or just the buyer?
Felix took his bag, Chan handed him the case the vase was in, he couldn’t obviously carry them all, so he handed the painting to Seungmin. Changbin managed to get himself upright and took his bag from the seat next to him. He looked awful. Jisung volunteered to help Changbin down from the plane and into the van, but Changbin declined and shooed him away. Apparently he was strong enough to walk there himself, it wasn’t even a long way, he had already survived this far.
He took the first step and Felix could visibly see how he froze from the pain engulfing him as the painkillers hadn’t started to work on him yet. Felix sighed, as he took his arm and slung it over his shoulder once again.
“You can’t give him other options”, Felix muttered at Jisung, Changbin tried to protest, but gave in very easily.
“Nah, he just wants your attention specifically”, Jisung grinned at Felix, before he turned his back to them as Chan walked out of the plane. Felix did everything in his willpower to not to blush at that.
Slowly they made it out of the plane, Jeongin followed after them, still very sleepy. The air outside was pleasantly warm, as the pilot had said, it would probably get hot during the day. Felix could hear seagulls screeching somewhere close by. They weren’t far from the sea.
“Mister Bang?” Some lady, wearing a black suit and sunglasses stood next to the minivan and called Chan.
“That would be me”, Chan answered, the lady nodded and opened the minivan door. Felix and Changbin were the last ones to sit in the car, they got the seats closest to the door. Changbin took Felix’s hand in his again, and Felix let him.
The drive took fifteen minutes, the air was tense, all of them were unsure of what to expect. Through the dark-tinted windows Felix saw that they drove past the village-town he had seen, and he had been correct – it was one of those specifically built for tourists, rich tourists at that. They drove past beaches, hotels, malls, all that, until they turned to a road that led up a hill.
And up the hill was a huge, white mansion, surrounded by a garden full of white statues and lush rose bushes and water fountains. Dear lord, Felix had not expected this. Or to be fair, he had had no idea what he had expected. The van came to a halt in front of the pavement leading to the front doors. Felix helped Changbin out of the car, everyone else followed behind. The mansion was at least three, if not four, floors high, and on the rooftop Felix could see yet another garden. There was probably a bar, too. And a pool. This was one of those rich-people mansions.
“What the fuck?” Jeongin muttered under his breath as he stood next to Felix. Felix saw the front door opening, and out stepped someone wearing a black suit. Of course everyone was dressed in black suits. That someone, a man, which Felix figured of the way he strode towards them over the yard, and their little crew stood in an awkward line in front of the van. Chan hadn’t prepared them to meet the buyer.
The man stopped in front of them, he was carrying a white cloth. Felix realized he was a butler, not the buyer. Or maybe the buyer was the butler.
“Young master Kim.”
Seungmin cleared his throat as he stepped forward and walked in front of them, next to the butler. Felix’s jaw dropped. The butler handed him a letter, which Seungmin opened, read with his brows knitted, and handed then back to the butler.
“Thank you, mister Lee. Please make sure the rooms are ready for our guests and they will have breakfast served into their rooms, they must be tired after all the traveling.”
“Will do, sir.” The butler turned around and left to return back to the mansion.
The silence was deafening. Seungmin just stood there, looking polite, like he always did as the son of the mayor.
“You are Bluebird?” Chan finally spat out. He looked just as surprised as the rest of them. He hadn’t had any idea either. Neither had Minho by the looks of it, who was holding the case now.
“I am Bluebird. I am the buyer.”
What the fuck.
“What the fuck?” Jeongin shouted, scaring a few birds away from the bushes.
“I bought this heist from the King of Hearts a few months ago, after I got to know him better and figured he’d be perfect for the job. I wanted to keep myself anonymous because I also wanted to be part of the heist to see what the crew would end up being like, and Chan wouldn’t have let me in otherwise. I also wanted to see from close proximity what was going on, and I wouldn’t have had that chance otherwise.”
“Knows about this.” Seungmin cut Chan off. “She approved of this, otherwise no heist would have happened. That’s why she was out of town for the past weeks, if we had got caught, she would have just denied she had any parts in this.”
“How the fuck did we miss this?” Jisung wheezed out.
“I made sure Chan wouldn’t catch me, I kept the contact minimal, I know hackers too, you know. I know how to make myself untrackable. Don’t blame yourselves for not realizing it was me behind the screen.”
“But why? Why even… why?” Chan was absolutely baffled, just as everyone else. Seungmin glanced at the case he was still holding.
“A few years ago, Park Jungshin’s men broke into this very mansion behind us. They stole these three artefacts that my mother refused to sell to mister Park after he inquired about them. The artefacts have been part of our family for centuries now, that means they are historic relics. We had no idea who had been behind the robbery back then, neither had the cops. Then, suddenly, the artefacts were in display in the Grand Museum, and then we got to know who had been behind the heist. We were constantly keeping an eye on any and all art and jewelry trades, but neither the painting nor the necklace showed up which meant that they weren’t being sold. That’s how we knew it was definitely mister Park behind the robbery. Then we just had to get them back.”
“Why didn’t you just go to the cops?”
“Politics”, Seungmin cracked a smile to Changbin. “And we didn’t have proper proof other than a failed trade and one fingerprint that didn’t have a match.”
“So you bought a heist from Chan to get them back.” Jisung voiced.
“Correct. And now we have them.”
“Are you sure he won’t come looking for them?”
“Yes. He has no contracts of sale, and he knows we could go to the police just as fine as he would to tell them that he had stolen them first. He wants to avoid the mess, because he wants to be the next mayor. He won’t come after us.”
“If he even knows it’s us.”
“Oh, he will. Or, he will know that it’s my family behind it, not that you seven are behind it, except that if I’m correct, they have most likely found a ten of diamonds from the glass cabinet that held the necklace and will know this is the work of the Card thief.”
Chan grinned as he nodded. “Ten of diamonds, just as you requested. Represents fraud.”
“Wonderful, I can’t wait to catch the news about it.”
Seungmin breathed in, glanced at the crew in front of him, Felix was still astounded by absolutely everything.
“The payments for the heist have been transferred to bank accounts, of which you will get hold of tomorrow. The accounts are located in another country, no need to worry about tracking or taxes, I have taken care of everything. Otherwise I suggest you will spend here at least some time until the dust settles back at home, then you may return, my plane is yours to use. The house is all yours, too, I’d say don’t go into the locked rooms, but I know none of you will listen to me, all of your rooms have phones to call the room service just as you’d be in a hotel. There’s a pool and a beach and plenty of things to do, you may also visit the town close by. I have assigned everyone their own rooms. Questions?”
“Yeah. What the fuck, Seungmin?” Jeongin still couldn’t clearly believe all of this.
The mansion sure was a grand one. The room that had been given to Felix was bigger than his entire apartment. A mixture of history and the newest technology the world could afford. One of the walls in Felix’s room was made of glass, and through that he could see the beach down the hill, as well as the garden behind the mansion. First days he had spent mostly just sleeping and exploring around, partially with Jeongin, who couldn’t stay put in one place. Room service brought them food at exactly 8 in the morning, then at 12, then at 15 and for the last time at 18, unless Felix requested otherwise. The first days went by in sort of a haze. Felix couldn’t really… process all of it.
Changbin was out of it for the first few days, too. Seungmin got him some extremely strong painkillers that made him drowsy, and therefore he just slept. Felix dropped by his room a few times, but every time he found Changbin sleeping. Jisung changed the bandage around his leg to a new one every day, cleaned the wound in the process. “It’s healing well”, he had said to Felix after a few days.
They were all over the news. First it was just about the Grand Museum exploding due to some error in the maintenance, then the police released a statement about the blood found on the third floor that didn’t match any DNA databases. Felix figured the police knew more than they let out, they didn’t speak about the card found on the fourth floor. Three guards had been killed in the bigger explosion, one had been found shot, a few people had been injured, which made the museum a crime scene. The property damage they had caused was massive, and Felix truly hoped they would never get caught, he didn’t have money to pay for all of it. The media theorized it was some vandals or perhaps organized crime behind the attack.
It took the police a week to find out that something had been stolen, and the crime changed from vandalism and manslaughter to a robbery and manslaughter. Now there was a motive, and police were trying to find any evidence. Someone found the burned car, but the police didn’t make a connection between them. The security system had been tampered all over the city, there were no faces, only a few guards that said something about two men, and they weren’t even sure about that. Then they released a statement about the card found, and the media exploded. The media thought it was incredible, the Card thief was back, and he had maybe been seen with someone else. Only two people behind such a thing, and soon they painted a picture of two little criminals that had pulled off a heist of the century together, some even thought they were heroes, going against mister Park like that. The Card thief nearly had a face.
Chan said it was good, the investigation was being led astray since the police seemed to think it was two people instead of six, eight in total. And they didn’t make the connection between the car and the museum, nor did they have any proper evidence that would link them to the crime scene. He didn’t mind that the name Card thief was being associated with the alleged two people that had been seen on the third floor, who had taken down two guards and then disappeared into the vents, leaving a bloody trail after them.
One evening, as they were sitting in the living room of the mansion, watching the news and spending time together, Seungmin got a phone call directly from mister Park. With laughter in his eyes, he denied any and all allegations, and reminded mister Park that after all, the works that had been stolen from his museum, were originally stolen as well. Unfortunately, Seungmin had no idea who had been behind it, and what had even been stolen, since the police kept quiet about it, but since mister Park was calling him, it was most likely something important. Seungmin had wished him good luck with the investigation, after all, if the police would dig too deep, they would find a bit too many secrets about the museum owner himself.
Otherwise the days were passed in a flush of victory, they ate well, slept, rested. They decided not to raise any glasses of champagne properly before Changbin would join them, and day by day he looked better, walked around his room with the crutches the butler had fetched for him from the local hospital. They found out that Seungmin’s family owned the entire island, and it was a tourist attraction, as well as for their own enjoyment. The next isle wasn’t far away, there was a ferry working in between them and there was a bigger city in there, most of the workers lived there. Funky. Felix wondered if he could go visit it at some point.
With Jeongin Felix found the wine cellar of the manor, as well as the roof bar, and as Seungmin had said, there was a pool, too, and a view all around the island. They spent a lot of time on the rooftop in the evenings, as the little lights all over it and the night sky filled with stars made it atmospheric and at the same time gave them solitude from too many listening ears (Chan wasn’t fond of the mansion’s workers). Hyunjin was all over his mastermind now that he could do it freely, Minho and Seungmin were a little less obvious when some of the workers were around, and Felix overheard their conversation about it one evening. Seungmin wanted them to be together, but Minho was a bit more reluctant for Seungmin’s safety, “You know how it is, how many people I’ve pissed off. I’m not taking any chances of losing you for the mistakes I’ve made. Do you know what kind of target it makes you if we’re seen together in public?” And Seungmin had understood Minho’s concern, he was clever enough to understand how it was safer for both of them to lay low.
They were the kings of the world, or that’s how it felt like, they were the stars of the news for a week, the whole world was buzzing about them. But Felix couldn’t really reach that high of victory the others seemed to have. Every second he spent with all of them he was reminded of how this was going to end, how these people, apart from Hyunjin, were most likely going to disappear from his life after this (unless Hyunjin would decide to keep the mastermind around and with Chan would come Changbin and Jisung, but even if that would happen, Felix would still lose track of the others). Felix didn’t want that. He… liked these people. He liked having them around him, but he was much too shy to say anything, it wasn’t his place to even say anything. They knew how this would end, it was an unwritten rule. Jeongin was sad about it, too. One evening he had whispered a “I’m gonna miss you so much, buddy” as Felix had bid him a good night as he lived in the room next to him, he had most likely thought Felix hadn’t heard him.
Felix noticed Chan looking at them rather fondly, too, especially when they decided to have a board game night and even Changbin had finally got himself out of bed and joined them for a few hours. Seungmin had beat them all in monopoly, as had been expected, but Felix hadn’t been far from winning. Jisung was relaxed if no one else but their little group was around, so was Minho. They belonged here. The crew was meant to be, Felix wanted to believe that.
He noticed that Hyunjin didn’t spend the nights in his room, but had migrated into the mastermind’s bedroom, as expected. Felix felt a tiny bit of jealousy. After a week Changbin joined them for dinner for the first time, and then, day by day he started feeling better as he had to take less painkillers to subdue the pain. He and Felix didn’t talk. Felix didn’t even know what he would have said. “Yeah, I saved you because I have a big-ass crush on you and cried because you nearly died in my arms. I really like you, by the way, I hope you’re not too bothered by that”. Yeah, no. Felix would just keep quiet, it would hurt less when it would come the time for them to separate and go their own ways. At least Felix hoped so. He had spent a bit too much time thinking about when and how he had developed his… crush on Changbin, how the bomb tech had managed to slither himself into his thoughts, not leaving him alone for long. Felix wasn’t even sure if he hated it or not.
The celebration dinner was a mighty one, Seungmin had outdone himself along with the chefs of the mansion. They laughed, listened to each other, Felix found out so many more things about his heist crew, which he would have wanted to call his friend group. The bottle of champagne they popped cost more than Felix’s rent and as the night darkened around them, Changbin announced he’d go to sleep because his leg was acting up again, and Felix wanted to go after him, but he didn’t. Instead he sat on the dinner table for another hour, before one by one they decided to head for sleep, as they had decided to go tour the city in the close by island the next day.
Felix stepped into the glassy elevator, too tired to take the steps and pressed the button to the third floor where his room was. Hyunjin and Chan had left for a stroll around the gardens, the rest of them had gone their respective ways. The doors made a bell sound as they slid open, and Felix stepped into the dimly lit hallway that led to his room. On the same hallway was Jeongin’s and Jisung’s rooms, the others were on the hallway leading to the southern side of the building. At the end of the hallway was a balcony, thick curtains had been drawn to cover it.
Felix opened the door to his room, stepped in, switched the lights on. Then he abruptly stopped – someone had been in his room.
The chair in front of the vanity had been moved, so had been the jacket on his bed. Felix immediately took his phone from his pocket (the real one, the burners had been destroyed), turned the flashlight on, bent down, no one was under the bed. He drew the curtains from in front of his little balcony, no one. No one in the closet either, or the bathroom. Someone had been in his room, but nothing had been taken?
His watch was missing. He had left it on the nightstand, it was gone, it wasn’t there anymore. Felix’s brain was ticking. Seungmin would have been alerted if an uninvited guest would have showed up in the mansion. The one that had been in Felix’s room had to be someone from inside of the manor. Only a watch had been taken, Felix’s wallet was still on the nightstand, so it was to catch his attention, not to cause trouble. Who had left earlier? Who would know Felix would notice something being amiss? Who exactly had done plenty of break-ins, and knew how to pick a lock, and had left before Felix?
Felix couldn’t help the pleasant nervousness that grasped him, as he turned around and walked out of the room, carefully closing it behind him. He quickly made his way to the other hallway, knocked on Changbin’s room. No answer, he turned the doorknob, but the door was locked. He wasn’t in his room. Where could he be? He had mentioned he really liked the rooftop, and he wouldn’t walk far with his crutches, even if he was a strong one. Felix returned to the elevator, pressed the button to the fifth floor, the rooftop. The doors slid close, Felix could feel his palms getting clammy. What was waiting for him? Would Changbin even be at the rooftop?
As the doors again slid open, Felix was met with a dash of fresh evening air. He stepped out, looked around – and found a familiar figure on the other side, gazing at the beach and the sea behind it, leading all the way to the horizon. Little fairy lights lit up the rooftop, they hung from the parasols and the railing. The whole rooftop bar was filled with plants and little lights. The pool was on Felix’s right side, lit with green lights, it had a few deck chairs situated around it. Changbin was leaning against the railing further away on the left where it was slightly darker, he had his back to Felix.
Felix paced in one place as the doors slid close behind him. It was quiet, but not too quiet, Felix could hear some seagulls and sounds of life from the village close by.
“Took you long enough”, Changbin finally broke the silence, and Felix realized he hadn’t been alone with him in the same space since the heist. He had no idea what to say. Or do.
“Jeongin wouldn’t stop talking about how he beat the past street race king in a race that lasted for two hours.”
Changbin chuckled “how surprising”, as he finally turned around (less delicately than he would have with two working feet). “What brought you here?”
Felix approached him, rather slowly, prolonging his way over to Changbin as much as he possibly could. “Noticed something missing from my room. You wouldn’t have any knowledge of that, would you?”
“Is that so? I’m sorry, I have no idea who could have taken something from your room, you always lock your doors when you’re away.” Changbin had laughter laced in his voice. Felix leaned against the railing next to him.
“Jisung told me you visited a couple of times while I was asleep.”
Felix tensed up, goddamn, why did the mercenary always have to tell everything to his best friends.
“Don’t act like you don’t know that I’ve been worried.” Felix was a bad liar, and he wasn’t going to start practicing now.
“Mhm, if I recall right, you were pretty freaked out the whole journey from the museum to here.”
“You remember that only because Jisung told you. He-“
“I was awake the whole time, Felix, I remember everything.”
Great. So he could probably remember them holding hands, and Felix tearing up. And them holding hands all the way to from the plane to the mansion. Felix should stop acting like there was nothing going on in between them.
“You know what, Felix, you’re a very bad thief.”
Felix turned to face Changbin properly, his stomach dropped at those words, did Changbin really think that? Or course he did.
“I know that.” Felix answered, his chin held high.
“You endangered the whole mission just because you wanted to get me out of there.”
“And in the process we managed to destroy property and failed in keeping the robbery hasty and quiet.”
“It was you throwing the bombs, not me.”
“We would have got caught if it wasn’t for them.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes I do. Chan would have just bailed me out or broke me out like he did with Jisung.”
“I know that.”
“Then why the hell did you decide to drag me through the entire museum and endanger the entire mission when I specifically told you to run?”
Felix did not have an answer for that. Or he did, he just was not ready to say it out loud. The fairy lights casted yellow, soft light on Changbin’s features, deepened the shadows on his face, highlighted the others just right. He looked better now, the dark rings under his eyes weren’t prominent anymore, he didn’t look drowsy, he looked awake and alert, as he always did. He didn’t look like he was in much pain anymore. The slight gust of wind messed his black locks. He looked breathtaking. There was no other way to put it. The dark eyes, strong nose and cupids bow, full lips, Felix realized he was very, very close to him suddenly.
“And here I was thinking I wasn’t getting through to you…”, Changbin mumbled, he took Felix’s hand in his own, and Felix let him do that, he didn’t pull away. The touch sent sparks down his spine, made it a little harder to breathe.
“You have built some pretty impenetrable walls around you, Felix, did you know that?”
“I know that”, Felix whispered, he didn’t trust his voice. And it wasn’t that Changbin wouldn’t have heard him, they were mere centimeters apart from each other. Yet still Changbin decided to wrap his other arm around Felix and Felix was pretty certain he was either hallucinating or dreaming.
“I guess I should say thank you. For saving me. For not giving up on me, like all the others would have”, Changbin muttered, before lifting the hand holding Felix’s own in front of him and pressing his lips against Felix’s knuckles. Any and all thoughts in Felix’s brain halted, he felt breathless, his head was spinning, and if it wasn’t for Changbin’s arm around him, he probably would have fallen. As if he already hadn’t.
“And I guess I should say that you have done a pretty decent job for a pickpocket. So decent that you decided to try to steal my wallet over a year ago and ever since you haven’t left my head even for a day.” Another kiss on Felix’s knuckles, before Changbin pulled him a bit closer, since he himself couldn’t really move.
“Have I?” Felix whispered, before the hand holding his own hand let go and touched his cheek.
Felix had no idea which one of them reached for the kiss first, but the next thing he knew was that Changbin’s lips were on his own, soft and gentle. Felix’s eyes fluttered close as he finally gave himself in to the bomb tech. Felix’s hand found its way to Changbin’s neck, the other one wrapped around his waist, Changbin tilted his head just to deepen the kiss a little. Changbin tasted like the champagne they had drunk during the dinner and something so utterly himself it made Felix’s head spin. The arms around him felt just right, as if Felix belonged there, right there, in Changbin’s arms. Changbin smelled intoxicating, he felt intoxicating, he made Felix’s heart beat in ways it never had. Felix was so utterly smitten by him that he didn’t have words for it, and admitting it was very scary for him.
Felix had to break the kiss to catch some air, he pressed his forehead against Changbin’s, finally opened his eyes. He could feel the blush on his face, and by the way Changbin glanced at him, smirking, the blush was visible.
“I guess I’m not the only one feeling this way?” Changbin wanted a confirmation, a confession.
“No, you’re not”, Felix answered him, honestly. Changbin tightened his hold of Felix, as he pressed his lips against Felix’s for yet another kiss, and Felix could feel the love pouring from Changbin, and he tried to match him the best he could. After all, he had never been all that good with words.
As much as Felix engulfed himself into the kiss, as much as it made his insides turn and legs feel like jelly, he couldn’t let the game finish just yet. Changbin was way too busy kissing the breath out of Felix, so Felix let his hand slide slowly a bit further down, and yes, he could feel the smile in the kiss and knew he had been caught once again, but he let his fingers slide into Changbin’s back pocket and wrap around the cold metal of his watch. He pulled the watch out, broke the kiss (did not miss the way Changbin chased after it), and dangled it right in front of his face.
“Hm? I thought you had no knowledge of my missing watch, Changbin.”
Felix only got yet another kiss as an answer.
Six months later.
Felix groaned as he tried to pull some covers for himself, Changbin had once again hogged all of the blankets during the night. The bomb tech mumbled a sleepy sorry before pulling Felix closer, as he always did. Felix opened his eyes, glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand next to Changbin’s bed.
“It’s like twelve in the morning, maybe we should get up”, he croaked. He didn’t really want to, but he didn’t want the entire day to be passed in bed, either, they had done that yesterday.
“I don’t want to”, Changbin mumbled against Felix’s bare shoulder.
“Yes you do, we bought croissants for breakfast yesterday, remember?”
“Fine, alright, I’ll go.”
Felix somehow managed to get himself up (not before Changbin had got his morning kiss, he hadn’t loosened his steely grip of Felix until he had got what he wanted). He padded from the bedroom to the kitchen, pulled Changbin’s cardigan from a stool in the hallway to cover himself and keep the cool air away from his skin. He could remember he was the one that had torn the cardigan off of Changbin last night, and blushed at the memory.
Felix drew the curtains away from the kitchen window, let in the soft light of the noon, before turning the coffee maker on. The first snow had covered the ground lightly during the night, Felix noticed. A bit earlier than usually. Felix got all of the things they needed for a proper breakfast (which were not very usual in their household since Changbin left usually for work earlier than Felix woke up) from the fridge and placed them on their little table in front of the window. He leaned against the kitchen island in the middle, waited for the coffee to be ready to serve. He heard feet padding against the floor behind him, and then a pair of arms wrapped around him from behind. Changbin planted a kiss on Felix’s neck and Felix found himself leaning against the touch. He sighed happily. As per usual.
Until his eyes spotted something. He tensed up, Changbin immediately stopped, noticing the change in Felix. How had Felix missed that? One of the seats of the table had been drawn away to face them in the corner. How had Felix missed it? And how had he missed the card on it?
“Changbin”, Felix pointed at the seat.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Changbin whispered, before walking over to the seat and taking the card.
A king of hearts.
The King of Hearts had broken into their apartment during the night. Or early hours of the morning. Changbin turned the card around, there was text written behind it. Then he glanced at Felix, and a fire that Felix had last felt six months ago ignited somewhere deep inside of him. A wicked grin tugged the corners of Changbin’s mouth:
“I wonder what Seungmin has planned for us this time.”