Heist society, p.1
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       Heist Society, p.1

         Part #1 of Heist Society series by Ally Carter
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Heist Society


  “Katarina?” Ms. Connors asked, as if begging Kat to prove them wrong.

  “I know that seems like a lot of very convincing evidence,” Kat said, her mind working, gears spinning. “Maybe too much evidence? I mean, would I really use my own I. D. if I’d done it?”

  “So since there is evidence that you did it, that should prove that you didn’t do it?” Even Ms. Connors sounded skeptical.

  “Well,” Kat said, “I’m not stupid. ”

  The headmaster laughed. “Oh, well, how would you have done it?” He was mocking her—baiting her—yet Kat couldn’t help but think about the answer:

  There was a shortcut behind Warren Hall that was closer and darker and completely void of cameras. . . .

  The doors wouldn’t need an I. D. to open if you had enough Bubblicious to cover the sensor on your way out. . . .

  If you’re going to pull a prank of that nature, you don’t do it the night before a morning when the maintenance staff will be awake long before the students. . . .

  Headmaster Franklin smiled smugly, relishing her silence, as if he were so smart.

  But Kat had already learned that people at Colgan were frequently wrong—like when her Italian teacher had said that Kat’s accent would always make her stand out on the streets of Rome (even though Kat had already passed for a Franciscan nun during a particularly difficult job in Vatican City). She thought about how silly her History of Art teacher had sounded when she’d waxed poetic about seeing the Mona Lisa (when Kat knew for a fact that the Louvre’s original had been replaced with a fake in 1862).

  Kat had learned quite a lot of things before enrolling at the Colgan School—but the thing that she knew best was that this was the kind of place where she could never share them.

  “I don’t know about Trinity or Bern or any of those European schools, young lady, but at the Colgan School we follow the rules. ” The headmaster’s fist banged the table. “We respect the property of others. We adhere to the honor code of this institution and the laws of this country. ”

  But Kat already knew about honor. She’d grown up with her own set of rules. And the first rule of Katarina Bishop’s family was simple: Don’t get caught.

  “Katarina,” Ms. Connors said, “do you have anything to add that might explain this?”

  Kat could have said, That’s not me or There must be some kind of mistake. The great irony was that if this had been an ordinary con, she could have lied her way through it without a second thought. But the truth? That, she wasn’t so good at.

  Her I. D. badge had been duplicated. The license plate had been planted in her room. Someone had dressed like her and made sure they were caught on camera.

  She’d been framed. And Kat didn’t dare say what she was thinking: that whoever had done it, they were very, very good.

  Kat’s bags were packed in twenty minutes. She might have lingered, saying her good-byes, but there were no good-byes to say. And so, after three months at Colgan, Kat couldn’t help but wonder if the day she got expelled from boarding school might become the proudest moment of her family’s long and colorful past. She imagined everyone sitting around Uncle Eddie’s kitchen table years from now, telling about the time little Katarina stole a whole other life and then walked away without a trace.

  Well, almost, Kat thought as she carried her bags past the once-perfect lawn. Ruts still tracked to and from the mangled fountain in the center of the quad: a muddy reminder that would no doubt last until spring.

  She heard laughter coming from behind her, and turned. A group of eighth grade boys was standing together, whispering, until one bravely broke away from the pack.

  “Uh . . . ” he started, then glanced back at his friends, summoning courage. “We were wondering . . . um. How’d you do it?”

  A stretch limo pulled through the ornate gates and up to the curb. The trunk popped open. As the driver started for her bags, Kat looked at the boys and then back at Colgan one final time. “That is an excellent question. ”

  The bells chimed. Students hurried between classes, across the quad. And as Kat crawled into the backseat of the limo, she couldn’t help feeling slightly sad, or as sad as anyone could feel about losing something that wasn’t rightfully theirs to begin with. She leaned back and sighed, “Well, I guess that’s over. ”

  And it would have been . . . if another voice hadn’t said, “Actually, it’s just beginning. ”

  Chapter 2

  Kat jumped. In the dim light, she hadn’t noticed the figure sitting at the other end of the limo’s bench, smiling back at her.

  “Hale?” she asked as if the boy might be an imposter. But then a very different question crossed her mind. “Hale, what are you doing here?”

  “I thought you might need a ride. ”

  “The headmaster’s office called me a car. ”

  He shrugged, indifferent but amused. “And here I am in a submarine. ”

  As the limo pulled out of the school’s circular driveway, Hale turned and looked out the window. Kat watched him take in the grounds, a faint smile on his lips as if there were no place on earth he really had to be. Kat sometimes wondered if that kind of self-assurance was something only very old money could buy. Then she wondered if it was something you could steal.

  Hale waved as the gates of the Colgan School faded into the distance. “Good-bye, Colgan!” He turned to her. “Hello, Kitty Kat. ”

  “Hale, how did you know I was . . . ”

  But Kat didn’t finish. Suddenly, she wasn’t in the back of a limo—she was sitting on a hard chair, staring at the black-and-white surveillance footage of someone in a hooded sweatshirt running across the quad. She was looking at the image of her own student I. D. magnified on a TV screen. She was watching Headmaster Franklin hold a crumpled vanity plate above his head for all to see.

  “Hale,” Kat sighed. “The headmaster’s car? Really? That’s not too clichéd for you?”

  “What can I say?” He shrugged. “I’m an old-fashioned guy. Besides, it’s a classic for a reason. ” He leaned against the window. “It’s good to see you, Kat. ”

  Kat didn’t know what to say. It’s good to see you too? Thanks for getting me kicked out? Is it possible you’ve gotten even hotter? I think I might have missed you?

  So instead she settled on, “Did my father put you up to this?”

  Hale exhaled a quick laugh and shook his head. “He hasn’t returned my calls since Barcelona. ” He leaned closer and whispered, “I think he might still be mad at me. ”

  “Yeah, well, that makes two of us. ”

  “Hey,” Hale snapped. “We all agreed that that monkey seemed perfectly well trained at the time. ”

  Kat simply shook her head. “You got me kicked out, Hale. ”

  He grinned and gave a slow bow. “You’re welcome. ”

  “You trashed the headmaster’s car. ”

  “W. W. Hale the Fourth bought that car for Headmaster Franklin, or didn’t they mention that? Granted, it was to make up for a fire that W. W. Hale the Fifth allegedly started in the eighth grade—before they suggested that all current and future W. W. Hales continue their educations elsewhere—which worked out just as well since I’m at the Knightsbury Institute now. ”

  “I’ve never heard of it. ”

  “My father got a letter just last week telling him that I have become a model student. ”

  “Congratulations,” Kat said, doubting it.

  “Yeah, well, I’m the only student. ” He grinned a very Hale-like grin. “Of course, the downside of attending a fictional school is that our lacrosse team sucks. Anyway, if the Colgan School wanted to be technical about it, I trashed my car. ”

  She studied W. W. Hale the Fifth. He looked olde
r than sixteen, with messy light brown hair and golden skin, and a first name that, despite two years of effort, Kat had never learned.

  “I doubt they’d see it that way, Wesley ?” she guessed.

  Hale smiled. “Not. Even. Close. ”

  So far Kat had been through all the Wa’s she could think of, but Hale hadn’t admitted to being Walter or Ward or Washington. He’d firmly denied both Warren and Waverly. Watson had prompted him to do a very bad Sherlock Holmes impersonation throughout a good portion of a train ride to Edinburgh, Scotland. And Wayne seemed so wrong that she hadn’t even tried.

  Hale was Hale. And not knowing what the W’s stood for had become a constant reminder to Kat that, in life, there are some things that can be given but never stolen.

  Of course, that didn’t stop her from trying.

  “So, how long before you broke into the student records office?” Hale asked. “A week?” Kat felt her cheeks go red. “But you didn’t find anything on me, did you?” He raised an eyebrow. “Kat,” he sighed her name. “That is so sweet. And innocent. Naive looks good on you. ”

  “Don’t get used to it. ”

  He shook his head. “Oh, I won’t. ”

  The whisperlike purr of the engine filled the car as it snaked through the countryside.

  “Why’d you do it, Hale?”

  “You don’t belong in that place. ”

  “Why’d you do it?” she asked again, her patience wearing thin. “I’m not joking, Hale. ”

  “Neither am I, Kat. ”

  “You’ve got—”

  “A job for you,” Hale said. “And only you,” he added before she could protest.

  The hills were growing steeper. Leaves scattered in the wind, and in the distance, the sun glistened off a lake. But Kat didn’t take her eyes off Hale as she said, “I don’t want a job. ”

  “You’ll want this one. ”

  “I’m out of the family business. Or haven’t you heard?”

  “Fine. ” Hale crossed his arms and sank deeper into the seat. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Kat could have sworn he was already half asleep when he asked, “But are you out of the family?”

  Chapter 3

  Of all the houses the Hale family owned, W. W. Hale the Fifth’s favorite wasn’t the penthouse on Park Avenue (too pretentious), or the flat in Hong Kong (too noisy), or even the mansion on Martha’s Vineyard (entirely too much sand). No, the youngest Hale was only truly fond of the old, six-hundred-acre estate in rural New York. At least, that was the only place where Kat had ever heard him say . . .

  “We’re home. ”

  The foyer was two stories tall and stretched in front of them for at least thirty feet. Hale walked ahead of her, hurrying past the Monet in the hall as if that would keep her from noticing it—or stealing it. He gestured toward the stairs. “Marcus put you in the blue room. You can go upstairs if you want. Or we can go out to the veranda and have Marcus bring you something to eat. Are you hungry? I didn’t even ask. Do you want—”

  “I want you to tell me what’s going on. ”

  After hours of watching the New England countryside roll by, and listening to Hale snore, Kat was finished with plotting and strategizing how to get her boarding school life back. She was out of options, so she called upon every thief’s oldest and most trusted method for getting what she wants: Ask nicely.

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