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Uncommon Criminals

Ally Carter

  Text copyright © 2011 by Ally Carter

  All rights reserved. published by Disney • Hyperion books, an imprint of Disney book Group. no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion books, 114 Fifth Avenue, new york, new york 10011-5690.

  ISBN 978-1-4231-4809-8


  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42


  For Vanessa


  Moscow can be a cold, hard place in winter. But the big old house on Tverskoy Boulevard had always seemed immune to these particular facts, the way that it had seemed immune to many things throughout the years.

  When breadlines filled the streets during the reign of the czars, the big house had caviar. When the rest of Russia stood shaking in the Siberian winds, that house had fires and gaslight in every room. And when the Second World War was over and places like Leningrad and Berlin were nothing but rubble and crumbling walls, the residents of the big house on Tverskoy Boulevard only had to take up a hammer and drive a single nail—to hang a painting on the landing at the top of the stairs—to mark the end of a long war.

  The canvas was small, perhaps only eight by ten inches. The brushstrokes were light but meticulous. And the subject, the countryside near Provence, was once a favorite of an artist named Cézanne.

  No one in the house spoke of how the painting had come to be there. Not a single member of the staff ever asked the man of the house, a high-ranking Soviet official, to talk about the canvas or the war or whatever services he may have performed in battle or beyond to earn such a lavish prize. The house on Tverskoy Boulevard was not one for stories, everybody knew. And besides, the war was over. The Nazis had lost. And to the victors went the spoils.

  Or, as the case may be, the paintings.

  Eventually, the wallpaper faded, and soon few people actually remembered the man who had brought the painting home from the newly liberated East Germany. None of the neighbors dared to whisper the letters K-G-B. Of the old Socialists and new socialites who flooded through the open doors for parties, not one ever dared to mention the Russian mob.

  And still the painting stayed hanging, the music kept playing, and the party itself seemed to last—echoing out onto the street, fading into the frigid air of the night.

  The party on the first Friday of February was a fund-raiser—though for what cause or foundation, no one really knew. It didn’t matter. The same people were invited. The same chef was preparing the same food. The men stood smoking the same cigars and drinking the same vodka. And, of course, the same painting still hung at the top of the stairs, looking down on the partygoers below.

  But one of the partygoers was not, actually, the same.

  When she gave the man at the door a name from the list, her Russian bore a slight accent. When she handed her coat to a maid, no one seemed to notice that it was far too light for someone who had spent too long in Moscow’s winter. She was too short; her black hair framed a face that was in every way too young. The women watched her pass, eyeing the competition. The men hardly noticed her at all as she nibbled and sipped and waited until the hour grew late and the people became tipsy. When that time finally came, not one soul watched as the girl with the soft pale skin climbed the stairs and slipped the small painting from the nail that held it. She walked to the window.

  And jumped.

  And neither the house on Tverskoy Boulevard nor any of its occupants ever saw the girl or the painting again.


  No one visits Moscow in February just for fun.

  Perhaps that is why the customs agent looked so curiously at the shorter-than-average teenage girl who stood in line behind the business people and expatriates who were arriving in New York that day, choosing to flee the Russian winter.

  “How long was your visit?” the agent asked.

  “Three days,” was the girl’s reply.

  “Do you have anything to declare?” The customs agent lowered her head, studied the girl from over the top of her half-moon glasses. “Are you bringing anything home with you, sweetie?”

  The girl seemed to consider this, then shook her head. “No.”

  When the woman asked, “Are you traveling by yourself?” she sounded less like a government official doing her due diligence and more like a mother concerned that such a young girl could be traveling the world alone.

  But the girl seemed perfectly at ease as she smiled and said, “Yes.”

  “And were you traveling for business or for pleasure?” the woman asked, looking from the pale blue customs form to the girl’s bright blue eyes.

  “Pleasure,” the young girl said. She reached for her passport. “I had to go to a party.”

  Even though she’d just landed in New York, when Katarina Bishop walked through the airport that Saturday afternoon, her mind couldn’t help but drift to all the places she still had to go.

  There was a Klimt in Cairo, a very nice Rembrandt rumored to be hidden in a cave in the Swiss Alps, and a statue by Bartolini last seen somewhere on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Altogether, there were at least a half dozen jobs that could come next, and Kat’s thoughts wandered through them like a maze. And still the part that weighed heaviest on her was the jobs she didn’t know about—the plundered treasures no one had found yet. The Nazis had needed an army, she told herself, to steal them all. But she was just one girl—one thief. She felt exhausted, remembering it might take a lifetime to steal them all back.

  When she stepped onto the long escalator and began her descent, Kat was completely unaware of the tall boy with the broad shoulders behind her until she felt the weight of her bag rise gently off her shoulder. She turned and looked up, but didn’t smile.

  “You’d better not be trying to steal that,” she said.

  The boy shrugged and reached for the small rolling suitcase at her feet. “I wouldn’t dare.”

  “Because I’m an excellent yeller.”

  “I don’t doubt it.”

  “And fighter. My cousin gave me this nail file…the thing’s just like a switchblade.”

  The boy nodded slowly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

  When they reached the bottom of the escalator, Kat stepped onto the smooth floor and realized how insane—and incredibly sloppy—it was for her not to have seen the boy that every other woman in the terminal was openly staring at. It wasn’t because he was handsome (though he was); it wasn’t
because he was wealthy (though that too was undeniable); there was simply something about W. W. Hale the Fifth—a confidence that Kat knew could not be bought (and almost certainly could never be stolen).

  So she let him carry her bags. She didn’t protest when he walked so close that her shoulder brushed against the arm of his heavy wool coat. And yet, beyond that, they did not touch. He didn’t even look at her as he said, “I would have sent the jet.”

  “See”—she glanced up at him—“I’m trying to build up the miles.”

  “Oh, well, when you put it that way…” A split second later, Kat saw her passport appear in Hale’s hands as if by magic. “So, how was Moscow, Ms.…McMurray.” He eyed her. “You don’t look like a Sue.”

  “Moscow was cold,” Kat answered.

  He flipped the page of the passport and examined the stamps. “And Rio?”



  “I thought my dad and Uncle Eddie summoned you to Uruguay?” She stopped suddenly.

  “Paraguay,” he corrected. “And it was more invitation than summons. I regretfully declined. Besides, I really wanted to do a Smash and Grab job in a mansion with half the former KGB.” He gave a long sigh. “Too bad I never got that invitation.”

  Kat looked at him. “It was more like a Gab and Grab.”

  “That’s too bad.” Hale smiled, but Kat felt very little warmth in the gesture. “You know, I’ve been told that I can really wear a tuxedo.”

  Kat did know. She’d actually been there when her cousin Gabrielle had told him. But tuxedos, Kat knew, weren’t really the issue.

  “It was an easy job, Hale.” Kat remembered the cold wind in her hair as she’d stood in the open window. She thought about the empty nail that had probably gone unnoticed until morning, and she had to laugh. “Totally easy. You would have been bored.”

  “Yeah,” he said. “Because easy and boring are two words I frequently associate with the KGB.”

  “I was fine, Hale.” She reached for him. “I’m serious. It was a one-person job. If I’d needed help I would have called, but—”

  “I guess you just didn’t need the help.”

  “The family is in Uruguay.”

  “Paraguay,” he corrected.

  “The family is in Paraguay,” Kat said louder, but then she felt herself go quiet. “I thought you were with the family.”

  He stepped toward her, reached out, and slid the passport into her jacket pocket, just above her heart. “I’d hate to see you lose this.”

  When he started outside, Kat watched the big glass doors slide open. She braced herself against the freezing wind, but Hale seemed immune to the cold as he turned and called behind him, “So—a Cézanne, huh?”

  She held two fingers inches apart. “Just a little one.…Weatherby?” she guessed, but Hale merely laughed as a long black car pulled to the curb. “Wendell?” Kat guessed again, hurrying to catch up. She slid between the boy and the car, and standing there, with his face inches from hers, the truth about what the W ’s in his name stood for didn’t seem to matter at all. The reasons she’d been working all winter were blowing away with the breeze.

  Hale’s here.

  But then he inched closer—to her and to a line that couldn’t be uncrossed—and Kat felt her heart change rhythms.

  “Excuse me,” a deep voice said. “Miss, excuse me.”

  It took a moment for Kat to actually hear the words, to step back far enough to allow the man to reach for the door. He had gray hair, gray eyes, and a gray wool overcoat, and the effect, Kat thought, was that he was part butler, part driver, and part literal man of steel.

  “You missed me, didn’t you, Marcus?” she asked as he took her bags and carried them to the open trunk with a graceful ease.

  “Indeed,” he said in a thick British accent, the origin of which Kat had long ago stopped trying to pinpoint. Then, with a tip of his hat, he finished, “Welcome home, miss.”

  “Yeah, Kat,” Hale said slowly. “Welcome home.”

  The car, no doubt, was warm. The roads to Uncle Eddie’s brownstone or Hale’s country house were all free from snow and ice, and the two of them might have been settled someplace dry and safe within the hour.

  But Marcus’s hand lingered on the door handle a second too long. Kat’s fifteen years as Uncle Eddie’s great-niece and Bobby Bishop’s daughter had left her senses a bit too sharp. And the wind was blowing in just the right direction, perfectly calibrated to carry the word on the air as a voice screamed, “Katarina!”

  In all of Kat’s life, only three people routinely called her by her full first name. One had a voice that was deep and gruff, and he was currently giving orders in Paraguay. Or Uruguay. One had a voice that was soft and kind and he was in Warsaw, examining a long-lost Cézanne, preparing plans to take it home. But it was the last voice that Kat feared as she spun away from the car, because the last voice, let’s face it, belonged to the man who most likely wanted to kill her.

  Kat stared down the long line of taxis picking up fares, travelers hugging and saying hello. She waited. She watched. But none of those three people came into view.


  There was a woman walking toward her. She had white hair and kind eyes and wore a long tweed coat and a hand-knit scarf wrapped around her neck. The young man at her side kept his arm around the woman’s shoulders, and the two of them moved slowly—as if Kat were made out of smoke and she might float away on the breeze.

  “Are you the Katarina Bishop?” the woman asked, eyes wide. “Are you the girl who robbed the Henley?”


  If a person wanted to be technical about it, Katarina Bishop did not rob the Henley—nor did any member of her crew. She was simply one of a group of teenagers who had walked into the most secure museum in the world a few months before and removed from its walls four paintings that were not the Henley’s property. The paintings appeared on no insurance statements. They were never listed in any catalogs. The Henley had never paid a dime for any of those works, so even as Kat herself carried one (a Rembrandt) out the museum’s doors, she was not breaking a single law. (A technicality verified by Uncle Marco—a member of the family who had once spent eighteen months impersonating a federal judge somewhere in Minnesota.) So it was with absolutely no hesitation that Kat looked at the woman and said, “I’m sorry. You’ve been misinformed.”

  “You’re Katarina Bishop?” the woman’s companion asked, and although Kat had never met him before, it was a question and a tone she had heard a lot since last December.

  The girl who’d planned the job at the Henley should have been taller, the question seemed to say. She should have been older, wiser, stronger, faster, and just in general more than the short girl who stood before them.

  “The Katarina Bishop…” The man paused, searching for words, then whispered, “The thief ?”

  That, as it turned out, was not an easy question to answer. After all, stealing—even for noble and worthy causes—was illegal. Furthermore, if their accents were to be believed, they were English strangers, and England was home to the Henley, the Henley’s trustees, and, perhaps most important, the Henley’s insurance company.

  But the primary reason Kat couldn’t—or didn’t—answer was that she no longer considered herself a thief. Kat was more of a return artist, a repossession specialist. A highly uncommon criminal. After all, the statue she’d swiped in Rio rightfully belonged to a woman whose grandparents had died in Auschwitz. The painting from Moscow would soon be winging its way toward a ninety-year-old man in Tel Aviv.

  So no, Katarina Bishop was not a thief, and that was why she said, “I’m afraid you have the wrong person,” and turned back to Hale and the long black limousine.

  “We need your help.” The woman moved toward her.

  “I’m sorry,” Kat said.

  “We were led to believe that you were quite talented.”

  “Talent is overrated,” was Kat’s reply.

  She stepped closer to the car, but the woman reached for her arm. “We can pay!”

  At this, Kat had to stop.

  “I’m afraid you really have the wrong person.”

  With one look from Kat, Hale reached for the limo door. Kat was halfway inside when the woman called, “He said you…help people.” Her voice cracked, and the young man tightened his grip around her shoulders.

  “Grandmother, let’s go. We shouldn’t have believed him.”

  “Who?” The word was sharper than she’d intended, but Kat couldn’t help herself. She climbed from the car. “Who told you my name? Someone said where you could find me, who was it?”

  “A man…” the woman muttered, fumbling for words. “He was very convincing. He said—”

  “What was his name?” Hale stepped closer to the young man, who had maybe eight years and two inches on him.

  “He came to our flat…” the man started, but the woman’s whisper was all that Kat could hear.

  “Romani.” She drew a deep breath. “He said his name was Visily Romani.”


  Perhaps you have never heard the name Visily Romani. Until two separate cards bearing that name appeared at the Henley four months before, very few people ever had. Kat had never heard those words until that time, but Kat was still a very young person in a very old world. Since then, Kat herself would say, she’d gotten much, much older.

  At least that was how she felt an hour later as she sat beside Hale in a small quiet diner not far from Uncle Eddie’s brownstone on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. The old woman and her companion sat on the other side of the booth. Wordless and worn, both looking as if they’d traveled a long, long way to get there.

  The place was nearly empty, and yet the young man kept looking over his shoulder at the waitress wiping down tables and the college girl who sat by the window wearing headphones and studying a book on constitutional law. He took the room in with sharp brown eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses.

  When he asked, “Are you sure we shouldn’t go someplace more private?” he actually sounded afraid.