The following story features several characters
owned by Marvel Comics, used without their permission, and
no money is being made from their use. The character of Reine,
however, is my creation, and if you use her without my
permission, regardless of whether or not cash is involved,
I'll just have to hunt you down and kill you.
The planning stages were all over -- it was time to act.
The lone figure in the coffee shop gazed intently at the picture
in the newspaper, and smiled contentedly. All of the arrangements
were made, and there was an hour before the night staff came
Rising from the booth, the stranger walked to the door, leaving
the paper behind, its banner headline advertising the Gemology
exhibit at the Natural History Museum.
The stranger walked for some time, enjoying the night air,
until the building was in view.
Looking up at the Museum, a cheerful grin lit up the drifter's
striking features; behind dark glasses, red-on-black eyes
gleamed with anticipation. The curtain was about to rise for
Silently, I made my way to the exhibit I had been looking
for. Getting into the Museum had been as easy as sneezing,
but if you plan properly, that's how easy it always is. I
had no worries about the guards. The sleepgas grenade I had
detonated would keep them napping for at least an hour; plenty
more time than I would need.
There it was -- lovely -- just as it was reported to be.
And it was mine; or would be, shortly. The lasers and infrareds
were quite good, more than enough to fend off an ordinary
thief. However, as I'm fond of pointing out, "ordinary"
is the last thing I am. Now all I had to do was leave my card,
and make good my escape. I savoured the sight of my little
bauble for a moment -- the "Pride of Genosha", a
massive, flawless, uncut red diamond, practically filled my
palm. Carefully, I tucked it away, leaving my marker in its
place. A brand new knave of hearts now had the place of honour
in this exhibition.
Quickly, I went to the air duct. I never like to use the
same entrance and exit, so as I had come in through the front
door, I opted to leave via the roof. I moved fast, knowing
that every passing minute increased my chance of being discovered.
As I climbed two floors above the scene of my little transaction,
I ran through my mental checklist to see if I had left behind
I suppose I should explain myself. The police simply love
fingerprints -- they get so disappointed when they don't find
any. Obliging soul that I am, I left plenty behind. Not my
own, I hasten to add -- the Genoshan ambassador's. Fingerprint
gloves are almost like a second skin, but the right solvent
dissolves them easily enough. As for my card, I like to leave
my mark on a job well done. Some call it ego, but I prefer
to think of it as taking credit where credit is due.
Once I arrived at the fourth floor, I carefully exited the
duct and headed for the stairwell to the roof -- it could
only be accessed from this floor and those above it. Handy,
since there was nothing of monetary value stored here, and
security was correspondingly lax, unlike floors one and two.
All I had to do now was get to the roof, leave the building,
and ditch my token disguise before heading back to my base
On one-off jobs like this, I don't get fancy with disguises,
as they are only a precautionary measure -- play it right,
and nobody will see you in the first place. I made more of
an effort for extended projects. Tonight, I had donned a short,
black wig and goggles. The goggles, as well as hiding my eyes,
still allowed me the use of my superior night vision. Act
One, scene one was coming to a close, and it looked as if
it would go without a hitch.
Little did I know how much this particular job was going
to change my life.
It was pretty late by de time I left de club dat night. Tina
had been tryin' t'pick me up again, an' I was runnin' out
of nice ways t'say "non". It was gettin' so I'd
have t'change clubs soon, just to avoid her. Somehow, I managed
to get away, an' I started walkin' to where I'd parked de
bike. Gave me a chance t'start t'inkin' about things. O' course,
de first thing I started t'inkin' about was Rogue. I don'
t'ink I ever fall dis hard before. Rogue was de reason I been
tellin' the Tinas I keep meetin', "merci, mais non".
It's hard t'be crazy in love wit' someone who don' trust ya...'specially
when dey got reason...
Anyway, while I was t'inkin', something made me stop in front
of dis one building. Mebbe I don' steal for a livin' no more,
but de t'ief in me just knows when a job's goin' down. At
first, I was s'prised to see it was de Natural Hist'ry Museum.
Gen'rally, dere ain' much worth stealin' there. But den I
remembered Beast talkin' about some jewel exhibit dat was
goin' to be on. It was startin' tomorrow, so de time was right.
I took a quick look 'round -- everyt'ing was secure on de
ground floor -- so there only be one way to go.
I headed on up to de roof, t'inkin' I be doin' de cops a
No way was I prepared f'what I was goin' to find...
Quick and quiet, the figure emerged from the stairwell. The
escape route was clear. Stealthily, the intruder scurried
behind the shadow of the stairwell, and began to rummage through
a pack it carried. Meanwhile, another shadow crept to within
Sensing danger, the burglar whirled to meet its attacker,
but just a moment too late. Gambit slammed into the thief,
but the stranger grabbed hold of the Cajun and rolled with
the impact, taking the X-Man along for the ride. In the scuffle,
both wig and goggles were lost.
In that instant, the struggle ceased, as the two found themselves
face-to-face, each staring incredulously into red-on-black
My attacker had almost gotten the jump on me -- irksome,
as I'm rarely surprised. However the years of training I've
put in martial arts came to my rescue. Without thinking, I
relaxed my body, turning with the impact, and grabbed hold
of my assailant, allowing his momentum to take us both down
as I rolled. He managed to grab at my disguise as this was
happening, and I lost both goggles and wig while we were still
on the ground. I was about to counterattack when I stopped
cold, as he had. For the same reason, I'll bet...
The man's face was practically a mirror of my own, with my
eyes staring back at me, as shocked as I was.
However, I am nothing if not a professional. Greetings weren't
the order of the moment, escape was. I drove my stiffened
fingers into just the right spot on his abdomen, and he doubled
over, winded. I leapt to my feet, grabbed the line gun from
where it had fallen, and sprinted for the edge of the building.
My strike would only buy me a few seconds of grace, and it
was just barely enough. As I fired the line, I could hear
him getting up, and starting to run. I dropped the gun, grabbed
the now-anchored line, and swung to the next building.
As I sailed into the night, I could feel his eyes burning
into my back, but there was no way he could catch me now.
Which wasn't to say I wouldn't see him again. He had seen
my face, and I was going to ensure that he kept that knowledge
I couldn' believe it. Dis one was good -- real good.
Somehow heard me comin', but still couldn't get out of de
way before I hit. Dat's when I found out that my man was une
femme. Helluva fighter, too -- only Logan had ever been able
to take me down like dis one did. I managed t'knock off her
disguise, an' that's when we both stopped fightin'...
My hair, my face, my eyes, starin' back at me like
she don' believe it either.
I was still starin' when she recovered, an' that hit in de
gut left me suckin' air for a couple of seconds. By de time
I got up, she was firin' her escape line. I went after her,
but it was already too late, an' she was swingin' out of range.
She'd gotten away from me dis time, but dat wasn't t'say
she'd be so lucky again.
'Specially since I'd made her leave t'ings behind. I picked
up de bag of equipment, den the goggles an' de wig, wrappin'
them up carefully.
Time to leave 'fore de cops come askin' what I be doin' up
here. I climbed down de same way I'd gone up, and moved quickly
t'where I'd parked my bike, bein' careful t'make sure nobody
As I started de drive home, I couldn' help smilin'. I was
goin' to find her, find out who she was.
I patted de pack of t'ieves gear behind me. It was goin'
to lead me to her, but I was goin' to have to move fast.
All I needed was a little help from mes amis...
After reaching my safehouse, I set aside my prize and paced
I had rented the little office some months previously, in
a virtually empty building with a high tenant turnover. No
one would remark on the sudden disappearance of the new accountant's
office, nor on my late nights at "work". I had carefully
outfitted the back rooms with any and all of the equipment
I needed for my operations in the city.
The first thing I needed tonight was my thinking equipment.
I sank down in my leather armchair with a snifter of twenty-five
year old Scotch in one hand, and a lit Cuban cigarillo in
Problem: my attacker had seen my face. When the paper came
out tomorrow with the banner headline "Knave of Hearts
Strikes Again", the cat would be out of the bag. Annoying
-- all these years with a spotless record, and here he was,
trying to ruin my batting average. Can't have that. I had
to find him, and silence him. I blew some fragrant smoke into
the bowl of the glass, and drank, thinking hard.
First, I had to find him. Fortunately, he wasn't the only
one with a description to remember, and it wasn't likely I'd
forget that face. The resemblance was almost scary. At least
it gave me something to go on. Also, from his dress and the
faint odor of beer on his breath, he must have been clubbing
-- and there weren't that many places to go around the museum,
so I had a search radius...
It was a start. Once I did find him though, getting him to
keep quiet was the problem. Killing, though certainly effective,
is the mark of a criminal, as well as an amateur, and I am
neither. However, a couple of hours' work with the right mix
of drugs and hypnosis would do the trick. I would blank out
the events of the night. He would end up missing about six
hours and gaining a nasty headache, but I would be safe.
And while I was doing that, I could also find out who he
The sooner, the better -- one advantage I had though: I knew
what to look for, and he wouldn't. What he would expect to
see, wasn't what I would show him.
I readied my full disguise kit for the morrow, and headed
blissfully off to sleep.
Continued in Chapter
"All warfare is based on deception."
-- Sun-Tzu, The Art of War
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