Chapter One- Julia
The inside of Jean Van Morsette's vault- within his mansion that surely cost more than everybody I knew if we were all to be sold on the black market- was relatively dull compared to
the rest of the home.
While the rest of the mansion is fully decked out in gold plating, expensive and rare statues that are centuries old, and had the most prestigious electrical system throughout the entire estate,
the vault was simple, grey, and bleak- if you overlook the riches displayed on a table in the center.
We weren't here for these gems though.
Jean Van Morsette didn't get rich by doing things the legal way.
Using the money he had, he paid people similar to us to hunt down the most expensive items in all of Nazica and take them from their 'rightful owners' by whatever means necessary,
then deliver those stolen goods to him, where he would then sell them to the highest bidder. His illegal trades are the reason we were forced to come here, to his vault, in the dead of night.
Two days ago, one of his bounty hunters broke into the shed that me and my two partners in crime, Thalia and Orion, were currently living in, and stole the ruby we'd been paid to steal earlier,
then brought it back to this vault.
The bounty hunter was wearing the signature colors of the Van Morsette household; a rookie mistake really, but an honest one if you were new to the business and wanted to see,
more skilled than you actually were.
Even without the calling-card clothes, I recognized the bounty hunter who broke into our shed.
He was infamous around Nazica for being fine with doing absolutely anything, no matter how vile or gruesome,
if he was compensated well enough- including stealing for the aristocrats who'd forced him into this line of work. Personally, I wasn't a fan of his methods.
Sure, I respected him for being able to get the job done regardless of the circumstances, but he always left too much evidence.
Not covering your face and wearing the colors of your employer are both recipes to get you arrested and killed, which is why I always wore only black and covered my face with a cheap ski mask.
We'd been in the vault for longer than I was comfortable with, picking apart every gemstone in search of our own, but to no avail.
Every ruby on this table was either too big, too small, fake, or not the correct shape. It was frustrating to know it was here, just hidden in plain sight.
I let out a frustrated sigh through my nose as I looked up from the midnight black table to see what Thalia and Orion had come up with.
The looks in their eyes showed they were just as frustrated as me.
We were all feeling the urge to quit, but I wasn't going to let us leave this house until we found this ruby, or set off an alarm.
With every gemstone I picked up, I made sure to check for alarm wire.
If we set off any alarms, I had no doubt that the Van Morsette's personal bodyguards would dash down to this vault and shoot us dead on the spot.
The spirit realm was not a place I would care to enter before I have to because I've seen the toll it can take on a person.
"I think it's over here," whispered a voice that only I could hear.
I whipped my head towards the origin of the voice and found my friend that only I could see Reno with her head partially through the wall.
Without saying anything to the others, I crossed over to where she was standing and attempted to examine the wall through her translucent form.
Upon noticing my presence, she moved to the side, allowing me to examine the cold steel wall.
To the untrained eye, this portion of the wall looked identical to the rest: smooth, shiny, and boring. Luckily for me, my eyes are highly skilled and refined.
There was a tiny gap- almost microscopic- surrounding a panel set into the center of the wall.
I inserted my fingernail into the small gap and ran it along the perimeter until I was right back where I started.
Nothing had come loose during my journey along the square, so this was clearly not the way into the wall.
Reno, who was still standing beside me, reached into the front pocket of my trousers and dropped something heavy into it.
I immediately sought out what she'd dropped and pulled out a surprisingly large and strong magnet. As carefully as I could, I placed the magnet on the center of the square and pulled.
Luckily, the magnet was strong enough that it didn't let go of the wall as I pulled it back. I dropped the metal panel and placed it on the ground below.
Behind the panel was a safe; simple enough to crack with a simple lockpick, but complex enough to make the rich feel sure that their valuables will stay inside. A huge mistake really.
After you pick enough of these safes, cracking them open becomes easier than breathing fresh air free of smog.
Thank you I mouthed to Reno, not saying it out loud so as to not reveal the secret of her presence.
With one hand, I snapped to alert Thalia and Orion to the existence of the safe, and with the other, I pulled my prized lockpicking set out of my other front pocket.
They immediately set down the rubies they were re-examining and came to stand behind me as I tried to determine what pick would be the best to use.
There was one key lock, one combination lock, and a padlock. All three of these were very common on safes around the city, and all of which I'd picked hundreds of times.
It was almost boring to see all three of them together, but Jean Van Morsette probably figured that no one who came looking for the safe would find it, given how expertly hidden it was.
First, I inserted one of my picks into the keyhole, knowing that it would only take seconds to unlock.
It was stiff from lack of use and gave a satisfying click I could both hear and feel when it opened. Next on the list was the padlock, which was also stiff and easy to crack open.
Finally, the combination lock. This was the type I had the least experience with, but was still easy to open.
Feeling satisfied that no alarms would go off, I tugged on the mask covering my whole face,
checking to make sure that my face would be fully hidden in case there was a camera inside the safe, and opened the safe.
Among other large gems and documents stashed in the safe that I desperately wanted to snatch so I would have blackmail on the Van Morsette family, was our ruby.
Our bigass ruby that had forced us to break into the mansion of the richest man in town.
Quickly, I grasped the ruby and shoved it into my satchel, facing towards the wall in case security cameras were secretly watching us from behind.
I nodded towards the door, signaling to Thalia, Orion,
and Reno who was standing with half of her body engulfed into Orion's that we needed to get the hell out of this safe before someone noticed we were there.
As we silently passed through the gilded halls of the Van Morsette's basement, I noticed a small altar tucked away into the end of the hall- judging me, laughing at me,
curing me for being a criminal who could see ghosts and was was most definitely going to hell for what I am; or so priests proclaimed.
Fuck you I know I'm a piece of shit,
I thought as we passed by it on our way to the hidden door down the next hallway than Thalia had discovered while running away from the Van Morsette's bodyguards while she was stealing some
of their expensive statues. She didn't use it at the time, but she told us about it when she got back to the shed that the three of us live in.
At the time, it was useless information, but now I couldn't have been more thankful for her strange observations.
We managed to open the door without setting off any alarms, but we were far from being out of the line of fire.
The Van Morsette's estate- while being located in the heart of the city- was located on a large plot of land filled with fountains, pools, statues, and manicured shrubbery.
I knew it would take ages to get across, but we had experience running fast while remaining inconspicuous, so it wouldn't be too much of a problem.
Thalia took the lead because of her knowledge of the grounds due to her time working here years ago as a servant.
Since then, she'd used the estate on multiple occasions to run through the city quickly.
If you took the road more commonly traveled around the estate, it would take you three times as long to get to the other side, so Thalia chose to cut through it quite frequently.
Orion and I, being the more sensible of our trio, planned ahead and made time to walk around the estate.
As we walked, I discovered that Thalia knew far more about the estate than I anticipated. She knew where certain traps and alarms were located, saving us from discovery numerous times.
Clearly she'd cut through here more than I originally thought.
On a few occasions, she stopped to listen to the foreign and distant hum of electricity before signaling to us that it was okay to continue forward.
After what seemed like ages of running across the estate and holding my breath, I was able to see the tall golden fence that surrounded the estate.
It looked a lot duller from the other side, but that was probably due to having gang tags scrubbed off of them numerous times.
It felt wrong to see them so bright and vivid- and the amount of wealth that was firmly planted on the edges of the estate, there for all walks of life to see, made me sick.
How could a person be so ignorant to the people walking by who were clearly planning robberies among other things?