Merry Christmas, Che and Bun. I love our OCs, and I hope you enjoy this story about them! For everyone else, you can read a bit about Fortis and the others on my Toyhouse before launching in.
A GRAND HEIST OF JEWELS, by Ashe Mocaw
Sometimes, Alonzo is convinced that Scoria only invites him to see her to watch her cats climb all over him.
Forget their years of friendship, her unwavering help, her passion to return stolen art to their rightful owners by stealing it back. No, as she lounges on a comfortable chair, her cane to one side, a fan to the other, Alonzo is certain the glint in her dark brown eyes comes from the fact he has two cats attempting to climb his legs and one perched on his shoulders.
It has been exactly one minute since he entered her house.
Guava, a massive deaf white cat, sits comfortably on Scoria’s lap, purring loudly enough that Alonzo can hear it over the screaming reverberating from Pumpkin (the large orange tabby that likes to be tall) on his shoulders. They are, apparently, meows. He still doesn’t believe it.
It takes him another two minutes to walk to the chair opposite Scoria’s, and as soon as his butt hits the cushion, the three cats fight for a spot on his legs. Scoria does nothing but grin. Two cat fights and numerous pinpricks in his legs later, the three have settled: Pumpkin rubbing his face on Alonzo’s sleeve, with Yuzu and Honey, a tortie and calico, respectfully, each loafing on a leg.
“Hello,” Scoria greets. “They missed you.”
Alonzo groans. But he pets them all the same.
A quick glance around the room reveals he is spared any more cat attacks: the final cat, Mango, the oldest and the ringleader, is nowhere to be seen. It’s sunny enough she could be at any window, bathing in the light or pawing at the window attempting to escape. Overall, the cats are…sort of well-behaved considering they all came from the streets. Scoria always had a habit of picking up strays.
It is, after all, how the two of them became friends.
She shifts, winces, and scowls, and Alonzo knows she must be having a chronic pain flare up. He waits for it to pass—she’d ask him for something if she needed it. He allows her some space, which is all she seems to want, and when she speaks again the cheer is back in her smile.
There’s a glint in her eye Alonzo doesn’t trust. He makes a wild guess. “You’ve adopted another cat.”
“No!!” Scoria puffs out her cheeks, a sign of frustration she picked up as a child that’s highly unsuited for the realm of nobles. Alonzo figures he and the cats are the only ones who see it. She adjusts her tiny top hat on her afro as she continues. “So rude. What I wanted to say is that the new museum exhibit of Asfice Jewelry is arriving by train today. It’s been moved up, in secret, to try and forestall an attack by Obsidian. Those dratted phantom thieves.”
Ah. This time Alonzo is the one starting to grin, at least until Pumpkin decides to climb back on his shoulders by digging his claws through fabric and flesh. He sputters as the tail flicks over his mouth, and he has to speak out of the corner to avoid a meal of cat fur. “It would be a shame if they disappeared during set up.”
“I’m glad you agree.”
There’s no real need for secrecy in her home, but she enjoys the subterfuge as much as the acts of justice, and it hurts no one to play along. Scoria is too smart to risk their plan in front of untrustworthy ears.
“What would be the worst possible time to strike?” he asks. “For those poor security guards who have to watch over them.”
“I suppose it would be the guard shift an hour after midnight. Especially if the guards all happened to fall asleep.” Scoria lifts her fan, revealing a long key, its silver gilding scraped in places to reveal the iron beneath. “Especially since they seem to have lost the key to the roof windows.”
Alonzo pockets it from her chair in record time, and she laughs, giving a polite applause at the sleight of hand. He tries to bow, but the cats prevent it, so he settles for giving them scritches under their chins. So annoying. So sweet.
“Do you have work today?”
“No,” he replies. “Fortis said she had a dream, or premonition, or something, and she sent me home to spare me from certain doom.”
“Perfect,” Scoria hums. “You can stay for lunch, then! And we can go over what’s arriving in the collection so we know exactly what to see when we visit.”
Alonzo is about to reply, to thank her for the help, to express excitement over the next job, but the only thing that comes from his mouth is a strangled yelp as Pumpkin uses his shoulders as a springboard to jump off the chair.
CHOOSE HOW YOU READ! The thrilling heist is told from both the point of view of The Seance Agency of Detectives (SAD) and Obsidian, the Phantom Thieves, and the sides can be read in either order.
Fortis takes a deep breath as she enters the museum. Yes, she can still smell it. Beneath the musty scent of the hay the jewels are packed in, around whatever cute new perfume Gilly’s obtained, it sits there. The smell that comes before danger. The universe’s warning sign. A secretion of protective juices, designed to alert those sensitive to it like her and Alonzo of the upcoming troubles. Yes, something will happen tonight.
“…so we’re hoping you’ll be able to guard against the thieves, since you’ve been closest to catching and tracking them so far.” The head security guard, a large woman with a very long life line on her palm, pauses in her rambling. She looks at Fortis, expecting an answer. It is such a shame not everyone is attuned to the vibrations of the universe.
“Do not worry,” she replies, dramatically pointing to the ceiling. Beside her, Gilly stops sketching the potential crime scene to copy her pose. A perfect protégé. “I have been guided here. With the full moon, the spirits are closer to the surface. They heard your pleas for help and summoned me, and I shall not shy away from the danger.”
“We sent a runner to your headquarters to—”
“Silence!” Fortis flicks her hand, closing it into a fist, and the security woman is so humbled her eyes roll, the most well known sign of respect. “I am here, and I shall succeed. Let me inspect the artifacts as you unpack. I will be able to sense what Obsidian’s target will be, I am certain.”
Still at a loss for words, the security woman nods, gesturing for them to pick through the boxes even as her staff position them in glass display cases. There’s quite the range: tiaras, earrings, bracelets…Fortis even spies a divining pendant in the exact shape of a cloud she spied on her way here. A sign, to be certain. Obsidian will come.
“Gilly,” Fortis summons, and the younger girl tucks her sketchbook into her incredibly fashionable bag and waddles over. The girl is a genius, a quick learner, and has excellent taste in everything from clothing to people. It is an honour to train her. “Tell me your thoughts, Gilly. What do you think holds the most appeal for those dastardly thieves?”
Gilly puts a hand to her chin, a gesture Fortis discovers she herself is already making. It is the pose of deep thought! No wonder they are both making it!
“At first, I thought it would be that,” she says, nodding towards the elaborate three foot tall crown made of solid gold and embedded with emeralds, the mark of the ancient, conquered rulers of Asfice embossed in the centre. “But then I realized, that would be far too obvious, and our tea leaves today told us to embrace the small!”
Fortis beams. Gilly’s learned so much. It near brings a tear to her eye.
Gilly bites her lip, a frown shadowing her face despite the praise. “But I’m afraid I can’t figure out which to pick from beyond there. There’s so many small things!”
“Amazing, Gilly! Your intuition has vastly improved since the last crime. You are correct to think that crown is the wrong target.” Her canine ears flick as she hears someone yell ‘are you kidding me?!’, but when she slides her gaze that way, the only people present are two guards reinforcing the glass case around the crown with steel bars and trip wires. Both are avoiding her gaze, and since no guilty person would act like that, she assumes something went wrong with their work. Ah, it must be hard to be mediocre at your job. Fortis can’t relate.
With a clear of her throat and snap of her fingers, she continues. “I’ve had a feeling since we came in here, and it has resolved to one answer and one only. The thieves will be after…that!”
Fortis flares her coat back, the fabric fluttering, as she dramatically points to the obvious target: the plaque label for the earrings case.
“Amazing!” Gilly exclaims.
“Thank you,” Fortis replies.
“That’s not even part of the collection,” mutters a third voice that Fortis obviously ignores.
“I hope you brought something to entertain yourself, Gilly.” Fortis guides her protégé to a small alcove in the room, where the two of them are hidden in the shadow of the crown’s case. “We must guard that plaque with everything we have, and catch those dastardly thieves in the act.”
“I’m ready,” Gilly replies, her face alive with determination as she brings out two books. “My horoscope told me to carry ‘kind words’, and what’s kinder than a book?”
This time a tear does form in Fortis’ eye. Gilly makes her so proud. Alas, the moment is ruined when one of the foolish guards trips over Fortis’ hidden leg and spills a box full of brooches across the ground. Really. The staff would do well to be as alert as she, especially with the threat of thieves around every corner.
Fortis wakes up three hours later to the familiar creak of a window being pried open by sneaky, sneaky thieves.
She shields her eyes, knowing their telltale reflective glint in the moonlight will reveal their location, and she nudges a sleeping Gilly awake beside her. It takes the girl only a few moments to store the two books and perch herself in a crouch, her fluffy skirt allowing freedom of movement. The sound rattles again, and Fortis’ ears twitch until they triangulate the source.
She points upwards to the giant glass ceiling, and is pleased when she spots two shadowy figures dropping a rope about twenty feet away. Expert detective work that only one like she could accomplish.
As the two slither their way towards the floor, Fortis prepares her toolkit of thief arresting: rope for tying hands, a pre-written confession awaiting a signature, and her magic rock that gives her luck and serves as a blunt weapon if need be. She gives silent gestures to Gilly explaining the plan: stay low, be prepared to strike, and protect the jewels above all else. Gilly returns their secret sign of understanding that no one would ever guess: a thumbs up.
The thieves slink across the room, ignoring most of the half-filled cases, heading directly towards the earrings case and its amazing plaque, and definitely not remotely towards the highly fortified crown right beside it. Yes, the plaque tempts them! It lures them in! And they have no idea what she is about to unleash!!
“Aha!” With a shout and a flourish, she leaps from their hiding spot into a beam of moonlight, brandishing the confession in her hand. Nothing is more terrifying than the threat of bureaucracy.
And, indeed, the two are rightly scared! Her nemesis stands stock still. The dastardly Onyx, head of Obsidian, is dressed in sexy tight black pants that hug her curves in deliciously tempting (yet still evil) ways. A hood covers her luscious red-brown locks of hair that cascade over her shoulder in a complex braid. Her mask seems to glitter as if made of jewels itself, themed for the heist, scattering green and silver refractions across the space between them. She takes a step back, revealing the hood is also a small cape, which falls back over her shoulder to reveal her greatest weapon: a silky silver top with a tantalizing cut-out over her incredibly attractive chest.
Basalt is also there.
“I will not allow you to take any of these precious objects!” Fortis declares, her arm sweeping to encompass the possible targets. “You will be stopped here, Obsidian!”
“Never!” Onyx replies, her smooth evil voice without a trace of fear. A true opponent.
“We will not be defeated!”
Their very professional shouting match complete, the two of them both step forward at the same time. Fortis lowers her ears in a threatening manner as Onyx brandishes a blade from a hidden section of her sleeve.
“Go get ’em, Detective!” Gilly cheers, and her words are the only inspiration Fortis needs. Evil will be defeated today!!
A large crash, followed by an alarm, rings out in the room. Both Onyx and Fortis look down to the trip wire they’re both standing on. Fortis manages to see the metal case drop around the crown seconds before it alights with electricity. Blades shoot out of the floor, forming a massive fence. Basalt has to stumble back to avoid his coat being impaled, and he crashes into a display case half-filled with rings. Fortis and Onyx fair much better, both leaping away before injured, Fortis beside Gilly, and Onyx beside the earring case. Her target!! And it was unguarded!!!
As if realizing she’s hit her evil target, Onyx smashes open the case, shovelling earrings into a bag before stuffing in the plaque and tying the bag off. Fortis lurches forwards, but only a well-timed arm grab from Gilly spares her from the pit opening up around the crown. Beneath it, Fortis is horrified to see a shark infested pool!! No one told her about that!! She’ll have to have a word with the staff later, especially about leaving the plaque unguarded.
Switching out the paper for the rope, Fortis prepares to swing across the newly formed chasm as Basalt helps Onyx escape back towards their rope. Gilly breaks off one of the fence knives, aiming towards their precarious escape mechanism.
With a shout of “Spirits, guide me!”, she throws, and the spirits must be listening as the sharp blade slices clean through the rope, trapping Obsidian.
“Just as planned!” Fortis cackles. Basalt groans. He’s not a man of many words, unlike his sexy coworker. “Now face the wrath of SAD!”
She unfurls her rope, and, of course, it lassos around an outcropping, because Fortis has perfect aim. She swings across the gap, smelling the salt water and shark-stench, landing in a dramatic thief arresting pose on the other side. Gilly claps.
“I have you now!” Fortis grins, holding her hand out. “Return the plaque!”
“You’ll never—wait, the what?” Onyx is a master of feigning confusion and ignorance, but the detective sees through the act in a second.
“Don’t play coy,” Fortis purrs, circling the thieves. They move in turn, until their backs are to the pit, and hers is to their destroyed rope. Their escape route is as cut off as their rope, now! “I know you came for that plaque. What secrets does it hold? A map? Solid gold? I’ll find out when I wrestle it back!”
“You’ll have to catch me first!”
Before Fortis can explain that, yes, she is going to do the catching first and the plaque inspection second, Basalt throws a small ball on the ground that explodes in a bright light. As Fortis shields her eyes, her ears pick out a sound: the splash of two bodies hitting shark-water.
When the light fades, Gilly is on the other side of the pit, looking down with worry. “Should we go after them, Fortis?”
“No, Gilly. They must have planned this from the start. Why else would they not be shark food at this very second?”
“Wow, you’re right! Do you think they trained them?”
“It’s the only explanation that makes sense. Come. We must inform the police and warn them about the objects that were stolen.” Fortis grabs the rope the thieves had used, weighing it in her hands. “At least we have a clue. One step closer, Gilly. The night was not on our side, but this is a sign for us not to despair!”
Gilly punches the air as Fortis gracefully swings back, and, together, they walk to the front of the museum to call the management staff and the police. The guards are all asleep—no surprise there, the slackers! Fortis ignores them and exits with Gilly, their walk home full of their plans to, as per union rules, rest for ten hours before getting back to work.
Fortis loves her job.
Meenah stands on a roof, her gaze skimming the midnight sky. From afar, she knows how she looks: dangerous, deceptive, and poised with purpose. A menace. The leader of Obsidian, the fierce thief of the night, Onyx!
But the reality is she’s completely forgotten which building she’s supposed to be robbing.
That’s the problem with being a thief at night. Everything is so hard to see! It’s not like she spends a lot of time on roofs, she has a day job. Being a seamstress involves a surprising lack of roof-related activities, and if she’d known that before taking the job, she would have picked something else to make a career of. She tries to learn the layout of the city when she can, but it’s soooo haaaaard.
Basalt seems to have realized she isn’t being dramatic for the sake of it and he clears his throat, pointing to the building on the left with the large glass roof. Meenah gives him a grateful smile, crouching instantly to prepare to jump. A hand grabs hers just before she can launch.
Basalt holds up a grappling hook and rope. “We’re using this.”
“I can make the jump!” Meenah insists.
“It’s ten feet across and fifty feet down. You will literally die.”
As usual, he wins the argument.
It’s not long before they’re shuffling across the window, the ‘lost’ key firmly in Meenah’s grip as she and Basalt look for the main padlock. She’d received her instructions earlier today along with the key in a delivery of silks. Basalt had informed her on the odds of facing SAD (high) and the odds of something going horribly wrong (also high) on their way here. A thief needs no more preparation than that!
She finds the padlock by tripping over it, stumbling, and falling on her ass. She rubs her butt with one hand as she forces herself to her knees, fumbling open the lock, muttering under her breath about how annoying rooftops are.
“Do you remember the plan?” Basalt interrupts her string of insults with a relevant question. Meenah prepares to give her standard response of ‘of course’, but when she opens her mouth she realizes she does not, in fact, remember the plan. At all. Remotely.
“Hmm,” she says, rubbing her chin as if in thought, when in reality she is thinking about how sore her butt still is. “Maybe recap. So I’m sure you remember, of course!”
Even though she can’t see Basalt’s eyes behind his white mask, she can feel his flat gaze. “We’re after the Asfice crown. It should be obvious, it’s fairly tall. Anything else we can grab is a bonus. They think they have an advantage since the delivery is early, but they know it’s not good enough to stop us. That’s why it’s likely we’ll find SAD down there waiting for us.”
“The guards?” These places always have guards. So annoying.
“Already asleep. I drugged their coffee.”
Truly, Basalt and Scoria are geniuses. They think of everything! Putting them to sleep, what a grand idea. Meenah had budgeted a solid hour of time knocking them out with her fists, but this is much better. Perhaps one day she, too, will be an expert planner as well as an expert thief. “You ready?”
A nod and a finger pressed to his lips. It’s time to be silent. Meenah nods in turn before throwing the window open with a deafening crash, cracking the entire pane and sending the padlock flying off the roof. It lands on the cobblestone road below, and, by the sound, shatters into a billion pieces of rusty metal.
All according to plan.
Basalt secures the rope and slides down first, Meenah following behind. The museum is dark save for the moonlight spilling from above, and there are lots of shadows to lurk in—for thieves and detectives alike. She’ll have to be careful.
The two of them take careful steps across the room, but the goal is readily apparent: the crown is massive, in an even more massive case, with a bunch of incredibly obvious traps around it. The path directly towards it is blocked by a pile of broken glass with a sign reading ‘thieves beware’ thrown on top of it, so Meenah’s forced to divert towards a case holding what seem to be earrings.
Someone jumps out from a shadow. Meenah screams at the top of her lungs. Basalt facepalms behind her.
Before her stands her one true nemesis: Detective Fortis. With her sexy tall stature, gorgeous white-blue hair, and those canine ears that twitch with excitement, she is always so hard to look away from (in an evil way, of course). She’s wearing very fancy white gloves as she waves a piece of paper towards them so quickly Meenah is afraid to move for fear of a paper cut. Her sharp teeth flash, her lipstick perfect despite the who knows how many hours she’d camped in that tiny corner, and, ugh, she’s so sexy! How is this fair!!
Meenah tries to step forward, but finds glass awkwardly under her foot, and she has to step back again to bang it off. Her cape slips off her shoulders and she doesn’t bother to fix it. As she adjusts her boot, she spies Fortis’ apprentice, Gilly, hiding in the shadows, her eyes glowing with determination.
“I will not allow you to take any of these precious objects!” Fortis’ low voice booms across the space. The paper flies in her hand as she gestures. “You will be stopped here, Obsidian!”
Ugh, she says that word so sexily. When Meenah retorts, it comes off far more petulant than she means it to. “Never! We will not be defeated!”
Their very professional shouting match complete, the two of them prepare to engage. Fortis lowers her ears and snarls, showing the fierceness that makes her such a genius detective. Meenah pulls out the blade she keeps attached to her arm for safe keeping.
“Go get ’em, Detective!” Gilly cheers. Meenah looks to Basalt eagerly, but he shakes his head. He’s not gonna cheer. Boo! Fine then! She sticks out her tongue at him and blindly runs forward towards her evil, gorgeous nemesis, only faintly feeling his hand as he tries to grab her sleeve. She will not fail!!
She trips on a wire.
Alarms scream across the entire museum. A huge metal case drops over the crown and shoots electricity into the air. Meenah rushes backwards, almost tripping Basalt into an emerging fence of blades before she manages to catch her balance. Fortis, of course, is unharmed, standing beside Gilly. A dastardly trap! She expected nothing less from SAD.
Their wily ways are the only thing that manage to challenge her during these heists.
Getting the crown is out of the question, but she’s ended up beside that case of earrings, and that’s better than leaving empty handed. She smashes the glass case, shovels handfuls of jewelry inside the bag she brought with her. The plaque isn’t glued down, or even mounted, and it falls into the bag with a large plop. Welp. Scoria can have a paperweight or something.
As she retreats, she manages to trigger another trap, a pit opening up where she had just been standing. Below, a giant pool appears with…sharks? How did Fortis get sharks in a museum?! Oh, that detective is good.
Basalt hauls her forward, a bag of loot tied off across his back, and Meenah wonders briefly when he had the time to do his job. “Don’t worry,” he mutters, his voice only for her ears. “They’re not real sharks.”
“How do you know?”
Basalt pauses and points down into the pit. On a second glance, she can see that, instead of sharks, there are only turtle-like shapes with fins taped to their shells.
Hm. She’s not convinced. “What if they’re shark-turtles?”
Basalt’s reply is lost under a shout of “Spirits, guide me!” as a huge sharp chunk of metal boomerangs around the room and slices clean through their escape rope. Fortis shouts something Meenah doesn’t hear, since she’s busy staying sadly at the rope. She liked that rope. It was her friend. It had helped her for so long, through so many adventures—or, okay, maybe only one, because it was new and she hadn’t used it before tonight, but—
“I have you now!” Fortis has somehow jumped the pit in the time Meenah spent mourning her could-be relationship with a rope. She holds her hand out, clearly desiring the sack of earrings Meenah clutches to her chest. “Return that plaque!”
“You’ll never—wait, the what?” Meenah finds herself blinking in confusion. The small thing she’d accidentally dropped in? That’s what the detectives were guarding this whole time? Why had there been so much security on the crown, then?
It clicks. It had all been a clever ploy from the very beginning. Letting everyone think the crown was the main attraction, even fooling Scoria! But the joke was on them now that she’d figured it out. No one can stop Meenah at stealing the most precious item in the room. Not even her nemesis.
“Don’t play coy,” Fortis growls, stepping sideways to keep her eyes on them. Basalt elbows Meenah into movement, and she follows him in turn until their backs are to the pit of shark-turtles. “I know you came for that plaque. What secrets does it hold? A map? Solid gold? I’ll find out when I wrestle it back!”
Meenah almost makes a witty retort about who’s playing coy now, since Fortis already knows what secrets it holds since she’s been guarding it. But a glance at Basalt’s face tells her that it’s time for them to get going. She’d had her fun with dramatic speeches for the night, and he looks about ready to pass out, probably from fear.
“I got this,” she whispers. “I can swim.”
“Why are you bringing that up right now?!” he hisses back.
But when Meenah replies, she addresses Fortis alone. “You’ll have to catch me first!”
She jams her elbow into Basalt, who grunts, but the effect is achieved: one of his small flares falls from his pocket and explodes in light. Meenah grabs his arm and hauls, and the two of them hurtle over the side of the pit. For a moment, there’s nothing but the rush of air and the smell of salt, and then the two of them are splashing into the cold water.
It’s actually a very cute pool, Meenah thinks to herself, and she smiles when she discovers that turtle-sharks are as meek as their turtle relatives. She even gives one a little pat on the head as she swims past it to the edge of the pool, where she follows Basalt down the ladder. She shakes droplets of water from her clothes and wrings out her hood and cape as best she can. The two of them check their bags, but nothing’s fallen out in their jump. All that’s left is picking their way through the museum’s dusty gross basement. Ugh. Meenah will have to wash her clothes, like, ten times to get the dirt out.
“We didn’t get the crown,” Basalt mutters, kicking a stray grandfather clock as they pass.
“It’s alright. We got something better.” Meenah dangles her bag off her fingers, a grin spreading across her face. “Why were they protecting that plaque, I wonder? Because it’s the real prize!”
“I’m pretty sure it was a mistake.”
“Nonsense! We’ve fooled them again, Basalt! Now come, let us report this success to our boss!” Meenah gives a dramatic bow, eyes closed, and throws open the door before her.
She makes it two before she realizes there’s no moonlight, no fresh air, and her guess that this random door in the basement would lead outside is completely off base. A bunch of taxidermy birds stare down at her with creepy eyes.
“It’s this way,” Basalt calls from back in the hallway, and Meenah scrambles to take the lead. She hopes its not too far—she wants to get back home fast enough to get some sleep before her morning shift as a seamstress. For some reason, Scoria had frowned at her when she asked if she could reveal her thief job in order to work afternoons only. Needless to say, she was stuck with whatever her boss gave her, even on nights when the wrongs of the world were being righted.
Meenah sighs. If only she was unionized.