Tonight was a clear starry night. Few clouds covered few but none could extinguish the moon’s fullness. A white halo like light circled around the moon, illuminating the surrounding clouds. Some of the stars vanished as I drew near the over-the-top lighting in the city. My humble home in the rural/suburb region was a squat house compared to the luxurious apartments. Not to say that my house is poor, but it would be spit upon if an aristocrat-like assholes who live up there. Prideful to their bones, they nitpick and gossip about others without care. The ones offended didn’t bat an eye, maybe it’s an upper class language that a poor “peasant” like myself can’t understand. Many if not all of the people who lived where I was were looked down upon like ants. At least the aristocrats still have to worry about losing jobs, and don’t cheat all of the time to get their way.
I don’t care for all of the times they were sore losers. We always dealt with them by ignoring them… the best we can. But when one skinny ass bastard named Morse Nootèn stole artwork from me, that’s when I get pissed. Along with some other stolen artwork, he’s the greediest of them all. It was my magnum opus, a artwork to be praised among the stone-hearted critics. So gorgeous, that I displayed it in a local museum. The museum, granted, wasn’t the top of the line of security. That being said, on some occasions artworks that aren’t too large to carry can be stolen. Even though I specifically tell them have a 24/7 guard watching them, they still screw up. Imbeciles, especially with a hot temper that I have. As I think about it more, I do feel some guilt for screaming at the manager. You can’t blame a guard shifting shifts with another; though they didn’t have to fall down so quickly after they took a hit. It’s not a movie, keep going and get the intruder out!
“Lyon, eyes on the road” A pale black haired young man said in the passenger seat.
“Sorry” I apologized, refocusing my attention to the road. “Just thinking to myself…”
“Well, don’t let it distract you off a cliff” he asserted. I rolled my eyes at him. The person next to me is a friend of mine named Noct Lyn, a doctor of some sort. I always forget what he does, I’m positive he specializes in more than one area. I insisted he’d come to watch my back, with dozens of text messages. I asked everyone else but they’d brush it off saying “It’s no use”, “Give up on retrieving it”, or “Art is only made by the upper class”. I despise those who claim those false, discouraging words. The only reason why Noct decided to come was to make sure I don’t wreak havoc. Fair enough, as long he covers my ass then I’m fine.
“We’re almost to the art gallery, you sure it’s there?” Noct asked
“Yeah, I remember that slimy smile complementing the mucus attached to his head” I angrily said
“You must remain calm. Stealing that artwork will amount to nothing if you continue being tense” he said calmly
“I know” I replied calmer “Just gets me riled up”
“The Great Thief Arsène Lupin wouldn’t lose his cool while he was thieving”
“Just because my last name is Arsène doesn’t mean I’m the reincarnation of that guy” I muttered “Hey we made it”
As soon as I entered the city, the radiating city blinded me. There were so many electronic signs and lights it hurts to look, even the road lines reflected more light than usual. I reached for my sunglasses in the cupholder and put them on. It toned down the lights by a lot, though it was a bit difficult to see traffic lights at times. The art gallery was around the corner, making a grand statement with it’s dancing lights and terrible traffic. I tried going around some of the cars that were parked in the middle of the road, but it was no use. People ditched their cars in the road for their convenience.
“Lazy assholes” Noct commented “I want to bang up their cars already”
“Another day, mon ami” I replied “Today, we’re bandits stealing back what’s rightfully mine.”
After weaving through two dozen poorly parked cars, I went to a less busy area of the city. I paralleled parked in between two cars that was three blocks away from the art gallery. As soon as I put the car in park, Noct quickly got out.
“So now what?” Noct asked, as I got out “Go in?”
“Non! Gotta dress up” I said mischievously, walking to the trunk of my car. I opened it up to reveal costumes for two, each with a complementing mask. I took the double brassed midnight blue outfit and gave it to Noct. He looked at it with curiosity, then back to me with a sour face.
“Not happening.” he grumbled “Especially with this mask, it looks like a weird eye patch”
“Everyone there will be wearing masks” I said getting my outfit “I’ll be wearing something similar, you won’t stand out”
Noct went back into the car and changed out his clothes. The car moved around as he struggled to put on the clothes in a compact space. He kicked the door wide open, with the boots I gave him, and came out of the car. His long midnight blue coat was double buttoned suit with white frills inside the sleeves; a black dress shirt with a crimson red triple tied scarf; dark blue gloves that fitted tightly on his large hands; black pants shoved into the loosely fitted boots; and his half reverse and half normal eyepatch mask suited him well.
“You look good” I complimented him
“Shut up” he retorted as he fidgeted with his mask “I feel like I’m cosplaying or dressing up for Halloween”
“It’ll just be for one night” I said going to the car “After this, we can pretend it never happened”
I went inside the car and began undressing. The perks of being 6 ft tall are nice, unless if you have a low car like I do. It’s hard to take anything off with the cramped space, even if I’m in the back. The only other option would be to do it outside… while it has wider space it can attract others… After a few minutes of trying to slip off my pants, they finally came off. I took off everything else, old t-shirt, small jacket, etc. except for my underwear. Surprisingly, putting on stuff is somewhat easier than taking it off… or I’m just struggling less magically.
I came out stylishly with a long black trench coat, collared dark grey and red shirt with a white handkerchief in one of the pockets, dirty red gloves (stained from garden work), black pants and boots similar to Noct’s. I put on a white bird-like mask with black spikes around the eyes, it was a promoted cosplay item that I got free when I was buying the outfits. I hope all of this is worth it in the end, I thought looking at myself. Or this would be a waste of roughly $300, even though most came from a secondhand store! “Well?” I said to Noct
“You look like you’re cosplaying as some character but bought all of it from a secondhand store” he blatantly
“So? You don’t look like doctor, you look like you got back from the high seas by a weird pirate crew who wear masquerade masks” I fought back
“You bought the outfits!” he yelled, then changed his aura “So are we going to get codenames? Cause I want Howl, it sounds cool”
“Uhh, I’ll just go with Lupin?” I said on the spot
“Lupin is too obvious since your last name is Arsène. How about Composer since you’re orchestrating this event”
“Sounds cool… I like it, Howl” I said “Just follow my lead and we’ll make it out alive”
“You gotta plan to get in and out?” Howl asked
“Yup” I said walking towards one of the apartment building ladders. Howl looked at me weird, but followed me anyways. I climbed up the ladder, cautiously not making a creaking sound yet swiftly before anyone could notice. Every blind was shut, but light could be seen from inside. Sometimes shadows would come and go, or repeat movements. I felt Howl’s attention turned elsewhere at times, so I “lightly” bop him on the head with my foot. Soon as we got up on the roof of the apartments, I pointed to the open window on the roof of the art gallery. “We get in there” I said, then moved my index finger to the backdoor down below. “And we get out through there! See?”
“So we’re just going to drop in, Composer?” he asked
“The bar frames are big enough to walk on.” I explained “I’ve seen the layout of this art gallery ever since it was stolen. Learned every detail about it, even tonight’s security. It’s going to be a lot tonight.”
“How did you find all of this out?”
“Internet of course!” I gallantly said “Allons-y!” I dashed across the rooftop and jumped to the next building, nailing the landing. He looked at me like I’m some crazy fool, then followed in pursuit. We jumped from building to building until reaching the roof of the art gallery. I lifted the window more open and let Howl go through. After he got in, I carefully went in as I closed the window. Part one of my operation was complete.
I looked over the edge of the bar frames and watched the mindless fools go about their ways. Sound bounced back and forth like someone slowly shaking a container of water. Some voices overlapped others before they fell back into the background. All of the people there were dressed up in their second best outfits. The outfits were still outrageously fancy and overpriced, however it’s not something to impress the most important figures. All wore masks, as I expected. Most were plain and simple, but in every group there’s a over the top one. All talked with terrible fake accents, sounding like they’re english when really they’re pretending to be drunk. Everything about them is pure disgusting. Their wine swish back and forth in their glasses as their entire bodies shake with laughter. Ignorant and apathetic to the world around them, with the wave of their hand they can shut down jobs for hundreds of people. Laughing away at the arrogant and snobby while a child pains in hunger due to poverty. I spit over the ledge in spite, hopefully it’ll land in their drinks.
“Composer, let’s go before they notice anything” Howl whispered.
I grunted then took the lead and walked along the bar frames. My feet gripped the bars as I walked. Thanks to climbing in high places as a stupid kid, I don’t fear of falling. The nervousness of looking down may bother me, but if I think about the destination I’ll be fine. As for Howl, I saw him keeping up with me but constantly looking down. He kept reaching for me, almost like he was trying to grab my coat. Maybe it just gave him balance? I’ve seen it before with other school kids, never understood it though. Swiftly yet carefully, we walked on the bar frames to the other side of the gallery. The bar frames ended around 2/3rds of the entrance. The only way to continue to the next area is through a doorway, guarded by security.
“We’d have to get rid of that guard” Howl pointed out “I brought several tranquilizer syringes. It’ll knock him out at least for the night if not more”
“Great! Though getting in a position where he wouldn’t notice us would be difficult” I replied as I glanced around for any ledges that would give us the advantage. A ginormous chandelier hung within a couple of feet of us. It was big enough to fit three people in a horizontal alignment. Howl looked where I was looking.
“You think it might hold us?” he asked. The chandelier was hung by two thick lengthy chains that connected to the ceiling, along with some wires of course. With a few inner calculations, I took a step back and leapt to the chandelier. I reached for the chains and gripped them as if my life depended on it. The chandelier moved slightly, but not enough to cause a scene or hear anything. Howl followed soon after and we walked towards to where the guard was. Underneath his plain blue mask, his eyes struggled to stay awake.
“If we swing this a bit, you can possibly jump on or nearby him and inject him” I whispered to him
“What about the witnesses?” he asked
“It won’t matter to them. Too engrossed in their conversations”
He looked down at the guard, then said “I almost pity these fools. So corrupt yet apathetic, they were once us. But fate guided them to glory, Paradise in the city. It wore on them… twisting their minds to whatever they believe is “right”, “just” and more. Have you thought of this?”
“I despise them. Pigs of greed, nothing is ever enough for them” I looked down below once more, trying to imagine them before their wealth. “Though, a thought of Paradise can twist one’s mind sometimes. Come on, we gotta get moving before he notices” Howl shrugged then grabbed the chains along with me. We walked back and forth, rocking the chandelier back and forth. Once we gained enough momentum, Howl let go of the chain and jumped. He landed perfectly on the ground. I followed afterwards as he snuck behind the guard and tranquilized him. It took only a few seconds for him to fall in an unconscious state. I helped Howl position the guard against the wall to make him seem like he’s still conscious. Thankfully, no one cared to see us. We went into the next room where the food was served.
A hundred people crowded the room, either eating or chatting with others. The smells were mouth watering, delicacies like expensive cakes, state of the art truffles and sweets, and a whole array of grade A food that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Never knew this was going to be a big deal, I thought to myself. We walked in casually, scanning the room for the employee only room. People looked at us weird as we entered, our outfits were more plain compared to their highly detailed outfits and jewelry.
“It smells so nice here” Howl said romantically “A hell lot better than hospital junk that us doctors have to eat for lunch. It’s shit compared to this”
“Yeah, but nothing could beat my mother’s cooking. Anytime she makes something, it’s beyond amazing” I said nostalgically “I always loved her simple rice and chicken. It’s always something different when she made it, sometimes with veggies, different marinades, or additional hidden flavors added in.”
“Sounds delicious” he said happily “You should have her make me some for lunch”
“I can ask later” I laughed a little. I spotted the door close by in front of us. “By the way, over there is a bathroom.”
“Oh thank god” he said, playing along with me “I’ve been dying since we got here.” we walked over to the door and went inside. I kept an eye out for any security guards as we went in. Inside, thousands of artworks, sculptures and even outfits were packed in here. Everything had a note attached to it “LF-$23k”, “TK-$5m”, “MM-$90k” and etcetera. Some I recognized from artists around my place. Then everything hit me.
“Noct, Morse is auctioning these things off” I said in an inaudible whisper
“What?” he exclaimed quietly, then looked closer at some of the artworks “No…”
“His goonies steal artwork, he presents them as his own, then auctions them off.”
“Not only that Composer” Howl pointed to others. Some were in different languages, writing styles, and more. “Others are following in his lead.”
Klak, klak klak.
“Hide!” I said then snuck in between the shelves and turned away. I couldn’t see what Howl did, but hoped that it was a better than what I came up with. Klak, klak. His footsteps grew louder. I could hear his heavy mouth breathing as he got closer. Klak klak tmp. He stopped. His presence sent chills up my spine. If he sees me now, he’ll snap my neck in a blink of an eye I thought scared. Then the guy let out a small yelp before collapsing to the floor. I slipped out of the crevice and saw Howl with a syringe in his hand.
“Didn’t see it coming” he said delightfully with a grin
“You can be a scary one, you know that right?” I said
“Let’s get going before more notice us”
“Right” we continued searching for my artwork. As much as I’d love to give all of them back to their rightful owners, it’d be physically impossible to do so without lots of trips. So many of them were beautiful, one was a portrait of a lady looking in a mirror. It was so real that it looked like it was a photograph. The lady wore a full face makeup, while the mirror reflected a woman without makeup. It was like looking at two different people. Howl pulled me away whenever I lingered too long. At the end of the room, one of the artworks was on a easel with a blanket covering it. I uncovered the artwork, revealing my beloved stolen piece of art.
It was a oil-paint of a young man with horns, limping from grave wounds as he carried a small girl who slept on his back. Feathers from the man drifted away, singed or caught on fire. They were walking away from a flaming village and into a snowy/white area. I rejoiced at the sight of it, a large grin stretched across my face. “This is it” I said relieved. Howl took a closer look at it.
“Doesn’t really live up to what you made it out to be, Composer” he said nonchalantly
“Shut up” I “playfully” punched him in the arm.
“Ow!” he yipped
“Let’s take it before another guard comes in.” I said covering up the painting then picked it up. It was heavy but not enough for me to make Howl help me. “The back door should be a few doors away. Shouldn’t be too far. Make sure the coast is clear.”
“Got it” we went to the door that was nearby and cracked it open. He popped his head out before leaving me behind. Couldn’t hear anything beyond the doorway, besides the chatters and music from the other side of the wall. I hope he’s okay, I thought. 7 minutes passed, I was ready to go out until he came back. “Coast is now clear” he whispered, opening the door for me. We sprinted through the narrow hallway, barely touching the ground. Bodies of security guards slumped against the wall.
“Sheesh you did a number on these guys” I noted
Howl pulled out 4 empty syringes in between his fingers. “They called back up. They were closer by since this is a hidden hallway for security. Went through all of them quickly, but now we don’t have anything to defend ourselves.”
And I don’t have anything either… I thought. Except for fists… We stopped at the next door and had him go out and check the next area. He looked out beyond the door then said “Lots of people there. Along with some security. You’ll have to hide and run.” I peeped through the crack and saw hoards of people, with several guards in the mix. Some of the guards stayed back against the walls, watching over everyone like cattle.
“No way we can make it” I said “Unless if I climbed up somewhere” I searched for ledges but everything was too high or unclimbable. All of the sudden, Morse bursted into the room with a scared face.
“IT’S GOONE!!” he cried out “My beautiful horned man! Vanished!”
Everyone turned to him with horror. It caught attention of the guards as well, luring them over to the crowd. Perfect opportunity, I hope… I thought. We snuck towards the backdoor, hiding behind every pillar or sculptor we could find. I held my breath every time we left our hiding spots, praying to god that no one would see us. Morse explained his story to his attentive listeners, making it like some tragic event. “Go screw yourself, you greedy walrus” I muttered under my breath.
“And there he is!!” Morse pointed at me, carrying the covered painting, out in the open. Among the sea of people, he spotted me out with the most over the top voice. Everyone turned to me with a large gasps. “DON’T LET HIM GET AWAAYYEE!!” he shrieked with a shrill in his voice.
“Shit” Howl blurted
“Gotta go fast” I said in a mocking voice then bolted towards the door with him trailing. The security guards ran posthaste, pushing everyone out of their way to get to us. Morse even ran with them, which was a shock since none of the other guests bothered. Once we made it to the door, I busted it open with my foot (it was cracked open already) and ran out. Howl shut the door behind him then caught up to me. It didn’t take long before they literally broke the door and started shooting.
“Holy shit” Howl said in shock “Composer! Didn’t you bring guns?”
“Uhh, I left them in the car” I said
“Why did you leave them in the car?!!” he yelled at me
“I FORGOT!” I yelled back then a bullet whizzed past my ear and shoulder at the same time. My heart skipped a beat at that moment. “You have the car keys right?” I said in a high voice.
“I thought you had them?”
“You’ll have to drive anyways” we weaved through cars, parked or not, and alleys in hopes of losing the guards. Around the second block, we were getting tired of running for our lives. We paused in a narrow alley to give our poor hearts a rest. Before we could take a breath, a spotlight shined down upon us. “What the hell!!” I shouted
“Keep going!” he yelled back then broke into a run. Once we saw our car in sight, I sprinted towards it like I never did before. My hands began to slip on the painting, but I gripped it tighter. I reached the door handle and yanked it wide open. With much care, I tossed it in the car and threw the car keys to Howl without looking behind me. Thankfully he caught them just in the nick of time and went in the driver’s seat. I went in the passenger’s seat as he started up the car. After the car flickered on, he made a u-turn with his blinker on and floored it. The guards had a similar idea and hoped in their cars. While he handled the car, I reached for my gun and loaded it up. We sped past the guards who struggled to get out of the web of cars, but a few managed to catch up to us fairly quickly.
It didn’t take long for them to start shooting. A bullet hit the rear window, making a medium sized crack on the bottom right corner. I rolled down the window and began shooting at the tires. Last thing I need to be labeled as is a murderer. Already gotten away with it a few times, rather not go back to it. Worst that can happen is a few severe injuries, death is still a possibility though but as an accident. The guards turned on their sirens as they chased us.
“Hurry up!” I exclaimed, waiting for them to finish shooting.
“I’m flooring it now!” he said. The car screamed as it went from 60 to 90 mph within seconds. We weaved through cars without hesitation. I sporadically shot at them, trying to avoid other cars that got in the way. Why are cars still on the road?! Don’t they realize a police car’s behind them?!!
“Composer there’s a stop light 100 yards ahead.” he said worriedly “Either we can make the light or we’re screwed unless if you can get rid of them.” Shiit I thought frustratedly. I looked at my rounds and only had 4 bullets left. Gotta make them count. I peered out through the window and saw five cars after us, with the fifth one far away. They shot at us more, shattering the back window. Once they stopped shooting, I targeted the right tire of the left car. It was difficult to not move out of position with all of the bumps on the road. After I get the perfect timing, I fired.
“One!” I muttered to myself. Barely grazed it. “Shit!” I aimed again. This time I targeted the left tire of the right car. I fired again. “Two” It was a hit. The car swerved into the left car and caused a collision. “See you boys in hell!” I shouted at them prematurely. The next two cars crashed into the front two despite their desperate attempt to slam on the brakes. The fifth one was out on a vengence. It’s engine roared as it quickly caught up to us.
“Make every shot count now!” Howl cried out “We’re coming up on a stoplight fast” I took a deep breath in. My mind is at peace and focused. Everything depends on these two bullets, and it’s fine. Thoughts… go away. I peeped out of my window, closed my eyes, and fired. “Three” I muttered with the most calm I could muster at the moment. Not a single scratch on the bastard’s car. “*****!!” I cursed
“Language!” he said with a smirk on his face
“Shut up!” I yelled back then took aim again. I targeted the window, with the chance of injuring him, I would have a better opportunity of distracting him. I held my gun-holding hand steady. My finger on the trigger eager to go. I took a deep breath in and out. Right when I’m about to re-adjust my aim, the car jerked to a stop. I pulled the trigger in the heat of the moment. My head swung forward right into the side mirrors. Everything became black, like someone turned off the lights.
Few more minutes…
I jolted awake and hit the top of my head. I looked up to see it was the ceiling of my car. I looked over to the driver’s seat and saw Noct there, still dressed up.
“Where…?” I groaned
“Your place, at sunrise” he said tiredly. I rubbed my head and felt bandages wrapped around it. “You bled after your final shot. Your head dangled out of the window. I didn’t realize you were still out there until the next stoplight. Hopefully others didn’t notice your lifeless head and assumed it was nothing.”
“What happened?” I slowly got up “Did I get the car?”
“Yup, hit his shoulder though” Noct said down
“Dammit… I didn’t mean to hit him… is he still alive?” I asked
“Seems like it” he took the keys out of the car and unbuckled his seatbelt “We should talk elsewhere, Lyon. Just in case”
We both got out of the car, Noct got my painting while I took my time getting out. The sunrise’s warm colors stretched across the sky, with crimson red covering most of it. As soon as I entered my home, an overwhelming relief rushed over me. I went over to my beaten down couch and crashed onto it. The nice, clean smells of home washed away the over polluted and stuffy perfumes of the city. I took off my mask, which amazingly stuck onto my face, and put it on the nearby table. Noct sat in a seat close to where I was.
“We’ll have to stay undercover for a while” he said “Police will be more alert for last night’s incident. Also, if you happen to be sent to trial in anyway for this, you’re screwed. Morse has already made sure the police are in his favor. It might be best to…”
I laughed weakly, then it escalated into an enormous maniacal-like laughter. My head hurted with every chuckle, but I didn’t stop.
“Lyon?” he said worriedly “This isn’t a funny matter. You know how slanted those city-dwellers are!!”
“You know what this means, Noct?” I asked calming down a bit “This is just the beginning! If we can go back there, take pictures of what they stole from us, have the police on our side, we won’t live in constant fear!”
“That… might work…?” he tried to counter “But it’s still reckless! We can’t do this again and hope we’ll make it out alive without being caught!”
I looked at him with a large mischievous smile “It doesn’t have to just be artwork”
He looked at me shocked at what I said. I got up from the couch and went over to the window.
“Soon, there will be a day where we don’t have to run anymore.” I said “I won’t have to find a new home every year, barely live off of unfair payment. It will be nice to have somewhere that is safe.”
“Is that what your picture is about then?” Noct asked. I turned around and saw him looking at it. I gazed upon it, not a single scratch on the painting or frame during that tense time.
“Oui et non, mon ami” I spoke softly, turning back to the window. “J’oublirais plutôt ce temps” I watched a hawk soar the warm colored sky, sticking out completely. It cawed among the morning birds, as if it was one of them. Other birds took flight and followed, but didn’t go as high as the hawk did. They all flied north, towards the city.
2 weeks of this. This week I’m working full on The Best Is Yet To Come Session #9 and publishing it asap. Even if it means no short story next week. DETERMINATION!! Other than that, I hope you enjoyed the better version of this story! It was still a lot of fun writing, especially near the end with the car chase. I struggled picturing what Lyon could’ve painted, so I made concept art on the fly (down below).
Thanks for reading this Persona 5 inspired story!!
In case if you didn’t catch the reference… Morse Nootèn