(This is a repost of a very old journal. It's a co-post by Carmen, Vic and Joe. Enjoy)
1 month prior to La Vie De Luxe
Munch Museum, Norway
“Jeg skulle Ønske denne dagen skulle vaere over med tidligere” [Translation: I wish this day would be over with sooner] remarked one of the guards patrolling the prestigious musuem’s hallways.
“Jeg vet hva du mener. Min kones lage lutefisk kveld. Jeg kan ikke vente.” [Translation: I know what you mean. My wife’s making lutefisk tonight. I can’t wait.] came the reply from another guard.
Neither pair noticed a short, lean man walk past and plant a couple of packages in the shadows. The man made his way into the room where ‘The Scream’ was being displayed. He flashed a mischievous smile as he admired it.
“Soon you won’t be the only one in the place screaming my friend. Hyuk hyuk!”
The man pulled a small remote out of his pocket with his right hand whilst putting on a gas mask with his other hand. Before the guards saw what he was doing, he flicked the red switch on the remote, detonating all of the one dozen stink bombs he had hidden around the building. Within a minute, a foul smelling cloud filled the musuem and soon panicked cries of “Det stinker. La oss komme oss vekk herfra” [It stinks. Let’s get out of here.] could be heard as guards and patrons alike scrambled for the exits.
During the chaos, no one noticed the mysterious man walk over to the case where ‘The Scream’ was and smash it with a jester’s staff. The man then took the painting down and put it in a protective suitcase before heading out the exit along with the other fleeing patrons.
Makarska, Republic of Croatia
Makarska was quiet, romantic, and hardly the spot for a lone female traveler, but VILE's ringleader knew this was a place yet to conceive her mischievous notoriety. She would have chosen Italy, but following the events of ACME's Venetian Masquerade last winter, considering the country seemed irrational; and after consulting with Flag in frigid Austria, she wanted the Mediterranean in her hair.
Outside a small, seaside bosanska kavana, or Bosnian Café, Carmen sat in a white sundress and straw hat. A light wind kissed her cheeks, and while it was cool for beach weather, she felt rather contented. The kava in front of her, sweetened and heavily creamed, emitted a swirl of dancing steam. Playfully, she placed a calm finger over her cup to watch vapors writhe past the obstruction.
Briefly, she wondered if she would play the part of the smoke, or the digit.
It took Vic “The Slick” Fumigalli a while to spot his boss. First off, she never gave exact locations, and second, she knew how to blend in. In fact, Carmen only wore her red coat and hat when she wanted to be seen, and that’s usually when she wanted to distract ACME. This made it hard for even seasoned VILE agents to pick her out of a scene, but Vic was used to her ‘tells’, the finger over the cup was one of them.
As he walked to Carmen in his usual polyester suit, he couldn’t help looking at her like a stranger. In any other circumstances, a woman like that would ignore his type completely. How he got so lucky working for her, he’d have to ask his psychic network.
“Joke’s in the bag,” Vic reported as he smoothed his shirt and took a seat next to the lady in white, “Oslo,” he added with a play on words, “it’s a scream. Should we move?”
"You should learn to relax," Carmen commented on her companion's nature, "Kava? Newspaper? Mild strings of general conversations before speaking in code?"
The conman shrugged a little, “Not too keen about swiping you know who’s tower, know what I mean?” Lifting the newspaper to look over headlines, he noticed they were in Croatian and put them back down, “Any way, this joker’s funny, non-violent, I think he fits the profile. More, he’s got formulas for stink bombs and this practically instant knock-out gas... I’ve seen it, I want it.”
“I’m not quite sure I share your enthusiasm,” the Thief sipped her kava, “he seems rather sane. Sanity, chemistry, and this odd sense of humor amalgamates to someone ready to snap.” Carmen placed her cup down and twisted it so the handle pointed to the direction of the sun, “In metaphorical terms, a jester guarding a dungeon.”
"You're worried about him snapping?" Vic made a skeptical comment, "I'm worried about him being too funny for his own good. I think we can both agree our forecasts can't all be bullseye."
"Mm," she admitted by tipping her head slightly and returned to watching her coffee, "Did you get my new coat?"
"Everything ready to go," Fumigalli slipped a set of keys next to her hand, "The Scientists are waiting for you at Terminal 3." Of course, he was speaking in code again. There were no scientists at any terminal. The key would open a locker in one of the destinations she specified. He put her newly tailored coat and hat in there, along with a few other things she’d need for her trip.
This ended Vic's part of the recruitment, he needed to rush off to Canada for the big heist soon. Kerr's transportation would be delayed until Carmen got to where she needed to be, then it was up to the jester to perform for the Queen... if she decided to grant him an audience. For all Vic knew, she might not go to Copenhagen.
12 hours later
“You have got to be kidding me!” grumbled Joe as he entered the arrival hall of Copenhagen airport. It baffled Joe how a simple 2 hour flight from Oslo to Copenhagen had managed to turn into a 7 hour debacle. First, his original plane had to turn back midway due to technical complications; The second plane was then beset by engine troubles and delayed on the runway for another hour before they straightened everything out. The kicker was that when they had finally arrived at Copenhagen Airport the plane wasn’t cleared to land due to some radar malfunction. The irony of how long it had taken to travel between 2 countries practically next to each other was not lost on him.
Joe took a deep breath as he braced himself for what came next. He had been fortunate to be able to get his new prize past customs at Oslo (having a friend on the inside helps) but Copenhagen would be a different story. He knew if he went through customs they would find the painting in his carry-on. Luckily for Joe, he knew of an alternative exit, one found in every airport - the fire escape. Joe waited beside said fire escape as he watched his casually tossed smoke bomb do its work. Joe smiled as he recalled the fatal flaw he had discovered about many airport fire escapes, including Copenhagen’s; it didn’t take an actual fire to get the security system to automatically open the emergency doors. All it took was enough smoke to set off the smoke alarm and trigger the doors to open.
Just as Joe finished this line of thought the smoke alarm was triggered, opening the emergency doors and allowing Joe an easy escape. Joe couldn’t help but laugh all the way to his ‘safehouse’, a non-descript apartment building in the middle of Copenhagen, chosen specifically for its close proximity to one of Joe’s favourite locations - Tivoli gardens.
As Joe inserted his key into the door of his apartment, he became acutely aware of a figure sitting in the shadows on his couch. “I don’t know who you are but you’re messing with the wrong guy” he warned. The figure gave no reply but smiled subtly in the shadows. He flicked on the light switch to reveal the true identity of the intruder and to his surprise came face-to-face with none other than the legendary Carmen Sandiego herself.
“Well, well. I do believe I know exactly where in the world is Carmen Sandigeo” he laughed.
The visitor returned his laughter with a momentary smile that somewhat lingered as she studied him. The man had a small frame, an oddness to his accent, and a bounce to his movements as if he was ready to either laugh or sneeze at any second.
"Mr. Kerr, "she spoke, "I see both our reputations precede us, but allow me a proper introduction." She extended a nod of courtesy, "Carmen Sandiego, it’s a pleasure."
Joe returned the greeting with a gentlemanly bow. “Joe Kerr, and the pleasure is all mine, Carmen. It is an honour to finally meet up with the greatest of all time. I must say, the newspapers and television do not do you justice. You are far more stunning in person. But pleasantries aside, what brings one such as yourself to my humble abode?”
The bow was pleasant, she expected no less. VILE members, despite their nature to shun the law, are not without morality. They are often talented, politely amiable, and most of all, they enjoy a challenge.
"I apologize for coming unannounced," she continued, "I may have called prior," as she spoke, she moved fluidly to his bookshelf and glazed leisurely through the titles, "but I heard through tapped vines that you were rather busy." Among a notable mixture of chemistry manuals, cooking recipes and joke references, were a full set of encyclopedias along with novels by crime author Agatha Christie.
From the choice of furniture, the various personal artifacts, and the scent of a well-utilized kitchen, Carmen surmised Kerr to be a man with proper means; who, while of some eccentric warmth, had been living alone for some years. These points, of course, would affect the ringleader’s decisions much less than the man himself.
"You dabble in chemistry?" her question opened the on-site interview.
Joe let out a wry smile and considered his words carefully. He moved over to the stove and set a kettle on before deciding on his answer.
Her eyes followed his movements to the range with placid caution.
“I would assume that you know about my reputation, and as such, my modus operandi. One could say that I have both an unexplainable and unorthodox talent for concocting amped up versions of substances otherwise found in classic gags. It is both a blessing and a curse to some extent that my alchemical abilities do not extend too far beyond these compounds, save for the occasional small batches of TNT I use to power the gag bombs.”
While Vincent had informed her on nearly every detail, the points were better validated from the tones and gestures of the candidate.
“My version of itching powder, knock-out gas, smoke bombs and laughing gas have been tweaked to work more effectively and yet remain, for the most part, harmless to the ahem...unfortunate victim. They are also hypoallergenic so as not to trigger accidental encephalitic shock.”
‘Hypoallergenic’ was a term of interest.
“I assure you that I use these substances with a combination of both exuberant flair and utmost caution, contradictory as those two may seem. Like yourself, I do value human life and while I may enjoy my pranks, I do not enjoy inflicting mortal harm upon anyone.”
“Of course,” an agreeable note played from her lips.
Joe paused to take the now boiling kettle off the stove and take out two old-fashioned tea cups before continuing.
“If you are wondering about my laboratory and chemical apparatus, I make due with a rental storage facility not too far from here. It would be foolhardy of me to attempt to outfit a proper laboratory with actual safety devices in the mere confines of my apartment/safe house, not to mention entirely against the rules set by the old crone who owns the place. Besides, while I may dress as one for flamboyance sake, let me assure you that I am no fool.”
“Before we continue, may I interest you in some tea?”
“I would love tea,” said the thief, “thank you.”
Passively inspecting the jester’s abode revealed scattered outlets of humor. From an electronic ‘in-use’ sign against the restroom door, to a slightly morose ‘rest in peace’ over the bedroom’s entrance and the various boardgames available to its resident, an inquisitive person may be occupied for hours.
Surviving as a thief on the run sometimes means being able to read the subtle gestures of the people in one’s immediate surroundings, enabling oneself to know if one should make a hasty retreat. It was this ‘training’ that allowed Joe to spot the otherwise non-existent gesture of hazel eyes scanning his apartment back and forth.
“I see you’ve spotted my ‘personal touches’ in this place. Admittedly I was a failed comedian before I became a thief so I do have a penchant for humour, however slightly twisted it might be. I also appreciate classic games and gags. These usually show in my choice of “acquisitions”, and also my rap sheet, whichever you may be more familiar with. Oh and speaking of acquisitions,”
Joe picked up the small, black suitcase from beside the couch and presented the latest addition in his ‘collection’ of paintings to Carmen.
Carmen paused to reflect the last time she was in front of an original Van Gogh; it was business then as well. While she studied the masterpiece, it occurred to VILE's leader that Joe may have perceived her interest today solely on the heist surrounding The Scream. As probable as it may be, she was here to make another, more permanent form of offer.
"I like your style, Mr. Kerr," speaking in an appreciative tone, she hinted at his choice of art, "I'm not in the business of old masters this evening," the lady elaborated, "so by 'style', I meant 'talent'."
Claiming a seat on her host's red sofa, she continued with another question, "Have you ever considered joining a team?" In the trade, 'teams' often consisted of a few trustworthy members; VILE used the word on several levels, but Carmen enjoyed referring to her multinational underground network as a humble unit.
Joe considered the possible ramifications of where this conversation was heading. In the past, he had tried to recruit people to work with him but they were either in disagreement with Joe’s ‘moral sensibilities’, or lacking the required competencies to pull off the plans. In the end Joe had always resorted to working by himself. Less hassle, less things that could go wrong, less splitting of profits; mostly positives. The only downside had been that because he only worked by himself, he was limited on the scale of heists he could safely pull off.
The idea of working in a team under the greatest thief in the world tantalized Joe. It was something most thieves could only dream off. For such opportunities were by invitation only, and given the exacting standards of the lady in red, one had a better chance of running into a dodo bird than said invitation.
Joe also thought about the other reason VILE appealed to him. If the rumors were true, then VILE wasn’t just a team, but a close-knit group, a family of thieves of sorts. Having been on his own for years, Joe sorely missed having real company to joke around with, one that wasn’t out to put him in jail or get something from him.
After a moment of consideration, Joe replied, choosing his words carefully;
“As you probably have heard, good help is hard to find these days. It is a challenge to find a competent thief bearing the moral compass you and I seem to share, or the appreciation of the game. As such, I adapted my style and designed most of my heists to be executed by one person only. It has served me well thus far though I have no doubt that it might come back to haunt me one day.”
Joe paused to take a sip of his tea.
Pertaining to courtesy, she mimicked her host by also sipping tea.
“That is why your offer intrigues me. If I could choose any team to work with or in, it would be VILE. For VILE comprises not only of yourself, arguably the greatest of all time, but many other notable thieves whose talents and exploits are well known on the grapevine. It would be an honour for one such as myself to work under and with best and learn from them. I have no doubt that we will have plenty of laughs together.”
Joe let out a chuckle and stared into piercing hazel eyes before continuing.
“My only question is why would one such as yourself be interested in a ‘talent’, as you put it, like myself? I would hardly think that knock-out gas and stink bombs were your style.”
Without a significant shift in expression, Carmen's eyes smiled reactively to the query.
"I prefer mutual relationships, Mr. Kerr," she replied, "and you've answered your own question even before asking." After listening to Joe's words, she was confident he grasped her reasons, "We're like-minded."
As she spoke, a small white envelope appeared between her fingers.
"Inside is an international SIM card," she explained, "When you're ready, inserting this into any phone will trigger your admission process." Handing Joe the envelope, she added, "I apologize, again, for being mysterious, but I'm sure you understand.
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