Cecil the Master Thief
Volume II: Cecil the Master Thief
Doctor Jones was a very small, stout mouse – his whiskers had a habit of twitching when he was nervous, which was most of the time. His fur was a pale brown, and he wore a once fine tweed suit that was now very faded, and covered in patches and mended holes. With ears almost as large as his head, he was the butt of many jokes at his expense among Ratigan's crew. Even so, Jones would patch up anyone's injuries and tend to anyone sick, even though he was a prisoner here. And that had earned Cecil's respect.
As a result, Cecil was the only one in the lair to treat Jones well, aside from Gareth's lack of cruelty, although the lieutenant never bothered protecting the surgeon from the others. The two developed quite a rapport – Cecil was considering sharing some rather important information with Doctor Jones, but wasn't sure if he was ready for it yet. Maybe after the heist on Friday.
Cecil himself was constantly being studied by Ratigan's mice – by Gareth in particular. For some reason, he felt drawn to the young mouse, and it made him review Morgan, his deputy. His recent performance had not been satisfactory lately. Morgan was drinking a lot, and showing some insubordination. And while trading insults and jeers were a common part of being teammates in the criminal world, Max was starting to complain that Morgan was a bit too hard with his punches for them to be friendly, and that he was too sensitive when it came to others returning snarks. Morgan was valuable to have, in that he was a very strong piece of muscle, but he seemed altogether too unhappy that the new recruit was taking his place on this job.
Gareth was starting to speculate on whether Morgan was planning on leaving the group. You'd have to be insane to try that with Ratigan's mice, of course – but then again, Morgan wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. Gareth wondered if he should replace him as deputy.
Not that any of this was Ratigan's concern, of course. He was the boss – he made the big plans, he told them what to do, got them all rich, threatened them on a daily basis - everything a crime boss was supposed to do and did. Any minor power plays, squabbles, bickering, and dissent among the ranks of henchmen were a daily, commonplace matter. As Ratigan's right hand mouse, it was Gareth's job to deal with that.
But Ratigan was aware of all of it, whether Gareth told him or not. He was, after all, a very observant genius.
Friday late afternoon came. The crew were putting their gear together – Cecil had joined them. After all, it was best the newbie learned the routine as quickly as possible.
Gareth thoughtfully paused by Cecil's side as the white mouse pulled tight on his bootstraps. They were very shabby boots – they looked as though they had been pulled out of the garbage and then worn again by a growing adolescent for the past five years, and Gareth rather suspected that this was exactly what had happened.
“Here.” Gareth handed Cecil a handgun. “I noticed you didn't have one. You can keep this one if you live through today – consider it an investment, or a gift, whichever's easier.”
The lad took it appreciatively and stuck it in his belt. “Thanks. I'm better with my sword, though, so I prefer using a blade to bullets.”
“That's a rare talent. But remember to keep a gun on you – could save your life one day. It certainly did mine.”
Cecil looked up at him curiously, green eyes glittering. “Really? I'd like to hear that story.”
“Maybe another time, lad. It's time for the briefing.”
All the mice who worked for Ratigan gathered in the main room of the lair – they all sat or stood, as they were comfortable, facing the stage that Ratigan had cleared for himself.
“AH-hem.” Ratigan rapped on his desk to gain their attention. The room fell quiet. Ratigan pulled out a pointer and pulled off a sheet that was covering an easel. The picture on it was a newspaper, stiffened with plaster. The headline read: Ruby Worth £600,000 to Come to National Museum.
“Today, we are after a very specific piece from the Mousedom of Britain Museum - the infamous Romanian Alucard Ruby. Now, despite what you may think, we are not stealing this ruby to sell it. I have a more ambitious scheme in mind for it.”
One might have expected eruptions of displeasure and protest at this announcement. There were none. You didn't interrupt Ratigan during one of his speeches.
“This I shall elaborate on once we have acquired it.” He pulled the newspaper away, revealing a blueprint of the museum. “My plan is to enter the museum through the human entrances, and make our way to our own museum through the air vents. As the ordinary entrance is through the gutter system, there will be minimal security from this point of entry.
“We will stake out our target for five hours – Gareth, organize shifts – and enter the museum at two o'clock in the morning. There will be more guard patrols, considering the valuables the museum holds, but it will be easier, as we won't have to contend with crowds and numerous witnesses. We'll advance through the museum to the ruby's display using these three routes, splitting up into teams of five.” Ratigan pointed out three routes through the halls outlined in red. “My orders as to dealing with the guards are as such – If they see you, kill them. If they may have seen you, kill them. If they haven't, knock them unconscious. Just make sure no others are alerted, and put the bodies in a place where they won't be found for a while. Leave two of you behind at every bloody patch to clean it up – have them catch up with their group after they have finished. We will all rendezvous at the ruby's display case, then we all take the same route back to the air vents and make our escape as quickly as possible.
“In the event that you are spotted, and the police have been alerted to our presence, you will be split into two groups – Group A, and Group B. Group A will cover the escape of Group B, who will be fleeing back to the hideout with the ruby. Group A will fight off the police, until they have summoned too many reinforcements, and then they will scatter and retreat, meeting back up here. Gareth will sort you into your advance teams – One, Two, and Three – and also into your fighting and fleeing groups. Any questions?”
Max timidly raised a hand.
“Yes?” Ratigan snapped.
“Er, guv'nor, der's a diamond n' pearl necklace at thuh' place – iz worth abou' a million quid. Are we gonna steal dat too, boss?”
“Hmm.... Perhaps another time, Maxwell – the ruby is here in Britain on loan, so we only have a limited time in which to steal it. The Marseilles necklace will be there indefinitely.”
Max seemed dissatisfied with this answer, but he didn't dare voice his opinion.
Everything being settled, they all prepared, and set out to watch their target until the clock struck two.
How could they know that there was going to be a factor that none of them would have seen coming?
It was ten minutes to two. All the mice were tense. Cecil sat on the shingle of a roof, sharpening his sword. Gareth squatted next to him. He'd put Cecil in Team One, with him. He wanted to see how he performed fighting for them firsthand – being able to assess the newcomer was important.
He sheathed his sword, and took a deep tense, breath. Gareth wondered.... “Where are you from?”
Cecil's ears pricked up, and he turned to Gareth. “Why do you ask?”
Gareth shrugged. “Just curious.”
Cecil turned away. The breeze picked up, rustling the white fur on his head – he'd stuffed his cap in his pocket. He stared off into the distance at Big Ben, as if it held the end-all-be-all of everything. “I'm from the north.”
Gareth snorted in amusement. “That's dog shit. You don't have the accent for it, and you speak too fancy.” Cecil's hand went to his sword. “Issall right, lad. We all got our secrets here. You got yours, I got mine – we keep to ourselves.”
Cecil relaxed, and his hand dropped. “All right, then.”
The bell tolled twice. It was time. The human museum was across the street and down by a few buildings. Gareth motioned to the other mice in their team – Tells, a ginger, short nosed little field mouse from Scotland who could, surprisingly, pack quite a punch if antagonized, and with a very short temper. Then there was Potato, a squat mouse so named for his enormous muscles. Finally, there was Leslie, a freakishly tall and skinny dark brown mouse, with a propensity for appearing out of nowhere and looking eerily down at you, as well as a number of....talents....that Gareth would probably have questioned, were they not so useful.
“All right. We'll go down the drainpipes and through the gutters – our entrance is -” Gareth broke off at the sight of Cecil's raised eyebrow. “Yeh?”
“With respect, we'll be likely to be seen if we go by the gutters. And besides, there's a faster way.” Cecil pointed down at the human carriages. Rather active for this time of night, Cecil noted with surprise. No matter – they were humans – they got up to all sorts of things.
“Are yeh crazy, new boy?!” Tells snarled. “We'll get run over! Or worse, splattered on the pavement!”
Cecil chuckled. His laugh was light, almost like a girl's giggle. “It's really very easy.” Without another word, he jumped onto a clothesline, and ran down the thin wire, sliding over to a long nightgown, grabbing onto the collar, and slipping to the end; he started to swing back and forth, slowly gaining momentum. Carefully timing his swings, he finally leapt down into the street below, onto a carriage headed in the direction of the museum. His teammates were left with their mouths hanging open.
“Well,” Leslie spoke quietly. “He is right.”
Slowly, the mice all followed Cecil's lead, cursing and swearing as some of them almost fell off. They jumped to the curb as soon as the museum was reached.
All except Cecil stopped to catch their breath. The white mouse chortled in amusement, stopping short at Gareth's glare.
“Let's get a move on,” the team leader said shortly, and he swiftly led the way to the air vents, leaving the others sprinting to catch up.
Ratigan watched Team One's advance through his binoculars. He doubted the stunt with the carriages was Gareth's idea – he was too cautious for that. The others didn't have nearly enough imagination to come up with this, so it must have been Cecil Burns.
Curious. He must have lived on the streets of London town for quite a while, then, to have this much confidence in moving through it. Then again, the same could be said of his own henchmen, so that didn't say much. No, it spoke of having been chased many times before – hopefully by the police, or some such other authority. If it turned out that Ratigan's new recruit had an enemy that Gareth had not been made aware of, then he would be punished for omitting such information. Severely.
All background thoughts aside, Cecil was very agile. He had leaped and slid with the grace of an acrobat, and his balance was admirable. He made all the others on his team look clumsy as they followed him onto the clothesline and down into the street.
Ratigan ordered his team to advance in their own fashion, and saw that Maxwell was finally doing the same. Very reluctant, that mouse. At least Gareth had managed to whip some backbone into the pickpocket – he was insufferable before he had reluctantly joined their ranks.
Oh well. It was showtime.
The halls of the museum after hours were cavernous and dark. The five mice scampered quietly through the shadows – Gareth had memorized the route they were taking, and they all followed him. The others seemed to be taking turns glaring at Cecil – the mouse's white fur practically glowed in the dark.
Footsteps. The five mice stopped in their tracks, their ears pricked. A pair of guards in uniform rounded the corridor; one of them turned in their direction and frowned.
In an instant, the guard was run through cleanly on Cecil's blade – the other had his throat cut by Leslie. With what weapon, exactly, none of them ever saw. The two enemies died in near-silence.
Gareth nodded to Leslie and Cecil, and whispered, “Good job, boys. You stay behind and clean up the mess. Remember the plan – catch up with us later.” Gareth, Potato and Tells proceeded onward, leaving the two of them behind.
Surreptitiously, the two studied each other as they dragged the bodies to a nearby broom closet. Both were immaculate, with no blood on their paws at all. With Cecil, it was understandable, as he hadn't gotten his paws dirty, but the white mouse hadn't seen the other draw any kind of weapon or even sheathe it afterwards. It made the hairs on the back of Cecil's neck stand on end. Seeing this, a look of amusement crossed Leslie's face before it settled back into its usual blankness.
Before closing the closet door, Cecil pulled the boots off the mouse he'd killed. “What are you doing?” Leslie hissed.
“It's a decent pair of boots. Who am I to waste an opportunity?” Leslie watched as Cecil tied the bootstraps together and slung them over his shoulder. “Now come on – we have to wipe up the the blood and catch up with the others.”
Thankfully, they both had a few rags on them, so they didn't have to go find a mop. They stuffed the rags behind a curtain and ran to catch up.
Unseen by the two henchmice, someone stood just around the corner in one of the corridors as they stuffed the bodies out of sight. As they dashed away to rejoin their comrades, the other, too, slipped away, a mission in mind.
The others were almost at the display case when Cecil and Leslie joined them. Gareth acknowledged them with a silent nod, and the group continued on their way. As they entered the room where the ruby was kept, Ratigan's team came in from the other door, almost simultaneously. The boss' timing was nothing if not perfect.
Ratigan drew a sharp breath at the sight of the ruby. “Beautiful,” he sighed, and all the other mice couldn't help but agree. It was like a drop of sparkling blood, captured in a crystalline form.
Ratigan reached forward and took hold of it, cradling it gently in his paws as he wrapped it up in paper and replaced it with a fake – simple thing of red glass. It wouldn't stand up to inspection – Gareth could tell from three feet away. It was mainly to mock the curator and the Romanian ambassadors.
The boss turned to face the doors, and his eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Where is Team Two?”
All the mice in the room stiffened, for it was true – if they hadn't run into trouble, Max's team would have been here by now.
“Group A, remain here while Group B returns to the hideout. If Team Two doesn't come here in ten minutes, go look for them and get them out of whatever has held them up. The original plan still applies.” Gareth nodded his assent, and those in Group B turned to leave.
They didn't have to wait ten minutes. Mice in uniform burst through the double doors at the front of the room. “Police! Put your hands in the air!” Some mice fought while the majority of Group B made their escape. Blood and smoke was in the air – Cecil and Leslie used their talents to kill a number of officers, occasionally exchanging glances in the chaos. Professor Ratigan was halfway out the door when the surprise arrived.
A figure in a long coat and a distinctive deerstalker hat strode into the room. “Ratigan!” he barked. “You're not getting anywhere near that ruby!”
Ratigan froze in his tracks and turned around. Basil of Baker Street stood there, in the middle of the room. And the pure hatred that rose to his features caused many of the combatants to stand shaking in their shoes.
You see, Mister Basil of Baker Street was a very clever mouse. But he was not an expert in everything, as he liked to pretend. A genius like Ratigan could tell from the way the light hit the counterfeit that it was, indeed, a false ruby, but Basil was no genius. If he had been, Ratigan might have liked him, and considered him a friendly rival. But, as the case may be, he was not a genius, merely clever. And that mouse, who was merely very clever, had stopped Ratigan on numerous occasions. Ratigan could not stoop to being beaten by anything less than pure genius, and the fact that this merely clever mouse was beating him again and again enraged him beyond anything else.
And so that was why Ratigan, the real ruby still his jacket pocket, turned around and joined the brawl, pulling out his gun and launching himself at Basil.
And so the fight continued, fiercer and more deadly than before. And only the eye of a white mouse in the midst of the clamor saw a small package fall from Ratigan's jacket and clatter to the floor. A white hand swooped to the floor, snatching the package up, before the hand's owner returned to the fight.
The battle lasted for hours, and the criminals eventually scattered and fled, leaving many dead policemen behind, and not a single one of them so much as captured. The curator howled with anguish when the fake was discovered, and Basil cursed himself for not seeing it sooner.
All in all, the law had been successfully broken that night, but Ratigan had returned to the hideout in a dark mood, which only worsened when he discovered the ruby missing.
“That piece of dog shit! I'll kill him!” Ratigan howled as he smashed the top of his desk. All his henchmice were cowering in hidden corners, and wondering why Cecil was still out in the open. Was he insane?
Cecil had contemplated taking off with the ruby, but decided against it. It wasn't worth being hunted down and killed. So Cecil spoke up, in a calm voice. “Boss,” he said pointedly.
Ratigan whirled around, rage in every fiber of his body, towering over the much smaller Cecil. Gareth, Tells, and Leslie all cringed, believing they were about to witness their new friend's bloody demise.
The white mouse held out his hand with the package in his palm, apparently perfectly serene in the face of the raging storm. “You dropped it during the fight,” Cecil said in a matter-of-fact tone.
The world seemed to freeze.
And then Ratigan straightened his back, the only clues that anything had happened being the smashed desk and the calculating glance he threw at Cecil. “Ah, I see. Excellent work, Cecil.” He plucked the ruby from the henchmouse's hand, opening the package eagerly to make sure it was the real one. All the others in the room breathed a sigh of relief. “Now, what exactly happened to Maxwell and the others?”
Gareth spoke up. “We got them back, boss. The police had 'em held up at gunpoint. Apparently the Bonnie of Baker Street tipped them off as to what we were doing. He heard 'bout the ruby, and staked 'imself out in the museum.”
Ratigan snarled and cursed again, but quickly relaxed. “Ah, no matter. At least we have the ruby. You've all done good work tonight, boys. And I believe Cecil here has more than earned his place in our ranks.”
The men cried out in a cheer, the pink champagne was broken out, and much celebration was had for another successful heist. Cecil, after a few hours, made his excuses and left the party for Doctor Jones' rooms.
The doctor looked up from his tea as the white mouse entered. “Ah, Cecil. The heist was successful, I take it?”
“Indeed,” Cecil nodded. Then, hesitantly, he added, “Doctor Jones, I have something very important to tell you, not just because I believe we've gotten to be friends, but especially since you're the surgeon here. Can you keep a secret?”
Unbeknownst to Cecil and the good doctor, another pair of ears had lent themselves to the conversation, via an empty glass on the other side of the wall.
Next up! - Volume III: The Secret of Cecil Burns