The Sweetest Heist in History CHAPTER ONE THE HEIST
Randi Rhodes pressed a button on her walkie-talkie and whispered into the receiver, “Target is approaching from due south, heading in the direction of the Deer Creek Bank. Ninja Two, can you make a visual ID?”
“Negative, Ninja One,” came D.C. Cruz’s hushed reply. “Target is wearing a hat and sunglasses. And how ’bout that—sparkly purple sneakers. Looks like a female to me.”
Randi ran through a list of suspects in her head. None of them would be caught dead in purple sneakers. The shoes had to be part of the thief’s disguise.
“This is Ninja Three. Target just entered the alley next to the bank,” Pudge Taylor reported.
“Let’s give her a minute and then move in at exactly”—Randi checked the watch on her wrist. She never allowed cell phones on stakeouts. They had a way of ringing or lighting up at the very worst moments. So the three ninjas wore watches, and their timepieces were perfectly synchronized—“six fifty-two,” she ordered.
“Roger that,” her colleagues replied in unison.
Randi took the opportunity to check Founders’ Square for other signs of activity. It was a flat, grassy park in the center of sleepy Deer Creek, Tennessee. In the fall and winter, when the tourists who came to Deer Creek for the fishing were gone, the stores surrounding the square closed up early. That night in Founders’ Square, only the bakery was still serving customers. There was no one in the park who might interfere with the ninjas’ operation.
Randi sat back on her haunches and grinned. Dressed in black from head to toe, she was all but invisible in the dark. Anyone strolling through Founders’ Square would never have spotted her crouched behind the monument in the center of the park. Her pulse was racing, and despite the chill in the air, her palms were sweating. Randi hadn’t felt so alive since the previous summer, when the ninja detectives had solved their first case together.
That’s right, she thought. Let’s show them that the last case wasn’t a fluke. The world’s greatest crime-fighting team lives right here in the middle of nowhere. And we’re not going to let this town forget it.
~ ~ ~ ~
It had been five months since Randi and her father had sold their house in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Deer Creek, Tennessee. Her first summer in the mountains had been unexpectedly thrilling. Randi had made two new best friends, formed the crime-fighting Ninja Detectives Club, and solved the Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit. But the excitement had come to an abrupt end with the start of school. Since August, she and her fellow ninja detectives, D.C. Cruz and Pudge Taylor, had been forced to take a series of second-rate cases. In September, they’d wrangled a rogue opossum that was terrorizing the sheriff’s pet chickens. Then they’d collared a third-grade graffiti artist who enjoyed drawing unflattering portraits of fifth graders on the bathroom stalls at school. At the end of October, Randi and her team had investigated a series of jack-o’-lantern squashings. That case had seemed quite promising at first. Randi had hoped that the vandalism might be the work of teenage thugs or Halloween haters. But the culprit had turned out to be an ordinary bear that had wandered out of the woods one night with a hankering for half-rotten pumpkin.