CARMEN SANDIEGO MOVED SOUNDLESSLY around the deserted terrace, expertly avoiding loose stones and dodging security cameras. In the morning, there would be no evidence that an international thief had been there—Carmen was a pro.
“This place sure is quiet for New York City,” Carmen said into her comm-link earring. The terrace was several steps up from the street, and it had been ten minutes since the last car went by. At the far end of the terrace was a stately museum. Carmen thought it looked like a place where someone self-important would live.
The voice on the other end of Carmen’s earring was cheerful. Even though they had never met in person, Player was Carmen’s best friend. They were partners in fighting VILE (the Villains’ International League of Evil) and spoke every single day. Player was always ready with encouragement and quick facts, and now was no different.
“It’s the middle of the night, Red. What were you expecting, a welcome band?”
“What ever happened to the city that never sleeps?”
“No one uses this terrace at night. It’s all yours, Red—that is, unless our friends show up.”
Carmen smiled sneakily to herself. She had reasons to believe that operatives from VILE would be coming to ransack the museum—but with any luck, Carmen would thwart their plans and keep the museum’s treasures safe. She could just imagine the faces of criminals like Countess Cleo and Professor Maelstrom, or better yet her archrival Tigress, when they realized that Carmen had beaten them to their prize. Carmen had once been a student criminal-in-training at VILE Academy—ever since Carmen escaped from the academy and started fighting evil, she had tried to stay one step ahead of VILE.
“I think I’ve found the spot.” Carmen focused on a ledge just below a second-story window. It was narrow, but it looked sturdy, and there were no bars on the window.
“Go for it.”
Carmen reached into her red trench coat, wound up her arm, and pitched her grappling hook toward the ledge.
As soundlessly as she had walked around the terrace, Carmen now shinnied up the rope. When she reached the top of the ledge, she gathered the grappling hook back into her coat and sneaked a peek over her shoulder. The view from above was impressive: to the west, the Hudson River glimmered, and to the south, the lights on Broadway snaked deep into the city. Carmen turned back to the window. It took her two tries to pick the lock before the window finally opened.
Carmen listened for sounds inside, but the museum was empty. She was completely alone.
Still crouched on the ledge, Carmen used her flashlight to figure out where she was. The window opened onto a grand exhibit hall, filled with richly woven tapestries, silver candlesticks, and elegant vases. It wasn’t a far jump, and Carmen landed on her feet.
The exhibit hall was packed with stuff VILE would love—she could just imagine Professor Maelstrom melting down those silver candlesticks for cufflinks, like he once wanted to do with an Ecuadorian doubloon. But Carmen knew that VILE was after a bigger prize than the knickknacks in this third-floor gallery. She spotted the stairs and quickly made her way to the ground floor. Luckily, Player had found floorplans, which Carmen had studied carefully.
On the ground floor, Carmen moved toward the front doors. They were heavy, studded with metal, and secured from the inside with multiple locks. Carmen would deal with those later. Right now, she had one mission.
“Once you get to the doors, it’s to your right,” Player instructed.
Carmen turned and faced a long, narrow hallway. She shone her flashlight, which illuminated only shadows and a worn stone floor. Past the reach of the light, the hallway continued like a pitch-black tunnel. Carmen squared her shoulders and strode down the hallway, holding the flashlight out in front of her.
A sparkle caught the light. As Carmen neared the end of the hallway, she could just make out a silver shape, about the size of her palm. She drew closer, until she could clearly see that it was a silver carving in the shape of an arrow.
“Do you see it yet?” Player asked into her ear.
Carmen raised her flashlight. She whistled. “I see it.”
The silver arrow was nestled into the base of a mahogany throne. The base was intricately carved with scrolls and curlicues, and the legs of the throne were shaped like enormous claws. The arms were fashioned like the heads of two roaring lions. On the seat was a velvet cushion, now threadbare.
“The museum’s most prized possession,” Player announced. “It was commissioned by King Felipe IV of Spain in 1621.”
“The man clearly had money,” Carmen remarked. “But I don’t know about taste.” The throne was foreboding.
“I think the idea was to intimidate people,” Player said. “But that’s not why that throne is valuable, it’s actually that silver arrow.”
Carmen examined the arrow, carefully inlaid on the base of the throne. On either side of it were hollowed out spaces, like molds that were never filled.
“You see the space for the castle and the lion on either side of the arrow?” Player asked. “King Felipe IV also commissioned silver inlays for those spots. They were definitely made, because there are documents confirming it, but somehow the castle and the lion never got to the throne.”
Carmen leaned in closer. “The detail on this arrow is amazing. It’s almost as if the feather at the end were real. I wish I could see it in proper lighting.” She straightened up. “But I need to figure out what VILE is planning.”
“Do you, Black Sheep?”
Carmen whirled around, dropping her flashlight in surprise. No one had called her Black Sheep since her days at VILE Academy. Someone flipped a switch, and the hallway was flooded with overhead fluorescents. Carmen covered her face to shade her unadjusted eyes.
“I see our little friend is here,” said a singsong voice. “So predictable.”
Carmen lowered her hands, still blinking. She gritted her teeth at the person now advancing on her. “I was a year ahead of you, Paperstar, don’t call me little.”
Paperstar smiled s...