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I sigh, putting the load of books under my arm. I shiver, even though it's a mild Venice evening. It's been a long time since anything interesting has happened to me. After a while, I decided to change my ways - maybe because of Aria's influence. But it didn't mean that this cat could ever really change its stripes. Or whatever the expression was. 

But I couldn't be the Cat ever again. That time of my life was over. I can separate it into three distinct periods now.

First, there is the Cat. Me, myself, my boss, and I. Each of us keeping to ourselves and waiting, watching for our first opportunity. I was only looking out for myself, taking whatever I wanted - until I arrived in Rosewood.

Then, there was Rosewood Jen. Unlike the other two, she sometimes used her powers for good, working with the FBI. She met an FBI agent who swept her off her feet, and they fell in love. When Rosewood Jen realized that, she ran away. Far, far away. Because Jen was never supposed to love.

Now, there is this new Jen that I've become. Venetian Jen. Some may just know me as that girl from our college classes, but there's something else I'm hiding. I have become a new incarnation of my old self, of the Cat.

Her name is Il Fantasma. Perhaps not the most gender-accurate Italian - I've never bothered to look, actually, because I just stole if from Phantom of the Opera - but striking all the same.

The Phantom.

The Phantom leaves no traces behind - except her calling card. A small, plain, inconspicuous business card with gold embellishments. Pure gold. Very rare. The police have tried to track the whereabouts of the cards' maker, but he cannot be found. They won't find him. I cover my tracks well.

Lifting a headphone to my ear, I pretend to be immersed in my music. I nod my head up and down like any other college student on the street, acting mildly unaware of my surroundings while still being cognizant enough of any rogue bicycles or missteps.

Really, I am looking up at the Palazzo Vizzini's exterior. In my quick glance, I take in the following: two security guards, each stationed behind bulletproof glass windows to the right and left of the doors; headsets in each of their ears - a sign of more guards; three cameras pointing towards the front door, and two to each window - except one on the top floor, which is surrounded by five subtly placed all around; one guard dog; and three screaming children whose energy can't be tamed.

No, the Palazzo Vizzini is not an easy target. Especially since the Phantom has gotten so much news coverage lately. The Vizzinis are probably sure that they cannot become a target like their other wealthy friends. They think that everything's secure, and that they're safe, and that that Faberge egg they have is fine.

Well, I'm here to prove that it's not.

I finally seat myself in a café across the street from the palazzo. It's modest, I guess, in a palazzo kind of way - which is to say not very much. The kind of place I might like to live, if I ever start getting to fence what I steal. So far, no buyers. They're all too curious about what the Phantom's plans are going to turn out like to risk buying yet. I understand. Wait a few months before getting involved. By then, I'll have stockpiled millions of dollars worth of everything.

That ought to do it.

I feel a familiar rush as I pick up my cup of coffee, take a sip, and watch the house's day progress. I've been watching it for a little while, observing its every move. See who leaves when, who goes where. I've got it all monitored, all under control. They're all playing my game, and I'm about to win. Tomorrow night.

Tomorrow's the night.

I brace myself to pull away from the world of my dreams. Tomorrow night, ensconced in shadow, eyes flashing on the rooftops. No one sees me, no one hears me. I leave without a trace, except the calling card.

That's the best part for me, I think. The fame, the anonymity all at once. People are obsessed with my every movement, trying to track me and failing miserably. I am at once an idol and the most wanted person.

Crime in the most beautiful city in the world.

It could get worse.


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