Snow, as a general rule, is not known as a lifesaver. Huge snow storms usually get a bad rap, as in, “Church van crashes on snow packed road- 10 killed”. However, in this instance, the large low pressure system that coalesced over the Carolinas and slowly churned northeast on October 27th, 2012 had a silver lining. Davidson didn’t know it, but that killer snow storm, “Snowmaggeden” as it came to be called by the media, saved his life.
The morning of the 28th dawned bleak, cold and overcast in the New York city area. The 5:00 am news was full of ominous warnings and the whole station was in full on Storm Watch coverage. In a sparse office on Jones street in Brooklyn, three people were engaged in fielding phone calls, eyeing the news and worrying. The scrawl on the TV screen showed static and school closures which added to their consternation.
“As long as the flight goes out we are still a go,” The tall man said with a frown. He’d said much the same, three other times this morning, to various people.
United Airlines flight UA 276 was due in from Antwerp Belgium at 15:45 today at JFK. The plane was already at Luckthaven airport waiting for its 11:15 am local take off. 387 passengers, 13 crew and thousands of pounds of luggage and cargo sat while those in charge anxiously watching the radar, praying for that takeoff.
The air ops boss at Kennedy was also looking at the radar screen. The man who held that title, John Massimino, was under enormous pressure. 53, balding, with a large gut and clogged arteries, he didn’t need this storm. Shoe horned into the cramped cubby hole that was his office, he took calls, trying to deal with the crisis. The FAA, the other two airports, the Mayor, a Congressman, the airlines, everyone wanted to know what he would do. Could he shut down the airport before a flake of snow even fell?
He weighed two options: One, let the planes come in until the snow got ahead of the plows, leaving thousands of planes out of position and people hunkered down on cots in the terminals, or stop everything in its place and let the people clear out of the airport to allow for quicker recovery when the storm passed. It was a billion dollar decision. One last check of the radar and he made the call. JFK would shut down at noon. That would give a chance for the airlines to divert flights and not have equipment stuck in place. The howls of protest could be heard all over the world. The other two major New York area airports soon followed suit and announced shutdowns. Chicken shits! Massimino thought, where were they when the heat was on?
The press conference later announcing the closures was huge. CNN, Fox, and the majors were all covering the event occurring in their own back yard.
“With an abundance of caution….”, John announced the preemptive closure of the airport. In no way would that phrase cover his large ass if the storm swept past and only spit a few flakes on the city. He was willing to bet that only he and school kids were praying that the storm walloped them.
At 12:10 Davidson rose from the couch in the office as the burner cell phone rang. Feydor calling for the fourth time that day.
“It depends on the type of closure.” International flights get special treatment.” “United hasn’t canexed the flight yet.” He told the man and rubbed his eyes.
Feydor asked Davidson more questions about the operation.
“I don’t know”. Davidson said sharply. “The plan still works as long as the package moves. The company won’t load it until twenty minutes before the flight.” “Graeme is there now, watching.”
One final query came from the man and Davidson reached a limit. He exploded, “Feydor, You’ll know as soon as I know!” He clicked off the phone without waiting for a response.
“Fuck’s his problem?” Ira, the other male in the office, asked.
Smiling wanly, Davidson shrugged. “He acts like he needs the money.”
Ira grunted at the small joke. No, Feydor did not need the money. Not at all.
So why the pressure to get this job done? Davidson could not figure that. And he didn’t like not knowing things. Unknowns tended to upset him and he was tense and upset right now.
The third person in the top floor office, Gretchen Gonsolvo clicked off from her own phone.
“That was Graeme. No word. The package is still at the customs holding cage,” she told the air and the two men simultaneously.
Davidson folded back onto the couch. This could still work, he thought. The basic plan was flexible enough. Thieves needed to be flexible. You never knew about things. Shit happens as they said. But not to Davidson, not to his crew. They planned for shit, anticipated it and worked around it. That’s what they got paid to do and why they were the best.
The three thieves watched Jim Cantori, the weather channel stud on the TV. He was broad casting a report from DC. The capitol was on the leading edge of the storm and would take the initial hit. Cantori was on the National mall as heavy snow in small serious flakes fell from the sky and whipped around in the wind. “Heavy snow, Blowing snow, drifts in the six feet range!”
Reagan International went the opposite direction from Kennedy. They tried to stay open. By midnight they would be dealing with 20 inches of snow and people stacked up like cord wood in the terminal. That was a bad scene.
United finally figured out things were bad about 1 pm. Flight 276 was one of 2,633 flights cancelled over the next two days at the northeast’s major airports. Plans were disrupted all over the place. Hundreds of disgruntled passengers in Antwerp scrambled to make alternate arrangements. The company quickly shifted the package to Air Canada flight 3734 to Montreal leaving at 5:30 am the next morning. Graeme was given word his much smaller package would go on the same flight.
“Probably go round from Montreal to New York after that,” the DeBeers logistics agent told the thief.
Tired, grey eyes looked at his informant and told him, “Your envelope is at the house, thanks friend.” Not his fault the weather was bad.
He called Michael Davidson and broke the bad news. The leader of the gang was sanguine about the situation.
“Wrap up everything there please,” he asked his friend. “A cold trail, Graeme.”
The gregarious Irishman did not need to be told this, as he was a professional but the emotional let down as the gang ramped up to pull a big job was playing hell on Davidson’s nerves.
A clipped, “Got it” came from the man as Graeme hung up the phone.
Fuck him, he didn’t have to deal with Feydor and Roybokov, Michael thought.
“That’s it,” he told Ira and Gretchen in the office. “Scrubbed.” “Ira, call Ricky and tell him to ditch the van per plan. He lays low, and I mean flat, until Tuesday.”
The short, thin, fastidious Brooklyn born Ira Levinson simply mumbled “okay” and went about his business.
Gretchen caught Davidson’s eye. “You don’t have to be a dick,” the look said. Davidson grimaced in return. He did not have to be hard on his people, but he was dealing with some shit here.
“Just scour the office and break down everything,” he told the woman.
The gang did not normally have to worry about job tools and evidence in their office. But this job was different; it was going to be on home turf. JFK was less than 30 minutes from his house on Greene Park. A rare luxury, steal 100 million in diamonds that day, and sleep in your own bed that night. Maybe it was the proximity to his own place or the weather but something had his nerves on edge. Antsy was the only way to describe it. He tamped down the feeling. His gang was professional and seasoned. They did not make mistakes. The core four had been together since 2001. He and Graeme longer than that even. Michael recalled the Forteazza job and how they met Gretchen and Ira. Good times. Even Ricky had been with them over four years now.
Davidson moved towards the pair who were smashing USB drives and phones and bagging up the debris. He slid past the triangle of desks and the sitting area in the open room and went into his private office with the last burner phone.
The office occupied the top floor of the seven story Slattery building on Jones street in Brooklyn. The 1920’s era building was unsuited for any type of modern corporate work. The parking sucked, the neighborhood was a slum and the view was exceptional. Exceptional in that yes, you could see across the East river towards Manhattan, but the real view was of the massive electrical works situated across the street. The enormous substation brought all the power into this side of the borough. It also smelled like PCB’s and hummed incessantly. The result was that cell reception sucked and internet service was spotty at best. What really sold the place to Davison was that the enormous transmitted voltage made listening devices worthless. Old fashioned tape recorders got demagnetized and did not work. Forget about electronic bugs. Even credit cards tended to get screwed up. The mag strips always got fried. That was fine, the gang paid cash for everything anyway.
Ignoring the hum, Davidson closed the door and sat behind his desk. As the leader he rated some privacy and so got the office while the rest shared the outer area. He punched the buttons for the number from memory.
“Yes.” The heavily accented voice said.
“It’s me. That package we wanted won’t be arriving today. Or even tomorrow.” His voice was steady.
“Ty che, blyad!” Basically, “what the fuck?” in Russian. Feydor Slutskaya barked out the question displaying his own nerves.
Michael knew enough of the language to translate that and he kept calm. “Can’t be helped.”
“What happened?” the fence asked in a slightly less loud voice.
Davidson snorted. “What do you mean? Look outside the window!” Snow flakes were just beginning to fall in the late afternoon sky. “Snowmaggeden happened, that’s what happened. The shipment is going to Montreal and then via armored van to New York.” He relayed the full extent of the bad news.
Feydor interrupted him. “Fucking move the operation to Montreal then, or just hit the van on the way!”
Two calming breaths didn’t help- Michael still exploded, “The fuck you say!” We can’t just shift to Montreal. I can’t plan it or get the resources there in 22 hours.” Davidson took another breath and went on in a bit softer tone. “And forget about the van. I don’t know which company or the route or the specs on the vehicle.” “This is not the wild west or the 1920’s, you know that!” The man just got on his last nerve.
Feydor Slutskaya breathed heavily on the other end of the phone. As the main fence for the Bratva, he did know that.
Davidson flashed on something while he waited for the man to speak. Only one person in the world would dare tease Feydor about his last name. One man could call him slut and get away with it.
“He’s going to be pissed,” Feydor said referencing that same man.
“I get that man, but I don’t control the fucking weather!”
“Call him, The fence directed. “You tell him.”
Davidson cursed and hung up the phone. He rose and paced around the small office. Shit!
Feydor creeped him out but Demetry Roybokov scared him. Davidson remembered overhearing one end of a phone conversation one time. He was outside an auto parts store when a hispanic man shouted into his phone: N!**#$, that woman is a whole other level of crazy!
Racial slur aside, Michael agreed whole heartedly with the sentiment. Demetry was a whole other level of crazy. And a whole other level of scary. And vengeful. Not a good combination to have angry at you. He steeled himself and worked the phone.
The old man picked up the phone himself after the third ring with a deeply accented, “Da.”
“Mr. Roybokov, its Michael,” he said trying to be cool and professional.
Roybokov said nothing not showing his hand or his temperament.
’Sir, I’m calling with bad news. I scrubbed the job.”
“You scrubbed the job, Michael?” the head of the Brotherhood asked quietly.
“Yes, Sir I did… I….”
“And why did you do that?”, he interrupted.
Davidson hated the quiet version of the man. That meant he was mad. Very mad. But why?
“I did it because snow canceled the flight and De Beers made other arrangements for the package.” Davidson detested giving out this much information over the phone about his activities. No getting around this in court he thought. Too much was in the open.
“You did not plan for this? I thought you figured all the contingencies,” the old man asked.
He winced and controlled his anger. No shouting now, not with this man. “No, Sir, not an event of this magnitude. Acts of God are beyond my control.” He was breathing heavily.
“Acts of God or loss of nerves, son?”
“Mr. Roybokov, you know I still have the nerves…”
“You have been quiet since 2009, Michael. Too quiet,” Roybokov said interrupting again.
“Sir, Davidson pointed out, nine figure jobs are hard to come by. With Toronto earlier this year and now the snow, we…”
“Unlucky!” The word had a definite edge to it.
“I wouldn’t say that, sir. I think our partnership has been very lucky. Lucky to the tune of 1.5 billion for you,” Michael countered.
“You have walked away with 400 hundred million for yourself, my friend,” Roybokov pointed out to him.
“I have to split that and I have expenses.” He sounded a bit whiney to his own ears with that line.
“We all have expenses and we all have bosses, Michael,” Demetry told him half explaining his anger.
’I’m sorry sir, I don’t know the kind of sharks you swim with, Davidson said honestly.
The gangster actually laughed. “Pray you never get in water with them, son!”
“Maybe if Kat quit buying half of LA your money woes would be okay,” he tried to be funny.
“Kat is acting on my orders and succeeding, where as you are not,” got shot back.
So much for funny, Davidson thought quickly. Ekaterina Roybokov was a socialite. Daddy swam in filth so she could walk red carpets. Davidson remembered an incident from seven years ago. The tall blonde beauty was just sixteen when he had come home to find her in his bed. The thief didn’t hesitate. He wrapped her up and took her home untouched. She was responsible for two floaters in the east river that he knew about and Davidson was not going for a swim if he could help it.
“Sir, give me another two or three months. It will be dead over Christmas but something will pop up”, he promised. “If not, we will knock over a Zales.”
“Zad Chec!” (Damn you!) Roybokov swore and laughed.
“Am I still your Thief in Law?” Michael asked sincerely.
“Yes, Yes of course, The Russian assured him. “You might not be part of Bratva (Brotherhood) but you are my Thief in Law.” The old man used the expression for the most successful thief in the Russian mob organization.
Davidson thanked his boss.
“It is a shame. I was so looking forward to watching world’s greatest thief work.” Roybokov clicked off the phone.
Davidson sat wearily. That was harder than stealing he thought. The old man was running out of patience for sure. Problem was, Michael wasn’t lying when he’d told him jobs were hard to come by. The big jobs were few and far between and even this job was a repeat of the KLM job they’d pulled off a few years back. Taking diamonds from a commercial flight was tricky. He was hoping time and distance from the other job in Antwerp had dulled the airlines and the shipping companies into complacency.
Okay! He still had work to do. Rising he went back into the main office space and handed Ira his phone, ID’s and badges. Levinson smashed and worked over his items. The wreckage went into the rapidly filling garbage bags.
“Ricky texted- He is good. We will see him Tuesday,” Gretchen reported. Davidson nodded to that report. ’Graeme is due in from the continent on Sunday- the small Brazilian woman went on.
“I’ll pick him up, the man said absolving the couple of the responsibility. The woman gave him the flight information and the boss committed it to memory per normal.
“Let’s hope the storm swings thru quickly”, Ira noted as they wrapped up operations.
Lastly, the three put the extra cash they had on hand back into the safe. The big office standup held about 100,000 and several clean guns among other things. The majority of their ID’s were in another unit but the office still had an emergency supply. The gang could travel quickly and securely from this place in need.
Trash bags went into the dumpster beside the door opening, and the three faced each other in the garage portion of the building at ground level.
“You two hole up, he directed the couple. I’m not going anywhere- back here Tuesday.”
The pair were at odds now that the job had fallen through so they agreed. Three separate cars left the Jones street office into the growing storm.
All over the city around 3:45 PM, people dropped what they were doing and headed for safe harbor. Included in that exodus were two teams of gunmen in unmarked white vans just off Dixon road near JFK. The target was not coming, they’d just gotten word. The heavily tattooed men packed up and went home. Snow as a lifesaver rarely gets its due.
Michael Davidson joined the fleeing New Yorkers as he navigated the streets back to his house. The Fort Greene Park area of Brooklyn was just “adjacent” enough to qualify as gentrified. Turning left onto Washington Park avenue, he drove the Audi A8 slowly down the block. Many large turn of the century Edwardians stood sentinel along the east side of the street. The west side was given over to the park itself- leafless trees looming in the rapidly blowing snow and gloom. He touched the button on the visor as he got to 187 and the garage door cranked up.
Davison loved the subterfuge of this house, as it appealed to his hidden larcenous nature. The garage door was neatly cut into the foundation wall and painted gray and mottled, it blended into the rock until most people forgot it was there. The headlights from the car illuminated the cavernous rough walled space. The floor was shiny Terrazzo epoxy and spacious enough for his car and the truck he kept in there as well. The right side wall was given over to the utilities for the building and the backup generator he’d bought for emergencies. The left side wall held his rack of security cameras and a monitor along with the short flight of stairs that led to the interior main hallway. Crap was piled everywhere else, like everyone’s garage. Clicking on the huge overhead fluorescent lights, Michael stopped to review the security cameras as he always did. Force of habit. He quickly scrolled thru the exterior scenes (two) and the three interior shots. There even was a remote shot of his office, now dark and secure. No problems awaited him but two items of interest did. He committed them to memory as usual. Home. The place always said home to him and it was secure.
He’d purchased the 110 year old building in 2003. Flush with cash from a recent job, he needed someplace to launder his money. The house provided him with an opportunity to do just that. The subdivided unit was a true 45 as they said in real estate parlance. The realtor walked him thru the width of the house which was 45 feet wide. “Some of those row houses are only 12 feet wide, she told him, flirting just ever the right amount. “This unit is almost four times as wide, so you don’t get those long narrow rooms.”
Yeah. I don’t want long narrow rooms, he thought watching her move. 6,000 sq. feet over all, the blue and grey painted house held a large upper home with a smaller downstairs renters unit.
“The lady will have to move”, was the agent’s sad pronouncement to Michaels question about the situation.
Well, shit! Now he felt bad. He toured the top floor with its three large bedrooms, hidden office and workout room. Eventually, they made it to the roof deck and back stairs that led down to the renter’s unit. “You’ll want to block these off”, the pretty brunette said looking back and up at him from the lower stair. His imagination went wild thinking about that look. 1.9 million consummated the deal and the agent in short order. He had some extensive work and upgrading to do, which took some time, but the place was home.
Davidson opened the door to the interior hallway and waited for the inevitable. Down the hall a few feet, the tenant’s door flew open to his movements and a querulous voice said, “Is that you, Mikey?”
She must have been waiting by the door for him to come in. “Yes, Mrs. Spack it’s me.” He walked down the hall to see her. “How are you?”
“Oh, I’m glad you are home Mikey. It’s gonna be a bad one! A bad one!”
The old woman opened the door so Mike could come in, which he did. He could never get a way with just a quick hello with her. “Did the snow change your travel plans, Mike?”, Mary Spack asked in her heavily jewish New York voice.
“Sure did Mary. I’m trapped here for the next few days,” he told he truthfully. “You are all set right? We got your supplies two days ago.”
Even at 83 the woman was still sharp mentally and she could look after herself mostly it was just…
“We did, we did,” she admitted and looked back towards the kitchen in her unit. Her spotless, nicely decorated living room sat at the front of the house where the snow could be seen out the window. “Gonna be a bad one”, she said under her breath. She looked back at Mike. “I got dinner cooking. “So, since the snow changed your plans, Michael, you’ll eat with me.”
Davidson always loved the way she phrased those kinds of things: “So, you’ll come, you’ll eat.” Like it was already affait a comply. It would just be rude to refuse her simple request. You got to eat anyway, right?
“What are we havin”? Mike asked.
“Brisket and Latkas, she told him.
“What time we eatin’?
“6 PM sharp”, she replied with a smile now that her mission to get a dinner partner was accomplished.
Michael eased himself out on the pretext he had to get dressed and he went back up the hall to the main stair well. The main outside front door was to his left as he rounded the landing and went up the long flight of creaky wooden stair treads. It was actually three stories plus worth of stairs. Mary got eleven foot ceilings in her place while he had the full 14 foot high treatment. The other eight feet? That was a secret. His front door was a solid period mahogany job. The deadbolt and lock were state of the old fashioned art. The door opened onto a small vestibule which brightened considerably when he turned on the Tiffany chandelier. The travertine marble gleamed dully as he retrieved the pile of junk mail from the basket set atop the small antique table aligned under the wall mail slot.
He paced off the three steps to the real front door to his place. Solid wood, metal clad, the door had an electronic lock which was finger print activated. His right thumb on the pad clicked back the bolt.
Mike went in and dropped his leather messenger bag on his dining room table. The living room was the right side of the space and ran half the width of the house which made the room about 20 by 25 feet. Oak hardwood floors shone under Persian rugs while the walls were a rich cream color. A butter leather, Italian made, tan colored couch and kings chair sat opposite the entertainment center. The flat screen TV sat on top and a full rack of very buttony stereo gear, with cable and TiVO boxes gleaming black electronic sophistication, lay riding underneath. The maple dining room table was on his left which sat ten, and sat near a nice spread of windows providing a view out to the back of the house.
Opposite to the right side was the kitchen opening, a half wall with a marble counter top serving as a breakfast nook with four chairs. The door way arch to the kitchen proper was wide and welcoming as he went in to grab a bottle of water. Gleaming polished cherry wood cabinets and stainless steel appliances dominated the cooks kitchen. Unlike a lot of bachelors, Michael could cook and liked to do so. He kept rolling thru the kitchen past the butlers pantry and out the hallway entrance. A left turn and he went down the darkened hallway. Bathroom on his left, followed by the laundry room ticked by as he continued on. The spare bedroom had its door closed on the right. The end door off the hallway was his goal.
Mike opened the door to his master bedroom suite. As part of the remodel, he’d knocked down a wall here to combine two bedrooms into one really large space. His huge bed was opposite the door off to the left between a series of windows. A desk also sat on that wall, gleaming oak. A four piece bathroom with a sauna attached was along the right side of the space. The closet was on the left. The windows in his room looked across the side yard to the darkened neighbor house. That was item of interest number one on the security tape.
A sold plaque hung on the for sale sign in front of that house. Stan and Debbie, his neighbors, had sold out due to the rising cost of living in Brooklyn. Davidson tried to buy the place so he could attach the two houses and make a super house like the gay lawyers down the street had done- but no such luck. A full price plus bid at 2.975 million snapped up the place right out from under him. Dammit. Swigging the water, he went into the bathroom and peed for what seemed like an eternity. A quick piss shiver and he was done.
The light from the bedroom gave his face an eerie, shadowy look as he washed his hands at the bathroom sink. He was tall at six feet 2 and a half inches. He kept himself in great shape by running and doing exercises several times a week. At 43, the man was fighting the battle over weight every day. 173 pounds today. Light brown hair topped his head which he kept parted, short and off his ears. No gray yet, thank god. Well, maybe a few stray strands intruded at his temples. But that just made him look distinguished right? A square jaw and brown eyes which he could squint up in a good death stare, made him attractive enough. Women came around but weren’t a fixture in his life. His profession was his undoing with the ladies. He tried to tell the truth as often as possible but of course he had to lie over that little item. He’d invented a fine cover story and told it with conviction but somehow, over time, the few women he got involved with sensed something off.
Sighing softly, he went into the walk in closet to hang up his leather coat that he’d thrown on the bed when he came in. The closet was the envy of every woman he had ever shown it to. Racks for his suits and cubbies for his shoes and drawers for his drawers. The real gem in the closet was the hidden stair case that led down to the blind middle level to the house. That was the secret about his staircase. Again this appealed to his nature. His real office was in here with his home gym and another bathroom.
Exiting he moved back into the bedroom and sat behind the huge oak desk. The last four days mail piled up on the right hand side. Mostly junk from his home delivery, as Davidson got his real mail from a post office box. That pile was large as well. Bills, statements, letters from the lawyers and CPA’s, and a direct deposit slip from Anderson Consulting LLC to his account. The final piece was from Excelsior Holdings. A form letter informing the residents at 187 Washington Park lane that the five year repainting for the house was scheduled during the spring. A smile quirked his lips because he knew that juicy bit would be a part of the dinner conversation with Mary. He knew all about the painting however. After all, he WAS Excelsior Holdings. And Anderson Consulting.
Both the holding company and the shell LLC were part of the ways he laundered his money. It was how he’d bought the house. His name did not appear on any document associated with anything. Well his real name didn’t appear anyway. That was how rich people all over did it, shell companies to buy real estate to keep their anonymity.
He opened the direct deposit slip. How much was he paying himself now a days? 47,000 a month? Grossly overpaid. He would just have to muddle thru.
9/11 and its after math had made his life a hell. The drudgery part of stealing is trying to figure out what to do with the loot. You can’t eat diamonds, and Con Edison will not take a gold bar as payment for electricity. Michael excelled at the details of shifting money around so it showed up in his account as actual, spendable, untraceable money, but 9/11 threw a serious monkey wrench in his schemes.
He worked down the pile and dealt with the details of running a criminal enterprise. Accounts committed to memory and details handled with the mail, he shredded everything in the machine next to the desk. The desk clock said 5:28, red colon blinking away unconcerned with his crime. Time to get ready for dinner. Trudging back across the room he showered quickly and changed into his best casual jeans and a chambray work shirt. Leather moccasins accented his feet. He cringed at the fact that this comfortable, casual, cool look cost him over 1700 dollars at the stores in New York. That was true thievery!
Skipping thru the kitchen on his way to the back stairs, Michael grabbed a bottle of Australian Shiraz to go with dinner. The peppery taste of the wine would go nicely with the meat and potatoes. The small door off the kitchen led down to its twin in Mary’s unit. These stairs saw much more use than Michael would have thought in the beginning. It quickly became apparent after he moved in that A) Mary would outlive him, and B) bother him. A quick knock and he opened the door to the smell of fried onions and the oil for the latkes.
“Hi, Mary,” he said handing her the wine.
“Oh, good, thank you.” The old woman had no clue the bottle cost 195 dollars.
“Can I help?”
“Be a good boy and light a fire for me, please?”
Mike moved into the parlor to comply. He rued the day he decided to fix the fire places back to their original glory. Amazing what a million dollar renovation budget bought you. He figured with the extra work and the permits and such, each fire cost around 5,000. But…
The crackle and pop provided the perfect back ground noise to combat the wind and the snow piling up outside. Since caveman times the human psyche needed fire to combat the cold and they needed the extra protection tonight.
Dinner came out and onto the dining room table. Mary and Mike were alike in that both were closeted perfectionists. A red lace cloth lined the table. Water and wine glasses, competed with the silver tableware for sparkle power. Candles and warm challah were in place with everything situated just so. Mary sat the last of the food out: Egyptian carrot’s and a salad went down next to the platter of brisket and the potato pancakes.
“Open the wine please, Michael.” Mary directed as she blessed the candles. The Havdallah and the Ha’ Motzi followed quickly.
The pair sat now that the sabbath had officially begun. Even though this was a Thursday, that didn’t seem to matter to Mary. Raised a lapsed Catholic, Mike liked the flexibility in the Jewish religion. Bacon? Sure! Pork? Never! Sabbath on a Thursday? Meh!
You had to love a religion that did not even require the belief in God as a pre requisite to joining.
“Smells good,” Mike commented as he helped himself.
“I’m practicing for Passover,” she smiled at him passing over applesauce for the latke.
The pair ate and talked. Mike felt very comfortable around Mary. She was old school and had lived in the area for her whole life.
“I was a youngster for the hurricane of ’38, boychik, but that was a storm!” “We had to spend a week on the heights with Uncle Saul,” she said, eyes back in time.
The summer painting note came up as Mike knew it would. Mary did not miss a trick. “They just have to protect the investment, Mary. They aren’t raising your rent are they?”
“No, No. Those people have been pretty good to me actually,” she admitted.
Those people. He laughed on the inside.
Michael remembered meeting her for the first time. The realtor had put in the bid and the offer was accepted but Mary was being forced out. He heard her story and melted. Mary and her Henry lived in the unit starting in 1965. Henry was in business as a CPA. He’d died in 1994 and left his wife a fairly comfortable nest egg, but he didn’t count on the rent explosion in the boroughs. The tech heavy portfolio took a huge hit in the dot com burst and 9/11. The upstairs couple finally left in 2002 and Mary simply did not have the money to remain in the area or buy the unit when the owners decided to sell. Mike had her down to the office on Jones street under the guise of a new city program to allow seniors to maintain their homes. Mary got the place for 850 a month and of course that included utilities. The other new tenant- i.e. Mike, would be in charge of the renovations and any problems Mary had. He looked like a nice boy. But he was from Colorado. The WEST. They had horses out there. Mary quickly became his Jewish grandmother. He watched out for her and she showed him old Brooklyn.
Dessert was a crisp lemon sorbet. Tart and sweet in a perfect combination. “My sister Ilene sends me her Meyer lemons from California.” She pronounced every syllable: Cal-i for-Ni-A. Mike just smacked his lips in appreciation.
Dinner was pretty quick with just the two of them and the dishes piled in the sink for later, the odd pair sat on the couch sipping coffee watching TV like an old married couple.
Brian Kelly the WGN weather man reported the carnage going on outside from the box. Mike began to worry about Graeme coming back on Sunday but he thought it would be okay. The news reported the problems at Reagan in DC and the better shape for the local New York airports.
Jeopardy came on and Michael was feeling full and relatively good despite his work problems. And Alex was just asking such easy answers- all he had to do was supply the question.
“Who was Marie Antoinette?”
“What are the Green Bay Packers?”
“What is Deuteronomy?”
He rolled thru the first round without a miss. Mary clapped as he finished up.
“You could be a contestant!”
’Not with my schedule,” he answered back.
“I’m sure that fancy consulting company would give you some time off.”
“Nope, he squashed that idea. “We just had a job fell thru and now we have to hustle for another contract.”
She knew about hustling.
The second round provided no more problems than the first and Mary was delighted at his abilities at the game show. Final Jeopardy came and he was pleased to supply the question for this answer: This Army Officer has his name on the fourth highest peak in the United States.”
“Who was Zebulon T Pike?” he said with satisfaction.
“How could you know that?”, Mary scoffed.
“Mary, Pike’s Peak is in Colorado Springs. I saw it every day when I was a kid growing up. No self respecting Coloradan would miss that question.”
“Uh huh. Were there Indians around you then?”
Manhattan was as far west as she travelled anymore and the Hampton’s as far east, an occasional visit to her sister’s not withstanding. Alex confirmed his knowledge about mountains in Colorado.
He laughed at the Indian comment and told her no while rising. “I’m going to bank the fire, you close the flue tomorrow- okay?”
She agreed, bid him goodnight, and he left her to travel back upstairs to his place. The fire downstairs left a subtle smoke tang to the air and he closed up his kitchen and living room for the night. Jumping on the bed, he flipped on Sports Center and watched the highlights and stories. He was going to be home all weekend and he could watch a bit of the games. And low and behold there was a game on tonight. Muting the sound allowed one to just watch the good part: the violence. He picked up the new Stephen King novel and sat back to read. A rare pleasure for him. When was the last time he’d watched a football game and read a book after a nice dinner? Too long. The down time also gave the man a bit of time to roll things over in his head. It was pretty full: Demetry, the job, Mary, his family.
He took no real pleasure in the Jeopardy thing, as he was just showing off for Mary. Hell, he could go weeks without missing a question. Brain was just wired that way, he thought.
With an IQ that topped 164 he should have been a prodigy. A good home and good parents, he had gotten every advantage. Love, clothes and college, he could have become anything. Yet he stole for a living. Davidson often justified to himself that it wasn’t pickpocketing or armed robbery; but that might be putting lipstick on a pig. Stealing was stealing. Strangely he did not have real moral qualms about stealing. Was that a defect in his personality? He was not sure. He boiled it down to one small fig leaf: He didn’t steal from people. Not any more anyway. He had at one time robbed a few houses but it was a complicated thing.
Complicated. That was a very interesting word and one that described his love hate relationship with crime. Some thieves stole for the thrill, and Michael was not above feeling that aspect. Some stole for the money and that played a part for him, no denying it. But what he really loved was the puzzle box aspect of the whole thing. The challenge of looking at a locked safe/vault or a store and figuring out how to defeat the various alarms and measures the companies used to keep guys like him out, always thrilled him. It drove him really. And the security changed all the time! Every time a thief was successful the puzzle box changed its faces. That’s why he stole. Of course he was willing to admit that all might be bull shit and he was just a klepto.
The other aspect to his personality that he would admit to was one of compartmentalization. He could wall off parts of his mind when he needed to in order to accomplish goals. Stray facts and feelings got shunted over when he needed to put them in the corner and deal with shit. It was almost like being an actor, he knew. He could put on different faces or personalities when it was required.
It wasn’t lying, exactly. He still felt the emotions and the guilt and all of it. Just later when he could process and deal with it, not during the heat of the moment. Davidson had no idea if that was good or bad. It just was with him.
Outside the snow piled up and the game wound down. A few chapters of Mr. King got him ready to sleep. One small problem: The final item of interest from the security tape kept intruding into his brain: Why would a piece of shit brown Crown Victoria be parked outside of his house for three hours on Thursday? His security tape showed them clearly. Two cops on a stake out on his street. The thief in law drifted off to sleep worrying about those cops.