Feydor’s pawn shop basement was still the same warren of rooms. The place was crowded that morning with the five core gang members, two lieutenants and the twelve new found hired muscle men.
In addition, the pawn shop owner and his three henchmen all managed to get in the way, so the place stank and was hot even at 8:30 am on a cold day.
Mike setup the smaller side room with the desk as a work space while Graeme and Gretchen got everyone in order for the main briefing in the bigger room.
The Irishman gave everyone the full briefing. The hired gold haulers got the whole kit. ID’s, new passports, driver licenses, credit and debit cards. Even company polo shirts.
Rick and Mike took advantage of the time to go thru the new comers bags. Contraband- alcohol and porn mags being the most prevalent items- was dumped. Graeme yelled at everyone for that while Ira took bags of the stuff outside to the garbage dump.
Strangely, Gretchen did not slap Mike down for having her man perform such a menial task.
The answer lie in Ira’s special project for Mike. The little man was scurrying around dropping bags off and sliding around the basement so much that Slutskaya and his boys lost track of him. Which is just what Mike wanted.
“Flight is at 1:00pm, Graeme told the group. Mike and Sergei will take you over. Viktor and I will follow the day after with the second group. Anton is sitting in your apartments right now, so we have a place for you to stay. You have a couple days to get acclimated and then we start training.”
There were no questions of consequence and Gretchen took over to start in on customs procedures and review the full info packet she’d given the capos in London.
The woman’s attention to detail astonished Mike. She’d been that way since she was nineteen when the gang had met her in Forteazza, Brazil in 2004.
Mike, Graeme and Ira were in town to rob a bank. Brazil was undergoing one of its once per decade currency crisis. The government had decided to move all of its reserve currency to a new vault in Forteazza, a small town on the edge of the gold fields. Moving the money made it vulnerable. Just like they liked it.
The gang needed fake ID’s and work visas. Gretchen was pointed out to them by their inside contact as “new but good.” She’d come thru with the paper and Mike just kept going back to her for help. First with the rental house and finally with the tunnel.
The plan called for them to bypass the alarm lines and the drawings they had were incomplete at best. They started the tunnel in an attempt to find the alarm line. The rental house was situated over a mile from the target vault. Every day they kept having no luck and kept extending the tunnel nearer the bank.
In Feydor’s basement Mike smiled remembering that tunnel. It was hard work and they kept at it using some workers Gretchen had hired. When they could not find the line, Mike tried to keep up everyones spirits by saying: “well, it has to be around here somewhere.”
It became a pattern: extend the tunnel towards the bank and say “Well,it has to be around here somewhere.”
Davidson caught Gretchen’s eye as she briefed the men and yelled across the room to her, “Well, it has to be around here somewhere!”
The woman, Ira, and Graeme all laughed at the inside joke.
Mike also remembered the outcome of that job. The tunnel did find the alarm line tie point eventually. Directly under the vault.
Ira bypassed the signals and the gang (now four strong) and the workers took two full days to bore in and unload everything.
The four laborers got 95 million Brazilian reals and four gold bars to split up. While the gang had to console itself with 251 million US dollars and another 500 lbs of gold.
The gold was shipped directly from the rental house as geological samples while the money went wrapped in bags shipped in a load of agriculture (bananas) to the states.
Mike’s smile slipped as he remembered what had happened to those four laborers.
He left strict instructions about what to do with the money but of course they’d gotten drunk and bragged. The cops rounded them up a week after the job. Funny, no one seemed to buy their three gringoes and a woman story.
Donniger came up to Mike’s side as his smile bled away from his face. Graeme misinterpreted the expression. “Shammer, you worried about the cops?”
Mike spent a few minutes detailing his thoughts on the session with the police.
“He suspects something…”
“But he can’t prove anything yet, and when we are in the wind I’m going to have Sydney give up the bad cops so we are covered.”
“You see her?” Graeme asked lightly but seriously.
Michael said nothing to that question.
“Do not go back home, Mikey! That can totally fuck us.”
When exactly did his relationship to Graeme turn upside down? Now he was the one passing out wise advice while Mike made stupid mistakes?
Again he only trusted himself to nod at the man’s words.
No matter. In 17 hours he would be in Dubai and then traveling so much he would not have time to worry. He hoped.
As bad as his last trip to the middle east had been, the private flight into Dubai was a cake run.
The advantages of fractional jet travel were never more apparent. The group was whisked aboard the plane and flew directly to Dubai International. The mobsters all behaved on the plane-to an extent. And when anyone stepped out of line, Sergei squashed it.
The bored customs man pocketed his envelope with practiced ease and stamped away. He knew “exploring for oil near al-shuwab” meant a wide variety of things but the money eased his way.
Plus Mike had the proper forms and all approved. When Sergei quirked a question at him, he explained. “Think of it like this: If you do business in California and then move to Nevada you have to get a Nevada business license even though you had one in Cali right?”
Al-shuwab was in a no mans land near the Oman boarder. The Dubai emirate land and the Abu Dhabi protectorate all converged in an area of trackless desert. The only true authority out there was water and bedouins.
Mike, Rick and Sergei got the men settled into their rooms. Anton was next to useless but he was at least a familiar face for the muscle.
“Relax for a while as the next group comes in tomorrow. Stick close to the rooms and ask these guys any questions, okay?” Mike hooked a thumb at Anton and Sergei. He did not anticipate any real problems this early. Not until the men had been here a month or so and got bored.
The next evening, the 7th of February was an ordinary Tuesday in Dubai. Frond E on Palm Jumeriah saw some rental activity as a larger party inhabited a villa on the southern side. The desert wind was giving the tourists a break as the sun slid down in a cloudless sky.
Michael and Rick had a small celebratory meal in preps for Ira, Graeme and Gretchen as they were just now dropping off the last of the troops.
The three pulled up in the SUV Gretchen had obtained for the group. Its twin stood parked in the large garage. The garage that was rapidly filling with their gear.
Steaks cooked away on the grill with asparagus ready to go on next.
Gretchen was soon schooling Rick on how to tell if the steaks were medium rare.
’Put your hand like this…” She pinched her thumb up against her index finger puffing up the flesh near her knuckle. “Poke it. That is what medium rare should feel like.”
“That way you don’t have to cut into the meat to check it and it stays moist.”
Rick was impressed. “How do you know so much about grilling?”
“You ever hear of a churrascaria, Rick?” Mike asked the man.
“Point is, Brazilians know a thing or two about bar b que,” he said to the no response. The woman flashed her smile at the young man and told him all about the nice restaurants in Rio and Sao Paulo.
Mike left to find Graeme and Ira head down over maps. “We take delivery in three days,” Graeme confirmed to the other two.
’Good, what about our reservations?
Ira perked up. “17-19th at the camp. Then the 20th thru the 22nd at the Hilton, he told the men who both nodded. “We go again 9-11 of April and the go date of the 12th.” Ira finished up.
“What about another training session in March?” Graeme asked.
Mike just looked at the man. “I think we should. We left the dates open to give us flexibility for both London and here. We should use that.”
The whole gang discussed it as dinner was laid on the table.
These dinners were typical of how Mike liked to work. Eat and drill everyone on plans, contingencies and protocols. This was a bit different as Graeme was the one drilling them for Dubai.
“The site for Hatton is still the 6th, Trev confirmed again”, Mike reported. Rick was working on the specialized equipment with more work to do in London. Their electronics expert had to run a stress test on the alarm signal to help isolate the safety deposit box company and he also had a back up plan for that.
Dubai was still evolving given the men being here and the logistics involved. Rick was working on the heavy stuff while Gretchen was getting the transport and the radios in order. Whew!
The two leaders spent hours going over their to do lists. The rest put up with it because Mikes obsessiveness had saved them many times. Graeme was doing his best Mike impression with his work on the gold job.
Gretchen and Rick shared a look. This dinner reminded them of a similar one in Paris, years ago.
The heist at Harry’s was a simple, ballsy, job. After eluding Interpol, Mike spent countless hours drilling the rest. Drilling them on how to walk and talk and dress. As women. They kept at it until Gretchen was the most mannish one among them. All four of them, made up and perfectly dressed went into the luxury jewelry shop just before closing time. Per normal the vault was opened to put the display rings and necklaces back in.
Guns and zip ties took care of the other two customers and the guards. The staff was terrorized. The woman had felt bad about that. But, she kept to plan and 8 minutes and 43 seconds after securing the place they all walked out to the parked van with Rick behind the wheel and drove off with a huge haul.
“I won’t see you again after that,” Mike said breaking in to her reverie.
That statement came out and seemed to put a damper on a long pleasant evening and night.
The gang detailed their escape plans. Donniger in Split or Dubrovnik. South America for the couple. Mike was unsure yet about his plans but probably, Paris or Monaco.
“Maybe head west. LA or San Francisco. I think New York is going to be too hot.”
The somber mood clamped down on everyone, until Ira spoke up.
“I don’t know what we are all moping about? None of us is going to survive Dubai anyway!”
“Definitely shammer!” We are all gonna get killed pulling this one off,” Graeme crowed.
Giggling gripped the group as each morbidly detailed their own grisly demise.
“The hard bitten leader of the gang? I’m going to be so full of bullet holes, they won’t even be able to identify the body!”
“Bonnie and Clyde ending for us, guaranteed!” Ira laughed.
“I might survive, Rick said defensively. “I’m the young cute one.”
’Fuck you!” seemed to be the consensus on that idea.
The next day Mike made an endless series of phone calls. Demetry, Nicholas Roybokov, his contacts both in London and Switzerland. Even Feydor. They all had to be kept in the loop.
The last was the most important. Abdul. The local arms merchant.
“You’ve seen the list- can you get everything?” Mike asked.
“Very difficult my friend”, the weapons man said subtly. And that started the negotiations. The feeling out and serious back and forth took hours over the next day.
“I’ve never been so insulted!” I will buy from the Israeli’s.” Mike told the Arab. He’d considered buying a shipment and trying to bring it directly to the villa by boat. The Palm had security craft all over outside the break water strip for just that kind of thing however.
“Hold on my friend hold on. These are dangerous times and a dangerous cargo. I must have assurances.”
“So do I Abdul!”
They set the swap: 2.2 million in diamonds for the guns. You mean that necklace Gretchen has been wearing is real! Rick was aghast. No better way to smuggle money into a country.
“Delivery next Thursday the 16th.” That would work perfectly with their reservations and the work they needed to do. Michael relayed the meeting point to the man and overrode the objections.
“My money my meeting point. One truck and five workers. Unarmed. And Abdul- I’ll know if you have a back up squad anywhere near the place.”
The man grumbled but acquiesced
Davidson and Donniger spent the next hours yelling at each other about the weapons buy. ’No way the mercs are not going to connect the dots between the gold and the guns!”
“Give me an option? We have to have the guns!” Mike yelled back at the man. The Irish knew this was a risk!
The men came up with a small fig leaf they hoped would work. Hope was usually a poor plan in Davidson’s opinion.
’We have to exercise the men over the next day’s,” Graeme said. It might work.
And exercise was a literal term. Mike had the men running and working out like a military unit. Which they kind of were.
Meanwhile Rick Sanderson got to spend three days on a bulldozer in the desert. If the man thought high end thieving was going to be woman and fast cars all the time he was learning quickly. Grunt work sucked. His final measurement showed 7,500 feet on the dot.
’I still need to know location for the pit?”
’Working on it shammer”, was the answer.
Everyone worked feverishly, caught up in the lure of gold.
The date for the swap arrived far too quickly. The Russians were ready, Mike thought. Barely.
The brief the night before had taken hours. Detailed maps and detailed questions came from the three capos. Even Anton. The small dorm room in Deira was hot and stuffed with people.
“Five vehicles, five per car, Graeme told them. ’Radios set on channel 73.” “Ira will pass us the all clear.” He pointed at the map pinned to the wall.
“Rick and his group, here.” He paused while the assigned men raised their hands and nodded yes.
“Sergei, your men here.” More hands. “Gretchen, here.”
“Mike and I and our teams will do the actual transfer here.”
The temperature in the room went up with the tension.
’We are going to be unarmed but they might have guns?” Topper asked.
“This isn’t America. There aren’t 300 million guns floating around. We have to take the risk.”
That did not set well with these men. They were used to doing the intimidating not the other way around.
“If it all goes to shyte- survivors will fly home according to the evacuation plan. Got it?”
Distaste showed but Mike had one bit of advice. ’Attitude! These guys have an attitude. That alone will help carry you through this.”