It was a long ride on the Al Zakahr to the Palm the gang took on that Thursday. None of them even noticed the weather anymore. Battle hardened, they knew it was coming down to the end game now. Mike had the plan and they were working it. But even a thief like Mike could be fooled. Had been fooled. Now? His only answer was to go over it and over it until it was rehearsed to death.
’I want everything in place by April 9th here, he told them. “London is set. We don’t have to be back until the 30th. Rick has everything in place there, we just need the alarm line locked down. Ira?”
“Yeah, Mike. We’re good. Forms should be at the mail drop on the 30th when we get in.
“Your pupils here are good?”
“No problems, they are ready.”
A glance at Graeme. The Irishman was content to let Mike lead the checklist for both jobs. That was a wonder.
“Gretchen, the van, SUV’s and clothes for both jobs?”
“Good, Michael. And before you ask the shipping boxes are ready as are the ID’s and Fujairah.”
He should not have doubted her.
Another look at Graeme. The telepathic question was one Graeme was ready for. “Talked to her today, shammer. Set!” The grin split his face.
A wave of relief went thru the group. Good news finally! Their Ministry contact had come thru with some small tidbits of information.
“Okay! Rick you are ready? The bulldozer back afterwards yes?”
“Roger, Mike. Graeme and I will plan it.”
The gang had about a week of downtime before their last training runs with the Russian help at the desert camp and the airbase. Davidson knew they needed two days of extra training but they were prepared. Any eventualities would just have to be dealt with.
The villa was a welcome sight after their disturbing visitor in London and the fact that no one broke in to arrest or kill them was an added bonus.
The next two days proceeded without interruption and the thieves were fully up to speed and back on their game. London and the Luxembourg incidents seemed to be in the past.
Mike took a nice swim that evening and prepared to deal with paper work. His work habits were set from a lifetime of dealing with minutia. Davidson always felt he’d have been a decent accountant or an IRS investigator. 6:53 pm.
Toweling off his hair, he checked his Washington park machine by rote.
Three robo calls and…”Mr. Davidson, this is Lt. O’Rourke. I did not receive my weekly phone call from Ms. Devereaux on Monday. I’ve tried calling her but she has not called me back. Her work doesn’t seem to know where she is either. That is very peculiar and I want you to call me when you get this message.”
Ice gripped him.
Sydney! He dialed from memory and was put thru to the homicide cop.
“Lt this is Michael Davidson. I have not heard from Sydney in quite some time. Have you tried her parents in Dallas?” Davidson said without stopping.
He could hear breathing on the other end. “Where are you Davidson?”
A loaded question. This guy is a bulldog. “I’m in the middle east,” he said truthfully.
“I talked to the parents about an hour ago. They have not heard from her at all in over a week.”
The cop left the rest unasked and just let the silence build.
“If I hear from her I will have her get in touch with you, Lt. Please let me know if you find her.” His voice was calm but he was anything but.
“What the fuck is going on Davidson? What are you involved with?” O’Rourke barked at the phone.
Davidson clicked off the cell.
His mind whirred and his heart hammered in his chest. Demetry has Sydney. Loose ends. She might be a string out to me to ensure good performance. How? How did they get her? The bad cops? His trip home? Did they have a bug on his phone?
More random flashes went off in his head. He was suddenly certain that the envelope he’d given Syd was gone. And just as certain that the three stooges and the hired muscle would be watching the gang here in Dubai. Probably had been for a while. Watching them like fish in an aquarium. Nicky? Kat’s visit made sense now. More flashes along his synapsis.
And he then knew! Knew where they were keeping her. Certain of it in fact. Just like he did with a Jeopardy answer. Dead certain.
Davidson grimaced at the horrible image in his head. He had to get her back, that much was sure. How?
The argument took 30 minutes. The discussion took 45 and the planning took another 90. In that time, a disguised Graeme Donniger ascertained that a Russian thug was standing on the corner of frond E and the main trunk road and Viktor was in a car sitting on the Dubai Pearl roundabout watching the cars come off the Palm.
“You were right, Mikey, Irish told them stripping off the beard. The idiot is standing on the corner watching!” “And Viktor is sittin’ pretty as you please.”
“How did you get out there?” Rick asked interested.
“The monorail has a connecting tram system, friend.”
The artificial island was a huge city and complex by itself. The monorail system went up the main trunk of the Palm and then over to the barrier breakwater strip. A strip of land so wide it held several high end hotels and a huge water park. When a vacationing tourist (or an enterprising thief) wanted to get around the Palm, the nice people included a connecting tram bus that ran the length of the palm fronds to the monorail stations. The last main station was actually on the mainland on the eastern edge of the Dubai pearl roundabout.
Graeme was able to board the tram, slip past the watching thug and ride the monorail to it’s base stop. After glassing the roundabout in the night gloom, he could spot Viktor because the man wasn’t exactly hiding.
’Okay so we have to be disguised,” Mike told Gretchen who started rummaging thru her case.
And that wasn’t the only problem. ID’s would be a killer. And they had to account for the travel.
Mike went thru the options thinking at lightening speed. “Lets give them the mirror.”
Gretchen groaned. “Mike that is not going to be easy. I have to hire the people, train them. We have to contact the cruise ship people…”
Ira went to the woman and took her aside. They spoke together for a few minutes and returned.
“Okay. I’m on it, she told Mike. “But you make sure nothing happens to Ira!”
“I’ll be very careful with him”, Davidson assured her.
What he was proposing was a nightmare in terms of timing and logistics and difficulty. Davidson was sure of two things: only his gang could do it and Sydney’s life depended on it.
36 hours later, at 5:58 am, the two men and the remaining gang members were as ready as they could be.
Gretchen Gonsolvo kissed the blonde haired shoe lift wearing sunglasses sporting, Robert Torkleson (Ira) goodbye.
She handed an envelope to Davidson. “We are all set. 7:00 pm tonight- 13 hours from now.”
“We can do this,” Ira told everyone in general.
The now dark haired bearded Davidson, traveling as Mitchell O’Connel slung his very light suitcase onto his shoulder. ’Let’s go.”
The men walked out the back door to the beach area and out towards the tip of the frond. Just five houses down and they split back thru an access path to the street. Dead calm weather with the wind taking a break this morning.
The cab was waiting for them. The foreign driver said nothing as the men tracked sand all over his floor boards.
The stupid thug at the end of the block, Peter- Mikes head told him, was literally standing in the street watching what few cars were around. He looked right at Ira and Mike as the cab went past. Nothing.
“Thank god for stupid, Ira said from his perch making him look taller in the seat.
Mike growled just a little. ’First part is easy.” The next was harder and the last harder still, he knew.
He had the whole flight to prepare. Six hours of sleep for both of them and two hours of intensive back and forth as they drew the layout from Mike’s memory and went over the plan.
The jet was fast and fairly spartan for a private plane.
Mike was constantly texting the gang back in at the villa as he went thru the airport terminal. If Sergei or anyone else was watching the airport, he didn’t see them.
The jet landed at JFK at 9:57 am local time. Time zones were a friend in this direction.
The cab to the storage unit cost 67 dollars. Time was the biggest expense.
Mike opened the door to the unit with a rolling clank. Funny, only the second time we have needed one of these units and its in our own backyard. He’d ponder that later.
The storage car was loaded up with tools, two guns, and some of Ira’s gear. Mike drove as they exited the storage place. “11:37, Mike about 25 minutes.”
He drove to the nearest “beachy” area. Down Atlantic avenue that happened to be the Brooklyn Sea Port. Which also happened to be near Demetry’s house. Can’t be helped, Mike thought as they parked. He remembered coming here what seemed a lifetime ago with Sydney.
March 22nd was iffy in New York weather wise. The early spring period could be 22 and snow or like today: early spring. Temperatures in the mid fifties and bright sunshine which got people outdoors.
And they needed that for the mirror. Ira was texting furiously and Mike jockeyed around looking for the right spot of people, seagulls and music.
He found what would have to do and could just see the Pierrepont Mansion to his left. Hang on Syd- I’m coming.
At 11:53 Graeme texted them- Bad guys, eyes on- All set.
It was time for the mirror.
Mike pulled his phone from the jacket and pushed buttons.
“Mr. Roybokov, It’s Michael, Sir.”
“Michael, the mobster said somewhat surprised. ’where are you, why are you calling me?”
“I’m sorry to disturb you sir. I‘m in Dubai actually, with my team. In fact we are just sitting down to dinner. Its beautiful here.”
“Really, son? Hold on a moment, I want to take this call in the den.” I might be a while.”
Certainly, sir,” Michael told him. Take the call in the den, my ass!
Davidson knew Demetry would be calling his goons in the middle east to verify.
He gestured to Ira with his chin, hand over the phone. He did not want some stray english to go over his phone from another person. What he would not give for an arabic speaker to start yelling right now!
“Text Graeme- Tell him verifying.”
8,000 miles away, Graeme, Gretchen, Rick and two actors made up to look like Mike and Ira were sitting at a seaside restaurant on the Palm island. Apparently without a care in the world. “Mike” was on his phone.
Ira leaned in and showed Davidson Graeme’s answering text- “Bad guys talking on phone, verifying.”
Davidson knew Demetry was talking directly with his men or perhaps Sergei was relaying the information but either way he was assuring himself of Davidson’s whereabouts.
Three full minutes passed. Sweat made rivulets down Michael’s back.
Demetry came back on the line.
“I’m sorry I had to take care of something. Having dinner you say?”
The crocodile gave a fake apology. Mike knew he was full of crap. “Yes, sir. I’m calling to tell you that both the London and Dubai projects are still a solid go. They are on schedule as we have discussed. I’m taking advantage of the down time to do a little pre job celebrating with my people.”
“It does sound loud there. Is this restaurant on the water?”
Stalling to talk to his men, Mike knew. “Yes, It is on the deck overlooking the water. I also wanted to tell you that while we have had a few problems, Sergei, Viktor and Anton have whipped your men into shape. They are going to be a tremendous asset on this assignment.” He laid it on thick.
Another gesture with his chin to Ira- Get ready.
Levinson text quickly.
Demetry made some off the cuff comment about going into the ocean and Mike told him. “Not in my favorite business suit, sir.”
“We are probably going to go silent over the next weeks but I will call to work out the shipping arrangements. We also have the companies in place to handle the results.”
Demetry was only half listening as he was obviously talking again to Dubai.
“Da. All right. That sounds fine, Michael.”
“Thank you, sir. Enjoy your day.”
At the phrase, “Thank you” Ira texted Graeme- hang up. Tricky with the network time lag.
In Dubai, the actor holding the phone to his ear took it away and put the phone into his nice blue suit jacket when the curly headed guy kicked him under the table. The Ira actor took a sip of his drink.
Craziest fucking job ever. Two out of work cruise ship dancers did not care one way or the other what they got paid for. As long as they got paid.
The five people in Dubai enjoyed a leisurely meal.
Back in Brooklyn, Ira and Mike walked back to the car. Ira checked his phone.
’Graeme thinks they bought it. Demetry’s men have backed off.”
A last glimpse of the mansion and they drove to Brighton Beach. Now the next hard part.
The storage car was a ubiquitous Toyota Camry. Silver, it was chosen for the fact it was the single best selling car in history, not because it was comfortable for a stake out.
The car was parked on Brighton and down the block. They had a decent view into the shop even if they had to use binoculars.
Hard Pawn. Feydor Slutskaya’s pawn shop. The shop that had a rats nest warren of rooms in the basement. And Michael Davidson was certain that one of those rooms held Sydney Devereaux.
Peeing in bottles was difficult and gross but they could not leave the car and attract attention to the fact that they were watching the shop. It was difficult enough. Thankfully the depressed economy had enough men sleeping in cars that they garnered just a few looks.
At 10:45 that night they were tired, grumpy and sure of the numbers inside the shop.
Davidson held the binoculars tight against his eyes. Yes, the big man returned with the tray. Dishes. That meant food for someone downstairs. Syd. She’s alive!
Another wave as his emotions ran back high. The roller coaster was clouding his judgement.
Near as they could figure it, three men remained in the pawn shop. Slutskaya himself had left around 9:00 pm. It took everything Davidson had to not run the man over with the car.
Cold. He needed to be cold.
“Last bathroom break,” Ira theorized watching the men shuffle around inside.
Sydney was tucked in for the night.
The pair watched the men array themselves around a small TV set up on the display case. One actual lazy boy chair dragged out from Feydor’s office and two small folding chairs allowed a reasonable comfort level for the watchers. These three looked like Feydor’s “cousins’ who always seemed to be hanging around. Mike didn’t even know their names. They appeared to be engrossed in the game. College basketball on the tube, Mike noted.
The men exited the Camry and Ira removed his gear from the trunk. Davidson also removed his duffel and slung it over his shoulder. The street was deserted with no pedestrians hanging out and only the occasional car going down a cross street. Since the avenue was lined with businesses and no homes, no one was watching out any windows as the men crossed and went to the alley behind the establishment.
The small man immediately went to the phone junction box which sat near the building. Picking open the lock, Ira began attaching probes to lines and looking at readings.
Mike’s paranoia about Feydor and his reason for taking Ira along when they’d briefed the extra muscle became real at this moment. Davidson had engaged Ira in a special project at Feydor’s on their recruitment visit. That project being to familiarize himself with the pawn shops alarm system.
Originally Mike thought that they might have to break in to plant evidence on the fence but now…
“Simple three line system, tapped into the phone right here,” Ira muttered as he worked. Leads went into his box which fed the laptop. Some tapping on the keyboard and
“Okay. We own the place.”
It was Mike’s turn. The back alley door led to Feydor’s office. Reaching in the duffel Mike pulled out his lock pick set. Silently! A loud noise and the goons came to investigate and the bullets would start flying. He wanted that to be a last resort.
Seven minutes of work and the lock yielded with a “snick”.
A motion to Levinson to remain outside and he crept into the office in the dark.
Another reach in the duffel and he pulled out a small cylinder connected to a clear tube. Davidson went to the door to the main shop floor area where the watchers sat too involved with basketball to care.
The tube was pushed under the crack of the door about two inches.
Davidson retreated to the duffel and put on a gas mask and drew a gun from his pocket. He was ready.
The small valve on the cylinder turned easily and the hiss of the gas escaping was not very loud.
Medicinal grade ether was flooding the room.
Davidson gave them the full dose. He wasn’t sure about the amount. Neither was Ira. During he planing session back in Dubai, Gretchen told him it depended on the weight of the men, if they’d eaten. A bunch of factors.
’You could kill them if you give them too much.”
That wasn’t the biggest concern but it was a factor. He was certain Sydney was in here and the dishes clinched it but he wasn’t an indiscriminate killer. Normally.
But this might be different. He waited ten full minutes to allow the gas to do what it wanted with the men outside. Mike pulled the tube and restored the gas canister.
A deep breath thru the mask, he gripped the gun tightly and eased open the door.
The three men were out cold. A shake and they were unresponsive. Excellent.
Ira scared the living shit out of him when he said standing right next to him, “Nice work.” His voice was muffled by the mask but Davidson still tried to jump out of his skin.
’Jesus, Ira!” Stay here. I’ll be back with Sydney in five minutes.”
Michael crept down the stairs. No light on now, he did not want to alert anyone who might be down here.
Pausing a moment for his eyes to adjust in the blackness, he wished for night vision goggles.
The dim shape of the large basement room took hold in his mind and vision.
Crossing to the right he went into the smaller room where he knew the desk sat. The same room where they’d interviewed the Russian muscle. Two doors led further into the bowels of this basement. Eenie meenie miney moe.
Another grip on the gun and he tried the left side door. The deadbolt sounded very loud to his ears as he worked it.
Mike opened the door quickly to reveal a small room containing a cot and a night table which held a tiny lamp throwing the room into harsh shadows.
Sydney lay awake on the cot chained to a pipe. She leaned up on her arm and took in the scene.
“No! Oh god, No!”
Mike realized his mistake and whipped off the gas mask. He lowered the gun to assure her it was all right.
She still struggled and screamed. A look of confusion on her face.
Oh! The beard and the dye job.
’Syd, its me, Its Michael!, he said going over to the cot.
She recognized the voice thru her pain and confusion and stopped shouting. “Michael?”
“Yeah, give me a second and I will have you out of here.” He bent to work the handcuff’s.
He looked her over while he worked. Hair a mess and dirty, Sydney had a bruise on her jaw. Scrapes on her writs and elbows looked painful. Every time she breathed she seemed to wince a little. Ribs- Mike knew.
They’d hit her. Hurt her.
A low growl worked its way out of his chest and into his throat. The restrains gave way and Sydney gasped and gave him a brief hug.
“Can you walk? he asked voice rough, wanting to growl again.
“Yes, but Mike!” She rose painfully to look at him. “They have someone else down here.”
Someone else? He frowned. And adjusted to the contingency.
Syd indicated the opposite door thru the interview room.
’Okay, get behind me,” he ordered as he crept out and to the new door. As they left the room, Davidson reached into his pocket and thru a large paper clip on the floor. As a handcuff pick, he knew it would take the average person a week to get out of the restraints but he was betting Demetry did not have a huge forensics back ground. Give the man an obvious trail…
The pair got to the new room and this time Davidson went in boldly. Half expecting to see Jimmy Hoffa, he was shocked to see another cot and Nicholas Roybokov chained like Syd.
If Sydney had been roughed up, Nicholas had been beaten. Face a bloody mess, the man was barely conscious.
Mike gave Sydney the gun. ’Shoot anyone who comes thru that door,” he told her.
No back talk as he went to work on Nicky and the cuffs.
This might be my fault as well, he thought.
Another few minutes of work got the man free and raised to at least some level of awareness.
“Mike?” the man said thru bloody lips as Davidson worked to bring him around.
“Yeah, kid. I got ya.”
An arm slung over his shoulder and Mike half walked, half dragged Nick across the basement and up the stairs following Sydney.
’Syd! Wait!” he gasped as she went from the dark of the stairs out to the light.
Too late! She was onto the main shop floor. Shit she could shoot Ira!
But Sydney Devereaux was focused on another target. Feydor’s men.
She stood a step behind the counter looking over the top at the sleeping figures. Mikes’ gun wavered as she pointed it at them.
’Sydney, wait please!” Mike pleaded.
The gun wobbled more but did not lower.
“Honey, I guarantee you these men will be dead very soon!”
He never knew if it was the “honey” or the fact that vengeance would come for her tormentors as to why she put the gun down.
Ira crept cautiously out of the back office and towards the group. “Mike, he asked in a wobbly voice and eyeing the woman with the gun and the wobbly man holding onto his friend. Thank god the gas has dissipated enough to take off our masks.
“Mike, the basic plan still works, he reminded Davidson. “Just have the two of them do it.”
Good idea! Mike took a few seconds and told Sydney what he had in mind. Another minute saw him transfer Nicky to the woman and retrieve his gun. She gave it back with a look that said, “I still might use this on you.”
The pair retreated back downstairs and Mike shut the door behind them while getting his gear and Ira into the back office.
Ira worked the pawn shop’s video surveillance system. The man had been busy while Mike was downstairs.
’Okay! Come on out!” Ira yelled to the former prisoners.
Syd and Nick lurched out of the basement stairwell, paused a moment to watch the sleeping guards, and then swept on to the back office.
’Perfect”, he told Mike. Get them to the car while I clean up.”
Give them something obvious, Davidson knew. When Feydor returned in the morning, the tape would show the guards sleeping and the prisoners walking out right past them. He also knew that Feydor would never give that tape to Demetry. Much too incriminating for him. But.
Ira knew the system inside and out. It was why the small man was here.
Ira spent five precious minutes copying the video file to his laptop. He had a plan for Feydor!
Grabbing gear and his toys, Ira carefully relocked the door and scampered back to the car. Stowing his gear in the trunk, He got into the drivers seat.
’Drive!” Mike commanded. He was in the back getting a few ibuprofen into Nicholas Roybokov and coaxing some water down his throat. Syd was in the passenger seat holding a water bottle but not drinking. She stared straight ahead. Dazed. Ira knew that look well.
Levinson drove steadily down Atlantic, back to the storage unit. Syd slowly came back to herself and gingerly sipped her water.
“It’s the only way,” Mike said restarting an earlier conversation he had been having with the woman.
“It was Temescal and his partner that grabbed you yes? The same cops who killed Mary. I told you they are dirty and are working for both Demetry and the FBI.” Mike reminded her what was going on. “All O’Rourke can do is put you in protective custody. The Bratva can get to you there.”
He said it sadly to the woman. Ira risked a glance at her. He knew her world was shaking right now. Davidson sealed the deal with this: “The only way I can protect you is to have you near. I can’t help if there is an ocean in between us.”