Unspoken in that thought was the fact that Davidson had put in the danger in the first place. Mike knew she would come around to that point eventually. And then she would rip him a new one. But they didn’t have time for that right now! Time was the enemy.
“Where are we going then? she asked as Ira drove to the storage unit.
“Dubai,” Mike told her getting Nicholas more comfortable.
Sydney choked. “What?” I can’t go there! I don’t have a passport.” She twisted to glare at Davidson.
Mike held up a hand. “I have one for you. My team made up one for you before we left.”
God bless Gretchen and god bless their San Francisco passport agency contact.
The problem was Nicholas Roybokov.
He was not in the original plan. A contingency that would have to be dealt with.
The cab was waiting on them as they pulled into the storage place. Ira spoke to the cabbie and the four of them went into the garage door to the unit to take stock.
Nicholas sat on a small folding chair and swayed, still out on his feet like a punch drunk fighter.
Sydney gawked at the items in the storage unit as the thieves worked. Guns went into boxes, money came out of safes and Mike and Ira talked and sorted thru ID’s. She recognized this version of Davidson. Calm. Cool and decisive. His personality fitting the situation again. It was the jar of the beard and hair color that threw her a bit. She did not really know this man.
“This one, he said decisively, shoving the ID at Ira. “Syd, trim his hair, he showed her where the disguise kit was located. Scissors and clippers, with dye and cosmetics.
Just like that.
Envelopes got stuffed with money: euros, pounds and dollars. Suit cases got clothes put in them.
Mike found a pair of flip flops to at least give her something to protect her feet.
’That’s great,” he told her looking at her styling when she finished with Nick.
The man was coming around. Mike did not know the extent of his injuries. He hoped nothing seriously internal. Ribs and a general beating seemed to be the worst.
“Mike?” the man said again thru swollen lips.
“It’s me, Nick. How you feelin?”
“Bad, Mike. My dad…”
He cut him off. “Yeah, man we know. Quiet now. We got to move fast.”
The four jammed into the cab. Mike turned to the other two in the large back seat while Ira rode in the passenger seat.
He went thru customs and passport control at the JFK private terminal. Both were experienced travelers so it was just the differences. That and the fact that both would be moving around under fake names and addresses. Money was passed out.
’I thought we could only bring in 10,000 to a foreign country.” Syd asked looking at the cash.
“10,000 of each type of money,” Mike told her. Just tell them we intend to to a lot of traveling around Europe so we need the different currencies.” “If someone asks you about your injuries just tell them to shut the fuck up.”
While he briefed the former prisoners, Ira was on the phone with Gold Jets. He was informing them that a change of plans was in the offing. A stop in London was now on the schedule. Neither the plane people nor Ira was happy about that.
Davidson did not think he could hide Nicky in Dubai. The gang was only ready for Sydney. He did not think the young man could be quiet in a muslim country. Just his…biological leanings, would be trouble.
Demetry would be looking all over for them but he would start in the states. Eventually he would get over to Europe and the middle east.
Hiding Nicky in the same city where Demetry had found him once before? Well, Mike knew Nick wasn’t exactly hiding from his old man. Different trick if the person was actually trying not to be captured. That was the best he could come up with on the fly.
They were taking an awful chance just by grabbing the man and stopping in London.
Time. They had very little.
Torkleson and O’Connell breezed the former prisoners thru customs and JFK. Passport control was a non event. The rich don’t get hassled about little things like money and cuts and bruises. The flight attendants on the private jet had seen things that would shock the normal flying public.
The Lear jet streaked back east.
Now the time zones sucked away the advantage and exposed them all to danger.
Mike figured eleven, or maybe twelve hours before Feydor finds his captives gone. He hoped an hour or two while the fence searched. Then the inevitable call to Demetry.
That is where things got dicey. No way Fey gives the tape to the mob head. He might suggest the guards were at fault but he himself was blameless. There was a strong possibility that Feydor delayed telling Demetry for a long time but the thief could not count on that. Mike was stacking the deck against the man in exchange for the reality that Demetry would know sooner and be able to suspect Mike and his gang all that sooner.
Ira’s copy of the tape was going to drop to Demetry in an email from his pet cops.
It was an awful risk.
Demetry was going to suspect Michael but the tape and his body double phone call during dinner was going to tell him something else.
Sure as shit the only recourse for the Bratva man was to have Sergei or one of the other Lieutenants go over to the villa and check on everything.
Five and 3/4 hour to London. About an hour to transfer Nicky to his boy toy. (have to remind Nick to dump that guy) Then they disappear. If they can.
Nick used the plane phone to arrange for the man to pick him up at the airport.
’We will all clear customs and accompany you to your friend,” Mike told him.
Ira writhed. “Mike we can’t afford the delay!”
“Only way we can give Nick the money we are carrying. He gets the pounds.”
Oh! thought Syd. Thats very clever. That way he has just under 40,000 to hide with. That should be enough for a while.
Mike was giving Nick another phone. “Go to the opposite of where ever you were at before.” he advised the man.
Nick’s eyes shone with pain and gratitude and a little…love?
An irrational flash went thru Sydney. The son loves Mike she realized. And Ira certainly respected him. That gave her pause.
Mike came down the isle a few rows to where she sat- eating a gourmet meal complete with wine. He squatted next to her seat to keep their conversation private.
“How are you holding up?
“Pretty shaky,” she said.
He bowed his head. Sydney could see the darker roots in the dye job in Mike’s hair. She was irritated by that hair.
“I’m sorry about all this.. he gestured and looked into her eyes.
That was the same mistake he’d been making for a while with Sydney Devereaux. A look at those blue eyes and he got lost. Or maybe found. It was definitely one of those two options.
“I tried to stay away, Syd. Should have stayed away… I guess I’m not as smart as I think.”
She was plenty pissed at him, but he had rescued her so she deferred the fight. The dispassionate doctor part of her said: get out of danger, then kill him.
’After we get Nicky to London we need to hustle to Dubai. We’ve got a place all setup for you. I will take you over on the shuttle.”
When she had no response to that Mike went on. “It is a nice place- it’ll be just like Kauai.” The joke sounded forced even to his ears and she was giving nothing away, so he went on.
“Anyway you just need to stay put. Order room service or the restaurants at the hotel. Lay on the beach or take a spa day or two. He waited a beat. “Just don’t go into the city.” He tried to put the best face on the whole package.
“So it is a prettier prison,” she stabbed at him with that.
A mental wince. ’Yeah, kinda. But only for a week or so.
He reached into his suit jacket and took out a burner phone. Holding it out to her he said, “This is blocked. When we land take a minute to call O’Rourke, your parents and work. Tell them that you are okay and just working thru some things and need a little time.”
Sydney eyed the phone like it was a reptile.
Mike just held it out and waited. She would get there eventually.
A full minute passed while her heart said punch him and her head convinced her arm and hand to grab the phone.
’O’Rourke won’t be happy,” she predicted.
’Tell him from me to watch the mail. He’ll get my present soon enough. Mike told her.
A flitter of worry ran over her face. Worry for him? A flare went thru his heart and he tapped it down.
He gave her another envelope with a fake drivers license and real corporate card.
“Gretchen kept things simple. Your address is just reversed- 481 Washington park. Social is the same with the last four reversed- okay? See?
JFK had been easy. Mike just dropped the mess of paper on the counter and the agents took care of everything. They dealt with rich people all the time. Heathrow and Dubai would be different.
’You have to get thru London on your own. You need to be ready. Just tell them the truth: Flying to Dubai and dropping off Elias,” he hooked a thumb forward at Nick.
’What if they ask why I’m getting off the plane?”
Good question. She was so sharp and saw deeply into things… Focus!
“Uhhh, stick close to the truth. Stiff and sore after the flight and you want to stretch your legs.”
“Michael, I’m only wearing flip flops!”
That was all the storage unit could provide her.
Davidson shrugged. “The rich don’t get cold”, he said making no sense.
“By the way, that corporate card is real. Sort of. You can buy whatever you need. Clothes, shoes, suitcases, whatever.” He stopped embarrassed. “Uhh.” Unsure now of how to go on now.
“You can’t buy a Lamborghini, or anything, there is an upper limit. On any one purchase…”
“But I can make a million smaller purchases, though,” she said shrewdly.
“Well, yeah. But uhh don’t…”
A flick of her hand dismissed him.
A knee cracked as he rose from his crouch to retreat back up to the front of the plane. He’d lost that round. Handily.
Hours later at passport control Sydney had a moment of panic.
“How long will you be in London Miss?”
“Under an hour,” she told him.
The agent frowned. ’What flight did you come in on?”
The panic hit. “No clue. It was a private flight out of JFK.” She gave her haughtiest tone to the man.
The passport agent tapped his screen. ’Here you are. We don’t like it when thru passengers exit the plane.” he told her.
’Any law against it?” Sydney was in enough pain to be bitchy.
“No miss, not exactly.”
“Then let me go walk around a little before I have to get back on that damned plane.”
He stamped her passport.
She joined Mike and Ira along with Nick at the exit to the baggage carousel and the waiting area.
A young black man came up and embraced the wobbly scion.
Mike collected the envelopes from everyone and gave them to Roybokov.
’Stay hidden. I’ll text you when we come in around the 30th.”
Hugs all around and the two men disappeared into the swirl at the airport.
Ira checked his watch.
’Okay, man we are going,” Mike replied to the unvoiced urging.
Getting back on the plane was pretty easy. The civil side embarkation desks were on the same level, just a different side of the terminal.
The Gold jet reps were only too happy to assist the Americans. Id’s and passports were dutifully checked.
’Our luggage is still on the plane, Mike told the trim, pretty, young woman with his best smile.
It had an effect. She beamed back a smile and went out of her way to help them.
“Thank you Mr. O’Connell. Should you require any further assistance on any other London travel please don’t hesitate to call.” She handed Mike a card.
“My home number is on the back.”
That fucking bitch! I’m standing right here, Syd thought. Then she rebounded. Fuck Mike, it’s his fault!
The three re boarded the plane with the woman steaming for no reason Ira could see. Well, she’d had a hard few days. A certain amount of pissedoffedness was to be expected.
The captain came over the intercom to tell them they were number 14 for takeoff. Heathrow was always busy.
Mike and Ira fretted. The plan called for them to be in the air right now. Take off happened at 12:11 pm.
Three hours, 53 minutes to Dubai. Plus the time zones they had to gain back.
That put them into the UAE at 8pm. Conversely 8 am in New York. Just about the time the ether should wear off.
Again it depended on many factors. The size of the men. How quickly the gas had dissipated. The amount of food eaten by the victims. Hell, even what time Feydor came in to work. Best guess was 12 hours.
That put them landing right about when the men would wake up. What then?
Again Mike fretted. There just was not any way to predict the response. Even the part where they’d setup Feydor- No way to know when Demetry would react. Or how.
It made for a nervous flight.
Mike attempted to go thru Dubai customs procedures with Syd but she was madder than before so he let it ride.
Ira snickered when he came back to sit next to him.
’Fuck you,” Mike told him, leaning back trying to relax.
The plane did make up 19 minutes in flight. They landed at 7:39 pm in the dark at Dubai International Airport.
’Where will you be staying in Dubai, Miss?” the man behind the bullet proof glass asked her.
“Uhhh, she searched her tired brain for the answer. Antares? No. Anatara! That was it.
“The Anatara resort,” she said.
“Excellent!” The man stamped her passport and swished her thru. Mike and Ira were already waiting, huddled together talking.
Ira made ready to leave as she joined them. He was taking a taxi back to the villa. Well, to a spot nine houses down from the villa. He did not want to attract attention.
“Ms. Devereaux, I will probably see you in a couple days. I will look a little different though”, he laughed.
Sydney furrowed her brow. What? Then she realized she had been so pissed at Michael that she had not even thanked this man yet.
She reached out an arm and stopped Levinson from departing. “Ira, I’m so sorry. I haven’t even thanked you for getting me out of there!”
Ira grinned at her. “No problem at all miss! It was fun! See ya.” And he wheeled his bag out the terminal to the waiting line of taxi’s.
Mike and Sydney went further along the transportation options for the weary traveller to the hotel shuttle busses.
The red Anatara bus was waiting. Thank fully they were alone on the van as it pulled out to crawl along the Al Zakar. Mike kept checking his phone as the ride went along.
’Graeme says no issues yet,” he reported.
She just nodded not really caring. Exhausted. I’ve just flown all night, been kidnapped and beaten, no big deal! But she knew she was feeling the effects of five days in that basement.
Mike asked her quietly about the kidnapping.
’It happened four days after we spoke….that night on the phone…at the house?”
He closed his eyes and nodded. Guilt washed thru him. They had my house on loose surveillance. A tap on my phone…stupid, stupid, stupid.
“I answered a knock at the door and a huge guy clamped a rag over my mouth and it was lights out!”
Guilt changed to rage in him as she described days and nights, chained to the cot. “They just kept asking about what you were planning and what you were doing.”
The long sleeve blouse hid the wrist chaffing and the make up hid the worst of the bruises but it did nothing to protect her psyche.
The van lurched along as she watched him out of the corner of her eye.
’Syd, I can’t tell you how sorry I am about this”, he started for the millionth time.
She saw his beard, his dyed hair and the rest of it and she hated it. Hated him and the beard and all of it. What it represented. What it stood for. The lies. The deceit, the assholeness.
She trembled as she stood clutching the pole the van used to assist passengers when moving.
Both were standing after the flights even though they were the only people aboard the van. Mike saw the tremble and reached a hand to touch her back.
Sydney flinched away from his touch.
Ahh god, that hurt anew.
“We’ll be there in a few minutes”, he said to cover.
The gang had selected the Anatara resort for a number of reasons. The first being it was very close physically to their villa. Located on the barrier strip that protected and ringed Palm Jumeriah island, the hotel was situated on the lower south east quadrant of the ring.
The resort itself was a series of three story wood and stone buildings all surrounding an artificial lagoon. On an artificial island. A private beach on the wilder gulf side allowed for water sports. The more sedate inner side was given over to the lagoon and the shops, restaurants and spa that made the place a destination for tourists. The rooms were nice and secluded and very expensive which meant she would have few fellow guests.
A week’s plus reservation at 2,000 usd a night meant an easy check in process.
’Right this way, Ms. Laurent.” Charlotte Laurent was a fellow doctor at the hospital where she worked. So she would recognize the fake name, Gretchen tried to keep things simple and familiar.
Once in the room, Mike checked his phone- nothing.
He showed her pictures of Sergei and the other stooges. “If you see these guys, just run.” Get to the American consulate and tell them I kidnapped you.”
’You did,” she said flatly. ’So this is just a prettier prison?” acid came with the comment.
’Its better than the basement and I won’t beat you,” he said softly.
Sydney turned to look out the window rather than debate. The moon light sparkling off the water was magical. The place really was gorgeous but she was in no mood.
“Look- tomorrow we can’t have any contact. Demetry’s men will be all over us. But I will be over the next day to check on you. We can go over…things.” He was not looking forward to that conversation. “Text me if there are any problems.”
Lacking a response, he left her staring out the window.
Leaving the room, Mike hurried down the stairs and out to the inner side shops. His destination was the other main reason they’d picked this place: The water taxi.
The resort kept a fleet of small boats to ferry its guests to other parts of the island. So if a guest wanted to check out the huge water park that was on the top of the barrier strip all they had to do was ask. Same went for the shops or restaurants on the trunk. The whole place was accessible by water.
Mike checked with the crew and “of course we will take messier to fronde E. Just the tip? No particular spot?”
No, no particular spot. The tip would do nicely. He wanted to attract as little attention as possible.
He boarded with his bag and his weariness.
The phone buzzed incessantly in his pocket as the boat touched the tip of fronde E. Uh oh.
’Sergei just pulled up,” read Graeme’s text.
Mike flipped the bill at the boat and jumped off onto the sand. He hurled his suitcase further up the beach staggering and trying to remove his jacket and shoes. He took twelve seconds to type- ’I’m in the pool,” back to Graeme and he was sprinting down the beach.
It was only half a mile.
Legs churning he yanked the beard off with one hand. Shirt and pants followed as he sucked great breaths trying to will himself to more speed. His underwear went off with the pants but he could not stop.
The lights of the villa were on and beckoning as he sped the last two hundred yards.
Tossing the phone onto a lounge chair Mike dove into the pool as he spied people moving towards the lanai area. He could only make out shapes as he swam towards the house end of the pool.
A flip turn and he continued back to the far end away from the bodies he could sense above the water.
He emerged dripping and breathing heavily.
’Here he is! Working out in the pool!” Graeme exclaimed.
Graeme, Gretchen and Sergei were standing at the sliding glass entrance to the patio and watching the gang leader.
Mike blinked water and tried to breath normally.
“What’s wrong?” he asked Sergei right away. A good offense being the best defense.
’Did one of those idiots fuck up again?”
The trio moved towards the thief in law, with Gretchen snatching up a towel as she came on.
Sergei stopped to look at Davidson. What the fuck?
But the three gang members were all now looking at the capo- putting him on the defensive. He had to explain himself.
’Sorry Mike- Demetry called. He said there was a problem back home and I was supposed to make sure everyone was accounted for.”
’Problem? Mike said catching the towel as Gretchen threw it. “What kind of problem?”
Sergei watched as the man dried off and kept the towel around his head. Was the guy naked?
“Sergei! What kind of problem?” Mike asked sharply.
The lieutenant backed off. “I’m not sure. Demetry just said to make sure everyone here was okay. Accounted for,” he repeated.
Out of the corner of his eye, Mike saw Rick and Ira emerge from the house. Levinson looked perfectly normal.
’We are fine man, he told the Russian. If there is something that is affecting our jobs, I need to know about it!”, he said hammering at the man, not letting him get a foot set.
Mike started out of the pool still wearing the towel on his head, ignoring everything else. ’Let me call Demetry and…”
“No, no, no…thats okay Mike, Sergei backed tracked. Demetry said he was going to be busy with…something,” he finished lamely.
The rest of the gang breathed for the first time in a bit.
Davidson spent a full minute berating the capo.
’Jesus Christ, we have cell phones…!
“Not supposed to have contact…!”
“Dangerous and stupid…!”
The Bratva man left the patio in a hurry.
A huge sigh of relief went thru them as Graeme walked the man back to his SUV.
’Fuck that was close!” Rick marveled.
Mike noted the dark stain on the cloth as he finished drying his hair. ’Ira could you go collect my shit?”
“It worked,” he went on to the rest as the man left.
’Yeah, but it looks like “Little Mike” got a bit scared!” Gretchen flashed at him.
Mike walked into the house wrapping the towel around him with as much dignity as he could salvage.