THIEF IN LAW

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Chapter 2

Friday and Saturday were cabin fever, cake days for Mike. Other than two brisk workouts in his exercise room he barely budged or sweated. The snow ended Friday at noon, after dropping 26 inches. But the damage was done, and New York was on its knees. The subway stopped, the roads were impassable, and the airports closed. Da Mayor came on TV and asked the citizens for patience. John Massimino was being hailed as a very smart man.

The whole thing reminded Davidson of the stories he’d heard about the 83 blizzard in Denver. 28 inches dumped in 24 hours on that much smaller city. At the big press conference the next day the first question was: “Mr. Mayor have you instituted the cities snow removal plan?” William Mc Nichol, the long time Mayor of Denver, looked into the camera and went “uhhh”. He was voted out the next year.

So, it was Da Mayor’s turn in the spot light and he did have a snow removal plan. It might not have been the plan most people would have used given the choice. The plowing went in this order: Rich peoples streets first. Then the major arteries. Then the poor sections of town. Da Mayor was an asshole.

The airports reopened on Saturday but no one could get to them. Michael began to wonder if he could get to Graeme. Thats going to piss him off even more, Mike thought. He and Graeme were having discussions about things. Not fights- just discussions. Shoveling the walks and the stoop and brushing off the backyard trees earned him a brisket care package from Mary on Saturday evening. She was enduring the storm just fine.

The tiny woman told him passing over the food, “I’m in my bathrobe early. Bluebloods is on. I want to see if Tom Selleck takes his shirt off!”

“T.M.I, Mary, T.M.I!”

Sunday dawned bright and warm and blue skied. Everything turned into a slushy mess. The plow crews, after 55 straight hours, had most of the city cleared. What they would admit to anyway. Harlem might have been an exception. The grumbling about that was just beginning. An IM was waiting from Graeme in their favorite chat room that just said: “On my way!” Mike confirmed the 2:11 pm landing time. Antwerp to JFK on Delta. He had time.

He moved downstairs to the gym for his workout. His exercise room was large and filled with some basic gear and mats. No weird lunkhead weights or mirrors for him. A pull up bar was bolted into the floor and ceiling and a top of the line treadmill was in the main section. Normally, he would run outdoors, usually in the park. The feel of the path made the running much more enjoyable for him. He reserved the treadmill for days just like today, too slushy or too cold or rainy.

A series of windmill stretches for his arms and a slow jog to warm up a bit. His blue sweats and tank top went nicely with his asic running shoes. When had he become such a fashion snob? The whir of the rolling mat started in slow and then it started to grow. He beeped buttons until the incline was set at one degree up and the speed hit six minutes per mile pace. Stepping up his stride, Davidson began to run. His long legs stretched out and soon was lulled into the rhythm of the run. His breathing even and deep, trying to relax.

He was not looking forward to his ride home today with his best friend. Things had become strained between them over the last five years. And it had become really bad the last two. The friction between them was exacerbated during their professional dry spell. Add to that Graeme was drinking more, and getting wilder with his money. He wasn’t the best at either of those two activities (sobriety and saving) normally and his friction with Michael was making it worse. Kind of like a shame spiral.

It was not like it was in the beginning. All things change, especially relationships. Simpler? Maybe. Things were simple in the beginning, and he personally was certainly less complicated. Same could be said for Graeme. Both had picked up baggage along the years.

He’d met Graeme Donniger, lately of New York City, via Belfast, Northern Ireland in Las Vegas. Davidson was in the city after a very momentous six months of his life. Months that saw him commit his first robbery, graduate from college and move to Brooklyn. Why commit the robbery? Why Brooklyn? The challenger for the former and the fact that everyone was moving west and south causing him to go north and east for the latter. Zigging when everyone else zagged was a favorite theme for him. Thats why he was in Vegas with a fake ID and 15,000 in cash. One book read on gambling and half an eye on taking down a casino, he was a powder keg waiting to go off. Three days of playing cards taught him a few things. No one could rob a casino and no one consistently beat the house. Even if your card counting system was augmented with a fabulous memory. The Caesar’s pit boss realized he was counting cards after 50 hours. Donniger figured it out in 20 minutes.

“You need to lose on a big bet occasionally, friend.” The voice was a lilting Irish brogue.

Head down and speaking out the side of his mouth, the voice was pitched for Michael’s ears only. Davidson looked sideways at the man in the next seat at the 25 dollar table. Young, thin, a shade under six feet and pale, the man was handsome with full lips and crooked teeth. Curley brown hair topped his head, Graeme introduced himself and nodded agreeably when Mike upped his bet on a minus six scored on the system. Both men busted. The dealer shuffled and they placed larger bets as the cards flew. The cards came 20 for Mike, blackjack for Graeme and 17 for the dealer.

“There’s the luck o’ the Irish!” Graeme shouted.

The pair embarked on an epic Vegas night together. Michael achieved an near impossibility; he maintained a pleasant buzz from 10:00 am at Caesars until passing out at 4:30 am with a secretary named Sally from Wichita, in a comped suite.

Oh boy! At 10:15 the next morning he wondered out of the bedroom to find Graeme, Sally and another women named Wendy indulging in a room service breakfast. Michael sheepishly joined them.

“You’re right, he is a baby,” Wendy said to Sally, matter of factly.

The 29 year old woman smiled and said, “I taught him a few tricks.”

He choked on his O.J while the other three laughed at him. The ladies soon left to rejoin their bachelorette group allowing Graeme to set into Michael.

“Where you living friend?” he asked mildly to start.

“I just moved to Brooklyn,” Mike admitted not willing to give away much.

“Thats great! I live in the city meself.” “You know you can figure every angle but you would need a crew of fifty to rob a casino.” He said it straight out just to gauge his new friend.

Silence from the other man and Graeme grinned back to that.
“Photographic memory, right?”

More silence and then Davidson said, “The term is eidetic, not photographic”.

’You remembered their names after the night we had, Graeme commented pulling out a small card on which he’d written: Wendy, tall thin brunette. Sally- Blonde, short. Stacked.

He showed the card to Mike. “I needed a little help.”

“I didn’t have that much to drink.” It came out a bit defensively.

“Five rum and cokes with six waters in between, starting at the bar in the Flamingo,” Graeme recounted.

“You had seven whisky sours”.

“I’m Irish, I’m supposed to!”, the man retorted. He stretched and looked out the locked window at the view of the strip.

Mike watched him and relaxed a bit. He liked the guy okay and was willing to see where this led.

“All the while winning 4,275 dollars and tipping a whopping 1405,” he went on detailing Graeme’s activities to his back. The Irishman shrugged.

“I’m generous, what can I say.” The men matched eyes as Graeme turned and went on softly. “And I watched as you, card counted, observed me, cased Caesar’s, and picked up two ladies, all the while winning over 10,000.”

“11,395”

“What do you do for a living, Mr?”

“Davidson,” Michael supplied.

“I might have a job that could use a man of your skills,” Graeme said with gusto and that was it.

Mike did not miss a step on the treadmill as he sweated and remembered the beginnings with his friend. Now? There was the rub. The situation had fundamentally changed from that equal beginning. Michael was calling the shots now. He was picking the targets and working out the details on their jobs. It got complicated because Graeme wanted to be the leader. Problem was he was not as good at the whole business of stealing. He could not keep track of the details as Mike could. He didn’t have the attention to detail necessary to deal with the problems that inevitably came up.

As Mike rose and became the Thief in law in the organization, Graeme became just another gang member. And that rankled the Irishman. It caused him to drink more and be crazier with his money. Crazier with women too. And now? Something was going to have to change. Mike felt bad about that but it was what had to happen.

Mike felt the metronome in his head clicking away. He looked down at the display unit to see: 54:45 time elapsed and 9.1 miles run. He slowed and lowered the base unit. Some time at a comfortable walking pace allowed him to recover. Water bottle and towel were liberally used to wipe down his body and slow his breathing. He felt good after the run, but was not finished with the workout. After recovering he went to the pull up bar.

Jumping to grasp the bar he levered his legs up into an “L” position. Davidson began doing pull ups. A set of ten was cranked out in two minuets. He dropped and allowed a three min recovery period. A second set followed with legs still held in the horizontal position. A third set and his arms began to ache. His ab muscles felt tight and began to burn. Breathing heavily once more and sweating all over again, the fourth set saw his arms quiver and chest heave as he worked to finish the set of ten.

Arms behind his head trying to allow the oxygen to replenish his tired muscles as he rued the day he’d gone to this regime. “Core” was all the rage a few years ago. Fuck core!

The fifth and final set started well but by six he was barely cresting the bar. Seven struggled but he got it up there. Eight…. nope. He collapsed onto the mat and lay there a few moments gasping for air, waiting to see if he could walk without his abs cramping up. Mike tried to do this workout once a week. He did one or the other part all the time but the pull up thing right after the run was double tough. Davidson could also count on one hand the number of times he’d failed to complete that fifth set. The trudge up the stairs and the shower felt like defeat, even though he knew in his head not many men could have done that routine. Age was taking its toll on him. He could not stop that from happening- try as he might. The eye’s in the mirror staring back at him were still clear but a few wrinkles had appeared and now he could not finish his pull ups. Fuck. He supposed everyone struggled with the inevitable decline. His larger problem was that a huge decline for him could lead directly to his death. Declining thieves made mistakes and The Bratva did not like mistakes.

Dressing in blue jeans and a sea green cashmere sweater and loafers, Mike went back down to his office to bang out some more work. A steady hour produced four to do lists. Those lists were his genius on display. A detailed list of what each gang member needed to accomplish in order to find a new target, maintain their covers, or finish off old loose ends. The list for him was contained in his head as always. Paper work, forms and contingencies. Those items separated Michael from every smash and grab thief out there. The attention to detail got things accomplished that other thieves could not get done. The four lists went into his leather messenger bag. He was ready for Tuesday and its challenges.

A check of the flight status for the plane (on time) and slipping on his favorite black leather jacket, Michael eased the truck out of the garage. The Audi would handle fine in the snow but the four wheel drive of the F-150 was preferable. A left out of the garage and he cruised over the hard packed snow that was Washington Park. He guessed they didn’t rate with the city crews. A left onto Dekalb and the traffic slowed to a crawl.

The day remained sunny and about 50 ish with the winter smog hanging low in the air. The blocks ticked off as he drove: Clermont, Vanderbilt, Clinton. A dodge left and he was on Washington proper. Since this was a major thruway, the plows had scraped this one clean except for a few ice spots which the truck pushed thru. A few blocks more and onto Atlantic Avenue. This was the real test of how his trip would be. Atlantic was the major east west artery in the city. Locals might prefer Fulton but Mike hated dealing with the muni busses so he took Atlantic.

Besides, he loved this road. Especially the area he was passing now, the new Barclays Center. The giant complex would house the basketball team and a retail center. It was almost opened but was behind schedule on financing and construction delays. A typical New York building project. Plan plan plan and then hope for the best as problems arose. Light after light ticked green as he went thru. Nice timing. The turn onto E. New York ave was not impossible, it just required a near suicidal left across traffic that did not want to ease. Horn blaring, he made it. E. New York became Jamaica avenue which led to the almost pastoral setting of the Jackie. The Jackie Robinson Parkway went past several cemeteries in this part of the city. Since nobody visited graves in the snow, it was clear and Mike picked up speed as the truck engine growled. The sign said “Van Wyck Expressway 4 miles”. A check of his watch: Perfect. On schedule.

This was exactly the kind of problem solving he did in his head all the time. Graeme had landed 28 min ago at 2:15 pm. Four minutes late. Seven minutes to taxi off the runway and into the international terminal gate . Only six needed for his mate to deplane, as he was in first class after all. No bathroom break for the Irishman either, since he had a penis. A 6 minute walk to the passport control area. Seventeen more in the resident alien line. Bags coming down the carousel now. Eight spent collecting the bags and run them past the drug sniffing beagles. Michael crossed the airport belt road at this point. He was on the JFK grounds moving past cargo road where the van would have carried them onto the tarmac last week had things gone better. Too late now. Fourteen minutes more for Graeme to walk to the passenger pick up area and then to the smoke cubical for one (no- two cigarets) and…

Michael navigated the maze that was terminal one passenger pickup and yanked the wheel hard to the curb as he saw Graeme walk out of the door of the smoking cube. The man hoisted his bags into the bed of the truck and hopped in. The whole exchange took 42 seconds and no phone calls.

Graeme Donniger was 44 now and feeling his age the same as Mike. Brown curly hair thinning now and receding a bit, he also had some gray sprinkled in. Because he was an inch or two shorter than the American, Graeme had a bit of a paunch. In no way did he exercise or watch what he ate like his friend did. His Irish brogue had also retreated over the years as New York City imprinted new rhythms on his tongue.

“Get any sleep?” Michael asked as he retraced his route and hit the 678 towards Manhattan.

“Bah- A bit. I’m a little knackered.”

The driver was sure a few whisky sours had helped get him that sleep.

“Okay- Take the rest of today and tomorrow and get your legs under you. We will hit it again on Tuesday.” “K?” Mike asked out of the coming argument.

“My legs are under me now, shammer,” Graeme said emphatically. “I didn’t do anythin’ more dangerous than sit in a car. All week!”

Accepting the reality of what was going to happen, Michael sighed. “Good. Thats how it was supposed to go.”

“But it didn’t go- did it?” the man steamed. It got all bolloxed up just like the Toronto job!”

“Fuck man, I’ll tell you the same thing I told Demetry, “I don’t control the weather!” Neither did DeBeers. They had to scramble to get the shipment changed and we just can’t turn with them like that!” He stopped speaking and took a calming breath.

“What did Demetry say to that?” Graeme asked after a moment.

Davidson steered the Ford around a slower driver paying attention to the road before he answered. “What do you think? He was pissed. Sorry, angry,” he corrected. Demetry is under a lot of pressure.”

“He’s under pressure?” The fuck he know about pressure!”

“The Man is moving with people you do NOT want to know about, Graeme.”

His passenger mumbled something that to Mike sounded like “…take his side” and then slammed the dash board. “That job was worth 15 million easy!”

Deep in his guts, Michael quailed. “You need money, Graeme?” The question was soft but the ramifications were not.

“Christ” his friend muttered rather than answer the awkward question.

“How much?”

No answer from the Irish. “Dammit- how much?” Mike was becoming angry now himself.

A hundred fifty large was finally admitted to.

Mike said nothing to that admission. There was not much he could say about that short of an out and out fist fight. His friend was a polar opposite in many ways. The old saying about crime not paying set aside, both men had been well compensated for their efforts over the years. Through his offshore accounts and the holding company investment portfolio, Mike could lay his hands on nine figures in a few months if he had too. Investments and hiding money were not Graeme’s specialities. Water through his fingers was the operative expression. He knew at least 60 million had gone into those fingers. And now he owed a lot of money to people Mike figured would not be too happy about not being paid.

“You’ll have the check on Tuesday.”

“I’m not a basket case!”

“I’m the one trying to help you here!” Mike shouted back.

“I need to work not take charity,” Graeme countered.

Mike had no way answer to that. They’d covered the ground before.

The silence between them stretched and then Graeme said, “Mikey, I’m telling you Dubai would be..”

“The biggest cluster fuck in the world!” he interrupted the man.

Irish fumed in the passenger seat watching the cars go by on the Jackie, outbound while they went in bound to the city.

Continuing in a calm and reasonable voice Mike said, “Graeme, Dubai would require a huge crew- at least sixteen, and more like twenty extra guys.”

“We’ve worked with stand ins before.”

“Ya- four at the most and those jobs sucked didn’t they?”

He steered the car back onto Atlantic Avenue as the men debated the merits of the job. Mike made the turn onto Flatbush from Atlantic.

“You’re going to..” Graeme started and then stopped. He was going to ask if Mike thought going on the Manhattan bridge was better then using the Brooklyn bridge or even the Williamsburg. But that was like asking Picasso if he thought that blue color was appropriate. Michael Davidson knew what he was doing. And that rankled Graeme. Irritated him to no end sometimes. Somewhere along the line, Michael had become the leader. Even as far back as the Kings Bay job. How had that happened?

It seemed a day for remembrances. Graeme recalled the Vegas trip and his proposal to Mike that “I could use a guy with your skills”. He also recalled what happened after that.

In December of 1998 the pair drove down from the City to the booming metropolis of Jacksonville, Fla. The Extended Stay America had a two bedroom place for the bargain price of 1250 dollars for the month. They paid for it on a Sutton Industries credit card. The first time they ever setup a fake company to hide their activities. It was Mike’s idea and execution. The place was basic in that it had a small living room, kitchenette and each bedroom had an ensuite. Situated at the 295/95 beltway north of Jacksonville, it was perfect for their needs.

Graeme’s job turned out to be Petty Officer third class, Submarines, Allen Rossum. He was married to a second cousin of Donniger’s. Rossum knew a few things: Graeme had a reputation in the family as a thief, a Third Class Petty Officer in the US Navy made less than 19,000 a year in pay and the Compass Point Bank on the upper base was ripe to be robbed.

The three men held several meetings at the Inn while they planned the robbery. Rossum was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania SSBN 736 Gold Crew as a Sonar Technician. The ballistic missile carrying submarine was home-ported at the gigantic Kings Bay Naval base north of Jacksonville, just over the Georgia state line about ten miles away. The base was home to four of the huge submarines, their crews and families with another five due in to the place after they were finished being constructed in Connecticut. The base itself was over 30,000 acres divided into an upper section and lower section. The lower section was where the submarines were outfitted and loaded with the missiles while the upper part contained the support areas that made the place a small city. Commissary, gym, housing, training facilities and offices. And most importantly, a bank.

Significantly, the upper base was also where a whole detachment of Marines were housed. 350 strong, the Marines were on hand to protect the nuclear weapons from terrorists. Neither Mike nor Graeme were keen to take on US Marines.

“In any scenario the marines are directed to SWFLANT to protect the warheads,” Rossum told them.

“SWFLANT?” Mike asked.

“Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic,” the young Navy man told them. “That is the place they store the warheads until they get loaded onto the subs.”

“Please! No more acronyms.”

“And the Marines are not on the gates?” Donniger asked.

“Nope. Private security. Wackenhut, the same guys as at the airport,” Rossum said kind of smugly.

The men exchanged looks. That was key.

“What about the bank?” Mike asked next.

“Only one guard inside, Rossum explained. “The best part is that the alarm only goes to the local St. Mary’s police department, not anywhere on base!”

“How do you know that?” Davidson demanded.

“Because a shipmate’s wife is a teller. We were at a ship function and she told us they’d had a false alarm and it took the cops like ten minuets to get onto the base.”

The thieves processed this. Another very critical piece. And Mike took charge saying, “Get to her. Confirm that piece of information.”

“How?”

“Tell her you went in the other day and the guard was sleep on his feet. You are worried something is going to happen,” Mike directed and Graeme nodded along.

The minutia and logistics took several days of planning. Both men went onto the base several times with Rossum or his wife to note procedures. They also cased the bank and found it an easy target. Potentially.

“What are we going to wear,” Graeme wanted to know.

“Uniforms of course, Mike told him. We will blend in perfectly if we get this right.”

Rossum helped and it reminded Mike of his first robbery. Of course on that job he’d looked like any other collage student because he WAS a collage student.

Graeme wanted to wear the one piece coverall he sometimes watched Allen wear. Mike put that idea down.

“It helps us with tools but we can’t technically wear that off base right Allan?”

Rossum went into detail on Navy uniforms and the rules for wearing things on and off the base. “We have six different types of uniforms. The coverall is called a poopie suit and…”

He spent 20 minutes lecturing the men.

’Is there a book that goes over the uniforms?” Mike asked.

Rossum brightened. “Sure! At the uniform shop.”

The book was procured and Mike took a crash course in Navy regulations and haberdashery. The details were fascinating to him.

’As much as our ID’s and badges to get on base, the uniforms have to be right,” Mike told Graeme after the man complained. “If we get it right we blend in and become anonymous”.

Graeme allowed Mike to dictate what they would wear and how they handled certain situations until that became the pattern with the two men. It was his idea to rob the place but Mike made the details flow.

Haircuts? US Navy perfect at a cost of 5 dollars at the Commissary barber shop. A car was purchased for fifteen hundred cash from a sailor who was transferring. Of course they would scrape the base sticker off and get a new one!

Uniforms were obtained and tailored and pressed. Mike very very carefully attached the ribbons and warfare pins.

“Don’t you get it, Graeme? A sailors uniform has his whole career in code right on it. The Chevron tells the rank- one strip for a Third Class like Allan, up to three for a first class. The higher ups-Chiefs and Officers- wear the beige colored uniforms.” Even the insignia on the chevron tells what kind of job you have: Sonar tech, Electronics or even a Mechanic.” “Same with these ribbons and medals,” he gestured at the chest candy.

His partner was not impressed. Mike laid out the ties and the name tags they’d stolen: ET 3 Hill and ET 3 Andrews would never miss them. “Just salute when I do and look bored.” Graeme grumbled but practiced the hand salute. Details.

The final meeting took place on the 29th of December. Rossum was getting ready to deploy. That meant he would go to sea on a submarine, isolated from everyone for three plus months. Perfect.

“The base is on Christmas stand down right now. About half of the base personnel are on leave and off base entirely, so traffic and people are not around.” The man went over his knowledge of what was going on. “Liberty (off time) was pretty liberal for all commands. We have to check in at the off crew offices every Tuesday and Thursday.” Allan went over how each submarine had two full sets of crews: a Blue and Gold version. “When we have the sub, we live and work on it and take it to sea. When the Goldies have it, our jobs are just like a civilian office job. Well, mostly like a civilian office job. We work 7:00 am to 4 usually in a huge building and go to short training schools and other things.”

Davidson had one more serious question. “What about guns?”

“What about them?” Rossum came back. “Funny thing about a Naval base is that no one is allowed to have guns. We have them on the subs, but you aren’t going anywhere near there. Guns are allowed in base housing as long as they are unloaded and locked up.” He grinned. “Even the Marines keep their guns in an armory.” Only the security guard at the bank will have a gun. And he’s much more Barney Fife than Dirty Harry.”

That was fantastic news.

“So when do we hit it?” Graeme asked.

“When is this stand down thing over with?”, Mike asked their accomplice.

“Monday the sixth.”

“We go Friday the third, Mike answered immediately. “That is perfect for us. The bank will get in money for the upcoming weekend and the upcoming week when they are going to be hella busy with sailors coming back from vacation.”

“Leave”, Rossum corrected.

“Whatever.”

The car plodded along Atlantic avenue back towards the Barclays Center while Graeme mused on his status with Mike. He remembered. Remembered the nerves and the tension on that first job together.

Thursday the 2nd of January they checked out of the Extended Stay Inn after packing carefully and wiping down the place. They had all the equipment and clothes they would need for the next day. A shit bag Motel six on the highway 40 exit from I-95 was a huge step down in terms of comfort but it was anonymous and had easy access to the base. They drove the operational car and the car they’d driven down to Jacksonville with over to the new motel. Backpacks held the things they would need for the actual robbery. Taser, gun, zip ties, spray paint, latex gloves and collapsable duffel bags.

On Friday two impeccably dressed young sailors checked out of the motel. At 9:32 they started towards the base in the new used car, back packs beside them. A quick cell call to Rossum announced they were moving and he was in position at the main pass and ID office. That was not the access point for the two robbers, however.

They were going to a smaller check point commonly called the St. Mary’s gate. The ten mile drive took no time as the traffic was light and the roads were new and wide with dark black top. Graeme had never seen such nice roads before. He remarked on them to Mike. “Focus!”

The gate was a non event. A standard ID check of the sticker on the car and their badges. The bored private security man barely glanced at them or the faked badges. The pair drove onto USS Benjamin Franklin drive. Every street was USS something on this place. There seemed to be zero traffic around. “Everyone is on vacation.” Mike reassured him. Nerves and tension ratcheting up as they drove.

A left onto USS James Madison as the men went past the gigantic red brick training building they’d seen on numerous visits. Mike always thought the base looked like a cross between a college campus and a prison complex. Keeping strictly to the speed limit the men put on latex gloves and the black combination caps that would hide their faces along with the sunglasses. Luckily the weather was bright enough to justify the eyewear. Neither spoke as they pulled into the bank parking lot. Only five other cars in the large lot. Good, not many customers at the 10:00 am opening besides the four workers they knew to be inside. Into the trunk to gather their gear. Packs held low and ready.

The pair hit the door hard. Graeme immediately pulled the taser he held low at his side and shoved the black box, cracking and snapping into the guards side. The man arched, gave a strangled cry and went down like a lead weight.

Mike, trusting his partner, continued into the bank proper and had eyes only for the manager. He put aside his feelings for a second to allow himself the space to work.

Shoving the gun forward he shouted “Stop!” at the woman. The heavy set 55 year old woman with a very very out of date hairstyle froze with her hand near the alarm button.

“Uh Uh. Move over here. Come out from behind there!” His command now took the other two tellers into account.

All three women joined the one elderly male customer and the young female account holder on the patron side of the divide. All of the people, whether customer or employee were wide eyed and ashen with shock. A glance back at Graeme showed the guard down and zip tied and that he’d locked the door with the closed sign out facing. Good. Graeme next pulled put the spray paint out of the pack and blocked the camera lens at the entrance.

Mike was busy zip tying the hands of everyone and getting them set down out of sight of the door. The whole process took four minutes. Getting the patrons and guards secured without incident eased a giant knot in Davidson’s stomach.

A shot of black paint got the back angled camera and the men opened the back packs again and started pulling out the light weight duffle bags.

Graeme took the teller windows while Mike broke for the vault. Per procedure the door was wide open at this point. The money was still in the bulky satchel bags from the armored car company delivery. That was kind of them. Bundled wads of cash started going into the duffles. Satchels went in next. It was easy to spot the dye packs as he went through the cash. Mike actually hated to grab the fifties and hundreds in the bundles. Twenties were untraceable, but hunddy’s? Serial numbers were all accounted for on those.

It became problematic to spend large stacks of hundreds right after a robbery. But he took them as greed overcame reluctance. Graeme joined him in the vault. “Time?”

“Eleven minutes total,” Graeme told him checking his watch. The vault camera showed their profiles as they zipped up the duffels and checked for anything left behind. Neither said a word to the frightened people as they walked past them on the way out. Graeme locked the door behind him. Both men walked -walked ,to the car and put their duffles and packs into the trunk. Gloves stripped off and shoved into pockets as they drove off 14 min after pulling into the lot.

Despite every nerve and instinct yelling at him to “RUN”, Michael Davidson calmly turned left at the light onto USS Stimson avenue. He cruised past the auto garage and the gas station and up to the main gate guard shack. There was no check going out of the base. The left across traffic and into the main pass and ID parking lot took the most balls Graeme had ever seen. The lot was half full of sailors, contractors and other visitors completing the hoops the Navy wanted everyone to go through in order to get onto their secure facility. Lots of sailors exchanged cars here so what they did was not even strange at all.

Mike pulled in next to Rossum sitting in his car. The man was pale behind the wheel.

“Easy sham, Graeme told him. “No problems and no one got hurt.”

A huge breath escaped the man. Mike was back at the trunk shoving tens and twenties into a back pack. Allan was getting a flat 40,000 for the job. He was actually lucky. 40,000 in tens and twenties is automatically spendable cash. He would not have to launder the money at all.

Mike sat the pack onto the back seat of Allan’s car. “Go to sea as planned, man. Use that to pay cash for everything for a while. Slowly SLOWLY put that into the bank over the next year and boom, you have a nice nest egg.”

“And shammer, Graeme warned, don’t call us for money in six months.”

The pair watched as Rossum went onto the base with no issues.

Back into the car and off the base property, the men started the clean up process. The cars were wiped down and uniforms, tasers and guns went into plastic bags and then into an Arby’s dumpster off the highway. Mike and Graeme split the remaining 244,000 dollars. The men drove straight thru 17 hrs to New York City in the two cars and dropped them off at a chop shop around 5 am. The pair stopped for breakfast while Graeme read the news papers and ate. Mike settled for juice and worked on his nerves.

“32 minutes those people lay there before they worked their way free.” The grin on the Irishman’s face was ear to ear as he red the short article on the robbery.

The police suspected deploying sailors had robbed the bank but they had zero leads about the money and no good description beyond young, white sailors. But the robbers still had one problem.

The money, what were they going to do with the money?

“I’ve got some ideas about that,” Mike told his partner.

Thats when it got complicated and went sideways, Graeme suddenly realized in the truck. Mike had some ideas about what to do with the money and Graeme knew a guy.

The Irishman had to admit that when he won out over Mike’s plan to establish a false company to move the money through, the results were less than perfect. Feydor Slutskaya did indeed take the money off their hands- at a price. Both walked away with 80,000 which was actually pretty good for fenced money. What’s more it came in the form of cash with receipts that made it look like they’d pawned something to get the cash, so the cops or the banks could not squawk.

Mike managed to hold back a few bundles of the 100’s. “Just some emergency money in case we need to run.”

The bad side of the whole deal was Feydor. The fence was bad news and connected to even worse people if that could be believed. And Graeme had connected the two thieves to him. It wasn’t long before they were pulling jobs at Feydor’s behest and then directly for Demetry. The upshot? Michael just seemed to take over like he had in Georgia. He figured out things and it worked. Worked well! Michael became the Thief in Law, not him. Mike was floating through life while Graeme could not catch a break. Money, looks, and leadership. Sometimes it just boiled down to a man wanting to be respected. Even just listened to. He knew they could pull off Dubai. He just knew it.

“Mikey, let me take Dubai to Demetry,” Graeme started after a long silent period.

He was horrified. “No! God no!” Graeme don’t you understand, Roybokov is in some kind of trouble. Big trouble. I think he owes huge scratch to some global money guys. Not the crap you owe the leg breakers, more like 300 or even 500 million. I’m not sure about that yet.” Mike concluded as the truck started across the Manhattan bridge. The one way bridge was perfect for getting into this part of the main borough. “If he does owe that much then he will grasp at anything to get him out of trouble.”

“Then that makes Dubai perfect, Graeme crowed. This is the answer to his prayers!” With him to back us we are covered…”

“Man, you are not listening, Michael said coldly. We can’t pull off Dubai! Hell, we can’t rob Fort Knox either. You tell that man we can do it- if you get his hopes up and then something goes wrong- He will kill us all.”

Graeme did not want to hear that so he shook his head.

Davidson overrode him. “You, me, Ira, Gretchen and our families. Anyone he can get to.” Mike went on coldly. He had to make the man see he was playing with fire.

Graeme finally looked his friend in the eye. Mike returned the stare.

“You know me man. 18 years we been doing this. Have I ever played you? Lied to you?”

The answer was a grudging no.

“I’ve worked it a billion times in my head. Your plan is brilliant. Simply brilliant. No one could come up with better- but the Ministry and the mercenaries…. They add a dimension we’ve never seen before, man. Without a serious breach in the Ministry or something else happening, we can’t do it.” “We can’t get close to the gold.”

Maybe the flattery about his plan got him, but Graeme finally came one atom’s worth over to the other side. He remained silent however. Mike mistook that silence from his partner.

He played his only remaining card with his long time friend.

’If you want to do this, if I can’t talk you out of it, then go to Roybokov and put it to him. You can put your own crew together and try it.” “We would end our partnership though,” he concluded sadly.

Head whipping around Graeme said, “You’d do that buck!?”

“To save my life I would,” Mike said dead serious, no pun intended.

“You keep saying that but Demetry wouldn’t… not you!”

“Your first task on Tuesday is to find out why a shitty brown Crown Vic was sitting outside my house for three hours last Thursday.”

Irish stared at him like the man had grown a second head.

’I’m not paranoid, I have the video tape to prove it.”

“Shyte!” Graeme breathed.

“Indeed.”

Davidson steered the truck off the bridge onto Eldridge while Graeme worked through the ramifications of Mike’s revelation. He didn’t like anything that car represented. He was silent while working it over. Nothing immediately sprang to mind as to why.

This section of streets in Manhattan was a maze of one way roads. Mike hated it. He kept turning left to get around towards 2nd street. At least this area was plowed. Finally he pulled up in front of the Brownstone set in front of the New York Marble Cemetery which was across the street from Graeme’s house. The penthouse was Graeme’s only smart purchase. Six million dollars three years ago after the Paris job put the man into a stable housing situation. Mike was willing to bet the amount of mold in the refrigerator would be frightening. He hadn’t been in the place in two years.

Graeme pulled his bags out of the bed and stuck his head into the window.

“Thanks Mikey.” He had the grace to acknowledge that at least.

“Rest. We will come at it fresh on Tuesday.”

Mike started on the drive home as Graeme went on up. Neither man saw the two other men watching them from the white Olds parked down the street.

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