The world woke up Monday to the news of a stunning robbery in London. Breathless headlines screamed out the take- “150 million in gems!”
Not even close.
The perpetrators of that robbery woke in Dubai, tired, sore and jet lagged.
It was a subdued group of six with Sydney included, who ate lunch at the villa.
The mood was very confused. Quiet, with bursts of talking and emotions. Despite the euphoria at getting the job done, there was only tempered retelling of funny instances during the robbery. Fear about the upcoming job tamped down everyone’s emotions. The phone call to Demetry reporting success after they’d landed was quick and perfunctory by Davidson and got no real response anyway. The gang had too much on its collective mind to really celebrate.
“Shouldn’t we be celebrating?”, the confused newcomer asked Mike in a quiet moment.
Davidson shrugged. “Too many things can still go wrong. We do have another job…”
So they all waited, laying low in the villa while quietly stewing. These few days were devoted to final prep and clean up. 99 percent of the work was done, just the last minuet adjustments that were a standard part of any job still remained to be accomplished.
Even though Graeme was in charge of Dubai, it was Mike who kept harping on things:
“Make sure you’ve checked the….”
“Did you remember to…”
“Enough!” Graeme snapped at him at Tuesdays dinner. “One thing I won’t miss is your anal nagging.” He took leave from the table and went out to the pool area.
Mike let him go. The looks from the rest of the team told him that they were done with his attention to detail routine too. He apologized to the Irishman that night.
“Sorry, Graeme. I’m just worried.”
“Easy, shammer. We are ready for whatever.”
Yeah, maybe, he thought. Hoped was more like it.
Wednesday the 9th of April dawned hot and windy. Mike intended to write the Dubai tourism commission about the weather. Holy shit it was going to be hot. Over 90 today.
The gang packed carefully for their trip into the desert. The two jet black hummers were loaded to the top with gear and clothes and guns. The huge SUV’s had an enormous cargo capacity, a high wheel base, and lots of power. It was like the vehicles were designed for military operations. Which of course they were and it also made them perfect for the gangs needs.
Several changes of clothes for each person were included: Standard oil field garb, with the full Xi Services uniforms and then some regular clothes for afterwards hopefully. Everyone needed some duplicate sets. The Desert Camp resort had laundry facilities so the men could wash up sweaty polo shirts and cammo pants, but that attracted attention.
Graeme and Mike went over to the Diera buildings to check on the Russians. Mike found them ready and did not bother to sweep the rooms for tell tale left behind items. He knew they would fuck that thing up, but that was fine with him.
By 12:00 pm on the 9th, Sutton Geology was checked into Desert Camp for their third set of Corporate team building exercises and meetings.
Graeme Donniger got everyone situated and reviewed the plan. The 10th being the last full rehearsal day with the 11th being the staging period.
The 12th would be go time, if everything cooperated.
Mike spent the session with the full team, day dreaming, not really listening. He was thinking about his future. He should be on a boat on the 12th- free to restart his life. Well truth be told, he had more work to do and then some loose ends to to tie up but he would be free.
And one of those loose ends was bouncing around the last bungalow in Desert Camp. Sydney Devereaux had arrived in Desert Camp late that night after the gang and the Russians. Darkness hid her from the watchers, Mike knew were out there keeping tabs on the gang.
Mike felt the risk was low as the now short haired brunette was better at being Charlotte Laurent as she grew accustomed to evading notice.
She was bouncing off the walls of the nicely air conditioned room when he managed to sneak over very late that evening.
“I’m not going to spend this robbery watching a police station or waiting for you in my hotel room like London!”
“Are you asking to be allowed to break the law and participate in a robbery?” he asked a little facetiously but trying to calm her down.
“Don’t fucking give me that bullshit!”
Okay, Ms. Devereaux was a little wired.
It took him thirty minutes to talk her down, and another 90 to go thru scenarios and what he wanted her to do. “Just be dressed, ready and drive to the rendezvous point okay?”
She agreed with a grudging amount of belief. She did not like to be kept in the dark.
Michael convinced her to go to bed with him in short order after the robbery was detailed. Both knew it might very well be the last night they’d spend together. “We can’t see each other tomorrow. “We have to be careful”, he told her. Can’t mess up like the house in Brooklyn, he thought.
Those kinds of thoughts lent a desperate urgency to their lovemaking.
As he slipped back to his bungalow very early the next morning, Michael had some regrets. Chief among them was his potential last words to Sydney: Not “I Love You,” but- Stick to the plan!”
Last thing I may say to her. Jesus! I am a piece of work sometimes.
’Why should today be any different than any other day we have been here?,” Mike asked Rick when he complained about the hot windy day on Friday morning.
The whole group was up before dawn to prepare for the job. Packing, loading, and breakfast all took time and they were on a schedule.
Graeme had been busy. Early morning phone calls and texts confirmed a UAE C5 galaxy transport plane was fueled and being loaded at Swinpol airport in Zurich. Their contact had texted a picture of the plain grey billet boxes being loaded aboard the cargo plane. Security was off the charts at the load out with police, military and private guards all watching each other. The Irishman gleefully showed the Russians.
’Three hours, friends. Game Time!”
Sutton Geo was already checked out of Desert Camp that morning curtesy of Rosario Dawson. The company would hold it’s last training event and leave that afternoon.
’Was madam aware that the airport and several roads in the area were scheduled to be closed around noon?” The check out agent tried to be helpful.
Oh yes, all of Sutton was aware of the closures and had planned for them she assured the staff.
Ira and Rick returned from ferrying the first group of haulers out to the remote airstrip site around 9:30 am.
Two hummer SUV’s remained along with one Mercedes to take the last eleven people out to the airbase. Mike hoped Sydney was getting to sleep in today. He missed her already. An exchange of looks with Graeme to say, your show, and then…
“Move out,” Donniger spoke into the radio.
The convoy rolled into the desert. Ira was driving with Mike in the back seat and Graeme in the third row. Both of those men were changing clothes from their, “resort wear look” for the Desert camp people, into their robbery gear.
Mike felt weighed down by the clothes and the equipment as he dressed. Sunglasses and Keffiyaih were on top with the polo shirt over the cammo pants. The tactical vest held side arm, radio and ammo as he adjusted the straps. A fanny pack held his ID’s, money and passports which went to the rear for safekeeping. The heavy combat boots pinned his feet to the floorboards as they drove on. Two new items adorned his dress this time. Gold oak leaf collar devices id’ing him as a Major in the XI services hierarchy and a small plastic armband id holder covered with a flap on his shirt sleeve. His holder contained a copy of a mercenary id badge. The gang had them but the Russian’s did not. Graeme’s plan hinged on the Russians not noticing that the thieves all had on subtly different uniforms from their rehearsal times.
Plus some other “minor” differences that Mike fervently hoped they missed as well. Lots of variables with this job.
In the scramble to get out to the site, Mike knew the Sergei and the other four Russians were trying to keep track of things but it was difficult when you are dressing and bouncing on the road.
The convoy reached the airstrip and came on thru the gate and up to the series of low buildings adjacent to the runway.
The all too recently re cleared runway that on the rehearsal day had held a shock to Graeme’s plan: The wind had mounded up foot high miniature sand dunes in ripples across the cracked tarmac. The gang didn’t have shovels. Rick saved the day when he went into an outbuilding and pulled out a scraper blade that attached to the front of a hummer. “Thought we might need this”, he said moving to attach it.
Fuckin kid is an excellent thief, Mike marveled.
Graeme was out of the hummer and screaming at the group of Russians standing around the three vehicles that had brought them out first.
’What the fuck are you doing! You are supposed to be dressed and have these trucks decaled and painted!” “Move!” He badgered them when they did not hop too quickly enough.
The man rounded on Anton and Viktor while the others ran around like chickens. “You are supposed to be in charge.”
Forty five minutes of activity saw things sorted. The first four hummer SUV’s were now decked out with the yellow decals covering the top, sides and hoods. Red accent paint and special arabic lettering designated these trucks as command vehicles in the Dubai Fire Department.
Mike gawked at the expense. A $95,000 SUV as a city vehicle. He knew that kind of thing would never pass in the states, but here? The fucking police department drove Lamborghini’s for Christ’s sake!
During his inspection round, Graeme was happy to see the Russians wearing the uniforms that they’d worked so hard to obtain. Gretchen went around handing out the guns and ammo clips. “Safety’s on!” she kept yelling. She personally outfitted everyone just as she’d done in every rehearsal, shoving clips into vests. Practice makes perfect.
Ira and his charges unpacked and setup their goodies near the berm. The lee side blocked the wind which was the newest obstacle to the plan. They needed the wind to die down a bit.
The pattern that had held for weeks now was for the winds to blow hard in the early morning and then drop around noon. A fresh blow sometimes accompanied the sunsets but usually it was calm. Right now that morning wind was howling at 22 kts. Sand stinging as it impacted everyone and everything. Can’t do anything now, Mike thought as Graeme fretted. Under 20 was the key.
Sergei, Graeme and Mike held a war council near the cars.
The plane had taken off an hour and twenty minutes ago. “Another two hours until it reaches us, Donniger told Sergei. The man nodded.
“Let’s feed them, give them plenty of water and then a piss break.” “We should be fully ready by 12.” The Irish gave out his statements like a general taking his troops into battle. Which he was.
The activity level increased again as Rick and Joey handed out MRE packs to the assembled crowd.
It was a quiet group that ate beef stroganoff from the brown self heating packets. Mike kept shoveling food into his mouth and watching Graeme. This had better work or we are all dead. The irishman had nothing to say telepathically or aloud to that.