The sun glinted off the sea outside the window and Mike could see the waves crashing on shore. I must love that sound because somehow I always end up near the ocean.
His office was cluttered which was not like him. Monitors and keyboards, three of each, dominated the desk. Cell phones were lined up along with paper and notes all over. This was complicated and needed to be right.
He checked texts and messages from several places around the world. It looked like they were ready.
Mike leaned back in his comfy chair. He was cool and comfortably dressed, but as soon as he stepped outside the locals would know him for an outsider. How did I end up here?
As he reached for the black burner phone he flashed on the last time he’d used that particular phone. Another time and another place.
Today was June 4th, 2104. His sisters birthday. He’d better call her too.
But he could not help but think of the last time he’d held this phone.
13 months ago. May 2nd 2013. He’d been in Luxembourg and called O’Rourke. That was a great phone call!
“Lieutenant, Michael Davidson here, how are you? He’d asked when he could finally get the cop on the line.
“Exhausted you son of a bitch!’ the man yelled.
“Now, Lt. is that any way to speak to the man who made you famous?”
Michael could here the rustling in the back ground and forestalled the effort, “O”Rourke, please don’t bother with the trace. I’m using VOIP over an internet gang line. By the time you figure out where, I’ll be long gone.”
The rustling stopped and was replaced by a sigh. Still the cop said nothing. He was a hard man.
’Okay, man. You tell me about yesterday and I will owe you one.”
Davidson figured the officer was so tired he might bargain. And he knew the man was curious, so…
Another sigh and the cop said, “how in the hell did you manage to sell your house?”
His answering chuckle might have been a bit too smug. “You can do amazing things with powers of attorney and trusts and lawyers,” he told the cop.
“Yeah, what the hell is CRAT anyway?”
“It is a Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust,” he went on because he knew the officer would have no idea what he was talking about. “See basically you can donate a chunk of money to a trust. The chunk can be the proceeds from a house sale, Ya? So the trust then invests the money for a certain period of time and gives a portion to a charity. But here’s the thing, the portion can be a small amount and the time period can be for a short time, as little as 3.8 percent for three years.”
The cop grunted as that hit home.
“The remainder in the trust, after the time period expires and the proceeds go to charity, go straight to your relatives or heirs.” Davidson finished up.
“The best part is the money passes on tax free!”
“Holy shit! And who is your beneficiary?” O’Rourke asked bluntly.
“You know Lt. the laws in South Dakota shield the trust and the heir from having to come forward. The United Way likes it like that.”
“How did you learn all this?”
“Man, I’m small potatoes. I learned all about CRAT’s and GRAT’s and estate planning from the best. Sam Walton.”
“The Walmart guy?”
Mike was impressed the cop knew who Sam Walton was. “Yep. He passed on billions to his children and grandchildren, tax free.” He paused. “Makes me look like a choir boy.”
’Quit stalling, tell me!” The request came out desperate sounding.
Davidson heard another sigh and a muttered, “haven’t been to sleep in two days,” before O’Rourke told him the story.
“Based on an anonymous tip, members of the Brooklyn homicide division, backed by SWAT and the FBI, raided a Tea House on 1 May owned by Demetry Roybokov, a known Russian mobster.” The man told it like he was speaking to the press at first but then he dropped his voice down and confided, “Davidson, I tell you we got to the place about 11:00 am. While we are outside, setting up, we hear a gunshot.” The on scene SWAT, guy- Marlin, says “Go!” and we bust in.”
Davidson was fascinated. ’Yeah?”
“It was dicey for five or six minuets, lots of guns swinging around. Mobsters will shoot you in the back but they rarely stand toe to toe with the SWAT boys.”
Mike could agree with that but remained silent other than an “Oh yeah?”
’When we broke in we must have interrupted a meet or a deal, because there were 48 guys inside that restaurant. 48 living and one dead guy- a Vladimir Alensky.”
He was sorry to hear that. Vlad was stupid but mostly harmless. Maybe. Davidson was not sure how to feel about that, so he kept silent.
O’Rourke paused and took what sounded to Mike like a slurp of liquid before continuing. “Damnedest thing I ever saw. It looked for all the world half the Russians in there wanted to kill the other half. But in the back we found a bunch of crates. Two of them marked “Geological samples and some marked, “Scrap metal”.
“And what did those crates contain, Lieutenant?” Mike asked even though he knew damned well what they contained.
“That’s the thing, man. They had rocks and scrap metal inside, not drugs.” “Or anything else,” the cop probed.
“Imagine that!” Mike said trying to keep the glee out of his voice and not succeeding.
’So anyway, we start processing the guys, doing the id’ing when this DHL van pulls up.”
“Holy crap, more deliveries for a Tea House in Brooklyn? Boy that’s strange!”
“Uh- huh, We gonna get to that in a second,” the man said sounding serious and Davidson knew he’d better tone it down. “When we opened the DHL boxes, the ones from this Freeport thing in Luxembourg, Roybokov about had a heart attack. The guy was spluttering and going crazy!”
Believe that! Davidson thought.
“Best part is that ten minuets after the paintings and gold make their appearance, this woman from the IRS strolls into the place.”
Mike shuddered. “I think your stolen art people are going to rate a call, “O’Rourke.”
“I figured as much,” the man said back quietly. I heard some interesting stories from those mooks. You figured prominently, Davidson.”
“You aren’t going to believe a bunch of Russian Brotherhood members are you? Those guys are thieves and killers.” “And noted lier’s,” he added.
“It was the signet ring that caught my eye,” the man admitted.
“Lt. you are without a doubt the smartest cop, I have ever spoken to,” Mike told the guy.
“Sergei Tikanov had on a fancy ruby signet ring and a very expensive watch. Not a Rolex but a Robert W. Smith.” He was puzzled on that point.
“Robert W Smith is England’s finest watchmaker, O’Rourke. You’re gonna want to take pictures of all those watches and rings and send them to the flying squad,” Davidson said quietly.
And this was the tough part. Now he had to get out of going to jail.
“Look, Lieutenant. I know you guys have arrested the two bad cops for Mary’s killing, right?” A grunt from the cop said he was at least listening. “I guarantee you someone in that Teahouse, yesterday, killed Feydor Slutskaya and his men. And they did it on Demetry Roybokov’s orders.”
“You have your killings accounted for. Let the FBI get Demetry and Sergei for their mob stuff, while the IRS twists the knife. All of the stolen things eventually make their way back to the rightful owners and everyone is happy.”
“Not all the stolen property, Davidson!” There is still a hell of a lot of diamonds and gold missing!”
A sigh came form Davidson. “Lieutenant, I will also guarantee that the diamonds and gold from Sergei’s robbery’s will get back to their rightful owners. Eventually.”
“I’m supposed to believe that Sergei pulled off these jobs?” the skepticism was plain.
“All the evidence you have supports that,” Mike said sounding like a lawyer.
The silence stretched on the other end.
“Hey, how’s Rodriguez?”, he asked to change the subject.
O’Rourke snorted. “She’s been lights out. I think the FBI is going to offer her a job over all this.”
“That’s fantastic!” He was enthused when good things happened to good people. ’Well, Lieutenant its been fun…” he tried to break off when the cop broke in.
“Wait! The robbery boys wanted me to ask you a question.” ’They need help on a case.”
’I’m a retired oil field man, but sure, what’s going on?”
“Armored car job- 1,232,000 taken off of I-95 just north of Jersey. Supposed to go down to Florida,” he related the particulars.
“I don’t need the files or any more info, he told the man. “Come on- They know this. You know this! When a wife gets killed who did it?”
“The husband,” O’Rourke immediately returned.
“Odds are 70 percent right? In any armored car job its the guard or the dispatcher telling the thieves where and when.” Davidson breathed in. “Either this end or that. Florida side, some redneck will buy a 60,000 boat on an $18.00 an hour salary. New York side, the guy will buy a Cadillac.”
A groused “thanks’ came from O’ Rourke. Mike suspected the first question was a test to se if he would really cooperate. Well he would help as much as he could.
“No worries, Lt.” You got a pen?” Write this down…” he rattled off a website. “That is a dark web chat site.” Knowing his audience, Davidson continued. “Ask your tech guys about the dark web. You need help, just post a message for Davidson and I’ll get in touch.”
“Thanks.” The voice was still gruff but not outright hostile.
’Get some sleep”, Mike touched off.
He walked back to the sleazy hotel in Luxembourg city.
“You can go home now”, he told Sydney.
Back in his trailer, he remembered and ached for Sydney. He had not seen her in so long. More sunlight reflected as the phone rang disrupting his memories. He had one more big job to go. More than a year after the robberies, it was time to get paid.
Here we go.
A click on the first computer monitor to refresh the screen as the phone buzzed in his ear, showing an ariel desert scene. He was getting used to watching the world like an eagle from drone camera views.
The bleak empty quarter of the UAE looked the same. A group of eight men stood around three black cars pulled off the side of the road.
Why always black? he wondered.
Six of the men looked incongruous in suits while the two Ministry sheiks looked fine in white robes. The sun glared down on the group and Mike had a little sympathy and experience with the Dubai sun. The phone rang for the third time.
“Ya?” The thick South African accent of Geoff Pedersen was the same.
’Geoff, my man. How are you?” he asked.
“Piss off- arsehole!, Geoff screamed back.
“Now, now, Geoff is that anyway to speak to an old friend? I’m sorry DeBeers fired you after our last exchange, but thats exactly why I asked for you this time. I trust you. I know where you stand.” Davidson spoke quickly, typing on the other two keyboards.
He could hear the security man grind his teeth.
“Do me a favor and hand the phone to the insurance guy on your right.”
Pedersen looked around wildly.
“Yeah, we got eyes on you. Just like you have three helo’s up looking for me.” Hand him the phone!” Mike barked.
Geoff did as he was bid.
“Take your phone out and dial this number,” Mike ordered the guy.
The insurance man panicked.
’Fucking do it, or we are out of here and you don’t see diamond one.”
A brief hesitation and the man reached into his jacket pocket and took out his phone. He worked the buttons.
The next phone in line in front of Mike, buzzed. He clicked off one and clicked on the other.
’Hand the phone back to Geoff.”
The suit complied.
“Okay, you guys know the drill. Suits and pants and robes off.”
Mike waited while the men disrobed.
This was actually his second attempt to get paid. Three months ago he’d gotten to this point and one of the lawyers had an RF tracker device to try to hone in on phone calls or his drone signal. Mike immediately hung up and told Ira to get out. Which he did.
He’d retaliated by placing an internet rumor that the gold from the heist was buried on the beach in Dubai City.
Two months later, travel sites were remarking on how much tourism was down due to the “crowds and prospectors, pockmarking the beaches”. The Ministry put a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal.
’Call us- Dubai Gold Exchange,” was all it said.
Mike glanced at the framed news sheet on his office wall and smiled.
They’d learned from that last exchange. Ira had ten RF boosters scattered around the site while he was hidden in a small bunker with plenty of water and a fan. Mike felt a bit bad about the amount of radio energy zooming around for Ira.
Stuff gives a guy cancer.
When the eight, fat, pale, men (except for Geoff) stood around in socks, Mike spoke up again.
’Geoff what have you been doing these last years?”
When the man said nothing, he went on. “Me? I’ve been studying international banking transactions. How money gets moved around. I dare say I am an expert on the systems, he bragged. “Point is, you fuck me and I will know.”
“Say it Geoff,” he went on like before.
Pedersen complied, remembering. The man knew in his gut they were beaten.
’Get the computer from the other insurance man.”
The South African did as told and placed the laptop on the car hood top by the tire well.
“I’m going to give you an account number and the amount- remember, I can see what you are typing”.
Ira zoomed in for him as Mike typed a request to his friend on the middle keyboard.
“A little to your left..”
A grudging shift from the Afrikaner.
“Good. You have thirty seconds to complete this part from the second I start speaking. Any fuck ups and I’m gone, right?”
Mike rattled off an account number followed by a routing number and then an amount.
The former DeBeers man bowed his head and typed. As he hit enter the lawyers and insurance men started gesticulating wildly.
Davidson rattled off a second set of numbers and again the security man typed away. This time the sheiks had to interfere to keep the lawyers from smashing the laptop.
The third set of numbers and the final amount and Mike was finished speaking. At the four second countdown mark, Pedersen hit enter the final time.
“Shall we move on to the gold?”, Mike asked in a reasonable tone.
“Fuck you.” That came out a trifle bitter.
“Oh, wait. We have to shift phones and computers”, he directed.
Davidson did know a thing or two about international banking transfers. That and the software and laws surrounding those transfers.
While the second laptop was booting, he heard and saw a lawyer move up next to one of the sheiks. “Monte Carlo”, was part of the conversation.
He seized on that. “yeah, Monte Carlo is nice, Geoff. The sun, the beach, the women. I especially love the banking secrecy laws. If you ever have to illegally transfer money or transfer illegal money- not sure of the difference in that- I recommend Monte Carlo.”
The helo’s were racing to converge over one of the booster packs they’d hidden.
“Don’t bother. My drone operator is not even in the same country,” he told Pedersen.
The man was resigned. He spoke to the Sheik and the men calmed down as well as the helo’s.
A gesture and Mike started the second set of three groups of numbers. The whole transfer only took 22 seconds this time.
The third monitor on his desk beeped as an update hit his third screen. The screen where he watched money flow around the world.
He could watch because he was behind the fire wall. On the split screen, two of the accounts went to a red/locked status. Another two soon followed.
Millions lost as those two accounts were now frozen and would be tied up in the court systems for decades. Two million dollars gone on the electronic wind. Sacrificed…
While 48.95 million in another account flowed on and divided and went merrily on a world wide oddessey of destinations: The Caymans. Dubrovnik. Rio and San Francisco. The screen also showed the next 98.95 million from the UAE divide and flow.
The problem with the monitoring software for international transfers? It was limited to a primary and an alternate for a single transaction.
Oh, you could watch millions of transactions flow from one bank to another. But if you wanted to track a single account as it went zipping over the wires, you had to attach to the account. And you could only watch two. The third and largest amount of the transfers went into an account to be divided up amongst his friends banks.
Theoretically, you could blanket stop every bit of money flowing from Monaco to the Caymans. But not without pissing off a bunch of people.
You could also wait and watch the money as it sat in an account waiting for the banks to do their reconcile on a periodic basis or waiting for it to be shifted out to other accounts.
In the same way when you deposited a big check from someone, only a small percentage of the funds were available to use right away, the funds transferred in were not usually immediately available to be moved right back out.
Authorities used that to watch where the money went on an internal basis while it waited to clear.
If you put up a “Bond amount” you could have instant access to the money.
Davidson had shifted a ton of money in the Caymans to be held as collateral while he got quick access to the money the targets shifted to him as his 150 million dollar finders fee for returning their stolen items.
The key part was that the authorities were not watching his bond money. And neither he nor his bank was required to tell anyone about that part.
The monitor showed the thirty million split the gang had agreed to as it went out, dividing and flowing to other accounts and recombining to move around the world. It was too much for the Company or the Dubai authorities to track.
His hostage money would have to wait four days but it would soon be back home in his account.
Minus a nice fee for the bank of course.
Geoff Pedersen was thru being nice. “Okay you miserable prick. Where are the diamonds? Where is the gold?”
“You got a pen?”
Davidson shot off a latitude and longitude point about fifty miles from where the men stood.
A strangled ’wait!” did not stop him and Davidson clicked off the phone. Fuck him.
“Wrap it up!” he typed to Ira sitting in his bunker. Mike knew he would have to wait several hours for the coast to clear before he could make his way back to Gretchen.
’See ya!” Levinson typed back.
That guy could steal a virgins…
An hour later the front door to the trailer banged open.
Mike sauntered out of his office to meet Sydney Devereaux. The hot, humid air from South Padre Island, Texas battling with the double wide trailer’s air conditioner for supremacy. Davidson was not sure which side was winning.
“How was the flight?” he asked her.
“Ughh. I hate coach. And commercial,” she exclaimed giving him a quick kiss. ’Worst part was, it took me an hour to lose O’Rourke.”
Mike grinned and grabbed her.
“I’ve missed you.”
“Behave, she said slapping his roaming hands. “How’d it go?”
“Fine. We’re rich. Er.”
She smiled at him. ’Did you speak to Ira?” she asked about the important part.
“Just a bit. He’s fine and so is Gretchen. They send their love.”
The suitcases were dragged in and they sat on the tiny couch, getting comfy. ’Did you tell them about Rick? she went on.
“You mean, Mr. Palm Jumeriah investments out in California.?” He said it with multiple syllables. Like Mary. “Yeah.”
She laughed at that. Mike had shown her the web chat site where he’d gotten an announcement stating the the firm had reached its goal of 25 million raised for venture funding.
Knock em dead kid.
“Any word on Graeme?”, she asked turning serious.
“Nope. None needed- he’s fine”, Mike assured her.
She was doubtful but okay with his faith. ’Tell me about the construction…?”
The pair went outside. The secluded and heavily treed lot went right to the waters edge. Very expensive and very private, the area catered to people who wanted to be lost for a while.
’See, it’s going great. The stilts raise it above the flood plain…”
Syd made the appropriate noises at the house but marveled at having him, here.
A confirmed Denver fan in Texas? She was still teasing him about the Super Bowl shellacking.
But still, he loved her. She was sure of that. Had been since England.
It wasn’t the physical that said it to her, although that was fine. It wasn’t the money or the brains. Those were add-ons.
It was the trust.
A year ago in a nice room at the Rosewood hotel in London, Michael Davidson said the only three words in the world that would make her sleep with him again. Make her love him again. Trust him.
He’d finally looked at her that night and said,” Michael Stephen Davis.”
His real name.
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