Thursday morning was chilly at 41 degrees in Brooklyn. Davidson woke early at 6:45 to see the clear but still dark skies. Dawn was taking its sweet time and he had to get moving. Deciding to run in the park was an easy call. Ft. Greene park was the revolutionary home of Nathaniel Greene, so the name came naturally. He loved the park. Not just for its nice trees but also for the large wide running and biking paths that criss crossed the area. A few other early rising runners were milling about as the light got bright enough to see by. Most were doing stretching exercises getting ready to work out. Eschewing the ballet moves, a series of 25 jumping jacks served as a warm up and he started off running. Down Washington, he crossed by his house for the first time. He ran a vague figure eight pattern and then a perimeter run to finish off. His pace was fast, and Michael liked to run alone. It served to free his mind and allowed for his best thinking to come naturally. One small part of that mind set the 5:54 mile pace and set his feet and breathing on its rhythms. His compartments showing again.
The rest of his brain got to roam free and deal with his problems and concerns. Often his mind would make connections while running that he never would have in a conscience state. Who was following him, staking him out? Cops he knew, but who? And why?
The more important question might be what was he going to do about them when the answers to the other questions appeared. Kill them? Not a viable solution. The cops were also following Graeme which meant they knew some of his gang. A mental note to check with Ira to see if the man had noted someone following him after their previous conversation. Same with Ricky he supposed.
Arms swinging fore to aft he breathed deeply and noted a runner ahead of him a ways. You can’t kill cops. Bad for business. No- not just bad, but stupid. Some cops were crooked as the day was long, but you still couldn’t kill them. All 18,000 of their New York City brethren would take it badly if you did. Funny, it didn’t matter what shit the dirty cop had pulled, if he wore the blue, in a cops world it was us vs them. Any hint of a criticism put you into the “Them” category, let alone kill one of them.
The gang had one tenuous contact in the FBI and a few better ones on the city police force. The best contact they had with law enforcement was the Interpol agent in Paris. Rarely did they reach out to these men and women and this did not rise to that level yet. Yet.
“She runs well.”
The thought bubbled up and burst on his fore brain. He was slowly gaining on the runner ahead of him, who was a female. Strange in that he usually passed other runners without a hitch but this woman was running along nicely. White Asic’s (expensive ones, he noted) black lycra tights. A white runners coat with a burnt orange Long Horn logo. Great a Texas fan. White knit head band and mittens. Those tights were gracing a pair of long long legs with an ass to die for perched on top. That part kept getting nicer as he overtook her. Davidson put on a burst of speed. Just upped the pace to 5:45 per mile for a few hundred yards. He pointedly did not look at her. Her fluid strides fell in behind him, arms pumping along while she breathed evenly. Part of the not looking at her was fear. Michael did NOT want to look at a sixty year old face attached to that ass. Selfish but there it was. They both settled back into the normal pace as his mind wondered free again. Experience taught that he would soon be alone on the path as he wound down the miles. Three in with six more to go. Lets see in thirty minutes where she was.
Roybokov was his real worry. Davidson had a small clue why the Bratva head was so insistent on a job from the gang. Money was needed, that was obvious. Why?
The Russian mob was still a powerful money making organization. Drugs, loansharking, prostitution were all still on the table. Thieving still brought in money as items tended to fall off trucks on a regular basis. However, the US attorney in Manhattan was on another organized crime kick. Every US attorney wanted to make a name for him (or her) self as a defeater of the mob. Terrorism consumed everything in law enforcement for a few years after 9/11, but the cycle came back round to the mob in the last few years. The other leg of that problem was also the fault of the Jihadists. Opium was dirt cheap as a result of the Afghan war and now that Craigslist and Backpage were running escort ads, ordering a girl was like ordering a pizza. The third side of the triangle squeezing Roybokov, was also 9/11 related: Money laundering. If anyone felt like banks were protecting their clients from the feds watching money flow in and out, they were sadly mistaken. Even the Swiss now allowed accounts to be monitored. Tax havens still existed but the supply of ways to move money around without the IRS or the Justice Department knowing about it was running dry. And both Michael Davidson and Demetry Roybokov were scared shitless of the IRS. Money- it boiled down to money.
Suddenly he became conscious of breathing from behind him.
“Whoo, whoo, huuuhhhh! Whooose.”
Two shallow breaths followed by a deep exhale, forcing a deep inhale. It was the same pattern he used, only a feminine version. A quick glance back showed the woman behind him still, breathing regularly and another check of the fit-pro showed them seven and a half miles in. The sun was just over the trees, with the US Prison Ship Martyrs Monument visible on his right in the middle of the park. The pair were in the left hand corner of the park at Myrtle and Edward running on the wide bike and jogging path which was clear of snow. There was still some stubborn drifts under the bushes and trees but the park was mostly clear.
Trying to regain his train of thought he found he could only concentrate on that breathing sound from her. Who was she? He knew every wheeze and hack in the park, so she must be new. What did she look like? The temptation to turn and look at her was great. Did she breath like that when she fucked? That thought slipped in. Dammit!
He faltered a step thinking he could make her orgasm if he just kept up the rhythm of the run and the breathing. Another false step. His moves made her change step and breathing as well. Davidson tried very hard to put one foot in front of another for a time. Christ, he hadn’t been this self conscience on a run in ages. He managed to not trip for a time.
The runners high kicked in around the eight mile point for him. A nice high to lead him back to the Washington avenue corner, near the cross training equipment. A beep from the Fit-pro showed 53:52 and 9.01 miles ran. HB 135 and Resp 74. Whew!
He angled off the track towards the pull up bar and started walking with arms held behind his head as he recovered.
Turning at the voice he looked right at the woman from the run.
“Thanks for the run! Your pace is fantastic! Like a metronome”, she took a deep breath. “Helped me out a bunch.”
Dumbstruck, he managed to get out a “You are welcome,” as he took in the sight of her.
She smiled and the oval face, blond hair, creamy skin with red cheeks and lips assaulted his vision. 32? 35 at most! Gorgeous, fucking gorgeous.
The two walked and breathed and Michael struggled to get an intelligent sentence out of his mouth.
“Do you live around here?” Why couldn’t he get the damn question to come out? Instead, he stared at her ass.
Deciding that he wasn’t going to be able to say anything intelligent to this woman, Davidson went over to the pull up bar to begin his core routine while she turned to keep going out of the park. He thought her done when she half turned and pitched her voice at him. “See you around, and thanks for the nice view!”
Oh my fucking god!
He almost missed the bar. He cranked out the full ten pull ups as she watched him while walking away on Washington avenue leaving the area before the trees blocked her from view. No way was he failing on all five sets today, even with the slight boner he was sporting.
Buoyed into a good mood by the meeting, an hour later Davidson eased the Audi out of the garage. Dressed in his corporate outfit which consisted of pressed khaki’s, blue button down shirt and Italian made loafers and belt, he felt ready for the mail run.
The Brooklyn central post office is housed in an old Romanesque building on Cardmon and Johnson streets. The unsubtle edifice was converted to a US district courthouse after extensive renovations and the Postal service moved into the back half of the building where the trash can’t be seen. Davidson was forced to park across the street and take a death defying trip dodging cars on Cardmon while they sped past to get to his destination.
Long lines greeted the regular mail customers but the business window was less busy as were the post office boxes. The congress was still talking about shutting down several branches of the USPS as they were concerned that the mail service had lost 3 billion dollars last year. Except that 2.93 billion of those losses were due to the fact that that same congress was making the USPS pre pay for the retirement of former military members who now served as letter carriers and sorters and such. Regardless of the fact that no other federal agency had to do that same thing. And regardless of the fact that congress had to okay the raise in the price of stamps which no other federal agency had to do. And to top it all off, those assholes in congress got free franking privileges. In Davidson’s mind it was a wonder more postal workers weren’t running over congressmen in DC every day with those little jeeps.
A wire buggy held all the accumulated mail for Anderson Consulting LLC and for Excelsior. Davidson wheeled the dolly over to the post office boxes to get his personal mail. His real personal mail, not Michael Davidson’s. He had parents to protect as well as a sister and nephews. Michael wondered how many businesses would be ruined if the DC boys managed to shut down the post office system. Every home business in the country relied on a post office box to do its work. Just like he did even if it was illegal. He also knew a very interesting fact that no one seemed to want to talk about: The US government sent tons of classified documents and data through the USPS. Up to Secret level classification was just fine through registered mail and the postal service. It would cost more billions to setup the various delivery companies as certified classified level carriers if everyone was forced to switch. Those idiots in DC had no clue about how things really worked when they started railing against the post office. In his mind it was a modern miracle: paste less than fifty cents to an envelope and it got across the country in three days, correctly delivered 99.99999% of the time. Lets see Fed Ex manage that with 2 billion pieces of mail a day.
Four packages were dropped off for various mail drops around the country and the world. The one urgent one was to the UK mail drop. It had US I-9 visa forms and UK work visas inside. Nine thousand GBP, and a similar amount in Euros in various denominations were also included. It was all perfectly legal as long as the green return address card was affixed to the package and the proper stamps applied. Gretchen would gather the paperwork and the money at her end and put it with what she had hand carried into the country to plus up the storage box in London.
The mail went into a paper bag and Davidson exited the building to start the dance against the cars again when a shitty brown Crown Victoria caught his eye. Two men inside watching him like vultures. A pivot on his heel like he’d forgotten something and he went back inside. Stalling while he thought, Mike shuffled through his mail dumping the junk. Should he lose them? Maybe. No that might alert them that he was on to them. Maybe he…
Again the exit from the building. This time the rush against traffic was completed easily and he fired up the car. Straight home, he drove with a casual pace.
Inside the garage he watched the video until the car with the two men was parked on the park side of the street and down three doors. Another flip of the security CCTV showed Mary in her place just going about her day. Here goes.
Into the hallway, Mike went down the hall to Mrs Spack’s door and knocked rapidly. “Mary? Its Michael.”
“Mikey?” What a minute Bubbeleh.”
The door opened and the tiny women looked up at Mike. “Nu- Whats with you?” she said a twinkle in her eye.
“Just checking to see if you were alright. I saw two guys in a car outside and I wondered…”
“Hoodlums!” Mary used the strongest word she knew to describe undesirables.
“Probably not. It is nothing I’m sure. I just wanted to see if you were okay and you are. Anyway you are too tough for any hoodlums around here.” He lay it on thick. “Forget about it.”
Mary Spack preened under the praise. “Shabbat dinner tomorrow night, boychik. You’ll come you’ll eat.” Nu?”
A real laugh over her assumptive phrasing of a question escaped him. “Chicken and potatoes?”
“See you at 6:00 sharp!”
Mission accomplished. Having dinner with the old woman was a small price to pay if his plan worked. He stood in the living room back away from the windows watching the street and sure enough 28 min later- a squad car pulled up along side the just visible Crown Vic. Four minutes later the black and white pulled away followed by the unmarked car. Mary had done it. Mike knew the cops watching in the car would have to come up with a plausible explanation of why they were parked on the street.
Because they had moved right away, he didn’t think they were officially on a stake out. If they were, the spot would have been registered with every precinct and Mary’s call would not have elicited a response. That did not mean they couldn’t have come up with a bullshit ploy for them to be at this address but the regular cops would have noted the presence of the other vehicle in a report. Since they high tailed it out of the area- it told Mike the watchers were not on an official mission. At least that he knew of. He put up the fundraising letter from his nephews basketball team and got back into his car. He needed to see if Graeme had found anything.
Three members of his crew were sitting in the living room area of the office when he arrived. Ricky was going over the New York box list with Ira and Graeme. Excellent.
“Glad you could join us,” Graeme said acidly.
Sweeping Ira and Ricky into his look, Michael related his morning with the car watchers.
“White Olds?” Ira asked surprised.
“Dammit Ira!” How long have they been watching you?”
“Hey, I just noticed them yesterday, Mikey, I swear.”
“Haven’t seen a thing, honest Mike.”
His gaze settled on Graeme. The other men swung heads to look at the Irishman.
“Yeah- They are cops. Hattenfeld and Temescal out of the 74 in Brooklyn.” My guy says they have been showing times on E 2nd.” Donniger told them.
Sour faces from Mike and Ira while Ricky just seemed confused.
“Here’s the rub, shammer- those two are vice cops, not burglary or even RICO boys.”
That set off some synapses firing in his head. Davidson thought for a few minutes, pacing through the living room area. Ira and Graeme caught Rick up on the ramifications of cops tailing three members of the gang. The physical description was basic: Older heavier white guys.
“It means they know who we are!”
“It means they have a reason to watch us,” Ira added, a bitter moue to his lips.
The pacing stopped from Davidson. “Maybe not. What if this is connected to Semilov from six months ago?”
Alexi Semilov was the man in charge of running girls for the Bratva. Roybokov liked to have people in charge of smaller kingdoms. The Semi ran the girls, Mike was his main thief, Sergei Tikanov ran another crew for loan sharking. Drugs were handled by Viktor and his boys, Anton ran his gambling clubs, while Feydor fenced all the loot. These units were autonomous and the structure added several layers between Demetry and the illegal acts. Six months ago Semilov was arrested for human trafficking. Several associates (pimps) were picked up as part of a crackdown and sixteen eastern european and asian girls were freed. The feds seemed to have a very detailed case about Alexi and his activities. The Semi wasn’t talking and Demetry was strangely quiet about the loss of income.
“What if the feds are looking at Demetry’s whole organization?” Mike let the thought thud out there while he sat on the couch next to Rick. The other three now had a turn at thinking it through. Graeme was the quickest.
“Yeah,” Ira agreed a few seconds later.
“What Graeme and Ira are worried about and what I suspect might have happened is that the FBI and the US attorney might have opened an investigation into Demetry Roybokov’s activities. All of them.” Mike told the young man. ’Roybokov is dirty six ways to Sunday: Drugs, girls, gambling, loansharking, you name it.” “Semilov might have been the first shoe to drop, meaning the cops might be looking at us next.”
The four men talked it out until the innocent kid asked the critical question. “How did they know to look at us?”
How indeed? Michael turned that over for a while. He wasn’t sure, and not knowing was a splinter in his mind. “I don’t know and we need to find out more about who these cops are, why they are keying on us.”
“I can reach out to Rachel,” Graeme said looking at least a little guilty.
Yeah, reach out to your one time fling who works for the FBI, Michael thought. He didn’t say anything negative, just “If you can do it without getting her suspicious.”
It was probably the wrong thing to say, because Graeme went red faced and his lips compressed. Oh Jesus he’s pissed! Mike knew he’d blown it.
“I’m just saying that if the FBI is focusing on us, then even making contact with her after three years is going to look bad.”
That sentence took forever to penetrate the haze of the man’s anger. The blinking was Davidson’s indicator that Graeme was actually considering the problem. And that seemed to make Graeme even more angry. The kind that did a slow burn.
“You might have no choice but to talk to her, Mike went on reasonably. “But you might need to kiss some ass while you are doing it.”
His friend nodded not bothering to speak. The other two men watched the by play uneasily.
“We can use our police contacts and you can make some inquiries right, Mike?” Ira asked, trying to focus off the feud between the two men.
“Good thought. I have a person inside the Bratva I can ask a few things.” Mike told them not wanting to name names.
Rick kept his mouth shut and let the others deal with the situation which suited him fine.
Mike went into his office and sorted through his mail, while he made some calls. Graeme finally came in to the small space and told him his debt to the loan sharks was square.
“Thanks for the help.”
“No problem.” The silence built for a time.
“Look, why don’t you look at this thing from Trevor while you are waiting for Rachel or even the local cops to get back to you?” Mike finally asked.
Head down the man grunted an assent, and left. Davidson blew out a breath. He did not know how he would survive a serious rift in his relationship with his oldest friend and business partner.
The mail absorbed him as he dealt with the problem with Graeme. Anderson and Excelsior were the two most recent versions of how he’d been laundering money for years. His consulting shell was on a yearly contract with Royal Dutch Shell for Oil Field Operational Services and Consulting Services. Two million a year seemed to come from RDS to Anderson but in reality it came from the Cayman account to the states. That allowed Mike to do a million legal things with the money. He could then use Anderson to provide himself a legitimate salary. FICA and state with holdings were all tax table perfect. His money came back clean, and ready to be spent. The IRS loved him! And the fake accounting let him do a bunch of very necessary housekeeping items. Things like lease a car and take it off his taxes. Expense his flights, and the cost of dry cleaning. All legitimate business expenses. He combined his personal and LLC taxes into one entity and that led him to a 401 (K) a deferred compensation package and other investments. On the outside it might look like he was paying 30% to the feds to launder his money but in reality he was only paying around 15. That was almost 300,000 worth of “expenses” that he got to take to allow himself to live well. The game was rigged for the wealthy and Davidson was taking full advantage.
The only real problem to all of it? He had the paperwork to go with the advantages, and it was a mountain of work. A team of shady Indian brothers who were lawyers set up everything for him. Another group of CPA’s handled the government. He was constantly getting bills and statements and letters from people wanting something. If Michael had to look at one more company offing to “help” him with his firm’s health care needs, he was going to scream.
Most of everything was handled with a power of attorney and some extra fee’s but occasionally he had to sign something. He enjoyed the endorsing of checks quite a lot. Since 1999 he’d been investing in US based mutual funds and stocks. His portfolio was extensive and growing. Mike was a big believer in the power of compounding.
The last stack of mail was personal. Some from his family but mostly it was newsletters and magazines from the oil filed services genre. He wanted to be able to talk the talk if someone questioned him about the field.
Sometime during all this paperwork Davidson reached a conclusion without realizing it. The first he consciously knew was when he placed a quick call to his mom: “Fine, just going out of town next week unexpectedly. Yeah that job fell through and RDS is sending me to the Norths: Dakota and Sea!” Yes, mom! Actually Scotland.” “Yes. No!” “I’ll be home soon and then a visit for Christmas probably.” Bye!”
A change of scenery would do the gang some good. Plus they could avoid the watchers. Next week, London.
He called the other three into his office. “Pack up! We move to London next week. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.” He pointed, indicating Ira on Tuesday, Himself on Wednesday and Graeme on Thursday. “Draw 8 K each from the safe. Make sure you have the right phones!” He directed the members. Graeme under Peter McNichol again right?” A nod from the man.
“Got it.” “I’ll be under Michael Davidoff.” “Can you text Gretchen and get her to the regular hotel on Wednesday, Ira?”
“Okay- Go!” “Rick, stay with me,” he pulled aside the younger man as he went to pack.
The man sat back in the chair watching his mentor.
An enthusiastic nod met that simple question. “Yeah!”
“Okay- You are coming with me to London. We leave early, early! on Tuesday to Dulles and then overnight in DC before heading over on Wednesday finally arriving on Thursday. Graeme and Ira will take more direct routes but Graeme will be the last to arrive.” He detailed the flight routes for the other two.
“You gettin all this down?”
Rick started writing things down.
“You got a good ID?”
“Roger Patton,” the man answered without hesitation.
Mike took the drivers license from Rick when he offered it. “Lets see: Address?”
“122 Daphne lane, apt E210, Queens, New York, 01295”
“Date of Birth,”
“25 April 1988.” That was Ricky’s own birthday.
“Social Security Number?”
A series of numbers rattled off from Rick, which were his own SSN with the last four reversed. The key to a good fake ID is to use information very close to your own so you can remember it quickly. That and to study the data closely.
“Good. Pack carefully. Passport, money, cell phone and clothes. We pose as business men. We travel together but not with each other okay?”
“I understand Mike.” More writing on his now crowded paper.
’We have a lot of work to do in London if this pans out, plus it will take a bit of the heat off of us.”
“I’m not worried.”
Rick left and Mike could only think that the kid should be worried. Would be worried if he had any idea of how bad Demetry Roybokov was. A person did not become head of the Bratva without stepping on people. Even his friends.
Davidson pushed some numbers on his cell phone.
“Feydor?, Davidson.” ’The crew and I are heading over to London.” Normally he might not even tell this to anyone but he knew Roybokov would be upset by any break in pattern now. There was heavy breathing while Slutskaya said nothing for a time.
“Why and how long?” The accent telling the anger in the man.
“I’ve got a line on a job. It should only take a week, ten days at the most to figure yes or no.” He tried to sound up beat, positive on the new job offering so quickly.
More heavy breathing. “Da. Demetry has a job for you when you return. You and the Irishman.” “Call him when you return.”
Davidson was suddenly glad this call was not on speaker. Calling Graeme, “The Irishman”, instead of his name would have sent him into an apoplectic rage. Michael’s head raced with thoughts. What? why?
“Yeah, Okay.” Any idea of what he wants us to do, so I can be ready?”
A short bark of a laugh. “Some sort of courier job is all I know.”
Feydor would like that Davidson thought. The man liked to see Michael treated like a dog, fetching things.
“Sure. I’ll call as soon as we know on London.”
The Russian stopped listening and dropped the call. Davidson was worried. Shit! Did he dodge a bullet or walk into a setup? He walked back out to the living room area as the other men were wrapping up their preparations.
“Gretchen is good, she will meet us,” Ira reported.
“Excellent. We are safer apart for the next few days. Stay close to home and watch for anything. Everyone have the flee number?” The gang used a simple one digit number text to tell everyone “get the hell out!”
“7” came the answer from all three. Good.
Everyone was out of the office by early afternoon. Mike could not detect any presence of the cops near his house when he returned. Back in his own living room, he paced the floor. He needed more info. A discrete phone call to his source inside Demetry’s organization was not returned. It would be but it might take days or weeks. He racked his brain trying to figure out what was happening but he could only come up with possibilities.
Dinner Friday was a very low key affair. Mary remarked on his absent headedness when he missed a Jeopardy question. He was distracted waiting on word from Graeme or anyone.
“Whats wrong Mikey? A girl got you down? A boy?”
“Mary! I’m not gay!” he said exasperated. “Have you been talking to my mother?”
Mary Spack grinned. “She would want me to worry about you.”
“I appreciate that but, I just have some work problems. Speaking of which, I have to go out of town next week, so we need to go shopping on Saturday, okay?”
’Where you going bubbeleh?”
“The North Sea via London,” he said. Mary knew this was an oil hotspot.
“Chu!” Doesn’t sound like fun.”
A smile played on his lips as he listened to her. “Tomorrow, noon sharp for shopping. We’ll go to lunch first though, I don’t want to food shop hungry.”
“Don’t I know it! That is why I bought all those cookies last time!” A pause from the old lady. “Can we go to Shelsky’s for lunch?”
Now Michael smiled wider. Mary loved Shelsky’s deli. He shrugged. “What do they know from pastrami?” he said in his best jewish accent. “Mile End is better.”
Mary waived away his expertise on delicatessens in Brooklyn. “They serve that Canadian thing!” She meant Poutine. “Old man Shelsky had a crush on me before the war.”
The math came into his head. ’What were you 11? 12?”
“I was a looker back then.”
A big laugh and he got up to leave. “Hey, you meet the new neighbor yet?” If anyone had it would be Mary.
“No- I hope he isn’t a Wall Street putz!”
Another laugh and he bid her good night.
Saturday morning Michael hurriedly dressed and shuffled across Washington Avenue towards the gate in the fence that let him into the park. An eye on the path, it was overcast and cold at 6:51 am.
Crap, she wasn’t warming up at the cross fit area that kind of served as his start/stop point. He was NOT looking for Ms. Texas in the small crowd of joggers. He started his run and didn’t encounter her along the path. That threw him off. He could not lose himself in the run and he couldn’t concentrate on his problems so he had to worry about how his shirt was chaffing his nipples. Too much thinking about those legs and that ass.
Fifty nine minutes later he approached the chin up bar with trepidation. Just do as many as you can. The first set went okay. The second, meh, the the third set sucked ass. He had just started on the fourth when she appeared around the curve of the path. The blond hair and white coat marking her from a distance in the dull light. He was not going to strain on 8, 9, and 10 of the set while she ran by. And certainly he was not going to stare at her while she ran.
Abs cramping, arms quivering, He struggled to put chin over bar while his head tracked her like radar. A casual wave and a breathtaking smile as she went by was his reward. He dropped off the bar watching that ass recede into the distance.
Idiot! Normal people sleep in a bit on Saturdays! He went back onto the bar for the last set and failed at 8. Body just quit on him. Well, shit!
Later that day eating pastrami with Mary he was distracted.
“Hello?, Michael? You okay dear?”
“Gettin old Mary. How do you stay so fit?” he asked the tiny 5’ 1” 105 pound woman.
“Kosher wine,” she said with a conspiratorial wink.
Nice. The lady could always make him laugh.
Tuesday at 9:30 am the car service picked him up to take him to JFK for the Dulles leg. Roll on garment bag, suitcase, and laptop case all matching, he was dressed in a grey pinstripe suit with a white oxford shirt and a red power tie. His purple pocket square was his one nod to fashion today. Just another business man on a trip. A text from Graeme last night was disturbing: “I have some news. Not good- will tell all at Whitehall.”
Mike didn’t press him. Better to tell the whole team in London rather than piecemeal it out. The banging and thumping from the house at 184 signaled the demo starting on the renovations. That was quick. The hedge fund fucker was wasting no time.
Hyper aware, Michael watched the cars go by and the pedestrians on the sidewalk looking for cops or strangers that watched him too closely. A quick text to Rick pin pointed him already at the airport. Good. He sat back and let his mind work on the cops. Who? Why? What to do?
The maxim about travel held true for Mike on this trip: Leave plenty of time and you wont need it. Try to cut it close and karma screwed you by throwing a traffic delay into your path. He’d left plenty of time so he sailed into the airport and into the boarding area in what seemed no time.
It took him a few seconds to spot Rick. The kid looked good. Real good! Hair slicked back, he was clean shaved and in a navy blue suit. The blue and white striped shirt looked expensive with the silk tie. The blue tooth ear piece fit Roger Patton very well. Roger flirted with the flight attendants waiting to work the flight. Roger had a fake rolex though. Mike spotted it. Need to remedy that for the kid.
Head down he buried it in the laptop at the gate area seat. Kept it buried in grunt business work on the flight. Even checking into the Dulles airport Sheraton hotel, he managed to get some work done. More work during the dull evening in his room. Trying to distract himself and it wasn’t working. Around 1:00 am he finally gave into the need and called the escort service.
“Tall, blond, and southern please,” he told the female voice.
“Miss Dallas will be with you within the hour.” “Thats a thousand plus tip.”
He could not come. Just couldn’t do it. Twenty seven minutes of dedicated fucking with a doppleganger of the blond jogger and he could not finish. He finally admitted defeat and rolled off sweating and breathing hard.
“Ya’ll want me to finish with my hand or mouth, honey?”
A deep sigh. “No thanks. Not happening and not your fault. He paid her and she left.
Three hours of sleep, a tepid run on the shitty hotel treadmill in the morning and a seven hour flight to Heathrow.
87 Whitehall close is actually the Royal Horseguards Hotel in central London. Situated on a narrow strip of land between the Thames river and the park, the huge white building was old school and very posh. Located near the heart of British government offices in the Whitehall district, the hotel was the gangs favorite and a regular haunt when they were in London.
Every traveller to London has a favorite district. One neighborhood or district that just fit them out of the giant crazy whole quilt that was London. Mayfair, Piccadilly, Hyde Park, the Palace, were all nice but Whitehall delivered just what the gang wanted: Quiet, excellent tube access, safe, secluded, secure, nice rooms and a hotel that served a good breakfast. Never underestimate the value of a good breakfast for thieves. Thieves did not keep regular hours and breakfast was the most important meal of the day.
Roger Patton checked in right before Mr. Davidoff. “Welcome back sir!”, the staff said as he stepped up for his turn.
Michael dropped his bags and went to Ira’s room after the man texted his number. Ira and Gretchen rated a full suite when the gang travelled. They needed one room that was a central meeting place and the couple usually got that room. Ira opened the door to 367 when he knocked. Ricky and Gretchen were already seated on the couch in the living room area. Rain could be seen outside the windows over the river while low scudding clouds added to the gloom.
The mood in the room matched. “Hey- How’s the tour going?” Michael asked Gretchen as she stood and hugged him hello.
“Fine until the texts came in.”
“Graeme has some news but he will share it when he checks in a few hours.”
The three men brought Gretchen up to speed on the cops and the watching of Ira and Mike. She was calm. Being tailed by the cops was serious but was not like getting shot at in her book.
Meantime, they took advantage of the free time to school Ricky on the finer aspects of blending in. Gretchen especially fussed like a mother hen with the young man.
“You look so good in this suit. You should wear them more often.”
Davidson steered them back to more practical matters. He handed the man a stack of papers. “These are some tube routes. They have some mistakes. I want you to ride the underground and get used to it and fix them. “Remember Paris?”
Rick nodded. He’d spent hours on the Metro learning the lines and the stations.
“Same thing here.” “And after that I want you to spend some time in the train stations.”
The hidden gem of European travel was the trains. Cheap, efficient and direct in most cases, a train was often the best way to get from one capitol in Europe to another. “Pay attention to the procedures. If we have time, I want you on the chunnel train to Paris at least once. Watch how the passport control is handled and watch the agents. They tell you how to act.”
Ricky’s head was spinning. Gretchen smiled at him when Mike mentioned that he wanted her to take the man driving in central London.
“Wrong side of the street, wrong side of the car and a standard drive!” Ira crowed at him listing the problems he had to overcome.
“You have to get good at it,” was all Davidson told him.
Changing gears he demanded of the man, ’Lets see your wallet!”
Rick pulled his black trifold out of his back pocket.
“Businessmen in Europe keep bi fold wallets in suit jacket pockets”, Gretchen informed him as Mike demonstrated.
The contents were similarly revealing of Rick’s lack of experience. Other than his drivers license and a Anderson Consulting Company corporate AMEX card, he only had 200 dollars in US currency. Two hundreds, and nothing else in the calfskin wallet.
Mike opened his as an example. “The problem is that any cursory inspection of your wallet will show that there is something wrong.”
Davidson had 250 in US currency but also 300 in GBP, along with another 400 euro’s all tucked into sections of the bifold. No denominations over a twenty. He jingled his pockets to reveal the two pound and one pound coins that Britons used in vending machines all over the place.
“Pret a Monger does not take hundreds, Rick,” Ira informed him.
Gretchen had to explain what the fast casual food place was to the man.
The other contents of Mikes wallet now made their appearance. The same Amex card and drivers license but also a library card from the Queens area near where the address listed his fake home. An Oyster card for the tube came out. Pictures, business cards, lotto tickets and scraps of paper fluttered out of the folds.
“Who are these people?” Rick asked.
“Doesn’t matter, the boss told him. “They fill out my wallet because that is what’s in everyones wallet.”
“Blending in is the key!” Clothes especially. Nothing says American like blue jeans and white sneakers.” Mike lectured. “I want you look at what the other young male professionals are wearing on the tube tomorrow. Ask someone where they bought it.”
“I’m willing to bet Marks and Spencer but not Harrods”, Gretchen wagered.
“Look at it all kid, shoes, belt, briefcase or messenger bag. What phone everyone has, what computer?” Ira advised.
’Don’t forget over coats and umbrellas,” Mike warned watching the skies open up outside.
Rick nodded along to all the suggestions.
“All this stuff has a purpose Rick. The ticket seller at the station should not be able to identify you because you used an oyster card like everyone else.” “The hotel staff should not be able to pick you out of a line up because you looked and acted like every other one of the three thousand businessmen who came through here last year.”
“Thats’ why you ask for receipts on things like laundry or meals,” another smile from Gretchen.
“What if they ask why?” he wanted to know.
“My boss is an asshole, he won’t let me expense this stuff unless I have a receipt.” Ira put in.
“Best line I’ve ever used, Mike related, “was one time I asked how much something was because my company has a limit on how much they would let me charge off for dinner and lunch.” “That waiter knew me for a business man right away.”
“Remember Gretchen, in Forteazza?”
The dark skinned woman grinned. She did. “Rick, that waiter served us almost every day we were down in Brazil on that job. “I know for a fact the police questioned him about suspicious Americans and he never gave us up.”
“This sounds like work because it is work, Mike told the man. “You can’t get it in a day, and you need to put in the hours.”
The three older members kept schooling the youngster until Graeme arrived, looking tired. The Irishman went immediately to the mini bar and pulled out a whiskey. A twist of the cap and into a glass with one ice cube. Graeme took a healing sip.
He waited and stood in the middle of the room while Mike and the others arranged themselves. Once they were settled he dropped the hammer.
“It’s the FBI!”
“Man we are fucked!”
Gretchen, Ira and Rick talked over each other. Mike was silent while Graeme took another sip of his drink to calm his nerves.
The boss waited until the grumbling ran down. “No, we are not fucked.” He turned to Donniger. “Tell me.”
“My source inside the police tells me the two cops, Hattenfeld and Temescal are vice cops and they are dirty. It seems they were on the take from Semilov, keepin’ his girls clean when they got pinched.”
Mike’s head whirred. That was bad.
“Mike, Rachel confirmed it: The Feds are investigatin’ Roybokov.”
More wailing and gnashing of teeth from the more experienced members.
“Did she say that Graeme? Did she say the FBI put the cops on us?”
Graeme shook his head. “No she just said that the RICO unit was investigating the Bratva in New York.” “I took that to mean Roybokov, not anyone else.”
Mike’s brows met in the middle while he put ten and ten together to come up with twenty one.
The rest of them looked at him. “What if its not the FBI? What if it’s Demetry?”
“I don’t see a bit of difference in that” Rick exclaimed.
A nod from his boss acknowledged the problem. “I agree it might be a fine point and we are in trouble either way but…” listen.”
“Rachel just told you the FBI is investigating the Bratva. I know Abrams people have been rolled into Demetry’s organization since his unfortunate accident. Maybe the Feds are still trying to get their feet under them on this thing. Demetry is much more subtle than Abrams ever was. He has more shell companies than Amazon!” Lets really look at the Semilov thing. He came in from Abrams five years ago and was pulling in what -200 million a year? Prostitution is not the money maker it was even a decade ago”. Besides what has Demetry done since the Semi got pinched?” Nothing. Just shifted the new girls to Kovelev and hired new pimps.” Davidson warmed up and was spitting out the thoughts in his head.
The members all focused on what Mike was saying and now they sparked up.
“Lets look at the two cops, he went on. The Semi got arrested and is not saying anything, but why didn’t they get rolled up too?” Are they that good at hiding money?” “Nothing ties them to the girls? Not visitor logs or friendly conversations with arresting officers?” No way the FBI misses that.”
“So?” Gretchen played devil’s advocate.
“So what if the new cops are working for the RICO unit? What if they squealed and told the feds, we can get to Roybokov if you immune us.”
The possibility was good for that- everyone knew. “So now if the feds can’t track the money and tie it to Roybokov, they are basically screwed. They can’t tie anything else to him, so they tell the two vice guys- run to Demetry and tell him the Semi’s paychecks have stopped, we need to earn. What else can we do for you?”
“No way Demetry would miss that for a fuckin’ setup, Graeme said enthused.
“Yeah, so Roybokov sees the hammer coming and feeds us to the vice cops: watch my thieves, I think they are going to steal from me or someone else.” They in turn hand us over to the Feds.”
The mood dampened quickly. ’Thats a devils choice, Mikey.” Graeme said dully. “Roybokov or the Feds. Neither one is going to let us live.”
Heads whipped to look at the leader of the gang. “Cards on the table- Who is ready to cut and run?”
The man shook his head. “I just got in the game, but what can we do?” “I’m sure as shit not ready to retire.”
“Dammit Mike, we aren’t ready quite yet. If you have a plan we are all in with you.”
The Irishman suddenly looked old. His skin a grey color, the knowledge of what they faced was understood by him best of all. “You know the answer to the question shammer, if you have an answer to the problem”.
A small grin hit Davidson’s lips. ’I think I do. We have 6- 8 months before the feds are going to move. Demetry may be another matter but I think he is getting squeezed two ways here: FBI and his partners. That is going to give us some wiggle room.”
He laid out some high points for the gang and gave some directions: “Lets freeze our identities right where we are, no sense in confusing the FBI. We should all have clean new ID’s ready for our retirement life.”
“Gretchen I need you to make an open JAWS purchase on the majors, use Anderson or Excelsior for that,” he said, referencing the open airline ticket purchasing option that allowed some users to write time of departure tickets whenever they needed to. “Also get to fractional. I want us to have private transport as an option if we need it.”
Ira grinned. He loved fractional jet travel. It was like being a rock star: private plane, private terminal, private screening.
“You might as well finish the Rio box- you two might need it after…” Mike finished with Gretchen’s duties.
“Mean while- I come up with the plan and we go about our normal business.” Mike stopped and looked at his friends. “I won’t leave you in trouble. We been doing this too long and no man gets left behind!” Right?”
Such was their trust in him that he got smiles and nods from them all. Mike would fix everything. That’s what he did after all.
A discrete signal to Graeme and the two men excused them selves and went down stairs to the bar.
The bar in the Royal Horseguards is a suitably wood paneled, warm fire place, large leather chair- type of place- fit for any good Englishman. An American and an Irishman walked into the bar and ordered up two large pints of Boddingtons and sat in those chairs warming themselves by the fire.
“Do you have anything?” Graeme asked his friend meaning an idea about their problem.
“An idea but it needs a lot of work.” Mike admitted.
“Not helpin’ me confidence, Graeme offered a real grin.
Michael Davidson laughed at that face. It was good to see his old friend back.
“I don’t know if this helps but I did look into the Trevor thing and shammer- he has an idea. It’s sound and the news is huge!”
Mike had to control the surge in his gut. “Really? What?”
“Trev wants to tell you his own self.”
Holy shit- a job? That may change some things considerable. If, IF! it worked out, it usually took three to four months to put things into place. That might work for them, help them with disappearing.
“When do we meet him?”
“I told him tomorrow, half 7 at the Worsley.”
Mike risked the old joke, ’whats half 7? Three and a half O’Clock?”
“Fuck off, you wanker!”
Both men shared a laugh. Half 7 meant half past seven O’clock. Still smiling Davidson said, “lets take the kid.”
Wonders of wonders. Graeme wasn’t fighting him on every detail today. No complaining and he was sober. He thought maybe Demetry or the FBI had put the fear of God in Donniger.
In a serious voice, Mike said, “Graeme, after..if this works out. Are you going to be okay?’ ’We might not see each other again.”
Silence hung in the air for a good long while. A sip of his beer whet his lips. Head down, Donniger started his confession. “I’ve been angry with you for a while. Always been jealous of ya- ever since Kings Bay. It just seemed like you were floating through life. Looks, brains, money- and you were the Thief in Law!” Another sip. ’When we got Ira and Gretchen and even Ricky, and they just seemed to follow wherever you led. Because you had all the answers.”
An objection rose from Davidson but Graeme cut that off- “No -Hear me!” “It was just you bein’ you.” “And I’m not like that.”
Those words were raw and ripped out of the man.
“You know what I thought when Rachel told me the Febbies were looking at us?” “I thought “Get the hell out!”
“But you didn’t,” Mike finally said.
A snort greeted that. “Not for any noble reason, believe me. I came here because you would know what to do. Thats the hell of it, you know what to do.” Always have, always will.”
’I don’t “always know what to do,” Mike started but the Irish cut him off.
“Not helpin’ me confidence- shammer.”
More gentle laughter. The men fell silent as Rick stopped by to tell them he was going shopping.
“See there? The kid is going shopping because you said “no man gets left behind!”
“Bloody hell, I could get us all killed!” Davidson strangled out.
“Yeah- but you’ll be right there next to us. If I was in charge, I would get everyone killed while I buggered off and then got caught later.” “My first instinct was to run.”
A shake of his head and Davidson said, “You have always been a brilliant thief, running might be the smart play”
“I might be brilliant but I am not the Thief in Law.”
“You can have it!”
“Not after you fucked it up so badly!” the man managed to laugh.
Davidson could see the weight lift off his friend. Maybe he just needed to be listened to.
“Oh hey- We got another little job we need to do for Demetry when we get back.”
Donniger shot him a look.
A quick shake of the head back from Mike. “Don’t know, Don’t think its a setup. Feydor says its some kind of currier thing”.
The two men ordered another round and drank and talked until Rick came back carrying bags.
“Kid’s good. Dedicated.”
“Yeah, no way he will be satisfied with the one job and what ever happens here. I just hope he picks up enough to keep from getting caught.”
Graeme stood. ’Lets break pattern! Lets go out- the five of us! The Grovsner Casino has put in craps tables.”
Michael considered. “Why not? Get cleaned up and I’ll tell the others. A night on the town might do us well!”
A toned down epic night followed. Epic in that Graeme did not drink more than one whiskey and won 1200 quid. Gretchen and Ira both broke even which was good for them and Rick only lost 100. Mike won a quick 500 and then met a Chinese woman. Kind of the total opposite from a blond southerner. A little chit chat and a lot of beautiful release.