THIEF IN LAW

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Chapter 5

Saturday night continued the run of rainy cool weather in London. Early November is about as dead a time the city ever saw for tourists so the tubes were only very crowded with commuters heading back home and not hoards of visitors wearing cameras. Rick was fresh from his tour of the train stations and the underground so he led the other two through the Piccadilly Square station and up to the street. The Wolsley was a Grand European Brassiere just off Piccadilly street where the outrageous prices were matched by the fantastic service. Every waiter in the place seemed to have that hair split between the sneer and the smile. The youngest gang member was so intimidated that he forgot to flirt with the young female hostess as she showed them into the bowls of the tastefully decorated place. Large booths and tables in the low light held people comfortably and in some privacy. As they passed, the bar held Trevor Covington standing along side waiting for his acquaintances, pint in hand. The trio became a foursome as the men were moved to a semi private room.

Graeme pulled Rick aside and told him: “Just keep your mouth shut and watch Mike.”

Introductions were short as three of them were old acquaintances and they were seated.

The waiter joined the group as the brunette hostess sashayed away. A minion served water all around quietly while his superior began the standard spiel:

“Good evening gentlemen, my name is Edward and I will be your waiter this evening.”

Davidson immediately took charge. If you let the waiter talk, nothing got accomplished.

“Edward, Good evening. How are you this day?” he asked sincerely.

“Very well, sir and yourself and all?”

“We are all fine and looking to conclude some delicate negotiations this evening.”

Edward pro offered a drink menu and wine list. Michael declined. ’Since Mr. C has started with a pint we’d like a round of bass ales, if you please.”

Edward nodded.

“How are the scallops today?” Davidson asked.

Smiling, the waiter informed him that the day boat scallops were the best in the city.

’Very well. We will need four appetizers of the scallops. Also we need a chardonnay to go with that, something creamy?”

“A Montrachet,” Edward asked testing the budget.

“Nice- which vintage?”

“We have a 90’ that is just reaching its peak drinkability.”

“That sounds excellent.” “We will all have the fillet de Boeuf with asparagus and hollandaise- medium rare all around.” Mike looked at his companions for confirmations which he got. More nodding from Edward.

“For the wine- we’d like a Shiraz- The Penfolds Grange.”

A look of consternation replaced the smile. “Monsieur would of course prefer the Hermitage.”

A definite shake “no” told a different story. “Monsieur would not. The Penfolds.”

The waiter wanted to say no and what’s more he wanted to argue. Davidson was having none of that.

“Edward, the bottles don’t lie as we say in the colonies. Now- Serve us the beer, wait 18 minutes to let us get some things off our chests, and bring in the scallops, with the chardonnay.” Davidson brooked no non sense and overrode the objections. “Wait another 24 minutes and bring us a cheese course with whatever wine you want and then wait ten more minutes to bring out the fillets, with the Shiraz, Sil vous plait. Another 35 minutes to let us wrap us our talks and then we’ll see about desert and cigars- Oui?”

The man’s jaw dropped. “Oui.. Monsieur???”

“Davidoff.”

A head whip to look to see what the face looked like in detail, was this man the…?

“I’ve been living in the states.”

“Of course sir, very good sir.”

The man left and Trevor and Graeme, who’d seen Michael’s parlor trick performed before, chuckled. Rick was fazed.

His Irish friend leaned in a told the young man, “If we are gonna pay 2200 quid for dinner we should at least get what we want.”

The beer went down nicely at room temperature. Especially when that room was the beer cellar at 52 degrees Celsius.

“A toast.” “to good health, fine looking women and easy money!”

The four drank deep and relaxed into their chairs.

“Trev? You have something to share?”, Graeme prompted.

“DeBeers is leaving London!”

Davidson rocked back on his seat, stunned. ’What?” “I haven’t even heard a whisper!”

“Oh very hush hush, my lad,” Covington told them all. We just got the word last few days officially.”

“Wow. Where are they going?”

“Gaborone!”, the Shipping and Logistics agent for the consortium told the men at the table.

Graeme saved Rick the embarrassment of being the ignorant one. “I’m not really sure where Gaborone is located?”, he admitted.

“Botswana, Africa.” Both Trevor and Mike answered together.

Trev went on alone, “Botswana has the companies biggest mines producing right now. The board succumbed to the government pressure to move the sites to the local city. They want the jobs.” His voice was soft and serious.

Being the head of transport for the stones as they came in and out of the company, Trevor had 35 years experience in the business. He was coming up to the end of his career.

“Are you making the shift?” Mike asked the man.

“I’m just setting up the initial staff and facilities. I pack up operations and move them out and then the locals take over.”

A shake of his head held the wonder of the monopoly giving in to an African government.

“Cecil Rhodes must be turning over in his grave,” Michael told their contact.

Rick didn’t understand that reference either.

Again, Graeme leaned over to catch him up. “Old Cecil founded DeBeers over a century ago. They killed a lot of South Africans pulling their glittering rocks out of the ground. Then they put in Apartheid as the system of government when the locals had the nerve to complain about it.”

“You mean like Mandela, that Apartheid?”

’Yep.”

“Holy shit!”

“When is the last site?” Mike asked getting back on track.

“April 6, 2013.” “And thats the bigger news for you gabbers. “The last site is going to have to be big enough to cover the two months while we do the shift.” Three sets of eyes bore in on the older man. White hair fringing his balding head, Trevor leaned in: “And the best part? A little birdie at Lloyd’s told me that several large dollar policies have been written to Indian and US diamond firms for the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit box company.”

That old feeling hit Mike’s groin. He tamped it down while seeing the twin look come onto Graeme face.

“Why would they store them?”

“It’s Easter Sunday weekend. Most places are closed on Good Friday and the firms are going to have to wait until the following week to get the stones out to Antwerp.”

The scallops arrived and the men ceased talking and tucked in with a will. With one bite and Rick knew he was eating well this evening.

“We’ll need to confirm all of this info,” Mike said after the staff left the area and it was safe to talk again.

“Sure, sure. I know it may not pan out, but the opportunity is sittin out there!”

The meal proceeded at a more leisurely pace while the talk went small after the initial bombshell. The chef accompanied the beef and the wine out to the table when that course made its appearance. Michael opened the offending bottle and allowed it to breath. He poured the frenchman a small glass. A swirl, a sniff, a slurp and a drink. The man’s face gave away nothing. Another small pour and the chef sliced a fifth small plate with the steak cooked to medium rare perfection. A bite of the beef and then the same sniff, slurp, drink on the wine.

Slowly, a grudging look came onto his face. ’What did you say to Edward? The bottles do not lie?”

“It’s not exactly better, Michael allowed. It’s just different, excellent, but different. Maybe for the younger less traditional crowd?” He gave the chef an out.

’Oui Monsieur!”

’Chef, my friends and I will always remember this meal, I can assure you!”

Gustatory pride restored, the staff left, leaving the men to eat a pleasant dinner. The leader of the gang took in Rick and Graeme with a nod and theorized, “Maybe its just a new way of looking at things.”

The desert was a treacle and some port followed by brandy and cigars.

“Jesus, I’m half drunk,” Rick admitted.

“Trev, this is going to be our swan song if we pull this job off”, Mike told him.

Covington waived that away. “I might have an escape plan setup for meself as well. Got a fake job house sitting in a fancy house. Thing is I own the house!” Sunny spot mind you. Some place where rain falls on plains if you follow.” He chuckled at his own witticism.

The others laughed with him.

“How do you want to get paid?”

“Cash deposit, like always. Same account.”

“One more thing, man. The squad maybe involved,” Davidson warned his agent.

A raised and very bushy eyebrow met this warning. “I thought you gobbers was ghosts.”

“Yeah. We are usually. But it seems we may be on the FBI radar and if we are it won’t be long until the squad is involved.” Mike liked the nickname for the Metropolitan Police, Robbery unit, The Flying Squad.

Maybe his crew needed a cool nickname. The Brew Crew? No. The stealing bunch? No. Assholes who take things? Better. He’d have to work on that.

“I’ll be more careful then.”

“Your part is done. We’ll just need a series of confirming texts in the usual code as the date gets closer,” Graeme assured the man.

The dinner broke up as Michael paid the check. The restaurant comped the Treacle. 3058 GBP. He added a bit to the tip. Trevor Covington shook hands all around and tottered off into the night. He had to get home to the misses.

The other three walked east a few blocks on Piccadilly. The rain had ceased and the cool night air helped Rick recover a bit. The men stopped across the street from a large nine story building that occupied the whole of the block to the corner. The Edwardian marble facade was a bit grimy from the soot but the whole place radiated a steady calm dependability. The older two gang members gazed at the building with fascination. Sanderson noticed.

“What’s that place?”

“DeBeers London headquarters,” Michael explained.

Oh.

“About 80 feet down encased in a huge vault and surrounded by concrete and every conceivable alarm known to man, is about 50 percent of the worlds diamonds.”

Even Rick gawped at that. Davidson and Donniger ogled the building like peep show patrons. Greed makes beggars of everyone.

“What do you think Graeme? 10 billion? 15?”

“Easily, sham. Mebbe 20.”

“We hit the uncut stones going into Antwerp. Now I’d like to get to the site holders before they can get the gems out of the country,” Mike told Rick.

“We had dinner a block from the stones we are gong to steal!” Rick asked.

“May steal, may steal. But I like your positive energy,” the boss told him.

“Lad, guess what else is a few blocks from our hotel?” Graeme added on.

“What?”

“New Scotland Yard of course.”

“Why do you guys tell me these things?!”

Monday rolled around and the real scouting began in earnest. Now that the gang had a potential target, plenty of things needed to be taken care of. Ira and Graeme went on a search through the cities building and planning commission files. Every building had to be up to code and it was easy to pose as contractors who had to work on the building to gather detailed architectural plans. Mean while the other three went into the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company itself to see the layout first hand. The easiest cover was as customers looking to rent a box. The men dressed in suits while Gretchen favored a smart female business look. She had the broad shoulders and skinny frame to make it look sexy. She needed some curves Rick risked saying. Michael wisely shut the hell up on that topic.

The Hatton Garden district of Helborne is north of the river and serves as London’s diamond shopping district. Hatton Garden street itself is lined with several high end jewelry shops and the cross street of Greville is famous for the quality of the stones available in still more shops. The safety deposit company sits in a large multi unit building at the corner of Greville and Hatton Garden. Ground zero for diamond retailing. The building is divided into two wings facing either the Hatton side or the Greville face. The entrance is right at the corner with a large clean vestibule serving as a common lobby shared by the tenants. A British Passport Services office is on one side and a management company takes offices on the other. Two retailers face the Hatton street outer ring and the Safety deposit company sits on the second floor of the internal set of office rooms. There are no windows available for the customers but since the safety boxes are all down stairs, below ground in the vault, windows are not a problem. The elevator which is at the back end of the lobby was out of service so the three took the stairs up to the target company.

Mike, Rick and Gretchen all went over the layout with a fine eye as they waited for the early crowd to thin out a bit. Armed with several documents for a fictitious company, the trio waited outside the assistant managers office until 10:22 am.

“Yes, some boxes are available for rent depending on the size, the woman, Helen Buxton, told them when they entered and explained their desires.

“What do you have in the way of sizes,” Michael asked in his best business voice, confident and clear.

“Full, half, quarter and eighth cube sizes, she said.

The thieves were a bit flummoxed as the normal safety deposit box size was “document and large” in the US. Gretchen asked politely for the explanation.

Ms. Buxton gave a half smile and related that the sizes were expressed in cubic meters: A full cubic meter, a half cubic meter and so on done the line.

Conversion math suddenly made an appearance as the three debated the 3.2 feet height, width and depth of the boxes and whether that would be enough for their needs.

“I actually think the half cubic meter size would be big enough, if we could see it?” Michael asked the manager.

“Of course, sir.”

The four played follow the leader down the four stories on the back, internal staircase into the connecting hallway and the vault room. Ms. Buxton walked briskly down the corridor and through the enormous door into the secure portion of the vault.

A sign in desk and a small gate led to the interior space. A company person signed them in and Buxton jangled some keys while the thieves noted the guards, the layout and the wall construction. The outer space held a series of doors to small cubicles that provided users some privacy while they raided their own secure boxes. The box rooms themselves were down and to the left and right and were surprisingly large.

The letter size and one/eighth meter cube up to the quarter sized boxes were arrayed in the left room. Ms. Buxton gave the three a few minutes to look this over and then said, “The other room has the full cube and half cube sized boxes separately. Most of our larger business customers need the room to access their items on a consistent basis.”

Mike allowed that they would need to be accessing the box frequently at first and then with less regularity.

She nodded and showed the customers the half cube box in the other room. The boxes were arrayed in a floor to ceiling stack with about an inch in between the units. The heavy brass doors all held the two key locks and the outer edge was covered by a layer of thin steel plate.

All three were making mental notes of everything and Gretchen even managed to get some quiet pictures inside. They continued talking to themselves in their guise as a business as Ms. Buxton opened a half cube unit for them to see.

“I think this will work. What are the package dimensions again Roger?” Mike asked Rick.

“Ten by ten by three inches, Mr. Davidoff.”

The discussion gave them ample opportunity to open the box door and look over the locks and finger the outside cladding. Michael’s spatial sense was also tingling at the route they’d taken into the vault.

“I believe this will work nicely he said with a smile to the assistant manager. Uhh, I hate to be prickly but what about security in here?”

Ms. Buxton did not take any offense. ’We have the finest security in the world. We have never had a problem, ever! You saw the two armed guards by the vault door? We also have temperature, pressure, sonic and motion alarms installed. The whole room is protected by two feet of reenforced concrete capable of surviving a missile blast, so your items will be quite protected.”

Mike smiled at the woman. “Thats fantastic! Lets finish off the paper work.”

The trip back to the office was in silence and Gretchen provided the application forms and documents.

“Seven to ten business days for your papers to clear and then you get the letter approving the rental. At that time a list of key personnel will be required to have access to the vault.”

Gretchen took the stack of signature forms and the other receipts and asked about keys. “It is very difficult in the states to get three keys,” she explained.

The woman nodded. ’We have a locksmith who changes the box every time a new tenet comes in. It is easy to get three keys made right off the lurch but more difficult afterwards.” She made the notation on the forms for the keys.

The thieves nodded in sympathy. Hand shakes all around as they left.

Outside, Mike walked down Greville street with the others and looked at the shops while progressing towards the tube stop. Safe in the anonymous crowds, he turned and asked, “What did you think?” to Rick.

The younger member turned to the two. “I thought we had one! But that vault looks too tough. Guards and a missile blast?”

Michael smiled but didn’t answer. He asked Gretchen the same question.

Her answer was accompanied by a matching grin, “I’m not as good spatially as you but I think…” She stopped and looked at Mike.

“Yep. The back wall is the elevator shaft. We’re in!”

Rick watched the exchange and was puzzled.

Gretchen shook her head at the young man. “Rick, some of it seems obvious, but what did she say?” “We’ve never had problems in here before.” “That means they are not looking for vulnerabilities.” The vault has always been safe, so why should tomorrow be any different.”

Michael took over. “She mentioned guards. That is just for show during the day. I’d be willing to bet they aren’t there during the night. As for the missile blast, we won’t be using a missile.”

“But the alarms?” the man asked.

“Thats going to be a problem,” he acknowledged.

The gang boarded the tube and went back to the hotel. A quick change of clothes and Mike told Gretchen, “Wait here for Ira and Graeme. We need to get back to New York. Before we go I want you to be on the lookout for an apartment big enough for all of us during the stay here.” “Rick lets go site seeing,” He motioned the younger man outside for some training.

The men hopped on the ever present tube with its crowds thinner at lunch time. On a random Friday in November the weather sucked as the pair rode from Embankment to Tower Hill stations. A good many people got off with them as they started down the slope towards the river.

Mike pointed out the wall which marked the Roman part of Londinium, the ancient city which Julius Caesar made his provincial capitol.

The two men walked by the Tower’s execution block where many famous and not so famous people met their fates. Rick was impressed by it all.

The moat surrounding the Tower of London has been dry for a century as the Tower now serves as mainly as a tourist attraction. Mike explained the Water gate and its significance in British history to the younger man as they went into the place. Rick was impressed by that as well.

Past the White Tower with its ravens, Mike led Rick into younger palace rooms just like any tourist. The film was at least interesting as the men watched. Queen Elizabeth looked pretty good during her coronation.

The exhibits kept getting more fascinating as they went deeper in. The Royal Cape with its ermine trim and pearls. The golden orb and Scepter of state. And finally the jewel room. The Crown Jewels of England are laid out in a small room with a 24 hour guard detail circling around the exhibit cases. A moving walkway allows hoards of tourists to go past the crowns and other stones. The guards were nice to the tourists as the room wasn’t too crowded and they let the men skirt around and ride three times.

The Star of Africa is a huge, chicken egg sized diamond that is almost flawless and sits up front in the crown. The Star of India is likewise huge and a symbol of former colonial might. The Black Prince Ruby, an unpolished ruby of enormous size has been fought over for six centuries. All of these are contained in the crown jewels, in addition to more gems cut from the Culinan Diamond. The latter being the largest diamond on earth. The last exhibit is an elaborate golden punch bowl. 440 kilos of gold in 1400 separate pieces to make up the fanciful set. Rick was stunned by the display of wealth.

The two men sat on a bench outside the exhibit room after staring at the booty and drooling.

“Oh man, that crown,” Rick breathed.

“Yeah, that thing is amazing.” “Think we could steal it?”, Mike asked, watching his protege.

Sanderson stopped breathing for a second. Could we? No. Yes. “I don’t know,” he finally admitted.

“Good. Lets review some plans shall we. We could smuggle in some guns and take out the guards, then smash the glass and run out, to what?” Mike gestured around the tower grounds. Beefeater guards in their distinctive uniforms roamed freely. “A hundred dedicated war veterans just itching to shoot someone?” How bout we get them to move it. Make it vulnerable,” he went on. “Elizabeth is not going to last forever. They have to coronate Charles and when they do, we grab it.” But what then?”

Ricks face fell. “We can’t sell it. Not even broken up. The individual stones are too famous.”

“Yep. Too famous to sell does not interest me. We could grab it and sell it back to the authorities but that is really dicey.” Mike spoke from experience. “Can’t steal the Mona Lisa either. At least not to sell.” Too tough to fence doesn’t generally interest me.”

Silence held while Rick absorbed this lesson.

“Lots of things have just vanished over the years, he told him. “Ever hear of the Florentine Diamond?”

Rick shook his head.

“Huge yellow diamond. 150 carats. Right after WW I someone stole it and it has never been seen since. Sitting in a box somewhere. Same with the Amber Room and those Faberge Eggs.” “Look those up”, he said to the unasked question.

“Point is sometimes things could be sittin on the sidewalk and they are not worth stealing.” He waited a beat. ’And the opposite is true: Sometimes a place has seemingly impenetrable security and its just waiting to be taken down.”

Rick looked up sharply.

“Trick is to know the difference.” “Sometimes the answer is to walk away.”

Sanderson got it. ”What are we going to do about after on this job?”

“That’s a good question. Normally, we would wait a long time to fence the stones, however Demetry is in a bind right now. This job givers him some leeway and we need that to give us some room to maneuver. I figure we have 3-4 months before we have to have him dealt with.” Mike paused blowing out a breath. “Plus, we have a problem of the diamonds hitting the open market right after a robbery. That is going to be bad. But I think we can figure a way around it.”

An evil grin came onto his face. “Hey, how big is your head?”

Rick stared at his boss. “What?”

Michael used two hands to span Ricks head while talking. “Seems like 10 inches or so. How thick are you?”

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Laughing, Davidson told his young friend, “You need to lose 15 pounds.” “You have to go on a diet.”

Over the next few days the team departed London back to New York. Per their normal travel arrangements, they went back in ones and two’s back using different airports to get home. Gretchen made a quick two day visit to Rio on the way back to finish off the storage unit there.

Thursday, November 15th saw a two inch snow fall in the city. Not a lot of snow but it sent people scurrying for shovels. Michael was dealing with a crap load of jet lag as he was awakened on that morning to the sound of banging and saws from next door.

8:35 am. Great.

He gave up after a few moments of trying to get back to sleep. Might as well get up.

After a quick shower and dressing in his standard work outfit of dark slacks and a dress shirt with a jacket, he spent some time on the mail run. Thankfully there was no sign of the cops who’d been tailing them. Mike wondered if the pair had been tipped off that they were leaving the area and hadn’t bothered to come around.

The accumulated mail was dealt with. The biggest piece was a series of drawings and plans from the UK. These documents were the results of Ira and Graeme’s search through the public records involving the buildings around the Hatton Gardens Safety Deposit company. Remodeling plans, Work permits, and insurance details were all parts of public records in the UK. The states had much the same if not more information available. The details on the alarms and the vault were not available but some vital info would lead them where to search next.

In this case it looked like Lloyds held the main structural policy while Swiss Re had part of the reinsurance.

Many people held only a fuzzy idea of what reinsurance is and what it does. A huge company like Lloyds will take policies on large and somewhat risky businesses. The Safety Deposit box company was a prime example. Lloyds was spreading the risk of a robbery amongst all of its policy holders. But a company like Hatton Gardens could have the potential for a billion dollar loss. That was too much risk for Lloyds or any single insurance company. A reinsurance outfit like Swiss Re would underwrite the Lloyds policy and help spread the risk out for more millions of policy holders and investors. Mike himself had some Swiss Re in his investment portfolio. It was an excellent company after all.

But. The insurance companies and the reinsurance people all liked to know the details of the security operations in a risky venture.

Bottom line: Swiss Re or Lloyds held the vault construction plans and the alarm details in its files somewhere.

Trick was getting at them.

Mike went through the drawing’s and zero’d in on the notations Ira and Graeme had left. “Talk to Linda, here”

Linda was their go between when dealing with the insurance people. She made inquiries on their behalf, posing as a construction outfit doing work on an adjacent system or building. In this case since the elevator in the building was being remodeled, they had most of the structural plans already and they just needed the alarm specs.

That was nice work on the drawings, Mike noted. It was a little before noon and he made the call he’d been dreading for a while.

“Mr. Roybokov, it’s Michael,” he said trying to be light. “You have something for me?”

“Da. I need you and the Irish.”

He closed his eyes to concentrate. ’Irish is out of the area until tomorrow. Can we make it Saturday?”

“Da. Come to the house. 3:00 PM.” The gruff man clicked off the phone.

That went okay, he thought. The three o’clock time was significant. If it was 5:00, that meant “come to meet, stay for dinner.” Three meant, “I can find out what I need to know, kill you, and still make dinner at six.”

However he thought they were safe at the house. If the meeting had been set for the office in the strip club or Feydor’s pawn shop, that would be some serious red flags. A text to Graeme to relay the meeting time and place took him no time. He had more work to do.

Moving downstairs on his way out to his meetings, he took the opportunity for a quick knock on Mary’s door to check on her.

“Mikey, is that you?” she asked.

“It is me, Mary. I’m just back from over seas.”

The old woman opened the door and took stock. “You look tired boychik.”

“Couldn’t sleep in with the banging going on next door.”

“Pish, I don’t even notice,” she waived it away. “Come to shabbat dinner, on Friday. Rabbi Manhof and a guest will be coming. Dress nice,” she commanded.

“What are we having?”

“Spaghetti, she said.

“Spaghetti? For Shabbat?” he asked.

“Same god, different approach,” Mary said wisely. “It’s Mrs Scanzani’s yahrzeit and her recipe. She was a good friend when my Henry died and afterward.”

Mike knew the yahrzeit was the anniversary of someone’s death. He was picking up a lot of Jewish customs. “I’ll bring Chianti.”

A quick peck on the cheek for being a nice boy and the admonition that he be on time at 6:00, sent him on his way.

The meetings went well. He wanted the Dogra brothers and the Weinstien’s involved on this shell company setup. The gang used other people sometimes but in this instance he wanted professional discretion from people he trusted.

The Dogra’s were a team of Indian American brothers who cooked his books and did his taxes. The Weinstien corporation was a group of shady lawyers who helped incorporate his shell companies and did most of his money laundering. In all things forms had to be filled out and banks informed. Sutton Geology, LLC came into being that day with some effort on his part. That and ten million dollars drawn from the Caymans.

Steve Hoban the tall lawyer who helped him, explained the process. ’We execute a fake contract with Royal Dutch Shell for the ten million which pays the company. Then we pay you.”

“Fake contract?” Won’t RDS twig on to that?”

Steve shook his head. “Mike, these giant multi’s are doing 10,000 contracts a year. We mail the contract into their offices with a Mod 1 notation attached and marked as paid, and boom, someone assigns a number to it. Once we get that number, the IRS and the banks consider it good. Anyone does a sanity check and you show up as real. Since RDS hasn’t paid out any money, they can’t find it in a quick look. All we have to do is close out the contract every year and we are good.”

That part was what Mike didn’t like. “Why don’t we go on a two year or three year contract and I won’t have to pay you so often!”

Steve was horrified. “God, no! If it goes over a fiscal year the big boys will audit the contracts and find the outlier.” “Thats why we do it now and have it wrapped up by June 1.”

The leader of the gang grimaced. He was paying these guys serious money to do this. He expected the best results. Same with his taxes. The Dogra’s charged upwards of 5,000 per return. His corporate returns for Excelsior and Anderson Holding cost in the 10,000 range and took the CPA’s weeks to finesse. Now he was adding another corporate return plus he needed another holding company in the near future. Things were getting complicated. He had a lot of things to keep track of.

CHAPTER 6

Friday dawned cold and gloomy at the house. More banging from next door started in early but he was already up. A short run on the treadmill didn’t improve his mood or make him feel much better. The shower still felt nice as the hot water cascaded on him, bringing life back into his blood. Davidson went casual khaki pants and button down shirt with a sports jacket. The jacket was more for warmth as he went on errands all over the city. Food shopping, the dry cleaners, a trip to the wine shop, and the pharmacy all added to the mail run so it looked like a regular day for any thief. A good four hours down in his office saw him make contact with Linda and detail what he wanted in the alarm drawings for Hatton Garden.

That’s a tall order, she’d told him via text.

Might be our last job, he relayed.

The best information incoming was Gretchen’s text that detailed a large flat for rent available near the job site in London. A huge six bed room unit with full kitchen and living room. 8667 PCM. Eight thousand six hundred sixty seven pounds per calendar month. 13,700 dollars a month? London real estate rivaled Manhattan for expense. The new Sutton Geology account was going to have to write a large check for the place. He contacted the estate agent to get the application process rolling, giving the usual fake information. The rental firm was used to dealing with agents for international businessmen trying to get places in central London via some unusual accounts and transaction magic. It made the transaction easier and it gave the gang a layer of anonymity that Michael loved.

The maudlin thoughts kept coming and intruding on his progress. How was he going to get out from under the fed’s and the Bratva thumb? Could they really pull off Hatton? If he had to vanish could he leave this place behind? The compartments in his brain struggled with keeping all of the stray thoughts from sloshing up and over their respective dams.

A shrug to ward off the gloom from both his mood and the day raised his shoulders. He went up to shave and the normalcy of the motions helped sooth him. From his bedroom window he had a decent view into the adjoining house. He could see workman scurrying around and hear the banging and thumping coming rom inside. Muffled. Someone is putting large dollars into that place. The thought threatened his upturned mood. The stab of jealousy was short. Wall Street assholes have too much money, he figured. And don’t get me started on carried interest. Time for dinner.

A stop in the kitchen and he grabbed a bottle of chianti for dinner and a port for dessert. Chianti Classico from Abruzzi and a Spanish Mediera. Mrs. Scanzani’s sauce was a classic red, he knew.

Michael decided to go through the front hall door rather than the back kitchen stairs to avoid shocking the Rabbi.

Prepared for an older jewish man, the sight of the beautiful woman who opened the door, pole axed him. Time froze for a beat while he took her in.

Tall, at least 5’ 9”, with huge blond hair piled up to give her the illusion of even more height. Bright smile with full red lips showed the perfect teeth and high cheek bones. Broad shoulders tapering to a smaller waist and those perfect rounds tits pushed up magnificently. Filled out but not more than 125 pounds he thought. Dressed in jeans and a sweater he saw those legs and knew instinctively it was the runner from the park. 32? No more than 35.

Time flowed back in as she said “Hello,” and then recognition went further as she said, “Hey, You’re the runner!”

The smile widened on her generous mouth and it stuck his feet to the floor and put his brain in mush.

“Yeeaee”, Michael could not make the words come out properly.

She noticed her effect on him. “Articulate devil. Are you the neighbor?” “Come in.”

He managed to walk in unaided into Mary’s apartment. This was his turf! How did she…?

“Yes, hello. I am the upstairs neighbor, Michael Davidson.” A sentence finally came out of his mouth correctly.

The pair stood awkwardly in the small entranceway until Mary bustled in from the kitchen. “Mikey! Oh, you met Sydney, I wanted to introduce you!”

“Not formally Mrs. Spack. Hi, again Michael, I’m Sydney Devereaux.” The melodic voice dripped southern honey. She struck out a hand in greeting.

He took it and was struck by how warm and soft it was. He held on. “Uhhh.”

Sydney awkwardly pulled back her hand and went “uhh.”

Mary watched the two of them. “Bubbe you okay? she asked Mike.

Davidson willed his head to get back into the game. “Yeah, sorry, Mary. Jet lag is killing me. Hi Mary.” He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. He turned to the young woman. “Sorry, yes, I am the neighbor and I just got back from London, yesterday. Still on European time.”

He was setting a record! Two sentences that didn’t make him sound like an idiot.

“Mikey is that for me?”

He’d forgotten the wine. “Yes, some chianti, here you go!” He handed over the bottles to Mary as they walked a ways into the living room and dining area.

Sydney caught a glimpse of the bottle.

“The Abruzzi reserve… uhh, thats…”

She hesitated while Mary looked at the bottle. The thing making her stop speaking was a discrete hand on her arm from Michael. A slight shake of his head at Mary and she caught on quickly.

’Thats a nice area I’ve heard,” she masked adroitly.

Mary hustled the pair into the kitchen setting down the wine on the counter. Dinner was not ready which was strange to Mike.

“I’m so sorry but I was trying to track down Rabbi Manhof. He is not here yet and I can’t seem to get a hold of him.”

Michael could organize and help. “Okay, what can I do?” It might help him cover his nerves.

Mary smiled a thanks at him. “Could you finish the meatballs and make a salad while I figure out what is going on?”

“I can help, too,” Sydney said, ready to go.

“Sure, Mary. Go- we can get things ready.” Mike hustled her off.

She went into the back bedroom to continue the phone investigation while Michael went to the kitchen sink and washed his hands. Sydney did a thorough scrub next to him. She smelled like lavender and he tried not to sniff.

“Can you open the wine, while I check meatballs and get stuff for salad?” He asked.

“Sure.”

He turned for the stove while she went for the drawers to rummage through for the tool and the pair ended up face to face and body to body. They stared at each other for a full second. Her beauty was an almost physical thing as it overpowered him. Blue eyes and the scent of her put crazy thoughts in his head. Kiss her! Fuck her!

The moment stretched and then eyes dropped on both sides, embarrassed.

Michael staggered back. ’“Sorry, sorry. The corkscrew is in the top drawer,” he pointed.

“No, no, my fault,” Sydney seemed a bit flustered as well.

He covered by checking the meat balls and slipped them into the sauce, bubbling a way on the stove.

The popping sound of the cork brought his head around. “The glasses are in the dining room side cabinet.” She sat the bottle down after returning with three glasses and looked at the label.

She obviously knew something about wine. A questioning look asked him what was up with the wine.

“Mary would be upset if she knew the wine was expensive. My little treat.” he explained.

“Thats nice,” she told him. She leaned back against the counter to watch him work. He retrieved lettuce and the fixings for salad.

“Where is the bowl for that?” she asked. With her accent the word contained some new syllables: “Bow-ell”

He grinned. ’Where in the south?”, not answering the question directly, just wanting her to talk more.

’Dallas, born and raised. How bout ya’ll?”

The voice dipped up and down. Accent thicker and thinner. It was honey dripped onto that smooth skin so he could lick off the…

Suddenly he realized she was expecting some sort of answer. “Uh, sorry what was that again?”

“I asked where you were from?”

“Denver, I’m from Denver.”

“Broncos fan?”

“I am, he said surprised. I don’t have to ask about you though…”

“Only Cowboys fan in New York,” she sparkled.

“Not the only one, but you are outnumbered. I’ll bet you are an Aikman girl, huh?” he asked just to stay on a safe topic.

“And you are all bout that John Elway’ I’d bet.”

“Since I was six.”

The two started arguing good naturally about who was the better quarter back while Michael made salad and put on a pot for pasta. He started feeling better, a little more sure of himself. Dishes went on the table as they became ready. Sydney poured out some wine and helped.

“Look, I see it this way: Montana, Elway, Brady, Favre, and Aikman, with Manning and Marino as the best regular season quarterbacks.”

Sydney drew breath to point out the obvious flaws in his case when Mary breezed into the kitchen.

“Otto Graham. Nine NFL championships and movie star good looks.” “Rabbi Manhof can’t make it. Mrs. Lapinski’s hip isn’t feeling well.” She plowed into the conversation without a break.

Both of them got a kick out of Mary’s football knowledge and the three quickly finished meal prep and brought dinner to the table, all the while chatting about Mrs. Lapinski’s hip and Mrs. Scanzani’s sauce.

The blessings went quickly while Sydney looked on respectfully. Challah went really well with a tomato sauce.

Mike helped himself to a big plate of pasta and salad. “Suddenly, I’m starving,” he told the ladies.

“Mikey is from Colorado, did he tell you, Sydney?” They have horses out there, just like in Texas.”

“He did, but I didn’t catch what you do for a living…and do you prefer Mike or Michael.”

“Whichever is fine. I’m an oil filed services rep and a consultant.” He told her this warily.

“Really? My parents have some wells on our land in west Texas”, she told him eating a meatball.

“The Yates field in the Permian Basin”, he asked immediately.

She sat back, the surprise at his knowledge on her face. “We own 160 acres north of Ft. Stockton,” she admitted.

“Right along the Pecos, huh?” He was playing the part and might as well go for broke on it.

“Who does your folks, service work? Wait, don’t tell me. Steven Aucone, right?” “I’ll bet money on that”, the last part coming out bitter.

“Who’s Steven Aucone?” Mary asked.

“His family is big in the oil business in Texas, Mike explained. “He knows everyone, and is honest as the day is long.” Both women watched him. “He is the reason I have to travel to Bismarck and Scotland and Georgia- the soviet state, not the one with Atlanta”, he told Mary. “He just beat the pants off me when I came out of college.” Mike used his knowledge of articles he’d read from the tech magazines to establish his bonaiefdes with Sydney. He risked looking at her.

Sydney admitted sheepishly, “Steven’s daughter Meghan is my best friend.”

Mary told them, “if I ever get an oil well I’ll use him.”

Michael looked askance at Mary while Sydney laughed. “Mary, you wouldn’t use me?”

“Nu- You’d want me to use the best, right? You just said he’s better than you.”

“I did not say that!” Both women were laughing at his expense. “How did you two meet”? he asked to get back on a better topic.

“This sweet girl brought me cookies!”

“My renovation is going to be loud and I didn’t want to alienate the neighbors so quickly,” she explained.

Silence reigned for a period while everyone ate. More wine was poured around to refill glasses. Michael kept staring and catching himself. Finally, he couldn’t help it. “Which hedge fund does your husband run Sydney?”

The colder look she gave him was for the sexist remark and she said, “None. I’m not married.”

Mary broke in. “Mikey, Sydney is a doctor!”

Doctor being one of the five approved professions for jewish grandmothers. Doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant and rabbi comprise the holy five. Musician was acceptable as long as it was classical. Thief was not anywhere close to the list.

“Wow. What’s your specialty?, he asked.

“Pediatric Oncology,” she said.

The thought of sick kids with cancer depressed him and it must have shown on his face because she went on. “I’m not seeing patients, just lab work.” It’s a great job. I get to set my own hours and its so close.”

“Where?”

“Brooklyn Hospital Center,” she told him.

“The place across the park?” “I didn’t know they did research.”

“It’s a new program in conjunction with Sloan Kettering.”

She told them of her med school days at Baylor and how she was in practice down in Houston for a while and then she wasn’t. “So I called a colleague at Sloan and here I am.”

Mike read between the lines and figured a boyfriend situation moved her from Houston. The three talked of Brooklyn and the old days and what was new and fun to do now. Dinner wound down and more of Sydney’s cookies made an appearance as dessert. The port went well with the almond treats.

“Sorry I missed my plate”, Mike said crunching on a bite.

’I hope my workmen aren’t too loud.”

He let her off the hook. “Not too bad. What are you doing to the place?”

Mary cleared the table and sent the two into the living room to talk while she cleaned. They both ignored her and helped with a few dishes as she told him of the full gut job and the bathroom and kitchen remodel. “I’m living out of the one bedroom and the locker room at work.”

“Who is your general contractor?”

“Gary Mastrangelo, she said.

The concern on his face came through. “Don’t worry I talked to Rod and Jim and copied their rider on the contract to keep him on schedule.”

She’d done her homework. Rod and Jim were the gay lawyers down the street. Parts of Michael were standing at near attention as the two sipped coffee and spoke. Mary joined them and they had a marvelous time watching Jeopardy and Mike couldn’t help but show off. Sydney was impressed by his trick.

Every answer was correct and final Jeopardy was tailor made for him: This man said about bank robbery, “I rob them because that’s where they keep all the money.”

’Who was Willie Sutton?”

Both women debated if he was the most successful thief of all time while Alex confirmed Mike’s professional knowledge.

“Nope. Most successful bank robber was Uday Hussein. Saddam’s son.”

“What?”, she doubted his assertion.

“In 2003, the week before the American army moved into Bagdad, Uday drove into the National Bank of Iraq and gave the manager a note. It said, “Give this man all of the US reserve currency, signed Saddam.” Five hours later the boy drove off with 2 billion in US currency in the truck.” Michael related the story while the ladies gaped.

“Fear doesn’t count as a robbery,” Sydney objected.

“Okay, no fear based thieving, huh. He thought a moment. “Use the google on a guy named Stephane Breitwieser. Waiter by trade, from France.” Stole 257 valuable objects from museums and other places worth about a billion dollars.”

The blue eyes watched him, fascinated while he told the story. “The cops couldn’t figure it out because he wasn’t selling the items. He was an art lover so he kept the stuff at his mothers house.”

“The police finally figured out it was him and they arrested him in 2003.” They found the mother throwing statues into the canal that ran behind their house when they came to get him.”

Mary and Sydney had a very uncomfortable discussion on what makes a person steal something while Mike sat trying to figure out how to get Sydney alone and upstairs.

It was Mary who sealed the deal for him. The women were talking about the crown moldings in her apartment when Mary said, “If you think these are nice, Mikey’s place has some really nice details.”

And just like that he was taking her up the stairs and into his place to look at plaster medallions and moldings. The internal debate raged on inside him: Make the move, or not? She seemed interested, but the standard problem of his real profession came into play. He was torn about the problem. Confused. Sydney made some casual inquiries about his status with regards to how “his girlfriend must love how clean the place is kept.”

The answer-“I’m not involved right now”, got the spark he was looking for.

The nickel tour showed off his living room and kitchen. He advised her against the fireplaces. She watched him while sipping her water and agreed wondering where this was going.

“Let me get you my plaster guy’s card.” Michael walked back down the main hall into the master bedroom. He left the light on in the hall way but didn’t bother to click on the desk lamp or room light. He could have rattled off the phone number from memory but he wanted to use the card as an excuse to ask her out. As he rummaged in the desk the available light in the room dimmed.

He turned to see her framed in the doorway.

“How come this room wasn’t included on the tour?,” she asked lightly but with an intensity that caught his attention.

The way the light back lit her was artistic and it left her face in shadows. She looked so fucking good…

Michael crossed the room with determination. With his mind made up he moved to her and took her in his arms. A brief hesitation gave her the chance to say no but she turned her face towards him and they kissed. She wanted this as well it seemed to him. The slow kiss turned deep and passionate. His hands moved to her face and then down her back. He broke off the kiss to look at her face. Eyes half closed and a slight smile showed she was enjoying this. His mouth moved back to posses her lips once again.

She snaked her arms over his shoulders and around his neck while Michael let his hands roam over her body. She felt toned, firm and her flesh sent electricity through his fingertips. His hands dropped down to the ass that had taunted him for a week now. He pulled her in close and let her feel his need. A low moan escaped her.

Michael responded by picking her up and moving over to the bed. She cradled easily in his arms.

Laying her down gently he kneeled down to kiss her lips, neck, and nibble her ears, nerves tingling. This was better than stealing!

Sydney was working the buttons on his shirt. Finally popping the last one she unwrapped his torso and kissed his chest, her mouth tracing fire along his ribs and nipples.

He felt the play of her lips on his body for a time and then tugged her sweater up and over her head; not wanting to interrupt but he had a new goal in mind: freeing those breasts. She was kneeling on the bed with him as he worked the lace bra front catch. Eyes mesmerized as he unhooked the black fabric, her breasts came free with pink nipples erect.

He took a mental snap shot. When it all goes to shit I want to remember this sight.

Sydney groaned as he sucked and kissed her breasts. She thrust back and pushed him to lay flat on the bed. Working hard, she was breathing heavily too, as pants and shoes came off in the wrong order until both were naked. She grasped his warm and ridged cock in one hand, working rhythmically, and then followed with her mouth.

“Oh god,” became “oh god not yet,” as he pulled her up to allow himself time to

delay and better access to her pussy. His tongue worked her soft mound and she bucked and writhed under him. Sydney surprised both of them when she orgasmed.

That did not happen for her normally and neither did this kind of bed hop but she went with the movement of the pairing.

Michael barely gave her time to recover from the shaking and quivering when he levered down and plunged inside of her. It was like dipping his penis into a heated vat of oil.

“Oh God!”

She ’s going to think I’m religious if I keep calling on the lord so much.

He rocked slowly trying to build the intensity, lost in the immediacy of the whole experience.

She responded by grasping his ass hard and grinding her pelvis into him.

“Deeper!, she commanded. She decided if a bed hop was called for, she might as well get as much as she could take.

He complied by thrusting his full length.

“Yes!”

Five minutes later Michael could feel his orgasm coalesce somewhere near his toes. She was close again too, he could tell.

The rhythm picked up.

The couple raced to see who could cross the finish line first and Sydney won by a stroke or two.

Michael had never before experienced an orgasm like that one. His head exploded into a million pleasure points wiping away all of his fears and doubts.

He might have passed out, he didn’t know. A while later he came to his senses with his back arched and moaning between breaths.

He eased out of her and rolled off to his right still gasping.

“Holy shit!”

Sydney snuggled into his side, grinning in the half light. He looked at her. “I did not know it was possible for one human being to give another that much pleasure.”

She laughed throatily, “I might know some tricks.”

“Tricks! You should teach a class.”

More laughter and she shivered a bit in the growing cold.

“Sorry, maybe we should get under the covers?”

The pair scrambled into the bed with various naked parts flashing in the half light.

’There is a giant stain on your duvet.”

He waived that off. “I’ll buy a new one.”

The pair talked quietly for a while, trying to come to grips with what they’d done together. Not recriminations, really, more like amazement it had happened for both. Michael recognized that the doctors part of Sydney’s brain matched his in some ways. She needed to be able to compartmentalize as well. He just hoped he would be a regular partition.

As he settled into bed with Sydney in his arms the whole last few weeks came down on him. Bone weary, he yawned.

“Sydney, I’m suddenly knackered as the English say.” He searched her face. “I’m glad you are here. I wanted this to happen but I didn’t know.”

“So am I…”

And somewhere after the “I”, Michael Davidson fell asleep.

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