His eyes snapped open at 8:37 am with the sun desperately trying overcome the clouds outside his bedroom window. He turned his head. Gone.
He had her! Had her right there and then he’d fallen asleep. Idiot!
As he rolled out of bed, he noticed the note.
“Michael- I have to go into the hospital today. Be at the park 8:00 am sharp on Sunday for our run. You can take me to breakfast afterwards to apologize for FALLING ALSEEP ON ME!”
He winced. He was going to pay for that fuck up.
During the shower and dressing for his meeting with Demetry, among his other work items today, Michael reviewed his evening with Sydney. Fantastic. Nothing short of fantastic. He felt great! Wonderful in fact. Eye’s open, head clear, heart full, ready to start the day. He hoped she wasn’t having post one night stand issues. The note suggested otherwise. She wouldn’t have wanted to run and have breakfast if she was really upset with him. At least that what he thought. She might have other ideas. The heart of a woman is a mysterious place. Or something like that.
Shaving he wondered if she’d done any snooping around his house. He figured on some light bathroom cabinet monitoring and maybe a browser history look on his computer. He had a little porn on the history which was okay since he was a guy and she would expect that. Again the note suggested her look (if she’d done one) hadn’t raised any flags. Of course if she discovered what he really did for a living it was all over, but he pushed that thought into its hole and buried it.
A text to Graeme directing him to meet him at the diner at 12:30 got a prompt, “K” response.
The rest of the morning was consumed with working. Ira, Rick and Gretchen all had updates for him. He set a Monday work day in the office.
The timeline for things kept running in his head. April 6th site. Job on that weekend. Then what? He lost an hour theorizing about Demetry and the FBI. Nothing good coming from that. He still hadn’t heard from his “contact” in the Bratva. That was another delicate thread he was tugging.
Leaving the house he drove slowly to the post office and the dry cleaners. The Crown Vic tailing his every move. Jesus! Didn’t those cops think anyone would ever notice the same car watching them day after day?
The tail infuriated him. Down Atlantic avenue he drove, breathing heavily to get over the anger. Some thoughts of Sydney put his mind right as he jogged the car left and then right on Tomlinson.
Paul’s diner was on the left. An old fashioned 1950’s style low slung building which had a small parking lot attached. He was lucky and got a spot near Graeme’s black Mercedes. Two spots open at Paul’s? Lucky!
He zipped the leather jacket down as he entered the warm restaurant and the smell of fried onions and oil hit him. The place wasn’t crowded as a family of four was in the front booth and the counter held three other patrons. Graeme looked up at him from a small table in the back.
Mike slid in opposite his friend and partner. A small smile played on his lips as he said hi.
’You got laid last night, huh?”
The Irishman said it without seeming to look up from his menu.
“How in the fuck do you know that?”
’The stick is gone from your ass. Even with Demetry’s goons tailing you.”
He was observant, Mike knew for a fact on that. A grunt was the only answer he gave to the jibe though.
A waitress approached the men. She sat down two waters and a cup of coffee for Graeme and took out a pad.
“You want something to drink, hon.” The flat Brooklyn accent marking her as a native.
’Pat, Michael said, noting her name tag, “I’ll have a cup of coffee as well and I think we are ready to order.” He looked the question at Graeme who nodded back.
“I’ll have two eggs sunny side up, bacon, hash browns and wheat toast with a glass of OJ,” Mike ordered.
’So a number two with coffee and an OJ?”
Pat swung her gaze to the Irishman.
“Veal parmesan, please and a salad,” the man ordered.
“Spaghetti, vegetables or raviolis for the side?”
“How are the rav’s?”
“Homemade”, she confirmed.
“I’ll have those.”
Pat left the men to put in the paperwork with the cook.
“Who’s the bird?”
“A doctor. She lives next door and she’s fucking beautiful!” Mike said letting a little enthusiasm show.
’Really?” The arched eyebrow accused him.
Mike wasn’t biting on that. Graeme went on casually, “love to meet her.”
“No fucking way!” “You aren’t coming close to her, to mess this up for me.”
“I’m hurt, shammer.”
“Fuck that. You’d sell your mother to the arabs for this woman.”
“ Well well, fancy that.”
The men relaxed and ate as the food arrived. They spent a solid hour going over Hatton Gardens and Dubai.
’We pitch both jobs to Roybokov today,” Mike told Graeme again. That had been his other job in London. Graeme was to fully work up the Dubai idea as an actual pitch for the mob head.
“We have to provide some light at the end of his tunnel other wise we won’t have any time or space to get out,” Mike said this while his partner nodded along. They both knew the truth about playing against the Bratva. A healthy dose of fear and respect kept people upright when playing against the mob.
“I’d love to know who is squeezing Roybokov.”
Mike agreed. “I have feelers out but so far, nothing. I’m going to try something after our meal so I will meet you at the house.”
No matter the urging, Michael would not divulge what he was doing so Graeme stopped asking. “I have a session with Ira, Gretchen and Rick tomorrow to go over logistics for Dubai. “ You coming?” Graeme looked at his friend.
The hesitation was all Mike had to provide.
“You made plans with the bird!” A chuckle escaped the man. ’Thinking with your dick already.”
“My dick thinks better than your head!”
The insult rolled off Graeme. ’Don’t worry. Anything comes up Sunday and I’ll text you.” He got up to leave. ’See ya.” He dropped thirty on the table top.
“You’re picking up a check? Am I dying?”
The Irishman answered with the bird and he started walking away.
’Watch yourself,” Mike warned. All he got back was a wave.
With an hour to kill, Michael wanted to get some snooping in. He needed to understand who and what was working on his boss and figure out how to work the problem.
The drive down to Brighton Beach was uneventful even with the tail following him. Street parking for the Audi was available at Brighton and 10th and he took it even though he feared for the car. The Hard Pawn store front was shabby and fronted Brighton, while the alleyway behind it was litter strewn and easily missed.
Davidson did not like this place or its owner and the feeling was entirely mutual.
The games started early as Feydor kept him waiting on the street for three minutes before buzzing him in. Dickhead.
The place was empty except for one of Victor’s burly “cousins” behind the main display case. A dollar got you ten there was shotgun behind that case, Mike thought. Feydor Slutskaya looked up from a plate of chicken he was eating, grease covering his mouth and fingers as he sat opposite the cousin. ’Da?”
He sized up the fence. ’Feydor, we need to speak. Alone.”
A twitch at his man from the boss and he lumbered into the back office through the door. The fence wiped his face with a soiled napkin.
“How’s business?” Mike asked neutrally.
“You aren’t providing any merchandise, so its lousy.”
“And yet the street is so busy I couldn’t park. He pointedly looked at the two shadows in their car watching the store.
The fence grunted. Mike hoped that message was received: we’ve marked the tails. Pull them off. The man finally shrugged and asked with his dead eyes and thinning hair, “what the fuck do you want?”
“I’m on my way to see Demetry, and I’d like to know how long this job of his is going to take?”
“It is a currier thing, like you’ve done before. Take two three days tops.”
Feydor actually smiled a little, which did nothing for his looks.
“Good. Because I have a line on a job and I may need to move some stones and the settings through you. Take us three or four months to put together.” Mike tried to keep it casual and semi factual.
The man suddenly looked interested and greedy. “How much?”
Shrugging, Michael got interested in the fake rolex watches on display. Some people went for flash.
“Depends, but I think 100 maybe 150 million in stones. Could be some watches. High end, not this crap, he gestured to the case. “We’d move it just like Harry’s.”
The Heist at Harry’s was the job the gang had pulled in Paris at Harry Winston’s store on the Avenue La Montaigne. The four of them (with Rick outside) had walked in the front door dressed as women at closing time. The vault door was open as was the normal routine for the shop. The security guards never knew what hit them when the tasers came out of purses. 180 million in diamonds and watches went into three large felt lined boxes in sixteen minutes. Ira had locked the door on his way out.
Mike moved the vast majority of the stones through his fake holding company which was registered as a diamond wholesaler. Some small stones and the lower end watches went through Feydor. His work was only on five percent of the take. The main advantage was that the gang could move the whole batch two months after the heist without worrying about the feds swooping in. And they got more money for the merchandise. In 2008, Slutskaya was still relying on contacts within the cities gem district to move the rocks. He consequently got 60 percent on the dollar for his efforts.
In contrast, Mike used fake receipts for made up transactions to other wholesalers and retailers and got full value for the rocks. The whole operation cemented his status as the Thief in Law and earned the antagonism of the fence.
If he was counting on a huge reaction from the Russian about the size of the haul, Davidson was disappointed. Feydor simply looked like a dead fish at him. Blood shot eyes in a round face. ’You could move three times that much and it might not be enough for him.”
The blood drained out of his face as Michael absorbed that. Fey said it with a certain amount of glee and false worry. It seemed to Davidson he was gloating in Demetry’s troubles. Uh oh.
Turning back to the office door the man spoke to the air. “Orders from the boss in Russia. Roybokov has to back the whole complex- the one at Flatbush and Atlantic.”
Holy shit! The Barclays Center?
His brain whirred. The whole project was three billion with a B. He knew there had been cost overruns and hints of “issues” with financing. Some heavy hitters involved in that center and Demetry was one of them.
“The entertainer is just a figure head. Demetry was brought in by Putin himself. He owes 600 million as an insurance hedge against any further delays in the project. All of it. The land, the buildings, the shops…” Feydor quit speaking.
Jesus, Roybokov is on the hook for every penny! His head spun out scenarios and problems. Feydor noticed the intense concentration.
“Funny to see you worried.”
Davidson stared at the man. “You do realize we are a package deal, right? I go down, you go down ,” he thought but did not say.
No, Fey did not see that.
The realization flashed along his mind. So he said, “I’ve setup some new shell companies to process the potential take. Make sure you send in the forms to the state offices per the lawyers instructions.”
The fence slowly thought about this but could not see a reason not to comply.
The real reason Michael wanted this was that Feydor’s name and business would be all over the illegal movements of the stones if they succeeded.
’This job is set?”
Michael nodded. “About 80 percent. One more major hurdle to over come but I wouldn’t be visiting you if I didn’t think we could work around it.” Feydor nodded, pleased to know some money was coming his way. Mike had a million thoughts running in his head about Roybokov and now that he sort of knew what was up, he needed some clear time to think it thought and figure his way out.
Making a lame excuse, Davidson left the pawn shop. He figured the signal for him to leave the city and Bratva behind would be Feydor’s body floating in the east river.
His suspicions and fears confirmed to some extent, Mike could start figuring a way out. The Dubai job was initially a distraction to keep Roybokov focused, but now it really would be the answers to his prayers. He had to dangle the job right in order to get Demetry to pull back the cops and maybe the feds. I’ll let him worry about the feds. The compartments in his head whirred to capacity when they tried to figure the ramifications to his relationship to Sydney, that Feydor’s disclosure had wrought.
I’ll think about that later.
He drove slowly over to the house for his meeting.
Demetry Roybokov’s house sat at the corner of Pierrepont place and Pierrepont street in the Brooklyn Heights section of the city. Number eight was a turn of the century Italianate mansion that sat alone, surrounded by three acres with mature trees and a huge wall. The building had been through several remodels in its lifetime but the mobster had purchased it decades ago and kicked out the eight tenants in order to recombine the units into one massive house. Mike figured 40 million in todays dollars.
What the place had always had was its location.
Hard on the Brooklyn Queens expressway the house offered stunning views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the waterfront. Demetry told Mike that on 9/11 he’d sat on his roof deck and watched the twin towers fall. No emotion showed on his face then and none would be there now, Mike knew.
The house also afforded the man with a nice security setup in addition to the wall. Since he was adjacent to the Brooklyn Heights promenade the city allowed him to use the playground as an ad hoc parking lot. This allowed him to control who gained access to the place. Two large men patrolled the lot and kept out riff-raf. The neighbors rarely complained as the goons kept their cars safe too.
Mike parked next to Graeme’s car which held the Irishman and both men exited together. A low voiced “really sell the Dubai job,” order from Mike got Graeme excited.
The stoop was eight steps to get to the front door, which was opened by three security men dressed in monkey suits. The marble foyer contained a chandelier much like Mike’s.
Mine is better, he mused while the guard felt his crotch for weapons. His mate got a similar treatment.
The men led the pair to the little parlor, a small sitting room off the front of the house. It was the room where you were polite to guests without letting them too deep into your house.
Taking the small settee together the two men left the one comfortable chair in the room unoccupied. Mike knew this was a test: Did you take Caesars chair in his own house?
The security squad left and Mike knew that at least two men would be posted at the door. You did not let thieves run loose in your house.
The door unexpectedly opened and a woman entered carrying two drinks.
Kat. Ekaterina Roybokov, Demetry’s daughter. Michael had not seen her in a while.
Both men stared at her. Tall, blond, with a models height and body her face was all planes and angles. Full red lips were parted in a half smile.
“Kat! Mike said, surprised. “You look lovely.” He rose and came towards her.
The now 26 year old silently handed them both the vodka one after the other.
“I thought you were in LA buying up half of Malibu,” Davidson tried to keep it light but it sounded forced.
She ignored Graeme and focused on Mike. “I’m back now.” The woman watched him closely for a second. Reaching her hand slowly up she caressed his cheek and ran her hand down his face and over his chest to his flat stomach. A soft murmur was coming from her.
Mike stepped back just a bit embarrassed.
“Who is she?” Kat asked watching him. Graeme hid his laugh in the drink glass. Davidson didn’t answer the arrow dart question, instead, he deflected.
“We are just here to talk to your dad.”
“Uh hum.” More looking at him with hooded eyes from the woman. Mike felt she wanted to say some things but she just said. ’Try not to get yourselves killed.” It was her first acknowledgement of his partner.
What ever message or mood she wanted to convey complete, Kat swayed out of the room.
Mike slugged down the vodka to steady himself.
“Shammer”- Graeme warned.
Yeah- focus, I know, Mike thought.
They didn’t have to wait long. The door reopened a scant minute later and Demetry Roybokov entered the room. No body guards came with him as Michael and Graeme stood respectfully and performed the ritual hug kiss hello.
The 67 year old was still in good shape. A little thicker in the waist but not fat and still powerfully built. Greying hair and some wrinkles lent him some age. He certainly wasn’t handsome but the blue eyes radiated power and a lack of feeling that was almost palpable. Mike figured he wore the sweater to give himself a grandfatherly air.
It wasn’t working.
The Bratva head had no soft side. Truth was he scared the shit out of Mike, his gang and even his two kids, Nicholas and Kat. His wife had died last year under weird circumstances and no one ever talked about that. The mistresses just came and went as necessary.
Demetry sat in the chair and the pair followed suit on the couch.
“I have a job for you both,” the deep voice rumbled out. The accent still heavy after decades in this country.
Both men nodded back. Neither spoke as Demetry hated to be interrupted.
“It has come to my attention that certain advantages may be obtained by storing assets at a Freeport.”
Davidson sat back on the settee. Freeport?
Donniger had no clue. “Excuse me sir. I’m not sure what a Freeport is?” He asked politely. Interruptions were bad but questions would be allowed.
“A Freeport, Irish, is a bonded warehouse and storage location where valuable assets can be placed for certain tax advantages.”
Michael’s mind whirred. Why? What was he moving? And why now?
“I can also place, shall we say, delicate items in the Freeport facilities without fear of another entity seizing, attaching or putting a lien on them.”
Ahhh. Some disparate facts clicked in his head. Mike knew he needed to really put some homework in on Freeports.
’Which items will we be moving?” he asked.
“Seven paintings and four statues, Roybokov said. “I know you are familiar with them.”
Both thieves knew what he was talking about. The Brechtol paintings.
That was a tight job, Michael remembered. The gangs last successful job. They’d robbed the AG Brechtol Museum in Berlin in 2009. The gang posed as the art moving company to take two crates from a bonded shipping warehouse when the works were on their way to join a traveling exhibit. The four old masters and three lesser works were simply repackaged and shipped out within an hour of being lifted. Low level bulk freight shipments took forever to reach their destinations but no one wanted to steal scrap electronics.
He figured the four statues as the Giacometti’s he and Graeme had stolen from some homes in the Brooklyn area many years ago. Demetry always had a good eye. The value of those skinny figures had risen dramatically in the almost two decades since the men had taken them. The shipment going to the new location represented almost a full circle: some of the earliest things they’d stolen and the last.
The three men shared a secret smile over past glories.
’What do you want us to do? Mike asked.
“I’ve taken a vault at the Luxembourg Freeport. It is adjacent to the airport there, uhhh,” Roybokov slipped, forgetting the name.
“Yes, Findel, thank you Michael. I need you to accompany Nicholas to the vault and look over the place while the paintings go in. He has all the passwords and the paperwork, but I want you two to look it over and tell me about their security. I’ve heard stories of the Zurich Freeport that leads me to be a little…hesitant.”
Michael wondered what that was. More homework. He nodded to the boss.
’Of course, sir. It will take us three or four days to setup the currier forms and the visit request. I’ll get with Nick next week to go over everything.” Michael said this gently looking to the old man for approval.
Now the tricky part.
“Sir, while we are here, both Graeme and I have jobs we would like to pitch to you.”
Feydor must have told Demetry about my job but he had no idea about Graeme. “Yes, Sir, both.”
Roybokov made a small gesture that said “get on with it”.
“The first job is at the Hatton Gardens Safety deposit box company in London.”
Michael went on to explain about the DeBeers site brief change of location and how the large transaction over the holiday weekend was going to force some of the companies to deposit the stones.
“How do we know this?” The gangster was still sharp, asking good questions.
“Our contact at DeBeers has told us of several large policies covering those boxes over that time frame.” “It was confirmed by another at Lloyds.”
“Maybe as much as 150 million or more.”
Demetry grunted. Michael went on to explain his thoughts on the job. He spoke for an extended period of time before falling silent.
“Do you see any problems so far?”
His Thief in Law shrugged. “There is always the unforeseen, and we have not gotten a look at the alarm situation yet but I have been in the building and I think we can do it.”
Without committing anything the gangster turned to Graeme to hear what he had to offer.
The Irishman cleared his throat. ’Sir, we have been casing the new Dubai Gold exchange over the last six months.” It is the intention of the UAE government Trade Office to establish Dubai as the leading middle eastern gold trading center. All forms of the enterprise are being planned: Investment, coins and consumer goods.”
Demetry stirred a bit in his chair. This was something different for him.
Donniger went on, “To facilitate this center as a trading entity, the government office has to bring in 500 to 600 million in gold to have on deposit for the transactions and to give to the artisans.”
That definitely got his attention, Mike thought.
“This job is different than anything we have ever tried before,” Graeme told the man.
Graeme looked him square in the eye. “This is dangerous. I fully expect to be in a gun battle with at least 10 security personnel. And full on mercenaries, not Wackenhut or rent a cops.”
The old man scowled. ’Who the fuck are they?”
Graeme went over the situation in great detail about the security and who the forces arrayed against them would be.
’What do you need from me?”
“I need fifteen to twenty guys who are smart, can shoot, and take orders.”
He could see the wheels turning in the gangsters head. Mike knew this would be about half of Demetry’s core people. Contrary to movie plots where the body counts got into the scores, it was difficult to find fifty loyal, decent crooks.
Too often the Bratva had to rely on fringe elements and those fringes got messy.
“When and for how long?”
Graeme shrugged. “January or February. The shipment is mid April.”
Demetry shot a glance at Mike.
“It is tight with the other job, I know. But we think we can arrange it.” Mike spoke and gave a half look at Graeme to apologize for stepping on his toes.
“That can be arranged,” Demetry said after some contemplation.
Graeme laid out the plan for the boss in bold strokes. He spoke passionately for fifteen straight minutes.
Mike could see Demetry getting excited. Graeme has really sold him, he thought.
’And you are sure about the flight route?”
“Since 03, sir. The war has caused everyone to divert flights to the UAE over Saudi airspace and out over the gulf of Oman for a straight run back in. That avoids Iraq, Syria, and Iran.”
The silence in the room stretched for a long minute. The old lizard made the decision. ’Da.”
The boss rose and actually smiled. The men followed suit.
“I’ll call Nicholas and set things up on the other thing,” Michael said again.
Donniger got the big kiss and he took advantage to say, “We will setup some training and information meetings with your people after the first of the year.”
The men were hustled out of the house.
Both went out gratefully and spent two minutes talking in Michael’s Audi.
“That went well,” Graeme breathed out.
“Yeah, Tell a man you are about to put 700 million in his pocket and he will perk right up.”
“That should give us some wiggle room, huh, shammer.”
“Yes. We are both going to be very busy. I need you to be ready to bounce between London, Luxembourg City and Dubai over the next two weeks. Aye?”
Graeme nodded. The men shook hands and he left the Audi and went to his Mercedes. As he drove off the crown vic followed closely.
Mike was tired. 53 minutes with the devil can take it out of you. He wanted a quiet evening finding out about freeports. Besides, he had plans in the morning he was looking forward to. Plans which had nothing to do with stealing something. That whole idea was new and exciting and warmed him all the way home.