The crack in the ceiling was new. He’d never really noticed it before. Suddenly there it was running right over his bed. Shit. He was home right? Yes, this was definitely his place. What day was it? That part was tougher. Tuesday, the 3rd of December. A look to his left confirmed Sydney was in bed beside him softly snoring, curled up.
He rolled onto his back and stretched. Man what a couple weeks! Busy but productive.
He’d met with Nick Roybokov at the diner together with Graeme after his phone calls to go over the currier job. Nick was touchy feely, but luckily he never made a pass at Mike. Probably because the other man was present.
The three had gone over the job in detail. It looked like everything was set: Thursday wheels up with a stop in London to pick up Peter McNichol who was leaving that evening for the UK. Friday for the transfer of items then back to England on Saturday.
Michael had a few warnings for the mob boss’ son. “No drugs or guns on the plane. The Luxembourg customs people are going to be all over us. Even one little pill in a case leads to questions and inquiries we do not want made, right?”
The young man nodded.
“And make sure you call Graeme, Peter, right?”
Turned out the only hitch on the job was a “friend” that Nick brought on the plane in New York to drop off in London. The boy toy pouted the whole trip over which made Nick angry. So he drank which made Mike angry.
The jet was an ultra luxurious G5 from Gulf Stream. It came equipped with 12 first class pods which held lay flat beds and an owners suite. The aft end of the plane contained an actual bed. The lovers took that and argued the whole way across the pond while Mike sat in the front, trying to relax.
Friday morning early, British officials came aboard at Gatwick airport to inspect the flight log and stamp passports. Peter McNichol arrived at 8:00 am sharp. Nicely dressed in a dark blue suit with red tie, Gucci shoes and sunglasses for effect. The boy toy eyed him as they passed each other on the tarmac.
The one hour fifty one minute flight from the UK to Luxembourg was calm.
’Say as little as possible and let me answer the questions,” Mike warned again to Nick. The young man was at least a bit more sober now.
Findel airport perfectly fit the country of Luxembourg. The ultra modern and spacious facility was vastly outsized to the number of people it served. The country was a tiny spot in Europe that wealthy individuals and corporations used as a tax haven and not much else. Hence the airport was used by a small population of wealthy clientele that relied on discretion and expected luxury.
The G5 landed and taxied to the north end of the taxiway lanes as directed. The huge white Freeport buildings were arrayed in front of the plane. A few trucks were parked in loading bays but the place was mostly devoid of people except for the cluster waiting on them.
A crew pushed a ramp up to the door to the plane which the flight attendant opened. Nick spilled out of the doorway followed by Mike and Graeme.
Davidson took charge. He presented passports and customs forms for the three of them. He also gave Phillipa the bill of lading from Prometheus Holdings and the cargo manifest from the insurance papers for the cargo box. The art was listed as paintings from various artists and the statues the same. The value was stated at 10 million. A hefty discount applied to that figure. One of the statues could be worth 100 million by itself. If anyone knew of its existence. Which they never would if the Freeport operated correctly.
The efficient Ms. Stoerman and Helga were happy to help them and Graeme won the bet as the assistant turned out to be a lovely 30 year old blonde at 5’4” with prim glasses. The Irishman attached himself to the woman and would not let go.
The Lux customs officials frowned and hemmed when they could not touch anything as Mike shifted the entire contents from the cargo box to the Freeport dolly/hauler. Handy little device, he thought. Not the first time they’ve moved art.
The hurt feelings of the inspectors were mitigated a little when they got to tear apart the empty crate to reveal a whole lot of nothing after the goods were removed.
Job done, they left and the small processional went with Graeme and Helga leading the way, Nick and Phillipa next followed by the dolly with two security goons toting guns while a third pushed the cart. Mike brought up the rear and tried to watch everything.
The facility was very impressive. At three stories the huge warehouse was easily 100,000 square feet. The group approached from the back end loading area and walked around towards the front side. Specially designed walkways allowed the group to enter a huge sliding door, easily six feet wide. Bullet proof glass, Mike noted as he went in.
The movement of the train stopped as Nick and Phillipa went through the ID formalities in the spacious lobby receiving area. Fingerprint pad, retinal scan and a password were all required before they were allowed access into the secured areas of the facilities. Nick completed the tasks with a minimum of fuss, even with his hangover.
The vaults were as impressive as the rest of the place. Huge steel and tungsten doors swung on smooth hinges to gape wide after more combinations were inputted. The lock was touchy and it took Nick two tries to get it right.
Mike interrogated Phillipa abut the alarm systems as Nick went through the tumblers. Again the vaults were state of the art: Pressure, temperature, movement, and sonic alarms all were explained.
“24 inches of reenforced concrete with a 1/2 inch of plate steel cladding the whole structure,” the woman told him.
Mike and Graeme carefully placed the paintings on the walls on specially designed hangers. The vault was big enough to hold thirty more paintings, some higher some lower on the hooks. The whole interior was climate controlled and had special UV lights that would not destroy the delicate paintings. Recessed wall niches took the statues with ease. Another ten empty slots dotted the walls and each had museum quality spotlights encased and ready. Phillipa gasped slightly as the Giacometti went into its niche. The light hit the slender bronze figure beautifully, showing it to effect. It was a Museum quality display for a quality piece. Too bad, no one can see it, Mike thought.
The last thing Mike noted was the heavy steel racks along the interior of the space in rows. Big enough to hold several hundred pounds of gold ingots, he supposed.
What is Demetry planning?
The last bit of business before their tour was very interesting for Davidson. Nick took possession of a letter from the Freeport security woman. Nick let him read it while Phillipa got them out of the vault and back into the reception area.
The letter was from Jean Claude Junkler, the Minister of Finance for Luxembourg. It said that Prometheus Holdings had paid the taxes on the assessed value of the objects at 3 percent. And Luxembourg would receive another three when the cargo reached its “final destination”. Whenever and where ever that might be.
This was true thievery! Mike was impressed. Tax dodging with the consent of the government. And both men knew that US corporations were using the same kind of dodge when they sold overseas companies. Both partners would setup a shell holding company in Luxembourg and the sale would actually go thru the new shells along with a nice letter from the minister that avoided any taxes. Trouble was all the money had to remain offshore.
“Shammer I bet the corporations and the fat curs will be howling for a tax holiday to allow them to repatriate all of those overseas funds.” Graeme said sotto voce while on their tour. The men were discussing the letter at length along with other tax doges.
How much does Apple have stashed overseas? 100 billion? He wondered, thinking about the money. Always follow the money. Wasn’t that the mantra from Watergate?
Mike knew from his own dealings that moving funds from off shore accounts into the US was very very tough.
“The game is rigged,” he confirmed to Donniger. This move was saving Demetry at least 200 million and was putting his valuables out of reach of anyone. Smart
Helga led them around the facilities and the place turned out to be a smaller, less well known version of Ft Knox.
There is no way to rob this place, he thought. Not that he wouldn’t like to try.
They did soak Demetry for an expensive dinner that night at the hotel on the expense account. Phillipa and her husband joined them with the lovely Helga at Graeme’s side. Nick begged off looking for some sleep. The five of them ate well and talked of inconsequential things. Mike missed Sydney something fierce. He was the fifth wheel at the dinner after all.
The plane ride back to London on Saturday was somber. Only Graeme was smiling as Helga had seen to that portion. Nick was bummed after reporting back to his father that they had accomplished the mission and received a terse “Da” in reply. The man had to do something to live his own life.
“I’m getting away from him so I can be myself,” Nick said after announcing he was staying in London. Mike wished him well but he had some serious reservations.
The plane went back to New York empty as the pair of thieves went to the new flat to work on Hatton Gardens. The rest of the gang was already in place and Ira was intent on the alarms systems as they all reconvened in the living room that evening. ’This is the key for all of it!” “We got to get that Lloyd’s stuff, Mikey”, Ira lamented.
Linda did indeed come through with their drawing. The Sunday midday meet had a whole drug deal feel to it in the dim overcast of St. James Park and Mike gladly paid out the money for the drawing. The Lloyds woman only had eyes for Graeme as the three concluded business. How does that fucker do it? Mike wondered. Helga, Linda, Rachel? The man had no conscience and Mike was a bit jealous.
“We gotta go in”, Ira announced later that night after a look at the detail on the plan. The table at the apartment had added a leaf to accommodate the huge sheet of paper.
“Gretchen what date do we have?” Mike asked her.
“Technically Tuesday early morning, 0100,” she told him looking at the forms they’d sent to the British authorities.
That settled when they were moving and the gang prepared for the inspection visit after hashing thru the job.
The foray into the utility tunnels was very eye opening for Rick. Suddenly on Monday evening, the gang was donning work vests, tool belts and hard hats going to work. A white panel van holding traffic cones and barricades was taking them along the deserted street near the Hatton Gardens tube stop and Rick was impressed that no one was tense or nervous. Gretchen parked the van and the gang proceeded to block off the man hole cover about 300 yards down from their target. Graeme took the topside watch with Gretchen as Rick, Mike and Ira went down. The one visit from the police was short and a perfunctory check of their permit. Traffic was very light at that hour so they went in to the forbidding hole without disturbing things too much.
Flash lights illuminated the damp, cramped space. Pipes and brackets made the tunnel crowded but a raised platform and deck way allowed for the men to work their way over to the alarm line cable run. They had to duck walk in sections but it was doable. Water and trash and two rat bodies lined the bottom of the tunnel as they crawled to the spot.
Ira was amazed at the alarm lines. Individual cables and lines ran through the protecting cover pipe, not to a single line to a multiplexer like he expected.
He and Mike discussed the issue for a while.
“Bottom line can we isolate the line from the Safety Deposit company?” Mike asked his man.
“I don’t know yet.”
The men came up with a plan. It was more work but that was what they did, work around problems. The puzzle box always fought you. Ira detailed the plan to Davidson and the other two. The boss was satisfied that they could get the info they needed. Since they’d installed no gear and only had looked on this trip the clean up would be easy.
“Wrap it up!”
The police barely stopped by in the two hours they were in play at the tunnel. The gang stowed gear and swapped out work clothes for civvies, Rick got the job of returning the van to their storage unit. He reported no issues to Mike when he returned. The smaller problems the better as far as the man knew.
Tuesday, through Friday was spent out of the CanBridge Gate flat working. The huge six bedroom place was nicely decorated and very efficient for them. Close to the tube and the target, they could comfortably work there. Gretchen got her kudos for her work.
A decent breakfast place was also available and the gang took to having a quick meal before casing the diamond district and the target building.
On Thursday, Mike watched a group of workers pull up to the back area of the Hatton Gardens building and proceed to crawl all over the place. A few discrete questions and a new fact entered the equation: The elevator needed extensive repairs. Six months at least, maybe a year for the work.
’We can use that!”
The gang got dressed in work clothes and spent most of Friday evening wondering around the building taking measurements and noting patterns right on the inside of the place. Perfect!
The next stop for the gang was the UAE. The United Arab Emirates are a group of city states on the Saudi Arabian peninsula. Oil ran the area as was usual in the middle east. Abu Dhabi and Dubai got the lions share of the money and the publicity, while Bahrain settled for its usefulness to the US as a military staging area to get by. The rest of the emirates were of no concern. The city sat on the Persian gulf near the straits of Hormuz. Long and thin the emirate was no bigger in area than London at around 1500 square kilometers. The english city held 7 million while Dubai’s population was tricker to pin down. 1.5 million permanent residents with perhaps another million foreign workers and ex pats all mixing together. A strange mix of crowded city and open desert.
Want to turn a patch of desert sand into the cultural, financial and shopping hub of the middle east? Dubai can show you the way. First find a ten billion barrel oil deposit. Then pump 500 billion into wild construction projects to diversify your economy before the oil runs out.
Sheik Mohammad Bin Rasheed al Maktoum wanted to make his mark on the world like the old Roman Emperors had done before him. The Palm Jumeriah, Palm Jebel Ali and the World islands were a set of artificial islands built to increase the amount of Dubai’s useable coast line. Rocks, sand, and palm trees all combined to add 520 kilometers of beaches to the city and attract the likes of David Beckham to buy a mansion for his pleasure. Fifteen of the worlds tallest skyscrapers dominated the landscape. The opulent Al Arab hotel, and the shopping malls together with the Freeport and the new Gold Exchange offered the world a place to buy and store all of their fondest desires.
The infrastructure needs were enormous. Twenty five percent of all the worlds steel went into Dubai between 2007 and 2011. Foreign workers, tourists and old world muslim ways collided on a massive scale. It was not uncommon to see a woman wearing a hijab and another wearing Vera Wang walking side by side. Tourism became the new oil rush as the city opened itself to cruise ships, sun seekers and business men. Drinking, prostitution and crime sprang up very quickly. Twenty miles outside the city center might be desert dunes, but the unimaginable wealth concentrated here ensured a well heeled few had everything they could desire within its confines.
The 747 landed at Dubai International airport at 2:15 pm from the UK with the temperature at 23’ Celsius. Hot and dry after the wet drab of London. The heat was much more pronounced than the gang realized as it felt like an oven even though it was under 80.
The short drive from the airport to the Burg Khalifa tower hotel was on the modern Al Zakar highway. The road was famous for traffic jams of Ferraris and Jaguars as the ultra wealthy tried to get around in a booming city.
“The transit rail line is new and very clean, Graeme told the others as they checked into the hotel. “It’s better than the highway”. He’d spent the most time in the city doing the grunt work research for the job.
The gang met in Rick’s room as they realized that he had the best view.
“How do you rate?” Ira whined.
“I might have played up the small town American overwhelmed by the strange city,” the young man said.
His accent was barely noticeable. Kid’s coming along, Mike thought.
“Uniforms, uniforms, uniforms,” Mike focused them back. “These guys are full on mercenary killers- we need to be extra careful about this.”
Again the uniqueness of the UAE went into the planning for the heist. An autocratic ruler, western business model with muslim religious beliefs all made for a very different feel than any other country in the world. It resulted in the first warlord seen in the middle east since 1927.
The Sheik hired Erik Noble, he of Whitewater fame, to provide “security services” to the royal person. Fresh from having Whitewater run out of Iraq due to the killing of 19 unarmed civilians, Noble found himself persona non grata in the US. The offer from the sheik gave him a home, a purpose and the freedom to prosper. Noble changed Whitewater to Xi Security and soon he had a sprawling base outside of Abu Dhabi. His 6,000 men did odd jobs for the other sheiks when they weren’t guarding the main man and established his reputation as a warlord.
The Dubai gold shipment job would require fifty of the standard uniforms that the XI people ran around wearing. Donniger was sure anyone caught wearing one of those outfits undeserving would not fair well. Of course no one wanted to think about what would happen to anyone caught stealing tons of gold from an autocratic despot.
The gang discussed options at the hotel. Luckily, Gretchen could move about fairly innocuously due to her dark skin and a traditional dress. She blended in and could learn a surprising amount from the other women in the area.
She and Rick would concentrate on the clothes and their procurement.
Meanwhile, Ira, Graeme and Mike spent countless hours driving around the city to the main sites as per the Irishman’s plan. The boarder crossing into Oman at Al Ain on route E44. The town of Fujairah. The lonely square of land between the E66, the E44 and the E77. The south side of that square was an ill defined camel track out in the empty quarter. Sunburns abounded as they visited the key spots.
Ira took copious GPS coordinates and spent a long time fiddling with his gear.
“It looks perfect,” Graeme kept saying to them. “I told you perfect.” His excitement was palpable.
“22 to 42 minutes depending on reaction times and some other factors,” the Brooklyn born thief told the others after he was done calculating.
Graeme whooped his answer. “Yaaah!”
Michael said nothing as he thought it over. 22 minutes? A shit ton of work for twenty two minutes. All he said out loud to the rest was “God, the variables!”
The two men waited on his pronouncement. Mike nodded his blessing and grinned. ’We got a lot of work to do, looks like to me.” Graeme and Ira matched his grin.
The trio packed up and drove back into the city to meet Gretchen and Rick. The duo had had some success as they had two huge boxes for the storage facility. Ten Officer and forty enlisted uniforms with basic gear lay in the boxes. Mike shuddered to think what it cost. Graeme was vibrating just seeing the uniforms. He knew the plan was taking shape.
The rest of them felt it too. Mike gave orders to the rest of them to stay in the city for a day or two more and get basic equipment to go into the storage area as they didn’t have most of what they needed here.
Davidson left Dubai on a Monday morning with a great sunburn and more work to complete. The plane ride back to the states allowed him to keep on track with Hatton, figure Dubai and how to approach Demetry plus his own escape and disappearance. And all he could really think about was Sydney which was why he’d abandoned his gang in Dubai to come home early. Being the boss ought to have some perks, he rationalized.
Back in Brooklyn he got out of bed and went into the bathroom. Her lotions and toothpaste and hairbrushes had pushed his things towards one corner of the vanity. She had two drawers in the dresser and some of the closet for her clothes. And the shoes! Lord God the shoes.
He returned from the shower clean and ready to argue about when exactly he had agreed that she could move in with him. As he reentered the bedroom and inhaled ready to start arguing, Syd spied him and threw back the covers.
Naked. Gloriously naked.
Every thought fled.
Later he groused about her tactics.
“I use my gifts”, was all she said. Dressed in scrubs she was ready for work grabbing a quick bite of toast in the kitchen.
And she was perfectly ready for his complaint about the lotions. ’Does the aloe help with your sunburn?”
“A little, yes.”
“That will teach you to go running in the middle east with no shirt on or sunscreen”, the doctor admonished.
’“What is your schedule like at work?” he asked her trying to be casual.
“Mellow” she said coming to his side. “We go into a stand down split schedule on the 17th to the 4th.”
’You gonna go home for the holidays?,” oh so innocently he asked the question.
She waited him out, then relented and kissed him. ’Not this year. Thought I would see what New York had to offer.”
He grinned. “How bout a little surf and turf?”
An eyebrow quirked at him.
’I was thinking we could head to Hawaii for a few days. Soak up the sun and then come back and I will show you Rockefeller Center and Macy’s and all that.”
He’d been gone on short notice for Thanksgiving so he figured he owed her some dedicated time.
’That sounds fantastic, I’ll pay for half,” she told him trying to be fair.
A snort blew up that idea. “Nah. I’ll cash in some frequent flyer miles. I know a spot with a good swim up bar on Kauai.” ‘It’ll be reasonable.’
Mike sort of relented after another protest and told her she could buy a dinner at the hotel. That would not be cheap.
Dr. Devereaux went to work happy and he was very pleased with himself for making her happy.
He finished dressing and hustled downstairs. A knock on Mary Spack’s door brought her answer: “Is that you boychick?”
She unlatched the door and gave him a perfunctory kiss on the cheek.The sense that she was unhappy permeated the doorway. “What’s wrong?”
“I heard Sydney whistling down the stairs this morning.” The accusation was just in her voice.
“Mary, she’s happy. So am I…” “You wouldn’t begrudge us a bit of happiness?”
Mary shrugged as they sat in the parlor, her place tidy as always. “No- just you two be careful. You don’t have the best record when it comes to commitment. Remember Victoria? eh?”
A wince. She was right about that. ’Are you talking to my mother?”
But Mary was not listening. ’Of course not that I blame you with Sydney giving the goods away for free.”
“Mary! That’s not nice.”
The little old lady felt bad. “No, No. You are right. I shouldn’t have said that.”
’I like her, Mary. I like her a lot,” he said trying to get his friend to approve and give her blessing.
“Of course you do. What’s not to like?” She paused then said, “I’m sure she was jewish in a previous life.” Wow, the ultimate compliment from the woman.
“With all that blonde hair?”, he teased. The old woman had to laugh.
“Hey. When is Chanukah this year?”, he asked trying to change the subject.
“Late in December. But Mikey, I’m going to Ilene’s next week. She wants me to come to California.” I won’t be here for Chanukah.”
“That’s great Mary! You’ll have fun.”
’They have earthquakes out there you know.” She said it in the conspiratorial voice.
He grinned at her. “Yeah and it is 65 and sunny everyday not 10 and snow like we have here.” Go and have fun.”
“How long are you staying?” he asked as she nodded agreement.
“Long time. Six weeks, maybe more if I can stand it. It depends on the bagels.”
A nod and a quick calculation on his part. ’I’ll watch over your place and water the plants. Do we need to go shopping? Sydney and I are heading to Hawaii for a week soon, too.” He dumped that on her after her announcement.
“No, no. Mrs. Lipinski and I rode the fogey wagon last week.” She called the senior transit van that took her shopping and to some appointments, the fogey wagon.
’Okay. The three of us should have dinner before we each jet off.”
’You are the one always jetting off. Look at that sunburn, you should be more careful and use sunscreen…”
He escaped as quickly as he could.
The drive to the post office and some other errands allowed him to pick up a few things. Among them was a Crown Victoria tail. Assholes.
Driving slowly and carefully to the office he navigated the falling snow. He was the only person in the office today. Mike would meet with the gang individually to go over assignments and tasks, but basically the thieves were taking December off. It was one of the perks of being your own boss. To a limited degree- your own boss.
Laptop fired up and mail sorted he started on the details. Bills, statements, transfers, legal paperwork. It all had to be dealt with. He wished he had a Junkler letter to allow legal stealing like Demetry. Another transfer in from the Caymans to Anderson Consulting. The new Holding company was in place, ready for the diamonds. Sutton Geology was going to be doing some business, so they had to have a grub stake. Wrapping up the Prometheus stuff took a few minutes of his time. It was best to be ready for contingencies. The bill from the storage box in Dubai was in the mail. He paid it gladly.
The knock interrupted his thought process and put him on edge.
The fence was dressed warmly and came into the place with a slight smile. He had the payment for the Lux currier job.
“Demetry was pleased.”
“The place has amazing security, Davidson told him truthfully. “Couple that with the tax advantages and I can see why he is moving assets there.”
The vampire shrugged. He set a large mailing envelope on the desk.
’Remind Demetry we will need those men right after the first of the year. I’d like to use your place to do the recruiting if thats okay?” He did not want to assume anything and thought it best to be polite.
The man said “Okay” which came out as “hokaay”.
Mike wanted to warn the guy. He obviously didn’t see anything coming with regards towards Demetry’s operations. Davidson thought again about his key to leaving would be when they found Slutskaya’s body. Or when he disappears. He said nothing out loud to the man however.
Pushing aside those thoughts as the fence took off, Davidson was very happy when he peaked in the mailer. Ten bundles of twenties nestled inside. Fifty to each bundle. A cool 100,000. The money was literally cold from the weather. He put five bundles back into the envelope and marked it “Graeme”. A quick text to the man to tell him it was in the safe waiting on him. The other bundles went into the safe as well. The gang would have money available at need. He did peel off 5,000 and stick it in his wallet. Saved himself a trip to the bank. Davidson was not too worried about pick pockets.
The laptop showed his vacation plans with Sydney. He needed to figure a way around the watchers, but he knew he needed some down time so he worked the plan.
Even the best plans can go awry.