THIEF IN LAW

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Chapter 9

The annoying alarm buzzer went off at 0510. That was early, even for him. Michael shut it off and tried to shake the dream he’d been having.

It was a recently recurring one. Him running through his house. He knew it was his house the way you just knew things in dreams. The house itself was a weird dream version: hallways and doors. Some locked and some unlocked. The doors would reveal people behind them when he opened them. His mother, Graeme, Demetry, Sydney, and others. Sometimes the people could get one or two words out to him before they vanished. Sydney said “Hurry”. Demetry said “Don’t”. His mother said “Call.”

Christ I need some time off. And he was going to get just that starting today. Syd started her stand down from work today, the 17th of December. And they were going to Hawaii!

He went around to her side of the bed to wake the warm lump.

’Up and At Em, Adam Ant”, he tried the same saying his mom used, while rubbing her back.

Syd raised her head off the pillow, glared at him and said, “No!”

’Whoa. I do not deserve the stink eye.”

Head slammed back down on the pillow, she muffled out, “Too early!”

“Yes.”

“Arrrghh.”

But she moved.

They proceeded to shower and do the thousand and one little things you needed to do before going on a trip.

Forty five minutes later, Mike’s phone chirped. ’Honey! The drivers here!” He called back from the kitchen.

“Almost ready!”

“Almost as in I need two more minutes or almost as in I need thirty more minutes?”

No answer to that. Uh oh.

He went back to find her scurrying around the bedroom. She was mostly packed but things kept going into baggies which in turn got placed into the luggage in some mysterious order that eluded him. Clothes, lotions, shoes, electric toothbrush, all found a home in the bag. Wow.

’This is ready”, she said huffing and zipping the bag.

He schlepped the bags downstairs to the car. Rick nodded to him and helped load the limo while both men looked sideways at the two cops watching from the white olds this time. He wanted to ditch the cops so a bit of subterfuge was in order. He went back in and checked Mary’s place. Locked tight. She was in California and doing fine.

Sydney was ready in the kitchen grabbing a to go coffee mug.

’Purse, carryon, ID, money, book?” he listed her things.

’Got em!”

Downstairs, Rick got a full ten second stare at the blonde doctor.

’Can you help us with these carryon’s” Mike coughed.

Rick picked up his que perfectly. “Sir, madam, we are having a slight problem with the car. It’s overheating even in this weather.”

Sydney looked worried.

’No no! No reason to worry. I’ve already called the garage and they’ve arranged another car. The stop is on the way to JFK.”

Now Mike took on a worried look.

“I promise sir, not more than five minutes lost,” Rick apologized.

Soon enough the limo and the tail turned onto Flatbush avenue and pushed through the slush, ice and flurries. There was scant traffic this early on such a morning.

The car service garage was set back off of Flatbush near Clarence. A covered two story structure held the cars as they got washed and processed in and out. A low office building held the reception area. Rick and his passengers never got near the building. They went into the parking structure through an opening.

True to his word, the second car was sitting right there waiting for the trio. The bags got shifted and the couple barely had time to look around before they were back inside and ready to go.

Mike did not need to look around. He knew other limo’s were ready to go. The other gang members driving with a man and woman already in the cars as passengers. A friend drove the fifth car as all of them made for the exit portal. The sudden traffic jam was created as all the cars spilled out one after another.

From the watcher’s point of view, five similar cars all drove out of the place and headed off in different directions: Atlantic City. Newark airport, and Laguardia, even Teeter borough in Jersey. Not that they would all go very far. Just far enough to cause confusion.

Mike kept checking his phone. Soon enough, Gretchen texted saying the cops were on her as she went towards AC.

More tapping on his phone.

’Flight’s on time and it looks like smooth sailing,” he told Sydney as they got on to the 278 headed for their holiday

The code signal made Rick relax as Mike finally eased back into the seat. He did not want Demetry to know where he was going. He supposed the man could find out but that would require pulling flight manifests or checking hotels. He figured the mobster needed to keep all of his markers to fend off Putin and his boys.

He looked forward to six days of sun and Syd. Period. No gang, no Demetry, no jobs.

Ninety minutes later Sydney sipped her mimosa in the first class cabin and watched Michael. Uh oh, he thought. Here it comes.

The two had almost eight hours in the air to talk. And he thought she was going take advantage of it.

She knows something is off. The conversation poked around the edges to start. Old girl friends, family, his job.

He wasn’t a lier, she knew. If he said he’d been in London, his passport said London. If he had to work, he had to work. But.

He owned his own company but never seemed to obsess over the work like everyone else. It was not cheating, she knew. She’d had experience in that area. It came down to what he didn’t say and do that rankled her. So the coupled talked across the country and the Pacific. The things he didn’t say told her a lot.

Like during the four hour lay over in Honolulu. Michael casually mentioned that he needed to go to a gun range.

’Its one of the few that will let you shoot full automatic weapons.”

“What?!?”

“Royal Dutch Shell requires us to be proficient in all kinds of weapons so we don’t have to take a body guard into the field.”

He had answers to every objection but he just sprang it on her.

’Uncle Stephen didn’t have to do this.”

“He doesn’t travel to the shit holes I have to.”

“What will I be doing while you are gone?”

“If you don’t want to blow holes in stuff, you could get a massage.”

And soon enough she was thumbing through some medical journals when he came strolling up returning from his side trip.

He did look good in those faded jeans and tan belt. The sleeves to his shirt were rolled up and the sunglasses were dark. He was getting the once over from some of the other ladies around.

’You smell like cordite,” she complained.

He had the gall to grin and say, “Impossible. They haven’t used cordite in gunpowder since World War II. What you are smelling is nitroglycerine mixed with gun oil and graphite. Plus the soap I used to shower with afterwards.”

“Asshole.”

“Didn’t you get a good massage from Sven?”

“Derek rubbed me just fine,” the tart reply came out bitchy.

“He better be careful. I can put a three round burst into him at fifty yards.”

Mollified somewhat she told him, “It’s just the way you spring some of this unconventional stuff on me.”

He did not have a good reply for that so he kept silent.

The relentless beauty of Kauai’ s north shore showed in the drive from Nawilli Willi to Hanalei bay. Green trees followed by white sands followed by blue water.

The Princeville grounds and the hotel certainly made him less of an asshole he hoped. The lush tropical green shone in the late afternoon sun. Perched high on a cliff over looking the half circle bay, the waves, winds and rain had sculpted the lava rock into jagged ridges plunging into the water. The hotel just blended in and let mother nature do the rest.

Princeville is the kind of place where you don’t sign anything or touch your luggage on checking in. While you have a drink and take a tour of the grounds your bags just magically get to your room. Course the people who make that magic happen would like a decent tip, and Davidson took care of his end.

The room was large and faced the bay. The balcony doors were opened to let the sea breeze in to cool the room. The bed was large and inviting. The bathroom was marble with an interesting feature: The clear glass shower wall was open to the room but opaqued at the flick of a switch.

“You could leave that clear, that would be okay,” Mike told her as she prepared to wash off the plane grime.

“Perv”

“Man you are tough!”

She sighed and told him, “This is beautiful”

Finally!

The lovemaking after the shower was fantastic. Except for the furrows she cut into his back. The “Ahhh’ was part pleasure, part pain.

’What’s with the Fifty Shades of Grey act?”

“Just letting those bitches know you are off the market.”

“A hickey works fine. Don’t you trust me?”

“Not any further than I can throw you.”

He rolled on his side to look at her. “He must have been a jerk.”

’He was. Lied and cheated on me.” She sounded somber.

“Hey, I’m not him. I don’t cheat, ever. And I rarely lie.”

She took that in. ’You have some secrets though.”

Michael struggled internally. ’Everyone has secrets, even me.”

He’d heard a saying one time, ’Everyone has their public life, their private life and their secret life.”

He had all three.

The thought occurred that he might come clean to her right now. It would ruin the vacation. Wait.

He just could not bring himself to do that yet. Determined to gut it out, he pushed all those feelings and ideas down. Not healthy but it did allow him to get her feeling better and to relax. They fell asleep to the sound of the pounding surf.

The couple woke the next day early. The six hour time difference was killer on the body clocks.

They’d made a pact while still in Brooklyn: No crazy exercising. Just normal fun. The early swim was invigorating.

“10 degrees in New York today,” he told her.

“Sucks to be them,” she said back emerging from the 80 degree water.

Swim, drink, lounge. Repeat as necessary. Eat whenever food was offered. Poke and vodka. Fruit and rum. Ahi tuna and beer. The pool had it all.

Mike woke from a nap to find Syd talking to another couple at the bar. He went over.

’Honey, this is Mike and Judi, they were just telling me about a zipline adventure.”

Davidson said hello and the woman told him about the fun.

’Some easy trips on the zip line but the best is lunch in a secluded waterfall swimming hole,” she related.

“That sounds great! Thanks for the heads up.”

It was the other couples last day so they gathered a bit of intelligence about the activities available from them and said aloha.

The place had loads to offer.

Dinner that night was at the Blue Dolphin in the small town. Fresh seafood was featured. Michael had Ono. That was the name of the fish. Ono. It was a type of wahoo. The word also meant “delicious” in the Hawaiian language.

’They named the fish, delicious?” he asked the waiter upon being told the story. The local just grinned at him.

The beer was cold and the fish lived up to its name. A slack key guitarist played old school songs deep into the night. They went back and made love on the king sized bed.

The password is thread count, Mike thought as he rubbed his feet on the sheets.

’These are nicer than at my house,” Syd agreed.

The islands soon lulled them into the state that Hawaii was famous for, lazy. Relaxed and happy the days flew by. Even the irritation back on the main island was no big deal for her as Mike went to another shooting session when they flew back. The plane did not take off until 11:30 pm so he had plenty of time to get there and get back. She was awash in booze and sun and lovemaking so another massage was a happy occurrence.

Later, Michael would struggle to remember which had been the bigger slap in the face: the cold weather getting off the plane in New York two days before Christmas or the police cards stuck in his front door he spied when the cab dropped them off.

The business cards, three of them, were in the door jam in the early evening fading light. Dead tired and unprepared Mike opened the door while catching the cards.

Sydney Devereaux gasped when she saw the crime scene tape on Mary’s door.

Not good.

“Maybe a break in?” she asked in a tone that wanted him to make this better.

’I don’t know honey.”

The pair trudged up the stairs to find more cards in the vestibule door crack. He knew no one cared about a B and E. Not enough to leave multiple cards.

Entering and setting the bags in the bedroom, Mike went to his desk and called- Detective James P. O’Rourke. No precinct or specialty. Maybe that was an encouraging sign?

No answer after a few rings and the message machine did its business, Mike left this number and a brief message: “Detective O’Rourke, this is Michael Davidson. I live a 187 Washington park in FT. Greene. I came home from vacation to find police tape on my neighbors door and your cards. I’m very worried about Mary. Mrs. Spack. Can you call me back?” He gave the number.

Syd was right behind him looking very small and frightened. “Are you going to try the others?”

He did so and the response scared him even more. “O’Rourke caught that. You are going to have to talk to him.” He winced. She noticed and said, ’What?” as his cell phone rang, saving him.

“Hello?’

“Mr. Davidson,?” the voice asked.

“Yes, is this Lt. O’Rourke?”

It is. Sir, where are you now?” the man was all business.

“I’m…we are in my bedroom. We just got home from Hawaii.”

The cop broke in. ’I know you must be tired or put out but could I have you meet us outside. Both of you? in say 20 min?” He rushed to put in, ’Please don’t touch anything upstairs, any more than necessary that is”.

“Of course.”

Syd rushed to gather coats and hats and the couple went back out into the evening cold. He tried to stay positive but his heart was not in it.

24 minutes later three squad cars pulled up on the street and added to the apprehension they were feeling.

’All this?” Sydney was coming to grips.

“Not for us, honey,” he assured her.

A large rumpled man in a large rumpled suit got out of the first car and approached the pair.

“Davidson?” no hand proffered and very gruff from the man.

“That’s right detective. This is Sydney Devereaux. She lives a house down and was with me in Hawaii. She is another friend of Mrs. Spack.”

He saw the slight tightening of the man’s brown eyes. Son of a bitch.

Davidson grabbed Sydney’s hand. More crime scene techs were coming out of the cars and hauling equipment out of the trunks. A second detective, this time a female, joined the three at the stoop.

’Where is Mary?, Mike asked them straight out.

“How long were you in Hawaii and where did you stay?” O’Rourke countered. Typical cop. They controlled the questions and they doled out the information on a need to know basis. His pad was out ready to write.

“Detective, we just came off the overnight from Honolulu to JFK.” He pulled out the two boarding passes he’d stuck into his jeans pocket when they’d gotten on the plane. We stayed on Kauai at the Princeville resort. Is Mary alive?” Point blank.

O’Rourke scowled and the other female cop matched him. ’Mary Spack was killed in her apartment two nights ago. We think she surprised some burglars.”

Mike tamped down hard on the pain that lanced through him. He’d suspected but a part of him held out hope as people do. Syd gasped and buried her head into his shoulder, Tears starting to flow.

He tried to think rationally and help. ’I have security camera’s setup. One is in her place. The main hallway is cover too.”

The heavyset cop tiredly nodded. ’We found the system in the garage. The tapes were missing. Any chance of an auto cloud backup?”

Mike reassessed the man. Stereotypical cop he might look, but the man had asked a sharp question. “No- just the DAT.” he used the acronym for digital auto tape. ’If you don’t have the tapes then the killers do.”

Syd was still sobbing and Mike wanted to get out of the public eye. The crime scene techs looked ready to go in, so he asked it. “Can we go inside?”

O’Rourke nudged and his partner, the female cop, perked up. Shorter and Latino, the woman looked to be fifteen years younger than the fifty-ish male.

“Rodriguez is going to take you upstairs”, he nodded to the partner and Mike, “while I take Ms. Devereaux through the Spack place and see what’s been taken.”

He hugged Syd tighter. ’Detective if I may? Sydney has only been in Mary’s place a few times. Mary was my neighbor for ten years. Maybe I should go with you?”

The two detectives communicated telepathically. The woman said, ’I’ll take Ms. Devereaux upstairs, Jimmy.”

Order restored, the senior man agreed and the four made their way into the building trailing techs and past the now, gawking neighbors.

A quick squeeze of Syd’s hand as she went upstairs with Rodriguez and the men continued down the hall to Mary’s door. O’Rourke slit the seal and and unlocked the door. As the cop let them in Mike watched the door to see if the lock had been picked. Maybe. He could not get a look at it. “How did they get in? he asked.

“Not sure. The locks may or may not have been picked. Did you have any workmen over anytime recently?”

Mike gave the no with his voice.

“Would she have left the garage door opened?”

“She had a remote but she did not drive. Not for years.”

The men went into the living room. The place had been tossed with items thrown around. Expertly it seemed to his eye . Several items were missing. The TV, some candle stick holders and a few more small things. A tech took pictures where Mike pointed out the items.

“How long did you know Mrs. Spack?”

’Ten years plus. Ever since I bought the building.” Davidson gauged the man’s reaction. “LT, you might now this but I own the building. Anderson Consulting is my company. I am the sole proprietor and employee.”

Suspicion confirmed, O’Rourke flipped a few pages back in his pad and wrote some things down.

’What type of work do you do, Mr. Davidson?”

“I’m an oil field services tech.”

“What does that involve?”

“You name it and I do it. Royal Dutch Shell has me as an independent contractor working in the middle east and the north sea usually.” He glanced at the cop. “I arrange to hire more crew if they want production increased, or fire them if they want it shut down. “I buy and sell equipment in a ton of circumstances. I have even bribed local officials to allow us to explore in certain areas of the country when we are not supposed to be.”

O’Rourke looked at him with narrowed eye’s.

“Not kidding, Lieutenant. The oil game can get wild and wholly at times. RDS pays me a lot of money to fix things and they don’t care how it gets done.”

The men locked eyes for a brief instant.

“Any chance someone came in looking for you and got her instead?”

Mike internally cringed again. The thought had crossed his mind. Strongly crossed his mind. The detective saw the internal struggle and said, “Who? Was anyone after you?”

Davidson controlled himself. This line of questioning was right in that someone was after Mike but not for his fake job. His real line of work had gotten Mary killed.

“No, sir. I’m just not that important.”

O’Rourke was willing to buy that for now but his radar was up. The pair went back towards the bedrooms. He casually mentioned that the local precinct had gotten a few suspicious car calls from this street over the last weeks. Then a call from this location two nights ago about a noise and the responding cops had found Mary.

Mike churned through it. Either the two cops or Demetry’s goons. Another internal cringe. He looked over the items thrown around her bedroom. She would be appalled, he knew.

The men went quickly thru the house. It was the items not taken that said low level thieves. Tiffany lamps left. Some Chagall prints still on the walls. Missing jewelry, TV’s, and computers, seemed to confirm the petty nature of the burglary.

The homicide man led Davidson into the kitchen.

Mike was unprepared for the blood. It covered the floor. The sight galvanized him.

“We think they started in the living room and she surprised them in here.”

The kitchen was a testament to how hard she had struggled. ’Son of a bitch!”

Oh Mary! Why didn’t you wait for the cops? Too brave by half.

O’Rourke asked some questions about the house. The back stairs that led off the kitchen. Mike answered truthfully.

The men went up the narrow stairway.

“You own both units and Mary Spack rented from you?” the cop asked him. Subtle. He wanted an explanation for the stairs and the situation.

“Yeah. These turn of the century places all have them. I never blocked them off. And yes Mary rented from me. I charged her 800 a month.” He forestalled the questions. “What am I gonna do? Throw my grandma out on the streets? An old lady got to live in the home she’d been in for fifty years and I got about a thousand home cooked meals.” He shrugged and O’Rourke wrote more in his pad.

The men were near the top of the stairs. A small scuff mark marred the lower part of the interior wall. It was inconspicuous and looked old.

But Davidson knew it was fresh. He also knew the police had the sequence wrong. Mary had heard the thieves upstairs and went up to investigate.

Too brave by half.

“Mary was old school tough and a great lady, Lieutenant.”

The man had the decency to let Davidson grieve.

They back tracked and went up the main stair case to Davidson’s unit. The men found Rodriguez and Sydney talking on the couch. Mike and Syd embraced as she cried some fresh tears.

“Honey, lets help these guys so they can find out who did this, okay.”

The female cop told him that the only items up here that looked like they were missing were his TV and two computers.

He went through the place again with O’Rourke and Rodriguez following with Syd by his side.

The detectives were particularly interested in his closet safe. The marks around the wall board said the killers had tried to wrench it out.

Mike worked the dial. “Nope. All here. Insurance papers, birth certificate, passport, car titles.” He stopped. “They did get a home tool kit I had in here.”

Both policemen were very interested in the hidden staircase and the office gym downstairs. He explained it away as a “funky” quirk that he liked. His computer was missing from his desk and a data stick that he never bothered to tell the two cops about. He was also silent about his real safe concealed under the floor. He’d have been arrested on the spot if he’d opened that one.

The couple answered questions about Mary and themselves for anther thirty minuets. They were separated again, this time to provide hair, DNA and fingerprints to the CSI boys swarming around.

He felt drained as the techs finished up. “The hell of it is, Lieutenant, Mary was supposed to be in California at her sisters.” Shit, have you notified her?”

O’Rourke said that they had done so this morning. “I think she is flying in to make arrangements.”

Davidson sighed.

“How long have you and Ms. Devereaux been seeing each other.”

“About a month”, he answered doing the mental math.

“And you took her to Hawaii?”

“Have you gotten a good look at Doctor Sydney Devereaux, Lt?” “She must get five offers a week.”

O’Rourke could see that truth in that. Rodriguez was not all that optimistic about what they had to go on to find the killers.

Davidson tried one last gambit: “But if you find who pawned the computers and TV’s won’t that tell you who killed Mary?” He went with ignorant civilian to ask the question but he wanted them focused on the items stolen and how they should turn up if it was true thieves.

The latino female was non committal. ’We will try our best.”

The silence after everyone left was deafening to the couple. Mike got Syd to agree to take her bag back to her place. ’You don’t want to sleep here until I get the place cleaned up.” The cops had told him it would be okay to get crime scene cleaning people out to go over Mary’s apartment.

She agreed and hauled her bags back to her place as torn up as it was.

Davidson went into survival/auto mode. He went around scrubbing his house with vigor. Clothes were unpacked and shifted into new bags. His real safe was emptied and stashed in another bag. He called a cleaning crew to go over Mary’s. Yes, sir we can be there within an hour!”

Amazing what you can accomplish on christmas eve eve with money.

His mind whirled with the ramifications and moves he could make. But it was not just him to consider. Sydney and his gang had to be accounted for.

It took an hour for the others to call him back and conference them in. Ira, Gretchen Rick and Graeme all expressed shock and sadness. Thank god all of them were okay.

’We take down the office early tomorrow,” he told them to groans. “6:00 am.” “If anyone sees the watchers we bolt!”

“Are we leaving town?” Rick wanted to know.

He considered. “Not yet. I want to work out of a hotel for the next days at least. Gretchen can you find us something?”

“Can do, Mike.”

“Graeme, you and Rick empty the safe and move the van to the storage unit.” “Ira and I will handle the computers and the paper.” he handed out assignments.

The irishman wanted more. ’Mikey, shammer, what does this mean!”

More deep consideration before he spoke. ’I don’t think Demetry or the FBI is coming after us.” I might have made a mistake by ditching the cops on my trip. I think they went into my place to figure out where I was or to get some idea of what we were working on.” He breathed heavily for a few seconds- anger overwhelming him. ’Mary surprised them and they killed her for it.”

“This is not your fault, Mike.” Rick tried to absolve him.

But he knew it was.

“Did they get anything on us,?” pragmatic Ira asked.

“My computer and the data stick, he told them. “That combined with the possibility they could hit the office means we have to clean up and work rough for a bit.”

’If they have your computer won’t they know all of it?” Rick asked.

“Not very soon, he explained to the younger man. “They have my computer but its going to take them a few weeks to crack my password and go through the crypto files on the drive. “It is not like the cop shows, he smiled at the phone speaker. “There ain’t some woman sitting in the back room cracking computers and feeding them instant information.”

The others relaxed just a bit, which helped Mike. “We also have my last ditch security camera.” He told them about the killers taking his DAT tapes, “But they did not know I have a still camera in my office which takes a once per second shot.” “I have a cloud back up on that time lapse data.”

So they had pictures if he could get to a computer and the internet.

But it was not all good news. ’However, he cautioned. “Eventually the perps will break the data and look at my chat room stuff which will then get fed to the FBI.”

That put them all squarely in the crosshairs. An since it involved overseas things, Interpol and the Flying Squad would now get interested. Davidson and the gang spent a whole bunch of time trying not to be interesting to those organizations.

He told his people that he was tired and needed to finish at his place and he would see them tomorrow very early. He cleaned and organized with a tinge of sadness. He got very little sleep that night.

Christmas eve morning was dark but clear and cold when Davidson arrived at the office space. Parking right inside the garage area was quick as there was no need for hiding now.

The others arrived and parked similarly. Mike had stopped at a 24 hr. packing store and got the last of the christmas shipping boxes and tape available. He taped and assembled several and passed them to each desk for his people.

“Rick, you and Graeme take the safe please. The van and equipment inside as well.” The two men nodded despite the fact that he was repeating himself.

Ira, and I will do the computers and paper. Gretchen?”

“I need the phone for a bit but I’ll get the ID’s and phones arranged plus our accommodations.”

The threat of jail put a certain urgency to everyone as they worked. Mike setup a shredder under a trash can and soon everyone was doing their best Fawn Hall impression. Mike had to explain the reference to Rick when he asked.

As the work went on each gang member dropped into his office to report or to get reassurance.

“How long do you think until the cops break the encryption?”

“ Two weeks to a month.”

‘How are they going to get the info to the feds?’

’Easy, just generate a fake tip and boom, they have the stuff.”

“What about the local homicide cops?”

He had no good answer to that. ’“I’ll check in with them and try to figure out where they are on the investigation.” He did not think they could use their contacts to spy on O’Rourke. That would guarantee more scrutiny.

Two hours in he got them all together to discuss timelines. Two weeks was the top and ten days more like the real amount of time he would give it before they had to leave New York.

Dammit!

They’d been so careful to stay off the FBI and Scotland Yard radar. Fall guys were provided in most of their jobs. Hell, the Brits still thought the Great Northern job was done by the IRA. Same with Harry’s and Lufthansa. Even the Brazilian Forteazza job was unsolved but blamed on four “experienced criminals” currently in custody. DeBeers knew his face but it was a disguise, thank god. Now all that might be ruined.

Mike spent a few uncomfortable minutes texting their network. The agents knew the score but he wanted them forewarned. Guys like Trevor knew he would occupy the cell next to them if the gang got pinched.

Noon saw them about finished with the work. Davidson was dead tired but persevered. Forward. The only way out was forward.

His last act at the office was to connect to his account and download the security time lapse pictures. Fuzzy, grainy light enhanced images flashed on the screen with the thieves huddled around the laptop.

Temescal and Hattenfeld. The two police watchers were visible in the picture Mike printed out. Three copies fell out and the gear was packed and readied for movement.

They discussed the ramifications.

“I’m sure now they were looking for my whereabouts and Mary got in the way. They killed her for it.” Sadness tinged his voice. The anger would come, he knew. Revenge was going to be had but not now. He had to work his way out of the trap. The jobs, Demetry, the cops, disappear. That had to be the sequence and the way. The only way.

Unfortunately that left no room for anything else. “The timeline we talked about is still good. Gretch?”

The woman stepped forward and said. “Extended Stay America on Atlantic. Roger Patton, Michael Davidoff, Peter McNichol,” she said making sure they knew the cover ID’s the men were under. ’Ira is still, Todd Morgenstern and I am Rosario Dawson.” Gretchen liked to arrange cover identities where she was a famous movie star.

They checked in without any problems. The rooms were drab standard hotel rooms with small kitchenettes and a “living room” work area.

“Drive back home and scrub down as best you can, he told them. Cabs back here. Be ready to shift to London after the first of the year.”

The gang dispersed, ready to get on with it. Graeme lingered for a second.

’Shammer you need to focus on the jobs and Demetry, not on revenge for the old lady.” That was brutal but Mike agreed.

The Irishman’s last line was way more painful and something he knew but was dreading.

“About the bird…you know what you have to do.”

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