Chapter 12

After dinner with Sam, Brian stopped into his storage unit to pick up his phone and a backpack. He had been packing the backpack over the last few days, with items he would need for his withdrawal. He ditched the blue button-down shirt he wore to dinner and put on a black knit t-shirt with long sleeves, then grabbed the Yankees hat, backpack and locked up.

After walking three blocks, he spotted a taxi and waved at the driver to stop. The taxi pulled over and Brian opened the back door and got in.

“St. Marks and 2nd Ave, please,” Brian said to the driver.

This was not his intended location, but close enough that he could arrive in a bright yellow cab without attracting any attention. Then, he could walk the rest of the way and arrive unnoticed and ready for his operation.

Brian had been planning this for months. He thought through his tentative plan as he rode through the bumpy streets in the back of the cab.

He was heading for a particular apartment building, atop which lived one of the larger mob bosses, Nikolay Noskov. Tonight was the night on which cash deliveries were made from Nikolay’s crew. The crew leaders usually arrived within a couple of hours, about 4 or 5 a night, all heavily guarded by a carload of guys. A couple of them would enter in the back of the building, allowed in by a couple of armed heavies, then make their way to the top floor via a private elevator, also guarded. If Nikolay’s guys didn’t know them, they didn’t get into the elevator.

At the top, another couple of guys stood by. Across from the elevator, in a large conference room, the crews met Nikolay, or one of his generals to accept the cash, typically in duffle bags or large briefcases. Once the deposit was made, the crew left the room and one of Nikolay’s trusted guys wheeled the cash out of the room and down the hall to a room with 4 large safes where the cash was stored.

How did Brian know all of this? He had witnessed it, all remotely, thanks to a large collection of security cameras that covered the top floor, bottom floor, and outer perimeter. One of Sam’s buddies, Serg, had given Brian a few lessons in wifi hacking and it didn’t take long for him to crack into Nikolay’s weak spot — his computer network on which the security system ran. The last lesson Serg had given him enabled him to disable elements of this particular security system. Brian planned to walk right in — after he scaled the building and opened a window, that is.

Brian paid the cabbie in cash and got out. He walked up 2nd Avenue and quietly slipped into an alley. The alley continued for 2 blocks before he arrived at Nikolay’s building. By then, Brian had swapped out the Yankees hat for a black stocking ski mask rolled up as a cap. He likes to go old school when breaking and entering. He also turned on his wifi repeater tuned for Nikolay’s network and pulled out a 7-inch tablet. He ducked behind his favorite dumpster, used previously for surveillance, and turned on the tablet. He tapped an icon which loaded a series of tiny video icons, each representing the outer cameras. Then he swiped up to view the inner cameras. After a minute, Brian felt like everything was going as planned. He had a visual on the entrance to Nikolay’s back entrance gauntlet and planned to wait until the 1st delivery to scale the building and the 3rd delivery before he made his move inside the building. This way, if they were watching the security, they would probably be watching inner cameras while he was climbing and moving in. Brian knew that a guy monitored the system, but didn’t know how intently he watched since there was no camera in the room Brian felt certain was used for security monitoring.

The first crew arrived in two cars around 10:15 PM. Two black guys got out of each and two of them had big suitcases. All four entered the building, while another guy stayed with each car, getting out to look around and chat.

Brian could see on the video that they entered the elevator. He turned off the tablet, stuffed it into the backpack and moved toward the building. While he could use the fire escape, it was monitored in several places and he didn’t want to disable too many cameras for too long. So, he chose an unmonitored section, out of sight of the back door, to make the primary ascent to the top floor. The building had ledges at the 5th and 9th floors and Brian could easily leap that high, even with the backpack. From 9, he should be able to leap to 13 after disabling a camera on the roof. This was one of the few buildings that actually had a 13th floor, which is a feature Nikolay liked. It added a bit of mystique.

After a brief moment to look around and check the windows across the alley, Brian took a few steps back from the building and jumped straight up, easily landing on the 5th-floor ledge, grabbing the edge of a window to stabilize. Then, checking windows again, he turned and backed up to the very edge, jumping again to the 9th ledge. However, he had to grab the edge since he didn’t have the distance from the building to clear it.

He swung out a bit then pulled up sharp to land on the ledge, again grabbing a window for stability. Then, Brian pulled out a small box with six switches on the front. It was a Bluetooth interface to the app on the tablet. He flipped the top switch with his thumb. Two seconds later, a dim LED illuminated indicating the intended camera had frozen the video.

Then, he took another quick look, turned and jumped, grabbing the top of the building. Brian pulled up a bit to peak over the edge. He knew the roof typically had a guy or two walking around and, unfortunately, one was standing just a few feet away, looking down at the two cars in the alley.

“Ugg,” he thought as he considered his next move. He peeked over again to check for another guy but didn’t see one. The guy looked like he was watching the ground closely, for any kind of funny business, though Brian wasn’t sure how much he could see from 14 floors high, and it was a poorly lit alley.

He decided to risk it. He took another quick peek, then quietly pulled up and rolled over the edge to lay on top of the wall. He quickly stood and walked quietly and quickly down on top of the wall for about 15 yards. Then he stepped down, quietly, onto the pea graveled rooftop and eased around an HVAC unit and ducked. Peeking around, it appeared that he was not noticed.

Looking back toward the front of the building, Brian could see a chest-high wooden fence that enclosed a patio and small pool. He quietly walked, hunched over toward the fence, making his way to the wall of the elevator shaft. Just over the fence, he knew there was a door leading to the elevator and a stairway, plus a camera, that was currently frozen like the others on the roof. The door may or may not be locked, but was probably not guarded on the inside. Brian would soon find out. He peeked over the fence. No one was in sight. He sat in the corner against the building.

He pulled out the switch box and flipped the switch to turn on the rooftop cameras. He reached into his pack and pulled out the tablet, turned it on and waited for the video to sync. He could see that a group was leaving the conference room and entering the elevator. Now he would wait.

He could see, in the conference room video, two guys rolling a cart, with stacks of cash, out the rear door, down a short hallway, and into the safe room. Brian had watched this same process over and over on many different nights. However, there was one difference tonight. The safe room was locked and a guard opened it from the inside. On previous nights, one of the guys with the carts would unlock the door and make the deposit into a safe. This time, the carts were wheeled inside and left with the guy on the inside. Brian had been counting on empty rooms and hallways. This was going to require a change in plan.

He continued to watch as the inside guy opened a safe and stacked the cash inside. Then, he closed the safe and wheeled the cart back to the conference room. Next, he walked back to the safe room, unlocked the door and entered, then sat in a chair on one side of the room. Before sitting, he must have pulled his smartphone out of his pocket, as he was now looking at it while waiting for the next delivery.

Brian minimized the safe room video. He tapped the alley camera as it looked like there was movement. Sure enough, two more cars were arriving. Two guys exited each, both carrying large cases, as a third car arrived. One guy appeared from it and joined the other four at the door. They all entered the building and proceeded upstairs. Again, the two greeters met them and they all walked into the conference room. Cash was counted and placed on the carts. One of the greeters handed over a sheet of paper and then the five guys and one greeter exited the room. After seeing them into the elevator, he returned to the conference room. Brian noticed he appeared to say something into a mobile phone or walkie-talkie. Then the greeters wheeled the cart out and down to the safe room. Brian tapped the safe room video and noticed the inside guy had already stood up and walked toward the door. The greeters knocked and the door opened.

“So, they radio ahead so they know who’s knocking,” Brian thought. “This must be some new process they’ve implemented. Maybe they had a recent incident and they’re more cautious. More complications…”

The greeters exited the safe room and walked to the hall, exiting the hall through another door instead of the conference room. The inside guy emptied the cart into the same safe, then returned the cart to the conference room.

Brian tapped the video in the hallway containing the two greeters. They walked toward the camera and appeared to open the door underneath it. There was another doorway in this hall.

“That might be the place to hide until the time is right,” Brian thought. “I think it’s time to move inside.”

He stood to a crouch and looked around, then looked over the fence. He flipped the switch on the box, then, after the LED illuminated, he jumped over the fence and moved by the door. It was unlocked and he moved inside, then opened another door to the stairway. He listened for a few seconds, then pulled out the box and turned the roof cameras back on. Next, he slowly crept down the stairs to the 13th floor. He pulled out the tablet. The video in the hallway, conference room and hallway to the safe room were empty. He flipped switch #2 on the box and an LED illuminated confirming those cameras were frozen. He opened the stairway door and entered the elevator lobby, then quickly moved to the conference room. He moved over to the hallway door and listened. After hearing nothing, he opened it and moved to the next door into the other hallway. He flipped switch #3, waited and moved into the hallway. He flipped switch #2 back to release those cameras, then moved to the door he had spotted on the video. He put his ear to the door — nothing. So he turned the knob and opened it. It was dark, but that was good. So he moved in and closed the door. Then he flipped switch 3 back on. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small flashlight. Looking around the room, it appeared to be a large storage room with file cabinets and shelves containing boxes, cleaning supplies and other random office equipment. He moved over to a corner so that he would be out of sight if someone walked in. Then, he fired up the tablet again.

It looks like another crew was arriving and had already entered the elevator. And the greeters had taken their positions in the elevator lobby. Brian was going to make his move as they left. He waited, watching the progress on the tablet. As the greeters left the safe room, Brian moved to the door of the storage room. He could see they both went back to the conference room. He listened for anyone in the hallway. He flipped switch 3 for the hallway. A moment later, he was at the door for the next hallway and flipped switch 4 to freeze the hallway to the safe room. He looked down at the tablet. The inside guy was loading the safe.

Brian stored the tablet in his backpack. He flipped switch 5 and waited for the LED.

“Ok,” Brian thought, “3 2 1”

Brian put his right hand on the doorknob and his left on the door about a foot higher. With a quick shove, he forced the door open, breaking the opposite side of the door jam. He crosses the room and was beside the inside guy as he spun around, trying to grab the automatic rifle hanging from his shoulder. Brian grabbed the gun, ripping it from its leather strap. He pushed the inside guy up against the safe door, putting his left hand over the guy’s mouth.

“Let’s not make a sound, or else I’m going to have to shoot you,” Brian said. “I’m going to take my hand off. If you make any loud noises, I will drown them out with the sound of this gun. Understand?”

The inside guy nodded. Brian took his hand off his mouth and grabbed the walkie off of his belt.

“You know there is no reason for me to make a noise,” he said in a thick Russian accent. “There are two cameras pointing at you. And I’m sure my comrades are on the way to shoot you.”

Brian backed up, keeping the gun pointed at the inside guy. He closed the door. The door jam was broken, but it would probably be unnoticed from the hallway. He walked over, grabbed the chair and put it against the door, just to keep it tightly closed.

“No, your comrades are paying no attention to us, I assure you. I think they are watching the baseball game,” Brian said in Russian.

The inside guy looked surprised. Brian wasn’t sure if it was from the crazy story or that he spoke to him in Russian.

“Now, how much money is on this table?” Brian asked, again in Russian.

The inside guy looked at a piece of paper next to the cash. “It’s about $650 thousand, I’ve already put some of it into the safe,” he replied.

Brian pulled a duffle bag from his backpack.

“Great, put it in there and make it quick,” Brian said.

The inside guy put the money in the duffle.

“Now,” Brian said, “I need a million more.”

The Russian laughed. “Just a million? Your bag will hold much more, why not fill it up? No matter how much you take, Nikolay is going to kill you just the same.”

“Funny,” Brian said. “Stack it on the table there. I need to count it. And make it fast.”

The Russian started stacking cash. “You have lived in Russia?” he asked. “Do you know Nikolay? Is that why you are taking his money?”

“No. I mean yes. I lived in Russia for many years. Met a woman there, but that was a long time ago. But, no, I don’t know Nikolay and that’s not why I’m taking the money. It’s not personal — I just need the money,” Brian replied.

“What, you think Nikolay is? Bank of America?” the Russian said.

“What’s your name?” Brian asked the Russian.

“My name is Vadim,” he replied.

“Listen, Vadim, you’re asking too many questions. I don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t have time to chat. Shut up and put that cash in the bag. It’s probably more than what I need, but that’s okay,” Brian said.

“Fine,” said Vadim. “You don’t look that old, when did you live there? Where in Russia did you live?”

“I’ve told you too much. Shut up and fill the bag,” Brian said.

“I don’t need to know much. We will find you. I have a very good memory for faces,” he said looking into Brian’s eyes, handing him the bag.

“Dammit!” Brian exclaimed in English, realizing he never pulled down his ski mask. “So much for old school. Looks like I failed that class.”

Vadim looked at him somewhat confused.

Brian looked back at Vadim. “Now, do you want me to knock you out, or will you be good enough to stay here until I can get out?” Brian asked, looking at Vadim intently.

Vadim replied with a grin, “Well, of course, you can trust me. I will stay right here.”

“Of course,” Brian replied, smiling back. Then he slugged the Russian with a left hook, sending him across the room, and crashing to the floor.

Brian put the gun on the table and grabbed the duffle. He lifted the bag, gauging its weight. Then he grabbed another stack of cash and tossed it in.

“What the hell? You never know when you need a little more,” Brian said as he moved toward the door.

He moved the chair and walked down the hall to the side door. He flipped the switch to disable the camera and walked into the hallway, then the storage room. He had noticed a window when he was here before. He walked over and raised the blind and examined the window for an alarm.

Then he heard footsteps in the hallway. They were probably setting up for the next crew, so the inside guy was about to be missed. Then Brian heard running footsteps and shouts.

“He’s been missed,” Brian thought.

He opened the window. No alarm, or at least he didn’t hear one. He looked out the window. Nothing appeared to be going on, yet. He pulled out the switch box and turned all cameras back on.

“I don’t want them to know I hacked in if I can help it,” he thought.

He climbed out the window, dragging the duffle and backpack with him since he couldn’t get out the window with it on his back. Standing crouched on the edge, he leaped out of the window toward the roof of the building across the alley.

He landed on the roof and jogged to the opposite side of the neighboring building. He put the backpack on his back, then jogged along the edge until he found the fire escape and started climbing down. Once he was three floors up, he leaped over, landing on the ground. Then he took off the ski mask and shoved it into the duffel bag with the cash. He reached over his shoulder and pulled a hood over his head. He headed south on 2nd Ave and waved down a cab.

The cab dropped Brain in Brooklyn Heights. Brian walked three blocks to another self-storage center 6 blocks away from Montague. This one wasn’t climate controlled like his other unit, but then he didn’t keep much in it, yet. It also didn’t have quite as many cameras and also allowed him to enter and exit a bit more inconspicuously. But it did have access to power and allowed him to add some additional security and also charge batteries for some of his equipment. He left the backpack on a desk. Then, he reached into the duffle and grabbed a stack of cash. He pulled half of it out and put the rest back into the bag. He shoved the cash into his pocket. Then, Brian put the duffle into a big wardrobe box full of clothes and closed it again. He pulled off the hoodie and put on a blue t-shirt and grabbed a grey hooded jacket. He pulled the tablet and switch box out and plugged them into charging cables. He didn’t plan to use them anytime soon, but they might as well be ready.

He put the hood on, then closed the storage unit and locked it. He walked out of the storage unit and traveled 8 blocks to his other storage unit. While walking, he pulled out his mobile phone and tapped a name on the message list.

He tapped on the keyboard, “We’re on. See you tomorrow night”

He arrived at his other storage facility, unlocking the front door with his code. He walked through the hallways to his unit, unlocked it and opened the door. He stepped in, took off the hoodie and hat, swapping it for the shirt he wore previously.

He pulled out his mobile and saw there was a text message, “OK”

He put his mobile on the desk and connected the charger. Then, he locked up and exited the facility.

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