They decide to stick with the hotel for breakfast. Mani and Ellen split a spinach, peppers and cheese omelet with a side of ham, the twins have traditional American, eggs over, bacon, cheese grits, biscuit and black tea.
Katja, “Chiz greets are good, better at home when Ellen haf mascarpone wiz habanero sauce.”
Mani giggles, “It’s a wonder you don’t set yourself on fire.”
Katja, “I am spicy girl, Katya a leetle, no so much as sister.”
Ellen, “How do you want to handle it today, Katya?”
“Surveillance on old building. Leave Escalade, we will rent two cars, sedan and maybe SUV. After breakfast, I will ask concierge. Change plates on the car, and disconnect GPS, you brought plates from someplace else?”
Ellen, “Always in the car, we got Texas, New York, Arizona, I got a couple from California. Our licenses say we’re from Arizona and California, I’ll use those.”
“Da, okay. Not much need for complicated disguise, hat, sunglasses, plain clothes, big tops, ordinary sneakers.”
“Da, yes, always when working.”
Breakfast wraps, Katya goes off to arrange cars. It doesn’t matter if the hotel knows about the cars, the rooms are in travel names. They have a credit card on file in Katya’s travel name. The rental cars will also hit the credit card, but that’s fine, it’s an actual account, just for a shell corporation. The bill will get paid with a transfer from the Cayman account.
“Abd al Razik owns the house, we have the right man. Ellen, go with Katja and monitor the old feed store. Mani and I are going to check on Razik, if nothing happens in a couple of hours, we will come to you.”
Ellen and Katja take the SUV, a Ford Explorer, Katya and Mani drive off in a Nissan Maxima.
Katya drives to the mansion, empty house next door, another mega mansion, the neighborhood is loaded with them. This one has no gate, just a fat circular drive, she pulls up to the front door.
Katja comes online, “Second Mercedes came in, deeferent color same routine, then drove away.”
Katya, “Okay, maybe they show up here.”
Mani waits while Katya approaches the hedges separating the two homes. The iron rail fence extends all the way around the al Razik place. Whatever is happening in the house, outside it’s quiet. Twenty minutes passes, then she hears the gate opening, an Escalade eases up the drive to the front door. Two men get out, she hears the front door open and close.
“Two men, not the same two as yesterday.”
Katya, “Car is here now. We will hang around a bit longer then come to the feed store. That is where the money is, not much point in watching the house.”
Circle the vacant house, Katya sees no particular advantage, even if they broke in. The alarm is likely disabled, there’s nothing inside to steal and agents have to know the code and deal with it every time they show the place. But, she figures, no matter, then a hint of an idea occurs.
“We will go to feed store.”
Half an hour later, with a stop to pick up coffee for everyone, the four are in the Explorer. Ellen has it far enough away not to be noticeable from the not a feed store anymore, they can see when traffic comes to the alley, the only entrance, the other end is walled off.
Ellen, “How many inside, any guess?”
“We see who leaves at the end of the day. It’s only noon. You must need a pee break. Take the Nissan, find something light for lunch, chicken salad, crackers, like that.”
Katja and Ellen change cars, go off to find a supermarket and a restroom.
Mani, “You said it, surveillance is mostly nothing.”
“Plus, nobody gave us a target, an address and photos. We had to find this ourselves. Just glad Gerard was able to come up with names.”
“What about Miami?”
“First we find out what is inside the feed store. If we rip off this man, it will make waves, Francisco Calderon is certain to find out. It will make him more cautious. If we decide to go, it will be at least a year, let him settle down.”
Ellen and Katja return, they nibble chicken salad from plastic containers, Coke Zero from plastic bottles. More nothing, just as they stuff empty plastic back in the plastic bag, a cargo van fronts the gate, black man hops out, unlocks it, van drives in.
“Mani, check it out, just close enough to see if bags are involved.”
Ellen, “A van this time, big one too.”
Katya, “Ford Transit. I am wondering.”
Mani hustles back, “They aren’t dropping off, bunch of boxes are being loaded.”
Katya, “Ellen, you have rifle?”
“Sure, in back.”
She goes out, rear hatch opens, locks snap on the case, then the sound of a clip snapping into place.
“Just sit back there for now, close the hatch, wait, I can do it from here,” she clicks the key fob and the hatch eases down.
Ellen, “We gonna rob the van?”
“Soon as they finish loading. Fold down all the seats. Ellen, I will turn car around. When the van pulls out, someone will get out to lock the gate. Take out tires. Katja, go to the Maxima, be ready to pull alongside the van. Mani, wait next to the gate, just behind that hedge, see it?”
“They cannot see you there. When tire busts, crack man on temple with butt of gun, hard. Maybe he goes unconscious, but he will anyway be confused. I will be there. Ellen, gun case has the other things?”
“Yep, duct tape, nylon ties, picture wire.”
“Then Katja will handle driver, we get them silenced and wired. Ellen you stay with rifle until we have things under control. If someone comes down steps, deal with them. We will take as many boxes as we can fit.”
Mani, “Why not just steal the van?”
Mani thinks, “Oh, duh, he’s gonna have it tracked.”
“He may also have boxes tracked, get going,” Mani dashes to her spot behind the bush.
The gate creaks open, a man stands to the side, the van backs out. Katya opens the hatch, Ellen’s prone on the floor sighting.
The van is out of the alley, facing away from them, the man shuts the gate, puts the lock on.
“Now, before he gets in.”
Soft pop, pop, pop, pssssstt, the van sinks down left rear, like it’s kneeling. He can’t hear the rifle from this distance, flash suppressor also turns the shots into whispers.
“What the fuck!”
The man goes around back, sees the flat, “Sheeyt,” Mani clocks him on the temple, he staggers but doesn’t drop, she puts the gun to his head.
“On your knees, live, fuck around, die.”
He’s hurting, hand to head, blood seeps. He’s in no condition to argue, he drops slowly to his knees, Katya is there. She wraps his mouth with the tape, then a strip across the eyes, pulls his hands behind his back and zips picture wire around his wrists a half dozen times, then wraps it between his hands. He’s done.
Katja had the car next to the driver’s side before Mani smacked her guy. She’s out, Glock pointed at the driver’s head. He reaches for something, she puts a round through the driver’s window, glass shatters.
She has the Glock at his cheek, “Hands on wheel or I shoot you here, one second only, one…”
Two hands snatch the wheel, “Fuck girl, you in for a heapa shit. You go no idea who..”
“Abd al Razik. Not your problem, your problem is to live through this.”
Whoever is still upstairs can’t see the van unless they come outside, no one does. Katya’s there with a second wrap job, Ellen and Mani are shuffling boxes as fast as they can. Katya opens one, full of hundreds, she dumps the contents out in the trunk of the Nissan. No tracker. While the three move boxes, she dumps a second, nothing. She can’t check them all, have to go with the odds, they track the truck, not the boxes.
Full Explorer, full trunk and backseat of the Nissan, there are still stacks of boxes in the cargo van.
Katya finds the GPS for the van, unplugs it.
“I will drive this one and we will find a place to hide it. In fact, find a storage place.”
While Ellen surfs nearby storage, they pull the driver out and leave him next to his partner. She finds a Public Storage. Katya rents a big space, big enough for the cargo van. Then they take the Explorer and Nissan to a second facility and unload the boxes. Put the Explorer back together, change to the rental plates and return the cars.
In the suite, Katya, “This depends on them not tracking boxes individually. Tracking just one is a waste, so I am guessing they were fine with tracking the van only. But since we know nothing of al Razik, we cannot know how his mind works, maybe he tracks only a box or two. We are going to need to watch the storage places for anyone snooping around.”
Ellen, “How long?”
“He’s not going to wait around. By now he knows he has a problem. We can use the Escalade, but we need another car since the money is in two spots.”
Mani, “Not really, they’re going to go to both places if there are trackers, just watch the one with the van.”
Katya, “Good thought, we got maybe half the boxes, the odds of trackers being in just boxes we took from the van is tiny. Okay. I want another car anyway. Katja and Ellen watch the storage place, Mani and I are going to see if there is activity at the house.”
The do a quick freshen, car is waiting downstairs. Ellen and Katja off, Katya has a Toyota Corolla, she and Mani drive to al Razik’s mansion.
Katja, “Ees no one at storage looking around.”
“We are just getting to the house, must be six cars in the drive, two of them the ones we saw yesterday. Good sign, if he knew where the money was, the cars would be there, not here. Maybe I can see something around the side.”
“Mani, stay with the car, if anyone comes, tap the horn, start the engine.”
She creeps along the fence, now she can see his backyard. There are a dozen men on the patio, it isn’t a pool party. One of them, they’re all black, but the one is huge, must go six five and three hundred. He’s not happy.
“How did you two niggers let a couple of fucking women rip off my fucking money?”
One of the men, looks like the driver, says, “Boss, more than two, armed, out of nowhere. We have loaded the van there dozens of time, never a problem. That street has no traffic. We were ambushed.”
“What kind of car?”
“Nissan, the big one, black. Girl alone in it. She pulled up, I didn’t know what was happening, she shot the window, I reached for my piece, she had a Glock in my face. ‘Nother girl comes along, I’m wrapped up and dragged next to Kelvin. They leave us with tape over our mouth and eyes, fucking wire around our wrists and ankles. Cut us just to move,” he shows his wrist to the big man.
“Uh huh, and how you plan to get my money bitch?”
“Uh, let us go look around, van got GPS, we can find it.”
The big man is sorely pissed, “Nigger, they cut that sucker off when they cut your black asses off,” he pulls out a pistol, “here’s what happens to stupid don’t pay attention niggers,” he pops driver, then passenger.
The crowd around him is quiet, “Don’t just stand around motherfuckers, dispose of this shit, then FIND MY FUCKING MONEY.”
They start racing around, Katya’s seen enough, he has no clue where the money is.
“Katja, transfer boxes to Escalade, will they fit?”
“Nyet, we will need to rent van, can’t drive this one anyplace.”
“We will bring a truck, don’t put boxes in the Escalade until we see how the truck works.”
Mani and Katya do the simple thing, rent a U-Haul nine foot van, take it to the storage site. It’s a bit over half full when they empty the cargo van, then on to the second storage site. They load all but ten boxes in the U-Haul, the extras go in the Escalade. Back to the hotel, return the Corolla, to the room.
Katya, “Pack up, we drive home.”
Mani, “Wonder how much money?”
Katja, “We count two boxes while wait. Each box wiz hundred ees two million. One box had twenties, so maybe lots have less. There are forty seven boxes, eef half are hundreds, that’s…something.”
Katya, “If twenty boxes have hundreds, it’s forty million, plus whatever is in the rest. A million in twenties is about a hundred ten pounds, none of the boxes weighed that much. A million in hundreds is twenty two pounds. The boxes felt about the same, so a box of twenties is maybe four hundred thousand. If the twenty seven left are twenties, that’s maybe ten or eleven million.”
Mani, “So, we have fifty million, maybe?”
“We will find out at home.”
They pack up, the suite will be charged to them for the night, but considering they’re riding a substantial amount of cash home, it seems immaterial.
Ellen, “So much for Amanda, I’ll call her tomorrow, family emergency, blah, blah.”
It’s already six, they have a seven hour drive. Coffee up, energy bars, Ellen drives the U-Haul with Mani for company, the twins take the Escalade. They stop for gas shortly after hitting I-10, home by one thirty.
The U-Haul and Escalade are in the courtyard, big solid metal gate shut tight and locked. Our thieves have a drink then collapse comatose.
Mani, “Fuck me, sixty eight million dollars!”
Ellen, “And for your virgin theft, you get forty percent, we take twenty each.”
Mani, “But that was when I was going it alone, Ellen was with me all the time.”
Katya, “We want you to have a good first payday. If we do Miami, we have the usual split.”
“Good God, I have like twenty five million? What do I do with twenty five million dollars?”
Katya, “Twenty seven in fact. First, we have to wash it. It will be a year or more before you have it all. If you show up as no money college girl then millions, you are asking for problem. Cash will wash through Katya Donut and Cayman shells first. But we do not just send them millions. I have to create paper transactions, buy and sell imaginary imports and exports, make invoices, transfer funds.”
Mani, “I don’t mind, I mean, I can buy anything I want now. Ellen gets me whatever anyway. I trust you are not paying me any more for housekeeping.”
Katya, “No, but we will pay you as part of Sabelin Partners. I think we will make you employee for ten thousand a month. It is a way to start getting you some of your money right away. When we have cleaned money, we can revisit arrangement. You will have enough money of your own.”
Mani, “Ten thousand a month? My own money? I never dreamed.”
Ellen, “You did good, held your end of the job, even more than your end. We have to take time with the cash though.”
Katja, “You still have to take care of house. We do not permit some other hired person to come and clean.”
Mani, “That’s fine, the housekeeping is second nature now. I am dumping school though. I have no idea what a degree will do for me. I can still practice languages, I like it. But, eventually I have this pile of money, what do I do with it?”
Ellen, “We created a company with shares, each of us has a certain number of shares depending on our contribution. Katya invests it in the stock and bond markets, or we buy real estate. A fair amount is in tax free bonds. You can buy into the partnership, but it’s up to you. You can hold out several million and invest the rest in the partnership, or not invest any of it. It is your money, your decision. Anyway, you have a year or eighteen months to decide.”
Mani, “It’s so much all at once.”
Katya, “Decide later. Ellen, get two or three safes, from different companies, put them in the unused slave quarters. Each in a different room, stagger the installations.”
A full day, counting money, returning the van, boxes of cash in the workout room until safes can be installed.
Katja, “We haf no time for making dinner, we will go to Irene Cuisine and haf crab gratin, soft shell crab, feesh amandine, veal marsala.”
Mani, “Yummy, I’m starved.”
Tommy, “Les quatre perfections, welcome, your table is open, usual cocktails?
Katja, “Da, and usual dinner, you are remembering?”
“Of course dearest, be up in a minute. No appetizer, regular entrée, soft shell crab is magnificent tonight.”
Katja, “Also maybe escargot.”
“Got it,” he scurries of, Irene’s is filling, it’s always busy.
Unlike a few years ago, they take reservations, but they don’t hurry tables, so you may have a wait. There’s a bar and waiting area, pace yourself or you’ll be drunk as a rock star by the time you’re seated.
Ellen, “Mani, have you talked to Sarah?”
“Twice, text actually. She’s such a little flirt. I want her to come over, a sleepover.”
“I looked them up. The family has roots here, she’s got the typical high school Facebook page, she’s not a psycho. Nothing on her page says lesbian.”
Mani, “No, she’s not out. I know that. I don’t know if it’s parents, or she just doesn’t want a hassle at school, although it is a girls’ school.”
“Probably lesbians all over the place.”
Mani giggles, “Maybe, but most high school girls are all about boys.”
Cocktails delivered, they quietly toast ‘k uspekhu!’ (to success) regarding the recent acquisition of nearly seventy million.
Shelly, their waiter, asks, “Celebrating?”
Katja, “Da, we haf made good beezness in Houston, so we toast success.”
Shelly, “Congratulations, how is it pronounced?”
“Russian, I wish I spoke something besides New Orleans, a smattering of French just because of the restaurant, even though it’s supposed to be Italian. It’s really a fusion. In New Orleans, it’s hard to escape French influence.”
Ellen, “Food here is perfect, whatever the influence. It’s our favorite dinner spot, close runner up is Bon Ton, but we do lunch there primarily.”
Shelly, “That place just keeps hammering out the best traditional New Orleans seafood. The building was built in 1840 something, the restaurant is over a hundred years old, with one break until the Pierce family took it over in the fifties. It was the first Cajun influenced cooking in New Orleans. Up until then, New Orleans was Creole.”
Mani, “How many restaurants are a hundred years old?”
Shelly, “Not many, Antoine’s, Commanders Palace, Tujaque’s, are all older than Bon Ton, a hundred forty years or more.”
Shelly, “You entrees should be ready, back in sec.”
They share and swap, Tommy was right on, the soft shell is splendid, huge, fried to a turn, crispy and juicy.
Ellen is dragging a hunk of bread through dark zesty marsala sauce, “God I could live on this stuff. I’d make it at home, but it’s too good here.”
They finish off the Chianti, settle the tab and walk the few blocks home.
Ellen, “Anyone for a nightcap? It’s nice in the courtyard.”
Outside with a drink, everyone’s got vodka except Ellen, she’s got a glass of Elijah Craig on the rocks.
Ellen, “Guess I should appreciate a twenty one year old bourbon neat, but I like it cold and a little watered down.”
Katya, “We put bitters or olives in Russian Standard. Cocktail is to be enjoyed, not turned into religious experience.”
Ellen schedules three installations over three days. Two in bedrooms where they can serve as tables, the last goes in the rear corner of the living-dining room. She drapes it with a table cloth and sticks a vase on top.
What to do with so much cash? It’s much more difficult these days to hide it in the Caymans. That’s why Katya has shell corporations. More places to park cash in small increments. The girls are on safer ground because they aren’t using the Caymans accounts to avoid taxes. They pay taxes like anyone on business related income, but they can hardly report stolen drug money.
Ellen, “Okay, that’s done, Katya will juggle the money, Mani, you and I are going real estate shopping.”
She makes a series of appointments, while she’s doing that Mani texts Sarah.
“Hey Sarah. Want to come over Friday or Saturday?”
Couple of minutes later, “Sure, where are you?”
Mani texts the address, “You can spend the night, if you want.”
“Cool, got a customer, talk soon.”
The rest of their day is spent wandering property, Mani’s job is to make notes on her phone and take photos so they can discuss options with the twins. They’re back in time for tea at four thirty.
Ellen, “Kind of a tossup. Three places need work, two have been recently remodeled. I noted some FSBOs, might be better deals. I’m also looking for bank foreclosures.”
Katya, “Take your time, we do not need to buy anything quickly. Oh, for now, pay for everything in cash, groceries, dry cleaning, gas, everything. Mani, if you buy anything, pay cash as long as it is less than ten thousand. If you want your own car, then we will write a check. Everyone will make regular trips to banks to deposit a few thousand. Our own names, Sabelin, Katya Donut, shell companies. Twenty banks, two deposits a month to each. From there wire transfers to the brokerage account.”
That settled, Mani clears up, Ellen says, “Tonight, stuffed artichoke to begin, grilled flank, marchand de vin, roasted root vegetables. Leidenheimer’s French to soak up sauce. Hot fudge sundae for dessert.”
Katja, “Ellen always haf best dinner.”
Ellen grins, “Tomorrow I’m doing pork ribs and white beans, reminds me, got to get those suckers in the marinade.”
Mani, “Show me. Uh, Sarah’s coming Saturday, she’s off at four,” she giggles, “and sleeping over.”
Ellen, “You going to awaken her inner lesbian?’
Mani, “Her inner lesbian is wide awake, she’s just not out.”
“Don’t get her pregnant.”
“Unless you can get pregnant from a dildo, no problem.”
Katya, “They make some that carry sperm specimen, it goes into woman with hole in dildo. Still need specimen.”
Mani, “No sweat then. We don’t have or want a donor.”
Ellen, “I must be missing hormones, got no desire to get pregnant.”
Mani, “Haven’t had any kid issues enter my head either.”
“Well, you’re young, maybe later. If you want, you want.”
“If I do, I’ll adopt, I’d only want a girl, pregnancy sounds painful and messy.”
They take cocktails in the courtyard, under a tent of mosquito netting, New Orleans is tropical and insects are prodigious.
“Artichoke ees good Ellen, creamy, crunchy and garlic,” she slips a leaf through her teeth, follows with a sip of vodka.
Mani, “I’ve never had this.”
Ellen, “Pluck a leaf, pull it off the artichoke, then do what Katja did, slide it through your teeth, toss the leaf on the pile.”
“Ooohh, that is good, wow.”
A second round of drinks, then inside where Ellen has the table laid, slices of flank steak covered in dark marchand de vin, a gravy boat with extra sauce. Platter of roasted vegetables, spiced and a dash of dark soy and a squirt of Okonomi, sprinkled with grated Parmesan. Buttered French bread accompanies.
Mani, “If I die now, I die happy.”
“Better to have a go at Sarah first, then you can die.”
“I can hardly wait to get at lean runner legs, what a racehorse she is, and smooth as butter.”
Katja, “You are most sexy girl, always ready for fun.”
Mani smiles, “Ellen’s fault, she’s trained me, then you two, it’s like living in a candy store.”
Katja, “Ellen, what ees sweet taste een vegetables?”
“Okonomi sauce, a fruit based hint of sweet. I found it fishing around the web for ideas, it’s very popular in Japan. You can add it to almost anything, it will be great for chicken finger dip, or substituted for cherry preserves on turkey or chicken sandwiches, even fried fish.”
Katja, “We will try on all, ees good flavoring.”
Dinner winds down, Mani deals with dishes, fires up the CMA Dishmachine under counter model. The wash cycle is two minutes, and high temp rinse. It’s for dishes, platters, utensils. Ellen has a separate glass washer as well. They run quietly and quickly, and use very little water, things come out sparkly clean and sanitized.
Katja clicks the TV on, then the laptop. An HDMI cable connection plays Netflix on the TV. Hot fudge on vanilla bean ice cream sprinkled with almond slivers, they watch an episode of Hit & Miss, a one season wonder about a transsexual contract killer.
Katja, “She haf complicate life. Finds out her ex girlfriend ees dying but also haf a son. Better we do not haf complication.”
Ellen laughs, “Right you are, too much hide and seek, don’t tell this one I’m trans, everyone has to keep secrets. But it’s TV, that’s the kind of stuff they use to punch up dramatic action in between the physical action.”
Mani, “Transgender people have really messy lives. Except I saw a program on 20-20 about a trans girl named, um…Jazz. Her parents give her unconditional support, although dad had a rough patch at first. Anyway, the girl is lively and adorable. She’s gotten to be quite the spokesperson and I think she’s like twelve or something.”
Katya, “Like Lady Mary, did she complete transition?”
Ellen, “Twelve is too young, oh, duh, you mean Mary. I don’t know, we need to have breakfast at EnVie and find out.”
Katya, “Sisters are tired, time for sleep.”
Mani, “Me too, we have more places to look at tomorrow Ellen?”
“After breakfast we’ll drive around looking for FSBOs, might spot some with agents we want to see. We can check Craigslist too.”