“Do you know who Yuri Anatoly is?” Nicky asked Raven as she walked through the front door of their apartment.
The apartment wasn’t much and not in a good neighborhood but it was the best place they had lived in yet. It was small but then they didn’t need much.
Raven closed her eyes and groaned as she leaned wearily against the door. “Yeah, I know who he is, why?”
Nicky grinned at her. “Cuz he carries a lot of money around with him.”
Raven opened her eyes and glared at him. “You didn’t?” she snarled. “Tell me you didn’t lift his wallet?” Her brother had a bad habit of lifting people’s wallets when he got bored. A pattern left over from their rotten childhood where stealing was the only way they survived.
Nicky had the grace to look away for a moment then turned to her. “Yeah I did. What’s the big deal?”
Raven pushed away from the wall near the doorway and closed the portal. Coming over to where Nicky sat at the counter of the small kitchen she grabbed the wallet and snapped it shut. “Because you idiot, he’s the man who owns the hotel I work at. He not only signs my checks but he also is rumored to be head of the Russian Bratva here.”
Nicky paled. “I didn’t know,” he said softly. “I was coming to see you this morning and he looked like a good mark.”
Raven looked over at her brother and sighed. “You have to get it back to him.”
Nicky held up his hands and backed away from the counter. His stool tipped over and crashed on the floor. “No way. He’ll kill me if he catches me.”
Raven shook her head. “You can’t keep it.”
Nicky paled and stared at the wallet in her hands. “I don’t want it. I don’t want anything to do with it. I never would have taken it if I’d known who he was.”
Raven stepped forward and swept him into a hug. “I know, kiddo. But I told you before, we no longer have to steal to get by. I have a good job now and we don’t have to worry about Carlos anymore. He doesn’t know where we are and hasn’t for years.”
Nicky nodded as he stepped away from her embrace. “I know but I guess old habits die hard.” Running his fingers through his hair, he glared at the offending wallet and asked, “What are we gonna do about that?”
Raven closed her eyes for a moment. “I guess I’ll have to return it.” The wallet in her hands was of high quality and the baby soft leather felt nice. Looking down, she noted the soft chocolate color of the fine leather. It was stitched with black thread but the stitches were sewn, so you could see just a hint of the darker color. She opened the wallet and saw the credit cards lined up on one side. Flipping the insert, she could see another line of cards along with his driver’s license and other forms of ID. Her fingers wanted to take out his driver’s license and stare at his photo but Raven knew she couldn’t.
“I’m sorry,” Nicky whispered.
Raven smiled. All her life she’d been watching out for her little brother but since she loved him that didn’t matter. You just do whatever it takes to protect the ones you love. She resigned herself to her next task. She knew it would be her who returned the wallet. She had the skills and she knew what she needed to do.
She went to her bedroom and changed her clothes. Dressed in all black, she grabbed her backpack and walked back to the living room. Nicky was there waiting for her and she knew he had wiped the wallet clean of his prints and hers.
He handed her the wallet folded carefully into a soft cloth. “I’m sorry,” he repeated.
Raven smiled at him and brought her hand to cup his jaw. “I know. It’s just been a long day.”
“How are you going to get it back to him?”
“I’ll have to go to his penthouse and leave it on his dresser. There’s no way to give it back to him in person. I’m hoping he hasn’t noticed it missing yet and he’ll think he just forgot it.”
She figured her best chance would be to return the wallet to his penthouse apartment. Working at the hotel where it was, she knew where the cameras were located and the best possible routes to take to get where she needed to be. The first thing she did when they went somewhere new was to learn the layout of the cameras and such. Those lessons had been hard taught when they were kids.
“Be careful,” Nicky warned. “You haven’t done this in a while and you can’t get caught.”
Raven grinned. He had no idea. She didn’t tell him but she did this very thing just a few days ago. She’d kept her skills up in secret. She knew several ways to get to where she needed to be and hadn’t been caught yet, so she had no worries but that didn’t mean she was in anyway going to be sloppy. No, she knew Yuri’s security was top notch. They had to be, to protect the leader of the Bratva…they knew what they were doing.
When she and Nicky had come to New Orleans three years ago, she’d learned everything she could about the city and who actually ran it. She’d gotten a job at the hotel/restaurant in housekeeping and worked her way up to being a hostess in the restaurant.
To most women, it would have seemed like an ordinary job with little advantage but to Raven it was a top notch job, a place of responsible position. After what she’d done in the past, she felt good for the first time in a long time.
Making her way to the backside of the hotel/restaurant she pulled her hoodie up to cover as much of her face and hair as possible. Pulling on her gloves, she opened her pack and brought out her small crossbow. It was a slight, special made handheld unit with special bolts. The bolts were nothing more than grappling hooks. Loading the bolt that would feed a rope to the top of the building, she released it and watched as the bolt bit into the roof. Flexing the rope, she felt it tighten. Gathering her equipment and slinging her pack over her shoulder, she began walking up the outside wall. She scrambled up the wall quickly, pausing only briefly when she got up to the penthouse windows. Peeking inside, she noted there was no one home. The entire penthouse looked quiet and dark.
When she got to the roof, she wrapped the rope around her arms and left it in a neat pile for her return. Stepping over to the door leading inside, she pulled her lock picks out of her bag and knelt to work the lock. When the tumblers fell into place, the door popped free and she made her way inside.
Her feet didn’t make any sound as she made her way down to the penthouse floor. Peeking through the window, she didn’t see anyone in the hall. Careful of the cameras she opened the door and slipped into the hallway. Here she had to move carefully as the monitors were motion censored. The lighting was low and she didn’t want to trip the brighter lights.
When she got to the door of Yuri’s penthouse, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Carefully sliding into a crouch with her picks in her hands, she worked the locks on the door and soon slid inside the apartment. She could have used the key card in Yuri’s wallet to gain access but she didn’t want any record of her visit and she knew each time Yuri used the card, there was an electronic record.
She paused and closed her eyes as she adjusted to her environment. One of the lessons she’d learned from her time with Carlos was to sense danger and to feel what couldn’t be seen. This trait had saved her neck more than once. It had warned her in time to her to hide when someone came upon her.
Now, as she stood here and let her senses take over, she found herself alone. When she opened her eyes, she moved through the rooms carefully and slowly. The whole apartment looked pristine, Yuri liked his order. Raven smiled as she ran her fingers along the table top. Glancing at her gloved hand, she noted not one speck of dust marred the soft leather material.
The alarm went from solid red to a blinking red. On the third blink, a special alarm went off in the security room and the door locked behind the interloper.
Down in the hotel’s security room everyone saw this and three men scrambled. One got on the phone while the other two sat at monitors searching for the breach. One of the men located the blinking red light and when he announced where it was located, all three men gasped. A moment later, another man walked through the door, followed closely by yet another man.
Yuri bent over the back of Dimitri’s chair and closely scanned his monitor. “What have you discovered?” he asked the others.
Dimitri swallowed hard. He knew Yuri wasn’t going to be pleased. “It’s a new monitor we installed just last week.”
Yuri’s hand tightened as he gripped the back of the chair. “The one above my door?” he asked softly.
“Activate the monitors inside the penthouse.” Yuri ordered. When the system came up and asked for a password Yuri leaned forward and typed in his private password. The system wasn’t allowed to activate unless the password was typed in. For his own privacy, Yuri had it set up this way. He didn’t need eyes on him inside his own home all the time.
When the password was accepted, Yuri watched the cameras come alive inside his apartment. Each camera was situated to view the whole room but there was one camera that spanned the entire room whenever someone moved.
Each camera was silent as they scanned the entire apartment. There was no sign of anyone. But if no one was there, why had the security system alerted them? Each of the five men searched the cameras carefully. This hadn’t been the first time someone had entered the penthouse without authorization. More like the fifth time. Each time nothing had been taken or disturbed but someone had been there. Articles of clothing were in different areas and his things had been moved slightly. The cleaning supplies had been shifted and one of his shirts was missing. It had been enough that Yuri ordered the extra alarms installed. He hoped to find out just who was entering his living area and why.
Gregor saw something from the corner of his eye shift and as he turned his head so did Yuri. They both caught the shadows shifting. All eyes turned to watch as the shadow lengthened but Yuri growled when nothing was clear enough to be seen. They could see someone enter the bedroom area and move to the dresser but the object wasn’t clear enough to make out what it was or who it was.
Yuri straightened his stance and glared at his security team. “Watch those cameras. Kosta and I are going to the penthouse to find this shadow and discover who it is.” He turned and stomped from the room, running to the elevators.
Kosta was only a step behind him and the time waiting to reach the top floor seemed to pass slowly. Moments later, they approached the door to the penthouse. Yuri typed in a special code that would release the barred door. Opening it carefully, he noted the alarm blinking green. As soon as he closed the door, he typed another code into the security pad that would lock the door again.
He motioned Kosta to the left and he took the right side of the apartment. Moving carefully and quietly, he went from room to room searching for anything that didn’t belong. As he moved toward the bedroom, he saw nothing out of place. Pausing a moment he waited until Kosta joined him then they both entered the bedroom at the same time. Just inside the door, Yuri paused and searched the room. In the darkness, he could see nothing out of place.
Reaching over, he snapped on the light and as the brightness flooded the room Yuri slowly scanned the area but again, found nothing out of place. “Grrr...” He growled. Turning to Kosta he asked, “What are we missing?”
“Everyone saw the shadow,” Kosta admitted.
“Then why can’t we find anyone here?” Yuri demanded. “Ghosts do not move shadows.”
Kosta went over to the bed and checked under it but hadn’t found anything.
Yuri went over to the closet and opened the door, he only found his clothes.
Kosta checked the bathroom but again, found nothing.
Yuri passed the dresser and his eye caught sight of his wallet laying on the surface. Frowning, he picked up the handcrafted leather billfold. Opening it, he frowned. His hand went to his back pocket where the wallet was usually is kept. When he discovered his pocket was empty Yuri’s frown deepened. He glanced over at Kosta and shook his head. Taking out his handkerchief, he carefully wrapped the wallet inside and slipped it into his pocket.
Motioning for Kosta to go ahead of him, Yuri glanced one more time around the room before he walked out. Moments later Yuri closed the door behind him and reset the alarm. Now only his master keycard would open the door. He didn’t say a word as he and Kosta made their way back to the hotel’s security room.
Raven waited another fifteen minutes before she unfolded her small body and came out of hiding. When she heard the ping of the elevator, she quickly moved into her hiding place. The air shaft vent was located low on the wall inside the bedroom. The cover held in place by four small screws easily removed by the small screwdriver she carried in her backpack. She barely had time to get inside before Yuri and Kosta were inside the room. She’d hardly dared to breathe when the two men were inside searching the room. Her fingers locked in place as she’d held the cover to the shaft in place.
Carefully leaning the cover against the wall, she now crawled out of the vent and slowly stood. Lucky for her she was flexible enough to still get into small places. At only five feet tall, she was small enough to go unnoticed by most. Replacing the screws, she moved to the kitchen area.
Knowing she must to get out of the apartment, she didn’t go to the front door. Instead, she moved to the service elevator or the dumbwaiter system. Crawling inside, she opened the top panel and shimmied through the roof. Coming out on the top, she closed the metal plate and began climbing up the shaft. The top of the penthouse was only a crawl space width but Raven maneuvered herself into the space and wiggled into position. Flipping herself over, she crawled over to the vent and opened it to let herself out onto the roof.
Closing the vent again, she moved over to where she gained access. Finding her rope coiled and waiting for her, she attached it to her belt and began letting herself over the edge on the building and down the outside. Keeping a lookout below, she let herself down to the street.
Quickly and quietly, she detached the rope then flicking her wrist, a ripple snapped the rope free. When the hook hit the sidewalk she quickly coiled the length, shoved it into her pack and walked away, melding into the shadows of the night.