Authors: Adam Gittlin
THE DEAL: ABOUT FACE
ALSO BY ADAM GITTLIN
The Men Downstairs
Copyright Â© 2014 by Adam Gittlin
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, and incidents either are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, businesses, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published in the United States by Oceanview Publishing,
Longboat Key, Florida
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PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I want to thank Pat and Bob Gussin, Frank Troncale, David Ivester, Susan Hayes, and everyone at Oceanview Publishing. I'm fortunate to be with such a fine house, a group that believes in, and backs, their authors to the fullest. Pat, you're an awesome editor and a key component in this latest Jonah Gray installment. God bless the technology at our fingertips, allowing us to work on a manuscript without me having to keep track of which corner of the globe you're visiting.
Mom and Dad, thanks as always for your support. Mom, your artistic sensibilities and the love of stories you passed to me are two of the reasons I'm once again writing an acknowledgments page. You're always one of my first readers, giving valuable insight as to what's working, and what needs to be better. Watching your dedication to your painting has shown me the kind of fortitude I need to put forth toward my writing. Dad, you're the reason I took such an interest in commercial real estate, thus why I have subsequently found this world such a fascinating thriller backdrop. You have been a constant champion of my writing since the beginning. You are my top commercial real estate resource for each Jonah Gray installment. I'm appreciative of, and hope you will continue to be, both.
Thanks to my sister Gail, Larry, T, and all those who remain part of my initial reading group. Your suggestions and criticism
always prove valuable. And a special thanks to JayâDr. Jason Auerbachâalso a member of my trusted reading group, one of my closest friends, and my medical go-to.
Thanks again to Gary Rosen, Howard Tenenbaum, and Andrea Soloway. My days working with you three, as well as so many others in the New York City commercial real estate community, remain a driving force behind Jonah Gray and these stories.
Dave, Annemarie, Richard, Pat, Matt, Amanda, Geralyn, Elliotâand, of course, all the little Plotkins. Some of Jonah's finest moments have come to life in your summer home. You all gave that to my readers.
A special thank you to Rachel Tarlow Gul, George Foster, and Ivan Roos. Your contributions to
The Deal: About Face
are both significant and appreciated.
Lastly, thank you to a certain girl with long, dark hair. You are beautiful and glowing inside and out, and throughout the process of writing this book were the muse who seemed to always show up at just the right time.
THE DEAL: ABOUT FACE
A hand from behind reaches over me and grabs my chin like a vice, pulling it back as far as it will go. I groan in agony. My eyes stare at the ceiling. A drop of filthy water hits me dead center on my forehead. Seconds later, my torturer's blue eyes meet mine from no more than two inches above.
Gereed om te spreken
Of jullie nog denken jullie wipen enigerlei handeling held?
What language is that? I think, his spittle spraying my skin. And why do I understand it? Given my restrained circumstances, my reflexes still function, and I attempt to shake my head. As I do, my assailant repeats himself. This time I hear it in English â¦
“You ready to speak? Or you still think you're some kind of action hero?”
â¦ As I recall why I now process everything I hear in two languages.
He gently traces my face with his fingertips, like a blind man seeing something for the first time.
“My God, Jonah. Look at you â¦”
My thoughts are distorted, but I recognize the voice. Andreu Zhamovsky, my dear half-brother. My head slowly bobs back up. Then, in an instant, bright, beautiful colors flash across my mind. There are jewelsâsplendid green emeralds, luscious red rubies.
There is gold, silver. Subconsciously or consciously, I can't be sure, I squint from their sheer brilliance. I look forward. I could swear
Danish Jubilee Egg
, the one of the eight missing FabergÃ© Imperial Easter Eggs I had been saddled with years earlier in New York City, is suspended in midair. I think of how I had kept itâa true, rare treasureâout of harm's way. I smile.
“I have something you want, Jonah. And we both know what you have to give me first to get it.”
My mouth fills with blood again. Instead of spitting it out, afraid of the ensuing pain from such force, I part my lips and gently push the deep red liquid down the front of me. Its warmth feels strangely comforting against my raw chin, my freezing chest.
“Why don't you uncuff me and face me like a man?” I ask.
In one swift motion a vodka-soaked rag is crammed into my mouth. The burning of my bleeding tongue and cheeks is off the charts. A clear plastic bag is pulled over my head. Trying to move is of no use. I simply can't. My heart is racing so fast I think it might explode. The unmistakable scratching sound of duct tape pulling away from its roll fills the room, though I can barely hear it. The plastic is thick. The noise seems distant. The tape is being wrapped around my neck, securing the bag to my skin. Moments later, breathing my own warm, recycled breath solely through my nose, the bag starts crumpling in and out. It won't be long until I'm dead.
He's got to be.
It's dusk. Sleepy light sneaking in around the edges of my bedroom window blinds tells me so. My eyes, wide and alert, stare at the ceiling. Without adjusting my line of vision, I reach my right hand out for the other side of the bed. I'm feeling for Perry's arm. Once I feel her soft skin, I'll go straight for the crease on the inside of her elbow, one of her more sensitive spots. A handful of twelve-hundred thread count Egyptian sheets are all I get. My head rolls right. No Perry. She's gone.
Walking through the all-white master suite, past our walk-in closets and his-and-her changing areas, I head to the bathroom. I drag my index finger tip up a sensor on the wall where a switch undoubtedly used to be. The light zips from dim to blazing. As it bounces between the white marble walls, I can't fight the sense of surprise, even after all these years, of what I see when I catch myself in the mirror. I see a man I don't recognize. I don't mean figuratively, I mean a man who literally looks nothing like the man who fled the United Statesâmore specifically, New York City, my homeânine years earlier. I still can't tell you what I used to look like. To do so would illustrate what I don't look like now. That alone tips the
odds in your favor. What I can tell you is the eyes staring back at me belong to the Jonah Gray I remember. Everything else belongs to Ivan Janse. Like always, a PowerPoint presentation of my life plays out in fast-forward across my brain like it's rolling across a six-story IMAX screen. Within seconds I look at my hands, my fingertips, remembering I no longer even have fingerprints. More on all this later. We'll get to it soon enough.
Deciding I'm not yet ready for reality, I turn the lights back off and get in the shower. With the turn of a nozzle, water falls from the wide overhead fixture like the heavens are opening up. I savor the warmth as the water coats my body. And can't help but ask myself if it is me who has life by the throat, or if it's the other way around.
Like most days, even for a few minutes, I'm thinking about the summer of 2004. That's when a childhood friend from Moscow named Andreu Zhamovsky came calling in New York City. I was a commercial real estate power broker on one of the most dominant teams in Manhattan. Andreu was the son of one of my father's “friends in high places” scattered around the globe. What happened over the course of three weeks that summer became the impetus for every second I have lived since. Those events, and more importantly the outcome of those events, are what consume me with every breath I take.
The bottom floor of my five-story canal house on Keizersgracht Straatâultra-contemporary and white aside from the brushed steel fixtures and artwork, same as the four stories aboveâis strategically lit for evening with a soft glow. Dressed in a solid navy Canali suit, white Armani button-down shirt open at the collar, and brown tie-up Ferragamos, I enter the kitchen. The room, like all rooms in our home, is state-of-the-art from the dÃ©cor to the appliances, though I had no hand whatsoever in the design. In fact, I didn't even purchase the home. It was given to me, something else we'll get to. A second before I open the refrigerator, I hear a distant jingle. It's the bell on Neo'sâlong since renamed Aldoâcollar. He's awoken from a nap on his favorite chaise in the living room. He realizes it's time for his dinner.
By the time he struts into the room, his short nails lightly clicking on the white, polished marble underfoot, I've moved the plate of grilled chicken our housekeeper Laura prepared for him from the fridge to the counter and uncovered it. Neo looks at me without breaking stride. His mouth is open a bit. The spots where his lips meet on both sides of his face have receded giving him an appearance of smiling. Not as spry as he once was and unable to leap into my arms, my favorite white long-haired Chihuahua stops at my feet and extends a paw up to me asking for a lift. As always, I happily oblige. But before putting him on the counter, I hold him up so we're nose to nose. Excited, he licks my face. Even in the white fur of his adorable face I can see graying wisps. Again, as is the case multiple times a day, I'm reminded of the time that has passed, how my life has changed. I reciprocate his kisses with kisses of my own to his nose and face and place him next to his plate for his feast. I uncork a bottle of Brunello and spend a few relaxing moments with my precious friend as he eats.
I'm about to cross the threshold between my home and the Amsterdam evening. Before I do, I grab my keys. The simple sterling silver key ring has six keys on it: two for this house, one for my office, and two for another residence on Herengracht, which we'll get to later. The sixth key, I've just acquired.
And it's not for a home or an office.
My eyes catch a silver-framed photo on the side table just to the left of the front door. It's of Perry, Max, and meânot the Perry, Max, and me that ran from New York City, but the new version of usâthree years ago on the beach in Mykonos. I touch my fingers to my lips, then to the photograph, and leave.
I head west on foot. It's a typical spring night in the Netherlands: drizzly, a bit windy, a touch chilly. Before arriving here, I'd never been to Amsterdam. All I'd heard about was the legal pot smoking and prostitution. I envisioned some tired, crumbling, dirty little European city with pubs and gas lamps lining the streets. Some borderline, irrelevant place stuck in an earlier century. Not the case.
This place is rich with history and wear, but it's also lively, forward thinking, and romantic, commerce driven, cosmopolitan, even a little spicy. I had no idea it was built on water much like Venice, only with streets as well as the four main half-moon canals that make up the heart of the city. Amsterdam is an inspiring, beautiful mixture of past and present.