The Buffalo Job: A Wilson Mystery

The Buffalo Job: A Wilson Mystery

by Mike Knowles

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Wilson should have just walked away when three men came looking for a way to boost a valuable piece of art. But the heist was more than just a job for Wilson; it was a chance to get off the sidelines and back in the game.

The art came off the wall, the alarm screamed thief, and Wilson walked away clean. But it turned out that job was an interview for an even


Wilson should have just walked away when three men came looking for a way to boost a valuable piece of art. But the heist was more than just a job for Wilson; it was a chance to get off the sidelines and back in the game.

The art came off the wall, the alarm screamed thief, and Wilson walked away clean. But it turned out that job was an interview for an even bigger heist. A dangerous man wants Wilson to get him something more valuable than a painting. Problem is Wilson only has a week.

Wilson and his crew crosses the border to Buffalo to steal a 200-year-old violin. Four men cross, but four don’t come back. A lot of people are interested in getting their hands on the instrument and none of them are shy about killing to get it.

The job starts like a bad joke — a thief, a conman, a wheel man, and a gangster get in line to cross the border — but the Buffalo job doesn’t end with a punch-line. It ends with blood.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mob-enforcer turned freelance fixer Wilson returns for his fifth brutal adventure. Bored as a mere planner, Wilson agrees to steal a painting from the Art Gallery of Ontario. Success is its own punishment; Wilson's ability to plan and carry out the theft on little notice convinces Albanian crime lord Pyrros Vogli that Wilson is the man to assign the task of stealing a 288-year old Stradivarius violin during a very narrow window of opportunity and nobody says no to Pyrros. Wilson and his team—conman Miles, driver Carl and Pyrros' nephew Ilir—head across the border where they discover that not only is there a second gang working to steal the violin, there are angles to the job of which even Pyrros has no inkling. Four men go to Buffalo; not all of them will be coming home. In a world where cunning and planning can run aground on the shoals of avarice and betrayal, Wilson is a survivor because he has shed any delusions of decency that might make him hesitate at a crucial moment. Merciless but honest about being monstrous, Wilson is worthy to stand next to Loren Estleman's Peter Macklin and Donald Westlake's Parker. (June)
From the Publisher

"This is a very good entry in a very good series." — Booklist

"I must ask once more why Mike Knowles is not a bigger star. His lead character, the professional thief Wilson, is clearly in the vein of Richard Stark’s Parker but very much his own man and criminal, a little more reluctant and a little more pissed off when the proverbial crap hits the fan. The extra bonus of The Buffalo Job (ECW Press) is that the Stradivarius heist echos a real-life case from months earlier while being smarter, funnier, and more violent." — National Post

"I must ask once more why Mike Knowles is not a bigger star. His lead character, the professional thief Wilson, is clearly in the vein of Richard Stark’s Parker but very much his own man and criminal, a little more reluctant and a little more pissed off when the proverbial crap hits the fan. The extra bonus of The Buffalo Job (ECW Press) is that the Stradivarius heist echos a real-life case from months earlier while being smarter, funnier, and more violent." — National Post

Library Journal
In this sequel to Never Play Another Man's Game Toronto master thief Wilson is recruited by Ilir, a neophyte, bumbling Albanian "gangster," to steal a valuable painting. Wilson's quick success leads to another job from Ilir's uncle, Vogli, the boss of Toronto's Albanian mob: steal a Stradivarius from a Buffalo, NY, concert hall. As part of the $800,000 deal in which Wilson gets half up front and half on delivery, he must include Ilir in his team as Vogli's eyes and ears. Wilson recruits two additional men and the quartet travel to Buffalo to scout the venue and concoct the plan. What they do not realize is the Buffalo contingent of the Albanian mob also has the same idea. Things turn sour, but Wilson, the brains of the operation, seems to have answers for every situation—up to a point. VERDICT Despite the Elmore Leonard/Donald Westlake plot, Knowles lacks those authors' verbal talents. Ploddingly paced, the book's writing is also clunky, especially in the overuse of similes. Wilson and his cohorts resemble the Keystone Kops more than professional thieves, and readers won't bond with any of them. Also the original art theft is too simplistic and the subsequent crime too convoluted. Purchase only if other books in this series circulate well.—Edward Goldberg, Syosset P.L., NY

Product Details

ECW Press
Publication date:
A Wilson Mystery Series , #5
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)
760L (what's this?)

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Read an Excerpt

The Buffalo Job

By Mike Knowles


Copyright © 2014 Mike Knowles
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-77041-171-5


The train left Union Station half full. It was early in the afternoon, two o'clock, and the lunch had left behind trash on the floor and stains on the seats. I was sitting in the rear corner of the car holding a day-old free copy of a Toronto daily newspaper in front of me. I looked over the paper with a practised false absorption. My eye movements were calculated and resembled reading when they were anything but. My toe tapped along to a beat that should have been coming into my brain from the earbuds I was wearing, but there was no sound coming from the iPhone in my pocket. The three I was shadowing were in the car ahead of me, separated by seventy-five feet and numerous layers of metal and glass. I had told them where and when to board and to sit together; so far, they had done as they were told. The men were going to run a security route so that I could look them over to make sure they were who they said they were and so that I could make sure that there was no one planning to crash the party. I had run afoul of a number of people over the past few years, bad enough men to force me to relocate to Toronto, and I wasn't looking to catch up.

The train lurched away from the station and I watched the men from the corner of my eye. They looked around at the other commuters on their car and tried to make eye contact with a few of the men who were sitting alone. No one returned their stares; several people got up and changed seats. One of the three men, a mid-twenties white kid with red hair and matching sparse stubble, checked the car I was riding in through the grimy window, but no one on the car gave him any reason to think he, or his friends, were being watched. I gave the trio a few minutes to get tired of looking around before I lifted my eyes from my paper and gave them a glance. When I looked down at the paper again, I tilted my head so that no one would notice that my eyes were closed. In my mind, I was recreating the scene I had taken in. The redhead was wearing a light-weight North Face jacket with a fur-trimmed hood. The man to his left wore a leather motorcycle jacket. The jacket was black and smooth enough to be less than a month old. I didn't see any patches sewn on, and the smooth baby face above the collar made the kid look more like a lesbian than a biker. He styled his hair with some kind of product that made it stand up high on his head like the plumage of an exotic bird. The third man had darker skin, not the even tone of an Italian or Greek, but something more washed out. His stubble went high up on his face and I guessed that he was the kind of guy who would have to shave at night before he went out if he wanted to look presentable. All three were under thirty, but only one of them held himself with the immaturity of a twenty-something. The redhead was nervous; the other two had the composure of men who had previously been checked out before a meeting. I went over each detail I could remember again to be sure, but the results were the same — I had never seen these three before.

The trio got off the train and stood on the platform waiting, as instructed, for another train. I kept my seat and watched the action outside the car. No one who got off with them waited around. I gave the faces on the platform equal attention and committed those who matched the age and appearance of the three men to memory. Half an hour later we were back on the same train again. I was already on board and I watched the three men get onto the train. None of the faces I had seen on the platform were hanging around. I watched the three men for two stops before getting my phone out of my pocket. I typed a short message and waited until the subway car briefly surfaced for air just after leaving Dundas West station to hit send. The short time above ground was long enough for my message to ricochet off some unseen satellite above the earth and fall back to a cell phone less than fifty feet away from me. I saw the man with the stubble react to his phone with a slight flinch before pulling it out. He read the text and then held his phone out so that the other two men could read it. The redhead took the cancellation of the meeting the hardest. I could read his lips, but the expletive he blurted out could have just as easily been decoded by the reaction of the civilians sitting around him. The three got off the train at the next stop; I did the same.

The train had let us off at Jane Street and I moved across the platform to the stairs while the three men that I had been watching spent a few seconds orienting themselves using a posted subway map. What they weren't doing was using their phones. If they had anyone shadowing them, they would have been placing a call by now. They weren't cops, and they weren't working for anyone who was trying to kill me. I had already typed in the next text when the train was pulling to a stop. I unlocked the phone and hit send as I started ascending the stairs to the street.

The air got colder as I got closer to street level. A massive thunderstorm a day earlier had taken the August heat with it and left only clouds and fifteen degrees for everyone else. After days of sunny thirty-degree temperatures, the sudden fluctuation felt aggressive rather than welcome. A brisk wind groped down the stairwell as the last few feet loomed ahead and I felt a chill work its way down my exposed neck. When I touched the sidewalk, I hooked left and began threading my way through the light midday foot traffic. I took advantage of an opening created by a bus stopping to cross to the other side of Jane Street. I took a spot at a bus stop and nestled into the herd. From my new vantage point, I could see the three men emerge from the subway. The same cold wind bit into the men and they fiddled with zippers as they looked left and right. The small huddle obstructed the exit and I watched several dirty looks fly from the busy men and women forcing their way around the men and onto the sidewalk. The one with the high stubble pointed in the direction I had just taken and his two partners followed him away from the stairs. No one was on a phone and no one was following in their wake — no one except for me.

I used my phone one more time before making my way back across the street. I matched the pace of the trio and followed twenty feet behind until the three men halted in front of a coffee shop with a closed sign posted in the window. The sudden pause in forward momentum shrank their lead from twenty to ten before the door to the coffee shop opened and a man in an apron that was now more beige than white ushered them inside. He was closing the door when he made eye contact with me; he gave the door a little shove and I shouldered it the rest of the way open. I stepped into the coffee shop a few steps behind the men I had been following.

The man in the apron quickly weaved through the bodies in his cramped establishment and stepped into the back room. The guy had run a coffee shop that was barely making ends meet for him before the Starbucks on the corner was erected. Now, with the caffeine juggernaut pumping out foaming lattes and other trendy drinks with the speed and efficiency of a middleweight boxer, he was going under. The offer of a couple hundred for the use of his front room during what would have been his now regularly scheduled afternoon lull was too good to pass up. He was so desperate for the cash that he didn't even question what I was going to be doing in his place. I'd given him some story about being a lawyer who had to do a deposition with a client who was planning to divorce his wife. She had put a private investigator on his heels and he had to meet in private places so that she wouldn't know what he was up to. The coffee shop owner accepted the story along with half of the cash; he would get the other half only if he stayed in back until I told him different.

I dressed the part. No one would ever take me for a high-priced lawyer, but the grey suit and trench coat I was wearing gave me enough of a professional look to pass for what I claimed to be. The only thing that gave away the deception was the revolver that I had pulled from inside the suit coat.

"Let's start with jackets and cell phones," I said. "If you have guns, they can go on the table with everything else."

The ginger was already on edge; seeing the gun gave him a hard shove that almost pushed him over it. "Whoa, man. Take it easy. We're on the same side here. We're the ones who called you."

The one with the stubble was already shrugging off the bomber jacket he was wearing. "Take it easy, Ray."

The jacket went on the table; the man's cell went next.

"Turn the phone off," I said.

Stubble dragged his phone off the tabletop and held down the power button until I saw the screen change. He turned the phone so that I could see that it was shutting down. After I nodded, he put the cell back with his coat.

The one with the styled hair took longer to get the form-fitting leather jacket off of his shoulders. The jacket was for fashion, not function. He put the coat down on top of his friends' and then bent and pulled a smartphone from the pocket. He fiddled with the phone and then turned the screen in my direction so that I could see it was powering down.

The redhead was still in his coat. He hadn't made a move to take it off, or to put his cell on the table. I could have used the gun to make him, but I had no interest in that. If he had trouble with the idea of taking off his jacket, I would just leave — no harm, no foul. If I got the sense that he was stalling me, or working an angle, there would be plenty of both.

The redhead looked at the gun, and then at the looks on the faces of his friends. It was the expressions they wore that did it. Finally, the ginger did as he was told. The redhead shrugged the hooded jacket off his shoulders and draped it over the pile of coats like a magician preparing a trick. The phone came next; he had a smartphone like his friends, but unlike the phone that had just come from the pocket of his partner's tight leather jacket, his was already off.

No one had put any iron on the table. "Guns," I said.

"We were told not to bring 'em," the one with the stubble said.

"Lift your shirts," I said.

"Why?" asked the redhead.

"Sometimes people are forgetful."

Each man pulled up his shirt and spun around. There was nothing on any of the men's lower backs but hair.

"Ankles," I said.

The one with the stubble laughed. "Ankles? What the hell do you think this is, a spy movie? You want to see if my watch is really a watch?"

I lifted the revolver in response.

Stubble sighed and bent to expose his shins; the other two followed suit. I gestured to a table far away from the jackets and phones and the three men went towards it without argument. When they were seated, I put the gun away. The pistol fit snugly into the holster under the jacket; I'd had a tailor alter the suit so that I could conceal a weapon without ruining its lines. I took a chair from a neighbouring table and turned it so that it gave me a clean line of sight on both entrances and the table next to me.

"We done jumping through hoops?" The one with the stubble was the most chatty — that made him the alpha.

I nodded after taking my seat.

"He said you would be a pain in the ass, but this — come on, man. This is not how you do business."

"Really?" I said. "How long have you been in business?"

The twenty-something smiled like he was laying down a flush. "Since before I could drive."

"And how many times you reach out for a fixer?"

The smile turned into teeth grinding. "This is the first time," he said through his clamped jaw.

"Money," I said.

Stubble got out of the chair and was about to take a step when he caught my eye. "The money is in my coat."

I nodded.

He crossed the room and pulled an envelope from an inner pocket of his jacket. I watched him closely, making sure that nothing else but money came out in his hand. He walked the envelope back and put it on my table as he passed. When he sat back down, he gestured to the envelope with his chin. "You going to count it?"

"Do I need to?"

"All five is there."

I nodded and left the envelope where it was. "Tell me about the job."

"We need you to steal a painting."


"We had everything planned out. We knew the camera hot spots, the guard rotation, the tour group times, everything. The only thing that we missed was —"

"The wire was a heavier gauge than you thought it would be," I said.

Stubble, whose name was really Ilir, looked at me in surprise for a second. "Yeah," he confirmed. "It was."

"I'm guessing you thought you could get it off the wall with something hand- held."

"We bought wire cutters special for the job," Ray said.

"That how they got you?"

The three men were quiet. I could tell that they were wondering if they had walked into some kind of sting.

"I was holding the painting out so Ray could get at the wire. Dante was on lookout. Next thing you know, some guard is rushing at us. He shouldn't have been there. There wasn't supposed to be anyone in that part of the gallery for another five minutes at least. He's coming at us and he already has his radio out. So Dante grabs onto him and they go down. They're rolling around on the floor, right, and everyone is starting to pay attention. People have phones out and if they ain't calling for help, they're taking pictures. I drop the painting and we go over to get Dante and get out, but the guard — he's on Dante like a fucking dog. He just won't let him go. I start hitting him to get his hands off Dante when Ray joins in."

Ilir looks at Ray, who is giving the table a blank stare. "I hit him with the wire cutters. I didn't realize they were upside down. I swear I didn't, guys. I didn't know."

"We know, Ray, we know. The wire cutters hurt the guy pretty bad."

"Hurt, or dead?" I asked.

"Hurt. The tip went through the skull and into his brain —"

"Oh, Jesus," Ray said.

Ilir looked at Ray and gave his shoulder a hard grip. "Easy, Ray, we got this. The guy is in a coma, but he isn't dead. We got the hell out of there, but in the car Ray realizes that he can't find the wire cutters. He dropped them somewhere on the way out."

"Everything was just happening so fast. I had no idea I dropped them."

Ilir cut Ray off. "Ray picked up the cutters the day before. He used his credit card to buy them. I guess some detective thought they looked new and did some checking. Ray got a call two days after the job went bad."

"Why try to go after the painting again?" I asked, even though I had an idea what the answer was going to be.

"I got a lawyer," Ilir said. "A good one."

"He's Jewish," Dante said.

"Mazel tov," I said.

"Fineberg figures if someone takes a second run at the painting and gets away with it, he can argue that there is a reasonable doubt that Ray wasn't using the snips he bought to try and steal the painting. It would just be a coincidence."

"'Cause what kind of idiot leaves behind a bloody weapon he bought with his own credit card a day before the job," I said.

Ray put his head in his hands.

"Exactly," Ilir said.

"There's a simpler way to handle this," I said.

All three men smiled and leaned in towards me. The look of relief on Ray's face looked almost orgasmic. It was premature.

"Kill Ray."


Ray jumped back from the table with his arms out. "What?"

"No fucking way, man," Ilir said.

"Nuh unh," Dante confirmed.

"Look at him," I said. "The kid was a nervous ball of energy on the subway. You really think he won't turn on you the second things get a little rough during the interrogation?"

"I'm no rat, Ilir. I'm not. I swear to God. You know you can trust me, man. You can." Ray's reaction told me that I wasn't the only one who had thought of this option.

"I know, Ray. I know. Sit down."

Ray slowly got back into his chair and pulled it back towards the table.

"You kill him and it doesn't matter if he bought the wire cutters for the job or not. No one will ever know who he was working with because I'm guessing if you're smart enough to get a meeting with someone like me, you're smart enough to not have left any other evidence behind."

Ilir looked at me and shook his head. "I grew up with Ray. I am not going to kill him. It's not an option."

"Then the lawyer's play is the smart one. Someone other than you walking off with the painting will weaken the case against you. If your lawyer is any good, he'll be able to use it to your advantage."


Excerpted from The Buffalo Job by Mike Knowles. Copyright © 2014 Mike Knowles. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mike Knowles lives in Hamilton, Ontario. The books in the Wilson Mystery series include Darwin’s Nightmare, Grinder, In Plain Sight, and Never Play Another Man’s Game.

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