Stealing a Faberge egg. Surviving a double cross. And pulling off the most incredible robbery ever, for the world’s most demanding—and dangerous collector.
This will be the challenge of thief extraordinaire Riley Wolfe’s life.
Fool Me Twice opens in St. Petersburg, where Riley steals the egg—no easy task. Betrayed by the pilot he hired to help him get away, he wakes chained to a rock wall on one of the Kerguelen Islands—the most remote spot on earth—prisoner of a top-dog international arms dealer, and a top-notch art collector. He wants Riley to steal an artwork. Small problemit’s a fresco, “The Liberation of St. Peter.” Slightly larger problemit’s in the Vatican.
And, it's a literal wall.
Riley has no choice: agree or die. But when his captor turns him loose, he's grabbed by another arms dealer looking to do a double cross. Worse, he gives Riley a special incentive: a surveillance photograph of Monique, the love of his life, and more important, the art forger he can't pull off any heist without. The threat is clear. Riley knows they both have only one way out.
With wicked dialogue, tons of explosive twists, and cinema-worthy scenes, Jeff Lindsay’s Fool Me Twice is another wildly entertaining caper starring the anti-hero you’ll root for, Riley Wolfe.
About the Author
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Arkady Kuznetsov was tired. It had been a long day on the job, a day with extra strain beyond the usual annoyance of dealing with tourists. He didn't like tourists. But he had learned to put up with them. He had to. Thousands of them came to St. Petersburg to see the art treasures here at the Hermitage Museum. None of them spoke Russian, of course. Most of them just spoke their own language louder, as if shouting would make foreign words turn themselves into Russian. Arkady was polite to all of them, no matter how loud and stupid. It was part of his job. But a busy day left him very tired.
Not often as tired as he was right now. There had of course been the usual tourists. It was summer, the season when they came here in great flocks from all over the world. But today there was even more to deal with than annoying foreign visitors. Today there had been a "credible threat"-that's what his supervisor called it-that someone would try to steal one of the paintings Arkady and his colleagues spent their days guarding. Someone would try to steal a Van Gogh called Ladies of Arles. Arkady could not imagine why. He didn't like that painting. To him it looked smeared. He preferred a picture to look like a picture. It should look like what it was, not all scrambled like this one. But that didn't matter. The important thing was that somebody meant to take it-take it from the Hermitage, while he was watching it! As a matter of national and professional pride, Arkady would not let that happen.
So he answered the usual shouted and pantomimed questions as he stood at the door to Room 413, General Staff Building. And on top of that, he had added an extra layer of vigilance. It was a skill he had acquired in his twenty years in the Army, a very high percentage of it spent on guard duty. He had never been strong or smart or skillful enough for anything but regular infantry, and it had taken him fifteen years to rise to the rank of corporal. But he knew how to stand a watch and stay alert. And when he had retired six years ago, his service had been just the right ticket to land him this comfortable job, security guard at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
But Arkady was feeling his years, and to be honest, he had put on a few pounds since leaving the Army. His back hurt, and his feet were killing him. The flow of ordinary tourists had not slowed down at all. If anything, there were more of the annoying kind today than usual.
Like this one now, the fat Frenchman, standing in his face and lecturing. He had approached Arkady in a reasonable way. The man smelled of garlic and stale wine. His appearance was messy, too. He wore a rumpled off-white suit, which did not hide the bulge of his belly. And it accented the man's shaggy gray hair and disordered beard. Still, for a Frenchman, he had been polite at first, pointing to himself and loudly mouthing his name, HervŽ Thierry. That was all Arkady understood. Arkady spoke no more than a dozen words of French. But he made the mistake of answering, "Plaisir," which he thought was the right thing to say. Mr. Thierry took this as a sign and had immediately asked a series of questions in rapid French.
Arkady could not stop the flow and Mr. Thierry became more heated when no answers came. His voice got louder, and his fat, sweaty face got sweatier and redder, and that did not increase Arkady's understanding of the man's pointed speech at all-which of course increased Mr. Thierry's frustration. He seemed to grow larger and redder all the time. He began to gesture at the paintings, and the word "France" came with frequency. Arkady figured that it had become a matter of national interest for Mr. Thierry. Probably because most of the paintings here were by French artists or had been taken from collectors who had taken them from France.
Finally, just when Arkady had started to think he would have to encourage the Frenchman to move along, Mr. Thierry raised an index finger in Arkady's face, as if to scold him. For a moment, Arkady thought he saw a puff of smoke.
When they woke him much later, that was all Arkady remembered.
Ludmila Ukhtomsky was hungover. This was not truly an unusual condition for her, nor for many in her social circle. Normally a few cups of tea would set her right. Not today. She was halfway through her eighth cup of strong black tea for the day, and her head still ached. The rhythmic pounding in her skull still thumped in tandem with her heartbeat, and she had not yet decided if she wanted to live another day.
And then the alarm began to ring.
For a moment Ludmila thought it was another symptom of her hangover. She clutched at her temples, willing the sound to go away. But it didn't, and then the call came from the security station. A guard was on the floor, unresponsive, either unconscious or dead. That did not matter to Ludmila. What mattered was the location-Room 413. As an assistant curator, she was of course aware that a threat had been made to one of the paintings in that room. She swallowed her rising bile, put her tea on the desk, and hurried out of her office.
When she got to Room 413, the alarm was still ringing, an unreasonably loud and discordant sound. Ludmila pushed through the crowd of gawkers in the doorway and peered anxiously into the room. She was relieved to see that the Van Gogh was still on the wall where it belonged. A ring of guards spread across the room, watching doors and windows. Ludmila turned her attention to the men at the doorway standing above the body of the fallen guard. One of them was Security Chief Loskutnikhov.
"He appears to be merely unconscious," the chief told her, nodding at the man on the floor.
"Unconscious? In what sense of the word?" she asked. She was aware that her words were phrased oddly, but the alarm made thought nearly impossible.
At least her meaning seemed clear to Chief Loskutnikhov. He shrugged and said, "It is my guess that he was drugged."
"But the painting is untouched?"
"It appears to be," Loskutnikhov said. "Certainly it is still in its place and has suffered no apparent harm."
"Then can it- Why is- Damn it, Chief, can we not turn off the chertovskiy alarm?"
Loskutnikhov raised an eyebrow fractionally. He seemed amused at her irritation, as if he knew she was hungover and he himself was above such things. "Of course," he said. He removed the radio from his belt and spoke into it. "This is Loskutnikhov. Turn off the alarm for Room 413." There was a pause, and then a reply crackled from the radio. Ludmila couldn't hear the words, and the chief seemed uncertain, too. "Say again?" he demanded. The reply came again.
The chief frowned but didn't speak. Then he looked at Ludmila. "They say the alarm is off," he said.
"But it isn't off-I can still hear it!" Ludmila said.
"Yes," Loskutnikhov said. "But not for this room."
It did not take long to trace the second alarm. The signal was coming from just below them, in Room 302. When Ludmila and Chief Loskutnikhov arrived, two security guards already stood in the doorway, holding back the curious tourists. One of the guards stepped forward. "Chief," he said. He motioned at a dark-haired young woman, who stepped up beside him. "This is Anna Sokolov. A tour guide."
Chief Loskutnikhov raised an eyebrow. "Fascinating. Is there more?"
Flustered, the guard cleared his throat. "Yes, of course. Anna is a witness."
"Ah," Loskutnikhov said. "And what exactly did you witness, miss?"
"I was bringing my group in," she said. "I stopped in the doorway-to introduce the exhibits in this room? And I heard a crash?"
Loskutnikhov nodded encouragingly. "And then?" he said.
"I look in. And there is a man-he has broken open the window. And he leaps out the window!"
Loskutnikhov frowned. "Surely he has a rope in hand? Or does he simply fall to his death?"
"No, not at all-he goes up!" she said.
"Up," Loskutnikhov said. "You are certain?"
"I saw his feet disappear-at the top of the window. And then he was gone," Anna said. "Gone up."
"Thank you, miss," Loskutnikhov said. He stepped around her and into Room 302, toward the window, where a drape was blowing in the breeze. He could smell the salt air-the Neva River, flowing to the nearby Baltic, was very close, just across the square and on the other side of the Winter Palace.
"Chief!" Ludmila called. "I need to see if anything is missing or damaged."
"Yes, of course," the chief said, and Ludmila scurried past him and into the room.
Chief Loskutnikhov followed in her wake. But halfway to the now-open window he paused. A pile of rumpled clothing lay scattered on the floor. It was a dingy, off-white color but seemed to be of decent make. "What is this?" Loskutnikhov said over his shoulder.
One of the guards hurried to his side. "It is a suit, Chief," he said. "It was here when we arrived-we have not touched it."
"Hmp," Loskutnikhov muttered. He nudged the clothing with his foot, revealing some kind of padding buried in the heap, the kind an actor might wear to look fatter. The surveillance cameras would reveal how it had come to be there, but he was quite sure what it meant. "A disguise," he said. He shook his head and continued on to the window.
There was nothing to see there. Large shards of glass littered the floor below it, but the window frame itself was free of them. Someone could easily have made an exit here, without risk of a cut from the broken glass. But then what? Loskutnikhov stuck his head out. He looked down. No broken body lay beneath the window. Only the usual colorful summer crowd moving across the Palace Square.
He looked up. There was nothing to see there, either. There were no hanging ropes, no sign of anything that might aid someone climbing to the roof. If the man had truly gone up, as the tour guide claimed, he had to be part spider.
"Chief!" Ludmila called from inside the room. He turned and saw her standing beside an empty display case, a look of shock on her face. "It is gone," she said. "The Rothschild FabergŽ Egg is gone."
I don't get political. I've got enough problems, and honestly? Politics is just too dirty, mean, and corrupt. Give me nice, clean thievery with an occasional hit on some overprivileged asshole who gets in my way. It's a whole lot more honest, even the hit. Which is mostly on the kind of asshat who thinks a pile of inherited money makes him immune to the shit the rest of us have to slog through every day. I admit it, I like showing them just how wrong they are. And that's me, anyhow-Riley Hood. Steal from the rotten rich and give to the formerly poor, meaning Me. Politics doesn't fit in that picture, and so it doesn't matter.
But every now and then something breaks through my wall of I-don't-give-a-shit and gets my attention. Like recently; I usually don't watch the news, but when the level of public hysteria starts to hit all the high notes for a long enough time so it's all anybody is talking about, I figure I better tune in. It could mean money-losing it-if I don't know what's up, or making some if I can figure an angle.
So when the noise on something specific hits a certain level of manic frenzy, I pay attention. I mean, I walk into a bakery and hear the same shit I heard at the hardware store. I go to the cleaner's and they're talking the same smack I heard at the barber's. If every jukebox is playing the same song everywhere I go, I have to figure it's a number one hit and I need to learn the words.
And that's what had happened for the past six months. Everywhere I went, same angry crap. Everybody talking, arguing, even fighting about the same thing.
So I paid attention, I did a little research, and let's just say I was pissed off at Russia right now. If you know me at all, you know I'm a firm believer in the old saying-I think it's from Shakespeare? Maybe the Bible? It's the one that says, "Don't get mad. Get even."
Since I was bored anyway, I went to St. Petersburg, and I got even. With an absolute eye-knocker of an old Russian bauble. They were proud of it, too-like on the national-treasure level-which made it even more ideal. And to be honest, a lot more fun. Po'shyol 'na hui, Ivan. Fuck you.
I spent a week coming up with a plan. It looked like a very nice scheme, practically a cakewalk all the way through. I even had a private buyer lined up, which sweetened the deal. I usually take short money and sell back to the insurance company. It's safer, more certain, and for me it's not about the money-I mean, as long as there's enough to keep me in beans and beer. But this time, if I sold the egg to the insurance company, that meant the Russians would get it back, and like I said, I was pissed off at them. I wanted to sting them, make them lose their pretty little treasure.
So I had a private buyer, and I'll just say that if it had been about the money, this guy would have been my new best friend. It's amazing how much somebody will pay for one of those eggs. I mean, sure, they're gorgeous, covered with jewels, have a cool history, all that. And let's face it, a true collector gets a hard-on when he has something that special-especially when his other collector buddies can never have it.
This guy was a true collector. What he was paying me was enough to buy two of these FabergŽ eggs at auction. And I barely worked up a sweat. It went like a Swiss watch all the way through, which was only a little ironic, since this particular FabergŽ egg was partly a clock. Anyway, it was all good. That worried me a little; when things go well, that always means something really bad is sneaking up behind you. But it kept unrolling perfectly, so I took a deep breath and shut out the nagging little voice that said something terrible was going to happen.