St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking

St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking

by Dana Haynes


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Michael Patrick Finnigan was a New York City cop and a US Marshal who figured out that following the rules doesn’t always get the job done. Katalin Fiero Dahar was a soldier, spy, and assassin for Spain, who figured out that breaking the rules doesn’t always get the job done.

Together, they created St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking, a largely illegal bounty hunting operation based in Cyprus and working throughout Europe. Operating under the radar for the presiding judge of the International Criminal Court, they track down the worst of the world’s worst.

Someone is kidnapping Middle Eastern refugee children as they flee war-torn countries and selling them into prostitution around the world. Finnigan and Fiero get the assignment to track them down and save the refugees. But when they discover that the perpetrators are a Serbian mobster—with patronage at the highest levels of the United Nations—and a battalion of the Kosovo military, the partners reach out to their “friends” to find justice, including a corrupt banker, a cadre of mercenaries, and a crew of professional thieves.

The battle to stop the mass kidnappings ranges from Belgrade and Zagreb, to the Loire Valley and Milan, and to the plains of Kosovo. As Finnigan and Fiero close in, the conspirators realize that the judge of the ICC is the real threat and plan an assassination. Now the partners have to save their patron and the kidnapped refugees from a rogue military force with nothing left to lose.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781094091068
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publication date: 03/03/2020
Sales rank: 386,536
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Dana Haynes is the author of mystery and thriller novels. He is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a columnist, and an editor who formerly served as communications director and speechwriter for the mayor of Portland, Oregon. A screenplay based on one of his novels made it to the finals of the Nichols Fellowship, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in 2010. Haynes also received an award in 2011 for the best mystery novel written in the Pacific Northwest. He lives in Portland with his wife, novelist Katy King, and their cat, Glamour.

Read an Excerpt




Six months after Michael Patrick Finnigan and Katalin Fiero Dahar met — and wounded — each other in Ukraine, they were in business together.

Both had had their fill of bureaucracy. Both wanted to see their work mean something.

But Finnigan had set one inviolate restriction: "We'll break rules. We'll break laws. But we aren't assassins."

Fiero agreed. Reluctantly.

Finnigan was a cop, through and through. He was a slow, methodical, and imaginative investigator. Fiero was a spy. She could get into places, and be whomever she needed to be, to get to the truth.

Fiero had a contact in the International Criminal Court, an anonymous go-between who threw a few thousand dollars their way, under the table, to connect "actionable evidence" to a wily Portuguese smuggler. The smugger had evaded capture for a decade. It took Finnigan and Fiero three days. The evidence was rock solid; the conviction a slam dunk.

(Fiero hadn't understood the colloquialism slam dunk. Finnigan explained it to her.)

The source at the Court — an Englishman, it turned out — sent more cases their way. Harder cases. With more money on the line.

What they were doing wasn't legal, in the strictest sense. Okay, it wasn't legal in any sense. Shan Greyson, their back-channel liaison to the court, knew a banker who could help hide the profits.

And Fiero knew mercenaries for when violence ensued.

They made a hundred thousand euros by the end of the year and five hundred thousand by the end of the next. All of it tax-free.

They had a list of enemies by the middle of their first month together. That happens when you arrest people and sneak them across borders to The Hague.

As their profits and their profile grew, the partners created a false front. Honestly, they needed two: One to hide their profits, and another to hide from their families.

A Cyprus-based firm handled the legal and insurance paperwork for maritime salvage operations. Cypriot banking is byzantine enough that the new company would never have to show clients or a profit. The money that poured in was expertly cloaked.

For the world at large, Fiero and Finnigan used their contacts to create false identifications for themselves. They created covers as independent researchers for some far-flung subsidiary agency of the European Union. Finnigan hired a burnout bureaucrat from Manchester who'd retired to the Cypriot city of Gazimaguza, who churned out breathtakingly dull reports under their names, about three per year. Should anyone look — and nobody had — a paper trail of pristine dullness lay scattered about like hedge trimmings.

They also signed a nonaggression pact with the Central Intelligence Service of the Cyprus Police. In one of their very first cases, they stumbled upon a conman who'd stolen nearly a half million euros from the police retirement fund. The partners got the money and returned it, no questions asked, no finder fee expected. An Inspector Rafael Triadis, Nicosia Division, had called upon them shortly thereafter to figure out what their game was. Put simply: They were going after criminals but without the traditional protection of being in law enforcement or connected to any government. They needed a safe haven. In return for which, they would offer their services to Inspector Triadis on occasion.

Triadis had served as a soldier in Sarajevo during the years- long siege in the 1990s. He held a fierce loathing for war criminals. They reached an agreement and Triadis had even thrown in an introduction to his cousin, who owned an empty office over a Turkish restaurant in Kyrenia.

Now all that was needed was a name for the company.

One night over way too much vodka, they came upon St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking.

The origin of the name was the partners' secret.




The club wasn't easy to find. It featured no signage out front. It was upstairs, above the office of a legal advocate, and nobody would think to enter through the door unless they were seeking an attorney, not a drink. The illuminati of Belgium's international diplomatic corps had used the place for years as a clandestine spot for those times when one wanted complete anonymity. Many affairs of state, and affairs of the heart, began in this nameless place.

Katalin Fiero Dahar looked the part. Michael Finnigan didn't.

She wore a slim black suit with stilettos. He wore blue chinos and a blue unstructured jacket and thought the blues matched. He was the only one who thought so. They walked up the narrow steps, Fiero in the lead, toward the hush of the bar and away from the murmur of the street. She looked back over her shoulder, shaking laser-straight hair out of her eyes. "We need to see about getting you a suit."

Finnigan said, "This is a suit."

She blinked at him and smiled.

Thomas Shannon Greyson waited for them at the bar. English, matchstick lean, aristocratic and charming, he knew the wait staff by name; knew what football clubs they fancied, although he didn't visit the nameless club but a few times per year. He turned as the duo entered, beaming at them.

He presented a Champagne cocktail in a tall crystal flute to Fiero. Bubbles glistened from the top. "The Champagne is from a vineyard outside of Troyes," he said, his voice pure Eton. "The brandy is a little Armagnac hors d'âge that I've grown fond of. The bitters I discovered in a deplorable cathouse in Trinidad."

Fiero took the glass.

He handed Finnigan a larger glass. "Pabst."


Shan, as he was known to friends, led the way deeper into the gloom of the distinguished club, to an oxblood-red wooden booth with heavy, drawn curtains of green baize. They sidled in, Shan on one side, the partners on the other. The Englishman already had a whiskey and soda waiting. He favored them with his satyr's grin, lifted his glass an inch.

"To St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking." They sipped.

"Been meaning to ask you for ages: Where did you come up with that name for your company?" he asked, turning to Fiero. "Michael is Irish Catholic but you're Muslim, so I assume it has nothing to do with Kris Kringle."

"My mother's Muslim," she corrected. "What can we do for you?"

By you, she meant Madame Hélene Betancourt of Switzerland, the ranking judge of the International Criminal Court. Their company, St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking, had now done work for Judge Betancourt on five other occasions, but they never met with her. Nor would her name come up in this day's conversation. Although the company was well paid for its work, no agency on Earth would ever be able to link the money back to the venerable judge.

Bounty hunting, by and large, is both illegal and vulgar.

Hence Thomas Shannon Greyson, bespoke of suit and besotted by his own self-image, the perfect go-between.

The Englishman turned his gaze on the American. Finnigan looked as disheveled as usual, with his mop of wavy black hair, and a half-day's growth of beard. Michael Finnigan was one of those men who develop a five o'clock shadow at ten in the morning.

"It is good to see you, Michael. How've you been?"

"Drunk. You?"

"Sometimes; not as often as you'd think."

Fiero had never been good at small talk. "What's this about?"

Shan reached down onto the bench beside his coat and produced an iPad, with a flash drive sticking out of the side like an arrowhead. He swiped it open and turned it to face the partners. "There's this fellow lives in Serbia. Lazar Aleksic. He's an extremely bad person, and Our Mutual Friend would like very much to see him appear before the International Court."

Fiero studied the image: It was a youth, mid-twenties, blond and handsome. Shan reached over and used a fingertip to bring up more images: The blond kid skiing. The blond kid at a bar with a looker in a strapless gown. The blond kid amid the crowd at a bullfight, smoking a cigarette and laughing hysterically.

She looked up at Shan. "Why?"

"Which part?"

"Why arrest this man, and why us? Start with the first part."

"He's pimping under-age refugees to pederasts throughout Europe."

Fiero said, simply, "Ah."

"If I'm right, this tumor of a human is running girls and boys throughout half of the Euro Zone. Dozens, maybe scores of kids. Syrians, Afghans, Egyptians. Anyone fleeing to Europe for a new life. And our young Master Aleksic is on absolutely nobody's radar. Not the local police. Not Interpol. Nobody."

Finnigan reached over and made the images disappear. He expected to find a PDF and found it; a file on Lazar Aleksic. He started scanning the details.

Fiero said, "That explains why him. Now: why us."

"Three reasons," the Englishman said. "The first is this: As our Michael is about to tell you, we have a great deal of smoke, but no fire. We need an independent agency that will link Lazar Aleksic to his victims. Second, he never leaves Belgrade, Serbia. Where, I assure you, he is surrounded by an army of underlings with firearms. He's also bought protection from the Serbian Police."

Finnigan was scanning the PDF on the tablet computer. He drained his beer. "This all you've got?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

Fiero leaned in toward the American and threw an arm over his shoulder, resting her chin on the back of her hand. She peered at the screen as Finnigan scrolled through the document. Shan Greyson waited, watching.

They were an unusual pair, he thought. Lovers? One suspected so, at first. But they acted more like siblings. Or at least very good friends. Shan fancied himself an avid reader of others' body language, and he had trouble figuring out what the principal owners of St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking were to each other.

Finnigan said, "Guy's mobbed up in Belgrade?"

"He is indeed."

Fiero brushed long hair away from her face. "You said there was a third reason why the judge ... sorry, why you wanted to hire us?"

Shan finished his drink and checked his watch. "There is. Come. I'd like to show you something."

Four blocks away, an association of international attorneys was just finishing the dinner portion of their annual conference. Shan Greyson led the way into the auditorium, handed several folded bills to a waiter, and led the partners to the back of the room where the coat racks stood sentinel.

The speaker for the evening was the director of the Levant Crisis Group at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The director had a patrician's frame, an actor's profile, and a resonant baritone. He was a man born to make speeches. He had silver hair and a conservative suit and a sky-blue enamel lapel pin shaped like a dove in flight.

Almost a hundred and sixty attendees of the international conference on international law had attended the dinner to hear his keynote address. The attendees sat around white-clothed tables and ate prime rib. There were no vacant seats. Liveried wait staff provided wine and coffee as the guest of honor took the podium without the aid of notes. And spoke for forty-five minutes straight.

Finnigan, Fiero and Shan Greyson stood in the back and, the way the lights hit the stage, it was unlikely the speaker could spot them. Attorneys at the rearmost tables could see them; several kept turning to eye the tall, dark woman in the slim suit and stiletto heels. Fiero didn't appear to notice. Finnigan did, and smiled.

The U.N. official spoke with passion about the tsunami of immigrants pouring into Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt. He spoke about the Christian mission of Europeans to help the downtrodden, but also about the enormous burden this placed on the economy of each member nation. He set the historic landscape, comparing this to the great, forced immigrations of World War I and II. He talked with granular detail about the Schengen Agreement, which allowed for free and unfettered border crossings for both people and freight between European nations. He praised the history and ethos if Islam, but warned of the dark stain of Islamist forces.

He was an electrifying speaker, even in English, which wasn't his native tongue. When he wrapped it up, the room rose as one in a spontaneous burst of applause. Photojournalists bathed the lectern in strobes.

The speaker moved to the head table and kissed a plump little woman in a cashmere sweater and pearls. She beamed benevolently at him; clearly the doting wife.

As the applause continued, Fiero leaned toward the Englishman. "We know where the U.N. stands on the refugee crisis. What's this got to do with your Serbian enfant terrible?"

Finnigan leaned in. "Also, you said there were three reasons you wanted us involved."

Shan said, "Right you are. My enfant terrible is Lazar Aleksic. And our fine speaker for the day, the Director of the Levant Crisis Group at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, is Miloš Aleksic. Lazar's loving dad."

He pointed toward the wife at the head table. "Marija Aleksic, Lazar's mum."

Finnigan scratched his stubbly cheek. "Holy shit."

Shan said, "Indeed!"

A waiter walked by with a tray of champagne flutes held shoulder high. Fiero snagged one, en passant, and drained it in a go.

"We're in."




Rare was the Friday night that didn't find Jane Koury and Lanni Connors meeting for drinks at Callahan's in Bayswater. The pub was a favorite of young journalists and journalism students, providing cheap beer, half-decent wine, and a relatively good chance of not getting groped at the bar. Jane and Lanni seldom missed a weekend together of chardonnay and moping.

Both had been out of school for two years. Both were underemployed; Jane working for peanuts at three news websites, Lanni waiting tables and writing for free on entertainment sites for the exposure. They'd known all the way through school that things would be tough once they got out. But the actual reality of it hit them like a lorry.

Which was why Jane's wicked grin caught her best mate by surprise that Friday.

"Good lord!" Lanni set down the drinks and huddled in for a good chat. "You've met someone!"

"Have I? I have hell!" Jane laughed. Like a lot of second generation Syrians, she dressed in jeans and a sweater and suede boots. Her grandmother might not have approved, but nobody of Jane's age wore anything resembling traditional Arabic clothing. At least, not in her circle. She was young — only twenty-two — but thanks to a round face and her petite build, she was constantly mistaken for a teenager. It was a source of great humor — and possibly a bit of resentment — from the taller and curvier Lanni, whose ancestors had sacked the Scottish coast in longboats.

"I'm not seeing anyone," Jane said. "I've got the most brilliant idea ever. 'Bout my career."

Lanni rolled her eyes. "I'd like a brilliant idea about my career. Remind me again: What's my career?"

Jane reached over and squeezed her hand. "You're going to be writing for the London Times before you're thirty and running it by forty. Fact."

"Not at the pace I'm — "

Jane held up a hand and said. "Fact! It's science, and you can't argue science. Reporter by thirty. Managing editor by forty. Shut up and drink."

Lanni did as she was told. Her bestie had more faith in her trajectory than Lanni did. Which was why she hadn't revealed to Jane the brochures she'd been gathering for doctoral programs in English literature. If she were going to be a Poor Underemployed Londoner, she might as well be Dr. Poor Underemployed Londoner.

"So, what's your daft plan?" Lanni asked.

Jane unfolded a page from the Manchester Guardian. The newsprint was folded precisely, which was Jane's way with everything. It showed a map of the Middle East and Southern Europe, with the Mediterranean as a big blue blob on the left.

"Hundreds of thousands of refugees are making the trip, by foot, from Syria to Turkey, to Europe. Hundreds! Of thousands!"

"I know!" she said, shaking her head. "Breaks your heart."

"I don't want to break hearts, I want to break stories. Lanni ... I'm going."

Lanni sipped her white wine. "Where?"


Lanni then, promptly, spat white wine across the Guardian.


Excerpted from "St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Dana Haynes.
Excerpted by permission of Blackstone Publishing.
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.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Sevastopol, Crimea: Three Years Ago : Kyrenia, Cyprus : Bruges, Belgium : London, England : Kyrenia : Beirut, Lebanon : Kyrenia : Hama, Syria : Milan, Italy : Azaz, Syria : Nicosia, Cyprus : Zagreb, Croatia : Belgrade, Serbia  : Turkey : Belgrade : Varenna, Italy : Tel Aviv, Israel : Kosovo : Belgrade : Volos, Greece : Zagreb : Kosovo Security Force Operating Base Šar, Gjilan District, Kosovo : Paris, France : Amboise, France    : Amsterdam, Netherlands : Displaced Persons Camp 11-Y, Macedonia : Tours, France : European Airspace : Kosovo Security Force Operating Base ŠarC33: Belgrade : Tours : Kosovo : Zagreb : Kosovo Security Force Operating Base ŠarC38: Amsterdam : Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina : The Hague, Netherlands : Kosovo : Belgrade : Kosovo Security Force Operating Base ŠarC44C45C46C47C48C49C50: Serbian Border : Belgrade : Podujevo, Kosovo : Belgrade    : The Hague : The Hague  : The Netherlands : Prague, Czech Republic : The Netherlands : Italy : Rotterdam, Netherlands : Italy : The Hague : The Netherlands : The Hague        Chapter 12To Tim...PrologueChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18Chapter 20Chapter 19Chapter 21Chapter 22Chapter 24Chapter 25Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27Chapter 29Chapter 30Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33Chapter 34Chapter 35Chapter 36Chapter 37Chapter 38Chapter 39Chapter 40Chapter 41Chapter 42Chapter 43Chapter 44Chapter 45Chapter 47Chapter 46Chapter 48Chapter 49Chapter 50Chapter 51Chapter 52Chapter 53Chapter 54Chapter 55Chapter 56Chapter 57Chapter 58Chapter 59Chapter 61Chapter 60Chapter 62Chapter 63Chapter 64Chapter 65Chapter 66Chapter 67Chapter 68Chapter 70Chapter 69Chapter 71Chapter 72Chapter 73Chapter 74Chapter 75Chapter 76

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