New York City commercial real estate power-broker Jonah Gray has finally resurfaced and he has a lot of unfinished business. Since becoming a fugitive and fleeing his own country, the road traveled has been a long and shocking one. And it has been a road of singular purpose: the methodical preparation for his return.
Saddled nine years ago with a rare Fabergé Imperial Easter Egg thought lost in the Russian Revolution, Jonah made sure the treasure ended up at its destination. In keeping it from his conniving half-brother, he also inadvertently killed a dirty New York City cop, and his own father was murdered in cold blood.
Jonah is unsure which is greater: all he lost in this world, or all he has learned about himself. One thing is certain. It is time.
Time for ruthlessness. Time for payback. Time for truth. Time for redemption. Time for a new deal.
About the Author
Adam Gittlin is a private investment executive in New York City with extensive experience in commercial real estate. He received a BA in Psychology as well as an MBA in International Business, both from Syracuse University. His previous novels include The Men Downstairs and the first two novels in the Jonah Gray series: The Deal , and The Deal: About Face . He is currently at work on the next Jonah Gray installment, and lives in New York City with his son and long-haired Chihuahua.
Read an Excerpt
The Deal: About Face
By Adam Gittlin
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2014 Adam Gittlin
All rights reserved.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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 States — more specifically, New York City, my home — nine 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 Straat — ultra-contemporary and white aside from the brushed steel fixtures and artwork, same as the four stories above — is 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 décor 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's — long since renamed Aldo — collar. 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 me — not the Perry, Max, and me that ran from New York City, but the new version of us — three 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.
I eventually turn on to PC Hooftstraat, the city's most upscale stretch of retail. Hermès, Zegna, Cartier, D&G — it's got them all. My destination is a watch store called Tourbillion. I look at the Audemars Piguet on my left wrist, a gift my mother gave my father and my only tie to my previous life. My mind drifts back to the summer of 2004, to Andreu Zhamovsky. Our fathers met in 1979 with Communism on the precipice of crumbling. Alexander Zhamovsky, Andreu's father, was in control of most of the Soviet Union's natural gas resources. He was attending New York City as part of a series of secret conferences with the purpose of strong American business minds teaching our Cold War counterparts about the finer points of Democratic capitalism, a win-win for both sides in the ultimate game of what all governments want most regardless of their actual political views: making money.
Andreu and I connected, clicked. We became fast friends. Though we lived on opposite ends of the globe, we remained tight. Our families traveled together. If my father and I were overseas — business or pleasure — we'd try to all meet up for a day or so. Andreu and I would write. We were like pen pals. As we got older, we drifted somewhat but only in terms of length between communications. If a week or a year passed it didn't matter, the next time we spoke it was like we had just done so five minutes ago. Like we were family.
In four days, I'll be making my long-anticipated return to the United States. The last thing I can allow to happen, after all these years being so careful and with much unfinished business, is for someone to put together who I am because of a hunch and an image of me caught on film at Newark Liberty International Airport the day I left with the Audemars on my wrist. Crazy paranoid? Maybe. But like I said, I've got unfinished business. And here's my reality. When I'm driving, I stop farther than necessary behind the car in front of me at a light in case I need to make a break for it. When I walk into a restaurant — or any public place for that matter — I first scout all possible escape routes then survey every set of eyes in the room to see which might be the ones looking to arrest, or kill, me. When I sleep, I always do so with a gun within reach. When I fled America, I did so a wanted man. I was wanted by the law for inadvertently killing a crooked New York City cop and for taking the matter of my father's murder into my own hands. I was wanted by a very powerful Russian family for denying them the storied eight missing Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs that are in fact not missing at all. Did I do some things I still, to this second, regret? Definitely. Were all of my actions, in my mind, justified? Absolutely.
I reach address number 72 and enter the store. The walls, like my home, are white, and the floor is darkly stained, wide, hardwood planks. There is a quaint sitting area comprised of four modern, cubelike brown leather chairs around a rectangular glass coffee table. In the center of the table is a vase with fresh white roses. The rest of the space is occupied by glass display cases filled with expensive timepieces. Realizing it feels like eons since I've shopped for a watch — or a trophy as I sometimes called them back in New York, since I usually bought one following the close of a deal — I can't shake the feeling of nostalgia that passes through me. I can't deny the sense of entitlement, wanted or unwanted, that hard-earned wealth brings.
I know, I know. Right now you're thinking, "Hasn't this guy learned his fucking lesson?"
The answer is yes.
I understand better than anyone that millions of dollars ensures only two things: a roof overhead, food in the mouth. Nothing else. Not love, not happiness, not faith, nothing. But I also know that in the big play of life, I've been cast in a new role. And this role, like my last part, calls for a certain level of wardrobe. At my core I'm fine with a Timex or Swatch. But all this would do is bring questions from those who surround me, successful professional types not very different from my old associates back in Manhattan. And questions, for me, bring one thing. Unwanted attention.
"Dag," the statuesque, brunette saleswoman says to me.
"Dag," I say back.
The true sign of a Netherlands native is the ability to speak either Dutch or English on a dime. Something I have been able to do for years now.
"Bent u zoekt ..."
"Perregaux?" I cut her off.
"Natuurlijk. Juist deze manier."
She leads me to the case holding the Girard-Perregaux watches. Like I said, the watch I'm buying is more prop than anything else. Therefore I don't need to spend much time browsing, especially since I have somewhere to be. The moment I learned I was going home, and that I needed to leave behind the watch that is the only connection to my mother who died when I was five, a Girard-Perregaux World Time jumped into my head. It was next on my list of desired timepieces back when I was a commercial real estate power broker in New York who still cared about extravagant bullshit.
She hands me the watch. It is large and heavy. The rose-gold case is forty-three millimeters in diameter. The face is white with a cream inner bezel where the chronograph dials are located. It tells time in all twenty-four official time zones around the globe and has an exposed backing, allowing the handcrafted movement to be viewed as it works. I slide it on. The crystal backing glides silkily over the skin on my hand. The smell of the fresh leather strap fills my nose.
"Hoeveel?" I ask.
"Zestien duizend, negan hindered negentig vijf Euro," she responds.
A little more than seventeen thousand Euro, or just under twenty-four thousand American dollars. To tell time.
I wear it out of the store.CHAPTER 2
It's Saturday evening. The cool air feels refreshing. My destination is 23 Kerkstraat, which is just off Leidseplein — "Plein" meaning Square — one of three main Pleins in the city. Once I reach the Van Gogh Museum, it's only about another five minutes. I turn right on Kerkstraat, a quiet old cobblestone road. Old street lamps with energy-saving bulbs on top where a gas flame used to be supply the night light. I look at the two opposing rows of coach houses. When I arrived nine years ago, part of me was still so angry, so bitter, I saw these houses as nothing more than simple lines of four or five-story buildings that seemingly ran in to one another, like the townhouses of Manhattan's Upper East Side can look at first glance.
Today I see these buildings for what they are: a twenty-four-foot-wide, five-story, red-brick coach house with red moldings and three tall ground-level windows; followed by a thirty-foot wide, four-story, brown-brick coach house with white moldings and what appears to be a single-windowed attic, or smaller level, on top; followed by a thirty-foot-wide, five-story — you get the idea. The houses, in actuality, are similar but far from the same. Even the pulley — each house has a pulley centrally located on top to hoist objects up since the internal stairways are so narrow — is different in quality and characteristics upon inspection from one to the next. Attention to detail in my constant battle to remain free of my past life, as if I'd shed that life like some spent reptilian skin, has been my greatest ally these past years. Just as it has been my greatest ally in becoming a professional success all over again from scratch.
I enter the restaurant. A happening bar and restaurant catering to Amsterdam's young elite throbs before me. Architecturally the space begins and ends with crisp lines. The colors — mostly browns and creams — are earthy yet rich. Although the space is packed, square mirrors running the entire shell of the rectangular bar give an odd illusion of a sea of legs. Slicing upward from the bar, beginning in the center of one of the rectangle's short sides to the second floor is a golden staircase.
Abeni, the striking, six-foot-tall African hostess with a shaved head, is mobbed. I wait for her eye. On sight of me, while mid-sentence with a patron, she smiles and motions me upstairs.
I reach the top, the main restaurant. A waiter points me in the right direction. Cocktail hour is well underway. In the far corner, enmeshed in conversation, is Cobus de Bont. Cobus is my boss. He is the founder of de Bont Beleggings — Beleggings means Investments in Dutch. De Bont Beleggings is one of the largest and most successful private investment firms — and the single largest private owner of commercial real estate — in the Netherlands. The dinner party is in honor of his wife, Annabelle's, fortieth birthday.
Cobus, chatting with local real estate player Martin Gemser, sees me. He waves me over. I pass through the crowd, shaking hands and kissing cheeks.
"De heer Ivan. Hoe we vanavond gevoel?"
Cobus, who also more readily chooses Dutch over English, just asked me how I'm feeling tonight. From this point on, to make things easier, I'll go with English in all cases.
"Feeling great, actually, I even managed to get in a nap this afternoon," I respond.
"You know I meant to ask," Cobus continues, "how was your excursion to Hamburg last weekend? How was your visit with your friend from university?"
Was I in Hamburg?
Was I with a friend from university?
"The weekend was great. It was a lot of fun catching up. Where's your beautiful wife?" I change directions. "Has she arrived yet?"
He points. Annabelle, a gorgeous, smart, blond fashion photographer, is across the room giggling with others at some guy's story. A waiter approaches, asking if we need cocktails. Before I can answer, Cobus tells him I need a Belvedere over rocks with a twist.
Yes — I even changed my drink of choice.
"Three buildings." Martin continues their previous conversation. "Forty-four Utrechtsestraat and Sixteen Muntplein definitely. Possibly also Eighteen Damrak. Utrechtsestraat and Muntplein alone could be stolen at a seven cap. Easily. We all know how Henrik Bosch markets property. These buildings should have occupancy levels much higher than seventy, seventy-two percent. Because Damrak —"
Excerpted from The Deal: About Face by Adam Gittlin. Copyright © 2014 Adam Gittlin. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
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