By midday the next morning, the team were finally into the bank. More than 12 hours after the escapade had begun, they were now 8 hours behind schedule. But there was one more wall to go before they reached the vault and the riches that lay on the other side. Thank goodness they had that extra day, thought Del.
Setting up the drill once again, there was no option but to sit it out, and by midnight they were finally inside the vault. In the corner stood a large, modern safe.
“Crikey”, said Albert.
“Well, jeez, I ain’t seen nuffin like this before, Del. What did it say on the plan? A 2400? Well, look, this is a SafeAsHouses 6000. Jesus, boy, where’d you get those plans? Off a fucking market stall?”
Before I start, here’s the thing. I had an idea for this, started writing, and when I was done I was at about 1,100 words. Give or take, that’s an 11 minute post, and way, way longer than I am happy to publish. So my plan is to post the first chunk today, to tease you all, then to publish the rest tomorrow.
Officially, they were retired. Moved lock, stock and two smoking barrels out to the Costa del Crime, to enjoy their ill-gotten gains in sunny opulence.
But greed had tempted them back. Del and Rodney, those unlikeliest of brothers – Del, short stocky, five foot nothing, and Rodney, a 6’5” beanpole, had agreed on one last job. And who could resist? A bank, bloated from a weekend’s takings? And a holiday weekend to boot – an extra day before the cash was scurried away to head office?
There had been teething problems, but Charlie was confident that they were now behind him. Sure, it had taken a while to get the business off the ground, but his late father had been right – “we come in wi’ nowt, we leave wi’ nowt, and all we’ve got is what’s in between”.
“But they are animals”, goaded Zlatan. “The whole lot of them, they are total vermin.”
Zlatan was already one of the cadre, a proven, cold-blooded killer, but for himself, Lech wanted no part of conflict. “Look, Zlatan, I would just as soon stay out of this, you know. I’d sooner just not get involved”. Lech began to turn away.
He pushed his pen away and let out a long sigh. It had to be done. It was time to cut and run. Why did they always end up doing the things that *she* wanted to do? And why, last week, did she arrange a night out for them with her friends, to clash with his planned night out with his own buddies? Okay, in the grand scheme of things, a tiny burden, but in Rory’s case, it finally tipped the scales.
Enola’s father had been respected among his community. She saw how, as an elder, villagers had sought Denali’s counsel, had cherished his wisdom. But yesterday, Denali had finally breathed his last. Along with her mother, Halona, Enola had maintained a strict sentry duty these last three weeks, since Denali had collapsed. In turns, they had cooled his brow with water from the lake, and swathed him in berry poultices. But, to no avail. The pair had observed him steadily fade, and last night, he had finally succumbed.
Paolo had just returned from a month-long business trip to Mexico and was overjoyed to see his young family again. Rewarded with leave, he offered to spend time with his young son by taking him out for the day. Besides, as his wife had been looking after Luca all that time, the father/son bonding session would give her a well-deserved day off.
Setting out just after breakfast, the pair visited the Museum Egizio, a short distance away in Turin. In common with most boys of that age, Luca had particularly enjoyed the dinosaur exhibit, and that scale model of the Ariane rocket had made Luca explode with excitement.
Paolo’s plan was that they would visit the aquarium this afternoon, too, but before that, they needed some lunch. With Luca simply choosing “cheese”, Paulo had selected a city-centre café, and ordered a toastie each. And as a special treat, two enormous mugs of hot chocolate.
Armed with the drinks, Paulo approached one of the café’s free tables. As Paolo set the cream-laden mugs down, he realised that he had forgotten to pick up any napkins.
He felt the young boy tug on his arm. Luca was at that inquisitive age. Everything he said these days began with “why?”
“What is it, Luca? What’s the matter?”, soothed Paulo.
Luca had clearly been thinking some more about the conversation the pair had been having yesterday, as they had returned from church. As children of Luca’s age are wont to do, he spoke at volume and could be overheard at neighbouring tables, although the café was almost empty. “Daddy…”, he began, “if there is a God… that lady we saw coming in… why does he make her sleep in the street? Why doesn’t she sleep in a nice house, like we do?”
Paolo squirmed, imperceptibly. He barely remembered stepping past this young woman, crouching in the doorway, on their way into the shop. Recovering, he thought quickly. “It’s because she must have done something wrong, Luca, and God is punishing her. Now, be a good boy for daddy and go and pick us up a napkin each from the counter”. Luca obediently sauntered over, Paolo breathing a sigh of relief, thinking that the awkward scene was complete. He was a thinker, this boy, but he was young enough to be deflected easily.
Luca returned with the napkins, as instructed, but instead of sitting down to his drink, he turned. Keeping a careful watch, Paolo tracked the boy to the door. When Luca opened it and stepped outside, it was time to act. Paolo found Luca, standing outside the shop, talking to the homeless woman. Just before his father caught up with him, Luca asked her, “What did you do wrong?”
Intervening, Paolo found himself apologising to the woman, and started berating the boy, as he dragged him inside. “What have we told you about talking to strangers?”, Paolo chided.
Momentarily, the girl at the next table glanced up from her book, inquisitive to learn the cause of the commotion.
An impish smile on her young face, she reached under the blanket. A stern hand slapped it back.
“Focus!”, said the voice. “One more time.”
She looked at him sheepishly. “But Gregor, we have been through this so many times already. Can’t we just… ”
“Enough!”, he interrupted. “One more time.”
Submissive now, she looked into his serious eyes. Her expression became deadpan.
“At the end of work…”, he started for her.
“At the end of work”, she continued, obediently, “I queue up to exit, as normal. I make sure I am last. At the front of the queue, you will distract Frau Hoffstedtler.” Frau Hoffstedtler was the housekeeper at the house in which they both worked, Gregor as a waiter and Natalya as a maid. The house belonged to the district administrator, the most important party official thereabouts.
“I am to use the distraction to head for the wine cellar”, continued Natalya.
“Frau Hoffstedtler will return, find me gone, and assume that I returned home for the night.
“Once in the cellar, I am to empty a bottle of wine. If they come looking, the scent will distract the dogs. Then, I am to hide until you call me.
“We will go out into the garden, together.”
She hesitated. “You are sure that the train will come tonight?”
“It passes every night”, came Gregor’s response. “It leaves the main station at 11:15 and passes this way to the border.” Satisfied with his own answer, Gregor added, “Continue.”
“In the garden, we head for the footbridge. We should not expect any guards – because they patrol the perimeter, they do not patrol the garden.
“We meet Stephan at the bridge. Is Stephan still going to help us, Gregor?”
“Stephan will be there. He is being well paid for this evening.” Again, “Continue.”
“Stephan will make the train stop for us?”
“That’s right”, finished Gregor. “Stephan will mask the signal for us, and the train will stop under the footbridge. We will have just a 2 metre drop onto its roof. The train starts moving again, and carries us to the border.”
For the first time allowing himself to dream, he added, “Just think, Natalya, tonight we will cross the border. Tomorrow, we can lie together for the rest of our lives. We will be free.”
Natalya beamed back at him, enjoying his smile. Her hand fluttered under the blanket once again. This time, there was no attempt to prevent her. “Now”, she whispered, assuming control, “where were we?”