This story is by Shane Fitzpatrick and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Frank heaved the grey wheelie bin in across the threshold of the sliding balcony door, the weight pounding onto the laminate oak floor inside the living room. It was 8 am and Bernie had waved them in. The coast was clear.
“Mind the bloody floor you nonce! I can’t have the missus asking me why that’s scratched!” urged Bernie.
“Keep your hair on! This thing weighs a ton!” replied Frank.
“Okay, calm down you two and lower your voices! Bernie – if we scrape the floor, so what? Can you not buy a new one?” said Archie, the group’s leader.
“Yeah, I suppose,” he agreed.
Waiting outside for hours had aggravated Archie. Leaving sixty million in Bernie’s two wheelie bins overnight wasn’t ideal. They’d be fine, assured Bernie, insisting that hiding them in plain sight amongst other bins in the alleyway, near his back door, wouldn’t raise suspicions.
“Who goes rummaging in other people’s rubbish?” he asked.
Nerves pricked Archie all night until, at 4.30am, he got up and drove to Bernie’s house and sat guard, watching the alley. Now he sat at Bernie’s living room table, anxious and hungry.
Archie only knew Bernie and Frank as acquaintances, renowned by reputation. Now he shared a living room with them, about to dole out the biggest windfall of his life.
Bernie was a London black cab driver and had done time in Brixton. He was balding, pot-bellied, and had an odd looking comb-over.
Frank was the inside man. He had garnered the information and passed it on to Bob. He was the youngest and leanest of the trio, at forty-five. He was the most imposing, poker-faced, brooding figure Archie had ever met. When he smiled, he looked distressed.
Archie’s second stint of eight years inside was a doddle, but the diagnosis of type two diabetes at 59, near killed him. He was scrawny with an over-active thyroid. Checking his sugar levels was the primary focus, other than providing for his daughter Mandy and his grandson Ian. That little man was the reason why Archie took this job on. The lure of one final job and retirement to the South of Spain was too great to ignore. They could live like kings there.
Frank wheeled the second bin, green in colour, into the room.
“Okay, before we dive in, I need to check my levels. Me heads’ woozy. Can you stick the kettle on, Bernie? And what about biscuits?” asked Archie. He pulled his small insulin pouch from the satchel, carefully making sure no one could see inside. A small picture of Mandy and Ian from the hospital glistened back at him under the zip.
In the kitchen, adjacent to the living room, Bernie bent down to check his socks were pulled up in the kitchen. He returned to the living room with three mugs of steaming hot tea and a roll of Rich Tea biscuits.
“Okay, ground rules. Once tipped out, we divvy it into three equal segments, so the split is level,” continued Archie.
“Hang on – you said a three-way split, Arch? What about Bob?” posed Frank, sitting opposite the room from Archie on a short stool.
“No!” replied Archie, wagging his index finger with a pool of blood on the tip.
“He did come up with the plan, the team, and the means. Bob deserves something,” contended Frank.
“Over my dead body! That asshole abandoned us the other night! He wasn’t there last time I looked! End of story!”
“He did put us all together Archie,” agreed Bernie.
“Bob reneged on us! In my book, he’s out. He bailed, so no, Bernie. This haul goes three ways only. Is that crystal?”
The others nodded, before glancing at each other for a split second. They sipped their hot drinks, cooling the moment.
“What if we find like, something big, in the stash? How do we dole that out?” asked Bernie.
“If it’s in excess of a brick, we put it on the table. The end of the evening, we split it evenly. Okay?”
“So, to be clear, anything worth more than a hundred grand?” clarified Frank.
“Good for me,” agreed Bernie.
Archie gave the nod and Frank tipped over the bins.
Out tumbled the proceeds of raiding two hundred and eighty-one safety deposit boxes in one night. Lips smacking and steady stares at the living room floor were only punctuated by a beeping car horn on the street outside. The entire loot spread eight feet in diameter, approximately three inches deep.
“Jesus!” exclaimed Archie. Frank blew out a low whistle in agreement.
They started putting items from their sections into their own satchels. Paper currencies were first put into their respective bags. The second item that Bernie grabbed was a small burgundy box, no bigger than his palm. Opening it, his eyes widened. He soon closed it, spiking Archie’s radar.
“Watcha got there, Bernie?”
“Ah, just some glitter. Nothing special.”
“Gis a look then,” insisted Archie.
Bernie shifted in his seat, handing it over. He scratched his ankle.
Frank sat with his back to the fireplace wall. Putting his hands on his hips, he cautiously checked the middle of his back.
“You wouldn’t be trying to hoodwink me, would you Bernie?” Archie continued, peering through his jeweler’s loupe.
“Well?” asked Frank.
“It’s a Jesus piece with solid bling Bernie. Worth I’d say, probably close to half a mill. It goes on the table,” clarified Archie.
“I must have my wife’s glasses on! Sorry about that boys,” Bernie defended.
They worked on for hours, the only noise being the crackle of Classic Hits playing low on the kitchen radio or the clunk of gold jewelry hitting other gold. Thrown across the room near the door, a small gold mountain developed, waiting to be melted down.
Archie wanted this to be over, wanted to see his little prince and sleep for a few days.
Gold Krugerrands were tossed with a smooth silent whoosh in the air, an old custom, and superstition.
Each slipped extravagance into their own bags when no one else was watching, pieces that should have been on the table. Uncut diamonds were seconded into pockets. Once the floor was clean, only the pieces on the table had to be split. They took turns picking out expensive jewelry.
That left the diamonds.
“We need Bob, Archie!” stated Frank.
“No, we don’t.”
“How are we going to get them, to say, Brussels then? This could be his cut!” protested Frank.
“No Frank! We’ll sit on them. We’ve got more than enough here,” said a calm Archie, pretending to pick his bag up off the floor. Hair on the back of his neck stood to attention.
Archie reached for his insulin pouch. He fingers rubbed off the photo grabbing the miniscule Ruger.
“Well, sorry Archie, no,” stated Bernie. Sitting down, he pulled out his Beretta PX4 from his ankle holster. Loose comb-over hair fell in front of his glasses.
“Seriously Bernie?” asked Archie, knocking his empty cup onto the floor. Bernie’s eyes followed the mug.
It was enough time for Archie to raise the Ruger LC9s, hidden in his hand and fire.
Bernie was hit in the neck and dropped his Beretta, falling forward, clutching his throat. Bright red blood oozed through his fingers as he gurgled.
The world played in slow motion for a few seconds.
Frank watched Bernie fall before whipping out his concealed Walther PPK and firing at Archie, clipping his left ear.
Ducking, Archie fired, hitting Frank in the upper chest, sending him backward into the wall.
Archie pulled the table down for cover, his back to the sliding door.
Frank was a sitting duck, struggling for air.
The sliding door slithered silently ajar.
“Why are you here?” whispered Frank, to himself.
Bob fired twice, once into Archie’s back, sending him forward onto the floor, and another into Frank’s chest.
“You pack of plonkers! This is my job! My money!” he roared.
Archie lay still, thankful for being underweight, thereby concealing his bulletproof vest.
He could still feel his Ruger at his fingertips.
Bob stepped over Archie’s outstretched legs without checking for a pulse, moved into the room, and started rifling through Frank’s bag in the middle of the room.
Archie soundlessly lifted his hand, slipping his index finger into the trigger of his Ruger.
The photo of Mandy and Ian had fallen to the ground when the shooting started.
It stared back, as if urging him not to strike a fatal blow.
Bob’s back was turned.