Ray yanked up his coat collar as the howling wind bit into his neck. He squinted into the spitting rain while struggling to keep pace with his companion. It was a couple of hours before people would be getting out of work and the roads were quiet as few people braved the cold weather.
“Get your fucking hand away from your hip,” Paul said, startling Ray.
He quickly moved his hand away from the revolver, trying to remember what he usually did with his hands. His eyes twitched from side to side before landing on an auto hurtling by. They were still a rare thing in his neighbourhood, hell he could remember the first he’d ever seen. A sleek black thing that could barely go faster than he could walk and cost more than his Pa earned in a year. To his six year old eyes though, it was a thing of beauty. Whose it was he didn’t know, a wife of some stockbroker or banker that took a wrong turn he supposed, but later that day he’d seen Mike Stone’s older brother Ronnie racing down Stockdale Road.
“Keep your head straight,” Paul interrupted his train of thought. “You’re going to be meeting some important guys. Well, one important guy and one goon who knows important guys.”
As they turned on to Rondale Street a silver van appeared through the misty rain ahead of them, parked across the street from their mark, and Paul made a beeline for it. The two men clambered in awkwardly and the doors closed with a satisfying clunk, shutting out the street noise.
There was silence for a few seconds. Ray watched a stocky man in the front passenger seat take a long drag from a cigarette and breathe a line of smoke out a window that was cracked barely an inch.
“Paul,” the man nodded.
“How’s it going, John?” Paul returned. “This is Ray. Ray, this is John and Tommy.”
John looked Ray up and down, inspecting every inch of his six and a half feet before nodding his satisfaction.
“He’ll do; as long as he knows which end of a gun to point.” He gave the skinny driver a withering look.
Tommy leaned in to shake Ray’s hand, giving him a crooked grin.
“Welcome to the team,” he said in a weasly voice. “We’ll have to get you a nickname.”
“Fuck the nickname,” John interrupted, staring down the scrawny man. “You’re obsessed with fucking nicknames. How about this for a nickname: Tommy ‘Tiny Dick’ Johnson?”
“Sorry John, I was just kidding around.”
“Just get out the fucking van and keep lookout.”
Tiny Dick looked to the back seat but neither Ray nor Paul felt any compulsion to come to his aid.
“Where do you find these fucking kids, Paulie?” John asked between drags.
“Nothing to do with me John, he’s Bobby’s wife’s cousin or something, this was supposed to be his job, remember? I even heard some talk that Bobby wanted the guy made.”
John let out a laugh.
“My last shit will make its bones before that snickering fuckwit. Bobby might be a captain, but he can’t even keep himself out of trouble, Frank’s not about to take recruitment advice from him.”
“You don’t have to come in with us John, you’re a captain for fuck’s sake; Christ knows Bobby wouldn’t have.”
John shook his head.
“I trust you, Paul but this ain’t a job for one soldier, a green boy and bozo the fucking clown out there. There’s a lot of money on this.”
John turned his attention back to Ray. He held out a cigarette and Ray grabbed it, keeping his hand as steady as he could.
“So you know Paul from Eastpoint?” John asked.
“Yeah, my ma works at his uncle’s bakery,” Ray replied as the door swung open.
Tommy got back in the auto, rubbing the cold out of his hands. “Leon’s? They do the best pretzels in the city,” the newcomer said.
“You’re talking out of your fucking ass, the pretzels taste like stale shit; it’s the bread that’s fucking delicious,” John almost shouted.
“Hey! I know-“
“-You know shit. Now gather whatever brain cells you’ve got in that ugly fucking skull,” he said, watching a van pull up in front of the building. He checked his watch. “It’s time.”
Ray watched John put something in his mouth and swallow. When he turned back to them, his eyes were a little wide and his hands a little twitchy as if he couldn’t wait to get going.
“You take the guard” he said to Paul, gesturing to the guy getting out of the van. “But other than that I don’t want to hear a word from any of you. Just let me do the talking.”
He took a bandana and tied it across his face so only his eyes and his gelled back hair were visible. The others followed suit. Ray could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He reached to his side until his fingers felt steel; the time for subtlety was over.
John held up the three stubby fingers of his left hand, his right on the door handle, and one by one he lowered them. 3…2…1.
When the captain clenched his fist, Ray flung open his door and stumbled out of the van. By the time he had made it round the auto, Paul had already halved the distance to the guard entering the bank. Ray could tell he was shouting something, but to him it was like watching a silent film from his childhood.
He quickly caught up with the others as they were bursting through the door. Paul tossed the guard onto the floor and John was shouting something. A woman screamed.
“Shut up!” John shouted, raising his gun towards her.
Ray scanned the room. Most of the patrons had hit the deck, apparently having seen the same films he had. By now, John had moved on to the tellers and was already stuffing bill after bill into his cracked leather satchel.
Movement in the corner caught Ray’s eye. A blue uniform, a badge and a gun pointing right at John.
Ray’s shout was cut short as he saw John’s shoulders tense and, in one fluid motion, he turned and shot the cop through the head.
The gunshot was louder than Ray was expecting, in fact it sounded like a fucking explosion. Sure, he had held up guys on the street and a shop clerk one time, but he’d never actually shot anyone. There was a second of ringing silence before the screaming started again.
John spun around as a man lunged at him but this time he wasn’t quick enough. The man grabbed his arm as the gun went off and dust showered them from the ceiling.
The guy was the same height as John but had a couple more inches round the waist and a decade more years on the calendar. He was strong though, and it was taking all John had to keep the gun from pointing at his own head.
Ray’s legs moved independently of him. His forgotten gun swung by his side, just a weight in his hand. He grabbed the man from behind and dropped his whole body backwards. The three of them tumbled to the floor together.
John was the first to his feet and had his gun pointing at the older man in seconds. He used his other hand to pull Ray to his feet, before turning his anger to the hero.
“You dumb motherfucker.”
The man didn’t cry, he didn’t beg for his life, he didn’t even put his hands up; he just glared at John in contempt.
Ray took in the man’s jowly face in horror. The thin brown hair, the small scar on his left cheek, the watery eyes that were a little too close together. He looked exactly the same as he did when he taught him woodwork. That look of contempt could even have been directed at George Lowski’s shitty pencil case
He surprised himself with the outburst but he surprised John more. The Bray family captain glared at him.
“Come on John, let’s just get out of here,” he pleaded as sirens droned in from the distance.
John glared at him some more, but he could hear the sirens too. “You’re lucky you just saved my fucking life,” he spat.
A gunshot rang out again and Mr Peters cried in pain, clutching at the blood pouring out of his knee.
“Let’s go!” John shouted and the foursome grabbed the bags of cash and sprinted out of the building.
Chapter 2 by Andy Wright
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