“Are we still on for tonight?” Johnny asked, pressing his mobile to his ear to block out the background noise of the pub. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m in there now. It’s only afternoon an’ they’re doing a roaring trade, as per.”
“I suppose,” Adam said doubtfully. “Not sure if it’s a good idea…not now I’ve got a problem….”
“What problem? We’ve been planning this for months…”
“My cousin Albie. Remember Albie? He’s a bit, y’know, slow up top…”
“Simple minded? Why is he suddenly a problem?”
“He rocked up here in the middle of the night. He’s had a row with his folk and he’s upset. Y’know mine are away on holiday and I can’t leave him on his own. We’ll have to cancel…”
“No way! Bring him with you,” Johnny said heartily. “A night out will do him good, give him something else to think about…”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea…”
“Stop your moaning! Being a threesome will make us two going easy on the booze stand out less…”
“Okay,” Adam said resignedly. “See you there at nine-ish.”
There were few people about, which wasn’t surprising, Adam thought, considering the weather. The rain hadn’t stopped all day and the road was slick and black. The lights from the windows of The Cannon reflected on the pavement, giving the illusion of an ocean liner at sea. The nearest streetlight was out, leaving the street in shadow. The only other building casting light on the street was just beyond the edge of the darkness, on the opposite side of the road. The local Police Station.
Johnny hadn’t told him how near it was to The Cannon, just said that it gave the landlords a sense of security. Who would cause bother, with the coppers so close?
“Is this it?” Albie asked, as Adam parked the car at the kerbside. “Doesn’t look very…”
“It isn’t a club, Albie. It’s a pub.No girls and dancing, just genu-ine real ale, not the cissy overpriced stuff you get in the clubs. If you don’t like it, we won’t stay long. Right?”
“I suppose,” Albie said, clambering out of the car, pulling his coat collar up. “You coming?”
“Right behind you. Johnny’s already here,” he said, reaching over Albie’s shoulder to push the door open. A warm fug of damp clothes and beer wafted out. The place was buzzing. It certainly did a good trade. Johnny had done his homework well. “Somewhere.”
Johnny, at a table in a corner, half-stood to attract their attention. “Hey, good to see you both,” he said. “Sit yourselves down and I’ll get them in.”
Adam studied the two men behind the bar. They were obviously brothers. Both were overweight and dumpy, had wide smiles and hardly any hair. A very unfit looking pair. Not much danger of resistance. Johnny seemed on good terms with them both, laughing and joking. He exchanged chitchat with patrons as he returned to his table. He’d certainly wormed his way into this place, Adam thought. No one would suspect Johnny when their world went pear-shaped.
“There y’go!” Johnny said, dumping the glasses on the table.”Long time no see, Albie. How’ve you been?”
Albie waffled on about being misunderstood by his family and Johnny nodded in all the right places. Adam, foot tapping in time to the canned music, went over the plans he and Johnny had made.
Last Orders would be called at ten o’clock. He would quietly slip in to the gents, reverse his reversible jacket to the black side, lock himself in a stall and wait for Johnny’s signal. Folks would linger a while, of course, but the landlords would dim the lights as a hint it was time to go. When it got down to the last two or three, Johnny would call a loud goodnight. That was his signal. The shock of him bursting from the gents brandishing a replica gun would be enough to freeze any one left in the place. It would only take seconds to transfer the cash from the till into his bag, dash outside, jump into the car and away.
Johnny would be found on the floor, moaning, telling everyone that his car had been stolen by a big hulking bloke in black. Easy peasy.
“Albie’s offered to drive the car, Adam,” Johnny said, digging him in his ribs, jolting him out of his reverie. “We can have another pint and not worry about drinking and driving.”
“Last Orders, folks!” one of the landlord’s bellowed.
Folks crowded round the bar, including Johnny. The two brothers worked flat out filling glasses.
Game on, Adam thought.
He slid the car keys across the table to Albie. “It takes a bit of starting in wet weather, maybe you should give it a go now, Albie. Just going to the Gents. Won’t be a tick.”
Albie nodded and watched Adam slip unobtrusively away. When Johnny came back with the drinks he didn’t seem surprised that Adam had gone.
“Haven’t you lot got homes to go to?” one of the landlords asked while the other dimmed the lights. The customers laughed and grumbled good-naturedly. They began leaving in ones and twos.
“Time we were going,” Albie said. “Adam said the car might be hard to start…”
“Good idea,” Johnny said, taking his arm. “Goodnight!” he called loudly.
Outside, he pushed Albie towards the car and bent to tie his shoelace.
Albie eyed the group of men coming down the shadowed street.
“Get the God-damned car started!”
Albie hesitated, then darted back inside and into the gents. “Adam, there’s…”
Adam, in a black ski mask, standing directly behind the door, psyching himself up for the raid, staggered back as the door smashed into him.
“Albie! What the hell d’you think you’re doing? Go and start the damn’ car!”
“Out of the way!” Heart thudding, Adam wrenched the door open and strode into the bar, his replica gun at the ready.
He froze. Mouth open.
As did the men coming in, heading for the drinks a colleague had bought when Last Orders was called.
“I tried to tell you, Adam,” Albie said from behind him. “I think they’re police…”
The noise of the car starting outside was loud in the silence.
It activated the group of men. One yanked the door open, and dashed outside in time to see red rear lights fast disappearing.
“There goes your getaway car,” said another.
“Freeze!” yelled a man at the front of the group.“Put the gun down, nice and gently, no funny moves…”
“It’s…not real,” he muttered, wondering if he could fool them into thinking it was all a big joke.
“You’re under arrest!” the man said, the tone of his voice killing Adam’s hopes. “What’s the name of the driver, the one who got away?”
“That’s me,” Albie said. “I’ve had less to drink. I’m the driver and someone’s nicked our car….”
Adam looked at his cousin with respect. He was supposed to be the simple one…but he’d tried to warn him of the police and covered for cowardly runaway Johnny.
Copyright 2015 Betty Woodcock.
Photo by courtesy of costiq rgbstock.com
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