Robbery. A post Brexit Short
Rain fell from the sky like tiny balls of lead, throwing up craters of water as each watery bullet hit the sodden ground. Weeks of unending rain had turned everything but the concrete into mud that dragged at the feet and threatened to tear away shoes or boots.
Darkness, the early hours of the morning, long before dawn would turn the sky grey rather than the endless black that hid the moon and stars. A handful of lights glittered in the distance, flickering as the rain fell like curtains between here and there.
Movement, a shape in the night, not as dark as the darkness, a burst of movement and the sound of boots splashing in the puddles and slapping against the mud, another shape and then a third, all running, all indistinct, blurs in the gloom.
Coming closer, ever closer, then they raced across a puddle of light, some long forgotten lamp in a private building, still shining down long after the street lights had been turned off and then cut down, the metal resold for precious coin by the council. Three men, no, two men and a woman, clad in dark colours, black raincoats dripping like waterfalls in the downpour, they reached a wall and stopped, crouching close under the eaves for imagined shelter against the storm.
“Nearly there. Hold it together, we pull this off and we’re sorted.” A man’s voice, harsh from smoking what passed for tobacco these days, local grown weed and roll ups, imported cigarettes were the preserve of the rich since even the smuggled ones cost a week’s wage for a pack.
“Yea, if we pull it off.” A younger voice, excitement mixed with fear though more of the later in the words. “You sure the doors open?”
“I fixed the lock myself, it’s on the catch, alarms turned off, the guards try it and its solid but that’s just the key lock, it’ll work.” The woman, the kind of exhaustion that came with life in Britain these days turned a youthful voice into the croaks of middle age.
“Shut it.” The first voice, low and grating.
More movement close by, light, inside the building, glowing through the rain slick windows, a dark shape walking slowly, just a shadow beyond the light of the torch as it swung from side to side. The rain fell, drumming against raincoats and staining trousers black as the three waited and watched, the glow moving away, slowly, oh so slowly, then suddenly it was gone.
“That’s it, once he shuts the warehouse door he won’t be back for two hours.”
“Move!” The three stood and the bigger man broke into an unsteady run, his breathing harsh as he moved close enough to the wall that his shoulder brushed against it, his heart pounding in his chest and the need for another drag of his usual weed churning his belly.
They stopped again, this time by a fire door. The younger man reaching out and trying the handle, it rattled but didn’t open. ”It’s locked, you stupid fucker, it’s locked.” His voice grew loud, carrying even in the rain and the older man looked around frantically, this was enemy territory, during the day only card carrying citizens were allowed here, at night even they were forbidden, for the unemployed, for people who had no jobs and therefore no citizenship, to be caught here would mean a beating for sure, a fine they couldn’t pay, maybe jail in a work camp.
But there were no alarms, no sirens or flashing lights, nothing but the rain.
The woman pushed past both men, her hand coming out from under the raincoat, something glinting faintly as it caught the light up the road, she reached the door and carefully pushed the key into the lock, almost dropping it at first as the rain made the metal slick. Then it clicked home and she turned it, slowly, carefully, it was old and worn, easy to snap.
A clunk, quiet in the night. She reached out, hesitantly, touching the handle with her fingertips before grasping it and pulling it down. The door opened and slid inward, she drew a deep shuddering breathe, waiting for the alarm, had she done it properly?
The younger man whooped before being silenced by the older one then all three slipped inside, out of the rain for the first time in an hour. Each carried a tiny torch to light their way but the woman knew which way to go and led them across the warehouse, metal shelves marked by flaking paint and rust half filled with boxes, even here they couldn’t fill the shelves, even the rich who bought these goods didn’t bring in that much money.
The woman stopped and shone her light at the closest shelf and both men drew whistling breathes and laughed, the sound echoing from the concrete walls. Both stopped and looked around, fearful not of the guard who wouldn’t attack them, not a minimum wage drone like that, but if he sounded an alarm, the thugs who responded would put the boot in and bring the club down, they were well paid and handpicked because they liked hurting people.
Nothing, no alarm, the guard was too far away.
The older man reached into a pocked and took out a little child’s walky talky, a toy from an earlier time, now the only means of communication since the mobile towers had been shut down to anyone who couldn’t pay the daily charge for access. Something else only the rich could do.
But it worked, the batteries were still available and it served to alert the other member of the team to start the motor and to drive the van up to the fire door, lights out and slowly so the noise was kept down. Anyone who was down wind would quickly smell the van though, the home made bio fuel stank when burnt in the rebuilt engine, but then petrol for the masses was a thing of the past as well.
“Move the cases to the door, he’s on the way.”
“How many are there?”
“I checked the inventory before I left work this afternoon, 48 jars per case, 21 cases.”
“FUCKING AY!” The younger man fell silent as he heard his shout echo. “A thousand jars, with what they bring on the black market, we’re rich. We’re fucking rich.”
Outside the low growl and cough announced the arrival of the van.
“Start moving them and no one drop anything.” The older man picked up two cases and turned toward the door, the light from the other two torches flashed across the plastic wrapped case and the jars within were clear to see.