The International Writers Magazine- Dreamscapes Life Stories
CAN CALL ME AL
was my best friend, although he caused me a lot of grief.
Right from the beginning it was friendship on Als terms. I
didnt mind. Being Als friend brought extraordinary benefits,
one of which was endless dining out for free and the phone number
of every cute waitress in the city.
of them, when they couldnt sleep with Al, would take me for
a poor second, because at least they would be sleeping in the next
room to him.
I mention that Al looked like Richard Gere and had all of his self-confidence
and charm? It was no use being jealous. I was rather like the fat girl
who always seems to accompany that thin gorgeous blonde wherever they
Anyhow, let me tell
you about how we met.
I was looking for an apartment to share and someone in a bar mentioned
Al was looking to share his riverside place. I went around, it was sunny,
shabby, but cheap and it had parking, so we quickly came to terms. I
was curious about the plans he had spread out over his drawing board
and Al was reluctant to tell me what it was. He seemed pretty embarrassed
Id noticed in fact.
The day after I moved in I was returning a
hammer to him when I saw the plans were out again. "I didnt
know you were into architecture," I remarked, admiring the drawings
of the classically proportioned Herbert Baker designed bank that dominates
the downtown area.
Al looked at me with puzzlement. "You know this building?"
"The company I work for insures it. Theyve just uprated the
foundations. Apparently there used to be a river running through the
town but city engineers buried it under the streets in the 1920s. Quite a feat I hear.
They built the bank right over the underground river. In fact, Alverado,
if I am not mistaken, these plans are from our office... see the stamp in the corner that says 'Reference Only - Restricted Access' "
Al smiled and folded the plans up, winking. "I hope the bank is
well insured." He shook my hands then adding, "you can call
And thats when our real friendship began. You can criticise me if you
like. You could argue that I should have called the police first opportunity
I got. But instead Al took me to meet his 'useful friends' and I found myself labelled
as the guy who was going to deal with the money. This was
on allegedly account of my dealings with high-finance and insurance.
(I was in the settlement department of our insurance company and drew
up the payment cheques). Id gone from flat mate to gang member
in just one day.
We met at a popular bar near the cricket ground, and Al ordered the
beers. Diamond Pete came first, a short excessively tanned bloke with
curly hair and a baby face. He was the ground transport man and organiser.
Oliver Gent came next; ex-army it was going to be his job to use the explosives.
I did worry that Al intended to blow up the bank, which would have been
sad, it being a listed building and all, but he quickly reassured me
that Oliver Gents role was to blow the metal lock boxes that the
money came in. They only had seven minutes tops to do the robbery and speed was essential.
Finally in came Frank. He was tall and had a nervous tick, but he was
clearly the most important piece of the jigsaw. Franks job was
to escort the old money due for destruction from the bank vault to the
Treasury truck waiting at the end of the underground tunnel below the
bank. Frank said it would be around three million.
I was impressed.
Al seemed to have everything sorted. He had a pretty ruthless gang and
an insider. Oliver Gent was a bit nervous that I was suddenly coming
on board, but when it was explained that I could get their money transferred
abroad in complete safety, they were impressed. For this help
I would be getting ten percent. I could have asked for more, but Al
hinted that Oliver Gent would get upset and whatever I did, I shouldnt
get Oliver Gent upset.
Just for the record, I did explain to Al on the way home that what he
was proposing was actually against the law. Al remarked that laws were
made to be broken and besides where would I get three-hundred thousand
from working as a clerk for an insurance company. He did have a point.
I asked him why he trusted me and Al smiled, turning to me as we drove
on the highway. "I trust everyone. Everyone wants to make money
the easy way. Im just playing Father Christmas, thats all.
I trust you all to be what you are; greedy and needful."
I wasnt sure this was absolutely true. I was broke, to be sure,
but I hadnt once thought of robbing a bank to remedy the problem.
I was just absolutely sure that I didnt want to go to jail. Ever.
One mistake here and that is where Id be headed. I told Al that
I thought the plan was flawed, the sewers dirty, the cops vicious and
Frank unreliable. Al just laughed. He told me that me considering all
these points showed him that I was the right man for the job. He didnt
like working with people who didnt look at all the angles.
outlined the plan. Al would be in the sewer with Diamond Pete and Oliver
Gent at the very point where the Bank tunnel and the sewer intersect.
They would burst out of the sewer, grab the money from Frank and his
guards, blow the locks, transfer the money to the plastic sacks and
escape through the sewers again. Frank would be left unconscious with
his guards to make it look convincing. Seven minutes, three million.
Simple as that.
You read about this sort of thing, but you never realise how easily
it could be to happen to you. Or how impossible it is to say no,
thank you very much but, no. Was I nervous? Me? Did I develop
a constant headache? Of course. I was now officially a 'criminal
and where exactly do you put that on your CV? Under precision planning and commitment
to the job?
The robbery would take place at eleven-fifteen in the morning. The getaway
car was ready, Al had everyone primed and I was at work, manning the
phone. Tense? I should co-co. At ten, Al, Diamond Pete and Oliver Gent
entered the sewage tunnel that would lead them to the bank. Frank, now
above them, counted out the money that was to be returned to the Treasury
to be burned. It was more than usual, closer to five and a half million.
He was nervous and had to count it twice just to make sure.
At eleven, Al and Pete and Oliver Gent were in position, explosives
ready and Al had already loosened the connecting plate that would allow
them to literally drop down in front of Frank to grab the money.
unknown to any of the parties underground, at two minutes past eleven
it began to rain. Not just any old drizzle. A complete monsoon. In two
minutes there were rivers in the streets. Below ground, waste water
that was ankle deep a moment ago became waist deep, then quickly rose
up to armpits. Al sensed that they had to get out of the sewer, and
fast, or risk drowning. But there was no question of going back up the
pipe. They would have to take hostages or something, fight their way
out of the bank. It was going very wrong indeed.
Frank was already in the tunnel with just one guard. They were pushing
the trolley laden with cash. Frank hoping the guard couldnt detect
how unusually nervous he was. At eleven-fifteen precisely, Frank was
in position and did what was required of him. He collapsed on the floor,
faking a heart-attack. The guard was completely taken in and abandoning
reason ran off back up the slope towards bank offices to get help.
was only half way up the corridor when the sewer hatch burst open, crashed
to the floor (narrowly missing Frank ) and all hell broke loose. Millions
of litres of sewage cascaded through the aperture and somewhere in the
middle of it were Al, Pete and Oliver Gent, yelling with pure terror.
In seconds the entire tunnel was filled with the citys ooze and
slime and it was beginning to flow down the slope to the heavily secured
door at the far end. The would-be bank robbers' muffled yells were nothing
to the sounds of alarm bells, bursting pipes and a rising roar as the
river, long buried underground, sought freedom from the rocks that bound
it. Something very terrible was going to happen.
There was an explosion in amongst it all somewhere as Olive Gent detonated
something, but whether it was him trying to get at the money or just
a spontaneous moment, no one could be sure at the time. All they were
sure of was that they were all going to drown unless they got out of
there fast. The sewage flow was taking them further down the tunnel
and there was no fighting it. A moment later, all of them ended up at
the far end pressing against the reinforced tunnel door.
"Dear God, were all going to die," someone shouted,
it might have been the guard. The raw sewage piled up behind them, building
the pressure. The stench was disgusting.
Almost simultaneously the door bust open. Armed guards were standing
ready to receive Frank and the money, but they got a lot more than they
bargained for. The entire contents of the city sewers spewed out of
the tunnel, completely overwhelming them and their waiting truck, pouring
off the ramp into the adjacent flower market, sending people below running
and screaming for their lives. In amongst it all were Al, Diamond Pete,
Oliver Gent and Olivers Gents hands that hed blown
off when hed prematurely set off the explosives. And somewhere in
that putrid mess, Frank and his guard.
The funny thing is, although Al and Diamond Pete looked hard for Frank
and the money, they couldnt find him or any sign of the money
boxes. They found the guard, unconscious by a fountain, but no Frank.
Not one banknote. Oliver Gent I am sad to report drowned looking for
For the rest of the day Al and Diamond Pete waded through the tons of
filthy foul-scented sewage and mud, disbelieving what their eyes and
noses told them. Frank was gone. Somehow hed gotten away. They
were completely ignored by the cops who were very reluctant to do anything
about this problem, certainly not wade through it like Al and Diamond
Pete. Diamond Pete was all for blowing Franks head off when they
found him, but Al knew that would be a waste of time. Frank had outsmarted
them. They would have to accept it, Frank was free and stinking rich.
We did go looking for Frank, Al and me. We spent several weeks searching
all those places where he used to hang out, but he had the money to
go to better places now. We somehow knew hed hang onto the cash
and not do anything foolish that drew attention to himself. Hed
know Al wouldnt take it well and Frank probably savoured his life
more than most.
That was my introduction to Al. I can happily report that I gave up
my life of crime before it actually started. I was the only one relieved
that Frank had stolen it all. Al and me had plenty of good times together,
many laughs. Wed sometimes get drunk and relive that day when
we could have been rich and Al still watched the weather reports a little
more keenly than most. A year later, Al was gone. He had some scheme
about diving for diamonds in Namibia. I thought Id never hear
from him again.
Some years later I was holiday in Canada and saw him across a street
waiting in a silver BMW coupe. A tall, skinny blonde was loading up
the car with her Ralph Lauren purchases. Life looked like it was treating
him well. However, he seemed really pleased to see me, but said he was
pressed for time. He was on Franks tail he told me. Seems Frank
may have invested all our money in a rather well known coffee chain.
Done pretty well from what I hear. Al was going to find him soon and
negotiate with him. I got the feeling Frank would be pretty
unhappy to see him. And then he was gone.
But I couldnt help feeling, as I saw Al drive away down Robson
Street in that smart little BMW, that perhaps hed found Frank
some time ago. Maybe, I was thinking, when I find Al again, hed
advance me a loan on my ten percent. After all, thats what best
friends are for.
© Sam North 2005
Sam is the Editor of Hackwriters.com and author of
Magenta and Another Place to Die
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