by E.Escher - 8th Dec 2016
'Meet me on the corner of Cross and Saint Ann's,' muttered Colin. 'Nine O' clock sharp. Right.'
He checked his watch for the umpteenth time. Twelve minutes past. It wasn't like Brian to be late for anything, but he'd been acting weird since yesterday, so maybe something was up. Brian wasn't normally the sort to make mysterious telephone calls at five in the morning. It was one of the things Colin liked about him.
The streets in all directions heaved and surged with road traffic and pedestrians. Doubtless that was the reason for Brian's lateness, but it suggested that his mysterious plan wasn't as desperately time-sensitive as he'd implied on the telephone. Busy crowds always seemed a dreadful inconvenience to other people, but Colin found they generally melted out of his way as he approached. He only had to stand behind somebody for a second or two and they'd get an unexplained urge to move aside.
It was strange, but useful. Similarly, if he stood completely still people seemed to ignore him.
Not Brian, though. The man had eyes like a hawk, and missed nothing. He had a seemingly endless catalogue of unconvincing replies when quizzed about his obvious military training. Some days he'd claim he was ex-SAS, other days he'd been trained by a shadowy society of ninjas. He'd told so many lies it was impossible to guess the truth. Brian was a man without a past, or at least no past he'd admit to. That was something else Colin liked about him. They had something in common.
No family ties. No awkward backstory. They'd meet up occasionally, have a few drinks, watch some TV, complain about the world in general, and then go their separate ways. It wasn't a conventional friendship, but Colin wasn't a conventional person, and Brian... well, Brian clearly had some issues of his own. For their own reason, they both saw the world in an unusual way. It made for some interesting conversations.
'Oi oi! Sorry I'm late.' Brian shoved his way through the crowd, all elbows and angles in a dark grey suit. 'Stationary traffic and human vermin conspired against the concept of good timekeeping, as usual, but here I am, at long last. Better late than never, eh?'
He smiled a crooked grin and waggled his eyebrows good-naturedly. With his bobbing adam's apple, hooked beak of a nose and juglike ears, Brian was far from attractive. He got by instead on a surfeit of charm. His dark hair was shaved down to stubble, and for all his six foot four inches of height he couldn't have weighed more than ten stone, and yet he could talk his way into or out of any kind of trouble and nearly always walk away without a scratch.
He unslung a Reebok sports bag from his shoulder, and thrust it toward Colin. 'Here. Your lucky day, you get first pick.'
'First pick of what?' asked Colin.
In reply, Brian unzipped the bag with a flourish. 'Two guns, two masks, and...' he jerked a thumb to indicate the two sides of the road '...two banks.'
'Two banks? What? You want to rob a bank? You want me to help you rob a bank?'
'You always did catch on quick when the chips're down. They're down, Colin, this is crunch time. Here, I'll make it easy, you take the MP5, it's a classic.' He pulled it out of the bag and pressed it into Colin's hands. 'Everybody knows what it does, so you can scare people into line without firing a shot. Just in case, though, here, couple of spare magazines. Best to cover all eventualities, eh?'
'What, like the bobbies showing up, when somebody reports seeing two guys with an SMG in the middle of Manchester?'
'Something like that, yeah. Here you go then, you take the black mask, I'll take the charcoal. It goes with my suit.'
'That was one of the choices? Black or charcoal?'
'And you get to choose which bank. I like the big glass windows on this Santander place.'
'Can I choose not to say no thanks?'
'You can, but I've got a gun, and I say you're helping me rob a bank, or I'll shoot you.'
'I could shoot you first. I've got the better gun, you've only got a pistol.'
'Yeah, but you'd have to explain it to the cops, and they'd never believe you.'
'I'm not sure I believe it myself.'
'Just stick to the plan and everything'll be a-okay.'
And with that, Brian put on his mask, slung the bag over his shoulder and yanked the door open. Colin hastily pulled on his own mask and followed him in.
'Wait, there's a plan?' he hissed.