DAD [SHORT CRIME STORY]
People go missing whenever Dad’s around. I can’t explain it. They just disappear.
And now Stephanie has disappeared.
What’s the latest caper?
I’ve not been out of prison one week and I am sitting in the back of his car and he’s handing me an envelope with a map inside. It’s one of those safe storage centres. There’s a few brands around:
Big Yellow Storage – the print out said.
He tells me that he knows someone that made off with all these precious First Edition Books in a murder/house-robbery and he’s got them stored in one of those big storage centres.
“Books?” I say, “you can’t even read.”
Never learned how to read. Never saw the need to. That’s why I was holding the map to the storage centre.
“Someone tells me you get these books, they’re classics, almost 90 years old. They sell for about twenty thousand pounds a copy – that’s one book. You know Deacon? He managed to get inside a bookseller’s house. Made off with all these precious books. Only thing is, he’s kept them in a storage centre because there’s too much heat on it at the moment. Dumb fuck gave me the information before he went inside.”
Deacon’s another sadist. Been put away fifteen to life because he set a pub landlord on fire.
So, we planned a heist for some books.
I got Stephanie involved. Asked her to drive the getaway car that’s going to be parked round the back.
Dad doesn’t attend the actual robbery. He just demanded 40% because it was his idea and he’s waiting back at the apartment for us.
It’s me and Greg.
Ski-masks, Kevlar and hunting rifles (traditionally used for clay pigeon shooting).
We asked the guy behind the till for the number and keys to Deacon’s storage unit. Only thing is that the guy played dumb. Said he doesn’t know any Deacon McGregor.
I didn’t expect it but Greg pulls out a pair of garden shears and cuts his index finger off. Finger falls on the front desk and bobbles to the ground.
Deacon McGregor – UNIT #75.
When we get in the unit there’s all kinds of shit from previous heists. There’s gym equipment, watches, books and there in a leather bound case – a stone. A diamond stone. A stone about the size of a Clementine. Greg didn’t notice it. I did. Greg doesn’t notice anything.
“Fuck the watches and shit. Just take the books.” I said.
I don’t tell him about the stone and I slowly slip that shit in my pocket. I feel the hard bounce off the cloth of my trousers.
We come out of there with a suitcase full of books. First editions. Dad has a buyer. Guy will pay £50,000 cash for the bulk of them. He initially said it’s twenty per book and now we are selling all for fifty. But he tells me what with the heat and the fact it’s cash up front it’s not a bad deal and we got to just take what we can (criminal economy and all).
As we come back down the stairs we see the guy at reception – still bound and gagged. Only this time he’s dead. Didn’t expect it at all but his finger bled out and his body must’ve gone into shock. He’s white as fuck and still as a dollhouse. I gave him a kick – more of a nudge. Then I gave him a hard boot. He’s dead.
“You killed him.” I told Greg.
“Fuck.” He said.
“You’ve turned simple larceny into a murder.” I said.
“Fucking heat.” He said.
“Everything turns into a fucking murder.” I said.
Back at the apartment. I only told Stephanie about the diamond. I don’t tell Dad. I don’t tell Greg. I tell Stephanie because I want out.
I don’t want to go prison. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore. Carrying dead bodies from behind a reception desk and into a locked storage unit – I don’t want to do stuff like that ever again. I told her I don’t want to go back inside. I can’t go back inside. Not now, not ever again.
She understands. She wants to come too. We take the diamond and split. We find a buyer first. We take our cut from the books and we split.
She told me she loved me. Nobody had ever told me that before.
I can’t muster the courage to say it back.
A couple weeks later and we’ve been paid £8,000 for the books. I don’t quite get how Dad has worked it out but he’s given us our cut.
Only problem now is that Greg is on the front of every newspaper in the country. They matched his DNA to the finger.
Somehow, they found a stray hair on top of the finger. Don’t ever tell me the fucking odds. Police National Crime computer linked the hair to a fucking drunk driving charge Greg got when he was 19. Now he’s fugitive number one for first degree murder and robbery.
Greg’s got links to us all and he isn’t the type to not throw us under the wheels at the first spot of bother.
“Let me take care of Greg.” Dad said.
“We can’t have another body connected to these fucking books.” I told him.
“I’m taking care of it.” Dad said.
“Fucking national manhunt and for what. Eight thousand fucking pounds.” I said.
My Dad cut me one of those looks. It’s a look that you don’t argue with. You do what he says, when he says. My Dad.
The man that forced me into shoving a rifle into some desk clerk’s face one week after I’d left prison. The man that makes people and money disappear.
Greg is missing.
We don’t ask questions. We don’t want details. The less we know, the less implication for us there is. We just know that Greg is now gone.
My last conversation with Greg.
“You know you really fucked up cutting that guy’s finger off.” I said.
“You have a better idea on how to get to the storage unit.” He replied defensively.
Greg, always fucking defensive.
“Yeah.” I said, “break his nose.”
I think back to when my mother first disappeared. I was only sixteen. My Dad had been running some contraband import/export business with a group of Georgians importing it all in from Azerbaijan.
My mum didn’t like it.
She didn’t like large amounts of heroin sitting in her garage. She’d yell. She’d throw things. She took it a step too far when she said she’d go to the police if that shit wasn’t gone out of her house by tomorrow.
I came home. I asked Dad where Mum is. He shook his head. That was the last of it. I never asked again. I knew not to ask again.
Now with Greg. All I know is he’s gone. My Dad sat there reading his newspaper with his bifocals on. Looks up at me – that look – I know that it’s just like Mum. Don’t ask. I’d known Greg since I was eleven years old. Fucking bifocals. Like a gentle old-man. The kind that would slip you a Werthers Original and ask you how your math classes are going.
Stephanie tells me she found a buyer for the stone. The stone could be worth millions, but again in a criminal economy you got to take what you can – it’s hard cash after all. They will buy it for £50,000.00. That and the book sales makes £58,000.00. Buy a camper van for ten. Line the inside of the van with the cash and drive to Spain – once in Spain arrange some Western Union transfer to your guys in the Caribbean.
Don’t tell Dad. Don’t tell anyone. Do it quickly before Brexit has been finalised. Less need for visas and background checks. Just get out. Stay out. Take a new name. Take a new life. I’m going to start calling myself Joseph Brooks.
She told me she loved me again.
I still couldn’t say it back. I don’t know how to say it.
Stephanie is now gone. My Dad calls me. Asks me about the stone. He found out... .
I hear it in his voice. I don’t ask. Once again; I don’t ask. I just know. Stephanie is gone.
“Oh. The stone.” I said.
“That’s right. The stone.” Dad said.
Stephanie is gone... An inflexion can tell me so much.
“Meet me and I’ll give you the stone.” I said.
We met at a cafe. A London cafe. A busy one... With lots of people.
I don’t have the stone. Stephanie had it. Whatever happened, she died and didn’t give it up. I don’t know where the fucking thing is. And now I’m done caring. I still have my £8,000. It can take me somewhere. God knows where but out of here.
“Where’s the stone.” He asked.
He’s talking heists and murder and throwing ketchup on his plate like it’s a pleasant father/son lunch.
“Hidden. Too much heat.” I said.
“Where?” He asked.
“I’ll take you there.” I said.
“You lied to me son. You kept from me and you lied.” He said with fatherly righteousness.
“From this day out. No more lies.” I promised.
I meant it too.
We drove out to where I told him the stone was.
It’s a vacant warehouse in Romford. It’s Sunday. All warehouses are vacant on a Sunday but this one is especially vacant. There’s nobody around. It is deathly quiet.
This lot has been vacant for years. It’s all boarded up and rusted. Greg used to stash his shit here when he was peddling. It never got taken. Nothing ever gets taken from here. I crowbar one of the boards and we go inside.
“I hear that stone was worth a lot of money?” Dad asked.
She never gave it up.
“Hmm.” I said.
It’s always about money. That’s the game. That’s why we do this.
I tell him it’s stashed in the rusted, derelict sink – he’s got to bend down to look.
Remove the porcelain base and it’s in there. As he crouched down and gently starts to slip out the base, I finally decided to ask.
“Dad. Where’s mum?”
I’m holding the crowbar still.
They’re all in the same place. It’s Epping Forest. A couple miles in. Dumb cunt remembered the co-ordinates all this time. I’m driving there now. It’s nearly midnight. In the boot I got a flash light. I got a shovel. I got spare clothes. And I’ve got two graves to dig up and one grave to dig out. It’s going to be a long night.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. Nobody wants to have bury their own Dad. Let alone burying them alive. But I want to give him time to think.
Think long and hard while he’s under there.
I finally say it.
I loved them all. I loved mum. I loved Stephanie. I loved Dad.