The bottle shop job – part 3

The Grim Reaper might not have figured in Pat’s thoughts as he’d sat nursing his pint but burglara few of the Reaper’s friends had come to the pub that night. One had come in the guise of Marty Siddle, who’d appeared next to Pat at the bar. Marty was the fellow who had regaled Pat with his stories of deactivating security systems the last time Pat had been holidaying within the prison system.

Marty, who had been out for about a year, had told Pat that he’d been making ends meet by helping some associates gain access to warehouses, so they could direct selected pieces of merchandise into that pipeline Pat had serviced in his youth. Pat had told him the tale of his life since they had last seen each other. Marty had commiserated with him and bought him a drink.

Over their pints, the discussion had turned to an opportunity for Pat to make some quick money. Marty had explained that he had a pressing order to service, but with a critical member of the team seriously ill, at what had to be an incredibly inconvenient moment, he was looking for someone who could drive a truck, and keep his mouth shut. Knowing Pat had both required attributes, Marty had asked him if he was interested in a night’s work that would net him five grand.

To a man who had earned less than that in a month when he’d had a job, and who faced the prospect of not earning anything like that for several months to come, that had been, as they say, an offer too good to refuse. You had to hand it to Marty, he’d listened and he’d taken advantage of what he had learned.

Like all true professionals, Pat and Marty had inflated images of their capabilities and suffered from a type of amnesia, peculiar to practitioners of their art, that allowed them to forget that they had met in a prison and not at a convention. Their other problem had been that they believed their own bullshit, which is not a problem restricted to my clients.

*

The ensuing incident was referred to in the press as the bottle shop job.

If you’re like most people, you probably read that phrase and thought of a couple of desperate types holding up some hapless attendant at knife point, and taking the cash from his till. This was not one of those events.

To start with, the bottle shop was a Dan Murphy’s outlet. Now if you’re not from my town, let me explain that this is not a small building on main street or a drive-through bottle shop attached to a pub.

This is a warehouse full of booze, which arrives in trucks and leaves in the trunks of cars. This is a place where people buy their grog by the carton. This is a place with a sophisticated security system, and CCTV cameras that watch the staff and the customers so that bottles do not leave without some form of payment transaction, and where most payments are electronic, so holding up the place for cash had never been the plan.

The plan had been to deactivate the security system in the wee small hours and to make off with a truck load of spirits, still packed in their cartons.

They almost pulled it off.

On the day of the job, Marty had deactivated the security system and Pat had backed the truck into the loading bay. They’d closed the door and filled the truck with the cartons of whiskey, brandy and rum required to satisfy their customer’s order without incident. It was only when they had opened the door to leave that they’d discovered something had not gone to plan. There had been a patrol car parked in their exit and two armed policeman waiting for them to open the door.

They’d overlooked one small detail in all their careful planning. Their chosen Dan Murphy’s outlet might have been a warehouse but it was situated in suburbia.

That meant it had neighbours, and some people, particularly those like insomniac Mario Scala, who resided in the street opposite the back entrance of the warehouse, noticed things out of the ordinary in the wee small hours, when you expected them to be asleep.

***

I hope you’ve enjoyed The bottle shop job.

Thanks for dropping by, Peter

The bottle shop job – part 2

The incremental improvement in home security that Pat had learned about the hard way burglarwas the introduction of remotely monitored, miniature cameras. These little gadgets, discretely tucked away in out of the way places, allowed a security firm to respond to a break-in without the intruders being aware they had triggered an alarm. Shortly after his thirtieth birthday, Pat had discovered that being caught on the premises, booty in hand, by a police patrol alerted to his presence by the firm monitoring the system, was a difficult charge to deny.

His reward had been a five year, all expenses covered, holiday in one of her majesty’s hostels, despite our offer to plea bargain with an admission to an undisclosed number of other break-ins. The prosecutor, with a watertight case and a determination to put Pat away for as long as possible, had shown no interest. As far as the prosecutor had been concerned it was called the justice system for a reason, and little shits like Pat Owens deserved what the system called justice.

To Pat, it had been like being enrolled in a master’s program. He’d received a boost to his limited knowledge of security systems from a fellow inmate, who had used what he had learned from installing the systems to work out how to make them look like they were working when he had deactivated the sensors. Unfortunately, according to the teller of the tale, on his last job he had been so preoccupied with tampering with a particularly complicated system, protecting a large mansion in the leafy eastern suburbs, where the rich preferred to reside, that he had failed to notice that the home owner had returned. Both he and Pat had put that down to bad luck, when they had discussed how they could deploy their compatible skills in the not too distant future when they had both returned to the street.

Five years is a long time when you have little to do and no where to go. After the initial euphoria of being inside acquiring new skills and making new contacts had worn off, Pat had enrolled in some of the vocational training courses available to inmates, simply for something to do while the number of days until his release steadily diminished. He hadn’t been all that interested in rehabilitation but learning about stuff and doing things was more entertaining than boredom.

By the time he had been released, Pat had acquired licences to drive a forklift and a truck, had mastered bookkeeping, and knew quite a lot about bee-keeping.

At thirty-five, even though he had a list of useful skills, Pat had discovered that having a criminal record did not make it easy to get employment. It was largely thanks to the persistence of his parole officer that Pat found himself employed, as a butcher and delivery driver for a small company manufacturing salami and Italian sausages.

Two years into his employment with that company, he met Francesca. She was the manager of a continental deli that had been added to his regular delivery route. Francesca was nothing to look at. Then again, Pat was no prize catch either. Francesca was short and a little overweight, like Pat. She had no fashion sense, which was a huge disappointment to her mother, but she had a personality that Pat couldn’t resist.

The first time he had serviced her deli she had engaged him in conversation, and set him back half an hour for the rest of that day. It hadn’t been long before Pat had started dropping into her shop on the way home from work, to replenish his larder. Then they had started dating and one thing had led to another.

After a couple of months, Pat had taken Francesca home to meet his long suffering mother. The two women hit it off. That should have been a warning sign but Pat, blindsided by love or lust or the combination of both charged desires, had failed to notice that particular red flag. Before he had realised that he had been entrapped by two conniving women, acting in what they had believed to be his best interest, Pat had married Francesca and they had set up house, in the residence behind the shop she managed for her father.

When reality finally made an appearance in Pat’s awareness, he realised they’d transformed him into a respectable member of society with responsibilities. For the first time in his life, he got an appreciation of what might have driven his father to the drink.

Perhaps Pat would have lived up to their expectations, if things hadn’t changed.

Five months after the wedding, and two months after discovering he was to become a father, some kid had eaten salami at a back-yard barbecue and died of salmonella poisoning. The salami hadn’t been made by the firm that employed Pat but a public gripped by fear does not behave in a rational manner. The sale of salami and other cured meat products abruptly entered a hiatus that lasted for months.

Pat was stood down along with everybody else who worked in the industry. Sure, he had a promise that he’d have a job to go back to when people returned to normal behaviour, and started consuming a product that has been safely eaten for centuries, but he’d have to survive until that happened.

Then Francesca had miscarried and fallen into a black depression, and Pat had found himself managing a continental deli under the tutelage of his elderly Italian father-in-law. Pat wished he had taken the Italian course instead of opting to learn about bee-keeping. At least he could do the books, but with the sale of cured meat products making up a significant part of the business of the deli, that skill provided him with little comfort as he dutifully tracked their diminishing returns.

You’d think a man that had spent years inside would know something about patience, but Pat Owens was haunted by his impoverished childhood, and a man haunted by those sort of memories is prone to listening to his fears. Pat had taken his fears to the pub, and there they had escaped into the ether and attracted attention.

To be continued…..

Thanks for dropping by, Peter

The bottle shop job – part 1

This week I’m back in writing mode, and I’ve started on the journey that will produce the third book in the Inspector West series, for release in the second half of 2015. I’m also working on a second series of shorter stories with a working title of The Walsh Files, and thought I’d offer you an insight into the development of some of those stories. I’m not sure how long each story will be yet but it should be fun finding out.

***

burglar Some kids are born into families of great wealth, and they are destined to a pleasant life with all the material comforts money can buy. Pat Owens had not be born into one of those families. His old man had pissed most of his earnings up against the wall of a small room at the back of the pub, before he’d pissed off forever. His mother barely earned enough to pay the rent and keep Pat, and his two brothers, clothed and fed. Pat Owens knew what it was like to go without from direct experience of the condition. As a small boy, he had been filled with envy over all the things the other kids at school had that he didn’t. After the non-event of his tenth birthday, he’d decided to take matters into his own hands in order to get access to those things other kids’ parents gave them. He’d started honourably enough with a paper round on his second-hand bike. By the time he was thirteen, he had invested in some money earning assets that enabled him to supply the kids that had some money, but not a lot, with pirate copies of the latest music CDs. That had been a good gig while it lasted. As a fifteen year old, he’d ventured into buying and selling stolen goods, having discovered the financial rewards associated with being a middle-man. A lot of things happened in the back shed that year that his mother never knew about. In his final year of high school, he’d managed a small team of like minded boys supplying a range of illicit substances to the kids who had money, lots of stuff and very little excitement in their lives. While those rich kids had gone on to university, Pat Owens had found himself enrolled in a  different kind of learning institution, where they provided the complete residential experience but didn’t hand out a fancy piece of paper at the end of the course. While serving his time, Pat had mixed with people who were only too happy to pass the time by transferring a wide range of life skills, and introducing him to a network of useful contacts. After his release, he had completed an apprenticeship as a butcher with the father of a friend he’d made inside. He’d also completed another apprenticeship of sorts, in his spare time, with the father of another friend, as a locksmith. He didn’t have any paperwork for that qualification. By day, he had butchered carcasses that arrived in unmarked trucks and left as dressed meat in refrigerated trucks with bright signage. By night, he’d opened doors into other people’s houses, as part of a team that fed stolen valuables into a pipeline servicing a clientele that didn’t like to pay the full price for anything. If only things had stayed that way. Unfortunately, all things in life change, including the sophistication of home security systems. To be continued…..