The Banks Heist
I heaved open the segmented bay door of a south side warehouse. The perforated bodies strewn behind me began to steam in the sudden draught of cold air. I stepped out into a darkness filled with driving sleet and climbed into the back of a waiting black SUV with tinted windows, lights out. My contact wondered if it would be worthwhile to call in the paramedics.
I lit a cigarette and stared straight ahead. I could smell the cordite residue from my gun on the sleeve of my overcoat. ‘There’s no point,’ I grunted. ‘Anyway, they’ll be found when the foreman opens shop a few hours from now.’
‘Jesus, Danger,’ she breathed, ‘they were just kids, most of them.’
I shrugged. ‘So were the brainwashed bastards in the Hitler Youth. You fight fire with fire; you fight terror with terror. At least Adolf’s minions had neater haircuts. I’ve never abided long unkempt beards.’ Maybe because I've always hated biker gangs and their sleazy, tattooed ilk; they've no respect for civilians, all guns and bombs in our streets.
‘You’ll have to leave the country for a while. We’ve so overstepped the parameters of C-51; the Mounties and the Edmonton police will be all over this.’ She handed me two envelopes filled with documents: passports, credit cards, bits and pieces of unofficial identification any average person would carry. ‘Where do you think you’ll go?’
‘Probably Barbados,’ I replied. ‘Ann Fatale’s always wanted to go there. Anyway, some guys from the old days have retired there, sitting on the beach, drinking rum.’
‘Christ,’ she said, ‘you make it sound like a Murder Incorporated reunion.’ She tapped her driver on the shoulder. We pulled away through the slush. Our tire tracks would be investigative mush.
I chuckled, exhaling blue-grey smoke from my nostrils. ‘We were more discreet, sister, we didn’t even have a name.’
My moll flew south under the guise of a prim and religious music teacher. I laughed about her CSIS cut-out; Ann Fatale hates Baptists even more than my jazz records and the only music she knows is the ka-ching of a cash register at Holt’s. I was Moore, Geoff Moore, a burnt-out advertising hack. We settled in Barbados easily enough. Our well-appointed digs in Worthing, Christ Church were owned by a former colleague of mine who’d specialized in black ops and wet work. These days he rents beach chairs and umbrellas to tourists who frequent his leased stretch of white sand on the shore of the Caribbean Sea.
On the Saturday we drove the short distance into Bridgetown to do some shopping. I wanted a short brimmed straw fedora to go with my loose, tropical weight linen suit. Ann needed to sex up her beachwear though she kept talking about a cover-up; I thought it best to keep my confusion to myself. We quickly realized that the Cave Shepherd duty free department store catered to the pigeons disgorged from cruise ships, flashing their American dollars ashore, and was priced accordingly. Outside and empty-handed, we paused to admire the blackened statue of Lord Admiral Nelson situated by the inner harbour, one empty uniform sleeve inserted between the breast buttons of his Royal Navy jacket. A limping man grinning bad teeth announced that this Nelson was older than the one in Trafalgar Square as he attempted to shake my hand and wrap a string of beads he described as a ‘reggae’ bracelet around my wrist. I punched him in the throat.
Our afternoon was filled with rum punches. We attended the thoroughbred races at Garrison Savannah, sequestered and waited upon as honoured guests of the Barbados Turf Club. Apparently this mile oval of lush turf in Saint Michael and maybe the godforsaken bits of ancient construction surrounding it - including the main armoury of the Barbados Defense Force - constitute some sort of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Veddy British once. Ann perused the program, ignored the advice of our gracious hosts and then played all the cash we had on the Pick 6. ‘It’s not rocket science, Danger man,’ she huffed. ‘We’ve got the horses, the jockeys, their records. The variable is how rested the nags are, when were their last races? You know me, I’m all about fresh horses.’
The races were like the roads on the island, everything thundering pell-mell in the wrong direction. Damn me if my buxom blonde beauty didn’t pick the winners of the first six races. We were flush with Bajan dollars after our visit to the pari-mutuel window. So much so that afterward when I saw I’d parked our rented vehicle beneath a ripe coconut tree I was annoyed but not livid about the damage.
However, small things in a small, backward country may detonate explosive and lethal irritation. I’d had one too many rum punches and as we strolled into Nelson’s Arms for our nightcaps, I wondered if the name of the local joint was a calculated insult as the good Lord Admiral only had one. There was no place to sit, not because the dive was full of patrons but because there were no tables or chairs. Ann and I waited patiently at the bar. I heard the click of snooker balls from somewhere in the rear dimness.
The pretty young Bajan woman behind the wood ignored us. I fiddled with the corner of a long rubber spill mat branded by Banks, The Beer of Barbados. She refused to make eye contact or shift her lithe little form. I angrily pondered the price of the dents in our car. My belly announced itself with a stab from inside out, too much hot sauce, too much strange food, I thought. The action on the felt had ceased; I knew the regular hard cases were eyeballing my baby from behind their sunglasses. Ann stayed my arm as I was about to pat the area under my jacket where I normally holstered my piece. I turned and casually gauged their number and my distance from the rack of unpolished wooden cues on the wall. I judged the beer mat at my fingertips to be about 18-inches long and half an inch thick. The strip of supple rubber would have to do.
The bartender finally wandered over. I ordered four Banks. She wanted $16 instead of the $10 we had been habitually paying in every other tavern and rum shop. There is talk in this Commonwealth nation of casting the monarchy aside as head of state. I don’t know that that would be aloe for the historic scars of Britain’s slave trade. ‘Different prices for different folk, eh?’ I grunted. I handed her $20 and then nodded at her to get out of my sight, beat it. Off to my left, I heard a cue ball clack in the darkness. I rolled up the rubber Banks bar mat and thrust it into Ann’s bulging Versace handbag.
‘What are you doing, baby?’ she breathed huskily.
‘None of these rude boys are going to die tonight,’ I grunted. I lit a cigarette and adjusted my straw fedora. ‘So,’ I shrugged, ‘I guess a Banks beer mat is as good a souvenir as any. The price is right.’