He was just waiting, standing in the park, staring up at the window he knew so well and waiting–for what? A light, her face, a sign from the heavens? Everybody’s waiting for something: chips and pie, pie in the sky, a windfall from their uncle dying, a lottery win, fame and fortune and oh, honey, if you just put your head out the window and saw me standing here, he thought, you would know I’m the one.
But she never looked even though he stood here too many nights and someone was bound to report him as a perv or potential kiddie fiddler, but her presence drew him here like a junkie to his fix. He just needed a sign.
“Well, what have we got here?”
He spun around. Of all the people you’d not want to meet in the dark in the park or with a fox or in your socks at the top of the list had to be Graham and Dave Crewe. Only nobody called them that, just called them “those motherfuckers” because there wasn’t much more you could say about them that didn’t capture it all. There was bad and there was mad and then there was the Crewes.
“Looks like we caught a peeping Tom,” Dave said, as Graham nodded sagely.
“We don’t like peeping, Tom.” Dave clapped a large hand down on his shoulder and he felt his body shake from the weight of it.
He considered what he might say that wouldn’t arouse a fit of random violence, but found himself tongue-tied. Before he could make a decision, Dave threw his head back and laughed like a hyena.
“Only jokin’!” He thrust his big face right up close. “Or am I?” Then leaned back for a further explosion of mirth. “Truth is, we’re lucky we ran into you, lad. Isn’t that right Graham?”
Graham grunted, staring off into space.
“We need a third man, Tom,” Dave said confidentially. “Your lucky night.”
The-man-who-would-be-Tom did not feel especially lucky. He attempted to conceal his alarm at the turn of events. “What for?”
“We have a little work to do and a third pair of eyes would come in handy just now.” Dave grinned like a crocodile. “Do I speak the truth, Graham?”
Graham snorted and then spat onto the pavement. It probably meant he agreed.
“Come along then, Thomas. We’ve got work to do.” And he found himself hustled along between the two giant brothers. Dave kept up a steady stream of random opinions on the papers, the state of the country, the many failings of Wayne Rooney and the price of lager these days. Graham spat occasionally.
Before long they arrived at a small grocers, shuttered for the night, snug as a bug in a rug. An old-style chalkboard still bore the prices of yesterday’s produce neatly written in rounded letters. “Keep an eye on the street,” Dave warned, his huge paw gripping Tom’s shoulder again. “We don’t want no surprises, right?” A warning pinch threatened to dislocate his arm from its socket.
“Right,” he said, feeling his heart leap into his throat.
He stood on the pavement and watched as the brothers went to work. Graham pulled out a bolt cutter from inside his jacket and it bit through the puny lock. They rolled up the gate and Dave elbowed the glass pane above the handle and reached in to unlock the door. “Old school,” he chortled with obvious pleasure. “Not many of these left anymore.”
The brothers went in and at once sounds of mayhem ensued. Panic made him twitch on the quiet street, too afraid to run off, but nervous about sticking around. He winced at the sound of metal smashing glass. Were they just busting up the joint or did they have looting in mind also? Odd, attacking a grocer’s.
A light drew his eye up. A face appeared at a window and for a moment he almost wanted to imagine it was his girl, but of course it wasn’t. An old woman looked down at him in the dark. He put a finger to his lips, cautioning her to silence.
She threw up the sash. “What’s going on?”
He threw up his hands and tried to signal quiet, alternatively pointing to the interior of the store, feeling like an idiot. She stared at him a moment, then lowered the window without another word.
An even greater panic seized him. Should he tell the Crewes? Likely she called emergency services and the polis were on their way. Maybe he could wait until he heard the sirens, then warn them and run off with good excuse.
The door next to the grocer’s opened and out came the old woman with a shotgun in her arms. He gasped. “Don’t go in there!” he hissed. “It’s the Crewes.”
The woman stared at him a moment. Her deeply lined face looked grim but her grip on the gun held steady. She walked to the door where the sounds of anarchy continued. He held his breath.
Unsurprisingly, Dave spoke first. “Out of the way, gran. We were hired to do a job and we’re–”
The explosion of the shotgun echoed loudly in the quiet streets. If the cops weren’t on their way already they would be now.
“You shot my brother!” Graham shrieked. His voice seemed awfully high for his huge body and Tom found himself distracted by the thought, so that’s why he don’t speak much. A second explosion and there was no more from the Crewes. He wondered if he should look inside but found himself frozen on the pavement.
She stepped out of the door. For a moment he wondered if she would gun him down. In the distance a siren began to wail. He goggled at her, but the woman seemed suddenly tired.
“The boys in blue on their way now?” she asked him.
“I think so,” he stuttered. He saw an overturned crate in the doorway and ducked in to get it. Setting it down on the pavement he gestured for her to take a seat, which she did with a satisfied grunt.
She looked at him with frank curiosity. “You need a bigger pair, son.”
He could feel his face flush and felt grateful for the night’s veil.
She pulled the blue housecoat closer around her and balanced the shotgun across her lap. He stood awkwardly at her side. “I should have never left the farm,” she said almost to herself. “People just don’t have any manners here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said meekly. The sound of the siren grew louder.