Rules of the game.
It was around midnight when Richard finally came up from the cellar. He had been shifting beer barrels about in readiness for the next day when the bar would re-open. Everyone had gone except for the landlord, Mr Williams, who was sitting at one of the tables drinking a whisky and soda – a usual habit before turning in for the night.
As Richard began to stack the shelves, out of sight of his employer, he heard the saloon door squeak open.
“Well, well, look what the cat’s dragged in,” came the sound of Mr Williams voice across the counter.
“I finally did that bank job,” a cocky reply was returned by, what sounded like, a young man.
Richard’s eyes widened at the unknown visitor’s words.
“Bank job! What Bank job?” he thought from his seclusion.
“You ain't, have you?” Mr William’s sounded quietly in awe the man. “You mean the one in the shopping precinct, the one you have been thinking about for ages.
“Yeah, I finally sussed the getaway route. Bit of a gun blazer though – Filth everywhere.”
Richard’s heart skipped a beat. The young urchin had scant respect for the law – referring to policemen as filth. The two men could not know he was listening. He knew Mr Williams was trying to go straight and respectable since coming out of prison, but, obviously, the landlord still kept shady company. What should he do? The bank robber had committed a crime and Mr Williams was still indulging the lawless man.
“No, no, no. That won’t do,” remonstrated Mr Williams – clearly frustrated. “A shopping precinct, women and children and you blaze away.”
“What does that matter,” replied the young man. “I got away with it, didn’t I? That’s the object of my game man, I don’t care about the rest of it. You’re breaking the rules – you know you’re doing it, so why start moralising and making new codes of conduct. If I’m going to be like that, why rob the blooming bank in the first place?” The young man sounded clearly manic.
Richard heard Mr William’s chair squeak. The old ex-con was getting up – was he getting angry? His footsteps grew louder as he came nearer to the bar where the nervous employee was hiding.
“It all works against you. The penalties are far greater when you play the game your way. There are always consequences. I know, I’ve gone on and paid the penalties at a latter date.”
Richard was still on his knees by the trap open door. He pressed himself nearer the shelves so that Mr Williams could not see him behind the counter. He was beginning to sweat as fear swelled up in the pit of his stomach – knowing that his employer would be angry, if he was caught eaves dropping.
Mr Williams placed his empty glass on the counter along side something that had a hollow sound to it. Richard felt a flood of relief when he heard the landlord’s footsteps walk away.
“What should I do then?” returned the voice of the other man, subdued and willing to listen to a respected old hand.
“Well, if you can boy! Steer clear of shopping precincts. You can’t always do that, but you must try whenever possible.”
His voice held an assured confidence, no doubt from his passed experience thought Richard. The teacher and his pupil – so that was Mr Williams’ new field! Apart from being a humble Publican, he was a tutor in his old career.
“I’ve got the next one planed,” the unknown man sounded nervous “It’s a bit above my league but I’d be so pleased if I could pull this one off. Will you listen to my plan please? I’ll give you a run down on it. You can tell me where I might go wrong. It’s Harper and Gates security – that big warehouse out in the sticks.”
“Oh that one yeah – I done that ages ago. All right then boy, just a quick run down then and I’ll give you the benefit of my experience.”
“Oh thanks Mr Williams you’re a real diamond.”
Richard listened on at the other man’s excited voice, while repeating to himself, “Harper and Gates, Harper and Gates.” He wanted to burn the name into his memory. There was no way that he could allow this person to commit another crime. Mr William’s confidante had no misgiving about blasting people away. What if the unscrupulous man killed someone on this next raid! Richard shuddered at the thought of such a prospect. He knew exactly what he must do – even though he had heard Mr Williams say on numerous occasions that he did not like ‘Grassers’. Well employer or not, Richard could not bare the thought of having someone’s death on his conscience. Not when he knew he could prevent such a foul act.
“Let’s go up stairs and discuss it. We’ll be able to look at the whole lay-out properly. Maybe even go on a trial run,” laughed Mr Williams.
Richard listened as both the men shuffled across the floor towards the counter’s flap. They would see him when they walked behind the bar to go upstairs into the living quarters. He bit his lip, quickly gathering his jumbled wits, stealthily moving to climb down the steps of the trap-door.
He got to the bottom, just in time to hear the men’s footsteps above. His heart was thumping away – paranoid that they might have caught a glimpse of his head as he disappeared below the floor level.
“Richie,” called Mr Williams loudly.
God! He had been seen.
“Yes Mr Williams,” Richard nervously replied.
“Don’t forget to lock up lad. I’m going up now.”
“Will do, Mr Williams.” He was flooded with relief.
The sound of the two men’s footsteps and chatter faded, allowing Richard to gingerly go back up the ladder.
“Right,” he thought to himself as he closed the trap door. He took the empty glass off the counter, to place in the sink. There was a square box beside the glass, which he realised was the hollow sound he had heard earlier. Quickly, he picked it up and put it by the till, taking no notice of the design on the top of package. His adrenaline was rushing and he was itching to get to the police station as quickly as possible. Richard was so determined to fulfil his duty, he completely forgot about locking the saloon doors as he rushed off, out of the back entrance.
He was gone just a short while when Mr Williams returned, smiling at his own incompetence.
“I’ll forget my blooming head if it wasn’t screwed on,” he quietly chuckled to himself.
He stopped and looked for something he had put on the bar earlier, frowning for a moment, as his eyes scanned counter. Spotting the box beside the till, he smiled as he read the words ‘Gun blazing Hogs.’ No doubt they would have fun playing the software game, especially the Harper and Gates warehouse robbery on the more skilled level. He smiled at the thought of his young friend, impatiently waiting upstairs by the computer. It was like committing a crime and not having to pay for it – a small indulgence since coming out of prison.