He was a big fucker.
Richie had a mental picture of a grey haired, 'Just Take the Money and Go!' type, as he stuck the gun through the window.
But he was late thirties, going on forty; a big angry fucker.
"Hand over the takings," Richie said, a nervous waver in his voice. "Do it fucking now." The gun wobbled in his hand and he steadied it by putting his left hand over his right wrist.
There was no shelter and he had been soaked by the rain within minutes. Turning up the collar of his cheap sports jacket, useless against the weather, he took a last drag on his cigarette before flicking the butt away. Had something gone wrong? It was now forty five minutes past the meeting time and the last two pints of Dutch courage had worked through his system. Should he risk a crafty piss? He stamped his feet on the ground to ease the numbness and felt a vibration in his trouser pocket as the text arrived.
Three words on the rain spattered screen: WE ARE ON.
No chance of that piss now. Inside his jacket pocket his right hand gripped the butt of the pistol. It wasn't real. A replica but looked the business. He pulled a baseball cap from his pocket and tugged it onto his head, the peak down low.
Richie had known Andy on and off for years; dragged up together on the same local authority estate. Three years between them. Andy, the eldest, at twenty. Richie, the baby-faced disciple.
Cars were Richie's gig, from the age of fourteen, when he had boosted his first Ford. Since then he'd been in and out of young offender's units, mainly for taking and driving away offences. Andy, smarter, as he told him at every opportunity, had recently done a spell inside.
Richie was broke and Andy, a hopeless gambler, always needed cash. The get-rich-quick plan: Stick-up a London black cab, the drivers always loaded with cash after sixteen hour shifts. Spin the driver a yarn about picking up another punter on the way to a party and lure him off the main road, away from nosey CCTV cameras. Pull the job and have it away with the cash.
"Point the replica in their face. Yell at them and watch them shit a brick," Andy had said. "Easy pickings, my son."
A diesel engine broke the silence and headlights cut through the rain, illuminating the slick road as a cab pulled around the corner. Richie, the tension building, hoped to fuck he wouldn't piss himself, as the driver pulled the window down.
"Hand over the takings. Do it fucking now."
As he clocked the driver, Richie saw that there were two bodies in the rear seats; Andy alongside another guy. The stranger's eyes locked on Richie and for a long moment they looked at each other until Richie pulled his gaze away, "C'mon, hand over the fucking cash or you'll get it."
The driver looked a grizzled son of a bitch. Close cropped hair, dark eyes and heavy salt and pepper stubble. He didn't look scared, just grinned, showing bad teeth and flicked the rear door locks on. "I like to shoot, weekends at the gun club," he said. "You need a real gun, sonny, not a fucking pop-gun." He moved quickly, grabbing Richie by both wrists and yanked him hard up against the door. Richie froze; he could do nothing about the grip on his wrists and as he bounced off the metalwork felt fingers at his throat.
Glass broke inside the cab, raised voices and curses as the cab rocked violently. The grip on Richie's throat weakened and suddenly he was falling in a heap, the fake gun clattering to the ground. Scrambling to his feet, Richie could see that the glass between driver and passenger compartment had been smashed. The stranger had his arms around the cabbie, both of them grappling. Andy, watching white-faced. Suddenly, the driver screamed, his hands coming up to his face. The stranger, a blade in his hand had cut the driver across the right side of his face, blood now flowing freely through the cabbie's fingers.
"Out," the stranger said, "Open the doors and get the fuck out." The door mechanism released and the driver was pushed out onto the road. As Richie inched round the front of the cab, the stranger had the blade at the cabbie's neck. "Where's the fucking money? The money?"
Andy took the hint and, avoiding Richie's confused look, ducked back inside and began to search.
The cabbie, bloody hands still cupped to his head, moaned and groaned. "Shut it," said the stranger.
"Ya cunt. You've cut half my fucking ear off."
"Shut it. Or I'll cut the other one off as well." The stranger pointed towards Richie. "Fuck's sake, mate, get the passenger door open and search for the dough. It's in there somewhere."
Inside, Richie grabbed hold of Andy. "What the fuck's occurring here and who's the nutter with the chiv?"
"That's Spencer," Andy said. "I met him inside. It was his idea to rip off the taxi but I left his name out of it."
"Didn't want to scare you off."
Richie swore but his words were drowned out.
"I've got it," Andy shouted triumphantly, a small black case in his hand. Outside, Andy rested against the bonnet, zipped the case open and pulled out a fistful of notes. "Sweet, the fucker's loaded. Fucking loaded, my son."
Spencer turned his head and the driver took his chance and pulled Spencer sharply forward by the lapels and head-butted him. Spencer's nose broke, blood and snot spurting, as the two of them went down, arms and legs flailing. The cabbie getting the better of it, on top of Spencer, throwing punches. Andy, the first to react, aimed kicks at the driver, catching him in the back and side. Richie, adrenaline-pumped, screamed and jumped into the bundle, as the two of them wrestled the cabbie off Spencer.
Richie took a punch to the face and fell backwards. The driver turned towards Andy, roaring, blood and phlegm flying. Spencer then entered the game again, swinging a low punch to the cabbie's gut, pulling his fist back, following up with another and another. With a surprised look on his face, the driver's mouth formed a silent, bloody O, then his knees crumpled and he died on the cold, wet tarmac. Spencer; stood over him, blood dripping from the blade in his fist.
"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!" Andy screamed, hands up to his ashen face, staring at the lifeless body. "Nooo!"
"Shut the fuck up!" Spencer hit Andy, back-handed, knocking him to the ground beside Richie. "Get on your feet. We need to get the fuck out of here." Spencer's battered face a mask of blood, both eyes beginning to swell and bruise above his flattened nose. "Now!"
Richie really did piss himself, as the sobs racked his body and his bladder opened.
They drove away in the cab, Spencer behind the wheel. The pair of them had watched from the back seats, the air stinking of fear and stale piss, as Spencer pulled the body clear of the cab and dumped it in the gutter. Like old rubbish.
Spencer drove across the city, crossing the river and pulling up on waste ground bordering the water's edge. There was a petrol can in the boot and they watched again in silence as Spencer doused the interior and turned the cab into a ball of flames with a flick of a match.
Halfway across the waste ground, Spencer stopped to launch the bloody knife into the murky water with a straight-arm throw. "You two are coming with me. I know a squat where we can crash while I work out what the fuck to do next."
"Shouldn't we split up?" Andy said, big-eyed, shitting a brick. "Go in different directions like?"
"No fucking way," said Spencer, spittle on his busted lips. He pointed at them with a blood-stained finger. "I need to keep my eyes on you two. You're a liability." He spat blood and phlegm onto the ground, narrowed his puffy eyes. "A real fucking close eye."
BIO: Alan Griffiths lives in London, England. He has a keen interest in reading Crime Fiction, particularly Noir. His first short piece of fiction, Rat Fink, was published on AToN in 2008, which made him a very happy man.