The Steal

“Two minutes.” Vaughn said quietly, his voice transmitted to the others by the slim Bluetooth headset in his right ear. It was the only part of him that gave the lie to his appearance. Even though he thought it unlikely that anyone would be looking at him that closely, he carefully kept that side of his head turned in to the wall, away from anyone else on the dingy side street.

He lay sprawled against the alley wall, just another piece of human flotsam, common in the city. His clothes were ragged and filthy, from the grey woolen watch cap on his head to the cracked and holed sneakers than held his feet. They exuded a combination of odors; stale alcohol, body odor, vomit, urine. At first it had been enough to make him want to gag. But now, it was just there, as much an integral part of his surroundings as the constant noise of traffic on the streets surrounding him.

He’d held the same position for the past eight hours, giving every appearance of having passed out next to a dumpster after a drinking binge. Every so often, he gave a slight twitch, a random muscular spasm. Nothing too big, just enough to indicate that he was still alive, if anyone had been watching. And it helped move the aches around his body a bit.

He’d learned patience years ago but that never made the discomfort any less.

He still had one hand resting in his lap, fingers curled loosely around the next of a bottle. An inch or so of the amber liquid, the cheapest and strongest he could find, still rested at the bottom, threatening to leak out as each breath tilted the bottle slightly. The other hand, his right; lay down by his thigh, just out of sight of any casual watcher. Beneath it lay the matte black pistol, fully loaded; safety off.

“You’re up.” The voice of the man Vaughn knew as Two said in his ear. He’d met the man, and the other they both called Three, the night before. “It’s the red Benz. Three total. Driver, guard, bagman in the back.”

So far, so expected. Vaughn thought.

He watched the alley entrance through slit eyes, counting silently to himself. He was just passing the two minute mark when a red four-door turned in and made its way slowly up the street toward him.

“In position?” He muttered and heard both Two and Three answer in the affirmative.

The car pulled up about a dozen feet from him, the back door parallel with a featureless steel door. Well, featureless apart from the graffiti that some artistic youngster had sprayed across it and the walls to either side. But, it was the front passenger seat that opened first.

The man that got out was built. Not big, but there was plenty of muscle on a compact frame. Vaughn could have told that even without the man’s choice of an A-shirt and jeans. The man moved with a degree of fluidity that made Vaughn think of some of the martial arts guys he’d met. But when he turned and slammed his fist against the door three times in rapid succession, Vaughn saw a tell-tale bulge at the small of the man’s back. Revolver, by the look of it. Still, tucked away like that, Vaughn estimated he’d have maybe four seconds lead. Time enough.

There was the sound of metal scraping against metal, probably a peephole being opened then a flurry of a language he didn’t recognize. Talbot, the man who’d hired them all, had told them they were what, Chinese, Korean? Not that it mattered to Vaughn.

The door was opened and the third man got out of the back seat, clutching a case to his chest as he scurried inside. The well build one was left outside, presumably keeping watch. Vaughn thought he felt the man’s eyes on him, and he relax as much as he could. There was a slight scuffing sound, boots against the asphalt probably and Vaughn hoped he wasn’t coming for a closer look. He could still drop the man, if it came to it, but he didn’t want to so until the target was out in the open again. The gun was a cool comforting presence beneath his hand.

He heard a whirring, one of the Benz’ windows sliding down and then a conversation. He’d obviously been dismissed as a potential threat.

“In position?” He muttered.

By now, Two and Three should have moved in, ready to block either end of the alleyway in case the driver tried to make a break for it.

He heard the scrape as the door opened again and made his move. He brought the USP up fast, still seated against the wall. He pulled the trigger twice in rapid succession, sending the shots at the one he’d dubbed the bodyguard. The man was in the process of turning towards the door when the bullets came at him. The first clipped his shoulder, spinning him around. The second creased his throat sending up a fine pink mist.

Vaughn rolled to his left, trying to get his legs under him and make it to his feet.

The sound of the gun shots echoed around the alleyway. The driver was yelling something in his language, barely audible over the way he was revving the Benz’ engine. The bagman seemed to have frozen, the briefcase or whatever it was clutched to his chest. Vaughn guessed he had maybe a few seconds before the initial shock wore off. He was still on the ground, the smell of the alley floor and cordite in his nostrils. He picked his target, fired.

The bagman screamed as the bullet tore into his lower leg, pitching him to the ground. But he hung on to the case, curling around it in his pain. The driver had seen the bagman go down and self-preservation had got the better of his sense of duty. The engine growled as it took off for the end of the alley.

Vaughn cursed, pushing himself to his feet. He was turning to track the Benz when there was a roar and a sledgehammer hit him in the chest. The impact was enough to knock the breath from him and destroy any semblance of balance. He fell back against the wall, his head cracking against the brick. Through wobbly vision he saw the bodyguard, one hand pressed to the side of his neck, the silver snub-nosed revolver in the other. He saw the muzzle flash a split second before he heard the boom and ducked instinctively. Fragments of brick spat themselves at him as the bullets smacked into the wall inches from his head. He jerked the trigger rapidly, feeling the gun kick against his hand. The bodyguard flew back, three red blossoms appear in the front of his shirt.

Still dazed, he lurched upright, swaying a little. He heard the crash as the Benz ran into a wall at the far end of the alley and turned briefly to see a cloud of steam escaping from its ruptured radiator. Two must have done his job and was probably already getting clear.

He staggered over to the wounded bagman, stamped on the man’s wrist until his fingers opened and Vaughn could tear the briefcase from his grasp. He paused, steadied himself, then put the last of his bullets in the man’s head. Then he turned and ran for the place Three was waiting.