Temptation by Rob Horne is an accompanying story to my short crime story Life.
I’m shouting at the tosser in the next cell, he’s shouting down the phone and now he’s shouting back at me. Can’t hear meself bloody think. Now it sounds like he’s on about someone having tricked him into giving them a baby for Chris’ sakes. I must relax, lie back on me bunk, and reflect on how I got into this position… and how I’m going to get out of it.
Screw the guy next door, he’s not important. Him and the other blokes banged up in here don’t know me. Think they do, but they know nothing about me. I’m not like them. Seeing me here they expect I’m just another busted idiot who’s too stupid not to get caught. Well, maybe this time they might be right. Okay so I used to be a bit of a Jack the Lad when I was a kid, always up to no good, did some things I shouldn’t have of course; but I never got caught. Stopped it all in my late teens as I could see the slippery slope ahead of me and knew it wouldn’t take much more to end up inside.
Being a lazy sod also helped me leave that life behind: as soon as I left school I faked an injury and got the GP to declare I was unfit for work, then claimed all the benefits I could get me hands on; bloody funny now when I look back. But I got bored sitting in me flat doing nothing all day. I’d sworn off the drink and drugs by then, not that I’d ever been that into them, fuckers screw you up something terrible and seen too many of me mates shrivel up and die that way. Don’t take me wrong, I enjoy the odd pint and the occasional whiskey, and might be persuaded towards the odd toke or two but that’s my limit. So to avoid climbing the bloody walls I signed up for some adult Ed classes and later one of them OU degrees and, well, fuck me sideways but I only passed it with first class honours. So now there’s letters after me name and I’ve got myself a decent job, bit of cash to flash, posh car, nice little house, the works! You’d never believe it, growing up where and how I did, that I managed to make something of meself.
Ah, back then boredom was my friend; this time it has truly been my enemy.
It all went to shit when I bumped into Danny McGuire. Me an’ Danny had grown up together, pulled all sorts of stunts together, used to bunk off school together. It was Danny’s idea to round up all the bike chains from the smaller kids and chain up the school gates. The teachers couldn’t get their cars out for bloody hours! Although I have to take credit for burning down the bike sheds when we tried to make toast on an open fire. Good times, great times. Funny how it took me years to realise how much of a bad influence he was on me in them days. That’s what we did in the pub that afternoon: reminisce about those days and then how we’d drifted apart when Danny got put in borstal, which by coincidence, or maybe not, was about the time I started to grow up, how we’d changed, though truthfully probably not in his case, through all them years. I almost envied him in a way, my life was dull as fuck while Danny’s sounded full of excitement and drama.
“So these days you’re straight as an arrow, no record, no collar felt even? Lucky you. So what do you do for money mate?” He asked me.
“Working, honest work,” I replied with a sigh. “I’m an account manager for a software company. Pays the bills an’ all that.”
“Wow, aren’t you on the up an’ up Gal, so I guess you won’t be interested then? No prizey for Pricey this time. Your loss mate.”
He was trying to piss me off using my old nicknames to bring me back to somewhere I wasn’t any more. No one calls me Gal now. I’m Gary Price. No Pricey neither. I could see he was trying to make me curious so I’d have to go an’ ask him what he meant. Danny had been hinting he was looking to score big, so I knew something tasty could well be on the cards, tasty but highly dodgy; but what the hell, listening never did anyone no harm. I should’ve remembered how Danny could always talk me into anything.
“Go on then, what’s the deal?”
Danny was setting up a job, a jewellers; although he wouldn’t let on where and when to me at the time and that was fair enough, can’t blame him having not spoken to me for years. All he needed someone to get his crew inside, someone who could look the part, who he could trust.
I was sorely tempted; not that I needed the money or the aggro, I didn’t need neither, but it was the buzz, the excitement. Bloody hell, I bore easily. Yeah damn right, I was bored out of me skull in my good, honest job, bored of my comfortable, honest life. I was very tempted. Like handing out sweets to that 20 stone 14-year-old who was in the papers the other day, Danny fed me more until I was eating out of his hand. And look where it landed that kid: taken into care. What the hell was I expecting? Well, I was looking at the past through those old rose-tinted glasses and although I should’ve known better, there was a part of me that truly believed I could do it and get away with it as I had in the past, mad as it sounds to me now.
It took a few weeks to organise. Couple of days before it was to go down Danny let on the jewellers was up near Willesden Green. They were cagey; you had to have an appointment before they’d let you in. Not a great area round that way, and Danny said they’d been robbed before, four or five times if I remember rightly. They’d had the standard buzzer system, eyeing up the prospective punters or robbers through their glass door apparently, but when that kept failing, they brought in this appointment malarkey.
To say I was excited don’t begin to cover it; the adult in me had walked away, and back instead was the easily led Gal Pricey who had followed Danny McGuire like a shadow back in the day. Danny was King again. He was onto a winner. This was not going to fuck up. No way. Not possible. And sure as eggs was eggs I wanted a part of it and knew, just knew, I could do what was needed. This would be a piece of piss, no doubt about it. Danny already had a buyer lined up, some foreign geezer who’d whisk everything out of the country before you could blink and leave us with a pile of cash.
My part was straightforward enough: make the appointment with the jewellers, get in, deliver my well-rehearsed lines about looking for an engagement ring for my fiancée in Paris – needed to have a reason she wasn’t choosing it with me if they wondered – and be uming an’ ahing between two rings at a quarter past one. So when Danny’s mate dials me mobile and I tell them I’m nipping outside to take a business call, they’d hopefully have their minds on me money and a little less on the door as I pull it open while turning back, as if I was just having one last look. Then bosh, I’m knocked off me feet as a gang of tooled up hooded bastards push past and in. Then making me look like a proper victim, they nick me iPhone and wallet on the way out. I could have been there anyway. It wasn’t even proper crime on my part, just a lie about having a Parisian fiancée. I was more than up for it. I was invincible and this was seriously easy money.
I was right as I knew I would be, the job went like bloody clockwork. But the buzz man, you wouldn’t believe how alive it made me feel. Everyone did what they were told to and nobody got hurt. The haul was far bigger than we’d expected too. I played my part like an Oscar winner: “Oh officer, the shock was so terrible, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go into a jewellers again.” I even did a little bottom lip quivering which looked good and let me hide the smile I was struggling not to plaster all over me face. I promised to be available if there were any questions, just like the model citizen I so obviously was. As I went out the door one of the policemen told me I shouldn’t blame myself, and for a moment I nearly believed him.
Everything continued to go perfectly. I went home pretending to be in a state of shock, ringing in to work to explain what had happened on me lunch break while I was looking for a new watch. My boss was very sympathetic, told me to take the rest of the afternoon off to recover.
Couple of days later, with everything back to normal and the buzz wearing away, the doorbell rang. I took delivery of a tasty pepperoni pizza from a guy in a crash helmet, still sitting on his moped on my bloody path as he leant forward to hand it to me, cocky little sod. Underneath was the message from Danny I’d been expecting: he’d moved the stuff and had been able to divvy up the proceeds already; my share for the job had come to a little over fifteen grand. Not bad for less than an hour’s work, or more if you add in the planning, but who’s counting chatting to me old mate down the pub as work? The buzz reared inside me again – I could so get used to this.
I didn’t get a chance to get used to it as things went all Pete Tong just after that. I got it third-hand from someone who knew someone who’d been there, that Paul, the guy with Danny who’d phoned me in the jewellers, was a shitfaced junkie, and the way I heard it was Paul had collected his share and taken it straight back to his flat in Kings Cross with the aim of getting higher than God on smack. Some total loser he had staying there got into an argument with him over something stupid and all hell broke loose. Somehow Paul ended up getting cut up real bad. When the cops got there he was pissing out claret from everywhere, he thought he was going to die. Apparently he’d seen the bright light up ahead as they’d ambulanced him up Euston Road to the hospital. The bastard had a fit of conscience and spilled his guts to PC plod.
The filth came for me at work the next day. So that’s my job gone down the toilet even if I do get out of here. The word is Danny tried to do a deal and would name names if he could get a lighter sentence. He always was a squealer at heart. Why did I trust him again?
Now here I am, on remand, residing at Her Majesty’s pleasure in Thameside nick, my clean record gone forever. At least I can afford a half-decent brief but he says it isn’t looking good; with Paul finding religion at just the wrong moment, Danny prepared to give up everyone for the chance of a cushy number in an open prison, the CCTV footage showing me at the scene of the crime, and then there’s the call Paul made to my mobile and my fake fiancée thrown in too, there’s more than enough for a conviction. I’m fucked.
Fuck you Danny McGuire, fuck the bastard who put Paul in hospital, and fuck the guy in the next cell banging his phone against the wall.
To read Rob Horne’s writer interview click here.