George and Spider Part Ten - The Momentum
By Jane Hyphen
In the days that followed, George became consumed in the finer details of the forthcoming robbery. He went to the Joules home, up into his old attic room and rifled through Tony's wardrobe until he located his old combat gear. This outfit he'd worn frequently while bunking off during his school days, believing it gave him a sort of invisibility. It smelled terribly of damp and Tony's aftershave but he couldn't possibly wait until it was washed and dried, he simply had to put it on immediately. The cotton was thick and heavy. Instantly he felt bigger, more powerful, more in control.
As he set out towards the doily house a commanding voice sounded in his head. It wasn't "the voice", fortunately he hadn't heard that in a while, but another voice, the voice of the organised element of George's personality. It directed him, told him to breathe, take his time, and most of all to be clever, to be ingenious.
The target address was a prominent house on a busy main road. It was a house that George remembered seeing as a child; Victorian, built in the Gothic revival style. There were other houses in the area, built in the same style, but this one was special, larger and more extreme in its decorativeness. George couldn't remember who in his family decided to name it "the doily house", he suspected it was his mother. She had loved the intricate stonework around the porch and above the windows, it was her dream home. It seemed like some kind of fate had led George to this robbery and part of him felt envious that it would be Spider who would get to go inside that house and not him.
For George and Spider this job was a step up, a sort of criminal promotion. They were far more used to targeting new, and usually hard-earned money, frequently preying on large, insignificant houses in new developments where the occupants were wealthy but somewhat busy and distracted. The advantage of these properties was the fact that they had similar layouts; a large kitchen/diner, a separate lounge with huge telly, a double garage and utility. This was just how they were, modern family living, boxy, dull and predictable. Robbing them needed very little in the way of preparation, indeed it could be executed from a standing position, an opportunist grab with virtually no momentum at all.
The doily house was different, the thought of it excited George on a much deeper level. The building itself was sure to be a puzzle. Big old houses were likely to have hidden rooms and bizarre layouts, the owners might be more leisurely, perhaps at home more, or possibly abroad for long periods. George mulled over the possibilities. It seemed to him that the "plain minted" were much harder to predict than the tired made-its of upper middledom. The two of them would need a long run up for this one, they would have to be ingenious to get away with it cleanly. He would have to watch the inhabitants, get a grip on their habits. The whole operation would need thorough preparation and a degree of momentum.
On the opposite side of the road to the doily house stood a very large, broad-spreading horse chestnut tree. George was very talented at climbing trees; as a child he used to sit in them for hours, sometimes days while his poor mother telephoned the police to report him missing for the seventeenth time. The tree held onto its parched autumn leaves, they were mottled, disfigured, sick with black fungal spots. As long as it held onto those leaves, it would make a fine place for George to hide out.
He stood beneath it for five or ten minutes, trying to look innocent, casually glancing at his watch and being careful not to look across to the house. A green telephone exchange box would provide the leg-up he needed to access the lowest limb of the tree. He checked out the arrangement of the branches and mentally climbed them, calculating exactly where he would place his hands and feet. The road was wide and busy, it gave him a greater degree of anonymity than a quieter road would have provided. In truth he was difficult to see in his combat gear, leaning against the green exchange box. He waited for a lull in the traffic, then up he went, following the instructions inside his head, until he was perched on a substantial branch halfway up the tree, about twenty feet off the ground.
For George it would have been rude to begin watching the property immediately, for he was a great believer in the power of invisible forces. Constant and intense staring at the target property might well cause a silent telegraph of communication to pass to the occupants inside. In response they might peer out of the window or draw closed the curtains to gain privacy. He shifted his weight into a comfortable position on the branch and rested his fore-arms upon a lighter branch just in front of him. Suddenly he was struck by an intense feeling of relaxation. He closed his eyes and tuned into the rhythms of the xylem and phloem as they flowed through the organs of the tree. Being autumn time, the tree was on a go-slow, but George felt something, a sort of sylvary pulse. There was life in that tree, and not just biology either, there was something else, something sentient, and George took from it a sort of deep, silent energy.
Fifteen minutes passed and he tentatively looked across at the house. It was dusk now and some lights were on, he could see part of the interior, it looked tasteful and modern, bright and minimalist. It became apparent to George that this was not a tired, shabby house, holding a moribund old couple, who rattled around inside, too proud to move on and let the place go. This house was inhabited by people who were upwardly mobile, in the swim of life; garage doors had been painted and restored, the front garden was landscaped, a shiny four by four with aggressively wide tyres stood obediently on the block-paved driveway. There was an alarm system, electric front gates with an intercom, above the garage was a small yellow sign with a CCTV logo on it. George pictured Spider scampering up the side of the house like an uninvited rodent and instantly butterflies flapped in his stomach. What are we taking on? He thought. It was surely too late to say no to Winky now, what would Arthur say? There would be consequences. Shit, thought George, we're committed now. Somehow sending Spider into that property seemed like throwing him to the lions.
George sighed and shifted along the branch a bit so that he could rest his head on the slender limb in front of him. Slow down, be ingenious, said the voice inside his head, one step at a time, you CAN do this, you just need momentum, an appropriate amount of momentum. His thoughts turned to Tony and his forthcoming audition which he was likely to have great success with. The pilot light in his belly flashed and burnt instantly brighter and hotter. I'll nail this, he thought, the best fish are at the bottom of the sea, Winky said so. My mom loved that house, this is my fate!
He removed a little notebook from one of his pockets and began sketching out the house. Drawing was one of George's great skills, and something he enjoyed without the pressure of wanting to rush and get it over with. He calmly drew the locations of the doors and windows, the line of the roof, the chimney; on the opposite page he sketched out how he thought the interior might be arranged. It seemed to him likely that a person with a valuable collection of cigarette boxes might have them displayed in a glass cabinet to show them off to guests. But then again, what if the owner wasn't a show-off, what then? Maybe they were in a safe, or hidden away in a private room, so they, and only they could appreciate them during quiet, indulgent moments. Rich people, thought George, VERY rich people are puzzling and mysterious.
I should be rich, he thought, I'm just a poor boy, but I'm most definitely puzzling and mysterious enough to be VERY rich indeed. I'd hide those beautiful cigarette boxes right away, out of sight, and keep them for my own eyes and hands without the contamination of the common, possibly jealous admirer.
To allow his mind to drift into an indulgent stupor, one in which he found himself wealthy and mysterious, would have been very bad use of his time and not befitting of someone in combat gear. He gave himself a firm pinch on the thigh and turned his attentions to the dentists which stood next door to the doily house. It was a huge building, sprawling over four floors and it wasn't pretty; it had that NHS look, hard and cold, decorated inside with sickly tones. It had a blue sign outside saying, "Lewis and Partners". George had a feeling that his grandmother had gone there for dentistry, the name Lewis seemed synonymous with her gold teeth. This subject caused his mouth to fill up with thick saliva. He spat as he lowered himself down onto the green box and then onto the pavement below.
He crossed the street, glancing for a last time at the doily house. There was no sign of life, not even a little silhouette of man. He noticed a sign on the gate, "Beware of Dog". A dog was a good thing, it meant that the alarm system was compromised, perhaps limited to certain rooms or doors and windows. Dogs could be manipulated far easier than alarms. It would have been unwise to linger longer on the street so he headed home with plans to visit again in a different guise the following evening.