T H E
M O N E Y
S T A R
J O N L Y M O N
Ten years from now.
And apart from the usual technological advances, nothing much has changed.
What the diamond robbers lacked in equipment and experience, they made up for with their desperation and determination.
Simon Remnant was not one of them. But he was acutely aware of their fumbling presence in the jewellers next door to the café outside of which he was toying with a late fried breakfast, feeling every one of his forty-six years following another evening wasted getting wasted.
He had been sitting at the table for nearly two hours, catching the autumnal sun rays that managed to beam between some of central London's lowest high rises. During that time, he'd been forced to shoot several smiles at the little girl sitting with legs swinging at the next table. She was determined not to take her eyes off him, staring like he was an outcast here in his own neighbourhood. Trying to figure him out. Who was he? What was with his old face and his streaky grey hair? Where were all his friends and why was he pushing his food around his plate like her mother told her not to?
In between glances down Greville Street to the junction with Hatton Garden, Remnant demonstrated his disappearing napkin trick, much to the girl's fascination and her mother's consternation. It was a trick he'd perfected while trying to entertain his own little girl some twenty years before.
After another performance, he looked down at a sheet of paper that had held his attention periodically for the past week. What to say, what to say about her? 'This is the proudest day of my life.' That was a good start, but was that a word, proudest? Edgar would know.
He looked up to see the girl's mother pointing out the bits of blueberry muffin her daughter should be eating while berating an absent father on her mobile phone.
A yell from within the jewellers and the sprinkle of a necklace falling on concrete diverted Remnant's fragile attention. His first thoughts were for the audacity of the raid. Straight in the front door, bold as brass bracelets, middle of the day. They had to be amateurs.
Remnant had a few plans of his own tucked away in a drawer in his council flat over the road. Plans he'd developed over the years. Most men who lived round here had something similar. The ultimate 'job' on a jewellers. Nothing serious. Nothing they'd ever carry out. Merely something to pass the time and dream and chat about in between gulps down The Old Mitre.
The sound of smashing glass in the jewellers was Remnant's cue to grab his fork and leap to his feet, deliberately scraping his chair on the pavement as he stood to attract the mother's attention.
"Get inside the café, love," he said. She resented the interruption, pointing to her phone. Remnant pointed to a warty-faced, green-skinned, one-eyed alien clutching a holdall (that wasn't quite holding all the gems he wished to steal) emerging steel toe-capped boot first from the jewellery store. The mother grabbed her protesting daughter and dashed inside the café, which the proprietor swiftly declared 'Closed' with the deft flick of a wrist on the door sign.
Like a one man wall, Remnant stood in the path of the confused alien in the jeweller's doorway. The robber shouted expletives in an unexceptional south London accent that didn't suit his face.
Remnant stared at the alien and spat out the sausage he'd been nervously chewing on for too long like a cowboy might spit out a wad of tobacco. He heard shouting inside the jewellers, and out of the corner of his eye spied an arm with a black, leather gloved hand at its end sweeping a shelf clear of shiny stuff.
He gripped his fork, a better weapon than a knife when it came to cutlery, his broad expanse of hangover and greasy spoon filling the doorway.
"Give it here, mate," he said to the alien, more calmly than he felt as he held out his hand for the holdall. It was soon withdrawn as the butt of a shotgun held by the second thief (a pirate) crashed down on his right shoulder. Remnant went down, his left hand both protecting and inspecting the damaged area, checking to see if his shoulder was still at right-angles to his neck, not shattered and dispersing shards of bone around his upper torso. Satisfied he wasn't badly injured, he struggled to his feet and ran after the thieves who were already on their way down Leather Lane.
The two thieves turned to see Remnant in a pursuit that no one could call hot. Although he looked thin for his age and level of alcohol consumption, his internal organs were far from in good working order. The strains, stresses and a diet stunted by slashed benefits were to blame for his lack of shape, his physical condition a sign of these difficult times.
The two thieves' getaway vehicle was an inadequate and illegally parked white moped. It took two kicks before the engine emulated the sound of suburban Sunday lawnmowers, enough time for Remnant to close in and fire off shouted threats about police action and harsh sentences.
"Get a fucking move on, I think he's gone mad," the alien shouted to the pirate.
As Remnant reached within spitting distance of the moped, the overloaded vehicle slowly pulled off.
Still gaining but struggling for oxygen, Remnant was regretting the fifth, sixth and seventh pints of Gates lager he'd sunk the night before as the escapees raised the speed and volume and hung a right into St. Cross Street. Remnant rounded the corner in time to catch them discarding their respective masks and leaning a left up Hatton Garden and away towards Clerkenwell Road.
Remnant's breathless arrival back at the crime scene barely registered with the two smartly dressed, sweating jewellers, still dazed and tense in the robbery's aftermath. They had been joined by the two Polish security guards who were employed by all Hatton Garden's jewellers to deter criminals. These guards were frowning in tandem as one of the jewellers berated them.
"Your job is to protect us from people like them."
They nodded in unison.
"So where were you?"
The steaming polystyrene cups of fresh coffee they held answered that question.
"They went that way," Remnant told the guards between pants, pointing up Hatton Garden. The Poles looked at each other, threw their coffees into the gutter and ran.
The elder of the two jewellers whom Remnant recognised as the shop's Nigerian owner, DT, asked him if he'd seen the robbers' real faces. Remnant shook his head and rubbed his shoulder.
DT looked for something to kick and found nothing but a tree stump which was soon on the receiving end of his aggression. Remnant looked at DT, who was all clammy hands, pacing the pavement, criticising the failure of his expensive alarm system, (installed by Edgar, Remnant seemed to remember) questioning the whereabouts of the police, and wondering why no journalists were yet on the scene.
Remnant waited expectantly, thinking some kind of reward from DT was surely in order. A thanks for the effort, maybe one of those gems the thieves dropped, or at the very least a fiver for a pint. A gem would be the most suitable though, Remnant concluded. DT could claim it on his insurance. 'Wrap it as a present for your little girl's wedding. You deserve it,' he hoped DT would say.
But DT's mind was obsessed with his loss, and the absence of a publicity-generating police and press presence.
"You're just like all the rest," Remnant shouted at him as the jeweller trudged away from the scene. "In it for yourself."
DT stopped, turned and looked in no mood for criticism. "What have I done now? Do not be having a go at me when I have just been robbed."
"I tried to catch them for you."
"But you didn't catch them, did you? They got away. And I wouldn't be surprised if you let them. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you were in on it, part of the gang."
Remnant shook his head in disbelief. Ten, five, maybe even just a year ago, his next move would have been a violent one. But he'd learned to turn the other cheek, and he walked away down Greville Street towards The Old Mitre, desperately fighting the urge to turn back and shove the words right back down the throat from whence they came. Teach him a lesson. Talking to me like that, blaming me, for what?
He needed a Gates, a golden Gates lager that would 'take him to the promised land' as the old adverts used to say, before saying stuff like that about alcohol was made illegal. After a few more steps, he felt a tug on his sleeve and turned and looked down to see the little girl holding up a toy.
"For me?" he asked.
She nodded five times. He took the toy and examined it. It was a small, plastic man with a slightly scratched yellow hard hat. He couldn't stop himself breaking into a smile.
"Thank you, darlin'." He patted the little girl on the head before her scowling mother (still on the phone) pulled her away and walked in the direction of Chancery Lane tube station, reprimanding her daughter for talking to a strange man.
Remnant heard the little girl ask 'why is he a strange man, mummy?' but their voices faded into the constant hum of central London before he heard her answer.