Harry Blake had had a plan, a master plan. Spent hours casing the joint. Pawed over his scheme in fine detail. The movement of staff, camera points. Tools to break in and ways to escape. Everything was set in place. Getting in and get away. Timed to perfection. He had lifted a stopwatch from the jewellery store three weeks before, the same place that he was going to hit. And with the watch he had meticulously paced every step, picked every lock and turned every latch. Ninja black suit and balaclava he felt every inch the international jewel thief. Alibi set, Harry had been ready. He had done an Italian Job an Ocean’s Eleven, when it came to detailed planning Harry was a confident man. As he had left to head for the shop Harry truly believed the success of the heist was a fore gone conclusion. Timing was the essence of success and time he had off to a ‘T’. If there was one thing Harry understood it was the importance of time!
Even when the Old Bill* has pulled up, lights whooping and flashing Harry had checked his stopwatch and half denied the fact the police had arrived so soon. With all his attention to time he could not fathom what had gone wrong. Harry knew exactly how long it took to walk from A to B before blocking a camera and moving on to C, It was exactly fifty seconds to jemmy the door and twelve and a half to cross the back storeroom floor. The length of time to commit the crime was of absolute importance, it was paramount to success. Harry had driven the distance from the station to the Jewellers twenty times. He knew that the fastest it could be done was in Thirteen minutes and ten seconds. That was a bone fide certainty, an absolute minimum. Harry had blown the safe in five seconds less than his best trial run. He had scooped all the trays and boxes into his bag, not slowing for a second to gloat at what he had. He was at the driver’s door of the car he had borrowed for the occasion when the police had turned into the road. A quick glance at the watch confirmed eleven minutes, seven and one eight of a second gone. By his calculations Harry new he had been ahead of himself. He had had time on his side. Time to spare. He had wondered how on earth did the police get there so quickly? It wasn’t till later back at the station when Sargent McGregor had with some glee, has told Harry that the stopwatch he has so cleverly lifted was a fault one returned to the jewellers for repair. Harry had been obsessed with time; it was an ultimate irony that time had betrayed him. His one mistake was to take the time of the drive, station to shop, from the dashboard clock not the slow watch.
*English name for the police, after William Peel, who founded the Metropolitan police in London. Another name used for the police are the Peelers
Harry’s obsession with time had a deep and painful relevance to him. From the time of his arrest to the time he was sent down, it was forty eight days, fourteen hours and thirty two minutes exactly. Five years the judge had said as the gabble went down. Five years of getting out of your pit at 6am. Five years of completing your ablutions by seven. Five years of Breakfast 7.45am sharp, lunch at 12.30pm and dinner at its allotted time. The time as dictated by measurement was set in stone; he had no control over this, when to eat and when to sleep. When to stay silent and when to speak. Harry could not help himself; he timed everything, how long it took to walk from one side of the cell door to the bars on the window, how long it took to take a dump, how long it took for his cell mate to speak for the first time. Harry was in prison, incarcerated by time. Five years, one thousand, eight hundred and twenty six days, five hours and four minutes. Eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty five hours and four minutes. Over half a million minutes. Harry knew it all; at first it was all he thought about. Doing time!
After a while Harry adjusted to his regimented world, not orchestrated by him, but by prison rules and timetables. He discovered a silent pleasure whilst mopping the floors. Harry mopped like a clock a dip of the mop five seconds long, a further five for the squeeze, flowed by ten swishes left to right, right to left, a second each half movement. Like clockwork he mopped two sets of dunks, squeezes and swishes per minute. So automated the action was, Harry begin to think and wonder above his counting.
He mused as thus: Take away the clock and time is open ended. He knew when time began, when he came into conscious existence. What he could never know is when it will end. Five years of his life they had removed. At least that is how it was meant to be. The punishment for crime being the removal of time. He thought about the justness of this. They had given him five years, he might live till a hundred, or until he was fifty. The shorter the life the harsher the punishment. With this revelation Harry found that he was adjusting his thinking on time. If he did not relate it to the measurement of time, then how could he gauge it? As Harry swung the mop from left to right and back again, second on second, pendulum like. Barely aware of time passing a profound realization struck him. He had been mopping for nigh on an hour, but with his mind arrested in deep thought the hour had felt like a mere moment. Time is not measured by the clock. A stopwatch slow or fast is of no consequence to the reality of time. Time speeds up and slows down dependent of how you used it. There mopping floors in prison he was not doing time, he was using time. The time that was taken was time given too. He chuckled to himself as he spent time mopping. Spending time, saving time, making time, losing time. It was all down to perspective. Time is a reflection of an emotional state. Time well used is quick time the best time, positive time. Slow time, grinds and pulls into black moods. A man has a choice of how he spends the time he is allotted. Quick or slow time the clock time is the same. True time is measured in highs and lows. The quest was to sustain the highs and diminish the lows.
So for the remainder of the one thousand, eight hundred and twenty six days, five hours and four minutes that Harry had been diverted from the course he had imagined, Harry embraced the time he owned. Immersed himself in scholarly pursuits, reading, writing and debating. Harry recorded his past, made tales of his life good and bad. Time taken from him was now time given which he did not waste idly or resentfully. No, Harry was a wiser man now.
On leaving prison Harry looked up at the sun arching above, nibbling at the day. Harry had a new master plan. He would be the perpetrator of the most daring of crimes; he was going to help himself to a most valuable of commodities. Harry Blake was going to steal time. His target would be the tired and the young. At least to begin with they would be his quarry. I guess you may be gasping at the audacity of the man? But I can tell you he is sat down right now his dastardly scheme in full flow, telling a tale about a man and a crime, about a man and time, embellished and exaggerated and made magical, crafted in word by his hand, acted and put in to rhyme for a captivating time. A group of spell bound kids who had had ‘nothing to do’ hanging on every one of his words and every theatrical move. What they will not see is Harry stealing their time. And when he stops telling the story the children will have not cottoned on where the time has gone, but Harry Knows, he will have squirrelled it away and slip to the time needy unnoticed by them as they put their feet up an sip on their coffee.
Harry will smile in smug satisfaction to himself undetected again, as he commits the perfect crime.
Harry Blake the greatest Time Bandit alive! So if you’re sat twiddling your thumbs, if your favourite saying is ‘I have nothing to do’, if you utter the words ‘I’m bored’ then you better watch out. Harry will sneak up on you and whisk time from under your nose and give it away to those who are inclined to sigh when they have run out of time, when the task is left nearly done but they have had to run.
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