Day nine was Christmas Day, the family had all gathered; they decorated the table with holly and crackers. We were all smiling, Dad had been generous with gifts this year. Mum carried the turkey from the oven. Uncle Pete stood, pulled his Browning and shot his brother, my father. The bullet entered below his eye, killing him instantly.
Mum dropped the bird and stood opened-mouthed. My sister screamed. Granddad pushed his chair back and started after uncle Pete. The door slammed. Uncle Pete fired the engine and screeched down the otherwise quiet street. The black Jaguar disappeared by turning left.
I jogged back inside. Granddad was coughing and bent double by the door getting his breath back, I passed him to check on my mum. She was crying, slumped in an armchair. My fifteen-year-old sister, calling emergency services, hammering number nine. My dad? He hadn’t moved after hitting a side-plate with his head. Oddly, I noticed the family framed photo behind him, glass shattered with a small lump of metal buried in mum’s face.
Dad was wearing his Christmas present, a light-blue button-down collar business shirt. He also sported a bulky bandage on his wrist. A thought struck me, “How come did Dad and Uncle Pete have the same taste in clothes. When Dad wore light blue, Pete wore a slightly different shade of blue. If Dad wore yellow, Pete would wear orange, if Dad wore burgundy, Pete sported maroon?” I also wondered, “Why does uncle Pete have a bandage wrapped around his head?”
Pete and my Dad would meet up most mornings, they planned their next robbery. In the evening they would share a few beers, sometimes here in our living room or down at their local.
“What happened?” I asked my sister.
“You saw what happened, don’t ask stupid questions,” she answered.
I asked my mum and anyone listening to the same question. The replies were grunts or shakes of heads.
Then the police arrived, followed by the ambulance.
The Doherty boys were well known to the ‘Old Bill’. The questioning went on for an hour. The police received similar answers to me. My granddad lost his temper, swore and threatened the police. They arrested him. They sent my sister and me upstairs.
Mum continued talking, but we couldn’t hear, even when we crept closer down the stairs. Janice grunted, “I’m going for a walk,” slamming the front door.
“Can I come?”
“No!” she yelled at me.
“The Post Office offers such slim pickings these days, we should try something else,” said Pete.
“What have you got in mind?” asked my dad.
“I watched the employees at that Indian factory in West Road. Friday nights they check their pay packets as they exit the door.”
“You want us to knock a few foreigners over the head? And nick their pitiful wage?” asked my Dad.
“Because they are illegals, they don’t have bank accounts, so, all cash.”
“That means somebody has to pay in pound notes? Why not nick the lot? We are wasting our time by taking each worker's salary. We’ll hit the boss,” said my Dad smiling.
Both Dad and Uncle Pete leaned back and fiddled with their neckties, Dad’s plain dark blue, Pete’s Paisley patterned royal blue.
Sat in the Jag, they took it in turns to watch the factory. Taking snaps of everyone who entered the works. Most walked along the road, a few came on the bus. The first to arrive were in a newish Mercedes. A large turbaned man driving the passenger was a strikingly good-looking young lady in a silk sari. They sauntered through the main door.
“He must be the boss. Who is she? Too young to be his wife. Well-dressed for a secretary?” said Pete. “Christ, she’s beautiful.”
My Dad had given up trying to find a wife for his brother. He snorted, “Get a nice English lass. What’s wrong with you?”
The staff must clock in at eight. The turbaned man and the good-looking lady were already in their office. Just after noon, a new van pulled up, the driver in smart casual clothes, flicked his ginger hair from his eyes as he breezed in. Five minutes later he left, after assisting a pair of men loading the van with bundles wrapped in brown paper. Dad and uncle Pete followed the buyer’s truck.
“Hello mate, what’s the food like in here?” said Dad to ginger.
“Yeah, pretty tasty mate.”
The pub was empty; the cooking smells wafted into the bar.
“What are they cooking, smells great?” asked Pete.
“They knock up a special, good job you’re here early. It gets packed at one when the factories shut for lunch. Sit with me if you like?”
The three men sat by the window tucking into the special lunch.
“Are you your own boss?” asked Dad.
“Yeah, I buy a bit of this and that. Hope to sell it for a tasty profit. Doing well with fancy rip-offs,” he chuckled.
“Really? That sounds good. Tell us more. What are you selling?”
“I sell fashion polo shirts, stuff like that. I get a good deal from that Indian ‘gaff up the road,” said Ginger.
“Indians, eh? Are they good to deal with?”
“Yeah, except they want cash up front. It was difficult at first, but now business is great.”
The Merc arrived well before eight. Later, the silk sari flowed to Starbucks on the corner. Dad stayed in the car, while Pete decided they needed coffees too.
“She smells divine,” Pete mouthed silently, following the sari.
He rushed ahead and opened the door for her, “After you,” he said.
“Thank you, kind gentleman,” she said, brilliant white teeth flashed a shy smile.
He turned and opened the door for her once more. Coffee in hands, she walked back to work.
Pete made sure nobody saw him get in the Jag.
“We’d better park somewhere else, I’m worried they’ll get suspicious, us here day after day.”
“It wouldn’t be a problem if you hadn’t got out. You and your coffee? We have dark windows in case you’ve forgotten. Come on, that’s enough surveillance for one day.”
Pete was busy Googling at six am, finding out all he could about Indian ladies. He wanted to learn about saris, in case he got another chance to speak with her.
Dad swapped his car for his mate’s Ford, “Just for a day,” he told Mum. She was proud to sit in the Jaguar and didn’t want to lose it.
Late that morning a ten-wheeler arrived, staff rushed a forklift to the doors. Soon bolts of cloth, blues of many shades, creamy white and bright yellows and oranges hastily shipped inside. The driver left, stuffing cash-filled envelopes into his cab.
“Come on, let’s nick that lot,” yelled Pete.
“Don’t be so hasty, young brother. They deal in cash, right? That means there will be a lot more. Just wait, we will be in for a bumper payout,” said my Dad happily.
They parked the Jag in the opposite direction and further down the road. Dad had brought his binoculars.
He was jumping with excitement when he came home at the end of the shift.
“You should have seen the number of customers they had, in and out, all day.”
He was rubbing his hands as he told us about bundles and bundles being shifted.
Pete was strangely quiet as Mum served the dinner.
Pete was late coming to our house that morning.
“Where the hell is he?” asked my Dad.
“Maybe he overslept?” answered my Mum.
“He never sleeps in when we are working,” said Dad.
Pete was not in bed, he was timing his walk to coincide with the Indians.
“Good morning, lovely day,” he said.
The turban grunted, “Good day.”
She chuckled as she ducked through the door.
“Where the hell have you been?” asked my Dad.
“I went to the factory early, to see what happens before the staff arrive.”
“You never know,” Pete said.
“Did anything happen?” asked my Dad.
“Don’t be late tomorrow. We’ll complete our business, then the day after we can enjoy Christmas.”
“What’s our plan?” asked Pete.
“They will stuff the office with cash, as all the dealers will try to hit shoppers on Christmas Eve.”
“Why don’t we go after the dealers as they arrive. We know they have cash?”
“That cash will all be in one place if we wait. It makes our job easy,” said Dad.
“Yeah, but we have to go inside,” said Pete.
“We used to go into the Post Office too.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
“You won’t have a bad feeling when we divvy up.”
“Good, you’re early. Got everything?” Dad asked.
Pete showed my Dad his pistol, it was a newer version of Dad’s one. They bought them from a man they know down the pub.
“Taking the money is one thing, but I don’t want to shoot anyone,” said Uncle Pete.
“It has never bothered you before.”
“What’s the matter, Pete?” asked my Mum.
She rarely got involved in men’s business.
“It’s the Indian lady,” said Pete nervously when Dad wasn’t listening.
My Mum controlled herself after her unladylike raucous laughter, “What are you on about?” she asked.
“He’s in love!” grinned Mum when Dad returned.
“Come on, let’s do it,” said Pete.
Both men checked their weapons. Hiding them as they walked towards the car.
They watched the factory doors, no one in or out for thirty minutes.
“Okay, let’s go,” said my Dad.
Scarves hid their lower faces, hoodies hid the rest.
The factory was noisy. Machines clattered as the brothers walked to the office.
“Hands up,” Pete shouted.
“You, open the safe,” said Dad.
“Sorry sir, but I can’t,” said the man with the turban.
Pete walked up close, pointing the barrel inches from his chin, “And why not?”
The man shook his head, “I do not know the combination.”
“Yeah right, your factory, your safe,” said Pete.
“Oh no, sir, it is not mine,” he said.
The graceful lady put her hand up, “It is my business, he does not know how to open it.”
“Your business?” asked Pete. “Who is he then?”
The turban moved like a cobra striking, knocking out Pete with one punch.
As he turned towards Dad, the Browning fired, the shot hit him in the leg, collapsing; he hit the floor.
“You open it,” said Dad, panting, the gun now levelled at the lady.
She glared and was in no hurry to move. Dad shook his gun under her chin.
Still, she refused to move. He turned his shoulders, keeping his eyes fixed on the owner. He shot the man’s other leg. At last, she slowly knelt and started twisting dials.
“Come on, we haven’t got all day,” he screamed at her.
The well-oiled door opened, revealing wads of used notes.
“Put it all in this bag,” Dad thrust the sack at her.
The turban rolled slowly and silently, pulling a blade from a hidden sheaf. He lay on his back then released the short sword, throwing with tremendous power. Blood spurted from my Dad’s wrist. The gun fired.
It fired again, this time aimed. The turban soaked in blood. Dad slapped Uncle Pete awake. Grabbing the sack, they ran for the door. Factory workers rushed to witness the puddles of blood. Dad waved his pistol at them, they retreated.
The injured brothers escaped with a sack of cash. Job done!
“Please, guys, give mum a break. Can’t you see you've upset her?” I said.
“Your father shot and killed a young business owner and her bodyguard, both in cold blood and in front of dozens of witnesses. That much is clear. What we are unsure of, is why Peter Doherty killed his elder brother?”
“My Mum has answered all your questions, now go!” I yelled.
“Sit down and shut up, unless you wish to tell us more about your family?” the younger of the two officers reddened.
“What can you tell us about the budding romance between your brother-in-law and the factory owner?” asked the police officer.
“Pete hasn’t got a lady friend, hasn’t had for years,” Mum answered.
“We checked his email account, he sent four unanswered emails to Miss Sharma. The last one sent two days ago, ‘Darling, I can’t wait until we can be together. Please answer my letters. Your loving Pete.’ All his emails were unopened. What does that mean to you?” said the senior.
“Who do you know in India?” asked the young one.
“No one, why?” answered my Mum.
“Your brother-in-law landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, this morning.”