The last 18 months had been a whole new level of stress for Terry with lockdown after lockdown causing his little corner shop to be on the verge of closing permanently. After months of only scraping by with his loyal customers popping in when it was safe, today was the day when lockdown six would be lifted and Terry would see his finances finally turn a corner. He’d woken up early to stock the shelves with his big sellers and put out his huge sign to lure them in. Cheapest Chocolate Buttons in Town!
The first hour had been slow going with only Mrs Jenkins coming in for her usual paper and toilet roll combo, along with a long conversation about the latest strains of the disease. Half an hour later feeling his eyes grow heavy with boredom, Terry heard the bell over the front door ring and his day was about to get very interesting.
Three people stormed into the shop, one ran down the aisle towards Terry, one took the near wall by the drinks and magazines and the last one stayed by the front door. They all wore face masks and shades, one had a mask covered in Super Mario Bros, one had a mask with a pig nose and one had a Harry Potter themed face mask.
Terry could see they were young, maybe 14 or 15, but the main reason he wasn’t laughing them out of the shop was because all of them had guns. Super Mario, who had run down the aisle, pointed the gun towards Terry.
“DON’T MOVE!! Keep your arms where we can see them! This is a robbery!! Listen very carefully to my colleague who will give you clear instructions on what to do next. Try anything funny like set off the alarm and we will shoot you! Are we clear?”
Rolling his eyes thinking these kids had watched too many movies, Terry reluctantly put up his arms and nodded at Super Mario. Pig Nose standing by the crisps threw a big black holdall at Terry and began to mumble through his mask.
“Now fill up this bag with everything on those shelves and my colleagues here will fill up their bags with the contents of that fridge and anything else they see.”
Before filling the bag, Terry raised his hand as if he was in a classroom and wanted to ask a question.
Super Mario pointed towards him with the gun. It looked like a real one so Terry went along with the demands.
“What is it?” asked the pint-sized thief.
“So you’re not interested in any money? Just some sweets, some bottles, cans and magazines?” said Terry.
“Yeah, so what?” said Pig Nose
“Nothing, just a refreshing change I guess.” Terry could sense he had flummoxed Super Mario.
“Oh shut up and keeps your arms up!” demanded Pig Nose waving his gun around.
“How do I fill the bag?” enquired Terry knowing it was a risk but he waited to double check.
“What!?” screamed Super Mario whose voice cracked like puberty was still in progress.
“I can’t fill the bags if my arms are up!” pointed out Terry.
Pig Nose walked up to stand next to Super Mario and pointed the gun at point blank range until it was touching the side of Terry’s head.
“Just fill the bags with what I said, give it back to me once it’s full and then put your arms back up. Okay?”
Terry closed his eyes, he’d pushed it too far. His ex wife was tutting somewhere saying “You never let it go!” He conceded that the sooner he filled the bags, the sooner they would go.
“Yes, much clearer thank you!”
Terry started to put as many bags of sweets, crisps and biscuits as he could fit into the bag. He made sure he started with the ones nearer their Best Before dates as no point in wasting stock and they would never know.
Pig Nose had a similar sized bag and was sweeping as many bottles, cans and cartons of drinks out of the fridges. Once once holdall was filled, it was passed to Harry Potter and Pig Nose filled up another one. Within five minutes the bags were filled and Terry was passing his over to Super Mario.
“That’s time!” said Harry Potter from the front door checking his watch.
Terry could see Super Mario was struggling with the weight of the bag.
“Do you need a hand?” he asked starting to walk round the side of the main till and desk to help Super Mario. This shocked the thieves so much the guns started to get waved around again.
“DON’T COME NEAR ME, I’ll BE FINE!!” ordered Super Mario.
Terry ignored him and continued to walk towards the gang to help them get out of the shop.
“Come on! The sooner I get you out the shop, the sooner I can restock and carry on with my day.”
Pig Nose dropped his bag, ran down the aisle past Super Mario up to Terry, gun raised, tripped over a stray bag of crisps and accidentally pulled the trigger…
Terry closed his eyes thinking his last moment on Earth would be trying to help a young thief get out of his shop with stolen goods. But he felt very much alive? In fact there was one thing he felt more than anything at the moment and that was… wet?
His eyes shot open to see liquid dripping from the end of the “real” gun. Holding this fake firearm, Pig Nose’s eyes were larger than tennis balls knowing the show was over and they needed to get out of there straight away. Super Mario wrapped the hefty bag over his head and shoulder and waddled down the aisle. Pig Nose was still frozen in time but snapping out of it, he thawed out and followed his fleeing face mask pals out of the shop.
Terry had other plans, springing into action mode, reached over his desk, grabbed his baseball bat and chased the thieves down the aisle. Harry Potter and Super Mario were already outside but Pig Nose was slightly slower as his frozen limbs melted. With his body halfway out of the shop he felt a sharp pain in his arm as Terry’s bat connected with the youngster’s arms.
“Aggghhh! You crazy old man!”
Pig Nose had no time to check his arm, the adrenaline kicked in and he kept running out of the shop. The little thieves ran down the road with their bags of tasty swag, relieved when they realised Terry was not chasing after them. Instead he waved his bat around his head screaming “NO ONE MESSES WITH TERRY!”
Feeling fairly embarrassed by his outcry, especially when he saw Dora in the hairdressers staring at him, Terry ran back into the shop and called the police.
The boys kept running as best they could with bags full of sweets hanging by their sides. Their mountain bikes were still parked against the wall further down the street, they hopped onto them and pedalled away at speed. All things considered the robbery had gone to plan. They got everything they planned to get and were going to eat like kings. Pig Nose’s arm was still painful but it had numbed at last. Steering into the park they were finally clear of danger but out of nowhere they heard a police siren.
Pig Nose looked at his mates wondering if they were about to be caught, the pain in his arm had returned and was become eye watering.
“That’s not for us, is it?”
“Nah, can’t be! Let’s keep going.” reassured Super Mario.
Swerving down the dirt track, the boys came face to face with a police car and two officers sprinting after them. Is sweet theft really their highest priority?? Obviously there weren't enough groups of more than six people to break up so it was a quiet day for the force. The boys sped up, heading down into the “Devil’s Dungeon” hoping they could make a getaway as Harry Potter screamed “plan B!”
Ted was watering the plants in his front garden when he heard the kerfuffle down the road with distant police sirens. The swearing and screams suggested he needed to go inside but something told him to stick around.
Staring at his front gate he was met with three face mask wearing youngsters, who looked out of breath and in trouble. Seeing the black holdalls around their waists Ted knew instantly what this was. He did what any nosey pensioner would do and felt sorry for these kids and stepped in to help them.
“What are we going to do?” panicked Harry Potter to his sweaty mates. They had to ditch their bikes halfway through the Devil’s Dungeon but at least it slowed down the police temporarily.
“Oi!” said Ted down his garden towards the gang by the gate. They all turned towards him thinking he was the police. He continued…
“Get in the house!” Putting down his watering can and pointing to the front door. The boys were confused, a total stranger offering them help was unexpected and they were rightly wary. Terry could see what they were thinking, let out a big sigh and walked up to the gate to open it.
“Hurry up! Do you want to get caught? Get in the house!!” The boys didn’t need to be asked again, they were out of options so sped down Ted’s path and into his home
Following them inside Ted shut the door and turned to face his mask and shade wearing guests. They were covered in sweat and the kid with a Pig Nose mask was clearly injured. Pointing to the door to his living room the three boys went in there to wait, Ted looked through the front window to see if the police were nearby. It looked like they had not been followed. Pulling the curtains just to be sure, Ted let out another sigh and pointed at his mask wearing house guests.
“You can take those masks and glasses off for a start! Come on fancy dress is over for today!”
The boys stared at each other unsure if they should listen to this old man or not. Super Mario nodded and they all revealed their faces at last, sat down at the dining table at the far end of the living room. Ted walked over to join them.
“Right, gimme your names because I’m too old to know what those pictures are other than piggy over here.” Ted giggled which set off the boys laughing at how daft they looked.
“I’m Ryan” said Pig Nose.
“I’m Lee” said Super Mario.
“And I’m Harvey” said Harry Potter.
“Where you from?” probed Ted.
“Finspark” responded Super Mario, unsure where this conversation was headed.
“Lovely place, done a few jobs there in my time. Does Jess still live there?” The boys looked at Ted unsure if he was being serious or not. Pig Nose, whilst continuously rubbing his sore arm, took the lead.
“No idea! Look, mate we’re grateful for your…”
Ted smiled and butted in “See that wasn’t so hard! But unfortunately you’ve all failed the first lesson of being questioned by blabbing your names and home addresses to a stranger. Amateurs the lot of yer!”
Ryan, Lee and Harvey were shocked, reluctantly impressed and also a little scared by this old guy. Who was he? Ted saw one of the guns on the floor by the bags, got up from the dining table and picked it up. Squeezing the trigger a spray of water hit the far wall of the living room, dribbling down the flowery wallpaper.
“If it didn’t say Smith and Wet-them down the barrel I would have thought it was real! Good work boys!” Ted applauded the thieves by tapping the side of the water pistol.
Ryan winced and started to rub his arm again. Ted put the gun down on the dining table and sat down next to him.
“I was a medic in the war, I can check it out for yer if you like?” Ryan apprehensively nodded.
Ted rolled back the sleeve of Ryan’s hoodie and began to press and inspect the arm, whilst the others watched closely. After a minute of prodding and poking all over the arm, Ted inhaled for at least 10 seconds before providing his assessment.
“Right, not sure how you did this but it needs to be amputated immediately! I’ll get me saw!” Ted stood up to go to his toolbox.
“Yer what!?! Amputate?!” screamed Ryan starting to sob.
Ted sat back down again and stared into Ryan’s soul with a big cheeky smile.
“Oh grow up yer Wally! Course not, it’s not even broken. Bloke who did this hit you hard but it’s just badly bruised. Swelling will go down by tomorrow and you’ll be fine”
Ryan quickly wiped his tears away and snatched his arm back off Ted.
“Why did you let us into your house?” asked Lee wondering who this strange old man was. Ted resisted responding to the question before deciding there was no harm in being honest.
“Because you reminded me of myself at your age. Getting into scrapes, robbing, fighting, hiding from the pigs. I felt it was my civil duty as a former thief to give you a place to hide. Now come on, show me what you’ve nicked!” Ted pointed to the three huge black bags on the floor behind them. Harvey got up from the table and brought one bag over dropped it in front of everyone and unzipped and pulled back the top flap of the bag. Ted peered inside and was hit with a colourful explosion of fizzy drinks and confectionery.
“Bloody hell! You’ve stolen the whole bleedin’ sweet shop!”
“We started small to see if we could do it but we have big plans” responded Lee to the praise from the cheeky pensioner.
“I bet you do! The other bags full of the same?” The boys nodded slowly to Ted’s query.
“Well no point wasting it, and you might be here a while, let’s celebrate your first rob! It’s a big day for you three. Come on, get those crisps and drinks open. Taste the delights of your swag!”
Before the plan went sideways in the Devil’s Dungeon the boys had intended to do this in the park so didn’t need much persuasion to crack open the goodies. The next hour was a wave after wave of chocolate, crisps and sugary drink delights that meant everyone was bouncing off the walls. Even Ted had some despite saying his doctor would kill him if he found out.
The police and the trouble the boys were in had become an afterthought whilst they filled up their tummies. Harvey put some music on his phone and they danced around Ted’s house enjoying this impromptu party. By the end of that hour Ted was feeling a bit tired and went upstairs for a bit of a lie down.
The boys were watching some TV when Lee’s eyes wandered over to a book shelf. Nestled halfway up was a photo album, he wasn’t sure why it stuck out but the curiosity to learn more about Ted caused him to get up from the comfy sofa and grab it from the shelf.
As he did this, something fell out from the photo album and landed on the floor. Lee put the album back on the shelf and picked up the fallen item. It was a press cutting. Opening it up he read the headline “BIGGEST HEIST IN HISTORY - £100 MILLION IN DIAMONDS. GANG CAUGHT – RING LEADER STILL MISSING.” Lee didn’t read the rest of the text of the report as his eyes were drawn to a picture of the ring leader. It was of a middle aged man with long hair and a beard but to Lee it was clear who it was. Before he could say anything to Ryan or Harvey, a click came from the living room door.
“Found my album then?” said Ted, gun in hand sounding annoyed.
“No! This just fell out. I didn’t read it, I…”
“Oh! You are such a shit liar! You’ve all got so much to learn. I’ve had to lie for 20 years to everyone to avoid detection. You were nearly caught after five minutes leaving the shop! Amateurs, the lot of yer!” Ted walked into the living room tapping the side of his gun.
“I can assure you this gun shoots more than water so don’t try anything!”
“You’re not going to kill us, are you?” Ryan’s eyes were filled with tears again. Before Ted could respond there was a knock at the door. The boys all jumped out of their skins wondering who that was.
“This will come as a shock but that is the police. I called ‘em!”
“WHY!?!” screamed Harvey getting up, ready to run out of the house. Ted chuckled to himself.
“You boys have potential but you need toughening up. You’ll be fine, out with slapped wrists soon enough and if you keep your mouths shut about what you’ve seen in here, well I might have a job for yer! But if you turn out to be a bunch of grasses, well then you’ll be seeing this gun again and next time you’ll see what’s inside it as well!”
The boys, scared stiff, froze in the living room as Ted grabbed the press cutting off Lee and put it in his pocket, hid the gun under his jumper, put on his best frail pensioner face and opened the door to the fuzz for the first time in years.