The car comes to a halt at the far edge of the car park behind the bank. Tom sits quietly for a moment as if in a trance, eyes forward. Only his left arm moves as he pulls on the handbrake. His eyes drop, focussing on his finger, pressing the button to release the boot lid. Slowly, he turns his head and glares.
“Are you going to help me or not?”
Jim lets out a puff of breath, leans his elbow on the car door and stands up. His shoes crunch on the dark gravel. The car park is deserted. With wide eyes scanning the area, he moves to the rear of the car and begins wrestling with the wheelchair.
“This thing’s worse than a deckchair.”
Jim whacks the wheelchair onto the ground and rubs his hands across the seat as he finally gets it unravelled and stable.
Tom opens the rear passenger-side door and unclips the seatbelt that is holding his Uncle Charlie upright. There is now an urgency in his manner. His breath comes in short sharp bursts as he scurries round the back of the car, slams the boot shut, and then crawls along the back seat toward Uncle Charlie.
“Line the chair up Jim. You pull and I’ll shove.”
Tom places one palm on Uncle Charlie’s shoulder, one on his hip, groans and pushes. Jim tugs on a resistant arm and leg. Eventually, Uncle Charlie lands with a flop on the seat of the wheelchair. Jim tugs at the black overcoat to straighten him up, tucks in his arms and lifts his feet onto the footrest.
The sound of four doors and the boot closing echoes around the vacant car park and surrounding tall buildings. Yellow lights flash, showing the car is now securely locked. Standing back, Tom inspects his Uncle Charlie.
“What does he look like?’
“Dead.” Says Jim.
“Pull his hat down over his face a bit more.”
Jim grabs the rim of the dark brown Trilby and forces it over Charlie’s head, then tilts it forward, covering Charlie’s eyes.
Tom takes another look and nods his approval. Gathering the strap from the back of the footrest, he buckles in his uncle’s legs and then wraps a green tartan blanket tightly around them. He places a second blanket across his uncle’s lap, covering his uncle’s hands, and tucks that securely in down the sides.
He straightens his back and breathes out a satisfactory sigh, “that’ll do.”
“I’m not happy doing this.” Says Jim.
Tom’s head spins round. “What?”
“I’m not happy.”
“Well, you’re a bit late telling me that. If you want some of the money, then you’d better start feeling happy right now.”
Jim mumbles under his breath, snatches the handles of the wheelchair, and begins pushing it across the loose tarmac of the car park toward the exit. His breathing becomes laboured as the wheels spin in every direction. Charlie’s head bobs up and down, loosening the Trilby. Tom reaches over to straighten it out as Jim marches onwards toward the smooth pavement and the bank entrance.
“I’ll do all the talking. You just agree with me if they say anything to you.”
The blood drains from Jim’s face. He says nothing.
The two men push the wheelchair into the bank and join the queue. Jim hums to himself. Tom prods him. Jim stops humming.
Tom fiddles with his Uncle Charlie’s hat and the buttons of his overcoat.
“Are you all right there, Charlie? Won’t be long now and we can get you home for a nice cuppa.”
Jim stares at Tom in disbelief.
Tom kicks Jim in the shins.
“Next.” the cashier’s voice booms across the interior of the bank.
“Can we withdraw some money for my Uncle Charlie, please?” Tom points to Uncle Charlie in the wheelchair as he hands over the slip of paper.
“Is he all right?” Says the cashier.
“He’s had a stroke.”
“Sorry to hear that. It’s a lot of money. We don’t normally deal in such vast sums.”
”He’s going into a home tomorrow, and he needs the money to buy bits and pieces. You know what it’s like. The care homes take all your dosh.”
“I do indeed.” The cashier smiles. ”If you’d care to wait, I’ll sort this out for you. I see your uncle has already signed the slip.”
“Well done, Uncle Charlie.” Tom bends over the wheelchair and pats the knees covered by the blanket. Charlie does not move.
The cashier returns, stamps three sheets of paper, smiles, and hands over a large envelope full of notes through the slit underneath the protective glass.
“Come on Jim, let’s get out of here.”
Tom grabs the handles of the wheelchair, spins it round and heads for the exit. Jim scuttles along behind as Tom races along the pavement back toward the car park. Tom turns the wheelchair round, tips it up onto the two back wheels and drags it across the undulating ground.
“We did it Jim, we did it.”
Tom lets out a muffled laugh as he squeezes Jim’s biceps.
“Now let’s get the bastard back in the car.”
Tom checks the car park for pedestrians, then grabs the shoulders of his uncle. Jim unbuckles the legs and takes hold of the ankles. Between them, the two men heave the motionless mass into the car and slide it along the back seat. Jim spreads the two blankets on top and throws the wheelchair into the boot, then sinks into the passenger seat. The engine revs as Tom’s white knuckles grip the steering wheel. The car speeds out the exit as the spinning tyres kick up black tarmac.
“What are you going to do with Uncle Charlie?” says Jim.
“We’ve got to put him where they can’t find him.”
“There’s a skip over there.” Jim pointed.
“Don’t be daft.”
“What about one of those giant green bins? There's one outside The Dog and Badger.”
“Are you mad? We can’t just dump him anywhere. The police will find him. It’s got to be somewhere no-one knows. We’re going back to my place now and we’ll get rid of the knobhead later tonight. We’ve got to do it soon before he turns black and smells.”
Tom stops the car in front of the garage while Jim jumps out and opens the doors. The car shunts forward. Tom switches off the engine and gets out. He helps Jim secure the garage doors and then they both go into the house.
Jim sinks into the nearest armchair and immediately falls asleep.
Tom races upstairs and jumps in the shower. He looks at the clock. They’ve got to be on the move before midnight.
Tom carries the two suitcases downstairs and places them by the front door. He nudges Jim awake. In whispers, he tells Jim to hurry and organise himself, as they must deal with Uncle Charlie on the way to the airport.
Jim rubs his eyes, goes into the kitchen, drinks a glass of water, grabs a biscuit, and then goes into the downstairs toilet.
When he comes out, Tom tells him to take the two suitcases and put them in the back of the car and not to forget the coil of rope that is hanging on a hook just inside the garage door.
Jim puts the two suitcases and the coil of rope in the car.
Tom starts the engine and backs out. He stops the car in the driveway, gets out and checks the front door and closes the garage doors.
“Where are we going, Tom?”
”To that new industrial estate they’re building on the outskirts of the city. It’s on the way to the airport.
They arrive at the new industrial estate and Tom parks in a mud-filled layby near some railings at the end of the no through road.
“Get the rope and tie it tight round that shithead's chest. Make sure you go under his arms with it.”
Jim takes hold of the rope, pushes it under Charlie’s back, and ties it in a tight knot over his chest.
Tom takes a gemmy from the boot of the car and lifts a manhole cover and drags it to one side, close to the railings.
Tom grabs the rope and lugs Charlie out of the car. Charlie hits the ground with a loud thud. Tom and Jim take an in breath and look around. Silence. Tom continues dragging Charlie across the mud to the waiting hole.
“Now you help me lower him in.”
Slowly, they eke out the rope and lower Charlie into the hole. Then secure the end of the rope onto a girder near the top and replace the cover.
“Will he be all right?” says Jim
“What do you think?” says Tom.
“What’ll I do with the blankets and the wheelchair?” says Jim.
Tom points to some bushes behind the car. “Throw them over there.”
Jim takes the blankets and slings them over the bushes and then heaves the wheelchair in the same direction.
“Come on, Jim, we’ve got an hour’s drive to the airport yet.”
Tom sits back in the seat on the airplane and sips his red wine.
Jim’s head falls forward, and loud snoring pours forth from it.
Tom and Jim pull up a stool at The Beach Bar, their favourite haunt from previous Spanish excursions. Relaxed and smiling, they order a beer and proceed to quench their thirst for the high life. A heavy hand on their shoulder makes them jump as the tanned, bulky torso of a man stands between them.
“Don’t normally see you two idiots here this time of year.”
Tom flops his head forward, clearly relieved to see it's a friendly face.
“Hi Jack. No, you’re right. Just visiting for a bit.”
“And where’s Charlie? The old bugger hasn’t snuffed it, has he?”
Tom coughs. Jim swallows hard.
“No, he’s fine. Didn’t want to come. We’ve left him hanging around back home.”