Charlie White, the professional thief, had robbed over a dozen banks and worked more scams than he could remember, but nothing prepared him for when he was celled with Ray Coyle in Belmarsh Prison.
Picked up by Ray’s lawyer on the day of his release, Charlie becomes part of an elaborate plot to rob a private investment bank of one hundred million in sterling.
When he hooks up with student activist Abby Meyer, the only living descendent of William Meyer and owner of the bank they are trying to rob, nothing is what it seems. With Detective Faulkner on his case and the Russian Mafia muscling in on the action, he finds it hard to know who to trust.
Charlie White had walked into Belmarsh Prison three years ago in the middle of a heat wave. Now, London was having one of its regular summers: fifteen degrees and rain. He watched the new prisoners shuffle into the canteen as his cellmate, Ray Coyle, was trying to figure out how one of the screws had found his shank.
“Uh huh,” Charlie said, keeping an eye on one of the new arrivals: a skinny kid looking around anxiously at his new surroundings being unshackled by a prison guard.
“I’m sure it was Mitchell, the fucking snitch.” Ray said, swearing and dropping in slang as if he was from the streets. “He’d better not fuck things up for me.”
“You still thinking of getting out?” Charlie said.
“You want in?”
Charlie shook his head and looked at Ray. “I’m two years short.”
“Shit,” Ray said, “I’m counting another twelve.”
“I thought your lawyer was close to getting you an appeal?”
“She reckons I won’t get it,” Ray said.
“She did before. You thought about getting another lawyer?”
“Plenty, but this one has great legs that go all the way up,” Ray said. “Besides, she was Andrei Dubrovsky’s lawyer.”
That’s what bothered Charlie. He said, “Andrei Dubrovsky didn’t kill his boss and get fifteen years for manslaughter.”
“No, but the piece they found next to his wife’s body, according to my lawyer, had his fingerprints all over it and she still got him acquitted.”
“How she manage that?” Charlie said.
“On grounds that Andrei’s wife had a history of mental illnesses dating back to her childhood. They worked it so it looked like suicide.”
“But the cops knew that he killed her, right?”
“Andrei killed her,” Ray said. “That’s why I decided to hire his lawyer. You know what she said when I asked her?
“She was expecting my call.” Ray paused for a moment looking over Charlie’s shoulder. “You believe this arsehole?”
Charlie turned to see the skinny kid being led by the arm from an inmate twice as wide and twice as tall.
Ray talking now, liking the sound of his own voice. “Fucking queer. That kid ain’t gonna last the night.”
Charlie shrugged and turned back to Ray. “Your lawyer, she know about your Swiss account?”
“Ms Vaughan? Not from me,” Ray said, still keeping an eye on the kid.
“You tell Andrei when you celled with him in Brixton?”
“No, you’re the only person that figured it out. The only smart dumb person I know in here.”
Charlie letting Ray’s comment slide. He was the only person in the place that he allowed to talk to him like that. “So where’s she think the money’s coming from to pay her fees?”
Ray said, “As long as she gets paid why the fuck does she care where it comes from. What you getting at?”
“If it costs five hundred quid an hour to see some fit pussy come visit once a week, what’s the big deal? Besides, I know she can’t do shit to get me out. The guy that I killed was related to some city judge who’s still got a hard on for me. Reckons I’ll never get parole. The fucking idiot.” Ray took a mouthful of his food before dropping his fork onto his tray saying, “You still thinking about working with your cousin when you get out?”
Charlie, with a smile, said, “I’ve always wanted an office job.”
“Commuting for two hours a day just to sit on your backside in some air-conditioned office and work your bollocks off for a nine-to-five wage slip at the end of the month. You fucking with me?”
“You going to finish that?” Charlie said.
“No, tastes like shit. You want it?”
“I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t.”
Ray slid his tray across the table. “You get nothing for crunching numbers all day,” he said. “It’s life’s way of telling you to lie down and get fucked. Forty hours a week being a fucking zombie. You’re different. I’m telling you. You won’t last five minutes behind a desk.”
Charlie said, “You finished preaching?”
“If you’ve finished listening?”
“For now. So, when you making your move?”
“I’m still working on the details,” Ray said.
They walked the perimeter of the exercise yard surrounded by high fences and watched by three prison guards. Ray looking a few paces in front saying, “That’s not the way it works. I’m telling you, the guys that run the banks should be in here. Who do you think owns the Bank of England, the fuck it ain’t the government. They’re not the people controlling the money supply, it’s the private investors. It used to be that the banks lent money against gold reserves, now they lend against debt and create money out of nothing. If we did it, we’d be put in front of a judge and sentenced for fraud. They get away with it because they’ve been given permission to.“
Charlie said, “Legalised counterfeiting?“
“They call it fractional reserve banking. That means they get the legal rights to print money.“
“We’re not talking printing presses?“
“Binary codes, ones and zeros, strings of instructions with a few key strokes and a click of a mouse to create fictional money,“ Ray said. “The banks lend people money they don’t have in their safes. I told you Charlie, we’re in the wrong fucking business. It’s not about printing notes, it’s about finding ways to fabricate it.“
“The guy you killed had his own bank?“
“Meyer Investment Bank. William Meyer is the founder and CEO still running it. Sebastian Meyer, the guy I killed, was his son.“ Ray rubbed the nape of his neck. “Fuck, you know what they do when they get bad debt…? Wrap it up and sell it on, invent fancy schemes to get investors to buy them.“
“Why would people buy bad debt?“
“Because they just see an opportunity to make money.“
“It’s bad debt!“ Charlie said.
“Don’t try to understand it. Banks have been doing this since they were Blacksmiths.“ Ray flicked a look towards the guards. “I never told you about the daughter. Her mother died when she was just a kid. Her father never remarried. She’s the only living descendent of William Meyer.“
“You had a thing with her?“ Charlie said.
“You’re one smart fucker. Abigail Meyer lives in Kensington and is one fucked up individual. Cut herself off from the family years ago when she got mixed up with the wrong crowd shooting up heroin and some other shit.“
“How’d you meet her?“
“I checked out the company,“ Ray said. “Came across a string of articles about the family and tracked her down.“
“You wanted in on the family business?“
Ray shook his head. “Uh-uh, that didn’t matter. I’d already figured that one out.“
Charlie thought for a moment. “I still don’t get why you killed your boss?“
“I fucked up. What was your excuse?“
Charlie White, the professional thief, shaking his head grinning. “I already told you, I was shafted by a woman.“
Charlie stared at Ray with a look. “How’d you know her name?“
“I heard you saying it in your sleep this one time.“
“I say anything else?“
Ray shrugged. “What she do?“
“It’s a long story.“
Ray Coyle held his palms up looking round the yard saying, “You see a need to rush.“
Charlie said, “She caught me one time with this guitarist in an all-girl band.“
“With your trousers wrapped round your ankles?“
“Something like that,“ Charlie said. “I hooked up with her whilst Kaitlyn was out of town. Kaitlyn found out. So we talked, and I promised her I’d keep my pecker where it belonged.“
“A few months later she was playing a gig not far from where I was living.“
“You see her again?“ Ray said.
“Yeah, and Kaitlyn knew it. She didn’t say anything, kept me thinking that I got away with it.“
“She set you up?“
“You know the rest. I end up doing one job too many not realising that Kaitlyn had spoken to Faulkner. That copper I told you about.“ Charlie rubbed his jaw with the tips of his fingers and paused a beat. “I was about to leave this hotel when I see him leaning against his car.“
Ray said, “You were tooled up?“
Charlie shook his head. “You go in carrying and you don’t know how it’s gonna end. Without, you know you can just put your hands up and walk out.“
“So you walked out with your dick in your hands?“
“What else could I do?“ Charlie said. “Faulkner grinning at me, wearing his Trilby like he was impersonating Johnny Depp. All the while he had a load of coppers backing him up across the street and either side of the hotel.“
“You couldn’t slip out the back?“
“The guy had the street covered. He wasn’t some dumb arse cop just starting out. He’d been after my balls since day one. I guessed he would be smart enough to have thought about me trying the back.“
“You ever wonder if he had?“
“It wouldn’t have made any difference. He’d already clocked me.“
Ray said, “What made you think Kaitlyn told him?“
“She was the only person that knew about the hotel.“
“Could’ve been followed?“
“Maybe,“ Charlie said, “but it don’t matter. When I get out of here he’ll still be trying to find another way to screw me over.“
“That’s ‘cause he knows you’ll be back up to old tricks,” Ray said, “checking out banks and hotels for targets and checking form like you were at a greyhound track working the odds.“
Charlie shrugged. “I can hardly wait.“
Twenty-one months later, Charlie was up for release. He’d spent the morning checking out and stood with his back towards Belmarsh prison watching the blond leaning against the Aston Martin with its top down and passenger door open. Ray Coyle was right, his lawyer did have great legs that go all the way up. They got into the car, Charlie glancing over at her thighs as she looked into her wing mirror pulling away from the kerb. He’d already figured the short skirt was for his benefit. He said, “How’d you know when I was being released?“
Ray Coyle’s lawyer looked over with a smile. “I’m a lawyer Charlie.“
“Yeah, but not my lawyer.“
“You still got into my car.“
“I want to see where this leads,“ he said.
They sat in silence for a while. Charlie leaning back in his seat with his eyes closed feeling the wind on his face. Thinking. Sarah Vaughan looked to be in her thirties. He couldn’t figure how she was mixed up with Ray Coyle but he was curious enough to get into her car to find out. They drove over Lambeth Bridge to the sounds of Mick Jagger on the Radio, Vaughan updating Charlie giving a guided tour until they arrived in Knightsbridge to her open-plan apartment. The place themed by one artist or another with modern contemporary furniture from Philippe Starck to Marcel Breuer. Charlie was looking at an oil painting as Vaughan poured them drinks saying, “It’s a Gerhard Richter.“
Charlie acting dumb as if he didn’t know who she meant.
“Born in Dresden, Germany,“ she said.
“From sixty-eight. I bought it at auction.“
“You’re a collector?“
“Hardly. I see something I want,“ she said, passing Charlie a glass of red, “I have to own it.“
“What if it’s not for sale?“
“I still have to have it,“ she said.
Charlie drank, tasting alcohol for the first time in five years and asked Vaughan what the deal was between her and Ray Coyle.
“I’m his lawyer.“
“You’re more than that.“
“Charlie, you want to spend your first day out talking about Ray or do you want to sit back and relax?“ Vaughan kicked off her heels and sat down on the black leather sofa tucking her feet beneath her.
Charlie said, “You seducing me?“
“Is that what you want?“
Charlie sat down and stretched his arm across the back of the sofa. “Tell me about yourself,“ he said.
“There’s nothing to tell.“
“Then make it up. Tell me how a successful and attractive woman gets mixed up with Ray Coyle.“
By Vincent Holland
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