Shangri-La

I see it’s nearly two months since last I wrote. You, if a regular reader, must have thought me dead, since you would know that 113 year-olds, like me, can drop dead any time. Even I think this, which is why I savour each second, minute, hour, day.

Although I’m ready to meet my Maker, I would still like to delay this as much as possible. Thus I work-out each day, with each second day an extra-heavy workout in the gym, where I skip rope, punch the heavy and speed bags, and spar in the ring with my three men, Mikey Freddy and Squeaky (who themselves are skillful boxers) and anyone else in the gym who feels he could give me a good go.

When strangers in the gym do fight me, I’m always, to their surprise, able to handle them quite easily, since I was once middleweight boxing champion of the British Army. This was in 1946, when, even then, at 51, I was considered past my physical prime. But, throughout my life, I’ve always surprised those who don’t know me, with my physical prowess. It’s partly my genes, since both my mater and pater lived to be very old; and partly my always having exercised every day, and being careful what I eat. Thus, in appearance, I pass easily for sixty-five, and a very fit sixty-five, let me add.

But I’m realistic enough to know that, actuarially, I’m far past the age when most people pass on to the Other Side. Which is why I so resent spending these final years of my life trying to avoid capture by the American police. It’s such a waste. I would far sooner spend this time in my home in rural England, writing my memoirs and tending my plants, which I was so contentedly doing until the middle of 2007, nearly two years ago.

One problem of being on the run from the law is you can’t use your credit card or try to withdraw your money from a bank, because it draws official attention to your identity. So I, and my three men, can only use cash. And how to get this cash, absent credit or debit cards? It isn’t easy, and is distinctly nerve-racking and dangerous. I will give an example.

It was in 2007, shortly after the killings which made us outlaws. I was driving our SUV down a Texas highway to get as far way from the locale of our killings. We approached one of Texas’s larger cities (which I don’t feel free to name. I hope you’ll understand). I drove into this city, for it was big enough to provide us the anonymity we so needed. While driving through a suburb I saw a bank, the sight of which made my mouth water, well metaphorically it did, for we had used up nearly all our cash since we’d robbed a gun-store, two days previously, of much of its weaponry and cash in the till.

I parked our SUV in the street outside the bank, and, with handguns concealed on our persons, we walked through the bank’s main entrance and into the area where customers were milling around. I saw an office to the side, a plushly decorated office which said “Manager” on its door. Inside, a middle-aged man – obviously the manager – sat behind a desk and was talking on a phone. I walked in, pointed my gun at him, and told him to stand and put his hands up. Then I told him to lead me to the bank’s storage-vault. He did so, with me behind him and my gun prodding his back.

Meanwhile my three men had secured the main areas of the bank. Pointing their guns at the customers, and at the lone security guard, Squeaky and Freddy ordered them to lie face-down on the ground and not make a sound. Mikey did the same with the bank’s tellers behind the main counter.

When I and the bank’s manager reached the vault I ordered him to open it, which he did by punching in the numbered security codes. As the door opened I saw row upon row of impeccably stacked bills of all denominations. I pulled from my pockets several large black-coloured opaque garbage bags and told the manager to start filling them. He did so with alacrity, his face grave, not with dignity, but with pure fear – or so I interpreted his frozen expression.

When he’d filled the bags I pushed the manager inside the vault, shut the heavy metal door and turned the handle. Through the door I could hear his raised voice, but the sounds were quite muffled. It took me three separate trips outside to our SUV to load into it all the bags of money. I was of course taking a risk because it would have been so easy for someone on the street to raise an alarm if they suspected I was up to no good. But no-one did, presumably because they didn’t associate with anything nefarious, the spectacle of an elderly man carrying filled garbage bags out of a bank.

I climbed in our SUV and started the engine, so we could depart quickly when my three men emerged from the bank. Just before they did, I heard the pop-popping of their silencer-equipped handguns, but I knew they were simply doing what I’d ordered them to do when the job was done, to shoot bullets into and thereby disable any electronic equipment in sight, that might be used to raise an alarm or alert police.

In a few seconds my men walked at a measured pace out of the bank, got in the van and we were off. I drove us out of the city and back on to the highway. We stopped at the first secluded area we saw, to count up the bills. It came to $100,000. I’d been hoping it was more, but ….well…….beggars can’t be choosers.

To celebrate our successful day I insisted we give ourselves a treat – a room at a motel where we could clean-up and rest until the next day. I was confident the risk would be small because, motels in America being so ubiquitous, to search for us in all the many motels, would, for the police, be like looking for proverbial needles in haystacks. There was the potential problem of our vehicle’s licence plates – the one’s we’d taken from a used car on a lot in another town many miles ago, which the police would surely now know about. We accordingly obtained new plates – when no-one was looking – from the next used car lot we came across, and attached them to our vehicle. They would do for a few days at least.

The motel we found was a fine one, with luxurious suites and a swimming pool, around which we sat and drank gins and tonics. As the shadows lengthened, we watched the sun go down to end a perfect day.

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This entry was posted in Writing.

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