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The Scheming Bums

Two desperate-for-cash friends target an elderly neighbour for her hidden stash of money. 

                         ****

           THE SCHEMING BUMS

     Adam’s feet moved swifter than usual that day. He believed that the brisker he walked, the faster he’d find a solution to his problem: He had to find and pay £2000 he had borrowed from the local moneylender George in two days. He had collected only £250 so far, and that was also loaned to him from a few people.   

    Normally, Adam didn’t panic, but he was anxious about the time limit that was looming over him. George wasn’t a man to avoid or delay. He had lent Adam £1125 six months ago and every month that passed Adam would need to pay an additional 10% on his loan. Now that the time was up, George would expect to see his money at 11am sharp on the day, if he didn’t, Adam didn’t want to find out what would George do to him.  

     Adam also had been looking for jobs in passed six months. He may have been choosey at first but as time went on, he had even applied to menial jobs ten miles walk away. But jobs were scarce, under the drastic economic conditions, no one was hiring. Even if they were, it would take months for him to earn £2000. 

     Adam heard a splash; he had stepped in a puddle. Tired of cursing his luck, he turned around to walk back up the road. He had until home to invent a way to find that money. Only a miracle would have saved him now. Passing by his block, Adam thought he had better go to Mickey’s; his best friend, he always had some ideas at the last minute, if any of them were unusable, then at least he would have tried cheering him up. Having an ice-cold beer helped Adam to mull over the solution that sparked in his head during his walk. Except there was no solution just yet, but he needed to be brightened up. Adam buzzed the bell three subsequent times. Mickey opened the door with a mischievous cheer. 

“Hey, buddy! I thought it’d be you. Come on in.”   

“How’s it going?” Adam asked.  

“All well,” Mickey dragged out the second syllable. He was one of those people even if he hanged upside down by the window at the third floor, he’d still say that all was well. 

   Within five minutes, Mickey’s mother rushed in the room with lemonade and a plate of biscuits in the manner of a servile attendant; she had always served them this combination since they were ten years old. Adam thanked Mrs Perry. He thought how lucky Mickey was, she still cared for her twenty-five-year-old son, while his own folks had given him an ultimatum to leave the flat in two months. According to his family, Adam had no business living with them at his age. Mickey, however, wasn’t much better off than Adam: Mickey had debts from gambling but his family were lenient and supported him with monthly payments to his creditors.  

“So still nothing from the job applications, ay?” Asked Mickey.  

“Still nothing. I even applied shops and restaurants ten miles walk away.” Adam bowed his head in despair. His eyes hurt from the restless nights.  

“Hey it’s just an unlucky phase, just when you lose all the hope, you’ll hit your lucky star.”

“I would really like to sleep my unlucky phase off. For the first time, I’ve put more effort into something, and I still have nothing on my hands.”   

“Dude, an opportunity is an offer for luck and when you seize that opportunity, you make your luck. So you’ve got to sit back and wait for that opportunity to come along.”  

“Yeah, I wish I had the luxury you have. My lot want me gone before September.”  

“Let’s talk to ma; she’d make your bed space in a jiffy. After all, she loves you perhaps more than she loves me.”   

“Or maybe I’ll just beg the old- lady next door, she lives alone, and she’s loaded.” Adam said with a face that was about to break into a sob.   

“How d’ya know she’s loaded?” Mickey widened his eyes.  

“I came across with her yesterday. She was looking for her key to unlock the door to her flat. As she took the key out, she dropped a boodle of dosh snuggled in fifties. What’s crazy is that she didn’t even notice it.”   

Mickey asked with gaped mouth, “Well, what did you do with it?”  

“I was just walking behind her when she dropped the dough, so I picked it up and gave it to her. The poor soul was very grateful.”  

“Wait, so you returned ALL the money?” Mickey emphasised on the word all.  

“Yeah,” Adam flipped open his hands as though he would do otherwise.  

“You crazy S.O.B. Once again, you’ve justified your poverty.”  

“Because I helped somebody?”  

“Because you don’t seize your chances, man.”

“But that was her money.”

“That could have been just the amount you needed. It dropped in front of you and she didn’t see it, you had your chance and you’ve ruined it.”

“Well, I just treat people in a way I would like to be treated; I’d have liked them to return the money if I had dropped it.” 

“But you’re the only fool who’d return it,” Mickey said and offered Adam some hemp papers which he rolled his Golden Virginia tobacco into it.   

“Does she have any children? Mickey asked.  

“Who?”   

“The centenarian.”  

“Oh, No. I mean, I don’t even know for a fact. She’s always been alone.”   

“Perhaps she’s inherited the money or has been saving it all life. What number does she live in?”  

“Why, will you stop by hers for tea?”   

“Do you realise the opportunity you’re being presented with?”   

“That I could ask her to adopt me until I’m really ready to leave home?”  

“No, man, all that money is probably just hidden under her pillow.”  

“Well, obviously she needs that money in someway. The notes were crisp had that fresh ink smell, as if they were withdrawn from the bank clerk.”  

“Look man, a senile keeps money at home because they don’t trust banks. Think about it, her and her dead husband’s pensions would have accumulated into a big capital by now.”   

“Okay, even if so, what’s it to us?”  

“Well, maybe we can borrow some and pay off our debts, then return it to her when we get back on our feet.” 

Adam smirked wryly but didn’t comment. His face had reddened with an overwhelming feeling that he had momentarily fantasised what Mickey had said. What Mickey said could work, but he knew that once the money’s taken, until them two sorted their lives out, all the intentions for replacing it would become a lie. 

“So should we ask the old lady together?” Adam asked. 

“Ask? You think she’s crazy enough to lend to two bums? We’ve got no chance mate.” Mickey chuckled. 

“So when you said ‘borrow’,” Adam paused momentarily, “Nope. No can do. It’s basically a burglary which is a crime, and it’s from an old, helpless lady which is worse.” “All crimes are immoral.” Mickey declared.  

“But what makes an offence graver is its moral devaluation,”

“When’s George’s due? “On Wednesday at 11,” Adam replied.

“Listen, you haven’t got a chance in hell to find that money in two days. And think about your safety when George doesn’t get his money.”

“I know I know.” Adam said irritated and disheartened. 

     Adam left Mickey’s speaking further about transgressing against the old-lady. Mickey had shown him a possible way of getting hold of the money he needed even though the method wasn’t to his taste. “It’s stupid and dangerous.” Adam tried to suppress the igniting excitement in his mind. Could have the heart to do it? He reckoned not.   

     As Adam got back from one of his torrid days, he saw his neighbour Kelly cry while walking her pram. She was trying to wipe her tears in agile sweeps but another as soon as she did that they cascaded in volumes. Adam asked her if she was all right. Kelly talked amid her tears. She told Adam that her two-year-old son, Peter, needed an epilepsy surgery but he had to wait for a long time due to the list of patients; she also didn’t have enough money for a private operation. Adam had heard about it when his parents were discussing it. People in the same development had started a campaign for Peter, which Adam’s family had contributed into as well. It was sad for Adam to hear about the little Peter. He knew Kelly from school; she was once a chirpy girl who now wore a veil of despair and looked skin and bones from worry.

      At home, Adam had another squabble with his father as George had called in to remind Adam about his debt. Arguments with his dad disheartened Adam so instead of staying home daytime, he would sit on the building stairs when he got tired from walking. Adam sat on the usual set of stairs. It pained him not being to help Kelly: He couldn’t stop thinking about the old lady’s pillow fund. Maybe he could even ask her to lend some money, but what if she refused and worse she told about it to his family? But if instead, he appropriated it, there would be no time limit for paying back. 

      Most nights, Adam tried to talk himself out of his villainous and unvirtuous thoughts, alas, without a success.   

The next day, Adam met up with Mickey again. Adam had been in an emotional decay for some weeks now but tomorrow his body was expendable at George’s hands.

“Well, have you tossed and turned in the bed and decided yet?” Mickey asked. 

“I don’t know.” Adam pursed his lips but Mickey knew Adam was finally defeated: He hadn’t the time left to ponder it over for longer. 

In the end, Adam decided that he’d go ahead with the scheme. He’d give Mickey’s share, pay off his debt tomorrow, and give Kelly the rest of the money for the little Peter who had been a bigger reason in his decision.

“She goes for a walk every morning at 8.30 for two hours. So, I must get key tonight to bring it to key cutter McCarthy first thing in the morning. Then I can pick the money tomorrow while she’s out. My folks are travelling to visit someone, anyway. They’ll return around midnight.”

“Great.” Mickey rubbed his hands together. 

“Then you call at the old-dame’s flat saying that you’re tired, thirsty and you’ve been locked out of home. You’ve got exactly 25 minute to copy the key. Then I’ll go into yours, switch the lights on, that’s your cue to leave her house.”  

According to the plan, exactly at eight o’clock in the evening, Adam rang the old lady’s door. She responded with a subtle surprise and invited him inside her house to wait until his parents returned. Adam made up a story that he had been trying to break into his own house without a success and now he was tired.  

The old lady listened to him with a deep empathy on her face, “You must be ravished. Would you like a plate of stew? I’ve made it today.” 

“Very kind of you, thank you but I’m not hungry. Just a glass of water would do, please.” Adam’s nerves had given him stomach cramps so much that he didn’t need to act tired anymore.  

Despite her frail stature and sluggish moves, the old lady insisted on making Adam some tea and left Adam to his own while she heated some water in her small kitchen. ​ 

Adam kept on track with his watch, hoping that Mickey would be on time with the plan. Adam was afraid if he stayed longer he might change his mind at the last minute. While the old-lady was in the kitchen, Adam browsed around. Where could be the money? Was it inside the chiming wall clock? Or was it inside the brass trunk? When the old lady sat down, he’d excuse himself to the bathroom and quickly pressed the key on to the salt dough that he carefully wrapped in his pocket. 

     The old lady returned with a cup of tea and a plate of chocolate digestive biscuits. She watched Adam dunking a biscuit with warmth on her face.

“If your folk don’t return tonight, you can always stay here. I’ve got a blow up mattress. It was my husband’s; I’ve been a widow since nine-teen-seventy-nine. We’ve never had children. So you’re like a son to me,” The old lady said. 

Adam thanked her, drank his tea, and as planned, he excused himself to the bathroom. In the corridor, he swiftly imprinted the old-lady’s key and returned to the living room. After realising the signal across the window, Adam left the old-lady’s flat with a sense of sorrow for the lonesome elderly who had been kind to him.  

     The next morning the two cronies waited for the old-lady leave her flat for her walk: Mickey observed the surrounding area of the estate while Adam went in with the copy of the key he had gotten made. As soon as he stepped in the apartment, Adam inspected the old lady’s room. At the second glance, he saw a fat envelope on the Davenport chest. He had hit the jackpot. There was two stacks of fifties in there; this could have been a few thousand in cash. He briefly hesitated before he took it: Should he leave some money behind? Then his mobile phone rang, it was one of George’s men, most likely to remind to pay his debt later on. Adam cursed for forgetting to put his phone on silence. He switched off the phone, took the envelope, and quickly headed to the door. Since Mickey didn’t alarm him, the coast must have been clear of any people.  

     Adam got out of the estate and met Mickey around the corner. The content of the envelope amounted to exactly £5000. It had been so easy. Adam handed £1000 to Mickey for his debts. After George, he had £2000 saved for the little Peter. Adam was so proud to be able to help Peter and was looking forward to see Kelly smile after he handed her over the money. But first, he’d sort out his affairs.  

     On the way back to the estate in the early hours of the evening, Adam and Mickey were merry with the celebrations over celebratory pints. In the development, they saw a commotion and an ambulance. Amidst the crowd, he saw the old-lady being carried on the stretcher. Her eyes were closed. Suddenly, Adam felt an uneasy heaviness in his stomach. What if the old lady had died after he left? He asked a neighbour; she said they had robbed the old lady of the money which she’d planned to pledge to the little Peter’s cause. After her walk, she wanted to go to the hospital to see Peter but there was no envelope to be found. She had had welled up while talking about her misfortune to her neighbour and subsequently had a heart attack.

     Adam froze with shock: A cold shower of sweat rushed down his spine. All of that money was the little Peter’s opportunity, after all. Adam had caused agony to the innocent old-lady and had deprived a needy child of his fortune. Adam left the scene at once.   

     To Adam’s disappointment, Mickey and him had already used the money to clear off their debts. Fortunately, Adam hadn’t given Kelly the money yet or else they would have found out who had stolen it by now. 

“Well, what now?” Mickey asked. 

“We’ve just deprived a sick child from his surgery fund and caused an innocent to fall sick. And there I was, thinking I was doing someone good. We have to match the sum.” Adam glanced at Mickey for his reaction. 

Mickey appeared to be contemplating at instance, then beamed a wry smile. “There’s one place we can get the rest of the money, but it’s a bigger risk than the old lady’s house,” He said. 

Adam nodded his head readily to Mickey’s idea. 

     At midnight, the buddies reunited for their target. They broke into the betting store where Mickey often lost the most his cash. It was his way of getting his money back. Mickey knew that its owner had kept the till in the office. The masked pair clipped the lock with ease, but in the dungeon, they had a surprise waiting for them. The owner of the store was there, on his chair. 

      As dumbfounded as his visitors, a quick scuffle broke out where Mickey held the man with a knife, while Adam emptied the cash in a bag. As Adam prepared to get away, the shop owner wriggled out of Mickey’s hold and took the knife off of his hands. The owner lunged forward to Adam and stabbed him in the web of his foot. As he lifted the knife again to stab for the second time, Mickey hit him on the head, so Adam ran away. 

      On the pitch-black uphill streets, Adam’s sprint steadily turned into a hopping of a wounded deer. As he gradually felt the increasing twinge on his foot, Adam smiled; he could now give the little Peter his opportunity back to him.  

 

The next story here: Cloud 9

 

Thank you for reading, 

M. Marko 

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