24th, March 1967
24th, March 1967
Zinkman & Sons Diamond Exchange
Hatton Garden, London
"Five minutes past," Charlie Enfield said towards the basement stairwell, glancing down at his wristwatch. "Fifteen minutes left."
He carried a shotgun in one hand, a handheld radio in the other as he paced the floor. Like Red and Freddy, he wore navy blue coveralls with leather gloves and a black ski mask. Two armed guards were on the ground in front of him, their hands and ankles tied behind their backs. Both men were gagged and blindfolded. For all his faults, Charlie was one to learn from his mistakes.
He’d fucked up big time on the Wembley job and he knew it. But he patched everything over and Red and the others were none the wiser. They could babble all they wanted to about the bodies on their conscience and all that shite, but they weren’t the ones who did what it took to keep them out of jail. They were an ungrateful lot to be sure. In the two week run up to the job, Coach had given him the cold shoulder whenever they were alone and Red was more aloof than usual. Fuck ‘em, he thought. He’d do this job and be done with the whole bloody lot. His money from the World Cup job had all went to his investments. Whatever they made off this he could do the same and be alright.
Charlie checked his watch again. They came in right at the stroke of midnight just liked they planned it. From the roof, Bobby had signaled that his part was done and they were ready to go inside. Freddy picked the lock of the fire exit in less than a minute and stepped aside for the two other men. Charlie and Red came in as quick and as quietly as possible. Charlie took one guard down with the shotgun butt to the kneecap while Red took the other one out with a sap to the base of the neck.
Once the guards were tied and restrained, Freddy and Red headed for the basement while Charlie stood watch over the guards. That was two minutes ago. Based on Red's mock-up and their trial runs, fifteen minutes was the average time it would take to finish the job. He'd added an extra five on to it to account for any problems that arose.
Charlie glanced around the store showcase. The glass cases held jewels and diamonds that glistened and sparkled in the dim night light. Charlie smirked as he looked them over. It was all costume jewelry that looked convincing to anyone shopping for a nice pair of earrings for the missus or the mistress. The real action at Zinkman & Sons was downstairs. Red's contact laid all the information out to them. They even included information about the make and model of the safe Zinkman's used to protect their most precious stones.
He glanced down at his watch and did the math.
"Coming up on ten minutes past," Charlie said into the radio. "How we looking elsewhere, lads?"
“All is well from up here.”
Bobby shoved the personal radio back into his pocket and took a seat against one of the roof’s walls. From the other pocket he plucked a packet of cigarettes and pulled one free. He fed it into his lips and lit it all in one movement and took one long drag, followed by a satisfied sigh.
He’d taken up smoking six months ago to calm his nerves. His girlfriend Klaudia hated it, but it was all he could do to stop himself from worrying. He’d spent every day looking over his shoulder since that day at Wembley – the least he could afford himself was a cigarette every now and again.
On the ground in front of him were the remains of the Diamond Exchange’s alarm system. They ran a standard automatic telephone dialer that alerted the nearest police station in the event of a break-in. The dialers had been brought in at the turn of the sixties and were initially wildly popular with business owners big and small, but they tended to short out fairly often. Even worse, they were known to send false alarms from time to time and most stations had learned to all but disregard the alarms they received from them.
It hadn’t taken Bobby long to render the building completely defenceless. Now his part was done. There were a pair of binoculars on the ledge of the roof that he peered through to make sure the coast was clear but on such a quiet night the chances of trouble were next to nonexistence. Red had seen to that.
After his last “donation” to the Ex-Combatants Association in Hammersmith, Bobby was running low on cash. What little he had left over from his take was all but gone. He’d finally managed to find work in a factory across town in Enfield but the commute back and forth was soul-destroying after a long day at work. And things were escalating with Klaudia slightly faster than he had expected.
That a Diamond Exchange was their target did not strike Bobby as a coincidence. As silly as it sounded given they had been together for less than a year, he had been thinking about popping the question – but he could not afford a ring. Not the kind that Klaudia deserved, anyway. He’d toyed with the idea of pocketing one from the take, but thought better of it in the end. Red and Coach were the closest thing Bobby had to a family. Heck, even Charlie was like a brother to him, if only he didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with.
No, he’d use his share of the take to buy Klaudia the biggest ring he could afford and then he’d sit Red down and tell him that he was walking away from this life. For the first time in six years, he was going to stop fighting and start living.
“We’re in the basement,” Turner’s voice sounded through the radio in Bobby’s pocket. “Standby.”
James "Coach" Crowder gnawed away at a piece of skin beside his thumbnail as he turned the corner at Zinkman & Sons Diamond Exchange for the third time. The streets were deserted but that did little to ease his worries. Tonight was the first big score since they’d gone underground after the Wembley job and everyone was on edge, Coach most of all.
His job was simple enough this time around. He’d paid a visit to the old man in East Dulwich for some fake plates for the cab. All Coach had to do was cruise around the building and make sure there weren’t any nasty surprises. After the way things had spiraled out of control last year, he’d almost come to expect them.
A few passerbys had attempted to hail him down, to which he’d pointed up at the unlit “taxi” sign above him, but otherwise there had been no trouble. He only hoped the same could be said for Red and Freddy in the basement.
As Coach pulled the cab to a stop at a red light, a flash of light in his mirror caught his attention. He heard the familiar hum of a Wolseley engine before he made out the “POLICE” sign along its front. Coach’s hands tightened around his steering wheel as the coppers paid their approach.
The Wolseley stopped beside him. Coach glanced over into the front of it. There was an old copper in his early sixties in the passenger seat with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. In the driver’s seat was a lad no older than Bobby.
For a few tense moments, neither Coach nor the coppers did or said anything. Crowder reached his gloved hand over to the passenger seat and placed it atop a revolver that was resting there. “Only as a last resort,” Red had told him, as if he’d needed telling that.
The old copper nodded cordially at Coach. Reassured, Crowder slipped his hand away from the revolver and gave the copper a warm nod of his own. The red light turned green and the Wolseley inched ahead of him. He watched it pull away from the Diamond Exchange and then stop abruptly in the middle of an empty road.
“Keep driving you bastards,” he muttered under his breath.
After a few seconds the Wolseley continued on its way and Crowder peeled off in another direction, hoping any lingering suspicions the coppers might have had were put to rest. He reached into a compartment by the dash of the cab for his radio and considered calling it in, before deciding otherwise.
“They’ve got enough to worry about,” Coach murmured to himself quietly. “The last thing they need is you putting the fear of God into them over nothing, old man.”
He stared down at clock beside the speedometer. Five minutes had gone by, Red and Freddy had fifteen minutes to get that safe open and get out of there. All Coach could do was keep circling and hope for the best.
Maybe if he was lucky he’d still have nails left by the time they were out.
"Hello, my lovely."
Freddy Reams removed the ski-mask from his head before he slipped off the leather gloves he wore, revealing a pair of tight latex ones underneath. He flexed his big hands and their long fingers, working out any potential stiffness. The leather gloves were fine, but they were too bulky and didn't provide the type of feel that Freddy Fingers needed for this.
The safe in front of him was a little over two meters tall and had two combination dials along its harsh black surface. The Delphi 2066 was among the hardest safes in the world to crack. Almost nine inches of reinforced carbonized-steel stood between the safe contents and the outside world. To drill into it would take a type of bit they did not have the time or ability to get, the kind of drill bits they used to drill into the earth's crust in search of oil. Blowing it up was equally out of the question. The amount of dynamite it would take to breach it would destroy whatever was inside. So the only option was to finesse it out. It kept an electronic timer going once the first dial was turned. If the combination on both dials wasn't successfully entered within a two minute window, the safe would go into lockdown mode for at least twelve hours.
"Just like we practiced," Red said from over Freddy's shoulder.
"Right," said Freddy. "Just like we practiced."
He squatted down and started to rummage through the tool bag at his feet. He had picks, drills, hammers, and an assortment of any and everything a successful thief would need to breach a safe. But for the Delphi 2066, all Freddy needed were his ears. They looked like a doctor's stethoscope only bigger. A larger metal disc to pick up on sounds and larger earplugs to help Freddy drown out the world.
"Okay," he said as he stepped to the Delphi. "Start the clock the second I touch the first dial."
Taking a deep breath, Freddy placed the metal disc of his hears beside the dial and held it there with his left hand. With his right, he started to turn the dial clockwise, listening intently for the tell-tale click of a successful number being entered.