Harry was late. Again.
David Marshall sighed and leaned back in his chair. He checked his watch for the umpteenth time, wishing his brother in law had a sense of punctuality. But then, Harry had always been that way. Resourceful, dependable Harry, thought David sourly. He crossed his arms and tapped his feet on the floor of the coffee shop, occasionally checking the door to see if Harry had arrived.
David’s phone vibrated in his pocket. He frowned and pulled it out to check the caller ID. His frown deepened. It’s him again, he thought.
David put the phone on silent and shoved it back into his pocket. He counted eight rings before it finally stopped. He let out a sigh of relief. He knew he’d call back.
How did my life become such a mess? , he thought unhappily. It all started when took a small loan from a creditor to start his business. He had taken a gamble and it had paid off. The business had taken off better than he had anticipated. Though the money wasn’t great, it had been steady. Then the calls had started. It turned out that the creditor had modified the document which David had signed to take the loan. He’d fiddled with the numbers a bit and David now had a whopping sum to pay him back. When the creditor had first named the payment, David was furious. He’d tried to put his foot down firmly, but a couple of visits from the city’s goons had changed that. David knew that he was trapped. He had to find a way to get some money together, or he would be in serious trouble.
His wife Sarah had always been the smart one. David had sat down with her and explained it in the gentlest way possible. He’d also told her their only way out – to sell the engagement ring. She’d been heartbroken, but she hadn’t shown it for his sake. The last thing he had wanted to do was to sell the ring, but they had no other choice. It was a 10 carat diamond ring which had belonged to his grandmother. It now sat in a small, velvet box in the pocket of his pants, and in a few hours, it would be gone. The Marshall family’s last heirloom – gone forever.
Sarah was the one who had suggested that her brother Harry would be able to sell it in less than a day. He ran in a lot of circles, and she said he’d be the best man for the job. David had merely shrugged. It made no difference to him. All he wanted was to get his hands on some money so that he could see of the creditor for good. But as he thought of selling the priceless heirloom, his heart felt crushed. He was taking away the first token of his marriage. He hated himself for taking it away from his wife.
There was a small creak as the door to the coffee-shop opened. David looked up to see Harry’s huge form make its way towards him. As usual, Harry seemed to fill the entire room by himself. Built like a house, he had a bit of difficulty manoeuvring between the closely packed tables. He carried a black suitcase with him, which he laid on the table.
“Nasty business,” said Harry as way of greeting. He pulled up a chair and sat across from David. He began digging into his pockets.
“Hello, Harry.” Said David dully. He watched as Harry took out a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. The lighter was definitely made of gold, and David felt a slight twinge of jealousy at his brother-in-law’s well-to-do ways.
“I hear you’ve decided to sell the ring,” said Harry, a little too loud. David cringed as a couple of people on either side of them glanced at him. Harry took a deep drag on the cigarette and blew out a ring of smoke.
“Yes,” said David through gritted teeth. “Sooner the better. Sarah says you can do it by today?”
Harry shrugged in a non-committal manner, which made David a bit angry. He isn’t even taking it seriously, he thought. The waitress had arrived, and she was staring nervously at the two men.
“Two coffees, m’dear,” said Harry. “Both black, no sugar in mine.” The girl noted it down and took off in a hurry, clearly wanting to avoid David, who was staring daggers at Harry.
“Let’s see it then,” he said, laying a hand out. David’s shoulders slumped. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the velvet box. Harry took it from him and opened it gently.
David was aware that more than a couple of people had been watching them, and there was a sudden outbreak of murmuring as Harry pulled the ring out. He held it up against the light and turned it over. It was a real beauty. The diamonds shimmered against the light as everyone watched in awe, dazzled by its opulence.
“Spectacular,” said Harry finally. He jiggled it in his hand, weighing it. “Ten carats at least,” he said. David nodded wistfully. The look on Harry’s face was one of pity, and David hated it.
“Look,” said Harry, and David knew what he was going to say.
“I don’t need you to give me money,” said David flatly. Harry gave out an exasperated sigh.
“Consider it a loan. You can pay me back when you can.”
“Not a chance,” said David stubbornly. Harry’s eyes flashed.
“You’ve married my sister, David. I can’t just sit here and see her threatened by strangers. If you’re not going to do anything about it, then I will.” He said, the last words almost a shout.
David had reached his boiling point. “I’m not doing anything about it?” he said, standing up. “How dare you…” he started, his voice shaking with anger.
There was a loud bang from the entrance of the shop. David twisted in his chair, just in time to see two masked individuals rush into the shop. The taller of the two locked the door behind them, while the other brandished a gun. The one with the gun fired into the ceiling.
Screams rent the air as people rose from their seats. David’s heart nearly popped out of his mouth as he got up from his chair, not wanting to believe it. No, he thought.
The short one pulled out a gun and pointed it at a man nearest to him. “QUIET!” he bellowed, keeping the gun pointed at the man’s head. He had a gruff voice, and the hand holding the gun was eerily steady.
“The gun’s loaded,” said the tall one, also a man. “And I’m not going to hesitate to use it on any of you, unless YOU SHUT UP.” He roared, waving the gun above his head. The noise level slowly decreased. David looked outside to see if anyone had noticed the disturbance. But all the blinds had been drawn, and he remembered that coffee shop was completely soundproof once the doors were locked. There was no chance of anybody hearing them.
“Everybody on the floor. Now.” Said the tall man. Everyone obeyed, slowly kneeling down. David remained standing, still unable to comprehend what was happening.
“What are you doing?” hissed Harry. He tugged on David’s shirt until he too was kneeling along with everybody else. The tall man stood by the locked door and kept glancing outside to see if anybody had noticed. The second man had walked up to the cash register and was emptying it with the gun pointed at the clerk. David’s mind went to the ring in Harry’s pocket. Surely, they don’t know, he thought. David glanced across the room. Everybody was watching with bated breath, hoping against hope that they wouldn’t be shot. Quiet prayers were being said as David started to feel out of breath.
“Hurry up,” hissed the tall man. The other one watched the clerk pull out the money from a register. The man waited till it was empty.
“I need a bag,” he said, searching the crowd. His eyes fell on Harry and his suitcase, and he smiled nastily.
“You,” he said, pointing to Harry. “Bring me your suitcase,” he said. Harry frowned and walked towards him, suitcase in tow.
“Open it,” said the short man. Harry opened it up. Apart from a couple of papers, it was empty. The man smiled again.
“This’ll do nicely,” he said and started to fill it up with the cash. There were only a couple of bundles left. David held his breath as Harry turned away from the masked man.
“Wait,” said the tall one. His eyes were visible from behind his ski mask, and they were shrewd. “What have you got in your pocket, big guy?” he said, pointing to Harry’s pants.
David’s heart skipped a beat. No, he thought.
“Nothing,” said Harry warily. He took a step back, but the tall man was in his face.
“Take it out,” he said, jabbing the gun in Harry’s face. Harry reached into his pocket and took out the velvet case. The short man took it from him and threw it to the tall one. He opened it.
“Whoa,” he said in a hoarse voice as the ring glimmered. David’s throat had gone dry, his heart thudding against his ribs. His mind went blank as the first man examined the ring from all sides.
“This is a real beauty, mate.” He said. “I think I’ll keep it,”
Harry opened his mouth to say something, but quickly closed it as the short man cocked the gun. He stepped back hurriedly as the second man snapped the suitcase shut. David’s face was covered in sweat. He had to do something. He had to fight the robbers and get the ring back. It didn’t matter that he could die; he just had to have the ring back. It was what would keep Sarah safe.
But he couldn’t even stand. He couldn’t even open his mouth as the two masked men backed away, warning the people not to make a noise. They opened the door and swept outside into the street. The clerk ran after them, shouting for all it was worth. But they were gone.
Harry turned around and ran to David’s side. “Oh my god, David,” he whispered, his voice fearful. David had never heard Harry sound like this. At any other time, he would have relished it. But now… “They… they couldn’t have gone far,” said Harry quietly.
But David was shaking. He was trembling like a leaf, holding on to the leg of the chair. “We’re dead,” he whispered. He hugged the chair and began to cry. “Dead…” he said again.
“David, no,” said Harry holding on to his arm, but David pushed him away. He turned to face him, and his face was contorted with anger.
“Go away… before I kill you,” he spat. Harry backed off. David looked unhinged. His eyes were welling up again, as deep sobs racked his body. He sobbed as people from the coffee shop helped him to chair, patting his back and offering condolences.
Harry knew his job was done. He walked briskly out of the coffee shop and hailed a cab. He stepped into it and asked to go to the docks. The cab weaved its way through the bustling streets as Harry mopped the back of his neck with a handkerchief. Long day, he thought. After a quarter of an hour, Harry stepped out of the cab and started to walk towards the docks.
The sun was being brutal on the back of his neck as he kept walking, his eyes trained on the far end of the dock. He turned a corner, and was face to face with two men. One of them was taller than the other, and he was leaning against a lamppost, scratching his beard. When he saw Harry, he stood up straight.
“Nice to see you again, boss,” he said and grinned. The shorter man looked up from the money he was counting and grinned as well.
“Nice haul today,” he said, holding up a suitcase, which Harry recognized as his own.
“I noticed,” said Harry sardonically. He held out a hand. “The ring,” he said. The taller man fished into his pocket and handed over the velvet box to Harry. He opened it and saw the ring nestled inside.
“Is that for your wife, boss?” asked the taller man. Harry smiled.
“For someone more important,” he said. The men raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
“Keep an eye out for the police,” said Harry. “Go under for a while. I want the whole thing to blow over. I’ll send you the rest of the money by tonight, the usual way.”
The men nodded and said nothing. Harry liked that. That’s why he used professionals. He turned back and walked the way he came. He patted his pocket to make sure the ring was safe and he took his cell phone out.
He dialled the number which he had long committed to memory. It rang twice, and the person at the other end picked up.
“It went well,” said Harry.
“Good,” said Sarah Marshall at the other end of the line. “How many people saw the ring being stolen?” she asked.
“At least twenty,”
“Then I’ve got twenty witnesses who will help me get insurance from it,” she said, sounding satisfied.
“You can pay off the debts with the insurance, yes?” he asked, a bit worried.
“Oh yes. We’ll have quite a bit left over too, I reckon.”
Harry nodded, satisfied. “You need to get down the coffee shop. Your husband is a train wreck. He was mumbling to a chair last I saw him,” He said, matter-of-factly.
She sighed. “That’s no surprise. I might as well.”
“I’ll give you the ring back before Christmas. Be careful and make sure nobody sees it.”
Harry imagined his sister smiling to herself. “Of course, brother dear. You know I can keep a secret.” She said.
Now Harry smiled. “I do,” he said.
Sarah had always been the smarter one.