The sirens had stopped now and outside the red brick building police carriages sat arrayed, their red and blue lanterns highlighting the building strangely, giving it a haunted ethereal quality.
“It had been so simple to begin with. The plan was easy, get in, get what we needed and get out.” he all but shouted at the officers. “It didn’t pan out that way though. Steven, he , gods I don’t know what happened.” The man buried his face in smudged, soot stained hands. He’s pretty average, dark hair cut short, wearing dusty blue workmens overalls and thick prescription spectacles.
The officers regarded the man mutely, to them he’s obviousley unhinged and talking gibberish, they cast a knowing look at each other and remain quiet as their charge rambles on.
“We should have known something was off when we got to the back, the door was open. It should have been locked down tighter than a nuns chuff this time of night. Steven went in first, he was the muscle you see, any problems and he was to handle it. I… I’m just the cracker.” He wiped a grubby sleeve across his mouth before resuming his tale.
“So we go in and we’re in the back, where they do the loading. Nothing else out of the ordinairy, it’s all crates and shadows. But there’s light ahead, the door to the offices is slightly ajar right?” he carries on, not waiting for any sort of response.
“Steven, he’s not happy about this, he’s telling me to be quiet, finger on his lips and all that right. So we edge closer, we can hear someone in there, sounds like shuffling paper. So we get close, Steven pops his head round the corner and then waves me up and it’s some lass, some lass with long black hair in a clerks getup, blouse an waistcoat, workin’ late. So Steven, he puts a hand on my chest all business and gives me a nod before slipping inside the room. He tiptoes up behind this lass and before she can give a call he’s got a hand clamped on her mouth and he’s got her wedged against her desk.”
He pauses in the telling for a moment, slumped over his knees, his hands dangling loosely.
“It’s unexpected but she’s just some dogsbody filing papers, we carry on. So Stevens calling me in, telling me to be quick about my work. The safe’s behind the cabinet at the far end of the next room. The lass she’s struggling against him and he’s cussing the air blue, Steve, see he’s big but this lass she’s got some fight in her. I get on, I’m here to do the job and we’ve been working up to this for months.” he shakes his head, causing a dark fringe of hair to obscure his eyes.
“I wish we’d turned round when we saw the light on, before it all went sour.” he spat. “I ..I set up. Got my kit out of my bag and I get cracking. Ha! Bit of a trade joke that.
“Stevens calling from the other room, telling me to get my arse in gear and I can hear things falling on the floor. Loose papers, an ink set. I don’t know and then all of a sudden he’s yelling and there’s a yelp. I turn round and through the door I see the girl splayed on the floor with Steven standing over her, her face is hidden by a long fall of dark hair but there’s no mistaking that Stevens hit her right?”
The man looks up at his captors. “I’m not squeemish but, you don’t hit a lass. I was brought up right you know and my ma always taught us not to raise a hand to a lass. He shouldn’t have done it, he cusses her, he cusses me and tells me to get back on with the job. And I do, I have to concentrate, you have to be spot on with this work, not any jack can do it. So I’m doing my bit and I don’t realise how quiet it’s gotten, absorbed in my work. Steven he begins to say something and.. and I turn round..” he’s pale now, the only colour in his face is from the soot.
“Steven he, he’s just stood there staring and the girl she’s facing him, she’s got her hand on his arm..” he’s looking up at the officers, his eyes wide. “..and there’s smoke coming from under her hand and Steven he’s just stood there. He’s burning but he’s just stood there.” The words come faster now, the mans shaking visibly and the two officers are giving each other concerned looks.
“I couldn’t do anything, I just watched Steven burning and then he’s screaming but there’s no sound just Steven’s mouth wide open as he stands there with the lass and now she’s turning round and…”
He looks from one man to the other.
“Nothing human looks like that. Her eyes, I can still see her eyes. Red. She’s just stood there staring at me and Stevens behind her, burning.” He trails off into silence, the officers look at him, disbelieving and who can blame them. The man is clearly deranged. After all they found no sign of an accomplice, no sign of a fire.