Smash and Grab.
Nick Watt approached the telephone exchange in a props manager all black suit from the theatre. Watt had kept away from lights for a good 10 minutes. This allowed him to develop his night vision which was fairly sharp anyway. He had enough practice of seeing with ambient light due to his usual occupation: burglary. There were no street lights. Two soldiers lolled around at the front door of the telephone exchange their automatic weapons resting beside them. They chewed the fat and puffed cheap Soviet imported ciggies. They seemed to be sharing irreverent jokes. One of them was uncommonly pallid. Did this man have a white grandfather, so Watt wondered. They both held themselves with self-assurance and were utterly relaxed. Not vigilant – Watt noted.
Watt was as nerveless as those of his calling are. His hobby was breaking into houses even when they were occupied. He never knew if a householder would beat him to death with a fire poker. He had two comrades with him but they were strictly only to get involved if Watt failed. Plan A was Watt cut the wires without making a peep. If Watt was not back in 10 minutes they would go to Plan B. That was shoot the guards and cut the wires themselves. Trouble was that would create a commotion and alert the enemy. But it would be only 5 minutes before the attack on Kona’s palace.
Watt could see the light on in one room on the third floor. That must be where the operators were. Even in this tin pot country the phones had to work 24/7. Watt went through the plan again in his mind. He’d seen photos of the building plenty of times. He had been talked through the blueprints. He knew the lay out of the building. Shin up to the fourth floor. Then get to the communications rooms and cut the wires. Out again before the operators had time to come and check the comms room. Nobody need get hurt.
This was a job of stealth not force but force if it came to it. Tucked into his waistband he had a handgun with silencer. He also had a sheathed stiletto knife. That would be quieter if it came to it. Even a gun with a silencer was unsuitable. Watt prided himself on being an impeccable burglar. Never once caught – not for burglary. He had been caught for other things.
Nick Watt was lithe and slim. He had a catlike tread and a mountain goat’s feet. He vaulted the perimeter fence. The building was 20 metres away – still grainy in the ambient light. He moved as noiselessly as he could. He stole across the open ground – pressing his body against the soil. He did not want the spark of a match to illuminate him as the soldiers smoked on the doorstep. He would be silhouetted against the bushes behind him. Very slowly he crept across the grass through the gloom and around the corner. He crouched by the wall – then scrambled.
There was a drain pipe. He tested it. Firm? Would it hold him? Not wobble and rattle? It was sweet. No time to feel smug. He clambered up it. Slowly does it. Careful not to swing and make a sound.
In a minute he had scaled up to the fourth floor. He tried the window. Shut. Out with his stiletto knife. He jemmied it upon. He had been burgling since he was 14 and safe cracking since 16. In through the casement.
He crawled along the corridor. There was a glass door at the end of it. The light was out. But someone could come up from the third floor at any time. Into the comms room. He risked switching on the light. The room was sparsely furnished and mostly white though not too clean. The place was immaculate. Now to cut the wires. He had been trained on what to do by a comms expert – which wires to go for first and which ones were electric. Just in case his pliers had rubber handles and he wore thin rubber gloves. He crouched in the corner near the wires and got to work. Within 30 seconds he had snipped all the wires. His pulse had barely quickened.
Now to get out – thought Watt to himself. He stood up and turn. Just then he heard the steady click-clacking of shoes along the corridor. High heeled shoes? Must be a woman. From downstairs had they noticed a light going on?
He scanned the room. There was nowhere to hide. Before he could think of a solution the door opened.
A good looking black woman in her 20s stood there in a white blouse and beige skirt. She wore brown shoes with slight heels. She was agog for a second – terror spread across her face and the whites of here eyes bulged.
Watt went to raise his finger to his lips to indicate silence. Before he could complete the gesture she let out a shriek.
Watt panicked. He aimed his gun at her and shot thrice. All three bullets hit her in the chest. She fell back against the door. Her blood smeared against the door as she slumped down dead to the floor.
”Oh fuck! Oh fuck!” said Watt. He thought to himself – I have killed a woman! He shoved her body out of the way and opened the door – stepping over her corpse. He had shot despairingly he told himself. What else was he supposed to do?Why did I do that? He thought. Silent gun but she had screamed anyway – the others are coming anyway. Some discrete operation! Women were so highly strung. Stupid girl. If she had had an ounce of sense she would not have yelled and she would still be alive now. Could he really blame the woman for her own murder?
He opened the window through which he had come and shimmied down the pipe double quick – not too worried about sound now the alarm was raised.
He heard feet pounding up the stairs. The men below had heard her scream and were coming to help her. What would they do if they caught him?
The men reached the room and Watt heard raised voices as his feet touched the ground. He ran towards his comrades. His knees were pumping. He heard the Bornoese men reach the window – they had noticed he left it ajar. They yelled insults and threats in a Bantu language out the window. He noticed the soldiers who had stood sentry outside the front of the building were gone and the main door was wide open. They had gone to find the intruder they thought was still inside.
Within 30 seconds he was back with his friends. ”Let’s scram” said Watt breathing heavily. They ran to their vehicle and sped off. As they did so they heard the first shots being fired from the telephone exchange. Watt chided himself. Burglary – that was just a misdemeanour. But killing a woman? She might have children. This was supposed to be the high point of his criminal career. Burgling a totally secure building and now he had committed murder.
”What happened there?”
”Ah someone came in. Had to kill him” said Watt. He thought he had better pretend it was a man he had slain.
”Oh fuck. I thought you was a first rate burglar.”
”I am but I cannot guarantee no one is going to come in.”
”Oh don’t fucking matter so long as them wires was cut” said his comrade with a particularly barren mind.