Duggie spent the rest of the day moving from bus shelter to door way, letting time cure his aches. It was no good trying to dip bags like this. His movements were too slow, he stood out far too much. He would have to wait until dark. Night was his friend, it cloaked the honest and dishonest, with equal efficiency. Even in the dark, he avoided the plush suburbs and well to do areas. Just walking along those streets was enough to get him pulled in by the coppers.
No, Duggie felt safest among his own kind. Duggie-boy was no Robin Hood, he stole from his own, to keep it himself. He would have ripped off his own Mum, if she gave him half a chance, not that she would. Tonight, he made his way along a row of older council houses just outside city centre. He dismissed most of the houses out of hand, as they had alarm boxes mounted high on their outer walls. Eventually he came across one with no alarm and old timber windows. He knocked on the door and waited. No barking dogs, no answer. Duggie slipped around the side and was blessed to find a small bathroom window, tucked away from prying eyes.
With a swift jerk of a pry bar followed a sharp snap and the window sprang fully open. Just like that he was inside. Duggie wore plastic gloves he had taken from a supermarket deli earlier. He stood with his eyes closed in the dark bathroom, listening for movements in the house. None came, his eyes were still closed, waiting for them to adjust to the night time gloom inside the house. When he opened them, he could see the room painted in shades of grey. He had to be quick and quiet. The first time he did a burglary he had frozen, stopping every time he made the slightest sound, imagining each as loud as crashing pots.
His first break in had been long ago, and now he moved with the practised grace of a dancer. Gliding lightly from room to room, testing doors and drawers, leaving the ones that were too stiff or too noisy, but tonight the owners were out and the house was empty. He quickly filled his pockets with jewellery, mostly cheap tat, but some gold rings and chains would at least see him right for a fix. He picked up a game boy, a play station as well as a gym bag to put them in. There was a gent’s watch that would get him about forty Euro even though he knew it was worth about ten times that much. He only ended up snagging a little cash. The most valuable thing he came across, were the keys to a car. He never once thought of the family coming home, finding the house ransacked. The fear that he was bringing into their lives.
The hunger born of his addiction had driven all compassion from his mind. There was no room left in his brain for anything but gear, getting gear, getting money for gear, the fear of not having gear. Now, he went about his work like a farmer bringing livestock to the abattoir, immune to the coming pain and suffering of others.
Once he was back on the street, the heavy gym bag slung over his shoulder, he pressed the key fob. A seven year old ford fiesta chirped in response, parked a few feet away from the gate. He loaded the bag into the boot of the car, and was on his way, thankfully the tank was already half full. One way or the other he couldn’t go cruising in a stolen motor, eventually it with would be reported. If he was caught, it was would be a five year stretch for him, no question. He had to cloak the motor and Duggie knew just what to do.
Driving around, he eventually found the same model, make, and importantly, the same colour car. It was well past midnight and the streets were quiet. Duggie pulled up alongside his target. It only took a few moments to whip off the number plates and be on his way again.
Duggie found a quiet spot with no cameras to change the number plates on the car for the ones he had just stolen. The chances of someone reporting a stolen car was high, reporting stolen number plates? Come on, get real. He was confident now, driving past traffic cameras and even squad cars. The recognition soft wear they used wasn’t going to sound alarm bells. With enough money for a fix filling his pocket Duggie went to score.
Later that night, Duggie cooked up on a dirty spoon. Sucking the disgusting but vital liquid through the tiny needle. Digging deep for a vein, he eventually found one he could use, and let the plunger drive the happiness into his blood. He felt the drug moving through his body like a living creature. Sometimes if he really concentrated hard he could actually tell the moment the first atoms of the drug hit his mind. Exploding in happiness and peace. Duggie sank back in the seat of the stolen car, the needle still stuck in his arm. Nothing mattered he now he was home.
Nothing could hurt him, he was where he was wanted, like he was never wanted in reality. Duggie lay half awake, half asleep in a cloud of bliss, outside the Omniplex Cinema. That was where he spent the night, dry, safe from Robbie, safe from everything. Early in the morning a loud banging roused him.
“Hay Man!” The butt of a torch hammered on the driver’s window. “Hay, wake up there,” the security guard shouted.
“Alright, alright,” Duggie said sleepily, trying to figure out where he was.
“What do you think this is, fucking Holiday Inn? Go home and sleep it off.”
Normally Duggie would have given this fella a right mouth full, but sitting in a hot car, it did not seem wise. Anyway, it wasn’t the guard that he did not like the look of, it was the flipping huge Alsatian he had with him.
“I’m Go’n, alright give me a minute,” Duggie shouted, searching for the keys which were still hanging from the under the steering wheel. Duggie saw the guard recognise the cook up spoon, baggie, and lighter, thrown in the passenger foot well but could do nothing about that now. He started the engine and carefully drove out onto the main road.
The traffic was quiet, the fog of sleep was wearing off and his problems with Robbie surfaced in his brain again. How the hell was he going to get two grand in six days? No amount of handbags were going give him that much. Duggie reckoned that even with what he got in an average burglary, he would have to break into at least five houses a day to get even close. All that without even taking anything for himself. What he needed was to get two thousand all in one go. He was so caught up with is worries he failed to notice the van in front of him indicate left. He nearly ran into the back of it. Duggie Leaned hard on the horn as the green Post Office van turned into a dive way. The driver’s arm appeared out of the window, and give Duggie the finger. It was times like this that you nearly could believe in fate. A plan hatched in Duggie's drug riddled brain as he accelerated away from Dublin and into the lush green countryside.
Duggie was at best a ‘D’ student, for the few years he managed to stay in school. Not even the most misinformed newsreader would ever refer to him as a 'Criminal Mastermind'. Everyone but Duggie knew he was as thick as two short planks. The only one that didn't seem to realise this important fact, was Duggie.
Nearly hitting the post van got him thinking about all those old age pension books he had lifted from handbags around the shopping centres of Dublin. If he hit just one post office, it was like picking hundreds of pockets, all at once. Even Duggie wasn’t stupid enough to try and take the GPO on O’Connell Street. If he went in there mob handed, with shooters all over the gaff, he’d still come out with nothing more than his dick in his hand.
No, he needed a small place, a country Post office would do just fine. Duggie wasn’t greedy, he only needed two grand, four at the most. The way he figured it, they wouldn't be ready for a raid. In Duggie's mind, he saw himself walking in all mean and nasty, scary gangster. Some little blue rinse old woman with snot and tears running down her face throwing wads of cash at him just to get out.
All those country bumpkins were soft as shit, it was going to be a push over. Duggie changed the plates back to the originals before pulling into a petrol station. He waved in at the girl behind the counter before casually filling up the tank. He even waved at her again as he got back in his car and drove away without paying. Ten minutes later he was back on the stolen plates and as good as invisible once more. He had dumped his baseball cap and took of his top in case the girl gave his description to the coppers.
Plan in place, Duggie headed out into the wild green yonder. He made his way through Wicklow and down near Wexford before turning off the main road. He followed country roads and lanes until he arrived in a tiny village. It was so small, it didn't even register on the sat nav. At one end of the village under a green sign was a tiny post office. It looked like someone’s front room which had been converted, leaving the rest of the house for living in, ideal. Only five miles to a main road. Once on that he could head anywhere in the country.
It was afternoon and his last fix was wearing off. He drove out of town and found a quiet spot to sort himself out. He cooked up, just a small dose to keep him going through the job, but not enough to actually get him high. He needed his wits about him. He was stepping up into the big time and despite everything, he was excited. Forty minutes later he strolled casually into the Post Office.
He had planned to pretend to buy some stamps, to look for his opportunity to jump the counter and do a swift bash and grab. As soon as he went in to the post office, this plan went out the window. First, the place was packed, people were queuing up, waiting for the one person behind the counter to serve them. Duggie had no choice but to join the queue or look like some total space cadet. Second, there was no way to jump this counter. A glass and timber partition went from floor to roof in front of the teller. The glass looked bullet proof, it was defiantly Duggie proof. The door leading behind the counter was grey steel covered with posters but it too looked remarkably sturdy. Trust Duggie to pick the fort Knoxx of country post offices.
“Your turn lad,” said the man standing behind him, this guy must have been a farmer because he was stinking of cow shit. Duggie had been so caught up with his disappointment and checking out the place, he had not noticed the old woman ahead of him finish her business and walk away from the service hatch. This revealed the last and final deterrent to a raid on this particular post office. Nowhere to be seen was a little old blue haired granny that Duggie hoped to encounter. Instead, seated in her place was a guy in his late thirty's, bald, who looked like he bench pressed cars in his spare time. It was not his size that mattered to Duggie, he had seen guys bigger than this fella break down in tears when the shit came down. It was his eyes, you see. Some men have this wild streak that you can see glinting just behind a friendly smile. They walk through strange towns, hoping some doped up scumbag tries to mug them. This man was just like that, his stop button had been disabled and was one dangerous mother, he might even be worse than Robbie. One thing was for sure, Duggie was not going to find out. Instead, he asked for a book of stamps and came out leaving twelve euros of his money behind the counter that he would never ever see again.
Duggie sat in the car fuming, having drove half way around the country he was no closer to getting the money he needed, and twenty four hours closer to a shallow grave in the mountains. Maybe he should just keep going, settle somewhere Robbie couldn’t get him. Deep down, he knew that wasn’t going to work. Ireland was a small place. If you ran in the circles that Duggie and Rob ran in, it was even smaller. Besides, he knew nowhere but Dublin.
Duggie had to get the money, there was nothing else for it. With the chance of one big score gone down the sink hole, Duggie went back to what he knew best, pick out the weak and pounce.
For the next while he watched people come and go from the post office. At last he saw an old man pull up on a small red tractor. In his hand, Duggie recognised the pension book he had seen so many times before. This was the one. Duggie watched the man when he left the post office while he walked stiffly to the shop across the road. He came back soon laden with bags. All this was good. This fella looked like he only came to town now and again. He was more likely to have cash lying around the house, and live further from the village.
Duggie had been told by other lags when he was inside that some of these old farmer's had thousands in cash, shoved in holes or under pots. You just had to get them to say where. A few slaps normally did the trick.
The old man loaded everything on the back of the little tractor and did a 360 on the road, heading back the way he came. Duggie watched until as the tractor drove out of the village, before starting the car to follow. The problem with tailing a tractor is, it goes too slow. Duggie had to keep stopping every time he caught up, pulling over to let it get away again. He listened to the sound of it dying away in the distance, trying to gauge whether it turned or slowed. He used the sat nav to see when roads were coming up ahead. He nearly lost it when the tractor turned to the right, up a small lane with grass was growing in the middle of it. Duggie drove on past the lane twice, before taking the turn. He followed track a short distance with his head hanging out of the driver window listening for the sound of the tractor ahead. Soon he heard it. Duggie kept the little tractor barely in sight, seeing it pull into an isolated farm yard.
Duggie pulled over and waited a while, no other cars passed. At last he got out of the car and opened the bonnet. He loosened one of the terminals on the battery and closed the bonnet. He walked towards the farm taking in all he could see. No cars, the only clothes on the washing line were men's and all looked old fashioned. Duggie waited for the barking of dogs that would act as warning of his approach, but none came. He knocked on the front door and waited. No one answered. From the side of the house a head popped out.
“All right, what do you want,” said the old man Duggie had seen driving the tractor.
“Sorry to bother you sir, but my car’s broken down and I’m a bit lost. Do you think you can help me,” Duggie said, in his most innocent voice. He had left the tracksuit top and baseball hat in the boot of the car and now he just was wearing a black tee shirt over the track suit bottoms and runners. He could be on the way to football training except for the scummy haircut.
“Where is it?” the old man asked.
“Just down the road a bit. I know nothing about cars. This is my first one,” Duggie said telling the near truth for once.
“Come on so you better let me take a look. Where were you going anyway,” the farmer asked walking across the yard towards the road.
“I was on my way to Waterford and thought I’d go cross country from Wicklow, but got lost. I was trying to get back on the main Waterford road for ages,” Duggie lied, but he knew he wasn’t far from the main road. It was the one he had planned to use as his escape route after knocking off the post office.
“Is that your car down there?” the old man said, pointing to the Fiesta pulled in off the lane.
“Yea that is it, I stalled and it just would not start again.”
“Give me the keys till I have a look,” the farmer said. Duggie handed over the keys. He could never have done this if he had hotwired the thing. The old man eased himself into the driver seat with difficulty. Duggie could tell he was hardy, but age was making his movement painful. All this was good news. The old man turned the key a few times and nothing happened.
“Perhaps I can get your wife to call a tow truck or garage?” Duggie said.
“I don’t have a phone,” the old man said. “And if you are looking for my misses, you better get a shovel,” he said without a hint of humour.
"Sorry to hear that,” Duggie said. “If you just point me in the direction of the next town I can walk,” Duggie offered.
“Just pop the bonnet and let me have a look first,” the old man said, struggling to get out of the car. Duggie did as he asked.
“Ah there is your problem. The battery is loose and one of your cables has nearly come off." The farmer shoved the cable back into place with a gnarled hand. “Give it a go now.”
Duggie sat behind the wheel and started up the engine.
“Drive it up to the yard and I'll tighten up that battery and cable,” the farmer said.
“There is no need really thanks very much,” Duggie said.
“Don’t be silly, it’s no bother. If you go driving over these rough roads you will be broken down within two miles,” he replied and would not take no for an answer.
Duggie let him tighten he cables and give him directions to the main road, before leaving with a wave. Duggie tried to give him twenty Euro for helping, but the old man shook his head and refused, saying he did nothing, he was glad to help.
Duggie spent the next few hours driving around the roads in the area. Making sure he could find his way back to the farm with ease. When he was happy he had a good map of the area in his brain, Duggie found his way to the main road and a busy lay bye. Sometime the best place to hide is in plain view. He settled down to wait until night. Catching up on sleep like some tired commuter.