“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.” That’s what the old man used to say whenever anything went wrong on a job. Usually something involving me being injured. Then after he said it he would start laughing, a hideous phleghm filled growl that sounded like Tom Waits taking a painful shit. Often this would lead into a powerful bout of coughing, although it was often hard to tell the difference.
He said it after I got shot during a job in Vienna, then stood there laughing down at me, as I glared up from the pool of blood I was lying in. It was only a flesh wound, the bullet passing cleanly through the meat with no bone or organ damage, but there was no way he could have known that. I’m pretty sure the old bastard would have reacted the same way to a headshot.
So when three bullets ripped through his chest during a job in Brussels, I was tempted to give him the same treatment. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh at him though. He grinned up at me, then beckoned for me to lean closer, and when I did he whispered something in my ear. The location of an airport baggage locker containing £50,000. He said I’d been the best partner he’d ever had, and as he was dying giving me the cash was the least he could do. Then just before the life passed from his body, he managed to reach into his pocket and pulled out a key which he pressed into my hand.
It was two weeks before I was able to get to the locker. I put the key in the lock, anticipating the sight of the riches within, which turned out to be less rich than I expected. There was no cash in there, just a copy of the Superman Vs Muhammed Ali comic that he’d bought in a comic shop in Oslo a couple of years ago. As I looked at it I pictured the old bastard smiling up at me, and with his dying breath, muttering “sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”