Don’t Forget Your Shovel
“Don’t forget your shovel” said Moore, and hung up.
Fallon locked his phone screen and slipped it back into his shirt pocket. Sharon didn’t ask who he’d been talking to or what they’d wanted, but he knew she wanted to know. She gave him a big open smile as she put a cup of tea down on the table in front of him and flopped onto the sofa. “Alright love?”
“Gardening job. Starts Monday.”
She smiled at that. It was good for him to get out of the house.
Moore picked him up from the car park of the site’s nearest train station. Fallon dropped his tools in the back of the van and climbed in after them. There was no room up front, both passenger seats already taken by Moore’s eldest boy, Jack, and Drago, the locksmith. “Nice area,” said Fallon.
“Lots of nice big houses” said Moore. Jack laughed, then abruptly stopped when his father cuffed him around the back of the head.
The house was huge, a fully detached three storey McMansion with 300 foot of garden at the back. The land was overgrown and uncared for, with no trees to interrupt their line of sight to the five encircling properties. Plenty of time and space to work.
The first week they’d all be in the garden. After that it’d just be Moore and his boy. Fallon and Drago would have other work to be getting on with.
Sunday night Fallon shaved off his beard. He went to the wardrobe in the spare room and took one of three small backpacks from the bottom and put it on the bed. He opened it and checked over the contents: a yellow high vis jacket; a brand new light blue shirt, still in it’s shop wrapper; a dark blue clip on tie; a black pullover; an ID badge on a lanyard with a photo on it of a clean shaven Fallon wearing glasses, identifying him as an employee of National Environment Commission- which so far as Fallon knew, might even really exist; a clipboard; and the glasses from the ID photo, a pair of reading glasses with the lowest strength lenses he’d been able to find. Satisfied, Fallon put the bag by the front door and went to the kitchen to polish his shoes.
After the last week observing from the garden Fallon was able to time his visit to each of the surrounding houses when someone was home. Everyone was eager to let him in so they could tell him in detail about the awful workmen in their neighbours’ garden. This was as it should be; they’d made plenty of noise on purpose that first week for exactly this reason.
Mrs Arbelore at number 27 was particularly keen that he understand that here irritation wasn’t about the noise “it’s our own honest, British tradesmen I feel for. These poles come over here and they work for nothing, our boys just can’t compete”. Fallon didn’t point out that apart from Drago the team were all Irish. That would mean breaking character, and anyway, what would be the point?
That afternoon, once he’d visited all five houses, with a cup of tea and a toilet visit at each, he met up with Drago at a pub two train stops away and told him the details of the alarm systems and gave him a cheap notebook of simple hand drawn floor plans.
Like Fallon, Drago knew when someone would be home at each house. And when there wouldn’t.
Tuesday afternoon they met again at a different pub– two stops along again, but this time in the other direction– and Drago gave Fallon a mobile phone. It was a cheap one, pay as you go and basically disposable, but it had an excellent camera. Fallon spent a few hours examining the photos on the phone in silence, while Drago worked his way through three pints of lager and book about the Vietnam war.
The photos were mostly of insurance documents, though they were a couple of pictures of paintings in there as well, and a small sculpture. Drago had included these just in case, but they weren’t of any interest to Fallon.
They decided on number 27. Mrs Arbelore’s insurance documents mentioned a quarter of a million pounds’ worth of jewellery and a first floor wall safe, which Drago had discovered behind a painting above her bed.
It almost went completely tits up on the Thursday. Just as Drago had popped the safe, Mrs Arbelore pulled into the driveway. Fallon, keeping watch from the living room, ducked down on to the carpet and hit call on his mobile.
In the garden next door Jack’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He threw his shovel down on the ground and stormed around to the front of the house, bellowing obscenities at the top of his voice. His father came running after him, shouting at him to calm down. In the front drive they nearly came to blows, turning the air blue with vitriol, before Moore senior brought things to an end with a firm hand on his son’s shoulder. A swift reconciliation followed.
Mrs Arbelore finally turned away from the drama she’d been watching, and entered her home. Drago and Fallon were long gone now of course, and so were her jewels. She wouldn’t know for a few weeks though, not until the next time she had cause to check her safe.
They finished up the job that Friday, and Fallon had to admit the garden looked fantastic. The client, a local estate agent, paid them three thousand pounds, bringing the full week’s take up to twenty eight grand– their fence would only give them ten pence on the pound for jewellery, because it was so easy to trace. Still, between the four of them that was seven thousand each, not bad for two weeks’ work.