AN: This is my first story so I hope you'll like it!
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognise belong to me!
Warning: Sensitive eyes be warned, the F word is used in all its glory... (I still put it T, if anybody disagrees, the debate is open...)
It took him less than a minute to disable the alarm system.
It was a basic thing, the same could be found in any house. He then went to the back and started taping one of the squares at the bottom of the window, allowing him to soundlessly break it. The latch was easily accessible by twisting lightly his hand through it. Once inside, he walked softly but normally through the rooms, knowing that walking sneakily was more likely to alert someone in a family house to his presence. Still, he didn't waste time going directly to get what he had come for and, having had no problem locating it, returned quickly to his exit. He was out when he suddenly sensed someone behind him. He immediately dropped, swinging a leg around and catching the intruder's kneecap and causing him to go down hard.
"Fuck man! Relax it's only me!"
Alex froze and suddenly recognizing the fallen guy lowered his guard while registering the three extra shadows who had started snickering.
"What the hell are you doing here? You're gonna get us caught!" he retorted angrily but with a hint of a smile that lightened his words. He shoved to the guy he had felled one of the beer case they had noticed the family bringing in earlier while picking up the second one along with a plastic bag full of food he had nicked.
Right on cue, the light in one of the room suddenly clicked on. The five of them shared a look then started barreling down the street no longer restraining there laughter.
"That was way too close!" Chuck managed as they threw themselves in the dirt laughter still racking their bodies still high on the adrenaline of the chase. The area had been heavily patrolled so they had quickly been pursued by a police car. Luckily the fences weren't high so they had managed to lose it by skipping over a few of them.
"Well let's see if it was worth it!" stated Dave starting to tear at the plastic bag that was covering the case of beer. With a smack of disproval, he revealed the blue logo. "No luck! It's Molson!" A collective groan went up.
"Hey, I'll take piss poor beer any day over no beer!" said Ben while accepting the bottle Dave was handing him. "Cheers Alex!"
"Yeah, you really need to teach us how to stop the alarm system, it's pretty neat!" started Dave. Once the group had all an opened bottle, they cheered and drank heavily. By side glance a silent beer downing competition soon started none of them willing to be the first to lower it. Chuck suddenly finished his, and with a yell turned it upside down to prove it. Manny soon followed but wasn't quite as finished and the leftover sprayed Alex who let out a cry of protest but soon joined in the laugh. A second round was passed and the high moments of the day were relived through a gentler but constant drinking.
As Alex sat there surrounded by people he trusted and lulled by the camaraderie and the alcohol out of his stress, he felt better than he had in years.
It was the gentle rain that woke him up the next morning. Always the first one up, Alex sat up groaning from the hangover. He had puked during the night so the hangover wasn't paralysing him but he was almost grateful for the rain as he hoped it would wash out some of the smells that lingered around their improvised camping ground. The embers of the fire they had started were sizzling as they were drenched in the rain.
"How's the head?" came a voice behind him.
Alex turned, only slightly surprised to see that Dave, normally more of a late sleeper, was up before him. Dave was never one to drink heavily and probably didn't have the head ache the rest of the group would be experiencing for the rest of the morning.
"Don't talk so loud please..." whispered Alex, wincing at the pain implicated in the harsh task of sitting up.
Chuckling, Dave continued packing, quickly trying to harvest the most of their stuff before the rain drenched it all. Alex helped him transport the most of it beneath a shelter with only a roof, thankful that there wasn't anybody using it. The hardest part was to bring their travel mates there. Manny and Ben they managed to wake up and half drag to the shelter but Chuck was proving more difficult. He had woken up with a groan but had simply rolled over now laying spread eagle across the mud, clearly stating he would not be woken up. With an accomplice grin, Alex quickly picked one of the embers out of the fire pit and placed it straight on Chuck's forehead where it slowly build up heat. Suddenly realising what it was, Chuck eyes opened wide and with a yelp he swatted it away. Growling at the two friends now bent over with laughter, he launched himself on Dave.
"Hey! It wasn't even me!" he protested but Alex quickly came to his rescue by jumping and lying flat over the two guys.
"Argh! Get off Alex, I'm gonna puke!" Chuck quickly rolled out of the pile. He didn't do good on the promise but the green tinge on his face still discouraged Alex and Dave on any retaliation rather each grabbing one of his out stretched hands to help him get up. Clapping him behind the back, they stirred him toward the shelter. Manny and Ben had started to shift through the bag of food Alex had stolen along with the beer, but the leftover of those stood well away. Opening a box of Joe Louise*, Manny took one and started wolfing it down while Ben preferred eating his strip by strip.
"What happened to your forehead, you look like a Hindou!" asked Ben pointing at Chuck who rubbed the red welt with a glare toward Alex who threw him a wide smile in reply.
As the rain had intensified in a cold shower, the five of them spent the rest of the day under the shelter trying unsuccessfully to start a new fire to try and dry them off but the wood and humidity in the air thwarted all their attempts. Finally, they spent the night there and only left it in the late afternoon of the next day, as the almost constant rain was still showing no sign of letting up. All of the food and the leftover beer had been finished the day before and there stomach warned them that they couldn't stay and try to outlast the rain. They packed their stuff back in their bags and trekked out the halt were they had passed the night and headed back down the road toward the small isolated suburbs that they had broken in two nights ago.
*Don't look at me, I'm just a line break!*
"Come on, we can just break in another one, and we'll be gone to another city before they even notice!" argued Chuck as they stood by the side of the road, at a crossroad. The group had hit a crossroad and were arguing toward their next action. It was either heading down the highway hoping to find another house close by that they could loot or return to the neighborhood to fill in on provisions and highjack a car.
"Look! We must never return twice at the same spot! Did you see how quickly that patrol car was onto us, and they're bound to be more alert now!" retorted Alex angrily.
This conversation had been going on for a while now and they were at a standstill. Dave, Chuck and Many wanted to go stack up on food while Alex and Ben insisted they would fall on a lot of other places down the road and they couldn't take the chance of returning.
Dave and Alex were both seventeen and that made them the elders of the group. They had the most influence in the gang. Dave was the one who would always be the first to act and while prompt to putting them in danger, he always helping the others and fiercely loyal which drew others to him.
Alex was more quick-witted and would normally be the one to clear up the mess Dave was bound to cause but while Alex was forever prudent, he also had one of the worst luck which brought its lot of incident. Since Dave, Chuck and Many had joined with Alex in Las Vegas, intent on going all the way to New York on their own, there had been a shooting incident in L.A. and a bomb in their bus leaving Salt Lake City. They had also endured a black bear attack in a National Park in Wyoming and, while it may not have attacked them, it had surely been out for their blood. They had also ended up getting caught in the middle of a drug bust in a club in Chicago, that was also where they had met Ben, and had managed to get themselves in an unprompted and clandestine detour through Canada, landing them in the French speaking province of Quebec, though that was admittedly more due to a poor choice of truck to free load in.
In each of these events, Alex had proved to be a resourceful and trustworthy ally. In return, Alex had started to open up more to the rest of them going as far as dropping his American accent for is more natural British one and telling them is real name somewhere between Chicago and Detroit. But he still remained paranoid and the lack of food they had suffered during their trip was what had led to this confrontation at the crossroad.
"I don't even know why we're arguing about this, the majority speaks for itself!" lashed out Dave through the argumentation.
"Manny doesn't count, he's only fourteen!" joked Ben holding the youngest in a headlock forcing the youngest but tallest of the group in a bent over position.
"Ben doesn't count, he's a dickhead!" Try as he may, Manny was still unsuccessful at throwing him off.
"Doesn't really matter how many are against it, how are you planning on getting in if I don't disarm first?" threatened Alex holding up the pair of crimpling pliers that was his best tool to put more weight on his words.
He was highly uncomfortable under the glare of his friends, but Alex still held his end with none of his uncertainties showing on his blank face. He didn't want to risk anything, especially so close to the goal, and he thought ridiculous the anxiety of his friends concerning the lack of target farther down the road. He personally just wanted to get going, to keep moving forward.
Dave scoffed suddenly, breaking the tension and started shuffling through his bag. "Look Alex, I don't care that you're with us or against us, we were doing this long before you arrived and it worked just fine. Just lay back and learn." He finally found what he was looking for and pulled out three colored balaclava. Handing one to Chuck he hesitated slightly between Manny and Ben, but finally handed it to the youngest one, not without any protest from Ben. But it wasn't the first time Manny had done this and his height impressed while Ben hadn't been with them for as long and being the only African American from their group, he would make them stand out more.
Alex knew what was coming from the stories they had told but no amount of backtracking was swaying the guys who had by now started pumping adrenaline. Deep down, Alex could see many benefice of this endeavour that was lost to his mates. Breaking entry was safer and less publicized but he never dare steal too much at a time and he was aware of the trail he was leaving in his wake. If the managed to loot enough from this onetime thing while changing the M.O., it could get them all the way to New York quickly and allow to shake off the detective he knew was not too far behind him.
Noticing the silence Alex had lapsed in, Dave suddenly pulled him apart. "Look, I know you don't really like this method but if you can stop the video feed, you'll be lowering the chance for this to be traced back at us..."
"You realised it's not something I've done before, I don't know how it's set up!"
"Come on, you know you can figure this kind of thing out, it's child play compared to the alarm system's you disable in seconds!"
Alex wanted to protest again but his mind was already thinking up of ways to meet up to the challenge so instead he just gave a small nod which also held the promise to stop fighting them against this plan.
*Still nothing more than a linely line break...*
It only took them half an hour to find a suitable convenience store, held near the border of the town while also in a slightly less residential corner as it promised less possible witnesses. Alex stood outside, looking it over. It wasn't attached to any other buildings. He could see through the windows two doors at the back slightly apart, one probably being the bathroom and the other a storage area. He already knew that there was a back exit from his previous circuit around the building. It would be Chuck's job just before the holdup occurred to pick it open as an emergency exit while Alex's job was to stop the camera feed and Ben's was to hot wire the car they had picked. He would also stay in it for their getaway as Alex stood just outside the door ready to provide backup and to make sure no one was coming. The two of them had been fashioned out with improvised balaclava made of used shirts.
Balaclava-less at the moment, Alex strode in the convenience store convincingly acting as a late chocolate-craved student while noting the presence of a single camera in the corner, the angle clearly covering the entire countertop. His hope that it was a phoney was squashed by the presence of a small red light next to the lens. Picking up a bar of Kit-Kat from the lot and placing it on the counter, Alex suddenly found himself face to a smiley, high school-aged boy who immediately started chatting him up, probably seeking a distraction from the open algebra book waiting threat-filled in a corner of the counter.
"Never seen you around here! Are you new? Have you just moved here? There are a lot of new families that have been moving in the neighborhood recently, what with the recession..." Seeing he didn't really need to answer, Alex started dumping the change on the counter trying not to think of the experience the teenager was going to be having in the next hour, and managing to keep the guilt enough at bay to keep his reactions normal. "... shouldn't be too bad right?" finished the cashier handing him two pennies as change. Alex noted the question mark but was totally incapable of recalling what the question was.
"Yeah! Of course." When in doubt, always say yes.
Alex was out without delay and joined up the group by the brick wall were they had rightfully guessed the camera would be located.
"So do you have the info you need?" asked Dave.
"So do you have the chocolate bar?" asked Chuck in a far more urgent tone.
Rolling his eyes, he tossed the Kit-Kat at Chuck who distributed it while he explained to Dave what he was planning.
He helped him propel himself on the roof and handed him his bag where he kept his tool but the rest Alex had to do on his own.
Using a simple ice pick, he started working on the mortar holding the bricks together by lying down on the roof and attacking the wall. It was slow work but it was barely midnight and he knew he had enough time to accomplish what he needed to do. He could feel the restlessness from the group below that where by now positively bored and grumbling at his antic. Finally, Alex had worked through two layers and was slowly sawing through the wood that was still separating him from the target. Ripping the wood off, the prize was finally in front of him.
It was the place where the camera had been drilled in the wall and where he had seen the cable connections. Pulling some of the mineral wool out, he let out a breath of relief as after a bit of searching, he found the four bolts that signified the presence of the camera and quickly lowered his hand to grab the cables. Pulling on them slightly to free them enough to cut, he almost lost his balance as they suddenly sprung loose and slipped through his fingers. Not understanding immediately what happened, Alex grabbed the cables and sliding his hand along them soon found the problem. Not only we're they hollow, without any cables inside, but they only stood about a foot out of the wall before simply being cut off.
Alex propped himself from his lying down position, quickly analysing what this meant. Obviously the cables weren't really useful but this didn't guarantee that the video was a fake immediately. There was still the unlikely event that the camera simply worked on a memory card or by transmission. He knew the camera probably simply contained a red light working on battery but even if it was the most logical and probable truth, Alex's time as a spy and on the road left him with an unwillingness to leave anything to chance.
"Hey! Are we good to go?" shouted Chuck seeing as he was no longer working in the wall.
The careless shout was what decided Alex. He wasn't a spy anymore; he might as well stop acting like one. "Yeah! Go wild!"
He jumped lightly down beside the group as the adrenaline suddenly came back now that it was soon happening. The others started chattering excitedly, obviously spiked. Only Dave stayed quiet staring at him. Alex first had the impression he knew he wasn't being entirely truthful about the camera but then realized Dave wasn't suspicious but nervous.
"We're going to need your gun..." muttered Dave no longer meeting his eyes.
"You know I don't part with it..."
"And you know we can't really do a hold up with only one gun."
"You certainly seemed to be doing it fine before I arrived." This time it was Alex not meeting eyes.
"We had bats or crowbars to compensate. We can pick up all the rotten wood we want in the garbage, it just won't have the same effect." Alex kept quiet after this. There were a lot of argument left for him to say but all the important ones had been laid out and he knew he had to decide.
Grudgingly, he took the gun hanging from his strap shoulder and, flicking the safety back on, gave it to Dave. He wouldn't normally have parted with it but the presence of his second gun, the one the guys didn't know about on his left side with the security still off, was what had convinced him to lend one.
It didn't take them long after that to put their plan in motion.
Dave was to go first, crouching by the door of the convenience store. He opened it and ran to the counter shoving his gun under the cashier's nose before the chime of the door had even stopped.
"Hands in the air!" he shouted, signaling at the same time for Manny and Chuck to move in also. "Don't ya dare think of doin something stupid! I don't wanna see you move an inch! Now give the money!" Heedless of his contradictions, Dave was trying to make the more noise to keep the employee from trying to think up a plan and simply listen to him. His acolytes helped him greatly in that aspect has Manny started upending the products on the counter and stuffing his bag with everything that wasn't strewn on the floor. Dave during the confusion had moved behind the counter and was now man-handling the terrified high-schooler while Chuck stayed in front with Alex's gun. Finally the case was open and at Dave's insistence the cashier himself started putting the money in the bag. It didn't take long until he was shuffling pennies in it.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Chuck hollowered. "There's barely a hundred in here where's the money? WHERE'S the money?" The boy only whimpered as an answer.
"There's nothing else in the case! What the fuck!" sweared Dave still holding the young man at gun point. But Chuck didn't seem to have heard him as he continued to wave the gun. "All the money! Where is it? Get it NOW!" That was when things started to derail as Chuck punctured his last word with a gunshot.