A Great Man?

Entry by: Octopoda

23rd November 2017
A Good Man?

He grips the steering wheel, skin taught across his white knuckles. The rain is pelting the car, turning the windscreen into a mess of smudged streetlamps and car taillights. The bad weather is just one of the many things that have gone wrong since he shrugged on his coat and crept out of the door at 3am, leaving his wife and son asleep in their beds. He was meant to be back before they awoke to begin the regular breakfast routine. Sitting in the cold car peering out through the windscreen wipers sweeping back and forth like a metronome, he is a world away from his warm family kitchen. He checks his watch; they are already an hour behind schedule because one of the men didn’t show up. They were a man down, running late and now the un-forecast torrential rain felt like a definite omen. They should be out by now. They had all run through it so many times. He had pictured it in his head: the three masked men dressed in black running towards the car with holdalls filled with money. At night he dreamt about the moment he would press his foot against the accelerator just as the last car door slammed shut. Yet here he was, waiting. The longer he waits, the more visible he is. Why did he make this decision? As soon as he said yes, it felt life changing in the worst possible way.

“Its just driving a car,” his brother had said as they sat in a wine bar neither of them had ever been to before, and would definitely never come to again. They sat in a booth drinking craft beer, a far cry from their usual Friday night pint at the local. “You’re a good man Paul, nothing is going to change that.” Steve was clever, he knew how to persuade him, he knew that Paul’s image of himself as the good one, the ‘family man’ was important to him. He also knew that Paul would always help out his younger brother if he were in trouble, the brother who was less concerned about doing the right thing. Then there was obviously the money. Kate losing her job at the hotel had put them both under pressure. Driving the taxi had always felt steady, but recently that had changed. They wanted a better life for Rueben, their son, but how could they achieve it? They had stayed up nights talking about putting him into a better school, giving him the opportunities they never had. But years spent scrimping and saving had just about enabled them to keep a roof over their heads and enjoy a biennial package holiday. “This could be it,” Steve said, “just one job and you’re made, I’ll help you work out what to do with it, make it look legit.” He was doing his sales pitch, covering all the bases, “listen,” he paused, his voice hushed and serious, “there’s no weapons involved, only decoys. No one can get hurt. I know the guy that works there: he’s given us the codes. Its failsafe.” Paul turned the beer mat over in his hand, “why me?’ he said eventually, after mentally calculating what he could do with all that money, how he could make life better. “That’s easy” Steve said, “like I said before, you’re a good man, I can trust you.”

Paul wished he could trust his brother, but he knew that was a fool’s errand. Steve was a dreamer and a risk-taker who had always made the wrong kind of friends. The stark realisation that he was now no better than him, that he had irreversibly crossed some sort of invisible line, hit him just as he heard the first gun shot.