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Chapter 16 - Pounds & Pounds

Inside the hole, to the left and the rights two safes occupied a cavity laying on their backs. Each had a door opened straight up into the air. The two men looked at each other and looked at Nigel.

“Come on in and shut that damned door!” barked the Major.

Nigel shut the door. The men said no more as they resumed emptying their satchels into the safes. When finished, they slammed the doors shut and checked the handles to ensure they were locked. The Gypsy King replaced the metal covers, hiding their treasure trove. He, then, carefully, sealed the covers with eight screws.

“So, you know where the bank is,” the Major whispered.

The Gypsy King chimed in, “If you tell…”

“He won’t say a word. You can trust Nigel.” confirmed the Major.

The clarity in the Major’s tone solidified their unification in a gentlemen’s agreement. Nigel was, now, a part of management.

The Major tossed his satchel into his caravan and locked the door as the other two waited. Walking up the center of the midway with the two of them, reminded Nigel of old westerns he had seen in the theatre and the gangster movies featuring James Cagney. He walked taller and prouder. He was, finally, in a gang. He felt a man for the first time. They exchanged no words as the eyes of every carnie were on them. He knew, they knew. It was an amazing feeling as they marched toward the OK Corral.

At the end of the midway, the Major went back to the entry gate. The Gypsy King turned left towards his camp as Nigel made a right turn to assume his role as gatekeeper to the Big Top. He knew he was never going back to school, again.

The next seven days were just like every other days except the July heat came bringing more people and more stench. Wilmslow was larger than Chinley and brought with it more people.

The final Saturday night of the run came and Nigel stood at his spot during the performance taking tickets from the last stragglers then shut the canvas tent door. Occasionally people would find their way in and out to the loo but it was nothing to concern himself with. He wondered if the routine for the King and the Major was going on and decided to have a look for himself. Wandering down he got close enough to see their feet from under the caravan on the far side. They were somewhat animated.

He swung wide to keep his distance and veered towards the straw bales near the end of the freak show trailer. He was concealed in a perfectly cast shadow as he peered around. They were in a heated discussion. Perhaps an argument even. Arms were motioning, hands waving the Gypsy King at one point swung around in a full circle as the Major was clearly informing him of something he was resistant to hear. They were unapproachable and Nigel carefully backed through the shadows until he could not be seen by either of them and promptly exited back to the Big Top station.

The next night was Sunday night the last show of the week. During Edgars performance the Major came to Nigel with his large satchel and ushered him away from the Big Top entrance. They made it to Edgar’s caravan where the Gypsy King waited. Nigel and the Major entered first. The metal plate had already been removed and the two safes sat locked. “Watch. Closely.” The Major whispered. “Spin three full times to the left. Land on 51. Turn to the right and pass 12 once then come land on it.” Nigel tried desperately to remember. 51 then 12. “Then go back to 3 without passing it.” He turned the handle and it clicked open. He pulled the handle up and the door creaked. He shut it and spun the handle. “You do it.” Nigel was nervous. “What if I forget the numbers?”

The Major smiled. “You won’t. If you do you can look it up.” He paused. “The first two numbers are the latitude and longitude of Big Ben. If you forget, look it up in my maps. The third number is your birthday.” Nigel smiled. He’d never forget. He bent down and leaned into the opening in the floor. He spoke the directions as he executed the combination. “Spin three times. Land on 51. Pass 12 once and then land on it. Then closely back to 3.” He twisted the handle. Clink. Open.

“Now we go outside.” Nigel knew that there was cash in the safe. “Do you trust him?” Nodding towards the King. The reply came easily to the Major. “With my life.”

They stepped outside and gave the King the opportunity to open his combination in the same privacy. They could hear the clink of his safe through the doorway and re-entered.

This time the men pulled all of their money out of their respective holds and stuffed their bags full. Nigel watched as the King was meticulous on how he put the money it. Money was important to him. Well, it was to Nigel too.

When he was done the King had a large flat thing slat of leather that he placed in the bag. Nigel peered into the bag. It was if the money had vanished. The bag was so deep from the outside it looked normal and the false bottom that had been place in it made it looked empty from the top. Nigel was impressed by the magic trick. The King saved one bundle of cash and placed it on top of the panel then tucked a scarf that it had contained on top.

Nigel realized the purpose of it all. The money on top would be given to the Major, the King’s money, safely hidden away. It was cunning.

The floor plate was returned, screws fastened and then the King swept some loose straw on top and tossed a blanket in a ball on top of the plate and kicked it to look like it had fallen there.

“Does Dr. Baas know about this?” Nigel queried. The Gypsy King replied with a sideways nod, “He’s idiot.”

“Nigel”. The Major’s tone demanded full attention. “Tomorrow you and Vadim will go to London without me.” He had a name, Nigel was thrown for a moment. He quickly looked at Vadim to confirm. Yes. It was clearly his name. “Vadim and you will go together. I will meet you here at six fifteen. I’ll give you the money you need. The hotel is the same one. You go straight to the bank with Vadim. You stay together the entire day until he takes you to your hotel. Then he will collect you in the morning and you will come back to Crewe, which is the next tour stop.”

“Why aren’t you coming?” Nigel interrupted.

The Major continued, “I have work to do. You stay with Vadim the whole time. Understand?”

“Yes, sir.” Nigel confirmed.

Nigel could tell Vadim was not on board with this plan at all. He felt the heat of his discontent in his eyes and body language. The three walked up the midway in silence. Nigel could feel the oppressive stare of the Vadim the entire way.

Morning came and Nigel struggled in the cab to put on his boots. They were getting tight. Perhaps he had gotten them wet one too many times. He shuffled through his duffle bag to get his father’s old military boots. They went on easy and fit much better.

He crawled from the front of the truck and the Major was waiting. Nigel was thinking it was about time to find himself a new flat. As management he should have better quarters. Vadim came around the corner in his full travel regalia looking as ominous as ever. The Major gave Nigel his military jacket which was a little long but surprisingly, fit pretty well. He tucked an envelope inside the interior pocket. “That has directions to the bank and to the hotel plus the bank deposit slip which I have already filled out. Vadim will give you a number, you add his number to the slip and total it. You can do arithmetic correct?”

“Yes of course. Sam very good at math.” Nigel retorted.

The Major continued. ”Do you have your conscription paper?”

“No!”, Nigel was startled. He ran to the cab returning momentarily waving the wrinkled slip of paper. He flattened it out against his chest and tucked it inside the same interior pocket. They were done. They all stared at each other. Nigel sensed the momentary indecision of his mentor and thought he’d make a positive statement to break the insecurity. “Wish me luck.”

It had the opposite effect.

“There’s no such thing as luck. There’s planning and execution. Luck is having a bullet miss your heart. Smart is not getting shot.” The Major was always ready with guidance.

Vadim rolled his eyes and looked off into the distance. This was a headache he did not need. He handed Nigel the bag. It was heavier than he remembered even though he only held it momentarily at the Army recruiting office. They walked off through the grounds and out the front gate towards the edge of town to the train station.

This time Vadim bought the tickets for the salon car as Nigel watched. The ticket agent was not at all impressed with the Gypsy King and looked past him to Nigel, as if he may be victim to an abduction. Nigel smiled to reassure the agent. Vadim completed the transaction and walked past Nigel slapping him in the chest with his ticket.

The train ride was the exact same route and scenery as the first ride and Nigel now saw why Vadim has chosen to sleep. Vadim perched his bag near the window and reclined on it safely under his head. Nigel did the same.

“Vat are you doing?” Vadim sat up.

“I was going to nap?” Nigel’s voice squeaked.

“You are not napping, vile I am napping. You awake. Keep eyes open. I nap.”

Corrected, Nigel sat straight up. Vadim reached to his hip and pulled out his massive blade and handed it to him. “Here.” Nigel took the blade. “What should I do with this?”.

“Nothing. If someone comes in, hand it to me.” He smiled at his own form of humor and went back to reclining.

Walking the streets of London with a heavy bag of money trying to keep stride with the long legged King was not an easy task. Vadim showed no sense of slowing down for the boy. The bank was only about three blocks from the train station but the bag was so heavy Nigel was constantly bumping into pedestrians with it. Londoner’s are not particularly forgiving when you collide with them and Nigel was afraid that one more strike could certainly create scrutiny. He looked out for the East Indian with the gold tooth. “That bastard would surely take his fortune.” The thought gave him energy to keep pace with his huge bodyguard.

They entered the bank and Nigel felt so out of place. He mimicked what he could recall of the Major’s routine. He placed the leather doctors bag on the counter with two hands as that’s what it took to heft its contents up to the four foot tall bureau. Vadim worked on his end of the counter and pulled out the top stack of bills that rode atop and slid it down the counter. “Four hundred” Vadim said softly.

“Four hundred pounds” He thought, could he have heard that correctly? That was about his yearly wage, if he was calculating correctly? That was enough to buy a 2 cars. A flat maybe. That was probably easily double his Mother’s full yearly salary. He grabbed it and slid it in front of himself. He reach into his interior pocket and pulled out the envelope and extracted the deposit slip. His conscription card fluttered out like a leaf as the bank door opened and the wind caught it. He jumped in the air to catch it before it barely escape his reach with the under-draft.

Vadim saw this and was not amused by the attention that Nigel brought himself. He shot Nigel a bone chilling stare.

Nigel once again turned his attention to his bank deposit note and opened the envelope. He examined its contents. A single deposit slip and three twenty pound notes. Not knowing what to do with the money, he left it in the envelope and pulled out the deposit slip reading the numbers.

It made no sense.

8,938 English pounds. He froze. Was he really carrying around 9,000 pounds?

*44) Don’t co-mingle your finances with your partners.

*45) Get a partner you trust with interests aligned. Better if you like them.

*)46 Assume there is no such thing as luck, even if you think there is. It’s unreliable. Not to say lucky things don’t happen yet planning ad doing work tends to produce luck.

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