Laura clicked off the tv with the worn-out remote and tossed it onto the battered coffee table. She sighed and lent her head back against the cream couch. She was bored. How had the highlight of her week become watching plastic barbie dolls fight it out to find the love of their life or, more likely, their influencer career at the top of a fake alter!
MAFS (Married at First Sight) had become her guilty pleasure, tuning in each week to see the latest drama. The romantic in her had hoped someone would actually find their happy-ever-after, but the voyeur in her secretly loved the drama. She enjoyed scrutinising the dinner party outfits and analysing what the dodgy editing was trying to portray. She enjoyed discussing the many theories in the kitchen with her work colleagues the next day, too. It really had become her whole week’s entertainment.
Laura stared at the ceiling and focused on the cornicing, where it met the sitting room wall. She liked the cornicing: it was elegant and she would have that in her own home one day. Laura scoffed out loud. Well, that house certainly wouldn’t be coming anytime soon and certainly not in this city! Sydney house prices had been on a steady rise for years. You needed to rob a bank to be able to afford a decent home in the Eastern Suburbs these days.
Laura sighed again and looked around her sitting room. I wish I had the money to do it up, she mused, as she noticed more paint was peeling off the wall. She’d better start planning this bank robbery or she’ll be stuck with peeling paint and MAFS for good!
The next morning at work Laura gazed through the window and watched the boats stream across Sydney Harbour. She loved her window seat in the new office tower and liked watching the sail and ferry boats leave a trail of clouds behind them on the water.
“Ugh, I am so bored!” she said, exasperated.
“Me too. Should we go for an early lunch?” It was Marianne at the desk nearby, Laura’s trusted work wife.
“Sure. Anything to get away from actually doing any work.” The two ladies grabbed their bags and strolled towards the lifts.
“I’m in an awful funk today. Did I really go to college and move to Sydney to stare at spreadsheets all day long? There has to be more to life than this.” Laura’s frustration oozed as she dragged her feet into the lift.
“I hear you. Everyone in Broken Hill thinks I am so fancy up here in Sydney. If only they knew the fanciest thing about my life is this glass elevator!” Marianne scoffed as she exited the lift with Laura.
The two women walked in step towards the strip of restaurants that lined the waterfront of Barangaroo.
“Come on! We’re having tapas and rosé. That’ll cheer us up,” Marianne said excitedly as she linked her arm with Laura’s and steered her towards the restaurant.
As the rosé flowed and the waiter kept a steady stream of delicious small plates coming, Laura’s mood lifted.
“I could get used to this. Sitting around drinking rosé during the day, the sun on my face. Bliss!” Laura sat back in her chair and tilted her face to the afternoon sun. “I just wish I could do it and not have to work.”
“Me too,” sighed Marianne, slumping onto the table with her elbows and holding her head up with her hands. “I’m allergic to going back to work. Like I think I’d actually break out in a rash if you make me!”
“Ok then – I won’t make you. I’m not going back either. Fuck ’em! We work really hard and for pittance. We deserve an afternoon off!”
“I’ve had fourteen sick days already this year,” Marianne said sheepishly.
“Ok, maybe you’ve had a few but you were going through a tough time and when you do go in, you work really hard. You totally still deserve an afternoon off.” Laura closed her eyes as she again tilted her face to the sky.
“Thanks, mate. You’re right. I had to work really hard to pass that stupid performance improvement plan they put me on. It was really stressful. I think I’m still stressed, or maybe it’s exhaustion. Either way I think I need to relax.”
Laura opened one eye to look at Marianne and smiled. Sprawled across the table and sipping rosé her friend looked far from stressed. For the rest of the afternoon the two women sat in the sun sipping their pink drinks. They talked about creepy Kevin from accounts, the handsome waiter with the twinkly eyes who had served them their lunch and finally, as the afternoon sun began to cast shadows over the harbour, they turned to talk about their hopes.
“I just want to own my home so I can decorate it however I want and not have to worry about a rent increase every five minutes!” Laura started.
“I just want to be able to help Mam out back in the Hill. Apparently there’s another tile gone off the house and she’s fretting there will be no roof left soon!” Marianne gulped her wine back, and sighed. “Well now, my lovely buzz has worn off. I feel guilty as hell sitting here drinking wine, while my poor mother barely has a roof over her head.”
Fuelled by a belly-full of wine and the miserable look on Marianne’s face, Laura thumped the table. “That’s it! No longer are we going to wish for things and feel sorry for ourselves. It’s time for us to go and get them. Grab your bag – we’re leaving!”
Laura hastily paid the bill and marched out of the restaurant and straight along the wharf leaving Marianne scrambling to follow her. Laura hailed a taxi and directed the driver as Marianne bundled herself into the back of the car.
“Hell Laura, I’m not a skinny minny like you. I think I’ve just lost a lung trying to keep up. Where are we going?.”
The two women laughed and settled into the backseat of the taxi. Laura told Marianne the plan and thirty minutes later the driver pulled up on the far side of Sydney.
“Are you sure you want me to let you out here?” he asked.
“Yes please,” replied Laura as she paid the driver and jumped out of the car.
Laura and Marianne stood at the front of the dilapidated hotel and surveyed the venue. The top windows were boarded up and blue graffiti was sprawled across the tiles underneath them. The remaining windows were covered by old curtains firmly closed away from the outside world. The hotel had only one entrance, a solid wooden door with no windows. Marianne looked quizzingly at Laura who gave the door a shove with her shoulder and they walked in.
The hotel bar was dimly lit. With no outside light creeping in, the old hanging bulbs did little to make the pub visible. There were a few men sitting at the bar staring into their schooners. Others clutched their tab tickets and watched the muted tv in the far right corner.
“Laura, this was a really bad idea. I’m kinda scared. Can we get out of here?” Marianne balanced on her toes as she whispered into Laura’s ear.
“It’ll be fine. Go grab a table and I’ll bring the drinks over.” Laura tried to sound reassuring as she noticed the barman looking her up and down she felt exactly the same as Marianne. Laura took a deep breath to steady herself and then in a strangely deep tone, asked the barman for two whiskeys, neat.
“Two whiskeys?” he inquired.
“Yes.” Laura replied uneasily, her nerves starting to waiver and her deep tone long forgotten.
“If you’re here for Jimmy, he won’t be in until ten,” the barman said casually as he poured the golden liquid into two glasses.
“Em, Jimmy. Right. Would Jimmy be the person to give us some advice on a job?” Laura tried to match the barman’s casualness but she was aware she now sounded as casual as a strangled cat.
“I’ll send him over when he gets in.” The barman winked and turned back to dusting bottles on the shelf
Laura took the drinks and raced to the corner table where Marianne had positioned herself. She had her handbag sitting on her knees and was hugging it close to her chest.
“I can’t believe this is actually the place. Good old Reddit came through for us. I didn’t think we would actually get to talk to someone about robbing a bank. This is so scary! And exciting!” Laura was babbling nervously as she sat down.
“What the hell is this?” Marianne demanded, holding up her glass of brown liquid.
“Whiskey. I had to make it seem like we’re tough, and that we’ve been here before. You know, so no one would take advantage of us.” Laura was revelling that her plan was actually coming together.
“Oh my god!’ Marianne scowled as she sipped her drink. “And not even an ice cube to dilute it. I can’t drink this. Could I not get a sweet Chardonnay? Surely bank robbers like a nice glass of wine as well as hard liquor?”
Suddenly the door of the hotel slammed open. Both women jumped and Marianne immediately gulped her whiskey in one go.
“Not too hard to drink now, is it?” Laura teased.
They both studied the man who had just walked in. He had sunglasses on top of his shaved head and wore a black leather jacket. His legs were covered in baggy tracksuit pants gathered in at his bare ankles. A pair of brand new white trainers completed his ensemble.
He signalled to the barman and sat at the far end of the bar. He proceeded to take his phone and what looked like a black leather pouch from his pocket and placed them on the counter.
“Do you think that’s Jimmy?” Laura whispered.
“Who the fuck is Jimmy?” Marianne stared at her. “Oh hell, Laura, what have you gone and done now? This day is just escalating and escalating. Wait – jesus, is that a Filofax in front of him? Have we stepped back into the eighties? This place is making Broken Hill look like Silicon Valley.”
“If we’re going to rob a bank then we need some advice. Just some simple do’s and don’ts, you know? Like the cheat sheets we get in work. This guy might be able to help us apparently.” Laura’s tone was optimistic as she smiled at her friend.
“Laura, I thought you were joking!” Marianne shrieked. “I thought this was a bit of fun, a laugh over a few drinks. I didn’t think you were actually serious! Oh god, he’s coming over. Oh god – we are going to die. Shit shit shit shit shit!”
Laura and Marianne watched as the man crossed the bar and pulled up a chair opposite them. He sat backward on the chair and placed his arms across its back. His knuckles and hands were covered in tattoos that crept out from underneath the arms of his oversized leather jacket. Underneath he was wearing a white singlet and a thick gold chain. His chest showed more tattoos, one of which seemed to be of a baby’s head with a stake through it. The two girls shifted uneasily in their seats as the man looked each of them up and down. He remained staring at Marianne’s chest as he said, “I’m Jimmy.”
He slowly turned to face Laura and with a hushed hoarse voice of someone who had smoked way too many cigarettes said, “So what’s the job? Whack your pap for the inheritance or shake down your mister for bumping uglies?”
“Eh no, god no. No, nothing like that,” Laura stammered. She was now aware of who she was talking to and was desperately regretting her rosé fuelled plan.
“We just kind of… Well, friends of ours actually – not us, but yes, friends of ours are, eh, considering robbing a bank so they were wondering if you would, eh, you know, maybe know how to do that?”
Jimmy extended his arms and lent back into the space behind him. He rubbed his stubbly jaw with his hands, took his sunglasses off his head and placed them on the table before him.
“Friends of yours, yeah?” he asked, directing the question squarely to Marianne’s chest.
“Yes, friends of ours. Not us,” Marianne answered hastily and hugged her handbag higher and tighter to her bosom.
“Right, friends of yours,” Jimmy grumbled. He clicked his fingers in the air and then opened his black Filofax. The barman came to the table with two large glasses of whiskey and a small glass of white wine. Jimmy took a sip from the glass of wine and studied his Filofax intently.
Marianne, as if possessed by a tortured spirit, began gesturing at Laura. She cocked her head and furiously pointed towards the glass of wine in Jimmy’s hand. Laura rolled her eyes and focused her attention back on Jimmy.
“So, eh, do you think you can help us? eh our friends, I mean, do you think you can help our friends?”
Jimmy placed his glass of wine down and closed his Filofax. Suddenly the hotel door burst open and a stream of armed police raced into the bar shouting. The barman immediately ducked behind the counter and the punters at the bar raised their arms straight into the air in unison. Laura and Marianne jumped with the fright and screamed like victims in a 1960’s horror movie.
Jimmy on the other hand remained unphased and unmoved. He stayed seated and continued to sip his Chardonnay. The police surrounded the table and shouted for Jimmy and the women to put their hands in the air. Laura and Marianne obliged immediately and Marianne burst into tears. The police shouted at Jimmy as they inched closer. With each shout, they crept forward slowly one by one, their steely eyes fixed on Jimmy. As Jimmy slowly reached his arms out the police roared and pounced on him, locking his hands firmly behind his back. Jimmy slowly shook his head from side to side as he was yanked up from the bar chair .
“I knew those tits were too good to be true” he said as he took one last look at Marianne’s chest before he was wrenched outside by two burly police officers, his feet barely scraping the ground.
The remaining police stayed rooted in their spots, their guns still pointed at the table and their eyes firmly fixed on Laura and Marianne. A tall thin man then entered the bar. He wore an old grey suit with a formerly white shirt underneath. A faded blue tie hung loosely around his neck and his shoes clacked across the wooden floor.
“Thanks for the call, Bruce,” the grey suit called over the counter towards the cowering barman. The barman popped up from behind the bar and shook the suit’s hand.
“No problem, Detective. Delighted to be rid of him.”
“Anyone else here we should have a word with?” the detective asked quietly as he surveyed the room with an inquisitively cocked eyebrow. The barman looked around and stopped at Laura and Marianne. He paused for a moment searching their faces and then turned back to face the detective.
“No mate, just a couple of tarts and the usual punters here. No one else for you.”
The detective nodded and walked out the door with his clacking shoes echoing. The army of police officers backed out the door slowly to follow him and with a bang of the door, they were gone.
“Oh my god,” Laura said shakily, sinking into her chair. “I can’t believe it. Oh my god, I can’t, I just can’t. Oh my god…” her voice cracking as she desperately tried to stop her hands from shaking.
“I know! The cheek of the barman calling us tarts! Can you believe it? And as for Jimmy, speculating my tits weren’t real! Like, how very dare he. I can’t believe it either!” Marianne sat down at the table and took out her makeup compact to begin surveying her tear-stained face.
“What?” Laura asked Marianne incredulously, her face now pale and her voice no more than a whisper.
“I said, the cheek of Jimmy and that barman calling us tarts. Do I look like a tart?” Marianne was studying her reflection in the small compact mirror. “This is a Veronica Maine blouse! Surely tarts don’t wear Veronica Maine?”
Laura opened her mouth to respond but nothing came out. Noticing, Marianne paused her makeup application. “Are you ok, Laura?” she said. “You don’t look great.”
Laura looked into Marianne’s concerned face and took a deep breath. “Well, I’m certainly not bored.”