No Honour Among Thieves
A chance meeting between Goniff and an old acquaintance lead to serious consequences for Garrison and Chief and trouble for the rest of the team.
"Alright you lot, hurry it up," Garrison ordered as he stood leaning on his cane on the footpath in front of the Lazy Dog and ushered Goniff, Casino and Actor into the back seat of the Packard Chief was driving.
"'Ey Warden, 'ow's the ankle?" Goniff asked as he hopped into the backseat, followed by a grumbling Casino and finally Actor.
"It's fine thank you Goniff. A couple more days and I'll be rid of this cane."
"Don't see why we couldn't have just one more to celebrate," Casino grumbled. "You know, to celebrate your return to duty."
"I was never off duty Casino." Garrison pointed out as he slipped into the front seat beside Chief, motioning with a nod of his head that they were ready to return to the mansion.
"So I take it we are now on full alert again Craig?" Actor asked as he attempted to squeeze his large frame into the small space left by the other two occupants of the back seat.
"Yes we are Actor, do you have a problem with that." Garrison asked as Chief pulled the car back into the light traffic and headed out of London.
"I don't believe it," Jimmy Fender muttered as he pulled his boss into the shadows of the alley way that ran alongside the Lazy Dog.
"Don't believe what?" Richard Bird snapped as he shook off the hand on his arm, annoyed that he had been stopped by his second.
"Goniff," Jimmy supplied as he pointed to the disappearing car.
"Who is Goniff?" Bird demanded.
"The little blond guy who got into the Packard. Last I heard he was in prison somewhere in America. He was one of the best pick pockets and second storey men in this country before he and his mum went to live with some Aunt of his in America. I wonder what he's doing back here and with a US Army Lieutenant."
"Well he didn't look like army to me nor did any of the others. Second storey man you say? I wonder?" Bird stood in contemplative thought for a moment before he turned into the street and headed for the doors of the Lazy Dog. "Come on." He snapped as he pushed open the door, allowing the smells of smoke and liquor to seep out into the street.
"What are we doing here," Jimmy asked as he hurried to catch up with his boss.
"Making some enquiries. It always pays to know who your competition is." Bird replied as he approached the lone barmaid standing behind the bar rinsing glasses. "Sally me love," Bird purred as he stepped up to the bar. "How's business these days?"
"Fine Richard," Sally replied warily as she watched the man settle onto the seat in front of her. "What can I get you?"
"Just some information this time love. Those men that just left, who were they?"
"Why do you want to know Richard?" Sally asked suspiciously.
"Because I like to know who's muscling in on my territory. Now answer the question." Bird's hand snaked out and grabbed Sally's wrist giving it a sharp twist, causing the girl to whimper in pain.
"Don't know who they are, honest. They've never been in here before." Sally replied.
"Names? Did they mention any names?" Bird demanded
"Not really, only nicknames."
Bird growled. "What names?"
"The blond was called Goniff, the short dark one was Casino and the tall one was Actor."
Bird was quickly losing patience with the lack of information and shook Sally's wrist. "What about the army guy and the other dark one?"
"They just called the Army guy Lieutenant. There were only four of them. I don't know about any other guy. I swear." Sally cowered as Bird stared at her before releasing her wrist with a shove.
"See, that wasn't so hard was it Sally love?" Bird stood and strode quickly to the door, followed closely by Jimmy.
"What are you thinking Richard?" Jimmy asked as he followed his boss down the street.
"That I need to know who those men are and what they're doing here."
"How are you going to find that out?" Jimmy questioned as he opened the door of the waiting car for his boss.
"I have my informants Jimmy, don't you worry about that." Bird replied, as possibilities swirled in his head. "Take me home Tiny." Bird ordered.
Bird picked up his phone and dialed the number he had memorized. It was after five so his brother should be home and playing happy families with his missus and their kid. Bird paused for a moment, there wasn't much for him to smile about anymore but the one thing that did make him smile was his niece, Matilda.
"Hello," answered a male voice on the other end of the phone.
"Percival, how are you brother?" Bird queried.
"What do you want Richard?" Percival demanded. "I've told you not to ring me here."
"Now is that anyway to speak to your older brother, Percival?"
"It's the only way I'm going to speak to you." Percival snapped.
"Now, now Percy, how are Kathleen and dear Matilda? What is she now, five years old?"
"They're fine and Matilda is six, now if that's all you wanted to know." Percy began...
"That's good to hear Percy and if you want them to stay that way you'll do as I say. I want to know who the following men are and what they're doing here."
"I won't help you Richard." Percy warned.
"You will if you value your family. Their names are Goniff, Actor and Casino. They were with some US Army Lieutenant and there is a fifth one as well but I don't know his name. You have twenty four hours. I'll ring you tomorrow night and you had better have the information or else." Bird hung up the phone not waiting for a reply from his brother and leaned back in his chair. He would never hurt Tilly, she was the one bright spark in his family but as for Kathleen, it would be a pleasure to get rid of that snotty nosed sister in law if he could. Always looking down her nose at him, thinking she was so much better because her father had money. Richard snorted. Well all their money hadn't done them any good in this war.
Jimmy Fender was just on his way to see his boss when the phone rang. He answered it apprehensively. There weren't too many people who knew the number to this house. "Hello." Jimmy listened for a moment. "Wait a minute and I'll get him." Jimmy hurried down the hall and knocked on his boss's door, waiting until he heard a grumbled acknowledgment to enter. He poked his head around the door. "Percy's on the phone."
"Is he now? I must say that was fast work, even for him." Richard strode to the phone. "Percy, what an unexpected surprise." Richard grinned as he listened to his brother's empty threats. "Enough of the dramatics Percy. Tell me what you found out." Richard demanded, tiring quickly of the other's histrionics. Richard's smile widened as he listened to Percy's information. "Well, well, well. How interesting. Now here is what I want you to do next Percy." Richard scowled darkly as the voice on the other end of the line ranted. "Finished Percy? I don't think so. You owe me six years of my life and I intend to collect every minute of it from your lousy hide. Do you hear me Percy? Now listen up." Richard slammed the handset down on the receiver when he had finished giving his brother his next set of orders. "Jimmy," Richard yelled, waiting until his second ducked back into the hallway. "Make sure there is plenty of gas in the car tomorrow. We're going for a drive in the country."
"Sure thing Boss," Jimmy responded as the other man disappeared back into his room.
Goniff had just returned to their corner table with four pints when the door to the Doves opened and two men walked in. They paused on the stoop for a moment to take in their surroundings before moving down the steps and heading for the bar.
"Wonder who they are?" Casino muttered as he watched the two men order a pint each from the barman.
"They look like trouble," Chief observed as a soft click could be head from under the table.
"Put that away Chief," Actor ordered quietly. "We promised the Warden we wouldn't start anything remember?"
"Not going to start anything Actor but I'll finish it if I have to." Chief replied.
Goniff turned around to see who had caught his team mate's attention. "Blimey, I don't believe it." Goniff grinned as he rose to his feet and made to step towards the bar.
"Goniff," Actor hissed urgently.
"It's alright Actor I know them, or at least the smaller one. Wonder what they're doing 'ere."
"Come back here you dumb Limey." Casino ordered to the pickpockets back.
"This isn't going to end well." Chief warned, straightening in his seat as he watched the little Englishmen approach the two men.
"Jimmy, Jimmy Fender." Goniff greeted; slapping the man on the back. "'Ow are you mate? What brings you to this neck of the woods then?"
"Goniff," Jimmy greeted, shaking the offered hand. "I thought you were in America. What are you doing back here? Your Mum's alright isn't she?" Jimmy asked carefully.
"Yeah, she's fine. She and Aunt Mollie are both well. Me…" Goniff shrugged "Got into a bit of trouble over there, came 'ere for a change of scenery you could say." Goniff looked at the silent man next to Jimmy.
"Sorry Goniff," Jimmy apologized. "This is my boss Richard Bird. Boss, Goniff."
"Goniff, it is a pleasure to meet you. Jimmy here has told me a lot about you." Richard didn't offer his hand and his face remained impartial as he spoke.
Goniff swallowed. "Mister Bird," he acknowledged, not sure what else to say.
"Those your friends over there?" Jimmy asked breaking the awkward silence.
"Ah yeah, come and meet them." Goniff hurried back to their table, not looking to see if the two men were following or not. It was the fact that Actor was looking up that told him that the men were behind him.
"This is an old mate from the east side, "Goniff announced to the table, his voice showing relief at being back with his team. "Jimmy Fender," Goniff pointed to the smaller man, "and Richard Bird."
Bird pulled up a chair from the next table and sat down. "Save the introductions. I know who or should I say what you all are. So shall we get down to business?"
"And what business exactly would that be Dicky?" Actor asked nochantly.
Bird studied the tall conman silently for a moment. "Do I know you?"
Actor shook his head. "We have never met but I know who and what you are also and we have no business to discuss with you."
Bird bristled at the obvious dismissal and looked at the stony faces around him. These were hard men, all of them with the exception perhaps of Goniff but then he reconsidered that thought. The Englishman would have to be hard to run with these three men and their Lieutenant. "There's a quarter million pounds at stake."
Actor rose from his chair. "As I have already stated, we are not interested." Actor indicated that Goniff should step away from the table. He followed and then turned back to watch as Casino also rose from his chair.
"See ya later babe," Casino smirked as he stepped past Actor and climbed the stairs where he turned back to cover the room.
Chief remained seated, coolly observing the two men, daring them to try and stop the team from leaving. Finally he rose lithely to his feet, snapping shut his blade. He turned away, nodding to Actor who still remained standing behind the men. He and Goniff joined Casino on the stairs and waited for Actor before they all left the Doves.
Bird was far from amused at their refusal to listen to him but at the same time he was impressed by the men's silent teamwork. He reviewed the information his brother had given him. Actor was a high class confidence man and he only went after high class marks. He was arrogant and self appreciating, but he was also the second in command to their Lieutenant and it now appeared also the spokesperson for the rest of the cons. Bird knew he may appear suave and sophisticated but he was also a very, very dangerous man to cross. Word on the street had it that Goniff could lift the crown jewels of the Queen Mother's head without her realizing it. He could also climb anything with or without a rope. His main problem was that he was too trusting and too free and easy with his mouth, which made him the weak link in the group but also the one with the skills he needed for the coming heist. Casino had a well earned reputation in the States as a safe cracker, another skill he was in need of since Light Fingers McCoy lost his fingers in an unfortunate accident with a safe door. Unfortunately the man was a loud mouth with a quick temper and didn't know how to follow orders, preferring to do things his way or not at all. The Indian, Chief was the only one who didn't bringing anything to his current caper. He didn't need a getaway man or a silent killer. Somehow he would have to separate him and the damn Lieutenant from the other three men.
"Blimey Actor, you could 'ave at least listened to what Dicky 'ad to say. I mean it's not like we don't lift things when we're on the missions, and a quarter of a million pounds isn't anything to sniff about. Besides you don't cross Dicky if you want to keep breathing." Goniff stated as they drove back to the mansion.
"Great so now you're telling us not only do we have to worry about the bloody Krauts, we've got to worry about the English underworld as well. Some friends you've got there Goniff," Casino growled.
Actor sighed as he listened to the grumbling coming from the back seat of the jeep. "Goniff, if I thought for one minute that there was a chance that we would actually see any of that quarter million I would have listened but I know exactly who and what Bird is. He hasn't gotten where he is by allowing any competition on his turf and we are definitely competition."
"So why did 'Ee want to talk to us?" Goniff asked.
"Obviously we have the skills he needs to pull off the job." Actor replied.
"But there are plenty of other pickpockets and safecrackers in England." Goniff pointed out. "Not to mention conmen and wheelmen."
"Yes but they aren't teams used to working together. They don't know how each other works and he can't just get rid of all his hires or no one will work for him." Actor answered.
"That's just bloody typical," Casino fumed. "Even the crims in this country think we're expendable."
"Do you think he'll take no for answer Actor?" Chief asked as he steered the jeep through the gates of the mansion.
"I doubt it. He always gets what he wants, one way or another and right now it appears he wants us."
"So we turn the tables on him. Do the heist and keep the goods for ourselves." Casino suggested. "He's not likely to try and pull off a heist or bump us off on an army base."
"Except that we're not always on the base, unless of course you want to remain at the mansion for the remainder of the war Casino." Actor replied with a smile.
"At least the broads would be safe." Chief laughed as he came to a stop at the steps leading up to the front door of the mansion.
"Yeah well at least I don't have any trouble getting the broads." Casino snapped.
"The question is gentlemen," Actor interrupted. "What do we do about it?"
"Tell the Warden. He'll know what to do." Chief suggested.
"Nah, I say we just ignore him. It's not like we're going to be around for much no longer anyway, not with the Warden off crutches. You can bet the brass won't wait too long to send us on another mission. When he can't get a hold of us, he'll give up." Casino added.
Goniff shook his head. "I'm with Chiefy, Casino. You don't just ignore Dicky, not if you know what's good for you and 'Ee never just gives up, not when 'Ee wants something and 'Ee wants us. The Warden'll figure something out to get him off our backs."
"What do you think we should do Actor?" Chief asked opening the heavy front door.
"I will have to think on it." Actor replied thoughtfully.
"Yeah well whatever we decide, there ain't nothing we can do tonight." Casino replied as they climbed the stairs to their rooms.
Never one to let a good drop go to waste, Richard Bird finished his drink in silent thought before pushing his chair back and standing abruptly.
"Where are we going boss?" Jimmy asked as he began to rise.
"Sit down and finish your drink Jimmy," Bird ordered. "I'm just going to make a call."
Jimmy shrugged as he watched his boss head to the bar, throw several coins on the counter top and receive the phone in exchange. He could tell that the call wasn't a happy one, watching the scowl and hard lines on the other man's face. Jimmy sighed when the handset was slammed down on the receiver before Bird stalked back to the table.
"Get the car," Bird ordered as Jimmy swallowed the last of his ale and rose hurriedly to his feet.
The next morning found the four cons lounging in different poses around the library. Chief was in his usual spot, camped out in the large bay window, eyes closed and breathing slow and shallow. Actor had given up his customary spot in the leather arm chair by the fireplace for the small writing desk in the corner. Goniff was flipping through a thick tome of Birds of the World and Casino was throwing a deck of discarded cards onto a pile in the middle of the coffee table.
"Goniff," Actor warned, not bothering to lift his head from the notes he was penning on a sheet of writing paper. "That is a very expensive and rare book. Take a little care with how you handle it please."
"What the hell are you reading a book on birds for anyway?" Casino muttered as he threw his last card on the pile in front of him.
"Ey did you know that the Southern Cassowary from Australia is the largest member of the cassowary family and is the second 'eaviest bird on earth? It can weigh up to one 'undred and ninety pounds, and it can kill a man with one kick?" Goniff stated absently.
"Just what does that have to do with what's going on here you dumb Limey?" Casino snapped.
Goniff shrugged, closing the book gently. "Nothing. I was just saying…"
The door to the library opened and Garrison stepped in, resplendent in his service dress uniform. "I've got a meeting in London. Won't be back till later tonight. Try and stay out of trouble will you."
Casino looked up from where he was shuffling the deck of cards. "That mean we've got a mission?"
"Probably but I won't know until I get there." Garrison turned back to the door.
"I'll drive you." Chief unfurled himself from the window.
"There's no need thanks Chief. I can drive myself."
Chief shrugged. "You've just got off crutches. There's no point in over using that ankle now if we do have a mission."
"Chief is right Craig. Rest it while you can. You can't afford for the ankle to fail under pressure." Actor cautioned.
Garrison sighed. "Alright come on." He stood aside and allowed Chief to lead the way out of the mansion.
"Do you think 'Ee'll tell the Warden?" Goniff asked hopefully.
Bird listened to the voice on the other end of the phone, a distorted smile darkening his countenance as the latest information was conveyed. He hung up the phone. "Jimmy, round up the boys, got a little job for you."
Garrison cast another sidelong glance at his silent wheelman and sighed. "Alright Chief, what's with the silent treatment? It's going to be a long drive into London if we're not going to talk."
Chief remained silent, eyes fixed on the road ahead.
"Come on Chief, it can't be that bad." Garrison cajoled.
Another mile was traveled before Chief finally spoke. "We might be in trouble."
Garrison pursed his lips and waited for the rest and then sighed when no further words were spoken from the reticent Indian. "Who might be in trouble Chief? You and I? Garrison cast an eye along the road but saw nothing that could be a threat. "Or you and the rest of the guys?"
Another mile passed before Chief replied. "Me and the others."
"Alright Chief. Just tell me what the hell is going on. I can't help if I don't know."
Chief chanced a quick glance at Garrison before returning his eyes to the road. "Last night while we were at the Doves, Goniff ran into an old friend."
Garrison groaned. "What did he do?"
"Nothing, none of us did. I swear Warden."
"I believe you Chief. So what happened? Why do you think you're in trouble?"
Chief sighed. "This friend of Goniff's, he runs with some racketeer by the name of Richard Dicky Bird."
Garrison shook his head. "Never heard of him."
"Neither had we, or at least Casino and I hadn't. Actor knew who he was and so did Goniff. He wanted us to do a job for him, but he didn't say what."
"We didn't take him up on the offer," Chief quickly confirmed. "Actor wanted no part of him and told him so. Then we left and went back to the mansion."
"Alright, so what's the problem? It sounds to me like you guys handled it well."
Chief steered around the hair pin bend before replying. "Goniff said he was real bad news. Doesn't give up when he wants something and he wants us."
"And you think he's going to come after all of you again?" Garrison asked.
Garrison was silent for a few minutes. "Once this next mission is over, we'll all sit down and work out what to do about Mister Bird. Maybe he'll give up if he can't get in contact with any of you."
"That's what Casino said." Chief concentrated on steering the jeep around the next two bends. The trees grew close to the edge of the road on his left, making it difficult to see any upcoming intersections.
"Chief, look out." Garrison yelled.