Except for the dull tick on the Peterson landing, the house was silent. At 5am the muffled sound of the alarm buzzed from under Edgar’s pillow. Edgar had discovered the idea from a thriller he’d read at Finchbury, and was relieved when it worked, even though the clock radio had been awkward to sleep on. In an instant the buzzer was silenced. ‘So far so good,’ he thought, as he gingerly slipped on his all-wool country-style tweed and mustard cords. If he could negotiate the landing and stairs without disturbing his parents he’d be out of the house before sunrise.
The landing had to be handled carefully. Walter was a notoriously light sleeper and from experience he knew that the slightest bodily noise from Ruth would wake him. If he successfully avoided the creaky boards, and “mummy” didn't have an untimely emission, he could make it. As if it were a minefield, Edgar tippedtoed across the landing, his parents’ bedroom door three quarters ajar, revealing his father, face down, with his right arm lifelessly drooped over his side of the bed. Walter was unlikely to wake naturally, and by Ruth’s relatively relaxed expression she wouldn’t hinder his progress either. Suddenly, half way down the stairs, with tartan duffel bag slung over his shoulder, a light clicked on in Tasmin’s room, sending a beam down the stairs that partially illuminated the landing. Edgar was sent rigid. Two choices: rush downstairs and risk waking everyone, or hope that his sister would decide that nothing was wrong and go back to sleep. He waited patiently, praying that Walter's face was sufficiently embedded in his pillow not to be bothered by the shaft of white light now entering his room. He could wait on the stairs a while longer, but he didn’t want to waste time - not so early on. The light clicked again. Edgar exhaled and after allowing a moment to settle himself, carefully descended the twelve remaining stairs and was away.
The Helix and Sons factory was much larger than the others on the estate, it was quiet now, but in an hour it would be teeming with people clocking on. The factory sat on the edge of town that backed onto open farmland, with a dense copse a hundred yards from the security fence. The front of the factory faced similar industrial buildings, all with massive identifying numbers, 1 to 27, on their sides. Crouched in the trees and out of sight of the farmhouse, Edgar waited for the storeman, arriving an hour earlier than the others, to open the gate for the delivery. He strode past the farmyard, scaled the five layer stone wall. As he landed with a thud, he heard a distant door slam followed by a dog’s excited bark. As he lifted his face from the fusty morning soil bits of earth stuck to his cheeks - he kept dead still - hoping that dog and master would jump in the muddy Land Rover, or better still head for the far side, a good four hundred yards from where he lay and half as far again from the safety of the copse. Edgar peeped at his watch while carefully parting the grassy covering concealing him from the farmer reaching out for the heavy gate. Edgar’s heart sank as the collie, like a bullet, headed Edgar’s way. The farmer’s whistle blew, ordering the collie toward a couple of stray ewes in the corner of the field. The dog safely darted passed leaving a dark diagonal track through the centre of the field. He raised himself up and made a dash for the copse.
From where he lay Edgar had a clear view of the high metal fence that surrounded the factory. He emptied his rucksack in front of him, took a swig of highland spring water, nibbled on an oat cake and replaced all but the sheath knife and wire cutters. For a moment Edgar imagined his parents at breakfast and wondering where he was. He smiled, buttoned up his jacket, re-attached his duffle bag and was ready to go in.
Edgar made one final check that the farmer and dog were out of harm’s way and bolted the ninety yard dash to the fence. His breath was heavy, partly due to the impressive 12 second sprint, but mainly because he was desperate for the toilet. He took out his heavy cutters and awkwardly snipped a hole in Helix and Son's armour. Edgar wriggled snake-like through the gap, pushed the wire back into shape, and made for the cluster of wheelie bins neatly arranged behind the stores. Anytime now the whistling storeman would come through the main gate; just as he had seen him do fifty times or more. His planning was meticulous and as he listened for the lorry you could almost hear him think his watch turned seven. ‘So far so good’ he thought, but there no time for self-congratulation.
Right on time, and chirpy as ever, there was his man. Dressed in his familiar navy blue boiler suit, the storeman opened the main gate, closed it quickly behind him, and casually strode through. As he walked towards the stores he unplugged his iPod, and tapped in the pin-code causing the big blue storeroom door to swing open. The young man gasped as Edgar's blade punctured his shirt, stopping just short of piercing the skin. The storeman's arms automatically shot up, the orange sandwich box held under his armpit, fell bouncing on the floor. ‘One stupid move and you’re dead!’ Edgar commanded exactly as he rehearsed. ‘OK OK!!’ the storeman yelled, anxiously adding, ‘I don't want any trouble governor, you take what you want!’ As Edgar spoke he twisted the blade just enough to let the storeman know not to struggle. ‘First, and don’t turn around - where's your lavatory?” The storeman was too frightened to speak. Edgar became impatient and asked forcefully, "Where the devil's your convenience man? I am bursting!" The storeman hastily pointed to a door on his left and down the corridor. Quick as a flash Edgar torn off his crimson cravat and with the knife pointed within a whisker of the artery bulging from the storeman’s neck stuffed it into his mouth. Edgar then instructed him to strip down to his underpants and lie face down on the floor - his hands behind his back. After cuffing his wrists with twine, and relieving himself, Edgar stepped into the storemans’ boiler suit, dragged him into the gents, apologised for the unusual smell, and shut the door.
Edgar looked little like the storeman, who was a fair bit taller and had a little black goatee perched on his chin, but from the distance that he opened the main gate, they looked similar enough. All he had to do now was wait for the delivery and hope that no one arrived at work too early.
7.15am – the driver was five minutes late. Then suddenly Edgar's attention was distracted by frantic scramblings from the Men's. For the second time today Edgar ran for the lavatory. The storeman was thrashing about uncontrollably. Edgar condescendingly enquired, ‘What on earth is going on in here man.’ Before he had chance to reply Edgar heard the familiar whoosh of air brakes, sharply stuck the toe of his brogues boot through the storman’s temple and slammed shut the cubicle door.
Edgar walked over to the main gate, swung it to one side, kept his head well down, and waived the driver in. Instead of rushing to the rear of the lorry, he returned to the stores hoping the driver would start to unload it alone. The lorry driver’s chunky bulk slid awkwardly across the passenger seat, his chubby fingers clinging onto the gigantic cab handle. He descended the little chrome ladder, plopped onto the tarmac, and waddled his way to the back of the bright red, container. Edgar waited. The driver mumbled gruffly, ‘Lazy sod!’ quickly followed by the whirring of hydraulics raising the driver just high enough to unhitch the giant metal straps and open up the rear of the lorry. The driver stepped through the gaping rear doors and contemplated the mountain boxes towering around him. Edgar made a sudden dash for the cab. Athletically leaping up the shiny ladder, he pulled himself into the enormous cab and stared momentarily at the controls. He wriggled the gear stick, found neutral, and put his foot flat to the floor sending an eruption of diesel billowing into the air as the truck roared to life. An angry hollering bellowed from the back. Edgar engaged first gear lunging the truck forward, then immediately slapped on the brakes, slamming the rear doors shut, and locking the driver safely inside. Edgar drove cleanly through the main gate. He was gone.
As Edgar bobbed about in his cab he felt rather good about himself. ‘Father would be proud,’ he thought, and he began to hum "King of the Road". He didn't know all the words, but periodically stopped humming and sung - full-volume - ‘Ain't-got-no-serv-ie-ttes.’ As he sang cheerfully he passed one of those big green signs with a little white petrol pump, a WC and a colossal knife and fork on it. At a constant sixty he’d be there in half an hour.
About forty similar Lorries filled the long spaces outside Dave’s Steak Bar and Grill. Edgar parked, slap-bang in the middle of the car park and next to, as planned, the other identical eighteen-wheeler. Sat tall in the cab, bolt upright, was a man in a smart charcoal coat, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses with hollow pock marks deep in his cheeks. Edgar wasn't parked right on square, but anymore manoeuvring would attract attention. He killed the ignition and as he did heard repeated hammerings of the driver, trapped like an animal, inside the container. The cab next to Edgar was now empty as he opened the cab door and made his way to the back. Charcoal suit was already inside the container. Dazed by the pistol pointing directly at his forehead, the driver raised his podgy little hands to defend himself as two rapid shots splattered bits of him against the container wall. Edgar had never seen a man shot before and stood open-mouthed at the body slumped awkwardly on the floor. The man in the charcoal suit, black gloved, turned to Edgar. He didn’t speak. One shot. DEAD.