Authors: Garry Disher
A thriller first published in 1991, featuring Wyatt, a stylish bank
robber whose inscrutable methods ensure he never gets caught - until he
meets Anna Reid.
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By Garry Disher
Scanned & Proofed By MadMaxAU
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tensed. A silver BMW had emerged from the driveway of the Frome place. The
headlights plunged, then levelled, as the car entered Lansell Road. Wyatt
counted heads: Frome driving, wife next to him, kids in the back. He checked
the time8 pmand watched the BMW disappear in the direction of Toorak Road.
Lets go, Sugarfoot Younger said.
He reached for the key in the
ignition but before he could turn it Wyatts fingers closed like a steel clamp
on his wrist. He looked around. The eyes were close and remorseless in Wyatts
narrow face. We wait, Wyatt said.
Sugarfoot jerked free his hand. What
the fuck for?
People forget things, Sugar. They
feel cold and come back for their coats. We wait.
Aaah, Sugarfoot Younger said.
He lit a cigarette. The match
flared, illuminating his blockish face, his disgust with the world and Wyatt
and all this buggerising around. He pitched the match out of the window and
began to pull at his hair, caught in a stubby ponytail at the back of his head.
First lesson, he said, huffing a smoke ring at the windscreen, testing for a
reaction from the still figure next to
him, never strike while the irons
Wyatt ignored him. He hadnt wanted
this, hadnt known that Ivan Younger would be sending his brother along. He
cranked down his window. It was a cold evening, the air smelling of plants and
damp soil. There were few cars about, fewer pedestrians. They were watching the
Frome place from the front seat of a Yellow Cab, and no one was looking twice
at it, parked innocently, its headlights on.
A few minutes later, when two
elderly women entered the street from a nearby house, their faces and hair
dirty white in the street lights, Wyatt said, Switch on the interior light and
study the street directory. Avert your face.
Sugarfoot said. Speak English.
The women shuffled past the Yellow
Cab. When Wyatt turned in his seat to watch them, his bony nose cast a hooked
shadow across the flat planes of his face. He saw the women stop at a small
Morris sedan. After some confusion about keys and who would drive, the women
got into the car and drove away. They wouldnt remember two men in a taxi
looking for an address.
Sugarfoot switched off the inside
light and closed the street directory. Come on, Wyatt. We couldve done the
place by now. He flicked away his cigarette.
Another five, Wyatt said.
He watched the street. He would wait
all night if a job required it. Hoons like Sugarfoot Younger got jumpy before a
job. They were never as solid as youd like. They swallowed uppers and
blundered in and made mistakes. Which is fine, he thought, if youre not
working with them.
In the seat next to him, Sugarfoot
sighed and shifted his heavy limbs. He wore Levis, a denim jacket, a red
bandana knotted at his throat, and calf-length tooled leather boots. He would
have worn his Stetson hat if Wyatt hadnt kicked up a fuss. He brushed his palm
against the stubble on his chin. Apparently struck by the sound and the
sensation, he did it again.
Hes going to start yapping again,
Wyatt thought, glancing at the lightless, shallow eyes. He wont be able to help
As if on cue, Sugarfoot lounger
said, You know Jesse James? The outlaw? Well, get this, he had these two
brothers in his gang, and their last name was Younger. He tipped back his head
at Wyatt. I reckon that makes me and Ivan the
He watched Wyatt, waiting for a
response. Wyatt said nothing, merely lifted his wrist to check the time. Like
all his movements, it was fluid and economical.
Theres this film about them,
The Long Riders.
About how they were always getting
hassled, so they hit back. They did trains, banks, whatever. I got the video at
Wyatt had heard about this cowboy
fixation. It probably accounted for the name Sugarfoot, a name from an old
television show, but he hoped somebody was being ironical when they gave that
name to Bruno Younger. Bruno Younger was the right age for a cowboy punk, about
twenty-one, but he was a heavy-featured vicious boy and Wyatt could not imagine
him robbing a train on horseback.
Theres this long scene near the
end, Sugarfoot said. The gang hits a bank in Northfield, MinnesotaThe Great
Northfield, Minnesota Raidbut theyve been set-up. Its filmed in slow motion,
he said. He paused. Orchestrated, he said, as if testing the word. Its
orchestrated. Second by second, every shot in close-up. He shot the windscreen
with his finger. Pow. Theres this sort of fantastic
Again Wyatt failed to respond.
Sugarfoot, annoyed now, said, Ivan reckons youre a hotshot at banks and armoured
cars and that.
Wyatt continued to watch the sparse
traffic and the Frome place behind its screen of English trees. Sugarfoot
gestured abruptly. If youre so good, how come youre doing this pissy
insurance job for him?
Good question, Wyatt thought. He
sensed, without turning around, that Sugarfoot had his head cocked at a
smart-arse angle. He was not surprised when Sugarfoot said, I mean, its not
what youd call heavy-duty. Lose your nerve?
Wyatt noted the time on his watch.
Ah well, Sugarfoot said airily, Ivan
reckons youll learn me some tricks of the trade, so I guess I better be
Wyatt stiffened. But he said
nothing. It could wait.
bankrolling a big job, Sugarfoot said, watching Wyatts face. Maybe with
Put your gloves on, Wyatt said.
Sugarfoot pulled on latex gloves and
started the engine. Come on, Wyatt. Is it a bank? Armoured van? You going to
let me and Ivan in on it?
Just drive, Wyatt said, taking
gloves from the inside pocket of his thin, tan leather jacket.
Sugarfoot drove away from the kerb,
across the street, and into the steep driveway of the Frome place. The taxis
tyres rumbled expensively over the gravel surface. Well-tended trees arced
above. Then the taxi emerged from the darkness onto a paved area at the front
of the house, where a small-leafed wall ivy crept like a stain towards the
upper levels of the house. A light was on above the door.
Park here, Wyatt said. Do what
taxis do, lights on, engine running.
You told me that.
Im telling you again.
Sugarfoot braked, shifted the gear
lever into Park and both men drew balaclavas over their faces. They got out. As
Wyatt pressed the illuminated buzzer set into the door frame, he murmured, Remember,
shes old, shes only the housekeeper
Lesson number two, Sugarfoot said,
listen to the same shit over and over again.
Wyatt held up his hand. A curtain
had twitched at a window. The housekeeper was there, just as Ivan Younger had
briefed him. That meant the alarm system was off. The housekeeper would see the
taxi, take the security chain off, and come out to investigate.
They waited. When the door opened,
Wyatt pushed through, Sugarfoot crowding in behind him.
Oh, the housekeeper said.
Her hand went to her heart and she
struggled for breath and pressed back against the wall. Her hair seemed to
spring into grey, untidy clusters. Powder had smudged the lenses of her
glasses. She wore slippers. She smelt of sherry.
We dont want to hurt you, Wyatt
said gently. Well be in and out in five minutes. But we have to tie you up
first, do you understand? He turned to Sugarfoot. Got the tape?
Sugarfoot patted his pocket.
Wyatt turned back to the
housekeeper. Well use parcel tape. It doesnt bite in like rope. He always
explained what he was doing. It calmed people, made them less unpredictable. Well
sit you in a chair, he said, so youll be comfortable. Unfortunately we have
to put tape over your mouth. Do you understand?
The old woman gulped and nodded.
Then Sugarfoot said, Dont make me
use this, okay? He had opened his denim jacket; Wyatt saw the butt of a small
automatic pistol in his waistband.
The old woman closed her eyes.
We wont hurt you, Wyatt said. He
elbowed Sugarfoot to one side and clasped the old womans elbow and led her to
a small antique chair next to an antique hallstand. A telephone stood on the
hallstand. Sit here, Wyatt said, pushing down gently on her shoulders. He
turned to Sugarfoot, said, Tie her, and unplugged the telephone.
Not so tight, he said, watching
Sugarfoot. Now, wait by the front door. If you see or hear anything, come and
get me. No heroics. Ill start upstairs.
I got two hands. I could be doing
I said wait.
Wyatt felt free now. He could start
work. He was tall and hard, but as he ran noiselessly up the stairs he felt
light and potent and elastic. At the top he paused, then made for the master
bedroom at the front of the house. He stood in the doorway and examined the
room. King-size bed, dressing table, wardrobes, Tibetan rugs on the carpet,
half-open door to the ensuite bathroom. The curtains were closed. He crossed
the room and turned on a bedside light. The Cartier bracelet was in the jewel
case. No Piaget watch, though. Shes wearing it, Wyatt thought. He put the
bracelet in his pocket, ignoring rings and brooches. He found Fromes Rolex and
put it in his pocket.
He went downstairs. The dining room
was also at the front of the house. According to Ivans shopping list, the
Meissen dishes and silver goblets were in the sideboard under the window, the
Imari vases and the eighty-thousand dollar antique clock on the mantelpiece
above the fireplace. He found them and wrapped each piece in foam sheets and
packed them into a polythene bag.
Fromes Krugerrands and rare coins
were in a desk drawer in the study. Most of the coins sat in moulded green
baize in a long wooden box. Some individual coins were wrapped in small
sealable plastic bags in small boxes. Wyatt tipped all the coins into a second
polythene bag and returned to the entrance hall of the house.
Something was wrong.
Sugarfoot was no longer there, only
the housekeeper, and she sagged in the chair, her chin on her chest. Wyatt put
the bags on the floor against the wall. Still wearing his gloves, he eased the
tape away from her mouth and lifted her chin.
A red weal marked her cheek.
Otherwise her features were slack. Her blouse was unbuttoned and one stocking
had slipped to her knee. He felt behind her ear for a pulse. Even as he found
it he felt it flutter and stop. He let her go and stepped back, imagining it:
Sugarfoot, pacing up and down, his impulses clashing with his intelligence, taking
his grievances out on the woman.
Wyatt punched her chest several
times and tested for a pulse. Nothing. He stepped back from her again for a
last look around. Further along the hall the door to one of the rooms was open.
It had been closed before. He looked in. It was a small, comfortable television
den. Apart from some expensive paintings on the wall, it was unpretentious. But
there was an asymmetry about the way the paintings were arranged on one of the
walls, and Wyatt, crossing to investigate, discovered an empty hook.