Andy McNab

The Grey Man


The Bank, Ipswich Friday, 3 February 2006, 4.51 p.m.

From his desk Kevin looked through the glass security screen at the three men in long raincoats about to rob the bank. He could see the shapes of their sawn-off shotguns bulging out from under their coats. His heart started to beat faster, almost jumping out of his chest. Why hadn't anyone else noticed?

One robber stood at the credit point. He was going to make sure no one got in or out of the bank's main door once the robbery went down. Another was in the queue for Gary, the only clerk on duty at that time in the afternoon. He would hand a note to Gary that read, 'Put both hands where I can see them and call the manager. If not, you all die.' The third man, the leader, was reading a poster about bank loans. He was close to the security door that led to the staff side of the screen.

Kevin knew what would happen. Gary would call the manager and he would be told to open the security door. The gang leader would burst in and grab the cash while the other two controlled the customers and staff.

The plan was simple, quick and violent. Anyone in their way would get the good news from the business end of the shotguns. They must be on drugs because Kevin couldn't understand why they weren't worried about the cameras, which would already have taped enough film for the police to ID them. But Kevin didn't have time to think about that now. He had to take action. He reached under his desk and felt for the alarm that would alert the local police station.

His hand shook a little as it hovered near the button. From his office he watched Gary say goodbye to Mr Field and start talking to another customer. The robber was next in line.

The second robber, standing at the credit point, headed for the main door. The leader undid his raincoat, ready to draw down his gun before he burst through the security door. Kevin's throat was dry as he moved his hand away from the alarm button. It was too late. The police wouldn't get there in time. Customers' lives were in danger and someone had to save them.

That someone had to be Kevin. Only he could see what was about to happen. He couldn't shout and raise the alarm. The gang might panic and try to shoot their way out. The only way to stop the robbery was to jump the leader before he passed the note to Gary. If Kevin had the leader's gun, he could arrest the robbers himself. If the other two drew down their weapons to take him on, he would just have to shoot it out with them. He felt a little excited at the prospect.

Gary had nearly finished with his customer. The robber was next. Now wasn't the time for thinking. It was the time for doing. Kevin took a deep breath and prepared to take down the three-man crew.


'Dodds! Wake up. If you stopped dreaming, you might get some work done! You're the laziest man I've ever met.' Albert Symington, the bank manager, was clearly in another bad mood. 'Remember, Dodds, I want that report in first thing on Monday morning.'

Kevin watched Gary greet the robber. Well, actually, it was Greg Jameson who ran the local heel bar. In fact, none of the three robbers were really robbers. And it wasn't only the robbers who were wearing raincoats. Every customer had one on today because it was raining. It had been all day. But that didn't worry Kevin. He liked to day-dream, and play 'what if. He was bored out of his mind at work. He wanted a bit of excitement.

Symington was still yelling at him but Kevin just smiled. He always smiled when his boss yelled. 'The report? I've already done it, Mr Symington.' He pulled it, in its new blue folder, from his desk drawer. 'I finished it today, during lunch.'

'About bloody time too.' Symington snatched it out of Kevin's hand and stormed off to find another victim.

It was a shame his day-dream had been ruined just before the good bit. Kevin wouldn't play action hero today. Never mind, there was always tomorrow. No doubt he would finish his work early then too.

Kevin got up and went over to Gary, who was counting a wad of twenties. 'Got the stapler?'

Gary nodded at it. 'He does like having a go at you, doesn't he, Kev?' He kept his voice down. Nothing wrong with Symington's hearing.

Kevin shrugged as he watched Gary's fingers flick through the notes. 'Yep, but what's new?' He picked up the stapler. Symington didn't only shout at Kevin, he shouted at all four of the staff for being too slow or lazy. It was really Symington who was slow and lazy. He was the only one not doing his job properly. Unless, of course, he was meant to go around and shout at people all day.

Gary slipped a paper band round a thousand pounds' worth of twenties, then started on another wad. He was the only one of them who could count and talk at the same time. 'Don't know why the little shit doesn't leave you alone. You always get the worst of it, and you're doing his job as well as your own.'

Gary didn't even look at the notes as he counted them. Kevin thought he would be better suited to dealing cards in Las Vegas than working in a bank.

'I reckon he's scared you're going to take his job, mate.' Gary often said exactly what Kevin was thinking.

Kevin had worked in this poxy bank for nine years now. Since leaving college, he had slogged his way up the ladder from trainee to deputy manager, and what thanks did he get? He'd saved Symington's arse hundreds of times, but all he ever got was abuse. Symington was great at sucking up to Head Office, but he was crap at running a bank. Even a bank as small as this one. He made The Office's David Brent look like Richard Branson. But instead of answering Symington back, and telling him how crap he was, Kevin kept quiet. For nine years he had held his tongue and covered up Symington's mistakes. He had done it so often, that it had become the norm.

He felt he had no other option. Head Office was always looking to cut costs. If they decided to close a branch, Middle Street, Ipswich, would be the one. There were two larger banks in the city centre, and theirs didn't rake in millions. It also looked old-fashioned. It hadn't had a refit in twenty years and soon it would need money spending on it. But, much as he hated his job, Kevin didn't want the bank to close. He needed his wage, and he didn't want to be sent to a branch on the other side of the country. His wife Linda wanted to stay in Ipswich to be close to her mum, whose health was poor. There never seemed to be any jobs going at the other banks in town, and Ipswich wasn't full of good jobs for guys like him. So he had to stick with what he'd got. So what if he had to save his boss now and then? He liked his three workmates and one day Symington would retire. Then maybe The Bank, Middle Street, Ipswich, would be the hot ticket in town. That was why good old Kevin just smiled and got on with his work when Symington shouted at him. But it was harder and harder to force that smile.

'I know I should tell him where to go, Gary, but I want next Friday off, remember?'

'Yeah, right.' Gary wasn't fooled. They both knew Kevin would never step out of line. 'Planning anything special for the big day?'

'Not really. It's just nice to have the time together. Linda loves that Italian in Morton Street. We go there every year.'

'Dodds!' Symington was back. 'If you're not day-dreaming, you're chatting. Get those safe-deposit records updated before you go home. And make me a coffee while you're at it, will you?'

Symington went back to his office and slumped into his leather chair. Even from where he was standing, Kevin could see sweat dripping on to his mad-Major moustache.

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