The Strongroom

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Really? Can a nun do more to help another? Fall in love and take part in a heist? Never! And so begins the tale of Maddi Doyle and Sister Jo. Maddi Doyle, a beautiful twenty-five-year-old architect, was forced to work for peanuts renovating a greengrocer next door to the Bank of Ireland in Inchicore, Dublin. Her sister and her husband, Jackof, had forced Maddi into the job but Maddi would soon realise that this may be a ‘blessing in disguise.’ In a moment of clarity, she decides she can help herself out of this situation and she would find an unlikely ally from another source – they say God moves in mysterious ways – but really, through Sister Jo? A light tale of romance amidst a bank heist, an unlikely pair – an out of work architect and a nun begin their journey. After a morning’s work, they walk away, leaving Maddi’s unravelling sister, husband and the Irish Garda behind, wondering what had just happened?

Humor / Other
Jimmy Rice
Age Rating:

Chapter I

Maddi Doyle, a beautiful twenty-five-year-old architect, was forced to work for peanuts renovating a greengrocer next door to the Bank of Ireland in Inchicore, Dublin. Her sister, Janice, had plotted with her husband, Jackof, to force Maddi into the job. Jackof was the manager of the bank and Janice worked there too as the head cashier. Jackof was taking a fifteen percent cut from Maddi’s fee and the fee was already at rock bottom. There was an Indian restaurant opening here and Maddi was sure Jackof was ripping-off the Indians too. Jackof believed himself to be a financial genius. Maddi had named the pair, Janice and the ‘Jerkoff’.

Maddi threw down the last of the stinking, greasy, grey tiles from the floating ceiling. She sat on the scaffold and looked up in admiration at the beautiful old Georgian ceiling, three feet above the disgusting floating ceiling she had just demolished. The blue paint of the Georgian ceiling was still striking and the white, now gone grey, plasterwork exquisite. This was real craftsmanship from a bygone age. Maddi sighed, out of sight, out of their tiny minds.

It looked as if the Georgian ceiling ran into the bank next door. As she followed the lines of the ceiling she noticed that near the end of the gable wall, the bricklayer had left out three rows of bricks and plugged up the gap with what appeared to be old curtains. It looked like he had run out of bricks. Maddi pulled out the dusty curtains, threw them down onto the floor and shoved her torch in through the gap. She was right. The old Georgian ceiling ran right through into the premises at the end, an auctioneer’s. Maddi looked at the gap. She could squeeze through it – cowboys! She sang some things will never change.

She heard a door clang open in the bank below and the very clear sounds of the people entering the room. Then she heard a voice she knew well, “It’s only the four bags. They are here.” It was the voice of old Bill Moore, the bank porter. He watched Maddi’s van when she was parked up on the double yellow lines outside the bank. He was a sweetheart. “Thank you, Bill,” said a man’s voice. There was the sound of boots on lino and the thud of money bags put down on a table.

“Four bags,” said a man’s busy voice, “One hundred and ten thousand. Sign here.” A pause. “Thank you.” The sound of boots squelching on the lino marching off.

“Are you right now?” asked Bill, “I’ll lock yous in.” The sound of a heavy door clanging shut.

“We will have this counted by lunchtime,” said a female voice.

“We would have it counted by eleven o’clock if that bollox-Boland bought a couple of money counting machines.”

“You know what he’s like,” agreed the woman, “he’s miserable. Won’t spend a penny of the bank’s money.”

“Or his own. There is a reason they are called the stinking rich.”

“Aye, his farts are inhuman!”

Maddi knew who they were talking about. Boland was, Jackof, her brother-in-law. She could hear everything so clearly. The people and the money were just below her. The door in the bank clanged open again and Bill’s voice said, “Coffee, everybody out!” The people went out and the door clanged shut. Maddi looked at her watch. It was ten o’clock. She waited a while, then squeezing through the gap, she carefully lifted up a floating tile. Directly below her, sitting on a big table were four blue bank bags stuffed full of cash that spilled out from one bag. She made up her mind. She was going to rob the bank. She was going to take the money.

If Maddi could get one hundred and ten thousand euros, the bank was obliged to loan her the rest of the money. She needed two hundred and twenty thousand to buyout her sister Janice. Danny, her da was dying. He left the house – equal shares to Janice and Maddi - with a proviso one could buy out the other at current market value. The house was currently at 440,000 euros.

Maddi was considering where to hide the money when there was a hammering at the front whitewashed window. Maddi squeezed through the gap and slid down the scaffold. Her sister Janice, dressed in a nice bank business suit, was outside, trying to peer through the gaps in that window. She started to yell, ‘Madeline,’ in increasing tempo until she was almost yodelling, ‘Maad doo line,’ Maddi opened the door. Janice rushed in, mouth still open, still howling, coffee in her hand. She thrust the coffee at Maddi. “I bought you a coffee. Extra sugar for energy,” she explained.

How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t take sugar.”

“It’s for the energy. Have you no one to help you?”

“The job doesn’t pay enough to take on another worker. You know that. This is slave labour. I can’t employ anyone.”

“But Maddi, who’s going to do all the building work?”

“I am.”

“By yourself?”

“Yes, me.”

“My God!”

Maddi tried the coffee. It was instant and vile. Janice should patent this as wallpaper remover.

“You should take Jackof’s offer and you wouldn’t have to do the likes of this.” She swept her hand around the renovation.

“And they are men’s overalls you’re wearing. Lord knows where you got them.”

Maddi flared up. “Let da die in peace and then I’ll sign. It’s what he wants. This is not the time or place with da lying in his death bed.”

“But it’s more than a fair offer Maddi. We are offering ten thousand more, over and above the current market value of the house. It’s not as if we are trying to rip you off, or anything like that. God, no. Jackof is a good and honest banker.”

Maddi almost exploded, “Don’t pressurise me with shit like this! Let father die in peace.”

Maddi flung the sugar paste at the bin. “Get out of here Janice! An honest banker?”

“Calm down Maddi. I am your sister and I love you, you know that – but if you do the deal now, you will be independent. Two hundred and twenty thousand plus a ten thousand signing fee. Under the table. You will be independent. Buy yourself some nice clothes. Go somewhere nice. You never know you might get yourself a man under the table.

Maddi was tempted to head-butt Janice in the face and bust her inquisitive, nosey nose.

“The last thing I need is a fucking man!”

“Everybody gets married sometime,” said Janice cheerfully and she really believed that matrimony was the real driving force behind ‘Natural Selection’.

“I have to be up at the Hospice at lunchtime to see da. He wants me not to sign anything until he is gone. Do you understand that?”

“But sure Maddi,” said Janice hugging Maddi. “You can still stay in the house after you sign.”

“Indefinitely? Rent free? And if I get married, can I stay there with me, my husband and kids?” Maddi enjoyed freaking out Janice. Janice gulped and went pale.

“Well, I’d have to run that through Jackof.”

I’d like to run him through with a rusty knife thought Maddi.

“I’ll take that as a no-no. Both of you are disgusting. You are behaving like a pair of ghouls. Da’s clinging onto his memories when we were all one family when mum was alive. Do you remember that? It’s all he has. Memories,” Maddi was furious.

“Sure he doesn’t have to know, Maddi. How would he know the condition he’s in?”

“It’s da’s house until he’s gone and I’m not signing anything until then – if I decide to sign. I might yet get the money to buy you out.” Maddi sighed. She was under pressure. There was no point talking to Janice. She was banking-brainwashed.

“Sure, Maddi, where would you get money like that, eh? Be reasonable sister. Face up to reality.”

“God,” replied Maddi, looking at the wall, “sometimes moves in mysterious ways.” She blew God a kiss. Maddi believed she had been shown the way. Janice believed Maddi was mad.

“There’s no angel going to knock on your door with two hundred and twenty thousand euros, Maddi. You are broke and you won’t get a loan. Any luck in finding a job?”

“This is a job. What do you think I am doing in here? Now let me get back to work.”

“You don’t need to do this. It breaks my heart when I can lend you money to tide you over. I’ll put a few thousand into your account – right now.”

“Until the house is sold and you get it back with interest? You, bankers, are sick people. Do you not remember? Jesus took a whip to you. He should have used an AK47.”

“Well, that’s an offer, it’s better than what you are doing. Bill Moore, the porter, was watching you the other day unloading bags of sand and cement. On your own, outside the bank. And everybody in the High Street looking at you. Bill Moore saw a film once, native women all carrying big heavy black sacks on their backs onto a big boat. You reminded him of the slave women in the film.”

“What’s the name of this film?” Janice had one eye half closed and Maddi could see her struggling to make up relevant lies.

“Sure, what’s that got to do with anything? It’s what’s in the film. It’s what you see is the important bit. The title is posted up outside for nothing. Nothing!”

Janice took off her glove and slapped it into her hand like a Gestapo overlord. “You listen to me, Maddi Doyle! That boat sank and every one of the women drowned and were devoured by great white sharks. That’s what women get,” declared Janice, “for doing men’s work.”

“I have to get back to work. If ya see any sharks in the bank, give them a job.”

Janice looked at her diamond-encrusted gold Rolex. “And I have to go. Coffee break is over. It’s two minutes past 10:30. Jackof is very strict.” She gave Maddi half a hug and hissed the air, making a ‘mwah, mwah’ noise. “If you need anything, a nice holiday. They are doing great deals now for Ibiza – massage on the beach.”

“Get out Janice!” Maddi was going to throw Janice out.

Janice was already out of the door, striding up the footpath; off to bully the bank staff. Maddi flexed her aching muscles and slammed the door. A masage on the beach! Janice and ‘Jerkoff’ were practicing psychological warfare on her. There was a property boom in Ireland, and her da’s house, and it was still his house, was rising in value all the time and that’s why, thought Maddi, they wanted her out so quickly. Janice and ‘Jerkoff’ lived in a detached house in Dundrum, a nice desirable area, and they had three other properties they had let out. How many houses does one person need to live in? Maddi loved her house in Dalkey. It was a family home. Didn’t they understand that? Maddi lived there. Janice and ‘Jerkoff’ were a pair of ruthless, upwardly mobile, utter rotters. They had no social conscience. Maddi tried numerous banks to raise the two hundred and twenty thousand she needed but they just more or less laughed at her. Do you have any collateral? Well actually no. I am three hundred and eight euros overdrawn, and I owe Visa four and a half grand. Maddi quickly and deftly climbed up the scaffold and listened into the events unfolding in the Strongroom. She laughed to herself. Take a look at what the bankers were doing with her money.

By the time she was up the scaffold, the staff was back in the Strongroom.

“Is that all of you?” Asked Bill Moore, the porter.

“Yes,” answered a male voice, “You can close the door.”

The sound of a heavy door closing home. The sound of bolts ramming home. The staff began to count the money and allocate various amounts to the cashiers and the safes. Maddi worked away dismantling the rusted, hanging ceiling frame but climbed the scaffold every now and again to listen-in to what was going on in the Strongroom and to keep an eye on her cash. At 12:20, a bell rang in the Strongroom. Bill Moore unlocked the door.

“Are you done?” He asked.

“Yeah,” the man replied. “All present and correct, Sargent Major.”

Scraping of chairs, people moving, someone said, “Are you eating-in?” The door was closed and the bolts rammed home. Maddi waited five minutes. She squeezed through the gap. A few minutes later, she squeezed back out of the gap and climbed down the scaffold with a feeling of disappointment, as if she had lost something precious. Maddi laughed to herself. Her one hundred and ten thousand was gone. “But not for long,” she shouted and punched the air. She was going to rob the bank.

“Jesus,” she said, “Look at the time – 13:05.” She had to be up at the Hospice at 14:00 hours.

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