The Night-time Operation

It took a lot of planning. The concept, the training, the logistics, the nights of observation, all leading up to this moment. And now it stood or fell on his actions, here and now.

Todd stood in the shadows of the deep doorway and regarded the target. Impossible. At least, impossible for anyone else. Maybe even impossible for him. You couldn’t plan for bad luck. Oh, you could reduce the risks. People marvelled at his skills, but most of it was down to meticulous preparation and endless gathering of intelligence. He’d scoped this one out weeks ago. Untouched and untouchable. He’d let it eat at him for days, until he knew he was going to have to target it. Then followed photograph after photograph, the study of all the surrounding buildings, the consideration and rejection of the approach paths and the escape routes.

And now it was all over. All he had to do now was execute the plan, and pray it was good enough. Pray he hadn’t missed anything. Pray, oh pray that some unforeseeable stroke of bad luck didn’t lay him low. He re-seated the bag on his shoulder and stepped out of his hiding place.

The alleyway was dark. He didn’t want to risk a flashlight, even a small one. He let the back of his hand run gently along the wall till he found the drainpipe. It was covered in anti-climbing paint, but there were ways and means to deal with that. Being careful not to get any of it on his hands, Todd slid the strip of webbing behind the drainpipe and buckled it around his waist. He leant back until it took his weight, then placed a foot against the wall.

The first potential danger would be if the drainpipe was old, the fittings insecure, and it pulled away from the wall. If it did, oh please let it be while he was still at the bottom, not at the top.

It held him. Carefully avoiding getting his hands in contact with the slippery paint, he edged his way up the wall, moving the belt up with every step. He reached the first bracket. Todd fished into his bag and pulled out the webbing belt’s twin. He attached it around the pipe above the bracket and released the lower belt. Step after step, jerking the belt up with each one, he reached the second bracket.

Maybe his foot would slip, and he would swing hard into the wall as he fell, stopping with a rib-crushing jerk as the belt reached the next bracket. Best not slip then.

The ant-climb paint only extended as far as the second bracket. Todd repeated the trick with the belts, but progress was easier now that he could hold onto the drainpipe with his hands. Within minutes he reached the flat roof over the dark shop. That had gone smoothly enough.

He padded silently over the rooftop and regarded the bridge. It wasn’t a roof designed to walk on, so the edge was bare of any safety railing. Todd glanced down, and as he always did, he felt the vacuum in front of him suck at him, pulling at him. He felt that if he just let himself lean forward, arms extended, he could use his downward rush to flatten out into a graceful glide. But then his more rational self reminded him it probably wouldn’t be his trajectory that would end up flattened.

The walls that made up the railway bridge were sheer brick. There was no way he could climb that. A CCTV camera surveyed the rail track itself. Built into the wall was a lamp on the end of an ornamental wrought iron bracket. It was set back from the footpath, overlooking the yard. Todd’s first idea was to have got below the lamp and scale up the wall via a rope, but a gate topped with barbed wire stood between the yard and the footpath. The gate sported a guard dog sign. Todd didn’t do dogs. Some did. Acker had a natural affinity that had any dog rolling onto its back within minutes. Not Todd, though, so the approach from below had been ruled out early on.

Todd pulled out a length of narrow rope from the bag and carefully uncoiled it. He folded it in two and gradually started to whirl it. Then he threw. The doubled-up length of rope flew through the air and missed the light by a couple of feet. Todd reeled the rope back in.

He might never be able to do this, despite having done it in practice. He might spend all night here, and have to return defeated. He might over-reach himself, and topple forward into the concrete yard below.

Todd shuffled back a step and tried again. On his fifth attempt the rope draped over the light bracket. He placed one end of the rope on the roof, under his foot. The other length he carefully held to one side, then swung it in a wide loop. At the other end the loop of rope flew free of the bracket. Todd reeled the rope in again. Plenty of time. He was on schedule.

On the twelfth attempt the rope spun a neat coil over the lamp when Todd looped it. He repeated the process to drop a second loop of rope over the light fixture. Slowly he pulled the rope taut. It held fast. Then to tie it off his end. Todd looked around. It was a flat roof, unblemished by TV aerial or chimney. There was nothing to tie it off on. Don’t panic yet.

He lay down on the roof and looked over the edge. He found a bracket holding the guttering in place and tied the rope to that, pulling the rope as taut as he could. He pulled hard on the rope, then in the opposite direction. It held, but would it bear his weight? One way to find out. He shuffled forward on his belly, sliding himself out onto the rope. He let one leg dangle to lower his centre of gravity. The other he hooked over the rope at the ankle. So he pulled himself along the rope, commando style. He’d seen it on an old film, and then tried it out. It worked well enough if the rope was taut.

The rope creaked under him. If one end pulled free, oh let it be the gutter end, so he could swing feet downwards, and not the lamp end where he would swing upside-down into the building he had just left.

The rope could have been tauter. The last few feet were a struggle, as Todd hauled himself painfully uphill towards the lamp. Finally he was there, his hands on the wrought iron. So far, so good. He held the bracket with both hands and slid off the rope. Below him a wide pipe ran across the road, fastened to the bridge. Todd stretched his toes but couldn’t make contact. How far short was he? He looked down. Inches, three at most, but it was difficult to judge from this angle. What if it was more?

Maybe he could pull himself up to the rope and make his way back to the rooftop. Todd twisted around to see. Maybe, but it would be a struggle, and already his arms were tiring. No, it was only an inch or two’s drop. That was all. Easy. He wouldn’t fall, arms flailing, onto the hard concrete below, where lurked a guard dog somewhere in the shadows.

Come on. He’d got this far. He let his fingers relax.

Two inches, but it felt like two feet. He willed the soles of his trainers to stick to the top of the pipe while he hugged the featureless brick wall of the bridge. And then he was stable, safe, his heart thumping so hard it was painful. He almost giggled with relief. Nearly there.

He edged along the pipe. It was smooth and dusty, made slippery in parts by bird droppings. Don’t hurry, that was the secret. Never mind that he was now fully visible from the road. Ignore the possibility of a slip sending him crashing downwards. One careful step at a time.

He reached the centre of the bridge. Objective achieved. He reached into his bag.

Ten minutes later he was done. He’d hoped to retreat the way he’d come, but he knew now that was impossible. He couldn’t risk a jump to reach the lamp bracket. But that was what contingency planning was for. He edged towards the end of the pipe, where the bridge crossed the footpath. He produced his remaining rope and dropped it over the pipe, the ends running either side of it to the footpath. He held both sides of the rope and rappelled to safety. A tug on one end of the rope pulled it over the pipe and back down to him. Mission accomplished. Ted trotted down the footpath and turned to regard the bridge. There it was, unmissable on the virgin brickwork over the road.

Todd Waz Here.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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