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The Exchange

Chapter One

The Meeting

In the Medway town of Chatham in Kent, the high street thronged with a multitude of shoppers and tourists, all pushing their way along the packed pavements. Some were visitors, enjoying the experience of a new setting, while others were going about their business or perhaps dashing to an important meeting.

The weather had been kind to everyone this year by producing a longer than usual summer for a change. Now, in late September, the sun had cooled from the heady, scorching days of July and August, but the temperature had continued to hold up well. Many of those in the bustling crowds still wore light or sleeveless tops and were determined to extract the last drop of sunshine to help them keep their much-sort-after suntans well into the autumn and winter, or longer if at all possible.

Few people took any notice of the bright yellow van parked in one of the numerous side streets that spread out from the main thoroughfare. It carried the familiar local electricity supplier’s logo and address in red letters blazoned along the sides. Sat in the vehicle was Roy Kelly, a man of below average height, who was a small-time thief. He was about to commit a very different kind of theft, after he had succumbed to a beguiling woman that he had met while trying to burgle her house.

A scraggy looking man with a heavily lined face, he used his skills, acquired by years of petty thieving, to steal from unoccupied houses. His modus operandi was to break in, pocket as much of his victim’s cash, jewellery or any small item that he could easily remove and sell, and get out quickly. He chose houses carefully and selected ones that offered a modicum of seclusion at the rear, allowing him to jemmy open a window without prying eyes watching his lawbreaking activity. Once inside, he took what valuables he could grab in only a few minutes, and retreated before either he or the theft could be discovered.

On the previous Friday afternoon, shortly after two o’clock, Kelly had wandered up and down a cul-de-sac street while he checked out the large detached house with the nameplate above the door stating that it was The Red House. It was covered in ivy and had an inviting side entrance to a garage. Assured that nobody was watching, he slipped down to the side entrance and put his shoulder to the gate. It took little force for him to tear away the screws fixing the bolt in place, and he was in. With his jemmy he prized open the back window and entered the house. It was as he suspected, empty, and he crept up the carpeted stairway to the bedroom where jewellery was usually to be found. Rummaging through the dressing table drawers, he discovered some rings and necklaces – items that were easy to sell. Things were going well for him when he stiffened abruptly at a noise that came from below. Frozen to the spot, he listened as the front door slammed shut and footsteps tramped up the stairs. His heart suddenly began pounding much faster as he searched in vain for somewhere to hide. The owner had returned unexpectedly and came straight into the bedroom that he was ransacking.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing in my house?’ the buxom woman angrily shouted, her face reddening with rage.

Kelly dropped the jewellery he was admiring and sidled towards the door. ‘Let me out and I won’t hurt you,’ he bluffed.
‘Hurt me! You’ll be lucky to get out of here alive,’ she growled.
Kelly had no intentions of hurting her; robbery with violence carried a much stiffer penalty, and he knew it. He rushed at her, hoping to shove her aside and make his getaway, but found her tougher than he had expected for a woman. She slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor.

He looked at her in amazement. ‘Right! Now I’m angry,’ he blurted, attempting to frighten her by waving his jemmy.

Rising from the floor he charged head down at her. Nearby on the bedside table, sat a lamp. The woman grabbed it and crashed him over the head as he charged in, smashing the lamp to pieces and knocking Kelly into senselessness, despite the blow being slightly softened by his cloth cap. Blackness engulfed him; he dropped his jemmy, sank to his knees and slumped to the floor.

Gradually, the darkness that became his world for a few moments began to lighten as Kelly flicked open his eyes. By the time he had regained his senses, his eyes were open wide with amazement on discovering that the woman was attending to the wound on his head, despite his threats and his attempt to burgle her house.
‘I haven’t rung the police – not yet,’ she told him, watching his eyes to see what effect the comment had on him.
As a man on remand, Kelly was pleased that she had not rung them, and it brought a calmer look to his face, which she recognised. He was acutely aware of the authority’s willingness to unhesitatingly send him back to prison if he was caught perpetrating the smallest misdemeanour, let alone if he continued to break into houses and commit robbery again.

He glanced at her full figure and the tantalising glimpse of cleavage that showed above the scooped neckline of her blouse. She was aware of his eyes discovering her body and his thoughts mentally imaging how she looked undressed.
‘Why are you doing this?’ he asked, in his gentle Irish accent, wincing at the pain he suffered as she bathed the lump on his head, which had now begun to swell and change colour.
‘You were about to take my jewellery, I couldn’t let you do that.’
‘The insurance would cover it. You live in a nice big house and don’t look as if you’re short of a bob or two.’
‘Not true. My husband hangs on to all the money. Now, if you’d broken into his safe and were taking his valuables that would have been different.’
Creasing his brow, Kelly suggested, ‘I don’t have enough brains to crack a safe open, and I suppose your comment means that you don’t care very much for your husband?’
‘Clever boy,’ the woman said. ‘You look like a much nicer man than my husband, even if you do burgle houses for a living.’
‘I don’t usually do this,’ lied Kelly, ‘but my wife and kids are hungry and we’ve got no money and no food,’ he stated, trying hard to elicit sympathy for his plight from the woman who had strangely not reported his attempted burglary.
‘I don’t think so,’ she replied. ‘You don’t look like the sort of man who is married with kids.’

Kelly’s face coloured. This was a clever woman who could read him well. ‘What do you want, lady?’ he asked, surmising that his continued freedom probably depended on what she wanted, and whether he was willing to agree to it.
‘I knew we could approach this sensibly. What I need, is a man who is not afraid to take what he wants.’
‘Oh! And what is it that I want?’
‘How about an equal share of £100,000 … and me?’
Kelly was shocked. ‘You mean you’d let me share a bed with you?’
‘I would.’

Kelly’s heart started to race at the thought of having such a voluptuous looking woman, even before he had considered what he could do with that amount of money. He had never had such a forthright offer made to him before. He studied this woman’s face. She was attractive; a lot more attractive than any other woman who had befriended him since his teenage years. She spoke quite eloquently, a sign of a good education thought Kelly, unlike the torrid school years that he had endured, and was pleased when they came to an end at the age of fourteen. She was at least ten years younger than him, and could be no more than thirty-five he judged, though he was the first to admit that he was not very good at telling people’s ages, especially women.

He again glanced at her figure. She had a delightful figure, with ample breasts that he would love to get his hands on. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever consider that he would get the chance to share a bed with a woman as desirable as her. The thought excited him, though he was not so stupid that he did not realise there would be a price to pay. He wondered what that price was, for such a glorious gift.
‘So, what do I have to do get this money, and have a gorgeous woman like you willing to let me take her to bed? Rob the Bank of England?’
The woman giggled, ‘Don’t be silly! Not at all, nothing as drastic as that.’
‘Even so, it must be something pretty horrendous.’
‘All I want you to do is help me to get away from my nasty husband. He treats me like a slave, and beats me if I don’t do exactly as he says.’
‘That’s not very nice, and I sympathise with you if it’s true, but why don’t you go to the authorities, or to some other group that helps wives who are battered by their husbands?’
‘I’ve tried that and got nowhere. He is a very convincing man, and tells them I am making it all up.’
‘Show them the bruises.’
‘He is careful to hit me where it doesn’t show very much and if it does, he tells them I fell over. I have to put up with the mental torture as well. No, he is making my life a misery and I have to get away from him. To do that, I need money and a friend who’s willing to help me.’
‘If it’s sympathy you want, I can give you that, but I don’t have any money and why would you want to let me sleep with you anyway?’ he asked, glancing at her shiny wedding ring.
‘I work part-time in a building society. Jeffery, my husband, is the manager and works there full time. I know the routine, when there is a lot of cash about, and being on the inside I can give you details about when to rob the place.’
Suddenly, a more sinister reason became apparent to Kelly, and one that scared him. ‘I … don’t know about that,’ he hesitated. ‘I’ve never robbed anything but houses before. And I’ve only burgled them when they are empty, or at least I thought they were empty,’ he said, fingering the lump on his head.
‘I can help you, and if you do this little job for me, I will be ever so grateful, just like I said I would,’ she encouraged, smiling at him in her most friendly manner.
‘Little job?’ he muttered. ‘What’s your name?’ asked Kelly, while he considered her proposition.
‘Katherine Boyd, but you can call me Katie. What’s yours?’
‘Roy Kelly, but you can call me clumsy.’
‘Clumsy! Why?’ she giggled.
‘Any burglar worth his salt wouldn’t let a woman catch him in the act and knock him out cold with a table lamp.’
‘Don’t be silly! I do get a bit aggressive when it comes to the few worthwhile things I possess. That probably comes from having to put up with the domination I suffer from my husband. So, what do you say? Will you take me up on my offer?’
‘What happens after we’ve robbed the building society?’
‘You take the cash back to your place, I leave the society later on and meet you at your home to split the cash, then after all the fuss has died down, we fly off to sunny climes. Do you have a current passport?’
‘Yes, an Irish one.’
‘Good. We could live a life of laziness and basking in the sun, or if you wanted to, you could take your half and do whatever you want.’
‘It sounds risky to me.’
‘Not at all. We can make sure that your face is covered, and I can give you all the information you’ll need. I’ll be there to hand you the money, though of course I don’t want the police to know that I’m involved.’
It all sounded too good to be true.
‘And that’s all I have to do, take the money and run?’ Kelly asked.
‘There is one other thing, but that can wait until after we’ve got to know each other better,’ Mrs Boyd said, undoing the buttons on her blouse and slipping it off.

She wore a black lacy uplift bra, which supported her breasts and enhanced the look of her figure and cleavage. She allowed Kelly to pull the straps down and release her ample bosoms. They were the most magnificent breasts he had ever seen, except for those in the magazines he had bought and regularly drooled over. If nothing else came of this association, at least he will have had one unforgettable interlude with a willing, voluptuous woman.

With quivering hands and a pounding heart Kelly removed his coat, a garment in a poor state, which had seen better days. He kicked off his shoes and undid his belt. Mrs Boyd removed her underwear and stretched out on the bed. Kelly was more than ready, slipped between her thighs and entered her straight away, before she could change her mind.

He felt that glorious feeling in his loins, a feeling which had eluded him ever since he was a teenager. He grabbed her breasts with both hands, eager to extract every sensation of euphoria that flowed through him. His tongue savoured her nipples and he had barely started to thrust when the unparalleled excitement caused him to immediately ejaculate. Wanting to relish the moments for a lot longer, he held on tightly to Mrs Boyd’s plentiful bosoms while he nuzzled his face in them. This was an experience that he did not want to end.
‘You got a little bit over excited, didn’t you?’ declared Mrs Boyd, pulling herself free from his grip.
‘Yes, I’m sorry about that. The thrill was too much for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve stuffed a woman, and never one as lovely as you.’
Mrs Boyd cringed at Kelly’s crude expression of intercourse, but smiled. ‘I’m sure it will last longer and be much better for you the next time we make love,’ she said, eager to keep her fish on the hook.
She adjusted her bra, slipped her arms into her blouse, but left the buttons undone as an enticement. Kelly looked pleased at the thought of a repeat encounter.
‘When will that be?’ he enquired, hopeful that it would be soon as he buckled up his belt.
‘It won’t be long,’ she assured him. ‘I have to find out when my husband is not around. It wouldn’t do for him to catch us.’
‘It certainly wouldn’t,’ said Kelly, jolted into awareness of a potential problem that could end his enjoyment of this newly found sexy partner and inflict even more bodily harm on him.
‘What is you telephone number?’ she asked.
‘I don’t have a phone.’
‘No telephone?’
‘No.’
‘Or mobile?’
‘No.’
‘That’s unusual.’
‘When you live alone as I do, you don’t need one.’
‘I see. So, as I surmised, you’re not a married man with kids.’
‘No, you were quite right,’ conceded Kelly, his face colouring once more.
‘Where do you live then?’
‘In a basement flat, near the top of the hill in St Mark’s Road, almost opposite the church.’
‘Yes, I know where that is. What’s the number?’ asked Mrs Boyd, knowing the area was a poorer part of the town, populated by blocks of flats and Victorian houses which had been converted into flats.
‘Number 63B. The entrance is around the side and down some steps. It’s only a one bed flat with a kitchen, living room and bathroom, but it’s clean – more or less,’ Kelly said, hoping that Mrs Boyd might consider visiting him if her husband’s presence made it difficult for them to meet at her house.
‘I’m sure it is, Roy. Tell me, have you ever handled a gun?’
‘A gun? Why do you ask?’
‘Well, you can’t very-well go into a building society to rob it, if you haven’t got something to threaten the teller with, now can you?’
‘No, I suppose not. I hadn’t thought of that.’
‘So, have you ever fired a gun?’
‘Not for a long time. Not since I was an angry teenager in Northern Ireland,’ he admitted.
‘Have you killed anyone?’ Mrs Boyd asked, in a rather excited manner, recalling the continual media reports of troubles that had occurred there for many years.
‘No, I don’t think so.’
Disappointment was written all over her face. ‘Nevertheless, you know how to handle one?’
‘Yes, I do,’ he said, remembering his youth and the troubles he had witnessed in the province, and took part in against the British Army and the police.

Barely a day went past without an incident of one sort or another occurring. Sometimes it would be a bomb that went off, often killing more citizens than soldiers – their intended target. At other times it would be a shooting, generally at an army checkpoint where other soldiers or civilians would end up dead. Riots were frequent, and often vehicles or premises were set alight, bringing firemen as well as police and soldiers to the scene, all to be attacked with whatever weapons were handy.

Kelly was lucky. At least he had survived those torrid times; more lucky than his father was. He had blown himself up with a home-made bomb that was intended to destroy a pub that the soldiers frequented. It was a terrible accident, but Kelly never admitted that to anyone. As far as he was concerned, his father’s death was the fault of the British soldiers, and he had repeated the story to so many people telling them that they had shot him, that he almost came to believe it himself.

Since those frantic scary days he had mellowed, and although the province was now mainly peaceful, jobs were still hard to find, and like so many others he ventured to the English mainland to find work. As an unskilled man the only employment he was offered were labouring jobs, which a man of his stature and build found hard to maintain. Working on a building site was hard; thieving was much easier, so began his life of crime and the start of his prison sentences, the last of which he had finished less than six months previously. He decided not to tell Mrs Boyd that he was obliged to report to his probation officer every week, she may not like that, and he wanted to keep in her favour and not do anything to upset their new relationship.
‘Have you been back to Ireland lately?’ she asked.
‘Yes, I went there after … that is, I spent a couple of months there earlier this year in May and June. Just a little holiday to see my sister and her husband. The weather was very good, and the sun shone all the time. I enjoyed seeing the old country again. It’s true what they say – the grass there is definitely greener.’
‘I understand that’s because it rains a lot in Ireland.’
‘Not at all. It rains just as much here in England.’
‘Perhaps. I think you’d better leave now. My husband will be home soon and he wouldn’t like it if he found you here.’

Shoving his feet into his shoes, Kelly grabbed his cloth cap and coat from the bedside table, and gingerly put the cap on his head. He took a last longing look at Mrs Boyd’s cleavage before she fastened her blouse buttons.
‘How will you contact me?’
‘I’ll come to your flat, or put a note through the letterbox telling you when it’s safe to come here.’
‘Okay. I’ll hear from you soon then.’

Mrs Boyd smiled, but did not answer. Kelly crept down the stairs, an act he did automatically when in other peoples’ houses, opened the front door, glanced furtively around to check for passers by, and took the step down into the street. He pulled his collar up even though it was a warm day, and shuffled out of sight, watched all the way from an upstairs window by a smiling Mrs Boyd.

 

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