They had decided that only four men were required to stop the big car on the narrow mountain road, hold the occupants at bay and remove the cash that was stuffed into the suitcases on the floor behind the front seat. At first Merle Bachman-who would be driving away, alone, in the blue Chevrolet with the money locked safely in the trunk-had insisted on a fifth man. Number five would have been stationed at the bottom of the private lane to work an intercept routine in the event that someone turned off from the main highway while the robbery was in progress. The others argued against Bachman, because the private road to the Baglio estate supported very little traffic, especially on the morning of a biweekly cash transfer. Also, no one wanted his share knocked to hell by a fifth cut. Bachman clearly saw the economic sense of using a spare crew, though he insisted there was no other wisdom behind this detail of the plan, and he reluctantly agreed to go ahead with the job as a foursome. Now, the darkly dressed men waited in their prearranged positions as the time for action drew near.
Upslope, the macadam roadway on which the robbery would transpire made an abrupt appearance around a limestone outcropping, ran a hundred yards past a lay-by on the outside where two cars could pass if they should meet coming in opposite directions, went down for another four hundred yards before turning a second limestone corner and continuing out of sight to the main highway. The two sharp twists beyond which nothing was visible, and the still morning air, generated the feeling that all the rest of the world had vanished in some unexplained catastrophe.
If you faced upslope, the left side of the roadway was edged by a sheer stone wall slightly higher than a man and, above that, by a thick pine forest and underbrush as green as new money. Though the long grass at the brink of the woods stirred gently in the morning breeze, it made no sound at all, bending down and unfolding back up again in a graceful, mute ballet. Lying at the high corner above the first turn in the road, stretched out in the carbon-paper shadows of the big trees, oblivious of the dew-dampened grass and the quiet way it seemed to be reaching for him, Jimmy Shirillo watched the Baglio mansion through a pair of high-power field glasses. The long blades of grass had brushed Shirillo's face, leaving bright droplets of dew suspended on his fair skin, his only blemishes, giving him a vulnerable look that pointed up his youth. On the other hand, his own professional stillness, his economy of movement and the intensity with which he watched the mansion indicated the experienced professional beneath the tender exterior.
The binocular lenses were all that might have given Shirillo away to someone looking down from the great house, but they had been tinted to eliminate any telltale glare. Michael Tucker had thought of that, for he thought of everything.
A hundred yards below Shirillo, on the left, sitting in the brush along the top of the stone wall, Pete Harris cradled an old Thompson submachine gun, a souvenir from World War II. Harris had broken it down, oiled it, packed it in cloth and mailed it from Paris in five packages to his home address in the States. Back then, at the end of the war, that sort of thing was still quite possible. He had not contemplated putting the gun to any illegal use, or indeed to any use at all, for he thought he was finished with war. A civilian again, he had to face his inability to hold a nine-to-five job, and in desperation he launched his own war against the system, against boredom and respectability and enduring poverty. His inability to fit that system did not arise out of any great sensitivity or intelligence. Harris was only averagely perceptive. However, he was also stubborn, very much his own man, with expensive tastes. This would have led him into crime eventually, because he was only fit to be a clerk in any other field. He was the oldest of the four men here. At forty-eight he had ten years on Bachman, twenty on Mike Tucker, twenty-five on the Shirillo boy, though he didn't use his age and experience to usurp power within the group as others might have done. All he cared about was making the hit and getting the money, and he knew Tucker was a damn fine operator.
Thinking about the money, he grew uncomfortable and shifted in the brush, stretching his
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