The suburban neighborhood of Balestown looked lifeless under the glare of about a hundred street lights scattered strategically next to every homestead. Lopang walked briskly towards the high-walled concrete structure that was the fence of Letlhabile Manor. After days of surveillance he knew he had to be at the west side corner when the security camera placed on said wall was facing the other direction. As the security cameras changed position every thirty minutes they created a blind spot that lasted for a mere twenty seconds. He put on his balaclava and jumped over the concrete wall into the back yard. He ran silently towards the swimming pool area, which he knew had no cameras. He stood by the pool for a few seconds regaining his breath. He walked catlike towards the garage door which he knew was not connected to the home security alarm system. He jerked it upwards and slipped in effortlessly. James Letlhabile’s beloved all black Range Rover was parked inside, next to his wife’s bright red Mercedes Benz CLK class drop top convertible. He took a quick glance at his wrist watch, 0200hrs, he was making good time. He walked stealthily towards the door leading into the kitchen. He punched in the security system pass-code and just like that the system was disarmed. This was certainly his easiest job to date, he thought as he walked through the kitchen to the door that led into a spacious and properly furnished living area. To his immediate right was a set of stairs he mounted carefully towards the main bedroom. He stood in a dark hallway that led to his desired destination. He passed two bedrooms on the way to the main one. The main-bedroom had its own security system, he knew this also. He punched in the pass-code like he did the first time, the system disarmed and he walked in. The bedroom was huge; in the middle was an equally breathtaking bed. The bed was covered in all purple bedding, matching the drapes. A shiny chandelier hung loosely on the Sistine Chapel inspired roof. An expensive looking white rug covered the majority of the bedroom. Directly ahead he saw what he was looking for, a family portrait hung firmly on the wall opposite the door. Mr. and Mrs. Letlhabile seated and smiling awkwardly, their three children standing behind them, properly groomed and smiling care freely. He took the painting down and smiled smugly as a safe appeared. He did not know the combination to the safe but since it was not electronic he could open it. He put his back-pack down and removed a small battery operated drill. He continued to drill four precise holes around the locking mechanism. The locking mechanism was weakened; he pulled a small hammer from his back-pack and hit the lock with precise and calculated force and with a small click the safe opened. Piles of official looking documents were stacked at the bottom of the safe. He looked for what he came for and saw it, a brown envelope neatly tucked behind bundles of hundred pula bills. He took the money also and shoved it together with the envelope into his bag. He closed the safe and retraced his steps. He opened the bedroom door and walked into the hallway. He stopped dead on his tracks, his heart pounding, sweat dripping from his face making his balaclava wet, a man was standing on the other side of the hallway, and he looked equally shocked to see him too. They stood for a few seconds staring at each other, no one prepared to make the first move. Various pieces of information ran inside Lopang’s head then, questions he could not answer. His employer said there would be no one in the house. The security guard was stationed at the gate of the manor but it was metres away. That’s why he had decided to come unarmed; this was a simple retrieval job. Who was this man? What was he doing here? The stranger was dressed in blue denim, a green sweater and white tennis shoes, pretty odd choice of gear for a thief, surely he knew the owners of the house and obviously the stranger knew Lopang was a thief, the balaclava gave him away.
‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’ the stranger croaked.
Lopang remained silent, calculating, trying to find an escape route.
‘Spike! Spike! Whats taking you so long? lets go.’ another voice came from below.
The stranger looked exasperated, his partner had given his name away, and their advantage was diminished.
A few more seconds later a set of footsteps sounded on the stairs as the second stranger walked up.
‘Whats taking so…’ he paused in mid-sentence as his eyes rested on Lopang, dressed in all black and clad in a balaclava, light from the bedroom making him even more mysterious as he stood resolute and firm in-front of the door. Lopang realized the new stranger, shorter that his counterpart, dressed in a floral shirt and Levi’s black denim, was holding a pistol. Spike as he was called was also armed Lopang realized, a gun was carelessly strapped to his belt. A few more seconds of silence followed before the short one realized something that changed the dimension of the already awkward stand-off.
‘Look, behind him, a safe. He has already opened it.’
‘Give us the money from the safe and we will let you go’ the one called Spike said, putting his hand on his gun, caressing it, looking to intimidate Lopang. Clearly he was the leader of this motley crew, thought Lopang who chuckled lazily. The money meant nothing to him, he could give it to them, his job was the envelope, but he knew small time criminals, he used to be one, they knew he had seen their faces, knew one name, they knew a lot of money was at play too, there was no way he was walking out of this house alive now.
‘How do I know you will not kill me right here, Spike?’ Lopang asked daringly saying his name with emphasis to show him he knew something about him now.
‘You will just have to trust us.’ The one called Spike said brazenly.
‘Oh really!?’ replied Lopang lazily. ‘Forgive me for not trusting the word of a house burglar.’
‘Enough of this Spike! I say we kill him and take the money.’ The short one blurted angrily raising his gun slowly. A heavy click sound alerted Lopang that the weapon was ready to go to work. He took three brief steps backwards and shut the door just as quick. He was trapped. He knew he had only one way out, they had only one way in. He strapped his backpack carefully to his back and walked towards the closet, surely a man like James Letlhabile owned a weapon of some sort. He ransacked the piles of boxes placed on the foot of the closet but found nothing of use. As luck would have it just on the upper case front he saw a hunting knife placed safely next to a beautiful hunting rifle, .375 Ruger. He took the hunting knife and placed it inside his pocket and paused to listen, silence. What were they doing? Had they left? He took the rifle and observed it, a case on the closet shelf had only one bullet left in it, and he silently cursed. He loaded the rifle, switched off the light and assumed a crouching position behind the bed, he waited. He could hear them talking softly on the other side but could not make out what they were saying. They knew he was unarmed, and was trapped, so they would come in blindly, he thought. He had the advantage surely. These were not strategic criminals, he thought, who robs a house with so much security without covering any of their recognizable features? These are small timers, lucky he had disabled the security system before they came in, or else his mission would have been ruined. He put his finger to the trigger and waited, the rifle aimed towards the door.
A few minutes later the door to the bedroom swung violently open. He pulled the trigger and felt the power of the rifle reverberate through his chest. A heavy thud on the floor followed the loud deafening crack of the rifle, footsteps followed immediately retreating. Lopang took this opportunity and moved as fast as he could towards the door. The one called Spike lay on the floor; he had caught him squarely on the shoulder. He writhed on the floor his gun a few metres from him. As Lopang approached him he rolled over towards the gun, took it with his working hand and before he could fire Lopang had planted the hunting knife on his neck with fatal precision. He struggled for a few seconds as Lopang held onto the blade firmly, he stared into his eyes as the lost their spark. When he was certain he was dead he removed the knife and wiped it on the dead man’s pants and placed it back into his pocket. He took the man called Spike’s gun and smiled, it was his favourite; a 9mm, Baretta M9. It was heavy, and even on his gloved hand it was warm, Spike had fired a few shots. He wondered briefly if the security guard had heard the gunshots. If he was sleeping he might have missed them. Even if he did he would probably wait for back-up before attempting to approach the house. The hallway was deserted; the short one was nowhere to be seen. He walked carefully onto the hallway, silent as a cat. A shot rang from the stairs, quickly followed by another, they both missed. He crawled back into the bedroom and took cover behind the damaged door.
‘YOU ARE NOT WALKING OUT OF HERE ALIVE!!’ the short stranger shouted.
‘I was not counting on it.’ Lopang said, more to himself than to the short gunman.
‘YOU ARE DEAD!!’
Lopang rummaged through his backpack and found it, a flash light. He took it on his left hand, gun on his right, and walked onto the dark hallway once again. He walked as quietly as he could for a few metres, then like before shots rang; he bent a bit to dodge the oncoming bullets and switched on the flash light. The light did as expected it blinded the opponent and he shot blindly, Lopang aimed the gun carefully and fired, he hit him on the chest, twice. The short man’s gun fell on the stairs as he tumbled down violently. Lopang walked down the stairs quickly, he knew he had to leave the house as soon as possible, a quick glance at his wrist, 0355hrs, he was way behind schedule. He took the short man’s gun then walked past the living room area and into the kitchen. He walked into the garage and went past the swimming pool and over the wall. He walked towards the street and saw it, a lonely looking car parked a few meters away from Letlhabile Manor, the getaway car of the two retards. He walked towards it and realized thankfully that someone was sleeping in it, their getaway driver probably. He walked to the side of the car and pulled at the handle, it was unlocked.
‘About time too, what took you so lo….’ The driver said before being silenced by a heavy punch that knocked him out. Lopang muzzled the short man’s gun and used it to shoot the driver in the stomach multiple times. He then placed the two guns and hunting knife neatly on the lap of the dead driver. He opened his back-pack and scattered some of the money he got from the safe on the passenger seat and walked away into the still morning air, removing the balaclava in the process. Another job completed, albeit messily.