Hip-Operation

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Beneath a coiffured blue-rinse, the stooped figure shuffled across the plaza, pushing the walking frame before her. She approached the entrance to Johnsons Firearms, stopped, took a moment to catch her breath, and checked the time on the mall clock.

The old woman rummaged through the carrier bag hanging off the front of the Zimmer frame, looked across at the entrance to the gun dealers, and nodded to an someone unseen behind her.

She flicked a switch and the first notes of Bruno Mars' Twenty Four Karat Magic blasted forth from the stereo in the carry bag attached to her walker. A figure swooped in behind her on a mobility scooter and placed an electronic disco ball on a small pedestal on the low wall beside them, sending a kaleidoscope of artificial stars scattering across the windows of the gun store.

As the blue-haired lady drew a loud hailer from the bag, another white-haired octogenarian appeared to her right, handed her his wooden cane and started dancing.

"LADIES AND GENTELMEN," a shaky metallic voice, crackled above the music, while more elderly dancers emerged, hip-hop walking to the base of the mall outside of the gun store. "WE ARE HIP-OPERATION. CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION? EVERYONE ON THE FLOOR."

Without warning the figures froze and fell silent.

Detective Gerry Olsson placed the remote on the table between them.

"Okay Delores, let's take it from the top, one more time." He pointed at the blurred figures in suspended animation on the screen. "What exactly is this spectacle?"

The woman hunched in the chair opposite leaned forward. "That's it precisely young man," she said. "It's a spectacle. And a damn spectacular one at that, don't you think? We worked for months on that routine with our choreographer, MC Rheumatoid."

"Delores, I'd appreciate it if, for the record, you could stick to your folk's actual names."

"Okay, okay. Cyril Jackson, that's him on the left in the chair. Man's a creative genius in my opinion, if only we could've..."

"Delores, if you could please stick to the facts rather than getting distracted."

"But that's the whole idea. It was supposed to be a distraction. Except for a poor choice of phrase on my part. You see, I guess that's the point where the plan started to come undone wasn't it? Because of that you know what happened next, don't you Detective? Things escalated. That's when it got 'real' as the kids say these days.

The Detective nodded. He turned back to the screen and re-pressed play on the remote.

"CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION? EVERYONE ON THE FLOOR." Delores shouted into the megaphone between gyrating pensioners.

A titter of laughter spread through the crowd. One or two passers-by joined the dancers on the floor in front of the gun store.

"NO! THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEANT. GET ON THE FLOOR. NOW!"

At that point the blue-haired Delores on the screen started waving the cane in front of her. Except there was something different about this cane.

A staccato sound could be heard on the screen that was somehow out of time, and as Bruno Mars urged the crowd to 'Put yo...pinky...rings up...to the...moon' tiny puffs of blue smoke drifted from the end of the wooden walking stick.

In the background came the sound of breaking glass and a woman started screaming. On the TV, wrinkled arms still waved in the air like they just didn't care, but by now other mall patrons had started to flee.

The Detective stopped the video again and inserted a new disk.

"Mrs Raymond," he said, "this is security footage from inside the gun store."

A grainy black and white image appeared on the monitor. At the top of the screen two men on mobility scooters wearing black balaclavas crashed through the glass windows at the front of the store and began grabbing handguns from their cases.

Detective Olsson stopped the footage.

"What I want to know is, why two old geezers in their eighty's, living in a retirement home, need to be stealing handguns?"

"That's Mr Gray and Mr Ginger"

"Delores, we've been through this."

"Firstly young man, let me tell you, we never meant for anybody to get hurt. The guns were for show more than anything. But nobody's going to take an old person seriously and give money unless you've at least got a gun, are they?

And secondly, we would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for DJ Lumbago..."

Detective Olsson issued an audible sigh.

"Alright, Stan Wheeler. He was our driver. Booked the retirement home van weeks ago for a day outing. When we got back to the van we thought he was just sleeping, you know? Poor Stanley, God rest his soul."

"Why do you need money in the first place? You live in a rest home. Shouldn't you people be resting?"

The old lady placed her elbows on the table, knotted knuckles knitted together in front of her as she weighed him up through rheumy eyes.

"Young man, 'scuse my language, but retirement's a bitch. Every night for the past seven years I've eaten minced beef with boiled cabbage while staring at the same walls of an eight by twelve foot room that stinks of urine and medication. On a good day the nurse takes us out for a day trip. Do you think that's how any of us want to live out our days? We're old, not useless. You know how many years I have left? Two? Three? What's the worst thing that could happen to me? I swap one prison for another. So one day we hatched a plan to bust ourselves out of there and go on the run. Live a little. That's when we created Hip-Operation."

"I think I've heard enough. I'm sorry Delores, but I'm going to have to charge you."

He nodded to his deputy to help take Delores to her new accommodation.

"One last thing Detective."

"Yes?"

"Can I keep my stereo?"

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