He called on our landline. I don’t know how he had gotten the number. I hadn’t seen or heard from Will in years, but I knew he was in prison for armed robbery. He was calling me from the, “Boyzz Club,” as he called it. I was curious to hear his side of the story.
How had he ended up in jail? What possessed him to rob a string of Post Offices? And armed with shotguns, for fucks sake, what was that all about?
Will just laughed it off as he invariably did everything else.
I’d worked with Will dishwashing in Peder Oxe when I first moved to Copenhagen. I thought, Peder Oxes famous alumni of former migrant transient workers now includes an armed bank robber. When I asked him again why he robbed the Post Offices. He used the old Willie Sutton legendary saying,
“That’s where the money was.”
I asked him about his upcoming court case. And he again just laughed.
“Piece of piss. They won’t find me guilty. I never done nothing.”
“Will,” I pointed out, “You were part of an armed gang that planned and robbed a string of Post Offices. And you, according to the Police evidence, were the getaway driver.”
“Yea,” he said, “But I never shot anybody. Just drove the cars. They needed a fast driver. So they hired me. It was the Frogs who done the shooting.”
When we plied the dishwasher trade, he had kept, just about, on the right side of the law. He used to swipe the restaurants snow-white tablecloths and take them home and, as he had no washing machine, he just threw them away when dirty.
I said he shouldn’t be doing it. He laughed, and said, “And what happens if I got caught bringing them back. Wouldn’t I look the right muppet?”
We used to get pissed on the cheap kitchen brandy and the wine sneaked to us by the girls. Will would then roll a joint and head out into the restaurants back yard and blast away. A thief, maybe, dishonest, not really. I couldn’t see him ever going totally bad.
One day he turned up at our apartment with two Dublin guys. We sat and drank beer and bullshited, but I knew they had something on their mind. After they had left I asked Will,
“What’s the story with these guys?”
He said they were pushers from Dublin who had come to Copenhagen to escape the heat from the Garda, the Irish Police. They supplied gear to amongst others, Phil Lynott and the Thin Lizzy boys, who just so happened to be in town playing a gig.
So they had scored some hard stuff and would be going to the gig. I foolishly asked whether they had tickets. Will thought this was hilarious. “They don’t need fucking tickets. They’ll get the VIP treatment from the band.”
“So why did you bring them here,” I asked.
“Well they want to go straight. And I said I knew someone that was straight. So they wanted to meet you.”
“For what?” I asked, puzzled.
“They wanted to see what the buzz was like from someone who was straight.”
“Yea Buzz, what type of kick you got from it.”
“Will, there is no fucking Buzz. It’s just normal life.”
“Exactly what they said to me when they left. So they’ll continue their life of crime. It gives off a better type of Buzz.”
He later married a Danish girl and moved away to Aarhus, had a kid, and was chasing the big time, and he was in a hurry. It was then I lost contact with him, but I did hear reports from time to time from some of the guys, as they passed through Copenhagen. I knew he moved in the expat circle in Aarhus. Irish boys and English dudes and a motley crew of Johnny Foreigners. Somehow, he hooked up with some French guys who were of the same mind-set. He was selling amphetamines with them in the same student bars I used to frequent.
I remember standing at the bar one time, when this small time pusher started his pitch with me. I never smoked hash of any sort, but I knew all the boys around me did. So I said to this pusher, “How much can you sell me.” And he was going on about 2 Grams or something. I said,
“Listen, I need about 3 Kilos.”
And his jaw dropped and hit the floor. And I could see the big $$$ signs in his eyes. So now he is giving me freebies, which I am passing on to the boys, for quality testing. I’m arguing with him over the price of the 3 Kilos of Moroccan Blue or whatever exotic ganja name I was making up. Which of course he never heard of, and couldn’t supply. He went away disappointed, convinced he was just this close to the big score.
I knew the crowd Will was selling into and he would never get rich quick that way.
So Will and some French guys decided to start robbing Post Offices.
They tooled up with shotguns and revolvers, and Will stole the fast BMW cars they needed to use as a getaway. This English dude they knew had a small apartment, so they bribed him with a case of beer per meeting, and there they sat and planned their robberies. Did he suspect or even know what they were doing? Was he just stupid? Who knows?
So this band of robbers started hitting Post Offices right left and centre.
Now the cops aren’t stupid in Denmark, so they eventually tracked the band down and started watching them. And went as far as to bug the apartment they used for planning their next job. Will gave me all this information over the phone. I whether he was afraid they would be listening now and use the evidence against him, and he just laughed it off and continued his story. So the cops had them all bugged and staked out his apartment. So the next job they pulled off, the cops would pounce. But seemingly, in the changeover from the watchers, Will manages to leave his apartment, and heads off without being spotted. The cops are now watching an empty apartment, while Will and his Gallic band are heading off to hit another Post Office.
The raid does not go well, and Will and the French boy’s barely get away with the loot after the robbery. Some local cops had upset their plans and are now chasing them at high speed down small country lanes. Will does what he does best and evades the local plods.
Meanwhile the Untouchables hear about the robbery, and realise they have been outwitted by a bank robber, who did not even know they were there.
More laughter from Will. Now he has collected all the weapons from the robbery and arrives back home. The Untouchables have gone back to the station, so no one is watching Will’s apartment. Will gathers up all the incriminating stuff in his apartment, including his own firearm and takes them out to a nearby bridge and dumps them in the local river. Then he heads down to another mate of mine Norm, has a cup of tea, borrows 50 Kroners off him, and then heads home.
He is home only a few minutes, when the door is kicked in and the armed Untouchables have him handcuffed and on the floor. He gets the Danish equivalent of, “You are under arrest and anything you say will be taken down and used in evidence against you.” Upon this, Will’s only reply is, “Fair Cop.”
At this point Will’s attitude on the phone changed. Now he was angry and annoyed at being setup by the cops.
“I could’ve been killed. They were ready to shoot me. Shoot us all. They planned to arrest us outside the Post Office. And it would have resulted in a Dirty Harry style shoot out. They were fucking listening to our plans. Knew where we were going. They had an armed response team ready to roll as soon as the watchers gave the word. Whose fault was it then for the robbery? They could have stopped us at any time. We were set up to make them bastards look good.”
“So you’re saying it was the cops’ fault. You’re innocent because they allowed you to continue with the robbery.”
“Yea,” said Will, “Exactly.”
It was about then I knew, he’d totally lost the plot.
“How’s prison treating you?”
“Fantastic,” he said, “Like a Boyzz club. Plenty to read, I’ve me guitar, I’m studying for my Danish University entrance exams. And, I can get out to go to the movies at the weekends.”
I knew Danish prisons were comfortable, but even this surprised me. It didn’t sound like, “Con Air,” not even close. I then broached him on a very tender subject. “Does your family know about the robberies and the jail time?”
“Jayzus, no! Are you fucking joking? The Ma knows nothing about it.”
“So what’ve you told them?”
“I told them I’ve been hired on a cruise liner as an entertainer, sailing around the Pacific, so I will be out of contact for a bit.”
“Jayzus,” I thought, “more lies.”
Will was found guilty and went to prison. In an age before social media, his family never found out about him doing time.
I heard when he was released, he started managing a pub.
I also heard he stays away from the Gallic crowd. He also still owes Norm the 50 Kroners.
I’d like to think Will learned his lesson, calmed down, and has finally found, “A Better Type of Buzz.”
Cover image courtesy of Bart Heird via Flickr