The Briefcase

***WORK IN PROGRESS! These are the bare bones. Needs fleshing out!***

Leroy feels the weight of the gun in his hand as he crouches beside a brick wall. Kevin, his accomplice crouches beside him. The alley, in which they hide, begs and borrows what little light is to be offered by the lampposts on the main road.

‘We’ve got one,’ whispers Kevin, flashing a shiny blade in his hand, motioning for Leroy to stand up.

Leroy peers around the corner and watches a man in a dark business suit lean into the wall mounted cash machine. Within moments, there is a whirring sound, the sound of money. Kevin wastes no time in sprinting to where the man is. It doesn’t take long for Kevin’s knife to do the talking. The smartly dressed man is with them in the alley, trembling, handing over his briefcase.

‘Now, get lost before I lick ya down wiv dis yeah,’ Leroy squares up and points his gun at the man’s sweaty face.

‘We need to dump that bruv,’ Leroy gestures to the briefcase with the tip of his gun as their victim runs unsteadily out of sight.

‘Yeah, yeah,’ says Kevin. With his back against the wall, he brings a knee up and balances the case on it.

Leroy tucks the gun into the back of his partially exposed underwear and rubs his hands together.

‘Ready?’ Kevin’s eyes glisten as he grins at Leroy.

CLICK. CLICK. The briefcase lid opens and both peer in.

‘What the—?’ Leroy grabs the case, shaking the contents to the ground.

‘But I saw him! He took the cash and put it in!’ Kevin drops to the ground, grabbing a fist full of blank notes.

‘And CUT!’ yells their director, stepping out of the darkness. ‘Great job guys. Great job,’ he says approaching them, tucking his sweater into the side of his hefty belly.

* * *

‘You okay? You don’t look too pleased,’ says Kevin later, walking over to join Leroy. ‘I think you did well – he thinks so too.’ He motions his paper cup towards the director huddled over a screen with the camera crew.

‘No, it’s not my acting. It’s…’ Leroy trails off and kicks a stray pebble. He takes a deep breath and brings the cup of tea to his cold lips.

Both men sip in silence for a moment.

‘Why did I have to have the gun?’ Leroy keeps looking straight ahead at the alley wall facing them.

‘What do you mean?’ Kevin turns to face him.

‘Why couldn’t I have the knife and you have the gun instead?’ Leroy turns his head, locking eyes.

Kevin stands a little straighter and shifts his gaze to the ground, ‘I see what you’re trying to say now.’

‘It’s no wonder black men have it hard sometimes. We’re drug dealers, hustlers, gang leaders or just uneducated scum in the grand scheme of things.’

‘You must have spotted it in the script. Why didn’t you say anything?’

‘It’s my first break – I didn’t want to screw it up did I?’

‘Fair point.’ Kevin slouches again and looks at Leroy’s profile. ‘You could’ve just turned down the role?’

‘And let another black man take my place? You know how many auditions I’ve been to?’ Leroy turns fully to face Kevin who shifts his eyes to the ground again.

‘Having RADA on my profile doesn’t mean a thing. Not when my name is black and so is my skin. Couple of years from now, I bet you’ll never see me again. And you – you could be the next McAvoy. It won’t matter that you played a deadbeat white sidekick to a black man. They’ll say you’ve got range. My range will remain the width of this alley. That’s how the writers and directors see us black people.’

Kevin gulps down the mouthful of coffee he was holding while Leroy talked. Looking up from the ground he says softly, ‘Honestly don’t know what to say to that.’ He straightens up and looks beyond Leroy down the alley. He gestures for Leroy to turn around.

‘I’ll be honest guys, the lighting looks crap.’ Their overweight director admits. ‘We need to go again in five. Give me exactly what you did just now.’

Leroy and Kevin nod and turn back to each other.

‘Now’s your chance.’ Kevin smiles. ‘You could request to swap props?’

Leroy looks down the alley. This is my chance, he thinks. But a few minutes later the gun is placed in his hand by an assistant who heads off in a hurry. Leroy turns in the direction of the crew and back to Kevin who nods at him.

Leroy begins striding towards the director. ‘Bill, a quick word?’

‘Leroy, my man! I was just saying to these guys that you’re IT for my next project.’

‘I am?’ Leroy feels his momentum slipping away. ‘What is it?’

‘We’re working on the title but its set in South London. You’re in with a gang and abandon your girlfriend and baby – a boy. He’s growing up and wants to know you. Real gritty character. What’ya say?’

Leroy sways slightly before he answers with a yes and a troubled smile.

‘Great!’ Bill slaps Leroy on the back and withdraws his chubby hand. ‘Now, you were gonna ask me something?’

‘Oh, I was just.’ Leroy looks down at the imitation gun in his hand. It’s so light, he barely feels it anymore. ‘Just looking for feedback.’

He listens to the praise and turns around. With heavy steps and light hands, he walks back to his position at the end of the alleyway. I’m just another briefcase full of blanks, he concludes as he crouches back down. He shakes his head at Kevin who is offering him his knife. Leroy can’t quite make out the look on Kevin’s face; and in a way, he doesn’t want to. He grips the replica gun tight, preparing himself. A hush falls around them. Their director yells ‘ACTION’ from behind.

Leroy plays his part.

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