In 1854, Edward Pierce, on the outside a charismatic and well-established member of London's high society, but in secret an opportunistic and cynical master thief, makes plans to steal a shipment of gold being transported monthly from London to Folkestone to finance the Crimean War and replace it with lead bars to escape premature detection. But the bank has taken strict precautions, including locking the gold in two heavy Chubb safes, each of which has two locks, thus requiring a total of four keys to open. When a first test robbery (using a hired stooge to test the security measurements) goes awry, Pierce recruits his old acquaintance Robert Agar, a pickpocket and screwsman, as an accomplice. Pierce's mistress Miriam, a beautiful actress, and his cab driver Barlow also join in on the plot, and the guard to the safe car, Burgess, is also bribed into participation. To ensure the success of his plan, Pierce plans out the robbery in explicit detail, and even procures information on the security measures and locations of the keys. The executives of the bank who store the gold and arrange its transport, Mr. Henry Fowler and Mr. Edgar Trent, each possess a key; the other two are locked in a cabinet at the offices of the South Eastern Railway at the London Bridge train station. The keys are not to be stolen, but wax copies are to be made of them in order to hide the robbers' intentions.