King of the Petty Thieves

Submitted into Contest #18 in response to: Write a story about a very skilled pickpocket. ... view prompt



"I'm going to have a rum and Coke," Jacob Deleon announced to his living room, empty of all souls except for his and that of a small gray tabby cat dozing on the sofa next to him. He could afford to get a little loose and celebrate some, tomorrow was payday, the day he made the rounds of his usual pawn shops and swapped out the gold trinkets he had nabbed that week for cash. This used to be as daunting a task as stealing the jewelry itself had been, but Jacob, or Jay, as he introduced himself when necessary, was a well seasoned veteran now and knew a few places that didn't ask questions, but he still played it safe and divided the loot into several bundles just to be safe. " As if anyone is safe," Jacob mumbled to the cat, as he took a deep drink of his rum and coke.

It was probably normal for a man who made his life's blood stealing from others to be paranoid, but Jay also saw himself as a great comrade of the people he stole from. A friend. Maybe that is what made him such a huge success at thievery. He slipped in past the proper boundaries without setting off any psychic alarms, into the very physical warmth of his victims, took what they were guarding most closely and zipped away, leaving a hole they did not feel for sometimes hours later. It was in fact a brutal crime but Jay didn't see it as such. He saw himself as a little satellite of his victim's history, a teacher and lesson giver. But even he had to laugh at these rationalizations, they couldn't have avoided getting ripped off the second time by him or the third, no matter what lessons they learned. Jay was like an invisible man. He was like a snake charmer calling wads of cash and chains of gold towards him.

If only if weren't so rote, he thought. If he could just do a big job any big job and then move away and settle down and get to know people, stop being invisible, that would be ideal. His whole life now was centered around his almost daily little jaunts into different parts of the city, keeping alert when others weren't , blending in and getting away fast while appearing to saunter, never being noticed. It had become a worse grind than working in one of the terrible office buildings he passed by daily. And he hated to admit it but the guilt had begun to eat at him. Especially when he checked the rings for inscriptions and he would find words there like "my love forever" or something even worse and more ghastly. How could he ever expect to explain his lifelong career to any sort of partner that he would be proud to accept as his own? What if he had already met his partner and shamefully only known her as another clumsy victim with too much money or gold. These thoughts plagued him and so he downed his rum and coke and had another stronger one before he checked the lock on his door for a second time and stumbled off to bed, calling for the nameless cat to follow him, which it did not.

The next morning Jay awoke even later than he usually did on "paydays" which was definitely not early . He decided he might be coming down with a cold, but his body would not participate in that little lie, so he had to abandon it. He just did not want to go to the pawnshops. He had plenty of money in the little safe behind his bed and he just had a bad feeling. Everything had been going too smoothly for too long. What would he do if he didn't go cash the gold in though? He had a work ethic. It would be business as usual, wouldn't it, on the streets and his hands seeking the pockets of those who didn't know how to hold on to their valuables. Somehow that seemed intimidating as well. He hadn't had nerves like this since he was a rookie. Which was a very long time ago, before he was even fully grown. Jay knew that he couldn't let his apprehension get the better of him or he would freeze up, he had to get out of his apartment but he couldn't allow any slip-ups in a seamless career. "A day off," he said to himself, "that's all I need." Jay bathed and dressed carefully , then stood in front of the mirror to study the result. He did not look bad. Instead of a black or a gray businessman's suit, like he usually wore, he had put on a sweater, like the beatniks were wearing, with a leather jacket over it. He still looked respectable but he imagined it took a few years off of him, which wasn't a bad thing these days. He studied his pale, almost translucent skin but his eyes kept going to the stains on the wallpaper behind him. That wallpaper hadn't been changed since before the war, he thought, but a man living beyond the boundaries of legal society does well not to stir the wrath of his landlord with petty complaints. Plus he could not stand the thought of workers traipsing in and out of his place for who knows how long, having access to his only private space, possibly letting his nameless little cat out to fend for herself on the streets, or discover his secret occupation.

The last thing Jay did before leaving his apartment was to put on a pair of black leather gloves. Something he would never wear when pickpocketing. He relied too much on the trained nerves of his fingers and the dexterity of his hands. The gloves would be a reminder to him that this was a day off. Outside the weather was very chill and gray, the gloves were not an unneeded accessory, and Jay noted a bit cynically that Christmas was not far off.

As he took a seat in a nearby diner he wondered off handedly how many Christmases he had ruined with his notable skill of picking pockets. How many birthdays, how many meals had been missed because he'd taken freshly cashed paychecks. He ordered a large breakfast and a bottomless cup of coffee and sipped it as he watched the foot traffic just on the other side of the glass. His keen and calculating mind could not help but point out the best targets in the passing parade of people and his fingers actually itched when he thought about how, if it wasn't his day off, he would extract the valuables and cash from their persons. He ate his breakfast quickly and quietly, sopping up the egg yolks with the last scrap of toast. He watched the human spectacle outside for a little longer and then signaled the waitress for another cup of coffee.

But when she got back to his table, Jay was gone. His bill was paid round up to the nearest dollar, and in lieu of a tip, lay a pair of fine black leather gloves.


December 06, 2019 20:25

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Gordon Petry
21:35 Dec 11, 2019

Nicely done, Helen, You let us in to the inner most thoughts of a pickpocket with a conscience. We begin to think he is tired of this life and is about to reform. He even breaks his normal pattern to "take a day off." The leather gloves left on the table was a perfect ending, telling us in a few words rather than dragging it out. An excellent example of "Showing, not telling." I hope you don't mind if I pickpocket that technique for some future story I write. Loved that ending


Helen C
22:35 Dec 11, 2019

Thank you Gordon, I wanted to show not tell, that was what was going through my mind the whole time. I loved your story too.


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