Everything went smoothly. She had become deft. Wallets crammed with bills and plastic, cell phones, keys, passports. The occasional surprise: gum (yuck), a frozen finger once (she pretended it was a toe to get free drinks, but there was something creepy about it). Once, a bunch of twigs. A living, especially passports and cell phones that could be repurposed (her word), tracked and hacked, bank accounts emptied, everything gone. She would have been gone an hour, or a day, before the vacuuming started. The girlish part of her not yet deadened by the daily filching collected souvenirs. Two rabbit’s paws (you can’t have enough luck), a colourful scrunchie, pocketbooks (she read some of them), a silk scarf. Occasionally a cryptic note reminded her of a location. Like the one with the washed-out lines, torn from a legal pad maybe, dated on top. Dated wrong (like, the 23th?). She knew it had been consulted, its knowledge consolidated (she liked C-notes and C-words), in the elements. A rough-shaven man with nervous eyes, intent on a door. Never saw her coming or going, as always now. She was that good, she never wanted attention, not in that situation. Walking away easily, turning a corner smiling, then hearing the gunshot. She didn’t run, but scampered (she did not like what that word implied) in a normal way, and was out of sight before the cop cars arrived. She saw his face in the paper the next day and smiled.
Cross out the days on a calendar, slowly, his lawyer advised, you only have so many free ones left. The plan had gone wrong, unsurprisingly. The robbery and kidnapping had been timed for a snowy April, Mondays or Thursdays, four dates only. He’d noted the times Mr. Money left his home, at dawn with week’s newness, at dusk near its working end, then he lost that piece of paper, not that it would have saved him. He hadn’t forgotten the mask, the gun, the note, the stolen car worked, but it went wrong without the paper. That damn piece of paper, his talisman, folded like an accordion. He’d stared at it over and over, and could still see it. To tell them who provided the gun would mean a jailhouse death sentence. He was in this alone, again. That day there was no one around either. Oh, no, a short girl in her twenties, or something. Plain. Then the door opened and he reached to check the paper again, maybe just to feel it. Not there, and not his wallet either. But Mr. Money adjusted his scarf, stepped forward, it might be the last chance, so he nervously moved too, and the gun suddenly went off. Down went Money. He stood there until the police roared up. Whatever went badly in his life had an unimpeded path despite his efforts to be organized. He’d lost the paper, and was on a smooth path to ruination.
Jeff Bursey is the author of Verbatim: A Novel (Enfield & Wizenty, 2010) and Mirrors on which dust has fallen (Verbivoracious Press, 2015). He is also a short-story writer, playwright, and literary critic. He lives on Prince Edward Island.