It’s beautiful in the city this time of year. Cold and crisp and clean. Downtown trees lit with white lights casting sparkling stars on store front windows. Men and women walk arm in arm on salted sidewalks, smiling at each other, feeling content, if only for the moment. Brass bells beckon silver change into red kettles wrapped with green wreathes. White breath hangs in the air, and exhaust pours from delivery truck pipes without remorse. The big tree up in city center, 60 or 70 or 100 feet tall. White lights and a red bow on top; the city center plaza is packed with couples and families, all drinking cocoa and smiling and looking up at the tree.
It shouldn’t be this easy.
“Uh..oh! Excuse me! Marry Christmas!” I smile as I bump into the young yuppie couple staring up at the tree. They turn and smile and mutter a quick Merry Christmas in return before going back to the tree and being in love. The man won’t notice that he no longer has his wallet until he goes to pay the parking lot attendant and head back to the suburbs. She will ask him impatiently if he’d forgotten his wallet at home. He’ll reply shortly that he always has his wallet on him; he has no idea where it could have gone. I knew where it went. Or at least I know where the cash is, and where the credit cards and identification are going.
“Oh Jeez! My bad, Merry Christmas!” The young blonde woman, perhaps a college age student, shot me a dirty look as I passed. She thought I’d grabbed her ass. Well, I guess technically, I had. With my left hand. As she turned towards her left at such an offensive move, my right hand reached into her purse to relive it of one leather Gucci wallet. Very nice. It all happens in a blink of the eye. By the time she has to go digging through her purse to pay for her cocoa, searching for the wallet that has to be in there somewhere, she’ll have forgotten all about that youngish ordinary guy who’d brushed up against her, hours earlier.
The crowd “oohs” and “ahhs” as they light the tree, all eyes towards the top. But not mine. My eyes remain at waist level, towards back pockets and open handbags. A fat police officer drinks his coffee on the edge of the crowd, oblivious as the rest. This is a safe part of the city, after all. He’s already dreaming of the roast the little missus has waiting for him. I should rob his fat ass too. But no, that’d be inviting trouble.
I take out my visitor’s tourist guide and walk up to a well dressed business man. “Ehh…scuse eh sir? Do you know where is…el tren?” I point to the train station on my map, and give him my best lost foreigner look. He takes my map and studies it for a moment and then with outstretched arms, he gestures me towards 6th Street. He doesn’t realize, with his arms out stretched, his voice straining with high volume and simple English, that I’ve already got his pocketbook.
“Ahh…sank you sir, sank you.” I turn and walk towards 6th Street. Not a bad night, I think, dropping the cash into red kettles along my route. Careful to keep my head down and feet moving as I turn the corner and head back towards Broadway, where I could sell the credit cards and IDs for some really money. Not a bad night at all.