The Thief. Short Story.

He walked slowly through the crowds of people, being jostled this way and that. The owners of market stalls called out to him and others as they passed, he ignored their calls and assurances, he had better things to be doing. He followed the street until it’s end, where the crowds spread and dispersed, almost suddenly, so he was standing alone in the centre of the square, people still streamed from the market street, but most turned left or right at the end, continuing on, going to other stalls. He stood where he was for a moment then continued down one of the empty side streets, he was getting tired and that was his signal that he was done for the day. When he was tired he became sloppy. He continued down the road until reaching a small café, he went inside and sat down.

The café, though small, was crammed with chairs, enough seating for almost forty people. It was mostly empty, three people sat dotted about the café, he moved through the chairs and sat at a table towards the back. The walls were beige and covered with old and fading pictures, the tables, though clean had begun to yellow with age. He sat down on a seat that had been ripped and repaired with duct tape numerous times and after ordering a coffee he waited for his drink. When it arrived, he dug through his bag and took out a book. He read, occasionally sipping at the coffee, he wanted to relax, he needed it after a stressful day. He’d almost been caught twice, which was twice more than usual. Still, everything worked out fine, as it always did. He brought in a good haul, which he wanted to go through, but the café was a ritual of his. A good one too. If anyone did happen to see him, and followed him, he would notice them.

After an hour he’d finished the last dregs of his coffee and, marking his book, he placed it into his bag and left the shop. He took a long winding route home, still keeping watch should anyone be following, no one had before but it didn’t pay to get lazy. He knew of many people who were caught because they relaxed and became sloppy.

His apartment building was nice, he keyed in the code and stepped inside, closing the door behind him. He checked his post box and finding nothing, he closed it again and set off up the stairs. He preferred the stairs to the lift, quick get away and he needed to be in shape in case he had to run.

His apartment was large and nicely furnished, though he wasn’t as lavish with things as he could afford to be. Everything was on the low end of expensive, as he had no real official source of income he didn’t want to make anyone suspicious and he was happy enough with what he had. He didn’t feel the need to furnish the place with expensive things that were chosen for cost rather than comfort. He opened his bag and poured the contents onto the counter, twelve wallets, a money clip and a gold watch. He could have grabbed some keys but he didn’t like breaking into peoples houses, it was too risky and required too much surveillance. He took the money and dumped everything else. He sometimes sold I.D.s but that was rare enough. He took the watch from some tourist, mostly because he liked it himself, why would he pay for something when he could just take it instead. He went through the wallets, taking out money and laying it out in order, he left everything else in the wallets. He had taken in almost seven grand, it was a good day. He didn’t go to the markets that often, but when he did he usually had a good haul. It was more than enough for a few hours of work. Once he was done counting everything he brought it to his safe, he alternated between putting it in his bank and keeping the money in his apartment. Just in case he needed to get away quickly.

He took everything from the wallets, the I.D.s, the credit cards, he sometimes felt bad when he found photographs, but it wasn’t his fault they were careless. He took a scissors and cut everything up, he’d burn them later on. His contact was gone for a few weeks and he didn’t need the extra money. He disliked selling stuff like that, always worried it would get traced back to him, unlike cash. He put the wallets back into his bag, he’d dump them later on in a few different bins.

It was getting colder and, deciding he needed it anyway, he started a fire. Carefully stacking wood in the fireplace before setting it alight. Once it was going, he got up and started making dinner. After awhile, he started tossing the cards in, a few bits at a time, allowing the fire to consume them before getting rid of the others. They caught fire quickly, and soon there was almost nothing left of them. With that done he felt a little easier, he didn’t like having evidence around. Just in case. He had never been caught and had no record but you could never tell who was watching nor who you had robbed. He tried to target tourists, mostly because they usually had large amounts of money with them and they would be leaving the city soon.

As he ate dinner, a simple affair, pasta quickly boiled with a jar of sauce thrown on top, he looked at the watch, turning it this way and that, trying to see if there were any identifying marks. He’d googled the design code to make sure it wasn’t made specially for whomever he’d taken it from. It wasn’t, though there was an inscription on the back of it, “To S. all my love A.” It wouldn’t be visible on his wrist however so it didn’t worry him too much. He could get it replaced at some stage with any back that would fit.

After eating he was feeling tired, it had been a long day after all, and, taking his book from his bag he went to bed. He had read a few more pages before tiredness overtook him, his eyes drooping and sore. He closed the book and turned over, he was up early in the morning.

The man entered the code on the building, he had seen it entered earlier on. Before going in he checked the names on the buzzers, finding the one he wanted, he went upstairs. The lock on the door was a simple one, easily bypassed, he was quite surprised and unimpressed, he expected something much more difficult and was disappointed by how easy it all was. Once inside he closed the door quietly, he thought the thief would have some good reflexes. He looked through the small apartment quickly, looking for it, it wasn’t anywhere. He eased the bedroom door open and looked at the sleeping figure, then he saw what he was looking for on the bedside table. He retreated from the bedroom and went back to the kitchen, selecting a knife. He didn’t have his own tools with him, something he regretted.

He went once more into the bedroom, the thief obviously wasn’t as skilled as he had expected. He placed the knife above his neck, then eased the metal against the thief’s flesh. “Wake up.” The thief opened his eyes, wide and alert, “Who the fuck are you? What are you doing in here?” “Shush, I normally don’t wake people but I wanted to do you a…professional courtesy. You see you took my watch and I’m taking it back. But, before I do, a little friendly advice, never steal from people like me.” “How did you find me?” “It wasn’t that difficult really. I followed you home, asked the nice old lady about the wallet I found. Said I saw you drop it and wanted to return it, she knew you by the description and they say city living is heartless.” “Look, I’m sorry, you can have the watch back, I have money, you can take that too.” “Really? Where is it?” “It’s in the safe, about twelve grand” “What’s the code?” “I’ll put it in myself.” “Don’t be stupid, I’m not letting you up, tell me the code and I’ll take my watch and the money and disappear, I promise.” “It’s 45201” “Thank you.” Before the thief could react the blade bit into his flesh, slicing easily through his neck, cutting through the muscle and cartilage. “Wow, this is a good knife.” he threw it down on the side of the bed, blood had spurted from the wound which continued to bleed but most of it had missed him. The thief writhed on the bed, already dead but not aware of it yet. He looked into the dying thief’s eyes, “I never promised that I wouldn’t kill you”

He stood and taking the watch from the bedside locker, he left the bedroom and walked towards the safe. It wasn’t very well hidden and he was pleased to see the thief hadn’t lied to him. He wouldn’t have cared one way or the other, money meant little to him, but still, it was a nice little bonus. He stuffed it into his pockets and left, closing the door gently behind him. In the hallways bright lights he looked down at himself, the blood had blended in nicely with the dark material, anyone passing would just think it was sauce stains, assuming they could see it in the darkness outside.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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