Marcus watched the man closely. He was moving with a powerful stride down the busy street towards the underground subway station. Marcus knew that there was only one chance and it was coming up soon. He nodded briefly; the signal was sent.
An older woman stepped out in front of the man, lugging a wheeled suitcase, three bags of groceries, and a purse on her right arm. Her hair was a magnificent site, tight curls, and blue-gray in color. Marcus watched as the man wrinkled his nose at the new obstacle. Clearly, this man had more important things to do.
With a cry, the woman buckled to her knees right in front of the man, and Marcus seized the opportunity.
“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed the woman as cans of peas and a box of linguine scattered on the ground. “Oh, bother!”
The man stooped down, and picked up one of the cans, handing it to her outstretched hand.
“Are you all right, Miss?” he inquired politely, his eyes glancing toward stairs down to the subway.
“Oh! Oh yes, of course,” she said. “Just a bit unsteady on my feet, I’m afraid. These heels are such a bother, sometimes!”
The man stood up and felt something brush lightly against his side. He turned to see Marcus striding past him going the opposite direction. His cell phone was to his ear talking earnestly.
“That man’s going to get robbed, talking on the phone like that,” he said with a grin. “Not paying attention at all. Here, let me help you up.”
The lady smiled up at him and reached for his outstretched hand.
“Why, thank you, young man,” she said. “I really wish there were more people in the world like you.”
The man hauled her up to her feet.
“Are you going to the subway?”
“Oh no, my apartment is only a block or two past. I take the bus home and then walk the extra bit. Good for the health, you know.”
“Well, please forgive me, but I must get going. I’ve got a train to catch. Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Yes, of course, dear.”
The woman smiled and waved goodbye as the man dashed down the stairs to the subway platform. He would make it of course. No sense in having him stay around here longer than needed. They had planned it that way.
The lady shuffled down the street another block and turned down a nearby alley. She pulled off her wig and tossed it into a nearby trash dumpster and itched her short-cropped hair. Those things were always so itchy.
“I’m surprised you threw that thing away,” said Marcus from the other end of the alleyway. “You make a pretty good old lady.”
“Gee, thanks,” said the woman dryly. “So when is it your turn to be the decoy, huh? That’s six marks in a row that I’ve had to wear this outrageous getup.”
“What, don’t like being a grandma in heels anymore, Shelia?”
“No, I don’t. So when do I get to do it?”
Marcus turned away, motioning her to follow.
“When you get better at being unnoticeable,” he said.
“So what’d we get?” she asked, widening her step to catch up to him. She grabbed at his arm, trying to peek over his shoulder. Marcus smiled slightly; Shelia’s head barely came up to it.
“Later,” he admonished. “We’ll take a look at what we gathered today when we get back home. Right now we need to get away from here.”
“You’ve already dumped the wallets, right?”
“Of course. Scoop out the billfolds and leave the rest. We don’t need anything that can be traced, right?”
“Right,” said Shelia, smiling. She took off her heels and placed them into her wheeled luggage case and brought out her favorite sneakers. She slipped them on her feet, and Marcus laughed slightly as she sighed in relief.
“Feel better now?”
“All right,” he said reaching for her hand. “Let’s go home.”
Detective Lynch sat down on the subway bench and exhaled. Hopefully, the repairs to his car would be finished soon. This daily commute to the subway was getting quite exhausting. Still, it was nice to have someone else doing the driving for once. He leaned back and closed his eyes for a brief moment, and felt his jacket shift against his shirt. He frowned.
The tell-tale lump of his wallet and his badge were gone.