HARDYS INN DANGER by Ann
We headed for the Bijou, winding our way around crowds of people. Of course, as we went we were keeping our eye out for those who were there for not cool reasons.
“Hang on a second, Iola,” I said quietly to her. My brother and Callie were right behind us. “I’ll be right back.”
Then I stealthily moved past a few other people to where a boy of around eight or nine was merrily going along, picking every pocket he came across that he could get to. The kid was really good. In seconds, he’d lifted a wallet then slipped it into a backpack like thing, a satchel or something, slung over his right shoulder.
I went along behind him, slipping it right back out and returning it to where he’d taken it from. So it wouldn’t feel different weight, I’d picked up some small rocks in exchange for each item. With the jostling of wandering through a crowd, he hadn’t noticed.
Seeing someone I suspected was waiting for him, I stood nearby so I could hear the conversation.
“How did you do?” the gruff voiced, rich-looking dude asked the boy.
“Tops,” he answered. “They don’t even know any of it’s gone.” I had a feeling the kid had a big proud smile on his face.
“Hand it over then get lost.” The dude reached for the bag.
“What about our deal? You would make sure I got free if I got caught, I’d get that paper you have that gives the bearer control over my family’s shop and I would split this take with you.” The businessboy must have quite a glare on his face, because I could sure hear the anger at the potential double-cross the rich dude was hoping to get away with.
“That changed. Now the deal is that you hand that over and I won’t tell your cousins what you’ve been up to. Oh, and, I’m keeping that paper.” The rich man sneered at the kid and made me really want to hit him in his greedy face. I held it back. At least for the time being.
“My friend here doesn’t appreciate your little double-cross,” I said, stepping up next to the pickpocket and staring the rich dude in the eyes.
Both of them looked at me in shock.
“What is this?” the rich guy demanded.
“Well, obviously you weren’t trustworthy. Despite that, let’s renegotiate. You get the bag in exchange for the paper as per your agreement.” I stared evenly at the guy. Frank, Iola, and Callie were nearby, I was sure. Also, I spotted Biff in the crowd and silently indicated with a look that I might need help. He came over and watched with a very serious look on his face.
The rich dude did not look like much of a happy camper with my deal. Apparently, though, he really wanted that bag….of rocks. Of course, he didn’t know it had rocks in it.
Finally he held out the piece of paper to me. I tilted my head toward the pickpocket. “Hand it to him. Then after he looks at it and confirms that it’s the right paper, you get the bag.”
Rich dude growled before reluctantly shoving the paper at the kid, who took it and looked at it carefully. I glanced down at him and he looked up as he nodded.
“Now give him the bag,” I told him.
The kid was reluctant and looked at me again. “We were going to split it. Half of it was for the paper.”
I shook my head. “You should give him the bag.”
“You’ll regret it if you don’t give me that bag!” the gruff-voiced jerk butted in with a threat.
“Don’t threaten him.” I glared at the rich double-crosser and had my fist ready, almost hoping he’d try something so I could punch him.
With another huge sigh, the dude addressed the pickpocket. “Give me that bag.”
The kid also sighed and very reluctantly handed over the bag.
“I suggest you wait to go through the bag unless you want me to call over that police officer,” I said.
The rich dude glared some more before stomping off. When he was gone, the kid turned to me.
“I guess you expect me to thank you?” he asked.
“That’s totally up to you. But you do have your paper back and the guy ended up with a bag of rocks.”
“What?” The boy’s eyes widened in surprise. “You made a switch? When?”
By now Frank, Iola, Callie, and Biff had stepped over to us.
“While you were picking peoples’ pockets,” I answered.
The kid was speechless. Finally he said, “Where are the wallets and stuff?”
“Where they belong, back with those you took them from.”
He looked at me incredulously. “All that work and you just gave them back? What did they say? Are they going to get me in trouble?”
“First, it wasn’t that much work, but just a few minutes. Secondly, I put them back, so they didn’t know they were missing and therefore didn’t say anything. Thirdly, you’re the one who got yourself into trouble. They didn’t ask you to pick their pockets.”
“You put them back without them knowing?!? You lifted them from me, replaced them with rocks and returned them. Can you teach me how to do that?”
“I’m not going to teach you that, no,” I told him. “But if you want to come to the movies with us, you can.”
“Hmmm, I guess so,” the kid said after considering it for a minute.
“What’s your name? I’m Joe, this is my girlfriend, Iola, my brother, Frank, his girlfriend, Callie, and our friend, Biff.”
“I’m Lou.” The kid almost looked shy. He shoved his brown hair off his forehead. His clothes looked so authentic, I was kinda surprised, if his family had financial problems, that they would have spent money on a period costume. Maybe their only financial problem had just been taken care of by getting that paper back.
Everyone greeted Lou and he seemed pretty happy to have made new friends. I noticed he looked relieved that I had returned the stolen items. Whether it was because now he wouldn’t get in trouble or that he hadn’t really wanted to steal those things, I’m not sure.
I figured it would be a good idea to look after the kid for a while, protect him if that rich dude came back around. I had a feeling he wanted Lou to do some more pick-pocketing for him.
“We’re going to see the new Eddie Cantor movie,” Iola told Lou, who smiled up at her. Yeah, I think the kid likes my girlfriend, not surprisingly.
Wait, did she just say “new”? Oh, well, yeah, we hadn’t seen this one yet, so it would be new for us.
It’s just that now there was one more thing to add to my growing list of puzzle pieces that hadn’t yet found a place.