Paul locked the cubicle and sat on the toilet lid. He pulled out the purse and zipped it open, deftly picking out the notes and counting quickly. Fourty five quid. Plus coins of course. Not bad. The woman had been busy with her young kid in a buggy, a bit flustered as the boy screamed because he couldn’t have a Macdonald’s happy meal. He’d seen the bag hanging off her shoulder, open and inviting. Paul had been walking behind her for awhile, then in front, knowing she would walk by. Ten minutes had passed before he made his move. Briskly walking opposite her then cutting across, just a quick dab and the bag was a purse lighter. She didn’t have a clue, he was, after all, a professional. A twenty five year career honing his skill with one spell in the nick. When he walked out of prison he vowed to stop or get better. He got better. It was a full time job that took him across the country. Most big events he was there, doing what he does best. From the Grand National to Wembley he’s done it all. To him, it was almost a God given gift, with a hand that could pick the tightest of pockets. Paul was proud of what he did and how many people could genuinely say that? The fact that he caused distress to hundreds of people didn’t cause him any lack of sleep. He enjoyed the money and the thrill of the chase. Life was good.
So now here he was, sat quite happily in Kings Cross Station toilets. Mind you it had cost him fifty pence for the privilege. The days of spend a penny were long gone. His train was due in a few minutes and in a couple of hours he’d be back home. His takings were good these last two days. The streets of London aren’t paved with gold but pickings were decent. He normally came here once a month or so. You had to be a bit more careful in The Smoke. CCTV everywhere. And the gangs of pickpockets on Oxford Street have made life much harder for a skilled man like him. Still, nearly a grand in a couple in a couple of days was good going. Paul stood up and took his own wallet out. He felt the battered leather, worn by years of use. It was his Dad’s, probably the only thing he got out of the old bugger. It contained no cards, no I.D, just cash. His expert fingers opened it and put the stolen notes with all the rest and quickly put the wallet snuggly in his left inside pocket. The loose change wasn’t much, a couple of quid, went into his trousers. He didn’t bother looking at the cards. Too much hassle these days and most people block the card within a couple of hours. Hands washed, purse discreetly in the bin, he left the toilet, past the huge queue of people who wanted their photo taken running into a wall, trying to look like Harry Potter. Paul glanced at the huge electronic screen. Trains here there, every bloody where. His was due any minute so he wasn’t surprised when the platform number came up. Striding purposefully, his small overnight bag fitting nicely on his shoulder, he headed home.
Two trains were on either side of him. Platforms five and six. People scurried about looking which coach to be in or saying goodbye to a loved one. Paul pulled out his ticket, coach B. He was so busy glancing around and looking at the train he didn’t see the elderly lady till it was too late. They crashed together, face on and the small, stocky woman grabbed wildly at him before the pair hit the concrete with a hefty thump. Paul putting his right hand out, his dabbing hand to cushion the blow. Passengers looked concerned at the pair. She’d hit him directly in the groin, and the pain was sensational. “God…” was all he could muster. The old woman groaned loudly as she tried to get up. A few people walked over, not really wanting to be involved, they had trains to catch. “Marjorie!” Another elderly woman stepped forward, concerned. She, like the prone woman, was dressed very smartly and carried two large Harrods bags in either hand. “Beatrice…?” the granny on the ground said distressingly as the guard came over, assessing the situation. “Don’t move love,” he said easily. “Don’t love me young man!” Marjorie snapped, trying to get up, rearranging her coat and balancing on one elbow. Paul took a deep breath and stood up shakily, his little finger giving him hell. “What the hell were you thinking of ?” Beatrice shouted, her immaculate hair not moving. “You fool!” she called Paul, the pain in his balls and stomach throbbing, wave after wave. His bag slipped off his shoulder and he managed to stand up. “Are you injured love?” the guard asked Majorie politely. She responded with a look that could wither flowers. “Moron!” Paul didn’t know who the insult was aimed at him or the guard. She reached her hands to Paul, and said, “Get me up! My train is leaving!” He did as he was told, holding out his left arm and with an effort, pulled her to her size sixes “Aaargh!” she exclaimed, her face contorted and reached for her back. “It’s spasming!” Paul shook his head. “Yeah and my balls have disappeared…” he said to himself. The poor lady tried a step. Her face a mask of pain. The guard stepped up and reached for his radio. “Do you need an ambulance lo….?” He stopped quickly. “Ma’am…” She shook her head. “You.” she began, gazing that hateful stare in Paul’s direction. “Get me on that damn train. Now.” He glanced and saw she was on the train opposite his. Both were going to leave shortly. Beatrice spoke up urgently. “Come on! It’s the very least you can do!” she spat. “And don’t drop her!” The thief let her put her arm over his shoulder, his finger feeling broken. She hobbled to the open train door, Beatrice following behind closely, carrying the heavy Harrods bags. He managed to get the old lady over the large step onto the train. “Where are you sitting?” he asked, irritated. He wanted to be away from this nutcase. The taller lady spoke up. “I’ll look after her now. You’ve done enough damage!” Paul was beginning to get annoyed. “Look it was an accident and I think you brok-” Beatrice held up a perfectly manicured hand to quieten him. “Your lucky my friend didn’t get the police involved.” Something caught his eye and for a second he thought this train was moving but then he realised it was actually the one he should be on. “No!” He turned and sprinted as quick as you can with testicles feeling like coconut’s. The four eighteen bound for York departed on time minus one very cheesed off passenger, his hair blown around by the trains wake.
“Oh….Crap!” he shouted as the guard was walking away. He turned. “Missed it?” Paul was furious. Stupid bloody woman. “Yeah….can I use my ticket for the next train?” The older man shook his head. “No….but if you go to customer service and explain what’s happened you never know.” In other words, you haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance. Paul glanced around the thinned out platform, his finger was screaming. “Where’s my bag?” The guard was busily checking the other train which was ready to leave. He turned to Paul. “My bag….It’s gone!” The tannoy came to life, informing the passengers to board the train next to him immediately. He had his laptop, phone, keys and a change of clothes in there, plus a couple of hundred quid for emergencies. The guard blew the whistle, waved at the driver then gave his attention to Paul. “Can you describe it pal?” Suddenly it all came to him, hard. “Shit,” he whispered and ran to the door of the ladies train. He pressed the button to open it but it stayed firmly shut, the button red. “Stand back please Sir,” the guard said firmly. Paul banged on the door with his good hand. “Open the door!” The two women had disappeared from view. The train started to move away and the guard told him forcefully, “Move!” Paul put his good hand on his head. “You don’t understand! I’ve been robbed!” The man in the uniform grabbed his arm and pulled. “Don’t be stupid!” he said. “Or I’ll have to get the transport police.” Paul stepped back. The last thing he needed was coppers asking him questions. “Ok. Ok.” He turned, his heart thumping, knowing he’d been done. It was a set up of course, he knew that now. A simple ploy. Distracted by granny number one then granny number two puts his bag into her Harrods bag. Easy as pie. He’d been had.
He bypassed the Customer Service, what’s the point? Standing there for half an hour to be told to bugger off. Besides, he didn’t want to mention the bag, that would get the police involved. So he stood at the ticket counter and gave his destination. “That’s fifty four pound twenty please,” the cheerful young woman told him. With great care not to hurt the swelled up finger anymore than he had to, Paul carefully reached in for his wallet. His heart did a funny kind of jump, his stomach sank as he realised his pocket was empty. The old bitch had grabbed at him, her arms trying to stop her fall or checking for cash? Then her knee had thrust upward. Damn she was good, he hadn’t felt a thing. The cashier repeated the figure curtly, Paul shaking his head more in astonishment than the fact he couldn’t pay for the ticket. He walked, rubber legged into the huge station, the place a heaving mass of bodies. He saw a row of chairs and slumped into the one empty seat. What a bloody rotten thing to do. They’ve left him with nothing. Nothing. What was he going to do? Eight quid in his pocket, nowhere to stay and a broken digit. And as he sat there, with just a tiny feeling of what it’s like to be on the other side of the theft, he thought to himself sadly, that he must be the only pickpocket to have had his pocket picked.