I was sitting in one of the heavy baroque chairs in the Hotel Poole’s lobby, leafing through today’s issue of The Wall Street Journal, when the young woman in the tweed suit picked Andrew J. Stuyvesant’s pockets.
She worked it very neatly. Stuyvesant–a silver-haired old gentleman who had fifteen or twenty million dollars in real-estate holdings–had just stepped out of one of the chrome-and-walnut elevators directly opposite where I was sitting. The woman must have been expecting him; either that, or her timing happened to be perfect. I hadn’t noticed her hanging around the elevators, but she’d been somewhere close by; Stuyvesant hadn’t taken more than three steps when she walked right into him and almost knocked him down. She caught hold of his arm, brushed at his coat, and offered profuse apologies. Stuyvesant bowed in a gallant way and allowed as how it was quite all right, my dear. She got his wallet and the diamond stickpin from his tie, and he neither felt nor suspected a thing.
The woman apologized again and then hurried off across the lobby toward the hotel’s main entrance, slipping wallet and stickpin into her purse as she went. I was out of my chair by then and I moved quickly after her. Even so, she got to within fifty feet of the entrance before I caught up with her.