Twist #027 – A Dip in the Poole by Bill Pronzini

I studied her for a time. Then I said, “Your father doesn’t have to know what happened here today.”

“He… he doesn’t?”

“No,” I said. “No real harm has been done. Mr. Stuyvesant will get his wallet and stickpin back. And I see no reason to cause the hotel, or you, any public embarrassment.”

A hopeful look brightened her eyes. “Then… you’ll let me go?”

“I guess I’m too soft-hearted for the kind of job I have,” I said. “Yes, I’ll let you go. If you promise me you’ll never set foot inside the Hotel Poole again.”

“Oh, I promise!”

“You’d better keep it. If I catch you here again I’ll turn you over to the police.”

“You’ll never see me again,” she assured me. “I… have an appointment with another psychiatrist tomorrow morning, one who specializes in my sort of problem. I feel sure he’ll be able to help me.”

“Let’s hope so.”

I slid out of the booth and put my back to her long enough to light a cigarette. When I turned around, the street door to the lounge was just closing and the young woman was gone.

On my way back into the lobby, I thought wryly: If she’s a kleptomaniac, I’m Mary, Queen of Scots. What she was, of course, was an accomplished professional pickpocket; her technique was much too polished, her hands much too skilled, for her to be anything else. She was also a fairly adept spontaneous liar.

But then, so am I.

As I walked out through the hotel’s front entrance, my right hand resting on the fat leather wallet and diamond stickpin in my coat pocket, I found myself feeling a little sorry for her. But only a little.

After all, I had been working the Hotel Poole for years and that made Andrew J. Stuyvesant my mark by right of territorial prerogative. After two days of waiting for an opportunity, I had been within fifteen seconds of dipping him myself when she appeared out of nowhere.

Wouldn’t you say I was entitled to the swag?


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