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I was sitting in a heavy baroque chair in the Hotel Pooles genteel lobby, leafing through one of the

plastic-encased magazines provided by the management, when the girl in the dark tweed suit picked
Andrew J.Stuyvesants pockets.
She worked it very nicely. Stuyvesant- a silver-haired old gentleman who carried a Malacca walking stick
and had fifteen or twenty million dollars in Texas oil- had just stepped out of one of the crome-and-
walnut elevators directly in front of me. The girl appeared from the direction of the curving marble
staircase, walking rapidly and with elaborate preoccupation, and collided with him. She excused herself.
Bowing in a gallant way, Stuyvesant allowed it as how it was perfectly alright, my dear. She got his
wallet and the diamond stickpin from his tie, and he neither felt nor suspected a thing.
The girl apologised again and hurried off across the padded indigo carpeting toward the main entrance at
the lobbys opposite end, slipping the items into a tan suede bag she carried over one arm. Almost
immediately, I was out of my chair and moving after her, she managed to thread her way through the
potted plants and the dark furnishings to within a few steps of the double-glass doors before I caught up
with her.
I let my hand fall on her arm. Excuse me just a moment, I said, smiling.
She stiffened. Then she turned and regarded me as if I had crawled out from one of the potted plants. I
beg your pardon? she said in a frosty voice.
You and I best have a little chat.
I am not in the habit of chatting with strange men.
I think youll make an exception in my case.
Her brown eyes flashed angrily as she said, I suggest you let go of my arm. If you dont, I shall call the
I shrugged. Theres no need for that.
I certainly hope not.
Simply because he would only call me.
Im chief of security at the Hotel Poole, you see, I told her. What was once referred to as the house
She grew pale, and the light dimmed in her eyes. Oh, she said.
I steered her toward the arched entrance to the hotels lounge, a short distance on our left. She offered no
resistance. Once inside, I sat her down in one of the leather booths and then seated myself opposite. A
blue-uniformed waiter approached, but I shook my head and he retreated.
I examined the girl across the polished surface of the table. The diffused orange glow from the small
lantern in its center gave her the impression of purity and innocence, and turned her seal-brown hair into a
cascading black wave. I judged her age at about twenty-five. I said, Without a doubt, youre the most
beautiful dip Ive ever encountered.
Idont know what youre talking about.
Dont you?
Certainly not.
A dip is an underworld slang for a pickpocket.
She tried to affect indignation. Are you insinuating that I?
Oh come on, I said. I saw you lift Mr Stuyvesants wallet and his diamond stickpin. I was sitting
directly opposite the elevator, not fifteen feet away.
She didnt say anything. Her fingers toyed with the catch on the tan suede bag. After a moment, her eyes
lifted to mine, briefly, then dropped again to the bag. She sighed in a tortured way. Youre right, of
course. I stole those things.
I reached out, took the bag from her and snapped it open. Stuyvesants wallet, with the needle-point of the
stickpin now embedded in the leather, lay on top of the various feminine articles inside. I removed them,
glanced at her identification long enough to memorise her name and address, reclosed the bag and
returned it to her.
She said softly, Imnot a thief, I want you to know that. Not really, I mean. She took her lower lp
between her teeth. I have this compulsion to steal. Im powerless to stop myself.
Yes. Ive been to three different psychiatrists during the past year, but theyve been unable to cure me.
I shook my head sympathetically. It must be terrible for you.
Terrible, she agreed. When when my father learns of this episode, hell have me put into a
sanatorium. Her voice quavered. He threatened to do just that if I ever stole anything again, and he
doesnt make idle threats.
I studied her. Presently, I said, Your father doesnt have to know what happened here today.
He he doesnt?
No, I said slowly. There was no real harm done, actually. Mr Stuyvesant will get his wallet and stickpin
back. And I see no reason for causing the hotel undue embarrassment through the attendant publicity if I
report the incident.
Her face brightened. Then youre going to let me go?
I drew a long breath. I suppose Im too soft-hearted for the type of position that I have. Yes, Im going to
let you go. But you have to promise me that youll never set foot inside the Hotel Poole again.
Oh, I promise!
If I see you in the future, Ill have to report you to the police.
You wont! she assured me eagerly. I have an appointment with another psychiatrist tomorrow
morning. I feel sure he can help me.
I nodded. Very well, then. I turned to stare through the arched lounge entrance at the guests and
uniformed bellboys scurrying back and forth in the lobby. When I turned back again, the street door to the
lounge was just closing and the girl was gone.
I sat there for a short time, thinking about her. If she was a kleptomaniac, I reflected, then I was 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 and an extremely adept liar.
I smiled to myself, and stood and went out into the lobby again. Bu instead of resuming my position in
the baroque chair before the elevator bank, or approaching the horseshoe-shaped desk, I veered left to
walk, casually through the entrance doors and out to Powell Street.
As I made my way through the thickening late-afternoon crowds my right hand resting on the fat leather
wallet and diamond stickpin in my coat pocket I found myself feeling a little sorry for the girl. But only
just a little.
After all, Andrew J. Stuyvesant had been my mark from the moment I first noticed him entering the Hotel
Poole that morning and after a three-hour vigil I had been within fifteen seconds of dipping him myself
when she appeared virtually out of nowhere.
Wouldnt you say I was entitled to the swag?