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Double Dipping
About the Author: Michael Bracken is the author of several books, including the private eye novel All White Girls, and more than twelve hundred short stories in several genres. His short crime fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, The Best American Mystery Stories 2018, and in many other anthologies and periodicals. He is recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement in short mystery fiction.

Lightfinger Louie Levoy loitered around the Ambassador Arms entrance early Thursday morning, doing his best to appear inconspicuous and non-threatening. He was waiting for Carson Davidson, a businessman who lived on the fourth floor of the apartment building and who left each weekday morning precisely at five a.m. Louie had never seen Davidson but had been told to expect a stout middle-aged man wearing a snap-brim fedora and an ill-fitting blue suit who would turn left when he exited the building.

At 4:56 a.m., his mark appeared. Louie, feigning the after-effects of an all-night drunk, stumbled into the man and made the dip. As his mark shoved him aside, Louie stumbled, almost losing his grip on the wallet he’d lifted.

He regained his footing, stepped into a nearby alley, and hurried away. Under normal circumstances, he would strip cash from the wallet and discard it into a dumpster, but that morning’s dip was anything but normal. Fat Freddy Mosby, a fence he often used when he lifted jewelry and watches, had offered him five large to lift this particular wallet on this particular Thursday.

At seven-thirty that morning, Fat Freddy filled one side of the rear booth at Sunrise Diner, a three-plate breakfast spread out before him, his fork poised over a short stack of flapjacks. When Louie slipped into the booth opposite him, Freddy asked, “You got it?”

“I got it.” Louie slid the brown leather wallet between Freddy’s plates.

As Freddy flipped the wallet open, his expression turned sour. “What the hell is this?”

Freddy tossed the wallet back across the table and Louie saw the gold shield. He turned pale. He’d never before lifted a cop’s wallet.

“How’d you screw this up?”

“I did what you told me,” Louie protested. He didn’t mention that the detective had exited the building four minutes before six.

“So what was a copper doing at the Ambassador Arms that time of morning? And why didn’t he nab you when you lifted his wallet?”

“He was in a hurry,” Louie explained. “He brushed me aside without even looking at me.”

Louie saw his girl, Hildy Johansen, approaching with a cup and a pot of joe, so he slid the detective’s wallet off the table and into his pocket.

“Morning, Louie,” the waitress said as she filled the coffee cup and placed it before him. “The usual?”

Louie saw Freddy’s scowl and shook his head. “Not this morning.”

Hildy rested her free hand on Louie’s shoulder. “You pick up anything for me last night?”

He shook his head. “Slow night. Wednesday nights always are.”

“You let me know if you change your mind about breakfast.”

Louie held up his coffee cup. “Sure thing, doll.”

Hildy winked at him before moving on.

When they were alone again, Fat Freddy said, “Looks like we got a big problem, Louie. Maybe two big problems. I ain’t got the wallet you was supposed to get me, and you got a wallet some copper’ll come looking for.”

Louie flipped the wallet open and read the identification card inside. “Detective Albert Margulies, first grade.”

“Don’t be telling me that shit, Louie. I don’t know nothing about your screw up, and I don’t want to know nothing.” Fat Freddy leaned forward as best he could. “Let me tell you this, though. Your screw-up cost me several grand, and it ain’t likely you’ll get a chance to make this right. Now, get out of my sight.”

Louie hadn’t finished his coffee, but he slid out of the booth anyhow. He stopped at the cash register to pay for his joe.

“See you tonight?” Hildy asked.

“Yeah,” he said, distracted. “Tonight.”

This story appears in our MAY 2021 Issue
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