So, today’s story (from the prompt) is going to need a fair bit of editing, I think. But I kind of like the unexpected twist it took as I wrote it.
Skill and Circumstance
Ahh, he hated when this happened, but the woman was the perfect mark. The long handle strap of her large handbag was looped over her shoulder, but the bag hung open, titled even in Evan’s direction.
It was hard to resist something so easy.
He sidled forward with long practiced ease. He knew he shouldn’t do it. He knew that, if he were to be caught, it would jeopardize the life he had so carefully constructed. It had been a long fifteen years of meticulously rebuilding himself.
But he wasn’t going to be caught, was he? He never had been.
The shop was small, the aisles narrow, and it was crowded. Perfect conditions.
As he shimmied by the woman, apologizing indistinctly under his breath as he did so, his hand slipped easily into her purse and grasped the first thing his fingers came to. He thought it was likely her wallet, although he did not really care.
The object itself was not the point.
It was the action and his undoubted skill.
He fully admitted he was a bit of a show-off.
His hand moved to his suit jacked pocket and dropped the whatever-object in it, all the while he kept moving through the crowded shop, slowly but inexorably making his way towards the door.
When he got outside, he let out a breath that he had not realized he was holding and felt the rush of adrenaline fill him.
There was nothing like it and he was loathe to let it go.
As he had rebuilt himself, he had sought out a career that would offer a comparable rush, but it was not the same thing. He liked what he did, it wasn’t that. He did not regret the path he he chosen. But even work as a stock broker did not offer him the rush he got from his hand sliding into a bag or pocket and extracting some slight thing that belonged to another.
He did not give the object in his pocket another thought as he returned to his office, high above the downtown area, with an expansive view out over the lake. It was not until he took off his jacket and went to hang it off the back of his chair that the unexpected weight in the pocket reminded him that he had not yet looked at what he had got.
It was not the wallet he had assumed it was.
Rather, it was a small, leather bound box, three inches by four or so. The lid was embossed with an eternity symbol surrounded by abstract swirls.
He opened it.
There was a small plastic bag and a little pile of folded paper.
He removed both. Smoothing out the plastic of the bag, he saw what looked like ashes and debris and his stomach twisted.
Why would someone carry around ashes in their bag? And they had all the appearance of human remains.
He was not squeamish about much, but this pushed him to the edge and he shuddered and quickly replaced the bag in the small box. He picked up the first folded paper and opened it.
Please don’t send anymore letters. It just makes me upset and I’m sure it makes you upset, too. I know you want things to change and I guess I do to, but I don’t see how they will. Not now.
Just take care of Madysyn, okay? You don’t need to tell her what’s going on with me. Just take care of her.
The letter was undated and well-folded. The next was a little longer.
I am moving to Vancouver. I think things will be better there. I have some friends I can stay with until I get on my feet.
I will let you know where to write to me once I am situated. There are a lot more jobs there, so I think it will be easier than here. I don’t much like Edmonton and since Brad and I broke up, I don’t think there’s much reason to stay. I would come home to visit, but I can’t afford the airfare (hint, hint!).
Give my love to Madysyn, however that works.
There was one more letter, in a different handwriting and with a date of over a year ago.
Dear Mrs Whiteduck,
I found your address in Cara’s things and I thought I should write to you and let you know what has happened.
Cara disappeared three weeks ago. She has been staying with me and my man. We didn’t much know where she was going when she went out, but when she didn’t come home after a couple of days we went to the police.
They didn’t say much and I don’t think they took us very seriously.
I am sorry to have to tell you this. If you would like to talk to me, I suppose you could write.
He sighed, completely drawn in and with a growing feeling of despair that he had taken this, this of all things. As he went to replace the letters, he noticed, pushed into the bottom, a small newspaper clipping.
Body of sex worker found on downtown eastside, the headline read. He knew what it would say, of course, and it did.
He replaced the clipping and the letters alongside the small bag.
That poor woman. What a dreadful life.
He shook his head, rolled his shoulders and stood up.
Then he took the box and dropped in the wastebasket beside his desk.
He really had to get back to work.