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The Case of the Shouldering Thief

Kristina England | James Brown

Detective Brady owned a pedometer.

This device was not used to assess how long it took to catch a criminal. No. His wife made him wear it because she thought he was a bit pudgy.

Detective Brady thought his belly gave him an air of experience. The “I’ve been in this job long enough to have a beer or two” kind of experience.

His partner, Caldwell, thought it made him look lazy and careless. Caldwell didn’t say anything about his perception as he thought it worked to their advantage. Detective Brady was exceptionally bright. He could even read words upside down and backwards in less than a minute.

Caldwell had flunked Algebra, Literature, and Spirituality, another fact he didn’t bother mentioning to Brady.

Brady lit a cigarette and reviewed the latest case.

“Looks like we got a purse perp today.”

Caldwell looked over at the file. Fantastic. His girlfriend had been raving about the new Louis Vuttion for months now. Of course, he would have to hunt down some pocketbook thief.

“Get this. The guy steals the purses from hair salons. He dumps out all the belongings, including the wallet at the front door. No one sees him come in, no one sees him go out. Plus, they’re all cheap ass bags. This lady, here, said it was her favorite lady bug pattern.”

Caldwell smiled and shook his head.

“Now what kind of man could get in and out of a salon without a woman noticing?”

“He must be damn ugly, if you ask me,” said Caldwell.

“I did ask you.”

“That’s what I said…”

“Well, I asked you so I don’t know why you had to follow your answer with ‘if you ask me’”.

“Shit… you’re not going to get caught up in systematics again, are you?”

Brady looked at Caldwell.

“It’s semantics.”


“Never mind,” Brady said, snuffing out a cigarette. “I’m headed home to the wife. I’ll review the rest of the files after she dozes off. We’ll regroup in the morning.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Caldwell sat outside a hair salon. He frowned. He hated street patrol.

Brady came out of the bakery across the street eating an egg croissant. He stopped to wipe grease from his chin, then finished the second half of the sandwich in one chomp.

Caldwell rummaged through his pocket as Brady climbed into the car.

“I got your pedometer for the wife. I walked a whole 5 miles last night. Woo-wee!”

Brady wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

“Don’t overdo it, man. I don’t want the wife to start asking questions.”

“No sweat. I’ll put in a half mile tomorrow. You can say how exhausted you were from overdoing it.”

Brady looked at Caldwell and then glanced over at the salon.



Brady reached down into a paper bag and pulled out a French roll. He ripped a piece off and stuck it in his mouth.

A little girl marched by their car, her eyes fixed on the salon.

“Check her out,” said Caldwell. “She can’t be more than six years old.”

“Yup, I wonder if we should call her in?”

“Nah, her mom could be right behind her parking the car.”

The little girl proceeded into the salon.

Caldwell looked at Brady.

“So speaking of kids, the wife bring up that topic again?”

Brady frowned. “This isn’t the world in which to bring up a kid. Have you seen the crime statistics lately? The place is swarming in murderers and thieves.”

Caldwell shrugged.

The salon door swung open. The little girl re-emerged. She held a purse.

“Oh, look. See, she just ran in to get her mom’s purse,” said Caldwell, nudging Brady. “You sure you don’t want a doll like her?”

The little girl stopped and looked around. Then she opened the purse and tipped it over. The contents spilled on the pavement. She swung the bag over her shoulder and began to walk away.

“Did you see…” Caldwell started, but the car door slammed before he could finish.

He turned and looked at Brady’s seat. He sure was fast for a fat man.

The little girl sat in the station kicking her legs back and forth in a plastic seat.

Caldwell and Brady stared at her through the window.

Brady cleared his throat and walked into the interrogation room.

The news report chocked it up to an accident.

Little Stacey Montgomery had mistakenly thought she was playing a fun little game of hide and seek.

The real answer stayed with Caldwell and Brady in the offices of Stanley Stanley’s Investigative Services.

A year later, Brady brought his newborn into the office. Caldwell pushed up a chair and eagerly reached out for the baby.

Brady leaned in, then pulled back.

“I’ve seen how you handle a football.”

“I’ve only dropped my nephew five times,” said Caldwell with a sad look.

Brady frowned and handed Josephina over to him.

“Looks like you’ve been laying off the sausage and hot cakes.”

Brady nodded. “I figured I needed to be around long enough to push this here doll’s boyfriends out the front door.”

Caldwell nodded.

“So… Montgomery’s father called this morning.”

Brady looked up.

“Her mother passed away last night.”

Brady nodded.

“What I don’t get is why purses?” Caldwell asked, looking up at Brady.

Brady shrugged.

“Sometimes people have a lot to carry and there’s not enough room for it all.”

“So what you’re saying is the girl tried to shoulder her feelings,” cracked Caldwell.

Brady rolled his eyes.

“You had to go and ruin the punchline, didn’t you?”

About Kristina England

Kristina England resides in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her writing is published or forthcoming at Crack the Spine, Extract(s), Gargoyle, The Hessler Street Fair Anthology, The Quotable, Yellow Mama, and other magazines. Find her on her blog.

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