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Just Another Mark

by Gary Clifton

Benny circled the block in his shiny red convertible. The address the old lady had given was a second-story unit on Hickory Hill. A million bucks wouldn’t touch a condo in this neighborhood. Satisfied conditions were safe, he squeezed into a head-in parking spot near the front door.

She buzzed him right up and had coffee brewing as he took a seat on a luxurious sofa overlooking the front parking lot and well-manicured park across the boulevard. A stack of unopened mail was strewn on an end table. She was crowding 80 and walked with a cane, perfect for a little thievery. He’d paid for the red convertible with cash and other loot stolen from apartments of useless old women like this hag.

“Do you take sugar, uhh... Benjamin? Or cream?” She studied a crinkled page of scribbled notes with his name at the top.

Numerous items of value, including a fortune in crystal in an oak cabinet and two gleaming pairs of gold candleholders beckoned on the mantel. This would be a big score. He mentally added up the probable take. If he had to slit her throat, nobody would miss this old relic. Stupid biddy. He felt a momentary twitch of sympathy at taking advantage of another soul who was so useless and vulnerable. That thought was gone in a heartbeat.

“Just sugar, please, Mrs. Worthington.” When he’d telephoned about the opening for a physical therapist who made home visits, she’d told him her husband had died a year earlier and she was barely able to function alone.

She slid the sugar bowl across the coffee table and shifted in her overstuffed chair, grimacing at the movement of her back.

“You really need my services, ma’am.”

He’d help her all right, and help himself. Perhaps there was a wall safe behind a picture in another room. He might need more than one visit, or he might just strangle her up front and search at his leisure.

He took a long pull on his coffee. “We can do an introductory session this morning, ma’am, to offer you at least some temporary relief. Do you have a robe to pull on? We can use the dining room table as a makeshift work area.”

“My goodness, yes. A miracle if you can relieve some of this stiffness. I’ll step into the bedroom and change.” She rose with difficulty and disappeared down a hallway. Benny tried the coffee again. The flavor was delicious, the prospects for a big score made him feel relaxed, mellow... actually sleepy.

In a few moments, the elderly lady re-entered, except she was wearing a coat and shoes instead of a robe. She crossed over and shook Benny’s shoulder. He was out cold. His pockets surrendered over $400 in cash, a very nice gold wristwatch, and an oversized diamond ring on his left pinky finger, obviously loot from an earlier victim. She dropped his car keys in her coat pocket.

She pulled the crinkled note page from her pocket. When “Benny” had answered her ad, she noticed his smooth come-on. Too smooth. Smooth lines were her business. Suspicious, she’d called his two references, and both sounded too rehearsed. She made a few calls to friends in the business and learned that Charles Benjamin Sandusky was a thief and con artist who preyed on old women. Perfect. She’d scored off another crook, a welcome switch.

She moved quickly around the room, filling her large valise with the same pricy trinkets she’d seen Benny sizing up minutes earlier.

This punk would wake up in an hour or so and realize he’d been played. This young, arrogant grifter had been an easy mark. She knew from years of practiced con that he would be too egotistically naive to realize he could be had by an old lady. He could not go to the cops. For that matter, there wouldn’t be a long list of those he could tell. And, to most of the younger crowd, old folks all looked alike; he’d never recall her face. But if he did, in a future chance encounter... She fingered the .38 in her coat pocket. Bye-bye, Benjamin.

She felt the usual appreciation for the affluent occupants of the Hickory Hill condos, who had gone off on vacation and allowed the mailbox to load up. She poured the coffee in the kitchen sink and stuffed her bag of precious, special brew into the valise.

She could only lock the snap lock behind her. She’d had to pick the deadbolt and she had no time to waste trying to lock it again. She punched the horn button on his key remote and the pretty little convertible right in front of her beeped at her. No need to take a taxi to her next appointment in Oak Creek, several miles away. She looked at the expensive watch she’d just lifted from Benjamin. Time was wasting.

She tossed her bag on the back seat and squeezed in behind the convertible wheel. Then she was off to interview her next mark, a diamond dealer from midtown. She’d asked him to bring a large selection to help her choose rings and brooches for her granddaughters. Earlier, she’d dropped by the Oak Creek condo, gathered the mail, and taken care of the lock.

Benjamin probably would report the convertible stolen. She made a mental note to call Big Joe down at the docks. The red convertible would bring top dollar and would be on a freighter to Bulgaria before midnight.

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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