“Here’s one. Pull over to the kerb.” Marla spotted the lone man walking up the street but knew better than to point directly at him. Steve pulled the car over but kept the engine running, as per custom and practice. Marla opened the passenger door and got out, keeping the door between her and the pedestrian like a shield.
“Excuse me,” she called out, smiling pleasantly. The pedestrian didn’t hear her and Marla realised he was listening to music. She repeated herself, waving in order to catch his eye. The pedestrian stopped and unhooked an earphone. He raised a quizzical eyebrow and Marla noticed how cute he was. She almost felt bad about what she was going to do.
She waved a twenty-pound note and asked the pedestrian if he could change it.
“Of course,” the pedestrian laughed. “For a moment there, I thought you were going to ask me directions. I’m not from around here, you see.”
He reached into his jacket and Marla felt another pang of guilt. A stranger in town and she was about to –
She forced herself to focus; timing is everything.
The pedestrian took out his wallet. Marla reached over the top of the car door and snatched it.
“Move! Move!” she urged Steve as she got back in. Steve drove away before she had chance to close the door.
Within seconds they were blocks away. Marla allowed herself to breathe again. She was sweating and could feel the usual exhilaration bubbling up in her chest.
“So, what did we get?” Steve asked.
“Keep your eyes on the road,” Marla snapped. “I told you to trust me; this trick never fails.”
Steve pouted. “I just wanted to know how much we got.”
Marla ignored her boyfriend’s sulking and opened the wallet.
Steve pulled up outside the house they shared. He got out of the car and was almost at the front door before he realised Marla was still in the car. She hadn’t said a word most of the way home. He’d presumed she was in a bad mood because he had doubted her. He’d said the old stop-em-and-ask-for-change-wallet-grab wouldn’t fool anyone these days. And he’d been wrong. And now Marla was in a snit because he hadn’t admitted it or praised her enough.
He saw she was still in the car. He decided to play along. Anything for a quiet life.
He opened the passenger door and bowed with a flourish.
“Your destination, my lady,” he adopted a servile tone.
Marla didn’t respond. Marla didn’t budge.
As he straightened, Steve saw to his horror that Marla’s hair was completely white. Her eyes were wide and staring and her mouth was contorted into a rictus. Saliva drooled from her lip, pooling on her t-shirt.
Steve waved his hand in front of her face but she didn’t even blink.
“What the hell?”
A low moan was issuing from deep in Marla’s chest. It was the sound of despair, of infinite sorrow, of mourning for a damned universe.
With a shudder, Steve reached for the wallet. Something she had seen in it had done this to her. Something in the wallet had robbed Marla of her sanity.
Her fingers were like talons, digging into the wallet’s leather. Steve tugged but could not free it from her grasp.
And back across town, the pedestrian carried on walking. He transferred a new wallet to his jacket pocket and listened to his music as he walked.
Soul music, he chuckled.