The City Fox

Artwork by Hidden Moves

Thud. The thief lands on the other side. He turns. Sees the outline of the police officer sprinting down the dark alley towards him. He takes a couple of steps back. By his feet is the handbag. He scoops it up from the ground not taking his eyes off her. The pig. The filth. He grins menacingly. He’s won. She slams heavily into the fencing. It rattles ferociously. Her eyes are wide with a maniacal determination. She knows he’s won and finds it difficult to fathom. He laughs a childish laugh. Seconds pass between them. Then she grabs the fence and scrambles up. He laughs more, wheels away and nonchalantly cuts diagonally across the road to the street corner like a city fox. He skips through the thin gap between the parked cars on the other side. Flings a look over his shoulder. She’s off the ground, attached to the fence like an insect caught in a web. Her uniform and police accessories weigh her down.

And he’s round the corner. She’s out of sight. He’s away. Jogging down the street. The handbag gripped firmly, nestled inside the hollow of his armpit. He crosses the street. Reaches a crossroad. Turns right. A double-decker bus is at a halt. A queue of people is waiting to get on. Before the back doors close, he swiftly hops on and coolly glides up the stairs. Done so stealthily the driver isn’t alerted. Only a couple of passengers take notice, but they either do not care or feel too intimidated to say anything to the boy. Upstairs he makes his way to the back. A deep angry frown is carved into his young face. Eyes in the seats look away from his glare.

He throws himself into the corner of the empty back row of seats. The floor is sticky beneath his trainers. With his rebellious face sunk deep inside his hood, like the grim reaper he watches the back of the heads of those sat in front of him, internally daring one of them to turn around and make eye contact. None do. He opens the handbag and averts his gaze onto the contents within. A thief knows what to look for and he immediately spots the treasures he is after.

The purse. He tears it open and instantly finds cash. A note gets stuffed into the pocket of his tracksuit bottoms. Loose change swapped from the purse to the pocket of his hoody. No use for credit and debit cards. He’s a petty thief, not a pro. He spots the corners of the driving licence peeking out at him. No temptation to find out who his victim is. The purse is disregarded. Next he finds a smart phone. He can sell this, as soon as it is unlocked. A pin code is required to access it. A photo is on the screen’s background. His victim is sat in a park with a man and toddler. Her husband and daughter. Her family. No remorse. The phone is slipped into the other pocket of his hoody. His hand invades once more. Deep inside it rummages. Makeup. A diary. A pocket mirror. A small hairbrush. A tampon. An inhaler. No use to him. The handbag looks designer. He could try and sell it. He chooses against it though.

The bus slows. He folds the bag’s handles into itself, squashes it down, crunches it back under his arm. The bus halts at a stop. He powers himself towards the stairs. Launches down to the deck below. Bursts through the exit into the fresh cold air. The young thief swaggers down the road where life dwells; a group of men laugh outside a kebab shop, a feisty young woman yells into her phone unperturbed by the public disturbance she causes, another hooded youth with a menacing dog on a short chain. The thief casually removes the handbag from its crevice and dispenses it into a bin that he happens to pass.

He enters a brightly lit corner shop. Illuminated in white. He doesn’t pull his hood down. He doesn’t show respect. He prefers to earn it through fear instead. He pulls a bottle of cola out of the fridge. Makes his way to the counter where an old Asian man with thinning grey hair and a thick grey moustache awaits his customer. The shopkeeper smiles. Warmly greets the boy. Doesn’t receive anything back. He scans the bottle. Politely asks for the sum of money. He wears a knitted red V-neck vest over an old shirt the same colour as his hair. His aged eyes are watery behind his spectacles. The boy chucks some stolen change onto the counter. Turns. Makes his way out. The shopkeeper scoops the coins into his open palm, still smiling. He thanks his customer. But his gratitude is only met by the sound of a tingling bell signifying the thief’s exit.


James Massoud


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