Smooth Enough

07/14/22

I lived in a village in rural Switzerland for a summer. My next-door neighbor was a young British man who lived off his family’s largesse and fancied himself a professional thief. Don’t worry, he told anyone who questioned this vocation, I only steal from corporations, never from people.

On weekends we would take the train to Geneva and he would flirt with girls by snatching items from their bags without them noticing, then introducing himself when he gave their items back. It often worked. I would find a bookstore while he consummated the relationships in café bathrooms. You want the ladies, you must be crafty, he would say on the train home. You’re not smooth enough.

In mid-July, someone started robbing houses in the village. It was the kind of place where nobody locked their doors. Someone walked into bedrooms and bathrooms and living rooms and stole money and trinkets and pills and a gold watch. There was no pattern to it, and it happened day after day.

The local cop became involved. He was a silver-haired man in a gray uniform who drove his black patrol truck through the village like it was hostile territory. His partner was a Siberian husky with blue eyes that seemed too human. They communicated with each other in nods and barks.

The cop interrogated everyone. He was interested in my neighbor, who protested his innocence. I’d never rob a person I knew, my neighbor insisted. I’d never hurt anyone.

On my last morning in the village, while I took a final hike through the surrounding hills, the cop searched my neighbor’s rooms and found a silver necklace that belonged to a woman who worked in the local grocery. The cop had received a tip about stolen goods under my neighbor’s mattress. I sat on a rocky outcropping at the edge of the high forest and watched as the cop dragged my handcuffed neighbor from his house to the patrol truck. The husky barked and growled as if it wanted to tear out my neighbor’s throat. From this height, they were all very small, like toys. After they left, I checked the time on my new gold watch and navigated down the hill to the train station. I had a one o’ clock ticket on a train to Zurich, and from there a train to Munich. I was smooth enough.

~ fin ~

NK-BW

Nick Kolakowski is the Derringer- and Anthony-nominated author of Maxine Unleashes Doomsday and Boise Longpig Hunting Club, as well as the Love & Bullets trilogy of novellas. He lives and writes in New York City. Visit him virtually at nickkolakowski.com.