Narrative Writing – Low Profile

Boris Watkins was humming a tune to the radio in his car when the music was interrupted by a special news bulletin. “We break into our regular programming to bring you an update on the bank robbery that occurred earlier today at the St. George’s branch of the United Bank. A lone gunman escaped with nearly two million dollars, wounding two guards and an off-duty police officer while making his exit. Due to a malfunction in the bank’s security cameras, a photograph is not available, but a police sketch has just been released to the public. More details will follow as they come to light. We now return you to our regular broadcast.”

Boris strolled through the side door of the packed jewellery store, avoiding the business’s main entrance. Casually he surveyed the store as he pretended to study a banner proclaiming “Diamond Sale Days.” One of the clerks, an attractive young woman dressed in a formal business suit, was speaking in low tones to the store’s handsome young security guard. Though the store itself was crowded, the saleswoman’s area was experiencing a lax time. She was taking advantage of the lull by passing the time with the handsome guard.

From the way the two of them spoke, Boris guessed they were planning an after-hours rendezvous when suddenly the girl’s eyes caught his. In the brief p of their eye contact, he felt something odd in her stare. Had she recognised him, or in some uncanny way knew what he was up to? There had been a sudden burst of something he couldn’t quite place his finger on before their gazes broke. No, he was just being paranoid. It was part of the rush that accompanied his thefts, something he had to control. When he was stealing, Boris always felt as if he was on the verge of being caught. If he was honest with himself, he would acknowledge that this was part of the thrill.

When he glanced back at the girl, he saw that she was engaged in deep conversation with her beau, forgetting about him completely. That was the way Boris liked it; the lower the profile, the better. Boris walked out of their direct sight and approached a busy counter where several customers were vying for a lone salesman’s attentions. Perfect.

He pushed his way to the counter, and after several minutes of waiting, managed to catch the man’s attention. Boris asked to see three sets of expensive diamond earrings and one set of inferior jewellery most likely brought into the store just for the sale. Pretending to ponder the choices, Boris ignored the bustling crowd at his elbows. Finally another customer grew impatient with him and said in a stern voice to the salesman, “While he’s making up his mind, I see exactly what I want. I insist that you take my money right now.”

That was what Boris had been waiting for. With the salesman’s attention distracted for a few moments, Boris slipped the most expensive earrings off the counter and into his pocket before anyone could see what he’d done.

In plain sight, he picked up the cheap earrings and approached the salesman with a fifty dollar bill in his hand. Boris said, “I’ve made up my mind. I’ll take these.”

The salesman looked at Boris, then back at the abandoned earrings still on the counter ten paces away. Breathlessly, he said, “One moment, please,” as he retrieved the unclaimed diamond sets remaining. Frowning for a second at the counter, he shrugged slightly before replacing the remaining sets back in the display.

Boris hadn’t even realized he’d been holding his breath. After accepting the woman’s purchase ahead of him, the clerk took care of Boris, pointedly ignoring his attempt at small talk as he watched a few disgruntled customers walking away empty-handed. With a store bag proudly displayed, Boris fought his way back to the side entrance he’d just come in. The odds of anyone suspecting him of wrongdoing should be negligible. After all, he had a perfectly legitimate receipt in his possession for the cheap earrings now in his bag. It was simply a matter of walking out of the store unnoticed and he’d be home free.

As he passed the counter where the attractive young woman had been speaking with the security guard, Boris was relieved to see that both of them had vanished, probably taking their breaks together. He was just stepping out of the door when he noticed a squad of police facing him, their guns drawn in a semi-circle, every weapon pointing directly at him.

Through a bullhorn, one of the police officers commanded, “Drop your bag and hit the ground, or we’ll shoot.”

Boris did as he was told, stunned by the massive show of force. He looked up in despair as he saw an officer clad in a bullet-proof vest approach him cautiously. In seconds, Boris was handcuffed and jerked to his feet.

He said, “I don’t understand what’s going on.”

The officer who had cuffed him said, “Don’t play dumb. A clerk inside spotted you the second you walked in the door.”

“Yeah, I’ve been arrested once before, but it was never with this much fuss.”

“What did you expect? It’s not like you were keeping a low profile.”

“What are you talking about?”

Without saying a word, the officer reached into his back pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper.

Boris found his sketched image staring back at him from the ‘Wanted’ Bulletin. His knees went weak as he realised that he was a dead ringer for the police sketch of the man who’d just robbed the bank.

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