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She was walking calmly along, glancing distractedly into store windows. There were few people on the pavement. Her purse was over her shoulder, her hands in her jacket pockets.
They could not resist that. One of them was bound to come. This was their area. Already, once… And he had nearly dislocated her shoulder. But the idea he had given her was well worth a shoulder. And it had only hurt for a few days.
The violent shake of her strap made her cry out a little and spin around. It left her staggering with her arms outstretched in search of support.
“Stop thief!”
Her voice hardly carried at all, and the few people around did not immediately understand what had just happened.
“My purse, he’s got my purse!”
People started approaching. She kept moaning,
“Stop thief, he’s got my purse!”
A lady took hold of her arm.
“Are you alright?”
She leaned against the wall. A waiter came up, pulling a chair.
“Sit down, madam. What’s happened?”
She dropped onto the chair.
“Oh, my God, my purse. He took my purse.”
Passers-by began to gather, intrigued by the shouting, their curiosity aroused.
“Did you see anything?”
“I saw a guy running, but…”
“Apparently somebody grabbed her purse!”
“How awful!”
“Did nobody see anything?”
“Have you called the police?”
“Would you like a drink?”
The boy stopped, out of breath after taking various streets left and right. He sat down at the back of an isolated little car park and opened the purse. These old women are so stupid. Always walking about with their purses over their shoulders and their arms swinging. Young women are much more careful. They put it across their bodies, or hold it tight. But old women… Sometimes it was just too easy.
After the adrenalin of the theft and the race, the pleasure of discovering the treasure…! Most of the time, his loot rarely amounted to more than fifty euros, and he had neither the courage nor the know-how to use the check books he sometimes found. But now… For a moment he sat there with his mouth open, looking into the depths of the purse. He looked up to check no one was prowling around and lowered his eyes again …
Bloody hell, he had never seen a real one. He reached out his hand and hesitated a second. He checked once again that nobody was coming. He plunged his hand into the purse and brought it out armed with a gun that he had trouble handling. Shit, this thing was really heavy! But it was a fucking gift!! He would be able to sell it for a fortune, if it worked. And why wouldn’t it work? It looked in very good condition!
Hardly had she opened the door than he began to shout. It was a long time since he had known any other way of expressing himself.
“What the hell were you doing? Where’ve you been? What are you waiting for to start lunch? Always going for little walks! You’re useless, that’s what you are, you bitch!”
She dropped onto a chair. He rushed into the room like a mad thing.
“What have you been up to, then? Haven’t you done the shopping yet? Are you taking the piss? It’s nearly eleven o’clock!”
“You make me sick.”
“What did you say?”
“I’ve had enough of you. You go and do your own shopping. I’m sick of it.”
“You bitch, I’ll teach you to speak to me like that.”
Before he could move, she got up and went to take refuge in the bedroom, locking the door. He started hammering on the door, ordering her to open it. She pulled open the bottom drawer of the chest and took out the leather case. She took the gun and adjusted her hand around it. She unbolted the door and waited.
The police finally arrived and took the victim’s statement. As she was not injured, and did not show any particular signs of confusion or distress, in the end they let her go home.
When she arrived at her front door, she realized she no longer had her keys as they were in her purse. She went to the while-you-wait key-cutter on the corner, who agreed to help her out. It only took him a few minutes to break open the old lock. When he held open the door for her to enter, he caught sight of a little table on its side and a broken lamp on the floor. He held out his arm to stop her.
“Wait! I think you may have had visitors!”
“Oh, my God…”
“You ought to call the police and get them to take a look at this.”
The police car stopped right outside the building. A woman and two men in uniform walked up to the door. The woman and the key-cutter gave them a quick summary of the situation. They all went in, one after the other, in single file. A few seconds later, a cry rang out.

At the police station, she was looked after by an officer in civilian clothes. They had put her in a separate room, on her own. He brought her a glass of water which he pushed over to her as he sat down. He was holding several sheets of paper, which he placed in front of him on the table.
“Mrs. Ross, is that right? Fiona Ross?”
She nodded.
“Mrs. Ross, could you please tell me exactly what happened today?”
She looked up at him, and he thought she was going to start crying.
“Take your time. I’m only trying to get to the bottom of what’s happened.”
“At about 11 o’clock this morning, I had my purse stolen. And your colleagues came, and they filled in some forms. It took a long time. Eventually I was able to go home, but as I didn’t have my purse anymore, I didn’t have any money, and I didn’t have my bus pass either, so I walked home. When I got there, I couldn’t get in because I…”
“Yes, you didn’t have your purse so you didn’t have your keys, and you went to see Mr. Admir, the key-cutter, and he opened the door for you.”
“Yes, and we got the police back again because we saw some things knocked over and we were frightened he might still be in the house. Then the police went in and then…” Her voice broke. “There was Terry, my husband, lying on the floor with blood all over him and spattered everywhere, it was horrific!”
“I understand, Mrs. Ross. I promise we will do all we can to find your attacker, who is no doubt the same person who killed Mr. Ross. Once he had your purse, he had your address and your keys. It was tempting. Your husband must have surprised him, and he blasted away. Go home and rest, you have had a hard day. We will give this case top priority, I assure you.”

Fiona Ross went home that evening with a light heart. No doubt it would not take long for the youth who had stolen her purse to get himself arrested. Either by trying to sell the gun or by using it. That would cure him of wanting to pinch old ladies’ purses…
She had given Terry hell the day he brought that thing home. Oh, he was so proud of it, the silly bastard. He had never been prepared to tell her where he had bought it and how much he had paid. The fool! He used to say that now “if ever a burglar or somebody tried to get in, well, the idiot would get a very nice welcome!”.
Well, who was the biggest idiot now?

Translated by Wendy Cross


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