• Being a mere pocket thief isn’t as simple as it used to be. In 2018 they figured out a way to finally turn those plastic tags they used to place on clothes on everything else in the store. It was either that or it was the magnetic strips they used in CD’s and DVD cases. Sure, since the paper you placed on your product went up in price(since it was now a high-tech piece of machinery), so, in turn, product prices themselves went up, too.
    When I was a teenager, stealing things was as simple as sticking something in your pocket when no one was looking, and wearing a long enough shirt, as well as stealing a product small enough(i.e. a four-pack of batteries over a twenty-pack) that it wouldn’t advertise that you have some gigantic thing protruding from the side of your pants. I don’t think the “I’m just happy to see you” excuse would work if you wanted to worm your way out of it. Don’t get me wrong! I got good enough to steal a twenty-pack of double-A batteries along with shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant. Mind you, that was usually in the winter when I was able to wear a thin jacket under a really thick one which gave me loads more pockets than I would have in the summer when it was blisteringly hot. Total takes were always higher in the winter because of more clothing and the fact that people like to take more risks around Christmas to buy something nice.
    These days, it takes a small machine to deactivate the barcode on the back of products, which decreases pocket space as well as increasing the threat of advertising you might be stealing something if an employee spots the bulge in your pocket(assuming they don’t think you‘re about to shoot up the place, first). Again, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I haven’t been caught. I’ve been caught seven times, two of them with overnight stays in jail. It’s just that out of all the guys and gals I pool my take with, I’ve been caught the least amount of times. That usually has to do with the fact that I don’t run or walk fast, stare at employees like they just somehow know that I’m stealing, and, most important of all, I don’t get greedy. If I see that I can’t get any more take that day, I cut my losses and take less money.
    I am far from the most respected person in the pool either. I am stuck somewhere in the middle which is a nice place to have a few loyal friends and not have to rely on anyone else to help me out when I need it. Usually, the three of us add our items to the pool, take our cut, put it together, and divide it evenly amongst ourselves, though it’s usually a little difficult to figure out who gets the extra few bucks when there are three of us. Doesn’t always divide evenly, you know?
    Now, would there really be any point in starting this story in winter? No! Of course not. It would be too easy to steal and the story would be pretty thin, though I haven’t given you any particular reason as to why we steal anyway, so it’s still thin. But, lo and behold, a reason for stealing! See, the economy is still in as shitty condition as it was in the year 2008 and things are way to expensive, not to mention that hardly anyone ever hired anyone. That makes jobs a little hard to come by unless you feel like working in fast food. Even then you’d probably have to know somebody just to get hired. It’s not like they would pay enough to buy the overpriced items, anyway, while still trying to buy food and pay regular bills on top of it. So there you go! Me and my friends are nearly-full-time, small time, semi-professional pocket thieves. Mini Robin Hoods, if you will. We hit the same stores about three or four times a week and put all of our stuff in the pool. The top guy in our little organization takes it, and sells it at a slightly lower mark-up, paying us less than he sells the stuff for, but it’s still good money if you get enough items. The risk is the same no matter how much you take, so the more you get the better; just try not to be a greedy little b*****d and you’ll stay on the green side of the grass with the nice shady tree.
    The way we did things was clean and mostly undetectable. It would be a little too much work for us to hit three different places at the same time and rotate, though it does sound like a good idea. No. We go into the same store at the same time, usually at fifteen minute to half hour intervals, and stuff our pockets as fast and efficiently as we could before walking out and waiting in the car. Sometimes we would be impatient and the next person would go in, or, since we have a girl in the group, one person would go out, and the other two would go in as a faux couple. This task(waiting in the car, I mean) was very irritating in the summer and winter, but was nice in the spring when we could relax with the windows down.
    The stores we hit were as follows. First, early in the morning, we would hit a dollar store, shoving our pockets usually full of small candies and toys that we could fit into our pockets(some of the people our number one sold to had kids and liked buying cheap toys for them). Next, we would very cautiously hit a Walgreen’s between 11:00am and 2:30pm, usually getting medicine, Primatene inhalers for mild asthmatics, Bayer pills(even though you had to walk very slowly so the pills didn‘t rat you out as you left the store), cough medicine, and sore throat spray. Medicine items were usually assigned. I was usually on pill duty because I didn’t want my friends taking the rap and being treated like a couple pill poppers if they were ever caught. Lastly, we took on, non other, than Walmart. Oh, they were always a joy. None of us had ever been caught there. Stealing things there came at a price, though. We would save up some of our money to go in and actually purchase items legally only to walk in with bags, fill them with the items bought earlier in the week, and walk out the garden section pretending to be interested in the large array of differently shaped green plants they have. I’ve walked out of there with a charcoal grill, a mountain bike, and a small truckload of motor oil, though not all in one day. One at a time! And before you ask, yes! Stealing grills, bikes and motor oil counts as pocket theft. People like to bar-b-que, which makes the spent money doubly worth it when you do it at the beginning of summer.
    Now onto the good stuff! The action, so to speak. First, let me introduce you to my chums, my partners in crime that helps us make a living. Let me try to do this like the cops would, almost. There’s John(no last name), a six-foot-nothing half-Mexican with hair so short you could see the pale white of his big-a** head before it actually tanned up some. On normal days, he liked to wear wife-beaters(they really need to call them something else) and jean shorts that show off his Chewbacca legs. He didn’t look bad though, in a non-homosexual kind of way. The other person in our merry little band of thieves was Rebecca Taylor A.K.A. “Bec.” What group would be complete without at least one female to add sexual tension, eh? She was five-foot-four with the prettiest blue eyes you ever did see with brown hair that she always seemed to like in a pony tail instead of cascading around her face like a chocolate waterfall on the back of her head. Me and her grew up together, and met John when we got into “the game.” Though Bec did a lot of babysitting jobs(literally. She watched people’s kids while they were out), she still made it for at least the first two hits of the day most of the time.
    Not having a license, I waited in the doorway of my low income apartment at five in the morning with my slightly baggy jeans and extra long T-shirt, running my fingers through my black hair every so often when I felt I should do something that made me look impatient and dramatic in some stupid way. Bec and John both had their own cars, but I preferred to spend my money on other luxuries and beg to be chauffeured around when I needed to go somewhere I couldn’t walk to. Bec only really used her car when she did things alone or had to babysit. Other than that, she got a lift from John and helped out with gas money, as I did, though I did more often than she did.
    John’s dusty-blue car rolled over the gravel making a noise I do so love to hear for some reason, going over the bumps and holes in the parking lot that made it seem like you were white-water-rafting on dry land. As soon as I climbed in, he turned it around and we were off to meet the pool under an old overpass that was closed off, but not blocked off, so the graffiti-littered concrete pagoda was a nice place to meet. Hell, I could dig a nice big hold in the side of the hill the road cut in half and live near it if I wanted to be a hobbit.
    The pool consisted of about thirty-seven people in total, give or take, and we would meet our guy(which is always what we called him because no one was on a first name basis with him except the number one pocket thief) who always leaned against the side of his car while he talked to us like he was big s**t. Only one car had their lights on, their car pointed at our guy while he leaned against his just so he could have a spotlight.
    “Alright you pofs,” he would say to get our attention. “Pofs” sounded like an insult, not just because of the tone of his voice, but because he always smiled when he said it like it was some inside joke only he got, though sometimes I did see the number one smiling about it like it wasn’t directed at him too, the p***k. “I’ll be waiting here from eleven ‘til midnight. You know how it goes if you aren’t here to pool your take for the day.”
    We knew how it went. If we weren’t there on time to give to the pool and get our cut, we would have to go across town to Jay, but only after our guy’s goonies beat the s**t out of us(usually just me or John when we didn’t get in on time for one reason or another, sometimes both. He left Bec alone) for not contributing. Thing is, the three of us would have gone to Jay in a heartbeat if our guy didn’t threaten us with bloodshed. To tell you the truth, Jay was nicer. Paid more, too. He was a thieves thief. He, like the three of us, believed in “honor amongst thieves,” unlike our guy and most of the pool who were just out for themselves. See, there was a problem with going to Jay. Jay had no muscle, whereas our guy had all the muscle. Jay was the kind of guy who believed in peace through kindness. Our guy believed in domination through superior firepower.
    This was the first meeting we had with our guy in a month, and it was only to tell us that he was going to start waiting for people to show up later than usual(he usually waits from 9:30pm or 10:00pm until midnight). No real big deal. He could have forgotten to tell us and the worst that would have happened was that some people would have been standing around for a bit while they waited for him to show up.
    Someone in the crowd spat out, “We could have stayed in bed if all we were meeting for was this s**t.”
    Our guy looked at the number one and told him with no words to teach him some “respect.” The number one went over there with a couple other guys. No words were wasted, but a few fists flew. In a matter of seconds, the guy was laying on the ground with blood coming out of his nose and maybe a few bruises that no one will notice later as long as he wears a shirt.
    “For those of you that are new,” the guy started. “You will learn some respect for your superiors or you will end up in the junkyard.”
    Threatening to put people in the junkyard was a fast way to shut them up. No one liked the mere mention of that place. More on why later!
    We had time to kill before we hit our first target of the day, so we decided to catch breakfast at McDonald’s while the sun came up. We got a booth in the corner, away from everyone else while we chowed down on egg McMuffins and those little pancake sandwiches and drank orange juice.
    “I was thinking,” I said with a full mouth. The other two stared at me until I finished chewing and swallowed. “We should do the other dollar store by Gamestop too.”
    “Why?” Bec asked. “We do good with what we get at our three routine places.”
    John added more after sipping orange juice. “I don’t think the guy would like more child’s toys, either.”
    “This isn’t for the guy. I want to start taking things to Jay, especially our medical supplies. We could be earning so much more!”
    “Are you off your ******** rocker?” John asked with a slight chuckle. “You’re liable to end up in the junkyard like Jay’s cousin!”
    The junkyard was a bad place to be, or even to mention. A couple years ago, Jay’s cousin came to work for the pool, just to tell Jay what it was like so he could advertise his better business practices and hopefully grow. Our guy found out he was “spying” for Jay, and had his guys do some unmentionable things to him before dumping his body in the trunk of an old car in the junkyard. It took a while before they found him due to the smell he made. Three bodies. That’s how many have ended up in the junkyard. John figured I was determined to be number four.
    “He’ll never know! We take the other dollar store all at once, no intervals, and walk out with full pockets. I’ll take responsibility for Walgreen’s.”
    “You paid for breakfast,” I said to John with a smile. “It would be bad manners if I didn’t pay for the next thing that needs paying for.”
    John ran his hand down his face in frustration.
    “Fine! But it’s on me next time.”
    After breakfast, we drove to the first dollar store. John parked in the middle of the parking lot. Don’t want people in the street seeing us pulling things out of our pockets, and we don’t want store employees seeing us doing that either. Parking in the middle, usually purposely between two cars or next to one so we’re hidden form the store was usually what we did, though sometimes the car would be gone when we got out.
    I went in first, walking casually, fidgeting with the little bit of cash I had in my pocket. Everything was covered in warm dew. The humidity crawled uncomfortably over my skin like a million centipedes. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by the closest cashier; an attractive brunette woman who was probably in her mid-thirties. I nodded in hello, and immediately went to where there were small, colorful glass objects(little collectables that were nothing more than decoration in someone’s house) and snatched a few off the shelf, putting only one back. Quality was never in question. These items were all worth about the same, which wasn’t much, but they were easy to take. I stealthily slid them quietly into my pocket as I switched aisles. I went to the near other side of the store, grabbing two small bags of candy, tossing them about to make noise. It was so the cashier would think I was just being stupid, tossing them about some, so she wouldn’t think anything if she heard me slicing open the bag with my pocket knife, though I did try to keep that as quiet as I could. The same pocket with the glass decorations was filled with small, tightly packaged candies. That was key. You don’t want to steal some candy that has a loud, loose wrapper. Silence is golden, and I wish to be rich!
    I made my way to the other side of the store where I started, and looked at some small items like plain shot glasses with no images on them as well as different kinds of lighters, though they were all in view of the cashier. I quietly grabbed a lighter, testing it out to see the kind of flame it had. People generally liked the ones that shot a green or blue jet engine-type flame or a Zippo, but Walmart were the only ones with Zippos, and they kept them behind glass just like they used to do with their shotguns when they used to sell them. As soon as she looked the other way, tiring of watching to see if I was going to steal something, I stole five “jet engine” lighters that lit up with pretty lights along with several regular flame lighters. Ninja hands of lightning!
    I walked up to the counter after that, snatching three bottles of dollar tea from the little refrigerator, and setting them down with the bag of candy I grabbed early on.
    “Find everything ok?” She asked me with a very polite, sincere tone. It was people like her, and that voice of hers, that made me want to give this up. Stealing products means a loss in profits for the store, which means either decreased wages, or people are going to get laid off. No matter which of those is chosen, it is always coupled with prices going up twenty-five percent.
    “Just fine, thank you.”
    She told me the price, and I handed her my cash, which I had in my hand shortly after I walked in, and she gave me my change. Before I walked out, I opened my bag of candy and tossed her a piece just to brighten up her day. I couldn’t see her, but I knew she smiled as I left the store.
    As soon as I walked out, John and Bec both walked in, acting as a couple. They probably came up with the idea for that while I was inside. It would save time so we could hit the other dollar store later. I sat in the car drinking my bottle of tea and watching cars go by while the radio played. I really preferred CDs to radio. No commercials, uncensored music, and you can skip songs if you aren’t in the mood for them. One downside is that you don’t exactly keep up with the latest hits, which it alright if you have about a million songs that you already like on CDs. If you get tired of them, pop on the radio for a few days. Nothing new? Back to CDs! I preferred CDs to an MP3 player or iPod or whatever else there is. Having headphones jammed into your ears all the time just alienates you from the rest of the world. Also, if someone else likes what you’re listening to, you cant exactly pull the headphones out and listen through the speakers. So, CDs all the way for me!
    When John and Bec came out, their tea was nearly warm and covered in perspiration, but they drank them anyway. We emptied our pockets and put our take on the back seat next to me. I had the candy, lighters, and the little colored glass decorations. The both of them got more candy and lighters(always easy to steal), and John managed to rip out a couple plastic toys. You know, the ones where you pull the string and the little spinny thing goes zipping up like helicopter propellers. Endless fun for the kids!
    The three of us walked into Walgreen’s, and I asked the guy where the aspirin and other pain and allergy pills were. He pointed me in the direction, saying, “That way,” and we ran off to the aisle. They made it a point to let people know they were being watched with a little television in the aisle we went to that showed us walking. Most people screw around and do something funny like they’re on America’s Funniest Home Videos or something. We just walked, and grabbed several boxes of pills, some Primatene inhalers, and allergy medicine, shoving most of it into our pockets in another aisle where we hoped we would be safe. This place is always a gamble, but it’s well worth it if you can pull it off.
    We walked slowly up to the counter, paying for some allergy meds and cough syrup; the red kind. No one buys the green stuff. We got into a very fast paced routine, and knocked out our first two stores before lunch. We managed to get two bottles of allergy pills(those are relatively quiet of you get the kind that are made of edible plastic and filled with powder), four bottles of Tylenol for cold and sinus(gel capsules), and we bought two bottles of Nyquil and one bottle of aspirin. You know the saying. “Gotta spend money to make money!”
    Walmart would be the place we did later in the day, probably after lunch, but we knocked out the other dollar store as a trio in a matter of minutes. We grabbed mostly toys and more candy. Kids stuff, really. We knew Jay liked to make kids happy. Rumor said that he was pretty family oriented and had a little sister he liked to make happy. We grabbed a cowboy toy set with a small gun and badge, some small water pistols, and I grabbed some freeze-pops. You know, Kool-Aid that you freeze in these little plastic tubes and give to your kids. I got as many of the red, pink, blue and purple ones as I could(kids favorite flavors).
    The sun was high in the sky, melting away peoples thoughts of it being a good day. I know mine went away as soon as I got up and felt the humidity. It was always there except in the winter and early spring when it actually feels good outside.
    We 0came back to my apartment where we sat around the table eating delivery pizza(freshly ordered, not refrigerated) and dividing our take into what we were taking to Jay and what we were going to give to our guy. All of our medicine as well as the dollar store take(both of them) went to Jay. Our Walmart take would go to our guy, unless I managed to snag a bike and some better toys. I made sure to keep my receipts in a nice pile with no wrinkles in them, as did John and Bec. I kept mine inside a little wooden box.
    “When we do Walmart later, be sure to bring the thing so we can deactivate the barcodes.”
    “Who had it last,” John asked.
    “I have it,” Bec answered. “I’ll get it after we’re done setting things up for Walmart.”
    Those damn devices were the reason our guy didn’t give us a fair price for the things we stole, which meant we’d have to take more of them. His whole operation was pocket thieves. Jay had some big time people who steal things like televisions and robbed places in the middle of the night, usually pawn shops. They were like the scourge of modern living. People would take things down there like wedding rings and televisions, and sell their souls to make ends meat. They tried to do everything Ocean’s Eleven style with no guns or anything. Just a well thought out plan, some gimmicks, a large enough crew(which they always had) and the right tools. They were always in and out with no problems. I know Jay wouldn’t take a huge chunk of money off the top of your take because he sprung for the barcode device.
    I had somewhere over two hundred receipts to look through for toys and baby supplies. I always sprang for the good stuff because it got me more money, and they really are worth it. Some of my slips were so old that either the ink was fading(which was still passable. Just tell them the ink must be running low) or they didn’t even have the things on them anymore. I opted for a more recent one. The ink was a little faded, so I couldn’t really tell what kind of bike I bought, but you could tell it was a bike. The price also helped. I snatched it from the pile and put it in my wallet. The wallet I had was long for receipts so they would stay wrinkle free in transit from my place to the store. For Walmart, we also shoved a few neatly folded plastic bags into our pockets so we could just walk out with free merchandise, and a receipt that they won’t even bother to look at if they see it and your stuff in bags.
    Bec came into the apartment a couple hours later with the barcode device, apologizing for taking so long.
    “I had to look after someone’s kids while they ran off for a while. Got a quick twenty out of it, though!”
    She flashed the bill in front of me a second before John came out of the bathroom.
    “Finally! What took you so long? And where did you get that cash?”
    “She babysat for a second,” I told him. “Are we ready to go?”
    John already had bags in his pockets, as did I, and I carried the receipts. Bec had the barcode device. Cocked, locked and ready to rock!