The Phantom Thief
“What did the thief look like?” Iric asked. “Did you get a good look?”
“No, not really,” the old man said. “He was tall, I guess.”
Iric glanced around the market. The narrow street was packed to its limits with vendors and haggling shoppers. Most of the people he saw appeared tall to him, the young man being shorter than average. The cacophony made it hard to complete the required interview with the old craftsman. It was simply that, a requirement; Iric held little hope the bracelet would be found. But he was a watchman—hunting thieves was his job—so he pressed on with the work.
He studied the seller’s display cart. Across the flat display table were dozens of orange copper, black iron, and silver tin pieces laid out in a chaotic manner. Iric wondered how the old man could keep track of everything. A blue carpet was draped over the front of the cart for colorful effect.
“Can you give me any more specific details?” Iric asked the man, raising his voice to be heard over the bustle of the market. “What color were his eyes?”
“I don’t know,” the old man said.
“What about his hair?”
“I don’t know. He was wearing a hood.”
Iric peered down the street. Half of the people there had their hoods up, defending themselves from the intense rays of the sun, which was perched directly above so that the multi-level buildings on either side offered no shade. It was the harshest period of the day.
“How do you know it was a man then?” Iric asked.
“Well… I don’t know,” the craftsman said.
Iric sighed. It was a dead-end. Watchmen were not wizards; they couldn’t work miracles. He didn’t know what this man expected him to do. Maybe the old man was senile. His hair was whiter than snow and his body was hunched over, perhaps from years of work. His work was very fine, though. Some of the best on the street, by Iric’s amateur estimation.
“What did the bracelet look like?” Iric asked.
“It was a weave of copper and tin, with a fox design at the center. I made it in honor of the new Triumvirate.”
“Yes, there are lots of foxes around these days,” Iric mumbled.
He looked carefully at the copper pieces on the display table. Many looked quite similar. There were several copper-tin weave pieces, some with birds at their centers, some without any emblems. But Iric didn’t see a fox. The merchant looked at him with a frown.
“Of course, I looked for it before calling you over,” the old man grumped. “Looked long and hard.”
“How can you tell them apart?”
“I made them. I know each piece by heart.”
“So a person in a hood bumped into your cart and took your bracelet? What do you expect me to do with that? Did you see their hands, by chance?”
“No… Well, actually… I didn’t see him take the bracelet directly. Just he bumped the cart and left…and then it was gone.”
Iric knocked on the wooden cart, deep in thought, causing the arranged pieces to bounce from their resting places. It gave him an idea. The young watchman knelt down, the steel of his breastplate pressing on his knees, and pulled the blue display carpet up. The sun pushed aggressively into the new space. Iric looked in to see a fox smiling back at him, shimmering in the oppressive sunlight.
“I’ve found your thief,” Iric said, yelling out of excitement and necessity.
“Oh?” the man said, watching Iric as he rose to his feet. The watchman waived the bracelet in his hand.
“Gravity stole your bracelet. Would you like me to arrest him?”
The old man scowled.
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Author, teacher, historian, veteran. J.M. Williams is a Fantasy and Sci-Fi author who writes stories centered on strong characters. He has been writing since childhood, studying the short story form as an undergrad at the University of Minnesota. He was most recently accepted for publication in Flash Fiction Magazine and New Realm, and was the winner of the Fiction Vortex StoryVerse Contest for Winter 2017. He currently lives in Korea with his wife and 10 cats—teaching, writing, and blogging at JMWWriting.wordpress.com.