A crowd was gathering behind the rope barrier on the dock beside the cruise ship. Some were there to collect debarking passengers and a few were passersby pausing to admire the gigantic vessel. Others excitedly memorized the floating hotel they would soon board. Shouted greetings and friendly hand waves filled the air.
Robert looked at his watch, and squeezed Lauren’s hand. “Let’s get an ice cream at that little shop back there. It’s still two hours before early boarding.”
“I can’t wait to see our room” Lauren said, turning to go with Robert. She adjusted her fuchsia shoulder bag’s straps before gripping it securely in her left hand. “Don’t lose our boarding passes.”
Robert reached inside his coat, feeling the envelope. “Not to worry, love.” Gripping Lauren’s hand, he broke trail through the crowd jostling to get closer to the front.
They were almost clear when an attractively dressed buxom blond wearing a low cut dress, wheeled around. Shoving her distinguished looking companion away, she lurched drunkenly into Robert. Clasping his neck, she pulled his head against her chest, dragging them toward the ground.
Lauren snatched her hand from Robert’s grasp. Grabbing his bicep she pulled, trying to extricate her husband from the woman’s crimson nails. The drunk’s companion bumped around Lauren, and reached for the blond.
“Let go, you drunken fool!” he exclaimed. “I’m taking you home.”
Just as quickly as it happened it was over. The inebriated couple stumbled away, disappearing quickly in the crowd.
“Wow” Lauren said. “Are you alright?”
“It’s not the way I planned to start our trip, but, hey! Did you get a picture for our scrapbook?”
Robert ducked as Lauren’s shoulder bag whizzed by his ear. “I should have let you suffocate. You seemed to be enjoying yourself.”
“Yeah, right. Let’s get that ice cream. The shop is over there.”
Lauren ordered lime sherbet and Robert chocolate chip. Reaching into his right-rear pants pocket, a look of panic crossed his face. “Lauren, my billfold is ….” He felt inside his coat. No wallet. Just the envelope with the boarding passes. His hands quickly patted over his clothing searching other pockets.
The cashier, a curly-haired high school boy with a thin goatee, drummed his fingers on the cash register, raising his eyebrows as he looked at the line behind Robert.
“Lauren, pay for these. We’ll figure something out.”
Unzipping her shoulder bag Lauren reached for her billfold. Terror raced across her face. “Robert, it’s not here!”
“No, Robert, it’s gone. What’s happening to us?” she cried. “What are we going to do? We can’t --- our trip ---.” Tears welled in her eyes.
The man standing behind them handed the cashier some money. “I’ll take care of theirs and these,” he said pointing to three youngsters and a woman standing with him.
“Thank you” Lauren exclaimed, snatching a napkin from a holder to dab tears sliding down her cheeks. “Robert, we need the police. That couple stole our money.”
“Huh? … My watch is gone!”
It didn’t take long to find a policeman.
“I’m sorry, folks” he said. “We keep an eye out for pickpockets working the crowd but they have lots of methods. Distraction will always be in there somewhere. And you can bet the dip, the one that dipped in your pocket and purse, immediately passed it off to a runner so they wouldn’t get caught with the goods. You got double dipped, though. I’d say the man got your wallets and the gal got your watch. They are pros, for sure.
“When she stumbled she grabbed your left hand didn’t she, and pulled your head down with her right? Your watch had a leather band, didn’t it?”
“How’d you know?”
“They are the easiest to remove one handed. She unfastened your band so smoothly you never knew it happened. They appear well dressed upscale people, just a little tipsy, to throw you off. I’m sorry to say, you folks bought a lesson and we can’t do much about it.”
Robert hugged his wife close, inhaling the freshness of her hair. In the distance a marquee flashed a final boarding call.
“Lauren, I put $500 in my shoes. It’s an all you can eat cruise and everything is paid for. We’ll straighten this mess out when we get back. Ready or not, Alaska, here we come.”
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