JIMMY FOURFINGERS • by Michael Ehart

Jimmy Fourfingers looked across the square, his professional eye appraising the mid-day office crowd. He shook his head. High-rise, latte-sipping zombies. Downtown the scores tended to be high, but there were also lot of eggs. For every Mr. Mark there were a dozen receptionists, coffee boys or Junior Account Managers. The JAMs were irritating. On their way up, they often dressed as well as Mr. Mark. Even their pokes were plush, but nearly always devoid of serious finger rub, usually just cab fare, an organ card, and a pic of the bloated wife.

It had been years since Jimmy had lifted a shallow poke on that mistake, but Laurie-Anne was new to his crew, and Jimmy still had to wave her off occasionally. Still, her eye was decent, and he didn’t regret picking her up after California Dan Kapinski went to pieces in a holding cell in Vegas. Dan had trained her well, and she had no book, which was how Jimmy Fourfingers liked to run his crew. No records, no hassle, no permanent address. Jimmy Fourfingers’ Travelling Circus, picking pockets across America since 1993. Except back then it was Swift Jimmy Danvers.

Laurie-Anne waved away some flies, finishing with her newspaper pointed at a middle-aged man in a Brooks Brothers suit. She put a forefinger to her cheek, gently, not wanting to risk losing a nail. Inside coat pocket. Jimmy started that way. From across the street his stall Kyong started a cut-across. Walter generally followed Kyong’s lead. Used to be Walter was the best bump-and-brush man in the trade, a true artist. But there wasn’t enough of Walter’s shoulders left these days for that, so now he worked drop. There was nothing wrong with Walter’s hands, and he could still strip a poke and dump it in three slow paces.

Jimmy slid into a steady shuffle behind Mr. Mark. He had a clear view of Kyong’s unsteady but purposeful interception course. She had torn her silk blouse, and her lip drooped, both classic distracters. At the last moment she looked up, and stopped dead in the mark’s path. Instinctively he turned away from her outstretched arm, and took two stumbling steps to the side to avoid collision. Jimmy stopped beside him, gently took his elbow as if to steady him, and did the lift. The mark nodded thanks, and continued on, none the wiser.

It was their smoothest lift all day. Jimmy dropped to Walter, who used a bus schedule for cover as he stripped the poke and dumped the empty wallet into a mailbox. Walter nodded. Day over, back to the hotel.

Altogether a productive day. Six lifts, all good. It was bad luck to guess, but he was pretty sure that there was plenty to divvy.

He was almost to the hotel before he noticed. He looked down at his right hand, his dipping hand, in disbelief. There were only three fingers left! He counted again slowly, but the total was the same. He must have lost it during that last dip.

Panic shook him for a moment, and then he laughed. That last mark was in for a shock when he went to pay for his next half-caff vanilla-and-brains latte and instead of his wallet found Jimmy’s finger. There was no book on Jimmy, he had never been printed, so the finger was useless to Mr. Law. Fingerprints were lousy for evidence these days, anyway. After the Zombie Apocalypse folks were always leaving smears of tissue around, and sometimes whole body parts. There were just so many biometrics the system could keep track of. Nowadays, if the cannon squad didn’t catch you with your whole mitt in some zombie’s pocket, there was not much chance of getting a conviction.

Jimmy caught the revolving door to the hotel just so, avoiding smearing the glass or getting caught in the frame. He made his way across the lobby, deep in thought. He could dip with his left, maybe not so well as with his right, but three fingers were just not enough to keep a smooth grip on a poke. He’d need a new name, too.

Jimmy sucked thoughtfully on a loose tooth. Lefty Danvers wasn’t bad, but there was a Lefty Martini who worked upstate, and he didn’t want to steal another man’s hook. Jimmy Southpaw? Maybe the crew would have some ideas.

He turned to the elevators, passing the day clerk, who nodded cautiously. Jimmy nodded back understandingly. Nice fellow, but tended to lose his head.

The world was a lot different since the ZA, but after a while, things settled down. When all was said and done, folks still had to eat, even if the diet had changed. Most folks went back to whatever they did before. The only thing Jimmy knew was picking pockets. So here he was, running his crew amongst the Urban Zombies. The world was a lot different, sure, but the trade stayed the same. It was sort of… comforting.

Michael Ehart‘s stories have appeared recently in Dark Worlds, Ray Gun Revival, The Sword Review, Every Day Fiction, Flashing Swords, Fear and Trembling, and in anthologies including Damned in Dixie, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008, Return of the Sword, Unparalleled Journeys II, Magic and Mechanica, and Rage of the Behemoth. His book The Servant of the Manthycore was considered by many critics to be one of the best fantasy books of 2007. The sequel, The Tears of Ishtar, will debut in early fall. You can find out more about what he is up to at http://mehart.blogspot.com.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Debra

    Quirky little story. Too many abbreviations and slang terms for me. Couldn’t understand half of story. What I did understand was good.

  • Celeste

    I loved this Michael. A rolling pace and snappy style. Excellent flash!

  • One of my favorite stories this year, Michael. 😉

  • Bob

    Wonderful piece. It’s exactly right – no matter what outrageous thing happens to the world, people will still do what people always do.

  • Good one, but it took some concentration to get through the slang. And an unanticipated veer to the side at the end … I thought I was reading a “crime” story and it turned out to be a “fantasy/zombie” story! (I never look at the category before I read the story.) But, whatever it was, I enjoyed it.

  • Elizabeth Perfect

    Loved it, the Zombie Apocalypse reminded me of the movie Fido. Very good, a five!

  • Zombies rock! 5 stars!

  • This was okay, but I don’t care much for zombie type stuff. Took too long for me to get past a lot of the slang. I like to understand what I’m reading while I’m reading it–not three paragraphs later.

  • J.C. Towler

    I enjoyed this up to the point it clearly veered into zombie-land. (In the beginning, I didn’t realize the “latte-sipping zombies” was a literal comment). The language was perfect and for what it’s worth, I did not find it confusing or distracting. The description of how a pickpocket crew operates was particularly enlightening.

    Still, high marks for a polished, well-written story.


  • Johann

    I was going to write almost exactly what J.C Towler wrote. Interesting story that I thought lost it’s mark with the whole zombie thing.

    So… high marks for a polished, well-written story. (how’s that for picking pockets?)

  • Margie

    5***** from me! Made me laugh at the predictable nature of our human race.

  • lindsay

    Ha! I loved it! Thought the zombie twist was what made it so great, and re-reading it, I enjoyed picking up the clues in the beginning. Great way to incorporate the zombie theme without being cheesy.

  • Excellent story as usual, Michael. I love it. It’s been a zombie sort of week for me and that is always good.

  • Sarah

    Love this!


  • You just can’t go wrong with Zombies. Excellent story.

  • Come on, the slang makes it. It’s all about voice, people, and this is big-V Voice with a side order of ‘oice.’

    Unexpected and fun — and not for the half-caff vanilla-and-brains latte crowd!

  • m.e.


  • I was going to say the exact same things as John (comment 9 by JC Towler), but he beat me to it. So just ditto that.

  • This one got five stars from me for the subtle fugue from a regular crime story into a zombie story with a message. One of the best I’ve read in a long time. And I agree with Bill – the use of language is masterful.

    Great job.

  • Barry Charman

    Good story, thought the twist worked well. An interesting approach to a well worn theme!

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  • Patrick O’Brian

    My urge to cut my wrist’s went up at least 60% after reading this… Nice try Michael, but here’s how the story should have went…

    Jimmy Fourfingers looked across the square, then jumped off a bridge in the middle of know where, never to be seen again.

    The End

  • Patrick O’Brian

    My urge to cut my wrist’s went up at least 60% after reading this… Nice try Michael, but here’s how the story should have went…

    Jimmy Fourfingers looked across the square, then jumped off a bridge in the middle of know where, never to be seen again.

    The End