Comme tirer sur des poissons dans un tonneau
Case Study 113 :
Warning, these are the raw, bare unusual facts as originally recorded. Some names, times, places and some facts have , of course been altered.
Name: Angelica D circa 192__
Subject: an unscrupulous light-fingered body thief
Event: A Sisters of Mercy charity sponsored ball
Place: The Hamptons
Time: Warm early Spring Friday Evening
It had been a very busy 3 day working weekend for “poor” Angie, a rather handsome lady with flaming red hair, whose life during these depressive years had forced her too constantly work to sustain herself.
The joint where now Angie found herself was filled with a bevy of ladies and girls dressed up royally for the occasion, A Sisters of Mercy charity sponsored ball. The Ball’s objective was to raise funds for the good sister’s bread lines, Angie’s objective was to raise some funds of her own.
Needless to say, she did not fit in with her present environment. The reason Angie did not fit in was, although she was also dressed up in a sleekly colorful frock of her own, she was probably the only female guest to whom the term “working lady” would be an oxy-moron. Actually, it was almost as If her fellow guests sensed this, almost acting like she did not even exist. As she found out almost as soon as she had entered, two ladies were walking towards her, her, one in a long flowing lavender gown and pearls, the other in a shorter grey satin number with a bouncy skirt and decked out with enough silver trinkets to have drained a small mine. Angie nodded to them, but their noses were so held high they didn’t even see her, and the one in grey satin actually would have ran Angie over if she had not moved quicker, as it was they brushed against one another, and Angie had to actually grasp the Ladies’ wrist with the pearled bracelet,to steady herself. Angie found herself on the end of a few rather severe words of disdain as they looked back at her..
Angie just sighed to herself, and watched the pair saunter off, with a rather thoughtful look in her bright green eyes. Her left hand was clasped, playing with something she was holding in it. She then slipped that hand behind her satin sash, straighten it, she did so favor wearing slick sash’s with her silk party dresses.
It was at that moment that a pristine young lady walked by her. Looking like an escapee from a high society debutant’s coming out affair. Her lithe figure was draped in a gleaming white taffeta gown, its long layered skirt that swirled provocatively as she moved, Her elbow length gloves and purse were made of the same material as her gown. Angie’s eyes travelled up and down the passing enchantress (without moving her head), looking her over head to toe , from the spray of white flowers in her hair, to her clicking white high heels. Surprisingly the only jewelry she was wearing was a thick gold bracelet, set with rubies, as bright as the fire crackling in the mammoth fireplace by the bar.. Waiting ten seconds after the pristine miss was out of her roving eyes view, Angie turned and followed. She did not get far, a male voice called out “Sheila” and the lady was met by a rather charming appearing male of the same age, and smiling, the pair trotted off to the dance floor.
Angie hovered for a bit watching the show put on by the waltzing young couple, as well as their paired co dancers out on the almost 1 acre ballroom floor. As Angie stood watching, mesmerized by her thoughts, she first noticed the opened, wide double glass doors on the far side of the ballroom. Many of the well-dressed guests seemed to be coming and going from this newly discovered area.
It was then that a pretty young thing passed by Angie, heading towards those very same double doors. Although she carried herself well, the charming princess appeared to be a little too young to be wondering about by herself. She was definitely too young to be flitting about unescorted while wearing the costly jewels that glittered a pretty fire as she swished about on her merry way. The girl was expensively attired in an excessively glossy, purple satin blouse, a tailored black satin jacket with rhinestone buttons ,and a long silky black satin pleated skirt that fell spilling out from underneath the matching jacket ,swishing with every step of whispering silk at the heels of her black shoes. Her long soft chestnut hair done up in a long plait, with pearls interwoven throughout its length , held back by a sapphire encrusted clip, sapphires sparkled from all over ; ears, neckline, wrists and fingers, even her jacket had a sapphire brooch shaped like a waning moon. Very pretty Angie observed as the young scamp reached the double doors.
Angie, her curiosity now aroused by what lay past those doors, turned heel and with the girl as an unwary guide, followed her towards them. Now, curiosity may have killed a cat or two, but for Angie, being curious usually put food on her table. She soon discovered that the doors led out onto a wide cement patio, off of which was a rather extensive flower Garden, walled in by a rows of high green hedges. Angie watched as the last wisp of the, surprisingly still unescorted, young lady’s skirt disappeared from view into the gardens. Someone should warn her about going outside alone for walks when dressed like that ! Angie thought to herself, but before moving off with the intention of doing that very thing. But she stopped first, checking her surroundings.
The patio was home to a number of mostly occupied tables. With one exception, all the occupied tables were home to couples in groups of two to six, men in tuxes, their paramours in vibrant gowns that spread out quite nicely, spilling down rainbow like coloures from chairs to the cement floor. As Angie looked around, she observed the array of glittering jewels worn by the happily chatting women. Then Angie darted her eyes the one table that made the exception on the patio. Located in an isolated corner, that table was the only one with a lone female occupant. The occupant was resplendently dressed in a shiny mint green gown of fine satin that literally poured along the shapely curves of her seated figure, before finally splaying out around her feet like a soft, shiny pool. Her many jewels were set with majestic diamonds, especially her earrings, or at least the one Angie could see. For the ladies long hair fell over one heavily mascaraed eye, making the lady appear to be a one eye Cyclops, with an incredibly sparkling bright diamonded earing dripping from her one visible earlobe. Angie scrutinized the scene before her as she pondered a bit. Then, spying a shiny mint green purse dangling from the chair behind the Cyclops, a grin, wider than that of the Cheshire cat’s begins to spread across Angie’s handsomely sly face.
Why the grin like a Cheshire cat?
Now when a young Angie had first started on her adulthood path, she self -taught herself on how to be a pickpocket, ( body thief, and cutpurse were her preferred terms) and progressed to the point whereupon she was able to make a comfortable living.
Back then, as in the present, women of all ages were her preferred target, for several reasons:
A) Easily more distractible, especially the younger versions.
B) Silken and satiny types of dress, smoothly slick, were far more accommodating when preforming a dip or pick than trying the same maneuvers on the more unforgiving formal attire of their male counterparts.
C) Likewise the possessions of women and girls were more plentiful, and shiningly richer than those of most gentlemen.
Now, as was stated, Angie was self-taught. She did this by discreetly watching the pickpockets who worked the back streets and alleyways off of fancy theatres and dance halls in the area she grew up. She also did research by gleaning information from old newspapers and haunting the local libraries.
(See more of Angie’s background in the Album, Angie picks Chicago)
Angie especially liked the methods employed by cutpurses, and found enough success in this method that she still habitually carried a penknife with a long, finely honed, razor sharp blade. Even though she had not nicked a soft purse in a few years, she was still always up to the challenge.
So this, then, was the reason behind the evil grin, and the reason Angie now slipped a hand discreetly behind her colorful dress’s satin sash , extracting the finely honed folded razor, which she opened with one hand and concealed behind her back. She walked up, and looking around, let her hand holding the razor drop and allowed the blade to skim across the bottom of the purse as she walked past. She heard something tingle behind her, and then a muted gasp. Angie turned, quite a natural thing to do, noting the lady was reaching for her purse as its contents spilled out. Angie’s practiced eyes took inventory, a calf skin wallet, gold (solid!) compact, matching lipstick container, expensive tortoise shell comb, and several silky handkerchiefs had fallen out. Angie came to the ladies rescue, effectively cutting off any of the ladies at the nearby tables from doing the same. Their attention quickly turning back to their own personal business, as the rich are happily wont to do.
As the purses owner was bending down, her long hair falling totally straight down, Angie comes up and bumps into her as she leant down also. Apologizing, Angie cordially helped the lady pick up the purses’ strewn contents. Angie chats happily with the girl, easing the tension. The girl looks up into Angie’s face, thanking her, her long hair had fallen back, covering her eye, her only visible earring was swaying, still sending out showers of bright sparkles. Angie willingly accepting the young ladies gracious gratitude, before happily waltzing away, leaving the solitary lady to scratch her head over the ruined purse, as she makes sure all the rather pricey items it had contained are accounted for. Happily she discovers that nothing from her purse is missing.
Angie had not touched one item that had spilled out from the slashed bottom of the small silk purse.
For you see, Angie had graduated from being a common pickpocket of wallets and the contents of expensive purses
( as explained in the stories located the albums, Angie having a Ball @ Angie at Play).
Angie now was able to lift things far more valuable, as evidenced by the shiny diamond earring that Angie now had secreted inside the hidden pocket of her dresses’ her satin sash, the very earring that had been hidden beneath the long silky hair that had made the victim resemble a sexy Cyclops. The clasped earring had been exposed briefly as the distracted young lady had bent down to collect her scattered possession’s, and Angie’s practiced fingers had scooped it up and gently pulled it free from her earlobe, without the unsuspecting lady feeling so much as a prick..
Now Angie could have easily snatched both earrings, or had taken a necklace or bracelet along with it. But if she had, than once discovered, it would have been immediately apparent that something sinister had happened, and she would likely have been at the center point of that suspicion. But, by taking only a single piece of jewelry, it would more likely be surmised it had fallen off in the fracas, or possibly even earlier in the evening.
See Addendum SS
Angie left the sexy Cyclops, retreating back towards the garden. Now I wonder where the inquisitive young miss wondered off too. Someone really should warn her about going outside for a walk alone wearing all those precious jewels ,Angie thought, not really all that concerned about actually warning anyone.
Angie savored gardens and small parks with the feeling that she had done some of her best handiwork in places like that whenever they were haunted by ultra-wealthy fat cats. So it was with some great measure of pleasure that she now took to prowling this particular gardens maze of winding paths as she slowly made her get away, still open for opportunity.
As Angie meandered through the garden, passing many young couples milling about, happily eyeing the various fancily attired and jewel laden ladies that were flaunting their goods about, she remembered about being in a similar Garden not too very long ago, and the amazing luck that she had ended up having that evening.
(See Album “Angie being receptive” to read about that luck)
Angie turned a corner and saw that there was a side path almost hidden from view behind an untrimmed moss rose bush. She turned down it and found the path almost deserted. At the far end was a small alcove. Angie peered inside, it was not empty. The young miss in the purple blouse and black satin jacket and skirt, was knelling, happily admiring some small cement statues of animals she had discovered. Behind her was a small stone bench that lay before the hedge. Angie noticed that some of the hedge’s crooked branches had formed a small opening to the outside. Angie snuck behind one of the bushes that formed the inner wall of the alcove, and watched with open interest . The happily unaware girl’s sapphires glittered beckoningly, especially her sapphire pendent on its long braided silver chain that bounced on and off the front of her thick, glossy satin blouse . The girls black satin jacket was open, and the waning moon brooch was clearly visible, glittering in the lights of a nearby gas lamp. Angie flexed her fingers, waiting for an opening; it really ought to be an easy pick.
But at that very moment a dark figure came silently through the break in the outside hedge. A Gypsyish young female vagabond, wearing a slightly ragged dress with a colourful long scarf came into the pool of light , and crept up to the bench. The young lady had her back to the bench, never heard a thing, and kept on playing blissfully, unaware she now had, good or bad, uninvited company. The female vagabond only looked about a couple of years older, with a stronger figure than that of the well-dressed girl, but physically about the same size. The female vagabond sat on the bench, black eyes darting about, looking like she was being protective of the young lady in shiny satin, and even shinier sapphires.
Angie rose from her crouch; she had not been noticed, and decided to keep it that way. She carefully circled around the entrance to the alcove, without looking back. Her conscious, like most thieves, clear and unworried about the fate, good or bad, that may befall the stylishly attired rich young girl.
Actually, as she carefully snuck off, Angie’s thoughts were dwelling on how she would have distracted that pretty miss long enough to flick open the dangling silver chains clasp, and slip it and its shimmering pendent from around the high collared neckline of the accommodating slippery purple satin blouse. As she played it out, Angie almost turned back to see if somehow she could still accomplish it, it would be that easy. But she didn’t, and headed back past the moss rose bush and entered back on the main path.
Angie continued to nonchalantly prowl along the gardens long paths, staying to the outer edge she discovered several alcoves that were hidden in a similar manner to the one behind the overgrown Moss Rose bush. They all had been empty, until the fifth one she discovered, located behind a statue of a winged Hermes.
She heard the giggling first, and carefully shadowed her way around for a peek through some of the hedges branches., and what she saw made her perk right up. Angie observed a pair of young twenty something missus dressed resplendently in shiny gowns of royal blue and blood red that fluttered fetchingly as they quivered about. . Angie salivated over the copious collection fine jewels the pair was exhibiting, mesmerizingly flashing as the girls giggled in a conspiratorial fashion. All in all, Angie found it to be a most enthralling performance.
Angie watched as they sat their shiny purses(matching their gowns) on the old mossy stone bench and opened them. They began to slip off their rings and bracelets, setting them inside, than peeled off their long satin gloves( also matching their gowns, and laid them alongside. Then as they both looked around, one bent down and lifted up her long gown, revealing a black garter that held a gold cigarette case. Pulling it out, she opened it and both took a cigarette and started to smoke, giggling away the whole time at their daring. The other than looked around, and bending over lifted her long gown, her brooch dangling, and pulled a small flask from her garter! Then the both took long swigs, and started to giggle even more. In the time it took to do all this, Angie had come up with a plan of action designed to relive the young ladies of some of their finery. “Comme tirer sur des poissons dans un tonneau!” Angie murmured to herself.
She edged around till she was on the hedge directly behind the bench. At the bottom was an opening just large enough to crawl through with a little effort. Angie picked up a small stone and threw it as hard as she could at the fountain. Hearing the noise, the girls jump, and go to the entrance of the alcove to investigate, their purses and its valuable cargo momentarily unguarded. As their colorfully shimmering backs are turned, Angie reaches through and pulls one of the purses down, spilling its contents. She reached in the glittering pile and spirits away a long, serpentine bracelet, and the biggest and brightest ring she could find amongst the group. She scattered the rest liberally about and slipped back before the girls turned back.
Angie waited until their curiosity was sated, and the pair came back inside the alcove. They soon began to meander about playfully, blowing puffs of smoke into each other’s faces, laughing at themselves, as their earrings, necklaces and a fine emerald brooch sparkled ever so invitingly to Angie’s shrewd eyes.
Now for the Coup de Gras, Angie thought as she rose, and walked over to the entrance, entering the alcove with a chirpy “why hello there!” The startled princesses jumped, and twirled around, their gowns delightfully coiling and swirling along their fine sanguine figures. Quickly placing them at ease, Angie looked about, and in a co-conspirator tone asked if she could join in a smoke. The girls eagerly obliged and soon all three of them were sending rings spiraling about. Angie admired their necklaces, and they happily lifted them up for her to see,. As the gas lights touched them, the sparklers came to life, sending cascading showers of shimmering fireworks into the night. Angie’s eyes absorbed it all in as she felt a welcoming tingle wash over her, making her shiver inwardly with absolute delight. But on the outside she appeared calm, and as she commented in a rather subdued tone of voice, “ My that is pretty”, she asked the other girl her opinion. As the girl leaned inward, Angie’s fingers darted in, and cupping the girls dangling brooch in her fingers, felt and flicked open it’s clasp, working it off all in one swift motion..
As Angie stashed her brooch in a secret pocket, he other princess, not to be outdone, presented her earrings to Angie, which Angie also cordially admired, secretly acknowledging that that the one hidden in her sash was far more pretty and valuable. But not as pretty or as valuable as her dangling brooch, which Angie had just lifted.
As Angie absorbed the rich fire of the remaining glittery gems the girls wore, she wondered ( not for the first time!) what attracted her more, the jewels, or the cash they may bring. Not that it mattered at the moment, for it was time to make her exit before the pair discovered the chicanery that Angie had caused, both on the bench behind them, and from the very gowns they were wearing so very fetchingly over their svelte figures.
They gave Angie her leave, cheerfully thanking her for joining them. As she walked away, Angie reflected that it had been a bit of a sticky wicket pulling it off, but she had slammed the score so to speak, and it was with a rather upmost felling of confidence in the luck she was experiencing this evening, that she left the alcoves hidden path and started to meander her way back the way she had come, like with any good gambler, with the intention of leaving while she was ahead.
When Angie reached the path outside the statue, she was abruptly snapped out of her musings as she realized that a man was approaching her. For a second Angie was taken aback, should she retreat back up the hidden path before being noticed? . Then she recognized him, and smiled evilly to herself.
It was the man, who earlier in the evening man had swirled “Sheila” , the wayward debutante in white satin ,to the dance floor. He looked up, seeing Angie standing there. She felt his eyes checking her out, and she smiled oh so prettily for him, her mind going a mile a minute. Where could his dance partner be? The man looked back over his shoulder. Ahh, there she was, standing at a rose bush just by a curve in the path. “Sheila” looked up past Angie, and catching her boyfriend’s eye, he called out to her, promising not to be long, and passed Angie without another look, as he marched away down the path. “Sheila” turned, exposing a back covered in sleek white satin, and headed off around the bend. Angie’s eyes meanwhile had been glued on the ruby bracelet, smelling opportunity, the way a fox smells the feathers adorning a plump hen.
Angie followed at a distance, calmly awaiting the prime moment to make her move. “Sheila” traveled quite away s into the depth of the garden, eventually coming along one to an outer wall of the high hedge. At one point she turned to admire a fountain, placing a satiny white glove on its rim, the rubies around her wrist glistening like mad. Angie, darting behind a nearby bush, was able to fully study the bracelet. It was a tiffany piece, with a clasp Angie knew would not put up much effort to stay clasped around the ladies’ slender gloved wrist.
When “Sheila” moved off, Angie shadowed even closer, she now had a plan, the debutante liked water fountains. Soon enough Angie heard the gurgling that meant another was close by. It came into view, an statue of a winged Midas, water pouring out of the flute he was playing. “Sheila” stopped abruptly, and Angie began a careful approach, the young lady, still with her back to Angie, could hear nothing above the murmuring water of the fountain.
Angie came up right behind her, eyeballing the pleasing gown worn in such a fetchingly manner by her prey. The lady stepped back, coming right up against Angie, whose slipping hands did their magic. Her right arm and hand caught the young lady by the waist, steadying her as she teetered in a startled manner, looking back at what was behind her. Angie had gripped the right side, and the lady looked in that direction, her attention away from her left side, and the wrist from which her only piece of jewellery lay. Angie’s left hand reached around and found its mark. Gliding along the satiny white glove, she lifted the bracelet with practiced finger’s, two of which turned it to the clasp, snapping it open and flicking it off “Shelia’s” wrist in one, deft, synchronized effort.
Come to mama Angie purrs as she sees the bracelet land in a soft bunch of leaves under one of the rose bush’s that lined the sparkling fountain. At the same time she was accepting the young ladies apologies, Angie looked “Sheila “ directly, innocently, In the eyes, accepting her apologies graciously, and calmly told her it as no fault of hers. The young lady left, embarrassed, and Angie waited until the coast was clear and then retrieved the bracelet, securing it away, before heading back the opposite way. She had just passed the part of the path where the moss rose bush hid to the little alcove, when she saw “Sheila’s” boyfriend heading her way. she turned and darted down the path. Then remembering the miss in purple and black satin, she thought she should check in on her. Angie reached the little alcove, finding it empty, nothing of interest except that a few of the statuses were now laying on their sides.
Angie reaches the patio, and without looking about, cuts back inside. She calmly heads through the mulling crown and leaving the same way she came.
As she left, Angie decided to walk a bit before hailing a cabby. It was a rough area, but there were a few people milling about and as long as she did not go down any dark alley ways, she should remain untouched. At the thought of dark alleyways she wondered what had happened with the female vagabond that had come into the alcove.
At that moment Angie spies a familiarly dressed figure, a long fluttering black satin skirt nipping at the toes of her heels, wearing a black satin jacket with rhinestone buttons, covering a glossy purple satin blouse. The figure was walking across the street, alone.
Someone should have warned that young lady about going outside for a walk alone, dressed like she was, foolishly displaying all those precious jewels. No one obviously had, Angie smirked to herself. For the girl now wearing the outfit was the young vagabond girl. Angie hoped the rich young lady was okay,( gypsy would had only had enough time to strip the girl of her valuables ) and not catching a chill, for everything she had been wearing, right down to her silky slips, would fetch the young gypsy a handsome price.
Angie had heard stories about Victorian child strippers – unscrupulous women who would cunningly lure unsuspecting children of the well-to-do away from safety in order to strip them bare of their clothing and any other valuables they had with them. The colder the weather the better, for they would be wearing more clothes. She wondered if the gypsy looking vagabond had heard the same stories. Angie shuddered in disgust. She had morals, aside from secreting away jewelry, she would never do anything else to any victim. She looked at the young lady walking haughtily ahead of her, and she had no tolerance for someone who would!
Angie reflected for a moment as she watched the girl swish away. She was glad the she had left when she did. Once the rich scamps plight had been discovered ( as it would soon be she knew) the other guest would instinctively check over their own valuables. Angie knew of a few wealthy ladies in attendance whom would soon become frantic. Angie started to follow the gypsy girl.
The gypsy girl may have decided to wear the fancy clothes, but none of the sapphires … she was too smart to wear those openly in this part of town. Angie had noticed a small bulge in a side pocket of the jacket, and she knew what was making it.
A soft breeze came from down the street, fluttering the young ladies long hair. A gypsy wind, Angie thought, how appropriate. She closed in on the oblivious young girl, her eyes focusing on the bulging side pocket of the shiny jacket. Never before had Angie ever encountered a satiny pocket that deserved to be picked clean as this one, now almost within her reach.
Someone should warn this girl about traipsing about alone dressed like that. Not me, Angie thought unforgivingly as she prepared her fingers to make their move.
Now, one of the observations the author of the phamplet noted was the pretty much any lady who loses a piece of jewelery while out and about will go to great lengts to justify its looss, short of someone actually stealing it from her. Broken clasp, loose fitting, melting away(in the vcase of pearls) slipped off
To the point that they will give any reason to convince themselves that its loss was accidental, and almost turn a stubbornly deaf ear that it may have been otherwise
On one occasion, soley to test his throry, he himself stood next to a lady who was lamenting the loss of a brooch. A brooch he himself had lifted from her gowns sash and still, daruingly, had about his person.
On a whim he suggested that he had seen a stranger lurking about, and wondered if he may have taken it while dancing with her.
She totally poo pooed the idea with a nervous giigle, and placing a hand with well ringed fingers onto his shoulder, said, dear, things like that simply do noy occur.
Tis inherent belief has
been the foundation for lifting a persons valuables.master pickpockets in the generations since
Like shooting fish in a barrel
comme tirer sur des poissons dans un tonneau
Our Thanks to Mr J. Gardner for pointing out the existence of Mr. Monescu’s 1826 guide
Here are some links to videos depicting females not unlike our Angie
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