With the abundance of free time that December brings, I've been revisiting some of my other projects. I cannot tell you how good it feels to sit down and really take my time on writing after the madness that is November.
Right now I'm focusing on The Unremarkable Man. Every time I start work on this story again, I think, "This is it. I'm finishing it now. This is finally happening." That's exactly how I feel now, but man, who even knows?
In the meantime, here's a little scene about Wendell's parents.
Wendy Wilson Coombs, born Smith, enjoyed doing nice things for other people. She also carried a secret love of secrets. The culmination of these two passions was Wendy’s unmatched ability to slip money, pleasant notes, and even small gifts into a stranger’s pocket without their noticing.
On one occasion, just as Wendy was beginning to truly master her craft, she overheard her latest target discover the new watch she had surreptitiously given him.
“Where did this come from?” he asked.
His friend took a look at it. “It’s not yours?”
“Maybe the wind put it there,” his friend joked, and then the two of them were out of earshot.
From then on, Wendy found she could not resist signing her work with a playful "Windy".
It was Vincent Coombs, named after no one in particular, who first discovered the string of reverse-pickpocketing incidents in his home city of Chicago. He took out an ad in the personals of the newspaper where he worked, asking if “Windy” would be willing to meet him for an interview. One week later, amidst a pile of forged responses, Vincent at last received a letter whose signature matched the samples he’d seen while researching the story. In it, “Windy” agreed to meet with Vincent in Grant Park and promised to wear a bright red bow tie so as to be easily found.
Vincent arrived at the location and time specified in the note: a bench near Randolph Street at noon. He saw a great deal of people go by, a few of them wearing promisingly inconspicuous clothes, but not a single bright red bow tie. After fifteen minutes, Vincent took out and lit a cigarette. He decided that he would give up waiting as soon as he finished smoking it.
A woman dropped onto the other side of the bench just then. Vincent would later describe her as “the least discreet person I ever met.” She was six feet tall and proud of it, her dark brown hair had been set in a towering beehive, the shade of her lipstick could only be called drastic, and she wore a deep turquoise shirtwaist dress with a broach the size and color of an orange pinned below her collar.
She gave Vincent a polite smile as she dug through her purse, eventually extracting a pen and a piece of paper. “Hi there.”
“Ma’am,” he replied, tipping his hat to her.
Wendy would remember that moment, as well as the exact shade of Vincent’s navy suit and stetson, with perfect clarity for the rest of her life.
He said, “You haven’t seen a man with a red bow tie go by here, have you?”
“No sir,” she answered, taking out a cigarette of her own. “You meeting somebody?”
“I thought I was.” He smiled and shrugged.
Wendy took the cigarette from her mouth. “You been stood up?”
“Looks that way.”
“Who were you meeting?”
Vincent took a moment to look her over. “You know anything about a reverse-pickpocket going around town lately?”
She screwed up her face. “What’s that?”
“He slips things into people’s pockets. Money and nice cards and things like that.”
“That’s who you’re meeting?”
Vincent nodded. “I’m a reporter. I wanted to write a story about it.”
Wendy shook her head, putting the cigarette back in her mouth. “Sounds like an awfully expensive hobby.”
Vincent laughed. “I was going to ask him how he funds his work.”
“You know what I’d do?” Wendy took the the cigarette out again. “I’d quite smoking. Then I’d just use the money I saved.”
“You smoke that much?” Vincent offered her his lighter.
“What else were you gonna ask him?” Wendy ignored his offer, and he tucked the lighter back in his pocket.
Wendy shrugged, turning away. “Just curious.”
“No, I mean I’d ask why he does it.”
She turned back around and found him smiling slyly at her. “Maybe he’s bored.”
“I don’t think so.” Vincent flicked some of the ash off his cigarette.
“What do you think, then?”
“I think he’s having some fun with it, sure, but it’s more than that. He’s good at what he does. Too good, you see. I think he gets a little thrill out of doing something nice.”
“That’s it?” Now she looked him over. “You must be a terrible reporter. You’re not nearly cynical enough. You from here?”
“Born and raised. You?”
“I’m from Tennessee, but I’ve lived all over. East Coast, West Coast and everywhere in between. I like to move around.”
“And why’s that?”
“Same reason I do anything. I like people.” She smiled and ran a hand over her hair, checking it was all in place. “Don’t you tell me I’m the one who’s not cynical enough, either. I’m not a reporter.”
“No, Ma’am,” he chuckled.
“I better get going.” Wendy stood. “It was nice to meet you…”
“Vincent.” He offered her his hand. “Coombs. Wait.” He squeezed her hand gently, holding her back from walking away. “There’s just one more thing I’d ask this guy if I met him. You want to know what it is?”
She drew her hand from him and rested it on her hip. “What’s that?”
Lowering his voice, he asked her, “Have you ever been caught?”
She flashed him a mischievous grin and answered, “Not yet.”
Vincent would later discover that over the course of their conversation, the inimitable Wendy Wilson one-day-Coombs had slipped her cigarette, a red bow tie and her phone number into his pockets.