A uniformed officer backed through the door to the detective division. He turned around and everyone could see he was carrying a box.

“Detectives Okuno and Haycock?” he called. “Here’s that little present for you.”

“Presents are supposed to be wrapped, Pinkus,” Haycock said.

“Actually,” Pinkus said, “it’s a lot of presents. How many wallet snatchings are you working in the financial district?”

“Twenty-seven,” Okuno said.

The officer set the box on Haycock’s desk. “Well, here are twenty-seven wallets, so you’re covered.”

The detectives stood up and peered into the box. Then they looked at the uniformed cop.

“You can’t be serious,” Haycock said.

Pinkus shrugged.

“Where’d you get these?” Okuno asked.

“The box was found in a Police League toy collection box at Op-Mart. The wallets and the box have all been dusted for prints; they’re clean. There’s no money in any of ’em, but the IDs are all there, credit cards, membership cards, photos. And a little something extra.”

Okuno frowned as he pulled a random wallet from the box. Where the folding money should have been was a handwritten note, which he read to Haycock: “ ‘Your (admittedly coerced) cash contribution of $672 –”

“Yeah, he put the amount of each theft on the notes,” Pinkus said.

“– is greatly appreciated. It will be used ‘at this festive season of the year’ –”

“That’s from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,” Pinkus said helpfully. Haycock frowned at him.

“– for shelter and to provide Christmas for a small family. This is not a tax-deductible charity. Happy Holidays anyway.’ ” He shook his head. “And there’s a hand-drawn candy cane for a signature.”

“Yeah,” Pinkus said, “that’s a nice touch, isn’t it?”


The officer chuckled and went back downstairs.

“The credit cards are still there,” Haycock repeated.

“The numbers could have been copied and the cards replaced.” Okuno thought a moment. “But the notes say ‘cash contribution.’ ”

“This guy’s a novice thief,” Haycock mused. “A good one, but still a novice. He doesn’t know how to safely use a stolen card or receive property he bought with one. Maybe someone who learned the art of picking pockets just for laughs and is using it now to keep a roof over his head.”

“And get his kid a teddy bear for Christmas.”

“Or,” Haycock suggested, “it’s meant to throw us off track.”

“No, it’s too much work to write the notes, draw the candy canes, and put the wallets where a cop would be sure to find them. This guy’s a talented amateur. And he feels bad about it. He’s telling us he’s done.”

“For now he’s done. And he didn’t feel bad enough not to steal.”

“You choose: pick some rich guy’s pocket or tell your kid there’s no Santa Claus?”

Haycock grimaced. “Don’t make me feel bad for a criminal. Just keep an eye on your wallet.”

“I’ve got the same thing in my wallet that you do in yours.”

“Not much point then, is there?”

Okuno grabbed a handful of wallets from the box and dropped them on the desk. “Might as well get started. All these guys are getting used wallets for Christmas.”

“Ho, ho, ho.”