The train rattles as you shake open your newspaper. A headline immediately catches your eye:
Shoot. Elia's Heart? That famed gem was admired by collectors and curators everywhere, and the Windsor family was powerful enough to make most thieves think twice about absconding with their riches.
You know they're looking for the wrong men, right? You look up at the man sitting across from you, a cheeky, arrogant grin playing across his face. How could he possibly know that?
He chuckles at the confusion clearly showing in your face. Big heists like these are always more complicated than they seem.
You supposed that was true. How would you have done it then?
He laughs, and his eyes light up, glinting with something unrecognizable. Me? I would pull a switcharoo and simply walk out with the jewel, before the armed and dangerous men show up and blast up the place. The policemen wouldn't even be after me till it's far too late. He smiles again. Hypothetically, of course.
The train is slowing, pulling into the next stop. The man glances down at an old pocket watch, before flashing you yet another of his smiles. Well, this is my stop. Hope the rest of the newspaper is as exciting. He winks at you, then walks out leaving behind only a vague whiff of cologne.
What a friendly young man. You return your attention to your paper.
A few hours later, you receive a message.
What?! You frantically call the bank, but when they ask for your account number, you realize your wallet is missing as well.
Velvet is a consummate conman, a silver-tongued rogue who has assumed enough identities that he's no longer sure which one he really is. When not on the job, he plays a conspicuous aristocrat with money to burn. But when he sees something that strikes his fancy, he becomes whatever he needs to be to get his hands on it. Throughout his long career, he has had only one constant possession: a pocketwatch given to him by (he thinks) his father.
He was just about 4 or 5 years old when he told his first lie. And to a police man no less. He'd ventured out from his shielded little alcove to go find some food… maybe the nice lady with the fruit cart would give him another banana. And if not, he was sure he'd be able to lift enough money to get a decent meal.
Out he darted, trying to keep his head down, walking just fast enough that he looked like a kid who was on an errand for his grandmother, perhaps. But, the fruit lady wasn't there. Drat. He wasn't sure quite where he should go next… perhaps the train station? There were always plenty of rich old men there that wouldn't mind if a few coins left their purse.
His momentary indecision must have caught the attention of the police man on the opposite corner, who was now stalking over purposefully. Velvet knew that running would only serve to make matters worse, so he smiled sweetly at the man.
The policeman asked where his parents were, face creased with concern at this poor, possibly lost little boy. Velvet inwardly snorted, living on the streets for the past year had made him more than capable of watching out for himself.
His outward expression didn't change though, from that of an innocent boy. Oh, sir! My mommy and daddy are over there, of course. I'm waiting for them to finish paying for the groceries!
The policeman looked relieved. You shouldn't wander so far from them, you know. Go along, hurry back. You don't want to get lost.
As if he could get lost here. Every street here was home, its routes firmly mapped in his head. He knew of 17 different routes he could take, where this nosy policeman wouldn't even be able to follow him. But instead, he nodded and skipped off towards the young couple that had emerged from the grocery store.
Acutely aware of the policeman's still-watchful eyes, he knew that he'd have to sell this. He walked straight up to the woman, grabbed her hand, and grinned up at her winningly. She was clearly shocked, but he tugged her around the corner, yelling Let's go this way, mommy! before dropping her hand and disappearing off through a side street.
Hrmm. That went pretty well, actually. And he'd managed to grab a peach from her grocery bag as well. Mmm, yes, this was quite satisfying.
Velvet reached into his pocket, distractedly touching the cold metal within. He turned it between his fingers. This was his pocket watch, the one that he always had in his pocket. But because of it absolutely always was within his pocket, it gave him a sort of strength. Like he wasn't so alone.
His father had given him that watch. Or he supposed that that man was his father. All he remembered was a vague, strong presence. One that told him that this watch had been passed down father to son for generations and that it was his turn to keep it now. What became of that warm presence he didn't know, but when he was feeling at his lowest, his most alone, he would reach for it and feel its comforting weight in his coat.
Never mind that it no longer worked. For Velvet, it was the single remaining thing that tied him to his past. Every day, he slipped in an out of identities like anyone else would with clothes, making a living by ensuring that anything about his past or who he really was remained hidden. Every day he put on a new person, a new name, and later that night he'd remove any signs that that person ever existed. But this watch – this single remnant of what was – remained forever constant.
In some ways, it was foolish for him to carry it with him all of the time. His clients might remember that singular consistent detail of his image if they were to be questioned by the police. And perhaps maybe a bunch of people would suddenly recall a charming man with that rather old, tarnished pocket watch. Then he'd be forced to abandon it, maybe throw it into the gutter or something. He shuddered. Without the watch, he'd be almost soul-less – unanchored to his actual life, flitting from identity to identity without truly existing.
No, no matter how risky, he'd keep it in his pocket. At least it wasn't a wrist watch or something quite so glaringly memorable. It was his secret watch in his pocket, and hopefully, only his fingers would ever knew that it was there.
He shook his head. Really? Being such a reminiscent fool again? There was a job to do. He straightened up and resumed his walk through the city streets.
He woke up to the harsh beeps of his alarm clock. Grumbling, he slowly rolled out of bed, tossed on his perfectly ironed suit, grabbed an apple, and headed out to work.
It was just another boring day. He inched his way through traffic, cursing at the bikers who weaved in and out in front of his car. The radio droned on about today's news and weather forecast. He rolled his eyes as the broadcaster attempted to crack yet another lame joke.
Finally, he arrived at the coffee shop near his work place. The cheery barista greeted him with a smile. Welcome, Mr. Dalton! Will it be your usual this morning? Nodding, he made the necessary small talk with her, before finally getting his latte and the Times, and then making his way to his table.
He opened his paper to the financials section, skimming the headlines to see if anything big had happened overnight. The rival company seemed to be struggling even more today, which was exciting, he supposed. He was starting to get a weird nagging feeling that something was terribly, terribly wrong. Shaking it off, he took a spit of his latte.
And nearly spit it out.
What in the world? He looked at the drink in his hand with disgust. Why the heck was he drinking this overpriced crap?
Feeling strange, and a little sick to his stomach, he rushed into the men's bathroom, ignoring the looks he was getting from some of the other patrons. After locking the door quickly behind him, he made his way to the mirror.
His head was swirling with confusion. Was he ill? He looked at himself, taking in the sandy brown hair and bland brown eyes. No, he looked fine. No sign of any thing out of the ordinary. After splashing some water on his face and regaining some composure, he returned to his table, grabbed the coffee, and walked back out to his car.
Excuse me, sir? Sir, I think you dropped something! The barista darted out after him, with something shiny in her hand. He turned around to see what it was.
She handed it to him. It was at your table, and since it looks so nice, I figured you would still want it! Have a good day sir! She smiled and walked back into the coffee shop.
He stared at the object in his hand, an old, beaten up pocket watch. He turned it over, before it hit him like a train.
He didn't like lattes. In fact, he liked his coffee strong and black.
He hated reading any part of the newspaper except for the comics.
He wasn't Mr. Dalton.
He'd forgotten that this identity was only his cover. He clutched the watch, struggling to remember who he was.
His … father had given him that watch. Or at least he had always supposed that that man was his father. He could remember the vague, strong presence. One that told him that this watch had been passed down father to son for generations and that it was his turn to keep it now.
He opened the watch, seeing the frozen hands of the watch before remembering that they had always been like that. His brain flashed with different memories from different identities, before he finally remembered.
His name was Velvet. Or rather, everyone called him that since no one knew his real name. He wasn't a businessman. Instead, he was exactly what every businessman feared: a conman. It was only a week or so before he'd be finished with this con, one that he'd been working on for almost a year now.
He breathed a sigh of a relief, his mind finally back to plotting away. He smiled as he tucked the watch back into his pocket. He was shocked about how deep he'd slipped into boring Mr. Dalton. He shuddered; losing his sense of self was his greatest fear, after all.
He made his way to work, singing to trashy pop songs instead. Before he walked into the building, he reached into his pocket to finger the cold metal of the watch one more time. For Velvet, it was the single remaining thing that tied him to his past. As he slipped in an out of identities, this watch – this single remnant of what was – remained forever constant.
He shook his head. Really? Being such a reminiscent fool right now, of all times? He laughed. There was a job to do. Mr. Dalton was giving his all-important presentation, after all. He breathed a sigh of relief, the confusion from the morning finally leaving him.
Smiling his signature smile, he straightened his tie and entered the building. Those silly businessmen wouldn't know what hit them.
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