A favorite trick of the Phantom Thief
, Impossible Thief
or an illusionist.
While talking to someone, this character will suddenly produce a small item. The other party slowly realizes that it's something they
were carrying in their pocket just a moment ago, and quickly checks... but of course it's not there — the thief has stolen it, unnoticed by the victim (and the audience). In a variant, the thief will tell the victim to "check your wallet", or ask "what's the time on your watch?" etc. Only when the victim discovers he's been robbed, the thief demonstrates the item and laughs.
The key here is that the victim doesn't even realize he's been robbed until the thief himself alerts him to this fact.
Usually, the thief returns the items to its owner afterwards.
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Anime and Manga
- When trying to negotiate with Lucia in Rave Master, Shuda offers him the 'Vampire' Sinclaire stone in exchange for Haru's life. While Lucia considers the deal, Haru's gang demands to know when Shuda swiped the stone from them.
- Happens all the time in the Lucky Luke album Fingers with the title character, a kleptomaniac illusionist. Fingers would randomly give back Luke his colt, a jailer his prison keys, or a judge his spouse's medallion, while talking to them. Toward the end, Lucky Luke return the compliment by giving back his wallet to Fingers.
- Roald Dahl's story "The Hitch-hiker" concerns the titular character, whom the driver discovers to be a fingersmith (a step above a pickpocket). Naturally, this trope occurs.
- In Raiders of Gor, Bosk (a.k.a. Tarl) picks up a girl who was sentenced to slavery for thieving. She puts on a demonstration for him and his men like this.
- Kender from the Dragonlance books do this all the time. They don't quite understand why it ticks people off.
- At the end of the story Arsène Lupin in Prison, as Ganimard is leaving Lupin's cell, Arsene calls after him to inform him that he forgot his watch... in Lupin's pocket.
- There's an episode of Bones which involves the investigation of a bunch of street performers. One interviewee does this several times throughout the conversation, much to Bones' amusement and Booth's annoyance.
- In an episode of Doctor Who, Romana steals the Fourth Doctor's Jelly Babies off-screen. When he asks where she got them, she replies "The same place you do. Your pocket."
- Subverted in an episode of JAG. Harm is talking to a guy who specializes in clandestine operations, and at some point, the guy holds up Harm's wallet, criticizing him for letting the guy steal it, pointing out that he could use the ID contained within to allow him access onto the base. Harm then tells him to open the wallet, revealing that the ID card holder inside contains only a note saying "Arrest Me".
- Parker from Leverage does this a lot; particularly notable is "The Twelve-Step Job", where she goes undercover in a rehab center, is prescribed antidepressants, and starts doing it unconsciously. It's also how she met her master-thief mentor when she was 12.
- In Teenagent, a scientist demonstrates his newest invention to the Big Bad. He takes a pill, then asks the villain to check his wallet. The Big Bad realizes his wallet is missing, and the scientist returns it and explains he stole it thanks to Caffeine Bullet Time-inducing pills.
- Adventurers: Karashi does this with Drecker's... pants (even though it's Drecker who is the party thief).
- David Blaine, a street magician, does this by distracting the audience with a routine card trick, then drawing attention to their missing watch.
- Apollo Robbins sometimes takes this Up to Eleven, not just stealing audience members' wristwatches, but also their wedding rings, cellphones, and wallets. Sometimes even the things inside the wallets, like driver's licenses and money. He always gives these back though, but not always in ways you'd expect (the previously mentioned wedding ring belonged to a woman, and was found in her husband's pants pocket, attached to his keyring).
- One group known as the "Bling Ring" stole from Orlando Bloom many multiple items. When they were caught, one of the members had their mugshot taken while he was wearing Orlando Bloom's black and white T-shirt. Bloom's reaction was sort of this...