Harvey Collins goes to work as a security guard for a large discount chain where he encounters terrified thieves, along with a host of other characters even odder than himself. This is the third chapter of his experiences.
Harvey Collins took charge of the shopping cart. That duty suited him fine. But here it was midmorning of the second day on his new job, and for the last half-hour, his exuberant and younger partner had managed to fill the basket with whatever caught her fancy. By now, it nearly overflowed with all of her many choices.
He had stood by patiently while Kathy examined a display of higher-priced wine glasses. Then with a toss of her ponytail, she piled a box of four on top of a stack of colorful, plush bath towels. They in turn nestled on four fancy blouses she had chosen, taken from a rack in the Ladies Department. Each were folded and still on their hangers.
Before those, she had picked out a deep-blue woolen skirt, a pair of leather sandals she had to have, and then thrown in several printed head scarves.
“Don’t you think they are so pretty?”
Earlier, in Household Goods, she had seen a high-quality steam iron she said she needed.
“Oh, and look at this funky toaster! See, you can even heat bagels in this one!”
Harvey had groaned.
Someday, she had murmured, as she winked at him.
Then she smiled mischievously and pitched a boxed-up one onto the heap.
Most of her merchandise filled a plastic laundry basket set in first. The pair had indulged in a mock argument over the proper color, after which Harvey won out with his choice of green. Kathy acted insulted as she jammed the container down inside the cart.
“You are such a child!”
By the time the pair turned the corner, her eyes were sparkling again.
The couple strolled together between two rows of high shelves filled with big-eyed dolls and bake sets displayed on one side, and with Lincoln Logs, water pistols and toy cars on the other.
“Oh, look! Look! Look! This will be so perfect!”
She insisted on having one of the board games, even though Harvey objected.
For one of her nephews, she explained.
“Does that mean I am an uncle, now?”
Kathy rolled her eyes and began tugging at the front of the cart.
At one point she had picked up a baseball bat over in Sporting Goods, and after taking a batter’s stance in the center of the aisle, and trying to look serious, she had laughed with delight before including it in their collection. The bat now stood upright at the front of the basket, along with the game box and a rolled-up throw rug.
Both he and Kathy had fell quickly into their role as husband-and-wife, or maybe it was boyfriend-and-girlfriend -- neither one had given much thought to the specific details on this make-believe relationship-- but they both seemed to enjoy posing as a couple while walking the floor together.
Kathy had a cheerful disposition and a bubbly personality. She carried herself confidently, and she had acted more than pleased when Bart first assigned her to teach Harvey her secrets of spotting shoplifters.
So far, Harvey had only learned that she really liked to spend time shopping.
As they passed by Records and Tapes, Harvey complained as he pushed.
“This doesn’t seem to be working very good. Where are all the thieves and robbers at?”
Kathy adjusted one of the rings on her fingers as she glanced around. She looked fed up as she spoke.
“We could go up to the windows, if you want.”
Kathy had worn jeans to work. Harvey noted this as he followed behind her shapely form while climbing the stairs.
At the top, she directed him to the first stool.
“You take that one, and I’m going down to watch Appliances.”
“What do I do if I see somebody stealing something?”
She chirped over her shoulder as she made her way through the boxes,
“Pick up the phone on the wall and dial nine. Or just call me.”
“What does nine do?”
Her voice floated from far down the passageway.
“That’s Bart’s number in the office, silly.”
“So how was I supposed to know that?”
“Look on the wall.”
Next to the phone, a yellowed and dog-eared sheet of paper listed single-digit numbers for various phones throughout the store.
“Oh. I see it.”
From farther away her voice came faintly.
“You are such a child!”
In less than five minutes his telephone rang once, so Harvey took the receiver.
“Hey, it’s me. I’m moving down to Sporting Goods. Seen anything yet?”
“Just a little kid and his big sister is all.”
“Are they doing anything?”
“Yeah. The girl is pulling on his arm, and he is kicking at her legs.”
She snorted once before hanging up.
Three minutes later it rang again.
“I’m going to the snack bar. You coming?”
The girl below had stomped away and left the little boy behind.
“I think I’ll stay here a while longer.”
“Okay. Call Bart then, if anything does happen.”
Harvey couldn’t believe his eyes. As he hung up the phone, he pressed his nose to the amber glass and watched the child below as he struggled to rip open a large red and yellow bag. The boy then began filling his pants pockets with things that began to spill out across the floor.
Harvey’s hand shook as he dialed nine, and his voice almost trembled when Bart picked up.
“I think I got a kid stealing something.”
Bart’s voice sounded flat when he spoke.
“What is it?”
The child below crawled around on his hands and knees, picking up loot.
“I’m not sure, but half the bag has disappeared into his pockets already.”
“I’ll send Amos out. Where are you?”
Harvey focused on a row of small boxes setting on one shelf below.
“It looks like hair-coloring stuff.”
“Health and Beauty. He’ll be right up.”
The little boy stood up and jammed another handful of things into his bulging pockets while Harvey kept his face close to the glass. Then a gruff voice spoke behind him.
“Hey, man. You Harvey?”
Harvey nodded, and as he turned he saw a man dressed in a brilliant orange-and-black dashiki.
“My name is Amos. What you got down there?”
Harvey reached around to shake his hand quickly, and then he leaned sideways so Amos could take a look. Amos bent down close to the glass.
“Why, that little pissant! He’s got a bag of candy, it looks like. Let’s go downstairs.”
Harvey followed the man out to the foyer where they stood and waited. Harvey’s heart raced while Amos examined a bulletin taped to one of the plate glass windows.
He then whispered anxiously,
“Here he comes!”
The boy looked to be about seven, and he skipped as he came bounding toward the first set of doors. As soon as he crossed the threshold, Amos grabbed him by his left arm and shouted,
“You’re under arrest, kid!”
The boy almost came off his feet. But before he knew what was going on, Amos had passed the service desk, and with his tiny body in tow. Just beyond the last check-out lane, he started to cry.
Amos scowled and told the child gruffly,
“You are heading straight to prison, son. And stop with all that damn wailing or I’ll slap a pair of these handcuffs on you.
The kid began to bawl openly while tears streamed down his cheeks, and a lady at one of the registers shook her head with pity as the trio passed by.
Harvey followed Amos and the child into the office, and he stood in the doorway while the other man sat the boy down on one of the stiff-back chairs. Amos then took a seat behind the desk, but he sat and stared menacingly at the lad for a long moment before finally taking a set of forms out from a drawer.
“Oh, yeah, you are definitely going to jail today. Yes sir, you are. Now what’s your name, boy?”
Harvey felt almost as shocked as the boy. He had never seen anyone treat a young child like this before. Amos didn’t relent once as he began filling out his report, nor did the volume of the sobs coming from across the tiny room get any less.
Harvey then turned to see a matronly woman standing behind him who spoke up to say that she was the boy’s mother. She carried an arm-load of packages and shopping bags, and the young girl standing next to her looked frightened. The mother stepped forward and stuck her head through the doorway.
“What he do?”
Amos shot her a dark look.
“He tried to steal candy from my store, that’s what. But I caught him red-handed and running out the front door.”
Harvey had already taken a seat in the other swivel chair to allow the woman to step inside the room.
She looked down at her son. He had stopped crying, but his chest now heaved as he stared down at his feet. Amos then barked at the boy.
“Stand up and empty your pockets out! And lay what you got on the desk!”
The boy jumped to the floor and reached inside one pocket. As a handful of wrapped candies landed on the desk, the mother cried out,
The hand went back into the same pocket, and another batch of morsels got spread with the others.
“Oh, my goodness, no!”
He switched to the opposite pocket.
“Lord, child. What am I going to do with you now?”
While the boy continued to add to the pile of evidence, Amos pushed the form over to the edge of the desk and growled.
“He is supposed to go to jail in just a few minutes, lady.”
The kid started to wail again as he laid the last bits on the desk.
“But what do you think? You want to sign for him now, and take him off our hands?”
The little man whimpered while his momma signed her name across the bottom of the report.
Amos tore away the bottom copy, handed it over to her, and then he scooted and turned his chair to face the thief directly. The expression on both males’ faces was telling. The mother stood still and listened as Amos then ended the interrogation.
“You get out of my store, son. And don’t you ever let me catch you back in here again. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
The boy nodded his head up and down rapidly.
“It’s a damn shame your own momma had to come in here and see what you did, too. So don’t you ever steal nothing again! You got that?”
He shook his little head fast again, all the while keeping his big brown eyes locked with Amos’.
Later that day, and as Amos and Harvey checked out rods and reels, Harvey told him,
“Man, you were sure rough on that poor kid.”
Amos shrugged, but he didn’t say a word.
“But I bet that’s the last time he will ever steal, after meeting you.”
Amos almost smiled as he pretended to cast a line.