Harvey Collins is learning all about catching shoplifters, young and old. In this episode, he meets Maggie McKay.
The Zayre store lies a good distance south of the 495 beltway which circles around Washington, D.C.. Sitting west of Route One, the store is fronted by an ample and spacious parking lot. On the north side are several smaller shops, and then another line of stores makes a turn to the east, and that row extends back out to the highway.
The area is flanked on the south side by a cavernous building. Painted white, and with a blackened arch-top roof, the name Thieves Market adorns its face, written in a flamboyant Moorish script. Inside its roomy interior, made gloomy by not enough skylights overhead, buyers search among vendor’s stalls, looking for things called antiques.
Highway One is heavily traveled daily, and this Thursday July morning looked no different.
Harvey rested comfortably on one of the straight-backed chairs. He had his head laid back against the cinderblock wall, and the door for the office stood open. Bart squatted on one knee behind his desk while he rummaged through a drawer, while Shelly, who had beaten him to his swivel chair earlier, watched his progress as she sat and rotated, spinning from side to side.
“Here they are. I knew I didn’t lose them.”
Bart took out a set of handcuffs, which he held up and jiggled for all to see before laying them on the desktop. Then he stood, looked at Harvey and slid the silver restraints across the desk.
“You want to carry these around for a few days?”
Harvey leaned over to pick them up as Kathy walked in. She carried a Styrofoam cup in one hand and a her jingling ring of keys in the other.
The first thing Harvey noticed about the cuffs was their heft; they felt surprisingly heavier than he expected.
Kathy placed the cup on the desk, and then she took a seat in the other swivel chair. Harvey fiddled with the unfamiliar cuffs, latching and releasing one curved C of his new toy.
“There is your coffee, O master. Can your humble slave now get you anything else?”
Bart gave her an crabby look. Then after prying off the lid and taking his first sip, he replied,
“Yeah, you can come jerk this whirling Dervish buddy of yours out of my way, and then you can sit yourself down there and do last month’s report for me. It’s only due by four today.”
Shelly stopped long enough to aim a swing of her foot at Bart’s shin.
“Oh, those are so easy, Bart. Why don’t you try getting organized for once, you lazy bum, and learn how to do your own paperwork. Besides, we have shoplifters out there to catch, in case you have forgotten already.”
Bart feigned a fierce glance at Shelly. An evil gleam then danced in his eyes as he asked Harvey for the cuffs back.
“I’ll lock her bony rump to this chair and let her do the things, since she’s so damn smart.”
Shelly chortled as she jumped and ran for the open doorway. She stopped there and turned her head to say,
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so quick to talk about my weight, you big old bag of bones.”
Harvey stood up grinning, slipped the handcuffs into his back pocket and followed her out to the floor.
Bart yelled just before they left.
“Come pick up your checks in about an hour, if you want. Oh, and I hired a new girl yesterday, who should be in pretty soon.”
Then after taking out several folders from his desk, he began searched through the drawers again, looking for a pen. Kathy stayed behind, but the door remained opened.
Bart insisted on that, and had warned his men several times.
“Close that door with a female suspect and you alone in here, and you are asking for nothing but trouble.”
Harvey had been alone on the floor for a half-hour, and was trying to stalk a girl and two men he had been noticing when he heard a female voice behind him.
Harvey turned around and looked directly into the green eyes of Maggie McKay. The same height as Harvey, and even dressed similarly in her faded pair of dungarees and worn tee-shirt, she stared right back as if she knew him already. She had shoulder-length flaxen hair, cut in a layered style, but unkempt. Her shoulders sagged a bit, as if she was tired. She also had a slight over-bite which gave the expression set on her face somewhat of a sneer.
She stuck out a hand and introduced herself.
“Bart told me to hook up with you today.”
“Hey, fine with me. I’ve been following those three over there, so just stick close and try to act dumb.”
Maggie smiled for the first time.
“That will be easy. I’ve had lots of practice with both.”
As the two walked an aisle trailing behind the suspects, Harvey kept tugging at the back of his loose jeans.
“Where’s your belt at?”
“It’s not that -- it’s these handcuffs weighing them down.”
“Why are you carry them around?”
“In case I need them, I guess. Bart just gave them to me this morning.”
Maggie shook her head.
“A friend of mine took a severe beating from those things once.”
That got Harvey’s attention.
“A security guard?”
“No, a biker dude I knew. He was trying to beat the hell out of a bunch of cops.”
She then commented on the shirt Harvey wore.
“Zippy the pinhead, huh? I guess you must party, then.”
Harvey didn’t answer her, but nodded toward the one girl standing beside her two male friends.
“I just know that babe has been up to something. They all three come in here a lot, and they always act suspicious.”
A while later, as the pair took a break in the snack bar, Maggie asked Harvey,
“No. Are you?”
“I got an old man I stay with, me and my daughter.”
“Yeah? What’s her name?”
“Nature, and she’s five.”
“Nature? Now, that is the oddest name I ever heard.”
“Well, me and my old man, we never got married really. We just had us an outdoor ceremony under a big oak tree, with all our friends along and everything, and we been like partying together ever since. So when she was born, the name just seemed to fit.”
Harvey admitted that it sounded pretty, but then he scoffed.
“What did y’all do, hold hands and dance circles around the tree with flowers in your hair?”
Maggie almost choked on her drink then.
Afterwards, the two walked the floor together again. Then, as they turned a corner, they both came face to face with the trio they had forgotten about.
The two men stood up quickly as the girl stared directly at Harvey. She then gave him a scornful look and snorted.
“You are with security. I just knew it!”
All three then quickly left the store, smiling smugly.
Harvey abandoned the floor feeling embarrassed at being so easily identified, and decided to take Maggie upstairs to show her the windows. She took the stool above Records and Tapes while he sat overlooking his favored spot two windows away. The aisles of Health and Beauty Aids looked empty at first, but Harvey had learned to sit patient and wait.
From his stool he could see who came and went through the front foyer. Although far away, he watched those entering and studied their body language. Did they hesitate as if deciding where to go to first, or did they stride on in with purpose? Did their heads swivel as they walked? Were they seeking assistance, or were they merely looking to see if they were being watched? All these actions were telling things to him.
Then what area did they head for? Did they wander, or did they make a bee-line for something? Appliances, where television sets and radios waited?
Two or more teens together would always draw his attention automatically, especially if they went straight to Records and Tapes, and doubly so if they kept looking over their shoulders.
He could also see a portion of the service desk from his spot, as well as the several rows of check-out lines. Bart had said to watch the people there too. Some customers felt secure enough to slip things into their pockets while the cashier rang up prices.
He heard a muffled voice coming from the corridor to his left.
Maggie, he groaned, and he picked up his phone and dialed her number. She answered, sounding puzzled.
“Maggie. It’s Harvey, not Harold.”
“Oh, hello there. This is your new best friend. Look, I got two kids down here cramming tapes down their pants. What do I do next?”
One of Bart’s rules was to never make a bust alone, no matter who the thief was, or how old.
“Meet me down in the foyer.”
She caught up with him near the service desk, and her adrenalin showed in her eyes.
As soon as he quizzed Maggie for details, Harvey felt sure she had really witnessed what she claimed, and as the two twelve-year-olds approached, he could see the tell-tale bulges around the waists of both of the boys. He stepped in their path then and demanded to know,
“What you guys got hid inside there?”
On the way into the security office, he read the red-faced duo their Miranda rights as the foursome wove their way through the crowds, Harvey with a hand on one child’s elbow and Maggie holding the other. He also caught the lovely-looking Beth Ann glancing away as they walked past, and he saw a smile play on her lips, too.
With Maggie along side him in the office, and with the door standing open, he began to ask questions and fill out the one-page report while she leaned on the wall and gave the worried pair harsh looks of displeasure. Then after phoning the boys parents, their worry turned to a foreboding fear. Maggie seemed to become satisfied at that point.
The parents all came hurriedly, and all acted properly shocked. How could you do this? What were you two thinking? Don’t we give you enough things without you having to come in here and do this?
And to each of the guards, the humiliated people apologized several times.
“That’s okay, but understand that neither boy is allowed back in any Zayre store for one full year. It’s policy, ma’am, and they will be prosecuted if they do.”
Bart handed out paychecks at three. Harvey told how he was going to rent one of the cheap apartments across the highway with his check, and Maggie volunteered to help.
“I can use my old man’s van. He won’t mind.”
“Thanks, Maggie, but everything I own is out in the back of my Vega.”
“Well, still, if you need me, give me a call.”
“Get out of here, you guys. Bright and early tomorrow, right?”