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Location: marengo, il, United States

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Very Classy Lady

Harvey Collins now works full-time 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 makes the fourth chapter of his experiences there.

Bart found Amos and Harvey sitting together at one of the tables in the snack bar. Amos was drinking from a Dixie cup while Harvey was busy looking over the fish sandwich he had just ordered from the grill. The lead man stood and gave the pair a long look before he came over to pull an empty chair away from the table. He then sat down and rested his arms on top.

“So who’s watching my store while you two hot-shots are sitting back here goofing off ?”

Amos had removed the plastic lid from his paper cup. He tilted the container back and shook crushed ice in his mouth while he looked sideways at Bart. Then he sat the cup down and munched on the ice before answering with a shrug.

“Kathy is supposed to be. And they probably out there robbing us blind, boss.”

Bart’s face looked expressionless except for his eyes. He rarely showed emotions other than a mild look of amusement that he now gave these two.

He turned then to face Harvey, and he caught him in mid-bite.

“I wanted to tell you -- you get credit for the kid that Amos caught two days ago.”

Harvey stuck up one finger as he cautiously labored with a mouthful of hot fish. He smiled inwardly, though, knowing that his name added to the chart hanging in the office now had a new mark beside it. Amos picked up the cup again and downed the last bits of ice.

Bart slid his chair back before Harvey could say anything, but he leaned forward and cocked his head sideways before he rose to leave. He looked sternly up into Harvey’s eyes as he asked,

“So why haven’t you caught me anymore by now?”

That startled Harvey, but he managed to reply without choking on his food,

“Say what?”

Bart held on to his spellbinding gaze before he let go a short laugh. He stood up quickly then, and knocked twice on the tabletop before going.

“Stop by my office later. Your new badge just came in this morning.”

Barry pulled a loaded handcart backwards through a pair of stockroom doors. The two metal doors flapped noisily behind him as the cart rolled out onto the floor. Then leaning hard on the handrail at the other end, he began to push on his heavy load, heading for Household Goods with new sets of china that had arrived on a truck yesterday.

Dressed in regulation dark slacks, white shirt and orange vest, the stock boy had a pleasing smile on his face as he wheeled by Harvey, who stood looking over a display of cutlery.

“Hey, good morning.”

Harvey nodded politely in return, but said nothing. He watched out of the corner of his eyes as the young man and the cart passed on by, recalling Bart’s stern warning.

Just another employee not to become friendly with, Harvey thought.

In less than a week’s time, most all of the Zayre employees had managed to figure out who Harvey was, despite his best efforts to go unnoticed. The ratty tee shirts and his frayed jeans that he usually wore hadn’t been that much of a disguise, and he mentioned these concerns to Kathy while they pretended to shop.

Harvey had stood by patiently, holding the last two pair of slacks she had handed him. He sipped on a soda cup and watched as she pawed through a row of hangers, looking for something more stylish.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Half of them are scared you might get them fired or arrested. Here, hold this one, too.”

A female customer at a near-by rack pulled out a blouse and placed it against her chest, and then she read the tag on how to wash the garment. Harvey stopped drinking long enough to grumble to his partner.

“I swear, you’re going to bankrupt me, woman.”

Kathy spread a group of tan chinos apart, and snapped right back.

“Yes, I will, mister. You can believe that!”

The woman paused and glanced at the two.

“Better yet, go out and get yourself a real job for once, or I’ll be leaving you and our four little brats behind to starve. Then I will go fine myself a rich man.”

Overhearing that tirade, the other woman laid her item aside, but she gave the girl a worried glance before moving away.

Pleased that she had finally shocked somebody, Kathy put on her best grin for Harvey, and then they left the area also. Remarking haughtily as the new clothes landed in a pile at a lingerie display, she added,

“They have such cheap crap here.”

While walking down the center aisle, an Eagles song played over the store’s sound system. Kathy held the sides of her gold necklace and twirled the end of it in tiny circles, trying to keep the beat.

Woo-hoo witchy woman

About that time, she leaned over to elbow Harvey in the ribs as he stopped to look at a table filled with discount tools.

“Do you like to dance?”

“Not unless I’m half-drunk, I don’t.”

“That is so stupid. I never get drunk unless it’s on German beer.”

When Kathy smiled, she exposed her two large front teeth. Harvey thought it was cute, but he made her mad when he told her she looked more like a chipmunk.

“That brown crap? How can you stand to drink that horrible-tasting stuff!”

Kathy frowned at his remark.

“Hey, it’s not either horrible! And I happen to be German, you know, so watch it, buddy.”

“Yeah, right. Then let me hear you speak some.”

She held the necklace suspended and pinched between her two fingers, but she stopped twirling while she spoke a phrase, and she raised her chin slightly and smiled cutely.

“Du bist solches eines kind.”

The music suddenly stopped playing, and then a crackled noise came before an excited voice spoke.

“Kathy to the mailbox! Kathy to the mailbox!”

Kathy immediately spun around, and then she took off running toward the front of the store. Over her shoulder she called out,

“Let’s go! Let’s go!”

The two arrived at the front door, both winded from their jog, but alert and looking for some expected action. For the moment, though, no one else was anywhere nearby.

Inside, a figure standing at the service desk handed a telephone back to a lady behind the counter, and then stepped out into the foyer where the two stood catching their breath. She looked directly at Kathy as she pushed her way through one of the glass doors.

“You just missed it! Girl, I thought I was going to die, I was laughing so hard.”

Kathy had her mouth open, not just from breathing hard, but also from consternation. The coded phrase, “to the mail box,” implied a security emergency of some type, and yet she saw nothing but a tickled security guard standing in front of her.

“Missed what? What happened? Tell me!”

Shelly was skinny and short, had extremely short hair, and she always talked fast when she spoke. The woman also tended to act bossy to everyone around her. Harvey had no idea who was senior to whom, but he could sense a friendly sort of rivalry between the two girls.

“I was about to go chase away this little kid who was standing by the front doors.”

She pulled on Kathy’s arm and pointed outside.

“The brat was out there jumping and having fun making the doors open and close. But when I went out to yell at him, he took out his wee and started peeing on the door jam.”

Kathy’s jaw dropped even lower. Shelly kept waving her arms about as she continued.

“I mean right in front of a bunch of people who happened to be walking by at the time, the little snot.”

Kathy hugged her chin with the tips of her fingers and started cracking up with laughter. Harvey walked over to look, and sure enough, a fresh puddle laid at the base of one aluminum door frame. He pointed, and when Kathy looked down, she frowned with disgust, and she went,

“Eww! Now who’s going to clean that up?”

The two girls walked back into the air-conditioned store together, Shelly holding on to Kathy’s shoulders for support while they both giggled out of control. Harvey noticed a rivulet of yellow clinging to the metal just before he turned to follow after them.

The two had already disappeared through the doorway leading into the office by the time he reached the service desk. The lovely-looking girl behind the counter half-smiled this time as he walked by, and naturally, Harvey beamed back at her.

The name tag she wore pinned to her orange vest read Beth Ann.

She got the moon in her eye-eye-eyes

As Harvey went to climb the stairs alone, he remembered the new silver badge that now thickened his wallet. Taking a seat on the stool at the second window, he also recalled the marks he had seen downstairs on the chart inside the security office. Kathy and Shelly both averaged one to two shoplifters a week, by the recorded slashes. Amos led with slightly more.

During one week, the man had racked up a total of six, and three of those he caught on a busy Saturday.

Feeling unsure if he would ever match, much less beat Amos’ score, he scooted his seat closer and began watching the shoppers down below.

A half-hour passed.

Then a teen-aged girl quickly got his attention as she came and stood at the end of a row of shelves just beneath his window. She leaned to one side first and looked up the one aisle, and then she leaned the other way to see if that one looked clear too.

Now, here is a suspicious-acting person, Harvey thought with rising excitement, until she turned around to face the wall and began picking her nose.

After witnessing that, he hurried down to watch Appliances for awhile before losing interest at the lack of activity there. He settled for window one again, and while he scanned customers moving about, he wondered about the fate of the little boy.

From his position he could see the opposite wall of the store. Only one of the small windows above the fitting rooms was visible to him; the other was blocked by a support post midway out on the floor. Almost every aisle in Ladies, and almost every rack of clothes nearby had one or two people either walking or browsing for things.

Harvey had decided that no matter where he sat, he could always see more people gathered farther away than close by. That made it hard to see exactly what they were doing, or if they were stealing anything, plus it made it hard to decide where the best spot was located.

An attractive lady wearing a white skirt and a matching jacket steered a filled cart around the corner. She began pushing it slowly towards Harvey’s vantage point. He watched her idly as she took her time looking at a large array of products.

He felt creepy for the brief moment when she unhurriedly reached for something on a top shelf located just below his feet. She had looked straight into his eyes as she took down a small box from the unseen shelf. Or at least he thought she had done so, but instead of being rightfully startled, she stood perfectly still while calmly reading the label before she put it back and moved on.

Out in the center aisle, near Jewelry, two men and a woman waited at a glass counter. It looked to Harvey as if they wanted a clerk to give them assistance. One of the men kept looking around and Harvey thought for sure that he might be up to something.

When the clerk came over and began talking, the three stood together and listened. The woman then nodded her head and pointed to an object inside the display case. It came out. She slipped the thing on a finger and held it up. Next she shook her head while removing the object. One of the men laughed at something the other man said. The woman appeared to laugh, too. The clerk stood and watched as the three then walked away empty-handed.

Harvey pressed his face close to the glass and looked to his far left. Nothing. Not a soul. He glanced to his right where he saw the same situation. Two more minutes and I am leaving here, he thought.

The woman in the white skirt entered his view from the left again. She came slowly and paused to look at each and every thing she passed by. She then stopped to back her cart up, and then she turned it toward one of the registers close by.

One minute left, and I’ll move.

The lady stopped again. With one hand holding on to her cart for balance, she reached across her full cart, gingerly took a thick package of paper plates from a large cardboard display, and as she brought it down she inserted the thing inside her large purse.

Harvey stared with disbelief.

Surely that nicely-dressed woman didn’t…

He dialed nine in a hurry.

Bart answered.

“What’s up?”

“Man, I think I got one.”

He described then what he had seen to Bart, and Bart told him to go wait out in the foyer. He would meet him there shortly, he said.

Harvey stood out in the foyer and watched the lady paying at the register. In her early forties, she looked trim and fit. Her hair looked nice. She handed the cashier what must have been a credit card, and then she stood quiet and dignified-looking in her white outfit while the clerk punched in numbers on her machine.

Bart strolled out into the foyer, and he nodded confidently.

“Yeap, she has them alright. I got in line behind her where I could see down in her purse, and I waited to make sure she paid.”

“And she didn’t pay for the plates?”

Bart looked at Harvey through half-lidded eyes and slowly shook his head.

“No, she didn’t.”

“Well, here she comes now.”

She sat in the swivel chair and cried softly while Bart stood next to Harvey and told him how to fill out the report. She had no explanation to offer either of the men, other than a sudden impulse that had came over her, and she claimed that she was terribly sorry it had happened.

Bart leaned against the wall, unmoved.

“You aren’t allowed back in my store for a year. I see you, and I call the cops next time.”

After she left, Bart let Harvey know that he was doing alright.

Over supper that night, Les laughed as Harvey recounted the day.

“Now, what did I tell you? Didn’t I say catching shoplifters would be loads of fun?”

33 Comments:

Blogger flannel04 said...

You're really stirring up memories, Harry. No children ever peed on any doorjams during my retail experience, but we did have one poop in the fitting rooms. Thankfully, it wasn't my job to clean it.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

ROFL!
Or as Kathy would say, "EWWW!"

3:53 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Ol' Harvey's gettin' good at this. Any day now he's gonna catch him a professional!

3:56 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Uh oh. And just what, pray tell, would you know about these so-called professionals??
Heah?
:p

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way, your writing only serves to remind a humble wannabe that she has a lot to learn about 'easy' reading. Thank you for the opprtunity. God bless the web!
I enjoy reading, keep it going.
Mand (A_Fractal_Cat)

4:21 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

And thank you as kindly, as well, Frac. I learn from everyone, including you.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Hey look, a fractal cat!

Well, Way, I used to work in a supermarket... ;)

6:02 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

I must say, this story went places I didn't even imagine.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

That does explain that, Gone. So how come you don't share a few stories from Produce, or was it the Deli? :p

8:52 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I trust that's a good thing, Jay.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Ned said...

You never said how much stuff was in her cart, but if she used a credit card it had to have been worth more than the paper plates... I think a year's worth of her patronage might be worth a few packages of paper plates.
Strange what people will steal.
My aunt worked as a security guard in a store once. She told some great stories, luckily she doesn't have a blog. Harry is enough competition for the rest of us.

Great story Harry, as always, chock full of delicious details.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

It was everything, Harry. I was the manager...

7:48 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

"An attractive lady...steered a filled cart..."

Since Harvey couldn't describe what he saw from fifteen feet away, I thought it best not to interfere and make things up.

Knowing me, Ned, I'd have personally filled the bottom rack with a case of beer, two more in the basket above, and then tons of things from Automotive would go on top, like new floor mats, different colored press-on tapes, sidewall tire cleaner sprays, another can or two of WD-40, those easy-to-lose gizmo-tool sets, replacement wipers, and of course, an extra headlight.

But then, I don't own a credit card.

As to the question of "Why?"

I'll say that Harvey is wondering about that too.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Ned said...

I could use a few things from Automotive myself, like a windshield wiper and maybe something to affix the side mirror to the car but then... well, it just wouldn't be me, would it?

People do strange things. Which makes for some of your best stories, Harry. :D

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