Thursday morning was not my average Thursday, much less day of any kind. The store was opened forty minutes late due to my (ex) employee’s failed attempts to contact anyone about her sudden sickness. I was alone, and thrown off guard when I had shown up early to work to find the lights out in the store. Shaken, and a little torn on how to address the situation one of my regulars walked through the large chamber doors. She is in her 80’s and very lonely. She collects every type of stone we have, and seeing it was her birthday that day we had to search the store for the perfect Amethyst pendant, as she bragged to me on how she is the reason we are sold out of Salt Stone lamps. During this thorough and exaggerated scavenge, two young women, I would say late twenties enter the store with looks of fear and plotting consuming their faces. They were dressed in your average sweaters for the cold and held only a Dillard’s shopping bag. They avoided my advances of conversation by focusing their sights on the small selection of hermit crabs we had remaining.
The little old lady brought me back to the reality of the serious matter at hand and my focus turned again to the gemstone tree. One of the girls approached me, interrupting the little old lady, “Excuse me, but a friend of mine was telling me about a good luck bracelet you have?”
I was not losing my advantageous position so I responded without moving, “nearly all of our bracelets have some sort of enchanted meaning, can you be a little more specific?”
“Can you show me them?”
Again, I refused to move, “There’s the evil eye, wishlets, gemstones…”
“The Evil eye, that sounds familiar!”
I do what mom would call the ‘Michael’s point’, “It’s over there on that table.”
“Can you show me?”
I begrudgingly pilgrimage with her close behind to the other side of the store and point, and begin to walk back to the Amethyst search.
“What are the second one’s you named,” she calls after me. I point as I walk past them not changing my direction or pace. “How about the gemstone ones?” I stop walk back to the wall and point at the panel and again turn right back around, “How about rings?!”
“Jade would be for wealth,” I say not changing my pace.
“Oh wow! Y’all have earrings?!”
“Yes, buy 2 get 1 free” I say as the older woman approaches the counter with her Amethyst and two bulbs for her Salt Stone lamps. My mind then focuses on my sale, I hope I chose the right bulb.
After ringing her up a very tall, and built gentleman in his late forties or early fifties approaches the counter. With a very thick southern accent he heeds, “I don’t mean to alarm ya ma’m but those two young ladies,” he points out the window where my inquisitive acquaintance and her bestie are walking past the fountain outside my store, “I believe they may have stolen a couple of masks in that bag there.”
I consider for a moment, what do I do? I push myself to follow them with long strides, so not to seem suspicious. Not far behind them now, the girl not carrying the bag turns left to the Pretzelmaker, while the one with the bag pushes open the doors to the parking lot. I follow about five yards behind her and yell, “Ma’am, I had a customer complaint and I just need to check your…” but before I could finish the sentence the woman turned her head back, and her face was one of sheer terror. I have never seen anyone so afraid of little me. She almost immediately begins to run. She was a heavy girl, and I just think to myself, ‘here we go’ as I remember my pace from being a member of the distance track team in junior high. I start my casual pace and she makes her way around Beall’s, and I then follow now only four yards behind. My thoughts are jumbled and racing ‘what on earth could she have?! Must be one of the bigger forty dollar masks’ ‘What am I going to do if I catch her?’ ‘Jesus, how far away did she park?’ ‘Just get the make, model, and lic # of the car and let the cops deal with her.’ ‘I can’t believe I’m not even close to out of breath yet.’ The sky was a dull gray, an aftermath of the week of rain and snow, the asphalt didn’t only give the thud, but a thud-splat as my moccasins hit puddles along the lot. I take in the air, and breathe it out; I am surprisingly calm and collected. She turns her head to see my progress and just how I’m gaining. Her face of shock has just turned to a face of fear and determination. She tries to speed up as she turns to face forward, and somehow in the transition looses her footing on the wet surface and falls face first into the asphalt. “Are you okay ma’am?” I call, great all I need now is a lawsuit. She shoots a glance my way and knows I have gained too much distance in her blunder and does not have the time to turn back and grab the bag. She foots it, leaving the loot behind.
I then pick up the bag and run straight for the doors of Beall’s. The manager is nearby and the severity of the situation hits me. I began to shake all over for fear, “Call security” I cry, “we’ve just been robbed!” I open the bag and find it full to the brim with 23 Masks of all shapes, sizes and price brackets.
I run across the hall into the store, in case the other culprit is waiting for me, and that kind tall man is still standing patiently at the register to check out. “Caught ’em I see.” He lays a doo-rag on the counter and hands me a hundred. “I can’t break that, I’m sorry.” I don’t know what to think, I’m just glad this man is here so that I am not alone. But with that simple comment he smiles, “well I’ll go break it elsewhere.” Alone again, I stuff the bag under the register, and hide it behind the PC Tower. I am alone, if the second girl were to return, it would be with the upper hand. Where on Earth is security? I walk and wait at the doorway, that way I am in plain view of all the shops around me.
A few minutes later Tweedle-Dee with a badge waddles up at his own slow pace. I poor out the Dillard’s bag on the counter(nearly $500 dollars worth of product), when the head of security walks in behind him. They stare for a moment, their faces unchanged, unimpressed and then look up at me with tiny pads of paper in their hands, “I know it is difficult to do, but if next time you could call us before the culprit has left the store we could actually do something.” In the bottom of the bag was a red purse, not new, it has one tampon, a stolen/empty wallet from Mardel, and tons of stolen make up from Walgreens or somewhere like that. “Can you give us a description.” As I am struggling to describe them, my tall friends returns with a cup of pretzel bites and I ask him to help describe them. He gives about the same description I had. “And then one or the ladies is still on mall premises,” the guards ask.
The tall man takes a pretzel and gives it a long chew with a big smile on his face, “I saw her walk out the door just a moment ago, the same door that other young lady left through, I guess they were parked out that direction.”
The two security guards turn to me, “Well, I can assure you these ladies won’t be returning to the mall today.” With that they left, and it was over.
Photo Courtesy of: http://h1s0ka.deviantart.com/art/Mask-of-Devotion-73628961