The boy looked familiar, I couldn’t quite place him, we see so many people in the store some of the faces blur. I do my best but if they only come in once it’s hard to remember them. He was at the table checking tickets and I had plenty of time to look at him, when we enchanged glances there was no recognition in his eyes.
I moved in and found my boys. It was the Scout Banquet, we’d been looking forward to this for some time, they were so excited. They were in the Order of the Arrow and quite proud of the fact. They are good boys, very well behaved and rarely in trouble, I trusted them to get themselves to the hall on time. I smiled at their enthusiasm. They were meeting friends they only saw on camps and jamboree, there was much running round greeting people, they took me with them and introduced me carefully each time. I suddenly thought about that boy in the store less than a half hour ago.
He was just wandering back and forth in front of the store, looking so normal I may not have remembered him if it hadn’t been for the horn-rimmed glasses he was wearing. They look uncomfortable on him as if he wasn’t really used to wearing them. There was nothing to make him really stand out, no taller than me and reminding me very much of my two boys.
I watched him as he came through the door and picked up a few things in the store, not much, just the Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest and a few things for an older person; aftershave, fingernail clippers and a package of pipe tobacco. I did wonder what his game was, had he been dared to steal a few things?
As he approached the cash register I acted normal, I smiled and asked how he was today. “Grand” he said. After I added up the bill I asked him if there was anything else. “I believe that will do the trick.” Polite, he was, it impressed me and made me think well of his mother.
He didn’t have any money, checked his pockets thoroughly and apologised for leaving his wallet at home. I liked him for offering to put everything back on the shelf but declined, I do like doing it myself to stop them taking it out the door. But he turned back to offer me a check and that’s when I realised what the game was. Play along, I thought, just for a while, then give Albert the signal to dial 911.
The check was loose, one of those convenience checks you pick up at the bank nearby. Didn’t make it out for the total but for $50. Oh, he did ask if it was ok but didn’t really expect an answer. I don’t think he heard the hesitation in my voice when I agreed.
Hard to continue acting as normal, my voice wavered when I asked for identification. No, no identifcation, claimed it was in his wallet, he did find a library card…eventually. Just the right amount of pocket checking, I wondered how often he’s done this. Checked this carefully hoping to find some sign of him being real. Even asked his address, couldn’t get that right, though, had to take the card back and read it.
I knew I had no choice, he was obviously not Thomas Findon as it said on the card.
Albert came when I called and I handed the card and check to him. Used all our signals so he could take them out the back and dial 911. The police are real fast in this area, I wouldn’t have to keep him long. Couldn’t though.
Passing time by putting his purchases in a bag, I made some small talk. Realised I should explain we didn’t keep that much cash on hand but that didn’t work. When he saw me almost in tears he understood and promised to come back later. We both knew he wouldn’t.
I came out from behind the counter when he started out the door and followed, calling his name, “Thomas”, then louder, “Thomas”. I knew he heard me as he didn’t run too hard, just enough to keep ahead. He seemed so much like my boys so I didn’t call “Stop thief”, didn’t even want to.
“Ma’am” a little louder.
I looked up. “Sorry officer, where were we?”
“Finish your coffee, ma’am. We’ll type this up for your signature.”
“That’s very good of you, Sergeant.”
The sergeant put some paper into his typewriter and started typing. The sound was mesmerising and I just sat and listened to it for a while. Suddenly it came to me…
“Sergeant! That boy at the ticket desk was the boy in the store. He was from out of town. He looked so different without his glasses.”
The sergeant noted it down and finished typing. I read it through carefully, signed it before standing up.
“If we have any more questions we’ll be certain to come by the store.”
“Yes, yes of course. Thank you for being so prompt.”
“All part of the service. You take care now.”