"Mall Cop" - Your Story 56 Finalist

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"Mall Cop" - Your Story 56 Finalist

Postby TiffanyLuckey » Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:23 pm

Mall Cop

“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” Doug tugged at the flap on his left shirt pocket and conjured an expression of intrigue like a magician’s. But the cherub in front of him, sucking in heaving breaths, stared right past. Doug let his face fall and pulled a peppermint from his shirt. Time for Plan C, he thought.

He already tried Plan A, assuring the boy that his momma would scoop him up before he finished reciting his name, address and phone number. But the little guy wouldn’t form one meaningful syllable. Then he went on to Plan B, the bribe. Alas, peppermints didn’t tempt the fellow. So Doug, shifting on his crouching thighs, resorted to a con.

Doug popped the candy in his own mouth, picked up the boy and plunked him down on the service desk counter. “You know, I got lost in the mall once.”

The child, eyelashes spiky, complexion mottled, quieted a bit as he considered this news.

Doug crossed his arms over his chest and nodded. “I was about your age and standing with my mom in a big long line—clear past the desk here—to get a picture with the Easter Bunny. Suddenly, this big muscle-head appears. Bald dude. Tattoos all over.” Doug traced a crooked line down his cheek. “Jagged scar on this face. He tackles the bunny and takes off with his basket of eggs.”

Doug caught Sandra, the young woman manning the service desk, looking past the boy and giving him a wary glance. But encouraged by the child’s full attention, Doug continued. “I take off after the thief. Even back then, I was a mall cop at heart.” Doug tapped on his badge and ignored Sandra’s mocking snort. “I chased him up the escalator into the arcade and through a—”

A wobbly scream interrupted. Doug’s head whipped around toward an elderly woman clutching her elbow. “Thief!” She howled. Releasing her arm, she pointed to a lanky man clad in black, dodging between patrons. “He’s got my purse!”

Doug’s feet pounded after the target. Up the escalator. Through the food court. He weaved between tables and people, hitting a jutting elbow and sending a Jamba Juice rocketing. Normally he would have taken a moment to evaluate possible threats before taking chase. Doug wasn’t armed. What if the thief had a gun? But his tale of childhood exploits inflated him with bravado.

He rounded a corner and tailed the suspect down a narrow hallway. Had he spotted a weapon in his hand? Before he could get a clearer view, the thief dived into the women’s room. Doug slid to a skittering halt as a chorus of shrieks erupted behind the door.

Doug debated whether to charge in. He wasn’t supposed to be playing hero cop. This was a real crime with real danger. He should call for help. While he fumbled to free his radio from his belt, the suspect emerged with a hostage. A blade pressed against her throat.

Hope of a peaceful resolution drained from Doug. Right or wrong, he’d taken on this thug. If there was a hero inside him, he’d better show up now. Doug clenched a fist inside his shirt pocket. “If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”

“You nuts, man?” The thug yanked the captive woman closer. She gasped. “This ain’t a game. You clear out, or I cut her.”

“I’ll make it easy on you,” Doug continued, blocking his path. “Guess wrong, and you can still have it!” The thug tried to push past him with the woman straining at his side. Doug attacked with his only weapon, his fist. The thug stumbled, and the woman twisted from his hold. Doug seized the thug’s arm, and with a grunt, pinned him to the wall. The blade fell and clattered on the tile. Immobilized, the thug surrendered.

Doug returned bruised and exhausted to the service desk. Sandra’s shift had ended. The lost boy was gone too. Disappointment drifted in. He’d wanted to thank the little guy for inspiring his courage. Doug patted the deserted counter and walked away.

Weeks later, a winding line of youngsters and parents waited for photos with the Easter Bunny. As Doug patrolled, he spotted the boy waiting and waved. The boy bounced on his toes and tugged a man toward Doug. “Picture, dad,” he urged. “Picture with the cop.”

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