Picture - #10
Disclaimers: Story mine, characters mine.
Officer Valerie Foster heard the outraged voice as soon as she entered the SuperMart, and cringed. Three robberies in a row; some Christmas Eve this was turning out to be. She’d never get all the paperwork done.
She found a statuesque blonde in the middle of an uneasy crowd, berating a much smaller brunette. Val bristled immediately; she hated bullies.
“Someone reported a robbery?”
All eyes swiveled to Val, belatedly registering her presence. With a sigh of relief, the brunette stepped forward, hand outstretched.
“I called, Officer; I’m Amanda Bryce, the manager. This is Sybil Armstrong; I’m afraid she’s been robbed.”
In spite of the circumstances, the manager was smiling. As the victim rounded on Val, she held up a hand. “Hang on a second; I’ll get to you. Ms. Bryce, could you give me your version?”
The manager looked grateful for the courtesy. “Amanda, please. Ms. Armstrong stepped away from her cart, a man snatched her purse, then ran from the store.”
Unable to contain herself, the blonde rushed in. “I only turned away for a second – I assumed everything would be safe, with Charlemagne. When I turned back, he had the bag, and a gun…”
Val was confused. “Charlemagne?”
“Him. Prince Charlemagne III.”
Val looked to where the woman pointed. There, in a shopping cart, sat a squirming puppy.
“He was guarding your purse? Never mind. Could you describe the gun?”
“Well, I didn’t get a good look; it was in his pocket.”
“So you never saw it?”
Amanda interrupted. “If it’s any help, officer, it’s all on tape. He tossed the purse, and a can of Cheese Whiz, right outside the door.”
“Cheese Whiz? You mean the gun was can of processed cheese spread?”
“Afraid so.” The manager grinned, discretely; Val was charmed. The puppy whimpered; his distracted owner plopped him on the floor – where he promptly peed.
The victim shuddered in revulsion. “He keeps doing that!”
Amanda grabbed a microphone from a nearby post. “Rick, cleanup on aisle four.”
Val laughed. “He can’t help it, he’s a puppy. And someday, he’ll be a good-sized watchdog.”
“Great, that’s just great; I ask for an itty bitty dog, he brings home Brutus. Men! They do not listen...”
Val tried to sympathize. “Husband?”
“Good god, no! Boyfriend.”
“Well, I’m sure he’ll grow on you. Now – I need a list of what was in the purse.”
“Nothing; I was carrying him in it. Of course, he wouldn’t stay.”
“He was in your purse? No, don’t tell me. Let’s recap: an empty bag was stolen, recovered, and you could eat the gun on crackers. I think that’s all I need…”
A devious look crossed the blonde’s face. “You know, officer, that man almost stoleCharlemagne.”
“I know; lucky for you he didn’t.” Val glanced toward the manager; she really was cute. And, she wore no ring. Val wondered briefly if she was available. Probably not; she was never that lucky.
“Officer? Officer!” Val was surprised to find the blonde still there. “I was just wondering…your report could say he was stolen, couldn’t it? I mean, he’s so big – he’s really too much for me to handle…”
“What? No! I can’t lie! Besides, he’s right there. What are you gonna do with him?”
“Nope, no way; the shelters are closed. And you can’t dump him – it’s illegal.” At that inopportune moment, the oblivious puppy squatted, again; he was not helping his case.
“Well, he’s not going home with me. That’s disgusting!”
Amanda reached for the microphone. “Rick –”
A disembodied voice floated back. “I know, cleanup on aisle four…”
The blonde was rolling now. “I don’t want a dog! You have to help me; I’m a terrible mother...”
Val was out of patience. “That’s not a police matter. Now…”
The manager, who’d walked over to rejoin them, cleared her throat. “Maybe I could help. If you’re really sure, my kids have been begging for a puppy; maybe he could be an extra Christmas present.”
Sybil crowed in jubilation. “Yes!”
Val, on the other hand, couldn’t hide her disappointment. Kids? Probably just code for husband. “How many kids do you have?”
“Two. They stay with my mom when I’m working.”
“Not your husband?”
“Please! No, after five years and two kids, my girlfriend decided she was still heterosexual. Now, it’s just the three of us.”
Inside, Val did a happy dance. “That’s terrible! It must have been so hard for you…”
“Hello! Woman in crisis here – remember me? Are you taking him, or not?”
Amanda was suddenly unsure. “I don’t know; my fence is pretty bad. He might get out.”
Val jumped in. “I’d be happy to take a look; I’m really good with tools.”
“Terrific! I’m sure you’ll be happy together. Now, if you’ll excuse me –”
“Wait one minute; it has to be legal. We need to put it in writing.”
Val wrote out a receipt, which Sybil and Amanda signed. “Everyone happy?” The back of the blonde was a blur as she raced towards the exit. “Guess she didn’t need whatever it was she came in for. And after all that cleanup.”
The manager felt suddenly shy: what an unusual night. The puppy’s whimpering brought her back to reality.
“Oh lord, what have I done? What am I going to do with a dog?”
“You’re going to take him home, and become the world’s coolest mom.”
“That’s great, except, I’m not off for two hours.”
“No problem; I’m going back to the station to write reports. He can come with me; I could even bring him by your place in the morning, if you don’t want to ruin the surprise.”
“I can’t ask you to do that; it’s too much!”
“It’s nothing; besides, you didn’t ask.”
“Well, if you’re sure – but only if you’ll stay for Christmas dinner. What are your thoughts on turkey?”
“I can’t live without it.”
“The only things I love better than turkey.”
Story by: CASEY ELLIOTT
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