“Control, One David Fourteen, 10-97 at location.”
“Affirmative” The marvelously honeyed voice replied briskly.
I slowed the squad car in front of Ben Steinberg’s Clothing store and studied the glass front. All seemed secure. False alarms and domestic disturbances were the bane of a policemen’s existence. At least I didn’t have to worry about getting shot by a drunken husband on this 10-33 silent alarm call.
When I came to the end of the block I realized there was an ally in back of the store so I pulled the squad around and slowly traversed the narrow passageway. It was a bright sunny afternoon but the light barely penetrated the deep shadows between tall buildings.
Something in the way the rear door of the store stood in the contrast of light and dark didn’t look right. Stopping the car, I got out for a closer inspection. My hunch was right, the door was cracked open. Studying it carefully, it didn’t look forced. Maybe the owner was inside and forgot to turn off the alarm. But glancing in either direction I saw no other cars.
“Control, One David Fourteen, I have a possible entry through the rear door.”
“Affirmative, calling for backup.” The angel told me without asking.
My heart picked up the pace a little at the prospect of the hunt—and danger.
“One David Fourteen, ETA on the backup is now plus twenty.”
The honey voice turned to vinegar at that news. It must be busy in the city this afternoon. Twenty minutes, the burglar would be long gone if there was one. It was a Sunday and although this was inner city and high crime, the chances it was a burglary were remote. When darkness fell, well that was a different story. My blood raced in anticipation. I decided to go in.
The store was dark but rays of sunlight slanted in where they could. It was packed from wall to wall inside. Clothes hung silently from racks that filled every possible space. Slowly and methodically I made my way through, flashlight in one hand and gun in the other. When I reached the front, all seemed normal. Another false alarm, someone probably just forgot to lock the back door.
Then the rustle, so low I thought I imagined it, off to my left. Frozen and still, I waited. There it was again, unmistakable this time. Creeping silently I moved towards it but then it moved too, further back. I wasn’t alone. In twenty paces I crossed the threshold from the retail store to the stockroom—and a blind turn. There was no going back, I was committed.
With the gun barrel leading, I turned the corner. Sun beams found my eyes and stunned my retinas but through the pain I saw them, four figures coming at me. The hairs on the back of my neck rose up just like they always say. The flee or fight reaction reared up but I had no option of retreat, I was a cop. My finger twitched on the trigger, fueled by the adrenaline rush. Instinct willed muscles to apply pressure and squeeze off the shot before it was too late.
My brain fought for control as it tried to clear my vision and sort out the situation. The figures coming at me were different heights, two tall, two short. They were well dressed! Huh? Two kids and their parents! What, they take their kids out for a Sunday outing to a burglary? Information processed too rapidly for conscious thought, it was all by training.
Finally the blood rush slowed, my eyes adjusted to the glare cutting through the shadow. The figures hadn’t moved, they were still as stone. Approaching closer, against all the rules, I saw I was face to face with …mannequins! Sure enough, a father and mother and two children, dressed in Easter fineness I guessed, which was only a few weeks away.
My heart rate was just starting to slow when a tabby cat appeared from nowhere and rubbed up against my leg—scaring the living hell out of me once again. I now knew the cause of the rustling.
The radio cut through the silence. “One David Fourteen, One David Fourteen, what is your status?”
She was checking up on me. The honey voiced angel sounded concerned. It made me feel good.
“All secure, no problem here Control.” I replied as calmly as I could muster. Just another lazy Sunday.
Copyright 2019 By Ed Morawski