“Goddamnit!” Patricia Stanley glared at her computer screen. “I was right in the middle of this!”
“What happened?” Becky asked.
Patricia turned to her fiancée, who had come up behind her to look at the computer screen. “The damned WiFi’s out again. For the third time this week! I’m really getting sick of this happening. And I was logged on to my law enforcement seminar, too, so now I’ll have to go back in and rewrite my post.”
“Off-duty reporting procedures. They need proof that we know the protocol.”
“Do you have notes for what you were going to write?” Becky wanted to know.
“Yeah, it’s not that it’s earth-shattering, but I’m annoyed. I hate when that happens.”
“I do, too. Let’s just reboot the cable modem and then you can get back to it.”
Patricia nodded and stood up. She put her hands on her hips and bent slightly backward to stretch her back. “You’re right,” she admitted. “No sense freaking out.” Then she had an idea. “How about I go pick up some beer and snacks? By the time I get back, the WiFi ought to be working again.”
“That sounds great, but it’s Christmas Eve. Nothing’s open.”
Patricia put on her heavy winter jacket and zipped it up. Then she pulled on a black woolen beanie. She decided against gloves; the Wawa was only two blocks away. She put her phone in the pocket of her jeans and slipped her wallet into her jacket pocket. “Back in a few,” she called as she left. She heard Becky’s muffled “OK” as she walked outside.
Patricia stuffed her hands into her coat pockets and lowered her head against the wind. By the time she got to the store, her eyes had started to water from the cold. She ducked inside and immediately felt better. She blinked a few times and looked around her. There was one bored-looking clerk at the front of the store, and a few other customers roaming the aisles. Everyone was in a hurry and Patricia had to smile at the people buying last-minute cards and candy and things. Didn’t people know when Christmas was?
After a minute, Patricia made her way to the Doritos, Cheetos and other snacks. She picked up two bags of Utz: barbecue for herself, and sour cream and onion for Becky. The front door swung open as she headed towards the beer cooler, and she looked around out of curiosity. Two young men came in wearing ski caps pulled over their ears and heavy jackets. Patricia moved closer to the beer cooler as they started to move around the store. Then she saw them heading in her direction. She picked up a six-pack of Dock Street and turned towards the front of the store.
One of the men pulled a six-pack of Miller from the cooler, the other grabbed some Bud Light. Then the two walked towards the front. Patricia stood behind them in line. That’s when she saw one of them pull a gun from his pocket. She took a step backwards. The man with the gun pointed it at the ashen-faced clerk. “The money! Now!” he barked. The clerk opened the drawer with shaking hands and started pulling money out of the drawer.
Patricia inched toward a display of flashlights. Never taking her eyes off the men, she slowly laid her beer and snacks on the ground and picked up a flashlight. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and texted for backup as quickly as she could. She took two quick steps towards the man with the gun and smacked his wrist as hard as she could with the flashlight. The man howled and cursed as the gun dropped from his hand. Patricia grabbed it and pointed it at him.
The clerk stared, frozen in place, as both of the robbers turned around to face Patricia. “Don’t worry,” she reassured the clerk. “I called for help. I’ll stay until they get here.” For the next five minutes, everything seemed to stand still. Frightened customers crouched wherever they could. The two men stared at Patricia, who stared right back. The clerk stood as still as a statue.
Finally, Patricia heard the sound of sirens. She’d never been so happy to hear that noise in her life. A minute later, two uniforms burst into the store. Thank God she knew who these guys were, so IDing her wouldn’t be a problem. Still, Patricia showed them her police ID as she handed one of them the gun she’d been holding. Catching her breath as she spoke, she told the officers what had happened. The two robbers were handcuffed, and then one of the officers took notes from Patricia and from the clerk. She would have to give a formal statement later, but with the clerk to back up her story, and since she hadn’t fired the gun, that wouldn’t be a problem. For now, she was going home.
When everything was finally over, Patricia bent over, hands on her knees, and took a few deep breaths. Then she went back over to where she’d left the beer and snacks. She picked them up and went towards the checkout stand. The clerk said, “It’s on the house. You – you saved my life.” Patricia shrugged a little and thanked him. “You don’t look like a cop,” he added. “Sometimes even cops are supposed to get a day off,” she answered with a smile.
Becky was at the door when Patricia opened it. “Where have you been? I texted you, but you didn’t answer. I was about to go looking for you!” Then she looked more closely. “What happened? Are you OK?”
“Yeah, I am. Promise. And now I’ve got a story to write up for my seminar. I will tell you all about it. But first” – she handed Becky the beer – “I want a beer. Now.”