Tales of a Thief Dancer (ToTD): Wherein people are stealing weird.
Some days start slow, some days end slow. During the work week, most of my thief dancer days started with paperwork. This day was no different. Slow.
Here's the problem with paperwork: It's boring, especially for a job where the payoff is the chase. This leads to an ADHD-mindset: Numerous distractions, any excuse really.
On this day, within an hour of store open, I hopped up into a one-way mirror blind set back in the Jewelry department. It happened to be right across from my office door so it was a short hop.
Less than two feet away, close enough that she could have heard me if I'd been clumsy, stood a lady. She was your typical stereotype Minnesota farm wife, out on a Thursday morning running errands. Only, her purse sat wide open in the shopping cart seat. This, in and of itself, would go unnoticed by the buying public, but it's one of those signals that bear watching. So I did.
With only a plate of one-way glass between us, I watched her sift through jewely hanging off a spinning rack. Actually, jewelry was a pretty generous description. It was that stuff you buy for 2.99: earrings like butterflies, topaz rings, necklace pendants that proclaim World's Greatest Mom.
I don't know if she was a mom, but she wasn't great at anything. Especially concealing her intent.
One glance over her shoulder was all I needed to see as an employee passed by, and my heartbeat started to elevate. Finally, something to break up my morning routine. Yay!
I'm sure she thought the movements were stealthy, but from my vantage point, they were just slow. She slipped several pieces of junk jewelry into the open purse and snapped it shut. I saw a necklace, some earrings and that was enough.
Now here's the downside. Shopping. As a man, I am chromosonally incapable of browsing in a store. As a thief dancer, I was required to stick with her all the way through checkout, just to ensure she never got cold feet and dumped the merchandise. So for the next 90 minutes I became a shopper. (As a side note, I have seen eternity.)
Finally she paid. Over $100 worth of miscellaneous items but not a hint of any jewelry. I grabbed a female manager to accompany me outside to make the stop. "Excuse me ma'am, I believe you forgot to pay for some merchandise in your purse. I'll need you to come back inside with me."
Before we even made it two steps back, she stops. "I want to return all this. It's over $120 worth. If this is the way your store treats people, I don't want to do business with you."
"That's fine. Afterwards we'll process the refund. Now follow me."
She was meek, confused, casting about for any kind of escape. I wasn't worried about her taking off and running, but I could see she was looking for any excuse. Most of them came verbally.
Once inside our office, she fell back into the shoplifter's last refuge: hostility. "I don't have to tell you anything. I didn't ask for this." (By the way, do not attach any logic or common sense to the words that come out of people's mouths when they are caught in a crime. I think it's fairly universal, based on what I've seen on COPS.)
"You can produce your license and the merchandise, ma'am, or I will call the police."
She slaps down her license. "You son of a bitch."
I wanted to say: 'You don't even know my mother', but that would be a disservice to mom.
As I started to write out my apprehension report, the lady dug back through her purse. I assumed she was going after the merchandise like I had so nicely asked. But no. She pulls out an orange prescription bottle of pills, dumps out a handful and stuffs them in her mouth.
I can only stare at her. My stupid comment of the day: "Did you just take all those?" Mind you, this was new territory for me.
"Yes," and a puff of pill powder came out of her mouth. It's much funnier looking back than it was then. A pained look comes across her face. "Can I have a drink of water?"
"Are you nuts? No. Oh, good lord." Water would only make it wash down quicker. I stab out 911 on my phone and request ambulance service.
Now what? It seemed like I should do something more, but I didn't have a clue. She just stared at me with the defiant look of a woman who has a mouthful of bitter pills. So I turned back to my report. Hey, it would have to be done sooner or later anyway.
Inside of ten minutes the paramedics show up. By this time her eyes weren't quite tracking to her head movement. She looked and acted like a drunk person. I may have seen one or two in my life, so I knew. They flashed light into her pupils, examined the prescription bottle and did other paramedic-type things.
Paramedic: "Ma'am, we recommend you come down with us for observation."
"I don't have to. I didn't call you."
"Either you come down or you sign off this waiver. Your choice."
She chose not to call them sons of bitches, but did sign the waiver.
By this time, the police had shown up, a guy I knew and was friendly with. He hung back until the paramedics left the room. The he stepped in and said: "You're going down for 72 hour observation."
"I don't have to. I signed the thing. I didn't call you."
"With them you have an option. You don't with me."
So he hauled her off, ending my excitement for the morning. In hindsight, it seems more interesting than I remember it being at the time.
Post-note: The following Monday I get a call from one of the managers. He's in my office with the husband. The husband wants to talk to me. Great.
It's one thing to catch the thieves, but often, especially in the case of kids, we are on our own to defend our actions against relatives who simply can't believe their loved ones could do such thing. So I girded myself for a long defense about Thursday's events.
Turns out he wants to shake my hand for uncovering an issue. See, farm wife was also church treasurer and they'd been having problems with money disappearing. This helped narrow down the suspects.