Blind dates can be tough, especially when it was someone met online. Sienna had not had much luck in the boyfriend department. She had turned to the internet to help her solve her dilemma. Being a divorced mother of two, scared away a lot of men. Looking for a partner was harder than she thought. A provider was not what she needed. It would be nice to have that in her life, but Sienna had spent a long time as a single mother. The house her family lived in she owned. The car was not top of the line but it was hers. Adult conversation and company were the real goal. Occasional moments of intimacy would be nice too. There was also the hectic schedule that had to be overcome. Working security as video monitor and dispatch, was usually boring. Cancelled shifts of coworkers added to her need for a larger paycheck. The trouble with that strategy was Sienna stayed on call all the time. Having a babysitter in the form of her worried mother also on call helped.
The guy she met yesterday online messaged her continually as quickly as she responded to him. He seemed like a good guy, good enough to get coffee. He was a divorcee. From their twenty some messages back and forth, she could tell he was ready to move on. He had kids that stayed with their mother. Sienna thought he was not afraid of a woman with kids because he knew all the intricacies of her priorities. That was a bonus for him, along with his blue collar looks.
Harold waited patiently for his date. Ordering them both a cup of house blend, he wanted to show he was thoughtful. He knew he would get brownie points, remembering she always put two creamers and three sugars in her coffee from the messages they shared. He had not been on a date in a long time. Earning the valuable second date, meant he would have to meet whatever standard she set. Part of the messages were set up to gather what those standards entailed. Harold needed to get close to her. Sienna was the key to success on the next attack.
The woman had been his match a few times on the website. Harold never paid much attention to her until she became his lucky break. He never really paid attention to any woman outside his race. Watching a shift change early one morning he made the connection to his long term plans. Seeing her depart, he knew she was the target for a minion that he needed. His face on the former employee list was the one thing that could end this plan way before it started. As she approached he stood, and moved around the table to pull out her chair for his date. The smile she carried told Harold he may not have forgotten the entirety of dating.
“Afraid you were going to back out,” she started before he could even get a word in. She removed her jacket then draped it over the chair. She allowed him to help ease her to the table after she sat down. It was rare to see these types of manners in the dating scene these days.
“Of course not, you are a very intriguing woman,” taking his own seat across from her. He grabbed the handle of his coffee cup taking a small sip. “So tell me how your day was?”
“Nothing major had to fight to stay awake.” Taking her own coffee in her hands testing its warmth against her lips, she took a drink. Perfect, he got it right she thought. “Could have used about three of these today,” she took a long drink from the cup as a means of not being too talkative.
“Well maybe next time I will have to bring you one,” he stated changing his tone to a little flirty.
“That may have to happen.” Sinking back into her chair, she took a good look at him. “Half the night I was by myself. My supervisor was off doing things on the computer.”
“Doing work?” He inquired. Making sure his tone portrayed a level of concern for her life. It went beyond the concerned interested man he portrayed in the messages. Harold was gathering information of what else might be awaiting his plan.
“I doubt it. He has the only computer with web access, probably looking at girls.” The weary Sienna caused them both to laugh a bit. She was used to the younger boss taking advantage of unmonitored computer time.
They continued their small talk filled with long stories that had been told thousands of times. Occasionally they would laugh or create references back to each other’s stories. They seem to be hitting it off well. Sienna was happy to finally have a break from the annoying guys who were more interested in staring at her figure then getting to know her. Then again sometimes she did not care. Sometimes company was all she needed, so she could put up with that kind of treatment. Finding a conversation in a companion like this one was becoming more a fairy tale than a goal. The men who had trickled into her life had begun to convince her of that. Harold seemed different.
The information he was gaining made the would-be mastermind smile. While the company was not bad the intelligence he was gathering was more important. There would always be two sets of eyes on any shift. The images of a room full of security guards monitoring every second was disproven. The knowledge of shift changes also allowed him to know when weary eyes would be replaced with fresh ones. He just needed a moment to see inside the control room to find the blind spots. Harold knew how to do it now. Gaining her confidence was the next goal to be achieved. Then a late night delivery of coffee with the right mix of creamer and sugar would allow him in. When Harold gained access he would have to be sharp. Taking accurate mental notes was the key to not draw suspicion.
The walk to the car was one final chance to impress his future minion. He would be able to get a glance at her car and items about her life when he looked in. Harold was not sure how that information would help him but knew every little bit might help his cause. The day had been productive. He felt he earned a reward so when saying goodbye, he leaned in for a kiss.
Sienna was surprised by the reaction. The date went well but not enough to break her rule about kissing on a first date. Turning her head to let his lips catch her cheek, the veteran move was intended not to scare him away. Knowing that next date, if it went this well, she would let him have a real kiss. She wanted to find a real romance and to be someone’s treasure. If that meant being a little guarded so be it. “I had a great morning.” Harold might be her chance at real romance. The man had spent the morning trying to win a second date. Sienna wanted to make sure he knew he had been successful.
“I hope we can repeat it.” Harold was stalling to make a mental inventory of every detail Sienna was showing the public. The various toys spread in her backseat let him know the ages of her children. The fast food wrappers told Harold what she either liked as a quick meal or what was near her home. The knowledge would be useful for later conversations.
“Soon,” her lips rose into a warm smile. Easing into her car, she began to depart. Harold did not move from his post until she was gone. He gathered the information on her but was not ready to return the same about him.
The alarm sounded a loud pounding ring. Antonio did not care. The duo was going to be out of the place before the cops were able to respond. The small shop was too enticing for desperate men. Antonio was moonlighting from being Harold’s sidekick.
There was something else that needed to be considered. Money was a need, especially when it could be traded for a fix.
Green paper was very enticing to the petty thieves. A small safe in the office held just enough of them. They could take the safe back to their home and crack it open. A portable safe was fine for short term. But the owners were about to learn a valuable lesson thanks to Antonio and his new sidekick.
Glen was a nervous guy who had many bad habits. He had more bad habits than common sense which made Antonio’s suggestion worth his ear. It takes money to fund a habit. He had already expended all other sources to get the funding. Friends were scarce, family had long given up on him, and all his possessions had been sold. Theft was the only source left. Glen did have a bit of caution when they selected the target.
The screaming alarm sounded in Glen’s ear, feeding his paranoia with the sense of doom. A driving need to satisfy his addiction put the paranoia second. The plan was sound. He once did a few odd jobs for the remodeling of the target shop. Like Antonio, Glen’s job went overseas causing him to dive deeper into the embrace of the needle. Now he just found ways to fund his escape.
Antonio struck a conversation with him at the bar. Before Glen knew it he had come up with a plan to steal some money. Antonio pointed out, when the initial plan was to steal everything, money did not need pawned. His new friend was very encouraging, when it was done, Glen felt confident they had made all the proper preparations.
The life Glen lived was not one of glory or fame, but it was his. Since being let go from the plant his life could not gain any traction and he slipped downhill fast. The screaming alarm reminded him of the old time clock at the plant. The plant whistled every significant time to the workers. The alarm was doing the same this time for a deadlier change in his life. All it would take would be for the wrong person to get there before the duo escaped.
Snapping fingers broke Glen out of his moment of self-reflection. Antonio needed his help to lift the small safe so they could make their escape. It was not as heavy as it was awkward. And if they were going to make it out of the broken window they both would have to carry it. Antonio headed out first. Gaining his footing to hold the majority of the weight until Glen made it out. The plan was going just as they had drawn up. The cash would be a short term relief to fate throwing him into the gutter.
The financial breather he gained would only last if Glen could stop the impulses of wasting money. There was always some magnet that pulled Glen towards it. Temptations were always going to test Glen. He had yet to have his will power overcome the test. Guilt was the failing mark on his emotions. His muscles strained as the rusted metal safe rested against his chest. Glen was of slight frame, the weight of the safe seemed immense. The weight made the wait for Antonio seem like an eternity. It was beginning to last longer than Glen could hold. Strained muscles pushed past their limit as the metal safe weighing more than he did, tumbled from Glen’s hands. The corner chipped a bit of the concrete as it made impact. The ear piercing impact announced to Antonio that his accomplice had added some time to their plan.
The clang of the metal safe was louder than Glen had imagined. It sounded like an explosion. There was another sensation he failed to notice at first glance. Burning, the new sensation erupted, as the blood began soaking his shirt. Skull met the rusted metal, Glen was no more. Antonio faded quickly into the shadows before the silhouette of the gunman could come into view.
The store owner had made his way down the stairs to protect his livelihood. The gun in his hands was frozen. When he purchased the revolver he did so just to provide a sense of security. There was never an intention to use it. There was never an intent to end a life. He had to protect his shop, for the sake of his family. He felt there was no choice. The police did not arrive fast enough, and action was needed. That action was to pull the trigger.
When they started this venture, Glen held misgivings about the target. Antonio used a silver tongue and the timing to coincide with a drug induced haze to bring Glen to trust him. Antonio promised him that if there was a price to pay to keep the area crime lord away, he would pay it. Now he was paying the boat man to cross the River Styx.
The corruptor had done his job. Self-destruction was not necessarily a damning event, having an impact on another was. Money was never the prize it was always about getting Glen to make a bad decision that harmed another. Free will had been altered.
Antonio faded away. The gun shot was still echoing in his ears. The crisp night air could only magnify it, still not a single flashing light. Melting into the dark spots of the jewelry store, Antonio was gone.
End of his shift was Clemmons time to get back and file paperwork. Nights like last night could be especially boring. A few speeding tickets handed out, broke up the fight of sleep. Coffee helped, though it was not a cure for the dilemma. Clemmons had spent a few months on the late shift which disappointed him more that he had yet to adjust. When he was a rookie officer he was on an earlier shift. It was easy to watch the time fly. So far the only night that time flew by was the night of the fire.
Dispatch needed a responding officer for one last call. Complacency dictated, an early morning call, was most likely a fender bender of two people rushing to work. Early morning was rarely anything else. Beginning of the shift was heavy in drunk drivers and domestic disputes. End of shift calls were more for closing out paperwork. The only clue the dispatch gave was the brief alert they received. Clemmons knew he was going to a disturbance. Perhaps the prime time for a domestic had not passed.
When the patrol car came to a stop, the location did not really surprise Clemmons. The homeless shelter had been filled to capacity more and more every year. Overwhelming numbers meant some of the personalities would not mix well. Situations rarely got out of control as most of these mini-communities were able to police themselves.
Stepping out of the patrol car, it did not take long for Clemmons to get a good idea of what was happening. Seated on the bench was a prisoner with a group of captors surrounding him. Dirty hands were wrapped together with duct tape restraining them at the wrists. Clemmons had a pretty good idea whatever happened, it happened before he had a chance to shower. It did not take much longer after that realization than the gang made their way toward the police officer. To add difficulty to Clemmons’s day, they did not have a designated spokesman. What could be made out in the ruckus of voices was the fact the group had caught a thief.
The thief would have gotten away with the task but he turned himself in. The group reacted by raiding his bag and taking what they claimed had started as their possessions. Bruises covered the surface of his face letting Clemmons know the mob decided to perform their own justice. Clemmons took out his pen and paper to jot down a few of the notes that were assaulting his ears. Out of the corner of his eye he caught he was not the only one taking notes.
Clemmons noticed the red haired woman with her eyes on the notepad. The quill pen in her hand seemed out of place. The aged officer knew he had seen the woman before but could not place her. A logical conclusion would be she was part of the staff of the shelter. He would have to talk to the woman after getting a statement from the prisoner.
Meeting the officer’s eyes, the greasy haired man spoke first. “I did it. I saw something I wanted. Something I should have had. Something I used to have and I took it.”
Clemmons was assaulted by the confession. He did not know what the stolen property even was. Truth was in the homeless man’s words as Clemmons could read it in his eyes. The pen dropped to his side. “Do you want to tell me what this is all about? Before I read you your rights,” the words were a preamble for the man to be careful to admitting to a crime when there was not one.
“When I first came to this place I noticed the office had a portable radio. It must belong to the cleaning lady, but it was just like the one I used to have.” A bit of reminiscent sadness passed over his words. “I wanted it to be just like I used to be.”
“So a radio caused you to get beaten?” Clemmons was sure no matter how desperate the mob was it was not just one thing.
A replay of how this week passed brought up a chuckle. “No, I do what I can to get by. I guess I got by at the expense of others.” He shook his head. “I guess I really did deserve this.”
“I hate to ask this but have you been drinking?” Clemmons offered the man an excuse. One of the inherent gifts he seemed to have, was hearing a confession when he did not even ask for one.
“They pulled the body of a good friend out of the canal yesterday. Of course, I have been drinking.” The eyes of the man drifted out past the conversation. “Glen must have either been stupid and took his own life. It was probably by accident. The other explanation was he stole from the wrong person. The police did not tell me anything. And he did not rate news coverage.”
“I read the report.” Shoulders of the officer had spent a lot of time being there for others. He thought it had come again.
Shivering, the taped up man thought about what could have been the cause. “Glen’s demise was probably his fault but it got me thinking. How close am I to suffering the same end? My hands get sticky sometimes. What if they got sticky at the wrong time?” Shaking his head as the cold chill travelled down his spine. “I could have gotten away with it ya’ know?”
“I am sure you could have.” Clemmons felt he was giving a true confession to a real crime and was not going to scare the man away. “Your friend, Glen, did he have other friends with sticky hands?”
“Glen’s only friend was the needle.” A confession for thieving was easier than admitting he had the same friend. The realization that the friendship with the needle would be his downfall gave the man a pause. Eyes glanced up catching the woman taking notes with her quill pen. Though he could not place her face, her demeanor meant she was probably staff. Looking upon the woman he had a feeling that there was hope. The bad choices of the past did not have to define the end. “My problem was the same. We both met a guy who told us he would help us find the money to keep that friend.”
“Would you be able to describe the man? More importantly would you be willing to if we get you help and help this situation?” Clemmons was trying to get a piece in solving a murder. It was obvious the man he was speaking to did not know the true fate of Glen.
“I would be willing to help. I feel I need to serve the punishment for my crimes.” The glare in his eyes toward the officer confessed the bit of self-imposed punishment was necessary to his own rehabilitation. “I have a long road ahead. But I am ready to get out of this lifestyle.”
“Then help us find the man who was involved and we will help you get on your way.” Clemmons read him his rights and took him to the car. The two drove toward the station to end Clemmons’ shift and start the thief’s new life.
Thanks again to Rick Rupert for providing the amazing photos. Inquiries about his photography services can be directed to Rupertrick@gmail.com.