Prowlers

Published July 1, 2011 by Christa Maurice

Want to start at the beginning?

 

Colleen walked out of the cash office rubbing her eyes and stretching. It was only eleven thirty, but she had the drawers counted and the paperwork done. The tapes were backed up. Things were running pretty smoothly. She ventured out to the floor and heard joyful screaming coming from the history section. If she had to close on Saturday night at least she had a good crew.

She stopped outside the section. Gary looked flustered which meant that Joanie had just slammed him good. Tanya was laughing so hard she was nearly in tears. Maureen was struggling to add insult to injury and the lead clerk, Connie, was flushing books.

Mags done?” Colleen asked.

Mags are done, remainders are done, reg is straightened, Spos are picked up, reshelves are put away.” Connie ticked everything off on her fingers.

So we just need to flush?” Colleen asked.

Yeah.”

Let’s do this section and then blow. The faster the better.” Colleen knelt in front of WWII and started working.

Hey Colleen, Sandy said you went out with the fireman who did our inspection,” Tanya said. “Did you really?”

Yeah, we went out for Korean food Wednesday.” She turned halfway. “That reminds me. Gary, what do you know about rock climbing?”

A little.”

You’ll have to give me a walk through before Thursday.”

You’re going rock climbing with him?” Maureen asked.

I said I’d never been to the desert, so he’s taking me out climbing.”

Wait a minute here.” Connie stepped away from the shelf. “I thought you said you went out with a policeman.”

I did.”

A policeman/fireman?”

Colleen shook her head, embarrassed by her unexpected riches. “No. One of each.”

No way!” Tanya howled. “You’re dating two guys?”

It’s not like I planned it this way.” She finished WWII and started Korea.

So who do you like better?” Joanie asked.

I’m not sure. They’re very different.”

That’s not fair,” Maureen wailed. “I can’t get one boyfriend and you’ve got two.”

I’ve only been out with each of them once,” Colleen said as much to soothe herself as Maureen. She felt quite strongly, and quite differently, about each of them. She’d been tangled up in the problem since the end of her first date with Dan.

So what are they like?” Maureen finished Classical Studies and started Medieval.

Mike is the fireman. He’s tall, dark hair, brown eyes. He’s part Indian but he doesn’t like to talk about it. He’s fun. He’s really quick. And he’s a paramedic. I just felt really safe and comfortable with him.”

Safe?” Joanie asked. “Safe how?”

Colleen licked her lips. “I can’t describe it. Talking to Mike was like talking to somebody I’d known for years who I could say anything in front of.”

What about your cop?” Maureen asked.

Dan is blond, blue eyes, not as tall as Mike, but still tall. He’s kind of broad shouldered. He’s … ah … I don’t know. He’s really intense. And he’s got this deep, soft voice that could move mountains.”

Move mountains!” Connie sat down on the stool, sighing.

I don’t know how to describe it.” Colleen glanced around her crew. She knew they had done everything they said they had. The history section was going to be trashed first thing in the morning anyway. “Come on, let’s blow this Popsicle stand. Gary, will you get the lights?”

They milled around in the back room getting their purses and jackets while Gary shut off the lights.

Hey guys, we didn’t clean up the break room,” Connie said.

Come on, let’s do it quick.” Colleen headed for the break room with the others behind her. As the others started to leave the phone rang. Colleen picked it up. “Hello.”

Colleen, I forgot to check the schedule for tomorrow,” Dennis began without ceremony.

Colleen waved them ahead of her, but Connie hovered nearby. They others went on to the doors. “Don’t worry about it. It’s the same schedule as last week.”

No, Alice called off.”

I didn’t know Alice called off.”

I know, I forgot to tell you. That’s why I needed to check the schedule.”

Okay, I’ll fix it before I leave.” Colleen shook her head. It was quarter ‘til and she couldn’t call everybody back for fifteen minutes so she could fix the schedule. But it wasn’t safe for her to leave the store alone either.

Thank you, Colleen. See you Monday.”

Bye.” Colleen faked cheerfulness. She hung up the phone and growled for Connie’s benefit. “I have to fix the schedule.”

Alice called off?”

Yeah.” Colleen headed for her desk. “Will you go let whoever wants to go out, but ask at least a couple of people to stay?”

Sure. I’ll stay.”

Colleen flicked on the light over her desk and located the schedule. She was half done with the alterations when Connie came back. “Everybody stayed. They’re playing hide and seek.”

Okay. Hey, will you check the coffee pot in the break room? I can’t remember if anybody turned it off.” She glared at the schedule cursing Alice for calling off and cursing Dennis for not telling her Alice called off. It was an easy fix, really. Within a few minutes she’d repaired the hole in the schedule and returned it to the box. Then she collected Connie and headed to the front doors. There was no one in sight. “Hide and seek?” she asked Connie.

Connie shrugged.

Colleen stopped at the front doors. “Alright kids. Come out, come out where ever you are. It’s time to go home.” She turned to the front door and screamed.

Connie sprinted over to the doors.

Jesus Scott!” Colleen shouted. She shoved through the first set of doors and fumbled with the locks. “You’re supposed to sneak up on the bad guys, not me!” She threw the door open and then stood in it like she didn’t know what to do.

We thought we saw somebody sneaking around inside the store,” Scott explained. He looked nearly as startled as Colleen felt. “We were going to check the doors.”

Colleen licked her lips and looked back over her shoulder. Her crew stood there in various stages of fight or flight. “That was my staff playing hide and seek while I finished up some work.” She put her hand over her heart and looked past Scott to where Dan was standing. He raised one eyebrow and smirked at her. “Hello Dan.”

Hello Colleen.” He stepped forward. “Everything’s alright here then?”

Yes. Fine other than my little overreaction.” She turned to wave everybody out. “Come on guys, let’s go. I have to set the alarm.”

They filed out and waited by the doors while Colleen set the alarm and locked the front door.

I’m sorry, Colleen. I saw movement inside the store. I thought something funny was going on.” Scott tested the door.

I know. It’s not your fault. I just turned around and all I saw was this white face floating in the darkness.” She giggled. “Bye everybody. See you when ever.”

They set off across the parking lot calling their good nights.

Do you do this every night?” Dan asked.

Do what, play hide and seek?”

No, wait outside.”

Oh, yeah. It’s actually a company policy. Very handy in the dead of winter when your car doesn’t start at midnight. Safety in numbers.”

It’s a good idea.” Dan hooked his fingers through his belt loops.

Come on. We’ll walk you to your car,” Scott suggested. He led the way across the parking lot to Colleen’s safe, brown Chevette.

I didn’t know you had this area.” Colleen scanned the parking lot. Joanie and Maureen were driving away. Connie was pulling out. Tanya was sitting in her car with the engine running and so was Gary. Gary always waited until he was the last one out of the lot. Tanya wanted a better look at Dan.

We do, tonight,” Dan said.

They stopped next to her car and waited while she fumbled with the keys. “Well, thanks guys. I’ll try not to scream the next time you sneak up on me in the dark.” She slugged Scott.

A-ha. You funny.” He walked away.

I love you, Scott,” she called after him.

Dan lingered for a moment. “We just wanted to make sure everything was on the up and up here.”

She smiled devilishly. She felt less like she had to measure up to his standards tonight. “Oh come on, you just wanted to see me.”

He shrugged. “That too. Good night, Colleen.” Then he followed Scott to where they had parked the car at the corner of the building, out of sight of the front doors.

Colleen stared after him for a minute. Somehow the tone of his voice always made her feel a little stunned, like she’d been drugged. Mike never made her feel that way. But Mike made her feel very comfortable. He didn’t demand anything. He barely asked for anything. It was all a tangle. Then she climbed into her car and started the engine.

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