One Black Friday
She Didn't See This One Coming
The nearly pitch black parking lot echoed black Friday’s past. The trash lightly blew past the blue lined handicap lanes and light posts. You could almost hear the rustle of stallion shopping carts retired into their corrals, but ready to face more shopping fever. All had gone home after a marathon of black Friday closeouts and those one of a kind deals that only lasted a few hours for the lucky ones, except for Donna.
Donna was in the cash office for twelve hours and could not go home until the money balanced. She would feather the cash in front of her and hopelessly repeat the same amount of one hundred dollars short. She was living her worst nightmare.
“Why am I short ! Out of all the days in the year why today? Why now?” Donna cried while placing her flushed cheeks into her shriveled hands dried up from countless hours handling money.
Donna glanced at the laughing clock which just made her feel more tired. Donna was parched, starving and just wanted to get home. At a single drowsy moment she allowed herself to drift off into a light nap…which was cut short by a startling sound.
“You got to be kidding me…Herb tripped the alarm again!”, Donna mumbled out loud while turning to the surveillance monitor.
Donna switched to the parking lot view and found that Herb, the loss prevention officer for Décor Galore was gone. Her lonely car showcased the large empty parking lot.
Donna walked over to Herb’s security office and disarmed the alarm thinking everything was perfectly okay.
Donna pulled out her spreadsheets once more, tallied up the cash in piles…hoping that while she snoozed the missing money would of magically turned up. Just as she began counting the twenty-first time she spotted something moving out of the corner of her eye in one of the security screens.
When she gave it her full attention she did not see anything…just vacant aisles, rummaged through sale bins and colorful banners. Donna slowly eased back into her accounting blaming lack of sleep and low blood sugar for her hallucinations.
Donna started to whistle her own tune and aggressively tapped away on the calculator. Then just as she was counting change, Donna saw something out of the corner of her eye again, but this time it was real.
“What the h*ll!”, Donna gasped scared out of her wits.
She hopelessly watched as a tall thin man wearing a black raincoat strolled the aisles in the furniture domestics section. He kept a matching black umbrella by his side prancing around in his own little world.
“If he is here to rob us…he is the most laid back burglar I have ever seen”, Donna said to herself with some of the fear leaving her.
Donna shook her head in disbelief…it was almost as if he was shopping. He snatched up a decorative satin pillow graced with a large tightly stitched swan and fluffed it, he grazed it softly against his smoothly shaved chin. He then very meticulously placed the pillow back in the wire bin along with the other picked over pillows.
Next, he strolled over to the candle section and offered his nose to at least a few dozen candles from Cinnamon Maple Walnut to Blueberry Passion Pie. Afterwards onto the less desirable candle scents like Saddle Factory and Pine Nut Surprise. He seemed to favor all the scents…closing his eyes, deeply inhaling and smiling with each breath. If Donna didn’t know any better it looked like he was home.
Donna knew she needed to call the police, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of him…the way he moved…how he caressed everything with enjoyable respect. Sadly, she came to the realization the department store was closed and he was trespassing or worse.
Donna called 911 and they dispatched a police car. Donna knew she was not in immediate danger…the intruder would have to find her through an inconspicuous hallway and two bolted unmarked doors. She would just have to sit tight until help arrived.
Suddenly the man had taken a sharp detour into the kitchen section…he browsed the knives and chose one out of a wooden block on display. He flung the cardboard covering off the knife to expose it’s shiny silver blade and placed the knife inside his raincoat.
Donna was scared again…but this time she feared for her life…even though he would have to go through hell and high water to find her and break down the doors.
“What if he finds me…what if he somehow can open the locks with that pointy knife…..what if…..” Donna’s mind raced on.
She wanted to turn off the screens but didn’t know how…she wanted to hide…but didn’t know where…she only hoped police would arrive soon.
A few moments later she heard the sirens of the police cars and then saw them pull into the parking lot.
The man didn’t falter he still strolled along beaming like he had just bought the place.
Donna watched as the two police officers entered through the opened cargo doors near the loading dock.
Donna followed the cameras like a movie…not taking her eye off the man and closely tracing the police officers every step.
She wanted to warn the cops that he had a knife, but that would mean unlocking the door to get to the intercom system.
Donna decided to stay put, anxiously waiting…too nervous to resume counting the short money stacks that drove her insane, not mentioning all the numbers starting to look the same.
The cops guns were drawn and flash lights held steadily since the lights inside the store were on a timer and it had gone dark.
Donna could hardly see anything, Donna knew she had to leave the office to turn on all the lights so the cops could see what they were dealing with.
Donna rushed next door to switch the lights back on…but it had taken some time since she struggled with the timer and the store layout. Finally she flooded the store with lights of all kinds…even the little corky ones… like the pink flamingo lamp…blinking owl night lights and the garden lady bug lanterns.
Suddenly she could hear the cops call out to her. Donna unlocked the doors and ran down the hallway flinging open the rubber double doors. She was spotted immediately.
“Did you catch him?”, Donna asked with excitement.
“No ma‘me…we combed the store…bathrooms and all…we found no one”, the police shrugged.
“Maybe he fled”, Donna summed up.
“Maybe. We’ll have you fill out a police report and you can call us if anything turns up”, the cops suggested.
“What about viewing the surveillance tapes…he’s on there…, Donna offered.
She sensed it was the end of the cops shift and they did not feel like leading a full investigation, but with some hesitation they agreed to see the video.
They crowded into the cash office and Donna played the tape back.
“Wait for it…”, Donna said with her voice tone going upwards like she was asking a question.
The cops waited and sighed while looking at their watches. They saw nothing.
“He was there I swear it”, Donna said in disappointment.
“Have a good night m’ame call us if he comes back”, the cops grinned.
“I’m losing it”, Donna said while shaking her head.
Donna once again tattered at the calculator and did her own math on scrap paper. Still $100 short with no answer, Suddenly she saw the strange man again on the security monitors strolling along like nothing happened.
“That does it!” Donna barked.
Donna knew that being locked up in the cash office wouldn’t do any good so she ventured to seek out the tall thin man wearing the rain coat. She had forgotten about the knife… there was no fear holding her hostage anymore.
Donna briskly walked to the bedroom liens area and waited… sure enough he came strolling down the aisle.
“Sir!”, Donna yelled.
The man did not pay any attention to her…he was occupied looking at the duvet covers on markdown.
“Sir… we closed at ten you have to leave now!”, Donna spoke firmly.
“Donna…you finally grace my presence…I have been waiting for you all night”, the man softly spoke.
“How do you know my name?”, Donna asked while searching to see if her name tag was attached to her blouse.
“I know everything about you”, the man whispered.
Donna became frightened and tried to run away as he pulled out the knife from his rain coat.
“Are you going to kill me?” Donna asked…she was most certain she knew his motives.
“Donna…the missing money is in your pocket”, the man said while placing the knife aside on the adjacent shelf.
Donna slowly slid her hand down her front left pocket and pulled out a $100 bill between her fingers.
“You don’t think I….”, Donna tried to say.
“No of course not…you’re an honest person who made an honest mistake in the most busy time of year”, the man spoke.
“I remember running to the registers with the money bags…I must have had my hands full and stuck the money in my pocket with all intentions to deposit it later…my memory fails me”, Donna cried.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself…oh by the way since I know you’ll take care of this for me…this knife and others like it in that section need to be returned to the manufacturer…they are faulty”, the man claimed while gently turning over the knife to her.
“Who are you?”, Donna asked.
“You’ll find out in a few days”, the man said…he slowly strolled away placing the black umbrella on his right shoulder.
Donna tried to follow him but he disappeared…
(A few days later)
“Guess who’s coming today?”, Carol asked.
“Who?”, Donna asked back thinking it was somewhat like a knock joke.
“Clemson Brooks!”, Carol yelled ecstatically.
“Who’s that?”, Donna asked while shrugging her shoulders with an empty attitude.
“He is the Décor Galore CEO…he owns all twenty stores”, Carol giggled like a school girl.
“So why is that important…I always do my best no matter who’s coming”, Donna truthfully said.
“Now Donna I know that…but maybe you might want to pull your hair back, put on some earrings and file your nails…oh while you’re at it throw some gloss on those chapped lips of yours”, Carol coldly remarked.
Since Carol was the store manager Donna tried to appease her but, she thought she looked fine. She concluded it was for Carol's appearance and not her own.
Clemson Brooks arrived at the store ahead of schedule, flustering employees and stunning supervisors, but Donna did not care…it was just another day at the place she loved to work at.
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you”, Carol sweetly introduced while batting her eyes with her fake eyelid extensions and bleached blonde hair.
It was obvious to Donna that she was flirting with Clemson.
“Nice to meet you too”, warmly responded Clemson with perfect professionalism.
“This is our cash office associate, Donna. Please forgive me on how she looks. I told her you were coming, but she refused to freshen up or pull her hair back”, Carol spitefully slurred.
“Donna it is a pleasure to finally meet you…I have heard so much about you from my father”, Clemson said while taking his strong, beautiful hands into hers.
“I’m sorry there must be some mistake…I never met your father…he retired before I started”, Donna answered while looking down at the floor.
Clemson lightly raised her chin and said, “Donna he has watched you for the past three years…he is around…he always has been around. You are a very hard worker and trustworthy. You never leave until the job is done…even on Black Friday after working fourteen long hours, that is unheard of dedication. You love this store like family and you take pride in it like no one else”.
Carol stood speechless…she could see the sparkle in his eyes for Donna.
“Has he been an undercover boss or one of those mystery shoppers?”, Donna asked.
“Yes, I guess you could say that. I would like to talk to you about a promotion, are you available for lunch?”, Clemson asked while looking deeply into her eyes.
“That sounds great”, Donna spoke with undying confidence.
Even though Donna was not as attractive as half of the women that worked there…it was her heart that Clemson was interested in.