Target, A Short Story
He had ambled by the bright red barcode scanner at Target, but when he thought about it later could not figure out why he had slid his right hand under the machine. He felt his bad knee give just a bit as he walked on...
"Beep, beep, beep."
He stopped, listening and when he heard nothing he headed down the aisle with shirts that he liked but knew were for much younger men.
"BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!" The machine seemed insistent.
He turned, headed back and stopped to stare at the LED screen which flashed on and off and then on again.
"Beep, beep, beep."
He didn't look around to see if anyone was close, he knew no one was. He had spent thirty years on the streets of Charlotte, N. C., first riding in a prowl car then later working Major Crimes. Even after retirement maintaining a safety zone around him had become ingrained, almost part of his DNA.
He put his hand back under the scanner. The beeping stopped, the screen changed to a silent video. The woman at the Starbucks at the front of the store waited on three customers. There were two teen aged boys and behind them a young mother pushing a baby in a stroller. The digital timer in the lower left hand corner showed 4:17.
Scrolling along the bottom were the words "MATTHEW59".
"My name's not Matthew," he thought. "and I'm 65, not 59."
Suddenly, the woman pushed the stroller violently out of the frame and threw up her hands. A blur in a green jacket flashed in front of her and she went down, the two teens in front of her fell and the guy in the jacket advanced on the woman behind the counter. Now he saw the handgun, saw the flash and the woman grabbed her chest.
The screen cleared and he felt blood rush to his head, he heard his heart beating fast, way too fast, realized his vision was clouding. He reached out to steady himself and tried to calm down. He took a couple of slow breaths, blew them out even more slowly and finally his vision cleared.
He wondered if he was having a stroke, headed to the bathroom at the front of the store but looked over toward the Starbucks when he got close. There was no one in line and there was a guy behind the counter.
At the sink, he splashed cold water on his face then wiped with a handful of paper towels. He washed his hands and checked the time on his phone. When he saw that it was five after four he decided to get a cup.
"Medium, decaf and leave room for cream," he told the young man behind the counter.
"Mary will get it for you, sir. I just clocked out." The woman from the video appeared from the back room. He paid her for the drink, added cream and then took a seat facing the counter.
He checked the time again on his phone: 4:10 and no teens, no line. Sipping the coffee, he thought about calling 911. He imagined the conversation.
"Yeah, send a SWAT unit," he thought. "I just saw a shooting on a scanner at Target that's going to happen in seven minutes... That's right seven minutes from now....Sure I'll wait right here for the guys with the nets and the white coats that tie in the back."
Instead he searched "Matthew59" on the phone.
At 4:16 when two teenage boys approached the counter followed by the woman pushing the baby carriage he put the phone away. The sounds of the two teens ordering some crazy coffee concoction buzzed as irritating background noise as he walked by them to stand near the buggies.
He knew from his training that time had not slowed, that it was just an illusion but still ...
The man in the green jacket ran by him, screaming something unintelligible. He swept his jacket back smoothly and pulled the Glock from it's holster automatically stepping forward into a Weaver stance.
He settled the sights on the back of the green jacket at center mass, both eyes open.
He realized civilians were behind the suspect, in his line of fire.
He fired one shot into the ceiling.
"Oops, Review Board's not going to like that," he thought as he brought the gun back on target.
The woman screamed, pushed the carriage away and dropped to the floor while the two teens froze. The man in the green jacket spun and stepped to his left.
Both men fired.
He watched as the man in the green jacket crumpled to his knees, fell face forward and only then realized he'd been hit.
The detective in charge of the case watched the ambulance scream away then she walked back inside.
"Here's the captain's cell," a uniformed officer handed the phone to her.
She swiped open the phone, saw that the browser was still open to the last page.
"Matthew Chapter 5, Verse 9: Blessed are the peacekeepers..."
Here's Part Two:
- Target, Part Two
Our retired officer from Part One returns for some soul searching...