Crime Scene

Unfortunately, we’ve had need for multiple forays to the pharmacy over the past few weeks. On my last two trips, I’ve happened upon a crime scene. With the first, I barely missed the burglar, and when I arrived the store clerks were all wired up about how brazen the fellow had been. Tuesday, however, I found myself right in the thick.

“Security to the office, security to the office.” An agitated voice crackled over the speaker system.

Minutes later, a woman burst out the door at the back of the store, young girl with the cutest frizzy hair in tow. The girl couldn’t have been older than six or seven, and her mom frantically drug her around the narrow store aisles calling out, “Where’s my cart? Where’s my stuff? I didn’t steal nothing. Nothing.”

Apparently protocol says that store security can question a suspect but can’t physically detain them – the police are required for that. So the woman was making her run for the parking lot before the officers arrived. Initially, when everything went down, the woman had left her purse and her daughter’s jacket in a cart, and during the brouhaha had gotten disoriented. She scurried past the shampoos and the St. Patrick’s Day candy and the Snuggies and the cough medicine in flustered circles, panting, searching furiously. “Where’s my stuff? Where’s my stuff? I didn’t steal nothing.” She brushed right past me on one of her sweeps, and there was a sadness and a terror that followed them.

She found her cart and made a beeline for the front entrance. As I left with our meds, two officers were at the front counter, taking inventory of the items security had taken from her. She’d lifted three or four bottles of perfume. The assistant manager wrapped them back in their packaging while describing the scene and the woman to the policemen.

The woman stole perfume. I don’t know her plans for the loot, perhaps something shady. But I wonder if a part of her simply wanted to feel good about herself, to wear a bit of glamour and to own a scent that would allure, to feel pretty.

Mostly, though, I wonder about the cute, frizzy-haired girl, about the fear she knew as the trouble escalated, about how she’ll remember, years from now, the day her mom drug her through the store trying to find her purse before the police came. I hope her mom held her long and tight that night. I hope her mom said, “I’m sorry, baby. That’s not who I am, that’s not who we are.”

When we talk about God making the world new, we’re talking about things like this, the sorrowful stories in our own neighborhoods. We hope and pray and work toward the good day when love and plenty and light will cover all. In that day, moms will have all they need, and daughters will have no reason to be ashamed or afraid.


5 Replies to “Crime Scene”

  1. Thank you for this one, Winn. We recently took in our little nephew, who once was in a similar kind of experience as the little girl you encountered. A trusted adult on the wrong side of the law and police in uniform can be really frightening for a three-year-old. At night when I hold him and pray with him, he repeatedly brings up the night the police came to the house in the middle of the night- it is very confusing to trust and love someone who did something bad. Your prayer here, both for mother and child (and for all of us!), for love and plenty and light is one we ache through every day. Thank you for naming it all with your words.

    1. Jenny, I’m filled with gratitude that you hold your nephew and enter his confusion with him. Your love will work to heal, this I believe. Thank you for welcoming him into your home and into your arms.

  2. I saw a similar scene once at Target, a man was caught stealing electronics and made a run for it, heading out half-way across the wide multi-store plaza, leaving his son, who looked to be seven, behind. It broke my heart to see the child put in the situation of waiting with workers at the store for the police to arrive.
    Something about the woman in your story reminds me of the woman who broke the bottle of perfume to wash Jesus’ feet – two desperate women, broken and unbroken bottles of beauty.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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