Paul is at the mall fighting the holiday crowds. But he isn’t there for holiday shopping; he has something more important to buy. Then something happens that becomes even more important, and might even put Paul in danger.
“So, are you interested in this watch?” the teenage girl at ‘Let Us Watch You’ asked. Yeah, I know, dumb name for a watch kiosk in the mall. Way too cutesy. Anyway, she looked at me and smiled, then blushed when she saw me stare at her and grin.
“This is for someone who’s real fussy,” I said. “And it’s sort of expensive, so I’m going to get something to eat and think about it. I’ll come back if I think it’s right for him. Okay?”
She smiled. “Sure. My name is Kendall. I hope I’ll see you later.”
I grinned again, then turned around and walked in the direction of the food court.
The weekend before Halloween you’d have thought that all the stores would be decorated for Halloween. You’d have been wrong. Christmas holiday shoppers jammed the mall. There were Christmas holiday decorations and holiday music. Each store had big signs that tried to entice me to take advantage of their Big! Big! BIG! SALE! Unfortunately for them I hadn’t come for holiday buying. Tom’s birthday was tomorrow, and I knew exactly what to get him. He’d lost his watch, so my shopping list consisted of that one item.
According to my folks and my friends I’m a tightwad. Hey, my budget isn’t huge so I always want to get the best deal. And I especially wanted to get the best watch I can afford for Tom. I’d gone to just about every store and kiosk in the mall that sells watches. I’d done all of the feature, price, and quality comparisons, and made up my mind. Carriage Jewelers had a digital watch on sale that had a screen that glows so it can be read both in the dark and in bright sunlight. It was easy to set, something I’d had trouble with my own digital watch. It had a ten year warranty from the manufacturer. Done deal, and they’d gift wrap it for free. I walked downstairs to their store and fifteen minutes later the watch had been set to the exact date and the time to the second, and I had the gift-wrapped box in my jacket pocket.
Walking through the lower level on my way to grab a bus home, I saw two guys harassing a kid. I recognized who they were messing with, my eleven-year-old neighbor Glen Lorring. I recognized the two guys doing the harassing, too, Wade Dockery and Jerry Kemp, a couple of bullies from my high school. I saw them shove Glen into the men’s room, so I followed. When I opened the door Jerry had pulled Glen’s arms back and was holding him. I saw Wade dig in Glen’s pockets, pull out his wallet, his cell, and some cash. Wade put the wallet and cell in his jacket pocket, then counted the cash and shoved it in his jeans pocket.
“Give it back to him.”
Wade twisted around and looked at me. “Fuck off, Severs. This ain’t none of your business.”
I growled, “I’m making it my business. Let him go and give him his money and other stuff back. Now.”
Jerry let go of Glen’s arms and backed toward the rear of the men’s room. Glen ran around Wade and stood behind me. That’s pretty easy to do; I’m six-six and weigh 235 pounds.
“Well, you going to give Glen his money back or do I have to take it away from you?”
“You and what fuckin’ army?”
Jerry stepped all the way back to the rear corner of the men’s room. He slid down the wall and ended up sitting on the floor. He drew his knees up and put his arms around his legs and pulled them tight to his body. I got the impression he didn’t want to have anything to do with what was about to come down.
“Glen, run and get a cop, please. Right now.”
“Okay.” His voice was shaky, but he ran out the door and I heard him yelling “Police! Police!” before it swung shut.
I focused my attention on Wade. He looked very nervous, and very feral. A dangerous kind of bully.
“Hey, Wade, isn’t this fun? We’re hangin’ together, just wait’n for the cops to get here.”
“I ain’t wait’n fer no one. Get out of my way!” With that, Wade pulled a switchblade knife out of his pocket and clicked it open.
“Oh, Wade, Wade! You shouldn’t threaten me with your little knife. That’s one really bad idea. What you’ve done is elevate your crimes to the felony level. You’re what, seventeen? That means with your juvie record they’re sure to prosecute you as an adult.”
As I’d expected, Wade rushed me, holding the blade straight out in front of his body. Jumping back and to my right, I swung my left leg up and around and kicked his right arm, hard. I heard a satisfying SNAP sound where the toe of my shoe caught his forearm, and he dropped the knife. I continued through with my kick pushing him off balance. He sprawled face-down onto the floor with a loud “Oof!” When my left leg came back toward the floor I twisted my body and landed on his back, knees-first, hard. I grabbed his hair and pulled his head up, not too gently.
“Don’t try to get up. Understand?”
What he said was muffled, but it sounded something like “luck.” I sure didn’t need any luck, but I figured he might. He started to twist and squirm, trying to get me off his back and get to his knife, but didn’t succeed. I still held his head up, so I sort of forcefully lowered it back to the floor, nose-first.
“I said, don’t try to get up. Now do you understand?” He didn’t respond.
I looked around to see if Jerry had stayed in the back; I saw him still cowering in the corner. Wade had stopped trying to get up. Instead he was moaning and whimpering. Poor Wade… Not!
Someone opened the door to the men’s room and started to enter. I looked up. “Police action, please stay outside. Thank you.” The guy did a quick U-turn and exited.
About a minute later the door opened again, and I heard Glen. “In here. That’s Paul, my neighbor. He’s the one who rescued me.”
A mall cop and a police officer entered, followed by Glen.
“Which one is Paul?” the mall cop asked.
“The one on top,” Glen replied. Then he giggled.
The mall cop put his hand on my shoulder. “You can get up now, Paul.”
“Wade Dockery, the guy I’m kneeling on, pulled a switchblade knife. He tried to knife me when I wouldn’t let him leave. I prevented both from happening. The knife is probably under his body. I think you need to restrain him before I get off his back.”
The police officer chuckled. “I think he looks pretty much restrained, but you’re right. When dealing with perps we should always be as cautious as possible.”
“Donald,” he said to the mall cop, “get alongside Paul’s left side and as he starts to get up we’ll each grab one of this Wade Dockery’s arms and lift him onto his feet. I’ll recover the knife, which I assume is under him.”
“Okay.” The mall cop moved so he was standing about a foot to Wade’s left. “I’m ready when you are, Alan,” he told the police officer.
The police officer walked to my right and, stooping down, grabbed Wade’s right bicep, real tight. “When we pull his arms back I’ll cuff him.”
“Wait! I kicked his right forearm and I heard a snap sound. My kick might have broken his arm. Maybe you shouldn’t grab it or try to move it to his back.”
The police officer looked at me. “You kicked him in his arm and think it might be broken?”
“Yeah. I’m trained in Tai Kwan Do as a defensive art. He was coming at me with his knife in his right hand, and I had to disarm him so I wouldn’t be injured.”
“Okay. That makes sense, I guess.”
He stepped back and motioned for me to get up. I did so, slowly, moving down Wade’s back so I put most of my weight on his right kidney. Wade moaned.
The mall cop pulled Wade’s left arm behind his back and twisted it. He held on tight as I stood up and backed off. Then the mall cop lifted him off the floor into a standing position by using his left arm as a handle. I’d never seen that kind of move. Very cool. I’d definitely remember that one. The police officer pulled an evidence bag out of his pocket, put on rubber gloves, lifted the switchblade knife off the floor and carefully put it into the bag which he then sealed.
Wade’s nose was bleeding, but not as much as it would have if I’d broken it. He didn’t try to resist at all, and instead I could hear him sniffling. Some tough guy. The police officer Mirandized Wade, then asked if he had any needles or knives in his pockets. Wade replied ‘no’ in a muffled voice. The police officer then did a search of Wade’s jeans and shirt pockets. The search produced Wade’s wallet, keys, a dirty handkerchief, and some change, as well as Glen’s cell, wallet, and cash. The police officer bagged everything then pushed Wade down so he sat between two of the sinks. Then he did something I’d never seen on any cop shows on TV. He pulled Wade’s left arm in back of him and up, then handcuffed Wade’s left wrist to the water pipe under the sink. He was pretty much immobilized.
“You sit on the floor and don’t try to move. Understand?” Wade didn’t respond.
The mall cop asked me, “Who’s that other guy?”
“The guy cowering in the corner back there is Wade’s sidekick, Jerry Kemp. He mostly just follows Wade around, but he’s definitely not a good dude. When I came in he was holding Glen’s arms while Wade robbed him.”
“Come over here,” The police officer told Jerry. And Jerry, much to my surprise, said “Yes, sir,” and got up. He walked, holding his arms up, to where the police officer pointed. I mentally chuckled and thought that Jerry had been watching too many cop shows on TV. The police officer Mirandized him, then handcuffed him. He grabbed Jerry’s arm and led him back to where he’d been sitting on the floor.
“Sit down and stay there. Understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Jerry replied.
Two more city policemen arrived and asked for our names, addresses, and other personal information. One of them went back to interview Jerry, and the other interviewed Glen, who still seemed freaked by what happened to him. The policeman told him to tell what happened, in his words. The policeman asked if it would be okay if he recorded the interview, and if he was willing to be interviewed without a parent present. Glen agreed to both.
“I was walking to the food court to get something to eat when those two guys came up and grabbed me. They shoved me in here, this men’s room. That guy,” he pointed at Jerry, “checked that no one was in here while this guy,” he pointed at Wade, “held me with his hand over my mouth and nose. I could hardly breathe and was really scared. Then that guy held my arms and this guy pulled my wallet, some cash, and my cellphone out of my pockets. He counted the cash; there was a five and three ones. He put all my stuff in his pockets. Then Paul, he lives down the street from me and we know each other, he walked in and told this guy to give me my stuff back. Then that guy let me go and I ran past this guy and stood behind Paul. Paul argued with this guy then told me to go get a cop. So I ran out and started yelling for the police. That’s when I saw the two of you talking and ran up and told you I’d been robbed in the men’s room and ran back here and you followed and… uh, I guess that’s everything that you didn’t see yourself.”
The other policeman finished with Jerry and asked me what happened, and I agreed to have my interview recorded. I went through it step-by-step. He seem to be especially interested in the martial arts training I’d had. I told him the same thing I’d said when the other policeman and the mall cop had arrived. I could see no reason to go into the details of my training, so I didn’t. He seemed satisfied with my answers to his questions.
Now it was my turn to ask a question. “What’s going to happen to Glen’s wallet, money, and cellphone?”
“We’ve phoned his mother and she’s on her way to the mall. We’ll take Glen’s things into the lab, check them for fingerprints, photograph them, and have him verify that everything he’d been robbed of was accounted for. Then it will be returned to him. It should be ready for him tomorrow afternoon.”
“Did you phone my father?”
“No. You’re seventeen, so under state law we don’t have to contact your parents unless you ask us to do that. Do you want us to call them?”
“If I could have your name and phone number I’ll give it to my dad. That way if he has any questions he’ll be talking to the same policeman who interviewed me.”
He handed me his business card.
“I have a second question. Am I in any trouble if it turns out that Wade’s arm is broken?”
“Not with the Concord Police Department. I can’t answer for the District Attorney’s office. Since our report will indicate that you were defending yourself, there shouldn’t be any problem.”
“If it’s okay, I’ll stay with Glen until his mother gets here.”
“I think that’s a good idea. We told her that he’d be in the Security Office. I’ll take you both there now that we’ve finished your interviews.”
He talked to the mall cop for a few minutes, then the mall cop motioned us to follow him and we walked to the Security Office at the center of the mall.
When we got there Glen poked me and whispered, “I’m hungry.” That’s when Mrs. Lorring arrived. Glen excitedly related what had happened, and after he wound down she grabbed me in a hug and thanked me for rescuing him. That embarrassed me. When I get embarrassed I blush and my ears turn red.
She looked at me and chuckled. “Paul, don’t be embarrassed. You did the right thing, and you need to be thanked for putting yourself in danger in order to rescue Glen. So for me, Glen’s father, and for Glen, thank you. You are a brave young man.”
Glen grabbed my arm. “Me too — everything that Mom said.” Then he hugged me, and I hugged him back.
“Would you do me a favor?” he asked.
I grinned. “I guess, depends on what it is, don’t you think? What’s the favor?”
“Go trick-or-treating with me on Halloween? Please? It’ll be fun! We can dress up. I can be Harry Potter and you can be a Dementor!” Glen giggled.
I glared at him. “I am not going as a Dementor,” I growled. Then I laughed. “How about I go as Hagrid instead, and my dog Woofie will go as Fang.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was going to suggest next,” Glen told me.
I looked at Mrs. Lorring. “Is it okay with you if I go trick-or-treating with Glen?” Then I stage-whispered, “Please say no!” and she laughed.
“I think it’s perfect,” she said. “And I’ll pay to rent your Hagrid costume. In fact, I think maybe it’s a good idea if we go to the costume store right now. We have two costumes to reserve.”
That’s what we did, and we did go trick-or-treating together, all three of us. We were a big hit, and Glen told me about a thousand times that he ended up with twice as much candy as he’d ever got before.
Everyone loved Fang, otherwise known as Woofie, who they recognized even though Mrs. Lorring had made a black mask for him. Of course, there’s a reason almost everyone in the neighborhood knows Woofie. They see me walking my black Lab three times a day, and he’s a very friendly dog who loves to be petted and to have people talk about him. Hey, he knows when people are talking about him! He really does.
The only downside of going trick-or-treating with Glen? My scalp and face itched all the next day from the fake Hagrid hair and beard I’d worn. But it had definitely been worth it, and it had helped Glen forget about the incident at the mall, at least for a day or two.
Oh, yeah, the watch. The day after the incident I went to Tom’s house. His folks had a family birthday dinner for him, complete with a cake and seventeen candles. They invited me, of course, because as his boyfriend they considered me part of the family. And so did his three sisters and his brother.
They’d heard about the incident at the mall, so I had to relate everything that happened. They all laughed when I told them Glen and I were going trick-or-treating with Woofie and about my costume.
After dinner Tom opened his birthday gifts. He loved the watch I got him. And he showed me just how much later that evening.
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