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Saturday, February 19, 2011
Double Winner by Michael Bracken
“Excuse me, ma’am,” said the grocery store’s security guard as he touched my arm.
My heart skipped a beat. How would I explain the can of spaghetti sauce in my purse? I glanced at the name badge over his left breast pocket. Then I looked up into Wychoski‘s sparkling blue eyes, wet my lips with the tip of my tongue, and began batting my eyelashes.
“You dropped this.” He handed me the scratch-off lottery ticket I’d purchased a moment before. “Good luck.”
I shoved the lottery ticket in my pocket and watched as Wychoski walked away, admiring the way his uniform seemed tailored to fit his classically V-shaped body. I wondered how much longer he would have his job after I reported his failure to detain me for shoplifting.
Everyone’s heard of “secret shoppers,” people hired to shop at particular stores and then report their experiences. I was the opposite. I was a “secret shoplifter” employed by a security company to test the loss prevention capabilities of its own staff.
As soon as I settled into the driver’s seat of my car, I pulled the spaghetti sauce from my purse and placed it on the seat beside me. Then I grabbed a clipboard and started writing my report about John Wychoski.
A tapping on my window startled me, and I looked up to see Wychoski standing outside my car. I rolled my window halfway down.
“Do you have a receipt for that?”
I glanced at the spaghetti sauce and then returned my attention to Wychoski. “No. Should I?”
“I’m afraid I must ask you to return to the store with me.”
“I don’t think so,” I said. I had a role to play and I played it well. I keyed my ignition, starting my car.
“Ma’am,” Wychoski said, “I’ve already taken down your license number. It won’t take long for the police to track you down after I report your theft.”
I lifted my hands from the steering wheel in mock defeat. “OK. You got me. I surrender.”
I turned off the engine and pulled my keys from the ignition. I put them in my pocket and pulled out my company I.D. card. I climbed from the car with my purse slung over my shoulder, the spaghetti sauce in one hand, and my I.D. card in the other. I handed him the card.
“It’s my ‘get out of jail free’ card,” I said.
Wychoski glanced at it, saw my photograph and read my job title. “You know, Miss Stevens, I’ll have to call my supervisor about this.”
“Anything less would be a dereliction of duty.”
Wychoski escorted me into the grocery store and then into a private office. We sat on opposite sides of a desk, with the spaghetti sauce between us. Throughout the telephone conversation with his supervisor, he kept staring at me.
After he disconnected the call, Wychoski returned my I.D. “You’re free to go.”
“You surprised me,” I said.
“I thought I was going to get away,” I said, “and my report would not have been favorable.”
“You passed. You did everything by the book. My report will reflect that.”
“So we’re done here?”
“Absolutely.” I stood.
He stood and opened the office door. Then he walked beside me until we’d reached my car.
“You really didn’t have to walk me out,” I said. I pulled my car keys from my pocket and opened the car door. “But thank you.”
I slid into my car, closed the door, and put my purse on top of the clipboard I’d been using earlier.
A tapping on my window made me look up, and I saw Wychoski standing beside my car holding a scratch-off lottery ticket. I rolled down my window.
“This fell out of your pocket when you took out your keys.”
I took the ticket from his hand.
“And I wanted to tell you that I didn’t follow you out the first time because of the spaghetti sauce. I didn’t even realize you’d taken it,” the security guard said. “I followed you out here because I thought you were attractive. I noticed you weren’t wearing a ring and I was going to ask you out.”
“And now?” My heart skipped a beat.
“This might violate protocol,” he said, “but how about dinner? I know a great little Italian place not far from here.”
I smiled. “I think I’d like that. I’d like that a lot.”
We agreed on a meeting time.
As my date walked away, I used the edge of my ignition key to remove the metalized scratch-off layer from my lottery ticket. My eyes widened in surprise when I saw what I’d won.
Five hundred dollars.
Not bad for a two-dollar scratch-off ticket.
Maybe I would pay for dinner.
About the Author: Michael Bracken is the author of 11 books, including the young adult romance Just in Time for Love. His short romantic fiction has appeared in New Love Stories, True Love, True Romance, and many other publications. Visit his website to see other works.