Beth’s Dilemma (Part 1 of 2)
By: Leo N. Ardo
Charlie Mead has worked at Claremont’s Wholesale Warehouse for four months. Give or take a few work-related conversations about the special orders he ships each day, no one has uncovered any personal details from Charlie. He says “hello,” “good morning,” “going to lunch,” and “see you tomorrow.” Associates are beginning to wonder. He arrives at 7:59 a.m. and departs at 5:01 p.m. At noon:01, he drives off in his vintage dark green pickup and returns at 12:59. At his workstation, he throws lunch trash in the waste can.
It’s Friday, which means the only break in Charlie’s routine. At the same mall where the customer service team has its Finally Friday Fillies luncheon, he buys two General Boelingers burgers with fries, to go.
Beth Wilton, a founding member of the Fillies, decides to have a General Boelingers Chicken Burger to celebrate another week losing three pounds. She is dieting to get back to a comfortable dating weight. After two years of dating, the loser decides he needs someone younger.
While waiting to order, she starts collecting the money to pay for lunch: two dollars from her purse, two dollars from her back pocket, and $2.87 in change from her front pocket. Two quarters fall on the floor and begin rolling away at high speed. One runs into a customer’s boot and the other bounces back from something it struck under the counter. She picks up the quarter and a bi-fold wallet. She asks if it belongs to anyone. No one claims it. She opens it and finds the driver’s license of Charles P. Mead. Beth’s interest shifts to learning about Charlie.
When all the Fillies return to the table, Beth gushes with excitement as she shows off her trophy. Several Fillies encourage her to open it. Carefully unfolding it like an ancient fragile book, she removes a piece of paper with the address and phone number of Claremont’s Wholesale Warehouse. There is a collective sigh. Beth notices the wallet has a divided bill pocket. The regular pocket has sixty-eight dollars. There is no reaction from her lunch mates. Moving the cover flap from the secret bill pocket reveals thirty-three $100 bills. There is a collective gasp. Along with the cache of bills is a photograph of a girl, and a folded newspaper article. Beth looks at the tattered picture with the smudge in the lower left corner. A three-year-old girl is on the edge of a pool and is posing for the picture. There is a phone number written on the back. Beth notices the look of confusion as each Filly handles the picture. Beth unfolds the newspaper clipping carefully and begins reading out loud.
Local bank robbed by man, child
(Bowling Green, KY. 07Sep12) The local branch of the First National Bank, at 1457 17th Avenue South, was robbed yesterday by a man with a gun, wearing a ski mask, blue jeans, green tee-shirt, Tractor Sales blue baseball cap, oversized sunglasses, and work boots. From the security video, police estimate the robber is six feet tall and 180 pounds. He walked into the bank at 10:10 a.m. and stole $4,136 from the teller drawers, according to Bill Thompson, the branch manager. This is the first robbery at this branch in over eleven years. Thompson managed to get the first three numbers from the pickup as it raced away: 752. The getaway vehicle is a restored black or dark blue early 1960s Chevy pickup. Thompson said there was a child standing in the passenger seat. Bowling Green Police are asking for your help in locating the suspect and getaway vehicle.
The newspaper photo with the clipping shows two paramedics lifting a gurney into the back of the ambulance. In the background are two gas pumps and a six-shop strip mall. Three shops are visible: Mary’s Maternal Wear with the trademark mother-and-triplets painted above the marquee; BG Clock Werks whose digital clock displays 10:22, 09.06.12; Hamilton’s Hunting Accessories with someone watching the scene through binoculars.
Doris, Charlie’s supervisor and the team’s manager, informs the group, “That’s my hubby, Jack, the paramedic with his back to the camera.”
Beth’s thoughts start to organize while thinking about the bank robbery, the child in the passenger seat, the dark early sixties pickup, the cache of $100 bills, and the fact that Charlie’s first day on-the-job was early September. Her thoughts logically sequence, and Beth blurts out, “Oh my God, Charlie is the bank robber. He has that little girl stashed away somewhere. That’s why he leaves work so promptly; he has to take care of the little girl. This is bank money,” she says pointing at the secret bill pocket.
The rest of their luncheon is filled with robbery talk: Charlie hiding-out at work, poor little girl, another Dillinger in the making, wonder where she is, and does he still have that gun? Several associates ask Beth what she is going to do—after all, she is the one that found the wallet.
Beth returns late from lunch to check the license plate of Charlie’s dark vintage pickup. From a distance the first three characters look like 752, but as she approaches the pickup, the rear plate actually reads 1SZ. The bank manager must have misread the plates too.
Beth is certain Charlie is the bank robber, and she is in a dangerous predicament.
If she returns the wallet to Charlie, he will know she is familiar with its contents. His reaction is unpredictable because no one knows him. Will my personal safety be in danger? She wonders.
Will anonymously leaving the wallet on his workstation force him to disappear with the little girl? The girl needs a better guardian. The police investigation will eventually arrive at the warehouse. She will be interrogated and then charged with aiding a criminal, or withholding evidence.
Mailing the wallet to work will take several days. Will Charlie have to rob again for money?
If she returns it to the mall’s lost-and-found, how does she explain, without lying, why she kept it for five hours? Could Charlie discover she had the wallet before it arrived at lost-and-found? She begins to worry they might pass each other going to or leaving the mall. Will the $100 bills be safe at lost-and-found?
If only she had taken the wallet to lost-and-found. Now, too many people know. What will Charlie do when he finds out she knows? Is there really safety in numbers? Are the others in danger also? What am I going to do?
Beth’s Dilemma is continued in part 2 – The Message. Click here to link to Beth’s Dilemma – The Message.
Find out what happens to Beth, . . . and the wallet
Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.
We call Utah and Wyoming home.
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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!