Today's headlines of our local newspaper read “Armed robbery suspect on the Loose in (my town)” The article starts by saying “Police are investigating three armed robberies that took place during a span of a dozen days.
I live in what (until recently) has been described as a sleepy little hamlet on the Missouri River, where crime is limited mostly to crimes of opportunity without violence. Several years ago, we had a pocket camera and our GPS stolen from our car one night. It was probably the only night in ages when we forgot to lock the car doors. It was no great loss for us. The camera had a broken lens and the GPS was so out of date it liked to take us to empty fields instead of the location we programmed into it. Both had already been replaced and were safely in the house.
Our county is quickly becoming known as the Meth capital of the state and possibly the Midwest. Both the manufacture and use of this terrible drug has been on the rise. As a result, we are starting to see more and more crimes like the one in today’s headlines.
But, I’m getting sidetracked. I intended this post to be about holdups. Or more specifically holdups that I have been connected with. Yes, there have been more than one.
Back in the 1970’s I worked at a family clothing store called Robert Hall located in the city of Saint Ann. That store had been robbed several times over the years. And shoplifting happened on a large scale every few months. The store was on the main drag that went through half a dozen suburban towns and next to the only indoor shopping mall in the area at the time. It made it easy for the criminals to get in and out without being caught. Until I was hired that is
Someone attempted to rob the store twice while I was working there. Both times it was a black male who was armed. I was told by the district manager after the second attempt that I was certainly more resourceful than most and certainly much luckier as well. Frankly, he could not believe I hadn’t gotten myself shot.
I was the store cashier, bookkeeper and sometimes salesclerk. My office was on a raised platform in the rear of the store, designed to give me a full view of the sales floor. It was a “U” shaped space lined with a counter that came right below my breast. There was a wall that surrounded the countertop that I could just barely see over when standing at the register. A cut out about a foot wide allowed the customers to come transact their business and many of them could barely see over the counter. All of I could see of them was their faces.
One day at lunch time (which meant the salesperson was off the floor) a tall thin man came up and told me he had a gun and I was to give him all my money. I just simply said No I can’t do that while pushing the silent alarm that went off at the police station a block down the street. The man got angry and repeated his command and showed me the gun in his waistband. I proceeded to lie to him and said that there was no money in the drawer to give him. I told him I had just started my shift and had a new till with a fifty-dollar bank in coins and few singles. I had not rung up a single sale since clocking in. He told me to open the safe. I told him the safe was locked and required a key that only the manager had and he was at lunch. The man must have decided to see for himself because he headed around the counter for the swing door on the side. While he did that, I picked up the glass I kept to hold my water and once the door swung in I doused him in the face with the water and told him I would be throwing the heavy glass at his head next. He decided to run for the door where he was met by two police officers.
The second time was the next summer. A man came to the counter and handed me a receipt wanting to take out his lay-a-way. When the till opened so I could make change he told me he had a gun and wanted all the money. I looked him in the eye and said “what” as if I had not understood what he said. As I did that I was hitting the silent alarm. I repeated the demand. I promptly slammed the register shut. Reached up and grabbed the register key locking the register and made a big production of putting the key in my mouth and swallowing it. I then told him he would have to wait for my next bowel movement to open the till. He also headed for the door to be met by the cops.
In the first robbery, the man did have a gun in his waistband but it was not loaded. When the cops searched the second robber they found he had a sawed-off shotgun down the leg of his trousers. And, no I did not swallow the register key. Sometimes it pays to have a big mouth.
I never got the chance to see if there would be another attempt at robbing our store. A few weeks later I answered the phone and the person on the other end identified himself as being from the regional office. He told me our store was now officially closed and I was to immediately get the papers off the fax machine and tape the closing notice to the front door after locking the door. Once there were no customers in the store I was to send all the employees home and have the manager follow the instructions in the paperwork. I was now out of a job.
I should admit that I was young and stupid during those years. No way would I every try to pull the same stunts today, and I hope none of you will either. It is best to just comply and give them the money.
There are a few other stories from my time at Robert Hall I should probably share so perhaps I will get to those soon.