It was a typical Saturday, which meant market day at our house. My sister and I had finished our breakfast and were sitting around the table with Dad who still wore his pajamas. While Mom put another coat of hairspray on her head, Dad pulled a file folder of the buffet. This was a move usually reserved for dinner time.
In the evening as we ate supper Dad often shared a case he had been working on that day. And yes, these stories often included photos of a homicide. They were in black and white and he’d pass them around like wedding photos, pointing out the locations and people involved. Murder isn’t so gory when it’s not in color. I must have been at least sixteen before it occurred to me the people in the photos were dead. They all looked so peaceful spread out on the sofa, or steps, or wherever they had been.
I loved Dad’s stories. It was really the only time he seemed to enjoy talking to us. My sister, who was a baby, wasn’t allowed to hold the photos. I would pass them along to Mom and she studied the photos intently making helpful comments such as “Those drapes are hideous.” or “They’ll never get that stain out of that carpet.” Mom had a good eye for detail.
The photo he showed us that morning was different. This woman had her eyes open. Around her neck hung a board with numbers on it. She was young, had long hair parted in the middle and looked like a hundred other girls I had seen in the neighborhood. Dad said something about shoplifting. Mom shook her head and told Dad she hadn’t seen her around. Dad shrugged, put the folder away and we were out the door. I thought, what a nice lady, she must carry bags for people!
Our shopping was nearly complete when Mom pulled me out of the market before our Utz tin had been fully refilled. The man at the Utz stand still had the scoop in mid air filled with the chips that were supposed to be in our tin. Mom slammed the lid down before tossing it in our bag.The smell of the hot salty chips was left behind as Mom hurried me along the street. We stood for a few minutes in front of The Princess Shop as Mom peered in the window. I dreaded going in there and waiting as she tried on clothes, or worse yet, she’d make me try on clothes!
But instead we walked to the corner and Mom used the pay phone. Her conversation was short and soon we were back at the dress shop and going in. She made her way through the girls clothes and I sighed with relief. On the upper level we stopped at a rack of scarves. Mom put our bags down and began trying them on, all the while chatting with the lady next to her. She was about Mom’s height with long blond hair parted in the middle and had a scattering of freckles across her nose that hadn’t been noticeable in Dad’s photo.
Mom began insisting this lady try on hats and jackets and anything else in sight. After about the third outfit Dad walked in. I couldn’t believe my eyes, Dad was in The Princess Shop. More surprising were the police officers he had with him. I was happy because I thought this meant Daddy would give us a ride home. The only one who got a ride was the lady and she went to Southern District.
Mom and I, along with our groceries, drifted out of the shop as they handcuffed her. Mom said we didn’t need to see that. On the way home we stopped at Muhly’s Bakery and picked up two jammed filled cookies as our reward. It became our Saturday ritual to look over Dad’s list of outstanding warrants before heading to the market. Mom never assisted in apprehending another criminal again, well, unless we count the time she caught me pocketing a pack of Juicy Fruit Gum. That’s a story for another day.