11-28-2011, 07:32 PM
"There!" Mr. Bernie exclaimed triumphantly as the last bolt was tightened on the toy bin. "All finished! I'd like to see our friend, the Grinch, take anything out of that!"
The large red bin standing by the main entrance was a model of security and efficiency. Placed in plain sight, a would-be thief would be apprehended on the spot. Its drop slot was angled outward like a postal box to prevent anyone reaching in and taking anything out. The rear door, camoflaged with skillfully arranged Christmas trees, was secured with a combination lock, of which only Mr. Bernie knew the combination. To top it off, a trip alarm was set inside the bin to alert store personnel of any potential pilfering of the bin's contents. "Safe as a bank vault!" he crowed.
Joy could not help but admire Mr. Bernie's accomplishment. With cunning and ingenuity, he had singlehandedly saved Christmas for hundreds of needy kids. There was no way on earth anyone could steal a single toy from such a sophistcated box. Anyone foolhardy enough to try would be busted on the spot, either by tripping the alarm or being caught by someone on the staff. Yes, sir, the Grinch was as good as foiled with Mr. Bernie's state-of-the-art toy bin!
"Well, we'd best get back to work here," Mr. Bernie said jovially. "We got a store to run, lots of customers to wait on. Let's hustle!"
Joy went back to her designated register, relieving the cashier on duty there. Sondra went back to stocking shelves while Tory packed up the tools and carried them back to the storeroom, grateful only that his shift was coming to an end so he could get out of that two-bit toy store and back into the real world. Joy's register was closest to the bin; she kept one eye on it while she rang up merchandise for the customers lining up before her. A few people dropped a toy or two into it, but nothing suspicious happened. Confident that no Grinch was coming to steal anything, she relaxed her guard while she totaled up each customer's purchases.
The line wound down to the last two customers. A plump woman unloaded her overflowing cart onto the conveyer faster than Joy could slide them over the scanner. The slow procession of toys seemed endless as she scanned them one by one over the electronic eye set in the counter. This lady must have a lot of kids, Joy mused as she rang up the purchases. That, or a lot of grandkids, or nieces and nephews.
Finally, the last toy was scanned, the amount was totalled, the credit card swiped and approved, the receipt was signed, and the bagged toys were set back into the cart to be taken out of the store. Joy drew a deep breath and welcomed the last customer in her line.
The customer, a middle-aged woman with reddish-gold hair tied up in a nylon scarf, emptied her cart, only half full compared to the last one, onto the conveyor. She smiled as she read Joy's name tag. "Joy!" she exclaimed in delight. "What a lovely name! Especially for this time of year!"
"Well, thank you!" Joy replied.
The customer set a large teddy bear onto the belt. "You get any ribbing for it around Christmastime?" she asked.
Joy blushed. "Well, I get called Joy-to-the-world by my coworker a lot."
The customer laughed. "Oh, that's sweet."
The teddy bear went over the scanner. It didn't pick up the bar code at first, so Joy had to swipe it again. "Did you hear about the Las Vegas Grinch?" the customer asked.
The scanner finally picked up the code. "You mean the guy's who's been stealing toys from donation bins?"
"Oh, yes. Terrible, isn't it?" The customer leaned over conspiratorially. "In fact, there was a news bulletin just a few minutes ago when I was in the car. He stole a whole truckload of toys from some radio station that was having a toy drive!"
Joy paused in midswipe. "You're kidding me!"
"It's true! Someone boosted an entire truck filled with donated toys. I don't know how they did it, but it was there one minute, and the next minute it was gone! Sounds like professionals to me!"
Joy recalled the news broadcast regarding Criss Angel's donation to KLUC's toy drive. "Was it KLUC?" she asked.
The customer thought. "I think so," she said hesitantly. "I'm not really sure, but I think it was."
Joy rushed the rest of the toys over the scanner and hit Total. Boy, Criss is really gonna be mad when he hears about this! she thought.
When Criss did hear about it, he wasn't mad--he was furious! "Stolen?!" he exploded when he received the news about KLUC from his manager, Dave Baram. "What the (bleep) do you mean, stolen? How the hell can anyone steal an entire truck right off the lot in broad daylight?"
"First of all," Dave began, "it wasn't broad daylight; it was already dark out when it happened. Everyone had gone home for the day, the truck was locked up--my guess it was an inside job."
"Is there a Lojack on it?"
Dave shook his head. "Afraid not. The truck was marked with KLUC's logo on it, so it shouldn't be too hard to find. The police are on it right now."
"They'd better be," Criss growled, "because it's gonna be somebody's ass when I find him!"