She was in the process of patrolling the neighborhood when the call from dispatch came through. She could see the moon high above her, which was a first since the previous few nights had been covered in snow storms.
She clenched her jaw as she stepped on the grass, ready to catch the person terrorizing her community. But who was was about to find would change her entire life.
Burglaries And Home Invasions
Unfortunately, Frankie Russo had received this call more than once in the last two weeks. There had been a bunch of burglaries and home invasions in her town recently. This kept everyone, including Frankie, on edge.
For days, her department tried to crack the case, but they hadn’t come up with anything. They hated to admit it, but one thing was clear.
Dealing With Professionals
It became clear that Frankie and her department were dealing with professionals who knew how to leave without a trace. Slowly but surely, distraught locals were forced to mourn the loss of their properties.
Frankie was ready to blow the case wide open when she got the call at midnight on Christmas Eve. She couldn’t let them get away with this any longer. Dispatch informed her of a possible robbery at a local convenience store, and soon, she was heading straight for it.
Woman In Blue
Frankie was proud to be a woman in blue, and she loved her job. She found it rewarding caring for her community, from catching criminals to helping children and old people across the street.
She’d been wearing the badge for twelve years, and she thought she’d seen it all. But this perception was about to change when people around town started reporting stolen goods from home invasions.
After discovering the nature of the home invasions and burglaries, Frankie knew she couldn’t show up at the scene unaided. Given how dangerous the situation was, dispatch asked her to wait for backup.
But at this point, she’d had enough of the criminals. What if backup took too long, and the criminals got away? She couldn’t let them get away. They would continue harming the locals. Frankie had no idea what she was getting herself into.
Her heart was pounding, and she tried her best to stay calm. Her eyes remained glued to the road ahead, scanning the quiet neighborhoods around her.
Dispatch had told her to wait for backup, but it was too late to second-guess her decision now. How was she supposed to know that the situation awaiting her was unlike anything she had ever encountered before?
While on her way to the scene, Frankie suddenly heard the sound of explosions blasting into the moonlit night. The terrifying sounds were coming from somewhere down the road.
The sounds were unmistakable as they roared through the neighborhood. “Gunshots,” Frankie muttered to herself as she started slowing down. Perhaps it was best to wait for backup to show up.
But as she waited, the sounds continued, pumping adrenaline through her system. This wasn’t the first time she’d had to make a drastic decision to save other people’s lives.
She quickly informed dispatch of possible shots fired before turning on her siren. She was prepared to do anything in her power to save her town. She was determined as she floored the accelerator.
She was almost at the convenience store when dispatch called again, informing her that the security had the criminals in custody. Frankie was confused as she said, “Excuse me, can you repeat that?”
Dispatch explained again, informing her that the store’s security had the perpetrators in a room where they couldn’t harm anyone. Frankie scratched at her head, trying to understand the situation. She had no idea what she was about to find.
When she pulled into the store’s snowy parking, her cruiser screeched. She quickly exited the vehicle with a hand above her holster. She was ready to act in case anything went wrong.
The parking lot was quiet as the store’s Christmas decorations lit the dull night. From where she was standing, it seemed that everything was alright inside the building.
She took in deep breaths as she scanned the parking lot. The place was nearly empty, which was understandable since it was Christmas Eve.
But an old van was parked in the furthest parking spot from where Frankie was. One look at it, and she knew it was somehow connected to the incident at the store. There was only one way to find out.
Now Or Never
With nowhere to go but forward, she unsheathed her weapon and took her first step into the lonely parking lot. She was alert, her senses burning with awareness.
She knew she was in the open and would likely take a hit if ambushed. But this was the fastest way into the store, the quickest way to put the string of robberies to rest. It was now or never.
Frankie wondered what would happen if she finally put the perpetrators behind bars. Would her town finally know peaceful nights? Would people breathe easy once more? The last two weeks had been daunting for them.
Such thoughts gave her the courage to ease into the convenience store slowly. But what she found made her pause in her tracks.
Inside The Store
The place was empty, save for the cashier, who waved at Frankie before seeing her weapon. Her brows drew up before she pointed down the aisle where a lone door stood.
Frankie nodded at her, even though she found the fact that the lady was smiling in such a tense situation a bit odd. Wasn’t she supposed to be scared witless and possibly in tears?
At The Door
Despite this little detail, Frankie kept on, slowly moving through the aisle with her sight trained on that door. If there was anything that would help her solve this mystery, it lay behind that structure’s threshold.
Nearly at the door, she called in a request for backup, reporting that she was at the store, but nothing seemed to make sense. Afterward, she pushed the door open.
It Doesn’t Make Sense
Franky had expected to find a burly six feet goon waiting for her or at least tied to the floor since dispatch reported that the store’s security had the situation under control.
She expected to see bags of cash stuffed in one corner or expensive electronics strewn everywhere. But what she found almost drove her mind crazy.
Instead of cash or electronics, there was a cart halfway filled with groceries. Frankie could make out a small turkey, a packet of pasta, several sauces, and orange juice.
There were eggs, a shank of beef, a roll of bread, and fresh veggies like mushrooms and spinach. But that was only the first part of the puzzling find.
Next to the groceries was a woman, seemingly in her early thirties, with her hand zipped behind her back. Her face was half-covered with mated curls of hair, and she was in sweats and a dirty tank top.
Frankie’s brows furrowed as she tried to understand what was before her. She’d seen all kinds of crime scenes but nothing quite like this. But that didn’t mean that everything was okay here.
Slowly tucking her weapon back into its keep, she turned to the security officer in the room. “I heard gunshots,” she said. “Is there a weapon here that I should be aware of?”
The man shook his head. “Those were fireworks,” he said. “Some local kids had an early Christmas celebration outside. But we’ve searched her and found nothing,” he added. “Well, except this.” He handed Frankie something that would make the case easier to digest.
“A driver’s license,” Frankie said as she received the card. She stared at it, her eyes widening. She put up the card against the woman’s cheek, gently parting the hair out of her face.
Oh my God, she almost said. But she stifled the urge before stepping back. Nobody back at the department would believe what she’d just discovered.
A Difficult Time
For the past two weeks, Frankie’s town had been shaken by burglaries that left everyone distraught. The authorities had been working overtime to get to the root of the issue.
But even with their combined efforts, they had yet to make any significant findings to aid their search. But tonight, Frankie might have just found what they needed.
The woman before her was dressed haphazardly. Frankie knew her, given that the woman was also a local. The woman had been working for a technology company outside the town for a few years.
She led a good life with wonderful children. She was a great person to those who knew her. But toward the end of summer, she just disappeared. No one knew where she went, assuming she’d taken a vacation. But that wasn’t the interesting part.
Where It Started
The woman’s home, a stunning bungalow on the outskirts of town, had been the first house hit by the string of burglaries. A cleaning crew who usually took care of the house whenever she was away reported the incident.
Frankie went down on her knees, “Miss Alterman,” she began. “I’m Officer Frankie Russo. Is everything all right here?”
The woman didn’t answer, only hung her head so that her locks of unkempt hair fell over her face again. “Miss Alterman,” Frankie called again softly. She remembered that the woman had been in the same high school as her younger sister some years back.
Given how small their town was, everyone knew everyone. But now, the woman didn’t even seem to recognize Frankie. What was happening?
How They Caught Her
Frankie called the security guard outside the room to ask questions. She took out her notepad and began. The guard explained that he had been watching some local kids blow fireworks in the parking lot when they saw the woman trying to sneak goods out of the store.
She hadn’t scanned or paid for any of them and was looking to make a quick score. But the report didn’t make any sense to Frankie.
Miss Alterman was among the most well-off in town. She lived in a big house and drove a slew of those high-end electric cars. So why would she be stealing from a grocery store?
Frankie thanked the man and walked back into the room. She was missing something crucial here, and Miss Alterman was the key to finding it.
Frankie went down and unzipped the strip binding the woman’s wrists together. “Can we talk?” she asked lowly. When the woman reluctantly nodded, she asked, “What’s going on here?”
Miss Alterman explained everything. Over the last few months, she’d learned she’d been laid off from her prestigious job. She and her family had been surviving on her savings, trying to keep their heads afloat.
A Harsh Reality
But now she was almost a hundred thousand pounds in debt, with her house robbed and all her expensive belongings stolen. The bank was also threatening to repossess her home. She’d already lost her cars and her kids were forced to drop out of their private schools.
She explained that she was months behind on most of her bills and was at her wit’s end as it stood. “That’s why I had to come here,” she said with tears. “I needed to feed my kids.”
What To Do Now
Frankie’s heart broke as she heard everything. She’d known Miss Alterman all her life and could attest to her being a good woman. That’s when a thought hit her – what if she paid for her groceries? No one was meant to starve on Christmas.
Frankie asked the guard if she could talk to the store owner. After explaining everything to the owner and asking to pay for the woman’s groceries, she cleared Miss Alterman’s 180-pound bill, wishing her a Merry Christmas.
A Quiet Christmas
She knew she’d face harsh repercussions at work for not calling this in. It was a robbery, after all. Even the store owner was dumbfounded. But Frankie was willing to shoulder the risk, hoping Miss Alterman could have a quiet Christmas.
But as she escorted her to the lone van parked outside, the woman looked her dead in the eyes. “There is something else,” Miss. Alterman said. “The robberies. I know who did it. But you have to promise to protect me if I tell you.”
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.