The Perils of Louella:

Chapter 183: Louella Tries Sleuthing

by A.C. Cherbonnier
     LT FIRST there was silence. Bob, the manager, stared at Len, who was struggling to stand up, then looked at Petra, who was sitting up, dazed and spread-legged, against the cashier’s booth.
     “What happened?” said Bob.
     What do you mean, ‘What happened?’, you dunderhead! thought Louella. “We were robbed while you were in back,” she said stiffly. And you should have been up front so you could’ve called the cops. Or at least been exposed to the same risk we were. She was surprised how angry she was at him. It came over her in a wave. You don’t suppose this is a hot flash? she wondered.
     “You all right?” Bob said to Len.
     “Yeah, yeah, I’m all right,” said Len impatiently. “Why don’t you call 911 while I see to Petra?”
     “Good plan,” said Bob, heading for the manager’s elevated cubicle.
     “After that, why don’t you lock up the store to secure the area?” asked Louella frostily. “And don’t forget to use gloves.”
     Bob looked at her sharply. “I don’t need to be told how to do my job,” he snapped as he clacked his cowboy boot heels to his station. “Let’s all just calm down, now, okay?”
     Petra began to stir as Len tentatively daubed her forehead with a tissue. “Hey, you took a nasty cut there, girl!” he said. Looking up at Bob, he said, “Better ask for an ambulance, too. She’s going to need stitches, might have a concussion.” Bob nodded.
     “Man, that’s all I need!” said Len. “Watch them close down the 24-hour operation and put me out of my second-shift job!”
     “You ever been robbed before?” Louella asked.
     “You joking? This is Baltimore. ’Course I have. But you know, this time feels a little different. Those guys acted like they had all the time in the world. Did ya notice that?”
     “I guess so. You mean, they acted like they didn’t think they’d get caught?”
     “Yeah, like that.” Len looked worried. “Did you get a good look at ’em?” He watched her face.
     Louella stole a look to see if Bob was watching. “Yeah, I think so.”
     We’re both thinking the same thing, she realized. We think Bob’s in on it.
     “How much do you figure they took us for?” Len asked.
     “A lot. Maybe a couple thousand, anyway.”
     “Um-hmm. A lot of risk for a little money, huh? Stupid fools. Well, let’s see how long it takes for the county police to get here. You know what their average response time is out here?”
     “No, I never thought about it. How long?”
     “I hear tell it takes upward of 45 minutes unless it’s an emergency response. And this ain’t no emergency any more, is it?”
     “Guess not.” Louella shrugged. “Guess we’ve got nothing to do now but wait.” They looked at Bob, still on the phone.
     “He’s probably calling management to tell them the news,” said Len.
     “Yeah. Probably.” Louella picked up the spray cleaner and busied herself wiping off the conveyor belt.
     It seemed like forever. Then they heard the sirens.


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This story was published on Apr. 7, 1999.