"Would you mind showing me what's in your pockets?"
<NYC> The Bazaar - Queens
This was once a Flushing office building that rented to startups, rapid growth industries, and fly-by-night operations who don't want any questions asked. Since the first zombie outbreak, it has lain largely empty, and as of late it has been converted into an immense indoor marketplace. The lobbies are packed with food vendors and the hallways lined with kiosks selling a dizzying variety of goods, flea-market fashion. Various offices are given over to groups of merchants selling similar wares: one dedicated to books, another to computer components, and a rather popular one selling (perfectly legal) weapons...at least during the day. Rumor has it that the Bazaar's night market is becoming the go-to place for trade in illicit goods. But night or day, the place is bustling with activity, noisy and raucous commerce in many languages (though predominantly Mandarin and Spanish). Chances are, you can find anything your heart desires here...if you're willing to pay the price.
Dynastic Treasures is one of the more eclectic shops in the antiques hallway of the Bazaar. Despite its name, it does not sell a lot of in the way of treasures from the actual dynastic period of China, but it does have a lot of vintage jewelery, lovely porcelain housewares, some strikingly random books, a few racks of clothing, and endless shelves of interesting knick-knacks.
Alice has been browsing the store for some time, lingering most around the racks of jade, carnelian, and other carved stones and slowly working her way toward the exit. Her hair is a loose, glossy tumble of black curls, held back by a pair of oversized retro sunglasses. She's wearing a bright red knee-length coat that flares out just enough at the hips to give it some flounce, beneath it a black babydoll shirt with 'Cabaret' in vertical stylized red letters and very tight purple-and-black crinkle dyed skinny jeans tucked into red cowboy boots. She has a tote-style black purse with abstract gold designs (and several small auspicious Chinese bobbles) slung over one shoulder.
Sam hasn't been browsing all that long. Drawn in by some ornate soup bowls displayed in the window, he's slowly perusing one aisle of small jade figurines. Much less colorful than Alice, he wears a black leather jacket over a crisp dark-green button-down, tucked neatly into his dark jeans. He murmurs something quiet and polite in excuse to Alice as he scoots by her in a narrow aisle, pausing -- briefly, curiously -- by a book display before continuing on toward the door.
The shopkeeper, a Chinese woman of indeterminate age, has been watching Alice warily, despite having quite a few other customers milling about. Her attention snaps abruptly to Sam, however, when he begins to depart. As he brushes past Alice, the shopkeeper's eyes grow quite wide and she hisses something quiet in Cantonese at a teenaged boy who had been sitting in the back of the shop, staring intently at his laptop. The boy groans quietly but dutifully rises and takes her place behind the counter as she makes a beeline toward where the exit.
Catching up with Sam just before he crosses the threshold, she plants herself in his path and cranes her neck back (she's a full head shorter than he) to address him at a significant volume. "I saw that! You and her in cahoots!" She stabs an index finger in Alice's direction. "You stealing! If you don't put it back, I call security right now!" By now, most of the other patrons in the shop have turned to stare, and quite a few passers-by in the hallway outside, too. The teenager behind the counter is scrubbing his face with one hand, his smartphone in the other, thumb swiping busily.
Alice squeezes herself closer to the shelves, giving Sam room to pass her. She flashes him a quick smile and eyes him -- surreptitiously and appreciatively. When the shopkeeper rushes out to confront the man, her eyebrows hike up only slightly, her expression deeply unimpressed. Then they hike up a little more when the shopkeeper's accusation expands to include her. "Whoa, whoa, hold the phone!" She goes right up to the shopkeeper. "Now give the phone to me. I didn't take nothin', and I'm pretty sure /he/ didn't take nothin'. Did you /see/ us take anything?" Glancing sideways at Sam. "And anyway we're definitely not in /cahoots/, we don't even know each other."
Sam has come to a quick halt when the shopkeeper stops in his path. His eyebrows lift upupup too, then promptly flatten back down when she starts talking. "Cahoots." Flatly, as his eyes slide over to Alice. "Ma'am, I don't know what exactly you think you saw, but we haven't even met and I'm pretty sure all the young lady was doing was looking. Same as me. Now pardon me, but I have errands to run." His hand tips slightly outward, indicating the doorway beyond the shopkeeper. "Excusez-moi."
There's no one thing to Eric's appearance that screams "look, it's a cop!" The NYPD isn't particularly in the business of handing out fairly fashionable black wool coats as part of their uniform -- and there is no way that Eric's practically-glued-on black jeans would leave enough room for a concealed weapon. Even so, though, something about his posture might as well have a police badge pinned to the dark green shirt on his chest. The way he stops halfway down the hallway from the sound of yelling and turns towards it, shouldering someone out of the way, might be a hint too.
The shopkeeper takes a hasty step backward when Alice approaches, as though fearing the younger woman might strike her. "You were distracting me while he took the jade!" The finger sweeps to Sam briefly before pointing back at Alice, lest anyone find themselves in doubt as to who she's accusing. "You stay right here," she snaps at Sam, shifting again to bar his path. "You empty your pockets out, or I call security!"
"Oh. Em. Gee." Alice stares at the shopkeeper. "Are you for real. I was just looking, and if there was anything in your crappy store I actually wanted I woulda /bought/ it." She rolls her eyes and flips her hair over one shoulder. "I'm outta here, too, you can call whoever you want."
Sam takes a step forward when the shopkeeper steps back, angling to the side so that he can start to scoot aroooound her. He stops again when she repositions herself, letting out a faintly exasperated huff. "Ma'am, I'm leaving. Por favor, let me by. We didn't take anything of yours, and frankly I find your accusation pretty disrespectful."
"Excuse me," Eric's voice butts in, as he steps up behind the shopkeeper and looms over her shoulder. "Is there some trouble here?" Eric asks, voice mild as he glances between the little cluster of people gathered at the door -- and back to the teenager behind the counter. Eric reaches into his pocket and comes out with a black leather wallet which he lets fall open. A gold badge is inside, a glint of a shield with an eagle spread atop.
The shopkeeper jumps when Eric looms up behind her. She half-turns and goggles at him, but doesn't speak until he flashes the badge. Then she looks somewhat conflicted, glancing between the gathered crowd and the badge. Finally, she gestures at Sam and Alice. "These two stole from my shop, they were working together. But we have security at the Bazaar, we do not need your help."
Alice sighs when Eric butts in, then tenses visibly when she sees the badge. "We didn't take anything, Officer," she says, suddenly much more diffident, her tone even. "We've never met before now and were just browsing. Now we're trying to leave and she won't let us."
"No, there's no trouble, we just --" Sam starts, but quiets abruptly when Eric's badge comes out. His lips press together; his already upright posture goes just a hair more ramrod-straight. His hands lower slowly to his sides, head shaking once. "Just trying to get on with my day, sir."
Eric's eyes fix on Alice's face, then Sam's face, glancing over their expressions. He frowns slightly, looking down at the shopkeeper. "If they stole from your shop, then it's a matter for the police, not security." His voice is curt, crisp. "Did you see one of them take something?" Eric leans against the doorway, replacing the wallet and badge into one of his jacket pockets. "Would you mind showing me what's in your pockets?" he asks Alice and Sam.
"Not necessary, that is why we have the security," the shopkeeper explains, though there's little force behind her words. The anger she had shown earlier toward her alleged shoplifters has quite evaporated. At Eric's question, he hesitates. "/He/ was keeping me distracted," she says at last, pointing at Alice, though without much heat. The finger shifts to Sam. "I am certain /he/ took some jade while I wasn't looking."
Alice's lips press into a thin line. She sucks in a deep breath and lowers her eyes, nodding a barely perceptible nod. Reaching slowly into her coat pockets, she produces a pair of black knit gloves, some crumpled receipts, and a mostly-empty pack of tissues. "Uh, there's nothing in my jeans pockets, but I can empty out my bag..." she offers dubiously, though her eyes are casting around for any surface that isn't already covered with merchandise.
For a long few moments Sam says nothing at all. His jaw tightens, fingers twitching just slightly at his sides. Eventually he reaches into his jacket pocket, withdraws a cell phone and a pair of earbud headphones, a tube of lip balm. From his opposite pocket, a keyring with a very small USB thumb drive, a slim flashlight and a set of keys. Slower, from his jeans, his wallet, a VA employee ID (MSGT Samuel T Wilson, U.S. Air Force, it claims) on a pullcord, a folded knife. There's a very small creak of his teeth, eyes fixed somewhere between the shopkeeper and Eric.
Eric crosses his arms over his chest, turning his gaze onto the shopkeeper, lips thinning slightly. "I don't think that will be necessary, ma'am. I think it's pretty clear neither'a you are shoplifters. Don't you agree, ma'am." The police officer directs this last statement to the shopkeeper; despite the words, there is no inflection of a question in his voice. "I'm sure we don't want to keep these folks any longer than we already have, hm?"
The shopkeeper's eyes track Alice's hands, then Sam's, as they comply with Eric's request. She still looks deeply suspicious, but also increasingly uncomfortable with the growing crowd of spectators. At Eric's pronouncement, she shoots him a look, but nods all the same. "Of course, Sir. I apologize for the trouble." She dips a shallow bow and retreats a couple of steps back into her store. "Enjoy your shopping."
Alice keeps her eyes down, blinking a few times, then returns the items to her pockets. Then she watches Sam produce the contents of his pockets, chewing her bottom lip and glancing frequently at Eric all the while. "Gracias, Officer." Her jaw is still tight and her eyes a little bright, but she manages a demure smile. "Can we go now?"
Sam returns his items to his pockets, slow and methodical. "M'sure we wouldn't want to keep you either." His smile is small and tight. "Sir."
Eric pushes himself off of the doorframe, stepping to one side to leave the doorway open. "M' sorry for the confusion. Thank you for helpin' me clear it up so quickly." Eric's smile flashes, bright and wide. "I really wasn't lookin' to have to work on one a' my very few days off." He jokes, tone light. He even winks at the two of them, once, glancing around him at the gathered crowd. "That's all, folks. Move along now." He prompts, making a shoo-ing motion with one hand.