BARGAIN BARN WAR





Blair Sandburg eyed the rack of flannel shirts with a careful eye. Expertly, he flipped through them easily picking out those in his size. He checked the labels and was pleased to see they were made of fibers that wouldn’t negatively affect his Sentinel and partner, Jim Ellison. ‘Might as well get a couple for Jim while I’m here. God, I love Bargain Barn!’

Throwing his choices over his left arm, he started to turn around and was surprised at the crowd of people in the store. ‘Where did they all come from?’

“Gerald! Gerald!”

Blair blanched when he saw the overweight woman with pink sponge rollers in her hair. “Oh, no,” he murmured. “Not her!”

“Get socks! They’re closing this place after today!”

“Bargain Barn is closing?” Blair burst out.

The slender woman next to him reached past him to grab two flannel shirts. “Yep. It was announced this morning.” She looked around with a grim shake of her head. “This is going to be a madhouse.”

“Gerald! Gerald! More socks!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Ellison, I thought I told you to take today off.”

Jim Ellison looked up at his superior officer, Capt. Simon Banks. “It was either this or shop with Sandburg at Bargain Barn, sir.” When Simon grunted in understanding, Jim continued, “He’s going to call when he’s done, and I’ll pick him up.”

“Bargain Barn? Isn’t that place closing?” Henri Brown spoke up.

Jim frowned. “Sandburg didn’t say anything about it closing.” He shook his head. “I don’t know where he’ll shop if it does close.” His attention diverted by his ringing cell phone, he quickly added. “I don’t know any other place that has that much flannel in stock.” Opening his cell phone, he crisply answered, “Ellison.”

“Jim…Ji…no, no, NO! PUT THAT DOWN!

“Sandburg?” Jim took a second to stare at the cell phone in confusion, then replaced it at his ear. “Sandburg!”

“Jim…come and get…I’m not gonna tell you again…Gerald! Gerald! Get those t-shirts!...Oh, like hell!”

Click.

Stunned, Jim stared at the cell phone.

“What’s wrong?”

Jim stared up at Simon. “I don’t know, sir. It sounded like he was in the middle of a riot or something.” Before Simon could reply, the cell phone rang again.

“Ellison.”

“Jim! Get down here! I need you to…Hey! Those are mine! Yeah, mine! Tell Gerald to get his own!”

“Sandburg, what’s…”

“I don’t need to call a cop! I’m talking to one!”

“Sandburg!”

“Jim, help…ACKK!

Click.

Joel Taggart joined them. “Simon, dispatch just received a call for all possible units to report to 1817 High Street. There’s a situation at…”

“Bargain Barn.”

Joel looked at both Simon and Jim who’d spoken at the same time. Behind him, Henri sighed and muttered, “Hairboy.”

“Yeah, Bargain Barn. Apparently there are way too many people in the store and their security can’t clear them out or prevent more people from trying to get in.” Joel reported. “The Fire Marshall’s on his way to help close it down.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Blair wrathfully eyed Gerald and his wife, Shirley, who’d double-teamed him out of most of the white t-shirts he’d been trying to hold onto. Holding his four flannel shirts and two t-shirts close to his chest, he began trying to edge his way through the crowd. He saw Shirley throw a triumphant smirk in his direction and narrowed his eyes in return. Then they both saw the long-sleeved sweaters on a rack in a nearby corner.

“Gerald! Gerald! Sweaters!”

“Over your dead body,” Blair angrily snarled. “You may have gotten the t-shirts, but you’re not getting all those sweaters! They’re ones JIM can wear without any problems, and he really likes ‘em, too!” With a wolfish howl, he determinedly waded forward to do battle for his Sentinel’s sweaters.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“This is Don Haas, Channel 11 Action News, reporting from the scene at Bargain Barn where a near riot just occurred. Fire Marshall Edwin Lester has just advised me that Bargain Barn’s doors will be closed until the patrons already in the store have finished shopping and exited the building. Patrons numbering no more than thirty at a time will then be permitted to enter. Police officers are on hand to further monitor the situation. Paramedics have taken two people to local hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. I’ve been told that one woman is in the process of being arrested for failure to obey police officers. The manager of Bargain Barn, Kimberly Atwater, told me that Bargain Barn corporate officials notified her at 7am of the store’s closing just as it was being announced to the broadcast media. She assured Fire Marshall Lester that had she been given more time, better controls would have been in place to avoid this situation. Customers are being asked to limit their purchases to a maximum of four of any item. However, since this restriction was not advertised in advance of today’s opening of business, it remains voluntary. Once again, this is Don Haas, Channel 11 Action News.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“…and that’s what happened.” Blair looked up at the patrol officer and shrugged. “Can I come down to the station later and sign my statement, Sgt. Li?”

Sgt. Damon Li’s dark eyes sparkled. “Sure, Blair. It’s not like I can’t find you if I need you.” He chuckled. “By the way, where’s Ellison? I would’ve figured he’d be in the middle of this mess.”

“Actually, he’s crossing the police barrier even as we speak,” Blair grinned.

The older office looked over his shoulder and grinned as well. “Okay, take off. Get this signed this afternoon, okay? Don’t make me come looking for you.”

Blair snickered and picked up two large shopping bags. He saw that Jim was followed by both Simon and Joel. “Hey guys!”

“Sandburg! What the hell’s going on?” Simon demanded.

“People heard Bargain Barn was closing and jammed the store,” Blair shrugged.

Jim put his hands on either side of Blair’s face and tilted the younger man’s face upwards. “That’s gonna be quite a shiner, slugger. Did the EMTs look at it?”

“Yeah, it’s fine.” Blair tried to squirm out of Jim’s grasp then surrendered to his Sentinel’s scrutiny. “It’s just a black eye, man.”

“What does the other guy look like?” Joel teased.

Blair shrugged. “Just missing a few sponge rollers,” he muttered.

“Sponge rollers?” Jim frowned.

“Gerald! Gerald! Follow us and bail me out!”

The four men turned to see an overweight woman being led to a waiting police car. She had pink sponge rollers in her hair although several of them were dangling from the ends of her curls.

“No! Wait! Gerald! Gerald! Get back in line and get more of those sweaters! And t-shirts! And boxer…” The slamming of the back door of the police cruiser cut off the rest of her shouted instructions.

An equally overweight man stood nearby holding three large shopping bags. He silently watched as the police cruiser slowly drove away…then crossed the parking lot and entered an open liquor store.

“You go, Gerald,” Blair muttered. Then he turned to Jim. “Can we go now? I need to get this stuff home and then get to the station to sign my statement.”

Jim glanced at Simon who nodded. “Joel and I’ll finish up here then meet you back at the station.” The Major Crimes Captain looked around the scene. “I think things are pretty much under control but I want to talk with Marshall Lester.” He glanced at the crowd of people impatiently waiting to enter the store. “Congratulations, Sandburg. It looks like you survived the Bargain Barn War.”

Jim put a hand on Blair’s shoulder and steered him through the police lines to where his truck was parked. “You’ve had quite a morning, Junior.” He eyed the shopping bags. “You didn’t hear the announcement about asking shoppers to limit their quantity purchases to four?”

“What announcement?”

Jim unlocked the door of the truck then stared down into Blair’s innocent blue eyes. He shook his head and grunted. “Give me those.” He took the bags and leveraged them behind their seats. One of the bags tipped over and sweaters fell onto the floor. “Hey, those are the sweaters that I like so much!”

“Yep. You’re welcome.”

Jim stood back so Blair could get into the truck. “How many of them did you get, Sandburg?”

“Let’s just say that I didn’t just survive the Bargain Barn War, Jim…I WON the Bargain Barn War.”



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