I didn’t plan to trade one uniform for another when I got medically retired from the Air Force, but that’s what happened. I ended up as a mall security officer at Fernglen Galleria, not too far from where my Grandpa Atherton lives in Vernonville, Virginia. Supposedly, I’m there to keep an eye on him (my mom says) but I think my parents really wanted me in Vernonville so he could keep an eye on me.
Anyway, my day frequently starts with having to dispose of some partially dismembered rodent that my cat Fubar has caught overnight. I hope my trash collector doesn’t think I’m into weird rituals requiring animal sacrifice. I’ve always been an early bird, even before I enlisted in the military right after high school, so I like the early shift at the mall. I’m there by 0645 most days, ready for a turn-over briefing from the night guard, usually Edgar Ambrose, which consists of “Zip. It’s all yours, EJ.”
I like patrolling the halls on my Segway, although I’d rather walk. My knee, injured by an IED in Afghanistan and the reason for my getting kicked out of the military, won’t stand it, though. I’ve got pretty decent range of motion, and it doesn’t hurt too much anymore, but it gives out at odd moments, especially if I’m tired. In the couple hours before the mall opens, I like the quiet of the marble halls, the splash of the fountain with no toddlers trying to fall into it, the scents of stale cookies and French fries from the food court.
Once the merchants start trickling in, I stop by to chat with them and find out what’s going on. The foundation of good policing, Master Sergeant Skrynecki always told me, is knowing your patch. Well, Fernglen is my patch now and I like chatting with the owners and clerks as they come to work. My friend Kyra, who’s running Merlin’s Cave for her aunt for a year, is usually one of the last to arrive; she’s not what you’d call a morning person. If I get a break mid-morning, I stop by to chat with her and catch up on her roller derby bout from the night before or her dating life which is, believe me, a lot more exciting than mine. Watching grass grow is more exciting than my dating life.
The merchants roll up their security grilles at ten, and the shoppers arrive. Things are lively from then until I got off-shift at three. Some days I’m handing shoplifters over to the cops, and other days I’m helping someone find their car, keeping teens from skate-boarding on the escalators, or reuniting lost kids with their parents. Frequently, I have to keep my Grandpa Atherton, a retired CIA agent, from using his Internet-bought gadgets to listen in on customer conversations or spy on merchants. He’s a pistol, as my mom says. My co-worker, Joel, hero-worships me a bit and I’m doing what I can to get him up to speed.
I might stop by the food court on my way out to see what the new owner of Legendary Lola Cookies, the mysterious Jay Callahan, is up to. He’s no more a cookie baker than I am a shoe designer. I’ve got my eye on him (which is no hardship because there’s no denying he’s hot). After leaving the mall, I usually stop by the YMCA for a long swim before heading home to Fubar. I already mentioned that I have no romantic life, right?
Of course, things get a bit more lively the day someone liberates all the reptiles from the Herpetology Hut and a murderer poses a dead body in a boutique window.
You can read more about E.J. in Die Buying, the first book in the new “Mall Cop” mystery series.
The life and times of E.J. Ferris is written by Laura DiSilverio who spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer–serving as a squadron commander in England, English teacher at the Air Force Academy, budgeteer at the National Reconnaissance Officer, POW/MIA researcher in Bangkok, and in other positions–before retiring to write and parent full-time. She lives in Colorado with her hubby, tween-aged daughters (who are teaching her a lot about patience), and Wire-haired Pointing Griffon. She also writes the Charlie Swift/Gigi Goldman humorous private investigator series (SWIFT JUSTICE, St. Martin’s Minotaur, Oct 2010).
Visit Laura at www.lauradisilverio.com.
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