Jack Altomare was sitting alone in the back corner of the coffee shop. He was taking another sip of his Americano when he noticed someone approaching his table in the corner of his peripheral vision.
“Jack?” A man’s voice said.
He swiveled slightly in his chair to see who it was.
“Oh, Frank! What’s up?” Jack said. It was Frank Montgomery, an old friend of his from school.
“Not much, man. Crazy just running into you after all these years.” Frank said. He extended his hand and Jack shook it.
“Yeah, it has been awhile…”
“Care if I join you?”
“No, not at all. Just killing some time before I have to go to work.” He motioned with his hand at the empty chair on the other side of the small rectangular table.
“Thanks.” Frank said. Jack watched as he pulled the chair out, sat down his mug of coffee and then took a seat. He looked pretty much the same as he did in high school, other than the fact that he had put on at least one hundred extra pounds and gained another chin.
“So, what have you been up lately?” Frank said.
“Oh, long story. I was up in the Rocky Mountains for about six years, my wife and I–”
“You’re married?” Frank said, interrupting.
“Ah… Divorced, couple of kids. Didn’t work out. You remember Sue from junior high?”
“Sure, I remember her.”
“Yeah, it was Sue…” Frank said. His eyes narrowed and he frowned
“Oh. I see.” Jack said.
“Anyhow, what were you doing up in the mountains?”
“Running a health store.” Jack said.
Frank snorted with a short burst of laughter. “Won’t catch me in one of those.” He said.
Jack shrugged and took another sip of his Americano. A few beats of silence followed as they sat on opposing sides of the table.
“On a completely different subject, did you hear about that robbery last night?” Frank said.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Gas station right by my house on 34th St. Two guys walked in with shotguns and robbed the place. Used to be such a good neighborhood– But with the economy and all, well, the crime has just been exploding. I heard that they made the employee put his mouth around the barrel until they were done.”
“I stopped one once.” Jack said.
“What’s that?” Frank said.
“I stopped a robbery at a gas station once.” Jack said.
He nodded and took another sip of coffee.
Jack sighed. “Well, this would have been about seven years ago now, right before we left for Colorado. My wife and I were giving my Dad a ride to get a few groceries because his truck was in the shop. We stopped at Earl’s gas station to fuel up– You know the one over on the corner of 14th and South?”
“Sure, I know which one you’re talking about.” Frank said.
“My wife and my Dad were sitting in the car while I was outside pumping gas. It was pretty late and the place was deserted. My car was the only one at the pumps and a minivan was parked nearby. Anyway, I’m pumping gas when this Hispanic guy comes running out with a forty of malt liquor in his hand. He’s pointing back at the building with his other hand and saying ‘Lady getting hurt, lady getting hurt.’ over and over. Don’t think his English was that good.”
“Go on…” Frank said. He had leaned forward over the table, suddenly captivated by the story.
“I didn’t know what to think. I was trying to talk to the guy but he just hightailed it over to the minivan and went speeding away out of the parking lot. I remember opening one of the car doors to tell my wife and my Dad what he had said and then I sprinted to the building and went inside.”
Frank picked up his mug and took a sip for the first time.
“When I first entered the store it looked like the place was empty, then I heard a struggle going on behind the counter.” Jack said. “I peered over and saw that there was a guy back there. He had the woman who was the cashier that night pinned on the ground and he was laying on top of her. Her face was bruised and bloody and the guy had his hands around her neck. He was trying to strangle her and her face was turning bright red.”
“You’re kidding me!” Frank said.
“Nope. True story.” Jack said. He paused to drink the last swallow of his coffee. “Before I really thought about what I was doing I jumped over the counter and pulled him off of her. I shoved him to the ground next to where she was laying and kicked him once in the face as hard as I could. By this time my Dad had entered the store and was rounding the side of the counter where the guy was sprawled from the kick. He walked past the robber and the two of us were helping the woman up to a sitting position when I noticed that the guy was starting to stand up and his hand was reaching into his jacket pocket.”
“Did he have a gun?” Frank said.
“We didn’t know at that time. The poor woman was barely coherent and my dad and I were both standing there watching as he reached into his pocket. There was a mad, crazed look in his eyes and blood all over his hands, his knuckles. Skinny little guy. Fear gripped my heart as I watched his hand disappear and his lips move to form a sneer– Not for my own safety so much. I was worried that he was going to pull out a weapon and hurt my Dad. Luckily my wife had stayed in the car.” Jack said.
“Holy crap!” Frank said.
Jack glanced down at his watch. “Oh, I’m late for work!” He said.
“No, wait! You have to finish the story!”
“That’s pretty much it– Two cops came charging in at that precise moment with their guns out. Turned out the woman had hit the silent alarm when things started getting out of control. They handcuffed the guy and had an ambulance sent out for the woman. Turned out that he didn’t have a gun, but he was reaching for a knife in his jacket pocket when the cops showed up. They also found crack on him, which explained the crazed look in his eyes. The cops interviewed my Dad and I briefly, but they didn’t really need much from us because of all of the security cameras in there.”
“Unbelievable! No offense, but that was really stupid just running into that situation.” Frank said.
Jack shrugged. “Maybe so. Didn’t even cross my mind while it was all happening, though. Sorry to cut this short, Frank, but I really do have to get going.” He stood up from the table.
“Hey, we have to go grab a few beers sometime and continue this conversation, man.” Frank said.
Jack nodded. “Okay.” He said. He pulled a business card out from his wallet and placed it on the table. “My cell number is on there.”
“Cool.” Frank said. He picked up the card and looked at it.
“Things are probably going to get pretty crazy for the next couple of years, Frank. The crime is probably going to explode even more as the economy continues to stutter. But I would like to leave you with a thought, it’s an old quote from a guy named Edmund Burke– ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.'”
Frank nodded and smiled. “Yes. I know what you mean”
* * * * *
[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]
© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved