Angels Among Us: Chapter 2

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Chapter 2


Gabriel Lockwood eyed the monitors inside the security room of the store.  He’d been up most of the night, getting this Grand Opening ready for the Black Friday crowds, and he was exhausted, but he had one last job to do before heading to his hotel room and sleeping for the next three days.


“Gabe,” his assistant, Scott, said by his elbow.  “The crowd is getting restless.  Let’s do this thing so we can get out of here.”


Scott was just as tired as the rest of the crew that had joined him from the company’s headquarters in Montgomery, but Scott got cranky when he was tired, and he expressed it.


“Just a moment,” Gabe replied, scanning the bank of security monitors in front of him.  This scheme of his grandfather’s was just was the company needed to catch the attention of national news and acquire a little extra advertising.  However, Gabe despised being in front of a camera.  But if he wanted to impress his grandfather and gain his respect as a competent CEO, then he would put on his best smile and wave to as many cameras as there were pointed at him.


The problem was that the whole five-thousand-dollar idea had ballooned beyond what Gabe had initially expected.  There had to be almost fifteen-hundred people waiting outside the store for him to pick only one of them.  And he’d bet his loosely-knotted tie that most of them didn’t need the money.  And that was the problem.  The greed of so many.  By God!  There were more people outside the store than in it!


Gabe loved his job.  He loved knowing that his family’s company donated millions of dollars to impoverished and needy families all over the country.  But the spirit of Christmas had been mangled past the ideas of charity, benevolence and good-will.  Now, it was about the newest toy or video game or pushing the person in front of you aside so you could snatch the last Holiday Barbie from the shelf.


It disgusted him, and that was why he was taking his time with this.  Surely, there was someone in his store, someone who was there for the sake of getting that perfect present for that perfect loved one, someone who wasn’t impressed by the hoopla of the television crews or the prospect of free money, someone who...


Someone like her...


“Wait,” Gabe said suddenly to the guy manning the monitors and security cameras.  “Go back...in the electronics...”


The camera zoomed back, and Gabe saw a pretty woman, about his own age, with dark, dark hair pulled up into a knot at the base of her neck, and she was holding a box in one hand while studiously reading the description of another box still on the shelf.  The laptops that were on sale, if Gabe remembered correctly.  She had a frown on her face, chewing on the inside of her cheek, and clearly deliberating on which computer to get.  


He watched her for a moment.  The set of her shoulders told him everything.  She couldn’t afford the one she wanted.  Her throat undulated as though she swallowed, and as she turned slightly toward where the camera hung over the department, he noticed a sheen of wetness in her eyes.


Wow...the new cameras really capture images well, he thought distractingly to himself.  


The woman inhaled deeply, set the box in her hands on the ground near her feet, sat down beside it, and pulled a lump of money from her purse.  She darted quick glances around -- probably wanting nobody to know she carried so much cash, and just as quickly counted it.  Gabe counted along with her.


It wasn’t enough.  Breathing heavily again, she stuffed her money back into her bag, wiped at her cheeks and put the box back on the shelf.  She grabbed the other one, held it dejectedly in her hands and walked out of the aisle.

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