Monday, June 27, 2011

129th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
The Beer Keg Caper

Thursday is my Friday at the Axis Food Mart since I only work a 4-day week. So I’m extra happy on Thursdays to see my shift end at 1 pm. I planned to get a quick bit and head to my 2 pm computer lesson. Maen called about 12:15 and asked me if I wanted a Double Doubler from the In and Out Burger folks. That was a gift I couldn’t refuse, of course, but I told him I’d have to eat it in the car.

Then I got busy with lots of customers until 12:45 when Maen walked in carrying the much-anticipated lunch. Just for the heck of it, I checked my cell phone messages because my client often sends me a last minute cancellation notice. Sure enough, there it was. A 12:40 “not today” pocket vibration that I did not feel. Right away I told Maen we could have lunch together.

After our 10 minute munch fest, I got busy again behind the register with more customers and Maen started checking in a big beer delivery. As I handed change to the last customer in line, I looked up and immediately recognized a scruffy looking young man who pushed through the double doors and briskly walked down the soda aisle.

It took maybe 5 seconds to get to Maen’s side in the back of the store. “The Keg Kid is here. What do you want me to do?”

He quickly ushered me into his office and gave me a business card he untacked from the wall. “Call Detective Mark and tell him to hurry.”

I punched in the cell number and got Det. Mark on the third ring. He identified himself as a Tucson Police Department Licensing and Enforcement Officer and listened intently. “I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” he said, “and I will drive as fast as I can.” We hung up.

Later I remembered that it sure was a comfort to reach the police in three rings. Then speak a few words and get the wheels not merely rolling but screeching.

8 Months Ago
A short time into their relationship, Maen became more and more uncomfortable dealing with the Keg Kid. Generally, a deposit of $30 is placed on a full keg of beer at the time of purchase. In a day or two when the keg is returned empty, the deposit is refunded. The Keg Kid never bought any beer but every few weeks he had anywhere from 4 to 8 kegs stuffed into his well-used car. He told Maen his grandfather owned a restaurant before he died and left him all of the kegs.

Maen paid $20 per keg because the Kid was never a customer. Then one day, he abruptly told the Keg Kid to take his business elsewhere.

2 Months Ago
About 11 am Det. Mark and his partner Det. Debbie stopped by Axis to talk to Maen who was not in yet. Although they had met Maen during the liquor licensing process and the relationship was somewhat contentious, they had come to ask for Maen’s help. It is apparent they knew his character but were just being “tough cops” when it came to the licensing of a new business to sell alcohol.

This day they wanted to get all of the info they could on beer kegs. In confidence, they said they are involved in an ongoing investigation centered around stolen kegs. I told them what I knew and about the Keg Kid which was news to them. Maen showed up and gave him a license number he took down from the Kid’s car. They asked Maen to call them if the Keg Kid showed up again. He said he would but it was unlikely.

Not Professional Stallers
After I told Maen I reached Det. Mark and we needed to hold the Keg Kid here for 15 minutes, Maen approached him.

“Hi, how are you doing?” “How’s business?” “Things are slow here for the summer.” “Do you have any kegs to sell?”

Lots of quick questions and lots of charm.

The Kid said yes and Maen replied “let’s get them”

There were 8 kegs crammed into the Kid’s Integra and they were hot as blue blazes from the sun. That took maybe 3 minutes to get them out of the car and into the storage area in the back of the store. Then Maen took a phone call and I told the Kid it was family business and may take a while. Two minutes later Maen showed up at the register where the safe is and the cash he need to pay the Kid. I was hoping Maen would have taken longer on the phone. Oh, well.

“Did you open the safe this morning and reset the timer?” Maen asked me in front of the Kid.

“No, I’m sorry I didn’t.” I was thinking, what timer but said nothing. Oh, that timer! I get it.

Maen mentioned he had about 8 minutes to go before he could open the safe. I kept looking nervously out the window and blamed my actions on the number of customers the Kid apparently cause to stop by the store. I told him you brought us luck and asked his to step aside as I rang up the sales.

Finally, and very slowly, Maen opened the key but “sometimes timer” safe to get the Kid’s $200. He deliberately counted the twenties into two neat piles in front of the Kid and picked them up again. Maen said later he did not want to hand the Kid the money and have it confiscated as evidence. “It is our slow time, remember.”

Moments after Maen picked up the cash the detectives pulled up behind the Kid’s Acura in front of the store and stopped. The Kid saw this and became a bit anxious. They sat in the car for a very long minute or so before getting out. They entered the store with a couple of customers and walked up to the Kid. He was surrounded by two plain-clothes detectives and two uniformed officers. It was all over and Maen still had the $200 in his hand. It turned out that the officers didn’t need the money, but they would have had to keep it if the $200 were in the Kid’s possession.

Epilog
Propped up by the large garbage bin on the walkway in front of Axis, the Keg Kid admitted stealing the kegs and admitted the needles in his car were his. He also admitted there was a ring involving employees of businesses around town who sold him kegs. Det. Mark thanked Maen very sincerely because he was at a dead end in the case before the call. And as seen dozens of times on TVs’ Law and Order, his captain just that morning leaned on him to get some results because someone higher up was leaning on him.

Stand Up, Folks
Maen has this thing about being responsible for how his world turns. He always wants it pleasant for his customers, his employees and especially his family. So he sees trouble and stops that trouble whenever he can. The next day, Friday, a customer asked Maen about all of the cops in front of his store yesterday. Maen said he just stood up for the neighborhood. Maen then asked him if he ever “turned in one in your lifetime?” The customer replied he had not. “Well,” Maen suggested, “if everybody worked with the police and turned in just one, what a better life we all would have.”

Not Too Hot – The temperature reached 107 degrees on Sunday but food was on the porch, and if it weren’t, folks quickly answered their doors. Of course, right after they handed me their donation, they closed them just as quickly.

We collected a total of 170 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $43.10 … two checks for $35.00 and $8.10 in cash.

See you Sunday,

Peter

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