Shifting into gear, I slowly drove from the Gerrity’s parking lot on Meadow Avenue in Scranton and, as is my habit, once again became part of the solution.
The problem didn’t see me following her.
But I had her in my sights.
Just minutes earlier I had left the supermarket with a loaf of Agostini’s Italian bread under my arm. Sliding into my shiny black Legacy, I buckled up and turned over the engine. But before I shifted into drive, a lifetime of fighting arts training kicked into gear.
My former professional prizefighter father, Shamus, taught me how to hold my hands, jab twice and cross with the right about the same time I learned how to walk. I carry a photo I found in Shamus’ wallet when he died that captures me in white baby shoes, his baggy boxing trunks and my chin tucked just so into my left shoulder to protect myself from knock-out blows in a cruel, cruel world.
As a teenager, I fought when I had to defend myself. I bought my first karate gi at 14, boxed in college as an international amateur, worked as a professional bouncer in a bucket-of-blood beach bar in Florida and seriously resumed my formal martial arts career when I stopped smoking at 40. I was about to turn 55 when my fifth dan California aikido teacher awarded me a black belt. At 60, I still train daily in a variety of war and peace arts.
My point is that I can sense a punch coming a mile away.
The young female victim didn’t go down. She stood her ground and even put an awkward smile on her face after taking a wild shot to the eye as the attacker broke into a desperate dash for freedom. Watching from my car, I watched her clutch a purse close to her chest as she sprinted toward the avenue.
The punched was store security; the puncher a shoplifter.
Following Police Chief Dan Duffy’s disciplined advice, I again decided to become part of the solution.
Racing past the Wells Fargo bank, the young woman with the long blond hair headed down River Street. Following slowly at a distance I watched her cut hard left and head into a cluster of trees.
Aikido training took over as I anticipated what the Japanese call ki (vital life force) and headed up the hill, took a left and then another left as I headed to where I expected her negative energy might explode in a new frontal assault on somebody or something. Exiting the tree line, she made a beeline into a house on the other side of the street.
I pulled over, took a slow breath and watched as a car stopped beside the house into which she ran. A guy carrying plastic shopping bags got out, looked around and went into the house.
Circling back to the supermarket, I stopped by the small group gathered in front of the store. Paramedics had already checked the assault victim who stood by stoically waiting for police. When the officer arrived, I told him I had seen everything and knew the whereabouts of the assailant. As he interviewed the victim, I drifted away, got in my car and headed back to the house.
Three officers already were on the scene.
A middle-aged woman stood in the doorway. A beautiful little girl wearing nothing but a diaper stood by her knee looking at the cops as the woman told them that nobody inside fit the description of the shoplifter. I spoke to police and told them what I knew and watched as a young man came out on the porch. I told police I couldn’t say for sure if he was the same guy I had seen earlier because this guy was wearing different clothing.
We stood around while police covered exits. A man who might have been the suspect’s father arrived and spoke with police. Suddenly she was on the porch, dressed differently, looking lost and smoking a cigarette as police handcuffed her and walked her to a waiting car.
The man said that the awful irony was that the young woman works two jobs and got paid that very day. But, according to the store loss prevention officer, she had stuffed items including cheese, razor blades and shampoo into her purse before paying for two bags of chips and leaving the store with a young man.
I finished up writing out my witness statement and shook hands with one of the two motorcycle cops on the scene. We were both scheduled the next day to cover Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to flood-ravaged Duryea. Hopefully, more solutions would be forthcoming for flood victims.
And we would continue to work together to keep our community safe and strong and moving forward toward a better quality of life in Scranton.