Rose needed a present for a friend. I dropped her off near the west side door of Fred Meyer and then circled the parking spaces until I found an empty one that allowed me to check in the rearview mirror for Rose, to easily “beep” her for attention, so she could see where I had parked. It saves time, plus I thought we could visit El Sabor afterward for lunch.
Since I knew Rose to be a careful shopper, I knew there would be more than a five or ten minute wait. I did what I always do when I wait for her. I watched people. I saw a mother with a set of five or six year-old twins. She not only guided them forward, but they moved at a fairly brisk pace. There must have a been a candy reward waiting for them. I also stopped thinking and watched a nice looking blond with jeans, and knee-length tan boots. She wasn’t poetry in motion, but she had a great smile. There was no allure, just a nice looking woman . . . which I always appreciate. Next it was an elderly lady with white hair under a knit cap. She was pulling her own little light-weight shopping cart. I was guessing she had her own place in one of the apartment buildings nearby.
I constantly checked back to see the shopping doors on the look-out for Rose. I was doing this when I saw a man with his hand on the arm of the nice looking blond, which drew my focus. They were moving in a different path than one that the blond was on when I first saw her. She didn’t look happy. He looked unhappy and mean. I guessed at where I would get a better look at them together and focused my camera at the exact spot when they entered the shot. I took several snaps before the two of them moved directly west. If Rose had been in the car we would have followed them. That didn’t happen until about four minutes later.
With Rose in the car I dodged a few people crossing the parking lot and aimed for where I thought the two characters might be. I saw the disappearance of three cars in three different directions . . . and just stopped. There was no way to even effectively follow one. I shared my actions with Rose. She listened and looked over the images in my Pentax. She tapped on one of the shots and said “I saw her in the store. She had four items for the self check out line. We could check out the clerk who helps people do their own checking out.” I nodded my head and said, “First let’s go to the parking area where she might have been before shopping. If she left in someone else’s car, we might find the one she actually drove.”
We quickly took several shots of angles between 19th and Stevens and Fred Meyer, the gas station, and the Breast Clinic. Then I dropped Rose off again with the camera and then went to park just as I had before. Armed with the story and the image of the blond we were hoping that someone might have seen something to explain what had happened. Rose talked and showed the blond’s image and got nowhere . . . fast. The check-out helper barely provided a “May I help you?”
Twenty minutes later we were on our way to El Sabor, with no more information than what we had figured out nearly an hour before. It turned out we weren’t as hungry as we thought so we just drove home. We chewed over what had been going on. Rose said, “She looked so vulnerable and he just looked judgmental.” I thought “Judgmental”; why did that strike a chord? I sent an image of the man to our benefactor Jack asking if he knew this person. Jack knows most of the shakers and movers in both King and Pierce County. An hour later I got a note that Jack thought the guy looked familiar as well. Was it possible we had a family problem with perhaps a judge sticking his own oar in the water and overstepping a boundery? Ideas run wild . . . but sometimes true.
Rose and I turned towards Fred Meyer again. Looking at the large freeway runoff pond just a few blocks from the Fred Meyer parking lot, Rose said, “Well, if we see a body floating by it might explain things.” I circled back. Behind the fir trees and the underbrush we saw evidence of habitation. Grocery carts were abandoned up and down the street. We could make out tents that most people driving by in a hurry never saw. We continued on to Fred Meyer and none of the cars in our target parking area matched with anything.
I looked at Rose and before I could ask, she said, “Well, yes we’ve got nothing to go on . . . but, it is time for us to dine at El Sabor. The little taco restaurant was calling to us.
We were past the stop light and driving along the layout of Tacoma Community College, when out of the corner of my right eye I swear I saw a nice pair of jeans with tan boots duck into the Scotch Broom. I told Rose about the jeans and the boots and she said I was just seeing things. We continued on to El Sabor, which is just west across the street from TCC.
We both ordered fish tacos with a fruity bottle of pop. I also ordered a sweet tamal. The place was crowded; we were lucky to get a table. Timing is everything. We ate quickly. The workers there are exceptional and the prices are ideal for students and people like us who don’t want to over-pay, but like tasty food. Rose was watching a news program on their TV in the corner of the room. She caught my eye and motioned for me to turn around. It was just news on the TV screen about homeless people and then my eyes dropped to the table where a nice looking blond wearing jeans and tan boots had her head on an older man’s shoulder. Two younger kids were enjoying a meal like they hadn’t had a good one in some time.
Rose told me to go start the car. I did. When she joined me she told me what she had done. She had ordered a full meal for four and asked the waitress to give the “to go” order to the family we had seen. Rose included a hundred dollar bill for the family. Rose asked the waitress, “Can we count on you?” The waitress said, “Si, they come here once a week.” Rose included a five dollar tip to the waitress.
c. 2023 Don and Peg Doman