Nathan Sanford quickly walked into the liquor store. The electronic bell chime rang twice signaling his entrance into the store. The cool refrigerated air was a welcome change from the blistery heat being blown outside. The temperature difference caused Nathan to sweat profusely. He took out his handkerchief and quickly wiped his forehead. It was the heart of summer on the East Coast of the United States, and it’s been a hot one.
He gave a quick nod to Alfredo, the store owner sitting behind the counter. Alfredo nodded back.
“Man, I hope this heat breaks up! You look like you fell into a swimming pool!”
Nathan laughed. “I wish! A nice cool dunk sounds like a good idea! For now, I’m gonna grab a brew.”
He continued on to the refrigerated section of the store. Nathan believed that a liquor store or a supermarket would be the best places to go when it gets this hot. Seeing that he was the only customer, Nathan opened the glass door to one of the refrigerators containing the beer. Nathan closed his eyes as he stood there for a long moment as the cool air flowed over his body.
The sound of electronic chimes awoke Nathan from his meditation. He was still a little dazed from the pure ecstasy of refrigerated air when he noticed two young men enter the store. One man stood by the doorway while the other man walked directly to the counter. Nathan’s line of sight to the counter was obscured by aisle shelves, so he could not see what was going on up front. He did see the first man by the doorway. That man was keeping a constant lookout towards the outside. Nathan was getting a weird vibe from this. At first he shook his head and figured his imagination was running away. He grabbed a couple of beers from the refrigerator and quietly closed the door. Nathan took another look at the man near the doorway. He was still looking outside. Something did not feel right, so Nathan ducked behind one of the aisle shelves and crept towards the counter. He wanted to know if anything was going on with Alfredo.
Nathan slowly made his way towards the front. He wanted to get as close as he could without detection. He stopped at the end of the aisle closest to the storage room doorway. Nathan figured that if he needed to bolt, the quickest way out would be through the back of the store and into the alley. He was finally able to see Alfredo. His friend had his back towards the counter and was grabbing a couple of cigarette cartons. The young man at the counter gave the man at the door way a look. They both nodded. With a quick turn, the man that had been watching the door was now walking throughout the store. It looked to Nathan that he was making sure no one else was in the store. Nathan figured he had another fifteen seconds before he would be discovered. The only weapons he had were the two bottles of beer he was holding.
Alfredo turned back towards the counter and handed the man both cartons of cigarettes. The other man had walked over to the same refrigerator that Nathan was at and grabbed two six packs of beer. Surprised, Nathan stayed put and kept watching. The one with the beer calmly walked out the door, and the man with the cigarettes smiled and nodded to Alfredo who did not respond. When both men left the store, Nathan got up and walked towards the counter.
“Alfredo! Who were those guys, and why didn’t they pay you?”
His friend shrugged. “That is nothing. Nothing that I cannot handle”
Nathan stared at his friend for a bit. Whenever Alfredo would get nervous or stressed, his native Italian accent would get stronger.
“Every so often, a couple of guys come in and take some stuff. After that, I don’t see them for a while. I let them do it so they don’t cause me trouble. If I say anything, then I get trouble.”
Nathan shook his head. “This is extortion. You should call the cops.”
It was Alfredo’s turn to shake his head. “Non voglio problemi. I have my family to think about. They don’t take much, so I don’t really care.”
Nathan tried to convince his friend to go to the police, but Alfredo was steadfast in his belief that he was doing the right thing. As Nathan left the liquor store, he saw the two men that were in the store across the street. They were involved in some deep conversation. They did not notice Nathan stepping out of the liquor store. The two men turned and started to walk down the street. Nathan stared at them for a moment. With a deep breath, he quickly crossed the street and began to follow them.