Today’s post is long for a blog, but it’s short for fiction, so I suppose that evens things out. This story is a response to one of the writing prompts I posted on my Facebook page last week.
I Only Wanted Some Stamps
by Maris McKay
I reached for my pepper spray as I drew closer to the men standing between me and the post office. Both wore black suits, white shirts, and dark sunglasses, even though it was cloudy.
One of them stepped away from a parked sedan. “Excuse me, ma’am.”
My hand tightened on the pepper spray. I smiled. “Yes?”
He flashed a badge. “We’re with the FBI. I’m going to have to ask for your cooperation with a top secret sting operation.”
“I’m sorry, can I just see that badge again?”
He put the wallet in his pocket and stepped closer. “I’m not at liberty to reveal any details, but you need to walk into the post office, go up to the counter and tell Bert, ‘My stamps are looking a bit square these days, if you know what I mean.’”
I took a step back. “Why me?”
He wiped his sunglasses on a handkerchief. “Failure to comply is a violation of article 5, section 31. I can and will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. Do I make myself clear?”
I nodded, completely confused.
“Good. Now remember: ‘My stamps are looking – ”
I repeated the rest back to him. “Heard you the first time.” The man who hadn’t spoken yet smiled.
Resettling my purse on my shoulder, I marched toward the post office. My heels clicked across the tile floor. Hoping to take care of my own errand at the same time, I said, “Can I get a book of stamps? Mine are looking a bit square these days, if you know what I mean.”
Bert leaned over the counter. “You too?”
Not sure what to say, I tried to look mysterious.
Bert chewed on his lower lip and looked down the length of the room. A man in the corner turned a page of a newspaper. Jenny, another other postal worker, snapped a bubble of gum. No one else was around.
He swallowed hard, then reached under the counter and drew out a small package. “I don’t know how you got mixed up in this, Theresa,” he said, “but get out soon as you can.”
I took the package and hurried outside, even though he hadn’t given me any stamps. The men were still there beside the sedan. One held out his hand. I gave him the package.
“The FBI appreciates your assistance. You may go about your business.”
“That’s it? You’re not going to tell me anything else?”
“No, ma’am.” He swung into the passenger seat. The sedan rumbled to life and rolled away.
That was when I really started to think something was wrong. I clutched my purse, pulling it in front of me like a shield. It was only two blocks back to the office. In just a few minutes, I could bury myself in phone calls and filing and forget all about this.
The wail of sirens made me jump. Two police cars sped through the stop light, following them sedan. A dark blue car’s tires squealed as it stopped in the street next to me.
Three people wearing bullet-proof vests with “FBI” printed across the chest jumped from the car, guns pointed at me. “Get down,” one shouted.
I dropped my purse and fell to my knees.
“You’re under arrest for possession of a controlled substance. You have the right to remain – ”
“That’s what was in the box?” They yanked my hands behind my back.
“ – silent anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
“They weren’t FBI agents?”
“You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
My palms started sweating. “But, I only wanted to buy some stamps.”