Mrs. Jackson walked with her kids, Theodore, Johnny, and Susie, in downtown Crawn City. Their hometown. They had come downtown to get passports for the kids. As they walked past the grey government buildings on the way back to the parking lot, they turned at the street corner onto an empty street. In fact, there was only one other person on the street who was a young African American man in a red hooded sweatshirt. He was walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction just ahead of them. He walked with a cocky stride, swinging his arms and his shoulders.
As the Jackson kids and their mom passed by the man on the street, the young man staggered sideways and clutched his throat. He started coughing and fell to his knees. The Jacksons froze. Mrs. Jackson rushed forward as the young man fell to the sidewalk. She bent and looked over him, saying loudly, “Are you okay? Can you hear me?”
The young man was coughing and seemed in pain. He seemed to be having trouble breathing. He lay on his back, breathing slowly and hard. “Can’t breathe!” he choked, “C-Can’t breathe.”
Mrs. Jackson started to panic. She looked around for help, but there was no one else around. Mrs. Jackson knelt all the way to the ground quickly on the ground setting her purse on the sidewalk beside her. She tried to loosen the young man’s sweatshirt, which was zipped up tight around his neck. She struggled with the metal zipper.
Just then, the young man she was trying to help stopped writhing on the ground, in a flash, jumped up and scooped up Mrs. Jackson’s purse. Theodore cried out, “Mom! He’s got your purse!” Before Mrs. Jackson could figure out what was happening, as the man pushed her backward. Mrs. Jackson toppled backward, sitting down hard on the sidewalk. The young man dashed down the street and around the corner in the opposite direction of the building where the Jackson children got their passports.
Johnny and Susie were standing on the sidewalk, stunned. Mrs. Jackson scrambled to her feet and started to run after the man. The kids called out together, “Mom!”
“What are you doing?” asked Theodore. “Don’t chase him, it’s not safe.”
Mrs. Jackson’s face was red and angry. “We need to call the police!” she said. But my cell phone is in my purse.”
“There’s an old pay phone,” Johnny said. “I think we can call 911 for free.”
Theodore ran to the phone and skimmed the instructions written on the front. He dialed 911 and motioned to his mom when the call went through. As his mother talked on the phone, Theodore craned his neck, looking down the street in the direction the man had disappeared. A bus drove down the street toward the Jacksons and passed a few feet from the public telephone. A blast of exhaust blew Theodore’s hair back from his face.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Jackson talked to the 911 operator and explained that her purse had been stolen. She hung up the phone. “They’re sending an officer to meet us. It should just be a few minutes,” she said.
Theodore grabbed Johnny and said, “We’ll be right back. Susie, stay with Mom.” Mrs. Jackson opened her mouth to object, but Theodore, holding Johnny by the arm, was already halfway down the block. “What are you doing? Where are you going?” she called after them.
A short time later, Mrs. Jackson was finishing telling two police officers how the man had stolen her purse. A yellow taxi pulled up at the curb nearby. To Mrs. Jackson’s amazement, out of the taxi came Theodore and Johnny. They turned back to the taxi and ordered, “Get out!” Theodore reached into the taxi and pulled someone out by the arm. The purse-snatcher climbed out onto the sidewalk. Mrs. Jackson’s jaw dropped open in surprise. Even the police officers looked surprised.
“Hi, Mom!” said Theodore, looking very pleased with himself. Johnny puffed up his chest and stood as tall as he could.
“What’s going on here?” one of the officers asked.
“That’s the man who stole my purse,” said Mrs. Jackson. “Where did you . . .? How did you . . .?” she stammered.
As one of the officers snapped handcuffs onto the purse-snatcher’s wrists, Theodore explained: “While you were calling 911, I was trying to look down the block where this guy had run off. When I the bus passed by, I looked in the window and, sure enough, it was him. I noticed from the front of the bus that it was headed for Meetro Street.” Meetro Street was a very old area near downtown where the city of Crawn City was founded. “I knew that was near here because we go to the Natural History Museum on Meetro Street every year for a school field trip. In fact, we were there just a few weeks ago.”
Mrs. Jackson nodded her head, remembering the field trip but still speechless.
“So,” continued Theodore, “I grabbed Johnny, and we started running in that direction. But I could tell we were never going to catch them, so I hailed this taxi.” Theodore motioned toward the taxi, which was still parked by the curb. The driver had gotten out of the car and was watching the group on the sidewalk. When Theodore pointed him out, the taxi driver nodded.
“But you didn’t have money for a taxi,” said Mrs. Jackson.
“When we told the driver what had happened, he took us to Meetro Street. Just as we got there, this loser was getting off the bus,” said Johnny, who was glad to tell part of the story. “He was pretty surprised to see us!” he added.
“Johnny and I grabbed the guy, . . . “ said Theodore.
“Then Theodore and I took him down!” Said Johnny proudly to his mom he added, “See, I told you those karate lessons would come in handy.”
“Mr. Gutierrez helped us, too,” said Theodore, nodding at the cab driver who had joined the group on the sidewalk.
“Oh yeah, I almost completely forgot Here’s your purse, Mom!” said Theodore, holding out Mrs. Jackson’s purse. She took it gratefully and looked inside.
“All of the money is still here. All the credit cards. Everything!” she said
Mrs. Jackson turned to the taxi driver, “We owe you a very big ‘thank you,’” she said. The boys nodded energetically.
“Mr. Gutierrez was awesome!” said Johnny.
“As a reward for being brave and quick-thinking, I’m going to let you boys keep all the money in my wallet, which I would have lost anyway if it weren’t for you,” Mrs. Jackson said.
“Cool!” “Awesome!” they yelled. Then the boys whispered together for a moment.
“We should give some of the money to Mr. Gutierrez though,” Theodore said. “We were helping our mom, and that’s good, but he was helping a stranger, and that’s even better.”
“Besides,” said Susie, “I’m pretty sure you owe him for the cab fare.”