Flushing Them Out

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By Joannebarbarella
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* Many thanks to Peregrine for letting me "borrow" her lovely Elf and Santa with his entourage*

When you think of a mall-cop, you probably picture a big beefy bloke in a black shirt with SECURITY written across the back. Well, I’m not your average mall-cop. I’m 23 years old and female, although some argue that definition because I’m TG.

Is it Christmas that brings out the worst in people or is it that the worst people come out at Christmas? I don’t really know the answer. All I know is that it’s a mall-cop’s busiest time of the year, maybe even worse than the Boxing Day sales, although they’re a nightmare all of their own.

Those weeks leading up to the holidays seem to attract the lowest forms of humanity, in terms of serial dishonesty. They’re not gangs organised along the lines of the Mafia, but mostly families where there have been generations who taught their children and grandchildren that it’s fine to cheat and steal. Their motto is “don’t get caught”.

Now we seem to have also been inflicted with those idiots who deny that transgender women and girls have any right to exist. That includes me, so pardon me if I am as prejudiced against them as they are against me. They’re a new phenomenon, spawned by social media and the anonymity it provides to the spiteful.

As a mall-cop it’s my job to prevent as much crime as I can and to keep things as peaceful as I can. The lead-up to Christmas and the New Year is a pain-in-the-arse.

The biggest problem with malls is that they’re designed to entice people to come in, not to keep them out. We’ve got three levels of shopping with a huge atrium on the ground floor and five levels of carparks (three below and two above). There are also professional offices for doctors, dentists and the like in a tower above the shopping centre. There are dozens of lifts (elevators), numerous escalators between floors and entrances to the surrounding streets, let alone the vehicle accesses. Fort Knox we are not.

That’s a nightmare from a security point of view. We can ban criminals and no-good-niks but it’s like having an open prison with the gates wide open and neon signs flashing an invitation to come in and steal. Also, we are not real cops so there are limits to our authority. We can patrol our halls and detain offenders but if things get really bad we have to call the boys and girls in blue. We try not to do that. They have their own problems.

At this time of year our piece of paradise is decorated with Christmas lights flashing merrily in all their different colours, tinsel draped everywhere and naturally we have a massive tree hung with every bauble you can think of. I’m buggered if I know how they get it in. You can barely see the green for all the trinkets. Sometimes I think the angel at the pinnacle is laughing at us.

Our mall has the usual anchor-stores and supermarkets. We have Woollies, Coles and Aldi for the groceries. They all employ extra security for the season, starting about the beginning of December and going through to mid-January. I’m so grateful that we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving! Or we’d have an extra month to frazzle us. Mind you, Black Friday Sales are starting to infiltrate into our commercial culture. How you can have a Black Friday without the holiday leading up to it is beyond me. I guess anything for a buck.

Most of the seasonal security employees are repeat regulars, mostly retired and happy to work only for a few weeks of the year, so they know what to do and we appreciate their presence. Even so, we often get called on to help them as both the mall in general and the big stores are prime targets for the villains. Their authority stops at the checkouts, and we take over. When we can’t handle it we have to call the cops as a last resort.

The main department stores are David Jones, Myer, Target and Big W. We’ve got the lot. They also employ their own security for the season. In fact, they have double the numbers that we do, because they are even bigger draws for the thieves with huge floor areas and lots of their goods are of higher value. We assist once someone leaves a store without paying or if the store detectives yell for help. Quite a few of the specialty stores, like JB Hi-Fi, with all the expensive electronics, gadgets and DVDs also employ security. Luckily 60-inch-plus TVs are too hard to purloin.

Our management is, of course, well aware of the lure of the season and our numbers are boosted for those months. We are all given extra training in how to recognise potential larcenists but we have to beware of profiling. Not every thief is the wrong colour or dressed in rags. It’s attitude, loitering and diversions that we look for. The crooks are far from stupid. They play it like a magic show, where you watch the left hand while the right is doing the business.

Then you get those other Christmas Specials. Every Mall has to have its Santa and ours also has three comic drag artists. They’re not exactly pantomime dames but they’re comedians and they wander the aisles giving candy to the little kids, making lame jokes and exhorting their parents to visit Santa and his elves. There is no way they can be mistaken for real women. Even Blind Freddie could see that. The red-coated gentleman has an entourage of six assistants to hand over the gifts and keep the kids amused while they wait their turn. They are, of course, his elves.

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All the elves are actually young TG girls because HR has found that they are generally very good at controlling the children who are queuing to see the bearded old man. They do this with great empathy and without any hassles. It has crossed my mind that maybe that explained how I got hired with so little attention paid to my own transgenderism.

They’re all thoroughly vetted to avoid any accusations of paedophilia. I keep an eye on them all just in case some homophobic parent raises an imaginary complaint. There’s usually no cause as the elves really enjoy being in green short-skirted feminine costume and do not want to jeopardise their six or seven weeks employed in an environment they love, where they can flaunt themselves and swish to their hearts’ content without being subjected to the usual hostility of the outside world. I think most parents have no idea that they are not actually teenage girls.

Naturally, I’m on the same bus as they are so I try to stop any trouble before it starts. They are lovely kids and are the least of my worries but do need to be toned down occasionally.

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Santa Claus is our main attraction and when he’s in residence there’s always a queue of kids and parents waiting to see him. The elves also keep the sacks of toys full and maintain a semblance of order while the children impatiently approach their goal. Our Santa is a sweet elderly guy who can do the “Ho-Ho-Ho” and sit them on his knee without scaring them, or most of them at any rate. There’s always one who doesn’t know how to deal with him. The elves defuse many a tearful encounter with those littlies who are afraid of the old man in the red suit.

Now, it’s one of those facts of life that a crowd will attract the bears to the honeypot, so one of our prime surveillance targets is the pickpockets who wander back and forth looking for the carelessly open bag carried by distracted mothers trying to keep their child or children under control while in the queue. The occasional fathers who have been lumbered with baby-sitting while Mum does the shopping are also special targets for the unprincipled. For some reason they are less wary of the danger. A favourite ploy is for one member of a criminal group to jostle or push through the crowd (with apologies) while an accomplice lifts desirable items from bag or pocket while the victim is off-balance and immediately hands them to another thief who departs the scene of the crime before the hapless stooge is even aware that he or she has been robbed. That makes them pretty difficult to catch but you learn the signs. Being on the spot is crucial.

While all these activities serve to keep me and my colleagues on our toes I wouldn’t want you to think that the world is populated with that kind. 99% of the shoppers are honest citizens but when you get three times as many good people you also get a proportionate increase in the number of scumbags. They are mostly not inclined to be violent and are happy to go quietly if caught. Their forte is theft, not warfare, although some will protest vociferously. Life becomes much more difficult for them if they have to front up in court having resisted arrest.

However, I do admit to sometimes feeling sorry for the occasional shoplifter. The season also brings out those poor buggers who cannot afford to purchase the joys of Christmas. Mostly they are after basic food and groceries. In today’s world a lot of people struggling on a basic wage, with high rents, are living on a shoestring and just want to feed themselves or their family. They get caught with a couple of packets of biscuits or some sliced cheese that they haven’t paid for before leaving the store. You see the desperation in their eyes when you apprehend them. The store’s security just want to be rid of them. It’s too much trouble to prosecute somebody for a couple of dollars’ worth of goods.

I suppose I’m a dreadful softie and I often slip them $20 when I eject them from the mall, while telling them not to do it again. I know when I’m right because the gratitude in their eyes is my reward. That amount will at least buy a day’s food. Not much for good cheer and goodwill. I know I can’t save the world but I had my own piece of good fortune and I’ll help those down on their luck if I can. There are charities, of course, but some folks are too proud to ask for help and some slip through the cracks.

So, as if those activities weren’t enough to keep us busy and frazzling all of us with the extra work there came a day when we were confronted by a new threat, a dozen or so ranting women waving banners and yelling slogans. This was something we hadn’t experienced before. They were carrying home-made placards attached to wooden poles or stakes which they waved above their heads. Mostly middle-aged, but with a couple of younger women in their ranks.

Their signs carried messages such as:-

“Hands Off Our Kids”

“Leave Our Children Alone”

“No Gender Grooming”

“Women’s Rights!”

“Drag Is Disgusting”

“Safety For Women”

You get the message.

Two of our drag-queens were there at the location of their demonstration, which was close to our Santa exhibit, and they were the focus of their venom. The two guys were trying to leave the scene but were being harassed by the women, some of whom were using their signs in a very threatening manner.

Luckily I was also present, innocuously dressed in a black skirt-suit with a white blouse, so they paid no attention to me. I immediately pressed my “panic button” to call for reinforcements and started to record the scene on my phone. There could have been no doubt as to who were the aggressors and who was being attacked. In seconds it started to become truly violent, with our “ladies” being struck by the mob’s improvised clubs.

It was then that I stepped in, shouting out my identity as Security and telling them to back off. I didn’t stop filming and a few of them became aware of what I was doing and turned their attention to me.

“She’s one of them!” screamed a harpy who I recognised as one of the ones who I had previously ejected after they attacked a young girl in the toilet. She came towards me, waving the stake bearing her placard. She certainly seemed as if she was going to use it to subdue me and I backed away, but I kept filming.

I was thinking, “Even if this bitch gets me I’m going to make sure she gets hers.”

Just then the cavalry arrived, in the shape of four of our biggest bruisers. One of our regulars, Joe, a lovely guy who had been kind to me from the day I started work, stepped in front of me and grabbed the timber stake from the hands of the woman who was about to hit me with it. Then, with one beefy hand, he had both her wrists locked together. She tried to kick him but he just held her at arms-length and laughed at her.

You would think she would have given up but she carried on spitting obscenities at both of us. I continued filming throughout. Some of it might be a little wobbly but I reckoned it would stand up in a courtroom.

Mentally, I egged her on to keep going and incriminate herself. This was personal now. I really wanted to see her put away. Now, the modern theory is that TG girls like me who have gone through puberty are stronger than natural-born women, but I was unarmed and I certainly didn’t feel as if I had an advantage. The metre-long timber baton in her hand scared me.

In the meantime our colleagues had gone to the defence of our beleaguered drag-queens and had succeeded in blunting the attack of the enraged harridans, keeping them away from the queueing mothers and children and Santa and the elves. Even though our team was outnumbered they knew what they were doing and were far more disciplined than the rag-tag mob trying to attack them. After a minute or so we had them cornered against an exit staircase and they were becoming more interested in escaping than continuing to fight. One of our cohort had rung the police when things got ugly and we now got reinforcements in the shape of six coppers.

Fortuitously, they arrived at exactly the right place and blocked the exit stairs which these women were trying to use as their escape route. With the police above and our Security below they had nowhere to go, and the gendarmerie had soon relieved them of their wooden staves and placards and hand-cuffed them. Two paddy-wagons were quickly filled with the protesters and the doors banged shut.

Naturally the cops wanted details, so for the next half-hour we described the fracas caused by their arrival and I showed them my filmed record, which was copied to an official phone. They wanted to know what we wanted done with them.

I jumped in. “Can you take them to the watch-house and hold them until we can tell our bosses about it? It’d be great if you could keep them overnight.”

The senior policeman gave me a smile.

“I think that could be arranged Miss. Let us know in the morning how you want us to proceed. Temporarily, we’ll charge them with disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. We’ll see how they like a night in the cells.” With that they departed.

This whole incident had taken about an hour. We were left to tidy up after the ruckus. There was no longer any queue waiting to see Santa Claus. The parents had, probably wisely, left the scene, taking their children with them. That left us with a forlorn Santa and bunch of elves plus two mishandled drag-queens (number three missed all the excitement). As the confrontation and its resolution had taken place in the early afternoon we took it upon ourselves to suspend Christmas operations for the day while we went and fronted our Management to explain events.

Those of our Security team, including me, Santa and the elves and the two drag-queens, who had been involved, trooped up to the corporate office on the fourth floor to find our General Manager and recount the earlier happenings. The grapevine had been working and he was aware that there had been a near riot in the atrium. We were taken to the conference room and settled to report the details.

“First, let me thank you all for your quick response time. It could have easily been much worse. Now, who’s going to give me the blow-by-blow account?” from our GM.

Joe, who was one of the most senior of our security personnel, pointed at me.

“I think it should be Joanne, Sir. She was there from start to finish and she’s got the record.”

I hadn’t expected to be fingered, but he was right.

“OK, I’ll start by showing you all what I filmed. This should show that we were reacting to an unprovoked attack, Sir. I just happened to be there when it all started.”

So I downloaded the entire sequence from my phone. It showed the incident from the start until the police took them away. It was absolutely clear who instigated the affray, and the most dramatic piece was when I was being personally threatened and Joe stepped in and saved me from a blow from a three-foot lump of two-by-two.

The attack on our drag-queens was also vividly portrayed on the clip. Luckily, they only sustained bruises on their fore-arms.

When the video had finished I described as much as I could of what had occurred that I didn’t manage to record, but the boss was convinced that we had reacted as best we could.

“So, are we going to charge them, Sir?” I asked.

“I think not,” he said, leaving me gobsmacked.

“Why not?”

“I know you’re probably not going to like this, but this is our busiest time of the year. We do more trade in these few weeks than in the rest of the year combined. Every day, every hour, that we lose, is worth a fortune to our tenants. If I lose half my Security team, my Santa team and my drag-queens for a day in court to testify against these vicious women we’ll be hamstrung against our normal gangs of shoplifters and we may well be sued by some of the shop-holders for sustained losses.”

“What I will do is ask the police to charge the women with disturbing the peace. That won’t require the presence of any of you in court and they will be fined and an offence will be entered against them. That should be a sufficient deterrent to stop any repeat occurrence. I will issue a press release today to re-assure the public that we will be open as usual tomorrow and we will not be deterred by illegal protesters. Our security staff will deal severely with any such incidents. Hopefully, the incident attracted enough publicity that I may be able to get on TV and calm things down.”

“Sir, I’m sorry to disagree, but I think you’re wrong. These women are fanatics and ordinary sanctions won’t stop them.” Joe kicked me under the table to shut me up.

The boss smiled at me. “Your opinion is noted, Joanne, but that’s my decision. The buck stops here, and if I’m wrong, well, you’re not to blame. Oh, by the way, all of you will get a bonus for handling the situation today so well.”

So our interview ended. The boss did get on the TV News that evening. Others had filmed part of the goings-on and given the channels dramatic footage to air, so we were famous for a couple of seconds. The General Manager was interviewed and came across as calm, smooth and unruffled, promising business as usual.

For the next several days and weeks it appeared that his approach had been the right one. The assailants were in court within a day or two. They had been bailed, appeared before a judge, all remorseful, and were duly fined and put on probation, just a light slap on the wrist.

Our business increased; apparently notoriety attracted extra trade and thus extra turnover for our retail tenants. Santa, his elves and our drag queens were local heroes (and heroines, unknown to most) and the queues to see them were even longer than usual. Everybody was happy.

We settled into the mundane tasks of dealing with shoplifters and pickpockets. Ostensibly, life returned to normal, or as normal as that time of year permitted. I still had this niggling feeling that things weren’t finished, but as time passed I too began to relax.

Then, one week before Christmas they returned and they even brought reinforcements. Maybe two dozen screaming protesters invaded the atrium. As soon as I saw them I not only pressed my “panic button” but I rang our command post to tell them to bring all hands to Santa’s grotto. Then I turned my phone camera on.

As a precaution I signalled all the elves to gather in the nearest ladies’ toilet and told the last one in to barricade the door. I was afraid that if these fanatics knew that the girls were TG they would direct their ire onto these kids. They were, after all, the prime target of their hatred. Luckily, or not, depending on your perspective.

This time all three of our drag queens were on hand, and while they might not have been the manliest of men, they grabbed whatever was to be found as defensive weapons and formed a phalanx in front of the toilet entrance to repel this angry mob. In other circumstances it may almost have seemed comical, but I can assure you that it was not.

As it happened Santa, the elves and drag queens were not the focus of the TERFs’ rage. I was!

Those who had participated in the two previous incidents had evidently decided that I was a transgender target (well, I was, but they had no evidence!). Now, I’m pretty sure that I look like a female, act like a female and generally present as a female. I certainly feel like one. Nobody calls me out, either at work or at play. I don’t hide it, but I don’t broadcast it. I just get on with my life and my friends and colleagues accept me as I am.

However, the women who were attacking us were certain that I wasn’t a genuine female, so, in their own eyes, I was just one of those males that they were justified in preventing from entering their spaces because I was only doing that to ravage them.

Honestly, I would be happier ravaging sheep. No, on second thoughts, I wouldn’t. I have nothing against sheep and I would have a pretty hard time ravaging them.

While they were approaching and closing the gap between us I was steadily filming. This time I was savvy enough to share the video every few seconds in case they destroyed my phone. I knew they would kill me if they could, but basically I had nowhere to run to.

The nearest store was Coles. If I took refuge in there I could throw a hot roast chicken at them but not much more. Anyway, I did not have to select that choice because the full force of our Security arrived, plus some extras from the department stores who had decided that defending me took precedence over nabbing the odd shoplifter.

To say I was relieved was a gross understatement. The sight of twenty-odd large males coming to my rescue was more than enough to gladden a maiden’s heart.

The wind suddenly went out of the sails of my attackers. They were only bold when they had a victim and now the tables were turned.

I was very tempted to scream, “Come on, you bitches! Come and get yours!” but I restrained myself. An outburst like that wouldn’t help us.

Our people quickly had them disarmed and then the police arrived. They had been warned and this time they had half a dozen vans ready to transport the transgressors, many of whom were still protesting that their rights were being trampled on. They weren’t getting any sympathy.

The same senior cop from the previous incident came up to me.

“Are you OK, Joanne? How do you feel?”

“I’m a bit shaky, but I’m all right.”

“I don’t blame you. What’s with these women?”

“They’ve decided that people like me have no right to exist.”

“What do you mean? People like you?”

I saw the lightbulb go off in his head.

“You’re trans?” It was a question, not a statement.

“Yep!” No point in dissimulating.

“Well, bugger me!”

“I couldn’t if I tried.”

He broke out laughing, and so did I, although mine probably had a degree of relief in it. Still, his laughter was genuine, without any hostility or antipathy. Some surprise, but I could understand that.

“You could’ve fooled me. Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. Aaargh! You know what I mean. You’re just another pretty girl.”

“Thanks! I think.”

Actually, I was very happy to have a senior cop on side, and he seemed like a genuine bloke. Whatever, I just hoped we didn’t have too many encounters in the future.

We got into the business of taking statements and again I showed him and transferred my video. It all took a little longer than last time, since there were more participants and the clash was more violent.

An hour later we were finished and the TERF terrorists were carted away. Then it was time for my colleagues and I to go and face our boss. He wasted no time in admitting he had been wrong and was determined to have them charged. He had done a bit of advanced work and agreed that only I would be required to give evidence in court, thus leaving the mall with nearly a full security complement while those hateful women were dealt with.

While I wasn’t entirely happy with that I couldn’t fault the logic. I was the one who had assembled the evidence and I had been at the centre of every one of their attacks since the first incident in the toilet.

The courts agreed to special sittings to deal with their incursions as it was rapidly approaching the Christmas break, so I wound up two days later spending a day in the witness box. I wasn’t that keen but I was lucky in a way. Because of the season and the short notice our villains hadn’t been able to engage any of the top briefs to interrogate and denigrate me, so I was able to cope adequately with the attempts to paint me as a freak and a liar.

I was helped by the testimony of the police and the evidence from the camera on my phone, which also had audio registering the abuse and rage coming from my attackers. Every one of them ended up spending Christmas and New Year in jail, with sentences ranging between six months and a year for those who had been involved in the earlier incidents.

I was told they would probably appeal, but that would take time and so we would get some peace and tranquillity, and even if successful they would be bound over to keep the peace, so, hopefully, de-fanged.

I returned to the mall the next day and was told not to arrange anything special for after work, because I’d have to see the boss. That was a lie to prevent me from knowing about the party involving Santa, the lovely elves, our drag queens and the security guys, which they had arranged in my absence.

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I was the Queen of that party!

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