An elderly woman paid for a homeless man’s groceries out of kindness. The woman didn’t have a clue what was going on. She had offered to pay for a homeless man’s groceries, but it seemed that she had done something wrong. She’d never been arrested before; she didn’t know that her good deed would end in such a cruel twist of fate. She had never expected a badge to be flashed and to be walked out to a police car.
The cop had stopped her while she was innocently shopping at the grocery store she had shopped at every week of her life. She had no idea what she could have done. The old woman had been there just the day before. She was ready for conflict as soon as the officer said, « Ma’am, you need to come with me. » What could she have done wrong? But she couldn’t have guessed she’d see the same man again; this time he looked different.
She recounted what happened the previous day: a homeless man was waiting in line with a carton of milk and bread. But when he got to the counter, there was trouble. He checked his pants pockets, but they were practically empty. He put a few dimes down on the counter, but the clerk shook his head. Martha thought she was doing the right thing by stepping in. She’d only been helping out a homeless man in need; she didn’t even ask him to pay her back. She happily stepped in and paid for his essentials. She thought that Karma would reward her, but she didn’t know it would come back to bite her in the most ironic way possible.
Martha snapped back to the present, where she was staring at that same homeless man once again. But this time, the way he was dressed told her there was more to him than she initially thought. But even in this situation, she still had no idea why she was being brought to a cop car in the parking lot; the truth would be too much for the old woman to handle.
Martha wasn’t always a 62-year-old woman struggling to make it to her next paycheck before she retired. She was a teacher that loved her job. But life wasn’t always so easy. She was in a special situation where she was still looking after her son Patrick, even though he was a 22-year-old adult. Patrick was and will always be Martha’s special boy. Even when he was diagnosed with autism at the age of 12, it was a late catch, but she was glad they did it. All his case was so severe that he would never be able to cope as a fully functioning adult. She accepted the fact that she would have to look after him as a mother for his entire life.
It was difficult being a single mother at the age of 62 that still had to look after her son as a dependent, but she was a strong-willed woman that had endured a lot of hardships. She lost her husband to a drunk driver just a year after Patrick was born. She grieved for him but had to soldier on for her son. But her pension didn’t exactly leave her with a fortune. Even though every month was a financial compromise in some way or another, Martha was just glad she still had her son by her side, even if he could only offer emotional aid.
Martha would have to be very frugal and look for any specials her local grocery store had. This meant she checked in once a week or sometimes even more. But even in her situation, she still had a big heart. If anyone asked Martha’s friends, they’d tell him she had the biggest heart in the world. She was the first to offer assistance to anyone that knew her closely. No one else would have managed to survive in her situation and she even thrived, sometimes offering to help others. Her friends even affectionately called her « Mother Martha. »
Despite Martha’s own misfortune, she would lend a helping hand without any hesitation. She was a sweet lady to the bone and would never give up her ideals for any reason. Although Martha didn’t know it yet, one day she would lend charity without hesitation, but she never knew that it would come back to bite her when a man flashed a police badge after receiving her money from her pension.
She would go to her local grocery store to pick up things that she desperately needed. She would check out the fresh fruit in the dairy aisle to find anything on clearance for her and her son. After finding any good deals on items, she would pick out the essentials like bread and meat before heading to the counter and checking out. But today, she’d be tested.
On this particular day of shopping, Martha spotted a homeless man just trying to make it as well. Her heart went out to him; she knew how hard it was to make it sometimes. He was standing in front of her at the counter with a carton of milk and a loaf of bread in his arms. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep him sustained for a few days. But what happened next broke Martha’s heart.
She could see that the man was having some kind of trouble. He started digging furiously in his pockets, and after emptying them, she saw a huge hole in the stitching. That wasn’t good. The man started trembling and checked his coat pocket before putting down a few dimes on the counter. The clerk stared at him before shaking his head with an insensitive look in his eyes.
Martha knew she had to step in. « Hello, sir, would you like me to help you? I’d be happy to pay for them, » she said in a polite voice. « Thank you so much, » he said, his posture immediately relaxing. « I can’t pay you back, you know, » he added with a look of uncertainty in his eyes. But the old mother waved her debit card over the card reader before saying, « Consider it a gift from Mother Martha, » with a smile.
The man had a smile on his face as he walked out of the grocery store with his food in his bag. Martha was touched to see another good deed make someone smile. She could afford an extra loaf of bread and milk when he needed it so much. But there were facts that the old woman wasn’t aware of, and the man wasn’t who he said he was.
Martha headed home, having paid for her groceries. She was excited to show her son the latest deal she’d found hiding in the aisle; the store had mislabeled a can of beef at a much lower price. Store policy meant that they had to give it to her at that price. When she opened her grocery bags on the kitchen counter, she noticed something wasn’t right.
Martha noticed that the milk and bread that she had paid for was in her shopping bag. That meant the homeless man didn’t get it. Did the clerk have something to do with it? The confused mother wondered what was going on. All of her items were there as well, so what had the man carried out? Had she just been part of something bigger than she intended?
The next morning, Martha decided that she couldn’t sit with the guilt. She thought that the homeless man was going hungry. She decided the only thing she could do was go back to the store; there she would look for the answers she desperately needed in order to be guilt-free again. She just hoped that against all odds, he would be there again.
She was also curious about what had happened and how she got his groceries. Surely he wasn’t carrying an empty bag. But the old woman didn’t know she was being taken for granted and was part of something much bigger than her.
Martha drove back to the store and started searching the parking lot and the aisles for the man from the day before. She didn’t see him, but something else caught her eye: another great deal. She decided not to waste the gas in her car and started shopping. But the elderly woman had no idea someone was looking for her as well; was she in some kind of trouble?
As soon as Martha saw that first deal, she was drawn in. She had come all this way already, so she might as well take advantage of the daily deals that popped up. She thought the homeless man could wait, but she had no idea that he was waiting nearby, waiting for the right moment to pounce on her.
As Martha strolled through the aisle, she realized there were quite a few deals, and many of them were better than the deals the day before. She looked around; surely this was some sort of mistake. But the older woman had no idea that the specials were specially put there to draw her into a trap by the person she trusted the day before. She wasn’t planning on spending any more money, but there were certain things that she simply couldn’t pass up.
She’d normally have been suspicious, but she had her guard down. A quick visit quickly became an extended stay, allowing the person who was watching her to take full advantage of the situation. As Martha kept filling up her basket, she had no idea what she was going to stumble upon; she was about to find the biggest piece of the trap.
She saw a box of cereal for an insanely cheap price. She could see more of what was written on the paper. Was it some kind of threat? What would the older woman find while she was waiting to pay, and how would the man’s presence affect her situation? Would she be able to explain herself? The note called Martha by her name; it was definitely meant for her, but she couldn’t quite decipher what it meant.
She nervously looked around, but she didn’t see anyone. The old woman had had enough of people taking advantage of her. She had a good heart, but she didn’t want to look at any more specials; now all she wanted to do was go home. She decided to go straight to the checkout and leave; she’d never find the homeless man at this point. After going through all the odds and taking advantage of all the specials, Martha headed to the checkout counter. She was fourth in line, but that wasn’t what bothered her.
The contents of the note rang out in her head. She couldn’t wait to be home, but she had no idea she was still being watched, and they were closer than she thought. Confused, Martha the most; if she was in trouble, why would the officer be so kind to her? Or was this just part of the good cop bad cop act she’d heard about?
When all was said and done, the officer helped Martha load the groceries into her car. After that, he escorted her to his cruiser. That was when Martha realized there was something else going on here; this officer had a purpose, but it wasn’t to arrest her. He had something far bigger in mind.
The man in power had flashed his badge, asserting his authority. But the surprising thing was what he was wearing: an identical uniform to what the police officer who escorted her out was wearing. What kind of trouble had she gotten into, she wondered as she stared at the man in shock? She knew that if she had to go to jail, no one would be able to look after her son. That was what scared her the most.
It was clear that she had put her nose in business she should never have, but the man opened his mouth and offered an explanation. She thought about her baby boy being taken away. « Little lady, » the officer said with a serious look on his face, « as you can tell, I’m not homeless. I’m a regular working stiff who has to do some creative things to get my job done. And you really helped out yesterday; call me Detective Castellanos. »
He explained that he’d been working undercover as a homeless man for months and that she had inadvertently helped him crack the case he’d been working on. Officer Castellanos explained that he knew the store had been robbed three times in the last year, but they could never figure out how. It seemed the thief would slip out of the store with stolen property, or he’d cause suspicion. Castellanos had snuck the tapes into his bag, but the issue came when he couldn’t actually afford the other items he was buying.
It was an unforeseen problem; the hole in his pocket was a little too authentic, and his actual money had fallen through. But that’s when Mother Martha came in to save the day. He congratulated her on assisting them with the footage; he found the culprit, the same clerk that stonewalled him the previous day.