(Disclaimer: I have no business connection with JOAN. My only purpose in writing this story is to have fun and maybe share it)

(Author's Note: This story is part of a series speculating what might have happened to Joan after the end of the TV series )

(This story is set during the last week of 2006, and a few days before my previous story, DINNER WITH THE FRIEDMANNS.)

Chapter 1 The Theft

"Hi, Joan."

Joan turned to see the huge form she thought of as Tough Guy God, standing on the sidewalk outside her old bookstore. "Hi," she said non-commitally. She hoped that he didn't have a mission for her right now. She and her husband Adam were planning to drive back to Baconia University in a couple of days.

"How are you doing?"

"You know how I'm doing. You're omniscient."

"I find it polite to ask."

"I decided to pay a visit to my old bookstore before going back to school." That was only part of the story, and she knew that God knew that perfectly well. The family had finally let her Dad and Kevin into the secret, and the two were still wrestling with the shock, while everybody else was being hit by shock waves. For Kevin it was a pleasant shock, with the possibility of his paralysis being healed. For Dad a bewildering shock, the revelation that the rest of the family had been lying to him for several months. Meanwhile her pregnant sister-in-law Lily was agonizing about what childbirth method to use a couple of months hence, and she kept seeking advice from Joan, who had never had a baby and thus had no opinion on the matter. Joan needed an excuse to get out of the house.

"That's nice," said Tough Guy God, as if she had told him the truth. "But don't be so wound up in the bookstore that you ignore the rest of the world."

"What does that mean?"

"You'll find out when you find out," He said, walking off with a wave.

Joan shrugged and opened the bookstore door. The bell rang, and a figure came out from the shelves. "May I help – oh, it's you."

To Joan's surprise, it was her original boss. After he had bossed her around for a year, he had had a family crisis and turned control of the franchise over to his cousin. Confusingly, they were both named Sammy, Samuel being a popular name in their family. Joan had thought of them as Sammy I and Sammy II.

Joan went into the shelves, picking up a book she didn't need, and walked to the register. Sammy I turned more amiable now that she was bringing him business.

"How's the family?" she asked.

"My cousin was complaining how much of his time the bookstore was taking," said Sammy I, "so I took over management again. But I suppose you were really curious about my wife."

"Er—" stammered Joan, turning red. She had seen the wife once, when she crashed into the store babbling about a dead pet rabbit.

"I'm rid of her," Sammy I said frankly. "We put her in therapy you see. Have you heard that people sometimes transfer their neuroses to their analysts? My ex-wife did that. Now they're married."

"The psychologist married a crazy patient?" repeated Joan, too startled to be tactful.

"Yes – he's crazy too – of course there was a hearing about whether he had exploited his patient's emo-"

Suddenly there was a cry from outdoors. "Stop thief!"

Joan was at first relieved at the interruption, which gave her an excuse to rush out. Then, just as she reached the door, she remembered Tough Guy God's warning. This must be a mission—

Outside, to her left, she saw a teenaged girl running toward her, something clasped in her hand. Behind her she saw the manager of the electronics store next door, pointing at the girl and repeating "Stop thief!"

Joan knew the manager from when she worked next door to him; he would not make wild accusations. She instinctively grabbed at the girl as she ran by. Joan had little experience with violence; even during her kidnapping two months ago, she hadn't actually grappled with any of her three captors. If the girl herself had fighting experience, Joan would probably have lost out. Instead the girl seemed so startled at Joan's grasping of her arm that she dropped the object she was holding, which looked like some computer component. There was an ID tag still attached.

The store manager pointed at it. "She just grabbed that off the shelf and ran out!"

"You're under arrest," gasped Joan.

"What? Are you a cop?" demanded the girl.

"No, but there's something called citizen's arrest, and I'm a citizen," she said, thankful that the subject had come up in her law class. She was a little worried: could it be possible that the girl was innocent and Joan was making a terrible mistake? But she trusted the manager, and besides, shouldn't God of warned her against an error? Still holding onto the girl's arm, she asked the manager: "Call the police, please. And can we wait inside? It's cold out here."

"Thanks, Miss Girardi. Come in." He reached for the component on the pavement.

"Use gloves," she warned. "The police may test for fingerprints." She noticed that the girl was not wearing gloves at all.

"Oh. Thank you again."

Joan tugged at the girl, who was putting up remarkably little resistance, and they walked into the electronics store. Just before going in, she overheard Sammy I mutter "Why couldn't she have caught any shoplifters when she worked for ME?" He slammed his door.

The manager turned around a "CLOSED" sign, then got a couple of chairs out of his storeroom. Meanwhile Joan stared at the girl. She didn't seem the shoplifting type. As well dressed as Joan, not desperate, certainly not a thrill-seeker. Her behavior was odd for a thief – blatantly picking up a device and running in front of a witness, getting fingerprints on the item, and showing no particular anguish at being arrested. On drugs? Joan had seen people get high before, from school, and this girl didn't show any symptoms.

"Um, I guess I'm supposed to tell you that anything you say can be used against you," recited Joan, not entirely sure how the Miranda warning applied to citizen's arrests.

"It doesn't matter," said the girl. "I was doing the right thing."

"You mean, you're innocent?" Once again Joan wondered if this was a big mistake.

She shrugged. "I'm not guilty."

"Then what do you mean?"

She hesitated for a few seconds, and then proclaimed: "God told me to take that card!"


(Disclaimer: In traditional English common law a citizen could apprehend a thief, as described in classic novels such as MOLL FLANDERS and OLIVER TWIST. However, my source says that in modern times, some states limit citizens' arrests to felonies and to actual witnesses of the crime. I do not know the precise law in Maryland, where Joan lives. For the sake of the story, assume that Joan did the proper thing.)