She’d just woken up when she heard the knock on her door. Her brows knitted. No one ever came to her house this early. She shuffled over to see who it was, surprised when she found an officer waiting for her.
He flashed an arrest warrant in her face, claiming she’d failed to pay her trash bill. He escorted her to his cruiser, unaware of who he was dealing with.
A Quiet Life
For Loretta Reed, getting arrested was the last thing she thought would happen to her that day. At 82, she led a quiet life in her retirement home in Tucson, Arizona.
She lived in a modest neighborhood with good neighbors and adored everything her advanced age ushered her way. But today, everything would come to an abrupt stop.
Done And Dusted
After living a long, eventful life, Loretta had finally found a place she could call home. She’d been through both calm and rough seas, wading through to ensure her children and grandchildren would have a good life.
Now that everything was done and dusted, she only wanted to enjoy her sunset years. That’s until the officer showed up that morning.
Before moving to Tucson, Loretta had lived in Fort Lauderdale with her husband, Roy. She’d worked as a high school teacher all her life while Roy was in the special forces.
Together, they had five beautiful children, two of whom sadly passed away. Roy, too, had passed on after battling cancer for three decades. But in their time together, he’d taught Loretta a few things that could save her life if something went wrong.
Loretta had never really taken Roy’s teachings seriously. She enjoyed everything they did together, as it allowed her to share in his interests. But she never thought she’d have to use the skills he taught her.
After he passed away some two decades past, she’d been alarmed that she’d have to put everything he taught her into practice. He was no longer there to watch over her, after all. But as the years went by, this worry ebbed. Well, until now.
An Early Morning
The day the incident happened had been like any other for Loretta, who, as was her custom, had woken up at 5 am to get ready for a few errands in town.
All her children were grown and had already left the nest, so Loretta lived alone with three cats she adored to the moon and back. She’d hoped to visit a few friends in town and pass by the farmers market later, not knowing she was about to end up in cuffs.
Breakfast Cut Short
She was enjoying her pancakes and scrambled eggs at the table when the knock shook the house. Her wall clock read “8:15 am,” which prompted her to stop everything she was doing and crane her neck to see who was outside.
The sun had just risen, flooding the driveway with its radiant light. But as much as Loretta tried looking through her window, she couldn’t see who was knocking.
I Heard You
Another knock came, this one louder than the last. “I heard you,” Loretta shouted back. “I’m on my way.” She shuffled across the kitchen to the front door.
She’d never heard anyone knock so aggressively in her eighty-two years of life and wondered what was wrong that someone would see it fit to come to disturb her peaceful morning.
The first thing she saw as she made her way to the living room was the dark cruiser parked just outside her driveway. Her brows knitted together as she considered that one of her neighbors might be in trouble.
But that didn’t make sense, given how well-behaved the community was. There were rarely any cases of gross misconduct. If only Loretta knew the cruiser was here for her.
An Officer In Wait
She looked through the peephole, her breath catching in her throat as her sight landed on an officer waiting for her.
He knocked again, and Loretta unlocked her door and greeted him. Her mind started racing as she wondered why an officer of the law would be at her door this early in the morning.
Why Is He Here?
Was he here to report some bad news? Had something happened to one of her kids, grandkids, relatives, or friends?
Her heart rate picked up, thumping in her ears as the air thinned. She leaned her body on one side of the door, taking a deep breath to clear the thoughts away. But the reason for the officer’s visit would be a very different one.
Are You Loretta Reed?
“Is everything okay, officer?” Loretta asked as soon as she could manage the words. The officer nodded, producing three documents he’d been holding.
“Are you Loretta Reed?” he asked, his tone flat. “I am,” Loretta answered quickly. “What seems to be the problem?” The officer presented one of the documents and said, “Mrs. Reed, we have a warrant for you.”
It’s For The Trash
“A warrant?” a surprised Loretta asked, inching closer to the officer to get a better look at the document. ‘Warrant Of Arrest,’ the sheet of paper read. Was this some sick prank? Loretta had never heard of someone her age getting arrested.
“It’s for not paying your trash bill,” the officer clarified, and Loretta almost fell back. “What?” she asked, skimming through the warrant. “So, are you going to handcuff and take me to the station?”
“Yes, ma’am,” answered the officer with a curt nod. “I have to.” From the corner of her eye, Loretta could spy another officer getting out of the parked cruiser.
“Isn’t there a way to handle this without all these extremities?” Loretta asked. The officer beside her was unshackling the cuffs on his belt, getting ready to bind her.
Is It A Prank?
“I wish there were, ma’am,” he answered, still emotionless. “You are about to arrest an 82-year-old woman because of a 77-dollar trash bill?” Loretta asked, and the officer looked away.
Loretta laughed, looking outside the house. “This has to be a prank,” she whispered. One of her grandchildren usually got a kick out of pranking people. But Loretta couldn’t see her.
He’s Not Laughing
But as she continued laughing, convinced the officer was joking, she noticed he wasn’t budging. He didn’t mirror her laugh or even smile.
He only tapped the cuffs against his hip as if to tell her he wanted to get all this over with. “You’re not kidding,” Loretta said in realization, fear flooding her veins.
It’s Really Happening
The officer was serious. He was at her door because of the unpaid 77 dollars in trash bills. He wasn’t going to leave empty-handed and would make sure she was in the backseat of his cruiser as he drove back to the station.
“Sir,” Loretta said. “The bill was already cleared. I know it was because I confirmed it last week!” The officer sighed. “We wouldn’t be here if it was, ma’am.”
“We’re going to have to cuff you,” he continued, insisting it was standard procedure. He asked Loretta to turn around with her hands behind her back, and when she did, he asked her to face the front again.
He cuffed her, the cold steel chilling her skin as he did. Loretta looked around, hoping one of her neighbors was seeing this. She needed someone to come and help. But she was all alone.
“Can’t you just take me without these,” she asked the officer. The cuffs were already weighing her arms down like weights. They were scratching her skin, the pain building with every passing second.
Her eyes ran wet without her knowing, and she closed them, bringing her arms up to wipe the tears. This couldn’t be happening. It had to be a bad dream.
Did She Really Pay The Bill?
But why were the officers arresting her when she was positive she’d cleared her bill? Well, over the last decade, one of her daughters had been handling her utility bills.
Since Loretta was advanced in years, her kids had taken over the technical end of her life, ensuring her bills and whatnot were always settled on time. So what happened this time?
They Could Have Just Canceled It
Whether her daughter cleared the bill or not didn’t matter to Loretta. No matter if the bill went unpaid, all the county had to do was take away her trashcan and suspend her pickup.
There was no need for all this violence, especially considering her age and that all this was because of a 77-dollar trash bill. Her eyes welled with more tears. She remembered the lessons her late husband had taught her, wondering if it was finally time to employ them.
What If It Was Your Own Grandma?
“Isn’t there any other way we could handle this?” Loretta asked as she wiped her tears again. “No, ma’am,” the officer answered. His voice brimmed with irritation.
“How would you feel if your grandma was arrested,” asked Loretta. Her fear and pain were slowly turning into anger. Her mind started analyzing the officer, calculating the odds that what she was about to do would be successful. “Do you think any of this is right?” she asked.
Into The Backseat
With the help of the other officer, they bundled Loretta into the cruiser’s back like some common criminal, not caring that she was in pain and uncomfortable.
They didn’t engage her in any conversation on their way to the station, even though she kept asking them to hear her out. They had no clue who they were dealing with or that she already had her sight trained on them.
At The Station
On reaching the station, they threw her into a cell. Her tears flowed anew as she looked around. She hadn’t been in such a place in close to sixty decades.
The only time this had happened was because she’d been protesting for Civil Rights in the late fifties and early sixties. “Ya’ll ought to be ashamed of yourselves for putting me in this cage?” a teary Loretta croaked. But her tears were just for show.
Loretta spent a day in the cell wondering if she should just employ one of the skills her husband had trained her in to get free. She could have easily walked out, leaving the station without anyone noticing.
But she waited until one of her sons got her out. If she were to get her revenge, she’d have to be objective about it. Letting her emotions cloud her judgment would lead her to more trouble.
Her son, Roy Jr., walked in with a smile, asking if she was alright. “You know I am, child,” she answered sweetly. By now, she knew where all the surveillance cameras were and the guard officer’s schedule and route whenever he came to check on her.
She even knew what he liked for his lunch and that he would go out after every hour for a quick smoke behind the building. All this information would come in handy soon.
Her Son Knows
“I’m glad you stayed put, momma,” Roy Jr. said, realizing she was too calm for someone in her position. He had been there while his mom trained under his dad and knew precisely what she was capable of.
He presented a document from his pocket, “They need us to pay a $275 fine.” Loretta took the paper and read it, smiling even though her heart was drenching itself in flames.
In her son’s eyes, she was calmly reading the document. But inside, she was fighting a war against herself and losing. Her fist clenched around the paper, and she threw it against the wall, stifling a scream.
She’d just found out that her daughter, Emily, had filed for the bill to be cleared months in advance by the town bank. But for some reason, the request was still pending. How could the county send its officers to cuff her when she was innocent?
Don’t Be Rash
“It’s okay, momma,” Roy Jr. said. “There’s no need to do anything rash.” He picked up the crumpled paper and stuffed it into his pocket. “I’ll clear the fine, then drive to the bank to straighten everything out.”
But Loretta could barely hear him. Here she was, an eighty-plus-year-old woman suffering because of oversight at the bank. Her molars ground against each other, and she followed her son out of the cell, ready to teach everyone involved a lesson.
Loretta walked straight to the first officer she saw, her fists balled by her sides. She knew exactly what to do and had the needed fire coursing through her to do it.
“Mom,” her son called, and she stopped at the last minute. Had she truly considered harming someone that was just doing his job? Did she consider doing something terrible in the heart of a law enforcement station?
She held in a retch, stepping back with trembling hands. She felt sick to her stomach. When had she become this cold, calculating, violent person?
She breathed out the heat pouring through her veins, praying her fury would subside. Roy Jr. took her hand, and her heartbeat calmed down. She looked at him with teary eyes, but what he said next made her lips curl.
“There are other ways, momma,” he said, pulling her away from the officer, who was still oblivious to what had just happened. “We’ll still prove your innocence.”
Together, the two went and cleared the fine, and Roy Jr. drove Loretta home, proud that her mom hadn’t done what her intrusive thoughts were pushing her to do. But even he knew this was far from over.
Forgive Or Forget
That night, he sat with Loretta, discussing the way forward. He implored her not to take her wrath to the two officers who had taken her in. They were just following orders, after all.
Loretta listened carefully, seeing sense in what her son was saying. The county was at fault here. But even so, she couldn’t bring herself to forgive how rough and rude the officers had been.
The following day, she accompanied Roy Jr. to the bank. But on their way back, her granddaughter, Roy’s daughter, sent her a video where the chief of police was giving a statement about Loretta’s incident.
Roy Jr. stopped the car, seemingly knowing this was something that would upset Loretta. “Momma,” he began while trying to take away her phone. “You don’t have to watch that.” What was he trying to hide?
Don’t Get Mad
“Is there something you don’t want me to know?” Loretta asked. She opted not to play the video. If there were something she needed to know, her son would tell her about it.
He rarely kept secrets from her, a trait she’d always adored about him. Sighing, he said, “But don’t get mad, okay?” Only when Loretta nodded, did he play the video.
A Clarification Statement
In the video, the police chief spoke to the press about Loretta’s situation. He said she’d been given several warnings about her unpaid trash bill.
Apparently, an officer had been passing by her house every noon for a week, trying to talk to her. They claimed they also left a door hanger to inform her of the officer’s visit. She was also summoned to court over the unpaid bill, and when she failed to show up, she got arrested.
Loretta’s eyes went wide as she read the statement. She always spent her afternoons at home and had not had any officer or municipal worker knock on her door over her trash bill.
Additionally, she didn’t see any door hanger informing her of their visits and didn’t get any letter or notification that she needed to appear in court.
Although her son cleared the $275 needed for her court fees and straightened out the issue at the bank, Loretta went home ready for war. She’d been holding off from using everything her husband taught him.
Among the most significant was to never go down without swinging. From the moment the officers showed up at her door, she knew something odd was happening behind the scene.
The Shadowy Truth
There had been rumors about the county outsourcing its garbage disposal to a private company. Those in the know maintained that there was an operation to extort money from the elderly and disabled members of the community.
The best way to do this was to arrest them over small utility bills and have them pay large sums in court.
But this was only the tip of the iceberg.
A Dark Operation
Several residents in more struggling parts of the county were arrested for unpaid trash bills. Most of these individuals face financial difficulties but were charged criminally and forced to pay substantial court fees alongside the bills.
Sick of what was happening, Loretta decided she would bring this entire operation crashing down.
Calling Back Up
She called her granddaughter, the most tech-savvy individual in the family, and asked if she could visit the following day.
Since Roy Jr.’s house was only a few blocks away, Loretta’s granddaughter was at her house by noon the next day. She loved her grandma more than anything in the world and would do anything to make her smile. If only she knew what Loretta was planning.
Loretta’s granddaughter, Eve, had just turned eighteen. She was a college student studying to be a software engineer and had extensive knowledge of electronics and anything to do with the Internet.
Loretta knew the best way to handle this situation would be to bring in the masses. Since she was too old to go around houses asking for people to join her cause, she would mobilize them through social media. This is where Eva came in.
Setting Everything Up
Loretta explained everything to her, and Eva got to work almost immediately. She created several accounts on different platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok.
She explained how each of these platforms targeted different age groups. If Loretta wanted to get her message to everyone, this was the best way to do it.
Telling The World
Loretta and Eva wrote down what had happened to Loretta. They didn’t miss a single detail. With everything set, they posted the message in each of their newly created accounts.
“Now we wait,” Eva grinned, and Loretta hugged her. The two spent the rest of the days baking cookies and watching old Disney movies. But it wasn’t long before the notifications started streaming in.
The first batch of notifications came from Facebook and Tiktok. They were only a few, and Loretta thought her plan was failing.
But then the posts started gaining traction. The likes, shares, and comments began growing, and before Loretta knew it, she had an army of angry citizens complaining about the same issue she’d faced. Loretta smiled as she saw the numbers build. Now that she had her army, there was only one thing to do: march.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.