A Hard Day
Courtney ran an arm across her sweaty brows and exhaled deeply. Normally, she wouldn’t be bothered by what was happening, but this day was just too much.
She was in her third trimester, and the experience was taking a heavier toll than usual. Her feet and back felt like they were on fire. Still, she approached the empty table where the strange ‘cop’ had been sitting.
With a deep breath, she started stacking plates on one arm, skillfully clearing the table as she always did after the customers left. Her mind was far, thinking about a less hectic day when she realized the bill folder lying on the table.
Courtney reached for the paper and flipped it open, her eyes broadening as she took in its contents. A sharp feeling struck the pit of her stomach. One thing was clear: there was no coming out of this.
Making Ends Meet
Courtney Cadigan had never picked herself out as a server at a diner. But times were hard, and she needed to make ends meet. She was bubbly and friendly, with a smile that could disarm anyone in her path.
And even though being a server wasn’t her dream job, she took it in stride and cherished every moment it brought her way. She was well-known and loved by the diner’s regulars. But although her life was good, something had happened that changed things forever.
A Wonderful Gift
Courtney also happened to be eight months into her pregnancy. Although her boss would ask her to come in for fewer hours, she maintained her regular work schedule and never missed a day.
This is because she knew the perils of motherhood, especially if said mother didn’t have the adequate financial means to meet her baby’s needs. But Courtney could’ve never guessed what was waiting for her.
More Than A Server
She had been a server at the diner for seven years. She knew the place like the back of her hand, including all the regulars that came in every morning, noon, and evening. Their orders were etched into her mind, and their smiles in her heart.
But that wasn’t half of it! She shared closer relationships with some of her regulars. To them, she was more than someone who brought them their orders. She was more.
A Good Soul
Courtney felt like family to these regulars, especially those advanced in years. She had her ways of making them feel loved and appreciated, always making their lips curl as she interacted with them.
Some were widowed, others were stranded or estranged from their families, and others were simply alone. But Courtney never wavered in the way she treated them. But there was a separate group that she interacted with as well.
A New Face
Courtney also crossed paths with officers of the law more than once in her shifts. The ones who usually came in were great folks, asking about how she was faring and telling her about their day.
But one day, an unfamiliar face sat at one of the tables. It was an officer, and he held a serious look as she took his order. Now he’d left the stunning note in her hand.
Inside Her Mind
The day the incident occurred had been a challenging one for Courtney. Her due date was getting closer and closer, and she was starting to doubt her ability to make ends meet.
As if she wasn’t close enough to the cliff’s windy edge, she and her baby’s dad had ended their relationship on a sour note. She didn’t know if she could do this all by herself.
He Walks In
These thoughts kept her up at night, burrowing into her morning as she tried to focus on her work. That’s when the unfamiliar officer came and sat smack in her section.
Shaking herself free of her worries, she quickly grabbed the menu and hurried to him. She had no idea what plans fate had for her that terrible day.
Strange And Cold
Courtney knew all the officers serving the Voorhees Township P.D. She had their shifts in her mental memory, knowing when each of them was free to come in for a bite. But she couldn’t place the cop before her.
The feeling it registered was strange and cold. But she shrugged it off and summoned her disarming smile. She shared the day’s specials and took down his order. But this encounter would be unlike any she had ever had in her seven years as a server.
Wanted: Dangerous Man
As Courtney got out her notepad and pencil and made her way over to the ‘cop’, she noticed a breaking news segment flash on the television hanging idly on the wall.
Her eyes were glued to the television and her ears perked up as the presenter reported that a ‘dangerous’ man was on the loose.
They never gave any more information; all they did was show one picture of the man and give their name, but they didn’t say anything about how dangerous he could be and why.
The presenter just asked people not to approach him. A strange feeling hit the pit of Courtney’s stomach as she saw the mugshot of the dangerous man.
For some reason, the news report made Courtney think of his ex. He was kind of a loose cannon, and only God knew if she would end up seeing his mugshot on the news too one day.
It had been a while since Courtney had heard anything from him, which worried her. And there was a good reason for that.
Despite the way their relationship had ended, Courtney wanted him to be involved with their baby’s life as much as possible.
After all, the kid was his as much as he was hers. And no matter what her ex had done in the past, Courtney knew that a child without a father can easily take the wrong paths in life.
Not A Good Role Model
In a way, she wished he could step up and be there for his future child. But at the same time, she couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe that wouldn’t be the best decision.
After all, her ex wasn’t really a good role model. As a matter of fact, he was far from it, and by a long shot.
Courtney never knew much about the endeavors her ex used to be involved in, and she preferred not to. But she knew that the man was unpredictable and that, unless he cleaned up his act, he wouldn’t be a good father.
And that wasn’t all there was to it. There was something her ex did that Courtney could never forgive.
Courtney knew that he had treated her with far less respect than she deserved, though she tried not to think about it. She wasn’t mean spirited, however, and still wanted him to share in this.
Trying to distract herself from these thoughts, she smiled as she approached the table and asked the officer for his order.
Who Was He?
For some strange reason Courtney couldn’t quite put her finger on, the unknown officer made her feel very uncomfortable.
As she caught a glimmer of his face, under his black hat, she thought she recognized the man. But she couldn’t tell why he seemed so familiar. She didn’t remember having ever seen him in the company of the officers who used to come to the diner.
Did She Know Him?
The more she spoke to him, the more she wondered if she really had seen him before; she even wondered if he was from the area at all.
Perhaps he just didn’t dine out often? However, the officer just sat there with a stoney expression on his face, all while an uneasy feeling crept up Courtney’s spine.
Being friendly, Courtney tried to strike up a conversation by exchanging a few pleasantries and even engaging in some small talk. However, the officer didn’t seem to receive that very well.
No matter what she did the man would simply nod. She watched as his large hands gripped tight onto the menu. What the officer said next left her puzzled.
The officer ended up ordering nothing more than a green salad and a glass of water. That was the most conversation she got from him and the lightest, most frugal order she had in months. “Different strokes,” she thought.
She felt oddly relieved to walk away from the table. However, she could feel his gaze on her as she went to the kitchen.
As Courtney came out of the kitchen, she was surprised to see that the diner had gotten a lot busier while she was busy with the officer’s order.
She could also see that in her section, a couple had taken a seat in the booth right behind the officer. She grabbed a couple of menus and hurried over and introduced herself.
Naturally, the couple immediately noticed the huge baby bump that Courtney had. They also saw how tired she looked from all her long and continuous shifts at the diner.
They raised their concerns for her wellbeing, but Courtney merely shrugged it off and explained the situation. Little did she know something sinister was soon about to happen.
He’s Watching You
“I was telling the people at the table behind him that it was my first baby,” Courtney recalled later, “I was going out of work soon.”
The couple, who had recently given birth to their first child as well, congratulated her warmly before placing their orders, unaware that the ‘cop’ was listening intently to every word.
Courtney didn’t know it, as she was too absorbed by the conversation with the couple and their orders, but the mysterious police officer was listening closely.
And when Courtney brought his salad and turned to serve the other customers needing her attention, he watched her every move. Courtney had no idea what was coming for her.
The mysterious man wolfed down his salad and chugged his glass of water in record time. Then, he raised his hand and asked for the check. Courtney brought it over, and the total came to $9.00.
With the diner becoming busier and busier, Courtney was off again, hurrying to get the diners’ orders out on time. She didn’t notice that the cop had disappeared and his table was now empty. Where did he go?
A Note That Changed Everything
Courtney saw the ‘cop’ had left, and she went over to clear the table and pick up the bill. Opening up the leather folder, she saw that the man had left enough cash to cover his lunch. Then, she saw the note that almost brought her to her knees.
It was scrawled on the bill and was obviously directed at her. Was this some kind of joke? She felt sick to her stomach.
Was This A Joke?
Courtney’s hands started to tremble as she gripped the note from the ‘cop.’ She read the note while hundreds of questions ran through her mind, like an Olympian going for gold. Who was this man? And why did he write this? Courtney stood frozen in her tracks.
With her pregnancy hormones raging and her stunned disbelief at the man, she couldn’t help herself. She ran straight to her manager in tears.
Trying to contain her tears but failing miserably, she burst into the back room. Her boss, who was halfway through eating her lunch, saw her employee distraught and thought something terrible had happened.
Courtney tried to explain but the words couldn’t come out. All she could think about was her baby. She had to get away from here. After a minute, Courtney finally caught her breath and explained everything.
You see, on the bill, the note for Courtney read: “Enjoy ur 1st. You will never forget it.” Beside the note was nine dollars in change. Underneath it was a crisp $100 bill.
The cop had obviously listened in on Courtney’s conversation with the other customers and felt like he had to do something for the mother to be.
“It’s truly a blessing to come across people like him and I’m forever thankful for that,” she told the Gloucester Township Patch.
But once she had recovered, she knew that she had to thank the officer in person. Running out to the parking lot in hopes that he was still there, her heart fell when he was nowhere in sight. How would she find him?
Sharing Her Story
As soon as Courtney’s shift was over and she had arrived back home, she called the Voorhees Township Police Department to try to track the officer down. But not before sharing what had happened to her with her father, Brian.
He was so taken aback by the generous tip that he shared a photo of the note on Facebook. He never was expecting the kind of response it got.
Brian’s Facebook post went viral almost overnight, garnering an incredible 10,000 reactions, a thousand comments, and thousands of shares. People couldn’t get enough of Courtney’s story.
One commenter wrote: “What a wonderful thing to do, this story warms my heart. I’ve always respected police officers.” But did Courtney ever manage to thank the cop in person.
The generous mystery officer opted to stay anonymous after his good deed. Just knowing that he helped Courtney in her time of need was enough recognition for him. But Courtney and her dad still wanted to show their appreciation.
But how could they do that if they didn’t know the man’s identity?
In the end, they decided to say thank-you the only way they knew how. They arrived at the Voorhees Police Department bearing boxes of donuts for the entire team! “Thanks to Brian Cadigan & Courtney English for bringing in treats for our staff this morning,” the Voorhees Police wrote on their Twitter account.
They also promised to make sure that the anonymous officer was told personally that Courtney and Brian were eternally grateful.
In order 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 or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.