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My two friends and I opted not to ski with the rest of our families. Instead, Bonnie, Martha and I ventured into town for homemade mulligatawny soup, and an après lunch of boutique shopping. We made a quick pit stop at the Shoppers Drug Mart across the street so Martha could fill a prescription. But our drug store visit didn't go as planned, and the hasty return to Martha's condo took precedence over an afternoon of spending.
At the entrance of the drugstore stood a life-size cardboard cut-out of Justin Bieber. We rolled our eyes at the smiling Bieber, but knew Bonnie's 10-year-old daughter, Annie would have hugged the cut-out, and marvelled at how well this young singer was marketed, propped strategically to greet people upon entering the store
With a quick glance past Justin, we noticed that most of the shelves were empty. Martha recalled she had heard the Shoppers was relocating to another location. Then she promptly disappeared to the back , hoping the pharmacy was still open.
I rummaged through a shelf of odds and ends, Bonnie lingering near the teen idol. She quietly asked me if I thought the cut-out was for sale, as Annie would be tickled pink if she bought it for her. I suggested she ask the lone cashier but doubted he'd have a price tag. She agreed, assuming Justin was probably destined for the dump bin upon the store's closure.
The next time I looked over at Bonnie, she was hovering in the front corner of the store holding the Bieber cut-out sideways under her arm. I suspected she was mustering up the nerve to ask if she could buy him. Martha appeared and I joined her while she made her purchase at the cash desk. When we turned to leave, Bonnie had disappeared. And so had Justin Bieber.
Martha and I spotted her a block down the street smiling like a Cheshire cat, Justin still under her arm. We scurried toward her, almost certain of her guilt, chuckling at her gutsiness. "Did you actually steal that?" Martha whispered. Bonnie gave a slight nod, her eyes now darting about, terrified she might be caught. My Girl Guide instincts wanted us to march back into the store and return him, but at this point, it was easier to walk away.
"Let's go. We can't stand out in the open with that thing," Martha said. We crossed the street and walked nonchalantly along the sidewalk to the car. Bonnie balanced him carefully, his feet out behind and his smiling face leading the way. We fended off a few innocent questions like, "Was he for sale?" and "My daughter would love that. Where did you get it?" Then we shoved our new friend into the hatchback of Martha's car and made our getaway.
Back at the condo, we hid Justin behind the living-room curtains with his face peeking out to surprise Bonnie's daughter when she returned from skiing. Annie was thrilled, carting him around and posing with him for photos.
My friends and I agreed that it wasn't necessary to share the details of how we acquired the Bieber cut-out. We believed we had saved Justin from a fate worse than garbage. The next day, we headed home to Toronto, including Justin.
The following morning, Martha appeared at my door, desperate. She told me that her husband had heard a wacky news story on TV regarding kids who had stolen a cut-out of Justin Bieber from a small town in Northern Ontario. We were now fugitives being hunted by the Ontario Provincial Police.
We agreed we had an advantage. They were looking for kids, not middle-aged housewives.
After further research, we learned that the cut-out was slated to be auctioned off for charity. There was no question in our minds that the cardboard Bieber must be returned. But there was one problem. Bonnie and her family were now in New York City for a few days and Justin was home alone in their house.
Martha was anxious that someone might have seen the two-sided cut-out in her condo window and wanted to fess up before she was reported. She decided to call Crime Stoppers anonymously from her health club so her number couldn't be traced. She indicated she had information regarding the crime and admitted that kids were not to blame, but that three middle-aged women had abducted Justin's cut-out.
The police officer had trouble controlling his laughter. Then my good friend promised the cut-out would be returned in a few days when he became accessible.
In the meantime, Bonnie's brother-in-law heard the news of the Bieber Bandits and called Bonnie in New York. He said he'd take care of it.
With a spare key, he entered their house, grabbed the cut-out and returned him to a Shoppers Drug Mart store in Toronto. "Here!" he said. "Don't ask me any questions." Then he walked away.
The Bieber Bandits are still at large.
Christine Biggs lives in Toronto.