Two beautiful women sit outside Black Bottle in Belltown on a sunny August afternoon. One is blond, the other is a redhead, and the third chair is occupied by a pot of thyme, displaced from the tabletop by their lunches. (Black Bottle recently started serving lunch. Especially delicious: frisée with squid and lemon-caper dressing [$8], spicy ceviche with supercrisp tortilla strips and guacamole [$8], buttery-rich leek and Emmentaler tart [$8]. Nothing special: pho with watery broth and chewy beef [$7]. Beautifully presented: everything, especially a tall glass of iced tea with a mint sprig and a tiny pitcher of simple syrup [$3].)
The tranquility of the corner of First Avenue and Vine Street is shattered by the arrival of a homeless man who stands in Black Bottle's doorway, shouting severally, "LEAVE ME ALONE! GOD BLESS YOU!" He's workmanlike about it, not particularly agitated, and when he addresses the ladies lunching, they are stoic. The desire to be left alone is mutual. He goes on his way.
The calm that is restored is only momentary. Not long after, another man of the street darts up behind the women and snatches a purse, boldly, from the ground next to them. The redhead is having none of it: She shouts and gives chase. People pour out of the restaurant. The law arrives, and the blonde gets in the squad car to go look for her friend, last seen pursuing the thief down Second Avenue. Patrons return to their lunches. A lull of 20 minutes or so passes, then the redhead returns. She's got the purse.
"YOU are my HERO, girl!" says a man still sitting outside. She's led to a seat at the bar. "I was so scared," she says. "I had to get it back." The bag is her friend's, just arrived from London, containing passport and jewelry. It's all still there. She chased the man, then hung back, then when he put down the bag to go through it, she darted up and snatched it back. The bartender offers her whatever she'd like, on the house. She guesses, tearfully but with composure, that she'll have a glass of rosé, forever answering the question: What wine goes best with justice?
The squad car returns with the friend, and women and purse are reunited. The cops look astonished and possibly in love. The women look like two-thirds of Charlie's Angels. The paddy wagon arrives, and there's the purse-snatcher and, improbably, an ID is made.
When it's all over and everyone else is gone, a homeless woman who'd helped to find the thief remains. The cops, who usually ask her to move on, have given her special dispensation to stay put for a while. "You'll never know when you'll need us again," she says.
Black Bottle, 2600 First Ave, 441-1500.