“He bit his lip when he set eyes on the article. His face dropped as he started the plan. Lurking in the shadows, a greater evil held the newspaper with a gleam in his eyes.”
In the small town of Memphis, Tennessee, where the crime rate was high, two robbers simultaneously spotted their next job.
Paz was slim and worked behind the scenes. She sat on the dirty curb next to a busy street. Traffic screamed in her ears while she scanned a newspaper article. Her face lit up as she found the house waiting to be robbed. A grin spread across her face, and her eyes widened.
Dave was a tall and stocky man. He was very clumsy, which was not a favorable trait for a robber, but he still got away with it. He drank warm coffee from Starbucks in his apartment. He bit his lip when he set eyes on the article. His face dropped as he started the plan.
Lurking in the shadows, a greater evil held the newspaper with a gleam in his eyes.
I sit in my musty apartment, planning my next robbery (and figuring out how to pay rent this month). I know that my neighbors, the Henkins, will leave to go to Hawaii this afternoon. My stomach tingles and I twist my thumbs every time I steal from someone. I’ll spy on the house before I go in.
I go over and decide that they’re gone after a wait in the yellow and green shrubs that seem to trail on forever. I walk around the house, through the gate and into the backyard. My lock picking will take a while, and I don’t want anyone getting suspicious. I figure the other neighbors will be easily convinced that I’m taking care of the Henkins’ lizards.
I slowly open the kitchen door in the back of the Henkin’s house. The guilt is already creeping around the house with me. I know it’s only a trick on the neighbors, but I do wind up checking on Dexter and Kiwi, the family’s lizards.
“Hi, Dexter! Hi, Kiwi! Do you miss your family? Oooh, yes, you do, yes you do- o,” I say in a baby voice to them.
Acting out Dexter’s rough, made-up voice, I say, “The telephones aren’t working!”
“Oh, Dexter, I might be able to fix those, right after I rob your house okay!” I respond in my normal voice. I chuckle and move away from the terrarium the lizards are kept in.
I poke my head further into the kitchen, pushing back the thought that I have to do this quickly. A smile slowly spreads across my face every time I enter the Henkins’ house. The kitchen, like the rest of the house, is clean and organized. There are two candles in copper candle holders sitting the same exact distance away from the clear vase in the center of the table. Purple, blue, pink, and yellow flowers spring up from the rim of the vase, growing off of the table, slithering on the ground, and wrapping around my feet like snakes. I blink and rub my eyes and the flowers turn back to normal. Turning around to the living room and leaving the flourishing flowers behind twists my smile into a slight frown, but I have the willpower to leave.
The Henkin’s living room holds a long, curved, brown couch. An oval blue rug lays on the oak floors beside a small glass coffee table.
As I explore the living room, I stumble into the office and gag as the bitter smell of the fresh cleaning supplies drifts up to my nose and races around my head, making my stomach churn. I lift my dark red shirt over my nose and mouth. I trip over a neat stack of books with torn covers of all colors as I walk towards the leather chair in the middle of the room. Sitting on the shining desk are forty-five, eight-inch tall rag dolls of the U.S. presidents. The first one in the row is George Washington; the last is Donald Trump. They all stare my way with their beady button eyes. As I think back to being here six months ago at the house party when they moved in across the street, more guilt swallows me like a wave, swarms me like wasps. Six months ago the books were not on the floor. The spot on the desk which Trump now fills was empty. The bigger white rug that was in the living room has now been replaced with the oval one.
The steps quietly creak as I tiptoe up the stairs and meet the biggest window in the house. The stars have been hidden in the black night outside. I’m so caught up in the exploration of the house that I don’t immediately recognize the sound of the door clicking open.
Dave ran into the nearest closet he could find, in the room of Emma Henkin, the smallest daughter in the Henkin family. The panic that had been following him flooded under the door of the closet, and soaked him with sweat. Was there an actual pet sitter or housekeeper there to check on the house? Would he be caught after everything that he had gone through? He had money once, when he was only six years old, but when his parents died, a storm of dust had ripped them and their fortune away from him. He needed this job. He couldn’t be arrested.
Earlier that day, Paz was at a sketchy restaurant, impatiently waiting for her small salad to be delivered to the window booth she inhabited almost every Wednesday and Saturday. Turning her head to face the window made her nose wrinkle and lips curl up. The window had been smashed in and there was a sheen of dirt coating the cracks.
“Excuse me ma’am, excuse me? Your order is here,” the waitress said in a sing-songy voice.
Paz snatched the salad and turned away, rolling her eyes. She was not a sing-songy person. She looked down at the pathetic pile of greens and dressing. She rose up from the booth, her legs sticking to the vinyl material of the booth as she stood, lifting the plastic tray of the salad with her. She took slow, long, paces to the black trash can in the corner, which was sitting on the dusty floor. Her eyes scanned the contents of the bin, and her nose wrinkled again.
I push open the creaky blue rimmed door and an evil grin is plastered onto my face as I think about my plans for tonight. I creep around the neighborhood until I reach the house of today’s victims, and push through the gate and to the door.
I begin to take out my lock picking equipment and turn the door handle. It’s not locked. My eyes widen and my face becomes a little more pale. I think about whether I should rob the house or not. I’ve never been wrong before when it comes to telling if a house is rob-able or not. I decide to go in, preparing myself to face anyone inside.
All of the lights are off, and the house was left clean. I straighten out and silently laugh at myself. I begin to forage through the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen, bending down to reach compartments closer to the white tile on the floors. I have my mind set on finding the house’s pearl. I shift my attention to the living room, ducking as I pass the large windows. There are two bookshelves in the one corner of the room, and a rocking armchair in another. One bookshelf is shorter than the other, and I carefully shove books, big and small, away, as I search the smaller one on my knees. Not there. I stand on my tiptoes and start from the top of the lofty bookshelf. I finish searching the top shelf, the two shelves in the middle, then the bottom shelf. Not there. I fling the cushion off of the armchair, causing it to rock faster.
I’m about to storm up the stairs, but I soon regain the knowledge that I have to be fast and quiet. Softly, landing my feet on the stairs ahead of them, I go up the stairs. One. Two. Three … Ten. Eleven. Twelve! I quickly duck down in front of the biggest chunk of glass I’ve ever seen in a house.
What a terrible place for something of such value! I think to myself as I feel around the wooden floors. I search the bathroom, the master bedroom. I look everywhere. The shower, nightstands, and dressers. Under the bed, over the bed, and in the closet. Nowhere to be found. The only rooms left in the house are the kids’ bedrooms. Guessing on what the doors of the bedrooms look like, the family has a young girl, and a teenage boy. One door is covered with messy doodles of princesses finding their princes. The other door has a printed out “Keep Out” sign, held on by a measly piece of tape in the top right corner. The cool draft of the AC had caused the sign to tilt, hanging off the door. I quietly cackle as I disregard the sign, entering the boy’s room.
The smell of dirty socks makes me dizzy as soon as I open the door. My stomach swirls, but I proceed on into the room anyways. After poking my head in the closet, reaching my hands into piles of sweaty clothes, and moving around dandruff covered pillows, I still haven’t found the famous item.
My last destination is the little girl’s room. My shoulder’s slump as I pointlessly push open the door. Why would an item of such value be hidden in a foolish, senseless little girl’s room? I think to myself.
I open the closet door and my face lights up as I stare in disbelief at the valuable treasure. I’m still in disbelief, but this time, as I shift my focus a few inches up at the hand grasping the small painting.
As soon as I recover from the shock, I grasp the baton at my waist and manage to mumble a threat to him.
“This street is my turf,” I say, my voice shaking.
The man looks up at me, meeting my eyes with a confident glare. The traces of confidence in his eyes disappear as he backs up and stumbles over the angry bird figurines in the large closet. I stifle a laugh, wanting him to know that I take my job seriously.
“I’m sorry, are you robbing this house?” he asks.
I answer him with a yes and note the awkwardness of the situation, not knowing what to do next. Should I grab the painting and run?
He speaks again before I can take action, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you should be proud of robbing houses.”
I’m about to say that I’m not, but I realize two things. One, I called the street “my turf.” Two, I am proud of being a quality robber.
“Why shouldn’t I?” I ask in a judgy tone.
“Well it’s just not very nice of you to rob houses.” he responds.
“Excuse me? You’re doing it too!”
“I take no pleasure in it.”
“Why? Being mean and mischievous is awesome!”
“At our age, it’s really not. We should be caring for our community. It’s a little irresponsible of you to think that being mean is a good thing.” I don’t get this guy. He takes the same thing I’m after and then tells me I’m being malicious. Sure it’s mean. Sure, being mean isn’t cool, but he stole it before I did! I love sneaking around, and all of those people who have regular lives are just pathetic.
Memories of the orphanage flash in my head as I see more doodles of the family in the girl’s room. Memories of the trouble I made. Memories of the people who came and left, taking a friend of mine every time. But never me.
This family has something that I never had in me. They love each other. They have lives that are worth saving, and I’m interfering with those lives.
At this moment, another force of evil lurks in the backyard. He wears dark jeans, and a hunter green colored cotton T-shirt. He paces the patio after realizing that the door was yet again, left unlocked. He silently creeps closer to the muffled voices up the stairs and turns the door handle without a sound. He is now thinking sinister thoughts while positioned behind Dave and Paz, who still do not know that he is in the house with them.
I begin to walk out of the closet, but the woman reaches out and stops me. I know she won’t leave until she gets the painting. I freeze up as I turn. My eyes widen and my jaw slightly drops. My face is pale. Beyond her is a taller man who stares directly down at me with a blank expression. He slowly reaches a gloved hand out, expecting me to hand over the painting. He wears a black glove on one hand and nothing on the other. A large hat shades out most of his face, but I can still see his eyes and mouth clearly enough to know that he is made up of pure evil. His eyebrows curve and he glares at me. His eyes hold no shine, like there’s nothing in there, but a black heart.
I tap the woman’s shoulder and point to the man, my mouth still hanging open. She surprises me, and glares right back at him, but his expression doesn’t change and he doesn’t seem the least bit intimidated.
The woman reaches for her baton as we reach a silent agreement. She takes a step towards the man and swings her baton towards him. He lifts the gloved hand, blocking it from touching his head. I leap forward in an attempt to tackle him, but again, his hand reaches up and pushes me onto the floor. The woman and I meet eyes. We nod, and spring forward, pouncing on the man and taking him down to the ground. The hard floors knock him unconscious and we use our socks and a few ropes from Emma’s closet to tie him up.
“By the way, I’m Paz,” the woman says.
We leave the house and carry the criminal to her car, opening the door and shoving him in. Paz gets in the driver’s seat and I get in the passenger seat, but the moment we turn around, he’s gone. We look around, but he’s nowhere to be found.
We pinky swear to never steal again.
5 years later…
Dave and Paz sit at the outdoor mesh table reading the news. A criminal named Randy Bluett had recently been caught. They exchange glances and grin, their eyes gleaming. Dave had taken the wallet of the criminal they had encountered on their last robbery five years ago. Some of the name had been scratched out, but he could read “Randy Bluett”. Dave drinks a latte and Paz drinks black coffee. Dave pays and Paz gets up and heads to work after saying goodbye to Dave. Paz now works as an author. Most of her stories are about robbers who have great adventures. Dave works as a fortune cookie writer. He gives great fortunes to bad people. It will get better . . . after you learn your lesson. Dave and Paz are the only people who know about their pasts. Besides the Henkins . . .