Saturday, November 29, 2014
Up Against The Wall!
Rafael Rodriquez had just turned 13. Bill Kennedy, his best friend, was almost 14 and about a head taller than Rafael which meant he stood right at five feet, five inches. Kennedy had a huge mop of pitch black hair which hung over his ears down to his shoulders. His skin was several shades darker than Rafael's. Rafael had a pale complexion, his red hair was thin and scraggly. But puberty had pounced on him first and thus he proudly displayed a wispy little reddish mustache and goatee.
On this mild summer day they had been shopping baseball mitts for Rafael, a star shortstop in middle school who planned to try out for the high school team when classes started again in the fall. But none had fit just right.
Leaving the sporting goods store, they walked along the strip mall, joking about girls they knew or would like to know, peering into empty and eerie dark storefronts, telling dirty jokes although they often missed the punch line which led them to punch each other in the shoulder and laugh uproariously.
The police car was parked in front of a department store. It's engine was running. As they walked by they peered superiptiously in the windows but could see very little; the windows were treated with very dark film.
"Do you see anybody?" asked Rafael as they sauntered past.
"Nope! Do you?"
"No...I think it's empty!" said Rafael.
"Really? Holy crap. Where's the cop?" Bill screwed his face into a question mark.
"I don't know. Why would he leave the car running?" Rafael grinned. "Try the door, see if it's locked!"
"Are you crazy?" But Bill was grinning, too. "You check it out."
"Not me," said Rafael. "Let's see if we can find the cop. He's got to be in the store, right?"
"Probably," agreed Bill.
Koehler's department stores have the cash registers close to the entrances. As Rafael and Bill sauntered through the door doing their best to look adult and cool, they caught the eye of Sandy, the girl working cash register number one. She frowned. These guys were up to no good, she thought. She punched the button under the counter which alerted security that possible troublemakers were present.
Rafael and Bill knew nothing of this, so they both smiled and gave Sandy a little wave, moving quickly past into the men's section where they would be less noticeable. They wouldn't be in the store long enough to worry the security people.
"What do we do now?" asked Bill.
"Just be cool. Look for the cop!"
Before Bill could respond, he spied a uniform in the underwear/socks section. "I see him!" he whispered. "He's shopping, for sure. He's got two pairs of sock and some underwear and now he's looking at belts."
"C'mon," said Rafael. "I've got a great idea."
"Yeah, right," said Bill. "You're ideas usually get me into trouble."
"Nah, this one's foolproof. Let's get out of here."
Outside on the sidewalk, Rafael stopped and pulled Bill close. "Now, you stay here by the door and keep a look out. I'm going to see if the car's locked."
"Are you nuts! That's crazy!"
But Rafael was already at the door, pulling on the handle. The door opened! "Omigod! C'mon! Now! Get in the other side." Rafael was already climbing in behind the wheel.
"Noooooooo," cried Bill, but he ran and hopped in the passenger door. "What are you doing?" he asked, fear palpable in his voice.
"Not much," said Rafael. "We're going to have a little fun." He put the car in gear and drove down the parking lot toward a huge electronics store named Better Buy across from Koehler's, which was hidden from view by several tall water oaks. When he found a parking place next to a large van, he pulled in and stopped.
"Let's go," he said. "Hurry! That cop will never find his car. Boy, will he be in trouble!"
Laughing, they took off running toward Better Buy but never made it. A very large, very fearsome police officer stood blocking the entrance.
"Where you going, boys? You want to tell me why you were stealing my squad car?"
"No, no," stammered Bill. He looked at Rafael whose face was pure white. "No, we saw you at Koehler's. Wait! How...how did you get over here?" He was shaking so bad he collapsed on the sidewalk, head in hands.
"Wasn't me," said the cop. "That was my partner. He went into Koehler's and I came over here. We didn't think anyone would be so stupid as to steal a police car!"
"But we didn't steal it," cried Rafael. "We just moved it here to make it more convenient for you!"
"Nice try," said the cop.
Then his partner jogged up, breathing heavily. "What the hell's going on, Franklin? I came out of the store and the car's gone. Why'd you drive the car over here?"
"I didn't, Officer Smyth!" Then sarcastically, "Get your shopping done, Officer Smyth?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Might you have forgotten to lock the car?"
"Yeah. So? What does that have to do with anything?"
"Our little friends here," said Officer Franklin, pointing at Rafael and Bill, "decided they would take the car for a little joyride! And they drove it all the way over here! What should we do with them?"
Officer Smyth turned very slowly looking the boys up and down. "I'll tell you what we'll do! Hey, you guys...up against the wall, hands high, feet spread!" Rafael and Bill complied, tears streaming down their faces.
"But we didn't mean anything, officers! We weren't going to steal the car! We were just playing a little joke." Bill's voice sounded like a drowning frog.
"Not so funny now, is it," asked Office Smyth as he gave them a quick frisk and then slipped handcuffs on their wrists. "Now, get in the back of the car, both of you!"
After ten very long minutes, during which the cops stood away from the car talking, they took down the boy's names and addresses and phone numbers, then unlocked the handcuffs and told them they could go, warning they'd be contacting their parents to determine an appropriate punishment. Bill and Rafael nodded mutely, walked slowly to the corner of the building, and then ran for their lives. They didn't stop for six blocks until they came to some woods where they could hide and lick their wounds.
"Our parents are going to kill us!" said Rafael. Bill could hardly breathe. He nodded.
Officer Smyth drove the police car out of the parking lot. He was grinning. "Well, that ought to put the fear of God into them. They won't know when or if we ever talk to their parents!"
Officer Franklin was not smiling. "You moron!" he said. "Can you imagine what would have happened to us if I hadn't been at Better Buy and seen them drive up with our car?"
"Hey, I'm sorry. So I forgot to lock the car. I do that with my own car, too. It's a quirk of mine."
"Yeah, well, it's a quirk that's gonna get us killed one day! And next time remember to turn off the engine, too."
"Get off my case. It's done. I said I'm sorry. How about I drive you home?"
Officer Franklin lived in a log cabin on a mile and a half long dirt road in a clearing in the Ogallala Natonal Forest. Thirty minutes later Officer Smyth turned off the main highway onto the dirt road. The darkness was total. There are no lights in the national forest.
The engine made a strange noise, sputtered and stopped.
Officer Franklin looked at Officer Smyth. Officer Smyth looked straight ahead into the darkness.
"We've run out of gas."
P.S. The story is fiction, of course. But this much is true. The police car was sitting outside of a department store and the engine was running. Unlike Rafael and Bill, however, I did not try the door to see if it was unlocked! But I did see the cop shopping in the store.