Usually I had sly fingers. Today was an off day.
Around my neck was a two hundred dollar crimson scarf, on my face were seven hundred dollar glasses, and in my pockets were five diamond necklaces, two shining gold rings, and three ruby studded bracelets.
When the guard called me out on shoplifting I threw caution into the wind and picked up as much as I could carry before the guard lumbered towards me. Unfortunately, the security guard decided to skip his usual coffee and donut and was moving at a faster speed than usual.
As I ran through the store, being trailed by ten security guards and being gaped at by rich housewives, I couldn’t help but laugh gleefully. These were the moments I lived for. The chase. The threat of capture and the confidence that I would evade it.
“Stop! Stop right now! The authorities have been alerted!” the guard behind me yelled. His voice was strained and tired, he was already out of breath. The store I decided to shoplift from was one of the most expensive stores in the mall, maybe in all of Oregon. There was nothing cheaper than two hundred dollars here, not even on a sale day. Naturally, a place like this was under heavily surveillance. It just made everything more exciting.
“Stop!” another guard bellowed. I ducked between a rack of expensive looking trench coats and emerged on the other side in the furniture aisle. Everything was embroidered with golden stitching or had some sort of gem in the woodwork, if only my pockets were big enough.
I felt my leg muscles tense and winced, my lungs felt like they had shrunken to the size of peas and every breath stung a little more than the last. I forced myself to keep going. It was either I stopped and got caught, or I pushed past the pain and made it to the golden exit. I hoped for the latter.
When the swinging glass doors of the main entrance came into view, I pushed myself faster. I reached my hands out to push the doors open only to see the swirling blue and red lights of a police car. I turned on my heel and changed directions.
Now, I was heading for the back exit. A lonely guard stood in my way. He was tall and lanky and looked nervous as hell. He was young too, his face was still dotted with acne and his hair was unruly. He wore his uniform awkwardly, his belt hanging off of his hips at a sad angle. It must have been his first week on the job.
I breezed past him with ease as he was too frozen to do anything but swivel his head as I rushed by. Briefly, I heard someone screaming at him before the heavy footsteps resumed and my skin exploded in Goosebumps.
EXIT shone in big red letters and I sprinted, ignoring my screaming muscles. If I could only—suddenly, I was on the ground. My face collided with the soft, beige carpet and my hands were held firmly behind me.
I froze, my body going into shock. I had never, not once, been caught.
“Let’s see what we have here,” a warm voice murmured into my ear. The man took the sunglasses off of my face and whistled. “Wow, these look expensive. Oh and this scarf too.” Roughly, he yanked the crimson scarf from my neck. My cheeks were a beacon of my embarrassment
His hands moved down to my hips, patting me down. “Looks like your pockets are stuffed.” He took out the necklaces, rings, and bracelets with a laugh. He then moved to the pockets located on my bum and patted them down.
“Hey!” I cried, “watch it!”
He only laughed, “I’m just making sure you aren’t carrying anymore diamonds.” I rolled my eyes as he continued his search. When he was satisfied that I wasn’t hiding anything else he removed his hands from my body and slipped them to my wrists, holding them tightly together.
Suddenly, I was on my feet and staring blankly at the large EXIT sign. I was so close to escape. The guards caught up with us a few seconds after that and demanded the items I had stolen―or attempted to. With one hand the man held my hands together as he used the other to hand back the sunglasses.
A few moments later, a large group of guards and policemen sauntered up and grinned. “Good work,” the Sheriff said as he clapped the man on the back and took a hold of my wrists. “We’ve never been able to catch this one.” The Sheriff shook my hands roughly.
The guy behind me laughed, “It was easy, I saw her running and reacted.”
The Sheriff nodded, “Well, we appreciate it. Now, miss, care to tell me your name?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Go to hell.”
The Sheriff’s round face went red. “Now, young lady, you are in serious trouble. We have been tracking you all over Oregon, you’ve stolen thousands and I’ve got security footage and the witnesses to prove it. Tell me your name.”
I stopped and weighed my options, they didn’t look good. “Piper Delaney,” I said curtly, moving my head in the opposite directions so I wouldn’t have to look him in the eye.
The Sheriff grumbled and wrote down my name on a pad of paper. “Now, Miss. Delaney, I have to take you to the police station. Do you understand this?” A nod was all the confirmation he needed to read me my meander rights. “How old are you?”
“Seventeen,” I said automatically.
His brow creased and his lip curled up in a sort of snarl. His skin tinged red and ignited a sort of satisfaction in me. It was the Sheriff’s turn to be embarrassed. He had been outsmarted by a teenager for three years. “So you’re a minor. Very well, do you have a number for us to contact a parent or guardian?”
I shook my head, “No.” My satisfaction was short lived.
“Do you know your father’s work number?”
“I don’t know my father,” I spat.
The Sheriff nodded. Apparently he hadn’t expected anything different. After all, delinquency was often related to a lack of parental structure and guidance. I assumed that I wasn’t the only messed up kid he had caught. “Your mother’s?”
“She can’t come,” I answered woodenly.
He frowned, not liking my answers. “She’s going to have to come, young lady. You are in serious trouble and need a parent to be present.” The Sheriff laid a hand on his round belly as he waited for my reply.
I sighed, hating to attract pity. “She literally can’t, moving would kill her.”
The Sheriff echoed my sigh. “Alright, we will sort it out at the station. Thank you again, young man.” The guy behind me mumbled a muffled dismissal and moved around me to shake the police officer’s hand.
I looked at the guy who caught me and narrowed my eyes. He was the type to be cocky. He had shining, golden blonde hair and a chiseled face. He was older than me, maybe twenty-seven and was dressed in casual, everyday clothes that displayed an easygoing confidence.
He laughed, his brown eyes lighting up. “Goodbye, Piper. I have a funny feeling I will be seeing you soon.” My blood boiled instantly.
I narrowed my eyes, answering in my best snarky teenager voice. “Don’t count on it, loser.”
“We need your mother’s work, home, or cell number.”
I sighed, “For the hundredth time, she doesn’t have one!” I was handcuffed to a table, a glass of water and a donut sat in front of me untouched. I had been questioned all evening. Now they were trying a female officer, I guess they thought she would be able to relate to me more. They would be wrong, females didn’t typically like me.
“Where is your mother?”
“She’s preoccupied,” I said.
I bit back my annoyance. “I’m not telling you. You can’t go to her.”
“We’re just going to look it up; we have you in our system, Piper.” The female officer was pretty in a sort of authoritative way. Her hair was pulled back tightly into a ponytail and she wore no makeup. But her eyes were sympathetic.
I closed my eyes, “Leave her out of this please.”
The woman frowned, “We can’t, you’re a minor and are facing serious charges. She needs to be notified and present. You will go through a hearing with a judge and you cannot face that without a parent. It will be easier for everyone involved if you let us know how to contact her.”
“She’s dying,” I said, my voice breaking. “She can’t leave her bed, it would literally kill her. She’s had cancer and it caused all these complications. Now she spends half her time in a drug induced coma and the rest of her time crying. Happy?”
There was a moment of heavy silence as the police officer sent me pity with her looks and I did my best to combat it. I didn’t want her pity, I didn’t need it either. I was stronger than that. I had to be. Pity got you no where aside from a dangerous spiral of self-doubt and devastation.
Her voice lowered a few notches. “Okay, well we still have to talk with her. Now, we can only hold you for forty-eight hours which is why we have scheduled you an emergency hearing for tomorrow morning. Do you understand?”
I nodded, “Yes I do.”
The woman nodded, “Good, now you will spend the night in a holding cell here at the station. We will contact your mother. Any questions?”
“Will I be going to jail?” I asked.
The woman’s brow creased, “That will be up for the judge to decide.” I sighed and leaned back in my chair. The handcuff on my right hand was starting to annoy me. Whenever I leaned too far in a certain direction the metal would cut into my wrist.
“Why did you do it?” the woman asked suddenly. Professional composure out the window.
I laughed, probably damning myself. “For fun.” She stared at me for a moment before nodding curtly and standing up, collecting her papers before exiting swiftly. I took a sip of water and a bite of the donut. Of course, it was stale and tasted just as bitter as the lie I had just told.
“Let’s go Miss Delaney,” a new officer said as he walked into the room. He un-cuffed me and grabbed a hold of my upper arm. “To your holding cell.”
I grinned in an effort to hide my worry. “Lead the way.”
“You are being charged with the theft of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, do you understand?” I cringed as I watched spit fly from the mouth of the judge. Every time he ended a sentence, a gob of saliva would explode from his mouth and onto his desk. Sometimes, an unlucky lawyer or police officer would get hit while delivering papers to the judge. My sympathy was shallow.
I nodded, bringing my mind back to what was important. “Yes, I do your honor.”
“You are a juvenile therefore you will not be tried as an adult, understood?”
“Yes, your honor.” My age saved me. If I had been caught a year from now I would’ve been in a lot more trouble. Though, at that moment, it was a hard concept to understand.
The judge nodded his large head. “Very well, let this hearing begin.” Lawyers, witnesses and the judge droned on for a good hour as I sat there, half listening half day dreaming. They reviewed everything I had stolen—which was a lot—and everything I had attempted to steal the day before.
The only time my attention was captured was when the man who caught me yesterday was brought to the stand. “Hello everyone, I am Evan Meyers. I stopped Miss. Delaney from fleeing the scene yesterday.” He sent a dazzling smile my way and answered every question that was shot at him in ease.The more questions he was asked the more relaxed he seemed. There was something about his composure that was starting to put me more at ease.
The more he talked the more I was sure I had gotten the wrong impression of him. I thought he was an arrogant jerk who’s only interest was in showing off, but he spoke with a sort of elegance that made me rethink this judgement.
When Evan’s time was done, he winked at me and stepped down from the stand. Then it was my turn to be questioned. My walk to the stand was wobbly. My walk was uneven because of nerves and the pins and needles that devoured my right leg. Despite this, I believed my wobbly walk earned me some sympathy.
“Miss Delaney,” the prosecutor began, “Is it not true that when asked why you committed your crimes you told Officer Wier that you did so ’for fun’?”
I nodded, “Yes. I said that. I don’t believe that statement is a good reflection of what I was really thinking and feeling at the time.” I felt as though the blood had left my face. Apparently, they weren’t kidding when they told you everything you said could be used against you.
The prosecutor’s eyes were like a crow’s. Her nose was hooked too. “Do you have a better way of rationalizing your crimes?”
“Would you like to share this with the court?”
My eyes met Evan Meyer’s. “No.”
The judge looked down at me, “I believe you should rethink that last choice, my dear.” I grimaced as his spit narrowly missed my face.
“I don’t believe I will.” The judge sat back in his seat, eyes trained on my face as the questioning continued on for the next half an hour. However, this time stretched into an eternity as we waited for the judge’s decision.
“Miss. Piper Marie Delaney, I, Judge Matthew Harvis, have decided that instead of juvy, you will go to a group home. After hearing the story of your childhood and the history of your past crimes, I have decided that this is less of a behavioral issue and more of an emotional outburst.”
Relief washed through me, they were going easy on me. The judge than turned to Evan. “Mr. Meyers, would you be willing to accept Miss. Delaney into your program?” I stood stock still, Evan owned a group home?
The lawyer that had be assigned to me stood up. “Isn’t that home a little too severe?”
Evan grinned, “No, of course not. Yes, it is for the worst young delinquents. But let’s not forget the extent of Miss. Delaney’s crimes. She has been doing this for three years and has stolen thousands of dollars worth of material. Now, I agree with Judge Harvis, this is an emotional issue but this is also a young girl who has committed a crime. And she needs to learn her lesson. So, in short, yes, I am willing to accept Miss. Delaney so long as she tells me one thing.” I bristled at his speech.
Judge Harvis frowned, “And what would that be, Mr. Meyers?”
Evan turned to me and smiled, eyes trying to convey the gravity of my situation to me. “Where did all that money go?”
I stared at Evan, my gaze as piercing as his own. “It went to the treatment my mother needed.”
Evan tried not to smile, but didn’t succeed. “Very well, welcome to Ash Falls Group Recovery Home for Troubled Youth.”