I remember three thefts occurring at my high school over a period of fours years. The first was a kid who was nabbing sneakers from the varsity basketball locker room. The next was a couple guys who stole a microphone from the music room. And the last was a rich girl who inexplicably stole text books out of peoples’ lockers and sold them back to the local book store for cash. All three were big scandals. But that was a world away from Patriot High School, where we had a theft every day this week.
This morning, two kids were seen loitering around the library computers. When they left, a modem left with them. They were both familiar faces so it didn’t take long to ID them using footage from the hall cameras. We found them in their classes soon after and brought them to the deans office for “interrogation.”
I found their initial denials literally comical because of how completely guilty they looked. It wasn’t like they were blinking a lot, or avoiding eye contact, or giving off any of the other supposed tell-tale signs of lying. No, it’s just that they looked like thieving bastards. What, exactly, do thieving bastards look like, you ask? Like these guys. That’s what.
Vicki, our secretary, quickly took control of the interrogation (I love it when when she does that). She clearly and firmly explained how, if the missing property was not produced immediately, we would search both of them, and when we found the modem we would call the cops and have them arrested.
One of them didn’t even have a bag with him so he eagerly volunteered to be searched first. We ignored him and starting crowding around the other guy who did have a bag. But before we could get our hands on him he calmly reached under his chair and miraculously produced a beat-up, silver modem.
He had somehow managed to open his bag, with it still on his back, remove the modem, and hide it under his chair, all while under the watchful eye of the whole office! He definitely has a future in street magic if this whole school thing doesn’t work out.
The Safety Sergeant held the little silver box up to the light and wondered aloud about its value and whether or not this would constitute grand larceny. Then the kid who had given the modem up made a perplexing remark.
“I didn’t take it,” he said.
“But it was in your bag,” we all replied in unison.
“I never touched it.”
I responded to that with an involuntary facial expression that caused Dean Jake to laugh out loud.
“Hey Pistol, can you make that face again?” Jake asked.
“He has to say something like that again for me to make that face again. I can’t force it. I have to be inspired.”
“Dust it for fingerprints,” the kid insisted. “I never touched it.”
As dumb and obvious of a lie as it seemed, it actually turned out to be technically accurate. As it turns out, it was his friend, they both later admitted, who unplugged the modem and placed it in his bag. So he was right. He never touched it.
Even though I was losing my patience with having to work in a den of thieves, we decided not to press charges because the property had been returned voluntarily. But the Safety Sergeant, who does have the power of arrest, had one more lesson to teach them before it was all over. While they were still wondering if they were going to be arrested, he took them one at a time into a small room, asked everyone to leave, and told them to stand up and place their hands behind their back. As he stood behind them, he asked them how it felt to know they were going to jail. Then he told them to remember that feeling next time they thought about stealing something, and he let them go. That, plus a suspension, was good enough for me.
Before they left the office, Dean Jake said, “And it’s a Friday! You know what that means, right? You would have had to stay in jail all weekend, because the judge doesn’t start hearing cases again until Monday! Imagine that. That’s the first rule of thieves you know. Never Get Arrested on a Friday or a Holiday.”
They pretended to ignore him but I could tell that they were taking notes.