Chapter I: A Meeting
Two young men met in a dark alley. All of the clocks in the town showed two o'clock a.m. Not one streetlamp glowed, so the deserted back alley was pitch dark, but each man knew who the other was.
One was short and rather heavyset; the other was only slightly taller but very thin. The thin man had a much darker complexion than the fat man, but his eyes were a watery blue-gray while the fat man had brilliant, shiny green eyes that thirsted for fame and wealth.
Several hours later, it was a glorious morning in Eville. Eville was a nearly deserted town. Almost everyone who had once lived there had left long ago when the creek, which had been everyone's water source, had dried up. However, one girl lived on a lonely road in Eville. She was an orphan; had been since an early age, but she was remarkably intelligent and had figured out how to care for herself shortly after her parents' untimely death.
Her parents had passed away when she was not older than six. Her name was Virginia and now, as our story today goes, she was fourteen years old. She ordered all of her necessities, and her cat's, by telephone, and the two always had what they needed. She was sure her mother and father would have been proud.
Chapter II: Carl and DeMarcus
The same two men met again in the same back alley. It was pure, deafening silence until the fat man spoke. 'Guess what, Carl.'
'I can't imagine, DeMarcus.'
'I got another get-rich-quick plan.'
'What could you possibly think of now? Will this one actually work?'
Now their voices became hushed whispers for fear of being overheard. 'You know that ol' ghost town, Eville?'
'Sure,' Carl replied.
'No one lives there anymore. Except that weird girl.'
'What are you getting at?'
'I heard she's rich,' DeMarcus said slyly, ignoring Carl's question.
'She lives alone.' DeMarcus paused for a moment, waiting for Carl's response, but it didn't come. 'She's vulnerable.'
'Are you saying''
'We can rob 'er,' DeMarcus finished for Carl. 'A helpless teenage girl, livin' all alone, ain't nobody around for miles. Why didn't I think o' this before?' A childish grin spread across his face. He was close to nineteen years old, the same as Carl.
'How do you know she has no telephone?' Carl countered. 'She could call the police if she does.'
'You gotta take chances in life,' DeMarcus told him complacently.
Carl wasn't so sure that this was a smart idea, but he nodded anyway. 'Let's do it.'
Chapter III: Kayaama
Virginia loved Eville. Peace and quiet was what she liked, and she had it. Always.
She occasionally got lonely and when this occurred, she went to her brown and black striped cat, Kayaama, for comfort. This meant 'hunter' in the ancient Malian language, from where Virginia's ancestors originated. Kayaama had brought her love and comfort for many years. Virginia's mother and father had rescued her several years before. She'd had broken bones and cuts, but she was carefully nurtured back to health and kept by Virginia's parents. Now that Virginia's parents were gone, Virginia herself looked after the cat.
Chapter IV: The Plan
'Okay.' DeMarcus rubbed his hands together in excitement. 'How're we gonna do this, Carl?'
Carl shrugged. 'Maybe,' he said, 'we should do it during the night. She'll be asleep. She won't know anything happened until she wakes up and finds stuff gone.'
DeMarcus smiled evilly. 'And we'll be long gone by the time that happens.'
'Exactly.' It was then that Carl made the decision. Why am I helping him with this? he wondered. I know what I'll do. I'll make a trip to Eville and tell the girl what's going to happen and help her escape.
'And,' DeMarcus said, his brilliant green eyes shining, 'We could murder her. Then the house and all her stuff would become ours.'
Carl nearly screamed, appalled at this bloodthirsty idea. Now he knew more certainly than ever that he would help the girl out of this. 'Sounds good,' he heard himself say.
'It's getting light,' DeMarcus remarked. 'It's morning and we'd better get the hell outta here before someone sees us and gets suspicious.'
'Right,' Carl agreed.
'I'll see you, Carl. Tomorrow night. Same time, same place.'
'Right.' He was extremely uneasy about this. DeMarcus jumped into his convertible and sped off, leaving Carl to stare after him. 'Murder her?' Carl muttered to himself. 'No.'
Chapter V: Carl the Thief
Carl walked slowly toward his '96 Honda Accord, taking small strides. 'No,' he thought resolutely. 'I'm going to help her and she's not going to die.'
He got into the car and drove to his part-time job at the 24-Hour-Shop-Low-Price Market. He did this to make ends meet. Shrugging the sleepiness off, he picked his way through the sprinkling of customers to the cash register and looked at the aisles and aisles of lovely, delicious food. He was hungry. When his hours were finished, he decided to take a loaf of bread. He knew it was wrong.
No one was looking. There was another cashier, ringing customers up. There was the manager, haggling over potato chips. Over there, was that the assistant manager writing something? Nobody appeared to be watching, and the bread aisle was empty. He didn't want to think about it anymore. He just did it. He just took it and left before anyone could catch him.
He went home with the bread. He had some margarine in his miniature refrigerator. He walked in the door, and placed the bread on the kitchen counter.
Chapter VI: Catch Me If You Can
The loaf of bread sat on the kitchen counter. It seemed to tease Carl, saying, You shouldn't have stolen me. You're going to get in major trouble. But now that you've done it, you might as well eat me. A sickish feeling arose in Carl's stomach. He wasn't so sure he was hungry anymore anyway. The bread was right. Maybe the bread was his conscience, he mused ridiculously.
But he had felt so sure that nobody had seen him in the act. Carl gingerly ripped a chunk of bread out, separating it from the rest. He took a bite and it tasted so good that he almost didn't care if he got in trouble for stealing it.
He suddenly felt very fatigued. He walked over to the mattress on which he slept and was out instantly.
'Time for work? Already?' Carl muttered sleepily to himself. He hated getting up for afternoon shift. He slowly rose and was at work on time.
The manager's voice came over the loudspeaker. 'Employee Carl Hines, please report to the front, employee Carl Hines, please report to the front.'
Carl cocked his head. What did he want? The baffled employee obeyed.
'Sit down.' The manager indicated a chair and looked none too happy.
Carl sat. He tried to stop himself from believing the inevitable, but it was no use.
'We know what you did,' the manager said gruffly, which confirmed Carl's hypothesis. He was a tall, bearded, intimidating man of about fifty, Carl guessed.
He took a chance and tried to look puzzled. 'What did I do?'
The manager shook his head in disgust. 'What did I do? What did I do?' he mocked, sneering. 'You know exactly what you did!' His voice was rising considerably now, and Carl was getting scared. 'You stole a loaf of bread!' Particles of what had probably been the manager's lunch were flying at Carl. 'You violated the terms and conditions that you signed your name by when you took this job!'
'What makes you think it was me?' Carl tried in desperation. 'It could have been anybody else! Your assistant manager, for example?'
That pretty much did it for the manager. His face was now a lovely shade of maroon. 'You want to know how I know? You want to know how I know it was you? BECAUSE I HAVE LIVE FOOTAGE OF IT!'
Carl winced. He hadn't thought of that. 'Can I see it?'
The manager stood up and took a menacing step forward. 'So you want to see it,' he spat. 'Fine!' He switched the television on and didn't have to change the channel or anything. It went straight to Carl.
The image on the screen indeed showed Carl smuggling the bread out of the store. Carl couldn't help but notice how old and worn his jeans and sweatshirt looked in the video. After a few seconds, below his image, came these words blinking in red: CARL HINES. The screen went blank.
Carl looked at the manager. He knew when he was beaten. 'So there you have it, Hines. Shoo. You're gone from this place. Looks like you'll have to make a stop at the food bank on your way home.'
Carl left, his spirits at an all-time low. They were probably going to charge him with theft and put him in prison. Then, he regained some confidence. He was going to go save that girl from DeMarcus. Catch me if you can, Mr. Manager. Catch me if you can.
Chapter VII: Final Arrangements
He parked in the usual alley. It was midnight, and DeMarcus, as Carl had expected, was there waiting. 'So we're gonna do this.'
Carl gave him a look. 'I lost my job today, so don't try me.' He suddenly felt very strong and in control, as though he were the ringleader.
DeMarcus took a step back but looked interested. 'How?'
'Let's not talk about it. So when do you want to actually go through with this?'
'I've been thinkin'. How 'bout we do this thing day after tomorrow?'
The day after tomorrow? When am I going to save that girl? Carl wondered. But if I tell him I don't want to do it, then he'll ask why and I won't know what to say. 'Okay, DeMarcus,' he said to his partner.
'We can leave aroun' seven tomorrow. Then we'd get there 'round midnight or one. What d'you say?'
'I say amen,' Carl said, hoping it didn't sound too fake.
Chapter VIII: Carl the Hero
'Ding ding ding ding ding!' It was Carl's alarm. He had woken up extra early today. He yawned several times and rolled over. He was dead-tired, but sleeping in wasn't an option, even though it was Saturday.
He had a job to do. It was easily the most important one he had ever done, and probably would ever do. Carl didn't even think about it anymore. He jumped out of bed and into his car.
It was a long drive to Eville. He was ready, though. Several energy bars and some strong coffee were already in his car.
Carl drove for several hours before he ripped open an energy bar. It tasted good, since he hadn't had any breakfast.
An hour later, he was in Eville, where most people didn't go.
Virginia sat, stroking a very contented Kayaama. It was her fifteenth birthday. With her free hand, she sketched a birthday cake in the sand that caked the road. Kayaama stretched out, her face perfectly aligned with the bricks that paved Virginia's street.
Suddenly, they both heard a noise. Kayaama heard it first, though. She pricked her ears up in anticipation. What was it? Was it an animal? A car? What was it?
Virginia nearly laughed at the idea of the noise being caused by a car. Her supply truck was the only car that had come to Eville in years, and it always came on the first day of each month. Today was exactly in the middle of April, so there was no way it was a car.
Yet it was. You can probably imagine Virginia's shock when a beat-up old Honda Accord came rumbling into the cracked driveway. She stared in horror as a man with skin as dark as hers emerged from the car.
Carl saw how frightened she was and let out a short laugh. He didn't exactly see himself as being intimidating. 'I'm sorry for barging in on you like this. I'm Carl Hines.'
Virginia uneasily shook his outstretched hand. 'Uh'My name is Virginia.' Carl detected some kind of African accent. It wasn't that thick, but it was definitely there.
Oh! So that's her name! he realized. He wasn't sure how to say what he knew he had to say. 'Well, there's this guy named DeMarcus who wants to come murder you, so I just figured I should come warn you about that. All he wants is your money.'
Virginia looked confused. 'Um'why would anyone want to murder me? Are you sure you have the right person? I don't even know this DeMarcus.'
'You're the only person I know of,' Carl said, almost chuckling at the absurdity of the question, 'who even lives in Eville. Based on that, I'm pretty sure I have the right person.'
The girl couldn't seem to argue with that. 'But tell me why. Why does he want to kill me? I'm just a random person minding their own business!' she said, suddenly angry. 'Why me? How does he even know I exist?'
That had not even crossed Carl's mind. How did he know? 'He has his sources,' he answered simply.
Virginia had a look on her face that could have meant nothing but, whatever you say, liar. I don't believe a word you're saying.
It's like she thinks I'm trying to fool her, he thought in exasperation. Why doesn't anybody trust me?
It was Carl's turn to get mad. 'I would never try to fool you, if that's what you're thinking. I live hours away from here. Do you really think I would bother to come all the way out here just to play a nasty trick on some girl I don't even know?'
Virginia took a cautious step back, and Carl was reminded of how DeMarcus had done the same yesterday. She put her hands up in mock surrender and heaved a sigh. 'Okay. I believe you. Do you happen to know when he is coming?'
'Yeah. See, I kind of formulated a plan while I was driving here. We can wait here for him to come. We could even have the police come if you want''
'Police?' Virginia asked in puzzlement.
'Sure. The police,' Carl prompted. 'You know. Handcuffs. Jail. See where I'm going here?'
'Yes. Yes.' Virginia clearly understood. 'That is a good idea.'
'Then,' Carl continued, 'the police would send him off to jail and he wouldn't be able to steal anything.'
Virginia almost smiled.
The clock tower struck seven. Carl was late.
DeMarcus sighed in exasperation. If he doesn't come within the next half hour, I'm leaving without him.
At seven-thirty DeMarcus stalked off toward his car. 'I'll do it myself, then.'
The sky grew dark. Carl and Virginia were ready, complete with three policemen who had introduced themselves as Officers Patrick, Carmichael, and Thompson. Carl had completely elucidated the plan to Virginia, who had agreed readily. If you asked Carl, it was kind of funny to be standing at the house of someone you didn't know, hiding in bushes and waiting for your former comrade to get arrested. Not much happened for a few hours. Carl had Pride and Prejudice with him to keep him from losing his mind with boredom.
Suddenly there was a rustle. Nobody dared move a muscle except Carl who, after confirming that it was DeMarcus, told Officer Carmichael who was nearest him. All three policemen jumped out of the bushes. Officer Thompson said in a deep, formal voice, 'This is private property and you're under arrest for trespassing.'
DeMarcus was evidently taken by surprise, not having known that someone would be awaiting his arrival. He put on his fakest, most innocent smile. 'This is private property? Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize,' he said, his voice dripping with insincerity. But no one would have known it except Carl.
Chapter VIIII: All's Well That Ends Well
'You look familiar,' another policeman said. 'Do you have a record of past crimes?'
'No,' DeMarcus lied. Carl knew he had to come out and say something.
'Let's make that a 'yes',' he said, smiling broadly at DeMarcus.
DeMarcus looked as if he were about to faint. 'You?' he said incredulously.
A few seconds of silence and realization (for DeMarcus, anyway) went by. 'You were on her side the whole time,' he said quietly, more to himself than to Carl. He was pointing a fat finger at Virginia, who had silently emerged from the bushes.
'And you never suspected a thing.'
'Okay,' Officer Patrick interjected. 'Let's get this show on the road.' He expertly put DeMarcus in handcuffs, not looking like he cared that DeMarcus was thrashing wildly against his firm grasp. They put the thief in the police car they had come in. They bade the others goodbye, which left only Carl and Virginia.
'Thank you,' Virginia said softly. Carl nodded once, smiling. He didn't want to break the silence.
The wedding happened three weeks later. They went on a deluxe honeymoon to Hawaii, where Carl had always wanted to go.
DeMarcus had been right about one thing: Virginia had money. Her parents had had a fortune at the time they passed away, and Virginia inherited it all.
The couple lived in happiness and great comfort, both physically and financially. They had three children and two dogs, who were both sweet mutts and the children loved them.
What about DeMarcus, you might ask? Carl never heard from him again, which suited Carl just fine. He never truly wanted to help DeMarcus with his stupid lawbreaking anyway. For all anyone knows, DeMarcus is still behind bars.