“I Am Not a Crook!”



I knew it had to be done, but frankly, skulduggery is not my thing! I’ve been pretty much law-abiding since I got booted out of Pacific Union College way back in 1974. (Don’t ask.) And for sure I didn’t want Lisa to find out what me and the others were up to. I generally don’t keep secrets – until now.

There was no way to set an alarm, but I hotwired my phone to do a soft vibrate right at 2:00 a.m. Frankly, I didn’t need the wake-up nudge; the criminality of what we had in mind had me tossing anxiously starting at about 12:45. I eased downstairs in my skivvies, my stomach lurching, and dressed myself out in the garage, congratulating myself for having stashed a pair of jeans and a jacket in the Prius the previous afternoon.

Speaking of Prius, it helped to be able to glide out of the driveway noiselessly, and when I got to the 210 freeway, holy cow, it was dead empty. With the virus all about, it’s a yawning cemetery anyway, but there wasn’t one breath of life. I guess one lonely trucker going the other direction.

“David, this is just so dumb. If you get busted, they’ll yank your tenure.” But I couldn’t help it; we’d been hatching our plot for the whole month of April.

I exited at Mill Street, my pulse thumping now, and had the presence of mind to park half a block away from the outer boundaries of the campus. My footsteps felt like mini-thunderclaps even though I was involuntarily on tiptoes. I approached the college perimeter and spotted my partners. They offered me goofy, guilty smiles as I joined them, like we really were a gang of amateurs going up against the Corleone Family.

“You seen security?” I murmured, and Jose shook his head. “Nah, there’s just one patrol car and he ain’t around. Don’t you worry ‘bout nothing.”

“You got what you need?”

Without speaking, he pulled his jacket open and I saw the suspicious bulge in his inside pocket. “I’m not sure we’ll need that,” I told him. “But who knows? Keep it out of sight for now, you hear me?”

The familiar landscape was in inky darkness, almost hostile, and it brought back memories of more innocent times when we all floated along these academic vistas in carefree ease. But we stayed in the shadows, not speaking, and cautiously made our way over to where two large double doors stood unguarded. Heavily secured, I was sure, but had Security changed all the locks?

I fumbled in my pocket for the keys, and for a panicked moment almost thought I’d left them back home in that little basket by the sink. But no, they were there.

“Hurry,” Stephanie pleaded. “Man, I’m freaking out. What if someone comes by?”

“Don’t say that.” Her cousin jabbed her in the ribs.

“But now I got to pee big-time.”
To my relief, the key worked and the door swung open; its creak sounding like a machine gun. We froze, but moments later the dark stillness held and we eased into the pitch-black hallway.

Just to the left was the familiar sight of PS 107. I knew my keys by heart and tugged the door open. “Okay, guys,” I murmured. “Make sure those drapes are closed, closed, closed. And don’t make noise!”

The kids sat down expectantly, facing the white board. Jose dug in his coat pocket for that TI-30 calculator of his, I got out a dry-erase marker, and we spent the next hour doing sine and cosine graphs.



About David B. Smith

I'm a math professor at San Bernardino Valley College - awesome place! - and author of adult Christian fiction. Lisa and I have two grown daughters and four grandkids.
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