“Hand me that screwdriver! Quick!”
James’ fingers were freezing. He could see the tools on the street near the left rear tire of the truck, but his fingers could not feel them. The street light was not enough against the shadows of the night. James blew hot breath into his left hand before reaching down to the chilling ground to pick up the screwdriver. His hoodie kept creeping over his eyes, and he kept having to adjust it back. He quickly handed the tool to Kevin who was busy picking at the door lock. The job of look-out is James’. He looked up the street just in time to see the stop light change to green. A man on a bicycle went across the intersection but did not notice the want-to-be thieves. His head swung around in the opposite direction to a lonesome residential street. Only a few scattered leaves danced along the road in the winter wind.
The dogs across the street at an old Victorian home kept barking in their direction. He prayed they would stop. The sound made James’ blood race and his hands quiver. It put him on edge. He hated that feeling. The feeling he got when the nerves in his muscles were set to sprint. His left knee was beginning to hurt so he swiftly changed the knee he was pressing against the frozen pavement. The smell of rust and grime emanated from the space in between the truck tire and the chassis.
“Is this going to work? Have you done this before? What is is taking you so long?” asked James shivering in the winter breeze.
“Hey, don’t chicken out on me! This score is going to be big. Look at this ride! Are you kidding me? We pull this off, and we are the guys to beat around here. Sometimes you gotta cut corners kid,” replied Kevin between the chatter and clicking of this teeth.
James’ mother had always told him that it didn’t pay to cheat. “What if the alarm goes off when you open it?”
“Don’t worry about that. Just be ready to hit the streets.”
James assumed his role as the look-out and turned around to rest his body against the truck. With Kevin at his back, the breeze hit his cheeks hard. He could feel the cracking of his skin. It felt like multiple paper cuts across his lips with every howl of the wind. He adjusted his oversized hoody back again away from this vision. A car in the distance turned in their direction. It approached at a creeping pace, but it was not long until the boys were right in the head lights. James’ heart leaped as the lights atop the vehicle became clearer in the night. The cops. “Oh God! We have got to go! Let’s get out of here!”
Kevin was startled by the booming of the siren and the red and blue lights that pushed the darkness from around them. He ran into James on his way away from the truck towards the intersection at the opposite end.
In a full stride, the oversized hoodie corrupted James’ steps. He never hated that ugly old thing more than tonight. He knew that running into a busy intersection would not be the best thing. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed an opened fence to the right. With no hesitation, he cut in that direction stomping his feet against the ground as hard as he could. He ran past the gate and meant to close the door, but it was out of his reach. He almost lost his footing as the grass turned to gravel near a window with light shining through it. He turned a corner and pressed his back against the wall with the hope that the patrol had chased after Kevin.
He waited a few seconds. He could not see as the strong lights of the patrol car had had their effect. He couldn’t hear anything over his shallow, cumbersome and uncontrollable breathes. He had to calm down. He wanted to reach over and lean on his knees to rest, but fear kept him rigid. He was glued in place with his spine against the back porch of the home. He stared at the 6-foot wooden fence across the yard he would be forced to jump next. His breathing calmed although the vapor spewed from his mouth in the wintertime air. He heard the gate squeak.
“Dispatch…. Foot pursuit in progress east of 42nd. 3 or 4 blocks from Wilshire Street. Over.” James struggled to find air. The snapping of the leaves and the brushing of the grass let James know they were walking cautiously. A bright light shone and first scanned the area across the fence right in front of James.
In desperation and recognizing that the footsteps were getting closer, James pushed off of the wooden porch and made for the fence in front of him. He could hear a sound behind him, a voice. The boy was not worried about making out the words of that voice. All he needed to do was jump. All his legs needed to do was forget the cold. Forget the pin needles of the dreary air of that night and lift his body up and over the wooden boards. He could see his silhouette formed by the giant light behind him on the fence. The voice kept getting louder and soon James felt someone else’s footsteps almost match his own.
As he approached the fence, it seemed to grow taller. He would need to curl his fingers over the edge. His left foot raised into the air to lead the hop, but his right foot shifted underneath him. Instead of rising in the air, he was falling. He was about a foot from the fence, and he tucked his right shoulder downward to absorb the impact. He felt a pain and heard a crunch as his body met the cold floor. His face was in the dirt, and his exhausted breathing threw dust into his eyes. Within moments a pair of cold hands wrapped him up. They forced his right cheek closer still to the ground and held his arms behind his back. Their pulling and tugging sent pain through his chest and left shoulder. He would not move again. He was tired. He had been beaten. It was over.