Two kids in an adventure and cover up.
|The Good Alibi
"Honest, Mom, it was Hillary. She wanted to 'dig deep', that's what she said, 'dig deep.' And that's what we did, and the librarian, she said we gotta go all the way to the back, back to the "stacks', is what she called them, and I said ' we don't gotta do all that. All we want is ten or fifteen minutes of stuff and we got all that up at the front, and she said…" And here is where Hillary broke in.
"Alex is right," she was talking to her dad and my mom at the same time while she had a tight grip on my arm to quiet me down. "We had enough to talk about, but I wanted to get some of his songs, the ones he wrote back then, the Civil War, an' all, an' she said—the librarian—said that all that was way back in the…, the…, what did she call it?" Hillary looked at me, expecting me to finish her contrived tales, expecting me to figure out whatever excuse she had in the back of her mind.
I just started talking, making it up as we went along. I didn't want to leave any break in our story to let one of the officers or my mom or her dad to fill in the gap with more questions than we could make up answers for. We were in eighth grade and had a teamwork assignment to talk about someone from long ago, someone that we would have to use the library—any library—for research and materials. We were expected to find something, either real or copied, from that person's life and give a classroom presentation for at least fifteen minutes. We chose Stephen Foster because she like singing "Beautiful Dreamer". It was the song her mom sung to her at bedtime.
"Vertical files!" I exploded. "That's what she called them." I remembered that from our sixth grade tour. Then Hillary filled in some more. I listened intently, knowing that I would have to keep the thread of our story relatively truthful and in tune with hers.
"We had flashlights, cuz' we were told it would be dark back there. We didn't know there was a light we could turn on. An' we were down on the floor, on our knees, goin' through these boxes of really old, musty, moldy stuff, an' we heard someone a long way off say somethin' that we couldn't make out, an' it musta been that the library was closing an' all that, an'…" Here again she looked quickly at me out of the corner of her eye, pleading with me to finish her thought.
It was certainly true that we had an assignment to do and that we were there to find out more about Stephen Foster and that we were told to go back to the stacks to the vertical files. All that was true, and we didn't lie. But that wasn't the only reason. And that's what we had to cover up, to hide from our folks—and the police.
"I thought—or we thought—that they were making some kind of announcement, but, really, we couldn't hear." I blurted this all out in one breath, trying to get to the crux of the whole matter. "There was something else in the words we heard, something that didn't match up with 'closing time'." The police detective broke in and didn't let me finish.
"Is that when you heard the plot? The plan to steal the rare books?" Detective Morrison was impatient with us and our story; he wanted to get home to his dinner.
Hillary spoke first, "They were sayin' something about how much money they could get for them on Ebay. We had to sneak past them to get out of the library, so we saw what they were doin'. They had the case broken, the glass case where you could look at these super rare books and couldn't touch them or anythin'." The detective wrote all this down.
I didn't want her to fall apart and tell everyone that we were hiding back there to do other things, why we didn't want to leave right away. They didn't need to know that part.
I took over the rest of the story.
"We watched the two guys for a little bit, and Hillary said that we had to get out of there, but I said we gotta tell someone about what they were doin', and she said, 'No, we can't, because we might get in trouble for stayin' there so late, and I told her we gotta let someone know…" I took a breath. Detective Morrison started to say something, but I held up my hand and kept on talking. "They heard us whisperin,..."
Then Hillary took over.
"Yeah! They heard us. I saw this one guy turn and look in our direction, so I grabbed Alex's hand and we ran for it," she said.
I broke in. "We knew about this one exit door that we could just push on the bar and get out of there, so we ran for that door. They started chasin' us, yelling' an' everythin'."
Hillary finished. "We got to the outside and ran to find a phone. We had to report what we seen."
The detective stopped us. "Okay, I've heard enough from you kids. We can go from here."
Hillary looked at me, her eyes glistening. We had done it. We had gotten away with it. We had stopped a crime and kept our secret.