Danny scooted around the corner of the house, out of sight. He could see the road, but people on the road couldn’t see him. That police officer might be here soon, looking for him. Danny was a robber and the police were always on the lookout for robbers. The trick was to get across the street to his house before the policeman came. Once Danny was safe at home, he couldn’t be taken to jail. And anyway, his mom would be there to protect him.
Danny waited; he’d wait all the way until it got dark if he had to. Of course he could go home right now, but that wouldn’t be any fun. He wanted the policeman to see him. He wanted the policeman to know he’d gotten away, that he was too fast and too smart to be caught. It was just too bad that Geoff wasn’t here to see how fast he could run today. He always made fun of Danny, putting him down for being small and slow. Whenever Danny asked if he could hang out with Geoff and his friends, his brother would always say Sure, if you can keep up. Then the guys would run down the street, leaving Danny struggling to catch them. Once they rounded the corner, it was all over. If Danny even made it that far, he’d find that the guys had disappeared. It was like that every time.
Danny grabbed a stick out of the mud in his neighbor’s yard and started poking around with it. He wished he had a mask on right now. If old Mrs. Feeney came outside and caught him, she’d know who he was right away. But if he wore a mask, he would be in disguise like that time he was Batman for Halloween. What was the first thing she’d said when she opened the door? Oh my, and who do we have here? Danny couldn’t believe it; even with his mom standing right there behind him, this lady didn’t know who he was. Masks were like magic: you could wear one and fool anyone into not knowing who you were.
The neighborhood was mostly silent except for a squirrel chuckling at a cat, so when the policeman’s creaky truck rolled in, crunching small rocks under its tires, Danny could hear it. He stood up and got ready to run. This is it. Butterflies swirled in his stomach and his knees felt tingly. He was going to run all the way across the street and through a few yards to his house before the policeman could catch him. The front door better be unlocked, or he’d get caught and go to jail for sure. Too bad Geoff wasn’t here to see how fast he could run. Danny took off.
Brian Hinton guided his black ’98 Tacoma around the corner, headed for home. The truck lurched slightly, the chassis creaking and groaning. The old bucket was ready for the scrap heap, but there wasn’t any room in his policeman’s salary to squeeze out a new car payment. Brian’s stomach gurgled. He hadn’t eaten in – what – seven hours now? Tonight he’d have the pleasure of being home on time to enjoy a warm dinner with his family. Even better, he’d get to hang out with his kid before bedtime. Brian had missed out on more birthdays, holidays, school assemblies and baseball games than he cared to count because of work. Every kid needed a father, and some days it felt like he wasn’t there to do the most important job he had.
Something flashed in front of his car. No – not something – someone. A kid. Jeez! Brian swore and stood on the brakes. The Tacoma bucked and squealed to a halt. He threw the gear shift into park and jumped out. Carrie Martin’s youngest son lay curled on the street, shivering and crying. Brian checked him over, searching for signs of injury, but found none. Maybe the kid was just shaken up.
The street was dead quiet; no one had even come outdoors to see what the fuss was about. Brian lifted the child and cradled him in his arms. He reached into the truck, turned on the hazards and took the key out of the ignition. Time to have a talk with Ms. Martin. He knew it was tough for her to keep an eye on two boys, but she just couldn’t let the four-year-old run the streets like this. Danny wasn’t mature enough to understand about the dangers of cars, obviously.
Officer Hinton carried Danny up the street to the Martins’ house. The little boy, still trembling, sniffled and clung to him. Instinctively, Brian hugged the child tighter, then nodded and kissed him on the head.
Danny felt safe high up in the policeman’s arms. The truck had almost hit him and that was bad. Soon his mom would be yelling at him and that would be even worse. Then Geoff was going to come home and make fun of Danny for being small and slow. The only good thing was how nice the policeman was being. Danny thought that this must be what it’s like to have a dad. If so, then Robbie Hinton was pretty lucky. Suddenly, Danny felt lucky, too. Maybe cops and robbers could be friends sometimes.