CHRISTMAS AND EASTER
By Stephen D. Rogers
Danny had waited patiently for three months knowing that he couldn't rush the job.
This neighborhood was ripe for the picking. The development consisted of upscale homes, most of which boasted a Virgin Mary on the front lawn. Six weeks ago Danny had gone door-to-door looking for a lost kitten and saw a crucifix in the entry hall of almost every house, a cross hanging from the neck of the women who answered the muted chimes.
Today was Easter Sunday. Even the people who only went to church twice a year would be out of their house. Could a thief ask for anything more?
Danny knew he echoed the sentiments of children hunched over their Easter baskets everywhere when they said they wished the holiday was a monthly event.
Backing the van up the first driveway on the street, Danny kept his eyes glued to the side mirror. The last thing he needed was an accident to screw up the appearance of normalcy.
So far, everything was going according to plan.
Earlier this morning Danny had parked across from the entrance to the development and counted the cars as they left. Ten families had driven past him to celebrate the day Christ rose from the grave.
Danny would celebrate tonight once his fence traded him cash for the jewelry.
He climbed down from the van and grinned when he saw the lettering on the side. This had been one of his better ideas, a stroke of genius.
If a patrol car passed through the neighborhood, the cop would wince when he saw the small appliance repair vehicle. Imagine losing a stove, refrigerator, or dishwasher on Easter.
And what was Mister Fixit going to charge for the house call? Time and half? Double time?
The cop would exit the development and continue his sweep.
Danny hurried past a tattered basketball net and around to the back yard.
A single set of electrical and telephone lines went into the development and Danny had cut them down where the branch overhang was the thickest. Back in the van, even he didn't notice that nothing connected the two poles.
Danny pulled on a pair of thin work gloves and used his tool chest to knock a pane of glass from the kitchen door. He reached inside and turned the cheap lock, disengaged the deadbolt.
Five seconds later he was walking down the hallway looking for the master bedroom.
The house sure smelled good. When was the last time he sat down for roasted lamb? He must have been just a kid when his grandmother was still alive. She would put together those massive dinners with lamb, turkey, and ham. He never knew the name of half the vegetables.
Probably all the places he was about to hit had something cooking in the oven. Danny heard his stomach growl. He was going to be starving by the time he finally finished today.
Danny glanced inside the first bedroom. The walls were painted black and covered with posters for what appeared to be heavy metal bands. This then would be a teenager's room.
Leaving the door open, Danny continued down the hallway until he reached the next bedroom.
And Bingo was his name-o.
Danny crossed to the dressing table and emptied the jewelry into his tool chest.
This was a one-person operation and Danny was sticking to easily found jewelry and cash, hit and run. If he spent five minutes per house he could reach all ten. The more time he hunted for possible treasure, the fewer houses he could visit.
He had restrained himself for three months in order to take advantage of a single hour. He wasn't going to let greed get the best of him.
Danny quickly checked the end tables but found nothing.
Back at the teenager's room he discovered some money and a bag of weed in a desk drawer. The money went into his pocket.
In the living room there was an envelope of cash in the roll-top and this went into another pocket. Already he could feel the temptation to tear the place apart to see where more might be hidden. Just follow the plan.
"I forgive you."
Danny dropped his toolbox as he whirled around to see a crucifix on the wall, the Lord appearing to stare right at him.
He licked his lips. "Who's there?"
Nothing moved and no one answered.
His grandmother had owned that same crucifix only she hung it in the dining room, seating Danny so he faced it whenever he ate at her house. She said grace every meal and she meant it.
Danny took a step closer, willing the statue to speak again.
The voice had been soft and plaintive, the way he imagined it would sound when he knelt by the side of his bed to pray.
Danny bit the inside of his cheek.
What would his grandmother say if she could see Danny now, robbing houses on Easter of all days? He pictured her in Heaven, staring down at him, shaking her head the way she did when he disappointed her.
Danny grabbed his toolbox and split.
From behind the couch, Alex laughed himself silly as soon as he heard the back door slam shut. Was that unbelievable or what?
After standing to stretch his lanky frame, Alex dialed 911 on his cell and told the dispatcher what happened, describing the van he had seen pull up the driveway after the power died.
So much for lazing on the couch until his parents got back from church. The cops would probably be knocking on the door any minute now.
While he waited for them, though, he could always help himself to a little lamb, make a sandwich with some of that strange mint jelly that only seemed to exist this time of year.
Alex winked at Jesus on the cross.
Leave it to a non-believer to help a thief find religion.
Mr. Rogers is a prolific writer. Over five hundred of his stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than two hundred publications.
His website, www.stephendrogers.com, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.
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