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Bedtime Kids Teens & Young Adult

The sound of the spray can was the only noise that could be heard in the posh downtown retail district.  A vandal had already tagged almost all of the building fronts on the one hundred block of West Main Street. They finished painting and tossed the empty can aside, intentionally leaving it for the police.

The vandal then pulled out a hammer from under their black overcoat and when they were done the windows of the elite bridal shop on the corner were smashed to bits and glass shards were scattered on the street, the sidewalk, and inside the shop.  The alarm blared with the first strike of the hammer and continued long after they were done and gone.

It was after midnight and the streets of downtown were deserted at this time of night, finding a witness to the crime was going to be difficult for the police, and that was what the vandal was counting on.  The police station was only a few blocks away but it took the officer more than twenty minutes to arrive at the scene.  That was something else the vandal has been counting on, enough time to make a clean getaway.

The first bell rang in the halls of Hamilton High School and everyone was scrambling to get to class on time, well, almost everyone.  Mack, a high school junior and graffiti artist was sitting outside of the Principal’s office, slouching in a chair.  The door opened suddenly and Mack sat up straight in her chair.

Principal Turner stepped out, looked left, then right and when she saw Mack she put her hands on her hips and looked down at her.

“Okay Mack, get in here!” Principal Turner said a little agitated seeing her sitting there.

 Mack stood up, picked up her backpack from beside the chair, and sauntered in.  Each of them took a seat facing the other.

“Mack, how many times are you going to come to my office this year?” asked Principal Turner.

“Okay, I’ve been here a lot, but this time it wasn’t me,” Mack said honestly.              

“That’s what you said last time.”

“And I was right, wasn’t I?  I know it looks bad but I swear I didn’t do it.”

“Mack, you can’t keep going on like this.  I have gone to bat for you more times than I can count.  This time is serious.”

“And I appreciate that really I do, but you have to believe me.  I didn’t paint the graffiti downtown and I definitely didn’t smash the windows at the bridal shop.  I would never do that.  I was home all day yesterday after school, you can call my Mom and ask her, she was there too.  Besides, Principal Turner, my ink is way better than that!”   


“Hey, I’m just stating facts.  You’ve seen my work.  You have to admit that my drawings blow that one out of the water.”

“Yes, I have seen your work.  On the school marque, the library doorway, outside the teacher’s lounge…”

“Okay, Okay!  Yes, that was all me. But that was also last year, Principal Turner.  I haven’t done anything like that here, not since my last piece that you left up on the handball wall.  I swear.”

“Alright, Mack, I believe you.”

Principal Turner pulled out some photos and laid them on the desk.

“Tell me what you see that can help the police identify who did this.”

Mack picked up the photos and looked at each one carefully.

“I’ve seen this before,” Mack said and pointed at a green clover symbol on the photo. 

“Do you know the old bus depot?  The one down on McCray Street,” Mack asked.

“Yes, I know it.  Why?”

“I’ve seen that symbol on the wall there.  Whoever painted the depot also painted the buildings downtown.

“Are you sure?”      

“Yes, I’m sure of it.  Artists like to brand their work so everyone knows it was them.  I paint a purple heart inside a triangle on my tags and everyone knows they were done by me,” Mack explained.

“I appreciate your help, Mack.  You are so talented.  Did your art teacher tell you I have been monitoring the paintings you turn in for his class?”

“NO.  Why would you do that?” Mack asked, slightly horrified by the information.

“Well, Mack, I think you have great potential as an artist.  I think you should be applying to art school.”

“Look, Principal Turner, I appreciate everything you have done for me but my Mom and I don’t have money for me to go to art school.  She’s already working two jobs.  What little money I make at the Burger Shack helps us pay for food,” Mack told her.

“Mack, I think your grades are good enough that you would qualify for a scholarship.  I also think that if you apply yourself this year and take a couple of college prep classes next year you could get into USC or CSU Berkeley.  They both have excellent art programs.”

“Thanks and all but those schools are too far away from home and my Mom needs me.  I can’t just up and leave her.”

“Mack, someday you are going to go out on your own.  Your Mom knows that.  That is what kids do, they grow up and they go live their own lives.”

“Am I done here?  Can I go now?”

“Yes, you can go to class.  Have Mrs. Wilson get you a hall pass.”

As Mack left the office, Principal Turner picked up the phone and dialed the police station.

“Hello, Detective Nelson, it’s Marsha Turner over at Hamilton High School.  I wanted to let you know that I talked to Mack and she says the graffiti came from the same artist that tagged the old bus depot.  Yes, she’s sure.  She said she doesn’t know the person and I believe her.  She thinks they are new around here because that tag went up not too long ago.  She didn’t have anything to do with the vandalism downtown.  I’m certain of it.  She’s a good kid.  She just needs a little direction and guidance to get her on the right path.”

Principal Turner nodded her head as she listened to the other end.

“Sure, Detective, if I find out anything else I will give you a call,” she said as she hung up the phone.

At the bus depot on McCray Street, Slash, a twenty-year-old street vendor, and Monte, a sixteen-year-old drop-out graffiti artist were standing in front of the bus station looking at the new graffiti when two police cars swooped up on them and took them into custody.  They were taken downtown to the police station for questioning.

Detective Jack Nelson paced back and forth inside the interrogation room.  He was trying to get answers from Slash, who was sitting in a chair across from where he was pacing.

“Look, Detective, I already told your boys I didn’t have anything to do with the tag downtown.  I have a good business going and I don’t tag anymore.  Tagging is for kids.  I have a family to think about now.  My son just turned one and my wife is pregnant again.

“Then who did it?  Was it Monte?”        

“No, it wasn’t Monte either.”

“What were you two doing out in front of the bus depot?”

“Monte called me and asked me to meet him over there.  He said he had something important to talk to me about.  I had just walked up when your boys rolled up and cuffed us without giving us a chance to explain.”

“What did Monte want?”

“He never got a chance to tell me.  Like I said, I had just walked up to him when the next thing I knew I was being rolled by your boys. You’ll have to ask him.”

“Do you know who painted the tag at the bus depot?” asked the Detective.

“Word on the street is some new cat named Grover did it.  I’ve seen that tag symbol before but I don’t remember where.  It wasn’t around here though.”

“So you don’t know where this Grover is hanging out?”

“Na, man.  I don’t really kick it in that circle anymore.  The only ones I still stay in contact with are Monte and Mack.  I saw Mack a couple of days ago.  She told me she’s been working at the Burger Shack.  She’s not tagging anymore either, just trying to help out her Mom and finish school.

“Okay, Slash, sorry about the confusion.  Do you need a ride somewhere?”

“It’s cool.  But next time just call me and ask me.  You know I’m always straight with you.”                                                            

Slash got up and shook Nelson’s hand and left the interrogation room.  Nelson followed him out and headed into the interrogation room down the hall.  When he opened the door he saw Monte sitting in the chair in handcuffs.  Nelson removed the cuffs and Monte rubbed his wrists.

“What am I doing here?  I didn’t do anything.” Monte said impatiently.   

“What do you know about this new tagger named Grover?”

“You drag me down here and keep me in cuffs just to ask me about Grover?  Man, let me out of here.  I don’t know nothing,” Monte said, angry at the Detective.

“Monte, don’t play me.  Either you admire this Grover kid or you want to push him out because you think he’s better than you.  Either way, I know that you know something.”

“I already told you I don’t know anything.  Charge me or let me go.  You already know that tag isn’t mine.  So you already know I didn’t do anything.  And who says I know this chump Grover?”                 

“Then what were you doing at the old bus depot?”

“I was meeting with Slash.”

“What were you meeting Slash about?”

“I wanted to talk to him about something,” Monte confessed. 

“Monte quit playing games and just tell me,” Nelson said, banging on the table with his fist.

“I have an idea about turning the old bus depot into an art center and I wanted to see if Slash wanted to help me out.  We didn’t even get a chance to talk about it because you picked us up for just standing there.”

“So what you are trying to tell me is that you and Slash just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

“Exactly.  Can I go now?” Monte asked.

“No.  Tell me what you know about Grover?”

“I told you I don’t know him.  I’ve seen his work a couple of times but I’ve never met him.”

Nelson laughed out loud as he turned the spare chair around and sat on it so it was backward.

“How long have you been on the street, Monte?”

“What does that have to do with anything?  I already told you I don’t know that chump.”

“How is it you know everything that’s going on out there on the street but you don’t know Grover?” Nelson threw at him.

“He don’t stay around here.  I heard he just pops in to tag our spots and then leaves.”

“Are you hungry, Monte?”

“I could eat.  But I’ll tell you right now, feeding me isn’t going to change my story.  I still don’t know this cat Grover.”

“All right.  You can go.  Here’s some money.   Go get yourself something to eat.  Promise me you will call me if you hear anything?”

“Only if you promise me that you won’t roll up on me like that anymore.  You know how to find me. I'm still living at the teen homeless shelter down on First and Vine.”

Monte got up and opened the door.

“You know, Detective, I have been working really hard to change my life.  I am taking online classes and I have been working at the community center teaching art to senior citizens three times a week.  I am trying to turn my life around since my Mom ran out on me a few years ago and left me on the streets to fend for myself.  You should be proud of me, not always harassing me,” Monte said as he walked out and shut the door behind him.

Now what?  Nelson had no leads.  He was hoping that one of the kids he had dealt with in the past would tell him what he needed to know.

He didn’t really care about the tagging so much as he did about the broken windows at the bridal shop.  As far as they could tell, nothing has been stolen from the shop and the broken windows were just an act of vandalism, but for Nelson, it was much more than that.  His sister owned the bridal shop and he was taking the vandalism personally.  That connection was starting to cloud his judgment and he needed to take a bigger look at the whole picture so he could start connecting some dots.

That night while Detective Nelson was sleeping, another crime happened downtown.  This time it was at the bakery across the street from the bridal shop.  Someone was definitely targeting the downtown area and kept going back to the same street to do more damage.  Maybe they should stake out the area, maybe do a sweep of the homeless and see if any of them saw anyone or knew anything.

The next morning the police department questioned the homeless in the area.  No one saw or heard anything.

The only thing left, to stake out the area and see if they could surprise the vandal.  Nelson set up the stakeout and waited all night but nothing happened downtown.  The same with the following night. 

Detective Nelson was getting frustrated.  He needed a lead so he decided to investigate the owners of the businesses downtown to see if he could find any connection.  He looked for hours but didn’t find anything relevant. 

Next, he pulled up public records on the property owner and that was when he saw it.  The property had lost value due to the downturn in the economy and it looked like the owner hadn’t paid the property taxes for over a year.  That was something to investigate.

He looked up the owner’s address and went to go talk to them.  When he got to the address, the old house looked abandoned.  The grass in the front yard was up to his knees and the house was dark.  He knocked on the door but no one answered.  He walked around to the back and tried all of the doors but the house was locked uptight.

“Hey, Sandy, how are you this morning?” Jack asked his sister over the phone.

“I’m fine, we got the shop boarded up and the glass company is supposed to come by today and fix all of the windows.  What’s up, Jack?” Sandy asked.

“Who do you pay your rent to?” Jack asked.

“Priority Property Management.  Why?”

“I went by the property owner’s residence and it was abandoned.  It looks like the owner hasn’t paid his property taxes in over a year.  Do you know where the owner went?”

“No, we have been paying the property manager ever since we moved into the building three years ago.  You might want to talk to them, they are down on Vine Street across from the bank.”

Jack hung up the phone and headed over to Vine Street.  He talked to the property manager and found out that the rents were deposited into the owner's bank account every month and that the manager hadn’t talked to the owner for quite some time but that was normal so nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Now, the only thing to do was to keep staking out the downtown area until they caught the vandal.

Detective Nelson didn’t have to wait long.  He had been sitting in the dress shop with the lights out when he saw a person dressed all in black walk by.  They stopped a few doors down at the toy store and stood in the doorway looking around.  Then they crossed the street and stood in front of the florist shop looking left and right.  The detective snuck out the front door of the dress shop and quietly crept up behind the person dressed in black.   

“Hold it right there!  Put your hands on your head and kneel down on the ground,”  Detective Nelson said with his gun drawn.

The figure put their hands on their head and knelt down on the ground.  The detective put his gun away and pulled out his cuffs.  He grabbed the person’s left hand and pulled it around to their back.

“Hey, not so hard,” the girl said.

“Mack?” Detective Nelson asked lifting the girl up and turning her around to face him.

“Yeah it’s me,” she said, rubbing her wrist when he let go of her.

“I knew it was you,” he said.

“You did not know it was me.  You thought I was Grover.”

“I knew you were responsible for the tagging!” he said.

“I told you guys, I don’t tag anymore.  I only came down here to see if I could find any clues to help you out.  I heard about you picking up Slash and Monte.  That was a bum deal for them and you know it!”

“I am taking you down to the station, Mack.  I am going to book you for the vandalism,” he threatened.

The sound of a spray can hitting the ground cut through the quiet night and right then Detective Nelson realized he once again had the wrong person and the vandal was getting away.

The End.

December 14, 2020 19:41

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1 comment

Beth Connor
00:47 Dec 24, 2020

I love that you write for your grandkids- I bet they love it. Your story flowed really nicely, and I like that all the artists. There were a couple grammatical things (commas and such) but nothing that distracted me from the writing. Great job!


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