One Saturday, a few days before Christmas, Colin suggested that we go into the big mall in Dartmouth. Dartmouth is about 15 kilometers south of Sackville, across the harbour from Halifax, and the mall there was one of the biggest in eastern Canada. I said, “How are we gonna get to Dartmouth?”
He said “We can take the bus.”
“No buses go from Sackville to Dartmouth on weekends. We’d have to take the 80 into Halifax, then get a transfer across the bridge to the Dartmouth terminal, then another transfer to take us out to the mall. It would take hours.”
“Oh. Well, I guess we could ride our bikes.”
“To Dartmouth? That’s an awful long way.”
“Yeah, and uphill the whole way back. I don’t fancy pushing my bike back up that hill.”
“True. But if we came home on the Waverly Road we’d avoid the hill coming back. It’s a little further that way but it’s flat.”
“I suppose”, I said, and that was it. Within a few minutes we were on our way.
The trip in was uneventful. As expected, we went really fast down the hill, ducking our heads down between our handlebars to cheat the wind and almost keeping up with the traffic on the highway. I can still remember the scream of those knobby BMX tires on that pavement. It was exhilarating. When we got to the bottom of the hill we turned up into Burnside industrial park and cut across it for the quickest route to the mall.
The mall was incredible. The Christmas decorations were amazing, and their famous but creepy attraction, Woody the talking tree, was present and accounted for. And the people! I don’t think I had ever seen such a crowded mall. There were hundreds of stores spread out over three levels, with three department stores, an electronic store, a grocery store, and the rest were all boutique type places. We visited the electronic store and drooled all over the stereo systems (I had remembered Carman’s Cerwin Vega speakers and looked for them but I couldn’t find any there. I wanted to see how expensive they were). After we got bored of that place we headed for the main attraction for us, the arcade. This arcade was famous around here, and we wanted to see it.
When we finally found it and went in we were both in awe. The arcades we hung around in Sackville had a few dozen games, but here there were hundreds! We didn’t know which ones to try first. I finally settled on an old favourite: Gyruss, a space shooter game with a really cool background music track. I had played it hundreds of times at the Town Center arcade in Sackville and had gotten really good at it. Colin settled on one called Metro Cross. I thought it to be a boring and weird game, but he got right into it and was surprisingly good at it.
After a while we were both getting low on cash and were getting hungry, so we headed to the food court and had lunch. I still had about $10 left but was going to buy my mother a Christmas gift with that money, so after we ate we got up and started wandering the mall. We came to a large drug store that had a big display of perfumes and Christmas nick knacks, so I said “Let’s go in here”.
We went inside and started looking over the perfumes. There were so many, and they were so expensive! While I was looking at them, trying to decide on the perfect scent for Mom (IE “cheap”) Colin got bored and wandered off. I finally settled on one that was called “Lavender”. It smelled OK to me and I’d heard Mom mention that lavender was one of her favourite flowers. Most importantly, it was only eight bucks for the bottle. I paid for it at the perfume counter and then went looking for Colin.
He was nowhere to be found. I looked through the
whole store, then turned around and went through it again. Still no
Colin. I went back out into the mall thinking he might have gone out
of the store to have a smoke (back then you were allowed to smoke in
malls – they even had benches with ashtrays). Not there either. I
was puzzled. I went back into the store and was just about to ask a
cashier to page him, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned
around and my heart sank. It was a security guard.
“Are you Carmen?” he asked.
“Um, yes” I said.
“Could you come with me, please?”
“What? Why? What’s going on?”
“Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. Just follow me, please.”
Oh, God, I thought. Colin.
I tucked in behind the
guard and followed him to the back of the store. We went into a door
marked “Employees only” and down a short hallway. The guard
opened a door on the left and ushered me in. Inside the room I saw
Colin sitting on one side of a desk and another security guard
sitting on the other. Colin looked like he wanted to die. The guard
that had brought me there turned around and left. When the door
closed I looked at the guard and said “What the hell is going on?”
He looked at Colin and said “Do you want to tell him, or do you want me to?”
“Tell me what?”
I looked at Colin. He wouldn’t look at me. He looked at the guard and then looked away.
“Very well then", the guard said. "It seems your buddy wanted this pair of sunglasses really badly but he didn’t have the money to pay for it. He put them on his face and walked out of the store.” The guard pointed at a pair of sunglasses lying on his desk, with a tag that had been torn off lying beside them.
Colin piped up. “It was a mistake. I didn’t mean to take them. I put them on top of my head and forgot about them.”
I gave Colin the dirtiest look I could muster, but it was wasted. He still wasn’t looking at me.
The guard said “Oh, really? Then why did you take the tag off?”
I was still staring at Colin. I’m surprised the look I was giving him wasn’t burning his hair off.
“I didn’t see any tag”, he muttered. It didn’t sound very convincing. How in the hell do you put sunglasses on top of your head and forget about them?
Certainly the guard wasn’t convinced. “Yeah, like I’ve never heard that one before.”
There was a knock at the door. The guard said “Come in”.
My heart sank. Two Dartmouth cops walked in. Even worse, one of them was my next door neighbour, Constable LeBlanc! He looked at me with surprise. I was mortified.
The other cop, the one who wasn’t my neighbour asked the guard “What’s going on?”
The guard told the cop the same thing he told me. He then said that they had video evidence if the cops wanted to see it. The cop said “Yes”, so the guard pushed a button on the VCR. Up came the video, and there it was, plain as day. Colin took a pair sunglasses off the display, tried them on, put them on top of his head, tried on a few more pairs, put each of them back, and then walked away from the display. The guard said “We saw the whole thing as he was doing it. I was watching on this monitor, my colleague went out and waited for him to leave the store. He found the tag on the floor while escorting Colin here back to the office.”
Constable LeBlanc looked at me. “What about him?”
My heart started racing. Surely they weren’t going to involve me?
“From what we can see he had nothing to do with it. I didn’t even know Colin here had anyone with him until I tried to get his phone number from him. He wouldn’t give it to me, but insisted that I find young...”
“...Carmen”, Constable LeBlanc finished. The guard, Colin, and the other cop were surprised. “I know him”, he said. “He’s my neighbour.”
Everyone was silent. The cops and guard were staring at Colin and he was staring at his feet. I didn’t know what to do or think. The images from that video just kept playing over and over in my mind. There was no denying it. Colin had definitely stolen those sunglasses. I felt sick.
“Right”, said the stranger cop. “We’ll need that tape for evidence. You and the other guard will need to provide statements, of course. I assume the store will be pressing charges?”
“Absolutely”, said the guard.
“And you”, the cop said, rounding on Colin, “are now under arrest.”
He then read Colin his rights. I wasn’t really paying attention, my mind was still reeling, but I do remember that they didn’t sound like when they do it on TV. When he finished up he tried to have Colin sign a document stating that he understood his rights. Colin made no attempt to sign.
“Look, kid, I don’t need to have you sign this. Anyone in this room can sign this as a witness that you were informed of your rights.”
Colin didn’t move. “Very well.” The cop gave the paper to the guard, and the guard signed it.
“Now”, the cop said, “You will tell us your parents’ phone number.”
Colin still didn’t move. The cop sighed. “Kid, I need your phone number because I need to call your parents. If I can’t get hold of your parents I can’t release you. And if I can’t release you then you’re spending the night in a jail cell.”
Colin stirred a little at this, but made still no attempt to answer.
The cop looked at me. “How about you, do you know his phone number?”
“I... Yeah, it’s...”
“Don’t bother.” It was Colin, finally speaking up.
Constable LeBlanc said “What?”
Colin was looking up now, and he had tears in the corners of his eyes. “I said ‘Don’t bother’. They won’t come.”
“What do you mean, ‘they won’t come’?”
“I mean they won’t come. They told me that if I got into trouble again to not bother calling them.”
He looked down again.
The other cop said “Listen. Enough nonsense. You think I’ve never heard that one before? Damned near every kid uses that line with us. You think by not giving us your number that your parents won’t find out about this? Just give me your phone number and get it over with.”
“Fine, if you insist. You’ll see though.” He then rattled off his phone number.
Constable LeBlanc looked at the phone and asked the guard, “May I?”
The guard slid the phone over to the cop, pushed a button on it, and said “Go ahead.”
He dialed the number. After a few seconds he said “Hello, am I speaking to Colin’s mother?”
A brief silence. Then he continued “This is Constable LeBlanc with Dartmouth police. I have Colin here---” and stopped. You could hear screeching coming from the phone.
“Ok, Ma’am, I need you to calm down so I can explain. Colin was---”
Cut off again. More screeching. The conversation continued with the cop only being able to utter a few words each time before being cut off. The screeching from the other end didn’t stop. Finally the cop said “Ma’am, I need you to listen. I’m trying to---” and then he went quiet. No more screeching could be heard. Constable LeBlanc put the phone down and said “She hung up. She told me to keep him, and she hung up.”
“How could...” the other cop began.
“I TOLD YOU! BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT REALLY MY PARENTS! THEY DON’T FUCKING CARE!!!”
The cops and guard all looked at each other, then back at Colin, then at me, then back at Colin.
Constable LeBlanc was a bit more gentle now, but finally said “Well, if you can’t go home we have to take you in. You're a minor, we can’t just release you.”
Colin slumped in his chair. My mind was racing. Part of me wanted to leave and never look back. He had promised me no more stealing, and he had broken that promise. Another part of me, though, heard that “THEY DON’T CARE” and felt nothing but pity. If I abandoned him he would have no one. I was mad as hell at him, but I couldn’t just turn my back on him and let them haul him off to jail. But what could I do? I was just a kid, even younger than Colin. The cops certainly wouldn’t release him to me.
The other cop looked at me and said “Well, I guess that’s it. You can go home now.”
I slowly started toward the door to the office. I glanced over at Colin. A thought occurred to me.
“What about my parents?”
All four of them looked at me, and all for of them simultaneously said “What?”
“Could you release him to my parents?”
Nobody said anything for a while, they all just stared at me. Finally Constable LeBlanc said “Well, I suppose we could, but they’d have to sign papers saying that they were responsible for him. And if his parents won’t take him back then he’d have to stay with you.”
My oldest brother had recently left the family to join the military, so we did have a spare bedroom. The question was, would Mom & Dad agree to this? They seemed to like Colin, but this was a pretty big ask, especially given the circumstances.
The other cop said “All we can do is try. Call them up”.
I looked around at everybody. I didn’t want to make this call surrounded by people. The guard must have been reading my mind. “Come with me, you can call them from the other office.”
He led me out and across the hall to another small office, almost identical to the one we had left. He pointed at the phone. “Dial ‘9’ first to call.” He then slipped out of the room.
I then placed the most difficult call I had ever made. Mom answered, and I asked to talk to Dad. When Dad picked up I explained everything to him. The sunglasses, the arrest, Colin not being able to go home, everything. Everything, that is, except the fact that this was not Colin’s first time. At first Dad was angry with my going to Dartmouth on my bicycle, then he was angry with Colin for stealing (I had to convince him that I was not in trouble), but finally he was angry at Colin’s parents.
“They just said to keep him?”
“Yeah, and then hung up.”
“Wow. And this close to Christmas.”
He thought for a few more moments, then finally said “I suppose he can stay with us for a few days. I will be having a talk with him. I’m coming to get you. Both of you.”
I was relieved. “Oh. Bring the truck. We have our bicycles.”
I hung up and left the
office. I stood outside the other office door thinking for a moment,
then knocked and was let in. I announced that Dad was coming, and you
could see the relief on Colin’s face as well as both cops. It was
clear they hadn’t been looking forward to dragging him off to a
prison cell for the weekend. LeBlanc said “While we’re waiting
for them to get here, I may as well start taking statements.”
He looked at the guard and said “Can we use the other office?”
The guard nodded. LeBlanc looked at Colin. “You first.”
He took Colin into the other office, leaving me, the guard, and the other cop behind. This cop said “I can take your statement here”. I thought he was talking to the guard, but he was talking to me.
“Yes, you. We need statements from everyone involved, including witnesses.”
“But I wasn’t involved. I didn’t even witness anything.”
“Ok, then just say that in your statement. Tell us everything you did before coming into the store and everything you did in the store leading up to when the guard here approached you.”
The guard got up and left, leaving us alone in the office.