Back where the metal garbage can fire burned bright and the smell of the day's perspiration uninvitingly filled your nostrils, I knew I was in for it. What for exactly, I didn't know, but at a minimum an interrogation. And I was right. Questions started rifling towards me almost before earshot. I heard them. I just pretended that I hadn't... whatever reaction would give me more time to think of a response... all the better for my endgame. Of which, of course, I had no clue what was.
"What did you tell them? How much do they know?"
"Did they follow you? Where did you put the loot?"
"Maybe we should make him go back and finish the job tonight!"
"I think we better measure up his loyalty before we send him back in. What you tell them, kid?"
"Who?" I knew it was a stupid question that made me look like an incapable hooligan, but then again, I was still a kid, so maybe that title would protect me from being put in the line of fire again. Like a he's obviously too young for this kind of thing.
"What do you mean, who? The cops. Don't be a moron- that'll get you on the wrong side of the fence with us."
"I didn't know you guys had fences. They must be invisible," I tried to joke. The contorted looks on their faces let me know my immature quips did not impress nor entertain them. "I didn't tell them anything about us." Good thinking using the word us- I was pretty smart on my feet. "They think I am a troubled, overly curious youth that got into something while his parents were away visiting his older sibling whose studying abroad in a foreign country for a school program."
"Oddly specific... Did they buy it?"
I felt like I should apologize for making the huge mistake of forgetting to tie those folks up, but someone beat me to the punch.
"Well, I guess you learned a lesson tonight and won't be making that mistake again. Not if you want to stay in our tribe. I am sure you wouldn't want to be forced back into living with the bastards again, but you gotta do better. Be smarter and think before you do." Perhaps it was my devastation to his criticism that he read on my face- he seemed to soften as he continued. "And maybe, just maybe, some of this is on us. I mean, how long have you been here with us? Less than a month? You probably are nowhere near ready to do the work yet. You'll get there, sooner rather than later, don't get me wrong, but we can dial things back a bit for a while longer."
I was relieved... for myself, my nerves, and for the growing hunger that was rumbling in my belly. As long as I was with them, I knew I would stay fed and, for the most part, safe. That was until I opened my big fat mouth with an unnecessary response," I thank you for another chance and the bastards probably are too since they were the ones to abandon me in the first place... I know I don't belong with them. I can't."
"What do you mean, they abandoned you? You told us you were a runaway fighting for the earth- wanting to make a difference. Sending a message to the arrogants in your family and community..."
See what I mean, too many details on a recyclable lie. I guess this is what they mean when they say "the Devil's the details".
Now, I would have to face my own demons both from within and from the tribe I had been claiming to belong to.
Shit was not looking good as the mass encircling me started encroaching on my personal bubble.