Thief on the Run
I wandered around the market aimlessly, thinking about my most recent thefts. Past voices of angry police echoed through my mind.
“A reward of 10,000 NP for this Zafara.”
“She’s the most cunning devil I ever saw!”
I chuckled; remembering the look of bafflement on the chia policemen’s faces when they found out I escaped yet again. They’ll never catch me! I thought happily to myself, and continued my walking.
The market was full of activity. I strolled inconspicuously past a stall with a blue kacheek in an apron selling pastries. I dragged my hand lazily over the stall, and passed it over a doughnut. In a second, it was gone, and nobody noticed me quickly putting it in my pocket.
When I was about ten meters away, I looked back and smiled. That kacheek was always an easy target. I took the doughnut out and munched on it happily, looking around at other shops and stalls.
I passed by several stalls, until something caught my eye. Lying unguarded sitting on a table, was what I had always wanted - a spotted paint brush. I couldn’t believe my luck! It was practically begging to be taken! In my mind, I could almost hear it calling to me.
Come and steal me! No one will ever know!
I needed no further invitation. I glanced about nonchalantly, checking my surroundings. Running the shop was a huge disco painted moehog in a large blue dress. She seemed to be busy with a troublesome scorchio, who was trying to haggle a 654 NP item for 236 NP.
I swiftly snatched the paintbrush, quickly but casually walked to the back of the stall where I knew she couldn’t see me, looked back and started to run.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see where I was going, and crashed right into someone. I rubbed my head, looked up to see who I had run into, and froze. It was a chia policeman. No, two chia policemen!
“Oi, what do you think you’re doing, charging about the market place like that?” one asked gruffly.
“Sorry, sir,” I mumbled quickly, and started to hurry off.
“Not so fast,” the other one said, as he grabbed my arm.
“Did you buy that paintbrush you seemed to be running off with?” he asked.
“Yes, of course I did!” I lied, with little beads of sweat running down my forehead. They exchanged glances.
“Well, then I’m sure you won’t mind us checking with the shopkeeper then. Come on.”
He took my arm and started leading me back to the stall. “R-Really, this isn’t necessary…” I stammered nervously. He paid me no attention.
I was brought around to the front of the stall, and when she saw the police, the moehog turned to them with an anxious expression.
“Oh, yes gentlemen, may I help you?” she offered. “We found this young zafara running from your shop carrying this item with her,” he said, indicating towards me with his head.
I tried to struggle, but his grip held firm. She looked from the paint brush to me, her eyes widening in alarm.
“Why that’s my paint brush! I never sold that to anyone!” The chia looked down at me. Was that a smirk on his face?
“Looks like we’ve caught ourselves a thief then. We’ll be having that paintbrush back now…”
Then somewhere inside me, something resisted. No! Why should I? I took it! It’s mine now! My face changed from frightened to determined and fierce. I would do what it would take to get that paint brush, if it were the last thing I did!
“No!” I cried, and twisted my body so he lost his grip. The moment his grip loosened, I broke free and bolted past the other chia.
“Hey! Come back here!” the other one shouted. Fat chance! I thought, grinning, as I glanced back. I was a pretty fast runner, but already they were in hot pursuit.
Racing through the streets, dodging left and right, my heart pounded heavily with each footstep. Behind me I could hear the police running after me, but they were getting farther and farther behind.
Weaving in and out through the crowded streets at top speed was easy for me, because I was very familiar with my surroundings. And, being a zafara, I could run at outstanding speeds. Within minutes, I had lost them.
It must be hard being a chia, having those stubby useless little legs to waddle about with, I mused to myself, and paused for breath. Just then the police came running around the corner. Panting pathetically, but running nonetheless.
My eyes widened, and I started to run again. Woah! It seems I’ve really underestimated these guys. They’re a lot faster than I expected to be able to keep up with me! I quickened my pace.
I hadn’t run far, when I came to a wide-open space outside the market, where a pretty faerie in an apron was washing out a big cauldron. I suddenly realized who it was. It was the Soup Faerie! Without any time to think, I made a mad dash for the cauldron and dived behind it.
She looked at me, rather startled. She looked even lovelier up close. I put my finger to my lips, while she looked down at me confused. In a few seconds, I could hear the panting of the police coming. With horror, I realized they were coming right this way! I’m in for it now! I thought miserably, and slumped behind the cauldron.
“Hey you! Soup Faerie!” I heard one of them say. “Have you seen a blue Zafara running past here?”
The Soup Faerie looked down at me, and I looked back up at her, eyes pleading. She looked at me with an inscrutable expression for a moment, then turned her attention back to them, saying, “Yes, I think she went that way,” and gestured towards a small forest far away in the opposite direction.
“Okay. Thanks. Let’s go, Gus!” the policeman replied, and I could hear their footsteps getting fainter.
“Gee, thanks!” I said, and turned to run.
“Not so fast!” she said firmly, grabbing me by the arm.
“First you’re going to tell me why those police were after you, and it’d better be good!” I looked at her face. It was kind, but stern at the same time.
I looked away. I suddenly felt ashamed to tell her. She continued, “If you’ve done something wrong, it’s never okay to run from the consequences. Now come and tell me what happened.”
My face burned bright red. Why did it have to be her, of all people? Why did she have to be so nice? It would’ve been so easy for me to simply break from her grasp, and make a quick getaway if it had been anyone else. But with her, I felt really guilty about what I’d done.
She looked at the paint brush in my hand, hanging limply by my side.
“Did you take this without paying for it?” she asked me in a way that made my skin crawl with guilt. I opened my mouth, but no words came out. It was like I had lost my voice.
“You know don’t you, that when you take something that isn’t yours, that’s stealing?” she prompted. I looked at my feet and nodded feebly.
“And do you know that it’s wrong to steal?” I nodded again, but this time I managed to find my tongue.
“I…I’m sorry.” I croaked in a voice barely audible. I felt as if I had a potato wedged down my throat. She reached out her hand and lifted my chin up so that our eyes met. Her eyes and voice were merciful and kind.
“Okay. But you need to make things straight again. Go to the place where you found this, and give it back to the shopkeeper. I think you should also apologize to them.”
I flinched. Go back to apologize? But what if the moehog got angry with me? But in my heart I realized she was right. I sighed heavily as the Soup Faerie led me by the hand to face my doom.
We arrived at the stall where the moehog was. She was still attending to all her customers, but she seemed sad and distracted. When she looked up and saw us both there, hand in hand, her eyes widened and she rushed up to us.
She looked at me with a look of distrust, and turned questioningly to the Soup Faerie.
“The zafara has something important to say to you,” the Soup Faerie explained calmly, and the moehog turned her attention back to me.
“Err…” I faltered nervously as the Soup Faerie nudged me forward gently. All eyes were on me, and I felt dizzy. I couldn’t look her in the eyes, so I just fidgeted with my hands. Piece by piece, I told her the story of what had happened, and how sorry I was. When I had finished, I looked up, and her face softened slightly.
“Well, now, you won’t do it again, will you?”
“No, ma’am,” I said.
“And you’re sorry?”
I looked at the paint brush one last time, and reluctantly handed it over to her. When she took it, it felt as if a great weight had been lifted, and I sighed with relief. It was over. Or so I thought.
I heard two bickering voices coming from the opposite direction. I turned around, and did a double take when I saw who it was. Guess who? Two disgruntled police chias, quite out of breath, who had obviously been walking through some prickly undergrowth.
“It’s all your fault, Gus! If you had only listened to me when I said, ‘Let’s go ask for directions’. But no! You had to go and do it the hard way! And there’s still no sign of her!”
“My fault? You were the one who couldn’t even hold on to her at the shop stall!”
“Well, if somebody had been helping me, instead of just standing around…”
“Look, Joe! We’re back where we started!”
They stared at the stall, and I dived behind the counter. Too late! They had seen me, and were running towards me in a flash.
“Cor, blimey! I think we may have hit lucky this time!” Joe exclaimed cheerfully, and the other agreed, and they both lunged over the counter to where I was hiding.
“Ow!” Joe yelped when Gus landed on top of him with a thud.
“Sorry” mumbled the second one, and they both jumped up to arrest me.
But I was too quick for them. As Joe leapt forward with a pair of handcuffs, I ducked, and rolled skillfully out of his reach. Gus attempted to grab me, but I ducked again, and swerved to the side.
I grinned at him, as adrenaline surged through my body. However, in a split second’s distraction, I failed to notice the other chia moving towards me from behind with the handcuffs. I felt the tight, cold metal clamps around my hands, and before I realised what had happened, they had got me.
“Got you now, you little troublemaker!” cried Joe triumphantly, as Gus grabbed my arm. My eyes widened in surprise, and my first instinct was to struggle to break free.
“It’s no use now, missy! We’ve got you good and proper!” said Gus, and I realised he was right. With handcuffs on, there wasn’t much I could do to escape. Normally, I would easily have been able to put up a fight and slip out of these handcuffs, but somehow I didn’t feel like running away now. It just didn’t feel right anymore.
I sighed heavily and slumped my shoulders. I didn’t want to face the possibility of jail. To live the rest of my life in a cage seemed incomprehensible to me, who loved adventure and thrived on action!
I sighed heavily, and stared at the ground as they began to lead me away. We had only gone a few paces, when the moehog ran up to us.
“Stop!” she cried, and stood in front of the police. I lifted my head in surprise. In all the confusion I had forgotten about her! Slowly, I felt a new hope rise within me. Was she… helping me?
“Ma’am, is there something wrong?” Gus on my left asked.
“Yes!” She said, “I would like to ask you to release that young zafara you have there.” He looked puzzled.
“But…aren’t you the one she attempted to steal the paintbrush from?”
“Yes, I am. I believe I have not been asked yet whether or not I want to press charges?” They both looked sheepish.
“Uh…Oh yeah! I just forgot about that. Sorry. Did you want to press charges?”
With a firmness in her voice, she replied, “Good heavens, no! I can see that she is sorry, and will not do it again. She’s learnt her lesson. Now, if you will be good enough to release her, I shall be very much obliged.”
She looked down at me and winked. My gape opened up into a smile. I felt like laughing, leaping, and hugging her for sheer joy!
The police chias looked stunned. They had not expected this! In fact, they seemed quite disappointed at the prospect of having to give me up. Especially when they had come so close to the capture that would have brought them kudos back at headquarters!
Joe grumbled and muttered under his breath, while Gus stuck out his bottom lip and let out a little groan.
Reluctantly, Joe produced a key from his shirt pocket, and with a click! unlocked the handcuffs, and they fell to the ground. I rubbed my wrists, and smiled. Things were finally starting to go right!
I turned to the chia police and shot them a playful grin. “Well, sorry you had to go through all that. No hard feelings, guys?” I said, and playfully punched Gus on the arm. Joe looked at me sternly for a moment, and then shook his head and chuckled.
“Just stay out of trouble now. I don’t want to have to go on a wild goose chase after you again!” Gus was too busy rubbing his arm where I had punched him.
I gave a mock salute, and said, “See ya!” and turned to the moehog. “Thanks! I’ll never forget this, really!” She folded her arms and smiled.
“I just don’t want to see a young’un like you behind bars. Take care of yourself, kiddo!”
I ran up and hugged her. She looked surprised for a moment, and then laughed and hugged me back. Then she released me, and I turned to walk away. As I waved goodbye to them all, I thought I heard the police talking as they walked away.
“So,” said Joe, “what do you wanna do now?”
“Hmm… Wanna go buy a doughnut?” Said Gus.
As they walked off, I turned around and grinned as I thought to myself. Heh heh, looks like they’ll have to find someone else. As for infamous me, I shall retire. I will just be an anonymous zafara, and leave my past behind. I wonder what’s in store for me in the future?
I smiled as I thought these things, and looked up to the sky. The horizon seemed spread out like a sheet of the purest gold with rippling purple clouds rolling across the sky.
The hustle and bustle of the streets was thinning, and people were starting to go home. With the setting sun before me, and the familiar streets behind me, I closed my eyes and let the light embrace me. I breathed a deep sigh and took a step. My first step towards true freedom.