Realizing he didn't want to just sit
there and do nothing, Richie snuck
out and started walking. He took a bus down to
the mall and wandered
aimlessly until he saw her. The minute he laid
eyes on the woman sitting
alone on the bench in front of the clothing store,
he knew who it was.
Becky Evans. The woman who'd sent
him back after he tried stealing Miss
Jenkin's perfume. Seeing her sitting there sent
Richie off on a careening trip through his past. His frustration at being bounced around
from foster home to foster home hit at
him with a force he'd never felt
before. And looking at Becky, he realized it had
all started with her and
His throat felt tight and he started
shaking, he was so angry. When he
saw her wallet sticking up out of the corner of
her purse, he started
walking toward her.
Richie was tired of being sent away
like defective merchandise. An overwhelming need to strike back and
hurt the people who'd hurt him rose up inside of his soul.
He wore a baseball cap, loose-fitting
jeans and a sweater, so he wasn't
afraid Becky would recognize him. And the burning
hatred stripped away any fears of being caught. He simply waited until she turned
her head away,
then walked by and scooped up the wallet out of her purse
in one swift motion.
Richie kept walking, not looking back.
The knot in his chest lessened
gradually as he approached the exit.
Once outside, he looked at the wallet
and rummaged through its contents.
$100, a driver's license, credit cards and some
pictures. Nothing he
wanted. He'd gotten what he wanted already -- a
tiny bit of vengeance. And something else. A tiny bloom of
Richie had never been a good student,
and wasn't a model foster son. Although he was pretty good at basketball,
he'd always had to work at it.
But on only his second try at petty theft, he'd
succeeded. He laughed to
himself in wonder at how doing something so wrong
could feel so good.
He stole things on and off over the
next few years, usually car radios
because it was easy to do such a smash-and-grab
crime. Sometimes he did
it for money, but usually he did it after something
bad happened. If something went wrong at a foster home,
Richie struck out by stealing. If
he had a bad day at school, somebody was likely
to lose a car stereo.
Even getting caught for the first
time didn't stop him. Since it was his
first recorded offense, Richie was put on probation.
And the fact that
he'd been caught merely made him want to go out
and steal again, as if to
prove he could get away with it.
Stealing became an obscene game of
chicken with the cops. He knew it was
self-destructive, but it was an outlet for his
bitterness that he refused to give up.
a last kick at the curb, Richie shook his head to clear
away the memories that threatened to take up permanent residence. Now
was not the time to think about how screwed up
his life had gotten. He had to do a
job and get some cash, or he'd never be able to
pay for the basement
space he used as living quarters. And old, worn
woman rented it to him at a ridiculously high price, but it
beat going to another foster family.
Richie wished Frank was still around.
Frank Morales, a junior high school
teacher, had been a great guy. He was 28 when Richie
met him, and had no qualms about letting a 17-year-old street urchin with a bandanna
fetish hole up in his house. Frank himself
had lived in and out of foster homes
during his childhood. He met Richie at the local
boys and girls club one
cold day last December.
Richie wanted the company of the teens
inside, having grown desperate for
friends who didn't know about his scarred past.
Gary, Angie and Maria
were great to be with, but Richie always felt so
vulnerable with them because they knew about his penchant
for stealing and his years bouncing
from one foster home to another.
Still, the psychological misfits masquerading
as foster families had made
Richie wary of people in general. He stood outside
of the club, shivering,
for nearly 30 minutes while he tried to decide whether
or not to
go in. He had finally decided to just go back to the flavor-of-the-month foster home when
Frank started walking across the street.
Richie stepped back and glanced nervously
"Hey, kid, what's up?" Frank
asked the lean teenager.
Frank had watched Richie from inside,
wondering if he'd ever come in. He
figured that Richie needed some encouragement.
"Nothing's up," Richie said
in a voice tinged with suspicion. His
carefully constructed tough-guy act went up effortlessly.
"OK," Frank said. "Then
maybe you should come inside and see what we're
up to. There's a great shoot-around going."
Basketball. Richie loved basketball.
*I could hang around for an hour or
so* he told himself.
"Well, I play a pretty intense
game," Richie said, not wanting to seem
too eager to participate. "I don't know if
you guys can handle me."
Frank suppressed a smile.
"Oh, I think we can," he
said, knowing that the challenge would draw the
He was right. Richie took the bait
and wound up hanging out at the club
almost every day. He had a great time, but still
wasn't sure if he could
trust Frank's intentions. Years of experience had
taught Richie that even seemingly nice people turned bad,
and Frank wasn't necessarily going to be the exception to the rule. But
after a few months of Frank keeping a
careful but friendly distance, Richie realized
he was OK.
He moved in with Frank in April, shortly
after a horribly botched attempt
at living the All-American family life with the
Davises. That ordeal had
nearly cost Richie his life, and convinced him
that living on the streets would be better than going to another
foster home. But Frank had visited
him in the hospital and told him he could stay
at his house as long as he
did some chores and stayed in school.
The deal worked out great until Richie
dropped out of school, feeling
that classes were a waste of time. Frank had barely
controlled his frustration,
making Richie shift position slightly and find something
exciting on the floor to look at. Disappointing
foster parents was second nature; disappointing Frank was something
else entirely. Frank treated
him better than anyone else ever had, and Richie
felt like a jerk.
"I couldn't stay, man,"
Richie explained in a nervous tone of voice. "I
was failing everything. There was no way I would
Frank opened his mouth, shut it and
opened it again.
"Look, you could have stayed,
taken the Fs and gone to summer school. Or
you could have gone back next year and gotten passing
grades," Frank said
in a tight voice. "Richie, don't you want
a future that consists of something other than stealing car
"You know I do," Richie
said, his voice rising. "And I haven't stolen
anything since coming to live with you. I've been
clean. It's just that
I'm not in the mood for school."
Frank sighed in exasperation. He knew
how Richie felt, because he'd done
the same thing years ago. Fed up with high school,
Frank had dropped out halfway through his senior year, taken a year off, and then
gone back. He'd graduated with solid Bs and gone
on to college. Maybe Richie would
do the same if he sat out a year.
"OK, here's the deal," he
said and looked Richie in the eyes. "You can
stay here as long as you find a job and don't stay
out of school for more
than one year. If you don't agree to that,
you'll have to go back to
"Deal," Richie said, shaking
Richie found odd jobs to earn money.
It worked out great for the first
few months, until August, when Frank went grocery
shopping at midnight.
Frank had a craving for a hot fudge
sundae but didn't have the ingredients in the cupboards. Before
taking off for the local
supermarket, he told Richie to wait up so they
could indulge together.
Richie waited. And waited. And waited
until, at 1 a.m., he heard a car
pull up in front of the house. A car, not Frank's
tentatively went to the window and peeked out,
not too surprised to see a
police officer walking up to the door.
He also wasn't surprised when the
cop told him Frank had been killed in a
drive-by shooting meant for a gang-banger.
After all, none of the foster homes
had worked out. Why should it have
worked out with Frank?
So now here he was, kicking the curb
and angry at everyone and everything. Frank had been dead for
a month, and Richie had been lucky
enough that Erma, the woman who moved in, let him
stay. But the odd jobs
weren't paying enough to cover rent, and he had
to come up with some quick cash. There was only one way
Richie knew of to do that. But stealing car stereos wasn't going
to give him the money he needed for the rent payment that was due tonight. He would have to steal something
Richie walked up and down the streets,
getting edgier by the minute. He
was furious that he had to steal. Sure, there was
a certain thrill that
he felt when he was successful. A satisfaction
and smugness. But he had
finally tired of getting arrested and enduring
Lieutenant Powell's endless "Straighten up or spend
your life a crook" speeches.
But he had no choice. He had to make
some major cash appear or end up
back in the social services system. He refused
to get caught up in that
Richie wasn't going to take money
from any of the stores. His specialty
was lifting merchandise and converting it to cash,
usually via pawn
shops. That was why the antique store across the
street jumped out at him. He ran over to it, his green
and black leather jacket bouncing
slightly as he whistled in an act of nonchalance.
He walked up to the
window and looked inside casually as if he was
There were only two people in the
shop. One, a woman of about 60, was
gesturing toward a painting Richie could only think
of as a nature scene gone horribly wrong. The other woman had her back to him, but
Richie couldn't help admiring her figure.
She had long, blonde hair and wore a
short skirt and sweater that showed she was in
no need of a diet or
Richie waited until the two women
went into an office and shut the door
before entering the shop to look around more thoroughly.
He had to be quick,
before the women came back out. He made a mental list
of the available
merchandise, with one item catching his eye immediately.
In a glass case stood a sword, a gleaming
sword like he'd always imagined
about when he was a kid. The kind of sword you
could use for a great Halloween costume. Richie wondered what it would feel like
to hold the sword in his hand.
Although it was tempting to add the
sword to his mental list, he knew he
couldn't easily hide it while making his getaway.
He looked around the shop one last time and left. He'd come back tonight and make
Richie went home as quickly as he
could, wishing he had a car so he'd get
there faster. He'd never been able to afford one,
although he had a driving license. Richie had borrowed Frank's car and motorcycle
until he died. Both modes of transportation
had been claimed by Frank's nephews, and Richie was left to his own devices, which meant buses and
He slipped his key into the lock of
the house's front door, careful to
open the door as quietly as he could. He didn't
dare make any noise.
Although Erma would be taking her afternoon nap,
Richie didn't want to
take any chances of her waking up and demanding
the rent payment.
Once he made it downstairs to the
basement, he fumbled around in a dresser drawer for the things he'd
need to break into the antique store. It wouldn't take long to pick the lock, he knew. And he could
much any simple alarm system, thanks to some quick
lessons from some
teens he'd met in juvie court.
Richie slipped a blue bandanna over
the top of his head before leaving.
He didn't want anybody to spot him because a street
lamp was glaring off of his hair.
The next few hours were spent at a
local mall. He loved to sit on the
bench outside of the food court and watch people
go by. Usually he paid
the most attention to families, wondering if their
happy smiles were for real or not. Richie had accepted that
he'd never have a real family. But
sometimes he still yearned for one. Not that he
would ever try a foster
family again. Ever.
Richie also spent time ogling the
girls who went by. He'd never had many
dates with girls in school, spending most of his
time drooling. When a short, slender brunette with curves in all the right places
walked by, Richie jumped up off of the bench
and caught up to her.
"Hey," he said, flashing
his best killer grin at the girl. "Now what's a
beautiful girl like you doing alone on a night
She smiled back at him shyly and opened
her mouth to answer when a hulking guy came to stand next to
her, gripping her shoulders
"She's not alone," the Steroid
King said snootily.
"Oh, of course not," Richie
said quickly. "But it never hurts to ask, you
Richie turned and walked as calmly
as he could in the opposite direction.
He had a job tonight and didn't need any unfortunate
back on the bench, he watched in relief as the
Steroid King threw him a menacing look and led the girl away.
The mall closed at 9 p.m., and Richie
made his way to the antique shop.
Once there, he circled around to the back and looked
inside. It was dark; the owner must have gone home.
"Easy street," he said softly
It took seconds to gain entrance to
the shop. Richie looked around, feeling like he'd hit the lottery.
"Check it out," he said.
"One night only, everything must go."
He scurried about, loading up everything
he could into his backpack and
jacket pockets. He was about to leave when he caught
sight of the sword. Even though he knew he couldn't take it with him, he didn't
see the harm in taking it out. He opened up the
case and removed it, balancing the
weight in his hand. Moving around the room, he
waved it at a particularly
"En guarde, you fool," he
said, thrilling at the sound of the sword
cutting through the air.
He turned and just about dropped the
sword at the sight of the man in
front of him. He was naked from the waist up and
held a sword in his
hand. He looked pissed.
"I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan
MacLeod," he said in a deadly voice.
"And you are dead."
Richie would always remember that
night. Dr. Doom with the sword had been
joined by some horror-movie stand-in reject who
crashed through a skylight. Then an equally psychotic Frenchman with a sword
out of thin air.
The only bright spot for Richie had
been seeing the blonde-haired woman
and confirming that she really was as pretty as
she'd seemed. Nice, too. She'd told MacLeod to leave him alone. True, she had called
him a boy, and he hated being called a boy, but
she'd still stuck up for him.
After dropping the bag of stolen goods,
excusing himself and making a
hasty retreat, Richie thought he was home free.
The psychos would be
plenty busy with their little sword orgy, and if
Richie hurried, he could
get home, get his stuff and get out of town before
the cops caught up to him.
But then he heard a siren wailing
in the not-so-far distance. He took off
running, but the police car cut him off not a block
A woman got out of the car and yelled
sharply at him.
"Hold it right there, kid!"
Knowing the drill by now, Richie slowly
raised his arms above his head.
"What's the problem?" he
asked, trying to sound as clueless as possible.
"You tell us," the officer
said, tilting her head toward her male
partner, who was lumbering out of the car.
Richie saw another cop car pull up
to the shop and watched as two officers ran inside. People who'd
been out enjoying the night were
gathering around the shop, staring either at what
was going on inside or
in Richie's direction. Richie flicked his eyes
from the female cop to her partner and took in the situation.
*Great, just great. I'm a dead man.*
Or maybe not, he realized. If could
deflect attention away from himself,
maybe he could get out of this somehow.
"Hey, look, I was just walking
by, minding my own business, when I saw
some weird guy break in," Richie said as calmly
as he could. "I looked in
a window and there were three guys with swords
fighting each other."
The male officer came over and started
searching Richie. He stopped when
he reached Richie's left jacket pocket. Remembering
he'd stuck some
jewelry in his jacket, Richie let his head drop
forward with a sigh.
Nobody was going to believe him now.
Richie had no clue what happened at the antique
store after he was carted away to jail. He decided to stick
to his original story, though. It was a
lie, but if he changed it now, he figured he'd
look even worse. Better to
take the chance that the psychos had whacked each
other and the blonde lady would take pity on him and keep
her mouth shut.
*After all, I'm just a boy* he thought
with a wry grin.
Once they arrived at the station,
Richie was escorted into a room where
the cops checked their paperwork with an officer
sitting at a table in the corner of the room. Richie had been through the routine
before; the cops wanted to make sure all of the
information was complete and accurate so he couldn't get off on a technicality.
While the fuzz monsters labored over
their paperwork, Richie was ordered
to hand over his personal belongings, which weren't
many. Just a flashlight,
backpack, sunglasses and a few other odds and ends he
wouldn't miss if he never saw them again.
A few minutes later, he was led out
of the room into a long hallway where
he was told to stand in a blue box painted on the
ground in front of the
wall so a male officer could search him.
"Step back a little," he
told him, and waited for him to comply. "Now
lean forward and place your arms on the wall above
your head, palms flat.
Spread your feet out. Wider."
Richie leaned against the wall in
the awkward pose designed to keep people off balance so they couldn't
make a run for it. The officer patted
him up and down, finding nothing to warrant a strip
search, for which
Richie was grateful. After filling a doctor in
on his medical history, Richie was locked into a holding cell
with 20 other juvies.
The cell was only 20 feet by 15 feet,
with six metal bunks jutting out of
the yellowed walls. Everything smelled like body
odor and disinfectant. Richie coughed as the odors assaulted his nose and made his
eyes tear, noticing that his roommates were just
as affected as he was by the
stench. He found a patch of grimy floor and sat
down, carefully ignoring
An hour later, Richie looked up to
see Lieutenant Powell talking to a cop
outside the cell. The cop unlocked the door and
jerked his head at
"Questioning, kid," he said
shortly. "Let's go."
"Hey, Lieutenant Powell,"
Richie said brightly as he followed Powell down
the hallway. "Really love what you've done
with the place."
Powell ignored him until they turned
a corner and waited for the heavy
metal doors to be unlocked.
"Look, Dickie, I'm not in the
mood for your smart mouth tonight," Powell
said tersely as they went through the doors.
"It's Richie," he corrected,
then fell silent as he was led into an
interrogation room. He sat down at the table and
leaned back in the chair so it tipped against the wall. Carefully avoiding Powell's
gaze, he put his feet up on the table and picked
at his boots, trying to feign
indifference to his situation. Richie figured the
less nervous he seemed,
the more likely Powell would buy his story.
"Alright, kid, why the antique
"Lieutenant Powell, I didn't
break in, honest. I've learned my lesson.
Stealing is wrong," Richie said somberly.
"And I suppose you have no idea
how thousands of dollars worth of jewelry
wound up in your jacket, right?"
"No idea whatsoever."
"You were just wandering around
for no reason, saw a robbery and started
to run? Likely story."
Richie realized his story looked like
a wispy slice of Swiss cheese and
once again tried to turn the attention somewhere
"Hey, man, I was freaked, you
know? There was some seriously bad business
going on in there. Those guys had swords."
"Nobody had a sword," Powell
said testily. "The owner and his girlfriend
were unharmed, and there was nobody else there.
They said a teenager
broke into the store and ripped them off."
Richie removed his boots from the
table and set his chair down squarely
on the floor. Obviously, the other two psychos
had left just before the
cops arrived. No psychos, no swords. Things were
not looking good for him.
"I'm not lying," he said
with genuine honesty. "There were three guys
with swords and they were fighting."
"The antique store owner is coming
in tomorrow to identify you," Powell
said. "His girlfriend is too upset tonight
to be left alone."
"Whoa, wait a minute," Richie
said, sitting forward in his chair. "You're
going to keep me here tonight?"
"Don't worry, you'll be separated
from the big, bad adults," Powell said
and left the room.
Richie sat there, not sure he liked
the idea of seeing Duncan MacLeod of
the Clan MacLeod again. The man had threatened
to shorten his life span,
*No, I don't think I like that idea
Richie spent the night staring at
the ceiling. The holding cell was cold
and drafty, but at least he had a bunk to use.
The cell didn't really
bother him, actually. He was more worried about
what Dr. Doom was going
to do to him.
Even if MacLeod was feeling homicidal,
he couldn't smuggle his sword in,
Richie knew. Nobody could walk around in broad
daylight with a sword and
not get asked questions. The man would probably
just identify Richie, and
Richie would end up serving some time.
He tried to decide what would be worse:
going to jail or getting sliced
and diced by MacLeod.
"They both suck," he said
to no one in particular.
Breakfast was orange juice, pancakes,
bacon and toast. After Richie ate,
he was escorted back to the interrogation room.
As soon as the manila
envelope of his belongings dropped down in front
of him on the table, Richie knew he wasn't going to spend
any time in jail. MacLeod either
hadn't shown up or had decided not to press charges.
Richie figured it
was the latter. If Dr. Doom hadn't told the police
about the little fencing session with his psycho friends,
then he obviously wanted to hide
the whole incident. Richie was betting MacLeod
was going to make a deal
with him: Richie's silence in return for his freedom.
"Alright, this puppy is gonna
walk," he said as he sorted through his
A few minutes later, Duncan MacLeod
and Powell walked in.
Richie felt fairly confident. He might
be the one facing a breaking and
entering charge, but Dr. Doom needed his help to
hide whatever his secret was.
Sure enough, the minute Powell left,
MacLeod offered him a deal: Richie
would keep his mouth shut about what he'd seen,
and MacLeod wouldn't
Richie thought it was a reasonable
Once released, Richie went back home
to a not surprising scene. Erma had
packed up his stuff and set it out in front of
the house with an eviction notice on it. Richie snatched up the backpack and duffel bags.
Luckily, he didn't have much to his name, or
he'd be loaded down like a pack mule.
Sighing, Richie started walking, wondering
where he'd live now. He could
probably crash for a few nights at his friend Gary's
house. Maybe he
could even convince Gary's parents to let him stay
through the winter
until he could earn enough money from odd jobs
to find another place.
Meanwhile, he had something work looking
into -- MacLeod's secret. Dr.
Doom was obviously hiding something really big,
or he wouldn't have made
the deal with Richie. And Richie knew the swords
were part of the secret. Maybe MacLeod was part of some weird
cult or something. Even though the
image of the man swinging a large, sharp sword
made Richie slightly
paranoid for his personal safety, his curiosity
was too strong to be
denied. Whatever was going on, Richie was a part
of it, and he figured he deserved to know what was up.
He'd check out MacLeod and his psycho
friends, but he'd keep his distance.