Gary turned the clock on the stand next to his bed so he could read the time, midnight. He slid from the bed and slowly put on his clothes. He stuffed his pillow under the covers to give the appearance someone was in bed. He slipped out the window and onto the roof of the kitchen and laundry room. He hunched down and walked to the edge of the roof where a ladder was waiting that he placed there earlier. He slowly climbed down the ladder.
Soon he was riding his bike through the allies and side streets cautious not to be on the main streets for fear he may be noticed by the police. There was a mysterious exhilaration about it. He felt free and purposeful.
A half-hour later he placed his bike under some hedges at the property next to Old Black Maggie’s apartment. Stealthily he moved along the hedges that bordered the two properties and dashed to a huge oak. Its limbs hung over Old Black Maggie’s apartment.
Her apartment was dark. The thought crossed Gary’s mind that she may not even be home. He bent low and walked quickly to the outside wall of the apartment and pasted himself flat against it. He moved slowly to a window, the one he peeked in before. There was just enough moonlight for Gary to see inside. No one was in the living room.
He ducked under the window and to the other side so he could peek in to see if Old Black Maggie’s beret hung on the hook. There it was. “How could she be so careless to leave it in plain sight and unprotected,” Gary thought.
Gary tried to slide the window up. It appeared to be painted shut. It would not budge.
He stooped low and walked along the side of the house and to the back door. He twisted the doorknob. It was locked.
Again he stooped low and retraced his steps and went to the front of the house. He stepped easily on the porch. A board squeaked low and long. He leaned flat next to the door and twisted the knob. It turned open. He opened the door slowly. It squeaked quietly. He opened it only far enough to slide through sideways.
Gary was now in a foyer and there was yet another door. There was something slithering around his ankles. He fought every instinct to cry out. He looked down expecting to see Old Black Maggie laying on the floor wrapping her arms around him. It was a cat. There were a purr and a restful meow. He stepped into the cat’s dish. It sounded like an avalanche. He clung to the wall next to the door. He waited for a light to come or the sound of Old Black Maggie stirring around.
It was silent so silent Gary could hear the bones in his neck and the beat of his heart. He waited to be certain Old Black Maggie was still in a deep sleep. He could hear her snore.
He reached out and twisted the doorknob it moved slightly and stopped. He applied a little more force. It clicked and opened. The cat slithered inside, first.
The moonlight shone through the window that Gary had peered through. He waited for his eyes to adjust more fully to the darkness. He opened the door enough to move in sideways.
Gary was certain his heartbeat would awaken Old Black Maggie. For an instant, he envisioned her in a shadow of the room next to her beret waiting with a hatchet.
There was a sudden sound coming from the stand next to a chair. Gary’s eyes sprung wide open. The cat leaped onto the stand. It crossed over into the chair and back onto the floor.
Gary moved slowly towards the beret that hung on a hook on the wall. He felt along the wall his hands searching like the legs of a spider. He glanced away. The cat slowly crept into Old Black Maggie’s bedroom.
Gary ran his hand up and down on the wall until at last, he felt the beret. He hesitated. “What power does it hold?” he thought. “What if it should hold a power I’m not aware. What if it should shock me or strike me paralyzed right here and now?” Gary reached back and wiped beads of perspiration from his forehead and above his upper lip. His eyes closed to gather the courage needed.
“What are you doing in here little Mittens.”
Gary nearly collapsed. It was the voice of Old Black Maggie. It was the voice of a kindly grandmother, not the old hag she appears beyond her apartment.
“I thought I put you out for the evening,” Old Black Maggie said and cleared her throat. “Let me put you out again.”
Gary seized the beret. He hesitated, waiting for something to happen. Nothing. He turned toward the door that was cracked open and measured his escape. He swallowed and moved one step towards the door. A light flashed on. It was blinding. He bolted for the door. Old Black Maggie screamed fearfully. Gary bumped into the edge of the door and staggered. He opened it wide and dashed through it and the other door also.
He ran along the hedges.
Old Black Maggie was yelling, “Police! Police! A robber! Somebody call the police!”
Gary got to the sidewalk and headed to where he laid his bike. He lifted it from beneath the hedges, hoped on it, and sped away.
He could still hear Old Black Maggie’s screams echoing through the moonlit night. “Call out for your demons,” Gary murmured. He turned down an alley to allude any possible meeting with the police.
“The beret!” he said looking at his hands. “Where is it?”
He skidded to stop in the gravel alley and turned his bike around. He had to find it. “I must have dropped it,” he thought.
The bike was laid against a garage next to the alley and Gary slowly made his way bent low back down the alley searching for the missing beret. Suddenly he smiled and straightened. He felt inside his shirt. There it was. In the excitement, he tucked it into his shirt.
Gary returned home, climbed up the ladder, and back into his room. He stuffed Old Black Maggie’s beret behind the book that was hidden away in his closet.
Sleep did not come that night; not because of fear or fright, but because of accomplishment and exhilaration.