His father paused to pick up his briefcase and headed to the door. Then, without turning, he slammed the door behind him before his son, stunned, had a chance to utter another word.
His father stared grimly into his eyes, as if he were expecting the worst from his son.
“I hope I won’t have to call the police. That’s all I’m saying.”
Mark swallowed. “Yes, sir,” he said in a small voice.
“Meanwhile,” His father continued in a tight voice, “I will go easy on you for the first offense.” He put his head to one side and studied the clock on the wall. “Let’s just say this. I expect to see them back to where they belong once I come home from work. That being the case, I won’t say a word about it. We’ll go about our usual business and forget that this ever happened.”
Mark had no choice but to nod slowly, even though he didn’t see how that might change anything.
His father wiped his hands on the dishcloth and peered over his glasses at Mark. A veil of tiredness hung over his eyes.
Mark closed his mouth quickly and hung his head. It was no use to explain. His father had made the verdict.
Seeing his father seething with anger – that he could understand; but hearing those words from his own father hurts more so than anything else. Mark couldn’t deny the fact he was alone in the house. But that doesn’t mean he did it.
“He would grieve – not over the loss of his priceless antiques – but the loss of his grandson, who is too materialistic to care about anything else,” his father went on in a voice so soft and sad that Mark became frightened. “Even things like moral values, such as honesty.”
Mark gaped and looked up at his father in shock.
There was another brief pause while his father breathed heavily. “Know what your grandpop would do if he hears about this?” he said in a sullen voice. “He would turn in his grave.” He nodded slightly as if to confirm his thoughts.
“And how upsetting it was to find them gone!” his father roared.
Mark jumped but kept his head down.
“I can’t begin to express how disappointed I am.”
Mark let the moment of silence hung in the air. By now, he was familiar with the pattern of the tiles on the kitchen floor – something he’d never noticed before.
Mark looked down at his feet and shifted his weight uncomfortably. He did not want to explain this. He could not.
“I asked you, if you know anything about this, young man.”
He quickly shook his head. “No, sir.”
His father frowned.
“Know anything about that, son?”
Mark swallowed. This can’t be happening! he thought.
Mark looked at it warily before he pushed up the lid. His eyes widened. The compartment was empty.
“See for yourself,” he said quietly in that low, smooth voice Mark knew so well before nodding toward the kitchen counter. On it laid an old, rusty safe. It had belonged to his grandfather before his father inherited it.
Mark wished he’d kept his mouth shut.
His father took a deep, trembling breath, as if he were suppressing something he held deeper inside.
A bad sign.
“Let me help, Dad,” Mark offered quickly.
At the sound of his voice, his father stopped what he was doing and whirled around, his eyes narrowed into angry slits and his brows drawn together.
He yanked the door open and dashed out the room.
Downstairs in the kitchen, his father was dressed in a suit. He was bustling about and putting up the pans he used to cook their dinner last night. Then he reached to open the cupboard. Out came a platter and a saucer; they flung out and crashed carelessly to the tile floor. Mark’s father swore.
Mark was filled with sudden dread. He stood up swiftly. Was something wrong?
A nice way to start the day, he thought grumpily and tossed the sheet aside.
The moonlight shone through the window and the alarm clock, sitting on the nightstand, glowed three o’clock. For a second he thought something was wrong with the clock; he’d always slept late when the school was out.
He rolled over, but the sheet around him twisted, and he got himself more tangled up in the bed. Mark kicked at it furiously, but that only made matters worse. He rolled right off the edge of the bed and fell to the floor. His head hit the cold, hard ground with a thud.
“Get yourself down here,” came his father’s angry voice again from downstairs. “Now!”
“Ok, ok,” he muttered. “I’m coming.”
Mark bolted upright on his bed, his heart thumping wildly. He was still groggy from the sleep, and all the thoughts in his head whirled in confusion.