Sharon did not sleep well that night and woke up the next morning with her mind grasping at fuzzy images of Mark Jerguessen. As she ate breakfast, she debated going into the office that day, but decided the chance of running into Mark was not worth it.
Besides, there were fewer distractions at her townhouse. Determined to get the jump on the week ahead, Sharon fired up her laptop and began reading.
She was so absorbed that she barely noticed that her mobile phone was ringing and only just switched it on before the call went to voice mail.
“Wheatly,” she answered quickly, wondering who would be calling on a Saturday.
“Aunt Sharon, it’s Matt.” The boy’s voice sounded upset.
“Is everything okay?”
“No. I don’t know what to do. They set me up, Aunt Sharon. I didn’t do anything, and I think I got all the stuff out of my pockets. But what if they’re after me?”
“What? Who’s after you?”
“The mall police. They think I was shoplifting. Only I wasn’t.”
“Of course, you didn’t, Matt. Now, take a deep breath and let’s start at the beginning. What happened?”
“It was Paul and Rob and Duffy. They’re guys from school. They’re on the football team. I got to know them a little before Africa. They were really mad when I left the team. But they got some off-campus passes and invited me to come with them. I figured they were trying to make peace, you know?”
“Okay.” Sharon got up and began pacing. “So they weren’t?”
“No. Paul does this pickpocket thing. I mean, he’s really good and you can’t tell he’s pulling stuff from your pockets. Only this time, we were at a department store and Paul and the guys put a bunch of stuff in my pockets then ditched me. I found the stuff before I left the store. But you know how they have all these cameras all over the place. I’m sure someone saw me. I got everything out of my pockets I could and got out of there. I didn’t even stay at the mall. I took the Metro into DC, but then I thought what if this gets Uncle Mark into trouble? Aunt Sharon, what am I going to do?”
“Take another deep breath.” Sharon paused long enough for Matt to take his breath. “All right. Now where are you?”
“Okay.” Sharon thought it over. “Why don’t you stay put? I’ll come get you and we’ll work out what to tell your uncle and see how he wants to handle it. It shouldn’t take me that long to get there. So just stay put. Okay?”
“My battery is dying.”
“Where at the station are you? Can you get to the food court?”
“Okay. Hang there and I’ll be on my way in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”
“My battery is dying.”
“Turn the phone off, then turn it back on again in about 30 minutes. Okay?”