Honour Among Thieves


Two shadows descended on the moonlit pavement as the boys got off the empty bus and onto the sidewalk, the sound of the bus driving off hanging uncomfortably in the still, crisp air. The two of them walked down the deserted road with purpose behind each step and turned left onto a wider road lined with rows upon rows of large houses that seemed to stretch out longer and longer before him the longer James looked. 

“You look pale as hell, man.” Matt suddenly said, shattering the silence. 

James laughed half-heartedly. “Yeah, well—you’re one to talk, you look awful.” There was some nervous laughter from both boys before the heavy silence materialized in the air once more, and Matt broke it yet again. 

“My Dad bet on some dumb race again, last night. It was close, though—not like the other times. The horse finished third.” 

“Bummer.” James didn’t feel like talking much, and yet again the heavy silence filled the entire street. 

“Mine too. Lost a few grand on a boxing match.” 

There was a long pause before Matt spoke again. “I hope this works, man. This debt—it’s tearing us apart. It’s…” 

“Me too.” James interjected. “Don’t worry, it’ll work. We spent so long on this, the plan can’t go wrong. You have your Dad’s handgun, yeah? Just stick to the plan, and everything will work out, as always. We’ll be fine, Matt.” 

They had spent the last week staking out the small house owned by Mr Pritchett on Macquarie Lane, planning how they were going to successfully pull off the robbery. Mr Pritchett was a professor at a well-known university, and from what they had heard, he was in his late 60’s and ready to retire. Word got out about the lump sum he kept in his house for his retirement plan, and the boys jumped at the opportunity to earn a few grand. In just two weeks of watching him, they already knew that he woke up at 5.30 in the morning, left for work at 6 and came back at around 6 in the evening. They also knew on Saturdays he woke up at the same time to play golf with his friends. This is why they had decided to execute their plan at three in the morning on a Friday night, knowing full well that he would have religiously followed his daily routine and be fast asleep. 

When they had reached Mr Pritchett’s house, they hopped over the fence and made their way to the window that was at the back of the house. Once they reached the window, James flicked open a small switchblade and began to pry it open. He pushed once, then twice, and with a final shove the lock on the window sprang open and James held it up, giving way for Matt to climb inside. James swung himself through the window and into the gloomy house as the window noiselessly fell shut behind them. 

The ringing silence was interrupted by their muffled footsteps as the boys made their way around the house. Mr Pritchett’s bedroom was on the first floor of the house, so the boys took extra care being as quiet as possible. They went down a dark hallway to the right before turning left into a vast kitchen with sparkling marble countertops and a large, silver fridge and out into an enormous living room. James’ eyes skimmed over the massive television that overlooked an expensive sofa and the elegant lounge chairs that were placed in the middle of the room. Being a professor must really pay, James thought. Matt walked over to the door right next to them and pushed it open, revealing a big study room which walls were lined with bookshelves that seemed to tower over them. The few walls that were free of any books had shelves that were embellished with prestigious awards, certificates, plaques and medals that seemed to glow in the dimly lit room. 

James closed the door behind them and they began to quietly ransack each drawer of the large desk in the centre of the room. Matt opened a drawer with a glass jar filled with coins, a few stacks of $100 bills and a leather wallet that was bursting at the seams, barely held together by a metal clasp. 

“Not bad! This must be at least a few thousand.” Matt exclaimed before shoving the jar, the bills and the wallet into his backpack. They searched the rest of the room and gathered some more crumpled notes and a set of expensive collector coins before James got up and walked over to the door but was stopped by Matt who had grabbed his arm and was starting at something in the corner of the study room. 

Matt had spotted a few expensive-looking paintings, and in the centre of them all sat a bright orange sculpture of what looked like a small tree. It was a wonder they had not noticed it before when they entered the room. 

“Leave it, it’s too bulky. We have enough, Matt, let’s search for the rest of the house.” 

“Come on, these must be worth something, right? It’s at least worth a try.” Matt retaliated. 

“Forget it, Matt, we’re not lugging a damn glass sculpture down the street. Just drop it, okay?” James hissed, starting to lose his patience. As James swung open the door of the study room, a deafening crash filled the air. What seemed like a thousand pieces of orange glass slid across the polished wood floor and came to a stop at James’ battered sneakers. 

“Ah, no!” Matt groaned. He had tried to carry the glass sculpture but had tripped over his untied shoelace and fell, smashing the sculpture in the process. 

The light in Mr Pritchett’s bedroom had turned on and a golden streak of blinding light crept across the living room and into the study room. 

Mr Pritchett ran across the living room, coming to a stop in front of the study room. He was holding a small pistol in one hand and a phone in the other. 

“Stop! Sto—stop or I’ll call the police!” He gasped, out of breath. The boys froze, knowing full well he had every right to shoot them dead then and there. “Don’t move, you brats. You move, and—you know what happens.” He said, waving the pistol around in front of them. 

Matt moved ever so slightly backwards, his hand creeping towards his back 

pocket. “What on earth are you doing?” James hissed. “Stay still!”

“No,” Matt whispered, “he’ll call the police, man! I can’t get arrested, James, we have to go. We have to go now! Come on, let’s go!” 

“Stay still, Matt! For God’s sake don’t move! He has a gun too—” 

“Shut up!” Mr Pritchett bellowed. “Shut up, all of you!” 

Matt swiftly pulled out a sleek, shiny handgun from his back pocket and fired twice. The bullets hit home and Mr Pritchett’s body jerked violently before falling to the ground, a red stain spreading slowly across his hip. 

“Oh my God—Christ, he’s bleeding! You fucking shot him! We said we’d only use the gun to spook him—I had no idea you had loaded it! ” James shouted. Matt stared at the red puddle that was starting to form on the floor next to Mr Pritchett’s body in horror, his mouth agape but silent. 

“Quick, the wallet, look for keys, any keys!” James shouted. Matt tossed him the leather wallet, still wide-eyed and shaken. 

“We need to get him to a hospital. We can take his car.” James said as he pulled out the keys to a car from the wallet. They dragged Mr Pritchett’s limp body to the front door and into the driveway as James unlocked the car and tossed the keys onto the dashboard. 

“I’ll drive,” Matt said suddenly. “You stay with him in the backseat.” 

Matt got into the driver’s seat while James carried Mr Pritchett into the back seat. Matt started the engine and began to pull out of the dimly lit driveway. He droveonto the street as sirens filled the air and lights began to turn on in the houses across the street one by one. 

Matt sped along the dimly lit street and onto a deserted intersection. The leather of the back seat was slippery with blood and the carpet of the car was coloured bright red. The car groaned with Mr Pritchett each time Matt made a sharp turn. They turned left onto a winding road, and James could see the blinding lights coming from the city. He spotted the hospital. It would take us no less than a few minutes to get there, he thought. 

Suddenly, the car jerked abruptly and they skidded to a stop in the middle of the desolate road they had been speeding down a second ago. 

Before James could say anything, Matt had already unfastened his seatbelt and was getting out of the car. 

James climbed out of the car and chased after Matt. 

“What the hell was that? You could’ve flipped the car or something. Hey—where do you think you’re going?” He shouted. 

Matt whipped around to face James, his red and tear-stained face inches away from James’. He had clearly been crying. 

“I’m running, James! I can’t get arrested! My dad will kill me, he’ll—” 

“What do you think we’re doing, Matt? Aren’t we running away, for god’s sa—” 

“No, we’re bloody not! We’re taking him to the hospital, then we’re going to be locked up!” Matt retorted, pointing to Mr Pritchett. 

“We have to save him! The money doesn’t matter—we shot him, Matt, we have to save him.” 

“I’m not playing the hero, James, it’s prison! And even if we get off easy you know damn well my dad will murder me when I show my face at home after this!” Matt continued, tears pouring down his face. “We didn’t get the money, we didn’t get anything! And now we’re driving someone who’s been shot–who I shot–to the hospital! They give you the death sentence for that, James!” 

James was silent, for he did not and could not respond to this. Even if he had, he knew deep down he would not be able to change the way Matt felt and what was waiting for him if he came with James. 

A tear rolled down Jame’s cheek as he realized he could not help Matt. He wasn’t angry at him: he knew Matt’s father would not be able to control himself–if Matt were to go home he would surely be killed. He didn’t blame him for running away, and he knew Matt didn’t mean to leave him to bear the consequences of his actions alone. 

James put his hand on Matt’s shoulder and pulled him into a hug. 

“Bye, Matt. I can’t come with you. Don’t get caught.” 

James turned away from Matt and walked back to the car, unable to stem the flow of tears streaming down his face and onto his already sweat-drenched shirt. 

As he started the engine of the car, the luminous headlights at its front lit up the street in front of him. Through his tears, James saw Matt standing in the middle of the road looking back at him in the side-view mirror. 

Driving to the hospital was a blur: James could only remember speeding down the roads that were starting to fill up with morning traffic, and pulling into the hospital’s parking lot. He had carried Mr Pritchett out of the car and into the front doors of the hospital where he was greeted by nurses. They took him out of his arms and before wheeling him away on a stretcher. James recalled a kind-looking nurse approaching him and asking what happened. Through his tears James told her everything: Why they needed the money, how they had broken into the house and shot the owner, how Matt had run away and how he had driven Mr Pritchett here. The nurse had nicely told him to wait at the seats near the entrance, and in a few minutes, policemen had walked in. They spoke to the kind nurse at the front desk before taking him away in handcuffs. 

James thought about his father, and whether he would be wondering where James was or placing more bets. He thought about where Matt was and whether they would catch him. Hee thought about whether they would take him to court and what he would say if they did, as he was forced into the backseat of the police car and the morning sun shone down on them and they drove off.

Jonathan Phillip Peterson (Class of 2024) is a student in Literary Arts at SOTA. The writing piece is a short story about a group of teens who break into a house and get more than what they bargained for.