Theft 2

Read part I here.

***

The next morning before dawn I heard running feet outside my window.  Something small and light flew in.  Startled, I sat bolt upright in bed, then got up and looked all around on the floor.  There, underneath the bench that sat pushed up against the wall was a folded-up 100-peso bill.  I felt like crying.

I was eating breakfast and drinking coffee, wondering what to do next, when Roberto Centeno suddenly filled up my open door, leaning in.  “Good morning,” he said.  Centeno had married into the Maigua family, who together controlled a good 15 percent of the land in San Rafael.  This year he had been elected president of the community, a role he seemed to fill with plenty of himself left over.

“Good morning,” I replied.
“So what happened?  Who stole your money?” he demanded, sitting on my bench, looking stern.

“I don’t know.  People think it was Betty or Marina.  But this is really strange—I asked Betty yesterday if she took it, and she said no, but I said that if she did, I wouldn’t get her in trouble, if she just gave it back.”  He frowned, and I went on.  “Then this morning someone threw this in the window.”  I held out the folded-up piece of money.  That was enough for Centeno.

“Well, that proves it, then!”  His loud voice filled my small room.  “They had to have taken it!  You told Betty yesterday to give it back, and here it is!  No, no sir.  I won’t be having this kind of thing in my community.  We can’t have these kinds of people here.  We’re going to demand that they give it back, all of it.  Not just what they have left, all of it, or we’re taking her parents to the police.”

My heart sank, and I wished desperately that I had said nothing to Centeno at all.  That they had tried to give what was left of the money back was enough for me, and that this attempt to rectify matters actually sealed their fate, broke my heart.

“No, not the police,” I pleaded.  “Let me go talk to the parents myself.”

“No, no sir,” he repeated.  “This needs to be taken care of right away.”  He got up and I watched anxiously through the window as he strode towards the schoolteacher’s house.

Seriously distressed, I went out after him, pulling the door shut behind me.  I arrived as he was explaining his plan to the schoolteacher, who was already pulling out a typewriter and scrolling blank paper into it.

“No, Doña Ely, we can’t just let this go,” said the schoolteacher to me.  “Don Roberto is right.  We need to sue her parents so they give back the money—they have to learn to control their daughters better.  Those girls are trouble!  I asked Marina, you know, where she got that money for the school fees—I don’t trust her one little bit.”

“But just let me talk to her parents first,” I said.  “Why do we need to get the police involved?”

“We have to scare them!” said Centeno.  “They’re stupid illiterates!  They’ll never listen if you just talk to them!  You have to show force!”

I was beginning to figure out that these men were not going to listen to me.  So I went to find Octaviana.

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