by Michelle Giles
As he did every day at five a.m., Willy Roth sat by his apartment window and waited. The moment the newspaper hit the sidewalk, Willy threw open the door. Then, very carefully, he inched his feet past the cracks in the cement and reached for the paper.
He returned to his kitchen table, where his sixty-year-old sister, two years his senior, sipped her morning tea.
"Today's the day, Florence. I can feel it."
Florence rolled her eyes. "You say that every day."
Willy whipped open the paper to page fourteen and checked the Libra horoscope. "The stars of your Zodiac are aligned," he read aloud. "Lady Luck is on your side. The fortune you seek will be yours."
Willy jumped out of his seat. "I knew writing out those fifty chain letters would pay off!"
"Silly superstition," Florence said.
"Don't jinx it," Willy said, then knocked three times on the wood of the table.
Florence didn't know about his plan. It was his little secret, one that would make him rich--rich enough to get out of Florence's stuffy old house. Sure she was generous with her money, but her generosity came with a price. "Willy fix the faucet...Willy rake the leaves...Willy make me cup of tea...."
Willy's plan would set him free. He'd been waiting for a sign, and this horoscope was it.
At midnight, he would break into Harvey's Hardware Store and steal the cash hidden in the office. The next afternoon, he'd take the bundle down to the casino river boat, where he'd bet it all on the slots. Since Lady Luck was with him, he might as well go for it. He could almost see the wild sevens flashing, almost hear the silver dollars clanking.
"You've got that look," Florence said, eyeing him. "You're up to something."
"I feel lucky," Willy said.
"How many times do I have to tell you? There's no such thing as luck."
Willy ignored his sister and made it a point to stay away from Harvey's Hardware all day. Shortly before midnight, Willy tossed some salt over his shoulder, then headed out. He dressed in black, with a four-leaf clover charm around his neck and his tools in his pockets.
Willy walked four blocks to Main Street and reached the back door of Harvey's Hardware. Poor Harvey. He was a good guy, but he tended to talk too much. He often told his customers how much he distrusted banks and security systems. He bragged about the metal box where he kept his cash profits. Harvey would say, "That box is fireproof, waterproof, even explosion-proof." But it wasn't theft-proof, Willy thought.
Every night at ten, Harvey locked the store and hid the box in the third drawer of the beat-up wooden desk in the office--another tidbit he dropped during one of his endless conversations.
Armed with a screwdriver, credit card, and a tiny wrench, Willy jiggled the lock of the back door. He'd perfected his talent over the years, after he'd won the respect of his brothers at age eight when he picked the lock of Florence's diary.
Harvey's door lock wasn't much of a challenge. After a couple of minutes, bingo! The door opened easily.
Willy entered the store, using his flashlight as a guide. He tiptoed inside.
Several steps later, his arm collided with something on a shelf. It crashed to the ground. He moved forward and felt a stab of pain in his left foot. Willy covered his mouth just in time to catch his scream. He shined the light near his foot. A piece of glass. Well, that certainly wasn't lucky. Everyone knew it was lucky if you stepped in dog do-do, but not a piece of glass.
He shone the light closer. He almost screamed again. It wasn't glass, but a broken mirror. He moved away quickly, trying to pretend he didn't see it.
Fighting the pain, Willy walked down aisle two, passing a maze of hammers, wrenches, and garden hoses. With the flashlight leading, he took a few more steps, then banged his head. He lifted the light. A mailbox. Willy rubbed his forehead and kept going. He passed some buckets and dozens of paint cans, until finally, he reached the office.
When he entered, Willy went straight for the desk. He pulled out the
box and examined the lock. He had to give it to Harvey. This lock was pretty
good. Not theft-proof, but close. It would probably take at least a half
hour to open it.
Moments later, he heard shuffling sounds.
Willy snapped off his flashlight.
The sounds grew closer.
Willy grabbed the box and darted toward aisle two in the dark, heading for the back door.
Suddenly, the overhead lights came on.
Willy turned. Two police officers vaulted toward him.
The front door was unguarded. The only way out was aisle three. Thinking fast, Willy knocked over some plastic buckets as a distraction. He dashed toward aisle three and turned the corner. He stopped cold.
Up ahead was the most terrifying sight he'd ever seen.
Blocking the aisle were two very tall open ladders. Not one, but two! Walking under a ladder was even worse than breaking a mirror.
"Hold it right there." The two officers ran toward him.
Willy looked to the officers, then back at the ladders.
One of the officers seized him. "Two burglaries in two nights." He ripped the box from Willy's hands. "Last night's guy got away with two weeks of Harvey's earnings."
"That was enough to convince Harvey to install a new security system," the second officer said as he slapped handcuffs on Willy's wrists. "The security guys were using those ladders to install video cameras on the ceiling. Looks like you're a day too late. I'd say that's some rotten luck."
Willy shook his head. Florence was wrong. There really was such a thing
as luck. And his luck had turned the minute he'd broken that mirror. That
meant seven years of bad luck--probably about as long as his jail sentence.
Michelle Giles has sold 70 short stories, with publication in Woman's World, Star Magazine, The Storyteller, Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine and several others. She's a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Garden State Horror Writers.
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"Superstitious" © Michelle Giles. Used by permission
of the author.
Raven Electrick © Karen A. Romanko. Clipart by Corel®.