“Once we heard the story, we went to see Mr. Mazel. He checked the bracelet case in question and discovered it wasn’t the right bracelet that was in it. He recalled your daughter coming in to shop for a present. He said the bracelet she switched was less than half the value.”
“You switched a bracelet? What bracelet was that, Teal?” Daddy asked me.
I folded my arms and stared at the floor.
“Well?” he shouted.
“The one Mommy bought me for my fifteenth birthday,” I blurted.
Daddy’s head was bobbing like the heads of those toy dogs people put in the rear of their cars.
“I knew it. Buy her expensive gifts. See what it gets you,” he recited as if Mother was standing right there.
“Then you admit you switched bracelets?” the policeman asked me.
“Dad,” Carson said, caution filhng his voice.
“No, we’re not protecting her, Carson. Let her pay the price,” he told my brother.
I could see it in his face. My brother wasn’t worrying about me so much as he was about the family name, especially now that he was engaged to the daughter of a well-respected and influential father. Newspaper headlines flashed across his eyes, filling them with shame.
“Yes,” I screamed at the policeman. “I exchanged the bracelets! Are you all happy now?”
“We’ll have to take her downtown,” the policeman told my father. “This is a pretty serious crime. It might be considered a felony,” he said, fixing his cold blue eyes on me.
He’s just trying to scare me, I thought, but Carson looked like he was turning paler and paler every passing moment. Most of the time he tried to ignore that he even had me as his sister. Now, he might try to deny it. Maybe he would tell his friends I was really adopted.
“A felony?” he said under his breath.
“The bracelet sells for ten thousand dollars,” the policeman told him. “It’s a serious theft.”
Daddy kept nodding as if he was enjoying the policeman’s evaluation. The more he nodded, the tighter the knot became in my stomach. I felt the ache spreading up my chest. He looked so self-satisfied, as if he could predict my whole life and had predicted this scene in detail.
“Take her and do what you have to do,” he told the police. He turned away as though he could no longer look at me.
I turned to Carson. He really looked sad for me now, the sadness overcoming any disgust.
“Come along,” the policeman ordered.
The two of them stepped between me and my father and brother.
“I want to see Mommy first,” I cried.
“She doesn’t want to see you,” Daddy muttered.
“No. I won’t go until I see her,” I insisted. She would make him help me.
“You’re not seeing her, Teal. She’s taken one of her tranquilizers and she is resting quietly,” Daddy said. “I won’t permit you to risk her health another moment.”
“I thought you said you were going to take her to the doctor.”
“Later. Right now, no one feels like stepping a foot out of this house,” he added. “The disgrace is so thick we can feel it in the air.”
He nodded at the policemen, and the one with the clipboard seized my elbow and physically turned me toward the door.
“Mommy!” I screamed at the stairway.
“Dad,” Carson cried.