Charles ran into class, exclaiming, "Mr. V., Mr. V., last night I met this demented cop. I'm talking sick. I'm talking perverted. You wouldn't believe what he did to me." I put down my pen and listened.
"I'm telling you. He put me up against the wall, stripped me, searched every inch of my body and I think he enjoyed it. With gloves, rubber gloves, he checked every cavity of my body. That wasn't all, Mr. V. Then he took this can of spray paint and sprayed my entire body black. Except for here."
Then Charles thrust his lighter colored palms into my face, and flashed a smile that silently blared, "Gotcha."
I had always taken pride in not being suckered into con jobs, but I had really bitten on this one. I began to stew. "'Vengeance is mine,' saith the Lord;" nevertheless, I would wait.
Early one morning Charles burst into my room and exclaimed, "Mr. V., Mr. V., my girlfriend thought I would look good in a uniform. I visited a military recruiter, answered all his questions, and completed his forms. I did everything except sign on the dotted line. Can he still recruit me even though I have changed my mind?"
Recognizing an opportunity, I began reeling him in inch by inch. "Charles," I asked, "are we talking about the U.S. Military Service and not some state or local militia?"
"Oh, yeah, yeah," said Charles. "We're talking about the United States Army."
I said, "Um-Um-Um, this paper that you filled out, did you touch it?"
"Yeah, sure," he replied. "I filled it out and handed it to him."
"Did you put your thumb on that paper?" I asked.
"Yeah, when I handed it to him."
"Oh, Charles," I responded. "With the U.S. Government a thumb print is every bit as good as a signature."
"Oh, no! What am I going to do?" asked Charles.
" Can you calm down? I asked. What was the recruiter like? You said, 'U.S. Army.' Was this fellow wearing a spic and span uniform, creased perfectly on every seam? Did he have three stripes on his shoulders and spit-shined shoes so clean you could eat off them?"
"Yeah, do you know him? Do you know him?" he asked.
"This guy's name," I inquired then added a pause, "was ...?"
"Sergeant Leonard Broadstreet," Charles said.
"Oh, Charles," I said, "Sergeant Leonard Broadstreet. Oh my goodness, Charles. Do you mean Leonard 'Always Gets His Man' Broadstreet? Oh, Charles, did he come to your house this morning looking for you?"
"I don't know. I left early; I left early," answered Charles.
"Well, that's one point in your favor. At least he doesn't know where you go to school."
"Yes, he does. I wrote all that information on his form."
"Oh, Charles. This isn't looking good," I said.
"Oh, no. Oh, no," said Charles. "You have to tell him I am not here when he comes. You have to tell him I am not here."
"Charles, we are talking U.S. Army, FBI, CIA. I am sorry, Charles, but I just
don't like you that well."
"Mr. V., you have to help me. You have to help me," pleaded Charles.
"Charles," I said, "we have at least a couple of hours. Why don't we give this a little bit of time? Between the two of us, we'll come up with a solution. For now, let's just get down to schoolwork."
We settled into the day's routine. Charles seemed to have forgotten his dilemma, but I had not. "Claire," I told another student, "I have an important mission for you."
The office secretary's lunchtime arrived. Claire went into the office to replace her. Ten minutes later, she returned and announced, "There's a Sergeant Leonard Broadstreet to see Charles."
Charles jumped from his seat, ran towards me, fell to his knees, clasped my leg, and begged, "Pleeeze, Mr. V., pleeeze, tell him I am not here. Pleeeeze."
By the time I responded, Charles had wedged himself into the opening under my desk, "I don't know, Charles; I really don't."
"Pleeeze," he pleaded. I looked into his eyes and said, "Charles, this's going to cost you. You know you're going to have to kiss my butt for the entire year for this one?"
"Anything Mr. V.! Anything Mr. V.!"
"All right, Charles, just remember it's going to cost you."
As I walked from the room, I set the door slightly ajar. I stood in the hall for a few minutes. I envisioned beads of sweat forming on Charles's forehead, running down his nose, and dripping onto his chin.
At the perfect moment I said, "Hello, Sergeant Leonard Broadstreet. I have looked everywhere. I don't see Charles anywhere. Charles is the type of guy that's likely to show up one day and then disappear for weeks at a time. He's just that type of guy.
"Sorry, I wasn't able to help you more. If I see him I'll be sure to tell him that you were looking for him. Good day. If I can help you in any other way, feel free to contact me."
From that moment, whenever Charles was out of line, I would look him in the eye, smile, and whisper, "Sergeant Leonard Broadstreet."