Inherently Good

I walked into the police station and immediately felt uneasy. It wasn’t that I had done anything wrong, but it still made me feel uneasy as if I didn’t belong here. I took a deep breath and walked up to the window.

“Can I help you?”

The attendant was young and friendly, and I immediately smiled. “I’m here to return a wallet I found.”

“Oh,” she sounded genuinely surprised, “let me find the right form for that.” She tilted her head as she shuffled some piles of papers around. “Here it is.” She eyed me approvingly, “was there any money in it?”

“There was, or rather, there is.” I said, shrugging my shoulders. I took the paperwork from her  and went to sit down. I pulled a pen out and started filling in the information. She watched me distractedly, but I felt unease returning.

I finished the forms and walked back up to the desk. “I’m all set.” I hesitated. “Is there any way for me to make sure it gets back to the rightful owner? I mean, not that I don’t trust you guys, but I want to make sure it’s properly back in place.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I’m not sure. Let me call the detective.” She glanced me up and down again as she was on the phone. The glass was too thick for me to make out her words, and I never did learn to read lips, so I fidgeted and looked at the tv screen instead.

It was always so difficult to watch television. So much violence, betrayal and hurt. It didn’t seem like there was anything good that could come of it. I stayed away. The news was playing, and it felt like I was watching something that had come through these doors just a few hours ago. I sighed and looked for a magazine, though to be honest, I didn’t feel those were much better. All bad news and gossip, but I guess that’s what sells.

The screen slid open again, “Uh, Mr. um. Gregory?”

“Yes?” I walked back over.

“Detective Gates will be out in a little bit. He’s going to take the wallet over to the owner then if you’d like to stick around you can follow him there.”

“Thank you,” I said with relief. She looked at me oddly, but then shut the window and went back to shuffling papers.

Some odd moments later, a door opened from the side that I hadn’t noticed before. Out stepped a man, in his early 50’s I’d guess, all prim and proper in his uniform. My unease went through the roof.

“Mr. Gregory?”

“Yes?” I stood up slowly.

“Detective Gates.” He shook my hand firmly. “I believe you’ve found a wallet with a decent amount of money in it and want to see it rightfully home?”

“Yes, sir.” I said, standing up just a little straighter.

“You indicated that there was over five thousand dollars in the wallet. I’ve contacted the rightful owner and he said there was over ten thousand dollars in the wallet. Now, let’s go find out which one of you is correct.”

My mouth dropped open. I hadn’t really counted it, but I left it all there. His hand was on my shoulder and I found myself following him out to his car. He allowed me to sit in the front, and I’d considered myself lucky.

“Detective, why would I take any money out and then want to see the wallet to its rightful owner?”

“You know, I’ve been mulling that over myself. Perhaps this is a vendetta. Perhaps I’m walking into a trap. Perhaps you want a feud to be over. I don’t know, but I’m of mind to find out.”

“Do you have any kids, Detective?”

“I do, a boy and a girl. How about you?”

“I do as well. Two boys. I’m so lucky they’re healthy, and have a moderately impressive lifestyle.” I paused, looking out the window. “One day, my car broke down. My wife was already gone, on her way to visit her family, while I was to take the smallest boy in to get some dental work done. Everyone else I knew was so busy, I couldn’t call them. So I hurried up, got my boy on the bus and off we went. I had cash for the procedure in my wallet, because of the way my insurance works I had to pay up front and then would be reimbursed. Well, long story short, I got off the bus but somehow my wallet didn’t. I panicked when I got to the office, it was a lot of money. So much so that it couldn’t be replaced easily. Luckily, the office agreed I had always paid my bill and would perform the procedure anyway.”

He gave me a sideways glance, almost in disbelief.

“We made it home after the long day, and I set my son up to rest. We were reading a story in bed when I heard the doorbell ring. A man was standing there, so I opened the door. I invited him in. He came in and handed over my wallet, money still intact. He said he noticed it on the bus, and he wanted to make sure it came to the rightful owner. It had a profound effect on me at once. I was no longer irritable and crabby from the horrible experience. I was calm. So I invited him to stay for supper. Now, we’re best friends. Our kids play together every week at the park. He’s helped me countless times, and I’ve helped him, but I never feel like it’s enough to pay back that extremely gracious act.”

I sighed. “I just want to feel like I’ve done some good in this world. Here’s my opportunity.”

He pulled the car next to a run down apartment building and looked hard at me. I didn’t flinch, just looked right back at him.

“Well, I suppose we should go in.”

We walked slowly up to the door. His unease mirrored my own, but I stood straighter having him next to me. “I’ll let you do the honors, then.” He said, quietly.

I knocked on the door, but I could hear the screams of children playing. The door opened, and a teenage girl stood in front of me. “What do you want?” She snapped her gum and twirled her hair.

Footsteps rustled down a hallway and a voice boomed, “Annemarie! That’s no way to talk to anyone at our door. Move your butt to the kitchen to help your sister.” A woman in her late 60’s came to the door, her clothes tattered, her hands and eyes wrinkled. “Good evenin.’ What can I do for you fellas?”

I held up the wallet, and her eyes went wide. “Is that why he ain’t home? He lost it again? And with our rent money and all?”

Her eyes started to well up with tears. Detective Gates stepped closer, “Ma’am, how much money was in the wallet?”

“Just over five thousand. Our rent money for the next six months. The court finally paid us what we was owed, and we knew this time we had to keep it safe. I can’t believe he took it and ran. I tried to hide it, but he must’ve found it.”

She wiped her eyes. “Thank you. We would be evicted if we didn’t have it next week.”

I smiled at her, handed it over and turned to leave. Detective Gates stepped forward. “Ma’am, I talked to your husband. He said it had over ten thousand in it, and that he would be here when I dropped it off later tonight. Make sure you hide it good, okay?”

“Wait,” she called looking at me, “were you the one that found it?”

“Yeah, in a movie theater. It was wedged in the seats.”

“I should give you something, for bringing it back. A reward.”

“No ma’am. Just handing it back to you is reward enough. Have a great night.”

We walked in silence back to the car. We rode in silence to the station.

When we got back, Detective Gates looked at me. “You know, I’ve seen a lot of horrible things while on the job. I’ve seen a lot of good too, but the good always surprises me. I forget that people are innately good, they just get mixed up when money or sex or drugs are involved.”

I smiled. I had found my next target.

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