by Jerry Guarino
construction crew wont be here all day.
Cholo, stop playing with that makeup and look for
jewelry. The gang of three boys and one
girl rifled through the house with speed and
intensity. Opening all the drawers and closets,
they threw personal items all over the floor.
Balbina, the seventeen-year-old accomplice, took
makeup, some purses and a scarf, putting it all
in a school backpack she brought. She withheld
her anger at Diego, the boyfriend, fearing he
would send her back to the home she hated or the
street. She stammered a reply.
OK, Ill go to the bedroom, and
off she went. She paused to look in a glass
cabinet, filled with family heirlooms, Disney
figures and colorful glass artwork. She took out
a gold jar, admiring the delicate lines of
inscription. To my beautiful daughter
on her graduation day. Balbina knew
she wouldnt graduate and didnt have a
father who would care if she did. Her mother was
only twice her age and struggling to provide for
her two younger bothers, still at home. Balbina
left to get away from the poverty and child care
duties she had been given. Her father was in
prison, taking away any security she might have
Puta, you still daydreaming! We dont
have all day, said the boyfriend. Smash
that cabinet and get to the bedroom.
Balbinas heartbeat quickened while she held
back a tear. Right away Diego, and
she gently laid down the jar, hoping Diego wouldnt
destroy it or the cabinet filled with this familys
memories. But Diego and his brothers were too
busy disconnecting electronics and searching for
drugs to care, so they left the fragile pieces
alone. Maybe he just didnt want to make
more noise that might draw attention from a
In fifteen minutes they were gone, out the back
yard, across a county lot and into a panel van.
The guys, still in their late teens, grabbed two
HDTVs, a laptop, 200 DVDs (mostly blu-ray) and a
digital camera. Balbina took two purses, makeup
and costume jewelry, items that made her feel as
though she was part of a family. Diego and his
brothers threatened to leave her behind next time,
saying she wasnt taking anything worth
Susan drove into the driveway and saw the smashed
sliding door. She panicked, looked around and
called her husband. Jeffrey, weve
been robbed, and she began to cry.
Her husband tried to get her to calm down. Ill
be right home. Call 911 and dont go inside
until I get there. Susan, still shaking,
walked out to the front of the house, afraid to
run into the burglars and waited for the police.
The police secured the home, dusted for
fingerprints and left the homeowners to put back
their lives after this invasion.
Back in the neighborhood, Balbina was showing off
her makeup, jewelry and purses. She gave a purse
and a necklace to her friend Gabriella, who wasnt
part of a gang and still in school. Gaby,
this is for your qinceanera and for staying in
school. Gabriella hugged her friend.
These are so beautiful. Gracias Balbina.
Gabriellas childhood wasnt taken from
her, like Balbinas. Balbina never told her
that these items were stolen. They looked new and
Gabriella didnt know Balbina was in a gang
now, much less that she just helped rob a house.
Feeling more guilty than happy, Balbina decided
to break up with Diego, leave the gang and move
out of the area.
Meanwhile Susan and Jeffrey were trying to
recover from the physical losses and emotional
terror. Although a lot of the jewelry was locked
in a safe, the ones that were taken were from her
mother, who passed away just after Susan had
gotten married. When she discovered that her
mothers wedding ring was gone, Susan cried
and held onto Jeffrey. They took my moms
Jeffrey consoled her. Its going to be
all right Susan. Maybe the police will catch the
Gabriella was chatting with a friend in study
hall when a police officer came in and put her in
handcuffs. What are you doing, she
screamed. In the back of the patrol car she cried
One of the teachers turned you in. The
homeowners you robbed sent an email to the school
offering a reward for information on items that
were stolen. This purse was on the list. See the
inscription on the inside.
Gabriella stuttered and replied. I didnt
steal anything. That purse was given to me by a
friend for my 16th birthday.
The officer reviewed his report. Yes,
Balbina Gonzalez, we have her print on a jar from
the crime scene. Were looking for her now.