We had a mystery to solve, but how were we going to solve it? And what if this was a random one-off? What sort of crook at a tennis camp would be brazen enough to go back? This wasn’t New York City… it was an empty Big Ten campus housing a couple of hundred athletes for a week or so, which certainly minimized our suspect pool. One would think a dubious food thief would stick out like a sore thumb. So, for this very reason, I was leaning towards a one and done, and I think Shasta McNasty was as well.
We decided to let things go because we had to get back to the courts. We would reconvene to discuss any strategy we may have after dinner that evening.
The afternoon dragged on, so did dinner for that matter. Finally, free time had kicked in and I rushed back to our room ready to plot our next steps with my roomie. Maybe THIS was the bonding experience I knew would bring us together just like the Parent Trap.
Anyway, I got to the room and Shasta McNasty was already there. How that girl got to our room from the cafeteria before me was hard to grasp because I could have sworn I’d been one of the first ones in and out of the dining hall that night… regardless, however she did it, she was standing before me with empty hostess boxes and bags of candy in her hands.
Yes, I first assumed she’d eaten them because, well, you know … but then I realized we had a serial stealer on the loose, and I quickly got my head back in the game. What if this person escalates from food to something more? How are they picking the lock on our door? What sort of person had such honed skills at our age? (okay, everyone else’s ages because clearly no one else was eleven). And what if it wasn’t another camper at all? What if it was some creep from West Lafayette lurking in our girls’ dorm, biding his time with sugar highs till he was ready to accelerate some insanely malicious master plan?
My eleven-year-old self was beginning to freak out just a bit, yet Shasta McNasty was fine; she was as cool as a cucumber. She didn’t worry because, per her, we were going to catch them in action. I didn’t really like the sound of that plan. I thought maybe taking it to one of the coaches or authorities was perhaps a better plan? Let them Scooby the shit out of this while we were safely out of harm’s way. Putting ourselves in the line of fire didn’t sound super solid to me… but Shasta McNasty was NOT backing down. And when you’re eleven, and away from home, you do what the promiscuous thirteen-year old says you are going to do.
That night, instead of sexual encounters with older men being imparted to me from the bed across from mine, Shasta McNastly shared ideas. We were going to catch this guy in the act, so help us, and I was going to be the bait.
The next morning, I had so many questions. I was still wondering why we weren’t taking this to the adults. I was wondering how they were breaking in. I was wondering why I was the bait. It didn’t matter, though, because the ball was rolling — during our first free period, I would rush to the room and lock the door. I would turn off all the lights and sit and wait for our thief to try and enter the room. Shasta McNasty and a friend would be down the hall, keeping an eye on the door so they could see who was attempting to steal our snacks.
So, there I was, sitting cross legged in the chair by the window facing the door. I just sat, in the dark, waiting. After many minutes passed, there was a shadow beneath the door. The light from the hall that had been emitting from the small gap between the door and the floor, was now clearly being blocked by somebody’s feet. Someone was on the other side… My beating heart hoped it was Shasta McNasty coming to spare me the torture of being offered up as sacrifice in the name of catching a petty thief, but as I watched the shadow of feet shuffling on the other side of the door, my hope quickly turned to dread. This was it. This was the villain we’d been waiting to reveal. I gripped my tennis racket tighter, ready to thwack anyone rushing my way…. Then the handle jiggled ever so slightly. If I wasn’t so intently focused on the door in front of me, I may have missed it, but I saw it move. Then I saw the feet shuffle again, another handle tremor, and just as I was about to scream, the handle went still and in one fell swoop, the shadow disappeared altogether.
Where was Shasta McNasty and her friend?!!! I wasn’t going to open that door and confront the guy, but if they were down the hall, keeping a lookout as she’d said, surely they got a glimpse of who it could be, thus racing to our room to see if I was ok.
Nearly half an hour later she came into the room with her friend laughing at some quip one of them had made. I asked where she’d been, if she’d seen anything. She and her friend said they saw the back of a guy outside our door, fiddling with the handle and then quickly walking away. They never saw his face.
In my mind, it was enough information to share with the coaches and that’s all I cared about, but Shasta McNasty still didn’t think we should take it to our supervisors. She felt there just wasn’t enough evidence for them to believe us.
Why wouldn’t they believe us? Our food was being eaten when we weren’t in the room, we had the empty packages to prove it, and Shasta McNasty and her pal saw a guy outside our door looking like he was trying to break in. Oh, and we weren’t liars, so there’s that. Regardless, we would have to discuss it later because we had to get back for our afternoon run to the water tower.
That evening, after dinner, as I was organizing my things for the next day in our room, I opened the cabinet to grab a few Fig Newtons and they were gone! We’d been robbed!!! AGAIN!!! And this time they weren’t messing around. They’d. Taken. The. Fig. Newtons.
This is where two roads diverged and I, I took the one Shasta McNasty wasn’t taking. I left the room immediately to find the resident supervisor and of course I bumped into my roommate in the hall along the way. She tried to stop me, told me we’d figure it out tonight. Uh-uh. They took the Fig Newtons. I was done. I also demanded she come with me because the counselors would need to hear her version of events, too. Sluggishly, she followed.
The counselors were essentially the coaches. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, we got stuck spilling to one of the nastier ones. Doesn’t matter. Her job was to protect us and no matter how hard and unsympathetic she was on the courts, she’d have to be understanding here.
She said there was no proof. Perhaps we’d misplaced our snacks. I was not oblivious to the fact that she was eyeing us both every time she used the word “snack” like we could afford to lay off them for a while. Long story short, we were basically told to deal with it and sent back to our room with the afterthought thrown that IF it was to happen again, THEN let her know.
It was official. I hated camp.
Shasta McNasty and I had yet to bond, the counselors were out to get us and someone was breaking into our room and stealing our food! I was miserable and I wanted to go home. Her plan that night for the next day would be for her to be the bait. Maybe I’d see something she didn’t because at this point it was a certainty the thieving monster would strike again. I went with it.
There was only one problem …
The next day, when it was time for free period to begin, I got hung up on the courts. One of the coaches needed to talk to me about byes and brackets for the tournament we’d be playing in on the last day. This meant I was running a few minutes late to my lookout post, but I figured that was okay. I’d waited quite a while before I saw feet shuffling and handles jiggling when I was the bait, so I highly doubted our intruder had tried anything yet. I crouched in the nook at the end of the hall that would give me a fairly clear view of our door and anyone tampering with it. Then, I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited.
Thirty minutes had gone by and there wasn’t much free time left. Maybe he’d felt he’d stolen everything of worth. I know I had no more snacks in my cupboard. There was no telling with Shasta McNasty, though. Her suitcase seemed like a clown car of nosh. So, I headed to our room. When I walked in, Shasta McNasty was sitting on her bed, eating, because her suitcase was truly an unending smorgasbord of cookies, crackers, candy, and chips.
She told me she, too, had seen shadowy feet moving and the door handle jiggling. Seriously? You’re telling me I just missed him? My ten-minute detour cost us the description to hand over to the coach who didn’t care? Unbelievable.
When it was time to return to camp, I sought out the coach who didn’t buy what we were selling, but this time I went alone. Against my roommate’s protests, I disclosed the latest events in detail. I explained that it happened again, what my roommate saw, and so on and so forth. The coach eyed me skeptically at first, then after a long pause, she said she would look into things. Then she told me to get my butt back on the court as she walked away.
I felt at least a little relief. Finally, someone was going to help us! My peace of mind only lasted an hour or two. I was working on my backhand when I heard, “Gross! Hey Gross! Get over here!” (that was me). It was the evil coach turned helpful coach calling my name from the fence line.
I left the drill and jogged to meet her. To my surprise, Shasta McNasty was there, too.
The evil/helpful coach stared at us with her arms folded across her chest. I could tell she was sizing us up. I was also hoping she’d had good news and that they’d actually caught the thief. After a moment, she spoke. “I don’t know what game you two are playing, but it ends here.”
Wait, what? What is she talking about?
She continued, “I don’t know if it’s one or both of you, but we don’t allow pranks at our camp. So, you two need to sort this out because we have a zero-tolerance policy and if that doesn’t work for you, you might as well go pack your things and call your parents to come pick you up right now. I don’t want to hear any more about these silly games you’re playing with each other and no other coach had better hear about them either. This ends today.” (in fairness, there was only one day left of camp, so…) Then she told us to go back to the dorm and leave or go back to the drills as she, again, walked away.
What was she talking about? What pranks? What games? We were victims! Someone had broken into our room and stolen from us! Who did she think she was? Accusing us of lying and thieving like it was all some practical joke? I looked at Shasta McNasty, for what purpose, I don’t really know. Maybe for assurance that the evil coach was crazy? Maybe to let me know I wasn’t crazy?
She looked at me and shrugged. Just shrugged. Then waltzed back to the courts and joined the drills as if nothing had happened.
What childhood hell was this? Why me?!!!
Confused and broken, I went back to the drills, too.
That night, lying in bed, was totally awkward for me. Shasta McNasty was the same as she always was. Talking about herself, her sexcapades, and her material things. She never mentioned a word about what the coach said to us earlier in the day. It appeared we hadn’t been broken into again, either, since she was talking while eating chips she’d grabbed from her boundless bag of nibbles.
As she droned on and on, my mind was elsewhere. I was trying hard to process everything that occurred over the last several days, to piece together the mystery that had arisen and my feelings about everything that had happened to me.
If you’ve ever seen the ending of the Usual Suspects, then you know. Shasta McNasty was still talking when suddenly it became crystal clear.
Though it was dark, I slowly turned my head to look at my roommate across the way. My mind had finally matrixed the fragments together, leading me to the conclusion that Shasta McNasty was Keyser Söze. Keyser Söze was Shasta McNasty. (this is where I would have dropped my coffee mug in slo-mo).
When her story about the thief appearing during that ten-minute detour seemed unbelievable, it’s because IT. WAS. UNBELIEVABLE. Because Shasta McNasty was a liar McLiarpants!
WOW. I did NOT see that coming… at 37, I TOTALLY saw that coming (as you probably did, too,) but at eleven? Yeah, blind-sided all the way.
I didn’t tell her I knew. I never said a thing. I finished out the camp from hell and headed home.
So here’s the thing – I wasn’t born jaded. Shasta McNasty made me this way. And sometimes, we should listen to our gut, because it knows …