"Melissa," Ms. Pollard began, "I"

"I know it was Dante!" Melissa interrupted. "I was looking out my window and I saw him do it!"

Dante didn't say anything.

"Melissa," Ms. Pollard said,"I already know all about it."

"How do you know? Who told you?" asked Melissa.

Dante answered, "I did, Melissa."

"That's right," Ms. Pollard said, "Dante came into the classroom and told me everything, and I mean everything.
I now know," she concluded, "why Dante was doing your arithmetic homework for you."

"Tattletale!" Melissa hissed, glaring at Dante.

"You were going to tattle on me," Dante pointed out.

"Yes, Melissa, you were," said Ms. Pollard. "Do you know what blackmail is?"

"No."

"I do," Dante said. "Dad explained it to me last night. It's threatening to tell something
bad about someone, or to hurt their family, unless they do what you tell them to."

"Blackmail is a crime, Melissa. Did you know that?"

"No, Ms. Pollard," Melissa whispered, looking at the floor.

"Well, it is," Dante put in. "My Dad said that if you weren't just a little kid, you could be arrested."

The bell rang, and Ms. Pollard said, "We'll finish this discussion later. And, Melissa, not a word to
anyone."

#####

"Recess!" Ms. Pollard announced later that morning. "Melissa, please stay in your seat."

"What about Dante? Aren't you going to..."

"Melanie." Ms. Pollard spoke in a low, warning voice.

A few minutes later, when she and Ms. Pollard were alone in the classroom, Melissa began again, "Aren't you
going to punish Dante for turning in that false alarm?"

"No, Melissa," Ms. Pollard answered. "What Dante did was wrong, but he did not do it on school property,
and he did not do it during school time, so any punishment he receives is up to his parents."

Melissa didn't answer.

"You, on the other hand, threatened Dante on the playground during school hours, and for that you will
stay in at recess for two weeks."

"Two whole weeks?" Melissa wailed.

"Two weeks," Ms. Pollard repeated firmly, "and I'll be giving you a note for your parents, since Dante told
me that his parents were not able to get in touch with them."

"Isn't losing my recesses for two weeks enough punishment?"

"I'll tell you what, Melissa. I'll mention the lost recesses in my note, and maybe your parents will
go easier on you than you deserve."

####

"I lost my recesses for two whole weeks," Melissa grumbled as she and Dante walked out of the schoolyard that afternoon.

"I'm sorry, Melissa, but you shouldn't have blackmailed me."

"You shouldn't have turned in that false alarm."

"I know I shouldn't have," Dante said. "I'm grounded for two whole weeks."

"I'll probably be grounded, too."

####

Dante was supposed to go straight home from school, but he made a slight detour first; he went to the police station.

"Dante," Joe said when he saw his son walk in, "you were supposed to go right home, remember?"

"Yes, Dad, I know," Dante answered, "but there's something I need to do first."