Here’s the thing…
Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.
I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.
But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.
Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.
“So, how do you know your way around this place?”
We walked slowly and carefully because there was a lot of rubbish in the alleyway, mostly from cracks in the walls where the concrete lining had broken away. At times there were mounds of rubble, and we had to carefully walk over these.
The ground was dusty and signs of footprints from past visitors, but it had been a long time, they had almost disappeared. There was also a dank, musty aroma, just short of being nauseating.
“The result of a misspent youth. Not many people know there’s a passageway around the whole perimeter of the mall, with only four entry points from outside, and two inside. This was how we escaped when we came along for some shoplifting.”
“Did you ever think of going straight?”
“Wasn’t much chance of that. There were expectations, and when I did try to give it up, I got ostracised, and ended up having to commit bigger follies to regain acceptance.”
We reached the end of the passage, where it turned right. At a guess, I would say we were in one of the corners of the mall, near the front entrance.
She turned left and then stopped. I could see the bottom of the steps leading up.
A stopped next to her and we shone both torches up the stairs. The light only went as far as a landing.
“What’s up there,” I asked.
“Offices. A holding cell. It’s where the security team used to be. It was separate from everything else. The security guys used to shake down the teenage girls up there, and not in a nice way.”
“Once, but I told Vince and he sorted the bastard out. Didn’t happen again.”
A small sidebar to life in a mall.
She started up the steps. “If anything is going to be anywhere, this will be the place. The front of the mall was the safest part, built properly on solid foundations. As work continued, heading sideways and back, corners were cut. It’s not the only shoddy building there is in this area.”
The Benderby’s construction company had built most of the buildings in the county, always coming in at the lowest price. The only place not cracking or falling to pieces was the town hall.
At the top of the stairs, there was another wide passage with rooms branching off it.
It was a little less dusty and musty up here, but the rooms were quite messy, with papers scattered everywhere. It looked like someone had been looking for something. The first room didn’t look like it had been used since everyone left, nor the second.
The third was a different story. It was reasonably clean, a large desk in the middle of the room, and several boxes on the side with rolled-up papers, probably blueprints or plans.
I went in. Nadia kept going up the passage to check the other rooms.
I pulled out one of the rolls and laid it on the table.
It was a map, one that stretched a hundred miles in each direction and giving a very clear view of all the river systems, lakes, mountains, and coastline. Our town was almost in the middle of the chart.
I pulled out another and it was almost the same.
I looked at the writing at the bottom. One was dated 1972, the other dated 1956.
I kept rummaging through the rolls until I found one that was dated 1935. Our town wasn’t a town back then, nor did Patterson’s Reach exist.
And carefully examining the inlets, bays, and coves, given the parameters of what remembered from Boggs’s map, it could be any one of a dozen locations. I didn’t take that much notice when I’d been looking at Boggs’ collection.
“Hey, Smidge,” Nadia yelled out.
I wished she wouldn’t call me that.
I went out of the room and down the passage, past about four other offices, until the second to last. She was standing outside an office with a shut door. I tried it, and it was locked.
“A locked door in an abandoned Mall. What are the odds?”
“That there’s something in there that someone wants to keep secret. This has to be Alex’s lair. What was in that other room?”
“Perhaps. Boggs probably had the same, but I never took much notice of his. Trouble is, I was having difficulty believing there is a treasure buried out there somewhere.”
“A lot of people seem to be looking for this non-existent treasure, so there must be something in it.”
“Any of your keys fit?”
She tried the first, no, the second, the same one she had used to get in, and it worked. A skeleton key perhaps, that oped every lock in the place.
The door swung open and we shone the torch lights inside.
“What the hell happened in here?” she muttered.
© Charles Heath 2020-2021