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.
A shiver went down my spine, and I took it for the omen it was.
Nothing good came of being in a place where you were not supposed to be.
I shook it off.
“Does that look like someone we knew, once?”
He looked at the mannequin, then shook his head. “No, should it?”
“Seems odd they didn’t come back to collect their stock. I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as this when the cracks first appeared.”
“Here it was. Walls crumbled, and in places the roof collapsed. Two shop staff got hit by a falling beam. One later died. There was a long court battle over that.”
I did not remember much of what happened. My mother said it was just another tragedy brought on by greed. It was probably why I had such contempt for the rich.
Boggs did a rotation with his light, and in the direction of the marina, there was a central square over which was a skylight, only it was dirty and little light was getting through. It was just enough to see that the plants had all overgrown and taken over, and it was strange to see pylons covered in creeper, and shrubs growing through seats.
There had been a pond in the middle of that square, but it was probably empty now, and if it had water, it would be contributing to the smell.
In the other direction, there was darkness, the mall heading towards the front entrance.
Boggs started walking towards the square.
That was when I realized he had brought an old map of the shopping center and had been looking at it when I joined him.
From the square, there were elevators and steps up to the second level where there were restaurants and entertainment areas, as well as the entrance to the multiplex cinemas. The stairs went down to the carpark.
There were two levels of carpark under the main building, and it was the lower car park that had occasionally flooded.
When we reached the square, it seemed lighter than I first thought, but that had to do with the fact my eyes had adjusted to the semi-darkness, making objects clearer. We had to brush past some of the tree branches to reach the pond.
I was wrong. There was water in it, and it was reasonably clear. I guess without man to pollute it, nature had taken over. Here the aroma was more like a park after the lawns had been mowed.
Boggs had turned off his light as we approached the pond, and it was fortunate he had. We both heard the sound of a brick, or rock hitting the floor, and a moment later, the faint glow of torchlight.
Other people exploring the wilderness.
“How many people know about that entrance?”
It sounded to me like they were coming back from the marina.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here if that’s what you’re thinking.”
It wasn’t. Not my first thought, anyway.
He headed towards the stairs next to the elevator lobby, remarkably clear of rubble and undergrowth, and started walking down the stairs, into the darkness. I followed, reluctantly, and inwardly sighed in relief when he stopped on the first landing. There was a rumor there were ghosts down on the car park levels.
We went just far enough down to be hidden from the other visitors. Unless they decided to use this particular staircase.
The light was less intense as it approached the square, and then we saw two figures.
At least one was a male, tall, and smoking a cigarette.
“God knows why the boss wanted us to check this hell hole. There’s no one here but us.” It was the tall man speaking.
He waved his torch around, including once in our direction. At the distance they were from us, the light had no effect.
“You know the boss, he has an active imagination. Perhaps if he hadn’t buried the bodies down here, it wouldn’t be an issue. Come on, this place gives me the creeps.”
Another man, and, now, I could see they were dressed in what looked like security guards’ clothes. Why on earth would anyone want to keep an eye on this place? And who was their boss?
Another wave of the torches and they continued their way towards the front of the mall.
“So,” Boggs said with a curious inflection in his tone, “there are bodies buried down here.”
“A figure of speech,” I said. “No one would be that stupid to bury bodies down here.”
“Why not. No one comes here, except adventurers like us, so it’s a perfect place for either the Cossatino’s or the Benderby’s to hide stuff down here. How many people do you think either of them has killed over the years?”
Allegedly quite a few. It was, when I thought about it, quite a good place to hide a body. I just hoped we didn’t find one.
We waited another five minutes, just in case they came back, but they didn.t. I followed Boggs up the stairs and we headed towards the center of the square.
“Where are we going?”
“To the Marina. Got to check something first.”
© Charles Heath 2020