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.
Did it upset me that Boggs was a little snarky? Yes, a bit.
We’d been friends for a long time, the sort who had stuck together at school to keep arm’s length from the bullies and work together on projects and homework. That friendship had become more important after his father disappeared, and I had believed he appreciated it.
Until this treasure thing.
It hadn’t been there, looking over everything. The fact of the matter was he had been too young to understand any of it, and his mother wisely kept the extended details of her husband’s obsession away from him, and it was quite by chance he stumbled over his father’s effects in the attic.
Had she destroyed that stuff then perhaps we’d all not in this position?
Life had been more predictable, we avoided Alex and Vince, Nadia was nowhere to be seen, and life just rolled along in unemployed heaven. Of course, that would have had to change, as it had, because my mother couldn’t continue to support a son in his late teens, and at that age, I should have been looking for both work, and to move on with my life.
The state of the economy, and the town’s fortunes, made that difficult, and I guess it would have been a matter of time before I left, like nearly all of my contemporaries had to the bigger towns and cities for more opportunities.
Benderby and the factory had staved that off, for now.
Other than that, I was rather pleased with the job I had, not too taxing, amenable hours so I could do other stuff, and although the only downside was working with Alex, all I had to do was avoid him, and the warehouse was a large building.
I went home to change and found my mother there, sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee.
“You’re home early,” I said when I saw her.
“On a break. Had to go to the bank, and it wasn’t much further to come here. Muriel tells me you’ve been talking to Nadia Cossatino.”
Talking to Nadia to her was the same as spending time with her. And to my mother, the Cossatino’s were public enemies, close to the number one.
“You taught me to be polite and speak when spoken to.”
It was always good to quote her rules back to her when she was trying to admonish me.
“You know what the Cossatino’s are, Sam.”
“She doesn’t act like one, not now.”
“You know why they sent her away, don’t you?”
Sent away? That was not what I heard, but then, as a so-called child, what we were told and what was reality were two entirely different things.
“I thought I did, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me the grown-up reason?”
“She stabbed a girl, and instead of going to juvenile detention, they sent her home to Italy where she couldn’t get into any more trouble.”
“Why did she stab another girl?”
“Do the Cossatino’s need reasons for what they do? She’s not a very nice person, nor are the family very nice people. Remember that the next time you see her.”
“She’s nice to me, and I prefer to be polite. But I’ll take what you said and be careful.”
That said, I was dismissed, lecture given.
I changed and came back to pack a meal for the evening break. Mother was still sitting at the table.
“I thought you’d be on your way back to work.”
“Not going back today. I’m not feeling very well. How is the job going? I never get to see much of you these days.”
“I’m helping Boggs when I can.”
“Isn’t he on that treasure trail his father started?”
“Yes. He found a box of his stuff in the attic, and we’ve been trying to make sense of it.”
“There is none. There was no treasure, just a bunch of maps Boggs’s father made for the Cossatino’s to con people out of their money.”
“What about Ormiston?”
“He was a bigger fool than Boggs. You don’t want to be humoring Boggs with such nonsense. You concentrate on doing your job properly and let him follow his father down that rabbit hole. I feel sorry for Muriel, having two of her family sucked into that mess.”
“And what if it is real?”
She gave me a look that told me the only thing that was real would be her wrath if I persisted with it. “OK,” I said. “I’ll try and reason with him, and get him to give it up.”
It was then I noticed the flowers over by the window, a very expensive-looking bouquet in an ornate vase.
“Do you have a secret admirer?”
She looked a little puzzled, then realized what I was talking about.
“Joshua sent them over, thought it might cheer me up.”
Joshua was Alex Benderby’s father, my employer. Odd that he would be sending my mother flowers. We were not anywhere near his social circle.
“He’s a kind man, Sam, and we have been friends since school. I could do with some cheering up.”
I was not sure what she meant by that, but I hope it didn’t mean he would come visiting. Knowing Benderby was a curse, not a benefit, and I hoped my job wasn’t contingent on her being nice to him.
I shuddered at the thought, said no more, and left for work.
My job was supposed to be my sanctuary, where I could get away from home, the depressive nature of living in the town, and Boggs and his treasure hunt.
It wasn’t an escape from Alex, and not only did he work in the same building, but treated it as his fiefdom, and resented the fact I’d ‘wormed’ my way into his domain.
Under that boastful and arrogant exterior, he really was just an insecure little boy.
But very, very dangerous.
He was leaving when I arrived, having switched from night shift to day, a blessing. His alternate for the night shift was an uncaring old man who was approaching retirement and didn’t want anything to screw up his exit.
He let me do whatever I wanted so long as it didn’t blow back on him, and I took extra care not to cause offense, or raise any flags. Stuff came in, stuff went out, the stock register was up to date, and nothing ran out.
It was as simple as that, and even so, Alex still couldn’t get it right so we covered for him.
Alex stopped at the door on the way out, a bad sign.
“You want to tell that clown of a friend, Boggs, to stop poking around the caves. They’re not a place for amateurs.”
“I didn’t know he was poking around the caves. Nor that you were. Any particular reason?”
“It’s called spelunking, dimwit.”
I knew that but wasn’t going to make an issue of it. He was lucky he could pronounce it let alone know what it was.
“They’re just caves, Alex, with nothing more than a few limestone pinnacles, and bat shit on the floor. Unless, of course, you think the pirate captain hid his treasure in one of them. I can’t see how, or why. They’re a long way from the coast.”
“We’re not looking for treasure. It doesn’t exist.”
“Then why warn Boggs off?”
He shook his head. “You’re as daft in the head as he is. Just tell him not to get in my way.”
With that, he was gone. A huge sigh of relief, and a long peaceful night ahead of me.
Until the phone rang.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022