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.
The rescue story
When I woke again, it was noticeable that it was light outside the room, even though the curtains were drawn.
My mother was sitting, or rather slumping, in the chair beside the bed, asleep. She looked tired, worse, like she had been to hell and back.
I guess the thought of losing me, after my father, might have been too much for her to bear. It also brought up the question of why I hadn’t told her what I was doing. At the time, it didn’t seem to matter, I’d always be coming home, and there was no question in my mind that anything bad might happen to me.
So, of course, there was an easy answer and a more complicated answer, but I had to hope she wasn’t going to jump to any conclusions before I had a chance to explain. And then, when I thought about it, what could I say that was not going to tip her over the edge? In not planning for the worst eventuality, the worst had happened.
I’d done everything I said I would never do, and for selfish reasons. It was nearly the death of me. How could I expect her to understand any of it?
She stirred, then slowly sat up, and stretched. Those chairs were not comfortable at the best of times.
“I’m sorry,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper.
She stopped mid-stretch and looked at me. It was not with anger or annoyance, but relief.
“How are you?” She lowered her hands to take mine in hers.
It was a strange question, given my condition, and being in a hospital. Yet, I guess everyone asked that same question out of courtesy or to make polite conversation.
“I’m told I’ll live.”
“A good thing too. I’m glad they found you.”
“You know, that slip of a girl you told me you liked, but she was too good for you, or some such nonsense.”
“The sheriff’s daughter, yes.”
“She still is.”
“Only in your mind Sam.”
Forever the matchmaker even on my near-death bed, she had always been looking for the right girl, never accepting that our station in life made certain choices impossible. And, even if Charlene liked me, she would not be allowed, but that was something my mother would never understand.
“What day is it?” I had no idea of the date or time for that matter, but it had to be days later.
“Thursday. You were missing for nearly eight days, and it’s been a further five days while being treated for severe dehydration.”
First question, what happened to Boggs?
It was as if my mother could read my mind. “I was told that when they found you, you were asking about Boggs. I’m sorry to tell you he was found deceased yesterday in one of the caves.”
Had he got lost, or did Alex and Vince go after him too? They hadn’t left in the same direction, so in all likelihood, he simply got lost, though being the climber and cave Explorer he was, that seemed unlikely.
“That Cossatino girl recovered quickly, but she’s still here, under observation. She’s been saying she’s not leaving until she sees you. I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Sam. The sheriff is considering charges against that whole family.”
“She didn’t do anything wrong. It was her brother and Alex who tied us up and left us for dead.”
She didn’t get time to respond, but the astonished look on her face told me something was very amiss. The sheriff and Charlene had arrived with the doctor, and a nurse who hustled her out of the room.
The doctor examined me, asked a few questions to determine whether I could withstand an interrogation, and then left me with the interrogators, the sheriff, standing back after closing the door, and Charlene, in the seat my mother just vacated.
She had her notepad open on a blank page.
“Firstly, I should apologize for taking so long to send out a search party. For the record, I received your text message. I assume you sent that before you left.”
“As we walked out the door of the shoreside hut. I assume that was the first place you looked.”
It was obvious it wasn’t, so I was beginning 5o wonder what happened. My first question was, “when did you find out we were missing.”
“Your mother came to the office two days after the message. She said you hadn’t come home but wasn’t overly worried because she assumed you were with Nadia. She only came because your work had asked her if you were ill because you hadn’t turned up for your shift, and that it was the first time.”
“As a courtesy to your mother Sam, I said I would look into it. I went to the warehouse and Alex said you had taken off with Nadia and had left him in a difficult position.” The sheriff wasn’t making excuses, just reporting the facts.
I hadn’t been thinking about Alex simply because I didn’t want to, not right then, but I was probably going to have to. My first thought went to Nadia, who, by the time we realized that we might die, had all but signed his death warrant. If she survived, she was going to kill him, and her brother, and her explicit description of how she was going to make them suffer made me shudder.
Charlene noticed. “Again, I’m sorry, but we have to go through this. What happened after you left the hut? Take your time. I know this might be painful, but it is necessary.”
Given what the sheriff just said, I had a feeling that implicating Alex wasn’t going to be easy. Having a head start on us, he had time to get a story out there, and friends who would readily lie for them.
And Nadia being on the outside of her family, the Cossatinos would close ranks around Vince, and between Alex and Vince, refute any allegation I made, and quite possibly Nadia too.
It would be good to know what she was thinking.
“For whom? Because from where I’m sitting, and judging by the expressions on your faces, I’m the one who’s in trouble here.”
“We just want the facts, Sam.”
“It seems to me you’ve already got them, and what I have to say, if there was anything to say, is irrelevant. I don’t know anything about what happened to Boggs, and I’m not prepared to speculate. I don’t know what Nadia told you, but I remember very little about what happened, except we were in a cave, and then I woke up here.”
It then occurred to me to look at my wrists, and there were only faint marks to show I’d been tied up. I knew then someone had come back and untied us, so that if we hadn’t been found, our deaths would not be suspicious.
“We just want your side of the story.”
So the Benderby’s could refute it once the sheriff delivered my statement.
“You just got it. If Nadia gave you hers, then that should be it.”
“Nadia won’t tell us anything, not even why she was in the cave. It seems it was a place where pirates might once have visited, but except for a bundle of straw and an empty chest, there was nothing.”
And there it was. The bodies had been removed, the crime scene cleansed, and we were simply trespassers the Cossatino’s could prosecute.
“Boggs had taken us spelunking, obviously in a place we shouldn’t, but I thought with Nadia coming with us, we didn’t need permission. Perhaps the assumption was wrong.”
“Cossatino isn’t interested in charging anyone with anything. He’s just happy we found his daughter.”
Pity the feeling between daughter and father wasn’t mutual.
“The good tidings abound. Everyone is happy.”
“I’d still like to know why you were adamant Alex had something to do with the professor’s death.”
“I don’t. I hate the bastard, it’s as simple as that.”
“We know the professor was killed at the mall, you got that right, and dumped on Rico’s boat, but there was no evidence Alex was there, or any safe, desk or anything except dust.”
Of course. Alex had been on a massive clean-up exercise, just in case we survived. It was going to be a very interesting first meeting when I saw him again.
“A good guess then. I’m no longer interested in treasure, Boggs, God rest his soul, or anyone else for that matter. Soon as you’re done with me, I’m gone, and you will never see me again.”
With that I rolled over to face the other way, the interview as far as I was concerned, done.
“This isn’t over Sam.” Charlene was disappointed but she’d get over it.
And my estimation of her just fell below zero. It was clear Alex had got to her. And she believed his story.
Of course, I just realized what I’d said to my mother, and had to hope she didn’t repeat it. But, knowing her affiliation with Benderby, I had no doubt she would tell him, so I could expect a visit from his lawyers, threatening all kinds of punitive action if I dared to repeat it.
As for Nadia, the fact she said nothing told me everything. Both Alex and Vince were going to face a different type of justice, and I was going to ask her for an invitation.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022