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.
Alex is a problem
My mother didn’t return after the sheriff and Charlene left, and it didn’t bother me as much as it should.
What did bother me was the extent Alex, and no doubt his new best friend Vince, had muddied the water, but they did have a week to get their stories straight.
A point taken out of the interview with Charlene: any evidence of Boggs father or Ormiston had been removed, along with the pirate skeletons and anything also that could be identified.
No one would believe us if we said we saw them, we would be classed as delusional, and probably not without reason.
Another point, we had not been tied up when we were recovered, and there were no noticeable marks, or at least couldn’t be explained away. It was obvious they had come back, not only to cleanse the site but to make our deaths look more natural.
The last, for that moment, was the fact no one went looking for us after Alex said we had run away together.
The question that had to be asked, was what eventually prompted the police to start looking for us, and why was it in the cave system? I had not exactly alluded to where it was.
I heard the door to my room open and shut and rolled over, expecting a nurse.
It was Charlene, alone this time, leaning against the door.
“What are you not telling me?”
“What else is there to say? Apparently, Alex knows more about my situation than I do, so you have to ask yourself, how that’s possible.”
“You tell me.”
“So you can take anything I say to the Benderby’s so they can use it against me? I’m not surprised the Benderby’s have got you doing their dirty work for then. After all, your father is up for re-election, and needs their support to stay in office.”
A furrowed brow and dark look told me I was on dangerous ground. Implying the sheriff was in Benderby’s pocket wasn’t the best idea, even if it was rumored to be true.
“What exactly are you implying?”
Brittle tone, time to back down. “Nothing. You managed to get a good result from a bad situation, except for poor Boggs. What happened to him?”
“Slipped and fell, the medical examiner believes. No signs of foul play if that’s what you’re asking?”
“On the rocks at the foot of the cliff leading up to the ledge and cave entrance, in full climbing gear. Had we not found him there, we would not have found you. We assumed since he didn’t find the treasure, he left, leaving you two behind.”
It fitted the story, no doubt seeded by Alex. And reasonably true, to a certain extent. He had left us, but not out of pique.
“You could say he was disappointed.”
“What happened, because I don’t understand why you didn’t leave at the same time.”
“Boggs was there for the treasure. We wanted to do more exploring, ended up getting lost.”
It was a logical explanation and would fit her narrative. I didn’t see the point of throwing any curve balls.
I could see her processing.
“You mustn’t think very much of me Sam.”
“Whatever gives you that idea?”
“I don’t think I’ve heard one word of truth from you so far. I know something happened in that cave, and you were not the only people involved. Alex can’t lie to save himself, and Vince Cossatino, well, stark staring bonkers doesn’t begin to describe him. They’re mixed up in this somehow, and I can’t do anything about it unless you tell me the truth.”
“An old newspaper adage I once heard sums up what I think appropriately describes this situation you find yourself in. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. You can draw any picture you want, but we both know the person with the best lawyers will win the day, irrespective of what you think happened or what actually happened. It might be a different story if you found us dead, but you didn’t.”
“There’s Boggs. He didn’t make it, and I’m not convinced he fell to his death. I found a climbing expert to review the gear, the site, and the body. Boggs was left-handed wasn’t he?”
Perhaps I might have misjudged her, and her tenacity for investigating. But, there was a problem. “Ambidextrous when climbing, right-handed when playing most sports. The guy was an enigma at times, and a bit of a daredevil.”
“You’re going to need more than that before casting aspersions that will destroy his mother if she’s not already there.”
“I don’t get it, Sam. Why won’t you help me?”
“No point. We both know who runs this town, always has. You were at school the same as I was, and Alex was always untouchable. You don’t want to make an enemy of him. I did and look where it got me.”
“I have a job…”
“The wrong job, or maybe the wrong place. There’s a reason why your father is not pushing this. Alex will get what he deserves, perhaps sooner rather than later.”
“You think the Cossatino’s will exact their own justice? That’s not going to happen. At the moment the Cossatino’s and the Benderby’s are like peas in a pod.”
That was disconcerting news, and I wondered how Nadia had taken that.
“How is Nadia, by the way?”
“She’s apparently taken a vow of silence. I suspect the first visit from her father was to warn her against making any accusations. She hasn’t told us anything, except how you convinced her that she would be rescued. It must have been terrible.”
Worse. Not knowing if anyone would come, and as time passed, that feeling this was your time to die. I had gotten to the point where I regretted wasting all those years after leaving school and doing nothing. The fact my mother needed me had made that decision all too easy, but now I realized, she hadn’t needed me, that she was contented with her two suitors and remaining just out of reach, playing them against each other.
A commotion outside the door took my mind away from those thoughts, and seconds later Alex came into the room.
“You shouldn’t be here, Alex,” Charlene said, standing between him and me.
“You don’t know your place, Charlene, and that’s not here. Go play detective somewhere else.”
“You want to be careful Alex.”
“Or what? You’ll get your father to sort me out?” He laughed. “So naive and stupid. We own him, and he’ll do what he’s told. As will you. Now, get out before I throw you out.”
I watched her consider how she was going to respond, even to the point of telling him off, but there was that hesitation, confirmation of what I’d just told her, which was far worse than I suspected. Then, a shake of the head, and, “I’ll be just outside, you do anything, I’ll be a witness “
Brave, but pointless. He shoved her out, and closed the blind, and the door.
“So Smidge, you’ve been spreading lies.”
“Have I ? What lies, specifically?”
“Your mother came around and told my father Vince and I tied you up and left you for dead “
“Rather accurate, don’t you think?”
“Lies, Smidge. The result of our differences perhaps, but whatever the reason, don’t repeat them again. Not if you want a ton of bricks to rain down on you, literally.”
So my mother had gone straight to Benderby. No surprise there, but was it because she cared, or was she reporting my comments?
“I wouldn’t be worried about me, Alex. You have bigger problems to deal with.”
“Oh? I don’t think so, if you’re referring to Nadia. We have a deal with the Cossatinos. If she says anything, they’ll deal with her.”
“In all the time you dated her, Alex, did she show you her true colors?”
“She’s just a stupid girl like all the rest. What are you talking about?”
There was no hint of concern, and that might just be his Achilles heel. If I could just sow a few seeds of doubt in his mind…
“I’d run Alex. As far and as fast as you can.”
The door crashed open and the Sheriff came in, red-faced and very angry.
“Get out Alex.”
“Do you need to be reminded who you are talking to?”
The sheriff apparently didn’t, and with one punch propelled Alex across the room and into the wall, before he crashed to the ground. He wisely stayed on the floor, as the sheriff was standing over him, ready for round two.
“My father will hear about this,” he said, pulling out his phone.
“He will. I have two witnesses who will testify you threw the first punch and were resisting a direct order to leave. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay put and shut your mouth.”
He turned to me. “Where’s Nadia?”
“Last I heard she was in a hospital bed.”
“She left “
“You talk to her parents?” Alex joined the conversation. Perhaps he was hoping that was the case. I didn’t think it was.
“They’re surprised. We have CCTV footage of her leaving, alone. I ask again, Sam, where is she?”
“What makes you think I would know where she is.”
“You were alone with her in that cave, in a near-death situation. People tend to confide their deepest innermost secrets at such a time.”
“Not with me. The girl is as much an enigma to me as she is to everyone else. But one thing she did say, she’s nothing like her parents, so much so, she reckoned they adopted her.”
“Not helping Sam.”
I looked over at Alex. “You should ask the sheriff to put you in protective custody, Alex.”
He snorted in disbelief, obviously remembering what I’d said earlier.
The sheriff picked up on it. “Why would you say that?”
“Sometimes it’s what is not said that is most telling.”
“Then you’re saying that Alex and Vince had something to do with you being left in that cave because for the life of me, I can’t understand why you didn’t just walk out of there. I don’t believe for one minute you got lost, Sam. Not you. I know you.”
He might, but Alex was still in the room and it was still unfounded allegations. But there was a slight look of panic on his face.
“Well, believe it or not, that’s what happened. I would appreciate it if you took Alex away, and stopped him from harassing me. As for Nadia, if she has any sense, she should go back to Italy. For what it’s worth, she won’t go back to the Grove, that isn’t home to her, but she might go back to her hotel room.”
I told him which hotel and the room number, and told him to leave and take Alex with him. I suggested protective custody, just in case, but neither seemed to think he would need it, which left me with a curious notion, did the sheriff want Nadia to take care of a problem he couldn’t.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022