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.
Inside the mall looked totally different, they had cleaned out the whole inside and all that was left was the pylons holding the roof, and the floor above, up. It was clear from the front to the back or would be if there was enough daylight.
There were explosives tied to each of the pylons, and wires running along the roof everywhere, resembling a spider’s Web.
They were going to bring the whole mall down in one go. I’d seen similar demolitions on TV, but this one would be more manageable, being only two floors, at most.
“The demolition was stopped only an hour before they were going to push the button. The control panel is still in place, ready to be detonated remotely. All it needs is power.”
Nadia seemed to know a lot about it.
“We’re not here for nostalgia are we?”
“Could be. I’d tell you my most predominant memory of this place but it would probably make you mad, so I won’t. It’s probably the one thing I’d like to forget, but as a first, you tend not to. What about you?”
“In this place, nothing. It was just a mall, and not the best I’d been to. Boggs and I used to come here and sit by the pool, and drink beer out of Thermos flasks. It’s about the worst we could do.”
“You probably thought that was being badass at the time.”
We did, but we were young and stupid. Others were more daring but always seemed to get caught by the mall cops, who had a fearsome reputation when handing out punishment.
We crossed the floor to the center fountain, and then took the stairs down to the carpark, then headed towards the ocean end, stopping at a wire fence that separated the customer park from the staff carpark.
There was a lock on the gate, and I thought it was odd, given the rest of the building had all the walls removed. The chain and lock were new, so it had been put there by the demolition team. A minute later 8 could see the reason, they still had demolition equipment stored there, along with poles of recovered materials they were obviously going to take away.
Behind that was a shipping container which was obviously where more valuable stuff was stored. She also had a key to the lock, removed it, and swung the door open.
I pointed the flashlight inside and when it reached the end I could see two people tied up and lying on the floor.
If I was to guess…
“I told Alex to run. Obviously, he didn’t listen.”
She didn’t deny the identity of one, and I think I could guess who the other person was. Vince.
“You think this is a wise course of action, considering who the parents are?”
“Don’t care, Sam. I told my father what he did, and he told me I should have minded my own business. I said there would be consequences and he laughed.”
I suspect he didn’t realize just how annoyed his daughter was at being treated like she was irrelevant. I felt the same, but I couldn’t take it to the level she had.
“What do you intend to do with them?”
“Nothing. I have some questions, maybe we’ll get some answers, but when we’re done, we’re leaving. If the demolition people get here in time, they’ll be rescued. If they don’t, they’ll have plenty of time to reflect on what they did. I’m not going to harm them in any way, Sam. Once, I might have, but I want to be better than that.”
One of the forms moved, groaned, and then began to struggle, suddenly realizing they were tied up. It didn’t last long, once he realized trying to escape was futile.
The other form also woke, did the same then stopped soon after.
Nadia went in and leaned over each one, ripping off their gags.
It took a moment before both realized who was in the container with them.
Vince spoke first, “What the hell are you doing, Nadia. Untie us now and we might just let you walk away. There’ll be hell to pay if father finds out what you’ve done “
She walked back a few steps, collected a chair, went back, and sat down, just out of reach. They were not only restrained but also tied to the wall.
How did she manage to do it, and did she have help? Not the time to ask.
“You tied me up and left me for dead, Vince. I nearly died; Sam nearly died “
“It’s a shame you didn’t. You went against a direct order.”
“That’s on you, Vince.”
“I don’t have to explain anything to you, because you’re nobody.”
“And yet here you are, trussed up like a Thanksgiving Turkey with your newest best friend forever, and both looking at a very bleak future.”
“Don’t be an ass, Nadia. When father finds out what you’ve done, you’ll wish you had died in that cave.”
“He won’t. You will have just disappeared like you do from time to time, only this time you won’t be coming back. And when this place comes down, there’s not going to be much left to identify you.”
Alex had been lying quietly on the ground listening to the exchange between brother and sister. As an outsider, he must have felt the discussion was going in the wrong direction.
“How much do you want, Nadia.”
“What makes you think I want anything?”
“Look at this realistically. Between the two of us, you could walk away with a couple of million dollars. You’ve had your revenge, we both get it, we didn’t think it through when we left you there, but it doesn’t have to end this way.”
He sounded very reasonable, and if I was a reasonable person, I might have believed him. I’m sure he could be very persuasive when he wanted to be.
“You sound almost sincere, Alex. What do you think Sam.”
“A couple of million dollars is a powerful argument, Nadia. Worth considering.”
They hadn’t realized I was there, not till she spoke to me. I wondered if she wanted me to be the voice of reason.
“It is, isn’t it. We’re going to need money where we’re going.”
“I can make it happen,” Alex said. “All you have to do is let us go, and I’ll transfer the funds the moment I get to the bank. I promise.”
And there was the catch. We had to let him go. The moment he got away, the bank was the last place he’d go.
“You really do think girls are stupid, don’t you Alex?”
“No. And not you, Nadia. I made you a promise, and I keep my promises.”
“So do I Alex, and I promised Sam that I would make the pair of you suffer the consequences if we got free. We did, and now it’s time to make good on it. I don’t need your money Alex, not that you have any, so I’m not sure how you were going to pay me. No. Sam and I will be going away, and not coming back. I’m not sure if I’ll remember to tell anyone where you are, but maybe Sam will remind me.”
“Or maybe he won’t,” I said. “There’s a lot of years of school torment for you to atone for Alex.”
Vince had been watching and listening to the back-and-forth banter, but I don’t think he believed Alex could bargain their way out. Perhaps he understood the grit Nadia showed, and perhaps, again, that might be a Cossatino trait
Whatever he was thinking, it was clear that they were not going to be set free, his sister was madder than he’ll with him, and Alex was only making a bad situation worse.
“You don’t want to do this Nadia. You’ve had your revenge, and now it’s time to end this charade. We both know you’re not going to kill me. That’s not who you are. You’ve always been soft on what needed to be done, and for once I’m glad that’s the case. Go away, by all means, take Sam with you, but never show your face here again. If you do, you know what will happen.”
At last, some truth. Of course, Vince would not honor any promises made under duress, but what it told me, more than anything else, was that it wasn’t his idea to abandon us in the cave. Neither Vince or Alex for that matter were leaders or thinkers. Just blunt instruments, doing what they were told to do.
That meant Vince could make all the promises in the world because it was not him who decided our fate.
“I do,” she said. “So, here’s the deal. We’re going now. I’ll wait until we’re out of the country and then I’ll tell our father where you are. At least that way, you’ll know how we felt being left to die. Think yourself lucky Vince I’m not the hardnosed batch I was supposed to be.”
“I’d make it sooner rather than later Nadia.”
She stepped back, and closed the doors, leaving them in the dark.
“You’re not going to tell anyone, are you?” I said after we headed back to the ground level and the exit.
She didn’t say on what.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022