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.
Finding the treasure, or something else
It was time to go.
She had stayed with me the whole time, and made sure I’d seen her phone the whole time. I was sure it was deliberate, and there would be repercussions at the end of this exercise, success or not.
She made no mention of it the whole time too, but it was stewing behind her eyes, and I could feel it. It was a trait of my mother’s when dealing with my father, whom she never really trusted, and not without reason. He had let her down, us down, more times than I could remember.
We had just enough light to find our way to the base of the cliff. The weather forecast was for a cloudy night and the prospect of rain around midnight, when I was hoping we’d either found what we were looking for, or it was a bust.
The wind had picked up after we left the cave and was gusting intermittently by the time we were in position, so between the darkness and the wind, the climb was going to be ‘tricky’.
Boggs said he was up for the challenge. I was not so sure.
It was not far upwards to the ledge, but by the time he started, the moon had gone behind the cloud cover, the wind had picked up, and the temperature had dropped dramatically. A minute later, he had disappeared into the darkness, leaving only a trailing rope behind that I was loosely holding.
The wind overtook the noise of him ascending, and the hammering of pitons into the rock crevices, so it felt like we were alone on the beach. Nadia was standing about 10 feet away looking upwards.
Was she tracking Boggs progress, or waiting for something else?
The moon shed little light on our position, in between passing clouds, not enough to work solely by it. We had torches, and intermittently I could see approximately where Boggs was, and it seemed to me he had been at the same spot for at least ten minutes.
Had he reached an impasse?
We had no means of communication, I wasn’t going to call out to him, nor, I was sure, would he call out to me. At least, only if it was necessary.
Then, I felt a slight tug on the rope, the sign her had made it to the ledge. If he had not found it, the plan was we would leave, and go back to square one.
I went over to Nadia. “We’re up, you’re next.”
“I’d rather stay on the ground. I don’t need to be scaling rocks.”
“We agreed, we’d all go up.”
“Are you sure this is not about you having trust issues.”
“No. It’s time, unless you know something I don’t.”
“You tell me if there are any surprises waiting for us up there?” It was as close as I was going to get saying that she had betrayed us, and, knowing what was waiting, didn’t want to be there to face our disappointment.
“When have I had time to arrange anything. You’ve been with me the whole time.”
I had, though it was not for that purpose, but not an unreasonable assumption on her part given the circumstances.
I shook my head. I think deep down I was expecting some sort of development, even though I had hoped that she would be as good as her word. It also annoyed me that she was making it so I was put in a position where the only assumption she could make was that I didn’t trust her.
It was like being painted into a corner.
And it was clever on her part because she left the onus on me, absolving herself of any blame, whether on not she was telling the truth or not.
I was the bad person.
“As you wish,” I said. “Go home, there’s no need for you to stay. It’s probably the last place you should be when everything goes pear shaped.”
“I’m happy to be the last line of defence.”
“When the shit hits the fan, Vince isn’t going to care whether you share the same surname or not. Best you’re not here at all.”
“Are you expecting him?”
“We’re trespassing on Cossatino land. If he finds out… Best if you were not here, seriously.”
“You do realise what he’ll do if he does find you.”
It was a statement, not a question, and yes, I did. And I’d kept Boggs waiting long enough. “I’ll let you know what we find.”
Enough sparring, I turned and headed back to the base of the cliff.
Scaling the cliff was not that hard, Boggs had said to keep a tight hold on the rope and used the pitons he’d places strategically as footsteps on a ladder.
When I reached the ledge, Boggs was waiting and pulled me up the last of the climb onto the narrow alleyway between rocks.
“Took your time,” he muttered.
“Nadia is having reservations about joining us.”
“Sending the lambs to the slaughter, eh.”
I’d expected that reaction, and I could see how he’d reach such a conclusion.
“She is not a climber.”
“Neither are you, but…”
“I don’t think it matters which side she’s on, in the end. We’re not here by invitation, especially if Vince turns up. Let’s get on with it before we get cold feet.”
“You don’t have to be here, you know.”
“Actually, I do. You asked me along for the ride, and I let you down.”
I’d thought about it, and it seemed to me everyone, one way or another, had let him down. If I put myself in his shoes, I’d be terribly disappointed.
“You’re here now, that says a lot. But, enough talk, let’s see where this goes.”
I looked up and could just see the overhang, an almost flat slab of rock almost suspended in mid-air. If it fell, we might be crushed, on it would land on or crumble, over the outer wall, which in itself looked to be part of the original wall split away.
What was once most likely a ledge, was now was tunnel. The ledge would have been much wider, before the fall, and in this current form, narrower than it used to be. If there was a chest or two to take away, it wouldn’t be wide enough.
I followed behind, the small torch beam picking out the sharp edges and avoiding jutting pieces of rock, making progress slow.
Ahead I could see Boggs had stopped, and was examining the wall. When I joined him, he was standing in front of wood panelling. A closer inspection showed it to be a door.
“That’s a good sign,” he said. He rapped on the door and it sounded dull, like it was hollow.
To one side there was a rusty handle and a large lock, equally rusty. I picked up a rock and with one hit, it snapped of and clattered on the ground.
I then pounded on one of the wooden panels and it disintegrated. It had rotted over time, how much time was moot, and didn’t take much to bash an opening wide enough to fit through.
The air coming out was quite pungent, if not foul.
“Not exactly a welcome.”
“It smells of death.”
Boggs gave me a look that might have translated to ‘keep your opinion to yourself please’.
“Well soon find out.” After selling the torch light as far in as he could, and not seeing any immediate danger, stepped over the threshold.
“Beware of any possible boobytraps.” I’d seen too many films with similar situations, and if there was treasure in this cavern, the pirate would not let it be taken without a fight.
“Seriously, Sam.” He turned a put his light on me. “That’s just a myth perpetuated by Hollywood.”
“Just saying, be careful.”
I saw him shrug, and turn back. Perhaps as a nod to my warning, he reached out, checking for trip wires, as I ailed my torch at his feet, and saw what looked to be a rope strung six inches above the ground. It looked as rotting as the door timber.
“On the ground,” I said.
He moved his light to join mine, saw the rope, and traced it from the floor, upwards to the roof. If he had tripped over it, might it bring the roof down, or part of it?
He stepped back, kicked through it, and it disintegrated into dust. Nothing happened. It had to be the rope had rotted and couldn’t be used to spring the trap.
“So far, so good.”
A flimsy rope wasn’t going to stop him.
“Just be careful.”
We used both torches to light both sides of the cave, and the roof, just in case. The torch light did not reach the end, so it was slow progress.
Twenty paces later, we came to a larger cavern, and a quick look around showed parts of it had been man made. A shiver went through me, and I thought that might be a ghost passing through me.
“You feel that?” I asked Boggs, now several steps in front of me.
“It’s just cold Sam.”
“I reckon there’s a body down here, somewhere.”
Suddenly his torch stopped, near the floor, adjacent to what looked like a ledge. The corner of the cavern. There were torn rags scattered.
I joined him and added the light from my torch, widening the display.
The involuntary gasp was mine. A skull, still attached to the skeleton, partially covered by cloth sitting in the corner, as if that was his final resting place.
“I was not expecting that,” Boggs said, the slightest of cracks in his voice.
I moved my torchlight along the wall, and found two more skeletons, both lying down on the ground in front of the ledge, as if they had been dragged there. It wasn’t hard to deduce how at least one died, a sword appeared to be through the middle of the torso.
“Pirates who didn’t like their share of the treasure,” he said.
“Or raiders, who weren’t expecting guards?”
All three looked as though they were from the 17th and 18th centuries, and had not been disturbed for a long, long time.
A view of the cavern showed nothing else, except for what looked like beds made of straw on the ledges, and several chests that were in better condition than the door to the cave. There was more clothing and other supplies, like pewter mugs and plates, and pottery bottles, some of which had liquid in them.
We didn’t say much, there wasn’t much to say.
Except the obvious, we were the first visitors in a long, long time.
There was a passage off to one side, not visible from the entry point to the cavern, and now that we had established there was no treasure, headed towards it.
Boggs shine his torch in the entrance, and it appeared longer than the beam travelled. The sides of this cavern were damp, and I could hear a slow dripping sound in the distance.
If my orientation was right, we would not be going, further into the cliff, but running parallel with the shoreline.
“Ready?” Boggs asked.
There was no mistaking that hint of fear in his voice but whether he didn’t feel safe, or perhaps because of what we might find, like more dead pirates, I was feeling equally apprehensive.
‘As I’ll ever be.”
He took a few tentative steps, checking the walls as he went. I followed.
It was damp underfoot, and several times I stepped in a small puddle. We were surrounded by the aroma of salty water and a mouldy dank smell of dampness.
The next cavern was just beyond the initial torch beam, but slowly came into view as we approached it. This cave showed signs of being dug out, and the cavern definitely so. This was not a natural part of the cave system.
This cavern was slightly larger than the last one, had just one ledge which had three chests set out equidistant on it. It was the first sight our torches displayed.
Was this the treasure?
Boggs headed straight towards them. I was a little more circumspect, and slowly ran my torch around the rest of the room, until I found another body.
This one was definitely not as old as the other three. In fact, my guess, it was either Ormiston, or, dare I consider it possible, Boggs senior.
By this time Boggs had opened the first chest and muttered, “nothing”, letting it slam down quite loudly and making me jump.
“Hey,” I said, “There’s another body here, but it’s not a pirate.”
He swung around and pointed his torch on the body, and gasped. “No. It can’t be.”
He went over and knelt beside the body. The clothes were still intact, and although damp and grimy, were still recognisable.
I saw him check the pockets first of the coat, then the pants, finding what looked like a wallet. He carefully opened it, then fell backwards, surprise or disbelief.
He held up the wallet. “My father. How did he get here?”
“No treasure in the chest?”
“Empty. If it was there, it’s long gone.”
So, Boggs senior had known where the treasure was, as he had said, just before he disappeared. Had he led the others here, and they had incapacitated him, then left him to die?
I checked the other two chests, the second nit holing treasure, but another body, jammed into the space, in slightly better condition than Boggs, but there was no mistaking the cracks in the skull.
It was another man, and if I was to make a guess, it would be Ormiston. Had Boggs and Ormiston joined forces, or had they turned up at the same time and attacked each other.
“I think that the body in this chest is Ormiston,” I said, closing the lid to the chest. “It would be interesting to know if they ran into each other, and whether they had found the empty chests too.”
Boggs hadn’t moved. I could see him struggling with the fact he had found his father, and the location of the treasure, where it had once rested.
The fact Ormiston had head injuries suggested the treasure was here, and someone had removed it.
But, the question was, how did they get here if they didn’t come in via the door we’d broken down. There was another cave leading off this cavern, but it looked as though it led into the hill, rather than head towards the shoreline.
I was heading towards that entrance when I heard a scream cut short, coming from the direction we had just entered the cavern.
Nadia? Had she changed her mind, followed us, and found the pirates?
© Charles Heath 2020-2022