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.
A run in with Alex
It had been an interesting excursion, with discovery, but not so significant, it meant anything. I went back to Nadia’s hotel room to collect the maps she had in the picnic basket so I could compare them with others because at least two of them had features I’d not seen before.
I was there only for the maps, then left. It had been a long day and she was tired, and I was glad not to be working that night. I also had been thinking about what Boggs was doing, and where, for that matter, he’d been.
I hadn’t seen Boggs for days, and worse, the last time I did see him, we didn’t exactly part on the best of terms. It was a long way to fall from when, what seemed less than a week, we were the best of friends.
It seemed his obsession with the treasure hunt had usurped any possibility of being civil or any understanding that there might be more pressing matters in my life, like having to help support my mother.
Perhaps he didn’t realize the nature of my necessity to actually get a job and bring some money onto a household that was struggling just to exist.
For that matter, I had to wonder just how he and his mother managed to exist now that Rico was behind bars with little chance of escaping a prison sentence. Oddly, I felt sorry for him, but I was beginning to believe that Alex and the Benderby’s were responsible for the archaeologist’s death and had used Rico’s boat to stitch him up.
As for Boggs, there was that lingering doubt in his mind that I had crossed to the dark side, associating myself with Nadia, a sworn enemy, and treasure hunting rival.
It was a thought that crossed my mind too and could be argued that she was just using me as a means of getting to the treasure for her family given that she might assume that I stood a better chance of deducing where it was because Boggs had a head start on everyone else, and was still stumbling around in the dark.
That she was willing to help, by means that could have only been facilitated by her family didn’t go unnoticed, and I was a lot warier now of sharing everything I knew with her. I was not that naive to believe she was interested in me for any other reason.
It didn’t really matter because whether I would share any or all information with her or anyone else was largely irrelevant. I was inclined to believe it didn’t exist, or if it had, it was more likely that someone had found it long ago, and like the Cossatino’s later on, promoted the myth for the purpose of exploiting people’s gullibility.
This was, I guess, one of those between a rock and a hard place moment.
A sudden itch on the back of my neck made me turn around and look back in the direction of her room, and I noticed a flutter where the curtain was. Had she been waiting to see if I had gone?
I hated the idea of being suspicious of people’s motives, but the name conjured up all manner of expectations, and I could only imagine what it was like to live with that. Would she ever live a normal life, or even know what normal was?
Did any of us?
A voice that would strike terror into the heart of anyone like me.
Alex. Loitering outside the vicinity of Nadia’s hotel. Was he spying on her?
Beside him was one of his father’s henchmen and it didn’t look good.
“What are you doing here?”
Had he just arrived on his way to see her, or had he been lurking in the shadows? My money was on the latter. He had been the jealous boyfriend once, and it was hard to see him changing.
Truth or dare? Truth. “I was visiting Nadia. But I wouldn’t start assuming it was for any reason other than for her to be questioning me about Boggs’s progress on his treasure hunt, which, by the way, is zero. My guess is you are having more success.”
“Why would you think that?”
“The flash boat on the water, I suspect you’re trying to find a trail of coins from bay to beach in the hope of establishing where it came ashore. I’m sure you have some fancy metal detection going on from the boat. So, any success?”
“Why would I tell you?”
“Why wouldn’t you? I’m sure telling Boggs is hardly going to make his investigation move along faster than it is. What would help is the captain’s logbook, and that I suspect was the archaeologist’s trump card, and he died before imparting its whereabouts.”
It was pure speculation on my part, but Alex always lacked a poker face, even back in school when he got into trouble. His expression changed just slightly. So, there was a logbook.
“Does your father know what you’re doing?”
“This had nothing to do with my father.”
“Perhaps I should tell him that, including your obsession with Nadia.”
Something I should have realized long ago, and just crystallized in my mind, though I was not sure why was the fact Benderby had become almost a regular visitor at our place. If I thought about it, it explained why my mother had suddenly started taking more care of her appearance, and how it came to pass that I could get a job in a place where very few could.
Benderby had always had an interest in my mother, and suddenly I realized they had been to school together, and the words of my father spoken once in anger made sense. He was not her first choice. She may have been Benderby’s first choice back then, but I doubted his family would have sanctioned it.
I wondered what Alex would have thought of that revelation. Since his mother’s death, Benderby had started seeing more of her, and that had to add to Alex’s dislike of me.
“Not a good idea smidge.”
“Not a good idea to be calling me Smidge, Alex.”
A nod from Alex, the henchman took a step forward and grabbed my shirt, and then rammed into the wall.”
Alex laughed, and then suddenly went quiet.
Another voice joined the conversation. “Tell your goon to let him go or I’ll cut your throat from ear to ear.”
Nadia. Her tone scared me.
“You’re not that stupid,” Alex said in a tone that told me it scared the hell out of him too
“I’m a Cossatino, since when did stupidity rate a mention. We’ve been doing stupid shit forever, and you’re about to join the party.”
“You don’t want to do this.”
“Actually Alex, I do. It’ll get rid of one big problem I have with you, and it’ll get rid of a serial pest. People will thank me.”
I could see her now, behind him, dressed in black, and at first thought, she was a ninja. I could see the knife at his throat, and as she moved it slightly, he jerked drawing blood.
“Let him go,” Alex muttered.
The goon let go of my shirt and stepped back.
“Now go, Alex. Don’t come back. And don’t annoy Smidge again, or you’ll have me to deal with.”
He looked me up and down with a look of distaste. “This isn’t over.”
Nadia gave him a shove and stepped between him and me.
“It is, Alex. I know what you did to that chap you dumped on Rico’s boat. You might not have killed him, but you’re ultimately responsible for his death, and I’m sure the sheriff would like to hear about it. So, go away Alex, and be a good boy and we’ll all keep our little secrets.”
Angry yes, sullen answered resentful, equally so, but reluctantly agreeable. “If you say so.”
A nod to his goon and they left.
There was something else hanging in the air, that statement about keeling little secrets. He’d kept something over her, she had admitted as much to me, but the tables had been turned. But what it was she had over him, it was more than just the archaeologist.
“What was that about?” I had to ask.
“The Benderby’s have lots of secrets Sam, not just Alex. I played a card and it paid off. He won’t bother you again, not seriously anyway.”
“Should I be thanking you, or have I just been dragged down a rabbit hole?”
Perhaps I might have worked it better because she did save me from a certain beating.
“You don’t trust me, do you?”
Stating the obvious, there was no easy way out of that question.
“You said it yourself. You’re a Cossatino. I want to believe you, and strangely, given history, I like you perhaps more than I should.”
“Good boys and bad girls, it’s usually the other way around. I wanted to hurt him, believe me, and I meant it when I said we do stupid shit, but I’m trying to be better than that. I want to be better than that. It’s why I need to get away from this place.”
“Then why do you just go? For that matter, why did you come back?”
“Unfinished business.” She took my hand in hers. “And I like being with you. You have a way of making me feel like I can change.”
“You are different.”
“Am I though? I don’t feel like it right now.”
“Well, I am grateful you came along.”
“Good to be a help for once. What’s our next adventure going to be?”
“A picnic in the hills. I want to look at a few caves.”
“The one where Ormiston reportedly went missing? You seem to be on a very macabre Odyssey. What did the newspaper archives turn up?”
“An interesting coincidence. I’ll let you know when I’m free next.”
“I’ll be waiting.” She leaned over and kissed me lightly on the lips, then leaned back to look me in the eyes.
What I wanted then couldn’t be put into words.
Thank God she blinked.
I kissed her on the cheek, shook my head slightly, and said quietly, ” You will be the death of me.”
“Maybe,” she said softly, ” but you will die a very happy man.”
© Charles Heath 2020-2022