The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 76

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 sheriff calls

It’s not often a patrol car stopped outside your residence without a reason for doing so.

I just happened to be looking out the windows when it pulled up, and I first thought it was the sheriff here to visit my mother.

It was hard to imagine my mother being the object of men’s attention, particularly one the top lawman in the county, and the other, a top criminal.

Both were charming in their own way, but it was the baggage both brought with them that bothered me.  I tried not to think of the ramifications if she married either one.  At worst, I could not see Alex as a brother, nor Charlene as a sister, not after what we had done at the last school summer camp

The pounding on the door interrupted that thought.  I heard my mother’s muffled voice from upstairs telling me to see who it was, and when I opened the door, it was one of the sheriff’s deputies, Anderson, big brother to a school friend, and the most unlikely to become a lawman.  I guess he turned his life around.

“Sam.”

“Joel.”

“The sheriff would like to see you.”

“He could have rung.”

“He likes the personal touch.”

It must be serious if he sent a deputy.  “When?”

“Now.”

“And if I can’t come now?”

He took a pair of handcuffs out of his belt.  “There’s the hard way and there’s the easy way.”

Serious enough then.  “Why?”

“I learned a long time ago to follow orders, not question them.  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  Did you do anything wrong?”

“No.”

I heard my mother coming down the stairs behind me.  “Who is it?”

“Deputy Joel.”

“What can we do for you?” She asked.

“The sheriff would like a word with your son, ma’am.”

“Why?”

Was that a look of exasperation on his face?

“He didn’t confide in me, ma’am, just asked me to escort him down to the station.”

“This’ll be to do with that Nadia,” she muttered.  “I told you she is trouble.”

I shrugged.  “Let’s go.”  Time to escape a lecture.

I had time to think why the sheriff would want to see me, and remembered that I’d spoken to Charlene, and it had to be that she had as I suggested, spoken to her father and it must have something to do with that.

Anyone outside the sheriff’s office seeing Deputy Joel and I arrive might have got the impression I’d just been arrested, except I was not in handcuffs.  There was no doubt Joel had wanted to use them, all the more reason to be co-operative.

We walked through the foyer towards the rear where the sheriff’s office was, and he sat me down on an uncomfortable bench.  At the other end was a girl in a party dress looking hungover.  The foyer was a hive of activity.

The sheriff put his head out the door.  “Sam, come in.”

It was the first time in his office, not the first time in the station.  My father had a few run-ins with the law, in the early years of the current sheriff’s tenure, as part of the alumni group of my mother, father, the sheriff, and Benderby.  It was the fact he was a friend of and worked with Benderby that he found himself under suspicion so often, and my memories of him were when my mother and I came to bail him out.

It was probably one of the reasons why I couldn’t understand why she let Benderby in the door.

The room was small and it felt crowded surrounded by files and papers.  His desk was a mess, with two half-drunk mugs of coffee sitting to one side.

He looked like a man under great stress.

He picked up the phone and pressed a number, then said, “Can you join us?”

A minute later Charlene came in and closed the door behind her.  She then sat in the chair next to mine, and rather close.

Was it a form of intimidation?

The sheriff leaned back in his chair and it creaked under his weight.  “Charlene tells me you think young Benderby is involved in what happened to the professor.  How did you come to this conclusion?  You should realize that making accusations such as this against a member of an influential family such as the Benderbys could afford you some unwanted attention, and not only from their lawyers.”

I had considered that but had expected the sheriff would be more proactive in his investigation.  It seemed he was taking a more cautious approach.

“You said you overheard Alex at work,”  Charlene added a nail in the coffin. 

“It seems unlikely that Alex would be that stupid, Sam, so it leads me to believe you either have some other means of identifying him as being involved, or it’s just a petty act of revenge, which, knowing you as I do, is unlikely.  Which is it?  The fact you know about this so-called room where mall cops were located, the location of a safe, and where the combination is, is very specific.”

Was this a version of good cop bad cop?  I hadn’t thought it through, thinking Charlene might want to take a win.  It didn’t take in the possibility the sheriff would be overly cautious in taking on a Benderby.

Except that I forgot it was an election year, and there were a few younger and more qualified candidates in the mix.  Age and experience were not going to cut this year.  He was going to need a win and taking down a Benderby would put him firmly in the public eye.

“You can’t tell me that Rico was responsible for the professor’s death.  He wasn’t killed on that boat, despite the way the body was left.  I was there, that crime scene was staged.”  Time to come out fighting.

“So you’re a crime scene expert now?”

“Keen observation, no indication of blood spatter from the look of the wounds, which to me looked like torture.  I did some research, and the professor apparently had a diary that belonged to the pirate that everyone believes hid the so-called treasure somewhere along this coastline.  Did you think to find out why the professor was here, certainly his last movements, and whether or not Alex Benderby contacted him?”

I’m sure they did, not that they would probably tell me.

Charlene glared at me.  Perhaps insulting her ability put an edge to her tone.  “A timeline of the victim’s last movements was done.”

A reproving look from her father, she should not be discussing case details with the public.

She glared back at him.  “Damn it, I will not be insulted.”

The sheriff gave me a rather curious look.  Perhaps I was not so off the mark, so I said, “He’s been here before, you know when those coins were pulled out if the cove.  He came down to identify them.  I think he had the diary then, which was why he came back.”

“How is it you know so much about this professor?”

“Unlike Boggs, I have an interest in historical detail, perhaps Boggs should not have asked for me to help him, but if I’m going to do something I like to be thorough.”

“Yes, it’s been noticed.  A session at the library, and surprisingly, a stash of documents scooped up from Ormiston.  I know you read his diaries.  Then you hit the newspaper office and looked at back issues of the paper.”

She or one of the deputies had been following me around.  I wondered briefly whether they’d been following Boggs around too.

“And we know you went to the mall with Nadia Cossatino.  So, your information was not gleaned from overhearing conversations, you’ve actually been in that room.”

Guilty as charged, but silence might be the better option here until their objective came clear.

“Knowing you as I do, Sam, I doubt it was your idea to go sneaking about that mall.  Your association, for want of a better word, with Nadia is going to lead you down a dark path, and I know your mother is worried about you.  The Cossatinos and Benderbys are sworn enemies, and you do not want to get caught in the crossfire.  She was obviously motivated by causing trouble for the Benderbys.”

Possible, but unlikely, yet what had she hoped to gain by taking me there?  And it was clear my mother was using the sheriff to get me to stay away from Nadia.

“I’m not interested in charging you with trespass, or lecturing you on the dangers of wandering around a place like that, but there may be something to the allegations.  We managed to get a stay on the demolition for that room, and it’s now an active crime scene.  How long have you known about this.”

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 73

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.

Charlene, and speaking to Boggs

She had been one of the few nice girls at school and we had got along better than most.  Boggs had once told me she liked me but was disappointed I hadn’t noticed her.  I suppose, back then, I didn’t recognize the signs, and even now, I was still all at sea with girls.

Was she Boggs’s girlfriend?  If she was, it was the best-kept secret.

“Hello Charlene,” I said when she also looked up to see who had entered the room.

“Sam.”

“Are you…”

Before I could finish she interrupted, “I’m working in the sheriff’s office, and dad asked me to keep a watch over Boggs.”

“You don’t have to be in the room,” Boggs growled.  “It’s not as if I’m going anywhere.”

It was hardly a conciliatory tone.  And a mental note, Boggs was uncharacteristically angry. With her, or with me?

“My father asked me to do a job, so here I stay.  It’s for your protection as much as anything else.”  Then, to me, “how are you, Sam?”

“Good.”

“I understand you found him on the beach belonging to the Cossatino’s.  Odd place to be, Sam, for you at least?”

“Nadia and I were searching the coastline for coins with metal detectors when we stumbled over a body.  Thought at first it was a beached shark.”

Boggs turned his head back.  “Whose idea was it?”

Curious response and I thought about telling him it was mine, but something told me to tell the truth. “Nadia.  And before you ask, no, I don’t think she had any other idea in mind because as you and I both know, there’s no access from the ocean to the shore through the reef.  That much I ascertained for myself, and that goes for the whole coastline of The Grove.”

If he had looked down from the top of the cliff face, at any point along the coastline he would have seen that for himself.  But, that might not always have been the case because there were almost two centuries and a lot of seismic activity in between.  I’d seen the big A, but no other evidence it might be the spot, but Boggs had been there, and it was likely he knew it a likely spot too.

He nodded, which meant he had checked himself, which gave him a reason for being at The Grove, but not finishing up where he’d landed.  There was something else in his expression and had I not had the knowledge I had, I would have ignored it.

“Why look for coins then?”

“Something to do, I guess, since you’ve stopped asking me to help you.  That and doing a little investigation on the side.  I’m amazed at just how much information there is out there, and it’s a battle to sort fact from fiction.  And I didn’t have the head start you have.”

“You do realize Nadia is a Cossatino.  You can’t be consorting with the enemy.”

“I thought she was just someone to hang out with since we hadn’t hit it off at school.  In case you didn’t notice, she hasn’t been around these parts for several years, going to Italy to get away from the family.  But, I get it, she’s still a Cossatino, or so everyone keeps telling me, and not someone I should be associating with.  You’re not the only one issuing dire warnings.”

“That’s your problem, Sam, you see the good in everyone, even if they’re bad.”

“Should I apply that theory to you.  You don’t finish up unconscious on a beach where you’re not supposed to be.  What happened?”

I could practically see the wheels turning while he formulated an excuse he thought I would buy, then said, “I slipped and fell, something that shouldn’t have happened?”

“Not unless you’d been seen and the Cossatino’s were either coming to get you or were chasing you?”

He didn’t answer perhaps knowing Charlene was there to get answers, but his expression told me it was close to the truth.

“No.  Slipped, a fundamental error setting up.  I was simply sloppy.”

“You were trespassing.”

“I was practicing my skills, and it’s the best rockface along the coast for exactly that.  It’s not the first time I’ve tried.”

OK, we weren’t going to get past the ‘I was practicing mantra’, so I moved on to the next question, “Where have you been lately?”

“The caves in the hills, and trying a bit of climbing there, too.”

“You shouldn’t be doing it alone.”

“I wouldn’t have to if my so-called friend wasn’t cavorting with a snake.”

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 71

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.

In a cave, Nadia is a surprise

Now the helicopter had gone, the sounds of the sea had returned, along with the muffled sound of the wind which had picked up, along with swirling clouds that looked like they would be bringing rain.  I’d heard how the weather could change suddenly, and dangerously along this coastline.

I saw the lightning, and a minute or so later, the cracking of thunder.  We were about to get very wet.

‘Look for the big A’.  It had been there, heavily underscored in Ormiston’s notebooks. It had also been on the cliff face, crudely, but there.

“We need to go,” I heard Nadia say, over the ambient noise all around us.

Her words were being swept away by the wind, and I could barely hear her.

Another glance up at the cliff to confirm what I’d seen, and, yes, it was a big A, I went over to her.

“We can’t outrun it.  And it will be treacherous on those rocks in a downpour.”

“We also have the tide to contend with.”

I could see the high-water line, and it didn’t leave much to the imagination.  We needed higher ground.  It was one of those situations where we might get caught by the tide.  It was a pity there wasn’t room for two of us on the helicopter.

Back the way we’d come I remembered seeing an outcrop that looked like it might provide shelter from the rain.  “We should go, there’s a spot a way back that might save us from getting too wet.”

It was about a hundred yards, not far from where the shore rocks started and would require climbing back up.  At the very least, we could stay there until the tide dropped.  We collected the metal detectors and made it to the base of the rocky outcrop just as the first drops of rain fell.

The overhang I’d seen turned out to be a shallow cave, going back into the rockface about 10 yards or so, carved out by the sea over a very long period.

Then the rain came, so heavy, we could not see through it.  Every few minutes a gust of wind blew water into the cave, but standing back from the entrance basically kept us dry.

Nadia sat down and looked despondent.  I’d never seen her like this, she was normally more cheerful.

I took a few minutes to explore inside using the torchlight on my phone.  I could see the layers of sandstone compressed over the years, and if I had remembered more from the geology part of science at school I might have been able to make sense of it.  Was I hoping for fossils, like from long-extinct dinosaurs?

Or perhaps I could imagine this was the entrance to Aladdin’s cave, also reputed to have hidden treasures, and briefly wondered if I’d found a lantern with a genie, what my three wishes might be?

“They’re only walls, Sam.”  Nadia had come silently up behind me, and was just behind my left shoulder, the sound of her voice so near startling me.

Also noted, when my potential heart attack passed, she called me Sam, not Smidge.  I was not going to write anything into it, she didn’t seem herself.

“You never know.  If I say open sesame, or whatever the password is…”

It sounded lame.

I could hear rather than see her shake her head.

“What do you think Boggs was doing climbing up or down that particular rockface, and for that matter, poking around The Grove?”

I turned around to look at her.  If I didn’t know her better, I might have said there was at that moment an angelic quality about her.  It only reinforced the notion that she was very much out of my league, and whatever we seemed to have going, it was more in my head than hers.

“I think you can make as educated a guess as I can.”

“He thinks the treasure is here?”

“Somewhere in The Grove, yes.  His approach might have been different from ours, but the conclusion is the same.”

“We didn’t find anything.”

“That doesn’t mean it didn’t come ashore somewhere near here, or somewhere along the coast despite the reefs because they might have once been navigable in an abnormally high tide.  And those coins found near the old marina tells me that they landed somewhere there, but it was not the final resting place.”

I was going to say anything was possible.

“I can assure you my father and his cronies spent years turning over this whole property, one way or another, and found nothing.”

I believed her.  Had he not won the bidding war for the property, sold by the remaining Ormiston’s to settle the debts racked up by successive treasure hunts, Benderby, or anyone else for that matter, would have done the same.  Everyone was aware of the obsession, and the possibility of making a fortune.

But, my money was on the fact it was in The Grove, somewhere.  The question was, would I be completely honest with her?

When I didn’t say anything, she added, “you think it’s still here, don’t you?”

I shrugged.  “Why else would Boggs be here?  I’m sure his deductions from the resources he has, and I’m sure he hadn’t told me everything for obvious reasons, told him when all else has been eliminated, the last possibility however improbable must be true.”

“Occam’s razor?”

“Ish.  When we can get back to the cabin, I’ll go and see him, see what he has to say.  If he wants to see me, that is.”

I could see her processing what I just said, and thought perhaps I could have said it better.

“He doesn’t trust you because of me?”

Again I shrugged.  “I got that impression when I last spoke to him.  I don’t think he quite understands the nature of our friendship.  I’m assuming that’s what it is because I’m hardly the sort of boy your parents would consider suitable for you.”

“My parents have no idea what I want or care about.  It’s why I left.”

“Why did you come back then?”

“My mother said she had cancer and wasn’t expected to live.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  It was a lie.  Their whole life is a lie.  I’ve always known about the family, I just chose to ignore it, even bask in some of the glory of it, until it got a friend of mine killed.  Vince did it, I know he did, but they all lied.  It’s just one of many reasons I wanted to getaway.  I was going to go back to Italy until you popped up.  I always liked you, you know.”

I didn’t.  I thought I was just another pawn in a game of terror and ridicule she played on all of us boys.

“You had a funny way of showing it.”

“I was stupid back then, but that was no excuse.  If it’s any consolation I’m sorry, but words never seem to be enough, and besides that, no one I’ve apologized to really believes me, and I get it.  My name is a curse.  That’s why when I go back I’m going to disappear, a whole change of identity.  That’s how much I trust you, Sam, you’re the only one I’ve told.”

“You shouldn’t tell me anything.  I’m sure if you disappear, I’ll be the first one your family will come after.”

I didn’t need to know, I certainly didn’t want to know.  If she did disappear, I’m sure my doorstep would be the Cossatino’s first stop, and I’d easily fold under pressure.

“Maybe you could come with me, then you wouldn’t have to worry about them.” 

Perhaps she could read my mind.  Even so, it was an interesting thought, not that I could just up and leave my mother, or worry the Cossatino’s would come after her if I went missing.

“I don’t speak Italian.”  Lame excuse.

“I could teach you.  We could work in the vineyard, and live a simple life.”

It was hard to tell if she was serious or not.  I had to think she wasn’t.  I don’t think I could handle someone like her, that anyone could.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 70

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 beach, and a body

I had expected to find the rocks we were slowly and carefully chambering over to be smooth, worn down by the constant washing over by the waves.

They were, to a certain extent, but there were places where the jagged edges were as sharp as a knife, and I had more than one cut on my hand.

Even with the stiff breeze coming in off the water, it was still hot, laborious work and it took over an hour to reach the first part of Sandy Beach, a thin strip below the rock line, and soaring behind it, a rocky cliff face that would required rock climb training to scale, and then notwithstanding a lot of safety gear.

It didn’t surprise me that Nadia was an expert rock climber.  She was built like a finely tuned cat, as lithe and graceful moving across the hazards.

At times she held my hand, keeping me from falling off, or worse, into danger, and certain injury.  At times, I didn’t want to let go.

Then on the windswept beach, she looked every bit the conqueror, hair blowing in the breeze, completely ignoring the conditions.  She belonged here, I didn’t.

The beach stretched for 200 yards or so and was, at times, up to 50 feet wide. Nothing had walked on this beach since the last tide, but more than likely, not for a long time because it was inaccessible from the shoreline unless you were a rock climber

But it was private land, and a fading sign, with Ormistons fading name at the bottom, told anyone who came ashore that trespassers would be prosecuted.

And, I thought. If they survived the reefs, at this tide semi-exposed and covered the whole of the distance.  No boat could get through. 

That also meant it was highly unlikely that the pirate had landed here, but we did a sweep with the metal detectors.  I had my hopes built up where my detector started making a lot of noise, but it was only a cupboard door with a metal hinge that had set it off, a bit of flotsam washed ashore.

We were both disappointed, then lamenting our luck or lack of it, we started heading towards the neck stretch of sand, barely discernable in the distance, but not before another hazardous trek across the rocks.

It took half an hour carefully picking our across the rocks before it was good to be on the sand again.  I helped her down from the rock perch and took a moment to rest.

“Did you see something further up the beach, just before you jumped?”

I had, but I thought it was the carcass of a beached fish. Perhaps a dolphin that had been savaged by sharks.  Or just a lump of kelp, of which some was scattered along the Highgate line.

“It might be just kelp.  Or more flotsam.  I’m sure we’ll soon find out.”

We also had to keep an eye on the tide, having started out just ashore or so before low tide, giving ourselves sufficient time to search and get back.

This part of the shoreline was longer, and closer to the edge of the property line, accessible only by climbing the rocks that jutted out into the sea, not exactly the easiest of tasks.  In fact, it served as a deterrent, and as far as Nadia was aware, no one had ever scaled that cliff face.

The object on the ground was no closer to being identified from a distance, but now, closer, it looked to me like it might be a body, my first thought, another of the Cossatino’s hit jobs, the shore being so remote it would never be discovered.

“That’s a body,” I heard the panic in her tone, right behind me.

We both dropped the detectors and ran, discovering as we came up to it, that we were both right.

It was covered from head to toe in black, including a balaclava covering the face.  It was impossible to tell what sex it was, lying front down with the head tilted to one side as if the ocean had washed it ashore.

The fact there were no tears in the clothing told me, I’d there were reefs out there, the body had not been washed ashore.  Just how did it get there.

These were all momentary thoughts because there was a more urgent thing to be done

“Help me roll it over,” I said.

She took the bottom half and I the top and gently lifted it just enough to turn it over onto the back, then I slowly pulled the balaclava off.

As soon as I saw the face, bruised and swollen, I knew who it was.

Nadia shrieked, then said, “What the hell is he doing here?”

The missing Boggs.

I could tell by the look on her face she was assuming her family had something to do with him being here.

But, all that aside, I tried not to panic, or let my surprise or shock take over, letting the medical training I’d received during a stint with the local fire station take over, first checking to see if he had a pulse.

It was faint, but there.  That meant we needed medical help. And fast.  I pulled my phone out and checked for a signal.  Then, with maps, got our location.  There was something familiar about the numbers, but their significance eluded me.  There were bigger problems to worry about.

Then I dialed 911, and when they answered, described the situation, gave them the location, and with a few other instructions to me from the dispatcher, I went back to Boggs.

By this time Nadia was beside him, wiping his face gently with tissues she must have had in her pocket.  I tried not to give her the impression I blamed her family for his situation, simply because that might not be the case.

The last time I saw him he had a rope and his mother had said he was an experienced climber.  And with his proximity to the cliff face, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together.

I checked his pulse again and listened closely to his breathing, shallow with a slight rattle.  I unzipped his jacket and lifted his shirt, and could see the discoloration from bruising.  It was possible he slipped, or lost his footing, and crashed against an outcrop, knocking himself out, or falling to the ground with the same effect.  A closer inspection showed the bare minimum of climbing equipment set up, and now, looking closer at the cliff face, I could see the rope dangling, but stopping short by about 20 feet.

Nadia didn’t speak, but I could see she was scared.

I touched her on the shoulder and she jumped.

“It’s not your fault,” I said.

“But it could be…”

“I don’t think so.  He looks like he tried coming down the side of the cliff and slipped or fell.  I think he may have collapsed here, but the tide has removed any foot or drag marks so it’s hard to tell what happened.”

“Why not go the way we did?”

“He might not know about it or considered it too far.  Or the climbing fanatic in him took over.  I have to say, I never knew he was a climber, in fact, there’s probably a lot I don’t know.  Maybe if I’d spent more time with him this mightn’t have happened.”

While waiting I called Boggs mother and relayed what had happened, where he’d been taken and the prognosis, which was good.  He was in no danger of dying, though had he not been found, that would have been a different story.  Then I called the sheriff’s office to let them know, but he had already had the news passed on, and I said I would drip in and answer any questions they might have.  I guess Boggs might have to explain why he was trespassing. 

Not long after that, I turned to look back towards the way we’d just come in response to the sound of a helicopter.  If it was, that was a remarkably quick response time.  When it came closer I could see it was one of the Coast Guards’ distinctive red Sikorski’s, which was surprising.

The helicopter veered inland and the sound of the approach was somewhat muffled.  I had thought they might come on on a sea approach, but then it occurred to me it might be an opportunity to fly over the Cossatino kingdom, having a legitimate excuse to do so.  Then it crossed the cliff line with a roar, and hovered while the pilot assessed a landing spot.

I could see several people at the side door making preparations as the pilot brought it down, gently landing on the sand.  As soon as it touched down two men jumped out, one, I assumed, a medic.

“You were quick.”

It had been less than a half-hour since I called.

“We just wrapped up at another accident.  What do we have here?”

I went through all the things I’d done and ended by showing him the chest bruising.

His was a more thorough check and confirmed what I’d discovered, no broken bones, possible cracked ribs, or sprains to both ankles, indicating he had fallen a short distance.

A stretcher was brought over, and they carefully put Boggs on it, then took him to the helicopter, the whole operation taking no more than ten minutes.  I declined the offer of going back with him, there being space only for one other passenger.  He gave me the name of the hospital they would be taking him to, and I watched the helicopter leave.

The whole time Nadia had kept her distance, and, I’d noticed, glanced up the cliff.  Did she think the arrival of a helicopter on their beach would summon a posse of Cossatinos?  That thought had also occurred to me, especially where there were signs, now somewhat faded, that said trespassers would be shot on sight.

I looked too.

And saw something I had not expected to see.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Epilogue

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 little treasure!

After a hot day, it was now the middle of the night, still quite warm, but a thunderstorm had just passed and the sound of the residual rain on the tile roof and plants outside the windows was soothing.

Nadia stirred momentarily beside me, and although it was quite dark, I could see the outline of her body and had to resist the temptation of running my finger along the contours.

She was the most beautiful girl in the world to me and had made the transition from a nervous, even frightened, young man, into something I never thought I could be, and I loved her more than anything else in the world

It was nearly a year now since the events back home, and still, whenever I closed my eyes, all I could see was Boggs, wide-eyed and eager to find that missing treasure, not knowing it was a fruitless and eventually deadly quest, not only for him but everyone in his family.

And I still blamed myself for what happened.

Shortly after Mrs. Boggs last stand, she died.  There had been a third bullet, one that the paramedics hadn’t detected, that eventually killed her, but from the last words I heard her speak, just before the paramedics took her to the hospital, it was clear she wanted to die.

I could understand that, and perhaps in the same place, I would too.

My mother was beside herself when she found out what happened, not only because Benderby was dead, and her chances of getting out of the poverty cycle swiftly taken away, but of what might have happened to me.

An alternative suitor, the sheriff, was off the table because of his actions, so it was a sorry sight to see her back where she had started, alone, and the mother of an inquisitive, impetuous young man who should be making something of himself.

Sadly, all I wanted to was crawl into a hole and stay there, not only because of my role in the whole mess, but the fact Nadia had inexplicably disappeared, nowhere to be found and not answering her phone.

To be honest, I was not surprised.  Anyone in their right mind would not see me as anything but trouble.

The funeral of Boggs, and his mother, was a sad affair attended by seven people, the sheriff, Charlene, Rico, three women who had known her, and myself.  It rained that day, with thunder and lightning of such ferocity, it was like God was making a statement.

So wrapped up in my grief I failed to notice a hand slipping into mine and a head leaning on my shoulder, until a whisper, “Sorry I’m late,” told me it was the missing girl of my dreams, Nadia.

I guess that was the first day of my new life.

Within a week, I left behind the last vestiges of my life in that dismal town and got on a very large airplane, for the first time in my life, heading for a new world, and new possibilities.

Nadia had made it all happen, not only for me, but also for my mother, who was reluctant at first, but warmed to the idea because I told her I was never coming back.

We moved to Italy, to a large vineyard in Tuscany, near a town with a funny name, though it wasn’t funny to those who lived there.

We lived with the other family members in a large villa in our own large room, in what used to be an old factory.  Community and family were everything to these people, and when they realized Nadia loved me as much as I loved her, I and my mother became family, and it was like we always had been.

We had work, we had leisure, we had each other.  The work was hard but satisfying.  We got married and had a traditional wedding where the family all came to eat, drink, and be merry.

Life was, indeed, beautiful.

“Still having bad dreams?” A voice whispered in my ear.

Nadia was used to my restlessness.

“It’ll probably take a little more time, but I guess eventually I’ll get past it.”

Time, as they say, was supposed to heal all wounds.  It was a belief I fervently wanted to believe.

“Perhaps what you need is something to take your mind off everything.”

I knew that voice, and Nadia at her most mischievous was something to behold.

“Oh, and what’s that?”

“Some news.  I was waiting until our anniversary tomorrow, but I think now is the time.”

Nadia was one of those girls who had anniversaries for everything, first meeting, first kiss, first, well you get the idea.  I was just trying to think of what this one was.  Unfortunately, I was one of those boys who could never remember anything like that.

And over the last day or so, she had been particularly happy, for the first time since we arrived where she now called home.  The problems with her parents, what happened to Vince although he was only a stepbrother, and the fallout from the treasure hunt, it had taken a toll she had tried very hard to hide.

Being home, among her real family, the wedding, the purpose, and the satisfaction of work helped, but we both had our demons to deal with, and each of us strived to help the other as much as we could.

But it was like something was missing, like that single sky piece in a jigsaw puzzle.

And then I knew.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 90

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.

Mrs Boggs has a gun and will use it

The sheriff was looking at me.

“Don’t you have a negotiator?”

“Tried.  We have fifteen minutes before she starts shooting them.”

“Given the circumstances, surely there is a more simple solution.”

“She’s not in a position where we could neutralize the problem.”

I could see the scene in my mind.  Benderby’s passion for privacy was going to be his undoing.

“Why me?”

“She wants the truth about her son’s death.”

“I wasn’t there when he was killed.”

“You were when they confessed.”

“So were you?”

“The recording was inadmissible evidence, a confession gained under duress.”

“Then it doesn’t matter what I say, the same argument applies.”

“Just tell her what she wants to hear and get the gun.  We’ll take care of the rest.”

“And if she shoots Sam in the process?”  Finally, my mother decided to speak.

“I don’t think she will, but we will take precautions.”

“I’m not going to change her mind, but if it saves her life, I’ll try.”

I didn’t see how the bulletproof vest was going to help if her aim was off, a very genuine possibility.  It made me feel like I was overweight, and it restricted movement.

A large crowd had formed outside the venue, and it was hard to tell what they were thinking, other than this was yet another random act of gun violence.

The deputies cleared a path, and we went into the large room that was usually full of diners.  People within a six-table radius had moved away, leaving Benderby, and Alex, sitting somewhat stultified, glancing in the direction where Elsie Boggs was.

She was not visible from where we were standing, yet it appeared she could see us.

“That’s far enough, Sheriff.  Just send Sam here, and back off.

As the sheriff backed away, I walked slowly towards the table where I could now clearly see Benderby and Alex, and then I felt a shiver.  His first wife, rarely seen in public, and daughter, Alex’s younger sister were also at the table.  She had left him long before Benderby had embarked on his questionable ventures.

Wrong place, wrong time, and possible collateral damage.

I stopped about fifteen feet from both Elsie Boggs and the Benderby’s.   The two women were visibly terrified.

Elsie Boggs said nothing, which surprised me after asking for me.

“If you want justice for your son, this is not going to achieve it.  At least consider letting some of these people leave.  They have nothing to do with this.”

“No.  They’re witnesses.”

“To what exactly?”

“Alex’s confession.”

“It isn’t a confession if it’s under duress.  It won’t be admissible in a court of law, and you know as well as I do that Alex would confess to anything if he believed it would save himself.”

“It’s not him he’s going to save.”

I heard once the effective range of a handgun was about twenty feet, and in the hands of an amateur far less.  I was not sure if Mrs. Boggs knew how to use it, but she was certainly holding it steady, using both hands, like I’d seen on TV.

I suspect the weapon was Rico’s, because Boggs had shown me a gun he had found hidden away in the closing in the spare bedroom where Rico had been staying before being arrested.

I remembered it had a safety lock, but I couldn’t see it from where I was standing.

But the threat was real, she was aiming the gun at Alex’s sister.  That was not going to help her case when this was over.  It also brought into focus her state of mind, which was more than likely all over the place after losing her son.

I had to try, and talk her out of this course of action.

“This is not the way to get things done.  It’s a matter for the police, and I’m sure they will investigate any claims you make.”

She shook her head.  “The sheriff is in Benderby’s picket.  There will be no investigation.  Their minds are already made up.”

She was right of course, and without any real assurances the sheriff was going to do anything, regret seemed little point to stop her.

“Look…”

She raised the gun towards the roof, over the heads of the Benderby’s, and shot a round into the ornate plasterwork, breaking it and showering them with plaster dust and normal dust.

It caused three of them to cough.

Two distinct points were resolved at that moment, the safety was off, and she could shoot.  Would distance be the only factor?

“You’re running out of time, Alex.”

I saw a slight movement in what would have been her peripheral vision, more armed police moving into several more accessible places, one improving the firing line for a marksman to eliminate the problem.

Unfortunately, she saw it too, and shot another round in that direction, hitting a female police officer who was one of three with weapons drawn.

Mrs. Boggs situation just went from bad to worse.

“I told you all to leave,” she yelled, “so whatever happens now is on you.”

The other two officers had to hold their fire because returning fire might hit one of the Benderby’s.  I hadn’t realized until then that she had also positioned herself so the Benderby’s became shields.

And if she shot at me, she would have to take the Benderby’s out of her sights, which might give a quick-thinking, or quick moving officer a chance of a shot.

This was where I should come up with some calming words, but it was clear that the last foray by the sheriff’s people had rattled her.  The gun was getting more unsteady in her hands.

“Alex,” she said, a tinge of hysteria on her tone, and an edge that indicated time was running out for someone at that table, “You’ve got five seconds.”

Alex was not the bravest of souls, but, sitting at that table with his father, maybe he feared being a failure in front of him, than losing a sister.

He turned towards her, and said, “Go to hell.”

Five seconds later it was over.

Mrs. Boggs changed the target and shot Alex in the head, changed aim, and shot Benderby, and before either body hit the floor, three officers shot Mrs. Boggs. 

The moment Alex spoke his words, I dropped to the floor, only registering what had happened after the five shots, and watching Mrs. Boggs collapse to the floor.  No husband, no son, Rico in jail, she had nothing left to live for.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode 89

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.

We have a situation

Home wasn’t home anymore.

I stood inside the front door, as I had many times in the past, but this time it was different.

Maybe it was the near-death experience, maybe I hadn’t been there for a few days, maybe I had irrevocably changed in those few short days.

It seemed that I was someone else, that the old Sam had gone away, and a new version had replaced him.  Had I finally grown up, or was I still reeling from the ordeal and, more likely, mourning the loss of what had been my one true friend.

Right then, it felt like Boggs had never existed, and that Nadia had invaded that space.

Nadia.

Until now, right this moment, I hadn’t really thought about what I was about to do.  Since being in the hospital, every movement I’d made felt mechanical, and someone else was manipulating the controls.

Wanting to leave was a knee-jerk reaction, and one that failed to recognize others may have a role in what happened, like my mother.  I gad completely discounted her because of her association with Benderby, but what if that was no longer the case.

With Alex off the hook, they no longer had to worry about Nadia or what I might say or do, not that there was anything we could do.  I felt for Charlene who literally was between a rock and a hard place, having to compromise her principles to uphold justice and her disappointment in her father.

To be honest, his actions came as a surprise, despite the rumors of corruption.  It didn’t occur to me that it might have been the lesser of the evils, getting Vince off the streets, nobbling the Cossatinos, and to a lesser extent, using the situation as a bargaining chip with the Benderby’s.

But all of that was moot.  Another rumor circulating, according to the newspaper I’d seen at the hotel, was that a third term for the current sheriff was looking unlikely.  It was joined by an interview with Benderby on the construction of a new resort on the mall site.  Noticeably absent were any reports on Boggs, the treasure, or Cossatino.

I considered briefly whether I should go to the newspaper and tell them the whole story.  If he considered it had any element of truth, he’d publish it and be damned, but the thought of how his wife, an Ormiston, would take the news of finding her father, only for the body to disappear, would serve no purpose.  If there was a body, I would not hesitate.

But, now, it was enough to make a decision on what I would do next.  Pack a bag, tell my mother I was leaving, and call Nadia.

It was impossible to fit a lifetime into a bag.  It was fortunate, perhaps, that my situation had not afforded me the luxury of too many possessions, or anything of value.

Even so, what fitted wasn’t much.  I wanted to believe it was going to be a new start, but it seemed like I was just running away, that the problems I was running from would just come with me. 

And, then, there was Nadia.  I was today’s flavor of the month, but would I be in a month, or two? 

That thought was interrupted by the sound of the front door opening.  I stepped onto the passage just as my mother closed the door.

“Sam.  Where have you been?  I’ve been calling, and leaving messages.”

She wasn’t angry, but there was an edge to her tone.  I should have at the very least sent a message to say I was OK.  It didn’t help my phone battery had died.  I’d put it in the recharge, and minutes later continually dinged with missed messages

“I had to get away.  Either that or I would have done something I regretted.  I thought you’d moved in with Benderby.”

“You thought wrong.  This business with Alex.  I remember you told me he was responsible for what happened to you and Nadia, and when I overheard him arguing with his father, I realised you were telling me the truth, and neither of them could be trusted.  I just told him I needed some time to sort out some issues.”

“You’re not going back?”

“No.  What are you going to do?”

“There’s nothing for me here.  I’m not going back to the warehouse, nor do I want to be here anymore.  Not while Alex is put and about.  It’s only a matter of time before he comes after Nadia and I.”

“Then you’re still going to Italy with her.”

“For a while, see how it works out.  You should come too, at least for a holiday, think about what you’re going to do.  Personally, I think you should also leave, start fresh somewhere else.”

“Maybe you’re…”

We both heard the screeching tires of a car coming to a sudden stop outside, followed by the slamming of doors.

Alex not waiting to clean up his mess?

A sudden pounding on the door revised that assessment, if anyone was here to do us harm they would have kicked the door down.

I moved my mother behind me, and the protection of the door as I opened it.

The sheriff.

“We have a situation,” he said in his most serious tone

Warning us the Benderby’s were coming for us?

When neither of us responded, he added, “Elsie Boggs has the Benderby’s at gunpoint at the Blue Circle, and she will only talk to you.”

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 69

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.

With Nadia seeking gold at the beach at The Grove

I was waiting to be picked up at the bus depot by Nadia, trying to keep out of the public eye, knowing very few people I knew would be there at that hour.

It was early for me, not long after getting home from the night shift, with just enough time to change and get something to eat at the diner a block from the depot.

Nadia didn’t understand my obsession with anonymity, but being seen with her was just going to raise questions, and, if either my mother or Boggs found out, that would be two very interesting conversations.

I just didn’t need the aggravation.

I was not sure what to wear so I dug out the clothes I wore to a farm that a friend of my mothers owned and my mother had graciously offered my services.  It hadn’t been such a bad day, but it was hard work.

The clothes had the added advantage of making me almost invisible among the many seasonal workers currently in town.

I nearly missed her because I had been looking for her usual car, but when a large pickup truck pulled up at the curb where I was standing, it took a moment to recognize her behind the wheel.  A very unglamorous plain Jane, without make-up and her hair a mess, or so it looked to me.  I knew well enough not to make a comment.

The truck was battered and seen better days, but the engine sounded like that of a racing car.  A Cossatino’s getaway car.  Oddly, I could imagine her behind the wheel waiting for a team of bank robbers, fuelled no doubt by the many old movies I’d seen in my younger days.

I climbed up into the cabin and she had driven off before the car door was closed

“Are we in a hurry?”

“No parking zone.  Don’t need the sheriff’s deputies giving us a hard time.”

No, indeed.

“Where’s your car?”

“Too recognizable.  Where we’re going it’s better not to be recognized.”

That didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.  I knew it was going to be somewhere along the coastline, her idea to see if any more of the gold coins had fallen out of the treasure chests as they were being brought ashore.

The question was, was there any part of the coastline that hadn’t been surveyed?  That was when it occurred to me she might be headed for that stretch of coastline that belonged to The Grove, split by the coast road, either side of the road fenced off and signs telling people they would be shot on sight if caught trespassing.

There had been rumors of shootings but nothing ever made it to the sheriff’s office.  I hoped she told someone where she was going if that’s where she was taking me.

“You’re quiet this morning?”

“Just got off shift, and a little tired.”

“You should have said something.  I didn’t think…”

“It’s fine.  You’re currently the one ray of light on a very dark horizon.”

She looked sideways at me.  “That is a compliment.”

“I hope you take it that way.  With Boggs on some sort of crusade, my mother giving me dating tips, and Benderby hanging around, being with you Breaks the gloom and doom.” 

I turned slightly to get a better look at her.  If it was anyone else, I could fall in love with her, but knowing a Cossatino was a dance with the devil, and dangerous for your health.

“Well, I’m glad I bring some light into someone’s life.  It seems I can’t do anything right at home.”

“Why did you come home.  It seems to me you were happier away from this place.”

“Reasons I now think were stupid.”  There was a finality in her tone that warned not to go any further with it.

Instead, we were passing the old mall and I saw the transformation.  Fort Knox would be easier to get into.

“Do you know what’s going on at the old mall?”

“The Benderby’s are demolishing it, mainly because they have to, and do a lot of remediation, whatever that is, before they build the new marina and condos. They’re going to tap into the retirement market.”

That premise, according to a financial market magazine left on my desk, and which made interesting reading, was the next gold mine for those who had the foresight, and the financial means.

Benderby had both, and in another article, which to me at the time seemed to be profiling Benderby, opining the fact some of the new rich had not all made their fortunes legitimately, harking back to the war days and profiteering.  Had Benderby’s father and his before him, plowed this path to success, and the son and grandson found other Illegitimate means like drugs and worse to perpetuate it?

Was it possible, in this day and age to make a fortune without crossing the line somewhere?  No one could link Benderby to anything crooked, but rumors, there were plenty, including the mall, and the fact it was a huge insurance write-off.

Lenny seemed to think so, but cleverly, never quite put what he thought into words.

“Lucky them,” I muttered.

Several miles past the mall, she turned off the main road onto a track that had not been used for some time, heading towards the ocean

I could see now why we were in the truck.  A car would not be able to make it without getting bogged.  It was wet and muddy, with pools of water forming in ruts. 

When we hit a couple and got soundly shaken up, she slowed down.  Then, suddenly, the ocean came into view, and the track headed for the cliff, veering at the last minute, and going down the side of the hill until at the bottom we stopped outside a weather-beaten shack about the size of a large room.

She switched off the engine and let the silence surround us until I could just hear the sound of waves breaking on the rocky shoreline.

“Welcome to my castle.”

There was a whimsical expression on her face.

I opened the door and climbed out, in an instant the temperature dropped 10 degrees, and the effect of the wind almost knocking me over.

She slammed the door shut and went to the door of the shack, unlocking, then opening the door, then switching on a light, giving the inside a gloomy yellowish aura.  She motioned me to go in, then followed behind closing the door, and immediately it was much quieter.

“Not much of a castle.”

“It is when you want to get away from the rest of the family.  It used to be a bathing shack, but the waters around here got too treacherous for swimming, and it fell into disrepair.  I had it fixed up and this is where I come when I want to disappear.”

It didn’t look like it had been used in a while, a thin film of dust settled in everything, and smudged footprints on the floor, showing recent signs of habitation.  Two metal detectors were sitting on the table.

“It’s like a different world to be in when you have the family I have.”

“They don’t know about this place?”

“They probably do, but it’s been a wreck for years, and no one ever comes here, not anymore.  I found it one day, wandering along the coastline, exploring the boundaries of The Grove.  This is the southernmost tip.  There’s one on the northernmost tip too, where the building is much larger and used for storage.”

Say no more, I thought.  The Cossatino’s were allegedly smugglers on top of everything else, and that’s probably where the smuggled good were stored.  This part of the coastline was treacherous at best, with underwater reefs and craggy rocks along the cliff line.  There were some sandy stretches, but it was hard work to reach them, and at a guess, Nadia knew how to get there without slipping and falling.

Boats could only get within 50 years of the shoreline before the possibility of being dashed on the rocks, and for that reason, Boggs told me, that whole beachfront could not have been used by the pirate to bring his treasure ashore.

The little I’d seen from where the truck was parked verified that, at least for this section.

“But we’re here to check for gold coins, see if there is a possibility the treasure cane ashore somewhere along the Grove’s shoreline.  I know the consensus of opinion said it’s not possible, but from my explorations, I reckon there are at least a dozen spots where a longboat could land, especially if you came on the tide.”

That, I was guessing, was high tide, and it may have been a coincidence when the pirate arrived on this shore.

“The reefs would be submerged and even more dangerous.”

“There are ways.  I’ve been out there in a canoe once or twice with Vince, looking for passageways.  And, before you jump to any conclusions, I’m not a smuggler, and we may have been once, but an accident ten years ago put paid to that.  We lost four of the family, and six others in a hair-brained night landing in rough weather.”

I remembered a piece in the paper, the coastguard had been trailing a large yacht with suspected drugs aboard, waited until the Cossatino’s had transferred to the longboat that had gone out to meet the yacht, then chased it to the reef where a navigation mistake saw the longboat hit the reef, sink with all the evidence, and all but Vince had drowned in the heavy surf.

“Vince was lucky.”

“Vince was an idiot then and a bigger idiot now.  It made him believe he was invincible.  He’s not.  But let’s not talk about him, or the rest of them, we’re not exactly on speaking terms at the moment.”

She went to the table and picked up one of the metal detectors and held it out.  “Yours.”

I came over and took it, and it was heavier than I expected.

She picked up the other.  “Ready?”

For anything, I thought, then nodded.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – It’s a treasure hunt – Episode

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 aftermath and goodbye

No one in the room, of those who had been forced to remain, could quite comprehend what just happened.

You could read about it in a newspaper, or hear about it on television during the news hour, and think, well, I wasn’t there but it must have been traumatic for those who were, but traumatic didn’t even begin to describe what I just witnessed.

It took everyone more than a few minutes to process those last few seconds before they could move, let alone think about what they were going to do.  With the threat incapacitated, there was no reason to, at least, not straight away.

I was surprised then, that after however long it had been since those events, I heard Charlene’s voice cutting through the fog.

“Are you alright?”

She was shaking me by the shoulder, sitting on the floor next to me, and she looked, and sounded, visibly upset.  I was surprised she was still in town much less anywhere near here.

“I wasn’t the target,” I said, and then realized that was hardly relevant to anything; it was just the first response that popped into my head.

I could then suddenly hear everything as if someone had turned up the volume, and the first background sound was Benderby’s daughter crying.

“You were almost in the line of fire for one of the marksmen.  I thought he’d misaimed. For a moment there, when I saw you fall…

She still cared, which was something I should appreciate.  I took a moment before lifting myself off the floor to sit beside her.

“This was a disaster.  Your father should have realized a woman with a gun would be hell-bent on revenge and wasn’t going to be talked down.  She probably used the time it took to get me to mentally prepare so she could kill the pair of them.  And I’m surprised you didn’t see it coming.”

“It might not have come to this if she hadn’t known Alex and Vince were suspected of killing her son.  Did you tell her about Alex and Vince?”

It was a meaningful look, one that conveyed disapproval because she was right, it had to come from me because I was only one of a very few who knew the actual facts of the matter.”

Better then, to admit it.  “No.  But I told my mother, while I was in hospital before I had time to consider the ramifications.  That was some deal Benderby pulled off, to have Vince strung up and a signing a confession to get Alex off the hook.”

“He didn’t exactly get away scot-free.  He still has a string of minor charges to face, and there will be jail time, one way or another.”

I glanced over at Mrs. Boggs spread out on the floor where she had collapsed after being shot at least twice.

Almost before she hit the floor, two deputies were beside her, removing the gun, and checking if she was still alive.  I imagine the sheriff, by the door, phone to his ear, had called for medical assistance, perhaps out of deference to a woman who was a friend, or because he had to show all care and respect for her so a good defense attorney didn’t find a reason to have the case dismissed for lack of respect.  There had been problems handling perpetrators in the past, perpetrators who got off on technicalities.

But all that was moot if she was dead.  She seemed to be alive when she hit the floor, and then hadn’t moved in the last few minutes.  My first thought was that they had killed her, but I saw her hand move, which meant she was still alive, incredibly good shooting on the part of the marksmen considering the obstacles, and the inclination to stop the perpetrator permanently.

Around us, several other deputies were escorting the remainder of the patrons out of the room, now officially a crime scene designated by the ‘do not cross’ tape lines going up.

The sheriff had made it his job to escort Mrs. Benderby, and her daughter, out of the room, and, no doubt get a statement after being checked out by a paramedic.

I could hear sirens in the distance, so they would be arriving imminently.

A. Minute or so later, I was the last civilian in the room. 

I turned to Charlene, “You do realize that both Boggs senior and Ormiston were in that cave, before Alex and Vince cleaned up.”

She smiled.  “Actually, as a matter of fact, I do.  I took a forensic team back to see if we could find either of Alex’s or Vince’s DNA, and not only did we fund it, but the skeletal remains of what appears to be four individuals.”

“Boggs, Ormiston, and two pirates.  One had a sword through the rib cage so I suspect there was a little dissent when the treasure was being divvied up.”

“I’m sure that will be confirmed soon.  I wanted to nail Alex’s ass to the wall, now it appears we might have enough evidence to put old man Cossatino away too.  He was picked up at the airport trying to leave the country.  An all-around good day for team justice.”

“Except for Mrs. Boggs”

“I’m sure she’ll plead temporary insanity, overcome by the grief of losing her son.”

Flippant, perhaps, or just cynical?  It was a bit early in her career to be like that, so perhaps that might be a little of her father rubbing off.

“Perhaps she was hoping the police would kill her.  After all, she has very little left to live for.  I doubt pleading insanity was her first thought when she walked into this room.  You might want to study up on the human condition a little before you start labeling people, and especially if you are thinking of continuing on this detective thing.”

That came out wrong, more a rebuke than an observation, and judging by her expression, she took it as the former.

“There will always be a lot of things we could do better.  You might consider next time to dissuade your friends from doing stupid things, like Nadia kidnapping Alex and Vince in the first place.”

“If you had done your job…”

Neither of us had seen the sheriff come over, and he was there long enough to be privy to the last comments.  “I’m sure at the end of the day, justice will prevail despite the convoluted route it took us to get there.  But for argument’s sake, neither Alex nor Vince would press charges against Nadia, so it was not kidnapping, and since the mall belongs to the Benderbys, neither wanted to press for trespass, so, all in all, no harm done.”

He glared at his daughter.  “I asked you to get his statement, not debate the legalities of the situation. Get it done and get back to the station.”

With that said, he left.

Charlene stood up, glared at me, then said, “no good deed goes unpunished.  Do you want to give it here, or at the station?”

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 67

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.

Back at the newspaper archives

Boggs didn’t come home.

His mother and I waited until way after dark, and when I raised the possibility that something might have happened to him, she didn’t agree, nor did she look all that concerned.

The fact he had experience in cave exploration, and used to camping out with his father and later uncle Rico and had suffested he might not be back for a few days and was not a cause for concern.

It didn’t register that he might get into trouble considering the instability of some of the caves, nor the fact they have warning signs and or been boarded up to stop explorers.

It bothered me.

He was starting to emulate his father, with this obsession.  If the story in the paper was anything to go by, at worst he could finish up just like his father, buried under a pile of rubble.  That was one of the more speculative reults to his treasure hunt, besides leaving his family penniless and heartbroken.

Did I believe that was where his father was?  I didn’t think he disappeared of his own volition but as to the who, well, there were only two principal suspects, and no evidence of the complicity.

Boggs’s father might never be found.

But, in the end, I didn’t know what to think, because the waters were so muddied by people who were driven by self-interest.

There was so much more to this story, mostly driven by self-interest, revenge perhaps, and, worse, greed.  It was perhaps a symptom of everything that had gone wrong in not only this town but what was happening on a much larger scale to the whole country.  But, that was someone else’s problem.  My concern was here, now, and saving Biggs from following the same destructive path his father had

And, to do that, I needed to know more.  That meant, first thing the next morning, a trip to the newspaper office.

When I returned to the newspaper office Lenny was in his usual seat with a paper in hand, reading.  Keeping up with the competition, he said, though the difference in circulation was counted in millions.

There was a woman behind the other desk.

“Staff journalist,” he said when he saw me looking at her.  “And family.  My wife, Jennifer.”

I’d not seen her before, and she didn’t come from here, or I would have recognized her.

She smiled, and there was something in that expression that struck me as familiar.

“Are you related to the Ormistons?”

It was a vague resemblance, after seeing so many pictures of the Ormistons, that everyone looked like them.

“It’s a name I don’t use anymore,” she said, “for obvious reasons.  My grandfather stirred a lot of resentment.”

“And,” Lenny added, “it’s between us and these four walls, Sam.”

I nodded.  I could understand the sentiment.  And it explained Lenny’s depth of knowledge.

“Just to be clear, your grandfather didn’t find the treasure?”

She sighed.

Lenny said, sharply, “Sam!”

I shrugged.  “Sorry.  I had to ask.”

“No, he did not, and believe me, that’s a sore point with everyone whose lives he destroyed.”

“I can imagine.  Does anyone know what happened to him, the real story?”

“There is no real story Sam.  I tried to discover the truth and failed.  For Jennifer’s peace of mind.  We may never know what happened to him.”

“But surely you don’t believe he died in a cave somewhere?”

“It’s the most plausible.”

“And what about Boggs’s father?”

“He was a fool,” Jennifer said.  “From what I remember of him, he was always insistent that the treasure was in a cavern up in the hills, accessible only by an underground river that flowed down to the sea.  He originally thought it was the one the mall was built over, except every cave had a dead end.”

“Before or after the mall was built?”

“My father explored the cave system, with my grandfather, extensively, before the mall was built.  There was no underground river.”

“How did the mall get destroyed in a flood then?”

“That was the Benderby’s cost-cutting the foundations.  The flooding was man-made, not an act of nature like they said it was.  That was just so they could claim the insurance.  No one could really tell the difference, and the specialist the got to sign off on it lied.  The same guy that turned up dead on Rico’s boat, by the way.”

“The Benderby’s cleaning up another mess, but their way.”  Jennifer sounded, and probably had every right to be, resentful.

“Then there still could be an underground river somewhere along the coast?”

“If there is, I haven’t found it, and neither has Alex and that fancy boat of his.  It’s another dead end, and like as not, another nail in the coffin of what was a fairy tale, to begin with.  There was no treasure, just a fable invented by the Cossatinos.”

“Even so, it’s part of the folklore of this county and will have a place in the history I’m writing.  I noticed over the years the treasure had a prominent place in the paper.”

“My father, and his before him thought it would be good for the town. You know, bring in tourists.  It was my father’s idea to print treasure maps, and then the Cossatino’s embellished it but producing what they called ‘the real map’ each a slight variation on the other, commanding a special fee, and swearing the purchases to a promise of silence, and adding to the authenticity, demanding a 19 percent share of whatever they found.  People lapped it up and my father said they’d made a fortune out of it.  Boggs’s father hand-made the copies and used that money to fund his own explorations.  Everyone made money out of it, one way or another except Ormiston.”

A bitter irony if there was ever one.  There was more money in the illusion of treasure than the actual treasure itself.

“And the so-called real map that Boggs reputedly found in the pirate’s hideaway?”

“No one ever saw it, except that one time it was authenticated age-wise, so no one ever got to see it.  Boggs made sure of that, and never let it out of his sight.  Now we’ll never know.  I’m sure Boggs junior doesn’t have it, but with him, he’s as daft as his father was.”

“He had a lot of his father’s stuff he found in a box in the attic recently.  I’ve seen some of it, but not an authentic map, so maybe your right.”

“Of course I am.  When you have an idea of what this history of yours is going to look like, let me know. And I’ll publish in parts if you want, maybe pass it on to the dailies.  It might be worth something.”

“Thanks.  I will.  But more study first, you have the history of the place in that back room, maybe you should write something yourself. Being the journalist.”

“Too busy with births deaths and marriages, Sam, and the antics of the Benderby’s and Cossatino’s.  Do you know that Benderby is demolishing the mall and putting a marina in its place?  Talk of building a hotel, boosting tourism.  Talking of running for mayor, you know, the first stop on the way to the presidency?”

“A crook for a mayor?”

“Wouldn’t be the first, won’t be the last.  But one thing is for sure, that kind of news sells papers.”

It did, but I had a feeling the Benderbys were all about creating a distraction, and something else was going on at that mall site.

A construction crew had arrived, and more secure fencing was being erected, and the two points where I’d entered the sire with Boggs on one hand and Nadia later, they were gone.  There was also an increase in the security guards, covering more of the fence line in shorter intervals, and worse, arc lighting lit the whole outside area like a sports stadium.

Not even an ant could sneak in without being seen.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022