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?”
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