“Maybe,” I said. “How did you know I ripped off Brad Adams?”
At first, I thought she was ignoring me. She brought out her phone and began typing and scrolling. After a few moments, she found what she was looking for and tossed it to me. “You’re famous.”
It was a social media site scrolled to a post from Brad Adams’s wife, Mande. It read:
THE FIRST PERSON WHO TELLS US THE WHEREABOUTS OF JOSH MCCORMACK WILL BE REWARDED WITH $1000! THIS IS NOT A JOKE! HE STOLE SOMETHING FROM US AND WE WANT IT BACK!
“That’s a lot of capital letters,” I said. My mouth was dry. The post had 124 likes and 29 shares. There was also a picture of me that accompanied it for the handful of people who didn’t know every person in a fifty mile radius by name. I tossed the phone back to Julie feeling sick. The whole damn world is after me. “Looks like I owe you a thousand dollars,” I said weakly.
“Oh, it’ll cost you more than that,” she said. “But first, we need those emeralds.”
“Do you really know someone who will buy them?”
“No. But I might know someone who does.”
“Someone you can trust?”
“I guess we’ll find out,” she said.
In the garage, she managed to dig up an old pair of swim goggles she had used a few years ago at the university pool. They were too small and leaked but they were better than nothing. At the end of the dock, the lake was deep and the water was murky and it sure as hell hadn’t warmed up any. It took me a long while of diving and fishing around in the cold mud with my hands before I finally found the bag. I hoped her neighbors weren’t watching – some idiot swimming off the dock in October was bound to draw attention. She stayed indoors; there was no sense in both of us freezing our asses off and we reasoned that a person in the water was tougher to spot than someone standing on the dock watching. I wondered if she was stretched out on the couch making a phone call or, perhaps, a social media post of her own. I couldn’t blame her if she was.
Back inside, the cabin still smelled of bacon and wood smoke and I dressed in some ratty sweats she had confiscated from a former boyfriend. Together, we sat cross-legged on the floor before the fireplace as I emptied the bag slowly onto the rug. The jewels poured, a thick stream of translucent green, clicking and bouncing into a glittering pile.
“Holy shit,” I said. “I wonder how much money we’re looking at.”
In a quiet voice that was almost a whisper she said, “Enough for them to kill us both.”
Her statement hung in the air while we stared at the jewels, mesmerized.
I looked up at her and realized the ominous truth of her words. I hadn’t thought things through, not really. I did what I always did; I wanted, I took, but it had led me into a precarious situation and now that life-threatening choice had sucked her into its dangerous pit as well. I suddenly wished I had made a different choice and, as I stared at her, that wish expanded. I wished I had made a lot of different choices. Perhaps if I had….
Suddenly, someone was hammering on the cabin door.
I cursed inwardly, drew back, noticed the disappointment and frustration in her eyes, and cursed out loud. Neither of us moved, however; not initially. We just listened as the hammering continued, then stopped as the sound of heavy footsteps plodded round the front porch and the shadow of the untimely trespasser moved to the window. Fortunately, she had drawn the curtains closed and they obscured the view well enough to shield us from discovery, but it was easy enough to recognize the silhouette of the park ranger in his Dudley Do-right hat as he peered inward.
To Be Continued…
Fred Rock of Fred Rock Fiction recently contacted me to discuss a possible, extended collaboration during which time we would write a short story based upon a piece he had begun and then hit a wall. I read the portion he wrote (designated above and throughout these posts in italics ) and was immediately intrigued. Inspiration sparked, we set about sending the piece back and forth between us for several weeks, adding to the tale, discussing possible stumbling blocks, and finally editing the ‘masterpiece’. Our final story is now ready to be shared, which we shall do in increments for your reading ease (and hopefully enjoyment!)