I've always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt - Part 24

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 instalment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

I was in the middle of a large building, sitting on a chair, a single light on above me creating a weird shadow in a circle of light.  Beyond that circle was darkness.
But I was grateful there was no blindfold or gag.
It had to be one of the buildings on Benderby’s factory site.  There were a number of older warehouses on the perimeter of the site, boarded up and in disrepair.  I had heard rumours they were going to be refurbished or demolished, no one seemed to be able to decide what to do with them.
It was deathly quiet, but if I strained hard, I thought I could hear the sound of a generator not far away.  Benderby’s had their own mini power station in case the main power grid went down, and I remembered that it was round the time for the six-monthly testing of the generators.  I was definitely inside the Benderby complex.
So, did that make my captor one of Benderby’s men?  Or was it Alex himself, trying to make a bold statement.  I didn’t think he had that sort of aggressive behaviour in him, but he was a Benderby, and they all had violent streaks somewhere in their makeup.
“Good.  You’re awake.”  The distorted voice could be either male or female.  I’d know more when I saw my assailant, bit it came from beside me and I tried to look in that direction.  It was difficult because whoever tied me up did a good job.
There was also an echo, brought on by the emptiness of the building.
“What do you want?  I’m not much good to you if you're trying to break into the main building.  I don’t have night access.”
“I’m not interested in the main building.”
“What are you interested in?”
I had expected to hear the word treasure, not me.
“Sadly, I’m not that interesting.”
“So you say.  But maybe it might have something to do with that friend of yours, Boggs.”
“Then it’s the treasure you’re after.”
“Me, personally, no.  The people I work for, I guess.  The word is that Boggs has a treasure map that his father left him.”
This person had to be acquainted with Rico, because only he could possibly know about that particular map, that is, if Boggs had told him, or told his mother, and Rico had overheard him.
Or Boggs had told this person, under duress, that I had the map, holding it for safekeeping.  My mind started conjuring up all sorts of terrifying scenarios, all of which ended badly.
“If Rico told you that, then he was only trying to save his own skin.  He’s been trying to barter a copy of something to the Benderby’s, a map he didn’t have and hadn’t been able to get off Boggs.  If there is such a map, then Boggs has it.”
“I’m sure he told you about it, didn’t he?”
“What are best friends for, but whether I believed him is a different matter.  He told me about a map his said his father had in his possession, and I know he’s been hunting high and low for it, but if he’s found it, then he hasn’t told me about it yet.”
I was trying to sound sincere, but fear has a way of making you sound, well, afraid.
My captor took a step forward into the fringe of the light.  Dressed in black, with a mask, the body shape looked more like a woman than a man, a figure that could be disguised by the bulky outer clothing.
“Who are you?”
“That’s irrelevant.  What I will do to you if you do not tell me the truth, is.  Boggs told me you had the map.  I believe he was telling the truth.”
So, this person had interrogated Boggs.  It would not have taken much.  Boggs was not the bravest soul I knew.  At school, Boggs had always been the first to capitulate in any confrontation.
I wondered if they had searched him.  Of course they had, and he didn’t have the map on him, which made it easier to deflect the onus to me.
But I didn’t have the map on me either.  I took the precaution of hiding it away in a place no one would find except me.  Now it was a matter of withstanding whatever this person decided was needed to extract ‘the truth’.
The problem was, I didn’t handle confrontation any better than Boggs had.
“And I’m telling you the truth when I tell you I haven’t got the map.  But I do have one of those being peddled at Osborne’s bar.  You can have that one if you like.”
I saw my captor shake their head.  Disdain, or disappointment?
Two steps further into the circle of light, and the two slaps, either side of my face, very hard.  The paid was instant and stinging, bringing tears to my eyes.  It should have brought acquiescence, but deep down defiance was building.  It surprised me.
My captor took a step back and looked down on me.  “Don’t make me have to hurt you.  All I want is the map.”
“I can’t give you what I don’t have.”
Closed fist this time, and aside from the teeth jarring, possible jaw-breaking, nose bleeding effect, I was starting to consider how long I could withstand this sort of beating.
“The map?”  Patience was running thin, anger was building.
“I can’t...”
Several punches to the ribs and stomach, taking my breath away and making it very difficult to breathe.  Pains where I’d never had pain before.  I’d had beatings at school but never like this.
Once more a step back, I could now only see the black figure through blurry eyes.
Time to plead to deaf ears, “You can beat me to within an inch of my life, but I can’t give you what I don’t have.  It’s as simple as that.”
And then I waited for the next round of punches.
A minute.  Two.
Then a new voice, out in the void, said, “He doesn’t have it.  This is a nothing but an elaborate hoax.”
Not a recognisable voice though.

A final blow rendered me unconscious.

© Charles Heath 2019


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