I've always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt - Part 38

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.

Before we embarked on the great driving expedition, for which I was beginning to think might be harder than it seemed to Boggs’ one-track mind, we decided to go and check out the mall, and if, indeed, there was an underground river, or, at the very least, if his flooding theory was correct. 

We were going to need very old clothes, and when I left the next morning, my mother noticed it.

“I’m going to do some gardening with Boggs.  He came up with this notion we could help out tat the old folk’s home.”

“That’s a nice thought.”

And it was a lie I knew would eventually come back to bite me.  My mother hadn’t exactly told me to stop seeing Boggs, because she was beginning to think his mental capacity had been diminished after the beating.

It was a logical and perfectly acceptable reason for his odd behavior.

I went directly to Boggs’ house, and he was waiting for me.  From there it was about twenty minutes, to a spot where he knew the surrounding fence had a hole big enough for us to crawl through.

It was odd seeing the place again, sitting out a few miles from the town, looking forlorn.  At the front entrance, off the road specially built between it and the town, there were miles of cyclone fencing, with signs alternately telling people to keep out on threat of prosecution for trespass, and more recently, hazard signs proclaiming the whole area was unsafe.

From where we’d stopped, we could see the carpark, enough for hundreds of cars, a bus terminus, a taxi rank, and the front façade of the shopping center, mostly looking like the front of a castle, with towers and ramparts.

There had been auxiliary plans for a medieval theme park at one stage, that would have blended in with the mall buildings, but that had to be abandoned, even though the land allocated to it was stable.  Or so a surveyor said.

We continued on until we reached the side leading to the marina.  From this vantage point looking one way, there was the ocean, and the other, the damage to the side of the mall buildings, the cracks, and, in places, where the roof had collapsed.

This would be the first time I’d set foot in the place since it had been a mall.

It had been popular, and there was always plenty of people shopping, eating and drinking, going to the cinemas, or just having a day out.  There had also been a museum dedicated to the naval days.

Now there was nothing.

It was ironic that as many of the castles in the British Isles that had been reduced to rubble, that was exactly what was going to happen here if someone didn’t take a bulldozer to the lot and level it out.
And that might happen sooner rather than later.  This was reputed to be the site of many a disappearance of a local person.  Three girls, two men, and a boy were supposedly hidden somewhere inside the mall, but the bodies had never been found.

I was thinking of those missing people when I said, with a degree of trepidation, “Do you really want to do this?  I mean, if you’re sure there’s an underground waterway here, I’ll happily take your word for it.”

Boggs just shook his head.  “You’re the last person I’d expect to chicken out.”

“It not that.”

“Isn’t it?  I can go by myself if you’re worried about getting hurt.”

“No.  You and me together.  I have to learn to fight those fears.”

Another look, then, “OK.  “Just a little further.”

Another minute or so, we reached a large rusting cylinder which had an almost illegible sign on it say the tank held inflammable liquid.  I tapped on the metal and it sounded empty.  I guess as part of the shut down they would have had to drain the tank.  I followed the tangle of pipes that ran slightly downhill for about 20 yards and then saw the opening in the fence Boggs had referred to.

We left our bikes behind the tank, among some bushes.

We then walked down to the fence line where the pipes passed through, and Boggs pulled back the chain wire.  A closer look showed it had been cut halfway up, making it easy to slip by, easier if there were two people along for the visit.

“Did you cut the fence,” I asked him.

He didn’t answer.  I guess he wanted me to think he had.

“Have you been here before?”

“Through here, yes.  A few times.”  He held the wire away and I climbed through.  I did the same for him on the other side, and he joined me.  The two halves melded back together so from a distance no one could tell the fence had been tampered with.

From the fence, we had to cross the access road to the marina, and across a carpark, now overgrown with weeds, and bushes, with the odd tree springing up through the cracks in the concrete.

The wall, when we reached it, was where several large cracks joined, and part of the wall had fallen away leaving a hole large enough to crawl through.  I put my head through the crack and could barely see anything.  There was light coming from the seaward side, but on the other, it was inky darkness.

There was also a very disturbing aroma, like freshly laid concrete crossed with the smell of a garage repair shop.  Years of spilled oil and grease.

“Is it safe?”  I asked.

Boggs shrugged.  “It could all fall down at any moment.  You read the signs on the fence.  Basically, this is, on one hand, cheating death.  On the other, we could be on the verge of an interesting discovery.”  Then, without another word, he went through the gap and inside. 

A few seconds later, I could see the light from his cell phone.

I shrugged.  If anything happened, like the building falling on me, I probably wouldn’t feel it.  And he was right, we could be on the verge of an interesting discovery.

I followed him inside and slid down the broken concrete and bricks to a dirty but solid-feeling floor, where Boggs was waiting, the light from his phone pointed in the direction of a storefront.

And looking at a dummy still dressed in clothes left behind.

I couldn’t help but think I’d seen that style of clothes somewhere before.

© Charles Heath 2020


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