I've always wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt - Part 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 instalment 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 kerb where I was standing, it took a moment to recognise 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 had 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."
"Where's your car?"
"Too recognisable. Where we're going it's better not to be recognised."
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 rumours 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, opined 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, ploughed this path to success, and the son and grandson found other Illegitimate means like drugs and worse to perpetuate it?
Was it possible, in the day and age to make a fortune without crossing the line somewhere? No one could link Benderby to anything crooked, but rumours, 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 moles 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 knocked 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 any more. 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 Cossatinos were allegedly smugglers on top of everything else, and that's probably where the smuggled good was 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 the 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 long boat 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 Cossatinos had transferred to the long boat 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.