Chapter 52: Treasure Hunt
What the hell was this guy talking about - treasure chests and diamonds?! He sounded like a loony and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. It wasn’t like I could produce a treasure chest out of thin air, and he was waving that gun around like he just might be nervous enough to shoot it - either accidentally or intentionally.
I was about to ‘gently’ retort by telling him myself that we didn’t have his loot, when Anne coughed. It was a weird, forced cough, and everyone glanced in her direction. I wasn’t sure what she was doing; perhaps it was scared nerves. Regardless, I didn’t like this madman looking at my daughter, so I addressed him instead.
“Where exactly was this treasure supposed to be? Maybe we can help if we know a little more about it?”
He gave me a disapproving look, then seemed to consider that perhaps we didn’t know what he was talking about after all.
“Come on, we’re going on a little field trip,” the stranger snarled, and fear seeped into my spine as I wasn’t exactly sure where he wanted us to go.
At that precise moment, Rhonda’s cell phone pinged as a text message appeared on the screen, the phone lighting up briefly from where she’d laid it on her desk earlier. Our captor noticed, of course, eyeing the phone and suddenly realizing that there were bound to be several phones among our little group.
“I want your phones out and on the desk, now!” He shouted angrily, and the three kids hesitantly pulled theirs out of their pockets, laying them next to Rhonda’s.
“I, uh, left mine in my office,” I admitted nervously and honestly, but as expected, he didn’t believe me.
“Turn out your pockets!” He ordered, waving his gun around again, and I shakily did so, pulling out some pocket change and a couple bandages I’d stuffed in my pocket from the infirmary earlier.
After I set my meager stash on the desk, he motioned for us all to exit the executive office and pointed down the hall, forcing the five of us to go ahead of him. Then, thinking better of it, he suddenly grasped Rhonda by the arm, pressing his gun to her head, as he pulled her closer to him. She muttered out a faint and wavering cry, which sent the rest of us into a panicked state right along with her. I wrapped my arms around the three kids who now huddled around me.
“Anybody think about trying to make a run for it, the old lady gets it. Got it?!”
We nodded in our fearful stupor and my eyes drifted from the insane man to Rhonda, who was staring straight back at me in desperation. God, what was I going to do?
I didn’t have long to ponder that thought though, as our captor ordered us to march downstairs and out back to the pavilion. I prayed that Chuy and Vickie would somehow stay out of sight, but that they’d also see us and call for help.
Leaving the picnic area in the hot, Florida humidity, we were led to the door of the future turtle hatching enclosure.
“Open it,” he barked, and I nervously reached for the obviously smashed door knob. He had said he’d already been looking for his treasure, and it seemed that he had indeed.
I pushed the door open and he ushered us all inside the high-walled enclosure with nothing but the ugly wooden shed standing in the back corner. The air was more stifling than before, as the cement walls blocked any of the sea breeze from getting to us. Looking around, I felt confused. There was only sand and the shed. At that moment, I felt Anne squeeze my hand tighter, and I glanced at her worried expression. Of course, she’d been scared this whole time, but now she was starting to look green around the gills. I squeezed her hand back, hoping to give her a little resolve until I could figure out how to get us out of this.
“In there,” the man angrily pointed to the shed with his head and I worriedly started shifting my little group of preteens in that direction, while Rhonda still looked as if she might faint soon.
I’d only been in the shed a couple of times, not really needing anything in there before. And it looked creepy then. Now, it just felt like something out of a horror movie, and my stomach tightened as I made my way towards the wooden door, then let go of Rainie’s hand to open it.
I couldn’t see anything inside the shed at first; it was too dark. But then the vicious man tossed me a small flashlight.
“There, behind the boxes,” he answered my unspoken question.
I swallowed heavily, unsure of what I would find, but nodded as bravely as I could. I let go of Anne’s hand, rubbing her arm gently and she gave me a pained look in response. “God, please don’t let him kill us out here!”
“Stay here, kids,” I said to the trio watching me with terrified and wide eyes.
I stepped further into the shed, my motherly instinct pulled about leaving the kids outside with the madman who still had Rhonda at gunpoint. But if I didn’t do as he ordered, they all would be in more danger. So, I took a shuttered breath and shone the flashlight on the wooden boxes stacked in the center of the large and cluttered shed. This place was a mess!
Stepping around the boxes carefully, I aimed the somewhat dim light at the floor so I could see my way, and was surprised to find a large, gaping hole in the floorboards. Creeping closer, I cast the light into the hole. And to my utter amazement, I found a large wooden chest with the lid open, and none other than a treasure’s-worth of foreign looking gold coins.
“Holy shit!” I whispered under my breath.
Swallowing heavily again, I looked over the chest-high stack of boxes towards the door. “I see it! There’s a treasure chest. With treasure.”
The pirate that was holding my coworker and friend hostage, began waving the gun in the air angrily. “But the diamonds are gone! Where are the fucking diamonds?!”
Before I could say or do anything, I heard Chuy’s voice from somewhere outside, and the gunman turned abruptly as I cringed. My heart leapt to my throat as I heard the gun go off, screams erupting from everyone in our little group. He pushed Rhonda towards the kids, cussing at the top of his lungs as he stalked out of sight, and I rushed to the doorway.
“Chuy!” I screamed in panic, praying that the young man hadn’t been killed.