A couple of months ago I published the first part of a short story ( https://learningtolivelikewaterblog.com/2018/02/17/fiction-what-lies-beyond/ ) I wrote using a writing prompt, an exercise assigned by my small local writers groups. After we did those we decided to continue our stories, and use a new prompt. Of course in order to make the previous story gel with the new prompt, I have written this second chapter to connect the two. I’m not quite finished with the third (and I hope final) chapter, but will publish it when I finish it. Hope you enjoy my second foray into fiction writing.
We walked in about 10 yards, where the cave took a bend to the left. As we went around the bend, the cave opened up a bit. There laying on an old, dirty blanket was Eli’s friend Archie. Buster sat next to him. After a Eli made few attempts to wake him, his eyes opened. He looked startled to see me, and in an agitated raspy voice began to angrily ask Eli who I was and why I was there. Eli assured him that I was “ok.”
“This is the attorney I told you about yesterday. She’s going to help you. She’s one of the good guys….” Archie didn’t seem to take much comfort in Eli’s words. As he talked he reached between he and buster, and put his hand on an old brown leather bag, the kind of bag sometimes known as a “go bag”. Kind of yesterday’s duffel bag. He looked at Eli, asking “Did you tell him….?”
Eli shook his head. “No, Arch. She doesn’t know anything but you’re going to have to tell her now. We need to get you help, and we need to deal with the bag.” Eli motioned for me to sit down, on an old crate that I hoped would not fall apart under me.
“Well,” Archie began, “I was in the alley behind 53rd St and 4th,, you know, dumpster diving, 3 nights ago. Looking for cans, or anything else. I heard a couple of guys out in the alley, close by. Froze up silent…didn’t want anyone horning in on my cans. They were talking and kinda laughing about conning some mob guys out of a bunch of money. Then I heard a car diving down the alley. Next thing I know the bag is landing on top of my head. I grabbed it and flung it into the corner, shut off my flashlight, just as a guy followed the bag and fell in! Guns were firing! Bullets hitting the dumpster! I was scared shitless, man. But finally the car drove off. Left me fuckin’ shakin.”
It was kinda nasty in that dumpster”, he continued. “Probably stunk to high heaven, though I lost my sense of smell years ago. I didn’t move. The guy started retching, and he was holding his arm, cut over his eye, I guess from the fall. Next thing I know, I hear his buddy calling to him to come out and bring the bag. He felt around trying to find it, but couldn’t and managed not to find me either! He finally told his buddy they could come back in daylight to find it. His buddy reached down to give him a hand to get out and they left.”
Archie paused. He asked Eli if he had any water, and Eli gave him a bottle. His voice was getting raspy and I could tell he was getting worn out by the telling of the story. But after a few minutes he went on.
“After about an hour, I made my way out of the dumpster, with the bag. I forgot my cans though, damn it, with all that damn excitement. I was walking out of the alley with the bag when I ran into Eli. I told him the story, and he said he’d headed this way because he heard the gunshots. I knew those were bad guys and I didn’t want to be seen….we needed to hide. We went to the bus stop, waited for the next bus and just as we got on, we saw a couple guys running and heard them yelling for the bus to stop, to wait, but the driver didn’t hear them, and shut the door and drove away.
Me and Eli sat in the back of the bus. There weren’t many people on it, it was late, like maybe 2 AM. We opened the bag and found it full of money and some bags of powder. I’m not stupid, I got myself in the middle of a drug heist. They saw me get on the bus, and know what I look like. Me and Eli got off at a stop about a half mile from the river and he brought me up here. He’s lived here on and off when the weather is bad, he said. No one else seems to know about the place or it would be full of people with no place to go.”
He stopped again, for a drink and his breathing was heavy and raspy. “I’ve got that COPD thing,” he said. “I can’t run like that. I’m out of my meds, scared shitless that they will find me if I show my face in town. I don’t know what to do with the money or the powder….the last thing I want, next to having them find me, is to have the law on my ass because I’ve got a couple of keys of coke or whatever it is in this bag.”
I sat silently for a few minutes, trying to consider the options of these destitute but decent old men. They wanted to do the right thing, just so they could continue to live a somewhat peaceful life, but obviously knew the risks involved with having that bag. The choices only three:
1. The obvious. Giving the bag to the police with the story, using me as an intermediary.
2. Leaving the bag somewhere, where those who were looking for it might find it.
3. Keeping the bag, splitting the money, leaving the drugs in the cave for the time being.
Option 1, handing the bag over to the authorities sounded like a good idea, until they realized they might implicate themselves somehow, and that it might open them to some danger if somehow word got out into the press, and they were seen.
Option 2, leaving the bag for them to find had it’s drawbacks too. The main one is being sure that the person who found it was the one looking for it. If it wasn’t, and got into someone else’s hands it could be a disaster.
Option 3, keeping the loot, gave me pause. If ever there were 2 men who needed that kind of financial boon, it was these guys. But it seemed to me it might go against their grain to keep illegal drug money for their own gain.
My only option was to tell them what the options were, explain the ramifications of them all, and let them choose. It wasn’t my call to make, it was theirs. So that’s exactly what I did. About an hour later, Eli, Archie and Buster were going down the path from the cave with me.
Twenty minutes later I was stopped in the alley by my rear office door to let them out, with instructions to go inside. My secretary knew they were coming and would greet them and show them the way to my office.