The Big Find

by Stredwick


The Big Find



a short story by



Austin Mitchell



Part One



 



            Ephraim and Norris were in the woods
cutting yams-sticks when they saw the two men digging away. Ephraim gestured to
Norris to keep silent as the latter was about to fall a tree. Ephraim crept
forward to get a closer look at what they were doing. It was around two o clock
in the afternoon. They were in the district of Clementson a large district five
miles north of Linstead. The two men watched as the diggers finished digging
the hole. They could see that it was a large hole, enough to hold a body. The
two men left and went and opened their car trunk and took out a large canvas
covered object. Both men had trouble carrying it to the hole. They dumped the
canvas into the hole, then heaped dirt on it. An hour after the two men left,
Ephraim and Norris were still arguing as to what to do. Ephraim believed that
they should report what they saw, to the police. Norris was of the opinion that
they should find out what it was that the men had just buried.



            “I’m sure that a body was in that tarpaulin,”
Ephraim said.



            “I haven’t heard of anybody being
killed around here lately. Although if it was a body, they could have killed
him somewhere else and just dumped the body in Clementson,” Norris opined.



            “So what should we do?” Ephraim
asked.



            “I vote that we find out what they
were hiding before we do anything.”



            Both men realized that they only had
machetes. They would need a shovel for getting out all that dirt. Hambo was an
old man living about half a kilometer from the woods. He did manual labor and
therefore had these kinds of tools all over his yard. When the men reached
Hambo’s yard, he was not there. They were, however, lucky to find two shovels
in some amount of disrepair. They then made their way back towards the woods.
Norris was the first to start digging.



            Ephraim was about to say that if
they found a body and Hambo found out that they had taken away his shovels and
then the police found the dead body if they were not digging themselves into a
grave when they heard loud voices. Ephraim and Norris darted behind some
bushes.



            “Where’s the money Brown-man?” a man
asked.



            Both men recognized Fuller’s voice.
He had been sent to prison five years ago after being convicted for the murder
of two men. The latest they had heard was that he had escaped and was now on
the run. They both knew that they were dead meat if he found them. Then they
heard another voice that chilled their bones to the very marrow.



            “Brown-man, what did you do with
Bernie and where is Dudley?” Joseph Coleman asked.



            Norris looked at Ephraim and could
see the wild fear in the man’s eyes and knew that he could burst out of the
bushes in an instant in a desperate effort to get away from Coleman and Fuller.
Coleman had killed his first man in a knife fight and had gotten off those
charges by proving self defense. From then on he had been held for several
murders, none of which came to trial as the witnesses never came forward. Both
men knew that Coleman, Fuller and another man, Blam roamed together.



            “Since he doesn’t want to talk, we
have to kill him. Maybe when we find Dudley and when he hears what we’ve done
to Brown-man he’ll tell us where the money is,” Blam said.



            Both men knew that while Blam had
stayed out of prison and had never gone on any wild killing sprees like his two
friends he was a pretty rough customer. It appeared that he was their spy. Both
Fuller and Coleman lived underworld surfacing to do their crimes and then
disappearing again.



            The two men listened as the three
men inflicted more punishment on Brown-man, but the man refused to talk. Then
they heard three shots almost simultaneously. They knew that Brown-man had been
killed.



            “I have to find that money and that
guy had better tell us where it is or else we are going to wipe out him and his
whole family,” Coleman threatened.



            Neither Norris nor Ephraim knew the
dead man, Brown-man, nor Dudley but they knew Bernie. He was an associate of
the Coleman gang and was thought to be one of their spies. The three killers
did not leave at once, but stopped to have a smoke and to discuss their future
plans. They also discussed the day’s operation and what had gone wrong.



               A courier service vehicle had
run into a roadblock mounted by some of the Coleman gang members. Two of the
security men had fled. The other two were tied up, blindfolded and left in some
bushes. Brown-man and Dudley along with Bernie were to bring the money to a
secret location. But the three men had disappeared and by the time the gang
managed to hold Brown-man there was no sign of the other two men or the money.



            “Who lives at Dudley’s house?”
Coleman asked.



            “He has a woman there and two
children,” Blam replied.



            “We are going to take them away and
hold them until he gives us back our money,” Coleman said.



            “Maybe we should kill one of them
just to show him how serious we are,” Fuller suggested.



            “Come, let us go up there, we might
just do as you said Fuller,” Coleman stated.



            “What are we going to do with
Brown-man’s body?” Blam asked.



            “We’ll come back for it later
tonight. We can throw it in the bog hole,” Coleman replied as they moved out.



            The bog hole was a deep hole in the
woods. They said caves were underneath, but nobody had ever investigated. Both
Norris and Ephraim knew that many persons had suspicions that the bodies of a
lot of persons who had disappeared without a trace could be found down there.



            The two men waited until they heard
the car drive off before they came out of hiding. They went to look at
Brown-man’s body. It was spattered with blood. He was lying on his back and from
their observations they could see one bullet hole in his head and two others
had bored him on both sides of his chest.



            Norris saw the look of fear in
Ephraim’s eyes and knew that the man was about to give up.



            “We have to find out what those men
buried in that hole,” Norris said.



            “Far as I am concerned, it’s a body
they put down there. We heard those men say so, didn’t we?” Ephraim asked.



            “Far as we know it could be the
money they hid down there. I vote we dig for it,” Norris said.



            Ephraim looked at Norris. The man
was brave and had once put a gunman to flight, but he would stand no chance
against Coleman and his friends. Norris was tall and was thirty years of age.
Ephraim was of medium height and built.



            “How are we sure that Dudley is not
on his way here right now or that Coleman and the others won’t catch us?”
Ephraim asked.



            Norris grabbed up his shovel and
moved off. Ephraim followed him to where they had seen the men digging the
hole. Norris started to shovel out the dirt.



            “You’re going to stand there and
stare or are you going to help me? If you don’t help me and I find that money
it will be all mine,” Norris remarked.



            “Suppose you find Bernie’s body,
what are you going to do?”



            “Just re-bury it, what do you think
I should do? Call a morgue or the police and tell them that I’ve found a dead
body?” Norris asked as he threw out dirt.



            The sarcasm in Norris’s voice
spurred Ephraim into action and he grabbed his shovel and started to dig out
dirt too.



            The two men got down to the digging.
Ephraim was matching Norris shovel full for shovel full. Finally, they reached
the parcel.



            Ephraim jumped out of the hole and
stood looking down at the object.



            “Come and help me lift it out and
don’t stand up there acting as if you are scared, Ephraim,” Norris reprimanded
him. “If it was a body none of us could stand where we are right now.”



            Ephraim
had to agree, but maybe the fright he was in did not make him see that.
But as
far as he was concerned Norris was wrong as the man had just been buried so how
come the body would have started decomposing so soon. Nevertheless, despite his
doubts Ephraim jumped down into the hole and helped Norris to haul the parcels
out. The weight of the packets and the shape assured Ephraim that it wasn’t a
corpse. Norris took out his machete and cut the strings tying up the packets
and there were the bundles of money. There were two distinct bundles.



            “See I told you, Ephraim, it’s about
six million based on what Coleman and fuller said. We will share it equally.
It’s a good thing that we have crocus bags with us,” Norris said as he  started sharing out the money.



            Ephraim was still staring in awe at
the amount of money before him. Finally, at Norris’ insistence he got down and
helped him to parcel out the money. They both examined the heaps to make sure
that they were equal before putting it into their bags. They threw back the
earth into the hole and set off for their respective houses. They sneaked in to
leave Hambo’s shovels in his yard. Before parting, they agreed not to tell
anybody, not even their families about the money. Ephraim told Norris that he
would lock up his money in his store-room to which only he had a key. They
agreed to meet the next day to discuss what they should do with so much money.



            The next morning Ephraim woke up to
hear his ten year old son, Marvin, telling his mother, Merlene, that somebody
had broken into the store-room. Ephraim quickly put on some clothes and went
outside. It had rained last night and the ground was still soggy.



            “Why would anybody want to break
into that little store-room?” Merlene asked as Ephraim joined them.



            Ephraim was dumbfounded as he made
his way into the store-room. He kept mostly farming tools and seeds for
planting in the store-room.



            “Marvin and I have to get ready as
the taxi will soon be here, but this is all a mystery to me, Ephraim,” Merlene
said as he came out of the store-room.



            “They didn’t take anything. I think
I’m going to report it to the police. There’s nothing there for them to take,”
Ephraim said resignedly as both Merlene and Marvin went inside to get ready for
school.



            As soon as they left, Ephraim locked
up the house and headed for where Norris lived about a kilometer away. It had
to be him as nobody else would have known that the money was there. He took his
longest and sharpest machete with him.



            When he reached where Norris and his
girlfriend, Paula, lived the house was locked up. He was there calling the
man’s name when Ben, Norris’ neighbor, said he had seen him leaving early this
morning with some bags. He had told him that he was going to the country as his
mother was ill. Ephraim was about to head back home when Paula arrived in a
taxi. She expressed surprise at what Ben was telling her. Ephraim said that
they were supposed to have gone to cut some more yam-sticks. Paula returned to
say that Norris had gone with all his clothes. Ephraim knew then that Norris
had played him for the fool. He felt sorry for Paula when she began crying.
Ephraim stayed there and tried to console her. After about ten minutes she
dried her tears and told him that she was going back inside to try and contact
some of Norris’ relatives in an effort to find his whereabouts.



            That night as they lay in bed
Ephraim confessed to Merlene what had happened. She started to cry when she
remembered that it was the Coleman gang, who had killed her brother, Bang. Bang
used to run with them, but when they fell out they had filled him with bullets.



            The next morning Ephraim made a
report to the police station. He told them about Brown-man’s murder whereupon
he and the policemen went to the murder scene.



            From his hideout Blam observed
Ephraim leaving out of the station with three policemen. Word had spread from
early morning that his storeroom had been broken into. It seemed curious to
Blam as to why anybody would want to break into dirt-poor Ephraim’s store-room.
Word was also out that Norris had left the district in haste.



            Because of Ephraim’s cooperation he
was not charged. However, he was still warned that he could still be charged
with grand larceny, especially if all the money was not recovered.



                                                            ***



            Norris had moved to the district of
Lobban’s Ridge ten miles from where he used to live. Surprisingly, he got the
small half-side of a house to rent. That same day he bought the necessary
furniture and appliances and moved them into his new lodgings. He had also
heard of housing lots being sold in a neighboring district of Rennals and was
able to buy one of them for two million dollars. He knew that if he didn’t
develop the land he could always sell it back and make a profit.



           There was also a car lot in Rennals
and he bought two cars for one million dollars each. The insurance and other
government duties burned another hole in his pocket. Norris decided against
driving one of the taxis as if the Coleman gang got wind that he was driving a
taxi they would be sure to investigate. He could tell them that he was only
hired as the driver. Still by the end of the week he was able to hire two
competent drivers.



            Norris thought of going for Paula
but decided against it. If Ephraim went to the police then they would be
watching her. Coleman and his cronies would also be watching her. Paula
couldn’t handle the type of businesses he was planning to set up. He wanted a
woman with a good head for business.



***



            Evette Newland was a thirty year old
woman and she operated her own wholesale in Rennals. Six years earlier, she had
to leave the district of Wavenly. She had met Brenton Newland in Wavenly when
she had come to teach school there. In another year they were married and with
her help he started a three bedroom house on his father’s property. It was
finished in no time. They built a bar and were operating it successfully for
two years during which time Evette failed to get pregnant. Then Brenton went on
the farm work program.  He wrote her
regularly, but after four months she stopped hearing from him. His mother,
father and brothers stopped talking to her. One day she and Daphne, his eldest
sister were quarreling and the girl told her that her brother was not coming
back to her. The sixth months when Brenton should have returned home came and
went and there was not a sign of him. Then Daphne told her that her brother had
written to her telling her to move her kids into the house he had built with
Evette’s money.



            Evette eventually moved out and with
her savings, opened this wholesale in Rennals. She gave up teaching and lived
off the income from her shop.



            She had seen Norris around the place
and noted that he was a newcomer. He had come into her shop a couple of times
and she was curious to know if he had a woman.



            She was alone in the shop that
evening at about six o’clock when he walked in.



            “Hi, Evette, how are you?” he asked.
Everybody called her Evette so she did not mind him using her first name.



            He ordered his supplies and she
began to serve him.



            “Where do you live, Norris? I’m sure
you don’t live in Rennals.”



            “I live over at Lobban’s Ridge.”



            They talked some more. Both of them
felt they had something in common. Norris got to realize that Evette lived
alone, but enquires soon made him realize what had happened to her. He was
looking for a woman to be his lover and business partner.



            Evette in the meantime was also
checking out Norris. She liked his tall, lean, muscular body, strong and firm
face. She did not think that he would back down from anybody.



            So that day when Norris asked her to
the party in Lobban’s Ridge she did not hesitate in accepting his invitation.
She was a tall woman with a good figure. Her breasts were very firm and like
Norris she had copper colored skin.



****



            Ephraim was sure that he was being
watched. He had identified the taxi that had taken Norris out of Clementson.
Wilbert, the taxi driver, told him that he had dropped Norris in Old Harbour.
Norris did not tell him where he was going. Ephraim knew that there must have
been about three million dollars in the bag and Norris had taken all the money.



            Ephraim had consulted Colbert Bryan
about what had happened to him. The two men had agreed terms. Colbert would get
a quarter of the money plus Ephraim would refund him back his expenses once
they found Norris and got the money from him.



            “So where do you think he could be?”
Colbert asked.



            He was a stout fellow of medium
height with brown complexion who was not otherwise employed. He did a lot of
scamming and gambling and cooperation with Ephraim was right in his line of
work.



            “The taxi took him to Old Harbour
but after that he just disappeared,” Ephraim replied.



            “Maybe by now he has spent off that
money,” Colbert remarked.



            “What would he do with so much money
in such a short time?” Ephraim wanted to know.



             He didn’t have to bank it one
time, he could have put it in



 several banks,” Colbert opined. “There are
lots of things he could



 have done with it after that. He could have
paid down on a house or



bought  a car with some of the money.



            “If
those guys trace it back to me then I’m in trouble. I want a



gun to protect
myself. Do you know anybody who would be willing to



lend me a gun?”
Ephraim asked.



            Colbert was surprised. He had a gun,
albeit an illegal one. He only carried it with him sometimes if he knew he was
going to pass through some dangerous areas. He wondered if Ephraim knew how to
handle a gun.



            “I know a man who could lend you
one, but do you have enough money to rent a gun. This guy’s going to want some
sort of insurance if he lends you a gun. The rent might run to twenty thousand
dollars per week plus you have to put up twice that money as insurance,”
Colbert told him.



            Ephraim whistled and looked Colbert
straight in the eyes. Did the man want to trick him so early in their
association?    Ephraim said he would
think about it.



            After they parted Colbert sat
thinking. He didn’t really need Ephraim. All he had to do was to find Norris
and threaten him. He would make sure that he had the lowdown on him before he
made any moves. End of Part One.

Austin's blog: stredwick.blogspot.com



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