Brad Anderson lives and works in San Antonio,Texas. He spends his longer vacations hiking and camping in America’s National Parks, including the Grand Canyon.
by Brad Anderson
by Brad Anderson
Published Aug 19, 2009
Genre: FICTION / General
THEY'VE WAITED DECADES TO GO AFTER BURIED TREASURE. NOW, IT MIGHT BURY THEM.
On a boat in the Gulf of Mexico in 1977, Jeff, Chuck and David happened across the scene of a grisly murder and nearly get killed for their discovery. Yet in a remarkable twist of fate, the men outsmart their assassin and learn of hidden riches beyond their imagination. Still, one man stood in the way of their cashing in, and for decades, what happened in this chance encounter remained a secret as the men bided their time, waiting for Pablo Padilla to die. Finally, an obituary in The New York Times means the men can claim what has remained buried for twenty-six years. But doing so will be harder than they imagined when an interloper gets wind of the cache. Now, it's a race against time to put the pieces together and determine where the riches are stashed. In the process, these very different men will confront the question of how far they'll go for money even if it means killing for it. Ribbon Falls reveals profound insights into the human condition, our darkest urges and basest needs. Part buried-treasure mystery, part psychological thriller, it will keep you guessing right up to the thrilling finale.
The man who accompanied Jeff into the dining room was a full head shorter than the homeowner’s 6’3” frame. He was dressed in faded cut-off jeans with the threads hanging down several inches, and flip-flops. His dark tan accentuated his emerald eyes and long blond hair that was contained in a ragged ponytail. His chest was almost hairless but not his muscular forearms and legs. He carried a large brown envelope under his right arm. Both Chuck and David recognized him but could not remember from where.
“Fellas, this is Thomas. You may have seen him a time or two on the dock at Port A. He is probably the most honest man I know. Heck, he won’t even lie about fish he’s caught or ones that got away. Which is why I asked him to take care of our little package.” Jeff sat at the head of the table, placing him on David’s left. “Go ahead and tell us what you’ve done.”
“Gentlemen, I have hidden your property in a very safe place, one that is only slightly difficult to reach. It has many hiding places and I am quite certain where I have placed what is yours will not be found without my instructions.” He took the envelope from under his arm and removed from it three smaller brown envelopes. He handed one to each man. “Each envelope has twenty squares. When the squares from all three envelopes are put together properly, you will have my instructions. On the back of each square you will find one number on at least three sides. You will use these numbers to put my instructions together by matching them with the numbers on the other squares. None of the squares in any of your envelopes will match any of the other squares in your envelopes. You must put them all together in order to get anything useful out of them.”
“You’re sure they’re safe?”
“As sure as I can be without having someone there all the time guarding them. They are in a cave amongst a shitload of caves and tucked way back on a shelf above one of the entrances. Only somebody loaded down with dumb luck is going to find them without my instructions.”
“How do we know you’re not just stringing us along? How do we know you don’t have our stuff?”
Thomas looked at Jeff. “So he’s the reason you wanted that stuff hid. Maybe if he grows up he’ll get smarter.”
He turned his full attention to David. “Listen, kid, in this side business of mine, the worst thing that can happen to you is get the reputation of being a double-crosser. Once word gets out about that, you don’t get shit for business anymore. Then there’s the money Jeff promised me to do this job. For that kind of money, whatever I hid has got to be worth a lot which means my life wouldn’t be worth shit if I decided to just disappear with it. And if I had decided to disappear with it, why would I be standing here? Maybe you’d better lay off the beer before you kill off any more brain cells, although the ones you still have don’t seem to be doing you much good.”
“You son-of-a-,” David placed his fists on the table and started to stand but Jeff and Chuck each put a hand each on his shoulders.
“Put a sock in it.” Jeff ordered through clenched teeth. “I don’t want another word out of you till Thomas leaves.”
“Thank you. I believe there is the matter of payment.”
“Hold on.” Jeff stood and walked around the bar in the kitchen and knelt down behind the sink. A moment later, the other men heard the ripping sound of duct tape being removed. He soon rejoined them at the table, carrying a large bundle wrapped in butcher paper. “I owe you the other half,” he said as he tore off the paper, revealing stacks of banded money. “Here’s twenty-five hundred in tens and twenties. Please count it now. And there is the matter of your expenses.”
“Four sixty-one and some change. I have it all written up if you’d like to see.”
“No need. Here’s another grand. Consider it a tip.”
“Thanks. Well, my count matches yours. That should do it except for one small thing.” Thomas reached his hand all the way into the brown envelope and pulled out a small piece of paper. “This,” he placed the scrap on the table, “is the key to it all. Without this, you won’t have the place to start from. Your squares will tell you where to look once you get here.” He smiled briefly at Jeff. “My ace in the hole in case you decided to get stingy.
“Well, gentlemen, it has been a pleasure working for you,” Thomas said as he placed his money in the envelope. “May this thing I have hidden for you not destroy your friendship. And you need to set the kid’s mind right. If you don’t, he’s going to get you all killed.”
“Where the hell did you get that kind of money?” David demanded after Thomas had left.
“The same place where I got this money.” Jeff handed David and Chuck each several stacks of banded bills. “There’s fifty grand there. I think we need to think about splitting up and not getting together again till Padilla is dead. He might be in prison but he’s got a bunch of high-paid lawyers that might just earn their fee. It wouldn’t be good to start getting fat off what we found and then find out he’s out and looking for us. No, the best thing to do is to lay low and live the quiet life somewheres else till he’s dead.”
“Who the hell made you boss?”
“I did. I didn’t like the way we were acting towards each other after Padilla was picked up. You might as well stop your gripin’, David, and just deal with it. You can’t undo what’s been done.”
“Fifty thousand dollars.” Chuck looked up from his stack, his eyes still round. “It would take me at least three good years to earn that kind of dough – and that’s before taxes - and here it all is just sitting right here in front of me. That means you got a hundred and fifty from the loot? Is there anything left?”
“I didn’t have to take much. Thomas has some very good contacts. Word is already out on the street about the loot so we didn’t get what we should be able to once Padilla is dead. And before you open that fat mouth of yours again, David, I paid Thomas out of my share.”
“And what exactly do you want us to do?” Chuck asked.
“Like I said, lay low. And we really can’t do that if we stay around here together. We’ll start getting on each other’s nerves and we’re liable to do something stupid. We can’t afford that. David, since you don’t have any ties here, you should leave first and don’t give me none of your lip about it. You’re the reason we’re having to do it this way. You’ve got a hot head and a big mouth. They don’t go together too well, especially since you like to hit the bars. That’s just a bad combination all the way around. Just put in your two-week notice on Monday. Chuck, you’ll be next. Ask for a transfer but don’t let Alice know about it. Act surprised when you’re told you’re moving. Once you two get established, Maria and I’ll move. I haven’t figured out how I’m going to approach her with that but I’ll come up with something. We keep in contact with each other so when Padilla does kick the bucket, we won’t have to waste any time locating everybody to set up a meeting.”
“What are we going to do with that piece of paper?” Chuck pointed at the scrap Thomas had left on the table.
“Don’t know, but I think we should stay here till we figure something out.”