Photo by Ira Bowman on

It took only a moment to dodge the bloodthirsty mob that gathered in the moonlight. Some fight had broken out between two road-raged, drivers.  It had violently escalated into the streets outside of a local bar. In this small town, this type of action drew a sizable downtown audience.  I, on the other hand, decided to steer clear of the mayhem.  I wasn’t interested in observing…besides; I couldn’t have made my way through the crowd to see anyway.  I fastened the top two buttons on my favorite starter jacket to block the nippy autumn breeze.  My nose was runny and my hands were already numb.  My feet were aching from a grueling twelve-hour shift at the chicken farm.  I had walked this less than scenic route for three years now and it is as always.  Nothing ever changes around this boring town.  The traditional, eighty-year old general store is still standing beside the newly renovated police station and the town clock stopped working years ago. 

The lonely walk home seemed to be monotonous now, but the route I’ve been forced to take due to the fight changed up the scenery a bit.  I thought briefly and chuckled about grandma and how she would have road rage sometimes.  “Oh Snap!” I remembered that I was supposed to pick Granny up at Princess Train Station.   I quickened my pace as I headed home to get the truck to pick Granny up.  The lights disappeared as always when I came close to my home.  We lived down a dark corridor covered by thick vegetation.  The winding dirt road seemed a lot longer when I was younger but it hid my home well.  When I reached our dilapidated old cottage I was covered in sweat, as if I didn’t work hard enough at the farm.  I had lived with my grandmother for about as long as I could remember, and we were barely making ends meet.  My grandmother was collecting social security now and my income from the chicken farm was all the money we had.  Grandpa died about four years ago and left us with nothing but the hopes for divine providence.  We resided in a quiet country cabin, tucked behind the shades of the forest.  Our dwelling seemed to have been forgotten but stood for decades.

I took no break when I got home; I just hopped into the truck and headed for Princess Train Station.  While looking at my watch I realized that I had a little time and could slow my pace.  I relaxed a bit and admired Granny’s truck.  It was clean and well kept.  My Grandma was a fanatic for Hot Rod’s and had a seriously, unusual need for speed at her age.  I reached Princess Train Station and was just in time for her train.  Some people were getting off the Train already and the crowd was moving slowly.  As I made my way toward the luggage rack to grab Granny’s things I overheard two men talking and walking toward the luggage rack.  I know what you are thinking, dang you nosey, but I say that everyone overhears at one time or another.  Anyway, one was saying to the other, “He owes 1 mill, but he said that there was more than enough in the bag.  Your half should be just enough to cover what you owe.”  I remember thinking to myself, man I wish I had that much money, but my attention was refocused when I saw Granny’s red bag.  Just as I approached the bag a hand touched me on the shoulder and said, “Hey Pumpkin!”  I turned and saw Granny standing there with a withered smile.  I gave her a heartfelt hug and the customary kiss on the check.  She quickly announced her urgency to get home to use the restroom, so I hurriedly grabbed the red bag and walked swiftly to catch up with Granny who was already getting into the truck.   Man, this bag is heavy, I thought to myself.  I wondered if this bag was that heavy when I took Granny to the train station.  Granny can spot a sale though, so I thought nothing of it and flung it in the back of the truck and hopped in.  Granny peeled out of the parking lot like a bat out of hell as she always does. 

Later on at a hotel outside of town…

“This sucks,” Louie shrieks with frustration!  “This key doesn’t fit this lock,” He continues with tension on his face. 

“Well just break the lock.” The other man says calmly while dabbing his face to clean small patches of shaving cream. 

So Louie grabs his pistol and breaks the lock with the butt. 

“What the…?  There’s women’s clothes in here,” he says surprisingly while holding a blue and white sundress. 

“I didn’t know you were a freak Louie,” His friend says with a giggle.

  “I’m not.  This bag doesn’t have any money in it.”  Louie screams, slinging the sundress and suitcase against the wall. 

“Did you look everywhere?”  The tall half-naked man voices with a little more concern in his voice. 

“Where else would you hide nearly 2mil in this bag?  I’ve taken all of the clothes out and still nothing…but here is something though.  Seems like an ID tag for a Venessa Pruitt, at 4425 LaBronze Lane.  I think we grabbed the wrong red bag.  I saw two red bags on the cart, we grabbed one and some guy grabbed the other.  It would seem like he has our bag and we have his,” Louie says with relief but heightened concern. 

“Man, there sure are some freaky people on this earth.  Well since we have an address we are going to have to pay the Pruitt’s a visit.” 

“Saint Valentine’s Day,” Louie questions with an inquisitive look on his face? 

“Saint Valentine’s Day,” his calm friend replies with at devious smirk on his face.

            The glowing moonlight covered me as I sat on this old front porch sifting through grandpa’s old toolbox.  Grandpa was a great car mechanic and made enough money from the repair of local vehicles.  After locating his bolt cutters the lock wasn’t a problem, but what I found inside might prove to be.  The suitcase was full of one hundred dollars bills.  At first I was scared, but when I realized what I was looking at I damn near fainted.  I had to catch my breath and think calmly.  At first I thought about turning the money in because someone would definitely be looking for this money.  But sudden greed covered me when I thought about my backbreaking work at the chicken farm, and of how all our problems would be solved.  I sat there for several minutes contemplating what to do with this substantial amount of money.  I thought that someone would be franticly looking for this money and if I started spending money around town then someone would definitely know that I had it.  That wouldn’t be a smart thing to do.  I also thought about taking the money back but my conscious would eat me alive, especially when I went back to work at the chicken farm.  I could not sleep well knowing I let this much money slip through my fingers.  I thought long and hard but in the long run the chicken farm made up my mind for me.  I hated that place; the smell, the sound, I hated everything about it.  Sure I tried other jobs but they don’t want to hire “young bucks” without any experience.  I had to start somewhere and the chicken farm was it.  At first it was just hard work and I get all the free chicken I want but then it turned into slave work and I wanted more than a backache from my days.

            After counting I had a little more than one point seven million dollars in cash.  A hint of sunrise stopped my counting but that’s my closest guess as to how much was in the suitcase.  I had to hide the money until I could figure out what to do with it, so I placed one point two million of it in one bag and the rest into the other.  I placed the one point two million dollar bag into an abandoned foxhole that I discovered last summer, and I placed the other bag into a hole in a tree not too far away.  (Never put all your eggs in one basket). I carefully camouflaged them both with shrubbery and headed back toward the house.  The hiding spots were not to far from the house and I could still see them through my binoculars from my bedroom window.

            When I arrived back at the house Granny met me at the door.  “Well good morning pumpkin.  Are you hungry?”  She said with a withered smile.  Granny was a fairly small woman with depleted hearing and hands that showed her veins.  She could still see and moved around gingerly but very energetic when she wanted to be.  She was well groomed, wore a sundress, and had her silver hair up in a bun.  Granny was an early riser, and often made her rounds in her old truck before I woke.  This morning I was already up and I think that surprised her a bit.  She tried to spark up some conversation with me.

            “How was work last night pumpkin?” She cautiously murmured.

            “It was ok granny.” I reluctantly replied.

            “Well did you check the mail when you got home last night? I have been waiting on that new issue of Hot Rods.”

            “No granny, but I will go right now.”  I said eagerly trying to evade more inquisitive conversation.

            “Well put it on the table. I have bible study this morning and I don’t want to be late.”

            “Ok granny, will do.  If you need me for anything I’ll be around.  You be careful granny.”

            She nodded her head and I watched granny mosey on out to her truck and exit beyond the cloud of dust she made with her spinning tires.  Did I tell you that my granny is an excellent and agile driver, and loves to go fast?  I think that’s why grandpa loved her so much.  Their passions were similar.  Her driving is the reason she never picks me up from work.  I would rather walk.  She’s my grandmother and I love her dearly, but sometimes that crazy old lady scares me.  I told her to stop going so fast, but her philosophy is:  you can’t be afraid of death or afraid of living because, in trying not to die you can’t fully live.  I understand what she says but, nevertheless, I don’t want to push my luck.

Funny I should mention luck, because that is exactly what I’ve ran into, one point seven million dollars worth of luck, which has the potential to bring bad luck along for the ride.  I spent this Sunday morning standing next to the stove fixing myself a heaping helping of cornbread and milk, and reading the Sunday paper.  This concoction is one of my favorites and granny knows it so she fixes me cornbread quite often.  I noticed mention of a big bank robbery in a neighboring town in the paper.  It happened just two days ago and there was a reward for any leads in the recovery of the undisclosed amount of money.  I knew right then that this is where that money came from and decided that turning it in might be the best step.  Shoot who knows I might reap some sort of reward.

Just as I finished my blessings and was ready to dig in there was a knock at the door.  Frustrated, I walked toward the door thinking about how to blow off some door-to-door salesman.  When I took a peek out of the window I saw a police car and an officer standing at my front door.  I felt scared for several reasons, first I thought about Granny and hoped she made it to bible study ok.  That idea was dismissed when I saw a second officer handling the suitcase that I accidentally left on the front porch.  I opened the door slowly thinking about what to say, but before I could say anything they both rushed me and pushed me to the floor.

            “What’s going on, what do you want?”  I yelled thunderously.

            “You know what this is about punk.  We want the money and you’re going to hand it over or die.”

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

            “Oh yeah,” the huskier of the two replies while pushing his pistol in my face. “Well this suitcase says different.”

            “You guys aren’t really cops are you?”

            “Now you’re wising up.  Hey Louie, we got a wise guy here.  Hey wise guy, tell us where the money is or you won’t live to regret it.”

            “I aint showing you where anything is, you’ll just have to kill me,” I bluffed hoping to buy some time.”

            “Oh yeah…” one says, walking toward his cruiser. 

            When I saw what he produced from the cruiser, my heart dropped and everything got serious.  He had Granny.  They must have picked her up before she got to church; those bastards. 

            “Please don’t hurt her, I don’t want any trouble.  I’ll show you where the money is.”

            “Good, very good…see Louie I told you we had a wise guy here.”

            They roughly helped me to my feet, after they bound me from behind with handcuffs, then we headed toward the forest.  These two obviously fake police officers really looked the part.  They had the car, clothes, clubs, cuffs, mace, and of course the guns.  The two imposters forcefully pushed me as we moved through the wood line toward the first stash.

            “Who would be stupid enough to leave money in a suitcase like that?”  I voiced.

            I fell to my knees when a quick, excruciating, pain in my midsection emerged.  The obvious leader of the two had punched me in the gut and said, “It was left on purpose butt-hole.  Now shut up!”

            “How much was it?” I asked humbly.

            “Around 1 mill, but should’ve been more than enough there, not really sure how much.  But you already know that now don’t you punk?”

            “Are you guys going to kill me?”

            “Of course we are what you think wise guy.”

            I stopped walking and thought for a moment about what Granny always said about living and dying and said, “Well if your going to kill me anyway I won’t show you where the money is.”

            “Now…we’ve hit quite a snag, now haven’t we.”  The guy says with his pistol pressed against my chin.

            “But…” I said hurriedly, “I do have a proposition to make that will make you guys a little richer.” 

            I swallowed hard, watching my hot breath fog up the barrel of his gun.

            “Talk on.” He says with a curious expression on his face.

            At that moment I knew I had possibly opened a door to freedom.

            “Before I produce, you have to listen and do exactly what I say and negotiate on my terms.”

            They paused for a moment and looked at each other.  Louie shrugged his shoulders and gave the other assailant a look of whatever.

            “OK butt-munch we’re listening.” he says freeing my hands.

            “There is one million dollars and more hid somewhere in these woods, and I am the only one who knows where it is.  I will give you one point two million now and at 2:00pm today, I will give you guys the rest of the money in exchange for our freedom.  I will never say anything to anyone about the money or your existence…ever.  I will disappear never to be heard of or seen again around these parts.  So what do you say?”  I said with arched eyebrows and a pounding heart.

            They huddled for a moment as if to be thinking my offer over.  They returned and agreed to my terms.  They told me that they would be keeping my grandmother with them and not to try anything stupid.  So I agreed, retrieved the money from the foxhole and told them that I would meet them at 2:00pm at the old town clock to give them the rest.  I chose a public place full of people to ensure our safety. 

Later that day, they were there as discussed waiting at the town clock at 2:00pm, in black suits with Granny close by.  I handed them the suitcase and waited while they checked the contents.  They looked at each other with smiles and then back at me. 

Then the leader calmly says with a deathly serious look in his eyes, “It was great doing business with you.  I hope…no, no, I better not ever see or hear from you again.”  He released Granny.  I grabbed her, took his warning along with two hundred thousand dollars of course, and we moved from that town.

            The next week I read in the paper about how a tip helped recover some of the money and two suspects with gang ties.  Well, you know that I was the tipster, but did you know that the reward was for one hundred thousand dollars?  Of course granny got her a brand new house with a spanking new hot rod.  And yes, she’s still driving around like a maniac.  I, on the other hand, have invested the rest of the money wisely and made that money multiply several times over.  I have never stepped in a chicken house or seen those two men again…and with a million plus now, trust me I never will.