Crime writer and fellow blogger D.S. Nelson has offered another fabulous story prompt – the ‘photo you see here. This is the story that came from it. Thanks, as always, D.S., for the inspiration! Hey, folks, do visit her terrific site, and try her Blake Heatherington mysteries. You won’t regret it.
The Story Goes…
Alexis squeezed Matt’s hand as they walked around their new property. He looked down at her and smiled. ‘I love it, too,’ he said. She smiled back at him. Matt always understood her.
They stopped and stared when they got to the garden. It was overgrown with weeds, and the stones on its path had cracked as plants pushed through them. There was an old chair, but it had long since rotted.
‘This is going to be the first thing we fix,’ Matt said.
‘Absolutely,’ Alexis nodded.
Matt and Alexis spent the next two days planning their garden. Dozens of drawings and several websites later, they’d made up their minds. That Saturday, they went to the home improvement store and got all of the things they’d need. They loaded up their car and headed for home.
For two hours they worked on the garden. Alexis wielded the weed whacker, and Matt dug up what he could of the path stones and the stray rocks. Sweat stung their eyes and trickled down their necks, and they lost count of the insect bites. It was all going to be worth it, though, when the garden was done. After a while, they got into a work rhythm, so they didn’t really need to talk.
Clang! Matt’s shovel gave a metallic thud as it banged against something hard. ‘One hell of a rock,’ he murmured as he straightened up to stretch his back. Then he stooped over to see what he’d hit.
‘Hey, Lexie,’ he called. ‘Check this out.’
Alexis put the weed whacker down and went over to where Matt was crouched. ‘Looks like some kind of a box,’ she said. ‘One of those metal boxes.’
‘Who puts a metal box in a garden?’
They stopped when they heard a voice. ‘You two are really going gangbusters there.’
Matt and Alexis stood up and looked over to the garden fence where a man stood watching them. About Matt’s age, but slightly shorter and with dark, not light-brown, hair.
‘We haven’t met officially,’ he said. ‘I’m Denis. I live right here.’ He jerked his thumb backwards towards his own house. Matt pulled off one of his heavy-duty gardening gloves and walked over to the fence to shake hands. Alexis waved from where she was standing. After Matt had introduced himself and his wife, Denis said, ‘Looks like you could use an extra pair of hands. I’ve got a good shovel and a couple of other tools if you’d like some help.’
‘You don’t have to do that,’ Matt protested.
‘Not a problem. I’ll be glad to see that eyesore fixed.’
Matt thanked Denis, who said, ‘Hang on. I’ll be over in five minutes.’
When Denis arrived, he and Matt started to work on freeing the metal box from where it was lodged. It took almost half an hour, with both men working, but they finally unearthed it. Denis wiped a sleeve across his forehead, and Matt ruefully rubbed his back.
‘Time for some lemonade, I think,’ Alexis said. ‘I’ll be right back.’
The two men sat on the ground for a moment. Then Denis stood up. This would be his best chance. He’d heard the stories about that house for a while. And he’d known about that box and its contents since right after he moved in. Now he’d finally get his hands on it.
‘Wonder what’s in that thing,’ Matt mused out loud.
‘Didn’t you know?’ Denis said. He leaned over, too casually, and picked up his shovel. ‘The guy who lived there during the Depression buried his money in the garden. Nobody trusted banks then. There’s supposed to be thousands in there.’
‘That’s the story,’ Denis said. He brought the shovel down on Matt’s head before he could say anything more.
Alexis came back into the garden carrying a pitcher of lemonade and three stacked glasses. The pitcher and cups dropped from her hand, and lemonade spilled everywhere as she rushed over to where Matt lay on the ground. She pulled her telephone out of her pocket and frantically punched in the emergency number. Please God the ambulance would get there in time.
Denis heard the siren from inside his garage. He finished loading the box into his car, hoping that no-one would notice him leaving. He was getting ready to get in when he heard a voice from the driveway.
‘Hey, Denis, how’re’ya doing?’ It was Rick, who lived on the other side of the house that Matt and Alexis had just bought.
‘Oh, hey, Rick. I’m doing good. You?’
‘Good. Sorry, were you heading out?’
‘Yeah, I was.’
‘OK, well, I won’t keep you.’ But Rick stepped into the garage. Something about his movement put Denis on edge.
‘You need something?’ he asked Rick, moving closer to the car.
‘Actually, yeah. I need that box.’
‘The one I saw you take into your garage. The one from next door.’
‘Why would you want a battered old box?’ Denis’ voice started to betray him and he cleared his throat.
‘You think you’re the only one who reads? You think you’re the only one who knows the history of this street?’
Denis backed away as Rick got closer. Then Rick reached into his pocket and pulled out the knife he’d brought. He’d been waiting for that box even longer than Denis had. When he’d finished with Denis, Rick looked into the back seat of Denis’ car, where the box lay. He grabbed an old towel he found on the floor of the garage and opened the door. He leaned in and slowly lifted up the box, pulling it gently out of the car.
Half an hour later, Rick stood in his basement with his prize. He’d had to use a screwdriver and hammer to pry it open, but now he was finally ready to lift the lid. He glanced inside at the contents, and let out a long, shuddering groan. The box was filled with nothing but newspaper clippings.