Treasure (A Vignette)
Nick Donovan flipped the sign on the door to read “Open”, and readied himself for another day. High Mountain Antiques might have been Julia’s idea of a dream job, but her enthusiasm had turned it into Nick’s passion as well. He was only sorry that Julia was no longer around to share..
Nick sighed. It was too early in the day to be maudlin, so he turned his attention to the store. He had been in Denver recently in hopes of picking up some interesting items of furniture. Luck was with him, and Nick managed to snag two vintage chairs, a nice table, and assorted knick knacks that ought to sell quickly. He spent a few minutes rearranging the pieces to blend with the current inventory.
He looked around. His attention was drawn to a drop leaf secretary desk. It was a basic piece, perhaps Swedish minimalist, with plain, functional legs. There was a single drawer at the bottom, while the leaf above opened to reveal several compartments suitable for keeping correspondence or knick knacks. Another small drawer centered between the cubby holes opened by means of a small knob. Or it would have opened, had the drawer not been stuck fast.
The desk had also been Julia’s personal favorite.
Nick must have had his mind elsewhere when he put it out here. The desk was not for sale. He walked over and started to lift it. Something inside the middle drawer shifted and rattled. Nick paused. He reached out and pulled gently at the knob. It gave just a little, then stuck again.
There were already people at the front door. Nick tugged the desk into a corner, where he hoped it wouldn’t be seen, before going up to the counter to start his day.
“So what next?”
“Boss. That’s what you’re supposed to call me. If this was a TV show, anyway.”
The shorter man laughed loudly. “Sure, Colin...I mean, Boss.”
Colin sighed. “You tell me, Steve. What next?”
“Well...I just thought we oughta celebrate. It’s been awhile.”
“Yeah. Two years.” Colin snorted. “Would have been longer without a decent attorney. Anyhow, what are we celebrating? You got a job lined up?”
“You getting out, and no. Congrats and sorry, in that order.”
“Funny man. Real funny. You oughta go into showbiz.”
“Except maybe--” Steve trailed off, uncertain
“Well, you know your uncle died…”
“You told me.” Colin frowned. “Him and his big antiques empire. I doubt I’m in the will.”
“Did you actually read the obituary?”
Without waiting for an answer, Steve got up, rummaged through some papers on the table, and came up with a clipping. He handed it over to his partner.
Colin read it through. He glanced up at Steve and frowned.
“All I see is the usual blather. Uncle dies, survived by one relative, a sister. So?”
“So, who do you suppose he left that antiques empire to?”
Colin stared at the paper a minute before looking back at Steve.
“Aunt Julia. Of course! The only other antiques collector in the family. And she opened a shop in Evergreen, right?”
“Yeah. But Boss...what’s the big deal about an old desk?”
“You remembered! It’s just something Uncle Mike told me. I used to ask him all the time why he bothered with so much junk.” Colin got up to pace. “I think he got tired of my questions, because he took me aside one day and pointed to a desk. He said that desk held a priceless treasure, one that I could look for all my life and never find.”
“Huh.” Steve thought about it. “That could mean anything, Colin--er, Boss.”
“Never mind the Boss stuff, Steve; just a joke. Anyhow, I say we at least look for this desk, right? Satisfy my curiosity.”
Steve frowned. “What’s your plan?”
Colin responded by walking over to the computer. He sat down, performed a quick search, then hit print. He held up the sheet of paper.
“Antique shops in Evergreen,” said Colin. “More than one, so we might want to pack a bag.”
Nick said good night to his last customer. He closed and locked the door before turning off the porch light. At the back of the store, he paused by the desk. He should put it back in the store room. But it reminded him of Julia, and being such a comparatively plain piece, Nick doubted it would draw much attention. He stood in thought for a moment. On impulse, he went into the back of his living area and returned with a small framed picture.
Nick placed the photo on the desktop. Julia smiled back at him, her golden hair draped over one shoulder. Nick touched his finger to his lips, then to the picture frame, before closing the desk leaf and calling it a night.
About a week later, Nick was busy counting receipts and thinking of closing early, when the door chimes sounded. He looked up to find an elderly couple, who said they were in search of a particular kind of lamp. Nick did his best, even offering to make a special order, but the couple didn’t want to wait. Finally he suggested another store.
Nick sighed as they left. He hated to see anyone dissatisfied, but it happened sometimes. As he was about to close the door, he noticed a pair of men across the street, eyeing the place. The taller one had dark gold hair, and looked vaguely familiar. His companion kept shifting from foot to foot, as if anxious. They were dressed in basic casual jeans and short sleeve shirts, and nothing about them seemed dangerous. Still, Nick trusted his instincts. He opened a drawer next to the cash register to retrieve a plastic rectangular object that he pocketed quickly, just as the front door opened again.
Nick turned to face the strangers.
“Can I help you?”
The tall man smiled. “I’m looking for desks. I work at home, and could use something sturdy.”
“Something you could use with a PC? I have a couple over here.”
Nick gestured to one side of the shop. As he turned, Nick noticed the other man moving about the front door. He frowned, but kept walking.
“Here we go. This one is from circa 1900. Oak, nice and sturdy. Or I have another in maple, with lots of drawers for storage.”
The tall man scanned both desks briefly.
“Very nice,” he said, “but not quite what I need.”
“Could you be more specific?”
“I’d like a desk with a leaf...you know, the kind that drops down for writing.”
“Hmm. I’m not sure how that would work with a PC. Anyhow, this is what I have.”
“Okay.” The man sighed. He turned as if to go, then hesitated. “Say...what’s that one in the corner?”
Without waiting for a response, the man walked over to the drop leaf desk. He stopped and stared at the photograph. Nick, hurrying to keep up, was close enough to hear the stranger’s startled words:
Nick gaped at him. “You knew my wife?”
“Your--I didn’t know she had married.” He stuck out a hand for Nick to shake. “I’m Colin. Julia is my aunt. Say, is she in? Haven’t seen her in a long time. I’ve been...away.”
Nick swallowed hard. “She passed several months ago. Cancer.”
“Whoa. Nobody told me.” Colin paused. “Ah--this desk. What can you tell me about it?”
“Ah--” Nick was taken aback at the sudden change of subject. “It was a gift. From Julia’s brother.”
“Uncle Mike,” said Colin. He glanced past Nick’s shoulder. “You done up there?”
Nick turned to see the other man, the one who had been at the door, appear next to his shoulder. He moved away nervously.
“All done,” said Colin’s partner. “Locked up tight.”
Nick’s muscles tightened. He licked his lips.
“The desk--it’s not for sale. I left it out here by mistake.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” said Colin. “We’re not here to buy it...we’re here to take it.”
Nick stared in disbelief at the gun. Time froze as he clenched his fist convulsively on the plastic square he carried. Then the moment broke, and Nick whirled to run down the hall.
A blow to his back staggered him only a moment. Nick recovered and sprinted down the darkened corridor. Up ahead, a light from the store room guided him. The light pulsed as he ran, growing brighter with each step. Nick frowned, wondering if there was a problem with the bulb.
A figure appeared in the distance, waving. Somehow, Nick heard a voice in his mind urging him on. The figure resolved itself into the form of a woman. Nick cried out with joy at the sight of her long blonde hair.
He reached the light, grasped Julia’s hand, and stepped with her across the threshold.
Steve stared at the body on the shop floor.
“What the crap did you just do?” he said in a strangled voice. “You never mentioned guns!”
“Oh, shut up, Steve. You always were a wuss.”
“Geez, Colin! Didn’t you think he’d have an alarm?” Steve pointed to the plastic square just visible in Nick’s fingers. “The cops will be here any time! Keep your treasure. I don’t want any part of it.”
“So you want to leave? I can arrange that.”
Colin pulled the trigger a second time. Steve opened his mouth to protest, but the words came out a groan as he slumped to the floor, bleeding. A third shot silenced the groans.
Colin stepped around the carnage and headed to the desk. He could hear a siren now, in the distance. But he had come too far and waited too long not to finish this. Prison had been hell. The desk was only his just reward.
He set the gun aside and dug into his jeans for his pocket knife. Colin took the knife and jiggled it into the sticky drawer. A sharp crack and the drawer gave.
Colin pulled the drawer open. Inside, he saw a flat round object about the size of his own palm. He pried it out for a closer look. It was a stone, and something was painted on the surface. Colin realized that it depicted a globe, complete with finely outlined and colored continents.
The sirens were much closer. Colin turned the stone over in his hand. The flip side was also painted. A blue-green line extended from the top to the bottom. Two more lines were set on either side of the center towards the bottom, as if providing “feet” for the middle. The whole was circled in more blue-green.
...a priceless treasure, one that I could look for all my life and never find…
A peace symbol.
Laughter bubbled up in Colin’s stomach and spilled uncontrollably from his mouth. He sank to the floor, still laughing. When the police broke down the door, they met no resistance from the laughing man with the empty eyes.
Author Notes: Please do critique. Also hope someone out there recognizes the song which inspired this story!