Monday, October 10, 2011

FICTION: The Journal Beneath By Jason E. Hodges

Peter gazed nervously at the doorway that led to a new life far from the small town of Kingsbird he called home. If the interview went well, Peter could be starting over in the city of St. Paul on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. Peter climbed out of his car, then made his way inside Harding’s Fast Shipping.

The interior of the building was almost as charming as the outside. From its corrugated steel walls to the florescent lighting hanging high above, it was definitely an industrial setting. Peter observed the workers trying to get the next truck loaded and ready. Out of the noise and confusion, Peter heard a voice call out.

“Thomson, are you Peter Thomson?”

“Yes, I have a nine o’clock appointment with Mr. Harding.”

“You’re here for the night manager’s position, right? By the way, I’m Mr. Harding.” The man extended his hand to Peter who shook it.

Mr. Harding then guided him down a small hallway to his office.

Inside, Mr. Harding motioned toward a chair. “Why don’t you have a seat? Tell me a little about yourself.”

“Well, I am the assistant manager of a grocery store back home and a very hard worker.”

“What makes you want to come here and work for us?” Mr. Harding said leaning back in his chair. Then threading his fingers together to rest on his oversized gut.

“I think I would be a good asset for your company.”

“Do you have a place to stay?”

“No, but I’m going to look for a place after I leave here. That is, if I get the job.”

“Well, it seems like you’re eager enough. Hell, I had a hard enough time getting you off the phone when you called the other day.” Mr. Harding’s face tightened as he rubbed his chin in thought. “I guess anyone who would throw himself into the Twin Cities without a place to live deserves a chance.”

Suddenly Mr. Harding threw both of his hands up like he had just witnessed a miracle. “Peter, I’ll tell you what I am going to do. I’ll hire you on a probationary period of 90 days.”

“Thank you, Mr. Harding. You won't be disappointed.”

“Don’t thank me yet. There is some more I have to tell you.”

“Okay,” Peter said with a slight bit of caution to his tone.

“I have an old house that is vacant right now. You might be interested, you might not be. It is one mile behind this business down Highway 318. You can stay there, and I’ll take the rent out of your check. I think it will be a win-win for both of us.”

“That certainly would make it much easier on me, but I would like to see the place first.”

Mr. Harding opened his desk drawer and retrieved some keys. “That works for me. Go take a look and see if it’s suitable for you.”

Mr. Harding and Peter walked to the front of the building. Near the entrance they encountered a woman carrying a clipboard. To Peter, she seemed to be someone very important to the business.

“Excuse me, Mr. Harding,” she said in soft yet commanding voice.

“Yes my dear.” Mr. Harding replied with a smile.

“I need you to give an okay on this shipment.”

As Mr. Harding looked over the paper, Peter looked over this woman. At least as much as he could without her knowing. She was breathtaking, simply beautiful. Her hair was red with tight ring curls hanging softly on each side of her neck. She had an incredible smile that seem to light up the room she walked in, but what really stood out were her dark eyes that seemed to be clouded in mystery.

Mr. Harding finished looking over the paper work. Turning, he said, “Thanks, Sasha, this looks good. Go ahead and send it.”

Then he motioned to Peter and said, “By the way, Sasha, this is going to be our new night manager.” With his short stubby arms he gestured as he spoke. “Peter, this is Sasha. She will be working with you. She is also a manager here.”

Sasha smiled. “Hello, Peter.”

“Sasha, after you send that shipment, ride over and show Peter the house I own off 318.” Mr. Harding said as he handed her the keys.

She replied, “Sure, not a problem.”

Sasha walked off in one direction and Mr. Harding and Peter in another. At the entrance Peter told Mr. Harding he would be back to give his answer on the house and job. They shook hands, and then Peter walked out to the parking lot.

After a few minutes, Sasha emerged from the building. Her tall figure strolled toward him in the most wonderful way.

“Well Peter, are you ready to see this house?”

“Yea, ready as I’ll ever be.”

As they climbed into Sasha’s car, she asked, “Are you from around here?”


“Where are you from?”

“I’m from a small town upstate named Kingsbird.”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s about 250 miles away, population three.”

Sasha laughed and said, “I see you have a sense of humor.”

“A slight one. Seriously, the town is very small. So, Sasha, are you from here?” Peter asked, as he watched her shift gears while pushing her way through the maze of traffic.

“Well, I was born in Russia, and then my family moved to Canada. I guess when I was about ten years old, we moved to St. Paul.”

Sasha pointed to a house on a hilltop. “There it is.”

As she pulled into the drive, Peter started to give the place a visual once-over. It was a Victorian style home, perfect on outward appearance. He could tell Mr. Harding had spent a lot of money and time fixing the place up.

Once on the front porch, Sasha unlocked the door. The interior of the home looked big and empty, a hollow shell waiting to be filled with life.

“Sasha, you’ve been here before, right?”

“Well, yes and no. When I was a teenager, I used to go past this old house on my way to school. Back then, it was in need of repair.”

“Wow, if these walls could talk,” Peter said as they walked toward the staircase.

Starting up the stairs, he imagined all of the hands to the previous owners that had touched the railing; all of the people that had come and gone. The wood of the steps was missing half its thickness in the middle. Years of sand covered shoe bottoms had worn down the planks. Peter and Sasha walked through the master bed room, then onto the balcony.

“Take a look at that view.”

Sasha walked around the balcony looking out in the distance. A slight breeze blew her red hair gently. She slid her sunglass slowly back making a temporary headband to hold her curls. Facing the breeze, she looked out on a spectacular view of the Mississippi with its twist, turns, and constant flow of water going past.

Watching her, Peter noticed the necklace she wore. It was difficult for him to see at first, but now he couldn’t take his eyes off it. Hanging in the center of the necklace was a crystal beautifully adorned with smaller stones and wrapped in a silver setting with some sort of script writing on the side.

“Where did you get your necklace?” Peter asked. His eyes now wide with interest.

“This crystal was passed down from my grandmother.” Sasha rubbed it between her fingers. “It has been in my family for centuries.”

“Wow, that’s incredible. What does the writing on the side of the setting mean?”

"It’s in Latin, and I don’t read Latin, but my grandmother told me that translated it meant power by light.”

“Wow, talk about an heirloom.”

“Okay, enough about the necklace. Are you going to take the job?”

“Yea, I think I will. This is a beautiful home, and Mr. Harding seems like he would be a great person to work for.”

“Great. Welcome aboard. Now, let’s head back. I have a lot of work to do.”

“Yea, I still have to drive home and pack my belongings.”

The two of them started down the stairs with Peter following Sasha. He could not help but notice how striking she really was. Everything about her was eye-catching. Peter watched her hair sway side to side, as she dropped to the next step. Each step was greeted by her calf muscle moving slightly upwards as her foot arched for placement. Gently, her right hand slid down the railing, while her left arm swung slightly by her side moving back and forth in front of her hip. Suddenly Sasha stopped and glanced back at Peter over her shoulder. For a split second she looked like the charismatic pinup girls of the 1940’s.

“Is there something wrong?” Peter asked, barely getting the words out.

How could she have known I was watching her?

She smiled. “No, nothing’s wrong.”

Sasha then turned and continued down the stairs.

He followed her outside. Stepping onto the front porch, Peter felt something behind him. He turned and nothing was there.

“Peter, did you forget something? What are you looking at?”

“I don’t know. I thought I heard something behind me.”

Sasha smiled and said, “It’s probably those old wooden stairs. They most likely creaked after we walked on them.”

“Yea, I guess that’s it.”

After a quick drive they were back in the parking lot of Harding’s Shipping. Peter accepted the job, along with the keys to his new home.


One week later, Peter arrived back in St. Paul and started to unpack. The big empty house swallowed up the few possessions he had. It looked more like someone had moved out of the house than in it. Peter realized he owned very little, as he looked around. Suddenly there was a knock on the door.

Peter opened the door to Sasha on the other side.

“Hello, this is a pleasant surprise.”

“Yea, I thought I would come by and see how you were doing.”

“I’m making it. Come on in.” Peter said stepping to the side.

Sasha walked inside the foyer and looked around.

“Grab a seat, make yourself at home.” Peter said trying to make her feel welcome.

Sasha sat down on the sofa and Peter dropped into a chair. “I’m worn out from moving.”

“I can imagine,” she said. Suddenly her cell phone rang. Sasha leaned over to retrieve it. “I just can’t get away from this thing.”

“Hey, what’s up? Yea, what am I doing? Well, I am sitting on a couch with my friend Peter. He just moved to town.”

“Yes, the same Peter I told you about.”

She paused a few seconds like something was starting to anger her. At the same time Peter thought he saw the crystal on Sasha’s neck start to glow, just for an instant. Finally she finished her call.

“Sorry about that Peter, That was my roommate Tina. She was telling me that she’d run into my ex-boyfriend and that he was saying some bad things about me.”

Sasha then paused with a strained smile. “I shouldn’t be bothering you with my problems.”

Peter knew she was upset. He wanted to keep her calm, but at the same time he was amazed at what he had just seen.

I know I just saw that crystal glow.

Sasha stood up and started to walk around. She turned in frustration and stomped her heel. “Why do I always have to pick the loser?”

Peter said quickly, “Good people always attract them.”

Sasha took a deep breath and smiled. “That’s sweet, Peter.” She stepped forward and a loose board creaked under her foot.

“Sorry about your floor. It was probably from me having a fit and stomping my foot.”

Peter started to laugh and said, “It’s not a big deal. I’ll hammer it back down later. So what are you doing tomorrow?”

She stood for a few seconds pondering her situation. “I thought I would hang out with this new guy I met at work.”

“Really, it seems lately he’s taking up most of your free time.”

“Yep.” She said smiling.

The two of them talked most of the day, getting to know each other. Sasha told Peter about the terrible relationship she had just gotten out of and how she was somewhat fearful of her ex-boyfriend. Peter listened, and tried to give advice when he could. Dusk settled in and Sasha said, “I’ve got to get going. I might stop by some time tomorrow.”

“Great, I look forward to seeing you.”

“Okay, see ya.”

Peter watched Sasha’s taillights fade away into the darkness of the night.


The next morning, Peter awoke to a knock on the front door. To his surprise it was Sasha. He tried his best to look awake.

“Good morning.” Peter said rubbing his eyes. “Come in. What brings you by so early?”

“Do I have to have a reason?” Sasha laughed.

“Nope. Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“Sure.” Sasha said as they made their way to the kitchen.

Sasha watched Peter pour her a cup, then said, “You have that on a timer?”

Peter smiled as he reached out and patted the coffee maker on its top. “Yes, this is my best friend in the morning.”

As she stirred cream into her mug Sasha said, “You know, Pete, I’m obligated to help you fix that spot in the floor.”

“I told you it wasn’t your fault.”

“I know you did. Do you have any tools?”

“Yea, I have a few hand tools. But you don’t--”

“Ok, Pete, let’s fix that floor.” Sasha blurted out.

Somehow I don’t think she needed that cup of coffee.

Peter grabbed a hammer out of his tool box and walked into the living room. As he looked at the floor board, something caught his eye. It had been repaired before. The nails didn’t match the rest of the floor.

“You know, Sasha, to do this right we need to remove this board and nail it down correctly.”

“Okay, you’re the one with the hammer.” Sasha said shrugging her shoulders.

Peter then pried up the plank. Looking below he saw a small box of some sort beneath the floor. It looked like it had been there for quite some time.

“What’s that?” Sasha said whit a curious look.

“I don’t know.” Peter said as he reached in and retrieved the wooden box.

“Open it, Pete, open it.”

Peter pried the latch with a screwdriver. It came apart in his hands. Inside was a leather-bound book. Peter picked it up with the utmost care. Then walked to the dining room table. Sitting down the two of them began to examine what they had found. The pages were very old and tattered. Within just a few minutes Peter and Sasha both realized it was some type of Civil War journal, written by a man named Jonathan Lakewood. As they turned the pages gently and read, they became entranced with his story.

As morning passed they could not stop reading. Lakewood’s story was coming to life. The beginning was mostly log entrees about day to day life as a soldier. Peter and Sasha could not understand the secrecy. Why would someone go through the trouble of hiding this book if it were just a log? Before long they had their answer.

When the war was close to ending, Jonathan’s unit intercepted a Confederate wagon that was carrying supplies. At that time, there was complete chaos on both sides. The South was desperately trying to raise money for the cause. There were still many wealthy aristocrats on the lower Mississippi and in New Orleans. The leaders of the community often would go to these affluent figures and ask for a donation of money, gold, jewels, anything that could be traded with the French for war supplies.

When Jonathan’s men tried to stop this wagon, a fierce gun battle erupted. Out of his eight men five would become casualties. The Confederates would take much greater losses. All died defending the wagon and its cargo.

Curious as to what was worth guarding with one’s life, Jonathan had to see what was in the wagon. Looking in he saw a large trunk encased with steel bands. Jonathan took his pistol and shot the lock. Inside were stacks of Confederate money along with silverware of all types. At the bottom was a small bag of jewels--diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. One sapphire in particular Jonathan described as being as big as a walnut.

He said nothing to his men about the value of the stones. Lakewood’s grandfather had been a jeweler for the Crown before leaving England to start a new life in Philadelphia. Jonathan was fully aware of what he held in his hands.

As Peter and Sasha read, they became more intrigued with Jonathan’s story. His journal quickly began to mirror his intelligence. He knew the difficulty of dragging all that silver through enemy territory. It was just too cumbersome. The money wouldn’t do Jonathan any good if the South lost the war. It would be nothing but useless paper. So he took the jewels.

The jewels wouldn’t disintegrate with time. Jonathan could hide them anywhere, a cave, a rock face, or even bury them. Rain, sleet, or snow didn’t matter. Taking just enough to start a new life, he hid the rest to retrieve at a later date.

Jonathan returned to St. Paul and opened a dry goods business. He never talked about the jewels or where he had hidden them. However, he wrote his story along with a detailed map of the jewel’s location.

Sasha and Peter stopped reading and looked at each other.

“Peter, this is incredible, the story, the map, everything. What do you think we should do?”

“I think we should get the jewels.” Peter replied now smiling widely.


“First, we need to photocopy this map. Then we need to get as many state and county maps of Tennessee as possible.”

“Do you think it’s still there?”

“I don’t know, but there’s only one way to find out.”

“Go and get it?” Sasha said quickly.

“Precisely! We have to work the day after tomorrow. We just need to play it cool until we get our next three days off. Then we can look for the jewels.”

Sasha smiled. “Mums the word.”

After making copies of the map, they stopped to have something to eat. Sasha knew of a great Italian restaurant on the east side of the river. The setting was very romantic. Peter watched the candle light dance in Sasha’s dark eyes. Sasha sat running her index finger slowly in a clockwise direction around the rim of her wine glass.

While Peter was watching Sasha, her necklace caught his eye again. He stared with amazement as it started to gleam with a reddish light. He had a strange feeling about Sasha. Finally, he asked. “What’s up with your necklace? Every time something happens to you good or bad that thing starts to glow. I didn’t want to ask, but it’s just—” Peter paused.

Smiling, she said, “Well, I see I can’t keep my secret from you much longer. I’m empathic.”

“You’re a what?”

“I’m empathic. I feel what others are feeling. Good or bad I pick up on what they’re going through. When this happens, my necklace will glow. It’s been passed down in my family from mother to daughter for years.”

“I remember you telling me that the necklace had been passed down through your family. You just left out the whole glowing like a light bulb and reading people thing.”

“Look, I can tell you don’t believe me, but my story is true.”

Peter placed his hand over hers on the table. “I want to believe you. I’ve just never heard of anything like that before.”

Her eyes met his gaze. “This isn’t a big deal. I’m not going to turn you into a frog or something.”

“Little ol me, into a frog?” He said with an innocent expression.

“Yes, little ol you!”

Both of them started to laugh. Peter accepted Sasha’s special gift, after he gave it some thought. He was falling for her, and if she could really read people, she would know this soon enough.

After dinner they drove back to Peter’s place. As she walked up on the porch, Sasha said, “Was this our unofficial first date?”

“Yes, I guess it was.”

She leaned toward Peter and met him in a kiss. His heart raced with excitement.

Leaning back she said, “You don’t mind if I stop by tomorrow, do you?”

“That would be wonderful,” Peter said in a voice full of excitement.

She laughed “Ok, see you tomorrow.”


The next morning Peter felt like the day before had been a dream. He got out of bed and took a shower. After getting dressed he went to the kitchen and made some coffee. Then heard Sasha’s car pulled into the driveway. Peter walked to the door.

“Good morning. You all right?” Peter asked seeing the bags under Sasha’s eyes.

“Yeah, I am just exhausted. Someone keeps calling my house late at night and hanging up. I think it’s my ex-boyfriend Dave.”


“Yea, he won’t stop harassing me. I don’t know what to do.”

“Have you thought about reporting the calls to the police?”

Sasha rubbed her eyes. “I don’t want to do anything to anger him.”

Peter could see her face was full of worry so he tried to get Sasha’s mind off Dave.

“Well, we’ll go on a treasure hunt in a few days. We’ll get away and have some fun.”

Sasha smiled. “I need to get away from here for a while.”

She leaned over and hugged Peter.

“Thanks Pete. You’re the best.”

“You’re welcome Red,” Peter said with a smile. “Now let’s look over those maps.”

“I’m Red now huh?” Sasha said grinning.

“Yes, that is what I shall call you, Red Top. For you are as sweet as a Red Top Candy Cain. Well, and you got a red top.”

Both started to chuckle.

Then Peter said, “Okay, let’s look these over.”

The modern maps when compared to Jonathan’s map seemed to point in the direction of Mt. Vernon, Tennessee, in a place he called the Devil’s Chimney.

Jonathan had described the Devil’s Chimney in his journal as a narrow hole in the ground that went down for a ways then opened into a massive cave. Inside was where he hid the jewels. He dug a hole and buried them at the base of a large rock.

Peter looked up from the maps. “Sasha, do you have any hiking gear or ropes we could use?”

“Yes, I do. In fact, I love the outdoors. My roommate Tina and I used to go camping all the time.”

“Cool, now that we know roughly where the jewels are, let’s hope there isn’t a shopping mall sitting on top of them.”

Sasha laughed and said, “It looks like a needle in a hay stack scenario, but we’ll give it a go.”


Finally, Thursday morning arrived. Three days of work had dragged by for both of them, but the time to go to Tennessee and look for the jewels had arrived. Peter made it to Sasha’s house about eleven o’clock. She opened the door and said, “Are you ready to get rich?”

“Yea, that would be nice.”

“Do you need to leave a note for Tina telling her when you’ll be back?”

“No, she knows we’re going out of town for a few days.”

“Alright, let’s go.”


After stopping off in Mayfield Kentucky to eat and fuel up the two of them were ready to get back on the road. The trip was smooth until the Tennessee mountains. The constant down shifting and whining of the clutch were enough to wear on Peter’s last nerve.

Finally they arrived just outside of Mt. Vernon, close to their destination of Deer Creek. Peter pointed to a grove of trees with some underbrush.

“This is where we’ll hide the car,” he said.

Sasha nodded. “Yea, it looks pretty secluded. It should be safe for now.”

Peter pulled the car into the thick brush. They retrieved the hiking gear from the trunk. Reaching into his pocket, Peter pulled out his trusty compass.

“Sasha, that should be the way to Deer Creek.”

She smiled and said, “Lead the way, O fearless one.”

After walking about two miles through the rugged terrain, they started to hear sounds of rushing water. Within minutes they were on the banks of Deer Creek.

Sasha dipped her hands together into the water and then brought them to her face. “Man, Pete, this water feels good.”

Peter walked over and sat beside her then said, “I think now we should follow the stream north, and hopefully we can find the jewels.”

“Pete, how will we know where to look?”

“In Jonathan’s book he describes a group of rocks that resemble a giant crown. Next, he describes some type of waterfall that is within view of the crown. Line up these points and somewhere in the middle lays the Devil’s Chimney.”

Sasha sat quiet for a little bit, then said, “I wonder why Jonathan Lakewood never returned for the jewels?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he got preoccupied with Mrs. Lakewood.”

Sasha started to laugh, turned and splashed Peter. After a friendly game of getting each other wet, they’d cooled off, the two of them trekked back up the creek.

Finally, they reached the top. Peter climbed a large tree so he could have a bird’s eye view of the landscape. Once Peter had a look around, he quickly came down.

“I found the crown and the waterfall, but someone has found us. They are coming from the south following our trail. We need to move fast if we are going to stay ahead of them.”

Fear showed on Sasha’s face. “I wonder who it is.”

“I don’t know and I don’t intend to wait around to find out.”

Quickly they started up stream through the water, which made their trail disappear. It was a cold and difficult walk. Peter pushed hard to put more distance between them and their pursuer.

He stopped and pointed, “There’s the crown to the left of those trees. If you look in the distance you can see the waterfall. We just have to make it to that wooded area over in the middle. The chimney has to be there.”

The two of them moved toward the group of trees. They stepped out of the water and onto large rocks so they wouldn’t show were they’d left the creek. Both of them were hopeful the water that dripped from their bodies would dry and not leave a trail to follow. Peter glanced back.

“Sasha, do you have any idea who could be following us?”

Sasha paused for a minute, eerily silent. Her crystal necklace glowed fiery red.

“I just hope it’s not my ex-boyfriend, that’s all.”

“Is he so crazy that he would follow us all the way out here?”

Sasha’s eyes narrowed as she replied, “I don’t think he took the break-up that well.”

Sasha’s crystal glowed intensely. Worry was etched on her face. Peter stopped and put his arms around her. “It’s going to be ok, we’ll get through this.”

Sasha squeezed him tightly. “Thanks, Pete, I feel safe when I’m with you.”

As they walked into the large group of trees, it was not hard to imagine Jonathan walking under the same canopy, one hundred and forty years before.

The topography of the ground changed dramatically as they neared the center of the woods. Blue Jays threw calls back and forth to each other in the tree tops overhead.

“Listen, Sasha do you hear that echo from the birds?”

“Yes, I do.”

“The Devil’s Chimney has to be close. Something is causing that echo.”

They started to look around the forest floor to find the opening.

Suddenly Sasha said, “Pete, come here.”

Peter walked over to Sasha and gazed into a hole about six feet across and fifty feet deep.

“I think we found it,” Peter said.

“Pete, how much time do you think we have before they catch up to us?”

“Maybe an hour. We’ve got to retrieve those stones.”

Sasha hugged Peter then gave him a quick kiss. “Please be careful.”

“I’ll be back before you know it.”

Peter set up the pulley system with rope and started his descent.

The hole was cold and wet. His head lantern cast light upon a wall that had been hidden from sight for centuries. Peter could see deep into the cracks. Strange multi-colored plants and moss surrounded the openings to these undisturbed worlds. Finally, the chimney opened into a huge cavern. In the center of the cavern’s floor was a small pond, dark and murky.

Peter called Sasha on his cell phone to let her know he had reached the cave’s floor.

“Sasha, I’m going to look for the rock that Jonathan described in his book.”


Peter walked around looking for this stone with extreme caution. One wrong move and he could step off into a hole of darkness hundreds of feet deep. Suddenly Peter’s light crossed paths with the rock described by Jonathan.

“There it is. I see it, Sasha. I will call you back when I get the jewels.”

“Okay, be careful.”

Peter started to dig at the rim of the rock Jonathan called the fallen hammer. The rock was shaped like a hammer on its side. This was the only description Peter had to go on. The humidity in the cave was causing him to sweat profusely as he dug. Finally, a few feet down he touched something that felt like the mouth of an upright glass jar. The lid had long since rusted away by time.

Peter emptied the contents of the jar onto a flat rock. Pushing the dirt around the stones revealed themselves with all of their luster.

There were fifteen diamonds in the pile that looked about one carat size, twice as many emeralds, and about fifteen small rubies. But the most impressive was a sapphire as big as a walnut. Its brilliance was breathtaking.

Peter gathered up the stones into a strong bag then called Sasha. After ringing a few times she picked up the phone but did not say a word.

Confused, Peter said “Hello, Sasha.”

“No, this isn’t Sasha.”

“What have you done with her?” Peter shouted.

“She’s a little tied up at the moment, so I am taking her calls.”

“Really,” Peter replied, his pulse racing with fear.

“Yea, really, I think it’s time you came up here so we can talk face to face.”

Peter hung up the phone and started to climb to the top. At the surface he saw that Sasha was tied to a tree, and a man with a sinister grin was standing beside her.

“What do you want with us?” Peter asked in a loud and frustrated voice.

“I followed you from St. Paul.”

Sasha interrupted with a growl to her tone. “This is my ex-boyfriend Dave, the psychopath.”

Dave started to scream at Sasha, “It was not over between us! It will never be over!”

Dave’s fist was clenched around a dagger. He gripped it so tightly his knuckles pop out. Like an ill-tempered bull, hate danced in his eyes.

He slowly turned toward Peter, “So this is who you replaced me with.”

As Sasha’s ex-boyfriend continued on his rampage. Peter started to think, I am still connected to this tree and the rope wouldn’t let me fall. This might be advantage.

“Look man, come over here and you can see the real reason we came all the way out here.”

Peter reached into the bag and pulled out the jewels. The sunlight ricocheted off the stones, casting brilliant colors from the palm of Peter’s hand.

Dave was mesmerized, totally taken by the stones and their grandeur. Stones of this size would preoccupy anyone, even a madman. He walked over to get a closer look.

Peter lunged forward, dropped the jewels and grabbed Dave’s hand, that was holding the razor sharp knife. Peter glanced over at Sasha. Her crystal glowed with a fiery brilliance. She reared back her head and foamed at the mouth. Then she let out a blood curdling scream. A bright light shot from her eyes and mouth while her body arched in the ropes.

Dave stopped fighting and his mouth gaped open, mesmerized by the sight. Peter grabbed Dave and pulled both of them into the hole. He and Dave started down the Devil’s Chimney at a rapid plunge.

Peter knew he was still connected by cables and Dave was not. Suddenly Peter’s fall came to an abrupt end. The snap of his rope ripped Dave from his grasp. Dave screamed to the bottom. Then came the sound of his body hitting the water at full force. Dave’s reign of terror was silenced forever.

Peter climbed out of the hole, went over to Sasha, and untied her.

She grabbed him. “I thought he was going to kill you.”

“Sasha, it’s over. He’s not going to hurt you or anyone else ever again. Water or not, no one could survive an impact like that. Are you okay after that whole light from the eyes and mouth thing?”

“Yes, Pete, I’m fine.”

“You might want to go to an eye, nose, and throat doctor. Maybe even a cough drop would help.”

“Funny. You should have been a comedian.” Sasha said shaking her head.

Both of them laughed as they gathered the jewels off the ground. Then they began the long trek back to St. Paul. Peter and Sasha would spend a lifetime together, traveling the world in each other’s arms. But, the old house on the mighty Mississippi would always feel like home.


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