“And if this secret thing you’ve found is accurate, or maybe if I can help you decode it—no, if I can help you find this thing on a cliff you’re looking for, will it lead you to your cache of gold?”
Baxter chewed a tiny string of flesh inside his cheek, then released it. He let the air out of his lungs. “Something like that,” he said, worried Garvin already knew too much.
“Hmmmph,” said Garvin. “Let’s go outside. Gold hunting makes me want fresh air.” He went to the sliding-glass door that led to a covered deck with a view to snow-capped mountains north and east. The early afternoon sun shined warm, but a chill clung to the shade. Garvin sat in an over-stuffed outdoor chair that moved on springs, and he began rocking.
“All right, then. Spit it out. What is it you want from me?”
Baxter felt like pacing, but decided that would be too much like an anxious caged animal. He most certainly was not that, and would never become one. He sat in a chair that matched Garvin’s and bounced back and forth more than he wanted. “There’s a marker,” he said. “I think you can help me find it.”
“What kind of marker?”
“I have a drawing of it. From my great-great-grandfather. And directions on how to find it. I’ll show you once we have an agreement.”
“What’s it look like? The marker.” Garvin wanted to see how much he could squeeze out of Baxter. But more than that, he wanted to know more about this marker. Sounded interesting. Something down toward New Mexico, he assumed.
Baxter said nothing. Stared ahead. Didn’t look at Garvin. If he told him what it looked like, he could search for it on his own. Get other people to help him look. They might find it. For his purposes of hiding, it might work as well. Maybe better. But it had become more. The gold. Hidden treasure. His family’s hidden treasure. He wanted it. In payment for what happened to him, what the last Baxter patriarch had done to him. Besides, his grandfather wanted him to find the journal, which means he wanted him to look for the treasure or gold or whatever it was.
“First, the agreement. Then I’ll show you.”
So he’ll divulge nothing, thought Garvin. He shrugged. “Say I help you find a stash of gold somewhere. What then?”
“Ten percent,” offered Baxter, willing to go to a quarter. Negotiation took him back to familiar business ground. He’d been good at it.
“Seventy-five,” Garvin countered. He didn’t give a damn about any split. But he wouldn’t be beat in a negotiation. When he played poker, which he enjoyed, he liked to bluff extravagantly, often without even looking at his cards. On rare occasions, he’d taken some big pots that way. His opponents never knew what to make of him, and he liked that.
Baxter stopped rocking. “Why do you think your help is worth that much?” He didn’t want to make a counter-offer just yet.
“Without me, you’ve got a worthless clue.”
“It rightfully belongs to my family.”
“It rightfully belongs to whoever finds it.”
Baxter didn’t know how to play this. Garvin seemed to have the upper hand. Had nothing to lose. Baxter, on the other hand, wanted the cover of the chase and to find the treasure. Two things to lose. He figured he had one trump card to play. He didn’t want to play it just yet, though. It needed a little more setup.
“What’s fair, then?” asked Baxter.
He hated losing half. Didn’t know if he would agree to that or not. “If we shake on it, does that constitute a binding agreement to you?” asked Baxter. He suspected the answer. Garvin was probably the kind of man whose word meant more to him than a legally binding document.
“Hell yes. Before I moved to this little paradise here, I spent my entire life in Texas. A handshake is a signed contract.”
“You won’t tell anybody what we’re up to?”
Garvin paused and cocked his head to the side. “We’re not up to anything yet. And if we come to some kind of understanding, it might be useful to tell a few folks. We might need a little help.”
“I’d rather you not tell anyone anything.” Is that true? A frenzy of people looking for some fabled long-lost gold might actually help him hide better. But it had stopped being about that. He could hide without the ruse of a gold rush in his family name. It had become more about his birthright. Whatever his great-great-grandfather had hidden, he wanted. And that made him want to keep his quest secret.
“They’ll figure it out anyway,” said Garvin. “Guy named Baxter stomping around up in the wilderness, looking for something. Me with you. People know what I do. That’s how you found me. They’ll figure it out before we even utter a word.”
“Not if they don’t know the guy you’re stomping around with up there is a Baxter. I’ve kept that quiet. You’re the only one who knows.”
Hmmm, Garvin thought. This boy is a shrewd one. He seemed to think this Baxter’s gold story had truth in it. And maybe it did. What would half of the Baxter treasure be? The legend, if he remembered it right, said as much as two mules could carry. What would that be? Four or five hundred pounds of gold? If Baxter truly believed a family treasure that big was hidden somewhere up there, he wouldn’t so easily part with half. Would he?
Short description for The G.O.D. Journal: After he accidentally kills his wife, Baxter runs. Hiding in his derelict boyhood home in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, he discovers a journal that leads to a treasure of gold. With the guiding hand of a deranged hunter and Wall Street financier, Baxter discovers true gold is concealed in the heart of a woman who helps him search for an Anasazi pictograph that is key to his family treasure. Read the full description….
Hot Water Press publications scheduled for 2013: Annie and the Second Anasazi (a trilogy set in the year 2054), and Soo Potter (an Anasazi historical novel). To find out when they’re available, sign up for notification by email here.