“Where did you get this?” Lola asked.
I knew by her tone that she was begging for me to lie. But my days of coddling her feelings were long past.
“Where do you think?” I asked, bluntly.
“You stole it,” she said, disappointed. “When you called, I had hoped that you were done.
That you were ready to come back to me, to the force, to the life you lost when you gave into corruption.”
So, this was why she came. Why she was gussied up, with her hair pinned up in a bob under her hat and dressed in her finest petty coat. She was always a catch. I sat here, suspenders exposed over my un-tucked, unbuttoned shirt. At least I had put on clean clothes yesterday, I think.
“They’d never take me back, anyway. Neither would you.”
“Not with that strong smell of scotch covering you.”
“That may be a factor. But they don’t want me after they caught me. I’m lucky I’m not in jail.”
“That’s a fine song and dance. But if you’re so lucky, then why do this?” she asked.
“Don’t you see, doll. It’s a treasure map.”
“I can tell.”
“Come and help me. You’re the best archeologist I know. And, I wouldn’t mind the company.”
I knew her torch still burned. If I baited, she’d bite. I couldn’t care for her romantically. I needed her mind, not her body. She hesitated.
“Alright, I’ll help you.”
“Good. We leave for Brazil in the morning.”
“Brazil? Are you sure about this map?”
“Far as I can tell it’s credible. Go pack and get some rest. Tomorrow will be a long day.”
I tossed and turned through the night. In truth, I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in many years. Not since before Lola had shot me square in the chest. But, that was another life. I can’t care about anything enough to keep grudges. Not anymore.
The night was short. By the time 5am rolled around we were already on the train. The long ride was spent mostly in silence. Over the years, we had already said so much, or yelled it, anyways. Guess we ran out of words. I know I was out of energy.
As the announcement came that we were nearing our station, Lola looked out the window.
“This is all wrong!” she cried out in surprise.
“This place looks nothing like the map. Where’s the trees? The jungle?”
“Torn down by logging and expansion. We are, after all, nature’s greatest enemy.”
“Enemy or not, that map relies heavily on landmarks. Landmarks which are now gone.”
“Why do you think I brought you? I can read a map. What I can’t do, is read the environment. I need you to figure out where things used to be.”
“I’ll do what I can. Just don’t expect miracles.”
We set out on our journey from the station. Packs heavy on our backs, it was a wonder that we made any progress. She compared the crude map to the changed terrain and struggled to make sense of it. Finally, she became oriented and, after half a day’s walk, we found jungle that hadn’t yet been destroyed.
Night fell. She worked on the tent while I managed a fire. Sitting adjacent to one another, we enjoyed the little provisions we had brought. Her face looked radiant in the glow of the flames. My front was warm, but cold bit at my backside. It pressed its chilly fingers into my bones, poking the scar tissue that lined my ribs. It reminded me that hers wasn’t a face to be trusted.
As if she could read my mind, she spoke.
“It was a long time ago.”
“I suppose,” she turned her eyes away. “I just wanted you to know.”
Our conversation ended there. Even if this hadn’t been the first time she had asked for forgiveness, I still wouldn’t have let her. It’s not in my nature.
I awoke the next morning to find that I was alone. She had left during the night and had taken all of our supplies, including the map. Ah, so this is what she was apologizing for.
Not for shooting me, but for leaving me to die, again.
She had quite a lead. But in her haste, her tracks were clumsy and I was able to follow them with ease. When I caught up, she was sitting at the bank of a waterfall, soaked, with a golden chest open before her. I drew the gun I slept with and pointed it at her. In her effort not to wake me, she had left it.
“Thanks for doing the hard part,” I told her.
“You won’t shoot me,” she said, not looking up.
“Why not? You shot me. Seems fair.”
“I thought you were over it?”
“I thought you had changed.” I started to walk closer. “Is it in there?”
“It’s here. And people never change.” She finally looked at me, and fired the gun she had concealed behind the box.
A familiar white hot pain struck my abdomen, forcing me to double over. Before I could even glimpse the treasure, she snatched it and placed it in her bag.
“Maybe next time, my love,” she said as she ran off.
I stumbled to my feet and hobbled after. I was sure she would escape. Yet, less than a mile through the jungle, she was stopped. An un-climbable fence towered ahead, and armed guards were yelling in a strange language.
“What are they saying?” I asked, coughing up blood.
“They say this is a zoo and that we’re trespassing. They say lower the weapons, or they’ll open fire.”
“Let them. I’m dead anyway, and you’re not getting my treasure.”
I raised my gun and fired. As the shots hit her, I was riddled as well. As I fell to the ground next to Lola, who had died instantly, I thought to myself, maybe I do hold grudges, after all.