The threat sent a shiver down the Mayor’s spine. His hand quivered as he reached for the tarnished brass handle to his special desk door. Clink clink! The bottle felt sturdy. At least something was sturdy in this office. A caramel colored elixir plopped into his glass. Shit, no ice. Oh well. Quincy took a gulp as he cocked back his head, nearly falling out of his chair.
The message replayed in Quincy’s head as the ticking clock on the office wall metered his thoughts in an otherwise fortress of solace.
Now Quincy, Mayor Stupple I guess I should call you now, I don’t want any delays with this project. It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not. Now you just go along with the Council, I already worked it out with them, and tell the good folks of Napple that everything is cleared and that the tree is old and poses a threat to safety, or kids, or animals or something. You know what will happen if you go against us on this.
Corbin Sabure is a pompous, city-living know-it-all, Quincy thought. Quincy went to school with Corbin and remembered the bragging and lack of pride in the local community. Always wanted to leave for the city. Why did he want to come back anyway?
Knock knock! Rang in Quincy’s ears.
“Uh, Mayor, your four o’clock is here, Miss Grange from the Napple Historical Society is here. Can I send her in?”
Quincy’s heart nearly hopped out his mouth and barely uttered a “sure, ah yeah, yes, okay” and some other inaudible, garbled words. He quickly put the contraband back into his special drawer and popped a couple of Tic-Tacs as Ms. Grange walked in.
Half choking on a stubborn Tic-Tac, Quincy greeted Lizette, “Well, hello Lizette, nice to see you again.”
“Thank you, for meeting with me on such short notice. I am awfully concerned about the new development project proposed by Frontier Developing. I mean, it looked like they were going to remove the Napple Tree,” said Lizette.
“Well, I did hear that the tree may be sick and could, you know, fall and injure someone. It is ancient, and,”
“Well, of course, it is old!” exclaimed Lizette, “It is the very soul of our town. It looks healthy to me, and I plan on asking the Town Council to declare it a monument. And that is just the beginning. I believe it should be a national monument and protected for all time.”
Quincy admired her passion, and at the same time feared her wrath. “Well, uh I agree that it is important, and, uh, um, that’s why I think we should move it to a new and improved location.”
“Out of the question Quincy! We go way back, and you know damn well, pardon my French, that the site was chosen by the town founders.” Lizette started fiddling with the various office supplies at the edge of Quincy’s desk, organizing them by height and who knows how else.
“Oh Lizette, please calm down, I just need some time to think about this, you know that development deal will mean tax revenue and jobs for this town. I mean, off the record, we are in dire need of revenue. I mean have to move forward, progress, join the future.” said Quincy.
“Well if you are set on destroying the heart of this town, then you probably don’t care about the treasure.” said Lizette piling paperclips in groups of ten.
“What!? What treasure?”
“I have an account of the Jewel of Napple, and it’s placed somewhere in town from way back in the 1940s. They were afraid of the war or something and wanted to keep it hidden and safe. Unfortunately, the exact location is encoded. We need a key to determine the coordinates.”
Quincy did not know what to think. He instinctively reached for his special drawer before reality kicked in and thought it might not be the best time to drink.
“Well Lizette, we only have until Monday’s Council meeting. I cannot stop this development unless there is an alternative in place to make up for the lost revenue. I am sorry, but I don’t think we can find this treasure in a weekend.”
Lizette looked at Quincy with her fiery brown eyes and a quivering lower lip. “I, I, expected more from you Quincy. Well, I will just have to find this treasure myself. I will save this town, that’s a promise!” Lizette rose briskly from her chair and stormed out of Quincy’s office.
Quincy let out a sigh. The drinking glass was already in his hand. Good thing he stocked up on his trip to Hunter’s Station last week. The bourbon went down smooth, just like Quincy wanted life to go down. Of course, it burned a bit, like reality fighting to stay relevant.
“Mr. Mayor, I am heading home now, hope you have a good weekend,” said Doris as she packed her things and headed out the door. The lock clicked to the outside door. An idea began to click in Quincy’s mind. He took another sip of liquid courage and stewed over the choice before him.
Quincy was an expert in dreaming. Whether it was dreaming up plans to modernize Napple or alcohol infused twilight zones, he could always seem to find meaning in his dreams. On this particular occasion, he found himself standing at the Great Napple Tree. Though it was an apple tree that did not bear fruit, hence “Napple,” or no apple tree, Quincy could see rich, golden apples on this tree. Intrigued he walked over to the tree and plucked this bright fruit. It was quite heavy and seemed to be solid gold. Quincy became amused as he thought of having to melt it down to make apple sauce. As he held the gold apple, he heard cheering, and even newscasters talking in the background.
A rush of air filled Quincy’s lungs, and he found himself awake at his desk as the Janitor made his way into his office listening to the radio. “You having a rough night again boss?” inquired the janitor. “No Rich, I think I found a way to smooth things out.”
The sun made a lazy attempt to penetrate the morning mist. There was an amber glow on the white door as Quincy gave it a real 1–2–3 knock. “Who is it?” Lizette replied through the door. “It’s me, Quincy, let’s find us some treasure!”
“So you finally came around. But did nit need to be so early?”
“Jumping jalopy! We only have 48 hours to save the town!” Quincy had not felt this excited since election night.
“Okay, okay. Meet me at the library in about 30 minutes. I need coffee and a shower. Oh, and I am thankful for your help Quincy. It means the world to me.” At that moment, those words meant the world to Quincy.
The streets were empty at this hour, and Quincy enjoyed the calm as he pedaled his way to the library. He started bicycling when he was nearly arrested for a DUI during his first month as Mayor. He had to make a couple of promotions that night. Reasoning that he could not curb his drinking habit, he decided bicycling was safer for everyone. He retired old Jenny, his ’67 Fastback Mustang, sky blue and in pristine condition. Selling her was one of the toughest things Quincy had ever done. It was not a total loss, Quincy thought. He reminded himself that he lost about ten pounds, gained the approval of the county cyclist community group, and earned a spot on the front page for promoting alternative transit. Sure was cold. He reached into his pocket. Huh, he must have left his flask at the office. This was going to be a riveting day he thought.
Lizette arrived with damp hair, a striped, navy blue blazer, black complemented by a white polka-dot shirt and beige yoga pants. She immediately unlocked the door and with a squeak of excitement announced, “Let me show you the map!” Her glasses tipping askew off her little nose. Quincy followed like a preschooler as they made their way to the back of the rather large library, by rural standards anyway.
Sprawled out on a rickety folding table that Quincy was sure he had carved his initials in grade school was map taped together and tattooed with symbols and scribbles. “This Mr. Mayor is our puzzle. We need to decipher these symbols to point us to where the treasure is. It could be valuable enough to allow the Town Council to reject Corbin’s project in favor something else, in a different location, that won’t kill the soul of Napple,” preached Lizette.
“Okay, okay I get it, Lizette. But where do we even start?”
“Well, I realized that we had the research done by my predecessor, Abe Glanville, who was writing a book on the town’s history in the 1930s and 1940s. He had died before he finished the book, but,” Lizette paused to lift several bankers boxes full of history on the table. They slammed with a weight that sent a gulp down Quincy’s throat. “but, we can work through these papers to help put this one sentence into context
The key to Napple’s strength, community, it’s jewel, is moving forward and always keeping our eyes on the road just in front of the hood.
This was not the day to forget the flask, thought Quincy. Quincy nodded and popped open the lid to the box closest to him. It smelled of aging paper and aged ideas. Typed memos, ledgers, some photographs, handwritten notes, and forms that were from a formal, less tolerant time filled the box. “Can you believe they used to track suspected Communists and African Americans in case a revolution would take place; I mean, there are so many references to FBI requests for information on folks. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”
“Well, it was a different time then. I just hope history does not repeat itself, or if it does, maybe just a distant echo of its former self,” replied Lizette.
Shuffling and throat-clearing ensued. Quincy was feeling shaky. He had not had a drink of 12 hours, and it was starting to get to him. “Hey Lizette, I’m going to get something to eat, I think I left my wallet at the office, so I think…”
“Oh, well just call that number next to the phone, you know the one sitting behind you,” interjected Lizette, “It’s Shaky’s Pizza, he will get us some sustenance, and you can keep on looking over these documents. We have a minute amount of time Quincy.”
Shit. Well, pizza is better than nothing, thought Quincy.
The Pizza took two hours. Greasy is an understatement as the pepperoni reservoirs overflowed with floods of fatty oils, but it did make Quincy feel a bit more at ease.
It was nearing three in the afternoon, and Quincy had was nearing the end of his second box. Lizette had rummaged through three. There were several left to go. Quincy began staring at a photograph he had pulled out earlier. It was Mayor Sheldon T. Standish driving a 1935 Pontiac Six Coupe. What grand time he was having. Quincy could feel the sweat bead forming on his brow as the sauna of a summer engulfed him and the prrr of that Pontiac grew closer.
“Hey you there, what do you think of this beautiful vehicle,” said Mayor Standish. “Well it’s a fine specimen, sir, it’s in great condition,” replied Quincy. “Well from one Mayor to another, I am most proud at the shine on that there hood ornament. Have you ever seen a leader so brave?” Quincy looked at the shining profile of Chief Pontiac’s head at the front of the car. The brightness coming off of it was blinding, but Quincy could have sworn it spoke to him saying find me!
“Quincy!” shouted Lizette. Quincy fell out of his chair knocking over a pizza box and some files in a chaotic cyclone of drowsy stupor. “What happened!” exclaimed Quincy.
“Ya fell asleep and were mumbling something about a chief,” said Lizette. Her eyes searched over Quincy rapidly as she seemed to be working hard to figure him out.
“Oh, well I think I know what the line about the ‘hood’ means, but I need to know where Mayor Standish’s old Pontiac is. Any idea?”
“Well, Grover Standish is his grandson and lives not too far from here. He may know something about it, but we don’t have time to bike there, I’ll drive us over.”
Quincy did not mind the barb at his transportation choices. Lizette’s red 1973 MG MGB was legendary in Napple. Quincy was always enamored with her encyclopedic knowledge of cars. As they sped off to Grover’s house, Quincy gave a recap of his dream.
“So what your saying is, the Pontiac’s hood ornament is the key to finding this treasure?” said Lizette.
“I know it sounds crazy Lizette, but I know this has to be it.”
“That’s alright Quincy; I don’t mind a little crazy,” said Lizette as she pulled up to a pile of brick and wood where Grover lived.
Lizette banged on the door like a police officer in a cop drama. “Grover you home?”
“I don’t want any” replied a gruff voice. Lizette’s hair was quite frizzy at this point and seems to produce static electricity as she huffed and stamped her foot.
“Damn it Grover, you know it’s me. We need to talk to you about your grandfather’s Pontiac.”
“Oh, uh, I’m in the toilet. Give me a moment,” replied Grover. A few minutes had passed before they were greeted with a flush, an unhinged lock, and a rejected handshake.
“Well, the car is no longer, but I have a few parts from it in the back if ya want to check them out. The car was ruined in the flood of ’74, but some parts survived, some I sold.”
They followed Grover into a maze of rusted metal, forgotten thrills, and questionable environmental practices. Grover searched through a pile like an old junkyard dog huffing and growling at times; he insisted it was organized.
“Ah, in this crate,” Grover produced a crowbar and began lifting up the wooden top, “are the parts from that Pontiac. You doing a new exhibit or something? I didn’t hear about it at the last meeting.”
“Well, Grover this is a special request from the mayor. We need to present something to the council on Monday, “replied Lizette.
A crackling interrupted the conversation as Grover opened the crate and tossed the lid aside. Quincy had his fingers crossed as he peered over the edge of the container. The crate was as big as a dumpster, and it took Quincy and Grover about an hour to unload the contents. The autumn cold was reminding them that time was short and the sun began to dim its light.
“I don’t see it yet, but everything is so dirty it’s hard to tell what anything is. You have a hose anywhere?” asked Quincy.
Grover brought over a hose and a flashlight. The pressure from the water began to remove some of the old grease and grime. Emerging were tubes, bolts, a mirror, a shifter nob, and something shiny.
“Wait, wait, hold on there,” shouted Quincy. He plucked the shiny object from the pile. “This is it! This is it!” exclaimed Quincy.
“Let me see,” said Lizette, “Oh wow, that is definitely the hood ornament from the picture. The Chief’s head and the circle around it match perfectly.” Lizette held the photograph up next to the hood ornament.
Lizette looked at Grover who was scratching his head with his red trucker hat in this other hand resting at his side. “Grover, your think we can borrow this for a bit. You can have it back once we are done.”
“Well,” replied Grover. There was a long pause. Lizette batted her eyes and gave Grover a half-smile. “Oh alright, but if it ends being worth anything you better let me know so I can decide whether to sell it.”
“Deal!” said Lizette. She through out her and Grover wrapped his well weathered, slimy hand around hers. Quincy just nodded. It was definitely time for them to get out of there.
A few drops began to kiss Quincy’s nose as they drove down a dark road back towards town.
“Hey Lizette, how come you never say yes when I ask you out to dinner?”
“Well, you only asked me once, and you were quite intoxicated. Not the right way to go about it.
“Oh,” Quincy realized he had gone the whole day without a drink and was doing okay. “Well, how about we grab some dinner at Betty’s Diner. We can look over these documents over some coffee and proper dinner,” said Quincy and added, “Its on me.” Quincy let out a smile.
“Well, I suppose I cannot survive off pizza forever. It’s a date.”
The two sat in the corner of the Betty’s, which looked like it came right out of Grease, and the waitress likely starred in the movie as well.
“What can I get ya, hun,” the waitress announced as she adjusted he glasses and focused on her notepad. “Well, I will have a cup of coffee, the soup and salad, and some of that apple pie.”
“All right, and, what it’ll be…” she stopped and looked up, “Oh, Quincy, I mean Mr. Mayor, nice to see you around finally. It has been a while since election time. Hope you are doing well.”
“Oh yes, just fine.”
“Well you know, we miss our best employee we ever had. You know Ms. Grange, Quincy was always the first one in and the last one out when he managed this place. We sure miss you dear.”
Quincy face matched the Heinz ketchup bottle sitting in front of him. “Well ah, sweet of you to say that Doris. Well, I would like to order some coffee as well, and uh, the usual breakfast with a side of gravy. We got some work to do, and breakfast is my favorite meal.”
Doris took down the order and sped off into the kitchen.
“I forgot that you used to manage this place, I remember you were a busboy here in high school. I miss the old days sometimes. Responsibility can really put a damper on dreams.” Lizette stared off into the distance.
The food came back as the Lizette and Quincy began looking over the hood ornament and the map. “I just am not sure how this hood ornament helps,” Quincy lamented as he sipped his second cup of coffee. Doris came by to take away the plates. She scooped up Quincy’s plate knocking over the hood ornament onto the center of the map.”Oh, I do apologize,” said Doris, “I am getting a bit clumsy in my old age.”
“It’s okay Doris, thank you, and tell Fred in the back that the food was delicious.”
“Look!” Lizette exclaimed, “Quincy, look how the hood ornament is the exact diameter of our downtown circle, and the chief’s nose is right at the base of the Napple Tree!”
Quincy looked carefully. Interesting, he thought. “But then where is the treasure,” Quincy hushed his voice, “where is the treasure located then? I mean that radius is quite large.”
“Well, according to documents I reviewed earlier, there were permits issued for excavation in the city in 1944, which was rare because there was a shortage of metal and fuel, but one of their permits was for downtown, but there is no record for what purpose.”
Quincy thought carefully about the area but was not picturing anything else in the area. “We will need to take a look tomorrow,” said Quincy. “No, absolutely not, we are going to get to the bottom of this tonight! How could you sleep anyway?”
She was right, he had drunk a couple of cups of coffee and if there was going to be digging, doing so in daylight may attract too much attention. No doubt Corbin will be in town tomorrow. “C’mon, I got a shovel and an extra pair of gloves, we can solve this tonight!” said Lizette.
They hopped back in the MG and picked up the supplies as Lizette’s house. The rain had stopped, but there was a damp chill in the air. The town clock struck ten with echoing chimes. Lizette emerged from her house with rain boots, a shovel, and a lightning bolt of energy. “Let’s get this show on the road!”
The town center was not far from Lizette’s house. Mostly grass, surrounded by a turnabout, the great Napple Tree stood in the center. “It’s been a while since I set foot here,” thought Quincy out loud. Armed with a shovel and flashlights, the two adventurers began to scan the grounds. The dampness caused the grass to bend a bit. Quincy hoped there would be some marker or symbol underfoot.
The night grew colder. Lizette continued canvassing her side in a grid-like pattern. Quincy sat down at the base of the great Napple tree. The roots poked him a bit. The clock chimed once. What was he doing out here!? Quincy was fishing in his pocket for his missing flask as he thought about the town, his promise to restore the local economy, and the traditions of the town. As he fished in his pocket, he dropped his flashlight. It rolled down a root and spun shining its bright light towards Quincy and up the trunk of the Napple tree. Quincy leaned back and stared above him at the massive trunk. There seemed to be a circular impression. Or, it could be a shadow. Quincy was not sure of anything anymore.
He lifted himself up and walked past the flashlight. “Hey Lizette, can you toss me the hood ornament. I want to check something out.”
Lizette looked as driven as ever and tossed him the hood ornament without a word. Quincy looked at the ornament then back up at the tree. He held it up and began walking backward.
“I already searched that area, Quincy,” said Lizette. Quincy kept walking backward then stopped abruptly. With his arm extended straight in front of him. Quincy aligned the hood ornament with the circular impression on the tree trunk.
“It’s a perfect fit Lizette, come look.” She held the hood ornament up and squeaked, “Yes, this must be it.” They took turns digging and looking out for anyone that may wonder what they were up to. Clink! Quincy began digging around a large rectangular box the size of a coffin. As the sun began to rise, the partners in crime lifted up the lid of the pine box.
“Ahhhhh, what the hellll!” screamed Quincy. “Oh my, this was unexpected,” added Lizette. The pine box really was a coffin, and inside was a skeleton. Quincy immediately put the lid back on the box. “Lizette we need to get this back in the ground.”
“No, no, we need to take this back to my office and analyze this!”
“What!, it is a dead person. This is not a treasure!”
“The definition of treasure is different for each person. It’s coming back with me!”
Lizette’s eyes glowed with a fiery amber in the morning light. Quincy knew he was already in too deep. He helped fill the hole they dug and strap the box to the back of her MG. They drove slowly back to Lizette’s place.
They were exhausted after loading the pine box into her garage. They collapsed on Lizette’s bed in their muddy puddle.
Quincy found himself in a white tuxedo shaking hands with Mayor Standish, his mother, and half the town. Lizette was in a white gown laughing. It was a beautiful day, warm and cloudless! So clear, that Quincy felt the joy of a sober reality that love was right in front of him. Someone offered him champagne, and he politely refused. He didn’t need to escape this reality.
“Hey, wake up!” Lizette shouted from the kitchen. Bacon and eggs permeated the air, and the familiar sizzling of the frypan brought Quincy back to the real reality. “Why don’t you clean up, breakfast will be ready soon.”
After a thorough shower, and attempts and getting some of the stains from his clothes, Quincy felt refreshed and ready to tackle anything. Lizette looked stunning in her flower print shirt and lavender yoga pants. “Okay, so I did some preliminary research,” Lizette began as she set down Quincy’s breakfast, “and I believe this is the skeleton of a tribal member of one of the local tribes or maybe even an older tribe. Of course, it would need to examined by the coroner and the tribe.”
“Interesting, but how does that help us, Lizette?” Quincy looked over at the clock on her stove. It was already noon! “Well, no one can develop on this land, at least for a while, until this is all cleared up on who this skeleton belongs to.”
Quincy went out to the pine box and looked at the skeleton. It looked like there was something wrapped in cloth underneath the skeleton. “Hey, Quincy, don’t touch much, you may cause problems to the skeleton,” said Lizette from the kitchen. Quincy was too intrigued to let it be. He gently turned the skeleton and removed the wrapped item. Slowly peeling back the oxblood colored cloth, Quincy found a wooden box about the size of a cigar box, with the presidential seal carved on the top.
Lizette’s voice cut across the air, “What are you doing Quincy! What is that!” She looked over Quincy’s shoulder. “Well, you better open it now.” Quincy carefully opened it to find a bundle of documents tied with twine carrying the seal of the U.S. Army. Quincy handed the bundle to Lizette who cradled it like a newborn baby. “This may offer some insight, said Lizette. “Yes, proceed, Ms. Holmes,” replied Quincy as he bent at the waist and with a flourish of his hand directed he back into the house. “Thank Watson,” replied Lizette with a smirk and a wink.
She carefully undid the twine using tweezers and a magnifying lens suspended by a metal hinged arm. Her living room did not look much different than her office with tools, files, and books neatly organized on shelves and in bookcases. She began reviewing the letters in silence that was interrupted occasionally with a “huh,” and,”of course.”
“So what do we have over there,” said Quincy. He was getting a bit antsy and needed to do something. “Well, it is quite amazing really. These documents are letters from army officers. They planted the Napple tree as a sign of mutual prosperity and peace after the chief died due to smallpox. The officer writes:
It is a curious thing working with these noble people of the Ohio Valley. We are supposed to be the superior and civilized nation, but I have learned more about civility and strength these past few months observing the Potunket than I have any officers club meeting or collection of diplomats in Washington. I hope the planting of the tree and the burial of this great leader to give that tree strength will remind the future inhabitants of the importance of remembering the past to find strength in the future.
Quincy felt the power of these words as he looked back at the pine box.
The Town Council meeting was held at City Hall. But, unlike most meetings with a few of the regulars offering their conspiracy theories during public comment, the steps were crowded and people were pushing to get into the meeting. Quincy was already inside and saw Corbin enter the room. He was wearing a shimmering navy blue suit with a white shirt and pink tie. His smile would make a car salesman look genuine as made his way over to Quincy.
“Quincy! Nice to see you!” He turned his head right when the cameras began flashing. Quincy could not deny that Corbin would make a great politician. “I hope things will go well today,” said Corbin. “Yes, things are going go as planned,” replied Quincy, he could not wipe the smile off his face.
“All right everyone, take a seat,” announced Quincy. The Council revisited some agenda items and finally made it to “number 10–005, Sabure Development Proposal,” announced the Town Clerk. As Corbin began to walk to the podium for his presentation, Quincy interjected, “I move to delay this item, and I submit a new agenda item for review.” The crowd began to buzz, and the whispers began to overpower the council. “Quiet please, let me explain,” said Quincy, “My esteemed colleagues of the Council, please grant my request as I have new information concerning the Napple tree that must be heard before Mr. Sabure’s proposal.”
“Well you are the mayor, and as long as we get to Mr. Sabure’s proposal today, I don’t see why not,” said Councilwoman Briggs. The others nodded, and Quincy whispered to the Town Clerk. At that moment the side doors opened with Lizette leading two police officers carrying the pine box. Armed with her laptop, she presented her findings in a dramatic fashion worthy of Hamlet.
“In conclusion, it is my opinion, and the law, that a full review of this site is made to protect the cultural resources, not only of the Potunket but of our town!”
Corbin, half-asleep, began to protest when the crowd erupted in applause and the chant of Save Napple began to make its way out of City Hall to the steps, over the radio, and into the social media universe. “Quiet, quiet, this is still a government proceeding,” announced Councilwoman Briggs, “But, what of the economic gain from Mr. Sabure’s project.
“Oh that, Mayor?” replied Lizette.
“Well, we also secured several war bonds that have been gaining interest since the 1940’s from the pine box. We estimate they are worth twenty million dollars and in the name of the city treasury. I believe we can find some relief with that money and locate our economic plans elsewhere in our great town. Ms. Briggs?”
Councilwoman Briggs kept shifting her eyes from Corbin to the other council members. “Well, I guess, we need to table Mr. Sabure’s proposal until we investigate thoroughly this new information.”
“Yes, I agree, any objections,” Quincy eyed the rest of the Council, who dutifully shook their heads side to side like little bobble heads. “If there are no more objection we can move on to public comment.”
Corbin disappeared after the meeting. Probably headed back to his private plane to have uncomfortable conversations with his investors.
“We did it!” Lizette shouted as she ran over to Quincy and gave him a kiss. Quincy heart fluttered and felt perspiration on his forehead. “Uh yes, I couldn’t have done it without you, Lizette.”
“I know, let’s celebrate, I will buy you a drink.”
“How about we go for a piece of pie instead, I know a nice little Diner not too far from here.” Holding hands, the two lovebirds walked to that cherry MG. “Huh,” said Quincy. “What?” replied Lizette. “Save Napple already has its own Facebook page, and I have an email I am under investigation for abuse of power in connection with a DUI incident. News travels fast these days. You ever been to Paris?”
“No, but I have read about it.”
“Nothing is like experiencing something in-person, with perfect clarity.”
The jet setters made off into the sunset.