It was dark inside the trash compactor. Hippocrates’s Green Bay packer Jersey hung off of him. Small bits of slime shone in the green light. He gritted his teeth as the light blinked. It blinked again. He cursed his late grandfather for ever leaving him that small black moleskin notebook and its dumb map leading it to his Grandfather’s fortune. 20-thousand-dollar treasure be damned. Why did his Grandfather have to be so damn cryptic all the time. Hippocrates’s screwed up his face, his eye blinking from the sweat dripping into and stinging his eyes.
“We’ll let you go if you give us the notebook,” a voice blared from speakers just outside the small sliver of light from the outside. Hippocrates retched at the vile smell around him and he raised his hands defensively.
“Brandon, I cannot give you the notebook on account that I do not have it on my person at the moment,” Hippocrates said. He noticed a smudge on his wristwatch and rubbed the smudge, only making it spread more. The light turned red. The walls wailed as they moved closer together, leaving less room for Hippocrates
“Is that so? It’s not like you haven’t come up short before in our business dealings. Even in high school, you always were a gram or two short of weed when I picked up. Always trying to screw other people over for a quick buck. Now that the stakes are higher, your idiocy is finally being paid back,” Brandon said. Hippocrates winced and cursed himself for not cutting the weed with other drugs so that Brandon wouldn’t have had noticed his past deceptions.
“Wait, wait. I have a counter offer. My grandmother, she knows about the notebook. She knows about the money and the map, so why don’t we take a break from the trash compactor and the crushing and I can lead you to her. No one gets hurt and you get your money. 20,000 dollars, and it’s all yours, all my debts, paid in full,” Hippocrates said. The walls stopped moving and the light turned back to green. Hippocrates breathed out.
“I’m listening,” The speaker said. Hippocrates bared his teeth, lifting himself on the tip of his toes. Stench filled his nostrils. His eyes widened.
“My grandmother. She’s the only one who knows what it is. She’s still at the football game at Lambeau, she’ll lead us to the little black notebook,” Hippocrates says.
“How do I know you won’t just go to the cops?”
“Because I just told you where my grandmother is,”
“I don’t know Hipp,”
“How long have we known each other? You know I’m good for it, I’ll get you your money, no harm, no foul. Grandma and I will retire to Florida and ride out the rest of her retirement money. You get to keep the notebook and the 20 thousand, and you never hear from me again,” Hippocrates said.
“Alright, lead us to your grandma and out of respect for the time that we have known each other, I won’t kill you,” Brandon said.
“Thank you, Brandon, thank you,” Hippocrates said as the walls began to open. The floor beneath him began angling down and Hippocrates was dumped unceremoniously onto a pile of trash below. The wind blew across the dump as Hippocrates stretched his legs and shivered in the fall air.
“Let’s go,” A tall muscled man lifted Hippocrates to his feet.
“Oh hello!” Hippocrates said and removed himself from his grasp. “Brandon, who is this handsome man?” Hippocrates asked as he wiped his hands on his clothes, not much good that it did. The tall man frowned at him pushed Hippocrates towards Brandon, as diminutive as always even compared to Hippocrates’s modest 5’7.
“I’m glad you decided to help us Hipp, it really makes finding your grandfather’s black moleskin all the easier. Your grandfather was a tough guy and smart too. He’s hidden his money well, but as soon as I found out about the map in that black book, I knew I had to have it. It’s too bad you didn’t get any brains from him or any of his Irish mafia buddies. Now are you ready to go to the playoffs?” Brandon asked, his neck dripping with herringbone gold jewelry.
Hippocrates ran his fingers through his hair in the car’s reverse mirrors, trying to restore some ounce of tidiness. He smoothed down his eyebrows and fixed his collar.
“Yeah, I’m ready, you don’t happen to have any deodorant or cologne, do you?” Hippocrates said and cleared his throat. He adjusted his jersey and pants. The car rumbled and he shifted uncomfortably in his own stench. Brandon nodded to the tall man who sat in the passenger seat. The tall man threw the deodorant at him.
“Thanks,” Hippocrates said. They rounded a hill and over the horizon was Lambeau field. Hippocrates smiled.
“That isn’t the first time he’s heard that,” Brandon said. They pulled up to the parking lot and navigated the tailgaters and stray cans of Miller High Life that populated the lot. Brandon pulled to the entrance. The Tall man got out of the car and slammed the door shut.
“Keep an eye on this one and bring grandma back in one piece,” Brandon said to the tall man. The Tall man nodded.
“I understand. Let’s go,” The tall man said.
“Is that your catchphrase or something? It’s always ‘let’s go,’ but never how are you,” Hippocrates said. The tall man bared his teeth and the hardness of his expression made Hippocrates quiet. The tall man opened the door for Hippocrates and jerked his chin. Hippocrates got out of the car, his head down.
“Be back in an hour and a half, there’s a sale on at the grocery store and I need to pick up asparagus before its over,” Brandon said. The tall man nodded and pushed Hippocrates forward.
“Don’t think of trying anything,” The tall man lifted his shirt and reveal a very shiny black revolver.
“They aren’t going to let you in with that,” Hippocrates said. The tall man glowered and took out the gun and gave it to Brandon.
“Don’t think I can’t crush your skull even without a gun,” The tall man said.
“Understood,” Hippocrates said. He flashed a smile, “Let’s go,’ Brandon took the gun and rolled his eyes.
“See you in an hour and a half, and don’t be late. If anything goes wrong, well, I think I remember where you live, and grandma has got to come home sometime. Hippocrates swallowed back his retort and nodded.
Lambeau was packed. Every seat was filled and the sun shone. As the two made their way to the ticket booth, a group of women wrinkled their noses at Hippocrates’s stench. Hippocrates grinned, his face going red and winked at the ladies. One of them gasped and averted her eyes. He caught his reflection in the mirror and ran his hands through his hair again, wiping off some of the more obvious slime patches and with a couple of disgusted looks the cashiers waved them through.
“Is it something I said?” Hippocrates said smiling to the tall man. The tall man grunted and pushed him forward.
“Where is she?” The tall man asked. Hippocrates rifled around in his pockets drawing out his stained ticket stub again
“She’s… she’s in section 1A5. Pretty good seats I have to admit. Grandpa may have led a life of crime but he had good taste,” Hippocrates said.
“Whatever,” The tall man said, dragging Hippocrates behind him. They walked down the steep flights of stairs as they saw the football players in green and gold warming up on the field below them.
“There she is, my grandma. Isn’t she beautiful?” Hippocrates said and pointed as he caught sight of an old woman decked out in cheesehead gear. He quickened his step and the tall man checked his watch.
“Grandma!” Hippocrates shouted. The old woman turned and smiled but her face froze as she saw the state that Hippocrates was in.
“Hipp, my goodness what happened to you? Did you slip in dog poop again?” Grandma asked.
“Grandma, don’t embarrass me in front of my friend,” Hippocrates whined and hugged his grandma.
“What’s wrong dear?” Grandma asked the tall man, “Here,” Grandma drew out a small plastic wrapped pouch of tissues and handed them to Hippocrates.
“Listen I’ve gotten into a bit of trouble and now I need to get that black notebook that Grandpa gave me right before he died,” Hippocrates said.
“Have you been gambling again?” Grandma asked. “Your grandfather wasn’t a perfect person but I hate to see you making the same mistakes that he did,”
“I’m sorry Grandma, but my friend here really needs the notebook. Well I need the notebook too, We’ve got to go now,”
“What do you mean, the game hasn’t even started yet and you’ve been looking forward,” Grandma said and the tall man, after glancing at his watch again took Grandma under the arm and helped her up. “Get your hands off me young man, I’m talking to my grandson. Have a little respect for your elders,”
“Grandma, please just listen to him,”
“No, your grandfather gave you that money Hippocrates, I am not giving you the black notebook now,”
“Well, I’ve already sort of lost it,” Hippocrates said.
“I had a couple bad hands at the Dragon Turtle,”
“What are you doing spending time at that dingy place? Alright, since it seems like you really need it, I’ll come with you and miss the game,” Grandma took out the black notebook from her bag and handed it to Hippocrates. Hippocrates cradled the key to 20 thousand dollars to his chest. He flipped through the notebook and saw the map.
“Really Grandma?” Hippocrates said, putting the notebook behind his back.
“Really,” Grandma said and stood, Hippocrates helped her gather her things and they slowly made their way to the exit. Just as they were about to pass the ticket booths.
“I’ve got to visit the bathroom before I go, you know these old bones and age. Emergencies become very dire,” Grandma said and squeezed Hippocrates’s arm with a knowing look. Hippocrates knitted his brow together.
“Oh course Grandma,”
She leaned in, “I’m going to call some of your grandfather’s friends. They are here in Lambeau right now, I knew something was up this morning and so I made some preparations. This isn’t the first time someone has tried to put a squeeze on your grandmother, trust grandma, I know what to do,” Grandma said and they walked her to the front of the ladies’ room. The tall man crossed his arms and surveyed the area.
“Women and their bladders amirite?” Hippocrates joked, smiling. The tall man frowned at him and ignored him. After about twenty minutes the tall man checked his watch again.
“What’s taking her so long? Go in and check,”
“But, it’s the ladies’ room, do I look like a lady to you,”
“you don’t want me to answer that,”
“Right, right, I’ll be right back,” But before Hippocrates could so much as take a step forward Grandma tottered out. In her liver spotted and wrinkled hands shone a menacing revolver. She pressed it against the tall man’s back. A stream of people passed unaware of the danger that they had just been placed in.
“Don’t you move young man, now. You are going to leave Lambeau and tell your boss that he should give up any ideas he might have to harming either my Hippy or me. I’ve got the whole irish mafia waiting at my house. If there are any questions, he’s going to get his answer in bullets you understand me?” Grandma said. The tall man paled.
“Now go and let me enjoy this wonderful fall day with my grandson,”
“Okay,” The tall man, visibly shaking beelined it for the exit.
“Wow, now that was bad ass,” Hippocrates said.
“Language, Hipp and don’t you go getting yourself into trouble again. Let’s go watch the game. Seems like we’ll be able to enjoy our money from grandpa for a little longer,” Grandma said.
“Thanks grandma!” Hippocrates said and they gathered up their green and gold gear and went back to their seats to enjoy the game.
[…] See Clare McCullough’s short story, “The Treasure Notebook” […]