I took the Szentendre train twice each week. Early Monday mornings I stood at the station near my home and waited for the train to take me into Budapest, where I was an assistant professor of anatomy at Semmelweis University. Friday evenings I caught a train back to Szentendre. Between the two short train rides, my life was bland, grey, boring, and repetitive. In Szentendre I did my grocery shopping in the open market and prepared my meals for the week in the city. I was able to rent a cheaper flat in the city if I didn’t need cooking facilities. In Budapest I spent most of my time in my flat, and the rest of my time with my students.
Last autumn I began to wonder about my life. I had been on vacation for the summer, and the return to the routine of city life and work was objectionable to me. Weekends at home were no better. Lonely days and nights, some so lonely I just sat around my house and cried for hours. It took all my will to go to the train station in Szentendre that first Monday morning in September. The usual scattering of people was there, waiting for the train to Budapest. I kept my eyes down as always. I was not in the mood for idle small talk. My spirit was in turmoil. I wanted to be left alone, to avoid social contact. At the same time, I wanted love, affection, attention, and sex.
My husband… my former husband… was a dentist. He had run off with his office assistant three years before. I didn’t see it coming, and it put me into a deep depression. I wasn’t interested in anything, and I simply buried myself in my work. It had not always been so, but I was thirty-nine years old, living alone and longing for love. I would have settled for any old fool of a lover, just to be touched by a warm, tender hand again. I was grey. My hair, my complexion, and my spirit were all grey. I was a colourless lump of average looking, depressed, slightly overweight middle-aged female meat, and I felt like shit.
They heard the plane take off again from the lake. They knew that the people who want their treasure back were going to be searching. They paddled hard for the refuge offered by a large Balsam Fir that was leaning far out over the river.
“Just our luck if it falls while we’re under it,” Solly said.
“Meanwhile, it’s hiding us from the plane, so don’t be such a negative putz!” Rob said.
They could hear the plane circling, looking for any sign of anything. They would assume that it would be a small vessel, otherwise it would have been unable to negotiate the narrow, shallow creeks. Twice, they buzzed by at low altitude, right over the two hidden canoes and four worried teenagers. Soon the sound of the plane faded into the distance and the canoeists pushed off again.
They came to a place of open water. It was a small lake that they would have to cross to get to the next small tributary they would need to travel to get to their car. There was some discussion about what route to take. The short way was to paddle straight across the lake to the mouth of the continued tributary. The safe way was to hug the shoreline where they could hide in foliage. There was virtually no wind, so they would be neither helped nor hindered in crossing the lake and getting on with their run, so they took the fast way instead of the safe way.
They were less than half way across the lake when the dreaded sound of the amphibian aircraft returned. A minute later it passed over them, and they knew they must have been seen. The plane circled to make a landing on the water where the young people were. At the same time, Rob commanded that they were to stroke like hell for the other side. It was a race to get into foliage before the pontoons touched the surface.
The plane landed as close to the canoes as it could, then revved up the engine to plow along on the water toward them. Just before the canoes could disappear up a narrow, weed filled creek, they could hear gunshots over the roar of the plane’s engine. Only one bullet came near them, and made a small splash a few feet away from them just as they were able to disappear into overhanging bushes. They hoped the plane would be stopped at the shallow mouth of the creek.
The plane’s engine was shut off, and they could hear angry shouts. It sounded like the pontoons had run aground, and some guys had to get wet pushing the plane off the shore and turning toward open water. Meanwhile, a steady stroking of the four paddles carried them toward safety. They heard the plane take off and fly away, and they were able to settle down and paddle.
While the boys handled the canoes from their stern seats, the girls got some food out of the packs and made peanut butter and jam sandwiches so they could each have something to eat without stopping. After a few hours, they heard another engine nearby. It sounded similar to the plane engine, but different.
“It’s a damn air boat,” Rob Snitzer said.
“What the hell’s an air boat,” Caroline Rich said.
“It’s one of those tubs, you know, that zips through swamps with a big propeller on the back,” Solly Cohen said.
“Oh, god, no!” Phylis Snitzer said. “We’re in deep shit now.”
We’ll call her Morissa, because that’s the name she chose to use when she danced. She was not very nervous, the first time she performed. She knew that she moved well, she knew that she was beautiful, and she was an exhibitionist by nature. Still, her illogical courage led her to make her living with her natural attributes.
She began her career at ‘Le Strip’, in downtown Toronto. It was an upstairs theatre setting. Not a bar. In a bar, the girls were incidental to the drinks, and within reach of the drunks. The girls at ‘Le Strip’ were on stage individually, in the spotlight all the time. They chose their own music, usually the latest hard rock. Morissa was different, and chose some swinging Frank Sinatra, and Count Basie music.
One bad thing about ‘Le Strip’ was the lack of a rear or stage entrance. It was above some stores on Yonge Street. A person, dancer or customer, had to mount the long, narrow staircase to the box office. The route to the dressing room led all the way across behind the seats. The dressing room was at the opposite end, and some men would not take a seat, but stand in the dim light at the back wall, so they could get a close look at the girls as they came and went.
Morissa’s first task was to make the gauntlet run, from the top of the long stairway to the dressing room across the theatre. She kept her face away from the back wall of voyeurs and looked at the girl that was on the stage. She was just finishing her set, and removed her tiny pubic covering and strode around showing pubic hair. She strode back across the stage to the dressing room stage entrance and paused, turned to the audience, and spread her legs to reveal her vagina for several seconds before she darted into the dressing room.
Two seconds later, Morissa entered the dressing room from the other door. The dancer that just left the stage was glistening with sweat. She picked up a white towel to wipe herself down and looked over at Morissa.
“Who are you?” she said.
“Call me Morissa. Do we have to do that?” she said.
“Do what?” the dancer said, while she wiped sweat from between her breasts.
“Show our… uh… private places.” A black girl in a cotton robe was sitting on a stool at the cosmetics counter.
“There ain’t no private parts here, honey.” She laughed and took a long toque on a thick joint. The marijuana fragrance flowed through the air.
The drying dancer was naked, moving down the length of the room to the shower at the far end. She called over her shoulder to answer Morissa’s question.
“No, honey, you can if you want to. This is a theatre, so showing your honeypot is legal, and we get a $25 bonus if we do it for a few seconds. They’d jail you if you did it in a bar.” The black girl blew a cloud of fragrant smoke into the air and beckoned to Morissa.
“Come over here, honey. Take the chair next to me.” Morissa did that, and put her costume bag on a back shelf.
“Maybe I should change my name to Honey,” Morissa said.
“She calls everybody Honey,” said a third girl. She was dressed and prepared to go on stage. She walked to the stage door, and when she heard her music come booming through the wall, she darted out the door and began her routine.
Morissa dug into her bag and withdrew first her cosmetics. These she arrayed randomly on her counter space before the huge mirror. The mirror was surrounded with light bulbs. She chose her layers of costume, one by one. She put them on carefully. She had practiced several times, to be assured that she wouldn’t make a fool of herself in the spotlight.
Morissa sat with the black girl, who still wore only her robe. It fell open, and that was ignored because it didn’t matter. Morissa learned that she was called Blue, and that she was transsexual. They passed a joint back and forth. Blue assured Morissa that the smoke would improve her routine, and she’d enjoy it more. They heard a burst of applause as the dancer on stage finished her routine with a revealing spread that earned her $25 for 5 seconds of exposed vagina.
Morissa prepared for her first performance. She was eager to see the smiling, eager faces in the audience, as they appreciated her body and her dancing. Of course, she planned to expose her vagina. She didn’t care about the $25 bonus. She enjoyed the rush of excitement she gets when she’s sexually bold, anywhere in her life.
Her music began. Frank Sinatra sang, “You Make Me Feel So Young”. Morissa flung the stage door open and strode on her long legs into the spotlight at center stage.
They pulled four Krugerrand out of a top row and each looked at one, and to see what it felt like to hold an ounce of pure South African Gold.
“Each coin is an ounce of pure gold. It’s recognized the world over as a reliable measure,” Rob Snitzer said.
“How much is an ounce of gold worth?” Solly Cohen asked.
“About fourteen hundred dollars,” Rob said.
“But that means this chest could be worth millions,” Caroline Rich said.
“We should count how many there are in one row, and multiply by the number of rows,” Phylis said.
“Fifty coins in one row,” Caroline said. “I just counted them.
“It’s exactly fifty Krugerrands,” Rob said. “Six rows across and four rows deep.”
“Six rows across makes three thousand times four deep makes twelve hundred Krugerrands,” Phylis said. “Wow!
“If gold is at fourteen hundred dollars an ounce or so, this chest is worth… uh… “ Rob said
“Over a hundred thousand fucking dollars,” Caroline said.
“One hundred and five thousand dollars,” Phylis said.
“We’re rich!” Solly Cohen sang out.
“Not so fast,” Rob said. “Don’t you think somebody’s gonna miss this stuff?”
“Sure, the guys who dumped it,” Solly said.
“I mean the people to whom it actually belongs,” Rob said.
“We don’t know, so we keep it, right?” Phylis said.
“I doubt it. First of all, what does one do with a Krugerrand?” Rob said. “We can’t just walk into a bank and deposit a few Krugerrands can we? I think we should stash it somewhere safe and see what we can learn about the loot. We wouldn’t want to steal it if it was meant to educate kids in the Congo or something, right?”
“Maybe if we can return it to somebody, we can get a reward,” Solly said. “After all, they’d still have plenty. Better than nothing, right?”
“On the other hand,” Caroline said, “if it’s money for an arms deal, selling weapons to terrorists, we would be obliged to keep it, right?”
“I don’t think it’s right to discuss it now, when we don’t really know what we have,” Rob said.
“What’s our next step?” Caroline said.
“In my opinion,” Rob said, “our next step should be to pack up and take off before that plane returns.
“That might not be for weeks or months even,” Solly said.
“Or it could be any minute now. Let’s hustle!” Phylis said.
They broke camp and packed everything securely in the two canoes. They left the Krugerrands in the chest and placed it on the floor of Solly and Phylis’ canoe. They pushed off and paddled calmly but swiftly along the small tributary toward another creek that will take them back to their car.
The sound of a single engine plane could be heard in the distance. As it drew near, the canoeists found a place where tall reeds grew out of the riverbank and overhung the river. The two canoes were guided beneath the reeds and rested against the bank. The aircraft was low over the treetops as it prepared to land on ‘Treasure Lake’. As soon as it passed, they pushed off again until they heard the plane returning.
“That’s it,” Rob said. “They know the chest is gone and they know it can’t have gone far. They’ll be hunting us down, for sure.
The sun rose into a brilliantly golden sky. When the sun’s warmth reached over the bushes, it set the tents aglow. Before long the bright light and warmth of the morning sun penetrated the two small tents and prompted Rob Switzer and Solly Cohen to rise from their respective tents and start the day. They had gathered firewood the evening before, so they structured the kindling appropriately and started a happily crackling fire. Before the girls emerged from their respective tents, the boys were gazing out onto the water, memorizing as well as they could the location of the chest and the body.
Breakfast was prepared by Solly. A pan of bacon and eggs sizzled fragrantly beside a metal coffee pot that bubbled happily. A discussion went on about what the macabre scene of yesterday meant. They agreed that the most likely scenario was that some criminals had stolen something valuable and discovered an undercover detective had infiltrated them. Or one of their own people was doubted. Obviously, the plane would return at some time to collect the chest after the loot was no longer making news.
“What do you think we should do?”, Rob said to the group assembled around the fire.
“I think we should get away from here,” Caroline Rich said. “If they somehow find out we saw them, we’re screwed.”
“She has a point,” Phyllis Snitzer said. “Maybe we better pack up and take off.”
“I want to go after it,” Rob said.
“Do you have a plan of some kind for this crazy stunt?” Solly said.
“I figure the girls stay here, you and I paddle out. One of us stays in the canoe as a base, and the other dives. I doubt it’s terribly deep there.” Rob said.
Solly thought for a moment, while the two women protested being left behind. He put in a suggestion that they should dive together, and the women should be nearby in the canoes. Fully pack the boats for a quick getaway, and it wouldn’t hurt to have the benefit of ballast for the tricky move of getting out of a canoe without tipping it. Then Phyllis put in that she had diving experience as a camp counsellor and she should be one of the divers too. In the end, it was agreed that brother and sister, Phyllis and Rob dive for the chest while Solly and Caroline manage the canoes.
The siblings stripped down to swimwear and helped launch the loaded canoes. Solly took the stern of his boat so Phyllis could slip into the water at the bow. Caroline was in the stern of the other boat with Rob at the bow. With only a few dozen strokes of their paddles they were hovering over the area where they’d seen the body and the chest dumped. The two canoes circled slowly in ever widening arcs. The four treasure hunters were staring down into the crystal clear water. Phyllis was the first to spot the body with the rope leading to the chest. Rob took out the World War Two army surplus sharpened bayonet that he used as a camping knife. They had all agreed to leave the body there, and take just the chest. They couldn’t do anything with the body anyway. It was better that it stay where it is, deep in cold, dark water.
Using carefully learned techniques for leaving and entering a canoe, the Snitzers slid carefully into the uncomfortably cold water. Phyllis swam to the chest while Rob went to the cadaver and cut the rope from him. He took the free end of the rope up to the surface and handed it to Solly. Solly lifted the trunk up, hand over hand. Phyllis followed the ‘treasure chest’ up from the depths. At the surface, she held the gunnel and helped Solly lift the trunk up and over so he could gently put it on the floor of the canoe. Solly was a powerful specimen of young manhood, and could just manage to set it down without it doing any damage.
“Let’s get out of here now!” Rob said as he carefully climbed into the canoe. Caroline was an experienced canoeist, and held her stern position while Rob became the bow paddle. “It’s damn cold, too! We have to get a few kilometres up a tributary and make camp under some trees with heavy foliage.”
They didn’t go back the way they came because that would have meant paddling upstream, which would be slower and more work. They stroked briskly across the small lake and entered the mouth of a small tributary that fed out of the lake. Their GPS showed that, although narrow, this waterway led to another via which they could return to their vehicles.
As the sun rolled toward the western horizon, the canoeists found a spit of sand tightly surrounded by enormous Maple trees that provided dense cover from overhead. They all were pretending that they weren’t bursting with curiosity about the contents of the chest and busied themselves setting up camp. At last, tents up, fire crackling, food frying, they gathered around and cut the rope from around the chest and opened it. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Krugerrands! In neat, tight, horizontal rows. Eight rows to a layer, eight layers deep.
“There must be hundreds of them,” Caroline said.
“Thousands,” Rob said.
“Millions of dollars,” Solly said.
“What are Krugerrands?” Phyllis said.
“Each Krugerrand is one full ounce of pure gold,” said Rob. The four adventurers just stood in a circle, looking at the loot and at each other, each wondering, “what next?”
There were four of them, and they were going in two canoes. Robert (Rob) Snitzer with Caroline Rich in one canoe, Solomon (Solly) Cohen and Phyllis Snitzer (Rob’s sister and Solly’s girlfriend) in the other canoe. They were perfectly equipped and packed for their adventure, because Rob Snitzer had spent several summers as a wilderness tripper and teacher. All supplies were calculated to be ideal for four campers, each about twenty years old. They set their Magellan to recognize where they set out as ‘home’. After that, they could wander anywhere they wished, because the GPS would bring them right back to their vehicle.
They pushed off from the rocky shore of Whippoorwill Lake, the two girls in the bows of the two boats, and the guys were handling the stern responsibilities. It was mid-morning, and they planned to enjoy a shore lunch at Crayfish Point. The slight breeze across the water was blowing in their direction, so progress went well with a tail wind.
“You set the pace, Caroline,” Rob said as they began their steady paddle strokes. “I’ll match my pace to yours.”
“The same for you, Phyl,” Solly said.
With the easy pace established by the girls in their bow position, Solly and Rob were able to push the boats forward without much strain. After two hours at the comfortable pace, the rocky spit of land known as Crayfish Point came into view. This was as far as Rob had ventured in the past, when he’d taken five canoes full of camper kids on their outings. They had been travelling in familiar territory for the first two hours. From this point forward, they are going to go by instinct, and just choose river branches or marshland routes as they wish, on the spot.
They enjoyed a lunch of German sausages cooked on the open fire, with potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil, roasted in the coals. As they ate, they agreed upon which river branch they should follow. They cleaned up after lunch, securely packed their equipment and pushed off down the unknown channel.
The way was splendid. The river was wide enough for them to comfortably paddle alongside each other and chat. The river flowed very slowly between the wide banks, so progress was easy. The environment was breathtaking. The shoreline on both sides was covered with beautiful wildflowers and stands of huge weeping willow trees. In some places, the river bank was very high, dirt walls towering over the canoeists. In other places, there were thick reeds through which they paddled.
Just before evening, they found a good place to make camp, amid protective foliage at the water’s edge, where the river emptied into a large lake. The foursome decided to make camp to rest before the long paddle across the broad lake. Camp was made; supper of peameal bacon and scrambled eggs was prepared and served before the weary vagabonds entered their pop tents for the night. Rob and Caroline cuddled together in a double sleeping bag. Solly and Phyllis did not. Phyllis was not comfortable being intimate when her brother was a few feet away.
There was a trace of red sky across the western horizon when the natural cacophony of forest and water night sounds was interrupted by the sound of a small, single engine plane. It flew over them at tree top height and landed on pontoons the water. The four campers left their tents and watched the plane from behind foliage, in the fading light.
A door opened on the right side of the plane and a man stepped down onto a pontoon. He moved along the pontoon to a luggage hatch and opened it. The man looked very out of place in a remote forest area. He wore a pale grey suit, a loud tie and heavy city shoes. He reached in and pulled out what appeared to be a strong box. It was apparently heavy, because he did not move it easily. A chain was locked around the strong box and the chain led up into the baggage hatch.
The man reached into the hatch again and pulled a man half way out, who was apparently unconscious – or dead. As he dragged the limp man out through the hatch he pushed the strong box off the pontoon. The chain tightened and the end that was attached to the man dragged him out of the hatch, over the pontoon, and down into the depths.
“What are we gonna do?” Phyllis said.
“We’re gonna check that box out,” Solly said.
“Tomorrow, when the plane’s long gone,” Rob said.
(To be continued)
The hostess was a former model and a friend of my wife’s. My wife was an art director and many of her friends and associates were models, photographers, designers and other assorted phonies. My wife, I learned too late, was the Queen Phoney over all other phonies. So we went to the dinner party at the interesting old home of the boring old model.
I found out after I got there that the party was a bon voyage affair for a man who was moving to New York for an interesting job as a writer for a news magazine. His wife was to move with him of course. I looked across the table at Mrs. News Writer and was not able to stop looking at her. She was Israeli I was told. Her face was stunning, her complexion was smooth and tawny and something made me desire her. Her name is Rebekah.
I hope you’ve experienced that kind of thing so you’ll understand what happened to me. I looked into her eyes, dark and deep as an ocean. She spoke with a knowing smile, her voice low and throaty yet I could hear her in spite of the conversations going on around us. I didn’t notice if her husband noticed that his wife and I were flushed with unexpected and unwanted stimulation.
“Arthur is leaving in two days,” she said. “I’ll stay here while he finds a home in New York. I’ll fly down and we’ll make the final choice together. Then I’ll come back here for a couple of weeks to arrange the rental of our home and moving of our belongings to the new place.”
“Do you have kids to put into school there?” I said.
“My kids are adults,” She said. “One’s in university and the other is in the military.”
“You look much too young,” I said.
“Thank you,” she said. Conversations around the table had quieted as a next course of the meal was served. I was embarrassed to think that everyone had been listening to our conversation, although nothing out of line was said. I’m sure the intellectual mating dance was obvious to all, with the possible exception of her husband. He seemed to be oblivious to the incredible hotness of his wife.
“Where is your home here?” I said. “Perhaps I’d like to rent it from you when you’re ready to rent it.” My wife heard that and glared at me. I didn’t care. I’d already decided I was done with her phoniness, and had to move on.
She gave me her address and phone number and asked me to call first if I decided to look at the place so she could make it nice. I said I would, and we dropped the dance of seduction we’d been doing below the surface. We returned to the general gab around the table while we enjoyed really excellent squab. The hostess graciously accepted my compliments on the meal. My wife later told me that the hostess hadn’t cooked it, just ordered it from a caterer. It came with the uniformed servant who had brought the courses to the table.
Three days later I left the office at noon and drove to the address that Rebekah had given me. I called ahead from the car and she told me it would be convenient for her as well. She opened the door in a white terrycloth robe, a white towel wrapped around her head, drying the just washed hair.
“I wanted to be nice and clean for you,” she said. “I have a feeling you’re a cunnilingus kind of man.” I was caught off guard and hesitated a moment before I replied.
“You’re right,” I said. “Perhaps you’re a fellatio kind of woman, so please show me where the shower is.
We enjoyed each other that way three or four afternoons each week, until she moved to New York. It had to end, so it was just as well. My wife and I split up as we would have anyway. I enjoy my freedom, but I miss Rebekah.