(More mystery adventure fun. Nothing weird.)
A day of preparation got Leo feeling motivated. The Wiltman case, he decided, would stay warm for a day or two. The chase for stolen gold was intoxicating, and a strange feeling for Leo. He kept feeling it was a moth to the flame scenario; and unlike the moth, he felt he should know better.
Charles simply ploughed ahead. He had been working on this as a side project for some time. Leo’s sudden interest and involvement was unexpected but welcome. It was all about execution, moving forward.
The evening drive to the Gillbury Swamp was an uncharacteristically talkative time for the brothers. A drive was usually quiet time.
“Is the twelve gauge all you are packing?” Charles asked his brother after they hit the main road out of town. The old Cooey, double barrel had been in the family for two generations, although it had fallen into disuse for many years.
“Yep,” Leo said, casually watching for traffic. “It’s also a great prop for our cover. How about you? Just the pump?”
Charles laughed. The pump action twelve gauge was a more recent addition; a remnant of Charles’ passionate days of duck hunting. It, too, saw little use in recent years. “Just the pump?” Charles chuckled, jovially. “Let me tell you, brother, that is a fine quality fire arm. No ‘just’ about it. But seeing how you asked: no, it’s not all I’m packing.”
Leo’s brow furrowed slightly, thinking about what Charles might have brought along. They owned very few guns, and rarely had need of them. “You brought the thirty cal? Really?”
“What else?” Charles said more seriously, opening his jacket to reveal the holstered pistol. It was an old, slide action peashooter their grandfather had acquired during the war. It was inaccurate past twenty feet, only had a six round magazine and was a bitch to clean. Still, it was very compact and never jammed or misfired. Their grandfather claimed it was lucky. As youngsters, Charles and Leo referred to it as the James Bond gun.
“Was it necessary?” Leo asked.
“Our hands will need to be free,” Charles explained, “so if the Gibsons jump us, I need a quick draw. Swinging a shotgun around is not terribly practical. And I’m not sure we could win a fair fight with them.”
“Mmmm,” Leo pondered out loud. “I really don’t think it will come to that.”
“Me either,” Charles muttered, “but better to have it and not need it.”
“Fair enough,” Leo agreed.
They drove along the back ways until they were technically out of Gillbury. They eventually found the spot they wanted and pulled in. It was an ancient property entrance, long fallen into decrepitude. It led into a fair dense clump of trees and brush that was too far from town to be casually used for drinking parties or such. The truck was invisible from the road.
Then they waited for the light to completely fail. Darkness would cover their approach to the swamp.
They had a two kilometre hike along a hedgerow, followed by another two kilometre tromp through the swamp; and this was assuming they found what they were after, right away. Physically, the brothers were in good shape, yet they were aware that moving through a swamp in the dark might push them. Neither felt any lack of confidence as they waited for darkness to fall.
“How much do you think we can haul out in one go?” Leo asked, more for something to do than for pure interest.
“Depends mostly on what we find,” Charles said, casually. He had almost every angle of the logistics covered, and it showed. “If it is bulky stuff, like decorative pieces, then not much. Tough to conceal that, even slightly. If we get compact bits like jewellery or coins, then I think we can manage forty or fifty pounds each, at least. If we hit the mother load and go back with minimal gear, then we could push that to a hundred each.”
“A hundred pounds of gold,” Leo mused out loud. They had not discussed what would be done with the proceeds if they were successful. Leo’s mind went over their options, knowing his brother may have covered that base, too. “How would we move even a hundred pounds?”
“Tiny increments,” Charles said, right on it. “I have a few options that are likely to keep a trickle of money flowing for, oh, the rest of our lives.”
“Really?” Leo asked, wondering what Charles had in mind.
“Oh, yeah,” Charles went on without much prompting, “there is no point, otherwise. I suspect it will mean a big haircut on the raw value, but whatever. I feel pretty comfortable we can nail down thirty to forty percent of market price. Remember Bo?”
“Bo? Cousin Bo?”
“Yes, our distant cousin Bo,” Charles laughed at that. “He is a jewellery maker, did you know? Brick and mortar set up in Toronto. He’s not exactly poor, but he could be doing better. If we fed him gold at thirty to forty percent of his cost, partly as incentive and partly as shut up money, he might just go for it. Besides, distant or not, he is family. If we keep supplying him, long term, he is even less likely to say anything.”
“Clever plan,” Leo agreed. “Would it be enough? I mean, how much could Bo take on and still not attract attention?”
“Not tons, but he would be our slow, steady mover. Outside of that, we can pop into enough pawn shops with bits and pieces to add to that. It’s not a lottery win, and there are some risks, but it would add up. I was thinking we might never pay for gas, or meals, or office supplies again. Stuff that we could cover up more easily.”
“Imagine paying bribes for free,” Leo pondered aloud. “Shit, I hope this pans out.”
Charles smiled. “Only one way to find out,” he said, taking a good look outside of the truck. “And I think it is about dark enough to get going.”
They loaded up and disembarked. Charles led the way, carefully crossing the dirt road and keeping low until they reached the hedge. The slim remains of sunlight helped cast a shadow along the hedge, making them practically invisible for any distance. Both of them were used to moving around in the dark, precarious footing and all, and moderated their pace to avoid blowing an ankle or twisting a knee. The entire trip through the field passed without incident. They saw no one.
The field ended at a rarely used service road that bordered one side for the conservation area. It was a muddy track that was nearly grown in. A simple, wire fence along one side of the road was in bad need of repair, looking like it was a regular transit point for off-road vehicles; and several spots were completely toppled over. Charles found such a spot after a few minutes of searching and they pushed into the swamp.
They followed a set of vehicle tracks for a while until Charles decided they need to go more directly. After ten minutes of steady going, Charles stopped them for a short break.
“So far, so good,” Leo commented in a low voice.
“No complaints,” Charles agreed. “Like it was meant to be.”
“You holding up, then?”
Charles looked up from his pack, which he begun to look through. “Funny,” he said. “This stop is for navigation only. Now that we have some ground cover, I want to check the GPS. If that bush trail took us too far out of our way, it’s better we find out now. There are no real landmarks out here.”
“How far before we hit the softer ground?” Leo asked.
Charles turned the GPS on, the night mode hardly shedding any light. It started looking for a satellite. “I’m guess only another couple hundred meters,” he said, impatient for the GPS to find them. “It depends on how far we wandered on that track. I wish this thing would shit or get off the pot.”
Leo glanced up. The sky was cloudy, with patches of clear; nothing the GPS couldn’t handle with some patience.
“Here we go,” Charles announced, adjusting the screen. “Not bad, we are a little too far north, but hardly off course. This is good.” He figured out the general direction they needed to go and they set off.
They had hunted in their younger years, but neither thought they were outdoorsmen. Plodding through the swamp grew more difficult as they moved along. Charles checked the GPS a few more times as they progressed. It took them nearly thirty minutes before they reached the truly soggy ground near the middle of the swamp. Charles paused on a clump of halfway stable ground.
“This is brutal,” Charles admitted, though with no sign of discouragement in his voice. “All right, the next three or four hundred meters are boggy, watery crap. The danger is getting sucked in, so stay close and flat. Remember, too, that the cover is pretty thin here. You ready?”
“Absolutely,” Leo sighed. “Close and flat, eh? I am making you do my laundry tomorrow.”
“Deal,” Charles said. “Now just stick to the plan and don’t die.”
“So much love,” Leo laughed.
“Fuck that,” Charles laughed back. “I just don’t want to explain to mom that I got you killed.”