He Kept His Secret in the Toolbox (Fiction)
It was a cloudy day, unusual this time of year in the Caribbean. It was just me and the bartender, but then again, it was 10 AM. He asked how I ended up on the island.
“How did I get here? Let me tell you a story.”
Cleaning out my parent's house was the hardest thing I have done in my life. We moved to that house in 1968, when I was 12, six doors down from the apartment building we lived in for the previous twelve years. I had a lot of emotion tied up in that street.
My mom and dad passed away within two years of each other. After my dad died, my mom was never healthy. After she died, it was up to my brother and I to search through the house. See, my parents came from the generation that hid cash in radiator pipes, jewelry in the freezer or buried in craft junk in the basement. We had to look through everything.
My father had many admirable qualities, but he was not a handyman. He had a toolbox, sparsely filled with a hammer, two screwdrivers, and one adjustable wrench - or so we thought.
On a gray, damp October day in Chicago, my brother Greg and I were sifting through stuff in the basement. He came across the toolbox.
"I guess we should look through this too," Greg said.
"Can't imagine there's much in it. Can't remember the last time I saw Dad with it," I replied.
Greg opened the toolbox and rummaged through it.
"What's this?" He was holding a little black box, about the size of a deck of cards. In the center of one side of the box was a red button and a little LED light. The black matte surface had no other markings, no brand name, no model number - nothing.
"It looks like a garage door opener, doesn't it?" I looked at it closer. "There's no brand name and it feels really heavy. Who would build a garage door opener out of such heavy metal?"
Greg pushed the button. The LED lit. We both turned to the back of the house and looked out the small, thin basement window, which faced the garage. He pressed it again.
"I don't see the light go on. It must not be to our garage. I need some air. I’ll take this trash out back."
Greg went up the stairs and out the back door. I continued going through boxes in the basement – pawing through Christmas ornaments and craft supplies looking for rolled up cash or jewelry.
“KEV – LOOK AT THE GARAGE!” Greg yelled from the yard. I glanced back at the basement window and saw a blue light showing through the glass brick windows of the garage.
I ran up the basement stairs, grabbed the garage key off the hook on the wall and dashed through the backyard to the garage. I unlocked the door and stepped in.
“What the heck is that?” The concrete floor of the garage had an opening in it. Part of the concrete had popped above the floor and slid back, revealing stairs and a room at the bottom bathed in blue light. Greg and I walked down the stairs. Directly in front of us was a long desk with 4 computer monitors and three telephones and a single sheet of paper. The view to our left was far more interesting – shelves of bundled cash and gold bars. I walked over to the desk and read the sheet of paper.
“Is that an AK-47?” Greg asked.
“How the hell should I know? Holy crap – listen to this,” I said.
If you’re reading this, I must be dead. I know this is quite a shock to you. You remember all those times I went out “to get a paper”? You kids and your mother thought I was at Peterson’s Tavern all that time, but I really just drove around the block, parked on Francisco and snuck back down here to do my other job. I was a good salesman and it turned out there was a lot more money selling arms to third world countries than cardboard boxes.
Obviously, the less the government knows about this, the better. Call Mr. Manny Ramirez at 001-345-555-1029 and he can help you with arrangements.
PS – if you aren’t one of my children, don’t bother calling Mr. Ramirez – it won’t work out well for you.
“So, that’s how all of us ended up here in the Caymans. We miss the United States once in a while, but it turns out island living suits us. How about another rum and coke?”