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From the Publisher's Desk – Some things better left hidden (April 1, 2015 issue)

I’ve never told this story before, partly because I haven’t had the nerve. I think it is time I come clean and get it off my conscious.
I was probably around 8 years old at the time. I lived on a small side road in the Spivey community. It was summer and I was overjoyed to be out of school. On this particular day, I enjoyed the breeze created by coasting on my bicycle down the road. I was kicking up a slight dust from the graveled surface as my mind played out the imaginary scene of being chased by the police.
Few people traveled the road other than my family and the mail carrier. At that time, there were only two families living up in the cove, beyond a bridge crossing the creek. From there, it was roughly a quarter of a mile to my house. As I approached the creek on this summer day, I saw a dark car pulled over to the side. I quickly braked and swerved my bike off the road, obscure from the line of vision of the two men who were standing outside the vehicle.
My youthful mind once more entertained imaginary images that the men were robbers or murderers and they were getting ready to hide the body. To my surprise, one proceeded to open the car trunk, while the other nervously looked around to see if anyone was coming. Luckily he didn’t spot me peering out from some thick laurel bushes on the side.
The other man brought out a briefcase and closed the trunk lid. They quickly darted over the creek banks and went under the rickety wooden bridge. In just a few minutes, they came back up into sight but without the briefcase. The men looked at each other as if they were in agreement and jumped back in the car. I watched as they drove off and waited, frozen, for about 10 minutes.
Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I slowly crept down toward the bridge, leaving my bicycle hidden along the side of the road. The briefcase wouldn’t have been an easy find, but the area was still fresh from the tracks and activity of the two men.
They had climbed the embankment to get to the highest point, just under the surface of the bridge. I suppose that was to keep the case from being near the water. The highway department had placed large chunks of limestone on each bank of the creek, underneath the bridge earlier that year. The stones were to help prevent washout in case of high water.
I noticed some of the stones had been shuffled and one area looked to be more heaped up than the rest. I climbed to that point and started moving chunks away to reveal the black case I had seen moments earlier in the hands of the men. I grabbed the handle and quickly darted back to my bike.
I had no idea what was in the mystery briefcase but I didn’t want to stay around and risk that the men would come back. I don’t think I have ever peddled as fast in my life, especially up hill. I got near an old barn that was close to my house and once more ditched my bike and ran toward cover.
Inside the barn, I gasped out of breath, partly from the intense ride and partly from the fear of the men returning and the deed I had just done. I looked at the case closer for the first time. There were brass latches on each side which didn’t seem to want to release. Upon further inspection, I realized that there was also a small key hole and that the case must be locked.
The barn was one my family used to cure tobacco. It was a log frame, made from many hewn trees forming the outsides and the inner stalls. The outside was then covered in boards that had weathered gray over the years. I looked around and saw a space underneath one of the interior logs. I slid the briefcase underneath the log, for a snug fit. I gently buried the case with handfuls of dirt, that had become almost dust-like from years of protection to the outer elements.
From that, I raced back to my bicycle and headed on home. I nervously thought of the case. Should I try to go back and hide it under the bridge where I found it? Should I tell some adults? What if I get in trouble? What if the men come up my road looking for it? What could be in it? My young mind was frantically racing from the fear and the possibilities.
I decided it was best not to tell anyone and I haven’t until now. Luckily no one came knocking on our doors asking if we had seen the case. Obviously they were afraid to do so for whatever deed they were trying to cover up originally.
I thought of the case over the years but didn’t dare dig it up. Each year as we would hang tobacco in the barn to cure out, I would think of my secret stash, just feet away from where we were working. I could still see the slight mound of dirt and know it was safe.
I moved from Spivey a few years ago but the barn still sits on my uncle’s property. It has gone down since my youth and is no longer used for anything. I recently decided I would answer the nagging question I have held for years concerning what it contained. I recovered the case, just as I had left it over 45 years ago. It was still in good shape from the protection the old barn had given it. I brought it back to town and basically destroyed the outside to pry and hack into the contents since I didn’t have the key.
There, inside, were stacks and stacks of money, a half million dollars to be exact. I feel there is no way to track down the truth behind it at this point. I have decided to take an early retirement and travel, something I have always wanted to do. But, first, I needed to write this April Fool’s prank. Unfortunately, in my case, mischief is all that’s abundant.