The train back to Cincinnati was about halfway full. Madame Tandoori had decided she would return with Ridgemont. They were not the same as they had been before they met.
“So…are you from Colorado?” Ridgemont asked Madame Tandoori.
“My whole life,” she said. “I made my way around Denver…everybody does…and then I figured there wasn’t anything for me there, so I made my way down – was planning to move to New Mexico…Santa Fe, but just didn’t…what about you? Are you from…where are we going again?”
“Cincinnati,” he answered. “No…I’m originally from a little mountain town…I ran away from home when I was 14 and went to Baltimore. I got a job as a cleaner at the National Aquarium…I slept there…I had dreams of becoming…” he paused, as if just realizing in real time, “well, I guess I don’t know what I wanted…” he said. “There’s something about being around the fish…you know. It’s peaceful. I often think about what it would have been like had I stayed that course…”
“I never knew of anyone from Baltimore,” she said.
“Have you heard of Edgar Allan Poe?” he asked.
“Yeah, he was from there?” she asked.
“Well, no…but he was there a lot and had a house…it’s a historic site now,” he replied, selling it.
“Sounds cool, can we go?” she said.
“Well, the last time I went there, I saw someone get shot right out in front of it…it was over a decade ago…a drug deal gone sour or something,” he said.
“Think of a number between one and a hundred,” she said.
“Uh…20,” he said.
“No, don’t tell me,” she corrected.
“You got it?” she asked.
She closed her eyes, held her emerald and took in several deep breaths.
“81,” she said.
He looked at her, amazed. “Yes.”
Back in Cuchara, a group of hikers were out on a little trail along the mountainside through the forest. The day had started out clear and sunny, but quickly became overcast with a massive storm brewing in the distance seen from atop the mountain. The group of 7 were hurrying back to the start of the trail, seeing the oncoming storm.
The group of guys were somewhat local – from just north in Pueblo. They’d hiked around the area here and there when they could and knew the trail they were on well. As they were crossing a narrow strip of the peak with an exposed cliff ledge, thunder erupted and rumbled the ground.
The third in the straight line stepped along just where the others had and caught a loose rock along the ridge, which slid and caused a slight sink in the ground below. He lost his balance in the slide and grabbed the hiker in front of him, pulling him down with him.
The pair hit the ground and slid down the ravine, screaming for life. The other hikers atop watched in horror as their friends went down the mountain edge.
“Aban…George!” they yelled down to them.
The group atop mobilized and ran down the trail looking for ways to get down to reach their friends. One of the group, Nathan, took out his handheld and called Aban, the first one to fall.
It rang with no answer.
“Aban!” he yelled out.
They made their way down quickly, not knowing where the pair were or if they were even alive. A few minutes later, Nathan’s handheld rang. It was Aban – he was at the bottom with a broken leg and George was unconscious.
“Here, I’m sending you my location,” said Aban. He sent Nathan his pin location so they could come find them.
Aban lay there with George on the ground. George was unconscious but Aban determined he was alive. Thunder continued to rumble and the sky – now deeply dark navy blue was broken with the white-yellow switches of lightning.
He was relieved as he lay there and looking around, noticed something just beyond the tree line of the forest area he was in. It appeared to be a little clearing and in the clearing, it looked like a man standing and watching him. The man appeared to be in tattered clothing and covered in soot. As Aban tried to get a better look at the man, a bird landed on a branch next to him. The bird was yellow, but covered in filth and chirped at him.
“Aban!” he heard being called out in the distance. He looked toward the voice and called out to it. And when he looked back, the bird and the man were gone.
When the group reached the two injured they checked George, who began to come-to. They all laughed and embraced. And just then, it began to hail.
They looked around and one of them standing up noticed the clearing and saw an opening in the mountainside they could hide out in until the storm passed. So they lifted Aban up and carried him over to the entrance that was surrounded by cleared rocks. It began hailing and thundering heavily.
In the mine, the group found supplies and fire materials that were old, but still good.
“What is this place?” one asked.
“Looks like some kind of old, abandoned mine,” Nathan said. He walked up to the wall of the cavern and saw the row of oil lanterns. “They still have oil in them…”
One of the group walked up with a lighter and lit the rag in it and it burned bright, revealing drawings on the wall.
“What is that?” asked George.
“I don’t know,” said Nathan, “looks like some kind of cave drawing…a bear or something.”
“It’s the Big Dipper,” Aban said.
“Oh yeah, I see it now,” one of them said. “How old do you think this is?” They walked around and lit more of the lanterns.
There was a sound from deep within the cave. The hail and thunder outside persisted greatly.
“Look at this,” one of them said.
They walked up to a shining, gnarled surface of the wall.
“What is it?” asked an immobile and in pain Aban.
“I think it’s…gold!” Nathan said.
“How can that be? How can no one know about this place?” one of them said.
A couple of them decided to walk back into the mine and see how far it went. They lit the lanterns along the way. About 15 minutes into the mine, they saw a pickax sitting against the wall and it looked like a little void about the size of a basketball was out of the wall. As they continued, they lit the lanterns along the way. About 5 minutes later, the mine was collapsed and they couldn’t go any further, so they headed back to let the rest of the group know it was empty.
“We need to get you to a doctor,” Nathan said to Aban.
After another 30 minutes passed and the hail had let up. The group put together a makeshift stretcher to carry Aban on. Nathan walked over to the wall and took one of the rocks on the ground and chipped away and was able to chip off a section of the shiny rock.
“I think that’s fool’s gold, man,” one of them said.
“Either way, it’s fine,” he replied.
He took the nugget and sat it on the ground in the middle of the cave. He looked over at one of them, John, and said, “You got any bills on you?”
John looked at him curiously and replied, “Maybe, why?”
“Just check,” Nathan replied.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little smaller leather pocket and pulled out 2 $20 bills.
“Let me see one,” Nathan said.
He handed him one of the bills and Nathan placed it under the nugget of fool’s gold. Then he stood up and said, “We’ll leave that here, we’ll come back in 2 weeks, and if that hasn’t moved, this place is ours.”
“Wait,” said John, “give me that one back.”
“Dude, I’ll give you $20 when we get back to town,” Nathan said.
“It’s not that,” John replied. “Take this one instead,” handing him the other of the bills. “That one’s more rare – I might keep it.”
Nathan handed him back the $20 bill and took the other one. The difference in the bills was one had a portrait of Andrew Jackson and the other, a portrait of Tecumseh. In 2030 – 200 years after Andrew Jackson pushed the passage of the Indian Removal Act – he was removed from the $20 bill and replaced with a portrait of Tecumseh. The bills with Andrew Jackson largely were phased out and removed from circulation. As such, had become exceedingly rare to come across.
“Your clumsy ass may have just found our new retreat,” George said while slapping Aban’s leg and laughing as he winced in pain.
The group hoisted the injured Aban up and headed out to get back.
It was night when Ridgemont and Madame Tandoori made it back to Ridgemont’s apartment. When they walked in, Julia was there to greet Ridgemont. She looked up at Madame Tandoori and she puffed up, hissed and growled.
“What’s wrong sweetie?” Ridgemont said, comforting her.
“Sweet cat,” Madame Tandoori said sarcastically.
“Here’s the kitchen, the bathroom, the balcony and the bedroom,” he said to her, pointing through the little apartment. They started making their way to the bedroom. Julia ran by and jumped up on the bed. The two walked in and Julia again hissed at Madame Tandoori.
She picked Julia up and she was growling loudly now and pushing away with her legs and digging her claws into her arm.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m just going to let her cool off outside a bit,” she said. And she tossed the cat outside the bedroom and closed the door. She walked back over to Ridgemont and started rubbing his cock.
The next morning, Ridgemont woke up and there was the smell of cooking in the kitchen. He walked out and Madame Tandoori was in the kitchen cooking and smiling.
“Good morning, dear,” she said.
“Good morning,” he replied.
“Would you like some breakfast?” she said.
“Uh, sure,” he said.
She put a steaming hot plate of eggs and steaks on the table in front of him.
He started eating.
“This is pretty good,” he said. “Where did you get steak?”
She sat down and started eating too.
“Let me give some to Julia,” he said.
“Julia!” he called out.
“Meow,” Madame Tandoori said.
“Julia!” he called out again.
“Meow,” Madame Tandoori repeated.
He looked at her irritated. “What, have you seen her?”
She looked at him and giggled and held up her plate and said, “Meow,”
“What?” he said.
“She’s part of us now, Allen” Madame Tandoori said.
He looked at her horrified and began to weep a little bit.
“It was quick and painless,” she said.
He turned around, lunged with his arm and clenched her throat and slammed her off her chair down to the ground.
“You sick bitch!” he said.
She gasped for air, “She didn’t die for nothing, she completed the ritual. We can have everything now.”
He lifted her torso by her neck and slammed her back down on the floor and walked away.
Come back Tuesday for Episode 5